areallygoodarchitect


The Blue Whale
June 18, 2017, 11:08 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Rita and Whale

Blue Whale Exhibit Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto Canada

‘Sentient Beings’. We are hearing those words a lot these days as we awaken to the situation regarding all life on the planet. Carlos Castaneda, an anthropologist turned shaman, first penned that the Earth itself was a sentient being and why not?Is our planet not a living entity alive with power, that molten core, a magnetic field, electricity in our atmosphere, cool forests, steamy jungles, smooth lakes, snowy mountains, raging rivers, the vast oceans?What better creature to enlighten us today than the largest ‘sentient being’ on the planet,the blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus)

Recently in Toronto, I stepped into The Royal Ontario Museum’s new exhibit: ‘OUT OF THE DEPTHS: The Blue Whale Story’ which opened officially just in time for March break. No one puts on a ‘show’ like a zoological display by the ROM.The ‘terrible lizards’ are still there, all our childhood favourites, the names we continue to recite with confidence: Tyrannosaurus Rex, Triceratops, Stegosaurus, Brontosaurus and the flying Pterodactyl but the Blue Whale, is still the largest animal to have ever lived on earth, larger than the any of the known dinosaurs of the Mesozoic Era.  Argentinosaurus weighing up to an estimated ninety tonnes is comparable to an average sized blue whale.

This exhibit of a rare marine mammal has been in the making since 2014 when nine blue whales were sighted, caught in shifting pack ice at the mouth of the St. Lawrence River. While feeding on krill, the only food these mysterious giants eat, they surfaced to breathe and found themselves trapped under thick ice, a new phenomena at this location in these times of climate chaos.

The dwindling blue whale populations of the Western North Atlantic ‘group’, are reported to have been the largest of all the ‘Blues’ in the earth’s oceans and have yet to recover having been hunted to the brink of extinction.To lose nine blue whales out of an estimated population of perhaps two hundred is a disaster and so caught the attention of our collective imagination and the world’s media.

Drs. Mark Engstrom and Burton Lim with their team from the ROM waited patiently for reports to hear if any of the whales washed up on shore. These giants usually sink and finally two whales did appear in Rocky Harbour and Trout River Newfoundland, a month after being spotted. The exhibit, is located in the depths of the museum, the story unfolding along a narrative path describes the retrieval and preparation of the bones of a twenty-three meter female blue whale. You will be in a hurry to be amazed, ready for the wow factor of your first encounter with something you will probably never see in real life from a tour ship or washed up on a beach.

A purple-blue light casts you underwater and recordings of whale vocalizations (tapping sounds) resonate from a moving backdrop, and a blue whale, captured on film (how did they do that??) appears out of the deep, fills the screen and disappears.

Everyone is unusually quiet.

A troop of small children, colour coded in red t-shirts, are hushed between the displays. The lighting, the sounds, the impact of the setting, this huge head with the small eye socket, we are all in the presence of something holy. Then, you realize that the skeleton of this animal, this Blue Whale, is of our time, they are out there now and we have done terrible things to them, the wow dissipates and my heart beats faster while I try to hold back the tears.

There is a lot to take in. After the initial shock of the scale and the sense of mass you feel from the 30 tonnes of bones that are cradled in a steel armature (no drill holes),the detailed connections designed as if holding rare jewels. You are awestruck by the immense physicality of this creature. A smart car, covered in vein graphics has been perched next to the whale’s heart, having been sent to Germany to be plasticized by those ‘Body Worlds’ folks.

It is almost too much to bear, a fellow mammal, all the dissected organs and comparisons to our humble size but deadly character, their brain (better in some departments than ours) one beseeches the question: “Are we really so different, living out our time on this planet?” Those front ‘arms’ with all the jointed fingers, those tiny little floating bones in the tail, called ‘vestigial limbs’, hind feet from fifty million years ago.

