Friday Two Cents: Celebrating The Past


 

‘I take a lot of pride in being myself. I’m comfortable with who I am.’ James McAvoy

 

This past week I was able to finish off a personal project of mine that has been on my mind for some time.

It truly started many years ago when I started looking into my family history and where I come from. I was born in Canada but my heritage is from a small island called Malta. This small archipelago’s history dates back eons to the dawn of civilization in the Mediterranean. Yet the period I was looking into was when my family came to Malta in the early 1400s. The Gauchi family was part of the feudal system in Malta until the Knights Hospitaller, later the Knights of St. John, took control of the island chain around the middle 1500s.
In 1565 the forces of the Ottoman Empire invaded the island to completely wipe out the knights and as a stepping-stone to conquering the rest of Europe. Some 40,000 Turks invaded and laid siege to Malta. Standing in their way were roughly 6,100 that included some 500 Knights Hospitaller, 2000 thousand foot-soldiers, 600 servants and slaves and 3000 conscripted native Maltese. With this small defence force, they successfully defended the island. The cost was quite high with a third of the defending force falling to the enemy but in return they inflicted such terrible losses on the Turks. They retreated from Malta with casualties around +15,000; some say it was more than half their forces. The victory may have been costly but it is celebrated as the greatest of the 16th century and initiated the stop of the Ottoman Empire expansion into Europe.
I read and drew many images until I came up with the image I finally painted that you can see below entitled “The Siege of Mdina”. It is of a Knights Hospitaller vanquishing a Turk invader. In the background you can see the Christian army ready to do battle with the knight, in the fields below the ancient city of Mdina, Malta. It a place I have visited on many occasions and the scene came to me after drawing my first knight.
I think this project so engulfed my thoughts because I have been hearing many people talk about their heritage but also people condemning many aspects of our own history because of the not so nice elements that are also associated with the people involved. For me, knowing my heritage has always been a cause of pride. Malta is not a well-known country, but the more I delved into my heritage the greater I began to appreciate it. Yes there are dark elements in it. This period of time probably saw many atrocities but hiding the truth or burying it is not the right thing to do. We should celebrate our past; the good, the bad and the ugly, for these events made us who we are.
I am reminded of a famous quote …

‘Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.’ George Santayana

 

Too much of human history is full of repeating the same mistakes. Perhaps learning, celebrating and understanding our past instead of burying, ignoring and erasing it, would help us not make the same mistakes.

“The Siege of Mdina” Painting by Paul Gauchi

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Friday Two Cents: My First Day Of School


 

‘There is only one happiness in this life, to love and be loved.’ George Sand

 

In many parts of Canada and around the world this week marks the return of students and teachers back to school. As a supply teacher, my services are not usually needed until at least the second week of the school year. However, a school that I supply in a lot called and asked if I can come in for a last-minute job to cover some one going on an appointment.   Of course I was happy to go in.

Hi Everyone!!! My Name is George!!!

I am familiar with the school, the staff and most of the students therefore it was a joy to go in. I arrived, signed in and talked to a few staff and then got ready for the day. The class I was in was a kindergarten class with a few students I knew from last year but more than half were new students. The day began and after I introduced George I think from that moment, I had won them over. If you do not know, George is my puppet and he comes in with me to the primary classes and is a big hit with the students. He sings songs with them, he brings in books for me to read and he is also a bit silly (just like the puppet master), so they enjoy whenever he comes out. Overall the class was great and it was an enjoyable experience.
However, the response I got from the older students in the school was something I did not expect. It was after lunch and I was walking back to the class as the students were coming in from lunch recess. They saw me and said hello and I returned the greeting, however after saying hi, I got swarmed by a sea of little people (the students). They hugged me and were saying things like, “You’re back!” and “Are you in our class?” Many others started telling me about what they did over the summer break. I was over joyed and a bit over whelmed to get such a response from them.
I have been working with children for many years; both as an early childhood educator and as a teacher and I have always found it amazing how the students greet me. They always seem to be happy when they see me. I thing that they know that I love working with them. Some people say it’s because I’m a big kid like them.   But whatever the reason, all I know is that the feeling, is mutual.

hugs-Educator

 

‘Happiness is not a goal; it is a by-product.’ Eleanor Roosevelt

 

Friday Two Cents: The Joy In Helping Others


‘It is literally true that you can succeed best and quickest by helping others to succeed.’ Napoleon Hill

The week before the start of school is a very interesting time for a supply teacher such as myself. I do not have a classroom to prepare, class lists to look through and lesson plans to create. For all intensive prepossess I can simply continue with my summer vacation and that was exactly what I was planning to do.

