Saturday, December 31, 2011

My 1st Stop Motion

I am experimenting a bit, finally, after 2 years of thinking about my desire to do stop-motion photography. Take a look:

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Winter Solstice Signals Start of Storytelling Season

Winter Solstice Signals Start of Storytelling Season
By ICTMN Staff - December 21, 2011

The winter solstice inaugurates storytelling season in Indian Country. The new lunar cycle is a spiritual time for many cultures including American Indian tribes. For instance, the Zuni and Hopi commemorate the occasion with solstice ceremonies, and the winter solstice holds special significance for the Maya of Peru. This year’s winter moon initiates the Mayans’ year-long countdown to the end of the Long Calendar, which occurs during the winter solstice of 2012.
Flickr/Creative Commons Mrs. Gemstone
The winter solstice, when the Earth’s maximum axial tilt is the farthest away from the sun, occurs tonight at approximately 12:30 a.m. EST (officially December 22). For the most accurate calculation of the winter solstice time in your area, visit the UK news site Only Kent, which has compiled the exact times of the solstice around the world using the site

For Hopi poet Ramson Lomatewama, the winter solstice represents more than an astronomical event. It’s meaning extends beyond its ancient impact on the sowing of crops and management of winter reserves. It is a sacred time, “filled with mystery and power, because this is a time of reverence and respect for the spirits,” he told Arizona Public Radio on January 10, 2002.
On the show, he discusses how the new winter moon signals the beginning of the storytelling season:
The dogs woke me up early. As I got out of bed to let them out, I noticed that the moon was just a thin crescent. Experience told me that the season known as kyaamuya would soon begin. Kyaamuya is filled with mystery and power, because this is a time of reverence and respect for the spirits. We’re taught to be mindful of certain taboos. Even today I tried to head those instructions. I don’t cut my hair or dig holes. Even today, I try not to wander outside after dark, and I don’t whistle, make loud noises or beat on drums.
Ramson Lomatewama Winter Solstice Signals Start of Storytelling Season I remember going back to the reservation this time of year and spending weekends at my grandmothers. A wood stove kept us warm. We had an old lantern that hissed and had a soft light. None of us kids dared to go outside when it got dark because it was kyaamuya and spirits were wandering out there. But kyaamuya was also the time for storytelling. I remember those nights when old men came to visit. Some of them I recognized as family; others I didn’t know. They’d eat supper with us, but well before the table was cleared, someone would ask if they could stay and tell stories. And we always passed around a yucca sifter basket filled with kutuki, the Hopi version of popcorn. Some of the stories were long and could take hours. Some of the stories were short like ones about coyote, who would fall victim to his own plots, like the time he wanted to make his tail long like the snakes, but ended up burning it off.
It wasn’t until much later that I made the connection between our stories and all those roadrunner cartoons.
I consider myself fortunate because it seems to me that the stories we grew up with aren’t being told as often anymore. I don’t think the stories have completely left us; many of them are now in print. But it’s just not the same. Maybe it’s that we don’t experience kyaamuya quite the same way anymore. Maybe the reverence that many of us grew up with has been diluted by the loud cheering at basketball games or by the attraction of Christmas bazaars. I’m fortunate because those old men knew how to plant their seeds, their stories. As I grew older, those stories took root inside of me, little by little, I grew to become the adventure, the tragedy and the journey. Now I realize that I am the hero of my own story.”
Ramson Lomatewama is a Hopi poet, jeweler, traditional-style katsina doll carver, stained glass artist, and glassblower. He is the author of Random Thoughts and Other Poems.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Chris Dyer's Book Launch

My friend, and fellow artist, Chris Dyer, just had his book launch party tonight. This is his first coffee table art book of epic proportions covering his entire artistic career.

Best known for recycling broken skateboards into visionary art, Chris's career has had him globe trotting the world's art galleries.

From making logos, to painting or drawing fine art on canvas, and rubbing elbows with well known contemporary artists such as Alex Grey at the Alchemeyez Festival.

