Tuesday, November 29, 2016

When is a promise not a promise?

When it's a political lie.

I had misgivings about Justin Trudeau's promises last May when announcements about the Kinder Morgan project started leaking out (sort of like a pipeline or a tanker might?).

I don't think I'm the only one who remembers that he said, "Governments may be able to issue permits, but only communities can grant permission." If you consider the massive protest that took place barely over a week ago, it's clear that the community has not given its permission.

Today's news conference contained a surprise that almost no one was expecting. Maybe waiting until December 19th, as had been the previous understanding, would have seen any announcements overshadowed by pronouncements scheduled to come from the US Electoral College. It seems more likely that this was just some smelly little political game of see-saw meant to keep everybody happy. Sort of.

This nasty surprise bombshell sends an undeniable message. Yes, we need to go back to the mountain, even if it means as it did two years ago, that we'll be standing in the rain.

And if that doesn't work, come the next election, I think we'll all be warier of buying anyone's promises, even if they're coming from a guy who once seemed worth believing.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

The joys of being a generalist

I've never been very good at restricting myself to any single discipline. Maybe that word 'discipline' still carries too many negative connotations. Or maybe I simply prefer to live a free-range sort of life.

One way this open-ended set of interests pays off is that it's nearly impossible to be bored. And since I've come home from my retreat, with all the levels of catch-up that;s entailed, the days certainly been filled in an almost wild range of ways.

Thursday night was another in our local literary series, Readings by the Salish Sea, with the distinguished guest Anosh Irani reading from his latest novel, The Parcel.

The book is no easy read. Not because the writing is difficult to understand. If anything, the scenes he creates are all too clear. But the unpleasantness of 'breaking in' a young girl to a life of prostitution is distasteful, to be sure. Still, it's writing that's brave and, despite the topic, beautiful.

In addition to reading, he was generous in answering questions from the audience.

If you're wondering why there are paintings behind him, it's because the event was held in a gallery, one currently featuring the work of Vojislav Morosan, an artist who meticulously documented so many local scenes. Considering how fast so many of these vistas are changing (thank you, high-rise developers), it's a good thing we have these paintings as reminders.

As for the rest of the weekend, it's been another fit-for-a-generalist mix, one that included a visit to the megalithic Cineplex in Langley. Despite the fact that I'm a Harry Potter fan -- I own (and have read) all of the books and have seen all the films, more than once -- the newest offering from J.K. Rowling was a letdown. Even Eddie Redmayne seemed flat in his role as the admittedly somewhat-wimpy character he played. From minute to minute, I wasn't sure whether he was going to transform into the Danish Girl or maybe Stephen Hawking.

I'll admit that part of last night's entertainment, Bad Grandpa, was quite a few notches lower, though I'll also admit that I laughed so  hard I cried.

When a show comes on with this many warnings, you know there's bound to be more than a few politically-incorrect elements.

As for today, I'm doing yet another two very different things.

First, I'm heading to a pottery show, where I'm hoping I might find a special something as a Christmas gift. After that I'm joining (at half-time) a group of friends who still celebrate the Grey Cup.

And if all of this doesn't qualify me as a generalist, I don't know what might.

This unwillingness to declare a pigeon-holed category of interest once cost me a pretty decent book reviewing gig. But do I have regrets over that? Not a chance, especially as once that editor changed, I was back on the roster.

Even my degree attests to who I am: Bachelor of General Studies. For now at least, curiosity remains my guiding star.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Springtime in November

I know. I should know better than to make any such cheery proclamations. It’s just that when the weather is perfect (perfect enough to spend the morning in my deck chair, reading and sipping at coffee), it’s something to celebrate.

I’m also celebrating my annual writing retreat. It’s a time I anticipate with pleasure, not only for the uninterrupted writing time, but for the evenings of camaraderie among close friends.

This year’s setting is new to us, in a pastoral setting on North Pender Island. The sheep are far enough away that I don’t ever hear them. As for the chickens (and crows), they’re another matter. But being natural sounds, they’re never a disturbance.

There are several indicators that despite the sunny hours, it isn’t really spring, just some lucky autumn breaks before colder weather arrives. One of those indicators is this year’s bounteous supply of apples. We’ve been invited to help ourselves to them, so the forager in me has taken advantage of that. I’ve harvested two different varieties – and they’re waiting in bags for when I depart.

When I leave here I know that I’ll be leaving with more than apples. As I always do at the end of a retreat, I’ll come away refreshed and renewed – and I hope ready to face the many changes we are all bound to experience over the coming months.