Dioramas chronicle the evolution from land dweller, a kind of ‘wolf’ creature, is now also included in the skeletal displays having been found only recently in the mountains of Pakistan some twenty years ago. ‘Pakicetus’ is the missing link to the mystery, connected by the similarity of a unique ear bone (!), illustrates that the earth was covered with water through eons of time and animals had to adapt to hunting for food in a watery landscape. The legends are true then, when the earth covered waters receded, they, on the branch from that ‘Latin Tree of Life’ by Linnaeus, the Cetaceans chose to remain in the ocean.

Before you leave and walk through a veil of dry ice you face atonement and view the past relationship with these giants. A woman’s bust propped up in corset stays is the centrepiece of a showcase filled with ‘whale products’. She is surrounded by an array of antique oil lamps, the only fuel to light our darkness just over one hundred years ago.

I avert my eyes from the knives and bladed instruments. The smooth wood handled harpoons. The ugly hooks. You will learn a new word: “flensing”, to slice the flesh, blubber or skin off in regular strips from the body.

I happen upon this text:

“. . . harpoon cannon . . . ship engines in reverse otherwise pulled into the depths . . . dragged for 28 hours . . . exhaustion . . . finished off by two men in row boat.”

Men who have dedicated their lives to the whales speak to us in the final video,about their close encounter, an existential exchange, man and whale meet eye-to-eye. They implore the visitors to join in and help. Blue Whales have not been hunted for fifty years now as they were put on the endangered list in 1966. There are about 20,000 Blues still on the planet. We learn more every day how they contribute to the web of life, to the health of oceanic ecosystems. California’s coastline, the Pacific North Eastern Group, tells us their population has recovered to 90% of pre-whaling days but good news posts are tempered by practicing Norwegian fleets still taking whales and the Japanese Antarctica fleet just returned with 100 Minke whales.

If you are in Toronto and want to experience ‘something extreme’, the Blue Whale will become a permanent exhibit at the ROM.

Advertisements


Lake Superior House No. 1
July 8, 2016, 4:26 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

modle

What does a house on one of the greatest lakes in the world look like? How close is it to the waves, is it made of wood, does it have solar panels? Is it sustainable to dwell in the North?                                                                                                              Lake Superior, the largest fresh water Lake by surface area in the world was carved out eons ago and settled into its basin after the last Ice Age, 10,000 years ago. The Ojibwe name: gitchi-gami means shining sea. Legends say a lynx type creature,  a water monster, slashes its tail about when angry.     The storms of Superior are legendary and many ships still lie intact in the frigid waters. The Edmund Fitzgerald, sank suddenly in November 1975, carrying a full cargo of iron ore when it was caught in hurricane-force winds with waves up to 35 feet. Along Lake Superior’s rocky northern shore you will find ancient granites that date back to the early history of the Earth, 4.5 billion years ago. During the Pre-Cambrian era, magma forced its way to the surface and created these granite intrusives known as the Canadian Shield. The Climate along the north shore is moderated by the lake and black spruce grows tall, amidst Birch and Aspen.  Solar panel salesmen love Thunder Bay, the port town at the Lakehead , who makes claim to be the sunniest spot in all of Canada. Winter, however is a longer story. To dwell beside Superior is to witness the energy and power of the Lake. One wakens to ethereal mists in pinks and lavender, and when you lay your head on your pillow, blazing sunsets of orange and cobalt score the vast horizon. The Lake can be found resting in a serene waveless azure and then suddenly, without warning, it can churn itself up into dangerous indigo. One wonders about that underwater Lynx, ‘Misshepeshu’ with the long spiked tail.