It was a fun night with a good turn out. The book is gorgious, impressive & high quality, as is the rest of his merchandise.
You can check out Chris's work and buy his book from Positive Creations, his main website.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Organic Can Feed the World

Organic Can Feed the World
Given that current production systems leave nearly one billion people undernourished, the onus should be on the agribusiness industry to prove its model, not the other way around
"We all have things that drive us crazy," wrote Steve Kopperud in a blog post this fall for Brownfield, an organization that disseminates agricultural news online and through radio broadcasts. Kopperud, who is a lobbyist for agribusiness interests in Washington, D.C., then got downright personal: "Firmly ensconced at the top of my list are people who consider themselves experts on an issue when judging by what they say and do, they're sitting high in an ivory tower somewhere contemplating only the 'wouldn't-it-be-nice' aspects."
At the top of that heap, Kopperud put Michael Pollan and Marion Nestle, a contributor to Atlantic Life and the author of Food Politics, the title of both her most well-known book and her daily blog.
"There's a huge chunk of reality missing from Dr. Nestle's academic approach to life," Kopperud wrote. "The missing bit is, quite simply, the answer to the following question: How do you feed seven billion people today and nine billion by 2040 through organic, natural, and local food production?" He then answers his own question. "You can't."
What is notably lacking in the "conventional" versus organic debate are studies backing up the claim that organic can't feed the world's growing population.
As a journalist who takes issues surrounding food production seriously, I too have things that drive me crazy.
At the top of my list are agribusiness advocates such as Kopperud (and, more recently, Steve Sexton of Freakonomics) who dismiss well-thought-out concerns about today's dysfunctional food production system with the old saw that organic farming can't save the world. They persist in repeating this as an irrefutable fact, even as one scientific study after another concludes the exact opposite: not only that organic can indeed feed nine billion human beings but that it is the only hope we have of doing so.
"There isn't enough land to feed the nine billion people" is one tired argument that gets trotted out by the anti-organic crowd, including Kopperud. That assertion ignores a 2007 study led by Ivette Perfecto, of the University of Michigan, showing that in developing countries, where the chances of famine are greatest, organic methods could double or triple crop yields.
"My hope is that we can finally put a nail in the coffin of the idea that you can't produce enough food through organic agriculture," Perfecto told Science Daily at the time.
Too bad solid, scientific research hasn't been enough to drive that nail home. A 2010 United Nations study (PDF) concluded that organic and other sustainable farming methods that come under the umbrella of what the study's authors called "agroecology" would be necessary to feed the future world. Two years earlier, a U.N. examination (PDF) of farming in 24 African countries found that organic or near-organic farming resulted in yield increases of more than 100 percent. Another U.N.-supported report entitled "Agriculture at a Crossroads" (PDF), compiled by 400 international experts, said that the way the world grows food will have to change radically to meet future demand. It called for governments to pay more attention to small-scale farmers and sustainable practices -- shooting down the bigger-is-inevitably-better notion that huge factory farms and their efficiencies of scale are necessary to feed the world.
Suspicious of the political motives of the U.N.? Well, there's a study that came out in 2010 from the all-American National Research Council. Written by professors from seven universities, including the University of California, Iowa State University, and the University of Maryland, the report finds that organic farming, grass-fed livestock husbandry, and the production of meat and crops on the same farm will be needed to sustain food production in this country.
The Pennsylvania-based Rodale Institute is an unequivocal supporter of all things organic. But that's no reason to dismiss its 2008 report "The Organic Green Revolution" (PDF), which provides a concise argument for why a return to organic principles is necessary to stave off world hunger, and which backs the assertion with citations of more than 50 scientific studies.
Rodale concludes that farming must move away from using unsustainable, increasingly unaffordable, petroleum-based fertilizers and pesticides and turn to "organic, regenerative farming systems that sustain and improve the health of the world population, our soil, and our environment." The science the report so amply cites shows that such a system would
  • give competitive yields to "conventional" methods
  • improve soil and boost its capacity to hold water, particularly important during droughts
  • save farmers money on pesticides and fertilizers
  • save energy because organic production requires 20 to 50 percent less input
  • mitigate global warming because cover crops and compost can sequester close to 40 percent of global CO2 emissions
  • increase food nutrient density
What is notably lacking in the "conventional" versus organic debate are studies backing up the claim that organic can't feed the world's growing population. In an exhaustive review using Google and several academic search engines of all the scientific literature published between 1999 and 2007 addressing the question of whether or not organic agriculture could feed the world, the British Soil Association, which supports and certifies organic farms, found (PDF) that there had been 98 papers published in the previous eight years addressing the question of whether organic could feed the world. Every one of the papers showed that organic farming had that potential. Not one argued otherwise.
The most troubling part of Kopperud's post is where he says that he finds the food movement of which Pollan and Nestle are respected leaders "almost dangerous." He's wrong. The real danger is when an untruth is repeated so often that people accept it as fact.
Given that the current food production system, which is really a 75-year-old experiment, leaves nearly one billion of the world's seven billion humans seriously undernourished today, the onus should be on the advocates of agribusiness to prove their model can feed a future population of nine billion -- not the other way around.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Cross-curricular resources: Winter solstice

