David, the Champion of the underdog

David sculpture

Sometime ago when I was younger and travelling around Europe visiting all the art museums I had studied in my University days, one of the sculptural pieces I admired greatly was the marble sculpture of David in Florence, Italy.  “Sculpture is considered the finest art form because it mimics divine creation: The sculptural image is found within the block of stone much as the human soul is found within the physical body”. 

Next to some wonderful paintings in the Uffizi Gallery which has several Renaissance masterpieces, this is the one thing in Florence that I just had to see…and it did not disappoint.

The story of David and Goliath is known around the world and celebrated for its theme of ordinary man facing down an often stronger opponent and winning against all odds – the premise for umpteen Hollywood films we have watched over the ages – all with a rock and a slingshot!

The David, perhaps the world’s most famous sculpture, one of Florence’s greatest attractions, stands in the Accademia Gallery at an impressive 17 feet tall (5.16 meters) nearly three times the size of the average man.  The sculpture weights 5,660 kg or 12,478.12 lbs and is made out of solid marble.

This masterpiece was created between 1501 and 1504 by Renaissance genius  Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni, (born March 6, 1475, Caprese, Republic of Florence [Italy]—died February 18, 1564, Rome),

Michelangelo was a noted sculptor, painter, architect, and poet who exerted an unparalleled influence on the development of Western art. He was also one of the few artists who saw fame and fortune during his lifetime, largely due to the largess of wealthy patrons.

Michelangelo was 26 years old when he took on the task of sculpting David and worked on it for more than two years, creating a masterpiece that still leaves us in awe, more than 500 years after it was created.  When the sculpture was completed in 1504, it took four days to move it from his studio to its original home on the Piazza della Signoria, where a replica now stands.  The original was moved inside to protect it from the elements in 1873.  In Florence alone, there are two replicas of David, but around the world there are at least 30 full size replicas of the sculpture….the sincerest form of flattery, I guess!

On their own, the “fake David” statues are definitely a work of art, but compared to the original in Accademia, they do not hold a candle.  Expecting it to be overrated, I literally gasped in awe when I turned that corner in Accademia and saw the original hovering above the crowd. Bravo Michelangelo, bravo!

Later, Michelangelo would work on the Sistine Chapel for four years at the request of the Pope. It was a difficult job of extraordinary endurance, especially since the tempestuous artist had sacked all of his assistants save one who helped him mix paint. What resulted was a monumental work of great genius illustrating stories from the Old Testament including the Creation of the World and Noah and the Flood. It became (and remains) one of the greatest masterpieces of Western Art.  He was 33 years old when he finished the Sistine Chapel.

Tats what it’s all about

While on the bus the other day and gazing out at the scenery I sat and contemplated why people get tattoos or tats if you will.  (I could have said I was travelling in the back of a chauffeur-driven limousine but I’d be lying).  I have never really had the desire to get a tattoo though in my twenties I came close due more to peer pressure than anything else; but couldn’t find a design, in the books on display at the time, that I felt an emotional attachment for that I would want permanently displayed on my body (plus I wasn’t drunk enough).

Nowadays, everyone seems to have a tattoo or a whole ‘sleeve’ of intricate designs that showcase the talents of the tattoo artist.  According to a Nielsen poll, one in five Americans has a tattoo, and nearly 90 percent of those who do never regret getting inked up.  In 2010, 25% of Aussies under the age of 30 were sporting a tattoo.  There was even a tattooed Barbie in 2011 that caused some controversy.  

Popular designs for women are the butterfly, star, flower, heart, birds, boyfriend’s name and tribal ornamentation.

Men prefer animals, skulls, a cross, barbed wire, nautical star, mom or girlfriend’s name and tribal ornamentation.

The degree of artistry varies widely but due to shows like LA Ink and Ink Master, etc. there are many skilled artisans who will happily put any design your imagination can come up with on your body somewhere.

I don’t care for pain much, stubbing my toe or banging my elbow brings me close to tears so to inflict any amount of pain willingly on myself is a no-brainer not to mention my aversion to needles.  As a colleague of mine said the other day when I asked him if he had a tattoo – “Why the fuck would I want to get one of those?”  That’s when I began to wonder why indeed you would want to get one of those.

Many people when asked will tell you that they did it as a tribute to someone they loved whom they lost to cancer, brain tumour, seizures, heart attacks and other maladies that befall humankind.  Others will say they had an ugly scar from an operation, or a birth defect and incorporated it into the tattoo and turned something ugly into something beautiful (provided they went to a professional artist); some want to draw attention to themselves, to be noticed or validated as an individual that stands out from the crowd.  Some, like Johnny Depp sees it as a road map of his life.

