Wednesday, January 20, 2021

French Man Bequeaths Money to Hermitage Cats

 I trust you have heard about the cats that reside in the basement of the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia?

On the off- chance you haven’t, there are 50 of them, and their job is to keep the rodents at bay. They have three caretakers and their very own Press Secretary.

Now a Frenchman has donated a tidy sum to pay to for their care an needed upgrades to their abodes. Although he has been named in some media, he made the donation anonymously and prefers to stay that way. 

Whoever he is, I like his kind heart.

Read more in the New York Post.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

So glad to be out of the travel industry

Every day that goes by, I am more relieved to be out of the travel industry.

Yes, it was fun for awhile, and aside of the fact that it left me broke (avoid this field unless you have a pension, spouse or are mortgage-free with cash reserves), I did learn a lot. I met a lot of interesting people, planned some great trips and stretched myself, but it is best that I have moved on. My initial relief came early-COVID, when the industry was desecrated, but I am so glad to not be part of what is happening today. 

I feel sick to the stomach every time I hear about someone off vacationing in the sun. Are you kidding me? What are you thinking? Even if you don’t care about yourself, how dare you risk others with your privilege? While others stay home and act responsibly, doing their part to put an end to the pandemic, what makes you think it is “ok” to satisfy your own self interests? I am less angry than confused. I am baffled and truly don’t get it.

So it is with this perspective that I am glad I am not being asked to help people book flights. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t live with myself. 

I have been feeling this for awhile, but it has been magnified in the last few days as I have been receiving targeted marketing for tour operators offering packages complete with COVID and quarantine insurance. Get away, feel safe with all these protections, there has never been a better time to go, blah blah blah... WTF???? 

It turns my stomach.

I get it that all businesses are doing their best to survive and rebuild, but this is despicable. 

I could have never sold travel in this environment and I know now that it would have been toxic to me to be around this all the time. 

So I am more than done with the travel biz. I’ll never go back to it.

Any travel in my future will simply be my own, when it is safe to do so. And it will probably be modest and close to the ground, organized by me, myself and I. 

What I miss most about travel is the simple stuff, hanging out like a local in cafes, staying for a month or so somewhere, soaking up the vibe, seeing a museum or two a week, living the experience. 

I am in no hurry to travel though. This is a time to lay low, and be patient. For now, I savour the many travel experiences I’ve had. There is still a lot of enjoyment to be had there.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

US Capitol art damage

Despite the outrageous assault on the US Capitol, damage to the artworks in the historical building was surprisingly minor. Curators have been on the ground inspecting the damage and starting restoration, but it could have been so much worse.

I can’t decide whether the thugs didn’t know what they were surrounded with (so paid no attention to the works) or did know (and restrained themselves)... probably the former, but who knows. But I am always glad when art is protected.  

Read more in this topic:

New York Times

Art News

Monday, January 11, 2021


I love a new-to-me word. Recently, it was semaphore. 

Around New Year’s Eve, I was telling a colleague about the time I was living in downtown Vancouver, in a high-rise, and on New Year’s morning I saw a woman’s long, elegant evening gown flapping in the wind, perhaps thrown aside near the window in the wee hours, where it slipped out, and then caught. It was the old BC Hydro building, so there were no balconies, so I don’t even think they knew it was there. I always imagined the confusion and mystery they ensued.

My colleague said, perhaps it was a signal known to few... perhaps it was a semaphore.

Courtesy of Britannica

Semaphore, method of visual signaling, usually by means of flags or lights. Before the invention of the telegraph, semaphore signaling from high towers was used to transmit messages between distant points. One such system was developed by Claude Chappe in France in 1794, employing a set of arms that pivoted on a post; the arms were mounted on towers spaced 5 to 10 miles (8 to 16 km) apart. Messages were read by telescopic sightings. Modern semaphores included movable arms or rows of lights simulating arms, displayed from towers and used to signal railroad trains. Semaphore signaling between ships, now largely abandoned, was accomplished by persons who held a small flag in each hand and, with arms extended, moved them to different angles to indicate letters of the alphabet or numbers.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Cincinnati's unused subway

 It’s almost beyond belief: the city of Cincinnati sits atop a 2.2 mile subway system, complete with tracks and stations, that has never gone into service. 

Construction was put on hold in 1920, when resources were diverted to the war effort. Afterwards, priorities shifted and the project was abandoned. It seems there has never been the public interest or political will to resurrect it. 

