Wednesday, September 5, 2012


The victory of the Parti Quebecois in the Quebec election yesterday really came as not surprise. I had been listening to the Radio-Canada everyone morning while I drove to work over the past several weeks leading up to the election to get the full coverage of all the political parties. It was pretty clear to me that Charest was not going to do well against Pauline Marois. A lot of the rhetoric was amusing, most at the expense of Charest.

It was too bad that the victory was overshadowed by some crazed gunman who shot two men, killing one of them. There is really no way to explain or excuse such a senseless act.

Tonight, Charest stepped down as the leader of the Liberal party. I don't think he had a choice, even if he had not lost his seat he had lost credibility as a leader. The party did better than expected. They probably would have won the election if the party had had a stronger leader in place.

I am not that political. In the end, I believe that one party is not that much different than another. It all depends on the strength and the conviction of the leader of the party. Right now, Pauline Marois is riding high on the support and the enthusiasm of the people of Quebec. Only time will tell how well she will do.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


During a recent trip to Winnipeg I stayed at the Fort Garry hotel. The Fort Garry is one of the most elegant hotels that I have stayed at for quite some time. It is located in the heart of Winnipeg. The service is excellent and the serve an amazing breakfast. Even though they are totally different in appearance, I would put the Fort Garry on the same footing as the Eaton Hotel in Hong Kong with regard to elegance, service and the excellence of their food.

When I checked into my room it was still in the afternoon so I had an excellent view to surrounding area. What caught my eye was this incredible building that was under construction. At first, I thought that the building was an extension of the Railway station but after closer inspection i realized that the building was behind the railway station. I took several pictures of the building because I was completely fascinated with its architecture.

When I met my companions for dinner just a few short blocks from the hotel I could still the building from the outdoor terrace where we were sitting. I had to ask my companions about the building. They told me that it was going to be The Museum of Human Rights. That was all they could tell me about it. Now I was really interested.

I went on their website and read all about it. In fact, the website explains the concept and the building much better than I ever could. I would highly recommend that anyone who is interested in this museum click on the link in this blog and read it first hand.

  Doesn't it look like the Museum is part of the train station!

A close look in the afternoon.

I took this picture after I returned to my room after dinner.

I couldn't help taking this picture just as the sun was coming up.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


Well, the awaited weekend has come and gone. The Two Day Invitational Fair and Old Fashioned Mercantile is over. To say the least, it was a unique experience. We had wonderful weather although it was a little hotter on Saturday that I cared for. The weather on Sunday was excellent. I got to meet many interesting and wonderful people which was worth the two days all in itself.There were many interesting vendors there.

ON A BRANCH HANDMADE SOAP proprietor Tara Patey



and our musical buskers who did wonderful renditions of Neil Young songs!

 I was absolutely thrilled by the support that I received from friends and family, especially on Saturday. My granddaughter had an especially good time. She got to see and pet a live horse for the first time in her life. She also seemed to be completely enthralled with the young man playing the bagpipes. she wanted to follow him all around the village green. I want to give a special thanks to our neighbours at the fair, Christine and Dave proprietors of The Stones of Time, who generously lent us a tent when our tent failed to perform as expected. We would have been burnt to a crisp without the their tent.

Aside for the many wonderful vendors at the fair there were many other events that took place.

There was apple bobbing.

The blacksmith's who were on the other side of me held demonstrations all through the show. They let children try their hand at blacksmithing. Each child made a hook and they got to keep it.

Of Course I did sell a few items over the two days. To my surprise, I sold more glass items than I did wood items which is interesting. I sold a glass elephant etching, a couple of stained glass icicles and a hand carved wooden mouse on Saturday and  I sold a wooden old fashioned Santa Claus on Sunday. Not too bad, all things being considered.

Saturday, July 14, 2012


Today, I went to the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) to see the Picasso Exhibit. It was incredibly well done! The exhibit is spread over seven rooms. There are about 150 works on display. It is definitely a must see.

Room 1 : From Spain to Paris, 1900 - 1905. This period covers Picasso's early years in Spain to his bohemian beginnings in Monmartre in Paris.This period is also known as Picasso's Blue and Rose Periods.

Room 2: Making Way : Ancient, African and Oceanic Inspirations, 1906 - 1909. During this period Picasso was influenced by African and Oceanic part which ultimately lead to Les Demoiselles d'Avignonalthough the actual painting is at the Metropolitan Museum of Art  (MOMA) in New York, it was fascinating and insightful to study the preparatory works that were on exhibit at the AGO. This work lead the way to Cubism.

