Saturday, March 31, 2007

50 ways to . . . Part 8

The countdown to fifty approaches, with these events that served, I suppose, as 'bookends' to my San Francisco trip.

#42 (March 25) An airport probably isn't a place you usually think of as a gallery, but Vancouver International Airport, YVR, is exactly that. It's filled with gorgeous samples of art, and as far as I can tell, all Canadian. Best known is The Spirit of Haida Gwaii, The Jade Canoe by Bill Reid, though you have to be flying international to see that. This painting is what you see when you're on your way to the U.S. Almost worth buying a ticket someplace just to see the art!

Other postings tell about the great stuff I saw and did in San Francisco -- heck, I even spotted some CanLit while I was there. Hal Niedzvicki's Hello, I'm Special: How Individuality Became the New Conformity was a staff pick at City Lights Books.

#43 (March 31) But almost as soon as I got off the plane again, we were off to hear some great music in White Rock -- at the Elks Club Hall, no less. Talk about feeling at home (and glad to be back!).

First up was Wyckham Porteous a lifer West Coaster with one of those wonderfully scratchy voices that's impossible to describe. Someplace between Cat Stevens and Fred Neil with maybe a little Jerry Jeff Walker tossed in?

After the first set, Wyckham was joined by Bill Bourne, delayed by adventures on BC Ferries, as well as the interesting accompanist (and dancer), Jasmine. I wish I'd had my camera along, as Jasmine's hoop-dancing was like nothing I'd ever seen before.

And as if all of this wasn't treat enough, I ran into my birthday buddy, Harriett, who's also an April Fool. Great fun sharing part of a celebratory dance with her!

Friday, March 30, 2007

I forgot to wear a flower

. . . when I went to San Francisco. Luckily, my friend who lives there is named Flower, so maybe hanging with her made up for the oversight.

First stop on the adventures was City Lights Books -- a dream of a bookstore. And located where else, but on the corner where Columbus meets Jack Kerouac!

If you look down while you walk along Jack Kerouac's street, you'll see these great inlaid signs, including this one, my favourite: "In the company of best friends, there is never enough wine."

It's hard to believe this was my first visit to the city of Haight-Ashbury fame (although, no, I didn't make it to that part -- next time!).

Saturday, March 24, 2007

50 ways to . . . Part 7

Here I get, closer to the magic 50 with a week or so of mostly literary explorations. I realize there’s a thread that runs through much of this post – maybe I should call it the Q Report.

#37 (March 12) The city of Mission’s Main Street CafĂ© hosted another Freedom to Read event. Owner Briant Grossmuck was, once again, wonderfully supportive. Last year he ordered in Danishes for the event (remember the Danish cartoon kafuffle?). This year’s menu featured chicken balls; read on.

A highlight of the evening was the very talented 11-year-old Ali (who also plays the alto sax) reading a section from reading a section from The Higher Power of Lucky. It’s hard to imagine, but this Newbery Award-winning book has librarians in the U.S. tut-tutting up a storm. Why? For its use of the word ‘scrotum’. Other readers chose pieces from other challenged YA books – Kevin Major’s Hold Fast and S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders.

The second part of the event focused on adult books that have been banned or challenged – Shelley Haggard read from Nancy Friday’s Women on Top; I read from Stephen King’s Different Seasons and Al Purdy’s Selected Poems. Robert Martens read a section (in Old English yet!) from The Canterbury Tales. The musicality of the Old English was spectacular, and served as a great lead-up to the section he read from Allen Ginsberg’s Howl (a segment that led our emcee, Marion Quednau, to say that Ginsberg sounded a lot like Patrick Friesen). Marion also reminded us about the anthology that helped get Sam Hamill banned from the White House, Poets Against the War. She read two selections from the parallel Canadian anthology, The Common Sky: Canadian Writers Against the War. How appropriate to hear these poems this month. Can it really be four years since the U.S. invaded Iraq?

