Archive for March 2010

Lighthouse from Hell

March 30, 2010

I took this photo of the lighthouse at Killarney, Ontario, two summers ago.  And I’ve just gotten around to painting it.

Not an easy subject, I found.    First of all, the sky is tricky.   It’s quite granulated.

In watercolors, though, you can’t paint each and every cloud fluff, or it will look like crap.

And the last thing I wanted to do was spend hours drawing the lighthouse, and then ruin it all by screwing up the sky. So I did a few practice runs first.

Attempt #1. Meh.   Too finicky.   Too many patches, the clouds didn’t flow.

Attempt #2. Somewhat better.   By using wet-on-wet, I softened the edges of the clouds.

Next, was to draw the lighthouse itself.

It helped to blow up the photo, and draw grid squares to get the proportions right.   I could have really gone nuts, and broken this down into carefully measured grids.    But I chose not to…I wanted to get the proportions down by eye.   More drawing, and less technical drafting.

Besides, I had forgotten to bring my ruler, and was too lazy to ask to borrow one at Art Class.    I just used the edge of my metal pencil-box to make the straight lines.

I drew it on sketch paper first, so as to not ruin the watercolor paper by erasing and drawing on it, over and over.

Again, this was NOT an easy subject.  It’s bascially small 8-sided object on top of a larger tapered 4-sided object.  Drawn in perpective, no less.

At this point, I was getting damned tired of looking at this @#%$%  lighthouse.   And I hadn’t even started to paint yet.

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The next and final step was to re-trace the ENTIRE drawing again, with carbon paper underneath, to transfer it onto the watercolor paper itself.    THEN….I started to mix colors.

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When all was said and done, here’s how the final product turned out:

The photo was too dark on the bottom.  So I had to use my imagination and fiddle around.   I lightened up the rocks, and deliberately repeated some of the reds and blues of the sky and lighthouse.  But just a hint.

I also didnt’ bother with the antenna and anemometer on top.   They didn’t add to the painting, and would have must messed things up.

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This painting’s all right.   Though it could be better.

For one thing, I did a major boo-boo.

Can you spot what it is?

Hint: Look when you compare the angles of the railing from the photo to my drawing.

I got the perspective ALL wrong.

And of course, I only realized that after investing 5 hours into the painting, when it was 80% done.

And this being watercolor, there wasn’t a damned thing I could do to fix it.

Dammit.

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But the instructor didnt’ think it was too bad.    My saving grace was that I was consistent in the way I got the perspective wrong.

The building isn’t too lop-sided, so it looks like I kinda got away with it here.

This is what artists call a “Fortunate Accident”.

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Or….I could say that I had I MEANT to do that…after all, this isn’t a photograph…it’s my “impression” of the scene.

Yeah…that’s it.   That sounds about right.

I MEANT to do that.

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Oh well.  Chalk this up to being a “learning experience”.

And let us never speak of this wretched lighthouse again.

I’m done with them.

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Though I might try one again…in about 5-10  years.

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Exploring Ontario’s Forsaken Area

March 28, 2010

There’s an area in Eastern Ontario I like to call “The Forsaken Area”.

It lies south of the Ottawa Valley, and just East of Algonquin Park, and is also known as the Madawaska Highlands.

It’s where the grid-square pattern of farmland stops and suddenly gives way to the rolling hills and lakes of Canadian shield.

The change is quite abrupt:  in only a few hundred meters, the landscape changes from cultivated fields and thriving towns, into sparsely-populated forested hills of bedrock.

Not that people didnt’ try to settle this region.  The Opeongo Road was built in the 1850’s to open up the then-virgin area  and encourage immigrants to start farms.

Anyone who applied was given a parcel of 100 acres of land, and it was theirs to keep, provided that within four years, they built a house, and cleared and cultivated 12 acres of land.

Unfortunately, this was easier said than done.   The region was remote, the climate harsh, and the soil was thin and infertile.  Many of these farms failed and were subsequently abandoned.

Later, mining towns were built, and logging briefly thrived.  But the good timber was soon exhausted, and the mines went bust by the early 1900’s.    By the 1940’s, a lot of these places closed down and everyone had moved out.

Nowadays, there’s not much left to see.    Even the summer cottages are sparse, as there aren’t that many lakes or nice beaches in the area.  It’s mostly just 2nd-growth forest and rocky soil.

But there’s something to the Forsaken Area that keeps bringing me back.

It’s like some kind of “Lost Zone” that time forgot.    Everywhere else around this region seems to have thrived.   But for whatever reason, the Forsaken Area itself seems to be stuck in the past.

It’s like going back 40 years, before everything got built-up and spoiled, like the over-developed cottage areas to the North, West and South.

Even today, mention “the Opeongo Road”, and only the locals will know about it.  It’s still considered in the middle of nowhere.

But I love exploring the back-roads of the Forsaken Area, because I never know what I’ll find.

Like ghost towns, such as Khartum, Letterkenny, Newfoundout and Brudenell.   Where all that might be left is a falling-apart church, where a once-thriving settlement once stood.

