Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Word of the Year for 2008

I've been reading bits from here and there about what the Word of the Year might be.

Of those I've read about, I like staycation (a vacation that doesn't involve travel) and monumentous -- a great hybrid if ever there was one.

But my candidate -- at least for its arrival as a completely new word (I bet I'm not alone in this admission) is what happened to our Parliament: prorogue.

I'm also partial to the new significance that tossing one's shoes has taken on -- not just what you do when you walk in the door.

Happy Last Day of 2008.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Two more soldiers

...Roberge and Kruse. More names to be added to the list of Canadians killed while on duty in Afghanistan. There's a horrible double or maybe even triple irony in their deaths.

They'd noticed what appeared to be a device and called for help, so by rights, shouldn't have been killed by one.

Their deaths occurred while their comrade's body was being flown home to Canada. His corpse was on the same plane as Minister of Defence, Peter MacKay. During that long flight home, did MacKay have second thoughts about our role in Afghanistan?

And that soldier, riding in his flag-draped coffin, had one of the saddest names a fallen soldier could have, Freeman.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Gettin' there

Heaps still to do, but heaps gettin' done.

Good wishes to all!

Monday, December 22, 2008

What next!

Last week, it was the mega-bailout for the American-based auto industry, today it's the appointment of 18 new senators. And all of this while Parliament is in suspended animation, a bunch of pyrogies waiting to be served.

What's Steve going to do next? Invade Pakistan?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Winter Solstice

It's official. Winter began at 4:04 a.m. PST.

Looking outside, there's more than enough confirmation. And the weatherman says there's more on the way.

Please, I'm convinced already. Really.

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Little Match Girl, 21st century version

Last night a homeless woman died on the streets of Vancouver. It sounds as though she died in the shopping cart where she kept her worldly goods. The city's shelters don't accept shopping carts -- at least they don't yet. A new shelter with new rules is supposed to be opening any day. Whoever she was (and I'm sure there'll be much more on this story), she won't be around to benefit from it.

Oh, and The Little Match Girl connection? Apparently, one of the last people to see her alive was a police officer. She asked the officer for a light for her candle -- the one she was using to keep warm.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Winter on the coast

First it's a normal December day...

and then it's not.

Yep, this is how winter arrives on the West Coast.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Where's Australia?

Now that I've had a chance to look through the Golden Globe nominees, I have to say I'm disappointed.

I can't help but think some of this has to do with the way the film appears to have been marketed -- as a romance, full stop.

But hey, Australia is a whole lot more than that. It's history and scenery and excitement and tension -- ingredients we don't usually get in a single film anymore. Its thematic fabric is even richer. Racial discrimination, overcoming enormous odds, respect for cultural traditions, the importance of following moral principle -- oh yes, the power of love is in there too, but it's certainly not the only element.

Yes, it's a romance, but then so was African Queen, only I don't think that film was pigeon-holed like this one is. Thankfully too, Australia doesn't go over the top with ridiculous sex scenes (the way that other film with Nicole Kidman, Cold Mountain, did).

My vote says there ought to at least be recognition for David Wenham's supporting role as Neil Fletcher. And I wouldn't mind something for Brandon Walters (Nullah) either.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

An easy border crossing

For once. And am I ever grateful, as the only purpose of my trip was sending off my mother's Christmas cards.

Only a few cars lined up on either side. Heaps of construction mess though. I'm just not sure whether the fuss relates to Vancouver's Olympics in 2010 or if it's more about homeland security issues.

Whatever, I made it through easily. Exhale.

PS Don't you ever wonder about that 'common mother' bit? Just how common was she?

Monday, December 08, 2008


If John Lennon had lived longer, do you suppose more of the words of his song would have come true?

No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man

The world could sure use him -- and more dreamers of his ilk. And now that I think of it, that December 8th in 1980 was a Monday night too.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

December 7 also has some history

And not just as the anniversary of the attack at Pearl Harbor.

Today is the day my dad was born. If he were still alive, he'd be turning 90.
In this photo, he is probably in his mid-20s.

We're having a nice dinner party for him anyway. Too bad he won't be able to join us.

Although who knows, maybe he will.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

December 6 in history

This morning's Globe and Mail contained this tidbit in its capsule report of news from 25 years ago today. It reported that the Ontario government had taken "...what Labour Minister Russell Ramsay called a step toward equality for working women." The piece went on to cite the fact that at that time, women "...made 63 per cent of what men make" and that the plan would examine whether "...women were being paid equally for doing similar jobs to men."

Not so long ago -- just last month in fact -- Steve Harper hinted that it might be time to re-examine the issue of pay equity for women. This was part of the package which threatened government workers' right to strike and which helped lead to the proposed coalition rescue.

Where this is also the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, the day we honour the victims murdered in the massacre at L'Ecole Polytechnique, it all seems to make the day's significance resonate way too much.