Johnny-Depp

Here’s the thing – I have nothing against tattoos in and of themselves – I think some of them are beautiful pieces of art – I just don’t want one.  I could say the same about lions, I think they are gorgeous creatures, I just wouldn’t want one as a pet!

Tattooing goes back thousands of years. Tattoos were partly invented to treat pain.  In the mid-18th century, Native American women tattooed themselves to alleviate toothaches and arthritis, similar to acupuncture but it was primarily sailors that brought inking to America.  Much like baseball players, sailors are a superstitious lot.  The common anchor tattoo was meant to signify stability and to safeguard them from drowning.

Once the 1920s rolled around, tattooing was still looked down on by the public. However, as Hollywood popularized glamorous makeup, many women were eager to try the trend for themselves. Unfortunately, at the time even low-quality make up was expensive and most woman could not afford it. Instead, many women secretly had cosmetic tattoos to emulate makeup done. Popular treatments included the permanent eyebrows, contoured lips, and tinted cheeks. While the general public tended to condemn tattoos, they still silently embraced them.  In the mid-20th century, musicians like the Grateful Dead and Janis Joplin helped make tattoos even cooler.

Tattoos can be a mark of deviance or decoration. They can convey stigma, as in the marking of captives or the marginalized, especially Nazi concentration camp victims. But they can also be extraordinarily beautiful, as in the henna designs for brides across Africa and Asia. There is also the strange case of women in Myanmar’s Chin province, who wear facial tattoos that are said to have once discouraged their kidnapping by despotic kings, but over time became a distinctive mark of beauty.  (This tradition is not currently practiced by the the younger generation).

Motivations are diverse. One study by German sociologists found they include beauty, art, fashion, individuality, personal narrative, physical endurance, group affiliation, resistance, spirituality, cultural tradition, addiction, pure impulse and, naturally, sexual attraction.   There are even people willing to get advertising inked on their heads, etc to market a product – usually strictly for monetary means – but also to promote their favourite sports team logo (can’t just buy a hat, apparently).

Over the years we’ve seen tattooing go from something that indicated barbarism to something that is considered an art form. In the years to come, we should have some really cool retirement homes sporting a variety of tattoos.  We will be able to read people like a book – literally! (back to Johnny Depp).

Festivals in 2020 every month – for when you win the lottery. This year, for sure

  1.   Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival in Harbin, Dec 1st, 2019– Feb 28, 2020

    From December 01, 2019 to February 28, 2020, come experience the world’s largest ice festival in beautiful Harbin city, China.  Actual sculpture judging is done January 6th – 8th, 2020.


  2. On January 28th in Lerwick, the capital of Scotland’s Shetland Islands, a fire festival named Up Helly Aa will be held to mark the end of the yule season. Up Helly Aa! – that’s Scandinavian imagery, myths, sagas and a huge bonfire which takes place on the last Thursday of January every year to celebrate their Viking heritage. ‘Up’ refers to end of an event; ‘Helly’ is linked to holiday; while ‘Aa’ covers all.
    up helly aa


  3. Mardi Gras in New Orleans – Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) is on Tuesday, February 25th, 2020.
    New Orleans
    Mardi Gras always lands on the Tuesday that is 47 days before Easter. It is always the day before Ash Wednesday, which is the start of Lent. Carnival season refers to the weeks leading up to Mardi Gras, and officially begins on January 6 every year. Although Carnival season lasts more than a month, the parties, parades and fun kick into high gear on the Thursday before Mardi Gras.


    4.  Carnival in Rio De Janeiro – February 21st – 26th, 2020
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    The actual annual dates of Carnival differ and depend on the date Easter falls in that particular year, as Carnival will be 40 days before Easter. Easter is celebrated on the Sunday following the first full moon in Spring.

    5.  The date of Holi is different every year in India!
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    In most of India, Holi is celebrated at the end of winter, on the day after the full moon in March each year. On the eve of Holi, large bonfires are lit to mark occasion and to burn evil spirits. This is known as Holika Dahan. In 2020, Holi is on March 9th and ends March 10th.  Holi, also known as the Festival of Colors, celebrates the end of winter and the beginning of spring. It’s fun, safe, and free. Just remember to BYOD (bring your own dye).


