Thursday, 31 October 2013

Looking for a Scary Story: Check This Out

Just in case you're looking for a little light literature, here's a link to a story I revised and read last night at the Drawn and Quaterly Haunted Bookstore event:

Nothing But Good Times. 

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

New from the Harper Pizza Shop

Maclean's blogger Aaron Wherry quotes from Hansard today.  He says that Stephen Harper's Parliamentary Secretary Paul Calandra likened  the Senate expense scandal to stealing from a pizza shop till, but suggests that there is much, much more at stake.

"It is Stephen Harper, challenged as never before, perhaps struggling as never before. A man who beat Michael Ignatieff, Stephane Dion and Jack Layton, out-maneuvered the press gallery and outclassed his most wild-eyed critics, now struggling to beat Mike Duffy, one of his own appointees, a celebrity who travelled the country singing the government’s praises, assailing its opponents and raising money for the Conservative cause. A Prime Minister having to answer not for any official policy or action or inaction of his government, but for some tawdry agreement with a political appointee. A politician who has survived or sidestepped so many questions about what he and his government have done, threatened by a deal to make $90,000 disappear. And a Prime Minister’s Office facing precisely the sort of scrutiny it is not supposed to attract."

Don't think we'll order in tonight. 

Monday, 28 October 2013

A Little Pause While We Played with Jeanne and Thomas

Elin and Emmanuel were in Winnipeg over the weekend, taking part in the activities commemorating the 275th anniversary of Fort Rouge and the French presence in Manitoba.  This meant that Jeanne stayed with us, and Thomas and his parents spent some time here too.  Great fun for all.

That's why there were posts on my part--no time to sit in front the computer!  They kept us busy!

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Snow in the Air? Finally It's Getting Cold

This morning we turned the furnace on and when I went out walking it was shiveringly cold.  I think that fall is finally upon us, and winter is not far behind.

To make it seem all the more seasonal, city workers were putting up the boards for the outside skating weeks in one of the parks.  It's likely to be a while before we see scenes like the one in the photo where a small one is learning how to skate.  But the time is coming, climate change or no climate change.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Getting in Right in Municipal (and Other Politics): Bill de Blasio in New York City

Corruption, integrity, and transport are all being mentioned a lot as the Montreal municipal election winds toward its close, Nov. 3.  But I'd like to hear a lot more talk about making the city stronger economically and a better place for all levels of society, as is happening in New York City.

The elcction there will come only a few days after the one here, and The New York Times reports that almost certainly the Democratic candidate Bill de Blasio will win: it cites a poll giving him 68 per cent of the vote.  What is amazing about this support is that it is coming from across the economic and social range despite the fact that his platform is--hold on to your hats!--frankly left wing. 

Monday, 21 October 2013

The Sorry Result of 400 Years of Colonialism

The UN Reporter who just investigated living conditions in Canada's Native communities found some pretty sorry stuff.  Makes me very sad to read about the lack of sanitation and clean water in so manyplace.

Unfortunately Canada is not alone: here's a bit from theexcellent 1994 New Zealand movie Once Were Warriors. 

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Saturday Photo: Repeat Performance

I've posted this photo before, but here it is again, because I like and because today is exactly like this.

Friday, 18 October 2013

Fiscal Crisis in US and the World Over? Should We Get Happy?

Like many folks I breathed a sigh of relief when the Republicans ever so reluctantly agreed to step away from the precipice on Wednesday. But we're not out of danger, as this column "The Long March of the American Right" by Simon Johnson in The New York Times  chronicles. 

The American Right (followed by the Canadian Right a few steps behind) has been working toward destruction of government for years.  Johnson writes: "The mainstream narrative is that the problem is “dysfunctional government” or “paralysis in Washington.” That’s true, up to a point, but the real problem is the steady decline in legitimacy of the federal government – and the way this is related to what has happened on the right of the political spectrum."

Some how people have to come to understand that government is there it govern, and that everyone of us has a stake in its success.  Otherwise the breather that the last minute arrangements this week are just a temporarily successful reanimation procedure, like this one from the series House. MD.  I don't think  we have any right to "get happy."  The Judgment Day is still looming--in January when the current US arrangement comes up for renewal or in October 2015 when Canada is supposed to elect a new government.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Day to Get Rid of Stuff: A Trip to the Eco-friendly Dump

Got rid of three dozen old batteries, a Mac that dates from 1995, several cans of paint and paint thinner, a dozen rotten planks that Lee took out of the front steps, and some other garbage by taking them all to the Ecocentre not far from where we live.

Probably many cities have similar sites, where residents can leave off various kinds of no longer used stuff for recycling.  Ours are called Ecocentres, and I'm quite impressed by how well organized they seem to be.

