A Year of Creating Dangerously, Day 334: Music My Rock


“We’ve got roots/Music my rock/In the storm that life blows/It’s the anchor that holds/Play me some roots/Music my rock/In the storm that life blows/It’s the shelter I know” – Bedouin Soundclash, “Music My Rock”

I woke up the other day feeling like I had been hit by a train. No, it wasn’t a hangover. I don’t do that anymore. Haven’t dealt with that in 30 years, to tell the truth. Wish it was because of some kind of partying the night before but, no, it was just being 51 and dealing with osteoarthritis in my hips. Me and Sleep are not the best of friends these days. We used to get along so well together but recently there has been a noticeable rift in our relationship.

I had the day off which should be great but knowing I had errands to run and feeling like poo-poo on a shingle, it didn’t seem all that great. I hopped in my car to head across the city and, as I so often do, found solace almost instantly in music.

We live in an age where many people listen to music in their cars, while they’re on the bus, standing in lines, going for walks, operating heavy machinery, etc. I’m not sure of the percentages but I’d have to think most of those people are listening to their music, that is, the stuff they put on their device, their playlists, their choices. I believe I am probably in the minority in that I really enjoy surfing the radio dial when I drive. I am well aware that this is seen as an old fashioned form of listening to music. I am also aware (painfully aware) that a lot of radio just flat out stinks to infinity and beyond. Trust me, I am a major whiner when it comes to radio, pining for real DJs who spin music for discerning ears, not at the behest of a corporation and/or a set playlist and/or a good-music deaf public. However, I still love a good radio journey during my journeys (as long as they’re not playing any Journey).

There is something about going from radio station to radio station, seeking those surprises, those familiar things, those tunes or lines from a song that bring things to mind or cause you to think about something you didn’t expect. Some songs bring me to another time and place, help me remember people and events. Some songs just make me feel good. Other songs challenge me and wake up my spirit and brain. Certainly, I could get this from my own playlist but to allow myself to be in a place that is open to serendipity is so much more rewarding.

On this most recent journey I decided to make a mental note of the songs I heard, the places on the radio dial I stopped and listened, either to the entire song or just catching a part of it. In no particular order (because my mental notes are never that orderly) my drive was something like this…

K-Os – “Sunday Morning”Toronto rock-n-hip-hopper who I introduced to my family a decade ago… Memories came back of taking my family to see K-Os at the opening of Winterlude in February here in Ottawa, standing in the freezing cold and blowing snow in the bleachers with my son who must have been only 10 or 11 at the time, seeing my wife and daughter on the floor nearer the stage, huddled with everyone else looking like “March of the Penguins”, fearing that my son was getting too cold, offering to take him inside to warm up and having him say with chattering teeth, “No! Then I’ll miss K-Os!”

Robbie Robertson – “Showdown at Big Sky”More Canadian content, this time the songwriting mastermind behind the Band and his late 80’s self-titled debut which blew me away, it is the soundtrack to my art school days as strains of this song bring me back to the painting studio, to my cassette tape player and Robbie accompanying my creativity in that space of such great memories, where I asked my wife out for the very first time, where I hung out with like-minded crazy people creating crazy stuff… 

CCR – “Born on the Bayou”At 17 years old I lived in Cambridge, England for a semester as my dad went to Cambridge University on sabbatical, there I had two cassette tapes to my name – TWO – one was Workingman’s Dead by the Grateful Dead, the other a Greatest Hits compilation by CCR, safe to say I got to know that music well… To this day, CCR, of all bands, reminds me of England, the pub across the street, the double-decker buses, cricket on TV and Cadburys Dairy Milk for a special treat… Who’d have thought a song about the Bayou could bring back memories of Britain

Semisonic – “Closing Time”Part of the soundtrack of my thirties and, as it turns out, a greatly misinterpreted song… It is not, primarily, about a literal closing time – songwriter Dan Wilson wrote the song in anticipation of fatherhood, thinking of that future child of his one day being pushed out of the womb like a bouncer would push someone out of a bar… After I heard that, it has caused me to listen more closely to the lyrics… All I know for sure is the closing line of “Closing Time” is a killer: “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end”

Elton John – “Tiny Dancer”I grew up on Elton John in that he was a favorite of my older brothers and sisters, being the baby meant absorbing a lot of music along the way… But this song in particular cannot pass my brain without thinking of a pivotal scene in the movie “Almost Famous” when the fictional ’70’s rock band Stillwater, after a horrific falling out, comes together to sing this song as one on their tour bus…  A classic music moment in the movies

Nirvana – “The Man Who Stole the World”I can’t hear any Nirvana without thinking about the fact that Kurt Cobain and I would be about the same age now if he hadn’t been such an asshole and killed himself… His life is tragic and in many ways pathetic and I have always had a soft spot for his messed up genius… Covering a David Bowie song is the last thing I expected of him but it works so damn well and almost comes across as a lament when sung by Kurt. Fitting. 

