Monday, July 23, 2012

Orchids flourish in London, Ontario

An orchid blooming in a London, Ontario, home.
When I think of Ontario, I don't think of orchids. But they are found in the province. Mostly in stores and the homes of orchid lovers but they are also found growing wild. Gosh, I've got to go looking one of these days.

What got me thinking about orchids was the beauty blooming at a friend's North London home. I may be wrong, but I believe his wife bought it at Costco. It's a discount orchid, although I don't think that is its official name.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Painting a face doesn't paint over the problems

The young girl doing the face painting was very friendly. In fact, she was busy cleaning up for the day when I approached with Fiona. She didn't have to but she took out some paints and brushes and readily agreed to paint Fiona's face.

As she started I asked about the cost. "It's five dollars," I was told. Now, that's not that much but yesterday I paid something like $140 for a season pass to the park plus the right to unlimited rides on the merry-go-round and other park attractions.

For more on Storybook, click the link. Read the comment.
There's nothing like forking over a payment in the three digits to make one immediately aware of a park's shortcomings. Today I noticed that the operator wasn't playing the music during the carousel ride. The kids road the merry-go-round ponies in a quiet punctuated by the grinding of well greased gears.

One horse was broken, at least one seat was torn, and the entire ride looked generally poorly cared for.

When we rode the miniature train I noticed that the engine was covered in dust. One would think it only reasonable to give the little engine a wash and a shine now and then. The park didn't shout pride.

But as I paid my five dollars I thought I might shout: "Storybook! Get your act together!"

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Storybook Gardens in trouble

Wearing a pink train engineer's hat bought in Ely, Nevada, Fiona was alone on the Storybook ride.
Storybook Gardens is located in Springbank Park in London, Ontario. Storybook is aimed at kids, little kids, but it is having a hard go at attracting crowds and this should come as no surprise to anyone.

The list of what's right with the place is offset by a list of what's wrong. Sadly, the wrongs trump the rights.

Decades ago the park was filled with classic storybook references designed by local cartoonist Merle Tingley, well known right across Canada as Ting. From what I saw yesterday, the majority of Ting art, if not all, has been stripped from the park.

The other thing the park was famous for was its small zoo. Small, '50s-style zoos are no longer in vogue --- and that is not a bad thing. Too few animals kept in too tight enclosures often resulted in too many sad animals. Today the exotic animals are gone. Just recently the last seals were removed.

So what attracted me to the park? Why did I take my granddaughter to Storybook Gardens? Well, for one thing I wanted her to enjoy the Pirate's Island toddler play area. Fiona loves a well designed kiddy park. Sadly, we discovered the Storybook Gardens park wasn't particularly well designed. The toddler area was closed due to safety concerns.

We did find some small amusement park rides. A pleasant young woman helped Fiona make giant soap bubbles with a huge oval wand. Fiona held a pretend little tea party in a children's play house. This entertained both Fiona and another little girl.

Fiona had a good time. She liked the park. She checked out the splash pad and today with the temperature climbing to a hundred Fahrenheit we will definitely be going back. But, we are not going back because of the splash pad. There are other pads almost as close to my London home as the one at Storybook.

We are going back because I bought a season entry pass for both Fiona and me. I also bought us both passes for the park rides. The fours passes cost $140! That's crazy. The only reason I bought them was that entry to the park for the day, plus the cost of tickets for riding the park train and merry-go-round would have come to about $35. That's even crazier.

I'll take Fiona back to Storybook at least four more times in the coming weeks. We'll ride the carousel and take the train throughout the summer. But the cost of this fun leaves me a little angry. These charges are way out of line. If the city wants to charge for a first rate park, a quality facility, charge for something special, the city has to provide more, much more.

With some of the highest unemployment numbers in the country, an awful lot of London children (those with unemployed parents or underpaid ones) are being essentially denied access to a park supposedly designed especially for them.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Seeing London with '60s eyes

The Daily Photo thing is about fun. Kaleidoscopes are about fun. When I found one of the cardboard toys in my basement on the weekend I immediately wondered what would happen if I tried to shoot pictures using the old thing.

The toy of the psychedelic generation pumped out some really neat shots. I learned that if you have an iPhone, there is an app for taking pictures that emulate my kaleidoscope. And of course, there is always Photoshop.

Still, there is something cool about using the real thing: a fun blast from the past.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Trees are dying while flowers flourish

There are a lot of dead and dying evergreens in the London area.

Evergreen trees are dying all around London. It is not uncommon to see entire rows of trees, both young and old, dying or dead. One theory holds that Southwestern Ontario is in the midst of a decades long drought. There may be wet spells but generally the years have been drier than in the past.

A good rain may make flowers bloom and even keep crops happy but trees need water for their roots. One good storm, or two, is not nearly enough. Trees are dying because Southwestern Ontario is in the midst of a decades long drought. Apparently the water table is dropping in many areas.

I first heard this explanation for the all the dying trees from the late Peter Geigen-Miller, a fine reporter with a deep interest in the environment. I chatted with Peter about the dying trees and managed to pique his interest. Peter called authorities he knew at the local conservation area, got answer and a story.

I googled his explanation and discovered Peter was probably right. The following is from a 2010 CTV story:

A Statistics Canada study of southern Canada's water yield – the amount of water that falls as rain, melts from snow and ice packs and flows through rivers and streams – found that it has declined 8.5 per cent since 1971.

Canada's renewable fresh water supply is shrinking, according to a new report which says the southern part of the country lost enough water to fill 1.4 million Olympic-sized swimming pools every year over the past three decades.

The CTV story is good but Peter scooped them by two years or more. Peter was one of the first to report this story in detail.

The recent rain has been good for my lilies but my evergreens are looking very thirsty. I've begun watering them.
Addendum: The drought info is accurate but I wonder if my art actually shows a tree that succumbed purely to the stress of insufficient water. Look closely. There are some weird lumps at the crown of this tree. I wonder if this everygreen was suffering from a disease.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Canada Day and the park is holiday-busy

The strolling paths beside the river are not usually this busy. It's Canada Day.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Sculpture Heaven: A Vehicle for Departure, 1986

The art gallery in London sponsored a short walk around the gallery neighbourhood Saturday. A dozen people showed up for the walk and lecture. I was surprised by the very small turnout.

The work pictured stands on the gallery grounds. It is called Sculpture Heaven: A Vehicle for Departure, 1986. It was done by Stacey Speigel who described his work as "an urban prayer wheel" reminiscent of Tibetan Buddhist practice. The entire work can be rotated. I

Inside the piece, covering the floor of sculpture, are dried autumn leaves and pieces of acetate cut into leaf shapes. These plastic leaves were decorated by children with prayers from 180 different religious texts.

A lot of this explanation stuff runs completely counter to everything I was taught when studying art: First in Detroit at the Art School of Creative Studies and later at Ryerson in Toronto where I took a class taught by Ken Carpenter, a professor from York University and a well respected art critic with ties to Clement Greenberg. Carpenter was easily one of the finest professor I encountered during my years of art study.

Some day I will blog on why such lengthy explanations giving the why of a piece of art supplied by the artist are thought by many to be suspect. But today, I will simply share a photo of the piece with you and a little background.