Friday, December 05, 2008

An even sadder milestone

Today marks the day the 100th Canadian soldier has died in Afghanistan. If you're able to read the linked article, take a careful look at the grim statistics.

Of 2500 soldiers currently there, this toll of 100 represents one in 25 soldiers assigned there. Although we've sent more than 2500 in total over the past years, the number still strikes a chill. Only the Netherlands and Denmark show comparable numbers.

The painting I've posted bears no identification, but maybe that's appropriate -- as a kind of unknown soldier's portrayal of the tragedy that is war.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Saved from the worst day ever

At least this morning's news made it feel like the worst day -- when Governor General Michaelle Jean apparently caved in to Steve Harper and put a pause on the actions of Parliament.

I'll admit to admiring the technical term for it, prorogue, as it does seem to describe exactly what Ms. Jean did -- acted on behalf of the biggest rogue in town, Steve.

Stephen Hume's column in this morning's Vancouver Sun was all about leadership. He cited a Welsh proverb. "He who would lead, let him be a bridge." Too bad Steve doesn't seem to believe in bridges.

But I was saved from wallowing in sadness, as George asked me to join him for a walk-along on the golf course. Always a great way to kick off the cobwebs, spot some bridges, and breathe!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Russ Hiebert -- could he be Canada's Worst MP?

Yesterday, I was one of many who signed the petition in support of the proposed coalition government to replace the now-all-too-apparent agenda of Canada's Conservative Party.

The website suggested phoning the office of my local MP and letting him know my views.

When I called Russ Hiebert's office, I was greeted with a message informing me that office staff were on another call, and would I please leave a message.

Without mentioning the purpose of my call, I left my name and number, mentioned when I expected to be in -- and for good measure, left my number and name again.

No one from Hiebert's office has yet found the time to return my phone call -- and what is this now, 36 hours later?

Asleep at the switch? Or is he just too busy mustering more blasts against the left, the Quebecois and pretty well anyone who isn't in Harper's right-wing camp, wanting to trim back rights to gender equality and more?

Monday, December 01, 2008

Time for making cards

What a productive weekend! Brenna and I got a great start on our annual ritual -- the making of the Christmas cards. This all started a few years ago when Brenna heard about a stamping class at a local crafts shop. Little did we know what fun that workshop would lead to!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

She's gone

...but I won't forget her.

One week after Remembrance Day, my mother finally let go and died.

Looking outside my window this morning, it looks like she sent a kiss from heaven.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Today is Remembrance Day in Canada. Being out of the country, I find it odd not seeing a red poppy pinned onto everyone's jacket.
Today is also the day Kurt Vonnegut was born. To observe that event, I always used to write him a letter. And no, I never heard back, but that didn't stop me. If I were at home, and had my books at hand, I'd probably do a browse-through some of his books -- a little surrogate 'visit' with him.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Another view of Chicago

Last time I came to this area, the first photo I took was of this very (I thought) Chicago-themed T-shirt. It's kind of a long ways from the Obamafest that lingers. Still, it also carries its own message of strength and hope.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Other side of the line

Weird being this side of the line, still in the afterglow of Tuesday's election. Right now, I'm not only in the U.S., I'm actually in a suburb of Chicago. Obamatown.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween Handout

Sheesh. If you can believe it, that's what our mother tried to convince us to say when we went door-to-door for Halloween. As you might imagine, when we said it, most people looked at us like we were visitors from Mars.

It seemed our mother was always trying to get us to do things 'differently' than others. While I'm grateful now that she urged us not to be sheep, I can still feel the cringe when some of these memories surface.

Like, really, what was so awful about plain old 'Trick or Treat'?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


On this date, my grandma died. Only I never called her Grandma, I called her Mayme.

She was one of a kind, especially for her day. When almost no women worked outside the home, she was the Assistant to the Sheriff for a big city. Yep, that was a full-time job, and she had a houseful of four kids she was bringing up on her own.

Working for the Sheriff's Office, she had plenty of occasion to meet prisoners. And now this is something I choose to do -- only I work with men in prisons as part of a writers' group. Mayme carried this interest a lot further than I intend to, as she ended up eventually marrying one of the men.

When I got my ears pierced, my mother tut-tutted. My dad said they made me look like a slut, but Mayme? She marched me down to the jewellery store and let me pick the nicest pair of gold posts in the shop.

So yes, even though she's long gone, I still love her dearly, and reckon I always will.

That would be her, over there on the right, looking down at me, the young bride. Er, no, that's not right; it's big time Communion Day.

