Tuesday, August 30, 2011

More… ‘Lighter Side of Doomsday’

Yup! We sure do live in a crazy mixed up world. I can remember back to the days when I was first becoming aware of the world’s troubles. Topics like ‘The Amazon Rainforest Desertification’, ‘35, 000 Children Starving Every Single Day’, ‘Holes in the Ozone Layer’, ‘Rising Sea Levels’ and so many related others made me shudder with confusion. I just couldn’t believe that the ‘state of humanity’ and the Natural world was/is in such a terrible crisis.

In the beginning, I felt a mixed feeling of hatred for past generations for being so blind while the troubles left for my generation grew and grew. I quickly came to realize that blaming others only distracted me from focusing on practical solutions – like inspiring others to wake up to our true reality and destiny as a human race.

I found comfort in the music that I listened to as I realized that these musicians were storytellers, filling our hearts with truths and inspiration to be strong and courageous as we question ‘standards’ and build better ones for future generations.

I found comfort in the comedy shows on television as I realized that these jokers were storytellers, filling our minds with truths and inspiration as we question the consequences of our actions so that we can change for the sake of future generations.

I find comfort when I share some of these ideas with you…

I’m going to end this blog entry with a short poem that I wrote a few years ago, while I was living in Nova Scotia. Since the ‘meat’ of this entry is mostly constructed using other people’s ideas, I thought that it would be fitting to add a few of my own…


We’ve now become conscious of our evolution
We can judge for ourselves
Right from wrong

We can see the difference between
Pollution and solution
We’re embracing our future
With more than just song

April, 2004


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Our Summer Vacation

Usually, Joanne and I have several camping and hiking get-a-ways during the summer, but usually Jo’s not pregnant! So, this year, our summer was rather tame. Instead of overnight stays in a tent, we simply packed our cooler for afternoon trips to the nearby beaches. We did, however, plan a 3 day, 2 night ‘mini’ vacation trip to Toronto to enjoy the city and some good ‘ol Rock’N’Roll!!!

I managed to get a really good rate at a hotel right in the downtown core of Toronto. We took the 401 freeway until we hit the world famous Yonge Street and soon we were passing Dundas Street and the Eaton’s Centre.

The location of our hotel was great. We were so close to many attractions, restaurants and transit vehicles, so we could walk or go for a ride. This triangular shaped building was just two blocks away from our hotel, as we set off in search of cold beer! You will see this building in many of the Toronto travel commercials on TV. The ‘Y’ intersection that it creates is interesting, as well as…

… this fun mural, found on the backside of the building. Only the middle windows are real. The others are a part of the mural’s design.

Steps away, is another famous Toronto attraction, the St. Lawrence Market. Vendors bring in fresh fruits and vegetables from local Ontario farmers, fresh baked treats, meats and fish, along with many other tasty yummies. After a stroll through the market, it was time to rest and enjoy…

… the cold beer that I was looking for. Ahhhh! Beer! I wonder if the Jupiler Beer Company will send me some money for this advertisement on my blog?!!!

Again, within walking distance, we strolled to the shore of Lake Ontario. We did a lot of walking, sitting, walking, sitting, during this trip. Joanne was using a lot of her energy making a baby and I didn’t want to tire her out so she wouldn’t be able to enjoy our time. So, for a while we relaxed and watched the boats in the harbour. Had we a bit a more time, we might have taken a fairy boat ride to the Toronto Island that you can see in the background of this photo.

As we made our way back to the hotel we spied this view of the CN Tower and the Rogers Centre – formerly known as the Skydome. The Rogers Centre is the turtle shaped building at the base of the Tower. We got excited cuz we knew that the next evening we would be sitting inside listening to the world’s greatest Rock’N’Roll band!

After a short rest and a change of clothing I took Jo’ on a fun ride on the Queen Street streetcar. You guessed it – to ‘the beaches’ we went for a stroll along the boardwalk and then an amazingly yummy dinner!

I lived in Toronto for three years while I was studying Architecture, half a lifetime ago, so I got to know the city really well. During this trip, I was able to make decisions about where we were to go and how we were to get there so we could see all the interesting areas in fun ways.