I plan to do my best to keep some of these sunny images in mind, trusting that they will carry me through whatever dark times may be ahead.

As for now, I’m glad that I’ve come back indoors, as I can hear the start of yet another round of the inevitable November rains. 

Friday, November 11, 2016

Seeking wisdom

Kurt Vonnegut was born on November 11th, 1922.

One of my long-held traditions was to write a letter to him on that day.

He never replied to any of those letters (heck, I don't even know whether any of them reached him), but I kept up the tradition for many years. Much, I suppose, the way I keep this little blog. Sending words out into the universe without knowing whether they might ever connect with anyone.

In light of all that's occurred this week, I'm writing to him again. I just wish that this time, he'd be able to respond, as I'm sure we could use some of his wise advice.

Although, who knows, he might just go along with the down-home homely advice offered in the sign.

And yes, I wrote some of those letters long enough ago that I used a typewriter, thus the likely now-jarring font:

Dear Mr Vonnegut, 

If you were alive, you'd be turning 94. A somewhat creaky age, I suspect. Not an impossible age, but one where I expect that you'd be slowing down. Nonetheless an age when your sense of wisdom would likely be keener than ever. 

Quite a few of us have had our world upended this week. We were expecting one thing to happen, but instead the opposite occurred. 

The reactions I've heard about have included crying (in all its various manifestations, from tears streaming in shocked silence to tears accompanied by sobbing and even shrieking), vomiting, or going to bed and pulling up the covers. 

Apparently so many Americans wanted to know how to emigrate to Canada that our government's immigration website crashed.  

Then yesterday, the president-elect met with the current president of the US, Barack Obama, a fellow I'm sure you've heard about even as far as Tralfamadore or wherever it is that you might now be. 

If the news cameras can be trusted anymore, the new guy came away from that meeting looking a lot like the kid who's been taken to the firehall (I know how you loved firehalls and fire engines) after being caught playing with matches. Sobered right up. Or, to put it in Bondian terms, "shaken, not stirred." *

The only positive spin I can manage on this is that it's just part of the cycle of big change that's been coming for such a long time. Again, I look to thoughts Tralfamadorian as I do my best to come to an acceptance of the reality of now. 

One of your writer-colleagues, Toni Morrison, offered some good advice: "This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. This is how civilizations heal."

To that, I imagine you would wholeheartedly agree. After all, doesn't that pretty much sum up how you spent your life here on this little blue planet?

It's Remembrance Day here in Canada, Veterans Day in the US, so I turned on the radio a few minutes ago -- just in time for the moment of silence. Thankfully, that's not a sound one gets very often on the CBC. 

Several speakers then offered remembrance and, as is always the case, in both official languages, French and English. But this year, they added something I didn't remember hearing before, another speaker offered these in a First Nation tongue. Yes. A time for healing. Hallelujah

Which brings to mind one other bit of news. A very cool fellow should have arrived in your zone last night. His name is Leonard. I expect the two of you should find plenty to talk about. 

Best cheers, as always,


* Explanation of this phrase brings to mind another of your works, Cat's Cradle, with its exploration of the properties of ice, a fascination held in what we call 'real life' by your brother, Bernard

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

There are walls, and then there are walls...

This is a wall.

This is a wall with ivy on it.

This is a wall covered with colourful autumny leaves,

It's a wall, yes -- one that provides a bit of privacy,

but isn't a wall that encloses anything.

Maybe it's the only kind of wall anyone should need.

On this morning (or should that be mourning?), I can't help but notice the numbers at the bottom of my computer's screen: 09/11/2016. It seems indeed like quite another kind of 9/11.

Thursday, November 03, 2016

Less than a week to go...

This photo is from an ad for tissues that I spotted in a SkyTrain station downtown. The way things are going it seems appropriate.

I suppose I shouldn't be too surprised at the way this race is turning into a dead heat. When we travelled through the western U.S. this September there were so many Trump signs I don't think I could have counted them all if I'd wanted to.

And though I did see one (yes, just one) sign in support of 'Hillary' (and yes, with her first name only), the only 'Clinton' sign I saw was this one, approaching in the distance on the freeway outside of Clinton, Montana.

The town is home to not only the annual Testicle Festival, but today is their Annual Festival of the Dead Group Art Show.

As to which of these cultural events might be more appropriate in light of electioneering and these particular candidates, well, you'll have to be the one to decide.