Saturday, March 18, 2017

In among the animals

It's been a wilder than usual week. Not just because of those photos of animals on the walls,though they contributed too -- in a positive way.

The woman is Bonnie Nish, the primary force behind Pandora's Collective, a long-standing group that promotes the arts in the Lower Mainland.

One of the many ongoing events established by Pandora's is 'Word Whips in the Gallery', a gathering that this time I was lucky enough to be a part of.

The way it works: several poets (and usually a musician and/or a dancer) are invited to visit the Zack Gallery at Vancouver's Jewish Community Centre on or around the opening of a new exhibit. Following that, they go home and prepare work that serves as a response to images in the show.

This time, the exhibit, "The Intersection of Science & Art" contained photos taken in South Africa and on the Galapagos Islands. Also included were realistic sculptures of various fish and birds, mainly ones that live here on the West Coast. Both elements served to inspire some strong responses -- not only from the poets who'd officially been invited, but from participants in the Open Mic, such as the talented Sho Wiley.

Of the pieces Bonnie read, the one that resonated solidly was one containing a line, easy for me to identify with, mentioning "days we all want to /crawl into our shell". This is particularly appropriate for Nish, as she's the editor of a book about concussion and brain injury. Not only was she the compiler of (and a contributor to) the book, but she's a survivor of concussion, unafraid to talk about it.

The work presented by the other poets offered the always imaginative range one encounters at readings, although just about everyone seemed to have a poem responding to the photograph of the blue-footed booby with its always-fashionable bright blue feet.

The imagination: surely one of the best traits of our species!

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Not quite there yet

These daffodils serve as a good example of how I'm feeling ''not quite there yet" on a number of fronts. Even though I bought them a week ago, they've only barely begun to open -- and in truth, I'm not confident that all the buds will make it.

Oddly, the same thing occurred with quite a few of the bulbs I tried forcing this year. Specifically, it was members of the narcissus family, including the usually reliable 'paper white' variety' that disappointed. They formed what looked like normal buds, but they simply didn't open. And it wasn't just the set of bulbs I'd potted, but ones that came as a gift from a friend -- a friend who's a professional gardener.

But flowers aren't the only case of my feeling "not quite there."

Tomorrow is International Women's Day, and I'm seeing far too many instances of women being nowhere near "there" especially if 'there' can be defined as a place of equality.

I'm thinking specifically of recent court cases where sexual assault charges were not taken seriously, where the judge ruled that being passed out drunk could still signal 'consent'. If there can be any good news in this, it's the fact that the decision has raised an outcry and that today an appeal has been made.

As for wage inequity or glass ceilings, I'm not even going there. Sadly, that's not news.

And maybe I'd feel less edgy about all of this if it weren't for the fact that even spring seems to be on hold. Yep, instead of daffs outside, there's still more snow.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Vigilance required

Today marks the first day of Freedom to Read Week. The books above are on display at my local library. I can't help but notice that several of them are considered science fiction -- books from writers who think about the future, and who often write books that serve as warnings. When writers hit too close to the mark (think Nineteen Eighty-Four, a book that's currently high on best seller lists), what happens? Their books are banned -- or, as we prefer to call it here in Canada, 'challenged'.

This year it seems more urgent than ever to speak out against censorship, even when the battle about 'fake news' is across the border from us. That's much too close for comfort.

The absurdity of the term hit me when I was watching this week's episode in the History of Comedy series (ironically, produced by CNN). In talking about some of the traditional family-comedy shows, Larry David used the term 'fake life'. I can only suspect that the guy complaining most about fake news probably knows quite a bit about it.

We've seen things go from bad to worse regarding Trump's non-relationship with the press, a group he's labelled an enemy of the people.

This week his 'shut up' statements to various reporters have been upped. In effect these now apply to several entire news organizations, notably CNN and the New York Times. If this were in a science fiction novel, it would be scary enough (maybe even enough to get the book banned). Only it isn't fiction; it's reality -- and a frightening one.

It's one thing to ban books -- a horror, to be sure. But it's quite another to disallow writers from gathering information and formulating the words. If I'm not mistaken, the Americans even have an amendment to their constitution which enshrines, among other essential rights, freedom of the press.

Dangerous signs in precarious times? You bet. Vigilance. Probably both meanings are in effect.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

What's wrong with this picture?

Earlier this year we treated ourselves to a quick holiday (too short, but that's another story) in Cuba. I spent a lot of time strolling along the beach. Initially, my beachwalks were of the standard variety, keeping an eye out for shells or pretty rocks. But it didn't take long for me to decide there were far too many rainbow straws littering the beach.

Because one of my daily practices is picking up a piece of litter, it was easy to bend and pick up the first pink plastic straw that greeted me. But I soon found these littered straws were in abundance. And these were just the ones still on the beach. How many others had made their way out to sea?