    6.  Coachella, California | April 10 – April 19, 2020
    Image result for coachella california 2016The first major music event in the annual festival calendar, Coachella – California’s glossy, glam, palm-tree-peppered answer to Glastonbury – returns. Expect clear skies, designer-hippie ensembles and not a squelch of mud under foot.  If you can’t get tickets for this perhaps the next one might interest you.


    7.  Songkran Water Festival – Chiang Mai, Thailand – April 13-15th, 2020
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    Stay indoors on the 13th of April – if you happen to be in Thailand. Or step out if you love water… and getting wet! For it’s a given that you won’t escape the water pistols, the water balloons and buckets of water as the Thais celebrate Songkran, the Thai New Year.


    8.  The Ottawa Tulip Festival in Ottawa, Canada is the largest tulip festival in the world and it is held every year in May.  It will be held on May 8th-18th, 2020
    Tulips
    This festival is a celebration founded on international friendship with the 1945 presentation of 100,000 tulip bulbs from Princess Juliana of the Netherlands to Ottawa, Canada’s capital, given in appreciation of the safe haven that members of Holland’s exiled royal family received during World War II in Ottawa and in recognition of the role which Canadian troops played in the liberation of the Netherlands.

    The Canadian Tulip Festival is also a celebration of the return of spring, with over a million tulips in 50 varieties blooming in public spaces across the National Capital Region. The highest concentration of tulips can be viewed in the flower beds of Commissioners Park, on the banks of Dow’s Lake, where 300,000 flowers bloom.


    9.  Glastonbury 2020, England – Worthy Farm – 24th – 28th June – 2020
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    Glastonbury. This five-day bonanza offers dozens of live stages, attracting almost 200,000 people every year. The event hosts the absolute best of the musical world – names like Radiohead, The Smiths, Kanye West and Beyoncé have previously played here. The event also supports upcoming acts and promotes dance, comedy, theatre, cabaret and arts.


    10.  Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival, Manchester, Tennessee  June 11-14th, 2020 Image result for Bonnaroo music festival photos"
    The name of the four-day music and arts festival is one of the most recognizable in the world. Founded in 2002 on a sprawling farm an hour south of Nashville, Bonnaroo has since become synonymous with positive vibes, eclectic music, 24-hour programming, camping and high fives.  Artist line-up revealed in January.


    11. Running of the Bulls, Pamplona, Spain
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    The  Running of the Bulls is a part of the San Fermin Festival, which runs in Pamplona from July 5th to July 16th in 2020.


    12.   Edinburgh International Festival , Scotland – 7th August 2020 to 31st August 2020

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    Every August, the Edinburgh International Festival transforms one of the world’s most beautiful cities, presenting three exhilarating weeks of the finest creators and performers from the worlds of the arts.

    Edinburgh’s six major theatres and concert halls, a few smaller venues and often some unconventional ones too, come alive with the best music, theatre, opera and dance from around the globe.  The Royal Edinbugh Military Tattoo takes place at the same time.


    13.  La Tomatina in Spain 2020 – Wednesday, August 26th, 2020
    Image result for La Tomatina in SpainLa Tomatina is the most popular tomatoes throwing festival in the world. It is being observed in the town of Bunol, Valencia, Spain each year on the last Wednesday of August. It is a festival held purely for fun. The festival attracts a large number of tourists in the town of Bunol during the celebration.


    14.  Burning Man in Black Rock City, Nevada
    burningman

    Burning Man 2020 taking place August 30th– September 7th, 2020 in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada.  Their mission:  The Burning Man organization will bring experiences to people in grand, awe-inspiring and joyful ways that lift the human spirit, address social problems and inspire a sense of culture, community and personal engagement.  This is by no means your average festival!


    15.  Oktoberfest –  Munich, Germany

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    On Saturday, September 19th, 2020 the Schottenhamel tent is the place to be, if you want to catch the official opening ceremonies. At noon, the Mayor of Munich will have the honor of tapping the first keg of Oktoberfest beer. Runs until October 4th.


    16.  International Balloon FestivalAlbuquerque, NM -Saturday, October 3rd – 11th, 2020Image result for balloon festival albuquerque new mexicoThe Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is an annual October festival that takes place in New Mexico. It was first launched in 1972 with just 13 participants. Today, more than 500 balloons take to the skies over Albuquerque each year, making the Balloon Fiesta the largest event of its kind worldwide.


    17.  Day of the Dead, Mexico is celebrated from October 31 till November 02, 2020.
    Image result for day of the dead images
    Day of the Dead (Spanish: Día de Muertos) is a Mexican holiday celebrated throughout Mexico and around the world in other cultures. The holiday focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died. It is particularly celebrated in Mexico, where it is a national holiday, and all banks are closed.


