Archive for June, 2012

O Canada!
Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all thy sons command.
With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
The True North strong and free!
From far and wide,
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
God keep our land glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee

-Robert Stanley Weir and others

Some of my favorite pieces of literary criticism are Robert Graves’ line by line readings of famous poems. Often, Graves proves to his satisfaction, as well as mine, that the poem under scrutiny is not a masterpiece, but poorly thought out and incompetently rendered. The same can be said of Canada’s national anthem, “O Canada!” – which is hardly a surprise, because few if any national anthems are meant to do anything more than rouse a moment or two of cheap sentiment in those who happen to live in the country.

You know right from the start that Canada’s anthem is in trouble, because it starts with a vocative sentence. This is trouble because the vocative is so rarely used today that few people except Latin scholars understand that the first sentence is addressed directly towards Canada. So far as most people understand the sentence, they usually think it starts with a sigh, as though the speaker’s emotions about Canada are so strong that they can’t resist a wordless exclamation — an interpretation that hardly seems justified by what follows.

Not that there is much meaning to destroy. The song is addressing the country in the abstract – a mawkish approach, but one that, in a spirit of generosity, I have to admit is too common a poetic convention to reject. But what do the singers say to this great abstraction? It tells Canada to command loyalty from all those who are born there – and I think I have to be forgiven for wondering just how the singers’ pious wish will affect the matter in any way whatsoever. You might as well tell the waves that it’s fine with you that they continue hitting the beaches.

Then there’s the exclamation point at the end of the line – the first of four in ten lines. This is another unpromising sign, since the over-use of exclamation points is always a sure of sign that the speaker is trying to whip up some excitement while saying something unoriginal or dull.

And sure enough, the next line is a redundancy with another exclamation mark added in the hopes of adding some dignity to the sentiment. The only reason, of course, for the redundancy of “home and native” is that the writer of the words didn’t know what else to add that fitted the music.

But it gets worse as the song continues. What, I wonder, is “true patriot love?” How is it different from false patriot love (perhaps that of those who come “from far and wide” below)? More filler, followed by the unnecessary sexism of “in all thy sons command.” At least twice in my life time, feminists have tried to change the line to something like “in every child command,” only to be met by outrage, as though the English words had not been changed several times, and several different unofficial versions exist.

Struggling on, I suppose we have to bear “with glowing hearts.” After all, we are in the realm of patriotic doggerel, where the participles fly thick and fast, streaming and gleaming and beaming. For some reason, “ing” at the end of enough words lulls us into a sort of drowsy acceptance of whatever else follows. And I have to say that, after “glowing,” I am not surprised to see the line end with “thee,” an archaicism completely out of keeping with the rest of the poem and useful only in efforts to elevate a trite idea. Basically, the line is saying, “We’re proud to see you develop as a nation,” only much less clearly.

As for “True North,” I suppose that is supposed to mean “faithful,” and to refer to Canada’s position as a former colony that is still on good terms with the mother country (It almost assuredly doesn’t mean that Canada is the location of True North for navigators). But “North,” alone, leaves Canada defined entirely by geography – an all too common occurrence that makes the place sound about as exciting as a mound of three month old snow on the curb.

And don’t get me started on “strong and free.” The last time that Canada could defend its own borders was in World War Two. Very likely, that was the only time. The history of the country can be neatly summarized as, “Era of French Domination, Era of English Domination, Era of American Domination.” To say the least, it’s incongruous for a satellite country to be describing itself as either “strong” or “free.”

Next up is one of the more recent bits of editing, “from far and wide.” Most likely, it was added to acknowledge the number of immigrants in the last few decades. But how do you reconcile this line with “home and native land?” If you’re born in the place, you don’t come from “far and wide,” and if you do come “from far and wide,” then Canada isn’t your “native” land.

Even more importantly, how do you “stand on guard” “from far and wide?” It sounds as physically impossible as some of the awkward poses of female super heroes on the covers of comic books. Anyway, as I said, Canada has rarely been able to defend itself, never mind against whom (perhaps the Americans buying up our corporations?).

Even to the composer, the jumble of thought is too much. Another vocative and another “thee” are thrown in, with God and another mention of freedom added to the mix as well, all in the impossible hope that an elevated mess can be mistaken for something meaningful.

