Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Even our poor little Jack o' lantern was drenched.

I guess the weather must have had something to do with such a low turnout of Trick-or-Treaters. We had the lowest number ever -- 10. And 4 of those were teenaged girls, spunky enough to have made themselves costumes. My fave? The one I couldn't guess right: a zebra. Stripey.

Maybe next year we'll have to get sexier with our pumpkin-carving. To see some real dazzlers, click here.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Forest on chopping – er, auction – block

This past June saw news that a forest near Fort Langley was set to be auctioned off. An area described by a real estate agent as 'heavily treed' and a 'blank canvas' has begun attracting the attention of more than environmentalists.

It felt almost miraculous the way the heavy rains of the past few days relented yesterday, as that was the afternoon when artists, musicians, writers, and even a dancer performed in the forest of McLellan Park.

The goal of the event was to raise awareness of both the beauty and the plight of the area. Twenty-five acres of forest that has been deemed one-of-a-kind biologically in British Columbia is set to be sold off to raise funds for a new Recreation Centre in Aldergrove.

A rec centre is a good thing -- certainly a cause with the public in mind. However, there has to be a better way to find the money to finance construction of a building.

Face it, in 40 years (or maybe less), the rec centre will need to be replaced. Isn't that about the lifespan of most of our public facilities? Then, where will the money for that construction be found?

If McLellan Park is left undisturbed, in 40 years the forest will only be grander. And at the rate trees are being chopped these days, think of how much more valuable such a preserve will be.

If you'd like to express your thoughts on this to those who can change the outcome of the current plan, write a message to Mayor and Council Members of the Township of Langley.

If you'd like to ask the provincial government to get in on protecting this site, contact Langley MLA, Rich Coleman (

And if you believe this is a matter the Feds should be concerned about -- after all, they claim to be all about heritage preservation -- contact the area's Member of Parliament, Mark Warawa (

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Mashed Poetics 12.5

Last night 10 poets got together and presented poems they'd written in response to Stevie Ray Vaughan's music. The album we riffed off of was Texas Flood. And while it's obvious we didn't get to play along with Double Trouble, we had the next best thing, a tribute band that came together for the occasion, the Love Struck Babies. 

The band (Neil Miskin on drums, Clint "Father Goose" Wilson on bass, and Trevor -- Spillious the Ridiculous -- on lead guitar and vocals) had played in Saskatoon, the same gig only with different poets. 

Here's a YouTube presentation from the Saskatoon performance, that city's Mighty Mike McGee, offering his interpretation of "Lenny" the song I got to do in Vancouver. 

What a night!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Inspiration: moving forward

One of these years I plan to figure out a way to go to every day of the Vancouver Writers' Festival. Once again, I have had to be satisfied with a single day's outing. Still, the time proved to be very well spent.

The afternoon session, A Long Walk to Truth, explored two very different takes on what might be called family stories. Deni Y. Bechard's book looks into the relationship he had with his very non-traditional father -- a man who was, among other things, a bank robber.

The other presenter, Carol Shaben, wrote a book that was a long time in coming -- about a plane crash in which her father was one of only four survivors. The two writers' work seemed to complement each other, but that may have had something to do with the skill of moderator Kirk LaPointe.

Walking in the rain and exploring Granville Island were also part of my day. But for me the real 'meat' of the festival was an evening presentation on Women and Literature. Not the usual festival presentation -- generally focused on an author's current book -- this was a discussion of a topic that's often ignored despite its being the proverbial elephant in the room: gender equality in the literary arts.

Anne Giardini, who hosted the event, had a world's worth of talented women on stage with her. They included Kate Mosse, founder of the prestigious Orange Prize (now transformed into the Women's Prize for Fiction), Australia's Gail Jones, noted Canadian author and activist Susan Swan, and Vancouverite Gillian Jerome.

Thanks to Jerome's work with CWILA, some startling statistics revealed that although women publish more books than men, the state of reviewing doesn't reflect this. Mosse and Jones bore witness to the parallel (and dismal) situation in their countries.

The discussion, of course, was broader than mere statistics, ranging to the selection of judges for contests, marketing and cover art (with -- gasp -- the 'decapitated woman' too often depicted). It felt as if some of the old fires of early feminism were being re-ignited, with a conversation that was not only lively and entertaining, but pointed and stirring.