    18.  Christmas Markets Dates – all over Germany
     20th November to January 1st, 2020

    Image result for christmas markets in berlin 2016 imagesThere is an air of  festivity that fills the air the end of November and continues till Christmas. Heralding the approach of the festive season, the streets are brightly lit, Christmas trees adorned with tinsel and little red bells and stars line the streets and people are out late doing their Christmas shopping. Concerts are staged, both outdoors and indoors, classical and modern. Street plays performed, musicians show off their talent and generally there is very festive and happy air around. This is when Germany is at its colourful best – white snows, green Christmas trees, red tinkling bells and families out on the streets. Come, join in the festivities!


 

Gaudi Barcelona in 2020!

I’m not sure how many couples out there go travelling independent of one another but my husband and I every few years take separate vacations from time to time and I feel we are the better for it.  Since I took two vacations this year without him, one to PEI and one to the Soo (Sault Ste Marie) with a good friend of mine, it is now his turn for adventure.

He is going to travel to London, England to visit with a good friend of his from New Zealand who he met in Vancouver where they worked together.  He now lives in the U.K. with a lovely wife and three kids.  My husband is also going to Barcelona, Spain for four days on his own to relax and check out different tourist places, and I have naturally been chosen to arrange it all which I don’t mind doing because I learn a lot; however, I am a bit jealous of his trip as I have only passed through Barcelona and have not really experienced the City.  I have given him explicit instructions to take lots of photos.

Of course, one of the chief reasons tourists visit this City is for the Gaudi architecture, not to be confused with gaudy.  Below is a little info on the man and his distinctive style.

Antoni Gaudí, (born June 25, 1852, Reus, Spain—died June 10, 1926, Barcelona) was a Catalan architect, whose distinctive style is characterized by freedom of form, voluptuous colour and texture, and organic unity.

At 73 years of age he was hit by a Barcelona tram on the street on Monday 7th June 1926.  Gaudí died 3 days later in hospital suffering from broken ribs, a bruise on his right leg and severe internal bleeding

Below are some examples of his most notable works but there are plenty more to see if you have the time.


Casa Milá (La Pedrera) beige and gray concrete building

Also referred to as “the stone quarry” due to its unusual rough-hewn appearance, Casa Milá is one of Barcelona’s most popular modernist buildings.
UNESCO recognized this building as World Heritage in 1984.  Casa Mila (1906-1912) is Antoni Gaudi’s most iconic work of civic architecture due to both its constructional and functional innovations, as well as its ornamental and decorative solutions. It is a total work of art. «Man makes art for man and hence it must be rational.»  Many people recommend that you see this at night to take in the light show.

Parc Güell (Park Güell) 

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It was built between 1900 and 1914 and today is part of the UNESCO World Heritage. This is a garden complex that houses a series of dynamically designed buildings, including Gaudí’s house.  It is here where Gaudí perfected his personal style, which was greatly inspired by organic shapes (his naturalist phase)

 

Casa Batlló 

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Casa Batlló is the result of a total restoration in 1904 of an old conventional house built in 1877. Gaudí used for it typical constructive elements of the Modernisme (Catalan Art Nouveau movement) that include ceramics, stone, and forged iron.

Even though it was highly criticized by the city during construction due to its radical design which contravened all the bylaws of the city, in 1906 the Barcelona City Council awarded it the recognition of being one of the three best buildings of the year.

The building is so irregular that there are few straight lines in it and much of the façade is decorated with a colorful mosaic, known as trencadís, made of broken ceramic tiles.

La Sagrada Familia 

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Sagrada Familia is the most famous of Gaudí’s works – his masterpiece. This church has been in construction since 1892, and it’s not expected to be finished until 2026 — to commemorate the centenary of Gaudí’s death.

Construction of Sagrada Familia started in 1882 under architect Francisco de Paula del Villar, but by 1883 Villar resigned, giving Gaudí the opportunity to take over as chief architect.


 

If you decide you’d like to go to Spain, I wholeheartedly recommend that you go to Montserrat which is approximately 30 miles from Barcelona and can be reached by any manner of ways – train, car, bus, private tour, taxi, helicopter, etc.  This was the problem as I couldn’t decide whether to book my husband on a structured tour and being rushed or let him make his own way to the Metro and get his own ticket when he wanted to go.  So I am leaving this decision to him but I would go!

After driving through picturesque little villages, you arrive at the incomparable setting of the mountain of Montserrat, which rises majestically to 4,051 feet (1,236 meters).

