It's Alive

There are many elements of Feng Shui that I incorporate into my home. Having things in the house that are alive is always a positive way to bring about healthy circulation of Chi (life force) energy. Growing things either for the sake of having living things or for purposes such as herbs to cook with or plants that promote clean air and detoxification is also a relaxing activity, if you chose to make it a mindful one.

I love these two products which incorporate unusual methods of having things growing in the home.

This Sky Planter by Patrick Morris made for Boskke has herbs growing upside down!

Dr. J and I have grown many varieties of herbs over the years in all seven spaces we’ve shared. No matter where we lived we have always had our top three: basil, rosemary and mint.

This Play Ground, Play Table by NOTHING dESIGN GROUP is a fantastic piece. Although not conducive to a home with young children (can you imagine!) it is a really cool idea- they make both a coffee table version as well as the desk/table pictured here.


Say You're One Of Them

Say You Are One Of Them is a collection of short stories by Uwem Akpan. Born and raised in Nigeria he studied theology at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa and became an ordained Jesuit priest. He received his MFA in creative writing from the University of Michigan. Mr. Akpan's story “My Parent’s Bedroom” received recognition for the Caine Prize for African Writing in 2007. His stories have received many accolades for their true exposure of life in Africa, amongst poverty and genocide.

His stories transformed me as they uncovered the realities of circumstances told from a largely marginalized perspective. Specifically, events are told from the perspective of not only an African writer, but from the view of children.

In this collection of five stories the one that still makes me cringe is the last one “My Parent’s Bedroom”. The first story “An Ex-mas Feast” was an amazing read. Told from the perspective of an eight year old boy resonated close to me. It’s portrayal of family life in a shack “which stood on a cement slab at the end of an alley, leaning against the back of an old brick shop” was detailed to the degree that I too wanted to hold the tarpaulin roof down and cover the children with the families only wet blanket. The despair and misery was palpable through Mr. Akpan’s talented writing and although I have physically been in an African shack (while on a work project in Swaziland) I have never experienced being in a shack like this until I read this story.


Molas De Panama

Central America is colorful by nature and encouraged by nature.

I traveled to Costa Rica in 2008 and was greatly motivated by the wonderful colors, fresh fruits, beaches and primary growth jungle which smelt of ancient divinity.

My parents were in Panama and sent us this post card which was the inspiration for this segment of ‘Farts and Crafts’.

Molas are traditionally made by women of the Kuma; an indigenous people of Panama and Colombia.

From the writings of Dr. Mari Lyn Salvador , curator of The Art of Being Kuna:

“The Kuna live in an area that includes a 140-mile stretch of rainforest on the mainland and a chain of coral islands off the Caribbean coast of Panama, from San Blas Point near the Colón side of the Panama Canal to Porto Obaldía near the Colombian border. Named San Blas by outsiders, the region is now called Kuna Yala, which means 'Kuna land.'”

The Kuna people originally painted elaborate geometric shapes on their bodies. After colonization they began to make these patterns onto fabric, particularly blouses.

Molas are layered pieces of fabric which are made using a reverse appliqué technique. Layers of different-coloured cloth are sewn together. Then cutting parts of each layer away, each edge is sewn down. Generally the more layers a Mola has, the more skilled the artisan. Depending on the complexity of the design a single mola can take up to six months to make.

Mola art is popular among apprecianados. Practically anywhere in Central America there are tourist shops that sell these as pillows, placemats or wall hangings. An authentic mola is one that has been worn as part of the traditional dress by a Kuna woman. Authentic molas, those not made for tourists, are distiguishable by several factors: they are sold in pairs, made up of the back and front of a blouse, and will show signs of fading and wear.

To achieve the effect of an intricate mola my artisans painted randomly within a rectangular perimeter onto tee-shirts.

Afterwards we sewed these mola inspired cut out designs, on top, to accomplish the look of this art form.

An interesting tidbit is that the Kuna people have a high rate of albinism which in Kuna mythology elevates one to the statues of dragon defender. I’ll have to research this one more!


Sand and Sea Weed Art- October 3rd. Marblehead.

Peabody Essex Museum

Salem, Massachusetts is different in October than it is in any other month of the year. It’s historic relevance to the infamous Salem witch trials in 1692 makes this seaport town particularly colorful in the days leading up to All Hallows Eve.
The commercial holiday and tourist attractions that overwhelm the senses are not what attract most people during the rest of the year. One of North America’s most affluent and noteworthy seaports for two hundred years, Salem merchants founded the Peabody Essex Museum in 1799. Known for it’s large collection of nearly a million objects the PEM is a mix of historical artifacts and contemporary works.

