Monday, October 27, 2014

A shirt named Dave

I was going to write about a shirt named Dave. Or else about an author named Kate. Or about a book called A Surrealist Alphabet. Or maybe even about Mashed Poetics, which just celebrated the Tragically Hip.

But all of that seemed less important after yesterday's miserable news -- that the CBC had fired Jian Ghomeshi. Huh?? He's almost single-handedly revitalized our public broadcaster, bringing it -- more than anyone else -- to an audience of people under the age of 50.

The Giller Awards have already joined the bandwagon, announcing Ghomeshi won't be hosting their upcoming award ceremony. And I think now of 'Canada Reads' -- yet another institution that's bound to trickle away into lassitude without the vigour Jian injected into it.

I'm reminded of Good Morning, Vietnam and its story of how a powerful entity -- in that case, the U.S. military -- got rid of Adrian Cronauer, a DJ who was actually connecting with listeners.

I'm also reminded of Pierre Elliott Trudeau's famous statement, presented (somewhat ironically, I suppose, on the CBC archive), "The state has no place in the bedrooms of the nation." Nor, I contend, does the CBC.

When I was little, I had my own terrifying way of understanding the term 'getting fired'. I thought you got set on fire -- and worried that might some day happen to my dad.

This weekend's firing might as well be that literal, though I don't think it's going to be Jian going up in flames. With this action it seems more that the CBC has set light to its own self-destructing fuse. 

Monday, October 20, 2014

Poetry, poetry, poetry!

Last week -- in my life at least -- was a week filled with poetry. Tuesday meant a little (and I mean little, only a ten-minute gig) reading at The Paper Hound, a bookstore that serves as a great reminder of what a real bookstore is. Heck, any bookstore with Tintin living there qualifies as special in my mind. But while I was there, people came in asking for everything from books on calligraphy to books en francais. Amazingly, the owner/proprietor was able to help -- a far cry from the often bored-looking, unengaged worker-slaves at the dreaded chain stores.

Then on Wednesday, I attended SFU's Lunch Poem series, with features Tim Bowling and Donato Mancini. I suppose two poets couldn't have been more different in their work. And that may have very well been what created such a great dynamic. I'm still playing around with ideas buried in notes I scribbled at the event -- and better than my night-time notes, these are even readable.

If three days in a row isn't too lucky for words, Thursday was an evening where ten poets performed, but in pairs. Each pairing had prepared some kind of collaborative work for the event. And each was totally different from the others.

Jude Neale sang (in full operatic soprano) part of the work she and Bonnie Nish presented. The poet who'd written a piece about the exclamation mark was 'answered' by a poem about the question mark. Another actually danced her accompaniment to a poem. And all of this in a brand-new branch of
Vancouver Public Library, tucked into a building housing a supermarket and condominiums.

Another pairing explored similarities and differences in where/when they were born and who they'd become. My partner and I experimented by writing a renga together, then riffing on it in a couple of new directions, an experiment that you might want to try for yourself.

A busy week? Yes. But if only every week could be as rich!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Non-traditional celebration

But then, that shouldn't be too surprising. We seem to often do things our own way.

This Thanksgiving was no different. No big turkey roasting in the oven. No pile of dishes and pots to wash up.

It was an order-in takeaway supper instead -- barbecued duck instead of turkey. The non-traditional accompaniments of chow mein and tofu were good companions to the duck.

But so was the completely traditional side of Brussels sprouts, though even they arrived in a less-than-conventional format -- still on the stalk, fresh as they can be.

Much to be thankful for. Always.

Monday, October 06, 2014

Gathering wild mushrooms

It's something that goes with autumn. Harvesting an assortment of wild mushrooms. Over the years, we've refined our skills -- learned about mushrooms we didn't know about before, explored new places, tried new recipes.

We've also learned a few things about the right and the wrong ways of harvesting.

The photo above shows how NOT to gather them. Those aren't some fat cigarette butts resting around the leaf. The black 'fuzzy' stuff on the cut-off mushroom stems is soil.

The harvester who left these behind has jeopardized the odds of mushrooms growing there again next year. They've pulled them up by what you might want to call their 'roots' -- that critical connection which links them to the mycelium, hidden beneath the earth.

The parts we 'pick' are the bits that poke their heads up through the soil.

It's important to slice the base of the mushroom in such a way that the link to the fruiting body isn't disturbed.

It's also a good idea to not try to clean out the forest, but to leave some for other harvesters who may be coming along in a day or two. A good way to ensure you're doing this is to avoid taking small mushrooms, and only harvesting those that have had a chance to grow into mature specimens.

Of course, it's important to know what you're harvesting. Our friend the Internet can provide many answers, but even Google's images of chanterelles contain at least one look-alike, one you won't want to ingest.

A book with clear photographs can be a useful companion in the forest, and will be easier to use if its focus is specific to your geographic region. An even better way is to tag along with a knowledgeable harvester.

But even if you don't feel like learning which kinds of mushrooms are edible, the experience of walking in the forest this time of year is one that can only inspire wonder. Get out there.