Room 3 : Cubism, Collage and Constructions, 1909 - 1915. By 1909 Picasso was becoming well known and wealthy. He opened a studio and started working with Georges Braque. Between the two of the, they developed Cubism, one of the greatest innovations in 20th century art.

Room 4 : Classicism, Marriage and Family, 1914 - 1924. Never one to be confined by a fashion or a school of art, even one he helped establish, Picasso returned to a more classical style during WWI. It was a happy time for Picasso; his marriage to Olga Khokhlova.


Room 5 : Surreal Anxiety and Desire, 1924 - 1934.  During the 1920s Picasso was influenced by the Surrealists. The Surrealists were one of the only school's of art that Picasso had any association with. It was also during this period that Picasso's work was infused with an almost tangle eroticism that is amply evident to even a casual observer.

Room 6 : War Paintings : Of Love and War, 1936 - 1939.  The 1930s were tumultuous for Picasso, his marriage to Olga broke down, His mistress Marie - Therese gave birth to his daughter, Maya and later he started an affair with Dora Maar, a Surrealist writer and photographer. Dora's involvement in left wing politics eventually affected Picasso which resulted in the painting Guernica. Guernica was my first introduction to Picasso when I was a teenager.

Room 6 : War Paintings : World War II to Korean War, 1940 - 1951. During WWII Picasso lived and worked in Paris under the German occupation. Although he was harassed from time to time he was left more or less alone. Maybe it was because of admirers or because the Germans did not want the bad publicity of persecuting the great artist, Picasso. the war eventually seeped into his work, symbols of death, skulls, bulls that signify vulnerability. this was the period when Picasso's reputation as a great artist was established.

Room 7 : The Joy of Life, 1950 - 1972 The period of Picasso's life was much brighter than all the preceding periods. And why not? He was permanently established in the south of France which was reason enough. He married a young woman who was some 40 odd years his junior and totally devoted to Picasso and his art and he has two small children later in life.

Picasso was more backward looking during his last period of creativity, which is not unreasonable. He reworked paintings by Delacroix, Velazquez and Manet. He even paid homage to the only artist that he ever considered to be his equal: Henri Matisse( my favorite artist).

I am including a few sketches of my own not because I think they even come close to anything that Picasso drew but that they were inspired by what I saw, at the exhibit and what  I saw within myself.

This is a sketch that I did for my friend Xiaoxiong. She is going through a bad patch right now. As I viewed the many mother and child drawings and paintings by Picasso I thought of her difficulties.

The guitar figured into so many of Picasso's works. It is also an important theme and element in my life so Picasso's guitar works resonant strongly within me. I thought about my cousin Denis who I will always associate with the guitar. For some time. I have been thinking about a work that incorporates the guitar. the idea is even stronger now.

The Picasso exhibit was an important artistic experience for me. I left the AGO feeling much richer artistically and more motivated creatively. I will be drawing on this experience for a long time to come. I would urge everyone who is even the least bit interested or curious about Picasso, if you love him or hate him (especially if you hate him!), go the exhibit. You will be impressed and glad that you went.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


In my first post about stained glass I wrote about how I started working with stained glass, it was more or less by accident. We wanted to have a couple of stained glass windows on either side of our fireplace and like everything else that we do, we decided that we would do it ourselves. I learned how to work in stained glass. My wife and I designed the windows and I make the finished windows. There are pictures of the two windows in my first post about stained glass.

I am not sure how many years I have been working in stained glass but it is more than five. I do not work constantly with glass and there are long periods that I do not do anything. Mostly, I make things out of stained glass for my wife and I, my family and sometimes for friends. Most of my creative time is taken up with wood carving.

Over the last few years I have started working with beach glass or found glass, much as I work with found wood. I am a strong believer in taking everyday materials, found materials, recycled materials and creating art out something that has been considered to be garbage. There is a special kind of satisfaction in doing this. Having said that, I have been working on a piece that is entirely made of found glass over the last three or four years. Again, it has been off and on. There were long periods where I did not touch the piece because I did not know where it was going. The piece grew organically, a few pieces at a time. As I got more and more into the piece I because to develop a vision of what it might look like when it was finished. It was that vision that guided me to finishing the piece.

I finished assembling the piece a few weeks ago but with traveling to Quebec and all the other activities in my life right now it has laid on a shelf waiting for me to give it the finishing touches. finishing the piece mainly involves adding reinforcement to make the piece strong and rigid. Right now it is very fragile and easily come apart if it is not handled carefully. When I have time, probably this coming weekend I will add thick copper wire around the entire perimeter to strengthen the entire piece. As well. I will weave wire in the back of the piece to give it strength across the piece as well.

