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Images: jobs


Drilling the Coal 1980 by Jack Savitsky

Jack Savitsky was born in 1910. He lived in Pennsylvania where he began working in the coal mines at a young age. Both his parents were immigrants, his father from Russia and his mother from Poland. He was a miner for 35 years, until 1959. In retirement he took up painting, depicting the activity he knew best, mining coal. Mr. Savitsky died in 1991 from complications related to Black Lung Disease.

He was self-taught, depicting his coal mining scenes with bold lines, shapes and colours and stylized figures.

Another painter who depicted people doing their job was Chuckie Williams, sometimes known as the Artist Chuckie or Painter Chuckie, or sometimes Psychic Talent, Christ True Genius or Ghost Talent. Whichever name he was using was usually featured on the painting.


En Vogue by Chuckie Williams

Artist Chuckie was born in 1957 in Shreveport Louisiana. He lived at home with his mom until his death in 2000 at the young age of 42. Chuckie liked to paint pop stars, such as En Vogue and Atlantic Starr and Michael Jackson.  The work of being a pop star is far different from that of a coal miner. Chuckie used found materials such as plywood and cardboard. As well as music video stars, he also painted talk show hosts and athletes, and more. Unlike Savitsky, who was drawing on his own work experience, Chuckie was not himself a big time celebrity. I imagine he used publicity photos as source material.

Chuckie apparently claimed to have become a genius at age 22. I wonder if it was a specific event that triggered this realization.

Coal miners to celebrities to….generals!


This is a lithograph by Enrico Baj, one of his many generals

Enrico Baj was an Italian painter born in 1924. He passed in 2003. Mr. Baj was a prolific artist who also contributed to a number of manifestos. His work was often as humourous as it was politically charged.

Baj painted many generals:

“To be decorated and to receive a medal to pin on your chest is everybody’s dream. Our very highest ambition is to become generals, commanders, professors, magnates of industry and thus to be able to give orders and to predispose the destinies of things and events. A Sicilian proverb say far sweeter to command than to fuck.”

On his paintings of generals, Baj glued actual military medals, literally decorating his commanders. He loved to stick things on.

“And modern technology has given me apoxy glue, that portentous paste that can stick anything onto anything, even memories, even dust, even honors and dishonors. You just stick it all down on a canvas – old loves, pains, stomach aches, medals, lace, placards and mirrors, mirrors that are broken apart and that give me a broken image of myself, and I like it better that way.” (from preface for a film short by Raffaele Andreassi, Paris, 1966.



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Images, images

We love to be surrounded by images in our day to day life. The late Ron Bloore once told me, “painting is thinking,” so you might say we love to live in an environment brimming with ideas. One of the things I like about painting is that there are so many approaches to it, something which may be puzzling for some people who haven’t invested much time or energy to enjoying it.

This “puzzling” little painting was created by John Howlin in the early 60s. DSC07808.jpg

I recently had a chat with my brother, who only accepts paintings within a particular set of parameters. To start with, he has to be able to recognize images in a painting. What skill is there in an abstract painting, he proclaimed to me. These acceptable recognizable images also have their own rules, though. For instance, a painting we have hanging in our home called the Ascension of Ezekiel by Lauren Littler does not apparently qualify.


Of course this is a painting about ancient aliens beaming the Prophet Ezekiel up to the Mothership . Ancient alien nutters proponents believe that Ezekiel’s revelation in the Old Testament is actually describing landing UFOs. Scientists refute the various ancient alien theories, and I really never gave them much thought before seeing this delightful painting. The painting was made in 1980. Interesting that today, 27 years later, there are plenty of powerful people in America, who don’t pay much attention to science when making policy – to the degree that scientists have recently marched on Washington in protest.

My brother’s flat-out rejection of abstraction reminds me of something called The Naples Manifesto, from January of 1959. It was signed by Nanni Balestrini, Paolo Redaelli, Leo Paolazzi, Sandro Bajini, Edoardo Sanguineti, Luca, Bruno Di Bello, Lucio Del seppe Alfano, Donato Grieco, Enrico Baj, Angelo Verga, Ettore Sordini, Recalcati, and Sergio Fergola. My source for this is The Bolaffi Catalog of Baj’s Complete Work, by Herbert Lust.

The Naples Manifesto

Abstraction is not art. It is only philosophical and conventional concept. Art is not abstract even though there may be such a thing as an abstract conception of art. This neo-platonism has long since been forced out of date by the events of modern science and therefore it no longer has any reason to exist.

We arrived in Naples on the morning of January 9th 1959 and climbed to the summit of Vesuvius. Thereupon, the crater heaved with fury and belched black smoke to a great height in the sky. For the salvation of our lives, we threw ourselves upon the ground and remained motionless till the fury had passed. We then raised our eyes to the sky and saw the word: IMG_8058.jpg

Still trembling, we rose to our feet and one of our number approached the abyss and declaimed:

“May our works be meteors, lava and stone, cosmic dust, burning carbide, orbits of violence, trajectories of the senses, radioactive intuitions, sulphur, phosphorous and mercury…”

We then threw ourselves from the crater into the Sea and swam ashore at Cuma in order to question the oracle.

