It may be wet outside but things are drying up in the studio

It’s taken a few days for things to dry up. Cecil, in particular, because of his size and clay content has taken about 6 days to fully dry out. Time to do some underglaze work before he goes into the kiln.

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A new bear, I call him the “fishing bear”, has formed very nicely, and he is just about dried. The base will receive an underglaze wash but other than that he’s ready for stage 1 firing.

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There’s a joy watching things come together and taking the time to enjoy the journey. Hearing the national and international news in a morning it’s always a delight to sequester myself away, with a lump of clay, and allow better thoughts to occupy my mind.

Back into the studio this morning to do some prep work for the next project. Frogs are involved. It’s a bit tricky, the idea that I have, but I think that with a bit of ingenuity it can work (from an engineering standpoint.) Stay tuned. Also, making a drop mold for when our grand daughters arrive on the weekend (sans parents.) We have a page of options for the girls so I’m sure they’ll find something they’d like to work on with “grumpa”.

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Cecil is progressing nicely

Cecil, is an upper crust bunny, well known amongst the more refined of the animal kingdom. He, Billy Badger and Ginger Toad gather each week to discuss issues of common interest. In this `snapshot` in time, we find Cecil, in his smoking jacket enjoying a favourite cigar. He is in the process of making a point to his friends.
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With basic assembly done, the fine work begins followed by the bisque firing, hand painting and then the clear glaze firing. Another week and Cecil should be quite fine indeed. As one would expect with an upper crust bunny, Cecil is a commissioned piece, thus his stay at our humble abode will be short, but sweet.

New clay sculpture .. Elephant

Ready to go for first firing … my elephant. I’ve been wanting to have a go creating an elephant for almost a year now. My cousin Ros has a lovely collection of elephants as does Pat (my mother’s cousin’s dear wife.) I admired their displays while Jane and I were in England last year. So many sad stories have been reported in the past while about mistreatment of these massive yet sensitive animals. I wanted to reflect their spirit in the piece.
I like what I see thus far.
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A personal project is this handsome cigar ash tray. It should be the envey of knowledgeable puffers.
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Also in the works, a rather complex commissioned piece … hope to be on top of that by next week. More to come.
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The “Restin’ Rabbit” is sitting pretty.

A dark wash to enhance and a light glaze to his clothes and he is all done. I’m pleased with the result. The little guy makes me want to slow down a notch and contemplate what’s going on in the furry reaches of his mind. He’s thinking, that’s for sure. Perhaps he’s concluded that “sitting down on the job” is OK once in a while.
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Now he can look for a nice home.

Opera in the beautiful Haliburton Highlands

The Highlands Opera Studio is quite an amazing undertaking, and it all happens between July 31st and August 28th.

For anyone not from the Haliburton Highlands the notion of world class opera in the midst of lakes and forests may seem a little odd. We find it quite appropriate for our very creative region.

It all began seven years ago when Valerie Kuinka and Richard Margison decided to start a program for very advanced emerging operatic artists. They wanted to concentrate not only on the goals of performance excellence, but also on networking and potential employment opportunities for young singers. All the young Canadian artists attending the month-long intensive program are on full scholarship. Participants are chosen through a rigorous cross-Canada (and NYC) audition tour. They end up listening to close to 200 applicants. On average, 15 highly qualified participants are chosen. These lucky participants bunk in with local families and get to enjoy some of the delights of our region.

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The community of the Haliburton Highlands and surrounding areas have enthusiastically welcomed the program. The calendar provides lots of community interaction and audience education through opera pre-performance chats, concerts in local churches, and short concerts in local venues(Random Acts of Opera.) Three years ago the Highlands Opera Community School was established offering voice lessons, masterclasses, the opportunity to observe the Opera Studio participants, and potential involvement in the staged productions.

Tickets for the concerts are $30.00 and for the operas $35.00. Unheard of prices for this level of excellence. If you’re thinking that a little culture with your summer getaway might be a delicious combination … come and stay a while. Tickets will be going fast so don’t delay.

GuyTown a hit once again!!

