Saturday, 29 March 2014

End of Winter Blahs....

A combination of sick grandkids who share their microbes with their grandparents and my own interesting health sitautioin (cataract surgery on Monday) means that there haven't been much in the way of posts lately.  Nor are there likely to be until the middle of the week. Why don't you go read a book!

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Simply Because Thomas Loves This...

One of the joys of children is how they introduce you to new things. On this day when a winter hurricane is pounding Eastern Canada, they're digging out after a massive mudslide in Washington State, and some politicians seem to be rubbing their hands over the prospect of reigniting the Cold War, I find this video that Thomas love quite wonderful.

He's 18 months and just discovered the joys of dancing.  His parents stumbled on the 24 video by Pharrel Williams and friends of the song "Happy, Happy" which has a catchy beat and lots of people dancing, some well, some not so well.  Whenever there is down time, our Thom asks for it and grooves in front of the computer until called away to do something else.

Lots of fun, even for us old folks. 

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

The First Birds of Spring, and Moas

Most years the first red-winged blackbirds show up by the end of March around here.  Usually there is open water at the edge of swamps, ponds, streams.  Many times we've driven in the country and heard the birds' distinctive call as they perched on cattails standing high above frigid water.

Not this year, I'm sure.  Too much snow and ice to encourage the first northern explorers finding a place to pause in their search for good nesting.  Even though the days are longer and the sun is higher in the sky, much of the tasty things that birds want to eat are still covered up.

The New York Times has  an intersting little article today about the wintering habits of robins.  Not surprisingly, studies have shown that food and the absence of snow cover makes a difference in whether they winter-over in an area.  I haven't noted the usual arrival time for the first robin here, but it's clear that this year it will be awhile. 

What this unusual winter means in the great scheme of things is unclear, except that it's probably linked to erratic weather patterns brought on by climate change.  Lest we be lulled into thinking that our actions really don't have that much effect on our feathered friend, though, check out another NTY story, this one definitively linking the extinction of the moa in New Zealand to the arrival of humans. 

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Saturday Photo: Enough Already!

More snow yesterday, and everyone is getting tired of it!  Today the temps are very cold too--minus 15 C when we got up, and now about minus 10.  At least the sun is high in the sky, so there is hope that this winter will eventually end .

Thursday, 20 March 2014

The Debt That Writers and Readers Owe to Heather Robertson

Very soon the Electronic Rights Defence Committee may finally distribute the settlement it  received from Postmedia: I spent part of the weekend writing resolutions that will be needed to set up a post office box and the like. They will be considered on Monday at the ERDC's annual general meeting.

The ERDC's class action over electronic reproduction of articles written by freelance writers in The Gazette has been going on since 1996.  The way has been up and down, but what success we've had, we owe to a class action started about the same time (and successfully finished two years ago) against the Thomson press empire by Heather Robertson.

She forged ahead, pushing her legal team on behalf of freelance writers to pursue the matter all the way to the Supreme Court.  The 5-4 decision in favour of writers is a landmark one, and has meant both money in writers' pockets and the reaffirmation of the principle that copyright lies with creators unless expresssly ceded. 

This may seem like unimportant technical stuff to readers, but it has wide implications.  Given the changing information model, it allows writers to make a little money from their work thus encouraging a professional corps of news gatherers and analysts.  Without them no democracy can operate.

Monday, 17 March 2014

Everyobdy's Nightmare: The Disappearance of Malaysia Airines Flight 370

I keep thinking of Orson Welles' War of the Worlds as the days pass since the Malaysia Airlines plane went missing.  Things like this don't happen, planes don't just disappear.  There surely is an explanation....

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Saturday Photo: Paris As It Should Be

Whenever we've been in Paris, we've had mostly lovely weather with clear blue skies.  This photo was taken on our last trip in May 2007 at the Jardins de Tuillieries on a lovely, hot spring day.

Friends there have been senidng dispatches about this year's warm spring, making all of us stuck in this long North American winter more than a little jealous.

But now comes the news of the smog covering the center of France.  What a shame.  Blue skies are what you should have when you visit. 

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

PKP's House Bis

My friend Zvi Leve, who daughter was a friend of one of PKP's kids when they were day care age, points out that PKP's house actually does have a Street View, but it's the wrong address: 644 Dunlop instead of 636 Dunlop (the address listed on the Montreal property tax roles.)  Here's the link.

I'm told that Street View sometimes gets addresses wrong.  Whatever, it's weird.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

You Won't Find Péladeau's House on Google's Street View and Other Thoughts on the PQ's Star Candidate

I'd like to think that the Parti Québécois' "coup" in getting Pierre-Karl Péladeau to run in the upcoming provincial election will backfire because people will be just too put off by the way the PQ has sold out all its progressive values in bringing him in. 

