Saturday, October 31, 2009

Which way to the witch's party?

Welcome! What are you doing for fun tonight?

With hopes that it's a Happy Halloween, and with thanks to my friend Ella for the terrific sign.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Almost-Halloween pumpkins

Yesterday, in the produce shop, a woman started telling me about how her brother back east raises pumpkins and sells them – not as we do here, by weight – but straight-up for two dollars each. That got both of us to thinking about Halloween pumpkins and how most of us just carve ’em as decorations for the big night, then chuck them into the compost (or worse, into the garbage). Our conversation encouraged me to find a better way of conserving those contents this year.

And then, this morning I started wondering about why we use pumpkins at Halloween. While a number of sites mentioned deals with the devil, the story that most appealed to me was the one claiming carved “…lanterns represented the souls of the departed loved ones and were placed in windows or set on porches to welcome the deceased.”

Because this is the week our family observes the death dates of two beloved grandmothers, this is the explanation I choose to believe. Then sadly, on last night’s news I learned that yet another Canadian soldier has died in Afghanistan.

I think I’ll have to get one more pumpkin for our door.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

350 events

The signs are everywhere. This one's from Granville Island, under one of Vancouver's bridges.

Vancouver had an event on another bridge.

And then there were the 350 poems.

Friday, October 23, 2009

A day of observances

Every year I make a point of attending at least one of the many sessions offered at the Vancouver International Readers' and Writers' Festival. Despite the rains, I headed into the city and was well-rewarded for my efforts with a stimulating session featuring several interesting writers.

But looking back, a much more important part of the day was a side trip I took to the core of the Downtown East Side. I went to the First United Church, the place where U.S. war resister Rodney Watson has taken sanctuary in hopes of not being deported and likely imprisoned in America.

We spoke for a little while, and he confirmed that when he'd joined the U.S. military, it had been with the understanding that he'd serve as a cook. When that turned out to not be the case -- and when they tried to extend his contract and send him for a second tour of duty to Iraq, he deserted and came to Vancouver.

I've written to our government before, recommending compassion for war resisters. My local MP, to give him credit, has at least replied -- but with legalese gobbledygoop as excuses -- despite the fact that the very Parliament (of which he's a member) has passed two previous motions suggesting that war resisters once again (as in Vietnam days) be permitted entry. Currently, there is a private member's bill even more specific to this issue.

There's a twist to all of this -- one that only dawned on me as I was getting off the bus near the church. Today is the anniversary of my receiving my own Canadian citizenship. Heck, they let me stay, and the fact of that made me feel both embarrassed and ashamed about Rodney's predicament.

I'm very glad I got to spend a bit of time with Rodney -- particularly on such a significant day. I had tears in my eyes when he hugged me. He was awaiting a call from Ron Kovic, the Vietnam vet who wrote Born on the 4th of July. All I can hope is that Kovic will have some good ideas to help Rodney Watson and the rest of the war resisters be heard.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Weekend at Trauma Farm

For a while there, I’d thought a gathering of seven women would dispel any aura of trauma at the farm where our friends live. But darn it, the name caught up to us after all.

First it was the bodum imploding for no apparent cause. One minute it was resting on the counter while the flavours seeped through the water; next thing, it was weeping coffee everywhere from a sudden long crack in the glass.

The bigger trauma was the discovery of two dead chickens – hens, at that, cutting into the supply of those golden-yolked eggs. One of the worst parts was the fact that the hens hadn’t even been eaten by their killer. Only their heads were gone.

As the weekend went on, the traumas continued. Another hen lost her head to our uninvited guest, apparently a mink. Believe me, if we’d have caught him, I’d have been wanting to make a couple of swish coats for Barbie.

And, oh yes, a purse disappeared. The purse at least held nothing of much value – a bit of cash and a lipstick, no documents or credit cards.

Still, I’m glad that our home has a much milder name – no trauma or even drama to live up to.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Just the fax, ma'am

The following is a message sent to Premier Gordon Campbell, with copies to several members of his cabinet, as well as to my local MLA.

I hope you will do what you can to speak out about this horror.

To Premier Gordon Campbell:

This isn’t a matter of party lines. It’s a matter of promises made to the people of the province – promises broken and ground underfoot.

It’s a matter of commitments. And it’s a matter of tossing those commitments aside and delivering the message with a phone call that says you’re toast.

It’s a failure to live up to the groundwork that’s been laid over years, groundwork that has helped BC’s publishing industry grow into what it is today.

What used to be a faint western echo to publishing in Toronto has become a force to be reckoned with. Just look at the names of all those BC authors and publishers on the current list of finalists for prizes across the country, including the most esteemed of all, the Governor General’s Awards.

Government is quick to say that business is the basis of our economy. Publishing is a business, a business that represents our province in a powerful way. So, why should the agencies fostering and promoting this business have their funding yanked away?

The current situation is simply unacceptable.

Restore full funding to BC Bookworld, to the Association of Book Publishers of BC and to the British Columbia Association of Magazine Publishers. The work these groups do is vital to the health of the publishing industry in our province – and vital to the cause of literacy and to ensuring British Columbians can read the stories that matter most to us.

