Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Happy New Year

Happy New Year, everyone. I hope you and your families have a wonderful happy, safe and successful 2009.

"Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you've imagined." ... Thoreau.

And please take good care of yourselves! I will be back to visit you all in the new year.

Cheers,
Jo

Saturday, December 27, 2008

You Say It's Your Birthday...


One of my favorite painters is Edward Hopper, and one of my favorite paintings by Edward Hopper is "Chop Suey". Today is my birthday, and guess which very special person gave me this painting for my birthday. I love this painting, and it looks wonderful in my living room, over my fireplace.

I have been going through a slight period of listlessness lately. Maybe it's the season, or perhaps it's because we have had the worst winter in 50 years and I have not been able to get outside and get fresh air. Or perhaps it is because the plans I had made all fell through. What is the saying, "Make a plan and God laughs..." Oh, yes. Indeed

I have been forcing myself to do some painting, but I pick up the brush, look at it for a few minutes, and put it down again, completely ininspired. On reading about Edward Hopper, I see that he too went through periods of such torpor. A friend of Hopper's described him as “suffering…from long periods of unconquerable inertia, sitting for days at a time before his easel in helpless unhappiness, unable to raise a hand to break the spell.” But what amazing pictures he painted when he picked up his brush. I could get lost in his paintings, and he inspires me.

Well, today is my birthday, and guess what! I am going to paint!

Monday, December 22, 2008

So Many Questions...

The Annunciation
Bartolome Esteban Murillo
(1617 - 1682)

When I was a little girl, I used to love spending time with my father. He and I would go hiking, swimming, bike riding, or just for long drives in the car along the country roads on Vancouver Island. He was quiet and scholarly and I thought he was the wisest person I ever knew. He had the answer for every question I asked him. Once, when I was about six years old, I remember asking him what was meant by the Immaculate Conception. It was the only time I ever saw him at a loss for words, and it stick in my mind because he stammered and stuttered and was not able to explain it to me. So, it was one of those mysteries that remained a mystery.

When I was a little girl I sang in the choir at St. John's Anglican Church, which was "High Church" or otherwise known as "Anglo-Catholic". We followed the Anglican "Book of Common of Prayer", and I still have mine, but many of the rituals were Roman Catholic.

Together with the Authorized version and the works of Shakespeare, the Book of Common Prayer has been one of the three fundamental underpinnings of modern English. As it has been in regular use for centuries, many phrases from its services have passed into the English language, either as deliberate quotations or as unconscious borrowings. They are used in non-liturgical ways. For example, many authors have used quotes from the prayer book as titles for their books.

Some examples of well-known phrases from the Book of Common Prayer are:

• "Speak now or forever hold your peace" from the marriage liturgy.
• "Till death us do part", from the marriage liturgy.
• "Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust" from the funeral service.
• "From all the deceits of the world, the flesh, and the devil" from the litany.
• "Read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest" from the collect for the second Sunday of Advent.


... Wikipedia

But I digress...

The rituals of the church were always a mystery to me. Most of them were things I did not understand. When I converted to Catholicism, Father Belanger said to me. "You will never make a good Catholic; you ask too many questions."

I have spent my life struggling with the questions. I am not a particularly religious person, but I am a spiritual person. I just don't follow the rituals and rote learning of any one creed or religious conviction. I do not have blind faith. I wish I did, and I envy people who do, but I don't. I do believe that Jesus was one of the most important people who ever lived. His short time on this earth has left a huge impact on billions of people throughout the centuries and will continue to do so for centuries to come. I have watched as friends of mine who have gone through troubled times have accepted Jesus as their Savior, and He has turned their lives around.

I have often thought how interesting it would be to sit down at a round table with Jesus, Buddha, and Mohammed. What a conversation that would be. All three of them preached following the path of peace, which eventually leads to God.

I still love the rituals of the Church, and I love the old hymns and all the mystery that is part of Christmas. One of my favorite church services is midnight mass on Christmas Eve. I have not been able to attend for a few years, but maybe when the Munchkins are a bit older, they and their parents and I may attend again. I love the processional and "Once in Royal David's City". The first part is sung solo, the second part is sung by the choir, and the third part is sung by the whole congregation. When I was a little girl singing in the choir, I loved this Christmas hymn so much, when I sang it I felt close to God, and I always felt that I was forgiven for asking too many questions. Maybe that's what Christmas is all about.



Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Armchair Travels - Goa, India

Vancouver is having the coldest winter it has had in 40 years. Brrrr... Today is the first day of winter, and I am already tired of it. Snow, snow and more snow... I want summer. Now. So I am taking myself on flights of fancy, and visiting some tropical hot spots. My fantasy today is Goa, India, located on the Arabian Sea. Can't you feel the ice melting, just saying the words "Arabian Sea"? Beaches, palm trees, sand, surf, sunshine.

Goa is a very interesting place. It is located in India, but it was settled in the 16th Century by Portugese merchants, so it has a Latin flavor. It was not until 1961 that Goa was taken over and annexed by India. Goa is also known as a world heritage site for its architecture. Because of the Portuguese influence, many of the Goans are Christians, and specifically Catholics, and practice the Portuguese culture.

Goa has a short winter season between mid-December and February. These months are marked by nights of around 68 degrees Fahrenheit and days of around 84 degrees Fahrenheit with moderate amounts of humidity.

... Wikipedia

*sigh*

You are invited to shake off the snow and join me on a trip through Goa. All aboard...!

Friday, December 19, 2008

A New Little Angel

What Am I Missing?

I am about to stir up some more sh*t here, and I know I will get some flak for this post, but I am soldiering on anyway. First of all, I think by now anyone who reads my blog knows I don’t care for Obama. It’s my right, and I defend it. I don’t trust the man. I actually want to like him; I want to see what everyone else sees, but I don't. To quote Naomi Klein, (who is about as left-wing as one can possibly be), as she states in the New Yorker Magazine,

“I’ve been at rallies and seen him speak, and I find that feeling that one feels. “It is thrilling and its churlish not to allow yourself to be thrilled. We crave inspiration, and it’s a bleak life to always be dissecting things. But the main feeling that Obama creates in me is fear, because I see people fooling themselves. If you actually look at his policies, what they reflect is the triumph of the right-wing political paradigm since Reagan, and I think he could set things back dramatically, because for young people who are getting engaged in politics for the time time, for them to be disillusioned is very, very damaging.” “He’s telling regular people what they want to hear, and then in the back rooms he’s making deals and signing on to the status quo.”

Now Obama has signed on Rick Warren to give the invocation prayer at the inauguration. Rick Warren! Obama campaigned on a platform to end the extreme religious right viewpoint that has a stranglehold on America. During his campaign, anyone who didn’t care for Obama was automatically labelled a racist and a bigot. So, Obama, of all people, should understand that racism and homophobia are two sides of the same coin.