Friday, October 24, 2008

W and the corn cob

So, what gives? Why, in the movie 'W' does she step the corn cob into the lawn?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Little Magazine that Could turns 20

Once upon a time, not so many years ago, a couple of guys in Vancouver had an idea. They decided to start up a literary magazine. They wanted it to be different, a voice that would be distinctive -- a magazine that would make readers sit up and pay attention.
The first issue was all of 12 pages long. The cover was credited to Brueghel, but looked hellish enough to be Hieronymous Bosch. The magazine might not have been very pretty, but it did have a cool name, subTerrain. Kind of undergroundy, vaguely 'beat generation' but more modern-sounding.
Well, the little magazine that could has just turned 20 years old and marked the event by publishing Issue #50. It hasn't always been an easy road, but really, this is cause to celebrate.
Congratulations, sub-Terrain. We're looking for many more issues (in all senses of the word!) to come.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Thankful for -- my machines

Yesterday saw ten of us gather around the traditional Thanksgiving feast: turkey, stuffing, gravy, assorted vegies -- crisp, steamed and baked.

Right now, I'm feeling grateful for some of the machines that make my life easier. Yesterday's tablecloth is tumbling in the dryer; the serviettes, tea towels and dish cloths are swirling around in the washer. The dishwasher is running its second load. And oh yes, the fridge is guarding the leftovers.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008


Being an old hand at the art of being depressed, I've devised my own ways of describing it.

For me, it isn't so much a matter of being sad all the time. Heck, given the right companionship or joke, I can laugh long and loud. But just because I'm laughing or joking doesn't mean I'm not depressed.

It's more as if a button has been pushed in, and then, uckily (stickily?) it won't come 'unpressed'. It's as if it's stuck in 'pressed-in' (de-pressed) mode.

It's a nasty one to deal with, as it has a way of interfering with almost everything I need or want to get done.

Where this is Mental Health Week, there's a drive on to help people determine whether they're depressed. If only to give yourself a free online check-up -- or to find out more info on behalf of someone you love, make a stop at Beyond the Blues. Heck, it might even make you feel happy.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Say No to Russ Hiebert

Tonight's all-candidates' meeting was proof, if any more was needed, that our current MP needs replacing.

Unfortunately, the alternatives will likely knock each other out of the ring, leaving us once again with a Member of Parliament who seems to believe he can do no wrong -- that he has no reason to be accountable to his constituents. Of all the candidates, he was the only one with the arrogance to point-blank refuse to answer questions of his choosing.

But Hiebert at least was no surprise; he's been oozing arrogance since he parachuted in from Vancouver for the last election. The evening's biggest disappointment was the local Green candidate, David Blair. He gave the impression that he had done nothing to prepare for the event. Even his opening remarks were disorganized and off the cuff. I believe the best thing he could do for the community he claims to want to represent is resign from the race. At least the Green vote could be redirected to more worthy campaigners.

About all we can hope for here is what Danny Williams has been advocating, ABC -- Anything But Conservative. Thirteen days and we'll know.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Rivers without fish

Sunday was B.C. Rivers Day, a day set aside to celebrate our "province's spectacular river heritage."

We were out and about, hiking through several forests in the Fraser Valley, including areas fingered by tributaries of the Chilliwack River.

The weather was fine, the sky was blue, but where were the fish? Usually at this time of year, the waters are thick with red-tinged spawning salmon. They're often so thick in the shallow streams they look like you could walk across their backs to the opposite shore.

But not this year -- the waters run free and clean-looking, but there aren't any fish. Because this is our traditional time for hiking there, I don't think it's a matter of our timing. Still, I can hope that's all it is.

Monday, September 22, 2008

First day of autumn

A walk in the bush has to be one of the best ways to mark the changing of the seasons. Today it's mostly wandering, but all the while keeping an eye open in case there might be some edible mushrooms. It's always amazing to me the way that something as soft as a mushroom (I mean, really, their first name is 'mush') can be so resilient and can grow against rock or hunks of wood.

Of course, sometimes we encounter more than mushrooms. Looks as though some creature was feasting on venison here.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Tie-dye inspiration?

Sleeping seems almost a waste when there's so much beauty to see. This is the view we've been looking at from our 'wilderness bed'. The weather's been so perfect, we've been sleeping in the tent.

These last few nights, with the full moon shining in, it's been easy for me to understand how people might have been inspired to invent tie-dye as an art. I haven't been able to figure out how to take the night photo inside the tent without using a flash (which would give me a plain white inside, without the intricate shadows cast by the tree branches in moonlight). Still, this morning shot reveals something of the textures, if not the subtleties of the night patterns.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


I guess all the complaints from the public paid off. At last, sanity (and democracy) seems to prevail. The powers that be have now determined that yes, Elizabeth May, may participate in the televised debates.

It seems like such a small step, but also seems like a very good sign of things to come. Who knows, one of these days we might even get an opportunity to have proportional representation!

But much closer to home, today is also the day that George and John decided to make sausages. They made enough that we should be able to pull them out of the freezer all winter long. And really, it's quite the wonderful performance when this particular pair of men decide to cook together...

