Tuesday, September 13, 2011

"Miss Tessa 1" by L. R. Pope 2011

I hope that everyone is enjoying the fall, and managing to cope in this highly dynamic and mutable time in history. Hasn't it just been crazy? From personal relationships right up to huge issues on the World Stage, everything just seems to be turned up to 11!
One of the ways that I find peace is to spend time enjoying original artwork. I've been a collector for many years, and I'm proud to say that my husband's work as an artist has taken a huge leap forward over the last while. His gallery is here, on a great site that offers good deals on quality copies of originals.
animals paintings

I think that times of stress and chaos can bring great clarity, if you can find the time to focus in on what brings you joy. I hope that this painting will bring a bit of joy and sweetness into your life today.

Blessings to you,


Saturday, July 30, 2011

Rest In Peace, Bill Jamieson

It's been a few years since my sister, Tracey Cox and I co-wrote a book called "The Successful Rebel". We interviewed a group of astonishing people to see what had helped them get to where they were and one of them was Bill Jamieson, of Jamieson Tribal Arts.

Bill died suddenly on July 3, 2011. We found out about it when a magazine contacted my husband requesting permission to print Bill's picture from the photo shoot we did for book. I was quite surprised and saddened to hear he had passed. Bill was a very young 57 - lively, engaged, healthy and appeared to be very happy. He was also only 14 years older than me, and 10 years older than my sister, so it hit us harder than either of us expected.

What struck me most about Bill was his childlike wonder for the world and how much he loved his "job". It was really more of a calling, actually, and he had spooky recollections of how he came to be in the unusual line of work. When my husband, photographer James Ireland, and I visited Bill to take his portrait for the book, I was 4 months pregnant and showing already. I remember Bill making a comment that "we didn't waste any time" when hearing we'd only been married for a year before conceiving. He just assumed we were young, I guess, in much the same way he considered himself eternally young.

He was warm and welcoming in his amazing space. I'd truly never seen anything like it before and I doubt I'll ever see anything like it again: mummies, coffins, shrunken heads, exotic taxidermy, tribal masks, shields... an electric chair. It was a stunning collection of artifacts. We set up our clunky lighting equipment amongst all of these priceless pieces without Bill batting an eyelash. He was surprised by the trouble we were going to and flattered, it appeared. He even let me wrap his torso in yards and yards of gauze to evoke the mummies that had made him so famous (and wealthy). He worked with us for hours to get the right shot, never complaining, telling us amazing stories about how'd he'd come to have this or that piece, how he discovered Ramses the first, the amazing twists and turns his life had taken.

James was struck by his lack of pretension. I was struck by his enthusiasm for what he did. I was jealous of it, actually, as I am whenever I meet someone who is managing to pay the bills doing something they love. When we saw all three levels of the place, we knew he was doing more than just "paying the bills". He was flourishing.

We left that day with our tons of equipment and Bill and Jessica helped us get it to the car. He could have just shown us the door and hastily shooed us out, but he was far too polite and helpful for that. In the weeks and months following he invited us to many of his bashes. I wish we'd been able to attend but between my progressing pregnancy and James' health, it never made sense to go. Now I wish I had, at least once.

Tracey attended the Memorial Service last week and shared the following.

For our dear friend, Billy Jamieson… Long may your freak flag fly.

We first became aware of the force of nature that was Billy Jamieson when we interviewed him for our book, “The Successful Rebel”. Billy was an incredibly interesting interview subject, and his views on life, love and success were always commented upon when someone told us that they had read our book.

Billy was everyone’s hero, with the fantastical tale of his discovery of Ramses the first’s mummy and its subsequent journey back to the Cairo Museum. The romance and love of Egyptian culture and history calls to many of us, and it seemed that all of our readers wanted to know more about Billy Jamieson.

Billy told us many stories during the interview process, and after some reflection he would phone the next day and say things like “oh, you better not print that, someone might not like that." Billy was well aware that not everyone on earth was as open minded as himself, so it would have been nice to have written everything that he talked about. Every single story was so inspiring, and if someone judged him negatively, then perhaps they were really missing the point of being a Successful Rebel. They probably wouldn’t like our book either.

Billy’s business was called Golden Chariot Productions, and he told us the story of the name when we first started interviewing him. He was on a spiritual quest earlier in his life, and Billy met a Shaman in South America and did a ceremony where he had a vision. The vision was of a Golden Chariot, coming down to earth and picking Billy up. He then flew over the sands and pyramids of Egypt, never knowing that later in his life he would be flying the mummy of Ramses the first home to these same pyramids. It was his spirit guides sending him a message of the future. We all have dreams like this, it’s just very difficult to decipher them at the time. But Billy knew that it was a sign, and he got on with things. That was what everyone admired about him, he would make a decision and just get on with things, charming people into being just as enthusiastic as he was.