For 22 years the boys have been getting together to celebrate our friendships and our family. It all started with my brother Peter and his good friend Rob, at my parent’s cottage near Killaloe. Somehow others of us got invited and it grew to become an annual celebration with my sons, Peter and friends … and then as others became of age, they too joined us.
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The group has changed shape over the years and new attendees have joined us in that time. About a dozen or so good folks, around a campfire, a beer or two, great food, and stories galore.
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We started in Killaloe, moved to yurt at one of the provincial parks, and then when we became permanent citizens in Haliburton, the boys made our home Guytown Central. Needless to say, Jane leaves for the weekend, with one rule remaining … make it the same as when I left it.
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The Guytown Olympics take place each year, and this year my brother Peter and his team mate, Brad, my son, took the trophy honours.
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Such a laugh, such good fun. Another highlight this year was my son Mark’s portable bar (R2 Bar2) that he created, complete with led lights for nightime enjoyment.
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Mark brought his quadra-copter too. His shot from the ground level and above the trees at Eagle Lake at sunset is just beautiful. Check it out at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uMSvYXq9hZc.
Ken’s Saturday night supper was a TexMex homerun … individual meatloafs wrapped in bacon (3 kinds of meat in the loaf .. whoa!) plus beans with Chirizo sausage plus Cowboy Cookies, with bacon of course. Good thing we cut down to 2 meals a day!
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Great cooperation and generosity by every member of the group make this a weekend to look forward to every year. Thanks guys for another great town meeting! Oh, and thanks Brent and Rob for taking the pictures this year.
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Radio Story #2: John Phillip Sousa

Perched on the edge of Georgian Bay, the wind frequently blows very cold into the town of Midland. That was my first impression when I started my “radio career” at CKMP. I arrived in late September and I had no idea that I was facing the longest and loneliest winter of my young life. The wind had an edge to it the day I drove into town and, it seems to me now, winter arrived not too long after.
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Midland in the early 60’s was a much different place than it is today. As a young man coming in from the city I soon discovered it was a self-contained social circle that didn’t offer much opportunity for including “newbies”, and it was particularly difficult for a guy just leaving his teens. Thus it was that the people of the radio station and a handful of their associates became the centre of my life away from home.

The people at the radio station were a unique cast of characters. I’ve changed their names partly because it’s the right thing to do and partly because I can’t remember a couple of names.

There was Ray, the radio salesman. He was just what you’d expect, out glad handing and making contacts, and living a pretty fast life for a small community.

John was the owner’s son-in-law and he was program director and news director and a bit of a jerk (putting it kindly.) He was a Ryerson grad and knew everything, and nothing.

His wife, Arlene was the station secretary, commercial scheduler and “do anything” gal. She was a really nice person.

The station owner, who I didn’t see very often, had a big office at the back of the business area of the station and I was never quite sure what he did. He seemed like a relatively nice guy and it became apparent that he had more that one business interest in the community. His wife, I found out, was the power behind the scenes. She controlled the books, made sure people paid their bills and, generally, was the silent voice behind many of the decisions affecting the station.
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The on-air staff was a strange brew. There was me, the new guy, who was relegated to the morning show because no one else wanted to get up at that hour. I was from the city, arrived in an MG-TD (drafty damn thing), and was hoping to make and save money for tuition to the National Theatre school in Montreal and to a career in the theatre. Ta da. Great Plan.
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Following me was Marla, and she did a show for the kids and she was very good at it. I had a bit of a crush on Marla. She had a fresh scrubbed, apple pie countenance and was just a naturally sweet person. Marla had a regular job but was able to take the hour off to do her show.

Following Marla was Bill Brahma. Some folks may remember Bill from his lifestyle pieces on Global Television going back a number of years. In Midland Bill did a live “piano” show. Each day Bill would play an hour of music, prefaced by his deep throated, mellifluous invitation, “It’s time to listen to Music.” And with that opening he would launch into an hour of old favourites played on the grand piano. Bill was much loved by the ladies for his gentlemanly style and impeccable manners. Behind the scenes Bill hit the sauce just a bit too much on occasion and there were days when we wondered if he would surface for his show.

Gil did the afternoon shift. Gil was a young guy, couple of years older than me, who had already had and lost two jobs in radio. He was always on the make whether it was with girls or with a deal to be had. He was, in a word, flashy. He kinda came in and out of my social life for the year that I was in Midland. He left before I did. To this day I don’t know if it was his decision or if he was booted out for undisclosed misdemeanors.

