Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Halloween 2012: Pretty Scary Time

The photo shows the kind of low level Halloween decorations I like.  Seems that the holiday has overtaken Christmas when it comes to expenses for store bought goodies.  That's a frightening thought, but not as frightening as what is going on around us.

Three examples:

1.  An American election campaign where nobody talks about climate change until New York city takes it in the teeth from a very strange storm that might be a harbinger of the new world order. 

2. The Conservatives in Canada are falling all over themselves, trying to imitate the US Right Wing.  Latest example: it looks like they want to privatize the Canadian Housing and Mortgage Corporation.

3.  The Republican candidate for the US Presidency still says that the federal government should a limited role in dealing with disaster.

4. Those weather satellites which at least warned folks what was coming are old and need replacing, but Congress has dragged itself feet at doing so.  

I could go on, because it's too depressing,  Better to think about the cute little beaver costume Jeanne is wearing....

BTW,  here's a link to some ideas for decorating, in case you still feel in a party mood.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

La Folia--Great New Music Coming Your Way from Elin, Cléo and Tawnie

Attention all of you in Edmonton, Vancouver, Victoria and Gabriola Island: you have a crazy treat in store! New music for flute, hyper-flute, viola da gamba and harpsichord is coming your way. Fiolûtrôniq--that is Elin Soderstrom, Cléo Quentin-Palacio and Tawnie Olson--will be performing new works on the theme, La Folia, over the next two weeks in a hall near you.


Here are the details

Les Folles Alliées – On tour !

Folles alliées – Concert
Friday, November 2 @ 8 pm
Muttart Hall, Alberta College
10050 Macdonald Drive, Edmonton, AB
Masterclass at University of Alberta
Saturday, November 3 (exact time and room t.b.c.)
Events @ Western Front
303 East 8th Ave., Vancouver, BC
New Orchestra Workshop Improvisation Series
Workshop given by Cléo Palacio-Quintin
Monday, November 5 @ from 4 – 6pm and 7:30 – 9:30pm
Composers Workshop with Fiolûtröniq and Katelyn Clark
In collaboration with CMC and LCC
November 7 @ 7 pm (Free)
Folles alliées – Concert
Thursday, November 8 @ 8 pm
Western Front, Vancouver (co-presented by Music on Main)
Advance Tickets: $12 General / $10 Students & WF Members (Processing fees apply)
Door Tickets: $15 General / $12 Students & WF Members
Folles alliées – Acoustic Concert
Friday, November 9 @ 5:30 pm
The Net Loft
Folles alliées – Concert
Thursday, November 15 @ 8 pm
Open Space
510 Fort Street, 2nd floor, Victoria,

Monday, 29 October 2012

Romney on Diaster Relief: Preferably Privatize It

I didn't think this was for real when I first saw reference to it, but here's the clip. According to the Huffington Post, his staff today, as Sandy raged, reaffirmed this position.

 "Absolutely," Romney said in this primary debate. "Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that's the right direction. And if you can go even further, and send it back to the private sector, that's even better. Instead of thinking, in the federal budget, what we should cut, we should ask the opposite question, what should we keep?"

Waiting for Sandy: Storm Surf

Well, actually it's not supposed to be so bad here. But I couldn't resist.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Saturday Photo: Woodside Cottage on a Busy Street

I must have walked by this house on  Chemin de la Côte Ste-Catherine thousands of times, literally, but always on the other side of the street.  This week I took a closer look though, and discovered that the house is 135 years old.

There's a plaque in front, saying that it was built in 1867-68 by a pioneer in the neighborhood   David Edward who was the first mayor of Outremont after it was incorporated in 1875.  The house now sit on a busy thoroughfare, which still follows a curving track made by    Native Canadians  who took it around Mount Royal.

This time of year the trees surrounding the house are turning colour, and the flower beds are full of autumnal asters.  But it hasn't turn so cold that the fountain has been turned off, so the splash of water competes with the traffic noises.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Silliness Because the US Election Is So Close and So Scary: Wintergreen for President

The first time I heard this was in 1960 when George and Ira Gershwin's Of Thee I Sing was performed  at UC Berkeley with the Kennedy-Nixon presidential campaign in the background. 