Published in TES magazine on 9 December, 2011 | By: Ronald Hutton

Modern Britain has a great deal to learn from the centuries-old traditions of the winter solstice, says Professor Ronald Hutton
  • Winter solstice, 22 December
In parts of the world where the seasons change dramatically between summer and winter, the solstices (the longest and shortest days of the year) have been celebrated for centuries. And the most intense of these festivities has always been midwinter. There are both symbolic and practical reasons for this. The lengthening of the light after the greatest darkness represents a time of rebirth and renewal. And, on a more practical level, there was traditionally less work to be done, whether it was farming the land, trading with neighbours or fighting some foreign war.

Certainly, Europeans have always marked the winter solstice, and their ancient names for it - Saturnalia (Roman), Modranicht (Anglo-Saxon) and Yule (Scandinavian) - are known wherever pre-Christian cultures were recorded.

For Christians, it is best known as the Feast of the Nativity or Christmas, which has been held at midwinter ever since the fourth century and is the most intensively celebrated festival of the year, with more rites and customs than any other. All this makes it of great importance to a historian. But what relevance does an understanding of the winter solstice have for students in more general education?
The answer is firmly bound up with the phenomenon of globalisation. First, it acknowledges the current supremacy of Western - above all American - culture in the world, which has made the Christmas holiday the most commonly recognised and observed around the planet. Second, it is important to recognise that developed nations are increasingly multicultural entities. This is especially true of Britain where, more and more, we seek common needs and qualities to unite a society in which many groups either have never been Christian or have ceased to be so.
Fortunately, our own history furnishes us with four of these commonalities - all rooted in the nature of the season itself.

The first is the need to keep ourselves cheerful at the time when natural light is at its most scarce and there is a general lack of warmth, food, flowers, greenery or easy travel. So it is not surprising that feasting lies at the centre of all traditional accounts of the festival; a great meal at which family, household, court or band could fill their bellies and make merry together. The modern Christmas dinner is our expression of this in brightly lit, snugly heated homes. (The Yule log and large Christmas candles are two further representations.)

If light and warmth were defiantly reasserted, then so too was greenery, as homes and holy places were decorated with whatever survived: for a long time just holly and ivy. Then the Germans took up the custom of the Christmas tree in the 17th century and gave it to the British in the 19th. In between came the mistletoe bough - and the tradition of kissing beneath it - which brightened up the dark nights of 18th-century London.

A second enduring feature is the making of fresh plans and resolutions in preparation for the return of warmth and activity, as the winter solstice represents the traditional New Year for most Europeans.
Many customs were devoted to blessing the home: Scottish Highlanders took burning juniper around it, while in southern Scotland and northern England the first person to call after the arrival of the New Year brought good fortune. In southern Britain, people would sing to each other - and even to their beasts, fields and orchards, known as wassailing - to woo good luck. The greatest act of well-wishing, however, was to give gifts at the New Year, a custom recorded since pagan Roman times and surviving in our modern-day Christmas presents.

