monday update: – away, away

Just a short update and a link to set the scene as I leave town for a week away.

The past spring has taken it’s toll and we’re not into summer yet. Our house is dry and a ten minute bicycle ride from the river but the impact of this years runoff from the roughly 150,000 square kilometre basin that drains into the 1,100 kilometres of river has been a nasty surprise to all those who believe we can profit from and manage our risks.

With a solid week of heavy rain, the mood is pretty somber. And it’s not a joke to say that I’m looking forward to greener pastures.


Friday – Impasse

note: the photo above is not my library

So a discussion yesterday brought me to an impasse that I have tried to negotiate off and on for the past decade.

Over the years I have managed to build a very small library of books. Nothing incredibly astounding, but one that I modestly believe could serve a small group or community with enough reliable wisdom, insight and information to sustain them in posterity.

There were no computers or reliable and accessible storage technologies beyond memory and books when I began this collection. The work on a McLuhanesque world had just begun and was poorly understood, if understood at all, and the idea of our truly inhabiting the noosphere was laughable science fiction.

I was a young student that had moved from a ‘largish’ urban centre actively trying to envision a better future to a small rural community that even outside radio waves still did not reach. There was no national or connected anything. Our community was defined by the daily funeral reports on the radio and the social pages that included who had out-of-town visitors on the weekend. People made their peace with one another and right or wrong, accumulated wisdom was share.

The hard-won work of Ruskin and the Mechanic’s Institutes had started to pay heavy dividends. The most recent meddling and pompous Tory program of turning back the clock had just begun. willful ignorance in the name of excessive profit enjoyed a brief period of success and had not yet started to undermine the solid foundations of daily life. A growing restlessness had begun to question dogmatic authority in a search for a meaningful and active spiritual life.

The ongoing war against the banner of the working class – indigo dyed denim – had just begun. The idea that modern technology could co-opted it into a multi-billion dollar enterprise that would include using prisoners to provide free labour was still several years away.

The threat that the shallowest of hacks and idealistic belligerents could blow up the world was a real and present danger. Subtlety and questioning was disobedient, punishable and unpatriotic in very direct ways. A clash of historic forces was under way and about to be subsumed in a tidal wave of technology that would wash many things out to sea. The resulting tumult has made it hard to recognize our surroundings and returned us to informational peasants.

I have no illusions that the technology we enjoy today will be here tomorrow. History will bear this out. However, my early interest in the late middle ages led me to understand how very tenuous our accumulated wisdom and gains can be. And that writing most likely has a certain edge over oral tradition. In short, the physical written word is incredibly important.

Unfortunately this idea is not widely shared. Especially by those who control the purse strings and direction of institutions responsible for nothing else. No one in any kind of power wants high quality thought to be freely exchanged among the populace at large. Hiding, burning, limiting and guarding it has always been a prime directive. Good, reliable and useful information is always costly and hard to come by. It produces competence and sufficiency. Neither of which you would want your subjects to have.

The long-standing problem’s preferable to wipe out all knowledge and have direct and perfect allegiance is preferable to any tyrant.

This and more is what I’ve learned from my library.

Books on history and culture. Faith and thought. Architecture and meaning. Medicine and horticulture. Craftsmanship and Skills. Inspiration and Cautionary Tales. Advice from the ancients. Dreams of our best. Each and all as Picasso liked to say, hammering in another plank on our life raft adrift at sea.

The impasse I spoke about earlier is in what to do about it?

More than once this library has been an excessive burden and yet I know in my heart the slender thread that we hung upon in the period of Charlemagne’s Capitulary or even earlier in Iona. Not to mention the gratitude I bear to Bagdad, Cordoba, Cairo and the Studium Generale. To the transmission and recording of the Rigveda. To King Wen and the Lǎozǐ and to all the People of the Book

And so in the spirit of the times, I am trying to crowd source an answer as to what I should do with all these books. Right now I have some time to arrange for them. At best I want to avoid rashly abandoning them at the side of the road.

I can attest to the power of a small library. Personally I would want to keep it together. At best, to avoid institutions or being institutionalised. That it be used and held in safekeeping. It is something of value that far exceeds it’s worth, especially assembled. Situated so that it is open and accessible to those who could benefit, and free from profiting and control.

In many ways it’s not all that special to the hundreds if not more private collections like this that will disappear with this lapse in judgement that is our contemporary world.

If you have any thoughtful ideas, I’m very interested. Personally I’ve run out of them.

So consider this an invitation. It’s an impasse I’d very much like to solve.



wednesday – what is hip?

“The more the things change, the more they stay the same.  It may be a different age, but I’m on the same page. But there’s one thing that I’ve found.  I still be diggin’ on James Brown.”