Even today, as the city plans for transportation, it is building a streetcar system. Yes, above ground, on top of those unused tunnels. 

Read more on Atlas Obscura.

Monday, January 04, 2021

David Hockney's pool-less lockdown

David Hockney is spending his COVID lockdown in his home in France, sans pool. So what does the artist who is known for his iconic paintings of pools do with his time? 

"This year 2020 I have just been working on my iPad depicting the arrival of spring, which will be shown at the Royal Academy in London in March 2021 and in October at the Orangerie in Paris. This is 118 pictures but I have gone on making them and will finish up with about 200 for the whole year...” [read more].

Friday, January 01, 2021

Happy New Year 2021

I'm attempting to resurrect my blog, without leaving Blogger. I have a new iPhone and it seems I finally have a device I can create on. Will see how it goes. SO glad to see a new year. I am not alone in this sentiment, I know. Happy New Year!

Sunday, October 04, 2020

Blogger frustration

I am beyond frustrated with Blogger and the fact that they forced everyone to a new platform, and removed the old platform. Why?

What I have loved about Blogger is that the interface has been so simple, and the application so easy to use. It's so easy that I have sent many non-techie friends to the platform to create blogs. And I enjoyed that myself.

Imagine me hitting a wall in which I simply CANNOT  blog anymore using my iPad. AT ALL. It is so frigging frustrating. At a time when I have an extremely low tolerance for things not working.

Technical issues that used to roll off my shoulders now cripple me, cause me to freeze up ... often barely holding on and saving myself from screaming with anger and throwing things, including my technology, across the room.

This is the COVID me, I think I am discovering. My patience has been crippled, it is gone. Things not working make me want to break down in tears. So illogical when I think of it, but it is what it is.

I recall when technology stopped frustrating me, back in 2001, when I got over my fear of technology (when I was learning how to develop e-learning at a conference, in a hands-on workshop of over 200 IT specialists, when no one around me stressed when technology failed... I stopped panicking after that, anytime I hit a technology wall).

Technology frustration only began seeping back into my life a couple of years ago, when I no longer felt tech-savvy, but out of touch and out of step. It happened once I stopped being able to replace my technology on the fly... When something didn't work in the past, I'd eliminate whatever was blocking me by simply buying a new laptop. It's how I ended up with 7-8s that I was to give someone to fix and give a new life. It's how I ended up with multiple overlapping Norton subscriptions that renew automatically and protect nothing.

That slowed down to  when my iPad started crashing from low memory. And I realized I couldn't afford to replace it. I began to tolerate slowness, switching to another device or pastime, while I waited for something to finish or a screen or app to unfreeze. And I entered an uncomfortable limbo.

But what recently pushed me over the edge was Blogger's shift to a new platform. Well, it's not so much the new platform, as it was when they removed the "old Blogger", which they had left functioning for the longest time.

I was OK with the "old Blogger"... I was even OK with it not being supported, because at least I could still blog. 

Now, with the old Blogger killed off, I cannot blog from my iPad. AT ALL. I cannot even draft a post on my iPad to finish later. Nope, nada, no can do. It's how I wrote so much of my content, grabbing a URL or a quote from a website, and starting a post to finish later. Now that ability is gone.

Even as I started this post - using the 'new' Blogger on an ancient laptop I hate to use - I thought my solution was going to be to TOLERATE the new Blogger. But even that has changed.


At least with the old Blogger I could write words, fast, and watch my screen catch up. This DOES NOT HAPPEN WITH THE NEW BLOGGER! There is some new stupid auto-save function that STOPS REMEMBERING WHAT YOU ARE WRITING while it goes and saves the post. What you type during that 'interlude', even if it is just a few words, disappears into the void. WORDS ARE LOST.

The whole thing is so PAINFULLY S-L-O-W!!! The above paragraph took 30-40 stops and starts to write. It's bloody ridiculous.

So, what I thought would be a post about frustrations that I was going to work around has turned into a resolution new blogging platform.

After 17 years. What a shame.




Sunday, September 06, 2020

Beep Beep

It had my name written all over it, so of course I had to buy it. It was very good.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Now selling on eBay

A long time goal met... I have now listed some of my art on eBay!