However something inside me said I should be getting ready for the upcoming year with the students. Therefore I decided to enrol in a teacher event at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO). They host many events for teachers to spread the word about the different activities and exhibits happening at the AGO. This particular event was the reopening of the J.S. McLean Centre for Indigenous and Canadian Art. They had many wonderful works of art created by indigenous and non-indigenous artists from Canada. Yet this was also an opportunity for the AGO to inform the teachers about the programs they offer, both for the students and the teachers as professional development.
The exhibit was wonderful but I found myself thinking about what programs/lessons that would be good for the students. I was collecting information on different things for other colleagues and in doing so it made me feel good.
Not only was I collecting information this week but also I went in to help a colleague set up their room. I knew she needed some help but more than this I wanted to be in a classroom helping someone. I went in a couple of days to help move furniture around, prepare activities and even some computer work. She thanked me and many other people said that it was nice of me to help. But I didn’t do it to be acknowledged or thanked. It simply felt good to help someone.
Reflecting back on this week I only spent a couple of days helping someone with their room but I also was able to pass on the information I got from the AGO to another colleague. I discovered that in the process of trying to help others I ended up helping myself. For even though I thought of others needs and what I can do for them, I ended up meeting my own needs; the need to help others, which in the end brought more joy to me than doing something for myself.

Helping Others

Friday Two Cents: A Tradition In The Heart Of The City


This week I was able to break away from my routine and go enjoy something that I have been going to since I was a child, the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE). This year is the CNE’s 140th anniversary. Every year I enjoy going to see the art, craft and hobbies exhibits, the shows and of course sampling the different types of foods they have to offer. I even have a tradition of getting a corn dog once I enter the grounds. I know that it is not a healthy choice but once you enter the grounds healthy choices are thrown out the window. Besides, it is the only time during the year when I eat a corn dog.

This year I was able to see two amazing shows; the aerial acrobatic and ice-skating show Quatro and the Legends Of The Silk Road Come To Life. Quatro is a poetic display of dazzling ice-skating and aerial acrobatics performed by a former Cirque du Soleil artist. This wonderful show is not too far from the Legends Of The Silk Road Come To Life. A spectacular indoor lantern festival where 17 spectacular illuminated sculptures make up an incredible display of lights and colour. The theme is centred on the legends and myths associated with the ancient Silk Road. These astounding shows are only two of the numerous displays and activities you can do at the CNE.
The CNE is in the heart of Toronto and is amazing every year. Unfortunately it is only available in the city for a limited time and as of the 1st day of school approaches it will be gone for another year. That’s why I always have mixed feelings about the CNE. I love going but I know that once I leave the grounds it means summer is over and school will start soon. Oh well I guess I have to just wait and look forward to next year, but at least I have some great experiences and memories to keep me going until new years edition.

Friday Two Cents: Worlds Created In My Imagination


 

‘Paintings have a life of their own that derives from the painter’s soul.’ Vincent Van Gogh

‘The painter has the universe in his mind and hands.’ Leonardo Da Vinci

 

Last week I took a mini vacation about 1½ hours car ride north of Toronto, to a small city called Midland. I went to clear my head, cleanse my soul and hopefully to get inspired. I love going to that area since I was a child. Many people have cottages in the area and it is far enough from any major city to make you appreciate nature and what this country has.

Many of my friends and family always say, “Why are you going up there alone? Won’t you get bored?” I tell them that I need to get away and be alone with my own thoughts. I tell them I love the area and I always bring up my art supplies so I can have nature inspire me. This trip was no exception.

Once I begin my day I usually get into a routine. Even on vacation I have a routine and I find that it helps to get my creative juices flowing. I go for a walk every morning along the waterfront. Even in Toronto I go for a 5 km walk along the lakefront while I listen to some music. I find that centres me and I can let the creativity flow after. In Midland there was no exception. They have a quaint waterfront with many small boats and beautiful green paths.

Yet as beautiful as these scenes are I find myself losing myself in thought. The world around me drops away and is replaced with worlds created in my imagination. I find it a great way to focus the mind. And from these imaginations I was able to create art from glimpses into those worlds.

