Saturday, August 29, 2009

London Peaceflower Campaign

Over the last two months I have shared several stories about a fun global art project entitled ‘Peaceflowers From Around The World’. I sent out requests to all my Facebook friends asking them to draw peaceflowers on city sidewalks using coloured chalk and then email - - their artwork to me for my photoalbum – . I’ve been extremely happy to watch this simple idea grow and grow. Peaceflowers have been sent to me from Australia, China, Mexico and Japan – to name just a few countries.

This is another addition to my collection – from Australia! My FB friend, Becca, spends her time working and creating with the youth at a community centre in New South Wales. Many of the youths thought that this project was a really cool idea and I’ve received many artworks from them.

In 2002-04 Joanne and I were living in Nova Scotia. I had a job working in a bar – I was the head bartender, Tuesday night’s DJ and Sunday nights ‘singing bartender’ during our weekly karaoke event. I became good friends with many of the regulars and we still send emails to each other, from time to time. I was super happy when this peaceflower was sent to me by one of the friends I had made – actually, I guess it was their daughter who had created this art using stones from the shores of The Bay of Fundy.

Sheri and I went to high school together and now – many years later – we have reconnected because of Facebook. Sheri knew that her daughter would enjoy drawing with the colourful chalks and you can see from Kirin’s smile that she was right! I thought that the use of ‘hands’ inside the flower petals was a really cool idea.

The next day, I received an invitation to participate in a peaceflower event. Apparently, one of my London FB friends thought that my idea was so inspiring that he organized an event through a group called ‘Lightworkers of Ontario’. You can imagine how honoured I felt to have someone take my simple idea to the next level! Of course, I agreed to attend…

The event took place in London’s downtown Victoria Park between 1-2 pm. on Monday, August 10th. After a few of us had gathered and had made introductions it was time to begin. I shared the story about the peaceflower petals that had been created using handprints and I suggested that we should begin by creating one ‘group effort’ peaceflower using this technique.

I began by drawing a large circle for the peace symbol and then I traced everyone’s hand, using chalk. The owners of the handprints filled them in using blue chalk and then someone suggested that we should print our names above our hands… and so we did!

This young person was having a great time and he wanted to help out a bit more, so I suggested that he could draw the inside portion of our flower… and so he did!

While he was finishing that part of the peaceflower, I added a long and wavy green stem and leaf to our creation.

After the group photo was taken, everyone went back to complete their own artworks…

Soon, everyone was finished and it was time to take lots of pictures…

Angela was really enjoying herself and she just couldn’t stop drawing – LOL! By 2pm she had created three peaceflowers.

This is Shawn Jason. He is the one responsible for this ‘art attack’. Thanks for creating this event, Shawn! It was a really cool way to share inspiration and meet other peaceful folks!!!

I hope that this story has warmed your heart and put a smile on your face. I hope that you are now inspired to join in this effort and I look forward to finding your peaceflower photos in my ‘inbox’ soon!!!


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Voice

About a year ago, I shared a few stories about my guitar playing and song writing experiences that had suddenly seemed to blossom. I wrote five songs in a short period of about three months – considering that I am a self taught musician, you can easily imagine how delighted this made me feel!

Since then, I’ve shared my songs with small crowds at ‘Open Mic Nights’ throughout the city and the students that I was teaching over the course of last fall and winter. I always enjoy sharing… even if I make mistakes along the way. I’ve never stopped a song – to begin again – if I had made a mistake, I just kept on going – plowing through and getting myself back on track.

A little while ago, it struck me that I hadn’t written anything new in a while. Most of my attention was focussed on getting better and better at playing my small collection of tunes. I also spent a bit of time creating videos for two of these songs…

My newest video (this one is a lot of fun) is – The Bricks Of Love:

My first video (which is very simple cuz it was my first attempt and I was learning) is – World On A Chain:

I hope that you enjoy these videos and do feel free to share them with your friends!