Much better than stuff going into land fill. 

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Women to the Rescue? In the US Female Senators Come up with a Plan

There certainly are examples of women leaders who are just as tough, misguided and unsavory as their male counterparts: Sarah Palin,  Margaret Thatcher and Bev Oda are examples.

But sometimes it seems that the Old Girls' Network can come up with good stuff.  That may be the case in the current  mess in Washington.  The New York Times reports that the authors of a plan that may save the US from default on its debts and put government back to work are a handful of women of both parties who've worked together in the past on legislation.

The story says:  "In a Senate still dominated by men, women on both sides of the partisan divide proved to be the driving forces that shaped a negotiated settlement. The three Republican women put aside threats from the right to advance the interests of their shutdown-weary states and asserted their own political independence."

It goes on: "Of the 13 senators on a bipartisan committee who worked on the deal framework, about half were women, even though women make up only 20 percent of the Senate. Senator John McCain of Arizona joked at several points in their meetings, “The women are taking over.”"

Good on them.  But it remains to be seen if the Tea Party types will put the good of the country before their ideology. 

Monday, 14 October 2013

SOS: Reverse Dixiecrat Solution Needed

As usual Krugman comes through:

"The question for the next few days is whether plunging markets and urgent appeals from big business will stiffen the non-extremists’ spines. For as far as I can tell, the reverse-Dixiecrat solution is the only way out of this mess."

What he means is this: that in the next few days resolutions on continu"such measures were brought to the House floor. How? The answer is, they would get support from just about all Democrats plus some Republicans, mainly relatively moderate non-Southerners. As I said, Dixiecrats in reverse.:

Will Boehner put the welfare of the country and the world economy before his fear of being unseated by the radical fringe of his party?  I'd like to think so, but I'm afraid he won't.

Saturday Photo: Getting Ready for Thanksgiving at Jean Talon Market

Spent most of Saturday and all of Sunday either preparing for and eating our annual Thanksgiving feast.

For maybe 12 years we've had friends and family over for a buffet that is always a lot of fun.  We do turkey, some side dishes and a reserve dessert, and everyone brings something they'd like to share.  As the years have past the kids have grown up, new ones have been born and the rest of us had become, ahem!, more mature. 

The big surprise this year was  Jake, who was two at the first of these dinners and now is the size of a line backer.  Our Thomas was last year's baby, and now he cruises around, looking for interesting things to do.  This year's baby, the little brother of Sivan who has the baby two years ago, is still in the  hospital, but he was well represented by other members of the family. 

And the new addition to the table was over-roasted field tomatoes with garlic, oregon and basil. Don't know why I didn't think of doing them before: delicious!

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

The Urban Gardenener: Foraging in Kansas City and in the Woods

Great story in The New York Times today about serious use of invasive and otherwise normaly uncultivated plants for cooking.  Linda Hezel supplies several trendy restaurants in Kansas City with "bedstraw, chickweed, henbit, dandelion, wild bergamot, red clover, dead nettle, lambs-quarters, wood sorrel, purslane,  plantain (the leafy variety, not the banana)" as well as chicory (see photo taken here in Montreal.)

She grows them on her organic farm, not far from the center of the Midwestern town, but apparently at least one other farm outside New York City also provides experimenting chefs.

Last year I collected some dandelions to cook like spinach, inspired by the elderly Mediterranean folk who still gather them all over Montreal as soon as they appear in lawns.  We thought them not bad, but a lot of work, as even the ones that grew in our small backyard required a lot of work to clean.

What I liked about the NYT's story is its emphasis on nuisance plants, unlike another elegy to foraging that appeared in The Globe and Mail last summer.  It lauded forest foraging which, in my book, can be just another name for forest rape.  All you need is a small army of city folks collecting rare forest plants to wipe out a species in an area.  Look what has happened to ginseng in a number of areas: in the US gathering the plant on public lands is now illegal in several states because of over-foraging.

Invasive, foreign imports are another story however.  Raspberries, blackberries and some grapes sometimes seem intent on taking over the world, and who's going to mourn the dandelions that get dug up in lawns?

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Well, Not Really Flying Down to Rio, But Something Similar

Went this morning to the Brazilian Consulate in Montreal to apply for my visa to go to Brazil in November. I wont' be flying down to Rio--won't go anywhere near it, actually--but the tickets are bought and I'm now working on lining up the interviews. Rather excited. More later. In the meantime check out the amazing dance routines om this 1933 film.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Saturday Photo: Self-Censorship

This is the photo that I'm using on the hardcopy invitation to my book launches for my new collection of short stories, Desire Lines: Stories of Love and Geography next month.  