The third characteristic of midwinter is charity, based on the humane impulse to assist those who not could afford to make merry (and coupled with the more practical reality that the poor might slit their wealthier neighbours’ throats unless their resentments were tempered). Collecting and giving to the poor was known in variant local English terms as Thomasing, Gooding, Mumping, Hoggling or Hognelling. Able-bodied working men could earn the food and money for their household feasts by performing songs, dances or plays to please the better off - such as the Mummers’ Play, Sword Dances and, of course, carols.

The final trait of the festival was Misrule - recognising that this was a season when mud, darkness and storms threatened even the best-sheltered communities. Misrule reversed the usual order of society: in ancient Rome masters served slaves; in medieval cathedrals Boy Bishops presided; Lords of Misrule lorded it over wealthy Tudor and Stuart households; and schoolboys were allowed to “bar out” their teachers from classrooms. Today, party games, paper hats and pantomimes preserve this atmosphere, but a less hierarchical society has largely discarded the need for Misrule.

The winter solstice has provided us with a cluster of imperatives and associations that create symbols and activities to unite speakers of all the 130 languages now used in Britain. As educationalists we need to understand, and celebrate, the solstice - and share it with our student audience.
Ronald Hutton is professor of history at Bristol University and the author of 14 books, including “The Stations of the Sun: a history of the ritual year in Britain”

Friday, December 9, 2011

Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday

Blank Books made by Virginie Kip
I meant to write about this as things were occurring, but alas, time did it's time thing, I was tired and couldn't think of any words to combine in order to say something interesting to you. Finally I am in the mood to do a bit of writing before I turn in for bed.

Yuletide Arts & Craft Fair which was hosted by the MPRC at Melange Magique was fun and went by fast on Sunday. The workshops seemed like they were full, and the participants were cheery. I ended up doing quite a bit of henna, including a few barters with some of the other vendors. I am now the happy owner of another pair of feather earrings, and a pair of garnet & silver hoop earrings made by Willow Dream.

Elissa Baltzer & Virginie Kip
My friend, local artist & Maritimer, Elissa Baltzer was my neighbor. Her work is gorgeous, inspired by nature and the old tales of faeries and other wee folk. My other neighbor was a baker, while I couldn't eat (gluten intolerance) the lovely looking treats (they sure did beckon to me), they must have been tasty because she had a lot of visitors (including repeats).
Miniature Paintings

I am a member of the Montreal Board of Trade (part of the Chamber of Commerce), on Tuesday I attended the monthly business networking cocktail, which was being hosted by Gallery MX. When I walked into the gallery, I was immediately struck by both the trendiness and the warmness of the space. I normally don't like trendy places, but this gallery has a very welcoming feeling.

Yuletide Arts & Craft Fair: The Art of April-Anna
 The architecture is very unique for what I am used to with galleries and the work is diverse. There was alot of beautiful work there by many talented artists, ten of the artists were present at the apero, I am told. I met one of the artists, Michel T. Desroches, who does beautiful portraits that blend from a sense of realism out into an abstract world of subtle colours and chaotic lines that seem to almost be moving. The current group exhibit is really worth seeing, as well as, for any art buyers out there, you would be hard pressed to decide which painting or sculpture you'd want.

Tonight I went to a Christmas Reception at the University Club which was for the Montreal Irish Chamber of Commerce (I am also a member there). They were celebrating their 20th year as a chamber, and the guest of honour was Dr. Ray Bassett, Ambassador of Ireland to Canada. I had brought along my new semi-professional camera to take photos of the night, but then after two photos the battery died (I was very frustrated), clearly I am not used to this camera. Needless to say I intend to buy a 2nd battery. 

Paul Loftus, President of the Montreal Irish Chamber of Commerce
 It was a fun night in a very upscale place with an open bar (the Guiness didn't flow like water, but certainly was popular, they couldn't keep it cold!) and lots of tasty appetizers (though I must say that Gallery MX had much better food). I very much enjoyed watching the young competitive Irish dancers perform.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Work in Progress

This is what I am working on in my studio right now, more layers to come! I plan to add a few flowers and dragonflies, not sure what else...