About a month ago, I started to push myself to create a new song to add to my collection. The chord progressions that came out of me were my simplest yet, but they did create quite a haunting mood. Joanne thought that my song sounded like something that Leonard Cohen might sing – I was flattered!!!

I was thinking about all the noise pollution that we humans have created and what we would hear if we were to quiet these harmful actions… maybe we would hear the sounds of the world’s peaceful warriors, singing songs of peace for the dawning of a new age!

The Voice
(It’s Not Me – It’s You!)

If we could calm the angry oceans
And soothe the aching skies.
If we could still the politicians
And silence all their lies.

If we could stamp out forest fires
And shrink the deserts growing.
If we could clean the TV screens
And pay all debts we’re owing.

If we could reverse wheels a rollin’
(But you can’t turn back time…
So it’s into the future baby!!!)
And scream with determined Rock!
If we could open eyes still sleeping
And unplug the doomsday clock.
(I just can’t take it anymore…
All this talk about the ‘End of the World’)

If we could hear the freedom coming…

Then we would hear the sound – Yeah!
We would hear the sound – Yeah!
We would hear the sound
Of one happy peaceful voice.

Then we would hear the sound – Yeah!
We would hear the sound – Yeah!
We would hear the sound
Of one peaceful loving voice.

Then we would hear the sound – Yeah!
We would hear the sound – Yeah!
We would hear the sound
Of one loving happy voice.

(repeat to fade….)


Sunday, August 23, 2009

Mike Peters Would Be Proud

While most of my elementary school friends were hot for bands like Duran Duran, Michael Jackson, Madonna and Depeche Mode, I found my musical likes straying to different bands. My walkman was always filled with a mixed cassette so I could listen to the tunes of The Alarm, U2, Men at Work and The Police.

Tunes like ‘She Bop’ by Cindy Lauper or ‘Dancin’ On The Ceiling’ by Lionel Ritchie just didn’t cut it for me. The pounding beats of ‘I Threw A Brick Through A Window’ by U2 and the wailing harmonica in ‘The Stand’ by The Alarm were the vibrations that really got my blood moving.

Songs about the underdogs, and the oppressed looking to find ‘Strength’ really spoke to me. Songs that spoke of societies blind obsessions and the world that we have created gave me a new – and at that time – profound sense of moral obligation to my fellow human being.

In ‘Synchronicity II’ by The Police - , Sting quite clearly paints a picture of our polluted society…

Another Industrial ugly morning
Factories belch their filth into the sky

Packed like lemmings into shiny metal boxes
Contestants in a suicidal race

The song ‘Spirit of ‘76’ by The Alarm always seemed to me to be what a truly spirited Rock’N’Roll tune should be. A melodic intro with a piano and harmonica soon opens the door for a rifting guitar and mesmerizing bass. The song builds to many different peaks and then suddenly we’re washed with a filling guitar ballad before the drums kick in for a final rapture of textured backbeats.

Ahhhh! We’ll never give in
Until the day when we die
I’ll get myself some independence
Carve out a future with my two bare hands

In 1999 I was able to see The Alarm – for my first and only time – when they opened for Bob Dylan in Hamilton’s Copps Coliseum. During one of the songs, Mike Peters – as per his history of communicating with the audience – climbed down into the crowd that lifted him up and carried him towards the back of the stadium. All the while Mike is speaking into the microphone. “It’s always been our intent to get as close as is humanly possible to the people who come and see The Alarm.” Near the end of his rambles he gets to what he really feels, “I hate a song that makes you feel like you’re no good… that makes you feel like you were born to lose, bound to lose… I’m out to fight those songs with every ounce of strength in my body!” By this point the crowd has brought Mike back to the stage where he encourages the audience to realize our responsibility as the ‘future Rock’N’Rollers’ to continue to find strength to fight for the things that we believe in.

That was way back in the late ‘80s and I think that Mike’s words did have a positive effect that may still be influencing the bands of today.

