Friday, February 26, 2021

And the beat goes on...

Earlier this week, news came that Lawrence Ferlinghetti, whose name has long been associated with the "Beat Movement" had died. Almost 102 years old, he certainly had a good run. 

In addition to being known for his writing, he and a partner started the famous City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco, a shop I can vouch for as being an almost magical place. Apparently, a memorial for him was held in the laneway adjacent to the shop, a short street known as Jack Kerouac Alley

Sadly, Ferlinghetti is not the only poet who's died during this long and lonesome winter. 

The wonderful Ontario poet, Michael Dennis left us on the last day of 2020. Poking around on his blog, "Today's Book of Poetry" where he was constantly reviewing books, is sure to lead you to discovering someone new. 

Earlier in the year, Vancouver lost d.n.simmers. If you click on the link for him, you'll see, in amongst photos of him, a shot that was taken at City Lights Bookstore -- the one with the 'Door' sign. 

Lost to us, though at least we have their books. So yes, I suppose the beat does indeed go on. 

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Read -- it's still free

Usually, I observe Freedom to Read Week by participating in an event specifically geared to celebrate it. Often, that means doing a reading from books that have been banned or challenged. For fun, this link will take you to a quiz about literacy and the freedom to read. 

This year, like just about everything else in our lives, that observance is different. 

Yes, I'm in an event where I get to mention Freedom to Read Week, but the only challenged piece I'll be presenting is one of my own poems. It's one that a local environmental group posted on its website a few years ago, when a whole lot of poets banded together in efforts to save a forest from becoming yet another faceless development. Fortunately, this effort, the Han Shan Project succeeded, and that chunk of forest is now protected and available as a public park. 

My poem, which was based on the Beatitudes found in the Bible, stirred the wrath of certain folks. They not only complained that my poem was blasphemous, they threatened the environmental group, demanding that they remove my poem (and even, for a while, wanted the environmental group's entire website taken down). I was fortunate in that the group who'd posted it held its ground and honoured my poem, and also that the complainers gradually went away. 

This year, when it comes to censorship, freedom of expression, and access to information, my biggest concern is the repercussive wave that's swept the internet over Australia's decision to protect journalism in that country. The big guys, who seem to think they rule the world, don't want to have to pay for content.

It's going to take a while to sort out this mess, but it's a situation that deserves the attention of all of us who value responsible journalism and news that's true.  

Oh, and if you're curious about the photo with its message to Read, it's a piece of origami book art I came across at my local indie bookstore -- a business I'm doing my best to support by shopping there. I hope you can find ways to shop local too. 

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

O Canada...

Today is "I Read Canadian Day" -- a day that for me is probably not much different from most other days. Not that I read exclusively homegrown books, though looking at various piles around the house, it's pretty clear that those are what I mostly read. 

The ones in the photo at the top are non-fiction, poetry, and even a magazine. Looking at them, I see an odd kind of interplay among their titles. Unintentional, I promise, but kind of a fun treat providing a bit of comic relief, as the two hardcover books are about disasters that occurred in Newfoundland. 

The books in the photo below are novels I've read recently, and both come, as Vancouver reviewer Tom Sandborn might say, "highly recommended."

Speechless concerns the plight of a young woman accused of adultery. Punishment for 'her crime' (actually a rape) is to be a public stoning. There's a review of it (one I wrote) in the most recent edition

of sub-Terrain Magazinethough I guess you'll have to buy the magazine to read it, as it isn't (at least, not yet) posted online.  

The latest novel from Helen Humphreys, Rabbit Foot Bill, came out last fall (and I bought it right away), but I saved it, as I admit to being a fan of hers. I knew I'd want to savour it, like a treat you save for some special occasion. Wherever she sets her books (this one, in Saskatchewan), her writing transports me there. And even though I didn't write a review of it, I'll admit there are quite a few orange stickies marking passages I want to go back to. 

I hope you'll remember that today isn't the only day to Read Canadian. It's a pleasure -- at least for me -- any day of the year. 