It's appropriate, in a way, because this sinuous path crossing the Champ des possibles open space near where I live started me thinking about the resonances of "desire lines."  They are, urbanists say, the paths people choose to make when they want to get some place.  They frequently have nothing to do with formal layout of streets and sidewalks and almost always they say a lot about  people's aims.

But I can't say I'm too pleased with myself for using the photo to promote the two parties we're planning to launch the book.  The cover, which I love, is a little racey and it's been mentioned to me that it's not the sort of thing that librarians and others might like to find in the hands of kids.

Since the image is a detail from a painting by Edwin Holgate, a member  of Canada's legendary Group of Seven parinters, it shouldn't get much flack.  But just the same I've buckled.  The e-mail invitation will use the book cover, though.

Whatever, you're all invited to attend one or both of the launches:
Wednesday November 6 at 7 p.m.

Librairie Drawn and Quarterly
211, Bernard ouest
Mile End, Montreal
(80, 435 and 160 buses)


Tuesday November 12 at 7 p.m.

Librairie Clio
245-N. Boulevard St Jean
Pointe Claire, PQ,
Plaza Point Claire

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Required Reading:Don't Let Anyone Run on Your Left

Great opinion piece in the Vancouver Sun (the Vancouver Sun!!!) that compares the recent BC election and the New York City Democratic  primary which saw the front runner crumble before Bill de Blasio who ran on an unapologetic left wing platform.

There are lessons here not only for BC but also for the federal NDP.  And it may be that Obama's people finally go the message which is the reason for him hanging tough on the budget issue right now.

Here, in part, is what political strategist Mira Oreck writes:

"Rather than a race to the centre, de Blasio offered a confident and courageous vision that spoke to New Yorkers, from the upscale brownstones in Brooklyn to public housing projects in the Bronx. He called for “an act of equalization in a city that is desperately falling into the habit of disparity.” De Blasio’s campaign blasted TV ads across the city describing him as “the only candidate that will raise taxes on the rich to fund early childhood education and after school programs.”

"It’s not often you hear a candidates say they’ll raise taxes and see their poll numbers rise.De Blasio’s primary campaign broke new ground...

" Rather than hurting him, however, de Blasio’s Tale of Two Cities surprisingly earned him more votes than his opponents in areas where the average income was upward of $170,000.

"His vision of a city that addresses income inequality spoke to people across the social spectrum.

She continues:
"A Tale of Two Cities rings true not only for New York City, but also for cities across the United States and increasingly for Canada. In British Columbia, where one in four children have lived in poverty for over a decade, every progressive campaign must place inequality — and the solutions to it — at the core of their message.

"De Blasio’s campaign proves that a strong, clear and unapologetic position on addressing inequality can draw support."

Are you listening Tom?

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

US Shutdown: You've Got to Laugh if You're Not Going to Cry

The New Yorker's Andy Borowitz has been posting daily about the ridiculousness of the tragedy unfolding South of the Border. 

What about this:

"In a special Sunday radio address, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) delivered a health tip to the American people, advising them to delay getting cancer for a year.
“We’re involved in a high-stakes fight over our freedom from centralized government control of our lives,” said Mr. Boehner, speaking on behalf of his House colleagues. “You can do your part by delaying getting cancer.”"

And this:

UNITED STATES (The Borowitz Report)—Millions of Tea Party loyalists fled the United States in the early morning hours today, seeking what one of them called “the American dream of liberty from health care.”
Harland Dorrinson, 47, a tire salesman from Lexington, Kentucky, packed up his family and whatever belongings he could fit into his Chevy Suburban just hours before the health-insurance exchanges opened, joining the Tea Party’s Freedom Caravan with one goal in mind: escape from Obamacare.
“My father didn’t have health care and neither did my father’s father before him,” he said. “I’ll be damned if I’m going to let my children have it.”
But after driving over ten hours to the Canadian border, Mr. Dorrinson was dismayed to learn that America’s northern neighbor had been in the iron grip of health care for decades.
“The border guard was so calm when he told me, as if it was the most normal thing in the world,” he said. “It’s like he was brainwashed by health care.”
Turning away from Canada, Mr. Dorrinson joined a procession of Tea Party cars heading south to Mexico, noting, “They may have drug cartels and narcoterrorism down there, but at least they’ve kept health care out.”
Mr. Dorrinson was halfway to the southern border before he heard through the Tea Party grapevine that Mexico, too, has public health care, as do Great Britain, Japan, Turkey, Spain, Belgium, New Zealand, Slovenia, and dozens of other countries to which he had considered fleeing.
Undaunted, Mr. Dorrinson said he had begun looking into additional countries, like Chad and North Korea, but he expressed astonishment at a world seemingly overrun by health care.
“It turns out that the United States is one of the last countries on earth to get it,” he said. “It makes me proud to be an American.”