Saturday, August 22, 2020


A podcast episode that popped up in my feed this week was immediately interesting to me. Given my ongoing interest in missing people, and a side interest in people who choose to disappear, it's notable that I hadn't heard of Johatsu and the Night Movers before. Enjoyed the podcast and did more reading on this elusive story...
Tokyo's johatsu are said to disappear into the Sanya district's streets
In Japan, if you want to disappear from your life, you can just pick up the phone and a ‘night moving company’ will turn you into one of the country’s ‘johatsu,’ or literally ‘evaporated people.’ You can cease to exist. Meet the people who choose to disappear and the people who are left behind..." [listen to the podcast on the BBC].
Of the many oddities that are culturally specific to Japan — from cat cafés to graveyard eviction notices to the infamous Suicide Forest, where an estimated 100 people per year take their own lives — perhaps none is as little known, and curious, as “the evaporated people.”... [read more in the New York Post].

There is a book on the phenomena, entitled The Vanished (by Léna Mauger). Sadly, there is no audiobook and before paying crazy prices before buying a used hardcover, I checked out the reviews.... and they were not very good (Goodreads reviews).

Actually, there are two. The other, entitled The Night Movers (by Shou Hatori), has done its own vanishing act... can't find it in any form. Hmmm. It's a shame, as this guy was a night mover.

Aspiring authors: there is a book here! Just be sure to include an audiobook.

Japan's 'evaporated people' have become an obsession for this French couple - story and podcast
Do Stressed-Out Japanese Really Stage Elaborate Disappearances? On the Trail of the Johatsu or 'Evaporated People' - Time
The chilling stories behind Japan’s ‘evaporating people’ - New York Post
Rulebreakers: How I Disappear - BBC: The Documentary Podcast

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

COVID Diary 4

Just had a moment where the multiple traumas and tragedies of late began piling up. The Beirut explosion, the Red Deer doctor attack, so many crazy things happening in this world. For the most part, I have been compartmentalizing ok, but had a wave of emotion hit me when I saw two photos in my CBC Radio stream.
The one that pulled at my heartstrings was this classroom photo of little kids in school, sitting with masks on, at their social distanced desks, so much of their natural spirit controlled, like invisible walls. Not being able to move, to squirm beyond their invisible walls, I can almost see the regimented ways the must need to move about their school, how orderly they must need to be on their breaks. Sad eyes over masks. How tragic. Snuffing out the kid in kids. I am not a parent, so have been learning at an emotional distance about what they say will be the long term effect of COVID on children. But somehow this one picture got me, and I cried. It feels so SAD to see the natural life spirit of kids snuffed out in the very environment they go to be with their friends, to learn, where it used to be an hour or two where they would need to sit controlled before recess, but always still witin note-passing, ruler poking and spitball throwing distance. These kids will be changed by this in ways we cannot be imagined. 30 years from now adults will be struggling through therapy to untangle complex issues. I can't imagine being a parent and needing to navigate all this. And how hard this must be on teachers. They are just little kids.

The other picture was of the arrest of activist Jimmy Lai in Hong Kong. It is just so grim. It says resistance IS futile in any world where China has any influence. What struck me was the faces of the officers that surround him, eyes downcast, in resignation. I want to say in shame, as that's what I imagine I see.

There is more going on, and mostly I cope, but occasionally things pile up and it all hits me. I think the fact that I don't have TV, and don't stream it online, has protected me, by not searing iages of people in hazmat suits into my brain. I think its a wise choice, as I still get plenty of news and analysis and human stories through radio and podcasts. But it also lets images like these stand out, to not pass me by.

Sunday, August 09, 2020

A man, a wild boar and a birthday suit

A must-listen podcast episode from What It Happens:
That boar has that man's laptop!
Listen to the CBC story here
The birthday suit boar chase in central Berlin was caught on film by Adele Landauer. You can listen here.

Friday, July 31, 2020

Recent art

Realize I have been posting very little of my own art of late. I'm always meaning to get better pics, sign or watermark, list for sale, blah, blah, blah... so post very little. BUT I have been creating like crazy, mostly on blank playing cards, and involving stamp collage. I'm in the ACEO arena here, and will probably sell as such on eBay soon. Might even dust off my old Etsy store. But, for now, creating and not worrying about all that.