Over the next few years – at which point I was finishing high school – I found myself exploring some of the new bands that were taking the spotlight from the legends of past times. It seemed that the entire music culture was establishing social rock bands that stood for a cause. The Tragically Hip, Midnight Oil - - and Hothouse Flowers became great energies in my life.

In 1993 The Hip released ‘Day For Night’. After many listens I came to appreciate that the title of the album was making references to what our society needs to do in order to survive… we must change, we must become the opposite of what we are now, we must pull ourselves from the darkness to become the light! This CD was one of the very first to break industry standards by using ‘tree free’ paper and vegetable inks to produce the small booklets that contain the album artwork and lyrics.

In 1996 their album ‘Trouble In The Henhouse’ took this idea to the next level. There was no plastic used in the manufacturing of this CD, at all. Recycled papers with vegetable inks were slowly becoming industry standards… for those socially conscious bands, anyway.

Whenever we buy anything new, no matter what the product is, we are destroying a part of the Earth. The raw materials needed to create the item comes from somewhere. Even the recycled paper products need to be manufactured, thus creating pollution in that process – albeit not as much pollution as a non-recycled product. The product needs to be shipped, hauled, loaded, unloaded, sorted, loaded and unloaded again until it reaches the store shelves, creating pollution in each of these – and more – steps. For this reason I rarely by anything new. Most of my music is bought second hand… years after bands have fallen off the ‘Top 40’ charts.

In an average year, I will buy two new CDs. I think that it’s great that all the bands and artists that I’m attracted to have followed standards that are more environmentally friendly. Kate Bush’s newest release and the Foo Fighters anniversary edition of their first album are all ‘plastic free’.

This year, I seem to have broken my own rules… with over four months remaining in this year I have already doubled the amount of new music that I usually buy. I just couldn’t help myself.

This spring saw the release of ‘We Are The Same’ by The Hip as well as ‘No Line On The Horizon’ by U2 – my two favourite bands.

My ear has also been peaked by some newer bands, as well. When I heard the first release from Ontario’s own Arkells – hailing from Hamilton – I thought that I was listening to an old Who song that I had never heard before. The quality of the lead singer’s voice, the driving of the bass and the tones of the electric guitar just had that ‘old’ flavour of Rock that I just love.

The packaging of this CD was, again, following new standards by using ‘tree free’ paper and vegetable inks, with no plastic. It was while listening to this CD that I got the idea for writing this particular blog. I heard many things in this album that I thought were similar in many Rock songs of the past. One song began with a harmonica and piano and I thought that I was listening to a song that could have been written my Mike Peters and The Alarm.

As I’ve recently learned, Rise Against has been around for several years. Their newest album has received a lot of radio play and daily I found myself enjoying their loud rockin’ beats and lyrics, more and more. Once I bought their CD ‘Appeal To Reason’ I learned that this band is truly on a mission to empower our societies to rethink everything that we think we’ve learned through our mass media industry.

Their CD is manufactured using no plastics, 100% recycled with 35% PCW (Post-Consumer-Waste), printed using vegetable inks. Their packaging is biodegradable, recyclable and renewable. Similar to U2 – who encourages their fans to join Amnesty International, etc – Rise Against has listed several books that they would like their fans to read: The Ground Truth, Wal-Mart – The High Price of Low Cost, Sicko, Future of Foods and Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth.

They even had a small insert that promotes vegetarian diets. This one single piece of paper is finding its way into hundreds of thousands of homes throughout North America and the world and even though it will not be recognized by all fans, I am sure that thousands of people will begin to take a closer look at the foods that we eat. This may by bad news for McDonalds and Swiss Chalet, but it’s great news for all the billions of animals that suffer, daily, from our societies thoughtless consumption practices.

What really turned me on was this quote, stated by Pablo Picasso, concerning art and mankind…

“What do you think an artist is? An imbecile who has only eyes, if he is a painter, or ears if he is a musician, or a lyre in every chamber of his heart if he is a poet, or even, if he is a boxer, just his muscles? Far from it: at the same time, he is also a political being, constantly aware of the heartbreaking, passionate, or delightful things that happen in the world, shaping himself completely in their image. How could it be possible to feel no interest in other people, and with a cool indifference to detach yourself from the very life which they bring to you so abundantly? No, painting is not done to decorate apartments. It is an instrument of war.”

