Wednesday, February 28, 2007

A day for remembering

A character in David Mitchell's Black Swan Green claims this about February: "It's not so much a month as a twenty-eight-day-long Monday morning." And now, this snippet of a month that often feels longer than any other is once again coming to an end.

Today is always a day when I'm a bit sad, as it's the date when my dad died, in 1990. The snapshot is one my son Jevon took and is from the last time he saw his grandpa.

In addition, this past month saw the deaths of two other men -- in some ways as different as any two people could be, yet they shared one thing in common. A love of the outdoors.

Pierre Rovtar was my local Green Party candidate. He ran both federally and provincially, and as you know, didn't win either time. Heck, you can bet it'll make the news when the first GP candidate wins a seat in this country. Pierre fought hard for a number of important issues and wrote wonderful letters to the local papers. He's left this wish for a legacy: He wants us to plant a tree in his memory. I haven't done it yet, but once it gets a little warmer, I will.

The other man is slightly more difficult to explain. I can only describe Jim as my former brother-in-law, even though I was never technically married to his brother, who is my ex. The photo I'm posting is awfully blurry, but it's the only one I could find where Jimmy wasn't holding a cigarette. In the end, I suspect those are what got him.

With both Pierre and Jimmy landing in heaven (or wherever it is any of us go when this life ends), I hope the two of them are able to head out for a walk in the bush and maybe do some fishing. I just wish I could listen in while they talk about politics, especially if they manage to get my dad in on the discussion. Who knows, global warming may suddenly get a whole lot more heated.

Saturday, February 24, 2007


At last! Security certificates have been declared contrary to the Charter of Rights and Freedom. Finally, thanks to the Supreme Court of Canada, their validity has flown out the window.

No more do we have to think of Kingston Penitentiary as our own dirty little version of the CIA prison at Guantanomo Bay. Too often the special facility in Ontario has been referred to as Guantanamo North, or even Guantanamo Lite.

Even though this decision doesn't have anything to do with books, it seems appropriate that it should be made at the beginning of Freedom to Read Week.

I take heart in this decision and can only think that maybe there still is hope for Canada as an independent nation. Now we just have to find out when they're going to actually release these prisoners who have been held without any specific reason being given.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

50 ways to . . . Part 4

#25 (February 12) One thing this 50 for 50 project has done is that it's made me take a closer look at some of the arts offerings in my own community. I think the best gallery I've found (okay, so far) is the eponymously named White Rock Gallery. I hope you take some time to explore the link to their paintings, as I wasn't allowed to take any photos while I was inside -- and really, some of them are fantastic!

#26 (Feb 13) Another thing I've learned in the course of this exercise is that I don't have to even go out to look at art. I sat in the cozy comfort of home and watched a video about about "Canada's Painter Laureate," NFB, Alex Colville: The Splendour of Order, illustrated exactly what its name suggests. Colville's life appears to be an exercise in order, from his morning walks with his dog to the geometric patterns he uses to determine positions of images in his #27 (Feb 15) When I returned the Colville video to the White Rock Library, I noticed a new show on the infamous 'art wall' beside the stairs. These paintings, mainly watercolours, are by Langley artist, Gwen Murphy. This image is one of her acrylic pieces (no glass, ergo, no glare).

#28 (Feb 17) It's appropriate that the Vancouver Biennale should be event number 28 on my list, as February 28th is the final day for people to vote on which giant sculpture they want the city to keep. Quick, hurry and vote for the one you want to stay. If you go to the site, not only do you get to look at all those sculptures, you get to participate in making a choice about public art. Oddly, I caught a glimpse of one of the pieces from the competition the other night while I was watching the season opener of Robson Arms. Something that made the episode even better was their use of soundtrack to further the plot -- local musician Heidi McCurdy did a whammy rendition of the old Nancy Sinatra hit, These Boots Are Made for Walkin'.