Unfortunately, this mishmash and all the efforts to play on listeners’ emotions don’t lead anywhere, so the ending is problematic, All that can be done is to repeat what has already been said. That’s not a bad trick if you have something rousing to say, but here it falls flat. That’s probably why, any time you ever hear “O Canada” there is always an uneasy silence and an almost audible shuffling of feet: there’s nothing is nothing to indicate that the mercifully brief ordeal is over.

Someone – I forget whom – once said that more Canadians of my age knew the words to the opening of The Bugs Bunny / Roadrunner Hour than knew the words to “O Canada.” That was mainly a reference to the number of changes that have been made to the anthem in our lifetimes. It may have referred, too, to the fact that, to many Canadians, overt displays of patriotism are embarrassing.

But I think that it also has something to do with the fact that the national anthem is rarely comprehensible for more than two or three words at a time. It is difficult to remember words you don’t understand – just try memorizing a dozen lines in a language you don’t understand if you don’t believe me.

You don’t expect original or deep thought in an anthem. But is basic literacy too much to ask? At least “The Maple Leaf Forever,” for all that it ignores the Quebecois and First Nations, makes literal sense. But Canada’s anthem, I’m ashamed to say, is almost entirely nonsensical and border-line illiterate. It only really serves its purpose when the music is played without the words. With the words, it’s either confusing or embarrassing.

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I am not a Christian. Nor am I follower of any other religion, or even a theist. For years, I have wavered somewhere between agnosticism and atheism. But I thought I had made my peace with being a non-believer in a culture whose origins were Christian, making myself tolerably familiar with the Bible and the history and philosophy of belief throughout European history.

Then, some years ago, I was blind-sided by a statement of the obvious.

Although I hadn’t been Christian since puberty, I had always thought that the most recent parts of the Bible had a historical background. Probably things hadn’t happened quite as described in the New Testament, but I assumed that the descriptions were roughly true. After all, the New Testament accounts mentioned historical figures like Pontius Pilatius and Herod Antipater.

So didn’t it follow that a historical Jesus had existed? Of course, he probably bore about the same relation to the stories as the historical King Arthur bore to the writings of Thomas Malory, but after you discarded the religion doctrine and traditions like the sacrificed god, there would be a core of truth.

Then, I read a book called The Jesus Puzzle by Earl Doherty. The book is poorly written, and has the obsessiveness that marks a crank, but it introduced me to the idea that the whole of Christianity was a neo-Platonic myth, most likely originating among the Jewish population of Alexandria that had started being taken literally.

I learned, too, that there were reasons to question external references to Christianity like those in Josephus, and that reputable references to Christianity did not occur until well into the second century of the common era. Even some of the references to the modern story of Christ in the later books of the New Testament were metrically suspect.

These ideas are not universally accepted. But the fact that they can be reasonably held at all shows how shaky the conventional views actually are. More importantly, they give reasons for some aspects of Christianity that I had never heard adequately explained, such as the neo-Platonism on the gospel of John, and some of the references to the Christ figure that seem strangely vague if they are supposed to be about a man who had lived. Although not proved, the ideas were at least plausible.

To my surprise, I found myself reacting as though I’d been tackled by someone I hadn’t seen. I suspect that belief in a historic Jesus is the last refuge of an agnostic or atheist who used to be a Christian, a minimal adjustment of their thought that allows them some continuity with their past and cultural history. Even in our disbelief, we cling to a sense that the stories of Christianity must have some degree of reliability. But, suddenly, even that minimum belief seemed questionable.

I realized, too, that I was angry. I’d been lied to, which always makes me self-righteously indignant, told false certainties were established fact. The fact that, on reflection, I realized that the liars had probably lied to themselves first did not make me any less angry.

If my reaction could be summarized in three words, those three words would have been: How dare they?

But the closer you look, the more dubious the founding legends of Judaeo-Christianity become. Despite the record keeping of the Egyptians, no evidence of anything remotely resembling the Exodus has ever been found. What evidence exists points to the Ancient Hebrews being offshoots of the Canaanites – locals rather than invaders. Similarly, no reference exists in any of the surrounding cultures of the empire of Saul, David, and Solomon. The few references to the kingdoms of ancient Israel that have been found suggest that, at best, for most of its history it was a satellite kingdom of the surrounding superpowers, a fact that should have been obvious from one look at a map.