Here you will find the Royal Basilica of Montserrat, which holds the famous 12th century Romanesque carving of Virgen Moreneta, the Black Madonna. Discover how pilgrims and visitors contributed to the spread of stories of miracles and wonders performed by the Virgin. Learn how the Royal Basilica has become and still remains one of the most important pilgrimage sites in Spain one thousand years after it was originally founded.


I know my husband will take photos of the architecture for me and he enjoys it but he is more of a sports nut so expect he will take in the FC Barcelona stadium or enjoy an exclusive experience at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya at the wheel of a GT. These emblematic, high-performance cars -Ferrari, Porsche, Lamborghini..- are what any motor sport fan would love to have and drive at least once in a lifetime; that is of course if I tell him about it.

He may just want to wander the different districts at his leisure and stop in for tapas and a beer in whatever establishment catches his fancy. Or possibly the world famous paella and cava.   I will be home shoveling the snow and cranking the heat and wishing I were there but fair is fair! …boy that was hard to write… I hope he has a great time and can’t wait to see his photos!

Note:  After his trip I will post where he stayed and what he found attractive about the City and where he found good food and beer or wine

 

The Gateway to the North

Travel through time when you visit the gateway to the north; the beautiful community of Sault Ste Marie.

Bridge to the StatesSitting near the mouth of the St. Mary’s River, Sault Ste. Marie is a community with a rich local history steeped in the steel and shipping industries.  Opened in 1962, the three-arch Sault Ste. Marie International Bridge spans the St. Mary’s River, connecting the twin cities of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, and Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.

The reason why my friend and I were here: to cross one of those adventures we’d wanted to do for years off our bucket list – The Agawa Canyon Tour Train is one of the great train trips in North America.

And what is not to like about trains, the look, the feel, the smells and sounds come together in a symphony of delight.  Our anticipation was soon to be sated.  We had arrived in the Soo (as affectionately known) on Tuesday evening after a 6 hour drive through some spectacular scenery of its own from Orillia.  We had allowed a day for rest and relaxation before heading out again only this time with an engineer driving.

Algoma Canyon Park

This one-day wilderness train tour takes you 183 km north of Sault Ste. Marie, over towering trestles and along pristine northern lakes and rivers, to the Agawa Canyon created more than 1.2 billion years ago.

 

Since we did not know the Soo that well, we decided to go into town the day before the trip to suss out where the train station was in order to arrive on time (we tend to get lost a lot, I don’t know why).  After two failed attempts (one at the hands of a tourism info guide), we found the station and confirmed we were indeed booked for the next day, would we like to have our tickets so that we could avoid the line-up the next morning and just wait on the platform.  Would we?? Yes! She also told us where to park the next morning as our compartment number boarded to the right of the station.  Fantastic!  See, sometimes it pays to scout ahead.

The next morning we were up before the sun to be at the station for an 8 o’clock departure.  It was a cloudy day but we were hoping the sun would burn off the clouds once we reached the Canyon floor.  Unfortunately, the train’s departure was delayed by an hour due to an electrical problem but this did not dampen our enthusiasm and when it appeared blowing it’s whistle, the crowd cheered and we were off.

We appreciated that everyone was given a guide so we knew where we were. Also, there was an audio guide that played intermittently throughout the train, giving useful information about the sights and some history of the Soo.  A few of the highlights included spectacular vistas of Lake Superior and a thrilling ride across a train trestle bridge.

CautionSoon enough, we were at the Agawa Canyon Park. We had an hour and a half to explore. We chose to do the Lookout stairs which is somewhat not for amateurs but we did it anyways.  High-fives all around.  The view was well worth it.  As we had some time left we decided to walk to the Black Beaver Falls.  We didn’t have enough time left to go to the Bridal Falls which we passed by on the way in. We spent the rest of our time slowly making our way back to the train and taking a few photos and taking in the scenery.  And yes, the sun did come out a bit to make our day.

We heard the woot of the train whistle and knew it was time to board again. The next few hours were spent with enjoyable conversation with our fellow travellers. We met a lovely couple from Wisconsin who were retired and had been married over 50 years, no small feat I assure you. We pulled into the station tired but content from our day’s journey and having crossed off another must do off the bucket list.

As a side note:  Group of Seven Painters came to the Algoma area from 1918–1923, including Lawren Harris, A.Y. Jackson, Franz Johnston, J.E.H. MacDonald and Arthur Lismer. They rented a boxcar and outfitted it like a cabin which was shunted to sidings near choice painting locations. From there they would go along the track on foot and by canoe throughout the wilderness. Their paintings became famous, as did the area they painted.