#29 (Feb 18) As part of its own 50th Anniversary celebrations, the city of White Rock sponsored a Lunar New Year celebration as we enter the Year of the Pig (or, as some prefer, the Boar). Chinese opera singers performed, and some pretty athletic artists presented the traditional lion dance. The weather was great and this was a wonderful opportunity to take a walk and say hi to friends. Oh yeah, Gung Hai Fat Choi!

#30 (Feb 19) The Oscars will be on this weekend, and I had to see Canadian-born actor, Ryan Gosling, as he's nominated in the Leading Actor category for his role in Half Nelson. He plays a difficult role in this independent film about a teacher who's got a whopping big drug problem. You can bet, come Sunday night, I'm going to be crossing my fingers for him!

Friday, February 16, 2007

A blogiversary!

It was February 16, 2006 that I started making these entries. Anyone who’s followed over the course of this year will know that there’s very little in the way of a unifying theme to this blog. Sure, there are readings and other arts events, but there’ve also been tree-cuttings and mini-rants and some pretty good celebrations.

After all these months, I can’t let another minute go by without thanking the person who helped me figure out how to set up a blog, Derek K. Miller. His presentation at an EAC meeting was all it took to get me going. His site is the longest-running blog I’ve ever visited. Wow, but it goes waaay back – all the way to October, 2000 – by some calculations, still the last millennium!

If you’ve visited Derek’s site lately, you’ll know that in January he was diagnosed with an intestinal cancer. From what he’s written about it, I’m confident that it was discovered early enough to make treatments completely successful. I know that I’ll be checking in there regularly to follow his progress as he beats this thing.

Friday, February 09, 2007

50 ways to . . . Part 3

I'm doing my best to get back on track with my pursuit of 50 for 50. Drat, but I'd hoped to have my 50 accomplished by the 19th of February (the 50th day of the year), but too much intervened. Still, here's what's been happening around here.

#20 (February 3) Too often, despite good intentions, I miss out on shows at local galleries. This time I made sure to stop in, and yep, I'm glad I did.

A show called Inuit Sculpture Now is on display (until March 11) at the Surrey Art Gallery. Aside from the French/English write-ups on this travelling show (these always feels so useless out here, where the second language should probably be Punjabi or Mandarin), the show suits the high, airless room that is the gallery.

The combination of traditional and contemporary isn't always successful (especially when themes such as alcoholism are interpreted too literally), but the show is worth a look, if only for the blend of materials used in the works. There are traditional materials (antler is used especially effectively in several pieces) and some that left me scratching my head (Brazilian soapstone -- why?). The show ran a while ago at the McMichael Gallery, and their descriptive write-up's still posted.

#21 (same day) Although I couldn't take photos inside the gallery, I did take a photo of the Centre's focal piece, Maurice Van Der Beke's Mandala After Prayer Wheel, which hangs in the foyer. Even though it's big -- about two metres in diameter -- the prayer wheel is designed to spin. Unlike the rest of the art in the Centre (do not touch signs abound), this one's meant to be handled. The wheel turns easily and it's hard to resist spinning off a few prayers.

This time I even read the commemorative information plaque that hangs beside it. The piece was the result of an LIP (Local Initiatives Program) Grant from 1974.

When I searched LIP's, I found that a few places in Ontario still seem to offer these initiatives. What I wonder is, why this is no longer a federal program? I can locate archives and other valuable projects that resulted from the program. It seems a shame that our country's values have shifted away from such pursuits.

#21.5 (still same day) The day was such a fine one, I took a stroll through some of the forest paths and then the garden surrounding the gallery at Bear Creek Park. I'm not quite sure how much I like it as art, but among items in the themed gardens was this piece of sculpture, Cat Woman. Hardly to the standard of the items indoors, still, she looks as though she'll endure.