The evening guy, my roommate in the basement apartment, Mac Rymal gave me lessons in life that shattered my conservative upbringing. Despite the fact that he made me welcome when I first arrived I came to the belief that it is a bit like the devil, full of smiles, welcoming you to his special brand of hell. You’ll understand, a little bit, if I tell you that it was thanks to Mac that I ended up being chased by a crazed ex-con husband, brandishing a claw hammer, down Bay Street in Midland because he mistook me for Mac. All of that may be a story for another day.

We were a tiny staff in a tiny station located above a shoe store, across the road from the Chinese Laundry (the owner was taken away by the Mounties for smuggling Chinese immigrants into Canada. Yet another story.) When the holiday season rolled around we were waist deep in snow and I contend that it was the house parties that kept everyone from going nuts. We were all trying to get a bit of time off over the holidays. I worked six days a week (for $35 a week) and wanted to have at least one day back home with the family. We helped each other out by putting in dual shifts over Christmas and New Years. Mac and I had New Years Eve off. Ray, the sales guy, was sitting in on New Year’s Eve and would be spinning music to take everyone up to midnight.
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I was delighted. Mac said, “We’re going to the best bash of the year and get ready to hang on”. As it turned out, I did hang on. Barely. I didn’t know anyone except Mac and a couple of others. The “best bash of the year” was so wild and out of control that I felt that I’d landed on another planet. I still believe one or two marriages were put at risk after that evening of incredible debauchery.

The evening wore on. It was about 11 p.m. when Mac got a phone call, I think it may have been Gil, telling us to listen to the station “you won’t believe what’s going on!” We turned on the radio. At first we thought we had the wrong radio station because what we heard was a big military band of some sort playing march music. Weird? We listened some more. The track came to a resounding finish and then, over that quiet spot between cuts on the John Phillip Sousa march album came a voice … “March You Bastards!” And so they did. Another band selection began. Da de la dah dah dah… and away they went. Sure enough at the end of the cut, Ray’s slurred, belligerent voice prefaced the next cut on the album … “March You Bastards!
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Mac and I jumped in his car and sped down to the station. All the way there we were treated to more rousing march music. You actually got the feeling that if Ray hadn’t been there to yell at the band between cuts the Coldstream Guards might not have gone to the next selection.

We got to the station, unlocked the door and then climbed the staircase to our second level offices and studios. We went down the short hallway to the studio door, looked through the control room glass, and there he was. Ray, with a bottle of Scotch, a glass partly full, and a piss-on-the-world look in his eye. It told us everything we need to know. We went to the control room door and it wouldn’t open. It was locked. Actually, it was more than locked. It was nailed shut. It became obvious that, with malice and forethought, Ray had put a couple of spikes through the door into the frame.
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The look on our faces must have been priceless. We yelled at Ray, we went into the other studio facing him and tried to get his attention. He was having none of it. In for a penny, in for a pound. We noted that he had a stack of about nine or ten albums. it appeared that there was a lot more marching still to take place. I tried putting my shoulder into the door but it wouldn’t budge. There was no use in asking Mac to try because he had skinny shoulders. Think. Think. Mac ran down the hall, leaving me to gaze at the horror that was going out over the airwaves, in celebration of the approaching new year’s hour.
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Mac came back brandishing a fire axe. I had forgotten all about that weapon. It was part of our safety equipment in case we had a fire in the stairwell to the street level and had to chop our way through the floor, and to safety I guess? Whatever. We knew it’s purpose in this situation. Mac started to chop at the door. We thought if we could chop through in and around the door handle and nails in the door jam we could separate the rest of it and silence Ray, by force if necessary.
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The end of the cut came, we stopped chopping while Ray uttered his, now famous, invective. Ta da da da da, de dum dum dum. Mac and I started to laugh. We realized how ridiculous it was that we would stop chopping while Ray continued his rant. We chopped with vigor, through about two more cuts on the album, and we finally got through the door. Time 11.50 p.m. We had saved new years. Yaaah!! Mac helped the now sobbing Ray from the studio and gave him a ride home. I took to the airwaves, and without admitting anything bizaar had just taken place, I played music to midnight and helped a few astonished listeners welcome in 1963. Best of all, I didn’t have to go back to the party.

Ray left the employ of the radio station on New Year’s Day.

Every time I hear marching music it brings a smile to my face. March you Bastards!
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