Arcade Fire – “Creature Comforts”This is a relatively new song from perhaps Canada’s greatest contribution to alternative rock… I don’t dig everything they do but I sure appreciate the experimentation, the intelligence and the wide spectrum of musicality they display… The opening lines of this song tear a hole in my heart, “Some boys hate themselves/Spend their lives resenting their fathers/Some girls hate their bodies/Stand in the mirror and wait for feedback/Saying God, make me famous/If you can’t just make it painless/Just make it painless”… Wow – Anyone who writes like that deserves a listen

The Beatles – “Come Together”As I’m on my homeward stretch, making my way down my street, the familiar Brit-blues-funk of this song carries me there… I have so many memories wrapped up in the Beatles it is hard to tell one from another but I do remember recorded myself and my college roommate singing over this track like a couple of idiots…

Music makes you stupid, makes you laugh, brings tears and thoughts, comforts and disturbs, peels back the layers of exhaustion to reveal the energy below you didn’t know was there. Music my Rock.


A Year of Creating Dangerously, Day 333: How Precious

how precious

A couple of days ago I was cleaning out my work backpack, or as it could also be referred to, my Black Hole pack. Things disappear in it. I’m not sure what kind of physics are at play here. Perhaps deep down in my backpack the rules of physics just shut down… Perhaps there are items in there that end up in the Upside-down… That would be wicked cool. But the reality is that there are things that stay in the dark recesses of my backpack for a long, long time. Thankfully they are usually scraps of paper, old notes I’ve scribbled, maps to buried treasure, that sort of thing.

As I was removing the contents of my gravitational singularity (science and Star Trek geeks get that joke), I did come upon something a bit like buried treasure, the simple sketch I share with you above. I looked at it and memories came back of a bus ride, much like every other bus ride I’ve taken, except I was moved to draw something in ballpoint pen on a scrap of recycled note paper. It happened this way: We were stopped to drop off and pick up passengers along the route. As is usual, there were a number of people standing on the bus platform, invariably with that “waiting-with-a-group-of-strangers” look on their faces. For just a brief second I caught a glimpse of a young woman’s face out the window and, for some odd reason, I took that pen and drew a quick sketch of her. Then, for some other reason, I scribbled “How precious” under the portrait.

I’m not sure what frame of mind I was in that led to that. I can’t remember. But I have had these moments before, moments of profundity in a prosaic situation. That sounded really pretentious, sorry – I just meant moments that are profound in the middle of something everyday and mostly boring, like a commute home after work. Mostly these moments are centered on thoughts of the people around me, strangers going about their daily routine. I often catch a glimpse of someone and wonder about them – Are they happy? Are they loved? What secret battle are they fighting? Sometimes I even offer up a prayer for a person (silently, mind you). I really don’t know where this impulse comes from but my guess is that there is a soul-to-soul thing happening. I am acknowledging in a way that I see you, that is, the real you, and affirm your importance, your place, your connection to me as part of the human family.

That is where this simple sketch came from, I believe. I share it with you today in hopes that you realize it could be your face in the sketch, your face with the words “How precious” underneath, because that is what you are.

Part of why I have this blog is to communicate I see you to whoever ends up here, reading this far into something I’ve posted. You matter to me, even if I don’t know you or will never know you. Because you are unique, because we share so much more in common than we have differences, because the world is not the same without you.

How precious you are, worthy to be sketched, even if it is just in ballpoint pen on a scrap piece of paper.

A Year of Creating Dangerously, Day 332: Memento Mori


“Memento, homo, quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris.”  (“Remember, O man, that you are dust, and to dust you will return.”) – From the Roman Catholic liturgy, based on Genesis 3:19, traditionally spoken on Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent.

Yesterday I had a post in praise of the latest Marvel Comics Netflix series, The Punisher. There is a moment in the series when another character sees Frank Castle, the Punisher himself, spray painting the iconic skull image onto the front of his bullet proof vest. He says to Frank, “You know what that is? That’s a Memento Mori.

Nothing like a little Latin with your pop culture.

