Wednesday, December 30, 2009

It's all bad

I don't think that's about to become the new catch phrase its opposite has. But considering today's news, it's hard to view the day as one with anything good about it. And really, just how much depressing news can fit into twenty-four hours?

Five Canadians -- four soldiers and a journalist -- died in Afghanistan today. It was a deadly day for Americans there too. Days like this, it's doubly hard not to think it's a mistake to be over there in the first place.

And to top things off, it looks as if we're back in 'prorogue' mode, with Steve Harper shutting down Parliament until March, after the Winter Olympics.

I'm not sure what kind of government this is -- walking out the door at will -- this time appearing to do so to avoid important questions about our country's possible complicity in torture. The shutdown also gives Harper a window to weasel out of reporting on our plans for climate change, an item we are supposed to give an accounting on by the end of January. But with government 'not in session', that won't happen.

I know this isn't news to anyone. It's been blaring all day. Still, it leaves me feeling shattered. This is where our taxes go? These are people we elected? And a question: if there's any sort of emergency between now and March, what happens? Or does Steve maybe expect we'll just call up Obama and he'll take over?

A bad way to end a year. A worse way to end a decade.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Too many to forget

If you’ve been hypnotized by the lights on the Christmas tree, maybe you haven’t heard or seen any news in the last day or so. If that’s the case you might not realize that today is the 5th anniversary of the largest natural disaster in living memory -- the tsunami that killed over 200,000 people on Boxing Day, 2004.

The scene above is from a beach in Thailand, but one that’s on the Gulf of Thailand, the opposite side from where the devastation took place, the shores of the Indian Ocean. Still, I suspect many beaches that looked much like it were among those destroyed.

As so often is the case, my life gets caught up in what seems to be coincidence. Last night I started reading one of my brand-new gifts, Douglas Coupland’s Generation A. The first character to appear in the book is a Sri Lankan survivor of the tsunami. Page 1 reads like one of the tsunami videos on YouTube, “Imagine walking to the window’s louvred shutters and looking out and seeing the entire contents of the world you know flow past you…palm fronds, donkeys, the local Fanta bottler’s Jeep, unlocked bicycles, dead dogs…”

Thinking of all those people killed in such a short burst of time, I’m brought back to part of a film I caught on TV the other night, Star Wars. When Alderaan is obliterated, Obi-Wan says, “I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out and were suddenly silenced. I fear something terrible has happened.”

I think many people felt the same kind of shock after the tsunami hit. How astounding that so much destruction could happen in the space of just a few minutes. Earlier tonight, I lit a candle, and am hoping for peace for those many lost souls.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

And to all a good night!

With the reno still going on, this hasn't been a year for much in the way of Christmas baking around here. Despite that, I've still managed a few frantic moments.

Xmas Song

the singing of carols
is politically incorrect
i suppose
is this poem

the shopping frenzy virus
sends us frothing
to the malls

a spending fix to soothe
the fevered lists that grow
longer every day by ding-dong day

time for an assembly line
the oven is so hot
ribbons curl like earthworms
poking up from cookie dough

chop chop
bake bake
wrap wrap
our lady of perpetual motion
have mercy on us

Do one less thing than you think you have to, and trust that all will work out. Have a Christmas that is fun and relaxing, one that allows you to enjoy the people you love.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Return of the Light

Sunset today was just about half an hour ago -- 16:16.

There's still a bit of light in the sky, a sign of things to come.

Diwali, Christmas, Hanukkah – so many autumn and winterfests are based in celebrating the Light.

The one I love best is Solstice. How remarkable that someone noticed this as the day the light would start coming back.

One of the first times I realized the power of the Solstice was in a hokey old movie, Journey to the Center of the Earth. That was the summer solstice, still. It mattered where the sun was.

Today has been a turning point on a couple of other fronts too. Looking forward to the Light coming back for all of us.

Saturday, December 19, 2009


I'm no pro at PhotoShop, so my altered flag might not quite do the job of expressing my shame and embarrassment over Canada's non-performance at Copenhagen.

Aside from 'winning' awards for Fossil of the Day and then Fossil of the Year, Canada didn't show an ounce of leadership. A single three-and-a-half minute speech by our Environment Minister, Jim Prentice and that just after midnight on Friday.

Locally, things weren't any better. About a dozen people carried awareness signs and walked outside our local Member of Parliament's office. The group caused enough concern among Russ Hiebert's staff that the office workers locked the doors to the place. The sight of a dozen men and women and children must have been terrifying.

Followers of this blog might be surprised with the contention made as the closing line in the news article above: "Hiebert’s staff in Ottawa have told Peace Arch News in the past that every submission received by his office is sent a response." That's simply not been the case.

What I'd like to know is what does Russ do in Ottawa anyway?? And while I'm wondering that, what about the rest of his Conservative pals? If their feeble showing in Copenhagen is any indication, I suspect they don't do a whole heck of a lot.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Surrey doesn't suck

The tagline from Love Story, a 1970 movie, was 'Love means never having to say you're sorry.'

