Perfect Festival weather

We missed having Danica along (she is in Windsor) but Jolanta and Brian Hickey joined me at the South East Asia Festival on Saturday, starting out in sunshine and staying for the best ambience after sunset.

Very hot, humid weather set the scene well for a South Asian event, then darkness brought relief as breezes cooled us a little. A perfect summer night and a huge crowd.

There was plenty to see, do and eat but there is no question, the streetcar float was the star this year. You’ll see the creators, Andrew Horne and Rob Elliott pushing it along. Andrew flashed a Victory V as they passed. Police walked ahead, clearing the way for musicians providing live music. The “Bazaar Bizarre Streetcar” was lit up, inside and out, illuminating fun animal characters crammed inside. The “streetcar” roof was alive with Toronto critters … pigeons, raccoons, squirrels and rats. Topping the menagerie, colourful helium balloons bobbed in the night sky. Confetti bazookas went off a couple of times, sending showers into the air. Big crowd pleaser!


Low light makes for grainy photos, but the festive feel is there. We had a good time checking out vendors, dining at the Gautama buffet and catching some performances. When we went for coffee at the Flying Pony, Jol bought an Andrew Horne postcard reproduction of one of his paintings. He promises to get a larger size print for her soon.

Thanks, Brian. Two more shots from his camera …


Sneak Preview: South Asia Festival

Tomorrow, streetcar service will look a little different on Lower Gerrard. Regular service will be rerouted to open the street for festival goers, but the Bazaar Bizarre line will be running at around 5:00, 7:30 and 9:00 pm.


Andrew Horne, proprietor of the Flying Pony Gallery Café and artist/collaborator Rob Elliott joined forces to create the first-ever float for the Gerrard India Bazaar event. It’s fantastic. I hope to get a movie of it, hand-propelled through the crowd.

Across the street, Len of Lens Work has commissioned Al Runt to tattoo the exterior with his trademark weirdness. I may even get to paint a section. Al said I could when I met him today.


See you there. Saturday and Sunday, August 15th and 16th, 2015

Ralph Luciw honoured

I can do no better than to quote Brian Hickey, a mutual friend: “This award was a long time coming and is very well deserved.”


Ralph is often a guest at the Hickey household’s special occasion gourmet gatherings. That’s where I met him first, but I knew of him as early as the 1970s. When I was working on the Honda motorcycle account at a small advertising agency, Ralph was Honda Canada’s senior executive in charge of all national car advertising.

His career accomplishments are even greater than I realized, before reading the press release about his Hall of Fame induction. That doesn’t surprise me. Ralph is not one to puff himself up. He’s a distinguished gentleman, pleasantly modest.

Here’s the press release text:

Luciw, of Regina, (now living in Uxbridge, On ) SK, is honored as a competitor, builder, and significant contributor. It’s no stretch to say that hundreds of Canadian drivers got their start in racing because of Luciw, who founded the Honda-Michelin Challenge Series in 1976. The low-cost series also brought many companies into racing as sponsors. Before he launched the series, Luwic raced in hill climbs and rallies, in addition to building and racing what was possibly Canada’s first Formula Vee.

Luciw also worked the media relations desk at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, when it was known as Mosport International Raceway, promoting many series such as Can-Am, Formula One, Formula Ford, and Rothman’s Porsche. In 1987, the Canadian Automobile Sport Club honoured Luciw with the John Reid Trophy for his outstanding contribution to motorsport.

What I learned at the McMichael yesterday

We met Danica’s cousin Desa and her husband Bob at the McMichael Gallery in Kleinburg. It was their first visit and our umpteenth.


The original McMichael mandate was to show and promote Group of Seven artists and their contemporaries but that has been extended, notably to include aboriginal art … contemporary and traditional.

The big lesson I took away? That recognition of aboriginal art as fine art didn’t just happen. Leading aboriginal artists had to work very hard, for decades, to push their way into the mainstream. I should have known that academics, critics and cognoscenti hadn’t suddenly opened their eyes unaided.

Nevertheless, our institutions are finally appreciating aboriginal art, not as a separate, quaint and naive genre, but as fine art, period. This is as it should be, of course, but the credit goes to determined artists and collectives who have insisted on inclusion. (A pause to salute Daphne Odjig whose work and history stood out especially for me.)