Rick Warren is opposed to stem cell research, cloning and euthanasia. He said these things were non-negotiable because “God’s word is clear on these issues.” He opposes women’s legal rights of choice, comparing it to the Holocaust. He actively campaigned for Proposition 8 in California, overturning the rights of gays to marry. As a Democrat, these were the very issues upon which Obama campaigned, and for which he was elected. "Change you can believe in."

Isn’t there something slightly disingenuous about choosing Rick Warren to give the invocation prayer? The political spin argument in favor of it is that Obama is “reaching across the aisle” and being inclusive. It is inclusive to choose a diehard right-wing extremist, whom many of Obama's supporters have referred to as a bigot, to pray at his inauguration? What am I missing here?

Ann Curry interviewed Rick Warren about this issue. My personal opinion is, it's time to get into the 21st Century, and get rid of the ignorance from the Dark Ages. And it's time to stop letting these self-righteous religious zealots have control over how people live. There is a huge difference between religion and spirituality.

Change? No, just more of the same old, same old.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Don't Swallow Your Chewing Gum...!

One of my greatest pleasures in life is proving myths wrong. When I was a child, I used to believe every silly thing anyone told me. "Don't cross you eyes, they'll stay that way!" "Don't hang upside down on the monkey bars, all the blood will rush to your head and you will die!" "Don't swallow your chewing gum, it will expand in your stomach and all your guts will stick together!"

Oh, goodness...

There was a recent study was done by Rachel C. Vreeman, fellow in children’s health services research, Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis and Aaron E Carroll, assistant professor of paediatrics, Regenstrief Institute, Indianapolis. The study was published in the prestigious British Medical Journal this week. According to the study, poinsettias are not toxic. Well, I knew that. I did. I knew that.

"How did he die?"

"He ate a poinsettia."

If people have an allergy to latex, the sap of a poinsettia may sting their eyes, if they should happen to stick some sap in their eyes. Hardly anyone ever does that.

Some more common myths that were debunked by the study are:

People should drink at least eight glasses of water a day. I tried that once, and I spent the whole day in the little room down the hall. Apparently we get all the moisture our body needs from the fluids in coffee, tea, milk, water, juices and most of our food.

We use only 10% of our brains. This myth arose in the early 1900s, but with modern imaging, it has been proven false. Trust me, I know people who use at least 15% of their brains.

Hair and fingernails continue to grow after death. "For three days after death hair and fingernails continue to grow, but phone calls taper off." … Johnny Carson. Actually, it is just an optical illusion, and it does not happen.

Shaving hair causes it to grow back faster, darker, or coarser. Again, this is an optical illusion caused by the stubble growing back close to the skin. As it grows out, the ends taper, giving it a finer appearace.

Reading in dim light ruins your eyesight. This has been proven false. The solution? Turn the lights up, you will find you can see better.

Eating turkey makes people especially drowsy. Turkey contains L-tryptophan, but pork and cheese container more L-tryptophan than turkey does. Anyone eating a large meal consisting of turkey, sausages, stuffing, gravy, vegetables, cranberry sauce, potatoes, Christmas pudding with rum sauce, mince tarts, shortbread and copious amounts of wine and brandy is going to fall asleep afterwards. Just enjoy it.

Mobile phones create considerable electromagnetic interference in hospitals. A 2007 study, examining mobile phones "used in a normal way," found no interference of any kind during 300 tests in 75 treatment rooms. In contrast, a large survey of anaesthesiologists suggested that use of mobile phones by doctors was associated with reduced risk of medical error or injury resulting from delays in communication.

I have a friend who will not eat coconut because she is convinced it contains cholesterol. I can't convince her that it does not. Cholesterol is an animal byproduct and it is not found in coconut. Studies have indicated that not only did coconut have no effect on cholesterol levels, it even reduced the cholesterol elevating effect of animal fat. Coconut does contain oil, however, and it is fattening. But there is no cholesterol.

I love sifting the truth from the nonsense, because when I was younger I believed everything I was told, and I lived in fear half the time. And then I decided to find out the truth. Snopes is my friend. Don't believe everything you hear.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Big Three

Does a company that bought the rights to this monstrosity vehicle have the right to ask for a bailout? For the past several decades the Big Three auto makers have been promising to make more fuel efficient cars, all the while making cars that are increasingly more gas guzzlers. Instead of listening to what people want, the Big Three having been making what they want, and foisting them onto people, and telling folks they have to have them.

The CEO of Ford actually said, “We have made big mistakes, but we’re really focused now.”

If the Big Three auto makers don’t get their bailout, and that includes in Canada, thousands of jobs will be lost, not only directly but indirectly. So, unfortunately, there is no other choice but to bail them out.

Someone once asked me who, in my opinion, was the most dangerous man who ever lived, and without even thinking about it very much, I said, “Henry Ford”. He revolutionized the world, but not necessarily in a good way. He changed the way cars were mass-produced and mass-marketed, but I wonder if he ever realized that he would also affect city planning, urban planning and even architecture. Drive through any suburban neighborhood in Canada, and most homes are just huge garages with houses attached.

Ford created a massive publicity machine in Detroit to ensure every newspaper carried stories and ads about the new product. Ford's network of local dealers made the car ubiquitous in virtually every city in North America. As independent dealers, the franchises grew rich and publicized not just the Ford but the very concept of automobiling; local motor clubs sprang up to help new drivers and to explore the countryside. Ford was always eager to sell to farmers, who looked on the vehicle as a commercial device to help their business. Sales skyrocketed—several years posted 100% gains on the previous year. Always on the hunt for more efficiency and lower costs, in 1913 Ford introduced the moving assembly belts into his plants, which enabled an enormous increase in production.

In Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, society is organized on 'Fordist' lines and the years are dated A.F. (After Ford). In the book, the expression 'My Ford' is used instead of 'My Lord'. Even human beings are produced via an assembly line, grown in large glass jars and provided in five models: Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta and Epsilon. As homage to the assembly line philosophy that so defined the mass-culture society of Brave New World, native individuals make the "sign of the T" instead of the "sign of the cross."


...Wikipedia

In the early 1950s the wonderful, charming streetcar systems in cities throughout North America were ripped out and replaced by buses and cars. Streetcars were efficient, quiet and clean, and I think there must have been something romantic about them, don’t you? And because of automobiles’ popularity, construction of urban freeways for the new Interstate Highway System, which began in the late 1950s, led to the demolition of thousands of city blocks, and the dislocation of many more thousands of people. This led to the death of the inner-city, more urban sprawl, and people living in more and more remote areas, separate and apart from other members of their communities. Ironically, the first long-distance intercity freeway was the Queen Elizabeth Way in Ontario, linking the cities of Toronto and Hamilton, and this was built in 1939. Freeways were built without any consideration to noise or environmental factors. They were built for one purpose, the car.

Unfortunately, cars are necessary. I really cannot imagine a world without them. But, if the Big Three need bailing out now, perhaps it’s time for them to re-think automobiles, their use, their purpose and their impact on the world from a slightly different perspective than their current design and marketing. Get rid of the gas guzzling SUVs, and start making fuel efficient, evironmentally friendly cars.