At his memorial service on July 26th which was held at the Liberty Grand in Toronto, a massive outpouring of love and admiration was offered to his family, from the crowd of approximately 1500 Billy fans. A diverse cross section of artists, collectors, business people, and entertainment industry insiders shared stories about Billy and offered support for the loved ones left behind. We hope and pray that Billy’s work in the area of art and antiquities will continue in some form, and that his Golden Chariot will continue to fly.

I didn't know Bill well, but I am glad to have met him.

On to the next great adventure, Billy!

Warmest Regards,


Friday, October 29, 2010

The Politics of Anger

This week, we elected Rob Ford as mayor of Toronto. If you'd asked anyone, even a few years ago, if they could ever see the day when Rob Ford would win this title, never mind by close to 50% of the vote, they'd think you were mad. It was laughable. Inconceivable! But here we are, 4 days later, shaking our collective heads and wondering what the hell just happened.

In one 5 day period, the inconceivable has become reality, and the fallout has already begun. Apparently unaware he was on a live talk show, Rob spouted an incoherent string of cliches about the dreaded “gravy train” and brought out his favourite old chestnut for the umpteenth time about the “$12,000 retirement party”. The hosts of “As It Happens” were left wondering – did that just happen? Four more years of this to look forward to? But, of course Ford doesn't care what the CBC “elites” think. Sound familiar? Hello Tea Party.

Now don't get me wrong – I don't think elected officials should throw themselves opulent retirement parties, nor do I think that spending at any level of government (witness Harper and his crew, McGuinty) has been responsible for years (if it ever was). But do I think that the answer is to elect a bigoted, contrarian councillor whose only claim to fame has been shooting his mouth off? To quote Jacobim Mugato from the underrated “Zoolander” - I feel like I'm taking crazy pills here.

So what happened? How could something that seemed so impossible just a few years ago become a harsh reality? I've spoken to some Ford supporters. They're not stupid people, they're just angry. They're fed up with everything going up except their salaries. They're fed up with paying ever increasing taxes. They're fed up with wasteful spending at all levels of government. They're fed up of feeling like second class citizens, or worse yet, “rubes” because they have the stupidity to live in the dreaded “burbs” and not downtown. Smart people live in the suburbs too, for many different reasons, not the least of which is to raise their children in a house they can afford. We shouldn't look down our noses at people for wanting a safe neighbourhood with a good school.

But was this really the answer to those problems? Surely we needed an epic, visionary politician who could have cut through all of the nonsense and hold the notion of a thriving, elegant, progressive Toronto that was fair to all of its citizens for the future. A tall order, to be sure, but not impossible.

But we didn't have that candidate.

We had very limited choices. On the one hand we had Rob Ford, spouting catch phrases and not a lot else, much like the recently resurrected Tea Party member Sarah Palin. All taglines, no content. Then we had Smitherman, a man who was so tainted by the eHealth scandal, he probably shouldn't have run at all until folks had forgotten about it. And last but not least, we had Pantalone. Pantalone was so closely aligned with Miller it was impossible for him to win. And to add insult to injury, Pantalone fractured the left wing vote. It's overly simplistic to assume that each Pantalone voter would become a Smitherman voter, but it's quite possible that had Pantalone done the wise and unselfish thing, he would have reluctantly backed Smitherman. Smitherman could have won. He's not perfect, far from it, but I don't think I would have been embarrassed by his representation the way I already am about Ford.

One thing we know about people is that when they get mad, they want change. Any change. It doesn't even have to be for the better – it just has to feel different, like we're doing something. So, while we sit in gridlock traffic, driving to a job where wages remain stubbornly frozen, back to our home which we've overpaid for we get angry. We get fed up. We decide something must change, anything! So we make knee-jerk reactions. We make decisions we later regret. Think about the last time you really lost your temper. Did you make a reasonable, rational judgement in that moment or did you kick the dog?

Sadly, I think Toronto has just kicked the dog. Unfortunately, we're the ones who are going to be whimpering and slinking off into the corner wondering what we did to deserve it.

4 years. It's a lifetime. Just ask any parent of a five year old child.

Here's what I predict will happen: Ford will not be able to repeal the hated Land Transfer Tax, will do more harm than good to the TTC, will not be able to winnow council to 22 members, and will have no idea how to solve the gridlock problem in Toronto. He will lock horns with his mostly moderate and left leaning council and will embarrass us on the public stage multiple times. And this is best case scenario.

But I could be wrong.