Saturday, July 18, 2020

The Artists Documentation Program

I have always been fascinated by the work of art conservators, so this captured my attention. It was mentioned briefly in a podcast or radio program (I forget which), but I did manage to jot down the program name to it look up. 
Conservators of contemporary art face unique challenges. Unlike old masters, contemporary works are often materially ephemeral, time-based, interactive, or conceptual. In restoring these works, conservators rely heavily on documentation of an artist’s materials, techniques, and intent, frequently needing to consult the artist directly. When an artist is no longer living, the available information can become quite scarce.
To address this problem, conservator Carol Mancusi-Ungaro conceived of the Artists Documentation Program (ADP), in which conservators interview artists in the presence of their artworks, in order to understand their materials and techniques. The ADP creates a lasting record of an artist’s attitudes toward restoration and exhibition of their works–a “living will” for their work. Founded at the Menil in 1990, with support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation..." [continue reading on the ADP website].

Artists Documentation Program (ADP) - official website (interview video access)
Artist Documentation Program - Menil Collection (since 1990) - International Network for the Conservation of Contemporary Art (INCCA) blog

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

The Roll Call: Lady Butler's first

This week I learned about an artwork with an interesting history that otherwise would have passed me by, thanks to Malcolm Gladwell's podcast.

The Roll Call (officially Calling the Roll After An Engagement, Crimea), an 1874 oil-on-canvas painting by Elizabeth Thompson Butler (Lady Butler) was a first, depicting army forces exhausted and depleted after a battle. At the time, soldiers were only portrayed pre-battle, pristinely groomed and brave. This little-known female artist changed all that.

Thompson was just 26 years old when she submitted the painting to the Royal Academy, and it was an instant hit. Butler wrote that she awoke and "found myself famous". Queen Victoria insisted that she should buy it, and the work remains in the Royal Collection, hidden from public view.

In the inaugural episode of his popular podcast, Revisionist History, Malcolm Gladwell visited the painting in London and shared his learnings. In particular, Gladwell explores the 'first' nature of the work, and the fact that the artist has remained largely unknown. It's a good listen.

The Lady Vanishes - Revisionist History episode

Sunday, July 12, 2020


For a couple of weeks I have had a Post-It Note with the word "Bullockornis" written on it, waiting for my attention. A co-worker had used the word in out internal chat system, and I answered "?". He said Google it. So today I did...
This image from Dinopedia is a contradiction... as this
presumably ferocious giant bird looks almost cute
Bullockornis planei, nicknamed the demon-duck of doom or thunderduck, is an extinct flightless bird that lived in the Middle Miocene, approximately 15 million years ago, in what is now Australia.

Bullockornis stood approximately 2.5 metres (8 ft 2 in) tall, and weighed up to 250 kg (550 lb). The size of Bullockornis' skull (larger than a small horse), and its very large beak, once led to speculation that the bird may have been carnivorous. Most currently agree that it was a herbivore, related to geese and ducks. This, in addition to the bird's tremendous size and earlier misclassification as a carnivore, gave rise to its colourful nickname.
Although the name actually means‭ '‬ox bird‭'‬,‭ ‬Bullockornis is better known in popular culture as the‭ '‬Demon duck of doom‭'‬.‭.. Although Bullockornis was without doubt a large bird,‭ ‬it was not named for being the size of an ox but instead for being discovered in Bullock Creek... [continue reading on Prehistoric Wildlife]

Bullockornis ("Bullock Bird") - Australia: The Land Where Time Began
Bullockornis ("Ox Bird") - Prehistoric Wildlife

Friday, July 10, 2020

In praise of Conestoga Huts

I was inspired by a CBC Radio All Points West interview today to Google 'conestoga hut'. The interview was with a British Columbian behind an initiative to bring an innovative homeless solution from Eugene, Oregon to the province. As a person whose heart is heavy with the lack of action to end homelessness, I'm impressed and inspired. A few pics and and links...

Conestoga Huts: Cost-Effective and Durable Micro-Shelters - Community Supported Shelters
Safe Spot Communities: Simple Shelter + Peer-Support = Stability - Community Supported Shelters
CSS Resident Stories - Community Supported Shelters
Erik and Fay de Buhr on life in a Hut: “We love small spaces.” - Community Supported Shelters
Erik de Buhr builds huts for the homeless – but eventually gives them a 'loving shove' - Christian Science Monitor

Sunday, June 28, 2020

The glorious works of Fernando Botero

Fernando Botero Angulo is Latin America's most recognized living artist, but is still new to me. His distinctive style is referred as "Boterismo", depicting people and figures in large, exaggerated volume.

