Category Archives: travel




In the style of Alex Colville’s “Horse and Train”:,+Horse+and+Train

Colville turned to existentialism in his art work after World War II. Existentialism tends to focus on the question of human existence. It is up to humans to create personal responsibility for themselves outside of any branded belief system. Existentialists seem to embrace existence and seek to find and create meaning in life. For Colville, existentialism provided a way for him to understand the Second World War and investigate his experiences. Colville reflects his experiences of the Second World War into his paintings of the 1950s by trying to present to the viewer a feeling of sadness. During the 1950s, Colville’s art work was a search for self discovery. Colville’s artistic process became a visual analogue of a quest for finding himself.

Original Google Street View at


Big Bay, South Africa

David Blackwood is one of Canada’s leading printmakers and most popular artists. Blackwood has been telling stories about Newfoundland in the form of epic visual narratives for 30 years. Blackwood explores the timeless theme of the struggle for survival between humans and nature in one of the most exposed and hostile environments on earth.He has created an iconography of Newfoundland which is as universal as it is personal, as mythic as it is rooted in reality, and as timeless as it is linked to specific events.

This image is not by David Blackwood however I tried to render it in the style of one of his aquatints. It is in fact a Google Street View capture at Big Bay, near Cape Town, South Africa. Every week, a group of photographers on Google Plus take part in the Artistic Google theme where we visit Street View images for a locale and post-process them creatively for the sheer joy of practicing our skills and with no commercial intent.

How small our world is. Driving around South Africa in the Artistic Google Magic Bus, I would have sworn I was in Texas (a theme that we did a few weeks ago) but then I came across this beach near Cape Town and thought I might turn it into Bonavista.

The Gorbals Boy Who Went to Oxford

This is a writer that I would love to have met.

Ralph GlasserRalph Glasser was famously the Gorbals boy who went to Oxford.

Glasser was the son of Russian Jewish immigrants who lived on the top floor of a three-storey slum tenement in Warwick Street in the Gorbals, Glasgow. He was left motherless at six, cursed with a father who was an incurable gambler, and abandoned by two older sisters who fled the house. He left school at 14 to became a soap-boy in a barber’s shop and then presser in a garment factory. After each 12-hour day, Glasser would head for the Mitchell Library while his father headed for card schools or the illegal gambling dens that prospered in Glasgow. Glasser studied diligently at night school and won a scholarship for Oxford University. He famously cycled the 400 miles to the land of the dreaming spires. From Oxford, Glasser went to work for the British Council and later into public relations and Third World consultancy. He became a distinguished psychologist and economist. Glasser’s life can be traced in his writings.

“The streets were slippery with refuse and often with drunken vomit. It was a place of grime and poverty…The Victorian building, in red sandstone blackened by smoke… was in decay. Splintered and broken floorboards sometimes gave way under your feet. Interior walls carried patches of stain from a long succession of burst pipes. Rats and mice moved about freely….”

Bert Hardy Gorbals 1948His life had all the cliches of a tale of rags to some kind of riches, but it had substance, too. Glasser could never have been accused of living a life that was unexamined. Those who read his trilogy of Growing Up in the Gorbals, Gorbals Boy at Oxford, and Gorbal Voices, Siren Songs as simply the tale of the physical journey of a Jewish boy to manhood, missed the greater significance of his work; Glasser was capable of producing an enduring narrative, but it was his self-searching that made much of his work irresistible. This spirit of indomitable inquiry was shown to its greatest effect in Gorbals Legacy, almost an afterword to his Gorbals Trilogy. If the reader is looking for tales of black sannies, dispirited men huddling on street corners, or the consolations of poverty, Gorbals Legacy is not the place to go. It is, rather, the chronicle of an inner journey. It pays no service to the conventions of time. No dates are mentioned. The mundane world of jobs and money are ignored. It is a psychological, even spiritual, investigation of an individual psyche and its motivations and desires. There is a tide of human experience and Glasser produced a singular, spectacular wave in his last words in print. Gorbals Legacy looked back at a life that contained too little happiness but had ultimately produced a gentle acceptance of existence and more than a degree of contentment.

“In pre-war days for a Gorbals man to come up to Oxford was unthinkable as to meet a raw bushman in the St James club, something for which there were no stock responses. In any case for a member of the boss class, someone from the Gorbals was in effect a bushman, the Gorbals itself as distant and unknowable as the Kalahari Desert.”

“…Self-inquiry has taken me deeper than I ever imagined, to show me that nothing, no perception, no vision will ever answer the questions that possessed me when I left the Gorbals to cycle to Oxford.”

The search for these answers included a stay in San Giorgio, a small Italian village, and in Acharacle in the Highlands where Glasser, an adviser on environmental matters for the UN, attempted to find solutions for the wasteful way many communities lived. This was typical of the restless seeking that so characterised Glasser.

“…the Gorbals at my shoulder always, like the Hound of Heaven”

Dark, heavily bespectacled and softly spoken, Glasser had an elusive, magus-like quality in person, and on the printed page: acquaintances longed to learn more, and felt that he had not only done and seen a great deal but might also have some of the answers.

Ralph Glasser, writer, economist, environmentalist; born April 3, 1916, died March 6, 2002

Excerpted from The Sunday Herald.

More at The Telegraph.

Image: Bert Hardy, Gorbals Boys, 1948.


