Monday, February 28, 2011

Not the easiest of months

But then, since when is February easy?

The beginning of the month saw the Dear Man getting on a plane and flying back east to visit his mother, who was very ill.

Then, last Sunday, we received news of her death.

Today is the anniversary of my father's death. It's almost impossible to think that it's been 21 years.

Maybe there's a reason February's the shortest month.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Freedom to Read (and Write) Week

This year's Freedom to Read Week runs (officially) from February 20th to February 26th.

Once again, Marion Quednau and friends will be reading from 'challenged' materials.

Of special concern this year has been the many new forms of censorship we are seeing. A CRTC ruling saw radio stations 'bleeping' the Dire Straits hit, "Money for Nothing" for its inclusion of the word 'faggot'. And while I'm the first person to complain when the word 'gay' is used as an insult -- really, a song from so long ago seems a bit like the revisionist version of Huckleberry Finn that's been in the news. Besides, if you want to get down to it, Knopfler's song includes the term 'chicks' in what could certainly be construed as a derogatory manner -- 'chicks for free' -- come on. And heck, the dirtiest word of all is also in there: 'money'.

But much more frightening is the censorship going on in the Middle East, the blackouts that occurred in Egypt and now in Libya.

Every week needs to be a time for Freedom to Read -- and write.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A case of (too many) good intentions

Here it is, over halfway through the week, more than halfway through the month, and I'm feeling more than half-behind in things I've meant to do (and post!).

I’ve had Internet problems all day, making everything take nearly twice as long, not even accounting for the ff (frustration factor) of losing stuff -- and waiting, waiting, waiting.

But trying again, intent with good intentions.

I had a photo I'd taken and saved especially for Valentine's, even found an article about writing a love poem I intended to use. Oh, sigh.

And it seemed a natural follow-up from the last posting, on Walk Myself Home, to write about the Women's Memorial March held on Monday.

Then, getting fluffier in my thinking, this big blue machine by the name of Watson showed up on Jeopardy! At least at this point, here in the Pacific Time Zone, where we haven't yet seen tonight's show, Watson is beating the proverbial pants off his competitors, Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter.

While it's impressive to see Watson's comprehension of 'natural language' it's crummy seeing two such brainy humans getting slapped around so badly by a bank (okay, banks and banks) of microprocessors (or whatever they are). Both Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter have earned payouts in the millions, but it looks as though neither of them stands a chance against Watson. And I suspect it's largely a matter of who can buzz in the fastest. Hands down (as there are no ‘hands’ involved), when it comes to speedy reflexes, the winner is going to be Watson.

One thing Watson has made me think about is Robert J. Sawyer's www trilogy -- okay, only two are out so far, Wake and Watch -- but it's hard not to think Sawyer's vision (those who have read these will know what I mean) could indeed be soon to come true.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

A time for change

Last night, a friend and I went in to Vancouver, to attend an event celebrating a remarkable new book, Walk Myself Home.

The venue, the Carnegie Community Centre, certainly felt right. It's a heritage building that, like the sign above says, serves as the heart of the community.

Early evening, and the building seemed packed. People were gathered around tables, playing cards or mah-jong; several quieter tables focused on chess. Moving to the library, nearly every seat was taken, heads bent to books or taking notes.

But back to the reading, that took place in the centre’s theatre.

Readers offered short memoirs, poems, even an account of a court challenge with long-lasting benefits to victims of abuse. Although the event was sponsored by the Vancouver Public Library, the setting was anything but library-like.

Hosted by Elee Kraljii Gardiner, who runs a Thursday afternoon creative writing program at the Centre, she spoke of how the book’s contributors have formed their own community – providing accommodation and meals for out-of-town contributors, supporting each other in many ways.

I’m sure I’m speaking for everyone who attended when I say that we felt included in the circle of communities this book has engendered.

I especially loved the fact that most of the questions at the end came from men. And that with the questions came thanks and other hopeful words.

As the book’s subtitle explains, Walk Myself Home is “an anthology to end violence against women.” I’d like to believe that the ‘end’ part of that phrase is correct and coming true.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

On the trail of truth

Today is the Sunday I traditionally honour the creature I call the Superb Owl. This year's pursuit took a much different track, as I went to a place where owls actually live.

I took part in a hike that followed the aptly named Witness Trail. The trail, created by a troupe of volunteers, attempts to follow the route of a proposed freeway, part of a project referred to as Gateway. This roadway (really, I can't call it a freeway, as at least its bridge component will be tolled, and not 'free' at all) is one that many of us believe is ill-advised, especially for the sensitive habitat it will destroy.

The Witness Trail meanders along the Fraser River and an area known as Surrey Bend. This undiked floodplain is an area containing both wetland and forest, and is home to many species whose habitat is now threatened. The beavers have been doing their best, busily rebuilding their dams, but how will the birds rebuild the towering trees?

Despite recent activity that appears to be full-steam-ahead, the South Fraser Perimeter Road is being challenged in a lawsuit for violating endangered species and environmental assessment laws.

The snowdrops aren't yet open, but they are persisting. Like the snowdrops pushing up from under the cover of winter's soggy leaves, this issue must come out of the darkness of secrecy and into the eyes of the public. Because, as the Gateway Sucks website reminds us, "It's not a done deal. We can do better."

For more insight, take a listen to what Ben from The Wilderness Committee had to say while we were out in what remains of the forest today.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Year of the bunny

Okay, not the year of the bunny, it's the year of the rabbit. The metal rabbit, if you want to get fussy.

Since I didn't have a metal bunny (er, rabbit) hanging around, you'll have to make do with a photo of a real, live one. Taken last October in a nearby park.

Bunny. Rabbit. Whichever you prefer, it's apparently supposed to be a calmer year than last. We'll see, eh.

In the meantime, Gung Hei Fat Choi!