The next day, we decided to journey on the underground subway to visit the ROM – Royal Ontario Museum. We started our tour in the south wing of the museum that is dedicated to the North American Natives, including the Inuit and the Haida Natives who created this monstrous totem pole.

I’ve always respected and admired the indigenous lifestyles of the Earth’s people. In many instances their philosophies have influenced my own art creations and I strongly believe that the future of humankind will aided by adopting these reverences for Nature.

Next, we visited the displays depicting the history of the Asian continent. It took a little convincing to get Joanne to pose with her Buddha belly alongside these other Buddha bellies, but eventually she thought that it would be funny, too! Ohhhhmmmmmmm…

Of course, it would be impossible to learn about the history of humanity without learning about a thing called ‘WAR’. Many people believe that violence is in our nature, an inherent characteristic, a human quality… the way we will always be. I disagree!

As humanity treads upon its path into the future, I can see that we have only two very distinct choices… continued greed and violence leading to the fall of our life sustaining ecosystems and all of the Earth’s life forces or, humbled respect and love leading to the Earth’s first ever unified peaceful global civilization.

Seems like a simple choice!

Yes, the world’s history is marked with many acts of violence and suffering, but humanities capacity to learn, grow and love is also evident in many of histories artifacts… like this – the world’s first ever Peacebus!!!!

Next up on our visit was the Dinosaur display! I don’t know what was more enjoyable, seeing all the amazing displays or watching all the children’s reactions to these displays!!

We wound our way from these ancient creatures, through bat caves and into the present, with displays of North American animals and birds. All the exhibits were great, with interactive teaching tools, but I fumbled for words when I saw…

… this depiction of the common raccoon! Somehow I don’t think that the raccoon’s natural habit is a cottage porch, littered with Campbell soup cans!!

As we walked through these displays – of present day animals – I noticed that more and more signs were stating facts that, “habitat loss, agricultural runoff and excess harvesting,” are the reasons for so many issues threatening the survival of so many important creatures. Boy! We sure do have a lot of changing to do in order to create that utopian global civilization. Recognition of a problem is the first step, though, so let’s all be conscious of our present day situations!

Lunch with a cold beer and then a shower got us ready for an evening at the Rogers Centre and U2! This is ‘The Claw’ and as you can see, it looks like something that you’d find in a kid’s Lego set! Banks of speakers spill downwards and I must say, the sound was the loudest and crispest I’ve ever heard.

Usually after a concert, people’s ears are ringing for days. But, during this show you were engulfed in sound with now side effects.

This guy became very well known in my part of the arena… the Beerman! There was always a crowd around him!!

As I sipped on the most expensive beverage I’ve ever bought, stretched out on the turf lawn, watching the crowds fill the stadium, a natural light display caught everyone’s attention. The roof hatch was opened at just the right angle at the same time as the sun was at just the right height at just the right time of day and “Voila!” A ladder of light appeared to usher in all the angels of Rock’N’Roll!!!!

The day’s forecast was for afternoon rain followed by clear skies. All we got were the clear skies, so soon a decision was made to open the retractable roof. Very cool to watch that happen!

Later, in the evening, the CN Tower put on a little light show of its own and this added to the overall atmosphere for this event! What a great night!!

Bono and the boys really had the crowds jumping with excitement as they deftly pounded out ‘Even Better Than The Real Thing’ as the opening song. The Edge’s guitar rift in ‘The Fly’ had my brain bouncing around inside my skull as the crowd got into high gear. These songs were followed by ‘Mysterious Ways’ and then ‘Until The End of The World’ and then I told Jo’ that maybe we had traveled back in time to the early 90’s. All four of these songs were from their album ‘Achtung Baby!’ I thought we were here to listen to their most recent tunes.

Bono said something about ‘why’ this album was being highlighted on this evening but I missed this cuz I was busy lookin’ for the Beerman again!