I was a little shocked to find that these guys are still playing and are better than ever. I discovered the world of jazz with bands like this and they connected the past with the rest of the world and brought it into the present.

I am only jealous that I don’t live near Ft. Lauderdale where I could watch them play on April 20th at the Parker Playhouse. These giants of jazz have been behind so much music it’s incredible. From the San Francisco summer of love to Santana, they have underscored my life.



foto friday – update

No I haven’t left the planet, run away from home nor vanished into the ether. The short answer is that it never rains but it pours.

February has kept my hours more than filled with a major commitment to this years incowrimo-2017. While normally I devote my time to writing letters, I decided to become much more involved at the organizational and support level which turned out to be both time consuming and extremely rewarding. It’s a fantastic project and the hiatus and focus on handwritten correspondence is always a welcome experience.

In addition I’v been locked in a struggle with Nvidia hardware since the recent build of a dedicated graphics computer for photography. Simply put, Nvidia is very explicit about not playing well with others and probably the less said the better. There has been a large loss of data involved and an even larger loss of time.

But most of all, we have welcomed a new member into are family in the recent weeks. And while the internet is full of curious and unnecessary dog pictures, it can stand to have one more.

At 11 weeks and nearly thirty pounds, Bruno is like an overexcited three year old with teeth, high speed mobility and a propensity for non stop chewing. He wakes up bigger than when he went to sleep and is a joy to everyone.

Sveti Valentin prinese ključe od korenin



“For this was on seynt Volantynys day – Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make”
1382 Geoffrey Chaucer – 1382

“Sveti Valentin prinese ključe od korenin, zato so v nekaterih krajih na ta dan začeli z delom v vinogradih in vrtovih”


Despite the high cost of postage Britain was sending 60,000 valentine cards by post in 1835.  Fancy Mechanical Valentines (cards) were available for a price. Produced with real lace and ribbons they could be signed with one of the many sentimental verses found in the ‘Young Man’s Valentine Writer’ that had been published nearly 40 years before.

But it was by inventing the postage stamp and reducing the postal rate in 1840 that Britain gave birth to the popular practice of mailing a valentines card, often anonymously, that has lasted to this day.

With 400,000 cards sent the first year alone the Hallmark Holiday was born.

Today this mostly commercial celebration has expanded to include roses, chocolate, diamonds and almost any heart-shaped piece of plastic you can imagine. Not to mention the untold millions of e-greetings and animated gifs.

And so honour of the saint of good health, the patron of beekeepers and pilgrims, we wish you the warmest of Valentines Greetings.

lantern festival – 元宵節

“Until people found a way to light the darkness, they could do little once the sun went down …Gaze up at the stars that fired the imagination of your ancestors. In that darkness, in that quiet, you can hear your heart beat and your breath move. After you let time pass leisurely, light one lantern — that lantern that welcomes the spirits, that is brave in the darkness, that welcomes people home. That light is the beginning of the human.” Deng Ming Dao



picture tuesday – special

It’s rare to come across someone who sees and experiences the world in much the same way you do. That they’re able to clearly capture and convey it in a way you instantly recognize is magical and rare. And while certain details may not be identical, it doesn’t really matter. It’s as if they’ve been able to reach deep into your heart, memory and imagination to conjure up the treasures sleeping there.

I felt this way yesterday when I stumbled across this video by accident.

I always felt that one of the greatest pleasures of living Montréal was exploring the city on foot. To me at least, Montréal seemed to have slipped  from another world and a different age, directly into the consciousness of the immediate present. And for the curious pedestrian the city always made good on it’s promise to show you how it happened.

I can never explain the feeling of wonder and expectation I’ve always had while standing on the rise of Duluth somewhere near Coloniale. Like standing on the edge of the Prairie with the open wilderness of the entire country extending outward before me.

Or the ever present ghosts of collective history while walking past rural architecture at the bottom of the Rue de Grand Pré.  Or the heat in your hands while drinking watery hot chocolate from a paper cup in the Chalet du Mont-Royal before stepping out into the frigid snow, to descend into the forest and emerge full into the heart of a frozen city below.

And while he doesn’t capture every detail I can imagine, a huge ‘bravo’ to the person who managed to so elegantly relate an experience I believed to exist only in memory and dream.



they call it snowy monday…

While it’s not really the first snow of the year, it seems our increasingly online existence is taking it’s toll. Especially when it comes to dealing with real time events like snow. Even the city of Montréal has succumbed to the “melting is part of our snow removal policy” much to the chagrin of several people on the receiving end. This time though, everybody getts involved as you can see below.

Certainly won’t be the last time, and won’t change bureaucratic minds interested in garnering publicity value. Otherwise it’s been a beautiful day and I can’t wait to share what I found tomorrow.