"When we look at the work of Fernando Botero, be it a painting, drawing or sculpture, we are amazed at the enormous size of the figures, as much animals as people and things...The figures painted and sculpted by Botero are not really ‘fat’. They are his formal bid for expressing the sensuality of form, to explore the possibilities of volume and give monumentality to the protagonists of his pictorial world"... [continue reading on Raising Miro]

"I don’t paint fat women. Nobody believes me but it is true.
What I paint are volumes. When I paint a still life I also
paint with volume, if I paint an animal it is
volumetric, a landscape as well."
Fernando Botero

10 Facts You Need to Know About Fernando Botero - Daily Art Magazine
Big, big, bigger Botero - Raising Miro
Inside Botero's NYC Apartment and Studio (great sneak peak from $6M 2017 listing) - Street Easy Blog
Botero’s Voluminous Sculptures Around the World - Art Weekenders
Fernando Botero - Colombian Artists (GREAT photos!) - The Art Reference Blog
The Art of Fernando Botero: Colombia’s ‘Most Colombian’ Artist - Culture Trip
Fernando Botero in the casting room, a thought experiment - The Art Blog
Fat is Beautiful - The Art of Fernando Botero - Travel Ark 2.0
Fernando Botero & his amusing versions of the Mona Lisa - Public Delivery
Inflated Animal and Human Shapes in the Art of Fernando Botero - 300 Magazine, A Medium Corporation
Visual collection of Botero's work (2500+ works) - ArtNet

Thursday, June 25, 2020

How a podcast about design works (99% Invisible)

I am a huge fan of 99% Invisible, so I really enjoyed this video interview with Roman Mars.

Meet Roman Mars, the creator and host of one of our favorite shows, 99% Invisible. It's a wonderful podcast that celebrates and obsesses over the overlooked design in our everyday lives. We visited Roman at his recording studio (ie. home office) to geek out over the hidden world of design, radio production, and storytelling through podcasting...

Meet Roman Mars, Creator of 99% Invisible - Adam Savage's Tested episode page about the 2014 interview

Meet Roman Mars, Creator of 99% Invisible - watch Norman Chan's interview on YouTube

99% Invisible  - Roman Mars's podcast website

Friday, June 19, 2020

World Refugee Day (June 20)

World Refugee Day this year is Saturday, June 20, 2020. I am pre-writing this post, inspired by a 2019 story on artnews.

The Met Is Covering Up a Painting by Marc Chagall to Show What the World Would Lose Without the Contributions of Refugees

"Visitors to the Metropolitan Museum of Art this week will be unable to see one of the major works in the museum’s collection: Marc Chagall’s The Lovers (1913–14). The painting, although still on view, has been obscured with a drab gray curtain in honor of World Refugee Day (Thursday, June 20). The museum is hiding the painting to emphasize what the world stands to lose if countries turn away refugees such as Chagall, a Russian Jew forced to flee France with his fiancee, Bella Rosenfeld, after the Nazi invasion. The Lovers depicts the artist and his wife, who resettled in New York..." [continue reading on artnet].

Marc Chagall's The Lovers (uncovered)

Tuesday, June 02, 2020

Columbus, Indiana: an architectural epicentre

The public library in Columbus, Indiana - architecture I. M. Pei
Yes, that's a Henry Moore sculpture ("Large Arch")
It all began with a swimming pool.

Not just any swimming pool, but a kidney shaped one.

It was while listening to episode 370 of 99% Invisible, The Pool and the Stream Redux, that I learned about 2 things:
• The history of skateboarding (some of which I was familiar with), and
• How Columbus, Indiana, USA, became an epicentre of modern architecture... who knew?!?

I am not going to spoil things and try to put the story in a nutshell for you. Take a listen yourself, or read the transcript if you prefer.

In the meantime, Google is my friend and I am off to learn more about this architecture.

The Pool and the Stream Redux (episode 370) - 99% Invisible podcast
Columbus, Ind.: A Midwestern Mecca Of Architecture - NPR podcast
The Precocious Genius of “Columbus” (movie review) - New Yorker
Small and Mighty Mecca of Modern Architecture in Columbus, Indiana - The Roads Travelled

Here are a few photos of the city's architecture.... which I have intentionally left untitled. If you're into architecture, have fun identifying them:)