Usually, U2 goes on tour to promote their most recently released album and most of the songs performed are from that album. Last year, they started their tour to promote ‘No Line On The Horizon’ and the last leg of the tour was postponed due to Bono’s back surgery. I’m thinking that once they got the tour going again that they simply decided to play all their favourite songs cuz ‘NLOTH’ was old news by then.

Here is the rest of the set list from this evening…

I Will Follow
Get On Your Boots
Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For
Stay (Faraway, So Close)
Beautiful Day w Major Tom
Miss Sarejevo
City of Blinding Lights
Crazy Tonight/Discotheque
Sunday Bloody Sunday
Scarlet w Amnesty International Speech
Walk On

Where The Streets Have No Names
Kiss Me, Thrill Me
With or Without You
Moment of Surrender

Joanne and I had a great time! We ended our night on a restaurant patio, enjoying a cold beer as we chatted about the concert. I was pleasantly surprised to hear ‘Zooropa’ and ‘Miss Sarejevo’. I thought it was really cool how U2 dug into the vault to bring ‘Scarlet’ to life as a subtle backdrop for Bono’s little speech promoting Amnesty International. I was a little disappointed that none of the songs broke into a heavy jam session, as many of their songs often do in a concert… like ‘Last Night On Earth’. I had a hard time getting into their new version of ‘Crazy Tonight’ but I thought that it was really cool the way they delved into ‘Discotheque’ from that song. I listed off a few tunes that I would have loved to have heard, like ‘Love & Peace… Or Else!’, ‘All Because of You’ or ‘Like A Song’ which I’ve never heard live - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b_wMNNySCZk - but it’s one of my favourite tunes! Joanne told me to quit complaining and she suggested that next time I should send Bono a list of songs that they should play for me, next time they’re in town!!!

Hey! A true fan is a bit of a critic, but that’s just because we want only the best of the best!!! If they had played the songs that I listed above I would probably turn around and complain that they didn’t play ‘Elevation’ or ‘Stay (Faraway So Close)’!!!

Maybe I should have simply complained that the concert wasn’t long enough. If it was longer, then they’d have been able to play every song off of every album, making everyone happy!!!!

Hmmmm…. there’s an idea!


Friday, August 19, 2011

Let’s Take Care of The Earth!

I love the libraries, here in London, Ontario! They are very supportive of the arts, they don’t charge a fee to display and they don’t take a commission if an art peace happens to sell. That’s why I display my artworks at the libraries, as often as I can – I’m actually working towards a one year art tour throughout many of the city libraries, starting next summer!

Whenever I’m at a library, to use the internet or to do research, I always take a few moments to enjoy the colourful displays that have been put up by other London artists.

Just last week, I was in the Central Library – downtown – when this large and beautiful painting caught my eye. It reminded me of the many ‘peace-earth’ drawings that students have created for me and The Peacebus, over the last few years!

I took a closer look and saw many names printed around the outside of the image and I realized that this was a collaborative effort. I took a closer look and then I saw the name of an artist who I’ve been wanting to work with for a while, now.

Vanessa and I have shared many emails over the last few years and we’ve enjoying each other’s art adventures. She loves that fact that I’ve had a few successes in organizing children’s art classes and we spoke about doing something together. Unfortunately, to date, we haven’t been able to further these ideas, but that has not stopped either of us from continuing with our own plans.

This art display wall is known in the community as ‘The Red Wall’, for obvious reasons. As you can see, over 20 original canvases are now on display for people to enjoy.

These artworks are the result of a class that Vanessa created for children in the community. Some of the children are refugees to Canada, or come from a broken family and are living with great challenges that children should not have to be burdened with. Vanessa designed her classes to teach these children about the healing power of art and creation! “Art heals. Art is life and faith!”

I was really delighted to witness all of this creativity and I emailed Vanessa to ask if I could showcase a few of these artworks to help her promote this art show. Of course, she said, “Yes!” She told me that it is time to tell the community and to tell the world that we must, “… start loving our planet!”

Since I want to encourage London readers to go to the Central Library to see these artworks for themselves, I chose to only showcase my favourite five…

Manuela is just 4 years old and already she has mastered many techniques. The background is beautifully textured and the colours used to create the butterflies and hearts are very complimentary. I would like to see if there is a person on this planet who wouldn’t smile when seeing this painting. It is such a joy!