I was charmed and I've always thought that the spoof had many interesting things to say: remember it was first performed in 1931 when Hoover was president, and FDR was preparing to run for the office.  The musical ran for 441 night on Broadway, and what FDR accomplished ran four nearly five decades (check out Paul Krugman on that.)

Anyway, with the Romney-Obama face lurching toward its conclusion, this is worth laughing at, it seems to me.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

The Wages of Sin Are Hard to Spend, Or Why the Bad Guys Have Caches of Cash

What you see to the left is part of the cash that Guy Suprenant, the Montreal engineer who accept wads of money for boosting payments to dishonest contractors, turned over to police before he began testifying to the Charbonneau commission on fraud in the construction industry.

He's said that he received more than $600,00 straight out and another $100,000 in jaunts and dinners and golf trips.  Part of the cash he used to buy presents for his children, but he didn't know what to do with the rest.  Finally he started spending it at the Montreal casino, because at least thata way it would go back int he province;s coffers, he's said.

Then yesterday the anti-fraud squad seized the contents of several safety deposit boxes belonging to Gille Vaillancourt, mayor of Laval, the suburb north of Montreal.  It has not been officially confirmed, but the boxes also contained lots of cash.

And then there's the weird case of Brian Mulroney who had several hundred thousand in a safe at his home: how it got there is an interesting story, why he kept it there is probably even more interesting. 

Because the fact is that it's really hard to get rid of ill-gotten gains.  You can't declare them on your income tax, deposit them in the bank, invest some for a rainy day  and  then just spend a bit at a time.  You'll be leaving a paper trail that is hard to deny.  You may even feel guilty...

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Paying for Writing: Douglas & McIntyre and The Globe and Mail

The celebrated Canadian publisher Douglas & McIntyre has  just announced that it is filing for protection from its creditors.  In other words, it is trying to avoid bankruptcy and complete meltdown by reorganizing financially.  This means, most likely, that its creditors will be forced to accept only a percentage of repayment, which further means that writers once again are going to be standing with their hands out, hoping for a few pennies.

At the same time, The Globe and Mail is going to a protected website where you'll have to pay for on-line access after you view 10 stories in a month.  There is a way out: subscribe to the print edition.  Fine, if you can get home delivery in your area, but otherwise it's another blow in the battle for the future of publishing.

Presumably those writing for the Globe will be paid for what they're doing.  The wars over compensation for articles done from a newspaper and published on the web seem to be over.  Some back pay for articles stolen  was won.  Newspapers are back using  freelancers, it seems, but nobody is making the kind of money that used to be paid for a good, meaty article 15 years ago, according to my friends who continue to that sort of writing.

 No, it's hard to see just where publishing is going, but the future doesn't look bright for anybody who hopes ot make a living at it.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Conrad Black, Vito Rizzuto, but Not Omar Khadr?

Vito Rizzuto who recently finished a prison term in the US for involvement in a gangland killing, was whisked back to Canada as soon as he stepped out of jail. Conrad Black, who renounced his Canadian citizenship before his financial shenigans landed him in jail, came back on a temporary permit as soon as he was released.

But Omar Khadr, arrested at 15 in a war zone,  had to wait in the Gitmo prison for years before he was re-admitted to the country where he was born. 

Another example of the Law of Very Important Persons, it seems to me. 

Monday, 22 October 2012

Planting Daffodils: Confidence in the Future?

Time to do something about the garden.  I spent most of the morning cleaning out the compost bin, including watering various places with the compost tea that collects in the bottom of our system.

The stuff is stinky, and must be diluted about 1 part to 10 parts of water, or it burns plants.  One of my nightmares is that for some reason I don't empty the gunk in the fall, the liquid freezes furing the winter, and bursts the recipient so that come spring, the potentially good stuff pools around the bin, killing everything it touches. 

But that job is done for this year, as is planting  a dozen daffodils in front.  They are my favourite flower and are supposed to naturalize in a garden like mine.  That's never happened, but I keep hoping, putting in a few bulbs each fall to come up along with the tulips, snow drops and scylla, all of which return year after year with no help from me. 

