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Down in the Mine

There aren’t a lot of positive things to say about coal mining. It’s a rough life. It pollutes out streams and burning coal pollutes our air. Many years ago I stayed in a coal mining town in Pennsylvania for a few days, while looking for trout streams that weren’t destroyed by tailings. It was one of the bleakest places I’ve ever been to, a town built around a giant hole in the world.

Hard times do lead to some interesting art and music and literature though. Here are some songs related to coal mining.

Let’s start with Steve Earle performing The Mountain.

Merle Travis, performing Dark as a Dungeon.

I’d better include Tennessee Ernie Ford, and Sixteen Tons

Here’s an odd one – Lee Dorsey and Workin’ in a Coal Mine

From Cape Breton, Working Man by Men of the Deeps (wow, this one still kills me)

There are lots more, but I’m going to close this post with my favourite, Cigarette Trees by The Local Honeys. “You piss in my boots and you tell me it’s rain….”

Do you have a fave song about the extraction of natural resources? Stick them in the comments please.

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Ontario Birds – a few more collages

I’ve made a few more bird collages – there’s over 30 of these things now populating a sketchbook. I think of making them as a tool for playing with images, starting points, visual notes for a group of new paintings. I don’t think of them as completed images by any means, although I confess I’m enjoying some of them on their own.

I’m having quite a bit of fun with this approach. It is as if I’ve created a box of puzzle pieces of my own invention, all unified in that they come from photos I’ve snapped of birds and plants. I can mix and match, play with scale, reassemble the original experiences in a quick, stream of consciousness kind of way. Stick a piece of bird here or a branch or a chunk of landscape over there. I can try out lots of arrangements before I open up the glue stick and commit to any one.

When I say these are starting points, I mean that once I go into the studio with this sketchbook full of images, anything can happen. I don’t know what the paintings will look like or even if these images will in fact lead to new paintings (although I’d like to think they will). My next step will be to prepare some canvases of various sizes.

I like to work on paintings in groups, and I like to work on them more or less at once. That is to say, I’ll start work on one, then after a while, move onto another and another and another after that. Along the way I can take canvases out of the group for a while, and turn them to the wall, and add in new ones at different points. I can let the paintings feed off one another. An idea which might have been unsuccessful in one painting may stick in another, or alternatively, I might repeat motifs I like in different contexts from canvas to canvas. There is always something to work on.

After cutting and pasting, arranging and rearranging my imaginary birdscapes, I’m left with a box of scraps. Perhaps these will lead to something else again, something starker or more mysterious. These have less specific information or rather smaller bits of information, taken further out of context. Maybe there is something to find in there, or maybe sometimes a box of scraps is just a box of scraps.

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Guilty, the latest episode of The Agency Podcast, is now available (iTunes/Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Podbean and Tune-in). You can listen to it right here.

This week, both Candy and I watched the Scorsese epic, The Irishman. We often agree in our film discussions, but not this time. Can you guess who loved it and who was less impressed? You can have your $.02 by emailing us:

Robert De Niro and Al Pacino in The Irishman

We also talked about the new Lulu Wang film, The Farewell, starring the fabulous Awkwafina plus one of Candy’s fave independent filmmakers – and there’s more in this jam-packed episode.

Awkwafina and a fabulous ensemble cast in The Farewell

If you think The Agency is the best thing since sliced bread and you want to support this effort financially, we’d appreciate it! – but don’t worry, The Agency will always be available free. Please visit our Patreon Page: .

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Mourning Dove

Today there was a single mourning dove hanging out in the apple tree. Where were its friends? Some days there are 3 or 4 in the tree or feeding on the ground.

When there is a single mourning dove around, it seems to be quite relaxed. I can go out and fill the feeders and it stays in the tree unbothered. But when there are a few of them around, the group tends to be nervous, and they all fly at once if I approach. When the mourning doves take flight, all the sparrows and everyone else around the feeders scatter too. None of them go far, though, as long as there is some quality easy to access food about.

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House Finches

We didn’t always have house finches visiting the feeders out back. For the first few years there were none. I remember one year we saw one. What’s that red bird? I had never seen one before. Now they are common visitors. This afternoon, there were half a dozen of them staging for their turn at the feeders.

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The Cardinal Gang

So far this winter, we have had so many birds at the backyard feeders. The feeders are in the big old apple tree just behind the house. The cats and I can watch them from the picture window above the garage. There are at least 3 pairs of cardinals visiting regularly. It could actually be more pairs than that, but I’ve seen 3 pairs at a once on several occasions.