What is a Memento Mori exactly? Literally, a reminder of death. Of course, The Punisher wears it to let the bad guys know what’s coming for them. But in art history a Memento Mori was used not so much as a judgment upon others but as a reminder to oneself. Most often in the form of a skull or skeleton, these were works of art meant to lead the viewer to considering their own mortality, which in turn would lead to humility and  thankfulness to God. The concept of the Memento Mori goes a long way back in the history of Christianity and can be seen in many churches and cathedrals, monasteries and covents. It is a common motif in Western culture.

I came upon a blog called Funeral Zone that had this to say of these reminders of mortality: “Memento mori primarily had a moral and religious purpose: to remind its owner or viewer that the afterlife awaited, and to not be overtly attached to material pleasures, in light of the prospect of divine judgment.”

In our popular culture, skulls and skeletons are Halloween decorations or used to convey some kind of badass image or played up for comedy. It is interesting, however, that though we don’t consciously use them as reminders of mortality anymore, they’re still with us, almost impossible to ignore, popping up in many different places and forms.

Maybe it isn’t such a bad thing to be reminded that we are all destined to die. We seem to be people driven to do whatever we can to never think about it, to worship at the altar of eternal youth and beauty instead. But wouldn’t we all be better off, more humble, more aware of the preciousness of each day, if we were more aware of how little time we each had on this earth?

I realized after I had looked into the history of the Memento Mori that I created one myself that now hangs in the TV room in my basement. It is a mosaic I made from craft foam after I saw a similar mosaic from the third century with a similar sentiment recently discovered in Turkey:


If you want to read more about the history of the Memento Mori, check out the link to the article I’ve quoted above from Funeral Zone:


A Year of Creating Dangerously, Day 331: Loving the Punisher


This past weekend I finished watching the brutal and brilliant Netflix series The Punisher. Growing up a huge Marvel Comics fan, the run of series on the streaming service based on characters from the comics has me geeking out routinely. So far, the series have been hit or miss, with some great ones, like The Punisher, Jessica Jones, and Daredevil, some that are flawed but mostly work, like The Defenders and Luke Cage, and one that can be skipped entirely, Iron Fist. 

None of them have been family-friendly viewing but instead more “graphic novel”-like in their grittiness, adult themes, and violence. This is comics for grown-ups and the creators, for the most part, treat their audience as such. In The Punisher there are no super-powers, no wise-cracking side-kicks or bright, spangly outfits; instead, we are treated to Jon Bernthal’s performance as Frank Castle/The Punisher, which is so spot-on in its creation of a character who can kill bad guys creatively and with no remorse yet has a huge heart and intense loyalty for the people he loves. Because of the brutality, you don’t want to like this violent character but Bernthal makes it impossible not to grow to love him, even see him, in some ways, as a character to emulate.

I was reminded – watching this exceptional actor taking what could possibly be a very one-dimensional character and making him incredibly complex – of the power of this form of art. It is a collaboration, of course. The writing is fantastic, the directing excellent, the actors in other roles performing at the top of their games, but without that main character being believable and, yes, likeable and relateable the whole endeavor falls apart. What Jon Bernthal accomplishes is artistic genius, it is watching someone take all those things they’ve learned and all that creative instinct they have and turning it into something that makes the viewer feel and empathize and internalize.

This may seem a lot to say of an actor in a comic book role but it is clear that nobody who worked on The Punisher, least of all Bernthal, saw this as just a comic book story.  To them they were making art, bloody and tough to watch at times, yet art indeed. Bravo.



