Studies with a Saint

  • I attended a mindfulness retreat for academics held at Brock University in 2013. It turned out to be the last retreat Thich Nhat Hanh ever had. He had a massive stroke in 2014 and is paralyzed and can no longer talk. But he is still alive and enjoying life. He can teach without saying a word. Wait.
  • Every morning at this retreat, we had to wake up at 6 AM. We would go outside to do exercises with bamboo sticks, designed for monks. I enjoyed the exercises. Then we would follow Thay (“Teacher” in Vietnamese) to the lecture hall. It was about a half mile away. There was dew on the grass and the sun was just rising.
  •  One day, as we were walking to the lecture hall, I found myself quite close to Thay. This was unusual since there were over a thousand people there.
  •  Thay walked to a small tree, then stopped abruptly. Everyone else did too, like a wave. A young monk spread a mat on the grass. Thay sat down. We all did, too, in the wet grass. I was very close by. The young monk poured Thay some tea. Thay held the cup up to the rising sunlight. There was a glow in the glass cup. He held it there for a while, then slowly drank the tea. Wait.
  • While this was going on a man just behind me was saying this: “What is he doing? Why are we sitting here? I want to hear him talk! My ass is getting wet!” And so on. I was laughing inside but did not tell him that we were learning the point of the entire conference, in just that one moment! And without Thay saying a word!
  •  Afterwards, we all went, with our wet asses, to hear him talk. I took notes. I still have them. What I remember most is that tea, and Thay saying, “You work all day to make money to go buy things that YOU DO NOT NEED!”
  • Wait.

The Most Appropriate Visual Metaphor

I

On April 14, 1912, a ship called the Californian was stopped in an ice field 12 miles or so from the TITANIC. Titanic’s engines were shut down shortly after she hit a large iceberg. Titanic had received eight warnings about the ice field, one of them just minutes before the collision, but no one took the ice field seriously. After all, the ship was unsinkable.

The Californian’s officers and one crewman were on deck having a smoke. They watched the big ship they saw in the distance send up eight rockets. They then watched as her lights went out. They thought that the ship looked a bit odd, almost as if ‘she had a big side out of the water’. The officers notified their captain, but the captain did not wake the radio operator up or go topside to see for himself what was going on. He figured, if another ship got into trouble in that ice field, it was their own fault. The captain stayed in his quarters. The officers reported that the ship ‘disappeared’ around 2:20 AM on April 15.

The captain had to live with the consequences of his actions for the rest of his life.

We are now in the interesting situation of having the Titanic and Californian conjoined into the same ship.

And this time there are no lifeboats.

ONCE MORE, INTO THE BLEACH! Henry V, Act-III, Scene-I

But if you would consider the true cause
Why all these fires, why all these gliding ghosts,
Why birds and beasts from quality and kind,
Why old men, fools, and children calculate,
Why all these things change from their ordinance,
Their natures, and preformed faculties
To monstrous quality, why, you shall find
That heaven hath infused them with these spirits
To make them instruments of fear and warning
Unto some monstrous state.— William Shakespeare, TWELFTH NIGHT

Hoax Toasties

Do you remember how we used to love to read MAD magazine and see the clever social and political satire and wonderful caricatures by great artists like MOrt Drucker and Jack Davis?

Well, MAD gave up the ghost last year. It simply was no longer able to compete with reality. We are living in a time when the Onion and the Beaverton (the Canadian Onion) are indistinguishable from the news headlines of the day. They, too, cannot compete, or even keep up with, reality.

So, since we live in an age of fake news and hoaxes, I am going to be writing a few posts about some historic, and sometimes hysteric, hoaxes. I used to collect books of them. None of the posts will be political. We get enough of that in the daily news.

And one of my posts will also be a hoax. But not this one. You will have to guess when I finish. Then maybe you will win a prize.

SPECTRA

My first hoax begins on a New York day in 1916. Two poets were sitting around, drinking. I do not know if they were socially distancing. The term would not be invented for another century. They decided to make a parody of the then popular poetic style, Imagism. This required that they develop suitable poetic noms de plume. Wytter Bynner and Arthur Davidson Ficke wrote under the pseudonyms of Emanuel Morgan and Anne Knish and got their collection published.

A knish is a potato filled pastry sold in New York. Clearly they were not Jewish and did not expect any Jewish readers to call them out on this.

“Morgan and Knish” wrote a suitably impenetrable manifesto for their brainchild, “Spectra” that appears below.

“In the first place, it speaks, to the mind of that process of diffraction by which are disarticulated the several colored and other rays of which light is composed. . . .”

“In its second sense, the term Spectric relates to the reflex vibrations of physical sight, and suggests the luminous appearance which is seen after the exposure of the eye to intense light, and, by analogy, the after-colors of the poets initial vision.”