Tallest sunflower on record – over 30 feet!

Do you ever sit in the afternoon sun and ponder about how many different species of sunflowers there are in the world.  The answer my friend is 70.  You can rest easy now knowing that fact but did you also know that each sunflower is actually made up of thousands of tiny individual flowers, up to 2000.   And they are not always yellow.

I write about these today because I see them all over the place at this time of year except of course in my own garden.  I hate to admit it but I cannot grow them there and I have tried, oh yes, I have tried.  Since my husband loves them, I have periodically through the years, bought different ones and planted them in different spots in the garden and they die.  I don’t know why!  Subsequently, now I just take pictures of them and then give him a card every once in awhile so he can enjoy them if not in the flesh so to speak then through a photograph.  Below are some facts regarding sunflowers for you.

Famous Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh did a series of paintings called Sunflowers. 

Kansas is often known as the Sunflower state and the flower is in fact Kansas’s state flower. The sunflower is also the national flower of Ukraine.

Sunflower was  an important source of food for Native Americans. They used yellow pigment from the flowers to paint their bodies during spiritual rituals and to make dyes for fabrics. Also, they used sunflowers in medical purposes and for the production of bread.

Another factor that has a big influence on the meaning of  sunflowers is the belief (in Chinese culture especially) that they bring good luck. It’s believed that sunflowers are the ideal bloom to fill a home with a sense of safety and good fortune.

Sunflowers have also gone to space – specifically the International Space Station with astronaut Don Pettit in 2012.

Baseball players now substitute chewing sunflower seeds for tobacco which I think is not only prudent (less danger of contracting cancer of the mouth for one) but healthy as they provide Vitamin D and minerals to give them more energy. Along with health concerns, the slow pace of baseball provides players an excellent opportunity to find something to keep them busy. Chewing gum and seeds are also an excellent way to cope with the nervous energy built up during a high tension game.

And for your musical treat of the day

Thanks for stopping by and have a great day!

Music from the Sixties

Feeling nostalgic today and thinking about the British Invasion when we finally heard music from outside North America and what a treat it was.  Now I realize that the Beatles and the Rolling Stones are the best known of the groups back then but one of my favourite bands was the Dave Clark Five which I stenciled onto the back of a sweater to promote my love of them as a teenager.  Good times back then and still enjoyable today.

 

 

Though the Zombies are more likely known for their big single “She’s Not There” which is very much deserved I’ve always liked this song.  They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio this year.

Another great group with many songs that I like especially  “Don’t Let the Sun Catch you Crying” and “I’ll be There” but this one stands out for me.

 

While the Beatles kick-started the British Invasion causing mass hysteria in teenaged girls who cried and fainted and yelled and screamed sometimes drowning out their music, there were many bands who came after them like:

Herman’s Hermits – The Animals (also one of my favourite groups) – Yardbirds – The Hollies – The Kinks – Freddie and the Dreamers – The Searchers – The Who – Chad and Jeremy – The Small Faces – The Tremeloes – Procol Harum – and many more!

They helped shape my love of music – Motown, Rockabilly, the Blues, Rock and Roll, Jazz, World Music, alternative, Cajun and on and on.  What would this world be like without music – I shudder at the thought!  There are songs that I hear that take me right back to a certain place and time and feeling as if it just happened.  I hope you enjoy this small sample of the British Invasion!

 

 

Two great singers gone too soon!

From time to time I like to reflect on songs, books, movies, situations that had an impact on me.  I hope that you will benefit from the following female singer/songwriters as I did.

Lhasa de Sela  Related image

“For four days after she died, it snowed in Montreal, it was as if the sky were grieving” –posted by Denis Spichak on you tube comments! 

Born to an American mother and a Mexican father in Big Indian, upstate New York the singer-songwriter died in her home, after a 21-month battle with breast cancer. She was 37 years old.  Known professionally as Lhasa, she marked the world music scene with her dreamy and ethereal songs, written and recorded in Spanish, French and English.

Lhasa grew up on the road, travelling in a converted school bus with her nomadic family. She eventually followed her sisters to Montreal, where she settled at 19.

In 1997, Montreal-based singer Lhasa de Sela released her first album, La Llorona, (the crying woman, in Spanish) an album of emotion-drenched songs that drew on the traditions of Mexican balladeers, French chansonniers, and Quebecois poets. The album was a huge international hit, selling 400,000 copies in France alone, and in its wake Lhasa performed several times in Vancouver, BC gaining a strong local following. Then she disappeared completely from the radar–no touring, no albums, no nothing–leaving legions of fans wondering what became of the elfin singer with the smoky, impassioned voice.