Zoom, zoom...

Sunday, December 14, 2008

I Know You Are, But What Am I?

Portrait of Dora Maar Seated
Pablo Picasso
1937

Do you ever get the feeling that everyone around you, all your friends, family, associates, co-workers, are all completely together and normal and fully functioning, and you feel like you're ... well ... not? I sometimes feel like that. At times I feel like the woman in this painting, sort of disjointed. Over the years I have developed some very strange idiosyncracies and a couple of phobias that any normal person would think are ... strange. A few years ago an ex-friend of mine said, "Everything in your house is all neat and arranged, and even your handwriting is too tidy." He did not mean it as a compliment; he was trying to find things to say that would make me feel bad about myself. It worked. But it is true. I may have a touch (a touch?) of obsessive compulsive disorder. I am more comfortable when things are orderly. Even the labels on my soup cans all face the same direction. It's an instinct with me. A place for everything, and everything in its place.

Oh, I know, I know...

I have also developed a couple of full-blown phobias which can at times be quite debilitating. I hate flying and I am not crazy about going up very high in elevators. And when someone I love is not where they should be, when they should be there, I become convinced that something terrible has happened to them.

Anxiety is a physiological and psychological state characterized by cognitive, somatic, emotional, and behavioral components. These components combine to create an unpleasant feeling that is typically associated with uneasiness, apprehension, or worry. ... Wikipedia

It's also completely ridiculous, and yet completely real to the person experiencing it.

I often wonder, as I look at other people, if they have quirks and foibles and idiosyncracies that they deal with. I try to convince myself I'm not completely insane, I'm just human. Are you too? "I know you are, but what am I?"

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Beauties Admiring Pictures
Katsushika Hokusai (1726-92)
Hanging scroll, ink and colors on silk. 69.4×123.2cm

I love this little painting. It has nothing at all to do with this post, but the lines and colors of the painting are so lovely I just had to share it with you. My boring-little-blog is becoming even more (*yawn*) boring than usual, and I have been too busy lately to visit all my favorite blogs, or to post anything even remotely interesting. I took some photographs on Friday night that I think turned out quite well, so I will share them with you in the next couple of days or so.

In the meantime, I am having a fabulous evening with the Munchkins. It's snowing ... yes! ... we have the fireplace on, we're watching movies and making shortbread. And then we're going to eat the shortbread, followed by sticky toffee pudding ice cream. Does it even get any better? *heh*

Richmond Olympic Oval

When I was seven years old, Santa gave me my first pair of ice skates. I thought they were the most wonderful things I had ever seen. I couldn't wait to put them on and go skating. I wanted to be like all those lovely figure skaters, executing lutzes and double axels and salchows. But I soon found that I preferred speed skating instead, and I loved being the fastest skater in the rink. I could also crack a pretty mean whip too, and a friend of mine unfortunately suffered a broken wrist, being at the end of one of my whips. But that's another story...

There was nothing more wonderful than being the first person on the fresh, clean ice, and I would race to lace up my skates and charge out, all alone, sharing the ice with no one else.

Today the Richmond Olympic Speed Skating Oval is opening, and I can hardly wait to see it. It will be the venue for the speed skating events during the 2010 Olympics which are being held in Vancouver, but until then, it is open to the public. This weekend there are all sorts of special events taking place, so I just might pop by with my two special little friends. The oval will be a combination skating rink, fitness centre, art centre and so much more geared toward families. I think it's fabulous. To all the nay sayers of the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, I say "bah humbug". Vancouver is getting so much in return for hosting the Olympics, not for now but for future generations.

But don't look for me to go tearing across the ice today. I'll be the one on the sideslines, watching the other folks.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Honor Among Thieves

Christmas Thieves
William Heath Robinson

Thieves broke into the Salvation Army’s warehouse, and took more than 80 boxes of toys worth $25,000. The stolen goods were for needy children this Christmas. Since then, the Salvation Army has received donations from Future Shop, Best Buy, London Drugs, the Vancouver Police and Fire Departments and individual donations, totalling $100,000. Major Brian Venables of the Salvation Army says. "The outpouring of support from the community has been continuous," "There are so many people dropping off toys and that's wonderful to see." Venables added that one of the companies offering to help is a security firm that is planning to beef up security at the Fraser St. facility.

Apparently the Vancouver police were contacted on the weekend by people who have had trouble with the law themselves, but were outraged by the theft from the Sally Ann. "There are certain crimes that just repulse everyone and this is one of those crimes," a police spokesman said.

Honor among thieves.

In addition, the Surrey Food Bank was robbed this week, not once, not twice, but five times in six days. Each month, the Surrey Food Bank feeds 14,000 people, nearly half of them babies and children. The upside is, the Surrey Food Bank is receiving thousands of donations from folks, including people who are volunteering their time to repair windows, doors, locks, beef up security surveillance and put bars on the windows.

What kind of people rob charities at Christmastime? Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to think of a suitable punishment for these creeps. I know what I would do, but I probably can't print it here.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Another Heart-Stopping Contest...!

Just to have some fun here, I have decided to hold another contest. The prize is some of my my mother's world famous Scottish shortbread. It's wonderful. It's made with 100% fresh butter, and it's light and flaky, and well, wonderful. Okay, here we go ... Santa traditionally has eight reindeer, not including Rudolph, who only came onto the scene in 1939 as a marketing creation for Montgomery Ward. Okay, by now you have guessed what the contest is. What are the names of the original reindeer? Now, if you were to Google the question, that would not be fair, would it? Besides, I have a site meter, so I can tell if you are participating in any jiggery pokery like that, can't I? *heh* Yes, I can. Not many of us can name all of Santa's reindeer. I can name some, other people can name others, but the person who can fairly name them all will be the recipient of the best shortbread this side of the Scottish Isles. It's okay to ask the person who is in the room with you - sort of like when you do the crossword puzzle. "Hey, what's a five letter word for dromedary?" But no checking on Google.

Monday, December 8, 2008

I'll Show You Mine, If You'll Show Me Yours...

The other day my good friend Russell posted pictures of his fireplace. It looked wonderful, so I decided to light my fireplace too. I haven't had my fireplace on yet this year, and I had forgotten how fabulous a fire can be on a chilly, damp, rainy, misty Vancouver afternoon. At first I put on a firelog, and when it had died down I put on some real wood. I was amazed at the amount of heat it generated, and how wonderful the crackling of the fire sounded.

Now, if only we would get some snow. Unfortunately, I still have new buds on my geraniums, and the next-door neighbours have Christmas lights on their palm trees.

My brother, who is a seasoned seaman (say that ten times fast...) and understands weather patterns, announced the other day that we won't be getting any winter here in Vancouver this year. Well, that isn't going to stop me from lighting my fireplace.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Synesthesia

Scriabin musical color organ, demonstrating synesthesia.

Synesthesia is what happens when the brain mixes up the senses. For example, synesthesia might cause someone to hear colors or see sounds. Most people are born with synesthesia, but it can also happen to people who take illegal drugs such as LSD.