Monday, September 08, 2008

What are they afraid of?

Yet again, it looks as though the Greens are going to be blocked from participating in the televised debates among the leaders of Canada's political parties. Green Party candidates are running in over 300 ridings, yet Elizabeth May is not being given the opportunity to represent her party to the Canadian viewing public in this important forum.

What's with those guys anyway. Are they afraid they'll look bad?

In my books, if they don't take a stand insisting that May becomes part of the broadcast, they'll really look bad -- worse than they already do.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Let the Greens speak

For too many election campaigns, I've watched Gilles Duceppe engage in the national debate with leaders of the three major parties. Although he's done a great job of asking questions and demanding answers from those leaders, never once have I had the opportunity to vote for a member of his party.

Why? Because I don't live in Quebec.

The Green Party has grown to the point where they will again be running candidates in every province of the country. Shouldn't Elizabeth May be allowed to challenge the other party leaders in the debate?

Really, without her participation, the fabric of our democratic process looks awfully thin.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Hurrah, it's time for the Greens!

With Blair Wilson announcing his own 'Green Shift' -- from the Liberal Party to the Green Party, we now have a Member in Parliament.

The best part about this? Elizabeth May can no longer be shut out of the televised Debates. Where it looks as though we'll be having an election mid-October, this is wonderful timing.

All the more reason to spend that $100 BC-Liberal bribe (oops, incentive cheque) from last June on a donation to the Greens.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Piper on the wharf

What a time to be stuck without a camera! We're out on the dock at sunset, and a man approaches, walking down the pier, carrying a small suitcase. He opens the case and starts pulling out various pipes and connectors. We start chattting and he explains more than I ever knew about bagpipes and how they work. There's still some light in the sky, and looking out over the sailboats moored at the marina, I'm thinking about my friend, Jackie, who died of a heart attack so recently. And then, those magical pipes begin. Oh Jackie, you'd have loved this night, camera or no.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Peacekeepers' Day

No more Nagasaki as the marker for today's date. Even Canada has now recognized the importance of observing Peacekeepers' Day.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Sea Festival at White Rock

White Rock used to host an annual Sandcastle Festival. But then too many rowdies started showing up and it turned into a headache -- and an expensive one -- for the locals. One year, I remember walking through the shallows, admiring the many constructions, taking a few photos...only when I stepped out of the water and onto the sand, I realized my feet were bleeding. I'd been cut by bits of broken beer bottles embedded in the flats. That was probably the last year for the event.
But wait a minute, now it's 2008 and White Rock's decided to give it a go again. This makes the Sea Festival feel complete. Oh, and besides sandcastles, there's all sorts of music and vendors -- even fireworks!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Camping at Chez Hoser

Really, how many people are able to camp in their own yard? And yes, this is a plain old regulation city lot. We're just fortunate that so much of it is covered in trees.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

88 and its meaning

Hugs and kisses.

For me that's what 88's always stood for. It goes back to something I learned from a girlfriend whose uncle was a ham radio operator. The shorthand used by those radio operators (early version of texting?) employed various compressed abbreviations or numbers as quick substitutions for commonly used phrases. After all, for the most part, they were sending their messages in Morse Code.

For my girlfriend and me, numbers were fun to use in coded messages, and 88 was one of my favourites. Hugs and kisses were a great way to close a note.

Only now that number's meaning has changed, as yet another Canadian soldier -- James Hayward Arnal -- has died in Afghanistan. His death takes the number of number of dead Canadian soldiers up to 88. And no, I cannot refer to Cpl. Arnal as a 'casualty' -- there is nothing casual about death.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

A perfect evening for a ballgame!

Sitting in the outfield bleachers, in amongst players from the Czech Republic, it felt a little bit like already being at the Olympics. This was the closest I'll be getting to Beijing, but just think -- I was able to walk to this event!

I wasn't the only one happy to focus on the game -- I loved these people who decided on taking the worm's eye view.

And to top it all off, the Canadian women beat the Australians, 8 - 2.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A bad day for Canada

In fact, a day of shame.

The freshly released video of CSIS interrogating the then-16-year-old Omar Khadr in Guantanamo raises more questions about Canada's complicity in allowing a Canadian -- and an underage one at that -- to spend so many years in an unsanctioned prison.

As if the release of that video wasn't enough cause for shame, today was also the day Canada deported Robin Long, one of the 200 or so American soldiers who have come to Canada because they disagree with Bush's war on Iraq.

The most fitting comment on these events seems to be a section from Keith Maillard's "The Intervention of the Duke" (a piece from his book, Dementia Americana, Ronsdale Press, 1994 which also appears in Crossing Lines, an anthology from Seraphim Editions, 2008). The brilliant leader referred to in the poem is none other than Pierre Elliott Trudeau, a Canadian prime minister who was unafraid to stand up on behalf of Canada and the country's code of honour.