A Year of Creating Dangerously, Day 330: Sunday God Quotes – MacDonald


“I would rather be what God chose to make me than the most glorious creature that I could think of; for to have been thought about, born in God’s thought, and then made by God, is the dearest, grandest and most precious thing in all thinking.”
Before J.R.R. Tolkien, before C.S. Lewis, there was George MacDonald (1824-1905), Scottish pastor and author who was a forerunner to those most famous fantasy writers. He was friends with the creator of Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll, and greatly influenced the work of Tolkien, Lewis, W.H. Auden and Madeleine L’Engle. He is best known for his book The Princess and the Goblin. “I write, not for children,” he wrote, “but for the child-like, whether they be of five, or fifty, or seventy-five.”
Fantasy story pioneer George MacDonald provides this Sunday’s God Quotes…
“Man finds it hard to get what he wants, because he does not want the best; God finds it hard to give, because He would give the best, and man will not take it.”
“Doing the will of God leaves me no time for disputing about His plans.”
“It is by loving and not by being loved that one can come nearest to the soul of another.”
“All that is not God is death.”
“There is this difference between the growth of some human beings and that of others: in the one case it is a continuous dying, in the other a continuous resurrection.”
“If we will but let our God and Father work His will with us, there can be no limit to His enlargement of our existence”
“To love righteousness is to make it grow, not to avenge it. Throughout his life on earth, Jesus resisted every impulse to work more rapidly for a lower good.”
 “What God may hereafter require of you, you must not give yourself the least trouble about. Everything He gives you to do, you must do as well as ever you can, and that is the best possible preparation for what He may want you to do next. If people would but do what they have to do, they would always find themselves ready for what came next.”
“One of my greatest difficulties in consenting to think of religion was that I thought I should have to give up my beautiful thoughts and my love for the things God has made. But I find that the happiness springing from all things not in themselves sinful is much increased by religion. God is the God of the Beautiful—Religion is the love of the Beautiful, and Heaven is the Home of the Beautiful—-Nature is tenfold brighter in the Sun of Righteousness, and my love of Nature is more intense since I became a Christian—-if indeed I am one. God has not given me such thoughts and forbidden me to enjoy them.”
“Primarily, God is not bound to punish sin; he is bound to destroy sin.
The only vengeance worth having on sin
is to make the sinner himself its executioner.”
“I want to help you to grow as beautiful as God meant you to be when He thought of you first.”
“A Baby Sermon-
The lighting and thunder, they go and they come: But the stars and the stillness are always at home”

A Year of Creating Dangerously, Day 329: Saturday Life Quotes from Harry Potter


“It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”
― Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

J.K. Rowling has gained such an iconic status in pop culture that it is easy to forget she is also an extremely gifted writer who excels at communicating wit and wisdom through her characters. Her personal story is well known in a rags-to-riches way but it is plain that what she endured gave her insight into life that most of us completely miss.

As I was reading through quotes from her Harry Potter books (most of them put into the mouth of Albus Dumbledore), I was once again so thankful to her and the gift she gave to all of us in the form of her wizarding world series of books. I read those books aloud to my kids and was always impressed by the truly good and beautiful truths that were woven throughout the stories. Not to mention them being some ripping yarns!

It should never be lost in all the Harry Potter hoopla and fan-mania that J.K. Rowling is a wonderful artist. Below are the Saturday Life Quotes for today, drawn from all seven books of her Harry Potter series…


“It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.”
― Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

“It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.”
― Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

“To the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure.”
― Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

“When in doubt, go to the library.”
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
“You think the dead we loved truly ever leave us? You think that we don’t recall them more clearly in times of great trouble?”
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
“Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

“Curiosity is not a sin…. But we should exercise caution with our curiosity… yes, indeed.”
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

“If you want to know what a man’s like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.”
― Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

“It matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be.”
― Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
“Numbing the pain for a while will make it worse when you finally feel it.”
― Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

“Differences of habit and language are nothing at all if our aims are identical and our hearts are open.”
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire


“Wit beyond measure is man’s greatest treasure.”
― Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
“Indifference and neglect often do much more damage than outright dislike.”
“Things we lose have a way of coming back to us in the end, if not always in the way we expect.”
― Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
“Youth can not know how age thinks and feels. But old men are guilty if they forget what it was to be young.”
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
“You care so much you feel as though you will bleed to death with the pain of it.”
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
“We’ve all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That’s who we really are.”
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
“It is the unknown we fear when we look upon death and darkness, nothing more.”
― Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
“Let us step into the night and pursue that flighty temptress, adventure.”
― Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
“Dumbledore says people find it far easier to forgive others for being wrong than being right.”
― Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
“I make mistakes like the next man. In fact, being–forgive me–rather cleverer than most men, my mistakes tend to be correspondingly huger.”
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
“Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic. Capable of both inflicting injury, and remedying it.”
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”
― Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

“Do not pity the dead, Harry. Pity the living, and, above all those who live without love.”
― Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

A Year of Creating Dangerously, Day 328: Happy Little Birdhouses

bird houses

At “the intersection of street art and community development” stands the work of Danish artist Thomas Dambo. Through his Happy City Birds project, he and his team have constructed over 3,500 birdhouses for urban areas in Denmark using recycled materials.