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Sun, Moon and Stars: Mural at Le Melange Magique

This mural, including the ceiling, took approx. 57 hours to paint.
Back in June I was hired to do a mural at Le Melange Magique on St.Catherine Street West. I made and posted a video blog at that time, but only recently got a chance to take better quality photos (thanks to my new semi-professional camera). Take a look!

For those who wish to see the mural in person, it is inside the reading room at the store. If you ask the staff they'll direct you where to go in order to see it.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Yuletide Arts & Craft Fair

Yuletide Arts Craft Fair, Saturday, December 3rd & 4th, 2011
Gorgeous painting by Elissa Baltzer. Photography by The Art of April-Anna

Oh my lord, you wouldn't believe how tired I am. I am so tired that it's practically psychedelic. I couldn't sleep last night, I was still excited from having been at the concert, probably adrenalin. It was after 5am when I fell asleep, and I had to be up by 9:30am. I was late arriving to the arts & craft fair to set up, but luckily it was quiet. Well, let's just say some people found this predictable. What can I say, I am not a morning person.

I love this wreath, especially with the little horns. Photography by The Art of April-Anna.
Traffic was quiet today, some people commented that they think the promotions for this year's event weren't as good as last year. I have my hopes that tomorrow will be busier, hopefully alot busier. There are workshops happening at the same time, but I am honestly not sure what subjects, other then that it ties into spirituality or psychic development.

Lovely, talented lady who makes candles; Creations Jazzy Blues Creations

All of the work of the vendors was very impressive, diverse & talented. There was everything from candle making, knitting, canned goods, paintings, jewellery, and book authors. The camaraderie between people was lovely, and vendors were entertaining themselves by bartering with one another. I traded two posters for garnet hoop earrings.
Paintings on the right hand side are prints with hand painted layers, original photographs by Christopher Capicollo of the body painting I did at Trois Rivierre Body Painting Competition.

I had the henna out with me today but was too tired to actually offer it. However, anyone wanting henna tomorrow, I will definitely be prepared. I also newly released my miniature paintings which are for either displaying on a wall, hanging in a window, or it can even be used as a fancy bookmark. If you are looking for a gift that is lightweight and easy to mail, this would defiantly be it.

The Tea Party Concert, and a Pagan Arts & Crafts Fair

Photography by Melanie Pilon
YuleTide Arts & Craft Fair
Saturday & Sunday, December 3rd & 4th, Melange Magique; 1928 Ste. Catherine West Montreal. I will be selling greeting cards, posters, my self-published coffee table art book, miniature paintings, canvas prints and original paintings. I can't bring everything down; if you are shopping for a specific painting, please don't hesitate to make a special request. Your wish is my command!

The Tea Party
Tonight I was very excited to attend The Tea Party concert here in Montreal. They are one of my favourite musical acts, I have been listening to them for 20 years. In the past 13 years I have seen them in concert approx. 10 times (mostly in BC). So, if you could see my facial expressions, you'd see my wry amusement when I read my friend's facebook note to me, teasing me, accusing me of being a "tea head" (ouch).

I took alot of "ghetto" film footage & photos, I'll be making a video-blog soon and be posting it up here. I have to say that all Tea Party concerts are good, they are very good showmen. But obviously some concerts are better then others, some of that is personal tastes. My favourite tour they did was with the symphony orchestra back in 2003 (I think that's the year).

I appreciated that in the middle of the concert, Jeff Martin spoke to the audience about the need for the upcoming acoustic songs, "...if you have ears like I do, your ears are ringing very loudly right now....", and the request for the audience to be silent during them. I greatly appreciated this, I have a long term history with hearing challenges, and the last concert I attended this past July, my ears were ringing so badly that I was yelling over top of the ringing and could hear almost nothing that anyone said to me. Needless to say I made myself quite a nuisance to those around me (I was hyper too). I learned my lesson, wear earplugs.

It is interesting to see the progression of Stuart Chatwood, Jeff Martin & Jeff Burrows as artists, the different phases they have musically been through, as well as the energy they bring to each concert. Jeff Martin said tonight, "...we took a 6 year holiday...". I definitely think that the time apart has been good for them, they seem to be finding their musical muse once again. They & the music seem more alive.