Yet I remember seeing maps of Solomon’s empire when I was growing up, and other maps showing how the twelve tribes settled Palestine (in fact, look up Judea, and you can still find this map on Wikipedia). The maps, that are supposed to value accuracy, are works of fantasy, charting as certainties facts that are questionable and unsupported by the archaeological record. In fact, the more archeology that is done, the more the Biblical accounts look like fiction embellished with a few sprinkles of fact for verisimilitude.

Was anyone surprised when the James Ossuary, allegedly the container for the bones of Jesus’ brother, proved suspect? I wasn’t. It was exactly the same as every other effort to reconcile fact with the Bible: unproved, the product of wishful thinking at best, and of outright fraud at worst.

And when I consider that European culture is built on such foundations – well, don’t come trying to convert me is all that I can say. Because if you try, you’ll have a lot of explaining to do.

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Paintings have never been a large part of modern Northwest Coast Art. Since the 1960s, artists have preferred to release limited edition prints instead. Recently, though, this trend has shown signs of changing.

Ever since the 1960s, limited prints have been far more common than paintings. The reason is simple economics: A limited print costs the buyer anywhere from half to one-tenth the price of a painting, which pleases buyers not interested in an investment. If a run of a hundred can be sold, the artist makes much more than they would from a painting – enough, with luck, to allow them to earn a living from their art.

As a result, limited prints have long been the norm in Northwest Coast Art, despite the forgeries that have been periodically discovered. By contrast, artists interested in painting have often found selling their work to galleries difficult. A few exceptions exist, such as Robert Davidson in the last decade, but they are exceptions because of their fame.

A better indication of the status of paintings in Northwest Coast art is the fact that even an artist as accomplished as Lyle Wilson could only manage a show consisting entirely of paintings this year – and at least two-thirds of the pieces were completed decades ago and had never sold. Meanwhile, an artist’s first limited print is still seen as an important step in their career.

However, the days when prints could be counted on to fund an artist’s career are rapidly coming to an end. Hundreds are entering a market that once sustained dozens, thanks in part to the relative cheapness of producing a print from a computer compared to traditional silk screening.

Perhaps as a result, the average price of a print has declined or remained static, with many prints available for well under a hundred dollars unless the artist is well-known. Moreover, where, thirty-five years ago, so-called limited prints could have a release of five or six hundred copies, now releases of a hundred, or fifty, or even twenty have become common, partly to reduce forgery and partly to ensure that artists are not left with a large inventory of unsellable prints.

At the same time, Northwest Coast artists are more closely connected to other schools of art than they have been at any time in the last sixty years. Artists like Dean and Shawn Hunt have succeeded to some extent in selling canvases outside the usual Northwest Coast markets, and new artists – an increasing number of whom have attended art school – are becoming more interested in painting as well. In fact, I know several young artists who began working on canvas and only learned carving and metalwork later.

Whether on wood, paper, or canvas, painting has suddenly become semi-respectable. The Douglas Reynolds Gallery has been showing an increasing number of high-end paintings over the last couple years. Similarly, Lyle Wilson may have had to go to the suburb of Maple Ridge rather than downtown Vancouver to mount his recent Paint show, but the point is he managed to have the exhibit. And, as I write, I have just returned from the Lattimer Gallery’s opening reception for “medium: Painting on Canvas,” an exhibit of over fifteen canvases by both new and leading artists.

Slowly, painting is becoming acceptable in Northwest Coast art. It still has a ways to go – according to Peter Lattimer, for many of the artists in his exhibit, working on canvas was a new and not wholly comfortable experience. But the change is coming, all the same.

Most likely, painting will not replace limited prints. A handful of top artists are still doing well with limited prints, and will probably continue to do so for years. However, a day might come within the next decade when most limited prints are viewed as tourist wares and no longer as fine art.

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“And the pageantry, the panoply, the sanctified decay —
But I knew the hour was coming that would sweep it all away.
Now time has me in a corner, and I’m moth-eared from the fray,
But Her Majesty is reigning still today.”

-Leon Rosselson, “On Her Silver Jubilee

Science fiction fans joke that they are disappointed that the future has yet to produce flying cars. But my disappointment lies elsewhere. It lies in the fact that the society I expected to see when I was middle-aged is almost as distant as when I was coming of age – a fact that the recent Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II reinforces all too sharply.