Heidi Greco

cc: Kit Krueger
Rich Coleman
Colin Hansen
Gordon Hogg

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Does this look like a lethal weapon?

Apparently, RCMP officers in Vancouver thought it did.

It’s two years today since Robert Dziekanski died at YVR after being Tasered. He’d arrived hours earlier from Poland, but because he didn’t speak English, he wasn’t able to adequately ask for assistance. When he became agitated, the police were called to help deal with him. Then, shortly after their arrival, Dziekanski was dead. It seems police had reacted to Dziekanski's picking up a stapler and waving it in their direction.

Fortunately, this is a digital age, and Paul Pritchard recorded what he witnessed.

So, what’s the lesson here? It might be, don’t travel to Vancouver if you don’t speak English.

And if that’s the case, that might mean you better not come to the Olympics.

Outside of Vancouver’s Punjabi Market or areas of Richmond, there’s not a lot of evidence of multilingual signage.

To give the airport some credit, they’ve established an information booth near Customs and it offers services in a number of languages. I’m not sure though what its hours are, and whether it would have benefited Dziekanski, whose death occurred in the middle of the night.

Canada Line, the rapid transit system that takes visitors from the aiport into the city, doesn’t even have signage in Canada’s second official language, French. So, if your English isn’t very good, maybe you’ll have to hope to find a taxi driver who speaks your language.

Any other lessons to consider on this sad anniversary? Hmm. Maybe, be careful not to pick up a stapler if the RCMP are around.

Monday, October 12, 2009

No rant, just gratitude

It's Thanksgiving, so I'll lay off for a day, and think about some of the many things I'm grateful for.

The photo is one I snapped in a coffee shop on Saturday. It went on to be thankful for, among other things, the fact that modern Barbie dolls are flexible -- makes it much easier to dress 'em.

On a more serious note, it's Gratitude Week in Vancouver, an initiative with the goal of ending homelessness. Sadly, that's a problem that won't be going away anytime soon.

But I can certainly say how grateful I am that I have such a wonderful place to live. Warm and dry, with a cupboard that's full.

Donating a dollar a day to a food bank or shelter can make a huge difference. That might be something to work toward for some holiday sharing.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Further tales, hypocrisy squared

It's a hurry-up day, but I can't let it go by without venting about the latest round of government cuts to the arts.

This time, it's BC's publishing industry. This is an industry our premier has praised for its accomplishments on the provincial front, in the country, and on the world's stage.

One of the hardest hit is a magazine that's available to everyone in our province, as it's distributed in bookstores, and even on BC Ferries. BC Bookworld has been publishing for over 20 years. Its promotional service to BC readers, writers and publishers has served as an examplar to similar publications in other provinces.

But it's more than a magazine. It's affiliated with an online database of over 9,000 BC writers, a website that's accessed by users anywhere in the world.

Similarly, the Association of Publishers of BC has also had its operating budget slashed. It's always been a bare-bones operation, so it's difficult to imagine what might be left to cut. They've accomplished amazing feats; there's even a beta-version of digitalized BC books set to go online in January.

For a province that's poised to host the world for the 2010 Winter Olympics, it's looking as though their promises to showcase our cultural accomplishments (part of the basis of Vancouver's 'winning' the games) mean nothing.

Brags by our premier about the importance of literacy mean little in the face of such contradictory behaviours.

You can bet there'll be more to come on this topic. But for more information, follow the publishers' alliance here.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009


So our prime minister deigned to attend an arts ‘gala’ – one of those nasty events he complained about last year. Sure, it probably helped that this event is one of his wife’s pet projects. Still, it’s pretty amazing that he attended – even more so that he sang karaoke.

The fact I find most interesting is Steve’s choice of song, With a Little Help from my Friends. Admittedly, the choice might have had something to do with it being one of Ringo Starr’s songs. Although Ringo’s always been my favourite Beatle, even I would have to agree his voice works best on melodies that don’t require a lot of vocal range.

Steve seemed quite confident about knowing the song’s lyrics, so he can’t say he didn’t understand what the words were.

I just find it darn ironic, especially considering the recent actions allowing Marc Emery’s extradiction, that Steve would choose a song with the line, “I get high with a little help from my friends.” Oh yeah?

Sunday, October 04, 2009

High in the sky -- a reminder

Last night's (okay, early this morning's) full moon was so bright it pulled me out of bed.

It was the proverbial harvest moon, celebrated in songs old and newer. If you'd like to know more background about the name, you might enjoy this story 's explanation of the name's origin.

Today was also the annual 'Run for the Cure' and it sounds as though Vancouver's run drew about 10,000 participants.

One of the reasons I'm always aware of the full moon is that I use it as a monthly reminder to check my breasts for changes or lumps.

If you're a woman who doesn't regularly check your breasts, here's a fairly long (7 minutes) but very clear video on how to go about doing this important self-check.

One thing I still don't understand about last night's light show is why the moon seemed so much higher in the sky (almost directly overhead) than usual. If anybody has an idea, please let me know.