He doesn't look half bad twenty years later --
the only statesman in the western world
who would allow himself to be photographed
upside down above a trampoline. He said no
you may not inquire of any young man arriving at the border
as to his status in the armed forces
of the United States of America.
We thought Canada meant peace.
My eyes filled with tears when I crossed
into Quebec and saw the Maple Leaf flying.
As soon as I could, I became a citizen.
For all my jokes about maple syrup, I was proud.
Now it makes me sick to see my country play the yapping cur,
chasing the tail of the American dog gone barking into war.
- -

O, Stephen Harper, if only you could take a page from the annals of your predecessor. What a great country we might once again be.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

drupelets galore

I'm pretty sure the first reference I heard to the word drupelet was in some book by Kurt Vonnegut. Maybe Cat's Cradle, with all its Boko-Maru. Wherever, today was a day for gathering many tiny karasses -- drupelets of beings that make up the fruit we know as raspberries.

While we were picking, a clatter of crows kept engaging in a series of family disputes. Doing anything else, their noise might have bothered me. As it was, I just took refuge by reaching further into the shadow of the leaves and finding some the biggest, softest berries -- the ones that roll off into your hand like fuzzy marbles.

A beautiful day well-spent, and one that will taste good all the way to next March.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Miniature golf the natural way

No tiny windmills, no indoor-outdoor carpet. No trolls or other hunks of concrete formed as creatures. Just lovely, grassy greens, complete with real sandtraps. Remarkable.

This magical place is Dundas, Ontario's Rock Chapel Golf Course, where even a terrible golfer like me can have a great time.
And the putting course is only part of it -- there's a driving range, practice areas for chipping from grass, and even an area of sandy bunkers set up for practising getting up and down onto the green. Oh yes, and a beautiful 9-hole executive course for playing on after you've practised yourself into it!

And to think our local course has the jam to say it was voted the best practice place in North America. Not a chance.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Go Canada Day

Henry Morgentaler's getting the Order of Canada. My brother-in-law Leo is turning fifty. My sister turns forty-nine. And I'm going to read in the sunshine on the deck.

Friday, June 27, 2008


And, like the song says, the livin' is easy.

Especially here at the treefort, Chez Hoser.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Jazz night for Lorna

It was late last fall that White Rock lost one of its most energetic and talented citizens, Lorna Graham. She worked as a band teacher, mainly at Earl Marriott Secondary, for what must have been twenty years. It's hard to conjure a list of just how many young people she inspired into pursuing music.

Wednesday saw a reunion of a whole bunch of retired (or not) band teachers -- men who had worked with Lorna, men who knew and respected her as a colleague and as a musician. The gig was a fundraiser, looking to drum up monies to support young musicians through a bursary that will remember Lorna's longstanding contributions.

Helluva great time.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Like mother, like daughter

Even though last Sunday's weather felt freezing, Heidi McCurdy and her accompanist Doug Towle performed at the Farmers' Market. No, he isn't praying -- he's trying to warm up his hands so he can play!

Then on Tuesday, Heidi's daughter Sabrielle performed at Iguana's, a restaurant down on the White Rock beach. She was a finalist in a local talent competition.
Even if she came in second, her singing was -- as it always is -- impressive. Lots more to hear from both generations of this talented family.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Bobby Kennedy was shot 40 years ago

Actually, 40 years ago yesterday. Here, if you're up for it, is a long rant that partially documents how that event had a profound impact on my life.

- -
People used to ask, ‘Where were you when Kennedy was shot?’ Always a good conversation starter, it was assumed you’d have some kind of story about where you were and what you were doing on November 22, 1963.

That particular Friday became a kind of touchstone for change, one that marked a country’s loss of innocence. It was the end of an era that had been portrayed by the Cleaver family on Leave it to Beaver, and later, by the Cunninghams on the series with the overly rosy name, Happy Days.

I think of that Friday in 1963 as only the beginning of the change. Because the date I see as being more profound is June 5, 1968. That’s the date another Kennedy, Robert – or Bobby as he was known – met the same fate as his brother John.

The first months of 1968 had seen the beginnings of a shift in the general public’s attitude toward the ongoing war in Vietnam. Early in January, the much-respected baby-and-child-care expert, Dr. Benjamin Spock, was indicted for promoting draft evasion. Month’s end saw the sweeping Tet offensive, a series of attacks that reached as far as the US Embassy in Saigon. People were finally starting to realize just how pointless America’s war efforts were. When, at the end of February, CBS newsman Walter Cronkite made comments on the apparent futility of the exercise, then-president Johnson supposedly remarked on the significance of the newsman’s words: “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost middle America.”

I’d been on the fringes of an organization in Milwaukee that offered advice and other assistance to draft resisters. Being part of such a milieu, I couldn’t help being around people who were working on the campaign to put anti-war candidate Eugene McCarthy on the presidential ballot. They were a dedicated and interesting mix – speechwriters, organizers and a slew of pamphleteers.