The mood of the late 1970s was so different from today’s that I can barely remember it. Probably, anyone born after that time can’t conceive of it at all. But for a naïve, idealistic teenager like me, it seemed a time of infinite possibilities and constant progress.

Consider: Prosperity in North America was at an all-time high. So was income and social mobility. In recent memory, activism had helped to end the Vietnam War and to force Richard Nixon’s resignation. Based on the previous decade, it seemed self-evident that ethnic minorities were about to win their rights, and so were women and gays and lesbians. Probably, Canada would be a republic, without a monarch to remind us of a now non-functional past. Sure, problems like pollution and poverty remained, but once we focused on them a bit more, they would be solved.

In other words, we were still in the era in which Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. could write a book called The End of History and not be ridiculed. The problems that had haunted humanity for centuries were about to be solved, and all that would remain was the question of what to do afterwards – colonize the stars, most likely, or maybe begin a cultural Renaissance.

Ever since, each year has added to the progressive disillusion. Instead of the end of history, we got the Counter-Reformation of the reactionaries, who proved to be better organized and more tenacious than the rest of us could imagine. Year by year, living standards declined. We got Ronald Reagan in the United States, and a denial of the lessons that Vietnam should have taught. In Canada, we got Brian Mulroney and Jean Chretien, who between them swept away any idea that politics could be about anything except pragmatism and the cold-blooded survival of career politicians. The promising beginnings for cause after cause turned out to be end points that were fiercely and – all too often — unsuccessfully defended.

Oh, not everything was reason for gloom. In Canada, abortion rights remained in legal limbo, permitting access in theory despite constant efforts to chip away at them in practice. Same sex marriage became legal. The Internet and cameras in mobile devices made organizing and calling authorities to account easy. But against the losses and the constant wallowing in the same old arguments, these gains mattered for little. If the losses didn’t outweight the gains, we believed that they did. We stopped believing that social progress was possible, although many of us kept on fighting or wistfully believing.

Against this background, the Diamond Jubilee is only a tawdry reminder of what hasn’t happened in recent decades. The occasion is not only a celebration of mediocrity, but also a celebration of how things have failed to change. For me, the fact that Leon Rosselson’s song remains as applicable today as when it was written in 1977 only adds to the irony. Seeing the media’s continuing attention to the non-story of someone whom Rosselson describes as “so commonplace a woman in her fuddy-duddy hat” makes me want to mourn, not celebrate. Do we really have nothing more to show for the last thirty-five years?

To all appearances, we don’t.

Science fiction readers have been known to cry, “Give us our flying cars!” But as I tried to avoid the coverage of the Diamond Jublilee the other week, what I wanted to do was to plead for a reason to believe in social progress – and then to go and find a quiet corner in which to mourn the unlikelihood of any answer.

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(The following article was published in August 2006 in the IT Manager’s Journal. Since this site is no longer active, I am reprinting the article here with a few minor modifications to give it a more permanent home. If you find the article useful, you can republish it under a Creative Commons Attribution – No Derivatives license.)

For many, returning to classes means returning to slide shows. Once used mainly in business, today slide showsare equally important in education. Students use them in portfolios to share their mastery of a subject, and many consider them a basic requirement for class presentations. Yet, despite the ubiquitousness of slide shows, few people use them well. Here are some tips to help you improve your presentation skills.

Some doubt that slide shows can ever be used effectively. Among them are communications expert Edward Tufte, who satirically compares them to a May Day rally in the Soviet Union, and Peter Norvig, who highlights their shortcomings with the Gettysburg PowerPoint Presentation. These criticisms are overly severe, but they emphasize the point that if you want to use slide shows effectively, you have to understand their limitations as carriers of information and the restrictions they place on design, and make them a supplement to your presentations rather than an end in themselves.

As their name suggests, slide shows were inspired by 35mm slides. They also owe something to overhead transparencies. However, like spreadsheets, slide shows are a product of the personal computer. The first slide show software was MORE, a Macintosh program for outlining released in the early 1980s. It was followed in 1987 by Microsoft PowerPoint, whose pre-installation on most new computers helped to spread the popularity of slide shows until, by the end of the 1990s, standing up to talk to a group without showing one became a guaranteed way of being noticed.

With the rise of free software, tools like KPresenter (now Stage) and OpenOffice.org / LibreOffice Impress became available. While these lag behind PowerPoint in support for sound and some advanced features, they are adequate tools for the vast majority of slide shows.