Extensive touring with the Canadian all-female music festival Lilith Fair left Lhasa feeling burnt out, and in 1998 she stepped out of the spotlight and joined Pocheros, her sisters’ touring circus, in France.

Lhasa settled in the south of France to write songs for her second album, The Living Road, recorded in French, English and Spanish. The Times of London named her sophomore work as one of the 10 best world albums of the decade.

Her ultimate album, called Lhasa, a collection of English songs recorded live, was launched at Montreal’s Corona Theatre.  Lhasa cancelled her 2009 tour because of her illness.

I first saw her perform with her very tight band at the Vancouver Folk Festival in the late 90’s and was captivated by her voice and strong persona whilst performing.  I had no idea what she was singing but I identified with the raw, emotional context.  My husband and I also caught her at the River Run Centre in Guelph a few years before she died.

 

            Lhasa de Sela, singer-songwriter, born 27 September, 1972; died 1 January, 2010

 


Eva Cassidy  Image result for Eva Cassidy photo

“Whatever genre she is singing, she totally nails. Gospel, country, blues, jazz, r & b. She makes every song her own. She was a rare talent, gone way too soon.”

Don’t be surprised if you have never heard of the talented singer and musician Eva Cassidy. Most people in the United States are not familiar with her or her music. If you live in the United Kingdom, chances are you probably have listened to this amazing American songstress as she reached popularity there long before being known in her native country.  One of her songs ‘Songbird’ is in the 2003 Christmas movie “Love Actually”, her music was featured on the Sopranos and in a Madonna documentary.  For those fans of the Netflix show “Grace and Frankie” – Eva’s song “Who Knows Where the Time Goes from the Imagine album played at the end of the final episode (episode 13 “The Sign’) of Season 3 as Grace and Frankie are going up in the hot air balloon. 

After having a malignant mole removed from her back in 1993, the melanoma spread to other parts of her body. Despite treatment, she lost her battle with cancer in November, 1996. Sadly, Eva Cassidy was only 33 years old when she died. Her parents, Barbara and Hugh Cassidy live in Bowie, Md., in the house where Eva, the third of their four children, came to stay in her final months, so her mother could care for her. Barbara Cassidy worked for years in a flower nursery, as did her daughter. Hugh is a retired special-education teacher. Like Eva, he is both musical, playing the cello and bass, and artistic. He produces metal sculptures; she was a painter who created murals for local schools.

In 1998, Blix Records released “Songbird.” The collection featured some songs taken from Blues Alley, others were recorded by Biondo (from her band) at his studios.

The record had middling success in most of the United States. But Cassidy’s posthumous career took off when a BBC producer in London got a copy of “Songbird” and began playing a live version of “Fields of Gold” and a studio rendition of “Over the Rainbow.” The phones lit up. The U.K. was enthralled. An amateur video of Cassidy singing “Over the Rainbow” filmed at Blues Alley was played on BBC-TV’s “Top of the Pops” and quickly became the most-requested video in the program’s history, according to the show’s producers. A handful of gold record singles and millions of CD sales followed.

 

My husband loves the organ in the first song and I love the saxophone on this one!  A great talent gone too soon!  A shy, introvert who could be stubborn and didn’t want to be pigeonholed never got to enjoy her fame and fortune …but who will live on eternally in her music.

Eva Cassidy – born 2nd Feb, 1963 and died 2nd of Nov, 1996


 

Cleveland, Ohio … Not the armpit of the world

For some unknown reason, at least to me, Cleveland is a city in America that has been called the ‘armpit of the world’ by some poor bloke that probably has never visited the place.  This past May two four week-end which we lovingly call the Victoria Day week-end in Canada – and for many shaking off the shackles of a long, cold winter has come to mean the celebration of warm weather finally arriving – and of course…a case of beer or two!

So, my husband and I took off on the Saturday morning to spend three days, two nights in Cleveland which is about six hours drive plus the wait at the border to cross which can be long.  I believe, we were over in a half hour so all was good, plus we had great tunes on the drive.  Doesn’t take much to make us happy!  Since we hadn’t had breakfast we stopped near Erie, Pennsylvania for lunch.  Fortified, we were on our way again.  Two things I noticed – there were so many deer dead on the side of the road or in the meridian and I felt incredibly bad for them …although I’m sure it was no picnic for the poor bugger who ran into them.  Secondly, there was a lot of road construction, happily being a Saturday they weren’t working, but I made a mental note to prepare for those work slowdowns on the way back.