“In its third sense, Spectric connotes the overtones, adumbrations, or spectres which for the poet haunt all objects of both the seen and unseen world. . . .”

They would have definitely gotten a grant with that gobbledygook.

The poems were similarly absurd. Here is one by Morgan:

“Opus 6”

If I were only dafter I might be making hymns

To the liquor of your laughter

And the lacquer of your limbs.

Cartooning in an epidemic

I hadn’t realized that cartooning could be so important during an emergency. To date, I have drawn cute images for people with terminal cancer, with Covid 19, and with severe depression. This seems to make them happy. Who knew that simple drawings of cute rabbits and pictures of my cats could make so many people so happy? But art, and especially comic art, are never more necessary than in dangerous times. They keep people motivated to get up in the morning. And those people include me.

I drew this to keep some small children entertained during the epidemic, and why shouldn’t the Easter Bunny do something else during the remainder of the year?

I tried doing this little comic strip. It only has had two issues so far…it’s sad. All of the children asked Easter to bring ‘a cure for covid 19’ while the adults were asking for stogies and vodka…hence the second issue.

Eventually I may get back to this, but for now, I have to draw a caricature of a young fellow and his dog…thankfully he doesn’t have covid 19, but he is getting over a serious illness. Back atcha later.

Carrying on in spite of it

canadian unicornI am now on Instagram. I’m going to get off Facebook for good, since I am tired of being bullied because I don’t think that things are going terribly well. Any fool can see that, but apparently the censors there are clearly not just any fools.

So, I have to suddenly learn how to navigate the system and it’s an interesting choice. It remains to be seen how long I will stay with it. I mean, it’s not as if anything is going on here.

Except that I am trying to become a gardener in a small way in an apartment that has absolutely no sunlight. I rigged up an animation backlight with a grow light and the kitchen sink now has a slightly thriving crop of pea shoots, sunflower seeds, basil and mint. It’s way too cold to put them outside at this time so I have to keep them there. I traded some chocolate pudding for six flower pots yesterday and so the basil and mint look a bit healthier. I have two pretty pots on the patio (nice alliteration there) that I painted with some cute animals, so that they would be easy to identify. Voila, a neighbor told me that if I put those things on the roof terrace, they would immediately be stolen. So after thinking about it (and making my head hurt) I remembered that the Taiwanese farmers on Moon Lake had floating gardens, as Mexico City once had. I loved them at the time and then got an idea. I have this folding red wagon that I used during the move. I had no further use for it so it’s been in the closet for the duration. But it can be unfolded and have the large pots put in it. I can then take the wagon up to the roof when it gets warmer so that the plants can get sun; and sit with them (reading a book or painting) to prevent the theft that a neighbor assured me would definitely happen if I left them there. Not everyone in this building is nice.  So, it helps not to care any more whether one looks ridiculous…I’ll have the Traveling Gardens of Babylon or whatever, ready to roll in about a month’s time. Right now we are still getting snow.

Boo Hoo, Facebook Jail Time

I’ve bee tossed into Facebook jail for 24 hours for replying to a friend’s post that mentioned a certain world leader who was waving Q tips around.  I replied that people in my home country are ‘sheep’ and that some other countries’ citizens –one with a name that begins with F and is famous forgroundedcheese and wine– would r–t in the streets if they were treated that way. This is hardly an original assertion and so I won’t repeat it here.

I was not an early convert to social media but like all of us, I have come to rely on it because of the convenience. It saved having to remember the emails of my friends. It enabled me to meet new friends in a variety of fascinating fields. I ‘met’ writers whom I admired, artists whose work I loved, and people in some pretty unusual fields. It takes up a good deal of my time now that I am not able to get out and socialize with anyone. Unlike many animators, I enjoy socializing and do not enjoy being a homebody. I gave up freelancing and took ‘in house’ positions beginning in the late Eighties because I was not able to work all day with no one else around. I made less money but enjoyed the work more.

While I used to say that Facebook was ‘for fluffy’ the appalling events of this year have made it increasingly difficult to just post funny pictures of dogs and cats and bunnies. And since I apparently offend their ‘community standards’ (hey, are these the same ‘standards’ that are currently being investigated because of abuse by three political brothers?)Incidentally, I was blocked while trying to post a charming picture of the River Cam in Christchurch, New Zealand. 

I can see how that might offend some people; I have many friends in Australia.

At any rate, it is high time that I started updating this blog, and it looks as if it will be the main way I communicate for the foreseeable future. 

So, it’ll be an interesting experience because…this blog posts to Facebook. So if anyone there sees this…hello! I have been a naughty person! See you tomorrow and I’ll see about inviting you to a different social media site. There are others, apparently.

Have fun and stay safe.