Just as when a person without synesthesia may imagine an apple when the word is said, a person with synesthesia might see the color orange, taste sugar or hear a flute. It does not seem odd to them that they have synesthesia. It's something that's always been there. Most synesthetes (the term for those who have this experience) do not know it's odd until they express the feelings that they have to someone else. Synesthesia can be a cross between any of the five senses as well as emotions.

Some musicians and composers have a form of synesthesia that allows them to hear music as colors. Mozart is said to have had this form of synesthesia. He said that the key of D Major had a warm "orangey" sound to it, while B flat minor was blackish. A major was a rainbow of colors to him. This may explain why he wrote some of his music using different colors for different music notes. Also, why much of his music is in more major keys. Another composer who had color-hearing was the Russian composer Alexander Scriabin. In 1907 he talked with another famous composer, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and they both found that some musical notes made them think of certain colours. Scriabin worked with a man called Alexander Mozer who made a color organ.

... Wikipedia

I have synesthesia. Oh, before you start sending me get-well cards, let me tell you I have had synesthesia all my life. I thought it was perfectly normal and that everyone had it. Synesthesia is where a person’s brain gets sort of cross-wired and they see numbers in color, or hear musical notes as numbers, or letters of the alphabet as colors, or sometimes sound. For instance, to me the number 4 is brown, the number 8 is orange. The Rolling Stones are red. Red, red, red. Mozart is deep burgundy, Wagner is black. Well, Wagner’s music is black anyway, isn’t it? Rod Stewart’s gravelly voice is yellow. Celine Dion’s voice is like fingernails on a blackboard to me.

Certain pains do not feel painful to me, they feel “sweet”. Certain people’s voices can physically hurt my skin and make me feel nauseated. (I have a co-worker who affects me that way, but I won’t go into that here.)

The colors of the alphabet are wonderful greens, turquoise, magentas, and blues. When I am doing a little painting, there is a certain shade of Winsor green that I can taste in my mouth. It tastes like marzipan. I think more people have synesthesia than they realize. How many times have you said, “It feels like Friday today.”

Scientific studies done 100 years ago showed that people with synesthesia tended to be more creative rather than analytical. They also have difficulties with math. Well, I could have told them that.

Some famous synesthetes include the painter David Hockey, author Vladimir Nabokov, poet Charles Baudelaire and musician Duke Ellington.

Friday, December 5, 2008

The Three Stooges

pro·rogue, 1. To discontinue a session of (a parliament, for example).
2. To postpone; defer.

The Governor General of Canada, Michaelle Jean, has agreed to prorogue parliament until the end of January 2009. During our recent Federal Election here in Canada on October 14th, Stéphane Dion, the leader of the Liberal Party in Canada, lost by such a whomping amount, it was suggested he should resign as leader of the party. Under Dion’s leadership, the Liberal Party of Canda lost 26 seats in the House of Commons, down from 103, and they got only 26.2 percent of the popular vote. On October 20th, Dion announced his resignation as leader of the Libertal Party. Now, like a snake in the grass, he is manouvering a way to take over as Prime Minister of Canada. The three opposition parties have formed a coalition, hoping to oust Stephen Harper. It's all just politics. The Liberals and NDP reached a deal to topple the current government and form a coalition government, with support from the Bloc Québécois, the separatist party. In the agreement, Dion would have been the interim Prime Minister, maintaining that he would step down in May 2009 so they could elect his successor.

Yah, ... right...

I personally don’t want a coalition government here in Canada, and especially not with Larry, Curly and Moe Stéphane, Gilles and Jack running the country. And I certainly don’t want another election. I guess that’s the peril of having a minority government. The enemy of my enemy is my friend? I'm not particularly a supporter of Stephen Harper or the Conservative government, but in this instance I don't trust these three Stooges.

This video is a typical day in Canadian parliament, and believe me, things are never boring here in boring old Canada.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Mean Woman Blues

Occasionally PBS plays the famous 1988 Concert, “Roy Orbison and Friends, A Black and White Night.” The “friends” include Elvis Costello, Bruce Springsteen, Jackson Brown, k.d. lang, Bonnie Raitt, Jennifer Warnes and Tom Waits, among others. The backup band was Elvis’s band before he died. The concert is filmed entirely in black and white and is meant to look like a 1940s nightclub. In 1989 Virgin Records released the concert on CD. The concert still completely knocks my socks off whenever I see it. My favorite is “Mean Woman Blues”. You have to go a very long way to hear guitar playing like this. And I dare you to sit still while you’re listening to the video.



Are you still sitting down? I'll bet you're not!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Not For Vegetarians, Or The Squeamish

I have several vegetarian friends who say they "would never eat anything that has a face." Well, I'm not a vegetarian, not even close. I eat fish, fowl, meat ... anything. The only thing I don't eat is squid and octupus, but they don't really have faces. Do they? Today the Cafeteria Nazi very nice lady who runs our cafeteria hosted a luncheon for everyone, because she is retiring at the end of this year. The food was wonderful, but I must admit I stopped dead in my tracks ... no pun intended ... when I came across pork with the face still on it. In fact, the whole head was there. If you look closely, you can see the little ears sticking up, and one eye looking at us accusingly.

Well, I warned you, this post is not for the squeamish.

I remember when I was a little girl, quite a few of my friends lived on small farms in the Alberni Valley. Their parents grew their own produce and raised their own livestock for food. I can remember watching their parents selecting the chicken they were going to have for their meal that evening, and dispatching it on the chopping block they kept behind the house. And yes, it is true what they say about headless chickens. I have seen it.

Our family, however, did not have a farm and my mother bought her meat and poultry from the butcher shop, Beggs Meat Market. It was a real butcher shop and my mother could ask for particular cuts of meat, and they would be cut for her right there. Poultry, however, often still had the feathers on, particularly the Christmas turkey or the New Year's goose, and my job was to pluck the feathers out.

Often my father and my brothers would go duck hunting and bring home a brace of ducks or perhaps geese, and nothing was wasted. My mother cured the down from the ducks and geese, and made each of us our own eiderdowns. We chose our own fabrics, and mine was paisley, exactly like the eiderdown in this picture. There was nothing more wonderful on a chilly night, or when I was not feeling well, than to climb under my eider down. I can still hear my mother saying, "Are you not feeling well? Why don't you put your eiderdown over you," and I can still feel her tucking my feet in. Today, instead, we buy our eiderdowns or feather duvets from Daniadown, and in Canada they cost as much as $8,000.

I was in Kin's fruit and vegetable market this evening after work, and I was amazed at all the wonderful exotic fruits and vegetables there. Persimmons! We don't grow persimmons here. They are delivered here - fresh - on an airplane.