Friday, February 12, 2021

The start of a lucky year?

Happy New Year! Or, as many of us have learned to say (perhaps mistakenly), "Gung Hay Fat  Choy!"

While that greeting may no longer be quite the right thing to say, the ideas behind the greetings at Lunar New Year remain. Those sentiments range through all sorts of good wishes -- for good health, prosperity, success in ventures undertaken (especially studies), and peace.  

The lucky red packets traditionally hold money. The ones in the photo above contain chocolate in the shape of coins. As far as I'm concerned, not a terrible substitute. 

Here in the Lower Mainland area of British Columbia, this day is generally observed with parades and fireworks and plenty of public celebrating. Naturally, with the pandemic in full bloom, those events have been cancelled, replaced with several virtual observances. Not the same, but at least safe. 

The plan here is to have an array of dim sum treats for supper. Most of those are purchased, pre-made frozen treats that don't require much more than a ride in the steamer. But because this year is unique, we've taken extra steps and are preparing (actually, we started yesterday) special beef tendon and even chicken feet

The Year of the Ox (the Metal Ox, no less) sounds, at least to my Western ears, much easier to welcome than last year's Year of the Rat (which, not too surprisingly, links in my mind to 'plague').

Do you know which animal rules the year you were born? Finding out might (or might not) help you learn just how lucky you will be this year. 

Sunday, February 07, 2021

Not quite right

The number that is. 

It's been announced that the TransMountain Pipeline extension will require the removal of 1308 trees from several spots in the city of Burnaby. 

Although I tried finding a local address that matched that number, 1310 was the closest I could find. Considering that the 1308 applies only to the biggest trees in this cull, the slightly higher number seems close enough. 

The citizens of Burnaby elected people they believed would protect the environment to serve on their City Council. Those councillors in turn enacted bylaws that were meant to protect their city's trees. 

So I'm a bit dumbfounded at the fact that the courts -- established, I'd always thought, to protect laws (and even bylaws) decreed that Burnaby's bylaws could be so blatantly put aside

If you, like me, find this outcome to be more than 'not quite right' please write to Justin Trudeau -- quick, while the trees are still standing. There's a form on the 1308 Trees website which makes it very easy to do exactly that. 

Monday, February 01, 2021

Yes, it's real.

The other day, walking home from an appointment uptown, I passed a building with a multitude of tiny roses clinging to the branches of one of the bushes there. 

I couldn't resist taking a couple of photos, and must admit, I couldn't resist the temptation to steal one. 

When I got home, I put it into a little vase and set it on the windowsill above the kitchen sink. I figured, with my pair of my brass swans standing guard, it could serve as a little reminder of hope. 

But the little rose wasn't quite enough to bring the miracle I'd been hoping for. 

My sister-in-law, a New Yorker for many years, was hospitalized with the virus on January 8th. Shortly thereafter she was put on a respirator and moved to the ICU where she was monitored. 

She had no underlying conditions. Was never a smoker.

With help from her son (and Zoom), at least we were able to say I love you, I love you. 

But yesterday we received word that her heart finally gave out. 

If only the people who claim this disease is a hoax could be part of our story, they might be able to let the truth sink in. 

This killer virus is real -- sadly, all too real for us. 


Friday, January 29, 2021

Which one?

No, I'm not trying to decide which Nancy Drew Mystery to read (though that might be fun too). I'm trying to decide which jigsaw puzzle to do. Why? Because today is Puzzle Day!

I'll admit that I have quite a few choices, and that might be one of the reasons I'm not sure which one to do. 

One of my favourites is an old wooden puzzle I found at a second-hand store many years ago. Even when I bought it, I knew it was missing a couple of pieces. I didn't care. 

There's something about the way the thick pieces click into place that is much more satisfying than the non-sound that comes from putting cardboard pieces together. 

I suppose if I get desperate, I can open one of my precious Beatles' puzzles -- ones I've kept sealed in case they ever get valuable... this one, which is not only of my favourite of their films, but might well be what I'm asking for: Help!