As for me, the first small step I plan to take is to sign on to the CBC's current Canada Reads invitation to nominate books for their annual contest -- and this year to ensure that the book I suggest is one that was written by a woman.

To note: If you plan to nominate a book for Canada Reads, the deadline for doing so is this Monday, October 22nd.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Beginning of Others...

The other day saw me posting about things ending. Today's news is thankfully, much brighter. The labyrinth at Kwomais Point Park is another step closer to completion.

Despite the rains, a troupe of dedicated volunteers came out to set a raft of native plants into the area around the labyrinth (and the mosaic near the buildings).

Afternoon saw a small literary event, with winners of Semiahmoo Arts 'Summery Writing Contest' introduced. The five winners read from their work and received their prizes.

Evening saw a far more elaborate event called INvision.

Dancers, actors, poets, drummers, a cellist, improv artists, a painter (who painted a wedding dress -- yes, she created a wild design on a once-boringly-white wedding dress) and even a didgeridoo player.

As if all that wasn't enough of a celebration for the labyrinth, as we left the hall, we were greeted by a troupe of fire dancers. Spectacular!

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

The End of Things

Yesterday was Thanksgiving. To celebrate, we spent the morning at a gorgeous little Par-3 golf course. The weather was perfect, the setting unbeatable. The only part that wasn't good was the fact that this was to be the final day of play at Aquadel.

Yet another victim of what we like to call progress, all 18 holes are set for demolition and development.

Only then, when we got home and read this morning's news, we discovered that two more recreational venues are set to close.

The Ridge Bowling Lanes, a long-established spot where old and young, disabled and able, gather to socialize, is one of the sites slated for the bulldozer. Accompanying it, of course, is the stalwart art-cinema, the Ridge Theatre. How will these be replaced? What else, with condos.

In addition, the Granville 7 Cinema has just announced that it will be closing early in November. Does this mean the Vancouver International Film Festival will be forced to end as well?

Truly, with all the people being gathered into condominiums for densified living, it's difficult to figure where they're supposed to go for entertainment.

All of this reminds me of when they paved over our local 'little golf course' so they could build a mega-mall, with Walmart. If they'd moved the mall just two blocks east (where land was -- and still is mostly undeveloped), all those people in the hundreds of new townhouses and condos would have some walking trails, a miniature golf, a driving range, and a lovely greenspace area that was once a gorgeous place to walk or have a place to play golf.

The end of things? The end of too many good ones, at least. Y'know, maybe those Mayans were onto something after all.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Red means...

Autumn leaves across North America seem to be serving as yet another indicator of climate change. Trees are showing off an especially spectacular range of colours this year. Apparently, it’s owing to a combination of the dry conditions so many parts of the continent have endured combined with unexpectedly warm temperatures.

But the paranoid (and often victorious) side of my brain comes up with yet another theory – one that at least offers an explanation for the unusually brilliant shades of red we’re seeing around here.

Mid-September saw an overzealous Surrey developer engage in a weekend clearcutting spree. Even though neighbours alerted officials, by the time anyone in authority arrived, the damage had been done, with more than double the permitted area of land cleared of trees, including a chunk of federally protected salmon habitat.

And now the city’s ruling has come down against the developer – a tap on the wrist of just over $175,000 – and about $150,000 of that is a security deposit which will be returned if restoration work is completed in three years.

The actual fine for removing trees not covered in the original permit (the city says 14 extra trees were taken, the developer claims only 9) is only $25,400 – a pittance, and one that will surely be passed along to prospective home buyers. After all, such fines are often viewed as simply the ‘cost of doing business’.

But why, I wonder, is the fine so low? The City of Surrey’sTree bylaw specifies a fine ‘up to $10,000’ for each tree taken illegally. So why were these trees so grossly undervalued with fines levied at perhaps not even $2,000 each?

If this is how seriously Surrey takes its tree protection by-laws, it’s no wonder trees keep falling in the name of somebody’s definition of progress.

But oh yes, back to my theory about why the trees are turning such a bright red this year. It’s plain enough; they’re embarrassed by what’s happened – as should we all be.