All of this was brought back to me today when I saw the pork with the face still on it. We live such sanitized lives today. Everything is wrapped in cellophane. We don't have to think too much about the process that brings our food to the market and to our table. We certainly don't have to think about whether or not it had a face.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

My Little Corner Of The World

I'm not a photographer, but I rather like this little photograph. It appears to be black and white, but it's not. Early one morning last week I thought the sky looked rather unusual, and I stepped outside onto my terrace to take a picture. I was pleased at how it turned out, since I know absolutely nothing about photography. I just snapped the picture et voila! it looked rather nice. It's facing east in the morning sky.

I turned around and looked at a basket of geraniums that had been sadly neglected, and I was shocked to see how vigorously they were thriving. In December! Folks in other parts of the world think Vancouver is the land of ice, snow, husky dogs, snow shoes, parkas and toques. We actually have palm trees, and the roses are still blooming. In December! I wish we did get more snow, to be honest. I love snow. I can't remember the last time we had a white Christmas. I think it may have been 12 years ago. *sigh*

Well, it's 4:30 so I think I will go home and water my geraniums. Have a great evening, everyone!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Freedom Of Speech, Ideas, Opinions and Expression

Freedom of speech is the freedom to speak freely without censorship or limitation. The synonymous term freedom of expression is sometimes used to denote not only freedom of verbal speech but any act of seeking, receiving and imparting information or ideas, regardless of the medium used. Freedom of speech and freedom of expression is closely related to, yet distinct from, the concept of freedom of thought or freedom of conscience. In practice, the right to freedom of speech is not absolute in any country and the right is commonly subject to limitations, such as on "hate speech". This is because exercising freedom of speech always takes place within a context of competing values.

The right to freedom of speech is recognized as a human right under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and recognized in international human rights law in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The ICCPR recognizes the right to freedom of speech as "the right to hold opinions without interference. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression". Furthermore freedom of speech is recognized in European, inter-American and African regional human rights law.


... Wikipedia

I am taking a poll. I have a curious question, and I would be interested to hear what your opinions are on the subject. It seems to me that, the more globalized we become and the smaller the earth is, the more we communicate across broad spectrums through the Internet, text messaging, Facebook, My Space, etc., and the more we are able to exchange ideas, the more afraid we are to speak our minds.

An idea is a form (such as a thought) formed by consciousness (including mind) through the process of ideation. Human capability to contemplate ideas is associated with the ability of reasoning, self-reflection, and of the ability to acquire and apply intellect, intuition, inspiration, etc. Further, ideas give rise to actual concepts, or mind generalizations, which are the basis for any kind of knowledge whether science or philosophy or impulsiveness.

In a popular sense, an idea arises in a reflex, spontaneous manner, even without thinking or serious reflection, for example, when we talk about the idea of a person or a place.

An opinion is a person's ideas and thoughts towards something which it is either impossible to verify the truth of, or the truth of which is thought unimportant to the person. It is an assertion about something especially if that something lies in the future and its truth or falsity cannot be directly established e.g. induction. An opinion is not a fact, because opinions are either not falsifiable, or the opinion has not been proven or verified. If it later becomes proven or verified, it is no longer an opinion, but a fact.

In economics, philosophy, or other social sciences, analysis based on opinions is referred to as normative analysis (what ought to be), as opposed to positive analysis, which is based on scientific observation (what materially is). Historically, the distinction of proven knowledge and opinion was articulated by some Ancient Greek philosophers. Plato's analogy of the divided line is a well-known illustration of the distinction between knowledge and opinion.


... Wikipedia

Ideas and opinions – we all have them. And because we are all different, our ideas and opinions are different. It is the differences of ideas and opinions that keep everything fresh. Without death there would be no life, and without ideas and opinions there would be only stagnation.

Of course, we all love the company of people who are just like us. “You eat your morning cereal with yogurt instead of milk? So do I!” *heh*. However, as I cruise around the blogs, I find all sorts of ideas and opinions that are antithesis to mine, and conversely, those are the blogs I enjoy the most. I enjoy hearing the ideas and opinions of folks who think differently than I do. I find it refreshing.

As most of you know by now, I occasionally like to voice my ideas and opinions. When I do, please don’t get your knickers in a twist. I was raised in a household where debates and differences of opinions were not only welcomed, they were encouraged.

To get back to my question, (my poll), do you find, the more we communicate with each other, the more we are becoming more afraid to express our ideas and opinions, or less afraid? If I do not agree with you – for whatever reason – or you do not agree with me, do you take it personally? I don’t mean to sound preachy, I really am interested in what you have to say on this subject. You’re all very intelligent people.

Do we really have freedom of speech? Freedom of thought? Freedom of ideas? Freedom of expression? Or have we all turned into Winston Smith?

Saturday, November 29, 2008

What Drives You Crazy?

The Scream
Edvard Munch
1893
Oil, tempera, and pastel on cardboard
91 × 73.5 cm
National Gallery, Oslo

I love this painting. There are days when we all feel like this. Certain things drive us crazy, and we feel the scream slowly rising to the top. We contain it, of course, but silently, inside our heads, we are screaming. One thing that bothers me is noise. I cannot tolerate noise. Some noises are pleasant and have a music all their own, such as the sound of a lawnmower on a spring afternoon or the sound of children in a playground down the street. And for some strange reason, I love the sound of my clothes dryer or my dishwasher humming away in the background. But most noises are just unpleasant and annoying.

"A noisy noise annoys an oyster."

One of my co-workers drives me completely insane. I love her dearly, but there are days when I feel a scream rising in my throat, just like in the Edvard Munch painting. My co-worker wears her plastic access pass on a lanyard around her neck, and on it she also wears the key to her desk, which she locks at the end of the day. The problem is, my co-worker has a form of ADHD and she cannot sit still for more than a few minutes. She is constantly jumping up and running around the office with the key clacking against the hard plastic access pass.

Clack, clack, clack... run, run, run... clack, clack, clack...

Scream!

Last Sunday Leslie and I went to the Boathouse Restaurant for lunch. We had a fabulous table next to the window overlooking the sailboats on English Bay (I snapped this picture from our table, and yes, we have palm trees in Vancouver...), the food was delicious, the company was wonderful. Leslie and I always find so much to chat about. The noise in the restaurant was indescribable. There was some awful 1980s music playing from a tinny stereo somewhere off in the distance. The music was indecipherable, loud, impossible to hear, and didn't fit the ambience of the restaurant at all. It was probably some cheesy remix that one of the servers had brought in from a homemade CD collection. I was dizzy by the time we left the restaurant.

SCREAM!

Yesterday as I was coming home from work, I noticed everyone on the bus was talking on a cell phone. There were all different languages, English, Iranian, Mandarin, Cantonese, Punjabi, Spanish, and they were all using their "telephone voices". I could hardly wait to get home, close the door behind me, and put on some soft jazz. Today I have the dryer humming quietly in the background, the rain is pattering on my roof and on the trees outside, and it's wonderful. My ears are saying, "Thank you! Thank you!"

Am I neurotic? Probably. But, I would bet there are things that drive you crazy too. There aren't?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Just When You Thought It Was Safe...