In a place where plenty of drinks are being served, practically 24//7, I understand that hygiene is important -- thus, straws are inserted into just about every glass (even the plastic 'glasses') the bartenders hand out. I suppose the colourful straws also present some aesthetic appeal, and no doubt are cheaper than tiny umbrellas would be.

But, the abundance of these plastic straws along the shoreline got me worried about how much ocean contamination they were causing.

The pipe coral in my photo was washed up on shore, yes. And I'll admit to inserting some of the straws I'd picked up into the hollow tubes. I hope the juxtaposition of the natural and the man-made helps make a point -- a point I first heard about from an action in Tofino called 'Straws Suck.'

Plastic doesn't break down well, not even in the sea. Where tourism in Tofino is all about nature and the ocean, folks there take their stewardship seriously. The Straws Suck campaign is simple: avoid straws if you can, but if you need to use straws, use paper ones instead. Something to think about next time you're sucking up a drink.




Sunday, February 12, 2017

Ridiculous

When I was little (like, five) I used to play store. This involved getting tins from my mother's cupboards and arranging them on the steps outside the front of our house. I never sold anything, but I remember taking great pleasure in setting up the 'store' and taking some kind of strange pride in how it all looked. Plentiful, secure. Who knows.

Looking at my kitchen counter, I realized it still looks like I'm playing store -- only the display isn't on the steps outside, and the line-up doesn't consist of beans or corn or soups.

The set-up this time is an assortment of the various remedies I have tried to get through this ridiculous coughing flu, the manifestation of this winter's flu that's decided to pay me an unwelcome visit.

It probably looks as though I've decided to play drugstore. Frankly, it's nowhere near as much fun as playing 'ordinary' store. I'm just hoping I'm not going to need to rely on these supplies for much longer. But excuse me, please, while I go to find another lozenge.

Saturday, February 04, 2017

Snow job

It was sunny here on Thursday, Groundhog Day, so I suppose the little critter saw his shadow and ran back inside. Even though snowdrops were blooming in the garden, I guess I should have expected 'six more weeks of winter' -- just as the local groundhog must have predicted,

Still, when the snow started falling on Friday morning, I was less than enthusiastic. Mostly I've taken comfort in the fact that I don't really have to go anyplace this weekend, so I can stay home and hunker down for a few days. Besides, I can blame it on the groundhog.

If only I could blame the other snow job on a character as innocuous as a groundhog.

I'm talking about the second of the big campaign promises that have been dashed by our prime minister, who once seemed like such a beacon of hope.

Many British Columbians must have voted for Liberal candidates on the basis of promises made on that party's behalf by its leader, Mr Trudeau.

Elements of their policy platform (still posted as least as of today's blog posting) include the promise of electoral reform -- in other words, as they put it: We will make every vote count, with Trudeau telling us many times that the 2015 election would the last we'd see of the first-past-the-post system.

People believed the Liberal promises in the last election, as evidenced by the fact that the party's dismal results in 2011 (when only 34 Liberal MPs were elected) were more than reversed by their resounding success in 2015 (with 184 elected, 17 of them from here in B.C.).

But electoral reform isn't the only promise that's already been put aside.

Trudeau campaigned on protecting BCs coastal waters. There was even a proposed moratorium on crude oil tanker traffic. Apparently that sort of ban doesn't apply to the waters of Burrard Inlet or the Strait of Georgia, as another broken promise came when Trudeau approval the Kinder Morgan pipeline plan.

The third big promise was the plan to legalize and regulate marijuana. At the rate he's been going with breaking his commitments to the citizens of Canada, I fully expect this one too will turn out to be too difficult for him to follow through on.

A snow job from the skies above? I can pretend to blame it on a rodent. A snow job from the government? I object.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Mr. Jaws and others who come to mind

Today marks the start of the Lunar New Year, this time the Year of the Rooster. Since I didn't have a live rooster handy in my neighbourhood (and I didn't think you'd like the pic I took of the dead one on the street in Havana), this image of the little rooster box must suffice.

Thinking about roosters, I must recall one our family owned briefly many years ago. His temperament was none too friendly, so we named him "Mr. Jaws". Sadly, he met an untimely demise at the jaws of an animal bigger than he was.

I also can't help but think about the personality to the south who has invaded the White House. Right down to (or should that be 'up to') his flamboyant hairstyle, it's hard not to think of a cock's comb when I see him.

Of the several rooster-related quotes I've checked out, the most appropriate seems to be one attributed to Jeff Foxworthy: "The more excited the rooster gets, the higher his voice gets." Or, though certainly darker, this descriptor from the work of Stephen King, "a banty-rooster sort of guy -- the kind that likes to pick fights, especially when the odds are all their way."

So, aside from thinking about that particular rooster of sorts, what's inside the box?

Although it might appear empty, I'm sure this 'New Year's Box' contains a number of wispy plans, at least several unspoken dreams and of course, as always, plenty of hope.