One of the better-preserved ghost towns is Balaclava, where a water-powered sawmill ran as recently as 1967.

But a few towns have managed to linger on.  Like Quadeville, where Al Capone was reputed to have a hide-out back in the 30s.

(Smart man, that Al Capone.  Very few people today even know where Quadeville is…let alone 80 years ago!)

There are plenty of long, winding roads in the middle of nowhere, where you wont’ see a soul for miles.

Get off the pavement, though, and it’s even more remote.   In this case, you better make sure you your car has 4WD and a GPS, because believe me, you don’t want to get stuck here.   Or lost.

Even recent attempts to develop this area have failed.    Like the ski hill that didn’t quite succeed, and is slowly being re-claimed by the forest.

Or the abandoned military base in Foymount, which once formed part of the  “Pinetree Radar Line“.   This installation was used to detect detect Soviet bombers flying over the North Pole during the Cold War.

But the base became obsolete and was shut down in 1974.   A few people still live in Foymount, and you can still see the decaying apartments, military buildings and the schoolyards slowly falling  apart.

What I like is seeing the old farms themselves.   Occasionally, a settler did manage to find a rare patch of fertile soil amongst the rocky hills.  These lucky farms succeeded and are still operating.

Other farms appear to be on life-suport, and like the ski hill, are slowly being reclaimed by the forest.

But what I like best are the square-cut timbers of these early barns.

Notice these buildings arent’ made from planks of wood cut from a sawmill.

That’s because when these farms were first carved out of the wilderness, there weren’t any sawmills close by.   The pioneers had to cut and notch the logs themselves, from the surrounding trees.

And many of these original barns are still standing.

It just goes to show, how young Canada is as a country.

Even in the populated eastern part of this province, less than 150 kilometers from the Nation’s Capital, we’re not that far removed from the time when this was all virgin wilderness.

In face, we can still see traces of it.

Happy Earth Hour

March 27, 2010


🙂

If Ski Resorts Were Run Like Your Typical Workplace

March 25, 2010

The ticket office would be located at the top of the hill, 500 vertical feet above the parking lot.

Nobody would be allowed on the ski lifts until they attended a “Pre-Ski Briefing” each morning.

The number of runs down the hill would be dictated by a Ski Permit, to be signed and authorized by the Ski Patrol, the Lift Supervisor and the Resort Manager.

Unfortunately, the Resort Manager would be in a 4-hour meeting discussing the color of the table-cloths in the restaurant.     So nobody would be allowed on the slopes until he got back.

By the time the Resort Manager got back, then it would be time for the Ski Patroller’s break,  so everyone would have to wait for yet another 35 minutes.

There would be signs posted every 20 feet, reminding everyone to be aware of the dangers of “Slipping and Falling” on the ice and snow.

Any time you fell down, or saw someone else do it, you would have to fill out a BPF (Butt-Plant Form).

Most chairlifts would only be 4 feet off the ground, to minimize the potential risk of falling from height.    Anyone using it to would need to be trained in Fall Protection.  They would have to wear a safety harness which must be clipped to an anchor point approved by a Certified Structural Engineer.

This would have to be done every time someone got on and off the chairlift.  As a result, you’d be lucky to get to the top of the hill by quitting time.

Taking this into account, Management would increase the Ski Permit quota from 10 runs per day to 27.    If these “Expectations” were not met, it would be considered “Unacceptable”.

80% of the trails would be bare, though, because Management would insist on the ski resort opening on April 1st.

A Consultant would be hired for $100,000.  It would take him 4 months to recommend that the hill be opened in December instead.

The Consultant’s advice would be ignored.

On the bright side, however, $2,000,000 would be budgeted to conduct an “Optioneering Study” to determine why all the neighboring ski resorts are doing so much better.

The “Optioneering Study” would end up being 300% over budget, and would conclude that the hill be opened even later, on July 1st.

The resort would continue to bleed money, and would ask the government to bail them out.

The grant money would be spent on a state-of-the-art office building and swimming pool, for another Optioneering Study.

Klistered Out

March 22, 2010

Some people have recently asked me what Klister is.

It’s a gooey.  sticky wax that you put on your skis when the temperature is above freezing.

You have to put it on, otherwise your skis slide backwards and all over the place.

But everyone HATES Klister.

Why?

Here’s what is looks like:

It has the consistency of maple syrup mixed with 5-minute epoxy:

And here’s what the bottom of your skis look like, after you use it.

…which is why everyone HATES Klister!

Things I’m apparently supposed to get excited about, but am NOT.

March 19, 2010


Multi-Grain Bread
17-grain wholesome goodness.  Which contains enough oat kernels, wheat stalks and sunflower shells to sand-blast your colon to a mirror-like finish.

Eat it…it’s good for you“, they tell me.

It will clean me out.   Lower my cholesterol.   Make me a better human being.    Solve Global Warming.

The thing is…people taste things differently.  There’s no right or wrong…it’s just how our brains are wired to our tongues.