Cleveland Museum of Art atrium
The atrium at Cleveland Museum of Art

Having a limited amount of time to enjoy the city, we nonetheless managed to pack quite a bit into the next two days.  Early in the morning on Sunday, we visited the Cleveland Museum of Art which is stunning and right next to the Botanical Gardens.  It is closed on Mondays so our only option was Sunday.  Located at 11150 East Boulevard. www.ClevelandArt.org

View from our seats way out Unfortunately, we only had two hours to visit as we were attending the Cleveland Indian ballgame that afternoon with Baltimore (the Orioles were badly crushed).  Progressive Field is a great ballpark and after watching a few innings from our seats we walked around to the other side to get different viewpoints and talked to a number of fans about their ball club and life in general.

East 4th Street.JPGAfter the game we had a quick appetizer and cocktail at 4th Street which is a pedestrian friendly alley with twinkling patio lights all along the length of it.

Ralphies,We decided to go and visit Ralphie’s house from “A Christmas Story”  which is one of our favourite Christmas shows to watch every year about the young boy who wanted a BB gun for Christmas and everyone kept telling him “you’ll shoot your eye out”.  If you’ve never seen it, it will give you a good idea of how cold it can get in the winter.  Located at 3159 West 11th Street and open from 10 am – 5 pm.

Guardians of Traffic on Hope Memorial BridgeNaturally, I had to get some photos of the Guardians of Traffic which are art deco sculptures on each end of the Hope Memorial Bridge (formerly Lorain-Carnegie) behind Progressive Field and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  The figures are carved from 43 foot tall local Berea sandstone.  I couldn’t believe how close everything was.  We walked for miles that day.  At the end of the evening we had a nice Italian meal at Carrabba’s in Westlake and fell into bed pleasantly exhausted.

Cleveland rocks.JPGMonday morning we headed back home but first we stopped off at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame which I highly recommend if you enjoy music at all.  Long Live Rock and Roll. We did not see everything we would have liked so we will now have to go back and spend another couple of days sometime in the future.  Do you ever really get to see everything in one City?  All in all a very enjoyable few days away.


 

Toronto’s hidden jewel – highlighting the mundane but essential function that makes cities possible

One of Canada’s most spectacular public works and a tour de force of architecture lies at 2701 Queen St. E. in Scarborough, Ontario.  Providing the essence of survival to at least 35% of Torontonians, it is a marvel of engineering and produces drinking, bathing and cooking water to residents who don’t give its easy access a second thought.

What would happen if you couldn’t bathe, shave, have tea in the morning or flush your toilet….  Pandemonium, that’s what!  Something that we take for granted in our privileged lives…the simple act of having water!

Toronto’s main treatment plant, the R. C. Harris buildings produce around 35% of the city’s water.  Lake Ontario water is treated with a coagulant and pumped on top of several beds (water basins) which are covered in charcoal. The water filters down the charcoal and the successively coarser layers of rock underneath it, until it reaches an underground reservoir. Chemicals are added then, mainly fluoride and chlorine, the treated water sits in the basins for several hours allowing sediment to sink to the bottom, then it is treated with more filtering and presto bango bingo, water is delivered to almost a third of the citizens of Toronto.

  • Produces more than 120,000 million litres of water annually
  • Can produce 950 million litres daily

I would like to pay tribute to the man who built this ‘Palace of Purification’ for whom the building was named…Roland Caldwell Harris, Toronto’s commissioner of public works from 1912 until 1945. The water plant, and other Toronto landmarks such as the Bloor Street viaduct, were built during his tenure.  Architect Thomas Canfield Pomphrey designed the plant, that was built in phases throughout the 1930s in the art deco style opening in 1941.

The pumps in the low-lift room, seen from the gallery at the west end of the room, deliver raw water to the Filter Building for treatment.  Each pump is numbered; the elaborate limestone signal panel indicates which pumps are operating

The use of rich materials like marble and bronze in the interior (plus the extensive limestone carvings on the exterior helped earn the nickname “Palace of Purification”.

If you are ever in Toronto for an extended visit and have the time, you should definitely have a picnic on the grounds and inspect the many buildings comprising the plant.  It is incredible.

For a previous post on water, see the ‘essence of life’.  For a flash to the past, check out this video which really has nothing to do with the subject of this piece but I played it endlessly when travelling through Europe in 1986.