Thursday, November 26, 2009

Rings? Or chains?

The last few days have seen the high-alert mentality around the 2010 Olympics go into a mode that only be called bizarre.

B.C. entrepreneur Wil Tarnasky was taken to task by Canadian Olympic Committee for an image on his heat product,Toasterz. Apparently, the flame on the packet looks altogether too much like the flame on the Olympic torch. This story sure makes it look as though these ad-police have altogether too much time on their hands.

And then, earlier today, American broadcaster Amy Goodman was detained at the Canadian border. Although she was scheduled to speak in Vancouver about health care, border guards apparently challenged her on whether she was going to talk about the Olympics.

If she hadn't planned on doing so, you can bet she will now, and likely will continue to do so once she gets home to her radio show, "Democracy Now!"

Today it was also reported that the City of Vancouver has, as a result of public pressure, backed down on some of its bylaws controlling protest during the Olympics.

Although I try to make a point of not picturing or promoting brand-name products, I'm wondering how much longer I'll be permitted to eat my favourite brand of yogourt.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Renovating -- a reality check

This is what happens when you have to move everything out of two rooms and into some other part of the house. One of the joys of renovating.

If you look above the top of the wicker chair, you'll spot an 'open' cardboard box that looks something like a dollhouse. That's our working/planning model for what will go where. Because I'm the more anal member of our pairing, I also have a to-scale version on graph paper, with the pieces of furniture on bits of sticky notes so I can move them around.

I bet you can guess what I want for Christmas this year -- for this to have magically gone back into its new space!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

An anniversary

Rhona McAdam is one of my favourite poets. When it comes to turning ordinary words into something else, I think she's about the best.

Consider this, from her poem, "Anniversary"
It’s been a mother since my year has died,
a clutch of grey hairs, a loosening of skin.
Each day I move closer to you, the sound
of my own voice hums in my bones, a family sound.

And yes, today is the first anniversary of my own mother's death. When I thought about what to write today, I couldn't help thinking of Rhona's poem. There is nothing complicated about any one of the words. The biggest word in there is ‘loosening’. But put the words together, and they make up more than simple sentences. We know about the poet’s mother’s dementia, understand that the poet herself is dealing with aging, yet she never has to say these things directly. The arrangement of these simple words leads us to those understandings. To me, that is what constitutes the magic of poetry.

Being remembered by those who love us may be the truest immortality any of us has a right to. By honouring my mother today, I hope I'm giving a bit back to her. The little shrine I made includes treats I've pulled out of the freezer, ones I've saved for such an occasion as today -- Christmas cookies. Why? Because my mother, Carole, was born on December 25th, a date that sadly isn't even noted on the place where her body rests (rules -- but this isn't a time to get me going on bureaucracies).

In closing, one more stanza from Rhona's poem, which by the way is taken from Cartography (Oolichan Books, 2006):
It's been a mother since my year has died,
a hot, dry mother, a cold snow and rain
and now wind, wind as we've seldom seen it
tearing the leaves from the trees and howling.

Oddly, this has been a week of wild winds, ones that have made me concerned for all the trees that live in our yard. I hope, when those predicted winds rise again tonight, my mother will be amongst them, singing.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

An Open Letter to Carole James

Yesterday I learned that a committee headed by MLA Doug Donaldson had spoken out unanimously to reinstate funding to the arts and culture. I was elated, especially when I realized this committee consisted of MLAs from both the opposition and from the governing Liberals, the very party that appears to be behind the recent drastic cuts.

And then the second part of the story came through. Because the HST wasn’t part of the package, you were saying No to the whole thing.

This sounds a little like the diehard vegetarian who turns down a Thanksgiving invitation from her estranged family because she doesn’t eat turkey. Rather than saying yes and simply not taking a chunk of meat, she misses out on the mashed potatoes, the Brussels sprouts, the rest of the trimmings – even the pie. But even more so, by turning down the invitation, she misses the chance to regroup with people who are important to her.