And to me, whole-wheat tastes bitter.

Which as far as I’m concerned, is my body’s way of telling me “Don’t eat that.”

So to any Food-Police out there, try to wrap this around your head this:

I DON’T LIKE IT!!!

Stop trying to convert me.

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Pointless Home Renovations
By double-incomer types, who’s fantastic brand-new home is already ten times better than anything you’ll ever afford.

But apparently it’s still not good enough .

So they rip apart the whole damned thing and spend the next 5 years living on a construction site.

And whenever  you visit, you’ll get the Mandatory House Tour: painstaking room by painstaking room, of what was done, and what will be done.

During which, you’re supposed to Oooh and Ahhh while they preen.

But it’s not like they learned new skills, poured their heart into it, and actually did the work themselves.

No…the only thing they’ve accomplished is that they’re rich enough to hire someone ELSE to do it.

Congratulations, you win.

But really….it’s just accumulating more STUFF.

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Photos of Kids I don’t’ know, from people I don’t know
I think I must be missing some crucial parental instincts.    Because when people send me photos of kids who aren’t even theirs,  I don’t give a flying fox-fart.

Nor do I feel the urge to jump upon the Mommy-Blogger band-wagon and leave the mandatory  “Awwwwwww…Cute!

If these were close friends, and the photos were of their kids, who I’d actually meet one day, that’s different.

But otherwise, you might as well just google “children”, and cut and paste any of the random photos that come up.

Means the same to me, basically.



People who brag about their real estate investment
Seniors are especially good at this.

“When I bought this house back in Ought Six, I paid two bags of flour for it.    Now it’s worth over a $750,000, Thank You Very Much”.

Again, congratulations, you win.

And thank you for reminding me that I was born too late to be able to benefit from affordable housing in the post-war boom.

But you know, I don’t like to talk about my accumulation of material possessions.

So try to imagine how talking about YOUR accumulation of material possessions interests me even LESS.

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Who wins the Hockey Game.
Don’t get me wrong.  I like a good game.

But it’s not like I”m going to paint my face in team colors, and wear-sack cloth and ashes if they don’t make the play-offs.

Because what’s actually involved, when you think about it?

A billionaire selects a small group of athletes from around the whole continent, and pays them millions to chase a piece of frozen rubber on the ice.

And they compete against another billionaire’s group of millionaires, trying to do the same thing.

This makes my life better, and validates which town I live in…HOW?

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Inspirational  stories that you couldn’t possible live up to.
Like Little Timmy who fell down the well and lost all his arms and legs.   Who fought back tears and ridicule.  But through sheer guts and determination, became the High School Tiddly-Wink Captain.

Doesn’t his story inspire you? Doesn’t’ his story put things in perspective, and make you realize how lucky you are?

And shouldn’t we all strive to be like Little Timmy?

Well, $&#* Little Timmy.

Good for him..but that’s his life.  He’s not living mine.   I am.

Besides, we don’t know the whole story.   Maybe Timmy has issues.

Like, maybe he’s a a total a-hole when he’s not playing tiddly winks.

Or he beats up his cat.     We don’t know.

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Dubious Book Reviews

“Top Twelve Tips to Optimize your Belly Button Lint Using SEO Branding Strategies in an Affiliate Market Environment

When people tell me they absolutely LOVED this book, I get a bit skeptical.

This is what you honestly like to read in your free time? ….Seriously

Or do you like this book,  because you’ll get a cut for every sale you help generate?

Inquiring minds want to know.

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Glory-Heroes who Climb Mt. Everest
Hey, if you want to do the equivalent of stepping out of a jet plane at 30,000 feet, and slowly letting  your brain swell and suffocate, fine.

But don’t expect me to worship you.

Because I’m too  busy playing my guitar, painting, or doing other things that require opposable thumbs.

Which didn’t freeze off, by the way.  a


Slum-Dog Millionaire
No, I will NOT see this movie.

I will not, I will not, I will NOT.

Because the Oscars and a lot of people tell me I should.

Which, of course,  makes me want to see it even LESS.

(Yes, I know I’m being a stubborn dick.)

But I’m going to allow myself that luxury.

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Inspirational Quotes
This is all some people write about, and nothing else.

Makes you wonder what their thought process is.

1.   Everyone is all depressed and messed up, looking for that ONE thing to lift their spirits…

2.  Hmmm…I’ll take it upon myself to copy down 10-15 words from some dead poet.  Because NO ONE has ever done this before.

3.  This will be JUST the thing these people needed.   Those precious words will solve ALL of their Life’s Problems, it’s that simple.

4.  People will write to me, bursting  into tears of gratitude, and self-awareness.  (Thank you…*sob*…THANK you!!!)

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But really, it’s just cut-and-paste, when you think of it.

And how hard can that be?

Krûll the Greater

March 18, 2010

Krûll the Greater, Pumpkin-hater.
Told his wife “I’ll be back later.”
Then found himself a pumpkin shell
And kicked it all to living hell.