The Ambivalent Diaspora: What South African Canadians Think

I was referred to this blog this morning, by someone I’d just met, a new professional contact and herself the child of immigrants from Africa. It’s a piece on the South African diaspora in Canada, based on research undertaken by the Southern African Migration Program, and it makes for depressing reading. According to the research, the 50,000-strong South African diaspora here ‘maintains a very strong sense of themselves as South Africans [but] … Their depictions of the country of origin are extremely negative…. They have no desire to be involved in South Africa’s development nor the they ever intend to return.’ […] – art, design, photography and architecture, celebrating ideas and creativity

I say, ‘life is too short for bad design.’ Rob says it better: ‘design is everything.’ One of the things that becomes clearer, I think, as you get older, is that there’s no space for crap in your life – the crap of ideology, of sloppy thinking and clumsy, careless, jargon-fed language, no time for political dishonesty and equivocation, no time for the empty media noise and chatter that entangles our humanity and subverts authenticity. And then there’s design – purity of form and concept, perfection of execution. Elegant as a theorem, necessary to our existence as clean air and water. I came across […]

Stars on Queen Street

Toronto’s Queen Street is one of those endlessly fascinating downtown streets – everything from the people to the graffiti to the shop windows and alley-ways entertain, amuse, and surprise the eye. From the ‘photo a day’ series on Queen Street West, here are James Dean and Elvis.

Carbon print – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Thanks to Mark Lafer for drawing my attention to the Wikipedia entry on carbon printing – and great to see John Bentley’s name listed, the last entry in the chronological history. If reinforcement is needed, the Wiki article surely reinforces the case for collecting John’s work now, while you can! via Carbon print – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Life after aid work: Beating the addiction | Devex

A second instalment of the sad, true, disturbingly familiar account by Nathan Rabe of the aid world as cult or addiction, and what it means to to break with it all and start over. I can’t help but be reminded of what it was like working for NGOs and politically-aligned education think tanks in South Africa in the eighties and nineties – such hope and inspiration, on the one hand, and yet so much that was wrong – intellectually dishonest, manipulative, or just plain ignorant or incompetent – notwithstanding the nobility of purpose. The references, in Rabe’s article, to an ‘echo […]

The Last Colour Carbon Transfer Printer in Canada — Harrowsmith Now

John Bentley makes the rarest and most gorgeous carbon colour prints the eye can imagine – subtle, voluptuous, detailed, expressive – and is surely an undiscovered artist whose time has come. Rob and I are lucky to own one of his extraordinary prints, ‘Miracle of Order,’ which you will see in the video clip in this piece about the man and his work – if you have any interest in fine art, and in photography, do yourself a favour: read the article and watch the video. In addition to being an artist of huge talent and integrity, John is also a friend […]

Death in the Family

Harper Lee died this week, as the world knows. So too did Umberto Eco. Unnoticed by the media, the cognoscenti, and the society pages, but mourned by those who knew and loved him, my ex brother-in-law Neville passed away too – modestly, as he had lived, without fuss and palaver. As good and decent a man as you could hope to find, kind to a fault, without a mean bone in his body. You can’t do much better than that. The last time I saw Neville would have been at my daughter Kathy’s wedding, half-a-dozen years ago. My divorce from […]

I sick

‘I sick,’ I used to say to my mother, as a child. ‘I sick,’ I said to my mother, the other day, on Skype. Some things don’t change. Except that they do, and what the child says innocently is said knowingly by the adult. And, at my time of life, with irony and amusement, and a sly tip of the hat at Old Father Time who watches, impassive, from a table in the corner. When you are a child there is only the present. As an adult, bringing up children, building a career, you live in the future. The future […]

On Valentine’s Day

“Will you put on your nurse’s uniform for me?” I plead with Rob. “You know, with the push-up bra and the fish-net stockings and the little red fuck-me pumps?” “And the bare behind,” she adds, egging me on. “Ooh, and the bare bottom, too,” I coo. And then we have a little chortle, and I swallow my cough medicine, and she tucks in the sheets, because I am in bed on the day before Valentine’s Day, with a horrible cold, a head full of cotton-wool and gunpowder, and enough phlegm in my throat and my nose to seal a doorway. […]

Life after aid work: Heading for the exit | Devex

I think all of us wonder, at one time or another, what difference we’ve made in the world, and whether our struggles have been worth it.  Here’s a ‘sadder and wiser’ reflection on this question, from an aid ‘lifer’ – dispiriting reading, I have to say, and with more than a few echoes. It’s an exploration, or excavation, I will no doubt return to, in one of my own blogs – but I’d like to hear from my colleagues and friends, too, about their own reflections. Meanwhile, do try to read this – I apologize in advance, should you find that you’re […]