Sunday, October 6, 2013

Grace and Miley


Grace Kelly at 21 and Miley Cyrus at 21

If you ever had any doubt that the human race has reached its peak and is now devolving ... oh, dear goodness.  *heh*

Dear goodness...

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Far Away Places with Strange Sounding Names

I'm not sure if anyone reads my boring-little-blog anymore, I have been away for so long, but just for fun I have decided to hold a contest, with the prize being a box of Purdy's chocolate hedgehogs.  They deliver anywhere in the world, so there are no restrictions.  The rules of the contest are this: correctly identify each of the four cities I have posted here.  For some folks, it should be very easy, for others ... not so much.  The relevance of this post is that each of these cities has a fairly high profile, and each of them is newsworthy in its own way.

The first person to correctly identify all four cities will receive the prize.  There are no clues, and no hints.  The prize is waiting to be awarded to the first person who guesses correctly.  Have fun, and good luck.

City No. 1


City No. 2


City No. 3


City No 4.

Far away places with strange sounding names
Far away over the sea
Those far away places with the strange sounding names are
Calling
Calling me
Goin' to China or maybe Siam
I wanna see for myself
Those far away places I've been reading about in a
Book that I took from a shelf
I start getting' restless whenever I hear the whistle of a train
I pray for the day I can get underway
And look for those castles in Spain
They call me a dreamer
Well maybe I am
But I know that I'm burning to see those
Far away places with the strange sounding names
Calling, calling me Me ~~ Willie Nelson

 

Winners:  In just a few short hours, we have two winners:  Leslie and Hilary.  Congratulations!

City No. 1 is Baghdad, Iraq.  City No. 2 is Damascus, Syria.  City No. 3 is Tehran, Iran.  City No. 4 is Nairobi, Kenya.  The reason is posted this is because all four cities have been in the news lately, and I have actually been hearing people say things like, "Does the Middle East have running water and electricity?" or "Where do people tie up their camels?"  Regarding Nairobi, I have heard people say, "Do they have malls made out of grass huts?"  These people were serious.  Tehran is twice the size of the city of New York, and all the other cities are larger than most North American cities.  How will we ever have peace and tolerance in this world, while we still have so much rampant ignorance?  These far away places with strange sounding names are actually sophisticated cities.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Stay Classy, My Friends

Last night I settled down to watch the Emmys, and in one of the opening numbers with Neil Patrick Harris and Sarah Silverman, they made a point of using the word "vagina" in their song and dance number. And then they made a point of saying they made a point of it. I'm not a prude, and we're all big kids here, but is that really necessary during a family show at 6:00 on a Sunday evening? It's bordering on vulgarity, and completely unnecessary. Shock value? Just crass. I turned the show off and did something more productive with my time.

 Stay classy, my friends.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Hummingbird at the Feeder


Painting has once again become something that I enjoy, but, as with anything, it takes practice, practice, practice. I wish I had dedicated my life to it, but it's never too late, is it? Here is my latest little doodle. My friend Russell took a picture of a hummingbird at the feeder in his back yard, and I thought it was rather pretty, so I did a painting of it. It's amazing how he managed to capture the bird, frozen in the air. I have always loved hummingbirds, so now I have one forever -- at least until next summer.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Red

Today is the anniversary of the day my Dad "went to meet his Maker", as he used to say.  I think about my Dad every day, and sometimes I still talk to him.  I have this picture on the wall next to my desk at home, because it reminds me of how much alike we are.  I inherited his nose -- "the nose knows".

My father was the most intelligent man I ever knew, and I recognized that from a very early age.  He had an extensive library of wonderful books, and he instilled in me a love of reading.  He once told me that, if I were going to read a book, I might as well read a good one.  To that end, I have never read a Harlequin Romance novel, but I have read all the good authors.  Name an author, any author, and I have read him.  That was a gift from my Dad.

One of my fondest memories of my childhood is of my father and me, on a bright summer's day, sitting on the banks of the Somass River, eating lettuce and tomato sandwiches and having deep, philosophical discussions about life.  I was only four years old and my father was teaching me how to swim.  We would take a little picnic and sit and chat while we waited to go back into the water.  I remember thinking at the time, this will always be one of my cherished memories -- the bright sunshine, the green grass, the cool water of the river, and my father talking with me about all the mysteries of the universe and beyond.  He called me "Kidlet" and when my daughter was born, he called her "Kidlet" too.  I used to watch him sitting beside her on the chesterfield, talking to her the same way he did with me.  He used to tease her affectionately that she was a "hidebound reactionary" because she had very conservative views, and he was liberal.

My Mother was a wonderful artist, but my Dad also liked to paint.  He was particularly fond of Native art, and our house was full of baskets, totem poles, paintings and carvings that Dad had collected.  When my parents sold their house, they donated all of their art work to the local museum.

I later asked my mother, "Do you have any idea how much all of that was worth?"

"Don't even tell me," she answered, "I don't want to know".

It was worth a lot, a small fortune in fact..  Two paintings they did, keep, however, were these lovely paintings of the otter and the killer whale.  If you look closely over the killer whale, you can also see the crow dive bombing the whale.  It's hard to see the detail in these photographs, but the otter has little prickly bits of fur all around him.  It wasn't until just a few years ago that I learned these paintings were done by my father.  He even made the frames and carved the detail into them.  Who knew!