The planting and preparation for the next year are a gardener's magical investment in the future.  There, you are in effect saying, we'll get through this winter all right, the sun will come up tomorrow morning, and life will go on. 

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Saturday Photo: The Last of the Roses

Roses are related to apples. I always that was an interesting fact, one of those things to tuck away to bring out when playing a trivia game. 

But this picture of rose hips shows just how much the mature seed pod of the rose looks like an apple.  They're also supposed to be full of vitamin C, so that drinking herbal teas made from them is touted as being very healthy.

They're pretty too, particularlyl this time of the year, just before the rose leaves fall.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Advertising Offensive, Or Offensive Advertising?

The newspapers I read have been full of advertising from the Canadian  Association of Petroleum Producers with pictures of attractive "real" people extolling the virtues of the Alberta Oil Sands projects.

 This is one of the videos that go with the ads: Chelsie Klassen, who works in community relations for Imperial Oil, telling just how much good the oil industry does. Posted about a month ago, it goes hand in hand with a blitz to convince Americans that Canadian oil is "ethical" oil.

 The idea is that since Canada is better on the human rights front than other oil supplies--the example given is Saudi Arabia where women "can't even drive"--everyone should get behind the efforts to exploit the oil sands and bring the oil to the US.

All garbage, if you ask me. Aa is the pussy-footing that both Romney and Obama did when asked about oil in the debate earlier this week. The bottom line is that we have to reduce our reliance on fossil fuel products, because there's no way to develop them in a way that isn't doing more harm than good.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Person's Day: When Women Got Recognition in Canada

One of the shocking things about life in the 21st century is how we quickly forget the fights of the past.  Today is Person's Day, the anniversary of the British Privy Council (yes, it was the highest tribunal with jurisdiction over Canada at the time) declared that women were persons in the eye's of the law.  The year was 1929, which wasn't all that long ago...

The Famous Five who challenged women's "non-person" status were  Henrietta Muir Edwards, Nellie McClung, Louise McKinney, Emily Murphy and Irene Parlby.  Mothers of the country, indeed.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Virtual Mothering from the UK: A Tradiition Continues

Spending time first with Jeanne and now with Thomas, I'm much more aware of the ways that the virtual world affects life.  Among them is the ease with which you can Google information about development steps, childhood illnesses, child-rearing practices and other things.

But I hadn't heard of this UK group with considerable political clout, Mumsnet until The New York Times had a story about it.  Very interesting the way the group uses polls to decide who advertises and what issues to champion, all the while providing an on-line forum for advice and comfort. 

The British mail order retailer Mothercare was a great source when our kids were little: glad to see that the tradition continues in a different form. 

And by the way, so does Mothercare with the great terry cloth diapers that are the best reusable ones still (or so I think, having looked rather closely at what's available here.) 

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

As Exciting as "Garbo Smiles"

Thomas Edouard Soderstrom has begun to smile, and his Grandma spent most of the day playing with him. Therefore no post today, but lots of happy smiles.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Thinking about Maybe Going to Brazil in January

I've got a new non-fiction book project running around in my head.  Called Road through Time, it will be about the marks we humans leave on the world, and other things.

My plan would see me go to Brazil to, among other things, take a two day bus ride from Rio Branco in eastern Amazonia across the Andes to Cuzco. Don't know if it will work out, but I'm going to have to get back to working on my Portuguese. Here's the original Orfeu Negro, the great movie from the 1950s that introduced me--and many others--to the country. Don't be fooled by the 1990s remake, this is the real thing.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Saturday Photo: The Season Advances

It's not even the middle of October, but the Halloween decorations are out, and Reno Depot already is showing some Christmas decorations. 

But the colour are nice, so I suppose instead of railing against crass comercialism, maybe we should enjoy the show.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Apple Time: Caillou, Jeanne and Me

One of the great times of the year is when local apples start arriving at the markets. My favourite is the Cortland, which doesn't arrive usually until mid-October. They were a little early this year, as were most fruits around here, and I've already made apple pies.

Jeanne helped me last weekend. The pies were for Thanksgiving, and she rolled out the pastry dough, in her own wonderful, two-year old fashion. All along she was telling me about something that happened at the day care centre that I really didn't understand until her mother explained later that they'd picked apples (hung from the trees in the little courtyard before hand) and then made some kind of pie or crumble with them.

