Of Rollers and Royals

December 31, 2010

E.g., Mary Ann, and Ginger are the respective daughters of three sisters — Rose, Theodora, and Helen — and are thus first cousins to one another. Mary Ann was born and raised here in rural New Brunswick, grew up on a farm, and married a farmer. Ginger was raised on a different sort of farm: a plantation in Kenya. She speaks “kitchen Swahili”, as she calls it, has retained her parents’ British accent, and married a successful public relations expert. E.g. was raised in a Saint John suburb, has travelled the world, and married nobody. Like their mothers, all three women are bright, talented, modest, considerate, and friendly. I like them all.

So for this Christmas, besides painting four greeting cards for Rose, I painted two each for Mary Ann and Ginger. Mary Ann received the cards showing the Grosbeak and the Tanager that you’ve already seen. Rose’s cards included a Cardinal and an Atlantic Puffin, neither of which you’ll ever see because I forgot to photograph them (wah!).

The route to Ginger’s present was more zigzagged. I’ve been reading Sir Thomas Malory’s stories of King Arthur, and one morning I decided to paint the dragon of which Arthur dreams, that presages his reinstatement as Holy Roman Emperor. Here’s the beast now, straight out of Turtle’s feverish brain, displaying both birdliness and an eerie resemblance to Marlon Brando in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof:

Now, if there’s one surefire topic on this side of the family, it’s the Royals. With Prince William’s wedding date set, I thought Ginger might appreciate this card hearkening back to England’s “first” king.

The second card was a challenge. In the library, I found a book on Kenyan wildlife. It’s forty years old, and the colour photographs have deteriorated. Still, how hard could it be to draw and paint a Lilac-breasted Roller or a Superb Starling?


After two attempts at the Roller, I gave up in despair. The shading didn’t make sense, the colours didn’t work together. I just couldn’t “get” this one. And I was running out of time.

As in, Dinner at Ginger and Blake’s was that evening.

Back to Malory. My edition is chockfull of illustrations, everything from medieval manuscripts to Pre-Raphaelite paintings. I chose one of Arthur and Guenever, and…and…I cheated. Instead of drawing the figures and architectural details freehand, I traced them and then used transfer paper to copy them onto the greeting card. I didn’t even have time to do a preliminary painting in my notebook.

My picture does vary in several ways from the one in the book. The illustration in the book is black-and-white, so I chose the colours. The wallpaper flowers had five petals; I drew four petals. The original expression on Guenever’s dog is one of a monkey with indigestion, and the rear and tail are visible; I tucked a happier pup into her cloak. Arthur’s dog was originally a fold in his robe that I misinterpreted in tracing. I liked the idea so much, though, that I kept it. From thence came the inspiration for the silly caption. Oh, and yes, the original artist had Arthur holding two gloves.

It sez, “Arthur and Guenever dispute which hound hath devoured the king’s other gauntlet.”

Alas, my gift backfired. Handing me the envelopes, Ginger vowed she would never mail the cards. She would, instead, frame them. I wonder if they’ll go in the room where that big frame is hung, the one with squares of linen painted with Kenyan birds, including the Lilac-breasted Roller and the Superb Starling?


Happy New Year, everyone! See you next year!

(Wordless Wednesday) Excalibur Was Here

October 13, 2010

Audi, vide, tace

August 11, 2010

No Legs Were Broken in the Making of This Concert

June 1, 2010

…although it was touch-and-go for a moment at the rehearsal on Sunday, when one of the First Sopranos missed her footing. E.g. sez that the role of a final rehearsal is to make all of the mistakes and get ’em over with instead of saving ’em for the concert.

I don’t know about you, but singing tends to take me over, to suck me through a vortex of reality dimensions until I can almost reach out and pluck those lost dryer socks from the air (which one of you is missing a blue argyle?).

I was afraid that I wouldn’t get to that point tonight. I was feeling out of sorts, and huddled in a chair with a blankie, books, and herbal tea for most of today while the rain soaked the garden and the dump trucks and back hoes rumbled through their work on the City’s water main. On Sunday, my recitation of “Abou Ben Adhem” had been stiff and inaccurate. What if I blew it tonight? What if I froze?