Wow! Juan David is truly a great storyteller. I wonder if he realizes this fact, himself?! The variety of details that he uses in this painting, captures the essence of an arctic landscape with so much accuracy. You can feel the weight of the starry heavens. You can feel the slipperiness of the ice. You can feel the abundance and variety of life that flourishes underneath the waves.

I don't think that this is the same Manuela as the artist from the first painting that I showed you… but if it is, then Manuela made my ‘Top 5’ list twice!!!! I absolutely love this! A happier monkey and elephant would be hard to find. Notice all the shades of colour that are used to bring this creation to life. The elephant isn’t just one boring shade of grey, but many shades, created using a variety of texture techniques.

Ahhhh! One of my favourite topics… turtles!! Look at the variety of colours and how they were applied to create such a flowing, watery background. The outlining, again using complimentary colours, of the turtles along with the variety of shades and textures really make these animals animate as they swim through this painting. Great job, Vanesa!

I’m going to have to find out what school Jorgito attends so that I can see if I can be his bus driver, next year!!! I would love to have his talent of The Peacebus. His message to the world is very loud and clear. I just hope that people are listening!

So, there ya go!!! Just a few of the wonderful artworks that you and your family and friends can enjoy, for the rest of this month, down at the Central Library.

If you would like to know more about Vanessa and her artistic efforts, you can find her on Facebook. Just search ‘Vanessa-Garcia Artist’.

It’s such a breath of fresh air - in this world dominated by corporate greed and deceit – to know that a generation is growing up learning about the true values of life and love.


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Critical Mass Bike Rally

Brrrr! Looking at the pictures I’ve prepared for this story sends a cool, rainy chill down my spine.

It was the last Friday in the month of April – one of the coolest and wettest Aprils I’ve ever experienced – and a group of bike enthusiasts/environmentalists was gathering at the Victoria Park bandshell. Our purpose – to make a stand (errrr – ride would be more appropriate) against Global Climate Change!

We wanted to demonstrate a simple alternative to using fossil fuel powered vehicles – bicycles!!

This gathering happens every single month, in downtown London, Ontario. We meet between 6-6:30pm on the last Friday of each month – rain, snow or shine – before we set off on an hour-long bike ride through the streets of our city. This month, Bill Paul, our city’s ‘town crier’/social activist/radio show host was there to clang his bell as we began our journey.

There were close to 80 of us present for this day’s bike rally, as we set off from the park…

… to hit the streets of London!

We journeyed along many of the main roads and along some smaller residential streets. Small chants could be heard throughout this group, “Who’s streets?” – “Our streets!” “We’re not stopping the traffic – we are the traffic!”

During events such as this, I’m always looking for an opportunity to share one of my own ‘repeat after me songs’. At this point in our journey, I did start a song… but it didn’t last too long. I had sung the 3rd line and it was followed with silence. Someone said, “What did he say?” So I repeated that line again, followed with more silence. Then someone cracked a joke and my effort died!

Oh well! We continued on our ride….

This was only the second ‘Critical Mass Bike Rally’ that I had attended, so I wasn’t up to date with all of the things that go on during the rallies. Sure, we ride our bikes around shouting out small slogans and all of that, so I was surprised when we were reaching the main intersection of London – Dundas and Richmond – and everyone got off their bikes and lifted them over their heads – with lots of shouts and whoops and hollers!!!!

I quickly learned that this was called a ‘Bike Lift!’ I cracked up cuz it is a really hilarious thing to have happened. It happened three times during this rally and after the first time, I participated as well.

This is Maryanne! We’ve known each other for several years and we’re always sharing information about community environmental happenings. Maryanne is a hero of mine! She could be one of the most active environmentalists in the city!!!

I’ve shared stories about how Maryanne organized London’s first environmental magazine – that I submit stories to – called Ecovox Magazine. During this bike ride, Maryanne told me how she has been working with Rogers TV to evolve the magazine into a television series. A few weeks after this event, Maryanne and a film crew showed up at one of the schools that I drive bus for, to interview the students and principal of the school – to highlight the children’s involvement with creating environmental art for The Peacebus.