Running from now until June 1st, 2010 is a truly remarkable exhibition 'Trash Menagerie' which features one of my favorite art media’s: recycled materials. Also known as Assemblage art, Found object and Junk art, the exhibition features over 30 works of art made from recycled materials.
Taking place in the museums interactive Art & Nature Center it is geared towards children with vicious irony not lost on an adult audience.

Cuddly and cute is the 13 inch Filter Rabbit, (Tom Deininger, 2000), housed in a glass case which upon closer inspection reveals that the bunny is made of hundreds of cigarette filters.

David Edgar makes sculptures using perhaps the earths most abundant and toxic material, plastic. Using laundry detergent bottles he creates colorful animals such as the Raggedtailed Dragon Fish and its miniature Red Wing-finned Rib Tail, (2007).
Several of the artist in the exhibition use recycled plastic to depict sea creatures creating art work from one of the most ominous materials to ocean dwellers. Michelle Lougee

Aurora Robson
The work which impressed me the most is Michelle Stitzlein’s Sulphur Blue Smeck (2005). Using such materials as piano keys, bicycle parts, broken china and wire Stitzlein writes that she “strives to use and reuse society’s waste in an imaginative way.” She goes on to say that “butterflies and moths are quintessential mascots of recycling“as they are “commonly thought of as unattractive worms, [but] caterpillars undergo a natural alteration into new bewitching winged creatures.”
The PEA’s Creative Creatures interactive (I have included a link) is a great way to learn more about the earth and artists who create with recycled materials.


Kensington Market Toronto

Since I was in grade six and my parents let me ride the subway/streetcar to downtown Toronto I have been visiting Kensington Market. A collection of streets in the heart of what is called Chinatown but what would be better described as Asia-town it is a mishmash of vintage shops, natural food stores, bead shops, cloth shops, coffee shops, book stores, music shops and 'save the world' organization offices.
Originally the area know as Kensington Market was a land lot purchased in 1815, by George Taylor Denison. The Denison family are a significant foundation in the history of Toronto (see links below). In 1850 the estate was subdivided and houses were built to house the new arriving Irish and Scottish immigrants.
Many of the original houses still exist and have been expanded on by many nationalities of newly arriving immigrants.
In the early 1900 to 1920 an influx of Eastern European immigrants generated a cluster of settlement in what was then referred to the Jewish Market. The Jewish merchants sold a plethora of goods and services reminiscent of the ‘Old Country’ operating small shops, delis, tailors, schmatta businesses, furriers and bakers. Approximately 60,000 Jews lived in and around Kensington Market during the 1920s and 1930s and there were upwards of 30 synagogues in the area. Today only two exist in the Kensington area:

This is a photo taken in August of the Minsk Synagogue. (http://www.theminsk.com/index.html)

New waves of immigrants from the Caribbean and East Asia changed the community, making it even more diverse as the century wore on. The Vietnam War brought a number of American political refugees to the neighbourhood, adding to its Marajuana Legalization and utopian flavours to local politics. Many shops sell marajuana pharaphanelia and the sent of herb is part of the fish shop, veggie-fruit market,Jamaican beef patty smell.

My favorite shop which two decades later makes me as happy as when I first visited as a teenager is a store called Courage My Love. The vintage shop sells beads, army wear, and really cool gently loved clothes. The staff is helpful and follow a motto of: “tell the truth and make sure the customer is happy when they leave the store,whether they have bought anything or not.”
This is a really good read, written from the heart, by one of the founders of this store:

Today the neighbourhood is a popular tourist destination and a centre of Toronto's cultural life as artists and writers continue to gravitated the area. Real estate in the area has increased sharply, but despite its increased appeal to professionals, Kensington still remains a predominantlyworking class, immigrant community.

Kinetic Art

According to the Tate glossary the word kinetic means relating to motion. Kinetic art is art that depends on motion either from wind, light, water or mechanical manipulation for its effects.
Artists have incorporated motion in art since ancient Egyptian times. In modern times mixing art with movement was explored by such artist as Alexander Calder, Marcel Duchamp and Naum Gabo. During a period where technology and machinery gained popularity so to did kinetic art.