Here is what the piece looks like at the moment.

Close up of top right hand corner - text

I chose and positioned specific pieces of found glass that contained text in prominent locations so that they would stand out.

Other pieces were included because that had markings that were script like without being intelligible words. They are more like phonemes, or pieces of words or text.

I also like using pieces of glass that are similar to create effects like clouds.

I especially like putting these bottle tops together simply because i liked the way they looked together and the effect that they created.

Sunday, July 8, 2012


This was the first time in five years that I was able to take part in the Canada Day celebrations in Burlington. All of the five previous years I was outside of Canada on business. That's just the way it was.

Since Canada Day was on Sunday this year we drove down to Spencer Smith park in the morning and found a parking spot relatively close to the park. All the parking spots are free on Saturday, Sunday and holidays. I had wanted to see the Joseph Brant museum because I have never been there, besides it was free on Canada Day. There were a lot of things set up in the morning on the Joseph Brant Museum grounds in the morning, mostly for children.

We saw the Queen's impersonator. she was a reasonably good facsimile.

The inside of the museum we saw a recreation of an encampment of the war of 1812, a display of Edwardian clothing and accessories and a display on Joseph Brant. I took a couple of pictures of a bust that was done of Joseph Brant. Unfortunately, it is inside a protective glass case so some of the glass is reflected back in the picture.

In the evening, we returned to Spencer smith park to listen to Ashley McIsaacs, a fiddler from the East Coast of Canada who is a prodigious musician. It was a wonderful evening. The sky was clear. The almost full moon hung like a giant silver disc in the sky. The temperature was warm without being hot or humid. We listened for about three quarters of an hour then decided to go home.  All in all, it was a wonderful Canada Day.

Saturday, June 30, 2012


Last week, my wife and I drove to Montreal to meet our son who had just finished teaching for one year in Kangiqsualujjuaq, Quebec, a small Inuit town of 600 people located at the mouth of the George river on Ungava bay. After spending the night in Montreal the three of us drove to Quebec City to see my cousin and his wife. We had a great time together.

One of the most interesting things that happened on the weekend was spending Saturday evening on the Plains of Abraham where the Saint Jean Baptiste celebrations were held. After having dinner with my cousin and his wife in a restaurant called Le Conchon Dingue, (the Crazy Pig), we walked to the Plains of Abraham. It was a beautiful evening so the walk was very refreshing. 

The festivities started at 9:00 PM after a long dissertation about Quebec. While we were listening to all the political and nationalistic speeches we noticed that the cameras had suddenly changed direction and were aimed directly at us. A group of people appeared in front of us. Suddenly, my cousin's wife became very animated and called the women by name, Madame Maurois. A woman and a man came up to my wife, my son and I and shook our hand, in turn, and wished us, "bonne fete" (happy holiday). We thought that they were just people that my my cousin and his wife knew. As it turned out, they were high ranking politicians in the provincial Parti Quebecois, Pauline Maurois who is the leader of the Parti Quebecois and Daniel Paille, the leader of the Le Bloc Quebecois. It was an interesting experience. We listened to the music for about an hour or so then we returned to my cousin's apartment for a while then went back to our hotel; we were leaving early the next morning.

It was a great weekend. It gave me a great sense of who I am and my ethnic roots. I feel that it is important to keep in touch with your roots. In the end, it is ultimately what defines us.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Stained Glass - My Other Passion

As passionate as I am about wood, there is another material that I also love;glass. I have always loved and admired stained glass. It must have all the hours that I spent sitting in a church pew admiring the figures and patterns in the stained glass windows. I was always fascinated by the way the glass would glow and light up when light would shine through a stained glass window. The window would literally come to life which I guess what the intent of the stained glass maker or designer.

However, it never occurred to me to make a stained glass window or that I could even make a stained glass window. That is until we moved into our current home which has two small windows on either side of the fireplace which is now part of our bedroom. The two windows are placed in such a way that they have the early morning sun shining through them.

One day, my wife and I were standing in the room admiring the sunlight streaming through the windows and said that it would be nice if we had stained glass panels in the two windows. I agreed but then asked, "Stained glass is expensive, isn't it?"
"Not if you make it yourself," said my wife.
"You're going to make stained glass windows?", I asked.
"No," she said. "You are."
"Me, I don't know how to make stained glass windows."
" You can learn," said my wife. "There is a stained glass studio not far from here and they have classes in the evening. You can learn there."

That was the beginning of my passion with stained glass.