This is a link to several clips from the Ecovox TV series – http://www.rogerstv.com/page.aspx?lid=12&rid=9&sid=4271

A little while later, we were nearing the end of our bike rally. As we were making our way back to Victoria Park, the girl beside me said that she was tired of the same chants we were yelling out and that she wished someone knew some other kind of songs that we could sing as a group. Maryanne was close by and she smiled and said that I probably knew a song or two.

The next few minutes had me smiling. I mentioned earlier how I had put effort into trying to get a song going, but I had failed. Now, without any effort, I was able to start another song – sung with the help of just a few people – and it grew and grew until everyone had joined in!

The Earth is our friend
The Earth is our friend
And she needs a helping hand!
And she needs a helping hand!
The Earth is our friend
The Earth is our friend
And she needs a helping hand!
And she needs a helping hand!

Singing Way-oh, Wayy-oh!
Singing Way-oh, Wayy-oh!
Way-oh, Way-oh, Way-oh, Way-oh!
Way-oh, Way-oh, Way-oh, Way-oh!
Wayyy-oh, Way-oh!
Wayyy-oh, Way-oh!
Way-oh, Way-oh, Way-oh, Way-oh!
Way-oh, Way-oh, Way-oh, Way-oh!

We can plant some trees
We can plant some trees
Making home for birds and bees
Making home for birds and bees

Way-oh part of song….

We can clean the air
We can clean the air
To show the future that we care
To show the future that we care

Singin’ I want peace
Singin’ I want peace
We’ll work hard for peace
We’ll work hard for peace

I wonder if any of the students who rode my bus happen to be reading this story. If there are they’re probably saying, “Hey! We sing that song on the Peacebus!!!” I wrote this song for them!

I met a lot of interesting people during this bike rally. One lady works at the University of Western Ontario and she shared stories about initiatives that she is working on to make it easier and ‘greener’ for the students to get around the city. I also listened in on a conversation that involved one of the City’s council members as he shared ideas that he is hoping to build on to make it easier and ‘greener’ for all Londoners to get around.

This rally was not just a bunch of people trying to stir up controversy and annoy people driving their cars. It was a large group of people taking a small peaceful initiative to inspire the city, all the while sharing ideas and initiatives meant to create a stronger future for the world. A very honourable event to be a part of!

But then it was time to go home…

After the last rally, I simply hoped on a transit bus to make my way home. I live way out in the west end of the city and I thought that it would take forever to ride my bike home. This time, I challenged myself…

… and I’m so glad that I did!

As you can see, the bike path is fairly flat, with just a few small rises and falls along the way. It passes through many different parks throughout the city as it winds its way along the side of the Thames river.

It had been many years since I last made such a long ride, and the time passed rather quickly as my mind wandered and my eyes enjoyed the scenery.

When the paved path ended and I found myself on a gravel bike path, passing many soccer fields, picnic areas and children’s playgrounds, I knew that I was almost home.

The cool damp air contrasted with the body heat that I had been producing and when I got home, Koly enjoyed licking at the moisture drops that had collected on my stubbled chin!!!!

This ride home taught me one thing – 35 minutes passes by very quickly when I’m enjoying myself! Since then, I’ve made it a part of my weekly routine when coming home from work. In the past – on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday – I would drive my car to Joanne’s work, leave it for her to get home, and then I’d hop on a bus to get myself home. Now, I put my bike in the trunk of the car and on these three days instead of taking the bus, I’ll ride my bike home. This saves us a few dollars on bus fare, I get a bit more exercise while cutting back on my carbon footprint!

It’s small initiatives like this that allows us to continue to search for more and more ways to lessen our dependencies on fossil fuels. My quality of life has been improved and so has the quality of lives for future generations.

“I’ve got a bike
and you can ride it if you like.
It’s got a basket and a bell
that rings and things that make it look good.
I’d give it to you if I could
but I borrowed it!”
Pink Floyd

Be inspired! Participate in community environmental rallies!