Tim Fort

Kinetic art considers the way that art looks when combined with motion. Sculptures are the most typical expression of this art form. Three dimensional works which produce moving shadows or are actually in motion themselves are characteristic of the spirit of this form. Op Art is often compared to kinetic art and many artist produce works that are interchangeably defined in both categories.

Two of my favorite contemporary kinetic artist are Tim Fort and Yaacov Agam.


Led Zeppelin

I have liked Led Zeppelin since grade nine, slow danced to 'Stairway to Heaven', had mix tapes of their songs, bought a few CD’s and then didn’t listen to them for ten years.
Last year we visited our friend’s S and W in Costa Rica and Dr. S burned a bunch of their stuff. Part of that illegal burning session included our possession of Led Zeppelin’s complete Box Set and Box Set II.
Like most of the other musicians I love, they write poetry and sing it.

Here are some of the lyrics to:

The Battle of Evermore
The Queen of Light took her bow and then she turned to go

The Prince of Peace embraced the gloom and walked the night alone

Oh, dance in the dark night, sing to the morning light

The Dark Lord rides in force tonight, and time will tell us all
And what about D’yer Mak’er? Tangerine? Immigrant Song... I think they are genius poetry mixed with incredible adhesion of words to instruments to create music.
Led Zeppelin first played together in 1968 under the name Yardbirds and ten years later were winding down their tours and live concerts. Their song Stairway to Heaven is the most requested radio song, ever. In 1971 they released Going to California, a song about Joni Mitchell as well as Black Dog which was the first track on their unnamed album IV one of the most popular rock albums of all times.

The movie Almost Famous written and directed by Cameron Crowe is based on Led Zeppelin’s members Jimmy Page (guitar) and Robert Plant (vocals).

Here is a link to a great Rolling Stone article about the band:

This article discusses the bands lyric controversies

Home Made Sushi



Poutine is one of my favorite meals and the first thing I think of if anyone asks me what a fundamentally Canadian dish is. Made with thick cut whole potato fries, topped with white melty cheese curds and a dollop of thick brown gravy it is the perfect meal for 3am or anyother time of the day!

This dish originated in Quebec, Canada in the 1950’s and is popular in ‘diner type’ restaurants all over Canada. The name is reminicent of the American ‘Sloppy Joe’ and ‘ça va faire une maudite poutine’ translates as "it will make a damn mess".

The recognition of the dish in America surged during the 2000 election when a Canadian comedy sketch called “Talking to Americans” on the show This Hour Has 22 Minutes featured a reporter convincing then Governor of Texas George W. Bush, that Canada’s Prime Minister was named Jean Poutine and that he was supporting Bush’s candidacy. When Bush made his first visit to Canada as President, during his speech he said “There's a prominent citizen who endorsed me in the 2000 election, and I wanted a chance to finally thank him for that endorsement. I was hoping to meet Jean Poutine."

In-N-Out Burger has the closest thing to a poutine at an American Fast Food Chain, their off-menu item ‘French Fries Animal Style’ is french fries, grilled with special sauce, onions and cheese.



We recently had dinner at our friends A. and D.'s place. A. is a fantastic professionally trained chef and was my neighbour at 420 Piccadilly Court for a few years. I was so excited to see that the stove in her kitchen is exactly like the one from my childhood.

I love stuffed mushrooms


Phish at Darian Lake

I am not a Phish Phan but I love going to Phish shows. So you see it’s not a concert it’s a show. My love also stems from how happy it makes Dr. J, who in his hippy days went on several tours and around 200 shows. In 2000 Phish took a hiatus and Dr. J and I did too. Some members of the band went to rehab and many of their phans went on with their lives.
So eight years later and with slightly more lucid vision we went to see Phish. We arrived on site five hours before the show was scheduled to start and took a walk down to Shakedown Street. Shakedown, a Grateful Dead verbiage, is the area where Phish Tour people sell the things they sell, to get the phunds they need to get to the next show. Phans back their vans and set up tents making walkways of Phish inspired tee shirts, ganja goo balls, glass art, crystals, jewelry, sweaters, stained glass, patch work clothes, grill cheese sandwiches, fajitas, pizzas and lots of ice cold beer and water. We set up our LL Bean Sleeping bag and watched the madness unfold.