The spring of ’68 had also been one where more than the weather was heating up. In part, due to the previous summer’s inner-city riots, and especially after the murder of Martin Luther King, Jr. in April, there was an ever-increasing sense of living in a police state. Many of us found we couldn’t go out without spotting unmarked police cars trailing us; police photographers seemed to be at every war protest and be-in; men with long hair were routinely stopped as they walked down the street, with the demand that they show their draft card (men who couldn’t produce one were arrested on the spot, as this was a serious offense). Yet despite all that, and despite the ever-increasing death count in Vietnam, there was an optimistic atmosphere of promise in the air. Promise that things were going to take a turn – and for the better.

Only then, on the cusp of summer, Bobby Kennedy was shot and killed. And for many of us, that event made it clear: no dreams were safe.

About a month later, my son Jeremy was born. Giving birth, especially to a son, did a lot to shift my perspective. Suddenly, I understood that I wasn’t going to be going to Chicago with my friends to be part of the protests outside the Democratic Convention. All of us understood that Chicago wasn’t going to be just another protest; this one would have Mayor Richard Daley’s specially trained riot forces on patrol. I understood that as a single mother, I now had responsibilities that meant I couldn’t risk getting myself arrested and thrown into jail. I also realized that my little boy was no different, only younger, than all those other boys being drafted for Vietnam.

It wasn’t very many months later that Jeremy and I were sitting in a very bright room in the bowels of the airport in Toronto. As I remember it, even though it was late in the evening, the immigration officers were super nice as they asked me questions and filled in the blanks on what seemed to be a very long form. They were coochie-cooing Jeremy and nodding with approval at the fact that I’d taken a few French courses. Of course it helped that Jeremy and I had a sponsor, no matter that the sponsorship eventually didn’t work out. So, bingo presto lucko – we were in, and told to expect our landed immigrant papers in the mail in just a few weeks.

But lately, things are different. The news keeps reporting changes to Canada’s immigration policies. And I see that 25-year-old war resister, Corey Glass, has had his application to stay in Canada refused. He’s the ex-soldier who signed up to be part of the US National Guard, thinking he’d be helping out in humanitarian causes like flood relief. But instead of being sent to New Orleans, he was sent to Iraq. When his conscience wouldn’t let him stay, he made his way to Canada. Younger than that son I brought to Canada all those years ago, Glass is an American deserter, not so unlike those soldiers who despaired over their experiences fighting in Vietnam. Yet unlike members of that earlier wave of sanctuary-seekers, he is one who Canada seems unwillingly to accept as one of its own – Canada, a country once known worldwide as place of safe haven for those who love the idea of peace.

So, I wonder: What is happening to this country that I chose? And I think, if those of us who came to Canada during the Vietnam War era were applying to come here today, just how many of us would be allowed in?
- -

Thursday, June 05, 2008

No more Hockey Night in Canada theme song?

Are you kidding? Does this have anything to do with the fact that no Canadian teams were in last night's sad-seeming Stanley Cup final game??

I can't call it the endoftheworldasweknowit, but hey, it doesn't bode happy times ahead. The hell with tradition, eh.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Crossing Lines event

A launch for a new anthology, Crossing Lines, took place on Friday night. But hey, it's been too beautiful a weekend to post any info about it.

The man in the photo is Hal Wake, who did a wonderful job as emcee, while twelve writers read (or sang!) their work from the book. One of the best performances of all came from Vancouver's poet laureate, George McWhirter.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

A reading at the Semiahmoo Library

Tonight was a reading by a number of writers who've been working with the library's Writer in Residence, Mansel Robinson. What a treat to hear such a range of styles and genres -- everything from accounts of planes involved in war games, both staged and historic, to a children's story, poems, and a wonderfully gritty presentation for two voices.

Here's a picture of two of tonight's stars -- from left to right, Char and Cristy -- two of the lovely women who were part of the poetry class I led this spring.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Lucky me

What a splendid Mother's Day!

How's this look for a feast? And I didn't have to do anything but lift my fork and knife and enjoy.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Free comics!

Did you know that May 3rd is Free Comic Book Day? Here's our local comic supplier at Greyhaven Hobbies, looking very pleased to be giving away free comic books.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The 4 Rs of Recycling

Even though I only see 2 Rs in the word Recycler, I'm a big fan of all of the supposed 4Rs: Reduce, Re-use, Recycle (though it seems redundant to list this as an aspect of recycling, but whatever) and Recover.

When it comes to seeing results, Reduce is probably the hardest one to follow. Face it, reducing means there'll be fewer things in your life -- especially things that might need throwing away. That can be hard for me, especially when it comes to books, or I suppose, reducing my weight. Let's just say I'm workin' on those.