We all benefit from this, artists and art lovers alike, gaining fresh perspectives, an enriched aesthetic vocabulary and a new, direct way of communicating across cultural and historical divides. Many of the McMichael’s current pieces speak with clarity and simplicity that is brilliant. Any doubt about what Pudlo Pudlat was saying here?


Pudlo Pudlat (1916 – 1992), Imposed Migration, 1986, lithograph on paper

Public art that’s easy to understand

Two faces of a 6-foot tall utility box on Coxwell at Lower Gerrard. Danica particularly likes the elephants, her favourite critter.


Brightly coloured animal motifs make sense in an area known as Little India. Left in its original institutional grey, the box would have attracted taggers, anyway. Only one seems to have found the monkey side irresistible.

The elements are nicely composed and the style isn’t as clichéd as most street art. Hey! It’s interactive, too. Someone thought the monkey needed big genitals. The other monkey is also holding an add-on, but not so clearly drawn.

Shops at Don Mills: Coupland’s “Super Nova”

Douglas Coupland is a writer whose work I have not read, but I have used words he coined. McJob was one of his and, of course, Generation X.

I’m not sure why I haven’t felt like reading Douglas Coupland, but maybe it’s because of his sculpture. It doesn’t give me anything, not even an interesting idea, let alone a feeling. Coupland’s 3D works leave me flat.

first-viewMy first view of the Super Nova clock tower

An appointment at the Shops at Don Mills exposed me to the work in the photo without my realizing that it was one of Coupland’s. In fact, I didn’t recognize it as a work of art. I did notice the structure casually, but took it, from a distance, to be some kind of showy lighting fixture.

Discovering that the piece was Coupland’s nod to Don Mill’s history as Canada’s first planned community, I got up close. Sure enough, the boxy shapes I had taken to be soviet-style industrial light shades are actually model houses. They stick out from the top of the supporting pipe in all directions. The clock part is a digital readout wrapped around the cylinder at the bottom of my close-up.


barn-doorsDanica thought it was a windmill. That was an imaginative guess. I had in mind the metal flaps on photo studio lights … the side pieces are called barn doors. Neither of us noticed the clock part. Perhaps it wasn’t running or maybe the lights didn’t show in the bright sunlight.

Coupland offers an explanation of the piece, which is helpful because his intent escaped me, just looking at the object.

“To rectify the invisibility of the thousands of Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation houses in Don Mills, I made Super Nova, a piece in which a cosmic explosion occurs and houses are sent out into the universe to colonize outer space. It’s a poetic and quite lovely haiku of a moment in Canadian history. These houses gave rise to a period of unparalleled optimism and represented a moment in which radical new ways of using art and design promised a better future. I wanted to make [this period] concrete for visitors to Shops at Don Mills to see for themselves.”

Word of the Day: prolix

algernon-monkey-puzzlerAm I going on too much about trees? Perhaps I am being prolix (pronounced just as you expect).

It means “Tediously prolonged; Tending to speak or write at excessive length”.

I learned the word from author J.R. Colombo when I complained that a story he mentioned (featured in the photo) would have been good at 40 pages but unfortunately went on for 130. John replied, “I agree with you that Blackwood’s style is sometimes prolix …” and recommended two better tales by Blackwood; The Wendigo and The Willows. They are not prolix.

Learning a new word is always enjoyable and I decided that our equivalent in today’s texting language would be TL;DR. It stands for Too Long; Don’t Read. LOL.

Why the weird tree photo?

Blackwood’s book surprised me with mention of a Monkey Puzzler Tree. I had heard that name for the first time only a day earlier, in conversation with Peter Tatham. Odd that I had never heard of it, and then twice in two days.

Well, I had heard of a Monkey Tree. Monkey Puzzler turns out to be another name for this unusual species. It also goes by the name of Monkey Tail Tree, for obvious reasons. My mother may have planted one in our yard when I was a kid. Couldn’t see it on Google Street View, though.

OK, enough about trees. Colombo has correctly labelled me a tree-hugger but I don’t want to be prolix, too.

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