To see more of his work, check out the Colossal article about the birdhouses or see his website, both links are below:



A Year of Creating Dangerously, Day 326: Griffins


Saint Stephen’s Day with the Griffins

for Janet and Christopher


     Half-eagle, half-lion, the fabulous
          animal struts, saber-clawed but saintly,
   a candlewicked ornament dangling
from our rickety sugar pine. Butternut
     pudding in our bellies. His reindeer
          and sleigh hurried here and gone—thank God
     for us childless folks. Almost:   the lovelocked
Griffins on the sofa, sockfooted, hearing
     gas and a kiddy heart in her tummy—
          a life more imaginary than real,
     though one is dazzled by gold that fills
the egg unbroken. We feed her crumpets
     and listen again: The lamb’s a hungry
          bugger, even snug from earth’s
     imponderable fury. Tomorrow, in a spurt
by jet I’m home. Clumsy as a puppy
     I’ll scale the flightstairs into the nosecone,
          luggage banging at my sides, enter the egg-
     shaped cabin and await the infrared
climb toward space. Tell me one
     thing true? If I could count the way
          things slip from us: Mother’s fur gloves,
     Sunday’s benediction, the dead gone before us,
love’s rambler on the prairie—all displaced
     as we buckle in our shuttle,
          jetbound on a screaming runway,
     gravity pulling at us castaways,
more mammal than bird, subtle
     leg-weary griffins made manifest,
          arrowing towards home. How do we
     ignore it: the attenuated being
of our age, the bittersweet collapse
     of dominoes mooned around our pine?
           Withered with hatred from his quarter,
     Saint Stephen even at death rolled mercifully over
in high holiness. Sonless, wifeless, nine
     thousand feet from land, I roll the lozenge
          on my tongue, youthful habit for ache
     of any kind, parting a survivor (Wait!),
love rescuing me from the fringe.
Henri Cole, “Saint Stephen’s Day with the Griffins” from The Zoo Wheel of Knowledge(New York:  Alfred A. Knopf, 1989). Copyright © 1989 by Henri Cole.

A Year of Creating Dangerously, Day 325: Josef the Golem

Golem 1

Yesterday I posted a drawing I had done that took inspiration from the mythology of the Indigenous people of North America. Today, my chosen subject is rooted in the myths of the Chosen People.

As a Christian, I have to admit that I have been terribly ignorant of the vast store of knowledge, insight, perspective and folklore that comes from the Jewish people. Frankly, for someone that follows a Jew named Jesus, that is a sad state of affairs. In fact, most Christians figure that they read the Old Testament so they have a good handle on what makes someone a Jew. Certainly, understanding the Torah, the Writings, the Prophets goes a long way and is a crucial foundation. But as with other people groups with a long and varied history, full of the great and evil deeds and circumstances that shape a community, there is behind the obvious a gigantic storehouse of things that inform them of who they are.

In the case of the subject of this drawing, “gigantic” is an apt adjective. The Golem is a reoccurring figure in the mythology of Judaism. It pops its rocky and dirt-encrusted head up every now and again in our popular culture. Golems figured into Darren Aronofsky’s Noah, a movie released in 2014 that was totally misunderstood by the Evangelical Christian community who were looking for a direct read of the Flood account in Genesis. What they got was a traditional Jewish midrash, a genre of rabbinical literature that is interpretations of stories in scripture, often with added and even fantastic elements, including Golems: Large, powerful, mute creatures made of rock and soil. When these creatures showed up in the movie Noah, Christians went “Hunh?” and Jews went “Look, Golems!” And thus was displayed the gaping chasm that can exist between the two groups separated by a common Scripture.

As I was drawing with Conte crayons and thinking of the natural earthy pigments that give them their color, I started thinking of these earthy creatures. I did a little research and came upon some stories of Golems in Jewish tradition. I discovered that the Golem is inscribed with Hebrew words in some stories, such as the word emet meaning “truth”. In these accounts, the Golem could be deactivated by removing the aleph from the word leaving met: “death”. My Golem has the Hebrew word for “truth” on his forehead.

My favorite story was the most famous Golem narrative, that of Judah Loew ben Bezalel, a late 16th century rabbi in Prague. In this story, the rabbi makes a Golem from the clay of the riverbanks of the Vitava river and brings it to life to defends the Prague ghetto from anti-Semitic attacks and pogroms. I absolutely loved this story (in fact, I wish someone would turn it into a movie!). The rabbi’s Golem was known as Josef and was said to have been able to make himself invisible and summon the spirits of the dead (seriously, is this not a great movie idea?!).

For my drawing, I’ve given you Josef the Golem, defending the ghetto of Prague. By this I don’t claim to be a greatly informed Goy but just a guy who really likes Golems. And a guy who is still learning – every day – to appreciate the marvelous amount of wonderful stories and incredible imagination of his fellow human beings.

Golem 2

Ronald Kok, Josef the Golem Defends the Prague Ghetto, Conte Crayons, 2017