The line in Dazed and Confused “I get older, they stay the same age” could not be more spot on to describe the scene. Nothing has changed, the dynamics are the same, the interactions, the spirit but with different people and different distractions. There were still hacky sacks (back to the 90’s much) and I saw some devil sticks but to my great amusement a prop that is becoming popular at my local gym was a major presence, hoola hoops! Ribbony psychedelic ones. The fairy winged girls were all about the hoolahoop tricks, still wearing their knee high rainbow colored or argyle socks and barely anything else. I was mesmerized by one gorgeous nymph with bare pert breasts and a loin cloth tirelessly hoolahooping in the lot.

The first show I ever ‘got taken to’ was in 2000 at Radio City Music Hall. In retrospect that is an amazing first show experience venue. Not all venues are created equal and not all sites are as clean as Radio City Music Hall. Darien Lake in Buffalo is a dirty show, can’t be clean after that one. Luckily I already knew I was going to have a blast and knew my limitations on how to have a good time.

So this is my theory on how to have an awesome time at a Phish show. Just dance. Seriously.
I don’t know all the songs, I don't know the story behind the story or what they covered, I have no idea why one of them wears a dress, why they sometimes play a vacuum (yeah as if it's an instrument!) or why there are trampolines on stage at some shows. When they start playing some long 'hippy jam' I feel like scratching my actual brain out, sometimes.
Dancing like a wet noodle is fun. I had a fantastic show. Great experience. The band was more sober and even though it took about 48 hours to feel normal again I can’t wait to go to some of their West Coast shows in the fall.

Here is a link to Dr. J’s favorite Phish blogger about the show at Darien Lake- This guy knows the story behind the story.


Author: Malcolm Gladwell

Malcolm Gladwell is a fantastic writer. He introduces ideas that I have never pondered and explains them in a conversational style which ultimately leaves me feeling that I just spent a lovely mind stimulating evening with an old friend. The only problem with his books is that I am so eager to talk about them with others that it is hard not to, until they too have finished it.

Born in England and raised in Ontario, Canada, Mr. Gladwell lives in New York City, where he has been a staff writer for The New Yorker since 1996. He is well known as the author of the books The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference (2000), Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking (2005), and Outliers: The Story of Success (2008).

In his latest book Outliers: The Story of Success, Mr. Gladwell examines “Why do some people succeed far more than others?” He observes as most would that success is a combination of intelligence and ambition but takes this hypothesis several steps further. I thoroughly enjoyed his theories based on the agricultural methods employed in the middle ages by Asian vs. European peasants and the implications this has on the mathematical prowess of their respective ancestors. Chapter Two of his book The 10,000- Hour Rule, is another wonderful supposition that states “you will only reach a level of mastery if you are willing to devote essentially 10 years to a particular discipline”. Mr. Gladwell goes on to give unique examples of this theory using the paradigms of The Beatles, Bill Gates, Bill Joy and Mozart.

Mr. Gladwell is now working on another book which he describes as being about teachers and quarterbacks. I am anxiously awaiting the next batch of ideas while practicing my 10,000 hours to mastery, in various fields.

His Official Website
About his latest book:


Artist: Jorge Villalba

White Squares Gallery in Las Vegas is where I first saw Jorge Villalba's work.
His painting The Kidnapping of Ganymedes I, 2004 is thrilling with its darkness and photo realism. Many of Villalba’s paintings are reminiscent of beautiful and perfect children, often in chilling poses or situations. Villalba’s work suggests an intentional instigation but of what is often disputed. When I went back there today to visit my friend C. The Kidnapping of Ganymedes I again beckoned my attention. I told C. how wonderful I thought it was and she said that the reaction of many visitors is one of outrage at Villalba's painting, which they view as child pornography?!?!

I think his paintings are brilliant, not lewd. To me the paintings speak more of dichotomies between naiveté and death or innocence and evil. Villalba’s paintings often depict children with faces that are perfectly angelic and totally realistic. The coloring of the children is almost always cast in a natural glow, with the backdrop often sparse and dark. Common in his paintings are brightly colored toys that are recognizable as contemporary.

Born in Spain in 1975, Villalba’s painting style and technique are clearly recognizable and defined. He is able to created works that are reminiscent of portraits or depict characters and events in times past, yet with an indisputable presence in this moment.

The Picnic (2008)

Hansel and Gretel (2007)

Here is the link for White Square Gallery in Las Vegas.

Originally founded in Berlin in 2008, WHITE SQUARE GALLERY is the first European gallery to open showrooms in Las Vegas, USA.


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