Lake Superior House Elevation

 



Welland Canal Fallen Workers Memorial
July 8, 2016, 4:05 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

At Lock No. 3 of the Welland Canal rests the Monument of the Fallen Workers.                   Boardwalk-web-finalOne hundred and thirty one men died during the construction years of Canal building between 1914 and 1932.The Welland system of canals and locks is of one of Canada’s most significant engineering feats; a world wonder. This gigantic ‘ditch’, first dug out by draught horses and oxen, that side steps mighty Niagara Falls allowed Canada to prosper into economic success.The men we remember were Nation Builders. Their story is our story. Sited on the median, the visitor must cross the canal, on top of the locks, safely, a metaphor of departure to hallowed ground. The ‘procession of remembrance’ begins as the visitor descends down a grassy ramp. The ‘wall of the canal’ speaks the narrative of lives lost and lives lived. The space between the ship and the canal begins to compress you into darkness. The scale of the compositional elements magnifies the tension. Ahead, the giant doors of a lock wait for you and relief is in sight as the blue sky has opened the gates, enough to pass through. Steep stairs allow passage back up to ‘our world’. As you walk on the soft grassy lawn beside the ship’s listing steel hulk and read the names of the fallen, cut through the steel, beside you on the Canal, a towering vessel waits its turn to manoeuver through the locks. Consider the scale again- what the hand of man builds.
Finally, before we return to the ice creams and balloons and our cars, we pause at the garden and reflect. Here we remember the animals too who dragged the tons of earth, before the advent of steam shovels, the draught horses and oxen.
The grounds for the monument are covered with lawn. Wildflowers and indigenous plantings flourish alongside this composition of large scale ‘found’ elements.
Canadians from all corners of the Nation and visitors from around the World who arrive to marvel the geological wonder of Niagara Falls
will now experience a humanistic memorial, the cost of sacrifice
to build a beautiful Country.

Postcard-01

Competition Submission by Rita Komendant January 15. 2015.



Summer Fallow
July 31, 2014, 5:30 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

farm-house-on-a-hill A stellar summer day at The Belluz Farm in Thunder Bay Ontario. It took me an hour to pick ONE basket of Strawberries today. Last week it took me the same amount of time to pick two. After the Strawberries I walked down and picked some Saskatoons. Upon our arrival Kaya was beside himself and got caught up with the excitement of people being directed where to go, cars parking, doors slamming, people rushing to the wagons (I missed the first one) He did his howly bark-talking thing ow-ow-owwooo, his big head out the window. I felt bad leaving him behind with a bowl of water. Us ‘early’ cars were all in the shade and the 1/2 open windows caught a breeze, he would be good, for awhile. THEN, after paying for my goodies (adding a bag of beans and fresh turnips) I got another ‘homemade’ HOT DOG as I had eaten mine waiting in line and returned to the car with a wiener for Kaya. THEN we went to walk the wagon road to the top of the Farm, a rise of land. I was 10 again on the Soomre’s Farm in Port Perry in Southern Ontario and so was Kaya. You could see how joyful he was, trotting ahead, looking back at me, walking alongside to lick my hand. When we were well away from all the action I let him off leash. Every now and then he would stop, look over the fields,(both ways) snout in the air sniffing, more existentialism aaand THEN he saw the FOX. An elongated bright orange flash racing through the pumpkins aaand Kaya was gone. Of course he wasn’t going to catch him but wanted to follow anyways. In a stern voice I had to remind him if he was a Good Dog or a BAD Dog and back he came, snuffling through the potatoes. We were now almost at the top of the Farm, a gentle rise that beckons you from the Parking area and from here one can see to the East the N’or Wester Mountains sliding down to the South. Across this glacial river valley to the western ridge of mountains are the remains of Big Thunder Ski Hill, the trails now disappearing into new forests and to the north the horizon line of the Nipigon Highlands (as I shall call them) is already a dusty blue under a welcome sun after days of gray clouds and heavy rain. The temperature is perfect and a steady breeze plays through the fallow fields of assorted wildflowers. I will always become ten years old again on any Farm I visit but I am not sure if the public is even allowed to roam up here. As we make our way down a farm truck approaches us, Kaya is back on his leash and the young bucks in the Pickup slow down and smile. “We saw a Big Orange Fox” I tell them. “You did?” A person can get away with a lot just because they are walking beside a beautiful Dog named Kaya.