Feeding the Chickens
George Vicat Cole
Oil on canvas
10 by 14.1/2 inches

People are living longer than ever before and there are more healthy centegenarians now than ever. We don't have as many communicable diseases as our grandparents did because we have antibiotics and we know more about hygiene. But in spite of this, we are a nation of hypochondriacs and we are afraid of everything. If a disease doesn't exist, we make one up. (Fibromyalgia, anyone?) Today we received the following bulletin at work, and when I read it, I didn't know whether to laugh or cry.

You've heard about the chicken that crossed the road. But have you heard the one about the chickens travelling down the road? It's no laughing matter. Crates of chickens being trucked along the highway in the back of an open truck can shoot a bunch of nasty bacteria into the cars behind them, researchers have found. Drivers stuck behind such a truck should "pass them quickly," advised study co-author Ana Rule, a researcher at Johns Hopkins University. Even so, it's not clear that germy debris will make you sick. None of the scientists who studied this problem got sick. And the disease-causing bacteria in question are normally spread by food or water, not air. Rule and her colleagues at the Bloomberg School of Public Health focused on the so-called Delmarva Peninsula, a coastal area that includes parts of Delaware, Maryland and Virginia. The region is a chicken mecca, with one of the highest concentrations of broiler chickens per hectare in the nation.

The researchers chose a 27-kilometre stretch of highway connecting chicken farms in Maryland to a processing plant to the south in Accomac, Va. They rode in four-door cars with all the windows down and the air conditioning off. They checked the cars for bacteria after driving when there were no chicken trucks around. And they checked for bacteria after 10 trips behind flatbed trucks carrying crates of broiler chickens. They collected bacteria from air samples, door handles and soda cans inside the car. In all the truck chases, they found high levels of certain bacteria, including some that are resistant to antibiotics. The study, released this week, is being published in the first issue of the Journal of Infection and Public Health, and it's billed as the first to look at whether poultry trucking exposes people to antibiotic-resistant bacteria. ... CDC

Oh, gosh. And here I thought the only time I should be afraid of chicken was when the Cafeteria Nazi serves it on her menu.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Hope

Hope
George Frederic Watts
1885

I was watching a really assinine program on TV the other day called "The Real Housewives of New York City". I have never seen a more shallow, self-serving bunch of women. The series is described by Bravo TV as "Fearuring an elite and powerful set of New York socialites as they juggle their careers and home lives with busy calendars packed with charity fund-raising galas, the social whirl of the Hamptons, and interviews for elite private schools. These driven and ambitious women show everyone what it takes to make it in the upper echelon of society, where money and status are an essential way of life. The series takes an up-close and personal look at a lifestyle where private chefs, Au Pairs, front row seats at Fashion Week and Hamptons estates are part of everyday life. The Real Housewives of New York City follows five glamorous Manhattan women - Alex, Bethenny, Jill, LuAnn, and Ramona - as they balance motherhood, demanding careers, and a fast-paced social calendar, and shows what life is like in the most exclusive areas of New York."

It was horrible ... It was like watching a train wreck, but I couldn't tear my eyes away.

However, my favorite of the five women is Countess LuAnn de Lesseps. She's not quite the real deal; she did not come from an aristocratic background before she married Alexander Count de Lesseps of the Suez Canal Dynasty, and really, how many Countesses are named LuAnn? But she definitely is a cut above the rest of the women in the group, and she has an understated style and taste that I like. She is very involved in charity work, and particularly with young women whose lives have been derailed by drugs, alcohol and other bad choices. As Countess LuAnn de Lesseps says, "It's not how far you have fallen, but how you get back up."

I think in some way all of us can relate to that. I have certainly gone through some low times in my life. Fortunately I never resorted to drugs or alcohol, but there have been times when I thought nothing would ever be right again. And like the "pay it forward" philosophy, sometimes all it takes is a small amount of encouragement and a kind word from someone else to get us back on track. It gives us hope. But I must confess, I am not as diligent about this as I should be. There is a lot (lot!) more I could be doing to help people who are less fortunate than I am, so I thank Countess LuAnn de Lesseps for reminding me of that.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Mystery Woman Contest

I haven't run a contest here on my blog for a long time, over a year in fact. So I think it's time we had one, don't you? I have quite a collection of tasteless lovely gifts that have been given to me by one of the doctors at work, who brings me something every time she comes back from one of her trips to somewhere exotic. I have in my collection a candle in the shape of something completely unidentifiable, with a scent that I don't recognize. It's yours if you can tell me who is the woman in this picture. She is dressed in the style of the 1970s, with bell bottom jeans, a comfortable blouse, a sun hat and sunglasses. No, it isn't me, and no I won't give you any hints. Give it a try. The wilder and crazier the guess, the better. Take a chance. Anything goes! You just might be right.

Leslie, you might want to recuse yourself, since I think you know the answer. :-)

We have a winner! Cedar from Cedarflame has won the ghastly beautiful candle by guessing correctly.

The woman in the bell-bottom blue jeans is none other than Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of Her other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith Sovereign of the Order of Canada, Sovereign of the Order of Australia, Sovereign of the Order of New Zealand, Sovereign of the Order of Barbados, Sovereign of the Order of Valour, Sovereign of the Order of Military Merit, Sovereign of the Order of Merit of the Police Forces, Sovereign of the Queen's Service Order, Sovereign of the New Zealand Order of Merit, Sovereign of the Order of St. Andrew, Sovereign of the Order of Logohu, Sovereign of the Order of the Star of Melanesia.

That's not a bad looking little boat anchored in the background either...

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Sexiest Man Alive?

Once again People Magazine has issued its "Sexiest Man Alive" edition for 2008. This year it's Hugh Jackman. Well, okay, I guess he's not bad. My problem with People Magazine's Sexiest Man Alive issue is that their choices are all so obvious, and not really the type of man most women would choose. Well, let me rephrase that... There are many men who women would think are the "Sexiest Man Alive", but they may not necessarily end up the People Magazine issue. So, I always do my annual version of the "Sexist Man Alive", and after much discussion amongst the women at work today and after taking a poll which was accurate to within 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20 ... the following three men were considered to be the "Sexiest Men Alive". Here they are, in no particular order.

Jason O'Mara. Who, you ask? Well, if any of you have seen "Life on Mars" on ABC on Thursday nights, you just might have noticed Jason O'Mara. I first saw Jason O'Mara on a BBC production called "Berkeley Square". It was filmed about ten years ago, and shown on PBS. Like Hugh Lawrie in "House" and Rufus Sewell in "Eleventh Hour" Jason O'Mara is an import from the British Isles, and he has had to learn to speak with an American accent, rather than his Irish brogue. "Life on Mars" is one of the best shows I have seen in about a decade. It's edgy, funny and brilliant. And ABC has cancelled it. I guess people are too busy watching "Dancing With The Stars" and "American Idol".