Then I remembered what had happened at the rehearsal when I did freeze, on no less than the very first line: One of the Basses, an octogenarian, started reciting:

Abou Ben Adhem (May his tribe increase!)

It would be all right; I would candidly ask him for the next line if I got stuck anywhere.

Tonight, the choir arrived an hour ahead of time. We practised around the grand piano, and then retreated to a small room with an upright. By that point, I felt warmed-up enough that I kept quiet and listened to the others. And, you know? They were good. They were getting the right notes, they were in time, they were blending. We were ready. My anxieties melted.

On with the show, then. My voice soared, my toes tapped, my face beamed. “Abou Ben Adhem” went without a hitch. The others succeeded at their solos, readings, and trios — all except the octogenarian Bass, who graciously bowed out from his solo when he found his voice wasn’t cooperating.

After the concert, the choir again retreated to a small room, this time to place all our sheet music in appropriate piles for the librarian to file away. I turned to my Bass friend.

“Thank you for your help tonight.”

“Eh? What help was that?”

“I knew that if I got stuck reciting ‘Abou Ben Adhem’, I would be able to look to you for help, so I didn’t get nervous.”

“Well you know, I could probably recite only the first two lines of it myself.”

But…whatever works, right?

(PS Guess who made the poster?)

Scripture Snippet Sunday, Brought to You by the Garden

May 30, 2010
I’ve studied enough of that amazing library known as the Bible to know that for just about every verse, there’s one diametrically opposed to it.  So I’m not here to preach. These are just a few photos paired with a few words, in hopes of evoking a little beauty, a spot of warmth, a bit of a smile. Enjoy.

"Behold, thou art fair, my beloved..." -- Song of Solomon 1:16

"In my father's house are many mansions..." -- John 14:2

"Prepare the way of the Lord...in the wilderness..." -- Isaiah 40:3

"And he dreamed, and beheld a ladder set up on the earth, and the top
of it reached to heaven... -- Genesis 28:12

"Supposing him to be the gardener..." -- John 20:15

"Oh, that I had wings like a dove!" -- Psalm 55:6


February 13, 2009


When we were in Kingston last weekend, I photographed a Cooper’s Hawk (thanks for identifying it, Goodbear!) through the upper back window of an esoterica shop. I also took a couple of pictures from its upper front window, trying to get the shop signs across the street in full swing; it was very gusty that day.

Well, I wasn’t able to capture the tilted signs, but discovered when enlarging the photos that one of the stores is devoted to mystery novels. It’s called, “As the Plot Thickens.” Had I realized that at the time, I might have gone to see if there was a Viscosi section!

GC-14 and Little Willy

February 12, 2009

Geoff (stage name GC-14) adjusts his lapel mike. Photo courtesy Wikicommons.

I’m pretty fussy when it comes to pop music. I like a nice hummable tune, interesting instrumentation, and lyrics that mean something. As a teen I claimed to dislike disco because its lyrics were often insipid; some big hits contained only half a dozen words. (Though truth to tell, it’s just as much because disco was such happy music that moody Turtle Teen didn’t care for it. )

I never really understood rap music, either. There’s plenty of meaning in its words, even if I don’t understand all of them; some expressions seem to be new to the English language. But tuneless lyrics? I didn’t get it.

Shame on me.

In the 14th Century, a rap artist named Geoffrey Chaucer was knocking ’em dead onstage. He protested the excesses of the Church and the inanities of the over-indulged; he joked about sexual infidelities; he took potshots at minor government officials. Most people in his audience didn’t own any books, and many were barely literate.

Two hundred years later, a radical named William Shakespeare thumbed his nose at the Puritan authorities and penned sexy, satirical, sensitive stageplays in a funky backbeat rhythm of ten beats per line. When the words didn’t fit quite right or didn’t express what he wanted to say, he invented new ones.

If the works of Chaucer and Shakespeare were taught properly in school — with emphasis on hearing those works rather than reading them — the commonalities between them and rap would be more apparent.

Stage entertainment. Rhythm and rhyme. Reflection and social critique. Ingenuity, passion — and spoken, not sung. Rap is POETRY, you silly Turtle! If you want tune, go listen to Silver Convention’s “Fly, Robin, Fly.”