 Last night I was on  Montreal's West Island in a thoroughly Anglophone area where people were looking for ways to protest the choice.  They would have voted against the PQ anyway, but now they're wondering if  cancelling their cable and internet service through Péladeau's Videotron would have any effect.

Of course, workers at Videotron were locked-out on Péladeau's orders for months a decade ago: that would have kept me away from using their services anyway.  The labour conflict was just one of 14 lockouts the Quebecor empire has brought down in the last few years.  Talking about riding roughshod over ordinary folk...

Certainly Québec Solidaire is hoping that some of the leftish separatist vote will switch its way. I am too: not only is Péladeau reactionary, he has controlled a huge media empire that, even if he puts his holdings in a blind trust, is going to remember just who has been the boss.

By the way, you'll notice that there's no illustration with this post.  I tried to find a picture of Péladeau's house--636 Dunlop in the Outremont borough--but although, probably not coincidently, Google Earth's Street View shows the houses around it, it does not have  one of Péladeau's three-storey mansion, whose assessed valuation is $3,323,200.   The procedure for getting you house deleted from Street View is cumbersome, I understand.  If you're a media magnate you can do it.

3 323 200

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Saturday Photo: Still Snow

Yes, the snow is still on the ground, even though the days are getting much longer.  More snow is forecast for this week, and the temperature is still well below freezing.

But the sun is out and people are actually moving freely since you don't have to wade through a thick layer of slush on sidewalks.  And sledding is very fine!

Friday, 7 March 2014

Immortality: Photos, Vivan Meir and Art

Seems to me I've heard about this in passing before, but today I received a link to a story about Vivan Meir, a New Yorkk nanny who took hundreds of thousands of photographs--in secret.

Her negatives and undeveloped films turned up in an auction house a few years ago and since then the treasure trove of excellent pictures has come to light, literally.  From what I've seen, her work has the same clarity and perspicacity as Henri Cartier-Bresson's, which is about the highest praise I can give when it comes to photography.  Really great stuff.

Unearthing this ouevre also raises questions about art and artists.  She did all this, it would appear, for herself, without thought of who might see it, of what others might think.  Like Emily Dickinson's poetry, her creation was private and its import was recognized only after her death.

Lukas says that great philosophers are usually only appreciated for their true contribution by those who follow.  Bach's genius almost disappeared for a couple of centuries.  A few of my moderately successful writing cronies don't say it out loud, but I know that they hope their work will be respected for its great merit once they're gone.

So where does that leave the artist?  Doing what he or she must, as always.  Whether "discovery" ever comes doesn't really matter, if you've done what set out to do.

Here's the trailer for a film about Vivan Maier.  Sounds fascinating.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Edith Laperle: Wouldn't It Be Great If the Third Time Was the Charm!

Well, the Quebec general election is definitely going to be held April 7, 2014.  Given the Parti Québécois's attempts to appeal to the most enthocentric part of the electorate, hopes aren't high for a good campaign.  The leaders of the other two parties, Philippe Couillard of the Liberals and François Legault of the inelegantly named Coalition pour l'avenir du Québec, CAQ--certainly don't promise to raise the tone.

But Québec Solidaire, the left-wing, strongly principled fourth party, has some excellent candidates.  Edith Laperle is one of them.  A trade unionist, she'll be running for the third time in the Outremont riding which also include the less toney neighborhoods of Mile End and Côte des Neiges.  She got 32 per cent of the vote last fall when Couillard ran in a bye-election, which was a terrific result.

Couillard isn't running in Outremont this time, since he promised to run in the Northern Quebec riding of Roberval during his campaign for the Liberal leadership: the Outremont foray was designed to give him a safe seat after he became leader.  He probably should be congratulated on not going back on that promise in order to stay in Outremont, but the fact that he made it in the first place says worlds about his frequently shakey political judgment. 

Not that the Liberals aren't aware of the appeal of QS and Ms. Laperle among Outremont voters.  It looks like they want to muddy the ideological waters since they're running the sister of Françoise David, the QS co-spokesman and one of two QS members of the National Assembly. As in many political families --think Bob Ray and his brother John during the former's NDP phase, and Daniel and Pierre-Marc Johnson, respectively Liberal and PQ premiers of Quebec--families can see deep divisions.

What will be interesting to watch is how Ms. Laperle, whose face and ideas are now pretty well known in the riding, approaches the campaign.  Does she have a chance to win?  I'd love to think so.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Saturday Photo: Thinking about Travels

Many years, the sap has already started to run in the maple trees by now.  Not the case this year, but people around us are getting itchy feet, thinking about interesting places to go on their holidays.

It helps that many schools are taking breaks about now. Jeanne's cousin Marie and her father were visiting last week from France, Sophie's school is out next week, neighbors are off to exotic places.

Since our travels are still months away, I've gone back to look at the photos I took last summer.  This is one of several taken at low tide on Vancouver Island in August.  I can almost smell the salt...