*sigh*

Harvey Keitel. Oh, come on, you can't fool me. I know you have a secret crush on Harvey Keitel. He always plays tough-guy parts, and he has a reputation for being a tough guy in real life, but he doesn't suffer fools gladly. I think he is probably as street smart in real life as the characters he plays. He was in the U.S. Marines before he became an actor. When I did my scientific poll of the women in the office today, Harvey Keitel was their favorite, especially with Dr. A. who says Harvey Keitel makes her go weak at the knees. Harvey Keitel was also in "Life on Mars", and the chemistry between his character and Jason O'Mara's character was brilliant and funny. What a huge loss!

Paul Gross, Canada's very own. You might remember him as Constable Benton Fraser in "Due Douth". He is currently starring in a feature film "Passchendaele" which was one of the more infamous battles of the First World War and is also known as The Third Battle of Ypres. He not only stars in the movie, but he wrote and directed it as well, and it is getting good reviews. Paul Gross is one of those rare breeds - a good looking man with a sense of humor. He is also brilliant and doesn't mind making a fool of himself. If you have never seen it, rent "Men with Brooms", a spoof on curling, the traditional sport in every small Canadian town.

The general consensus amongst the group of women at the office today was that there is really no such thing as a "Sexiest Man Alive". It's all just a gimmick to sell a magazine. As Dr. A. said, "The Sexiest Man Alive is the man one loves..."

Whatever is in any way beautiful hath its source of beauty in itself, and is complete in itself; praise forms no part of it. So it is none the worse nor the better for being praised. ... Marcus Aurelius Antoninus

Beauty is not in the face; beauty is a light in the heart. ... Kahlil Gibran

Beauty?... To me it is a word without sense because I do not know where its meaning comes from nor where it leads to. ... Pablo Picasso

The best and most beautiful things in life cannot be seen, not touched, but are felt in the heart. ... Helen Keller

Thursday, November 20, 2008

I'll Be Back....

I am taking a short break for the time being. I will try to visit all of you as much as I can, and I will re-open my own blog again eventually.

I will be back, but for now I need to do other things. I need to get away from my computer and do other things for a while. I will be back.

Johanna

ADDENDUM: Okay, Okay, I won't be away long. I just have a few things to do and to catch my breath... Phew! But I'll be back. I sit in front of my computer at work all day and sometimes when I get home, sitting in front of my computer at home is the last thing I want to do. Where do you all get the energy to blog so much? Some of you have upwards of 50 commenters! Holy doodle! It must take forever to visit all those folks!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Books! Glorious Books!

Still Life With Three Books
Vincent van Gogh
Painting, Oil on panel (oval)
Paris: March - April, 1887
Van Gogh Museum
Amsterdam, The Netherlands, Europe

Willow at Life at Willow Manor has a wonderful meme going on at the moment, and she has invited anyone to join in.

Okay!

List the following:

(a) Fiction book
(b) Autobiography
(c) Non-fiction book
(d) A fourth book of your choice from any genre.

Explain why the books are essential reads in no more than 30 words.

Here is my list.

(a) "Youngblood Hawke" by Herman Wouk. It's a fictionalized account of the life of Thomas Wolfe, who was one of my favorite authors, and who wrote one of my favorite books, "Look Homeward Angel". Oddly enough, "Look Homeward Angel" was loosely based on Thomas Wolfe's own life.

(b) "Einstein, His Life and Universe" by Walter Isaacson. I have always been fascinated with Einstein as a person, and the book shows his human side. We all think of Einstein as the most brilliant man who ever lived, but he was really quite a lady's man, and the book publishes some of his love letters, which are very sweet.

(c) "The Outline of History" by H.G. Wells. Even though he was famous for his science fiction books, he wrote a history book that was wonderfully interesting. He wrote about evolution, religion and philosophy with the same beliefs and opinions that I have. He would have been an interesting person to know. "When I wrote the Outline of History I slowly gained the conviction which crystallized itself later on into a positive idea, that the great Roman Empire was ruined not only from outside by the storming barbarians; but also by the internal financial difficulties, by the indebtedness of all social classes, and by the heavy burden of taxation, until, under these financial burdens, the whole scaffolding of imperialism broke down." ... H.G. Wells

(d) This last category is difficult because I think I have read thousands of books, and each of them is a favorite of mine, in its own way. But I have a particular fondness for a book that belonged to my father called "A Treasury of Laughter". I used to read it for hours when I was a little girl, I still have the book, and it can still make me laugh.

In my enthusiasm, I think I went way over 30 words. Now I will probably wake up at 3:00 in the morning and want to change my list, or at least add to it.

Okay ... now it's your turn.

A Breath Of Fresh Air

I think it must be very exciting for Americans to look forward to having children in the White House again. I'm not the biggest fan of Barack or Michelle Obama, (...sorry) but they sure have two beautiful, adorable little girls, and I think having them in the White House would be like a breath of fresh air. The laughter of children, and especially the giggling of little girls, can blow the cobwebs out of any stuffy old residence, can't it?

On Good Morning American this morning someone was saying that when any new President and his family moves into the White House, they have free rein to make the house their own home. They can bring in their own furniture, and paint the walls any color they wish. Nothing is more exciting to a little girl than being able to decorate her own bedroom.

I just hope the world leaves them alone and allows them to grow up as normal little girls, out of the spotlight. They are both entering their teenage years very soon, and teenagers can be ... well ... teenagers. The press and the media can make a conscious choice to leave them alone, and I hope they do.

Bring on the Barbie dolls and pillow fights!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Welcome To Pottersville

Do you remember the part in "It's A Wonderful Life"? where the angel Clarence Odbody takes George Bailey around Bedford Falls to show him what it would be like if George weren't alive? Without George, Bedford Falls has turned into Pottersville, and it's horrible. It's mostly a slum with Main Street dominated by pawn shops and sleazy bars. Everything is crass and seedy, there is no spirit left in the town. Everyone is angry and depressed, and worst of all Christmas has gone away and it doesn't snow anymore.

Well, it's already started. Here in Vancouver, decorations have gone up in all the shops and malls, and the store fronts have painted-on signs wishing everyone "Seasons Greetings" or "Happy Holidays". Magazines in the supermarkets have their "holiday" issues on display, and commercials on television are advertising "holiday" gifts. Well, first of all, it's way to early for my liking. And second, there is no reference - anywhere - to Christmas. It feels like Pottersville. Everything feels crass and seedy, and not at all like Christmas.

What has happened to Christmas? Why have we allowed it to be taken away from us? I have celebrated Christmas all my life; not "holiday", but Christmas. It is a tradition with deep roots in my culture. But, in order to be all-inclusive, rather than inviting other cultures into sharing our celebration of Christmas, we have homogenized it down to something that we hardly recognize anymore. How the hell did Christmas become politically incorrect, and why have we permitted that to happen?

It feels like Pottersville!

In Vancouver we celebrate all the cultures. We celebrate Chinese New Years with a wonderful parade and all kinds of parties and dinners; we have two large parades celebrating Vaisakhi, the Sikh holiday; we celebrate Eid al-Fitr, which is the end of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of fasting. During Chanukah our Vancouver Art Gallery erects a large menorah and the lighting of the menorah has become an annual tradition.