Still, I'm probably what many would consider an obsessive recycler, especially when it comes to the re-use part. I love wearing second-hand (pre-worn? heck, they get away with saying pre-driven cars) clothes. They're always softer and seem readier to fit to my body. Earlier this spring, when we redid (there's another R) our kitchen, we re-used nearly all the old cupboards, just re-arranged them so their configuration would make more sense.

When the four Rs say Recover, I know they mean salvaging components and materials, but I like to think of it more literally -- re-covering a cushion, that sort of thing. To think I actually still have the pillow I loved best as a kid, only it's been recovered so I can use it as a seat cushion.

But of course, there's the other kind of 'Recover' -- the kind that says you've got over a bad cold or maybe even a bad habit. I'd like to think I'll never recover from this particular obsession.

When it comes to re-use, I may be the queen. Yep, that's a note on a toilet paper core.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Vancouver Camera Show and Swap Meet

This was the scene this Sunday at Cameron Park Rec Centre in Burnaby, B.C. All part of the Vancouver Camera Show and Swap Meet. Cameras as far as you could see. And lenses, Beta machines, every imaginable variety of Polaroid cameras -- even pop-out flashbulbs and cubes. Apparently, the biggest such show in Canada, and one of the biggest in North America, it's an annual event -- one I hope to attend again next spring. Even if I don't have any plans for buying a Brownie Hawkeye.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Kurt Vonnegut Interview

It was one year ago, on April 11, 2007, that Kurt Vonnegut died. To commemorate that, here’s an interview with him.
- -
Interviewer: Where you died last April, it’s been a bit complicated figuring out how to arrange this meeting. So really, I have to thank you for helping with the details. For a start, would you please describe where we are?

Kurt Vonnegut: Well, we’re in surprisingly comfortable lawn chairs, relaxing in the well-kept yard of a very solid-looking home. The house has traditional wooden shutters and is surrounded by several grand old trees, under which we are now sitting. If you saw the film, Slaughterhouse Five, you might think this is the same house used on that set. It’s pretty in a way that modern houses no longer are.

Int: Is this where you live?

KV: Mostly. There’s a group of us who stay here off and on, and I’d have to say we get along pretty well. As it turns out, most of the people who live here are members of my karass.

Int: And by that you mean a group that’s something like a family?

KV: That’s one way to explain it, though of course, rarely will someone’s biological family member turn up in their karass. The most surprising person in mine turns out to be Lady Bird Johnson.

Vonnegut disappears with an audible pop. But within seconds, he returns and emits a loud burp.

KV: Pardon me.

Int: I could swear you just disappeared.

KV: I met a few old friends and had lunch.

Int: Lunch? But you couldn’t have been gone for more than a few seconds.

KV: Well, it turns out I wasn’t so wrong when I wrote about time. I said it was there to help humans keep their place in the pages of their lives. That, because it trapped them in the amber of the moment, it provided a way for them to follow along and make better sense of the world.

Int: Hmm. I don’t think I understand.

KV: Think of how your memory works. You can remember all sorts of things – your high school graduation, the first fish you ever caught, what you had for supper last night. In your mind, you don’t have to remember events in the order they happened. You can skip around and remember them any old way. That’s kind of what it’s like here – only all those memories are happening all at once. I can tune into any one of them for a closer look whenever I please.

Again, he vanishes briefly.

Int: Where did you go that time?

KV: Sorry, I didn’t think you’d notice. There’s a particularly sweet fraulein I enjoy visiting. You might call it a barnyard romance – some tasty fooling around when I was a soldier during World War II.

Int: So, does that mean there’s sex here?

KV: Would that surprise you?

Int: Actually, I’m surprised to hear that you eat. I wouldn’t have thought that would be necessary here.

KV: Oh, come on – it wouldn’t be much of a heaven if you couldn’t indulge in a few pleasures. And you’re right, we don’t need to eat, most of us just choose to.

Int: So, what did you have for that lunch with your friends?

KV: I had a wonderful green salad that was filled with luscious surprises – peaches, blueberries and big hunks of abalone.

Int: Abalone? That’s like, so endangered!

KV: That’s only on earth. Like so many of the troubles there, the abalone problem is caused by greed. Here we can have as much of everything as we want. Albert Brooks got it right in that film he made about heaven: you can eat whatever you want here, calories don’t count.

Int: Oh right, Defending Your Life. The one where Meryl Streep digs into that huge plate of pasta! I loved that movie, all that Howard Johnson’s meets Disneyland style.

KV: Um, I hate to remind you, but Albert stole that from me – I had the Howard Johnson franchise delivering last meals to patrons of the Ethical Suicidal Parlor long before he made his movie. Remember?

Int: How could I have forgotten? But speaking of something I forgot, I meant to ask about the time travel thing. What does it feel like when you go to some other place – or should that be time?