#38 (March 15) The Ides of March is supposed to be a day to stay home. At least if your name is Julius Caesar. I stayed home, but still experienced some Canadian art – art that would probably rouse a challenge someplace. I watched a DVD I’d borrowed from the library, SCTV is on the air.

The episodes on this disc were made in the ’80s, and I suspect they might not get made today. Still, there was plenty that made me laugh – and while it’s good to see how far we’ve come in some of our attitudes, it’s a shame we’ve lost some of our innocence and have become so guarded and self-censoring. Oh John Candy, if only we could see an episode where Borat meets Johnny LaRue.

#39 (March 18) This event required me to follow a map (often a dangerous proposition for me, as I’m directionally challenged, to put it mildly) to the home of Walt and Elsie up on Sumas Mountain. But Elsie is brilliant and had sent me a map. Unlike the ones from Mapquest, hers had homelier details: “Think up and up. Now you are going up a steeeeeeeep hill.” and “Soon…you’ll come to a four-way stop. Don’t turn or you’ll become a pillar of salt.” and “…on your right you’ll see another GRAVEL MINE! Curse aloud! Walt spent two years fighting the government…” I figured even if I got lost, I’d at least have her notes to keep me entertained while the search party looked.

And what was my reward at the top of the mountain? A reading by poet, Patrick Friesen(who so recently had been compared to Ginsberg!). I’m not accustomed to Sunday afternoon readings, but the sturdy calmness of the work in Friesen’s new book, Earth’s Crude Gravities, suited the mostly older crowd; its truth about family and characters in small towns touched a chord with the group. The foggy mountain atmosphere enhanced the almost-spiritual mood of the reading – helped conjure the memories and spirits in Friesen’s finely crafted poems.

And wouldn’t you know, as he was closing the book and starting to answer questions, the sun burned its way through the clouds.

(March 21) Yet another literary event – this time in Langley. Tariq Malik was reading from his collection of short stories, Rainsongs of Kotli He opened by explaining some of the history surrounding the partition of India and Pakistan, then offered some beautiful slides of photos he’d taken in Kotli, his home village. Tariq was generous with his time, answering questions and signing books.

I’m interested to learn more about his next book, based on Vancouver in the years 1907-1914. He’s already done four years of research, so it sounds as though he has a lot of material. Some of the hints he dropped were plum-delicious. Did Vancouver really have a link to the stirrings that brought about partition?

#41 (March 23) Because the rains persist (and persist!), I decided to take the day off. I brought my coffee back to bed, curled up in my nest of blankies, and read Marion Quednau’s new book, The Gift of Odin. It’s supposed to be for kids who are 9 to 11, but heck, my inner child is always sneaking out for some fun.

Odin is a Vietnamese pig, and his owner, Tammy, is one spunky girl. The characters are sparkly-clear and believable, and Odin is a sweetie – even when he has reason to bite. Just the right treat for a lazy rainy morning!

Anyway, enough 50 for 50 pursuits for now. It’s hard to believe I only need another nine!

Saturday, March 17, 2007


They had some fancy paradin' down at Canada Place today. You know, the building with the sails. And it had nothing to do with St. Patrick's Day parades.

They were having a kind of open house to show off BC Ferries' latest addition to the fleet, a boat that should have been named the Spirit of Hartley Bay. This is the replacement vessel for the Queen of the North, the ferry that sank last March. It seems only decent that the replacement should have been named for the townspeople who came out in their boats in the middle of the night -- to help survivors of the crash. Not only did the villagers bring blankets and food, they invited the travellers into their town and made them feel at home until a bigger rescue ship could arrive, a couple of days later.

So where did BC Ferries get the name for this ship? No doubt from some high-priced think-tank ad company. Let's just hope the newly-christened Northern Adventure doesn't have as big an 'adventure' as the Queen of the North.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

50 ways to . . . Part 6

#34 (March 5) On Monday night, thanks to Alex Strachan's tv tips, I watched most of the awards ceremony for this year's inductees (oops, English ones only) into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame. I missed the very start of the show, so never did figure out which orchestra/band was playing, but whoever they were, they were unbelievably good!