Le Flâneur: Paris at Night in 2,000 Photographs

The elegance of Paris is captured in a stunning time-lapse video by Luke Shepard, a student at The American University of Paris.

The undergraduate student’s two-minute video titled Le Flâneur has gone viral since the Boston-native posted it on the popular video networking site Vimeo earlier this year.

The video is composed of 2,000 photographs which Shepard, 21, shot at night and in the early hours while roaming the French capital. Over the course of a few months, Shepard snapped photo after photo with his trusty Nikon D90 camera strapped to a tripod to prevent any unnecessary movement.

The video is set to the song Intro by The xx, an English indie pop band.

“Ever since I’ve been in Paris I’ve been wandering the streets at night either by bike or by foot,” Shepard told the Toronto Star.

“There is a very eerie feeling about it (at night). I wanted to tell its story through pictures.”

Excerpted from the Toronto Star, May 5, 2011.

Interview with Luke Shepard.

Autumn Leaves in Kyoto

Kyoto is the name of my heart-dog. She turns 13 in September, and she is named after the most beautiful city in Japan. The closest I have come to seeing leaves like this is a visit to University of British Columbia’s Japanese garden. There is a very rude and untrimmed approximation in my backyard, but don’t tell my shiba inus that…

Les Chevaliers Cathares

Stone knights for Linda Gordon, who taught me that there are too many haiku about cherry blossoms and too few about stone.

Les chevaliers Cathares
Pleurent doucement,
Au bord de l’autoroute
Quand le soir descend,
Comme une dernière insulte,
Comme un dernier tourment,
Au milieu du tumulte,
En robe de ciment.

From the A61 motorway at the Pech Loubat rest stop in France, you can see three giant stone Cathar knights brooding over their long lost homeland. Pulling into their often deserted, large last home, you may relax and explore this wild area, and stop off for a quiet pique-nique. You can even climb right up in the hollowed out bodies and look out through the helmets of the lonely giants, east over the vast valleys as they sweep down towards the Mediterranean.

The site seems almost as unloved as the Cathars were by the Church of Rome. But it allows the wildlife to flourish and provides an experience of quiet and the open skies from the rise above the everlasting tarmac ribbon.

“Christianity, without chapels, without statues, Christianity which always refused to encompass anything sacred within visible matter….the heart of man is the true church of God.”
~ Anne Brenon

The word Cathar comes from the Greek word Katheroi meaning pure ones. Cathars believed in a theological dualism with two divine principles, a good one who made all good, unmaterial, things (like the human soul) and a bad one who made the bad, material, things (like the human body). They also believed that the mainstream Catholicism had strayed away from, and had corrupted, the very early Christianist teachings.

The Cathars believed that their soul became trapped in the world, reincarnating over and over until they were once again free from identification with this dimension and could return home to pure Spirit. They saw how our attention becomes easily trapped in this dualistic universe. Snared by the temptations of the outer life, the mind creates an inner thought-based world to match, and by these very thoughts, reinforces the outer world of matter and the senses. Seeing how thoughts and matter became intertwined, creating a net nearly impossible to break, the Cathar Perfects labored to save themselves.

Catharism was a “heresy” that was introduced to the Languedoc in about 1150 and was widespread in this region of France for several centuries. Catharism was so popular that even priests were leaving the Catholic orthodoxy to follow it. The popularity of the Cathars reached it height at the beginning of the 14th century.

In 1209, Pope Innocent III declared a crusade against the Cathars, when the Catholic Church came down extremely heavily on the heretics, aided by the King of France, keen to grab more land for his idle, spare knights. The eradication of Catharism included the complete slaughter of the town of Toulouse. In all, about half a million people of all ages and rank were killed.

The crusade against Catharism eventually led to the dramatic last stand at the Cathar castle on Montsegur. Here, after an as yet to be explained surrender and terms, the remaining Perfects were burned, ending an era and starting a legend. Stories still abound of the last night of this final siege, and the supposed escape of four Cathars with a treasure, reputed to be anything from gold, to the Holy Grail itself.

The Cathars left us with not just another story of strength in the face of persecution, but also an inspiring call to our intuition that things might not be as they seem. They struggled to escape the bonds of earthly existence and find Heaven and God within.

Lyrics:  Francis Cabrel

International Virtual Dog Show for Australian Wildfire Relief

Australia wildfire

This past week, the world has watched in horror as bushfires in Australia have razed entire towns and devastated wild areas. Fires are still burning in Eastern Victoria ( North and North East of Melbourne) and New South Wales. At last count 181 souls have perished and over 1100 homes destroyed. In some areas it is still not possible to get into to find any bodies.

Australian Shepherd DogThe dog show people have come up with a wonderful fundraiser to help out Australian dog lovers in the affected regions: a virtual dog show open to anyone in the world who would like to enter and show off their dog friends.

Any dog is eligible to enter. There will be special classes for dogs from mixed marriages as well as a rainbow bridge category for dearly departed friends. The fee is $10 AUS per dog.

All money raised will be shared among Aussie members who are victims of the bushfires.

A catalogue of ‘the show’ will be given to each of the affected members as a sign of the support of their friends. Copies of the catalogue will also be available on the Dogs Victoria website. The catalogue will show breed, dog’s name and owner’s name.

Entries close March 6!

Why not make an entry in the name of your favourite dog that may no longer still be with you? You can download entry forms at the Dogs Victoria website

Dogs Victoria have raised over $60,000 at time of writing.