 Obviously the whole thing made a big impression on her, and perhaps this weekend we'll watch the following episode in the Caillou series. She's currently very taken by the little bald-headed kid, who made a fortune but ended up in the Supreme Court of Canada when it came time to share the profits.

 Is there a lesson there? Don't know except to acknowledge that little kids can be powerful

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Reading Groups Next Week: Gotta Get Busy

Next week I have four library reading groups, and, while I've read all the books in question, I like to go through each again to prepare for the discussions.

So right now I'm part way through Le Soleil des Scorta by Laurent Gaudé (Outremont), with Gabrielle Roy's Bonheur d'occasion (Kirkland) cued up right behind.  The English books are Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë (Atwater) and Nemesis by Philip Roth (Pierrefonds.)  Quite an eclectic collections.  All good reading too... but back to work.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Harvest Time: Buying Local,

When Lee was a boy, buying local meant buying produce from the Central Valley.  That's where his family lived, and he has many stories of going to farm stands for produce and of lucious fruit off his father's half dozen back yard trees.

I don't buy much from the Valley these days: Sunmaid Raisins are the only  consistent purchase.  Anything grown in California has to be trucked--or, even worse, flown--thousands of kilometers to Montreal.  Better to eat locally as mch as possible, I figure.  If root vegetables are about all local suppliers have in the winter, well, that'st the way it has to be.

 The New York Times today has a story about how the Central Valley is being badly treated, It is a cautionary tale, as troubling as the E.coli cases linked to the XL plant in Alberta that apparently processed 35 per cent of Canada's beef. 

The real message may be to buy locally--for everything.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Trying to Make Sense of the World: Why Did the Straw Break the Camel's Back?

The New York Times has a very interesting story about catatraophe theory, and the way things can jog along forever and then suddenly change. 

Has to do with where lines on a graph cross, it seems.  Don't know if I really understand, but the story is definitely worth thinking about

Monday, 8 October 2012

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving Etc.

We are recovering from one of the best holiday of the year.  For some time now, we've been having a Canadian Thanksgiving buffet for family and friends.  This year the final count was 38 adults and 14 children, with the age range from 85 to 4 weeks.  Lots of delicious food--and much turkey left over--plus the company of some very dear people.

Several things of note this year: visiting parents of friends of the kids came along too, which suggests that people really enjoy the occasion, Grandpapa Marc (Sophie's Dad) carved the turkey most skillfully, pitching in  because Emmanuel was off in Williamsburg VA playing Lafayette's interpretor in a historical re-enactment, and Jeanne who spent the night here with Elin, woke up about 5 a.m. shouting "Je veux la fête" or "I want the party."

Little Thomas, who was passed from welcoming arms to welcoming arms, almost smiled at all the attention.  Pretty good for not quite a month! 

And now that things are cleaned up (we rented the dishes and cutlery, but, my, there were a lot of pots and pans) I have no energy for another sort of post!

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Saturday Photo: Sitting Pretty

This weekend--Thanksgiving in Canada, Columbus Day in the US--always marks the end of summer in my books.  The weather, even in these days of climate change, is cooling, and the opportunity to sit outside is becoming rare.

So here are two tributes to the pleasures of a small garden in the middle of the city.  Both of these pictures were taken one block over about a week ago.  They are on the sunny side of the street, so the owners should be able to eke out a few more pleasant afternoons in the next couple of weeks.

They're probably inside today though: we're getting rain which is much needed after a summre when I'm sure these little oases got a lot of use.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Bravo 811: Free, 24/7 Health Advice, Courtesy of Québec

What do you do in the middle of the night when your toddler starts vomiting and won't stop?  Probably it's just a messy nothing, but you never know.  A lot of serious diseases start that way.

Jeanne had that problem last night, and after a half dozen episodes of throwing up, in between which she kept asking for water, toward morning her mother called 811,  Quebec's free 24/7 health hot line, InfoSanté.  Christian, the nurse on call, walked Elin through the necessary steps.  Did Jeanne have a fever? How high? Could she move her head without complaiing? Did she have a headache? And so on.