Holiday in Bali: Flight MH17
July 20, 2014, 12:05 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

 

FlightMH17We are going on Holiday. ALL of us. Mummi, Daddy, my Brother and Sister. It will be a long flight.

I am going to bring my colours, a pad of Art Paper, my DS, JuneBug- my little pony and my pillow “pinko”. We are going to B-A-L-I. I am going to see GIANT Flowers and Giant Trees in the Rain Forest. At the beach there will be big waves and maybe I will find some seashells. Amsterdam is mostly cloudy and crowded. I have never seen coloured parrots flying in a rain forest. I am so glad Daddy could come on holidays with us. I can hardly wait to get there.



A New Stone for Arlington Cemetary
December 18, 2013, 12:43 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

FRIDAY, JUNE 15, 2012

Welcome Home Lt. Col. Charles M. Walling and Maj. Aado Kommendant RIP

Airmen Missing from Vietnam War Identified

 

           The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) announced today that the remains of two servicemen, missing in action from the Vietnam War, have been identified and are being returned to their families for burial with full military honors.

           Air Force Lt. Col. Charles M. Walling of Phoenix will be buried June 15 at Arlington National Cemetery. There will be a group burial honoring Walling and fellow crew member, Maj. Aado Kommendant of Lakewood, N.J., at Arlington National Cemetery, on Aug. 8 — the 46th anniversary of the crash that took their lives.

           On Aug. 8, 1966, Walling and Kommendant were flying an F-4C aircraft that crashed while on a close air support mission over Song Be Province, Vietnam. Other Americans in the area reported seeing the aircraft crash and no parachutes were deployed. Search and rescue efforts were not successful in the days following the crash.

           In 1992, a joint United States-Socialist Republic of Vietnam (S.R.V.) team investigated the crash site and interviewed a local Vietnamese citizen who had recovered aircraft pieces from the site. In 1994, a joint U.S.-S.R.V. team excavated the site and recovered a metal identification tag, bearing Wallings name, and other military equipment. In 2010, the site was excavated again. Human remains and additional evidence were recovered.

           Scientists from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory used circumstantial and material evidence, along with forensic identification tools including mitochondrial DNA which matched Wallings living sister in the identification of the remains.Image

 


Lake Superior
September 3, 2013, 12:26 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Summer’s End from Neys Provincial Park:

The vast rugged terrain of the North Shore of Lake Superior has inspired many artists who have travelled there but it was the Group of Seven’s  Lawren Harris who reached new levels of Artistic expression.

Reduced to essential forms by the glaciers and burnt over by forest fires, this harsh land facilitated Harris’ pursuit of the expressionism of the underlying spirit of the north. At the time he was deeply interested in *Thesophy, a religious philosophy that is linked to the belief in the divine forces of Nature and the essential unifying spirit that is thought to exist in the Universe.

*[Theosophy (from Greek θεοσοφία theosophia, from θεός theos, divine + σοφία sophia, wisdom; literally “divine wisdom”), refers to systems of esoteric philosophy concerning, or investigation seeking direct knowledge of, presumed mysteries of being and nature, particularly concerning the nature of divinity.Theosophy is considered a part of the broader field of esotericism, referring to hidden knowledge or wisdom that offers the individual enlightenment and salvation. The word esoteric dates back to the 2nd century CE.[1] The theosophist seeks to understand the mysteries of the universe and the bonds that unite the universe, humanity and the divine. The goal of theosophy is to explore the origin of divinity and humanity, and the world. From investigation of those topics theosophists try to discover a coherent description of the purpose and origin of the universe.]*

The monumental paintings worked up from the sketches made during these trips are among his most powerful compositions. These increasingly abstracted works concentrate on the properties of space and light and reflect Harris’ quest for spiritual enlightenment through a profound experience with the vital forces of the northern wilderness.

Image

‘Space and Light’ at Pic Island 1924