Among those being inducted to the Hall of Fame were Ralph Freed and Burton Lane for their song, "How About You". I'd heard the song a hundred times, but never knew about the Canadian connection. Michael Buble (not one of my usual faves) offered his interpretation of the song and substituted a line that fit neatly -- instead of the usual 'I like New York in June', he stuck 'B.C.' in place of New York. That's the way I intend to hear it from now on. Even though it was the librettist of the team who was born in Vancouver, who knows, maybe those were the original words.

Hosted by Andrew Craig, the show was quite the mix -- performers ranged from the country stylings of George Canyon and Corb Lund, to the jazz piano of Herbie Hancock and even to vocals by Measha Brueggergosman (I hadn't known before, but she's a Canadian operatic soprano).

It's a good thing I was home alone, as I couldn't help singing along with Jim Cuddy and Oh Susanna when they performed Sylvia Fricker (Tyson)'s "You Were On My Mind".

But really, the queen of the evening was Joni Mitchell. She was being inducted for an amazing five songs: "Big Yellow Taxi", "Both Sides Now", "Help Me", "You Turn Me On, I'm a Radio" and, of course, "Woodstock". When James Taylor sang it, he inserted some new lines which I'll also insert when I hear the song again: "We are stardust, we are golden, we are billion-year-old carbon. . . ".

#35 (March 7) There's still time to sign up for this year's 2-day poem contest. Sponsored by CV2 Magazine, I think this is the sixth year the event's taken place. They give you ten words, and you have 48 hours to come up with a winning entry.

Last year, I wrote a completely bizarre piece about me and my buddy, the steer, and how we had to help a drunken pelican. It seems the poor bird had a wound we were supposed to cauterize. Needless to say, my entry did NOT win. Still, it was fun, and I plan to enter again.

You do need to pre-register by March 23rd.

#36 The White Rock Museum, housed in the old train station down at the beach, is holding a show of paintings by Robert Genn. He's probably the best-known painter in the area. All the works in the show are smallish, thus its name, "Small Stuff". It runs until April 8th.

Monday, March 05, 2007

50 ways to . . . Part 5

My pace may be slower than it was earlier in the year, but I'm still finding lots of variety in the Canadian art that's all around me. Here are a few more steps as I make continue making my way to the magic 50 for 50.

#31 (February 27) On my way home from the pool (where I enjoy deep water running) I stopped by the Arts Council Gallery. Luckily, I was still able to catch the show of artwork by Jim Adams, as it was supposed to have been over on the 24th. I hope the painting I've added to this posting gives you some idea of Jim's work. It probably has to be called 'representational' in that its forms aren't abstractions, but it's what he does with the representational images that take them someplace else. This particular show, "Statements and Studies" could have easily been named something much more science-fictiony, as many of the pieces suggest visions of a not-altogether-reassuring future. I was glad I stopped in and that Adams' work was still on display. Definitely thought-provoking.

#32 (March 2) Fridays around here are traditionally a time for kickin' back. Pizza and wine -- that sort of thing. This week's feature entertainment was Trailer Park Boys: The Movie, so of course the beverage of choice had to be rum 'n Cokes. I'd seen enough episodes of the television show to wonder how the boys might sustain a story for an hour and a half. Well, they did it, and did it well. Yay, Bubbles, Julian and (most of all) Ricky! I like to say that this is Canadian content we can all be proud of (and yes, this is another from producer Ivan Reitman).

#33 (March 4) Our local Wheelhouse Theatre was the site for a musical production of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. The production marks the 10th anniversary of The Young People's Theatre Company of Surrey (SYTCO). The group's mandate is to provide opportunities for local young people (ages 8-17) "to perform theatre in a professional setting." They certainly accomplished their mandate -- voices were pure (and on-key), choreography was energetic (and very well executed), and costumes and sets were remarkable. I was amazed by the emotional range of the performance, and have to admit to being surprisingly shaken up by the 'lost-in-the-cave' scene. Maybe I was just too close, sitting in only the second row. Still, I look forward to attending another of this obviously talented group's performances.