Then he gave some excellent advice.  In effect he said, I see you live a few blocks away from a drugstore that will be open in half an hour.  Go there, get some pediatric rehydrating fluid and give it to her by the teaspoon every five minutes.  If she stops vomiting, wait an hour and then give her a cup.  If she continues to vomit or if her fever goes about 38.5 C (slightly more than 101 F) take her to an emergency room.

Glad to say that Jeanne quit vomiting by 8 a.m., and seemed to be her usual self by mid-day, if quite ready to take a nap. 

This is great front line health service.  Bravo!

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Montreal Is Planting Trees: A Good Way to Fight Heat As Well as Being Lovely

I woke up this morning to a delightful story about the city of Montreal planting trees. It's not particularly new news: the city announced last summer that it was planning on putting in 300,000 trees over the next 10 years.  The aim is increase the urban canopy of leaves in order to cut down on hot spots in the city.  

If I had any doubt that trees do make things cooler, I would have had them allayed this summer.  The picture at the right was taken in a nearby park about 7:30 a.m. on a day when it was frightfully hot and humid.  Yet in the shade of the trees it was delightful, and this couple had escaped their hot apartment to have breakfast on the grass.  As it happened I spent quite  a bit of time in this park this summer later in the day when I'd take Jeanne over a for a swing, and I can vouch for the fact that, while it was hot there, it was much less hot than it was a few streets over where there were smaller trees.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

It's Enough to Make You Sick: a Must-Read on Canada's Move to Deregulation

More new cases of E.coli infections in Alberta and Sasketchwan and Stephen Harper insists that Canadians are better protected than ever !  Talk about double talk!

If you let an industry regulate itself, you're not going to have real regulation.  Disaster in the Making, a report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, outlined what was in store 18 months ago.  This short but trenchant report is free for downloading and is an excellent backgrounder for anyone concerned about what is happening to our food, water and environment.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Justin Trudeau, Prat Falls and Private Sorrow: The Man We Do Not Want as Prime Minister

Justinn Trudeau is supposed to announce his candidacy for the leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada today. This is bad news for the Libs, and good news for the NDP, I think. The young man is personable, goodlooking and what the French call a bon parleur. But that's about all he is. The following video from a Quebec TV show has him talking about how he likes to shake things up at a party by doing a prat fall. It starts with shots of his father, the famous Pierre, doing a couple of his light-hearted turns and ends with Justin falling down stairs on purpose. What Justin does not mention is that his father had a solid initellectual base, and his hijinks were there to show a human side, the 1960s equivalent of having a beer with the boys. Justin does not have that, he is all attention-getting silliness and very little substance. It's highly likely he'll be elected on a wave of hype. Can you imagine how Tom Mulcair--who's pretty good with the quip--will run circles around The Boy in a debate, to say nothing about in the House of Commons? that One last thing: to day would have been Justin's brother Michel's 37th birthday. I know that because our Elin was born the same day. Michel, of course, was killed in an avalanche in his 20s. Their father, it is said, never recovered from the loss. It will be interesting to see whether Justin mentions this, or rather if he lets it pass as just a private family memory, a quiet wink toweard whereever Pierre and Michel now rest.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Omar Khadr Back in Canada, At Long Last, and the Harperites Play the Media Masterfully

I was glad to see that most of the news outlets and newspapers are making a big thing out of the return to Canada of Omar Khadr, the child soldier.  The way the Harper government announced the decision on a Saturday morning suggested that they really hoped nobody would notice. 

That's the way this government does things: when it might get bad press and stir up things, it just plays it low.  But when it wants to send a message, you can be sure that all the flags will be out waving.  Take the closing of Canada's embassy to Iran and the expelling of Iranian diplomats here earlier this month.  That was done very early on a Friday morning (the announcement was made when Foreign Affairs Minister James Baird was in Russia at a conference that was well covered by foreign and Canadian media.  The lead time allowed comments on Friday here, and analysis in the weekend newspapers.

But perhaps the shame of letting a young man (who was a boy when the story began) rot in Guantanmo will be properly considered after all.   (The photo is of Khadr at 14, a year before he went to Afghanistan.)