 

The Short History goes online

After  one year and two months on the festival circuit, the Short History of Indians in Canada is now online.

Its final festival screening was at the Kinofest (Manchester, England) on November 30 and December 2, 2018.

I am happy that more people will now see it online. I have also linked to Thomas King’s original story (posted as part of the YouTube link) so that you can see the adaptation (which I think he did brilliantly) and see the things that could not be portrayed in animation.

 

A Moving Picture’s Progress

Entering a film in festivals is a bit like watching seeds germinate after you have carefully planted them in a relatively small pot. Not all of the seeds sprout; some may be eaten by ants or birds; and a few, usually VERY few, start peeking their heads above the soil. They may be small seeds at first. Some of the larger ones take longer to get going.

I also once compared it to popcorn popping, but that would be mainly for the rejections. One friend had his project rejected from 100 film festivals! I had no idea that there were so many in the world. So far, A SHORT HISTORY OF INDIANS in CANADA is running at about 50% for acceptance…which is a much higher than usual average.

Due to the dramatic subject matter, the film has to be ‘placed’ into certain festivals and must avoid others. I was told to avoid entering festivals in an entire country simply because animation was strictly for children and this film definitely isn’t.

So here are two wonderful bits of news: it’s going to have its American premiere at the RED NATIONS FILM FESTIVAL  in Los Angeles, California sometimes between November 8 and 19, 2017. This sounds like an amazing event and I’m  sorry that I can’t attend (I will be in Australia). The other short films sound splendid.

Its Quebec premiere comes at the Cinematheque Quebecois prestigious  sommets du cinéma d’animation where it is eligible for the Prix Guy-L.-Coté du meilleur film d’animation canadien. I would absolutely love to go…but since it takes place between the 22nd and 27th of November, I will be in Australia so…can’t make it.

And so, the first green shoots of autumn are here.

Two Nights in Jail (and an Animation Festival)

I just came back from a three day trip to  the Ottawa Animation Festival, whose organizers generously provided some buses for Sheridan students (and one professor) so that we might travel to attend the festivities. I had not attended the Ottawa festival since 2008 and it’s gone through some mighty changes since then.

There were some new categories, such as Canadian Student Film and World Student Films, to give a better showcase to some of the most exciting work in animation today. I can truthfully say that I often find the student films more entertaining and interesting and original than the commercially produced work.

Truth be told I did not get to too many of the competition screenings due to conflicting schedules. I saw a really remarkable documentary about Evelyn Lambart   produced by the National Film Board of Canada, where she worked for many years with Norman McLaren. In fact, many of the films McLaren produced should be considered coproductions, and one ‘newly found’ film of his was actually created by Lambart. Once again, to its credit, the NFB gives Lambart credit on these films. In Begone Dull Care, she actually animated the last thirty seconds of the film, solo.

Evelyn Lambart was eventually allowed to make films in her own style, which is commendable of the NFB. Her cut paper animation of birds and creatures is superbly done and has a unique, disjointed style that was completely her own. So, I wonder, why is she not better known? She lived until 1999.

I guess I may already know the answer to that question, but I am glad that the documentary was made and still gladder that I saw it.

I stayed in the Ottawa Jail Hostel which has been described as one of the ‘spookiest buildings in the world’. I did not find the place too frightening; the bed was as wide as the cell, and the noises were strictly of this world. Other than having to yell “Be quiet, idiot!” to one loud person describing the cells’ history in the corridor at two in the morning, I managed to sleep pretty well. They have a decent breakfast, the showers and baths down the hall were not different from those you find in any other hostel,  and it was near all of the screening venues. When you are travelling solo, and don’t want to do  anything in your hotel BUT sleep and wash, it’s a fair bargain to stay here.

Of course there is the noose and ‘drop’ at the end of the hall on the eighth floor. People used to gather in the courtyard to watch the hangings; there is a big semicircular window where you could see the  convict led to the railing, then strung up; then as the trap was released, they would descend directly over a doorway for the amusement of the sometimes considerable number of people who assembled there to watch. I am glad that we now have our violence in cartoons; people used to watch hangings and lynchings for entertainment.

Ottawa can be 40 below zero at midwinter, and many people froze to death in the stone cells, where they often did not even receive a pallet bed or a blanket. I was feeling great sorrow for the sick people, who received no treatment and whose dead bodies were actually burnt in the courtyard where they held the student party.

But their spirits do not seem to have lingered. As I said, I slept well.

Ottawa is a nice city that I would like to visit again. As for the rest of the festival, I really did not see too much of it and so can’t report on much, except for the student films (which Sheridan students took a prize in). and the general organization, which was excellent. The career fair was over before I got there but I was able to chat with colleagues from Sheridan and see what the other colleges were offering.

Maybe my film will be there next year. In which case,  I will be back.