When to use slide shows
The most important point to remember about a slide shows is that it is a medium with serious limitations. With no more than 50 words per screen, by itself a slide cannot easily communicate complex information. Even more seriously, slides are designed for one-way communication from a single presenter to a group, and do not encourage conversations or questions. This one-way flow of information is perfect for a standalone demo at a trade fair, but not for a forum in which you want to encourage interaction.

With work, you can reduce these tendencies, although you will always be straining against them. However, before you choose to use a slide show (assuming that you have a choice), you should ask yourself:

  • Is one of your goals class participation?
  • Will members of the class require individual instruction?
  • Is an appreciation of language necessary for the subject?
  • Is your information complex or abstract?

If you answer “yes”  to any of these questions, then you should consider either not using a slide show or making it only part of your presentation.

Choosing and organizing content
The worst thing you can do when developing a slide show is to transfer all your notes to slides. Doing so may beconvenient for those who miss your talk — although less so than you might think  even the most detailed slide shows omit too much to stand by themselves. However, it almost guarantees a dull presentation.

Instead, resist the natural tendencies of the medium by delaying developing the slide show as long as possible.

Start by outlining your presentation in another program, and developing a detailed series of notes. Before opening Impress or KPresenter, go through your notes and mark:

  • Key words or concepts that need definitions or that might be misspelled.
  • Any material that might need illustrating through a still picture, animation, movie, or sound clip. You may be able to find usable content at Classroom Clipart or the Open Clip Art Library.
  • Points where you might want to display a quiz, discussion questions, or other interactive material.

By adding these markers to your lesson plan, you’ll know when you need a slide. If you’re using OpenOffice.org Writer, you can save time by formatting these markers in a Heading 1 style, then selecting File ->  Send -> Outline to Presentation to open Impress with a series of files automatically defined for you.

Another way to decide how to use a slide show is to imagine what you would do if you had no projector but could give your audience handouts or draw diagrams on a whiteboard. Anything that you would put in a handout or draw on the whiteboard can go into your presentation. Anything else should not.

The result of either of these methods is a slide show that lacks continuity — but, unless you are designing a looping demo, you don’t need any. The purpose of the slide show is not to be complete in itself, but to support what you say.

Designing a slide show
A slide is a very limited space. The fact that it is designed to be viewed at a distance makes it even more so. For this reason, the simpler you keep the design, the more effective it is likely to be. Also, if you resolve to keep the design simple, you are less likely to waste time on the chrome — impressive effects such as getting bullet points to doppler into sight in time to music — instead of on content.

You can find backgrounds for slides with a quick search, but you can also design your own using the master slide view (available in Impress from View -> Master Slide -> Slide Master). Whether you download or design, choose the basic color scheme for contrast: you’ll want a dark background for light text, or the other way around. At the most, you’ll want two fonts: one for the title and subtitle, and another for bullet points. To keep them readable, the smallest font you use should be about 22 points.

Simplicity also applies to slide transitions. Choose one and stick with it, unless you plan a change for dramatic effect.

Similarly, when designing individual slides, remember that:

  • Keeping your bullet points to a single line will help you to resist the temptation of reading them.
  • Slides only have space for 5-7 bullet points or 1-2 pictures. If a slide contains both bullet points and pictures, then halve these totals.
  • The more complex a diagram, the larger it should be. Many diagrams work best on a separate slide.
  • To keep the slide size readable, use another slide rather than squeezing more material on to one slide.

As you edit, your goals should be simplicity and readability. If you find your slides getting complex and cluttered,or requiring smaller text, then you need to reconsider what you are doing. In some cases, you may find the material simply doesn’t fit comfortably on a slide, and needs to be a handout or a drawing on the white board.

Delivering a slide show
You have two related problems while giving a slide show: Keeping yourself from reading from the screen, and keeping your audience from reading the screen when its members should be paying attention to you.