I’m sure that many of my readers can understand why these words offer me hope and strength as I continue to wage my war against the world’s ignorance, to inspire all that we all have the right to food, clothing and shelter, home and happiness filled with love for one another and our Earth.

Peace to all, in the spirit of Rock’N’Roll!!!


Friday, August 21, 2009

Paintings In The Post

I’ve mentioned the forestland ‘Temagami’ in my blog so many times that most of you know that it is a ancient old growth Red and White Pine forest that has a remaining untouched capacity of only 1% due to all the clear-cut logging that has occurred throughout Ontario over the last 170 years or so.

Temagami is a large part of my life… in the stories that I tell, the paintings that I create and the poems that I write.

I’ve also shared stories about the art classes that I taught in the Spring of this year – where we created paintings of the Temagami forestland – after a brief lesson to understand its importance.


The classes were over and I still had two canvases prepped and ready to go. I decided that it would be best in I finished them, and so I did…

Then I thought that I should do something fun with them. I decided to mail them to two friends that I had made on Facebook.

Kim Jonas is a dude in his twenties – I think – and he lives in Sweden. He begins ‘chats’ with me about three times a week. He asks a lot of questions about Canada cuz he’s so interested in it and Canadians! Once he stole (LOL!) some pictures from my photoalbum about British Columbia and with other pictures he had created a video using those pictures to show how beautiful our country is. I loved it and posted it to my wall to share with many of my other non-Canadian friends – ha ha – and they loved it too!!! It is because of Kim’s love for Canada that I want to share this painting with him.

Steph lives in England and we’ve been FB friends for many months, now. She leaves wonderful and positively uplifting comments on my pictures and statuses, all the times. She has made me laugh, so many times that I thought it would be nice to send this to her as a ‘Thank You’!

So, it was time to get the artworks ready for the mail. As you can see, Elly loves it when I cut off the ends of the cardboard boxes especially to make toys for her – LOL!!!

Since these packages are going overseas – and I expect that a few more will, too – I decided to use a special tape to promote Canada…

The last time I was at the post office I noticed this packing tape that was designed with Canadian flags all over it. I looked to see if it was manufactured in China – cuz ya never know- and I was delighted that it was indeed made in Canada… so I bought it!

A few days later, a few more packages were ready for the post, too!!!

I sent four prints down to California, to the nurses that cared for my grandfather, to say ‘Thanks!’

The large package contains this painting. I’m sending it to a close friend of mine from my years in high school.

I lost touch with Brenda after I had graduated from college and I was totally surprised when – three years ago – I found a letter from her in my email inbox. Since then we’ve shared many stories about the adventures in our lives and she always tells me stories about her daughter. Brenda is indeed a super happy mum!!! Since many of my high school friends have received gifts of my artwork, I thought that Brenda should definitely have one, too! But… at the last minute I changed my mind. Ha! Ha! Instead of sending the artwork as a present to Brenda, I decided to send the painting to her daughter. I’m sure that she will enjoy seeing it in her daughter’s room!

I get very excited when I think about my artwork going on merry adventures around the planet! It’s a wonderful way to bring light into many people’s hearts for many years to come!!!


Monday, August 17, 2009

After Twenty Years

One of the first things that I really enjoyed when I first joined Facebook was all the connections that I found with friends from my high school years. It always brought a smile to my face to see someone who I haven’t seen in over twenty years. In the last year I’ve reconnected with close to one hundred familiar faces.

Even better than this simple fact, was an invitation that I received, just last Friday. The invite said – “James! Sorry for the short notice. There’s going to be a small gathering of high school friends, tomorrow, at my sister’s house.” Stacia was right – it was short notice. I called my wife and since we had no plans for the next day we were able to attend!!!!