#22 (Feb 5) A lazier, or shall we just say 'home-based' pursuit, was watching a 1965 video I'd borrowed from the library, Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. Leonard Cohen. There's quite a range of remarks at IMDB's user-comments on the film. The first are the most enthusiastic, though the comparison to the Moody Blues seems a bit of a stretch.)

Besides being useful as part of my ongoing research of the '60s, the film was broken up into different segments that were easy to watch and stop and then come back to. The most fun were the short films built around his poems. I guess I'm going to have to learn to be a filmmaker. I'd like to turn some of my poems into clips for YouTube!

#23 (Feb 8) This one proved to be an exercise in frustration, as the coffee shop hosting the art show was closed the day I went. Indigo Sun Cafe is local, so I'll try again. I just hope their business is going okay and that they haven't been put out of business by their mega-chain competitors. Still, I peeked in the windows and could see most of the work, paintings by Irena Shklover. The work is whimsical and in wildly vibrant colours, bright enough to convince me I'll try to go there for a coffee (and a better look) sometime soon.

#24 (Feb 8) Here's a totally lazy one, but one of my best all week: art while I was lying in bed!

Setting my clock radio, I caught the voice of Eleanor Wachtel on The Arts Tonight. She was saying what for me are magic words: Academy Award.

She was talking with Torill Kove, whose short film The Danish Poet has been nominated for an Oscar. When awards night comes, I'll be rooting (once again!) for the NFB.

Almost halfway to 50, and it's not quite even spring!

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Superb Owl

No, that’s not a typo – that’s my name for this day.

I’m not much of an NFL fan, so I like to spend this day doing non-football things. There’s a fine misty rain falling, so today is going to be a full-on reading day. My game plan includes a couple of poetry books and maybe even a bit of time to finish Tommy Chong’s non-fiction book about his time in jail. Nothing at all like my time there (see previous post: In Prison -- again), his time was the real thing.

As much as I’ve always enjoyed Tommy Chong’s humour and some of his political musings, I hate to say but so far, the best thing about his book is the cleverness of its title, The I Chong. I also have to give him (or maybe his editors) credit for the way he’s followed through on this with chapter headings based on the real I Ching. And yes, the book is laced with lots of philosophical musings, even if a lot of them come off sounding pretty hokey. Maybe you’re supposed to be stoned when you read the book?

The saddest thing about the book is that much of it feels as though it’s some kind of deal he might have cut with the authorities – a kind of, Hey, folks, I’ve changed my mind. They were right. Marijuana is bad bad bad. Not exactly in keeping with his previous persona, but hey – nine months in jail probably alters one’s perceptions in ways that drugs never could. All I can say, Mr. Chong, is: Peace to ya, man.

And to everyone else I say, Happy Superb Owl Day. As the Superb Owl himself might say, Enjoy it.

ADDENDUM: Well, now that I've finished the book, I have to report that Tommy Chong did get down off his whitewashed soapbox long enough to offer some insights about life 'in the joint' -- after all, that is what the book is supposed to be about. He doesn't have a lot in the way of kind words for the 'system,' meaning everything from the prisons to the offices of GWB. Less soupy than my first impressions led me to believe.

Friday, February 02, 2007

So much for unified action!

Well, I realized why I hadn't seen anything about the power-off protest. Duh -- I shut my power off on the 31st of January. Everyone else who participated did this on February 1st!

Even if I wasn't part of the worldwide effort on this, it seems to have had some effect. Apparently France measured a 1% decrease in power demands during the exercise. The image of the Eiffel Tower gone dark is impressive. Here's a link to a blog asking an excellent question: why do we seem to expect our monuments lit up anyway?

Naturally, there were some mixed messages about this, but aren't there always?

And even if I didn't participate on the right day, I have to say that I enjoyed the peace and calm in the house. For once, it was silent. The fridge wasn't humming, the fan on the heater wasn't whirring, the little buzz the lights make wasn't there. It was great!

Learning to hear the silence again was worth the annoyance of resetting all those clocks. I think I'm going to set aside time to do this again.