If you create your slide show as suggested here, both these problems should be minimized. However, you can reduce them even further if you:

  • Reduce your nervousness by arriving and setting up before the class starts, and carrying a backup presentation plan in case of mechanical failures. The less nervous you are, the less likely you are to let the limits of the medium control the presentation.
  • Know your material well enough that you only occasionally need to refer to your notes or slides.
  • Continually position yourself (from the class’s perspective) to the left of the screen you are using for the slide show. Since English reads left to right, their eyes are more likely to move toward you. If you are using a lectern, position it in that spot, if possible. You do not need to stay in that position, but when you start to refer to a slide, you should move to that position, and keep coming back to it as you continue to discuss the slide. With any luck, you will draw at least some students’ attention toward you and what you are saying, and away from the slide.
  • Move around as you deliver your presentation in order to distract the audience from looking at the screen. In fact, you can signal changes of topic by changing your position.
  • Get somebody else to change slides, or be well-enough rehearsed that you can set the slide show to advance automatically. The less you interact with the slide show, the less likely you are to start reading slides.

With these hints, you should have as good a chance as anyone of controlling your slide shows, rather than being controlled by them.

When desktop publishing programs became available in the 1980s, easy access to advanced design features created a mountain of documents that had been tweaked into unreadability by inexpert users. In the same way, the rise of slide show programs in the mid-1990s has been responsible for millions of presentations that bored their audiences into insensibility. In some circles, the inexpert use of slide shows has become so commonplace that people have been known to cheer when presenters announced that they were not going to deliver a slide show.

Now that their novelty has long worn off, there is less excuse for inexpert use of slide shows. Use them sparingly, and with an understanding of their limitations, and you can get slide shows working for you, rather than against you — and keep your audience engaged rather than stupefied.

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When I travel to Terrace every April, I spend three days submerged in art. Not only is the Freda Diesing School’s graduation and year end exhibit my official excuse for the trip, but I meet other artists and view their works in progress. This year, one of those artists was Ivan Adams, a Haida carver doing some unique work in argillite.

Ivan Adams is the father of Mitch Adams, a middle-aged artist from whom I’ve bought half a dozen pieces in the last three years. Last year, I met Ivan over Sunday brunch, and several times Mitch has mentioned his father as an artist, but until this year, I had never seen any of his work.

This year, Mitch drove me up to his parent’s house, and we sat in their kitchen while his father showed what he was working on. The three or four pieces I saw were literally like nothing I had ever seen before.

They were not in the argillite style of the nineteenth century, nor were they the inlaid and embellished pieces that most modern argillite carvers favor. As Mitch said, Ivan’s work is a little reminiscent of some Inuit work, but the resemblance is mostly in the scenes of everyday life he favors, rather than the carving style.

What Ivan Adams is doing is a naturalistic, detailed style all his own. One piece is a bear with silver teeth rearing on two legs while a much small hunter attacks with a spear; the base comes apart so you can position each figure separately. Another is a legendary strong man straddling a bull sea-lion and tearing it apart with his bare hands, with the exposed muscle suggested by artfully positioned catlinite (reddish brown argillite). A smaller piece is an eagle, so ungainly that it suggests an archeopteryx. All the pieces I saw were obviously mature pieces, done by an artist with a strongly developed style of his own.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t afford one of Ivan Adams’ larger pieces. However, he also had a raven pendant about the size and thickness of my thumb, which I was pleased to take home with me as consolation.

I suspect the pendant was a left over piece of argillite whose shape suggested its subject. But, like Adams’ larger pieces,what makes the piece standout is the attention to detail. The shape of the beak and how the upper and lower beak fit together are absolutely accurate. Adams has even included the striations that make every raven’s beak as individual as human finger prints, and suggested the soft tissue that connects the lower beak to the body – even though that part of the carving is not seen when the pendant is hanging from a chain. Similarly, the off-white of the inlaid eyes is a close approximation of the natural color of some raven’s eyes.

Yet as if that were not enough, on the head and neck, Adams has indicated individual feathers. Most of these feathers are aligned in rows, but only roughly, with some out of alignment and skewed from the rest, and most of them not quite the same shape. On the top the head, too, the feathers grown smaller as they approach the beak. I have no idea whether Adams has observed live ravens or worked from pictures in a book or on the Internet, but the only way that the pendant does not closely reflect a living raven is that the argillite lacks the blue oil-like highlights of actual feathers.

Ivan Adams is not well-known, and you won’t find his work in any Vancouver or Victoria galleries – at least, not yet. But anyone who takes the pains he obviously does is an artist worth paying attention to. Perhaps one day I will be able to afford one of his larger pieces, but meanwhile the pendant is a very satisfactory consolation.

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