About half an hour after our arrival a tray full of shooters was passed around. Ah – yes!!! The one thing that we all still had in common – LOL!!!

Because many of my high school friends had older or younger brothers and sisters our social group included many grades. In the photo above there is Mike – a year older and Eve – a year younger.

Although the party was referred to as ‘Stacia’s Party’ it would have been more correct to say ‘Sophia’s Party’ cuz it was her house where this gathering took place.

Of course, many photos were taken throughout the day and evening and of course I had to live up to my reputation by budding into a photo. Eve and Kyla didn’t even know I was there. Dave snapped this shot then lowered the camera a bit to say, “OK, Kokes – get out of the picture!” By that time I had snuck a few feet away and I looked at Eve and Kyla and said, “Eh! I have know idea what you’re talkin’ about Dave. I’ve been over here the whole time!” – LOL!!!!

It was funny to here my name as ‘James’ or ‘Kokes’ again. I got the nickname Kokes cuz no one could pronounce my last name. It always came out as ‘Kokahide’ and then it was shortened to ‘Kokes’. I started calling myself Jim when I moved to Toronto to go to college. I was working in the bars and I thought that Jim was a bit more casual and it’s stuck through all these years.

This is my great friend Dave! I think Dave came to my elementary school while I was in grade three, so we’ve known each other for many years, indeed.

Dave and I have chatted many times, since high school and we did get one chance to get together in 2004. I was really glad to be able to see him again.

This was our host for the evening, Stacia! She’s a beautiful mom with three beautiful children. Mike and his older brother Steve are in this photo, as well.

Later, in the evening, I brought my guitar out to play a few tunes. Steve brought out his small drum and the two of us jammed out for a bit. It was so cool to hear my songs being performed with another instrument, adding to the experience. Steve was also very quick with his voice, adding subtle harmonics and backing vocals to these tunes. It was only the second time that I’ve ever played music with someone and I had a lot of fun and everyone thought that we sounded great!!!

Although it seems that we were all still a little crazy – from our high school years, it was evident that we had all grown up… a little! In high school we would have partied until four in the morning, I’m sure. This evening, many of us started to leave around nine in the pm. We all had about two to three hours of driving ahead of us and most of us had obligations for the next day. I’m sure that many of our teachers would have been shocked to learn that ‘this crew’ had grown up to be responsible – LOL!!!!

I’m very grateful to have built such strong friendships during my youth with such a variety of personalities. I’m also very grateful for all the opportunities that I’ve had to be able to reconnect with friends, since that time. I’m a pretty lucky guy!!!


Friday, August 14, 2009

Bricks Of Love – The Music Video

Last October, Joanne and I went to my parent’s house for Thanksgiving. While we were there my dad was telling me about the ‘movie’ function on his digital camera. Hmmmmm…. movie function…. this gave me an idea!

The next day, Jo’ and I took the camera and my guitar for a nice walk through the autumn coloured landscapes of the surrounding countryside. We had a lot of fun capturing some video footage that I was hoping would one day become a music video… and it did!

With the help of a friend I am pleased to announce that this video has finally been edited and uploaded to my youtube account – for all the world to see! I hope that you enjoy this musical adventure and do feel free to share this link with your friends - .

Here are the lyrics for the song – in case you would like to sing along…

Bricks of Love

We’ll always reap the seeds we sow
When we’re layin’ down the bricks
Layin’ down the bricks
Our love will shine when it’s peace we grow
Yeah! We’re layin’ down the bricks
Layin’ down the bricks

Hope is………

The road we rode quickly turned asunder
And now we’re frightened
By the rain and by the thunder

We’ll build a house for the world to share
When we’re layin’ down the bricks
Layin’ down the bricks
With no more crying or despair
Yeah! We’re layin’ down the bricks
Layin’ down the bricks

Hope is………

The road we rode cracked, split and fell away
And now we’re building
Towards a better way

We’ll clean our windows so that we can see
All the love and joy that’s still to be
We’ll open all our doors to let the good spirits in
And then we’ll dance and sing – yeah – we’ll rise above the din

Hope is
Layin’ down the bricks
Yeah we’re dustin’ off the rusted bricks

The road we rode had many casualties
When all the money men
Yeah – they fell to their knees

Layin’ down the bricks

We’ll always reap the seeds we sow

Enjoy everybody!!!!!!!!!!!!