For me this trip away from the noisy city was exactly what I needed to clear my mind and soul. To look within and what came out where creations from my imagination. Below you can see a few images I created from those imaginings. For when I looked into my soul I found a universe of endless possibilities.  

Friday Two Cents: The Truth Is Usually In The Middle


‘All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them.’ Galileo Galilei

 

If you are in Toronto, you are aware that the provincial government is planning to table legislation to lower the number of city councillors in Toronto from a proposed increase of 47 to 25. From what I have seen in the “media”, the message I am getting is that this is all bad. I have seen the Leader of the Opposition (LOTO) in the Ontario Legislature speak against it and many councillors too. On the other hand the Ontario government thinks it’s a good thing. Yet is it really that bad? You see these individuals all have an agenda.

The LOTO is supposed to be against the government and the councillors, well many would lose their jobs or would have to really fight/ campaign for a city councillors’ job, therefore I find their opinions biased. Also the government is biased with its own agenda. As well the “media” is only interested in one thing. No not reporting the news, but creating revenue for their parent company in the form of advertisement. Hence making the biggest splash or the most noise to attract viewership is their number one goal. So if it makes better ratings to show the side making the most noise than they’ll do it. So what is better? Big or small government?
I thought it best to look for myself and the best way is to ask the question … “Is bigger government better?” I thought I’d do a Pro and Cons list.

               Pros …

  • Government is designed to help people. They fund programs and organise the city systems, e.g. trash removal, police, fire department etc. More councillors mean more people thinking of ideas to help the people.
  • More voices on the council. More people representing the people, more voices speaking out. More councillors for the people to go to, to have their own voice heard.
  • Better representation. More councillors means fewer people that the councillor represents. (E.g. 1 city councillor for 65,000 people instead of 1 for every 100,000.)

                Cons …

  • It costs more. More councillors mean more costs to pay them. High costs mean an increase in taxes, thereby increasing the tax burden on the people.
  • Too many voices on the council means too many opinions. Every person has an opinion on what is best. Fewer people on the council means quicker consensus. (If you ever heard them constantly debate the subway issue you’d know what I mean). 
  • Bigger government hurts economic growth. A study entitled Measuring the Size of Government in the 21st Century, published by the Fraser Institute, indicates that larger governments can hurt economic growth (Matteo, 2018).
After looking at these pros and cons, and other research I looked into, I see that the biggest losers are the councillors themselves. Besides the research paper about economic growth I also read an article about municipal councillors, that state that once you are in, you basically have a job for life. They call it the Incumbent’s advantage. Statics prove that once you are in you have a 90% chance of being re-elected (Porter, 2014).  As well, if you look at London, England their city council has 25 councillors for a city of 9 million and it works.
All this aside, what is the true story? Where is the truth in all this? As a friend once said to me, everyone has a side in the story and the truth is usually in the middle. Yes there are benefits for and against a large and smaller council. The job and responsibility of the electorate is to be well-informed and then make the best decision with the available data. That is where it should come down to, us, the voters. My grandfather once said something and it makes perfect sense for all this noise in the media. ‘Listen by force, but do what is best for you.’ Grandpa was always right.

Grandpa was always right.

Porter, C (2014, Sept) City councillor, a well-paid job for life? The Toronto Star. https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2014/09/17/city_councillor_a_wellpaid_job_for_life.html
Matteo, L. Di. (originally published January 14, 2014,updated May 11, 2018) Bigger government isn’t always better government. The Globe and Mail. https://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/economy/economy-lab/bigger-government-isnt-always-better-government/article16314426/

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Friday Two Cents: Do What You Love


 

‘If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.’ Marc Anthony

This week I was finishing off my course and during that the final assignment I did something that made me begin my summer vacation.

Many of you know that I love to draw, paint or anything to do with art. For my final assignment I had to create a “sketchnote” for the assignment. If you don’t know, a “sketchnote” are rich visual notes that combine hand drawn notes, drawings, and typography. During my drawing of the notes I felt relaxed and content that I was doing what I am meant to do. It has been a very long time since I was able to just draw and create so I kept drawing and it was wonderful.

So all I want to pass on is “Do what you Love.” Because when you do, it is like you’re in heaven.

 

 

‘If you do what you love, it is the best way to relax.’ Christian Louboutin

 

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