Here is the first stained glass piece that I ever made. It is an angel that I made during the course that I took in stained glass. The angel was fairly basic. It measured about 6 inches by 6 inches.

Here is the second project that I did, two stained glass windows that now hang in the windows beside the fireplace in our bedroom. each window measures approximately 2 feet by 2 feet. I guess you can say that I took a leap of faith and plunged right into stained glass. The fleurs-de-lis is the center piece of the window. I surrounded the the fleurs-de-lis with clear float glass that was reclaimed from a greenhouse that was replacing its old glass.  The float glass is surrounded by red glass with white squares in the corners.

There is a huge difference between making a small angel and designing and creating a window that measure two feet by two feet. I learned a lot from that project and I realized that I really like the process of making things out of glass.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Early Moring Walk on the Yong Jiang River, Nanning

On the last two trips to Nanning China I stayed at the Yong Jiang hotel. It is an older hotel and it certainly does not have the amenities of many of the more modern hotels. What it lacks in convenience it makes up in ambiance and old world charm. When I say old world charm I am actually referring to old world European charm. The hotel was build some time before the Revolution. It was built in the style of a refined European spa. After seventy years the hotel is looking old and dated but I guess that is part of the charm.

Since the hotel is literally across the street from the Yong Jiang river, thus its name, I thought it would be interesting to walk along the river early in the morning just after sunrise. Since I always eat early in the morning I was out walking around 6:30 AM. I was quite surprised at what I saw so early in the morning.

I saw people fishing which is reasonable enough early in the morning.

A little further up the bank there is a terrace where i found a group of people playing badminton early in the morning.

As I continued my walk along the river I saw many interesting things.

This elderly woman was practicing walking backwards. I understand that walking backwards is good for balance and overall co-ordination. She was actually walking at a fairly reasonable speed. Obviously, she had been at this for some time.

A little further down the river I saw a group of people practicing Tai Qi. There was someone who led and the group followed their movements. They seemed to move as one graceful unit. It was very nice to watch.

The thing that I found to be most fascinating was that there were a number of people who were actually swimming in the Yong Jiang river. I saw clusters of people along the shore of the river near the bridge. 

As I walked along the river I also saw individual swimmers swimming in the middle of the river. They were either very brave individuals or extremely experienced swimmers who knew what they were capable of doing. At any rate, I was very impressed with what I saw on those days that I walked along the Yong Jiang river.

I want to finish this post with something a little different. I was inspired by my walk along the Yong Jiang river so I wrote a short poem. Here is it is.

Morning on the Yong Jiang River

Once Chairman Mao swam across the Yong Jiang River,
Or so they say,
His persona is greater than the chairman ever was in life.

Today, ordinary people in Nanning swim in the Yong Jiang River,
Early in the morning when the air is cool and
the mist hangs in the air 
giving the river a romantic, wistful look.
From where I stand on the boardwalk
Looking down at the swimmers in the water
And on the rocky beach,
They look heroic as they swim 
Purposefully, parallel to the shore of the river.
Are they thinking of Chairman Mao
Swimming in the Yong Jiang River 
Those many years ago,
Or, are their thoughts 
On more current matters,
How well are they doing in their work,
Will they be able to buy a car,
When will they be able to afford to buy a home,
Will China's economy continue to grow at a record pace?

Once chairman Mao swam across the Yong Jiang River,
Or so they say,
To demonstrate his leadership,
To show the people that he was strong and virile,
To show the people that the party was in charge 
And was willing to face difficult challenges.

Today, ordinary people swim in the Yong Jiang River.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Hong Kong - 1881 Heritage

For the next number of blogs I will be jumping around in space and time so the normal linearity of travel will be a bit jumbled. Having said that, I am trying to write my impressions and experiences down as they come back to me. as much as I vow to write these things down when I am traveling there never seems to be the time nor the inclination.

Going back to March when I was stranded in Hong Kong for a few days I discovered this facility called 1881 Heritage. What caught my eye was the groups of wedding parties that were using this picturesque site to take their wedding pictures. The wedding parties themselves were quite interesting, they ranged from very traditional Chinese wedding Cheong Sams to Ultra modern western tuxedos and strapless western wedding gowns. I did not take any pictures of the wedding parties because I wanted to respect their privacy.

Later in the day I went back to 1881 and toured the historical aspects of the site. Apparently, it had been the site of the marine police of Hong Kong and there were still many historical artifacts and buildings on the site.

Front view of 1881 Heritage

Lighted carousels

close up of carousels

Signal Tower

period carriage