Good luck Toronto. We're going to need it.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Why Are We So Angry?

It's been a rough day for human behaviour. In the news today a flight attendant was clocked by a suitcase wielding passenger who refused to sit down before the plane came to a “full and complete stop”. In a fit of pique, no doubt preceded by a myriad of soul destroying insults, the JetBlue attendant grabbed a couple of beers and launched the emergency slide, slipping into the freedom of the wide open tarmac. Whee!

A young woman desperate for chicken nuggets first thing in the morning pummelled a few beleagured fast food workers who were just trying to serve breakfast. The depth and fury of her rage is staggering – if you watch the video you can only assume that either she has gone off the deep end, or is under the influence of some fairly powerful pharmaceuticals.

A bench clearing brawl saw the entire roster of both the Cincinati Reds and the St. Louis Cardinals wrestling and struggling in a sea of fists and elbows. The brouhaha was such a disaster that officials could have either ended the game, or throw both the managers out and leave the hooligans on the field. Millions and millions of dollars of horse meat risked life, limb and their careers for a relatively minor altercation.

So what's got us so pissed?

Every generation feels that “life has gone mad” that “things are much worse now than they were then”; all of us remember the past with nostalgia and forget how things really were. Historically, the turn of a century leads to much angst about the state of “modern” life. Millenarianism is nothing new.

But does that tell the whole truth? Is it not possible that our lives, at this point in history, have reached a point of desperation and frustration that is unprecedented? Best case scenario? Most of us toil in jobs we don't like or struggle to get a job we won't like, pay massive mortgages on homes we cannot afford, carry debt for things we do not need and sit in traffic that makes us wish our lives away. We are expected to be reachable, in contact, in conversation almost 24 hours a day. The level of noise in our lives has hit ear splitting levels. With Torontonians facing 90 minute commutes, homes that range from 5-9 times our average incomes and daily disruptions that make our already busy city completely gridlocked, it's a small miracle that there aren't more outbursts. We are stretched to our breaking point. And sometimes, we snap.

The sad thing is we turn on each other, instead of on the real issue.

We run roughshod over another person because our lives are so out of balance that the perceived win of being a “few minutes early” or “avoiding a lineup” is more important than another human being. What we need to understand is why are we in such a big hurry? Who asked us to perform our lives at this pace? Why do we let it happen?

We abuse a service person because we cannot get what we want when we want it. What is it that has us feeling so low and out of control of our lives that this is the only way we can satisfy ourselves or feel important? When did chicken nuggets replace meaning?

We get road rage, speed, tailgate, and endanger our fellow man because we feel trapped. How did we get ourselves into the job, the mortgage, the commute and the debt in the first place? Why don't our bankers feel the pinch?

We're angry alright, but we're angry with ourselves. We did this to ourselves.

So how do we undo it?

There is a sense, in the world, right now, of a crossroads, of a choice for change that has to be entered into willingly. There has to be a better way to live our lives, with peace and respect for our fellow humans, free from the simmering rage that appears to be just below the surface everywhere we look. I have to think this same way would have less of an impact on our environment and ourselves.

I'm not sure what that is yet, but I'll keep you posted.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Why Are We So Disconnected?

I've had a run of experiences lately that have made me see how disconnected we've all become from each other. From the mundane to the egregious, it seems that as a group, we've stopped caring about each other and really don't seem to recognize the invisible thread that connects us all.

In the last six months we've been challenged by two moves. Now I know that all of you have moving horror stories; at the best of times moving is a stressful, heart rending experience. What really struck me this time was how many things went wrong; how many “balls were dropped” or jobs were left half done. These weren't bad people, these were people that didn't see any connection between what they did and how it affected the person on the other side.

I realize these are hardly earth shattering problems, but they illustrated something for me.

Two examples from today: first, it was my daughter's first birthday birthday party. I had ordered a cake from my local grocery store and called this morning to enquire if it was done so I could pick it up. The answer I received? “It should be.” “It should be?” I queried, thinking this was an inadequate response, and wondering how the person on the other end of the line would feel if the tables were turned. Politely, I asked her to check for me. Minutes passed, I was left on hold before having someone else from the wrong department pick up and cut me off. I called back, asked politely again, this time receiving the somewhat alarming response “what did it look like?” Eventually, after I imagined a child's birthday party sans cake, we got to the bottom of it. The cake was finished. Glory be. I thought to myself, if the person on the phone had thought for one second “What if it was my little girl's first birthday and I was running around doing last minute errands. Would I be stressed? Would I need to be reassured everything was OK?” I would hazard a guess that most, if not all people, given the opportunity to truly see their life in yours, would change their attitude immediately.