The recent slashes to budgets have been downright mean, affecting sectors already running at bare-bones levels. More frighteningly, the cuts have looked like government-by-backroom-schemes rather than legislative decisions. Even the Feds, through comments by Heritage Minister James Moore, have questioned the economic sense of these massive reductions in funding.

Yet when the opportunity arises to join with fellow MLAs to speak out on this important issue, you seem to think it’s a good idea to just say No.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who wonders just how many of these cuts have been dreamed up – not by the Liberal Party as a whole – but by Campbell, his ego, and the members of his innermost circle.

I’m sure there must be many MLAs, Liberals included, who have been horrified by the cuts and are at a loss when it comes to defending the decisions to their constituents.

So it was very exciting to learn that a group of MLAs – especially ones elected under the banner of Campbell’s party – were willing to speak out in such a way.

Only what did you do? Rather than rolling up your sleeves and saying Let’s pull together and clean up this mess, you jumped on your high-horse and said No. Sure, it might have meant holding your nose to work with those you’ve cast as your opponents, but then this mess is a lot like a backed-up plumbing problem. To clean it up, everybody’s going to have to hold their nose until it’s fixed.

I suspect the only way my message might register with you is to say that by taking this non-action, you’ve probably lost even more votes for your party.

But the real issue here isn’t about winning or losing votes. It’s about seeing that the people of British Columbia start getting government that represents all of us, that it isn’t just government by the rich and for the rich. It’s about seeing that the people of British Columbia can count on our MLAs to speak out on our behalf. even when it might require some nose-holding to achieve a common good.

How disappointing, Carole James. You’ve turned down an opportunity that might have led to real change.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Just before 11:00 this morning, I turned on the radio to see what sort of acknowledgement of Remembrance Day there might be. As I'd expected, there was a bugler as well as a piper playing the traditional mournful songs, but most striking was listening to the moment of silence. Not the usual 'sound' one expects from the radio.

The photo above shows a replica of World War I's famous Sopwith Camel, a structure that was on display in our local mall as part of Veterans' Week. As you can imagine, it drew quite a lot of attention.

This is also another of the many days when I remember my dad, who piloted a bomber in World War II. Like so many men who fought, he rarely spoke of his experiences in the war.

And there's another person I always remember on this day -- a man who not only spoke about his war experiences but who wrote about them -- Kurt Vonnegut. Ironically, his birthday was November 11th. I couldn't help thinking of Vonnegut earlier this week, when I ran across a YouTube posting of an ice cube being subjected to heat but not melting. It worried me, as it sounded much too much like Vonnegut's Ice-9, the material that debuted in his Cat's Cradle.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Taking a positive step for the Arts

Today saw a diverse group of artists gather for an Open Space forum. Our goal? To formulate answers to the day’s guiding question, What will grow and sustain our local arts community?

The day's gathering was sponsored by the City of White Rock, but drew artists in many genres from well beyond the boundaries of the city.

For a change, despite all the doom-and-gloom cutbacks we’ve seen to the arts here in BC, I think all of us left with the feeling that things are going to improve.

As one of the visual artists in attendance envisioned it, she showed us her painting of a bud ready to burst. She followed that with a second piece -- blossoming into this vibrant display.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

99 bottles of beer??

Nope, this time it’s 99 days. Days remaining in the countdown to Vancouver’s 2010 Olympics.

Probably the first marathon tv-viewing I did was the hours I spent in front of the screen watching the Olympics. I remember taking a shovel out into the snow and clearing off a little frozen stream near our house so I could have a place to practise figure skating without an audience to laugh at me. When it came to the Olympics, I was a believer.

And now the Olympics is coming to a city near me. Considering all the security precautions and anticipated scenarios, that may be a city too near me.

It’s hard to get excited about something that appears to have had so many negative effects on anyone who isn’t among the elite – the only ones who seem able to afford the pricey tickets.
This photo is just one of the panels on a truck I drove past yesterday. Although the point they’re making concerns our coming Harmonized Sales Tax (again, something that looks as though it will only benefit big corporations, the already-wealthy), the visual pretty much sums up the many cuts to social services, education and the arts that are occurring on a daily basis here in B.C.