White Rock residents played on that with the slogan, 'Living in White Rock means never having to say you're Surrey.'

Surrey's been home to more bad jokes than Poland, but I think things are starting to change.

Last week I went to a reading at one of Surrey's Kwantlen University campuses. Poet Matt Rader, an instructor there, had organized a reading featuring Elizabeth Bachinsky. Although it was great to hear both of these accomplished writers read from their work, I was most excited by what I heard at the Open Mic portion of the event.

This is Jill, reading from her detailed retelling of the Goldilocks tale, set to the rhythms and patterns of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven" -- what an accomplishment!

The other photo shows Nick, who performed a most impressive rap -- a piece that employed exciting rhythms and language and presented a whack of meaningful political comment -- exactly what the best kind of rap is all about.

Both of these writers are clearly aware of poetic form, but are fulfilling its demands their own way. And if these two aren't exemplary of what contemporary poetry is, I don't know what might be.

Lots of hope here -- for poetry, for creativity, and for Surrey as a cultural centre worth bragging about.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

White Rock cares about Climate Change

Despite freezing temps, a stalwart crew gathered for a candlelight vigil at the busy intersection marking the boundary of White Rock and Surrey. Our goal, to show solidarity with those working in Copenhagen to create meaningful policies that will bring positive results.

People here on the Semiahmoo Peninsula, an area which still boasts some of the best weather in Canada, care about how climate change is affecting our sisters and brothers around the world.

The message to Stephen Harper and the rest of our government is clear. Now is the time to get moving with real change – changes in action and changes in thinking that will address the climate changes occurring all over the face of our lovely planet.

Friday, December 11, 2009

No Fun City!

That's one of the names Vancouver's been called before, but now I see that the title is probably going to have to move further south.

Driving through Surrey this morning, I noticed a group of skaters with hockey sticks swirling over a frozen pond. To most Canadians, this wouldn't be worthy of note, but out here in supposed 'Lotus Land' the ponds don't usually freeze. I was glad I had my camera along, and planned to pull over to take the shot on my way home, when I'd be on the safer side of the highway.

Only when I came back that way, the ice stood vacant as you see in the shot above. I can only guess that the skaters had been shooed off, as there was a sign asking me to call my MLA if I wanted to 'free the ice'.

It's difficult to accept this as any kind of safety issue, as the site is a fen -- basically a marsh, and I can't imagine any part of it is deep enough for anyone to drown in. Besides, it's been cold for a week now and the water is most definitely frozen.

Off to phone my MLA, who's used to hearing from me, though not over anything as ridiculous as this.

PostScript: Today's local paper has a story on this, explaining that the issue isn't safety but 'concern for the environment' -- especially litter -- that sees the pond decreed off-limits. Considering that 'they' spent $2,000 erecting a fence to keep family skates from occurring, I am baffled. Didn't putting posts into the ground cause more disturbance to the site than skaters would have? And couldn't they have installed a litter bin for a tenth of that amount?

Monday, December 07, 2009

12 Days to Make a Difference

This first day of talks in Copenhagen didn't bode well for Canada.

Even at home, Canada took it in the teeth. Greenpeace protesters apparently caused the RCMP some 'embarrassment' by being able to climb Parliament buildings and hang banners. So much for tightened security.

But more embarrassing is the fact that Canada received the distinction of a 'fossil' award for its environmental track record, brought down specifically by the Tar Sands.

It will be interesting to see how many more embarrassments we will have to endure before our leaders grow the backbone for us to once again take our place in the world as leaders for change, for making hope a reality.

Friday, December 04, 2009

How does Vancouver say Welcome to the world...

...when all of the signs are in English?

Canada's official languages are English and French, but aside from the airport or other federal buildings, it's rare to see a sign en francais. Oh yes, there's Maillardville, a quiet little community that celebrated its centennial this year. Since it's not home to Olympic venues, it's doubtful it will be much help to francophone travellers.

Yesterday's announcement that Canada has joined the ranks of countries with ‘approved destination status’ suggests that we should expect a wave of tourists from China. As long as they visit the suburb of Richmond, especially Aberdeen Centre, those tourists will feel right at home, as much of the signage there is in Chinese characters.

Still, if they venture far beyond there, I fear they may get lost -- especially if they try to use the newest leg in Vancouver's rapid transit system, the Canada Line. I haven't yet seen a sign there in anything but English -- and even that signage doesn't seem to do a very good job of communicating.

I've always admired Toronto's subway system, with its colourful, distinctively tiled stations. Easy enough to show a person that they need to get off at the red station or the green one -- much harder to ask them to read a crawl sign or listen for the name of a station called out by a pre-recorded robotic voice, no matter how lifelike its tonality might be.

The last three times I've used the Canada Line, I've been approached by people (an older couple, a mother and her daughters, three teenaged girls) who couldn't figure out which train to take or which stop to get off at. And judging from their lack of accents, these were all people for whom English is their first language.

If they can't understand the signs that are posted, how are we to expect travellers from around the world to navigate their way around the city?