Second example, much more serious, but the same problem. We live close to a major thoroughfare and traffic zips by at a slightly alarming pace twenty-four hours a day. Tonight we heard a sickening crunch, then the blare of a horn that went on for an eerily long time. I knew right away an accident had happened and leapt up to see what had happened. A car had rear-ended another car and was fleeing the scene. The damage to the first car was extensive, EMS and fire trucks were dispatched to rescue the driver and clean up the mess. There were two things that were distressing about what we saw. Of course, a hit and run is troubling because we like to believe in the idea of law and order; that accidents happen and people need to held accountable. But what got me more riled up was seeing the way other motorists handled themselves in the face of this inconvenience. We watched cars circle around the fire crews, crossing into oncoming lanes, weaving between pedestrians trying to help and snarling traffic in the opposite direction. They were endangering fire crews, paramedics, pedestrians other drivers and themselves, but the overwhelming note seemed to be “I need to get where I am going.”

If we can, for one second, put ourselves in the place of another, our lives change immediately. If you imagined that it was your relative in the accident, or that your husband was working that night as a firefighter on the side of the road, you'd stop and think. You'd see that we all have connection.

Whether it's something as trivial as an indifferent or rude service person, BP oil's gushing underwater well, the G20 riot police, or corrupt bankers, the problem is the same. We don't seem to care about our fellow human or see any reason to reach out to them. Why is that? Is this a new phenomenon or is this something that humans have always struggled with? Am I just getting old and grouchy?

We all want to love and be loved, live our lives as healthy as we can be, have a roof over our heads and meaningful work, or at least gainful employment. We all want this, but many of us don't have this. Perhaps if this were clear in everyone's heart and mind, those desires would become a reality for all. We are more alike than we are unalike.

We are all connected.

Saturday, July 3, 2010


It has taken me a full week to write this blog, because this week, I am embarrassed to be a Canadian. It's the first time I can ever, truly, say that. I used to hold the self-satisfied smugness that nothing as disgusting and disappointing as last weekend's G20 summit crackdown could ever happen here in Canada. I remember a friend at UCLA ribbing me about how Canadians walk around feeling so self-satisfied and virtuous and how it drove her crazy. I figured she was just jealous that a kid with a backpack and a Canadian flag could pass through countries where Americans were unwelcome. We were the country that everyone wanted to be. We were nice, kind and compassionate about our fellow citizens. We had gun control and universal healthcare. Michael Moore held us up as an example of a caring, democratic society. I thought we were different, I really did.

I was so wrong, and the depth of the sadness and anger I feel about what happened is surprising, even to me.

Perhaps the massive price tag for the event should have been a tip-off. Where did we think that money was being spent? On fences? Sure, they were extensive, but 1.4 billion dollars worth? After the weekend, it's clear where the money was spent – on police officers, enough police officers to form a small army that flooded out on our streets in a staggering show of force. I hope they have some of that money left over for the mass of lawsuits about to be filed.

I took my family outside the city for the summit because we live within a few blocks of the red zone. I did this because we have a one-year-old child and I had a strange sense of foreboding about the entire event. I mistakenly feared that the summit itself would be the source of the trouble, that putting that many important world leaders together in such a small place was a really bad idea. I had no idea that the sense of doom I felt would be the death of freedom, of our innocence as a country and of our reputation on the world stage. Even Iran condemned our attack on human rights!

First let me say that I do not support the black bloc method of protest. I know they are trying to bring attention to “big money”, “big government” and break down the system because they believe it is fundamentally flawed and they feel they need violence to get people's attention. I believe that things need to change as well, but I do not believe that the way to get anything done about it is to smash in the window of a Starbucks. To smash in the window of a local, unknown, retailer is just stupid and irresponsible. What exactly are you railing against? Big dollar stores?

What I do support, however, is peaceful protest. Walk our streets, chant your message, raise your placards and protest! We even had a “designated protest area” in Toronto at Queen's Park. People were told, well in advance of the summit that they could peacefully assemble there. So, if a law abiding, conscientious citizen wanted to do the right thing, they went to Queen's Park and stated their case. The problem? By late afternoon on Saturday, storm troopers rolled down the streets and flushed the lawfully protesting citizens out. Often violently. If you were watching the news coverage on Saturday, the thugs were the police. It was the police that were assembling with violent intent. It was a disgusting abuse of power.

While police cars burned and a handful of hooligans paralysed the city, where were these thousands of police? If the intent was to protect property and people, then why was Saturday such a woeful failure? Why did the police allow rioters to assemble and burn cars and property? Where were they then? The cynic in me says that the police allowed the cars to burn to show just how “bad” the protesters were and that they were justified in their show of force. Of course we will never know why things went down the way they did on Saturday.