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Nineteen Days Left…

I am very happy to announce that I have a public art exhibition presently on display in London’s downtown Central Library! This exhibition will be finished at the end of August, so there is still a bit of time to check it out.

The highlight for this show is the portrait of my wife, Joanne. I’ve been sharing stories about the creation of this portrait since February – when I began the project – and I thought it would be nice to exhibit this painting at least once in its lifetime. For those of you not living in London, Ontario, or if you can’t make the exhibit then this link - - will take you to that artwork and the story behind its creation.

Of course, there are several other art creations to see, as well… and (of course – again) there are lots of my Peace Stik-ers available for you.

This will be my last art exhibition until the autumn of 2010, so I do hope that you can make it to this event.



Sunday, August 9, 2009


Almost every evening, Joanne and I take our dog Koly for a nice walk through our neighbourhood. We enjoy looking at all our neighbour’s flower gardens along the way to a large open park area, just a few blocks away from our house.

This park borders a small area alongside the Thames River and it is a very active place. There are tennis courts, an outdoor pool (which is under renovation this summer), a large children’s playground as well as a number of soccer and football fields. Along the southern edge of these fields is a community garden.

This garden is divided into plots and anyone wishing to can rent a plot for the growing season. Vegetables are grown in abundance and you can also see many flowers dotting this landscape. I was really happy to realize that the demand for these garden plots has expanded over the last several years and last spring this garden doubled in size! I was very impressed!!!

More and more people are looking for ways to connect with Nature as our oppressive and destructive Industrial society continues to lose its power to mesmerize us into a dazzled sense of unenlightenment.

There were a few gardeners working away as Jo’ and I passed by and I stopped to chat with them to find out why they were using this area. The gardener in the photo above told me that he simply loves the peaceful pleasures found while digging in the Earth and caring for his crops. He enjoys the pleasant conversations that arise when other gardeners are close by.

It seems that gardeners build relationships with their plants as well as each other, in this kind of setting. Gardening isn’t just about producing crops of vegetables, it’s also about connecting with people from the community.

These two ladies feel the same way! They told me that because they live in an apartment building they don’t have a yard, and so this space offers them a touch of ‘green’ that would normally not be available to them. This is their first year being involved with this community garden and they told me that they love it! They told me that it has become a part of their daily routine to walk to this garden, with a shovel over their shoulder, to water and tend to their veggies.

It brings a warm glow to my heart to witness this growth in my community – people connecting with Nature and each other in such a peaceful way. I beam with excitement as I know that this trend will continue to expand as people look for new and productive ways to become more self-sufficient.

+ + + +

This enlightened movement that is stirring in all of us is becoming evident wherever you may look…

Last week, Joanne and I were driving home from my parent’s house and once we reached London we were stopped by a crossing train. We put our car into ‘park’ and shut off our engine until the train had passed. While we sat there waiting, with our windows rolled down, I noticed a particular noise – or lack of noise!!!! I heard a whole lot of silence. About twenty five of the thirty cars had also shut off their engine to stop the wasteful pollution caused by an idling motor.

Positive actions like this are occurring more and more frequently and I think that this is amazing! Five years ago, only five of the thirty cars would have shut off their engines. Ten years ago, maybe one car would have done this, but now people are taking these beginning steps to find simple ways to help our environment.

We still have a lot – or should I say A LOT of work ahead of us… and the next several generations. We cannot continue to leave our hope for salvation in the hands of our governments and institutions. We must act as individuals striving to unite with each other and our world thus reshaping our institutions and lawmakers to abide by our newfound needs - instead of being drowned under the heaps of rhetoric forced upon us in lieu of genuine change.