KV: Really, it’s both – and it doesn’t feel any different than how this feels right here and now, which is fine, though I do wish you’d get on with the questions.

Int: OK. You admit this house we’re beside looks like something out of the film version of Slaughterhouse Five. So I’m wondering, where’s the antique fire engine?

KV: Ah, even heaven has its petty rules. No fire engines – or cars for that matter. It’s a problem with, as they call them here, infernal combustion engines. The exhaust interferes with the whiteness of the clouds – and some of the more traditional types prefer to live up there (points to the sky), though why, I can’t imagine. It’d get boring, I’m sure – plus there’d be all that white glare. My brother Bernard is one of them who likes it up there, but then, even as a kid he was crazy about clouds. He’s the one who discovered that seeding clouds with silver iodide particles could make them rain. So no, to answer your question, I don’t get to play with fire engines.

Int: Besides that, any regrets?

KV: Not so much regrets as things left undone. I still wish I’d been less of a stinker about allowing a re-release of Between Time and Timbuktu.

Int: What’s that?

KV: It was a great little piece of television drama – don’t sneer, there used to be a lot of great drama on TV – Playhouse 90 is a program they should resurrect. And I think it was ABC that had a terrific series of plays they showed on Thursday nights. Those must’ve run a couple of years at least. Between Time and Timbuktu was based on a lot of my earlier works. There were pieces plucked from Cat’s Cradle and Sirens of Titan and even Happy Birthday, Wanda June. Although I grumbled some at the time, they were strung together into a pretty passable story. There were even some bits from Welcome to the Monkey House, a collection of my early short stories. I have to give the directors credit – they did a damn fine job of a patchwork piece. Casting William Hickey as Stony Stevenson was a step above brilliant. Radio announcers Bob and Ray helped tie the whole thing together. You’d never know it, but a lot of their dialogue was ad-libbed. They were really something!

Int: So, what happened to it?

KV: Who knows? The great beyond of bad moods and unknown bureaucracies and lunatic rules of copyright foreclosures. So it goes.

Int: Ah, one of your most famous lines, “So it goes.” Which brings me to the line most quoted after your passing—

KV: Please don’t use that ridiculous term. It sounds like passing gas and believe me, death is a lot more difficult than farting. It takes work, probably the closest thing to giving birth I ever experienced. God bless you, ladies, especially the mothers of my children and grandchildren.

Int: I’m sorry. Let me start over. After you died – is that better? (Vonnegut closes the famous heavy-lidded eyes and nods) – the quote most often cited was “Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt.” Was that appropriate? Is that what you want to be remembered as saying?

KV: Of course it’s not what I want to be remembered as saying. Most of the people who quote me have never read my books. They saw Slaughterhouse Five on television one night when they couldn’t sleep. And they figure that makes them an expert on me. If they knew my work at all, they’d realize how ironic that epitaph is.

Int: So, would you be happier to be remembered by the quote you once told Rolling Stone Magazine you wanted on your headstone?

KV: I’m sorry, what would that have been?

Int: “The only proof he needed for God was the existence of music.”

KV: Ah, yes. I suppose I would have said something like that to a magazine about the music industry.

Int: So, now that there’s probably a stone with your name on it somewhere, what would you like it to say?

KV: I’d be happy, of course, with the words of Eugene V. Debs. “As long as there is a lower class, I am in it. As long as there is a criminal element, I’m of it. As long as there is a soul in prison, I am not free.” Only those are his words, not mine.

Int: So, as a second choice?

KV: How about, “He tried”.

- -
When the Interviewer thanked the author, she asked whether she’d be able to do more follow-up interviews, perhaps as an annual event. Apparently Mr. Vonnegut replied, “We already are.”

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Blogged down

It's not been a good 2008 for this blog.

But maybe since it's finally well and truly spring (and the kitchen reno stuff, see elsewhere, has been resolved), the big limb is feeling much stronger.

I think I'm finally ready to step out on it again.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

World Theatre Day

Hats off to Mansel Robinson, the playwright who's serving as the wonderful writer in residence at our local library. He assembled a terrific event to celebrate World Theatre Day. After reading greetings from Robert LePage, we heard performances from Mansel, Pam Bustin, and Mark Leiren-Young.

That's Pam reading from her one-woman show about Georgia O'Keeffe.

Before this event, I'd never even heard of World Theatre Day. Truly, something to celebrate.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

No more washing dishes in the tub


It feels like supreme luxury to have water in a sink in the kitchen. One of the joys of getting closer to the end of a kitchen renovation.

Although I've not enjoyed kneeling beside the bathtub to wash the dishes, I realize I'm lucky to have had a choice -- when one sink wasn't available, to have been able to go to another. The bathtub method wasn't fun, but it sure sounds a lot easier than doing the washing-up in the rocks down by the river. It's easy to forget that some people don't have even the luxury of a river with rocks -- or for that matter, the luxury of water at all.