Nowhere does anyone mention that dreaded "C" word - Christmas. Nowhere!

How did this happen? If other cultures, in the spirit of all-inclusiveness, are permitted to celebrate their traditions openly and with joy, why are we not permitted to celebrate Christmas? Not "holiday" - Christmas!

This year I vow I am going to visit every mall and every store, armed with my can of spray paint, and the paint the word

wherever I find that offensive word "holiday". And then it won't feel so much like Pottersville anymore.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Your Mother Wears Army Boots...!

Yes she does! I have been wearing my pedometer every day, trying to get to my goal of 10,000 steps per day, and I vary between 8,000 and 9,000 steps so far. But I have been wearing my niece's boyfriend's Nike Pegasus hiking shoes. He bought two pairs for the price of one and gave one pair to me, and I loved them, they were so comfortable. But they're not very ladylike, so I decided to buy a more ladylike walking shoe. I tried on this pair of Privos made by Clark, and they felt like walking on air. So I bought them, walked out of the store and felt wonderful.

Until I looked into a shop window and saw my reflection.

As I walked along the swanky, upscale shopping area known as The South Granville Rise, I kept catching glimpses of my feet in the store windows, and I realized my shoes looked exactly like clown shoes, completed with the round, turned-up toes. *sigh* I felt as if everyone was looking at my feet and laughing. There were all the Shaughnessy matrons in their Gucci and Prada shoes, and their expensive designer handbags, and there was I, in my clown shoes.

Oh, well, they're comfortable and they were on sale for half price. I wonder why...?

Homeless In Vancouver

When I first saw this photograph, I thought it was a painting. The theme of the photograph, the colors, the composition, the feeling and mood are so powerful. It is a photograph of a homeless woman in Vancouver. Our city has been named the number one city in the world in which to live, many times, and indeed it is beautiful. But we have a serious problem with homelessness here. A couple of years ago a young couple gave birth to a baby in St. Paul’s Hospital. They were homeless, and when they were discharged from the hospital, they were released back onto the streets with their newborn. How could something like that happen? Well, it did.

"The solution to homelessness will always be a home. A home is a safe place to sleep, a permanent address that helps secure a job, and a place to rebuild and rejoin our community. But the crisis can’t be solved just by building homes. We must also ensure that there is adequate treatment for addiction and mental health, access to temporary shelter, and action to eliminate poor rental conditions."

… Gregor Robertson, Vision Vancouver

Recently, folks living in rental properties in the West End have been evicted so the property owners can make basic cosmetic repairs and then hike the rents up to unaffordable amounts. Anyone who can't afford to pay the higher rents, or who can't find another place to rent, ends up living on the streets. There is something just so wrong in that. The West End is already an outrageously expensive area of the city, and the Provincial and Municipal governments have taken away all renters' rights.

When my daughter was only four years old, her father was killed in a plane crash. My mother-in-law, bless her heart, stole our insurance money that would have purchased a home for my daughter and me. In fact, we could have purchased a house for cash, in Kerrisdale, but that is a story for another day... As a consequence, we were at the mercy of landlords for many years. So affordable housing for everyone is something I feel very strongly about.

There but for the Grace of God...

In an in camera (secret) meeting recently, Vancouver City Council agreed to lend up to $100 million to bail out the financially troubled development company building the athletes village for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. When the Olympic Games are over, these condominiums will sell for upwards of $3.5 million dollars per unit, and the developers will pocket a ton of money.

Big mistake. The people of Vancouver were disgusted, and yesterday in our Municipal election they voted in Vision Vancouver and Gregor Robertson as their Mayor. He won by a landslide.

Yay!

I'm extremely happy we have elected a Mayor who has made affordable housing the first issue on his platform. No more bailing out fat cat developers, in behind-closed-door meetings.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

... By Any Other Name

Throughout my life, I have been called by many nicknames. When I was a little girl people called me Johanna Banana or Jo Jo. As I got older, I was called Josie or Jo. Often people never got my name right, and they called me Joanne or Joanna. I had a grade nine teacher who used to call me Johann. I tried all year to explain to her that my name had an "a" at the end, but she could never get it right. She was a teacher, for goodness sake, what was so difficult about pronouncing my name correctly? Needless to say, she will not be remembered as one of my favorite teachers. A nurse where I work calls me Yohanna, but I like her too much to tell her that my name starts with a "J", not a "Y". But I must admit, I have never cared for nicknames, and I love it when I hear my name pronounced correctly.

My name is sort of unusual, so there aren’t many songs named after me. I like to think Bob Dylan was thinking of me when he wrote this song. Of course, the fact that we had never met would have nothing to do with it, ... well, except once when I saw him perform in person.

Could it be…?

Naw...

Ain't it just like the night to play tricks when you're tryin' to be so quiet?
We sit here stranded, though we're all doin' our best to deny it
And Louise holds a handful of rain, temptin' you to defy it
Lights flicker from the opposite loft
In this room the heat pipes just cough
The country music station plays soft
But there's nothing, really nothing to turn off
Just Louise and her lover so entwined
And these visions of Johanna that conquer my mind

In the empty lot where the ladies play blindman's bluff with the key chain
And the all-night girls they whisper of escapades out on the "D" train
We can hear the night watchman click his flashlight
Ask himself if it's him or them that's really insane
Louise, she's all right, she's just near
She's delicate and seems like the mirror
But she just makes it all too concise and too clear
That Johanna's not here
The ghost of 'lectricity howls in the bones of her face
Where these visions of Johanna have now taken my place

Now, little boy lost, he takes himself so seriously
He brags of his misery, he likes to live dangerously
And when bringing her name up
He speaks of a farewell kiss to me
He's sure got a lotta gall to be so useless and all
Muttering small talk at the wall while I'm in the hall
How can I explain?
Oh, it's so hard to get on
And these visions of Johanna, they kept me up past the dawn

Inside the museums, Infinity goes up on trial
Voices echo this is what salvation must be like after a while
But Mona Lisa musta had the highway blues
You can tell by the way she smiles
See the primitive wallflower freeze
When the jelly-faced women all sneeze
Hear the one with the mustache say, "Jeeze
I can't find my knees"
Oh, jewels and binoculars hang from the head of the mule
But these visions of Johanna, they make it all seem so cruel

The peddler now speaks to the countess who's pretending to care for him
Sayin', "Name me someone that's not a parasite and I'll go out and say a prayer for him"
But like Louise always says
"Ya can't look at much, can ya man?"
As she, herself, prepares for him
And Madonna, she still has not showed
We see this empty cage now corrode
Where her cape of the stage once had flowed
The fiddler, he now steps to the road
He writes ev'rything's been returned which was owed
On the back of the fish truck that loads
While my conscience explodes
The harmonicas play the skeleton keys and the rain
And these visions of Johanna are now all that remain




As with most Dylan songs, I have no idea what the song means, but I love to hear Bob Dylan say my name.