What disturbed me most was Sunday. Approximately 100 protestors were boxed in by two rows of riot police at Queen and Spadina and not allowed to disperse, forced to stand in the driving rain for more than 2 hours Sunday night. Their crime? Walking on a public street, protesting. Nothing was burned, broken or destroyed. No one was bullied, heckled or taunted. They were just walking. You can read about journalist Michael Talbot's odyssey here. He was arrested and confined in the ad hoc detention centre along with mothers, fathers, kids, curious teenagers and residents of the area who had the nerve to leave their homes for groceries. It was shocking, disturbing and frightening. What had happened to our fair city? Was this retribution for the events on the weekend? Had the police lost their minds?

Equally shocking and disappointing were the reactions of Torontonians to this outrageous abuse of power. Most blamed the peaceful protesters, many even going so far as to suggest that they “got what they deserved” or that somehow they were whiners because they didn't like being held in dog kennels overnight for a crime they didn't commit. The comments I've read made me despair for our society – we clearly are only interested in our own little corner of the world and don't want it upset. “We want to shop” should be the mantra of the apathetic. Don't cause trouble, don't speak up and don't question anything. That's the real message that Canadians sent out this week.

The greatest irony is that many people don't see what really happened this week. We lost fundamental freedoms that are enshrined in our Charter of Rights. Our Chief of Police lied to us. Our city became a police state. This was a dark, dark weekend in the history of Toronto and one I know will haunt me for a long time to come.

We have the right to peaceful protest. We have the right to freedom of expression. We have the right to walk on our streets. Tens of thousands of our forefathers died protecting this right. We probably all have a relative that died fighting in the world wars; Canada has a history of coming to the defence of others. We all say we believe in freedom, but we are unwilling or unable to see that what happened this week was an assault on our freedom and an assault on Canada.

Burn a car? Get arrested. Break a window, threaten a cop, get arrested. That is just and right.

But march peacefully and get arrested? Assemble legally and get arrested? This is unjust and must be challenged. We cannot quietly let this slide. We must hold our leaders accountable for what happened. Harper is such an easy target in all this I won't waste time discussing it here. But McGuinty was surprisingly misguided and unrepentant in his secret passing of a bill to restrict our rights. When he could have called a press conference to state unequivocally that the law was being misinterpreted, he remained silent. I voted for McGuinty in the last election, but he has most certainly lost that vote.

And where are our leaders of the opposition? The only thing to come out of Ignatieff's camp this week is that “The Queen has a wonderful sense of humour.” He's asleep at the wheel and is seriously hurting the Liberals chance of getting back into office. The only leaders going on record about this are the NDP's Jack Layton and Green Party leader Elizabeth May. Pay attention to this, folks, and remember it at election time.

Freedom doesn't disappear overnight. A just, democratic society is a precious thing that needs to be protected, even if we don't like or agree with those within it. I may think that a protester is an idiot for behaving differently than I do, or wonder why someone would come down just to watch, but I agree that he or she has the right to do it.

And that's the crux of it – we are an open, democratic society where peaceful protest should be welcome, not squashed under the jackboot of the authorities.

Let's not lose our Canada, at least the one we can all remember.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Growing up Psychic

One of the people that we interviewed for our first book was Sloan Bella, celebrity psychic to the stars, based out of LA. What we didn't write about in our book is that I met Sloan many years ago, as a fellow tarot reader and clairvoyant. Over the course of my adult life, I've read tarot for clients and done clairvoyant readings as well, on and off. I think that the gift in our family comes down from our crazy Irish ancestors, but who knows? All we know is that every action needs to be done for the common good, so we've always functioned from that spiritual base. Always trying to convert the desire to receive for the self alone (selfishness) into the desire to share (spiritual growth), so to speak.
My son is a very sensive child, and spiritual as well. Last night he had a dream, and he remembered it very vividly this morning. He had dreamt that he was at school (which is a new age, hippie school run by Bahai) and a new teacher had come in, with a scroll for each student. The scroll allowed the student to shapeshift into an animal, and my son's animal was dog. He used the scroll to change into a rat terrier, and he experienced the world as that animal. He woke up happy and invigorated.

Now doesn't that describe the attitude of a dog? Being in the moment, happy to show love, have fun and just be.

I wish that for everyone in the world right now. As we wrestle with the demons that unchecked desire to receive for the self alone (selfishness) have made within the world right now, we all need to take a breath, find the joy, and just be, if only for a moment.

Then get back to fighting the good fight, healing the Earth, and healing ourselves.

Blessings to you all,