The Sybil came out from her cave and her words once again gave us confirmation:

“Abstraction is rancid with age and stinks to high heaven!”

Time for a musical interlude. Here’s Lou Reed and John Cale performing Images:

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The Nite Owl

Here in Long Branch we’re fortunate to have a really fantastic barber shop called The Nite Owl. Brian Hurson and the gang at Nite Owl have been cutting my hair since I was hobbling about on crutches after breaking my ankle a couple years ago.

When you step into Nite Owl, you’re stepping back in time – to a time when customer service mattered, details were important, to a time when you learned skills through apprenticeship. They care about traditional barbering. It is a seriously cool place. Even the music is awesome, and on any visit you might find yourself listening to anything from Conway Twitty to a jump band right out of the 40s.


Me at The Night Owl with Jara

Today Brian gave me my usual haircut and Jara, one of the Nite Owl apprentices, trimmed up my beard and shaved all the bits around it.

The Nite Owl space was an old school barber shop for many years, but after its original owner passed away it sat vacant for a decade, until Brian came along and revived it. Now the place is thriving again and just a few weeks ago they opened up a second location – The Lakeview Barbershop (in you guessed it, Lakeview) – also on Lakeshore.

If you’re interested in a Nite Owl haircut, book online for either location to avoid disappointment, as they are usually booked up all the time.

27th Street recommended.

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Backstep Cindy

Here are Joe Newberry and Brad Leftwich performing Backstep Cindy. I was at this concert. This performance was at one of the two faculty concerts at the 2016 Midwest Banjo Camp.

MBC is quite an event. Banjo freaks abound, along with various fiddle players, guitar pickers, bass thumpers and yes even mandolin pickers. There are loads of old time players as well as bluegrass pickers. Sometimes the bluegrass people and the old time people even talk to one another and (gasp) even play together.

This is Janet Beazley and Adam Hurt….

One more from banjo camp, just because….Bob Carlin with Tony Trischka, sporting the latest in banjo fashion….

I’ll be making the 6 hour drive to Olivet Michigan for the 2017 banjo camp at the beginning of June. It’s so much fun, and a great learning experience.



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The Dying Detective

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The Dying Detective was written in Swedish and published in 2010. It was translated into English in 2016. This page-turner is quality Nordic crime writing with some underlying character-driven humour.

The protagonist is an out-of-shape retired ace-detective who suffers a stroke just before devouring a sausage from the best hot-dog kiosk in Stockholm and winds up in hospital. His neurologist, aware of his previous career, asks him about a 25 year old cold case. Our hero, Lars Martin Johansson, begins to sniff around the case, and soon becomes obsessed with it.

The author of the book, Leif G. W. Persson is a well-known criminologist and a psychological profiler as well as a novelist. I half expected this novel to be full of technical police procedural detail, but not so. The Lars character is distanced enough from the police force in his retirement that he freely criticizes some of the police leaders he once worked alongside, portraying at least one of them as a bumbling fool. Much of his own investigative work is accomplished while lying on his sofa at home, about to have a nap.

Although this book surrounds a gruesome crime and the chief character is debilitated by a stroke, it comes across as somewhat lightweight crime fiction, certainly not as dark as I expected it to be. It’s an enjoyable read.

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Hockey Night in Canada – the Punjabi edition

I’m a bandwagon jumper. I admit it. I don’t watch hockey or any sport during the season, but at playoff time I do watch a little bit of hockey – and baseball too if the Jays have done well. I’ve been watching the playoff series between the Leafs and the Washington team, surprised at how much heart the young Leafs have been showing.

I tuned into CBC at 7:00 last night, only to find there was no hockey. What the Hell? We don’t have cable anymore so we don’t get whatever the sports channel is. I flipped through the channels and saw that the game was in fact playing on another station, but with commentary in Punjabi. Perfect.

As it turned out, although I don’t understand a thing in Punjabi, I enjoyed the broadcast. The commentators get suitably excited and there are enough idiomatic hockey words tossed in, and of course the names of the players don’t change. I suppose this is a comment on how little English play by play actually adds to the game. I didn’t miss it, even a little bit.

Too bad about the Leafs, though. I guess that’s it for me for hockey this season.

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Sneaky Robins

I was out messing about in the back yard this afternoon, doing some early garden work, when I noticed robins flying over to a basket which is part of our first Imagination Station.


Basket on the top right side of the Imagination Station

The birds were perching on the edge of the basket then hopping right in. I thought perhaps there was some good nesting material they were taking away. In between robin visits I had a look inside the basket. The robins were actually making a nest in the basket.


robin nest in basket

Hopefully it turns out to be a safe place for them. It is certainly well disguised. Had I not noticed robins jumping into the basket, I never would have even looked inside.