At one time a tiny green frog took up residence underneath our house.  You have no idea how loud a tiny green frog can be in the middle of the night.  Oh, goodness.  My mother wanted to send our Scottie dog in after it.  Oh, no, my father wouldn't hear of that.  He managed to trap the frog, and then we drove thirty miles out to Sproat Lake, where the frog was released to live happily ever after in a grove of bright pink lily pads.  A few years ago I was going through my father's books, and there was a small book of poetry that he had had as a teenager.  Inside the front cover was a poem he had written when he was a young man, a wonderful sprightly little poem called "An Ode to a Little Green Frog".  I laughed.

My Dad was definitely unique, and the older I get and the more I look back in hindsight, the more I realize just how unique he was.  It was a privilege to be his daughter, and I'm very, very happy -- finally -- that I inherited his nose.  A part of him is with me forever.

Rest in peace, Dad.  You are not forgotten.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Bell Peppers


Here is another of my little sketches/paintings in my "kitchen" series. Does it even get any more exciting than this? I tell ya. More over Leonardo and Michelangelo. Oh, goodness. But it's fun, and it's sort of like meditation. I get lost in it. I'm not totally happy with the final result, but it's all a learning process, isn't it? And I know if I do one more thing to the picture, I will ruin it. Anyway, paintings always look better when they're framed.

Now, a hot milk and off to bed. The excitement never ends...

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Peaches in a Green Bowl


It seems to have been eons since I last posted here on my blog, and I'm sure the world has gone away from my door by now. But I just had to take some time away from everything and get in touch with my spirit again. The job I have been doing for the last ten years has decimated my creativity, and my painting has become sadly rusty. In any case, here is my first attempt after many, many months, to pick up the brushes and see what I can do. It was fun. My favourite medium is watercolour pencils. They are so versatile, and the colours are wonderful. Using the pencils, you just put the pigment down on the paper and then go into it with a small, wet brush. Et voila! the colours come to life. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed them.  And enjoyed eating the peaches when I was finished the painting.


I also had some fun painting this little Tin Man tea pot. He is also done with watercolour pencils, and I tried to get as close to a "tinny" effect as I could. I can almost hear him speaking:

Wizard of Oz:  "As for you, my galvanized friend, you want a heart. You don't know how lucky you are not to have one. Hearts will never be practical until they can be made unbreakable."

Tin Woodsman: "But I still want one."

Wizard of Oz:   "A heart is not judged by how much you love, but by how much you are loved, by others."

Or as a friend of mine said to me today: "Life is short, Jo. Carpe Diem!" That is very true, isn't it?  Expect to see more of my odd little paintings here on my boring little blog.  Life is meant to be enjoyed.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Blogger Burnout, Beethoven and The Joy of Life...

I have not blogged for a little while because I have been busy with other things, and I’m not sure there is anyone out there who still reads my boring-little-blog.  But I haven’t forgotten you, and I will be back blogging regularly very soon.  In the meantime, I have a treat for you.  Well, I think it's a treat anyway.

Ever since I was a child, I have always loved music by Beethoven.  I used to sneak out of bed and hide under the dining room table so I could listen to it, whenever my parents played it on the record player.  Beethoven is arguably the  greatest composer who ever lived, and his Ninth and final symphony is universally regarded to be the greatest piece of music ever written.  The choral is taken from a poem written by a poem written by Friedrich Schiller in 1785.

The Ninth Symphony premiered on May 7, 1824 in Vienna.  The performance was conducted by Michael Umlauf, because by that time Beethoven was completely deaf.  He could not hear one note of his extraordinary symphony.  Over the years millions, perhaps billions, of people have listened to Ode to Joy, a beautiful composition that the composer could hear only in his head.

This performance of Ode to Joy is wonderful.  Imagine living in a city where this could happen.  The video is just slightly over five minutes long, and I know folks have no patience for things on the internet that are longer than 45 seconds.  But you’re in for a treat, so pour yourself a cup of tea or coffee – or whatever --- sit back in your chair and relax.  Be sure to watch it to the very end, not the middle, not almost the end, but the very end.  You will get goosebumps and your heart will soar with joy – which is what Beethoven intended.

Enjoy!  I will be back soon.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A Body in Motion...

Newton's First law of motion is: An object at rest remains at rest unless acted upon by a force. An object in motion remains in motion, and at a constant velocity, unless acted upon by a force. Inertia is the resistance of any physical object to a change in its state of motion or rest, or the tendency of an object to resist any change in its motion. In other words, I have been enjoying a wonderful laziness this past couple of weeks. I go to work, come home, sleep ... rinse, repeat.  A body at rest.  It's good for the soul.

Sometimes a body in motion will defy Newton's first law of motion, and to that end I invite you to watch this wonderful video.  It's not about the children, it's about the seal.  The video is not very long, but you have to watch it to the end.  I once did a blog post about whether or not animals were sentient beings.  This video will leave you no doubt whatsoever.

Enjoy, and have a wonderful day, everyone.


Friday, May 10, 2013

Party Like It's 1976...


 

In case you have not seen this video yet, you're in for a treat. Put on your white go-go boots, turn up the sound, and dance like it's 1976.  I want to be her.  Talk about joy of life...!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Requiem for a Tree...

There is a tree here in Vancouver that is without question one of the most beautiful trees I have ever seen.  For the past 15 years, I have watched the seasons through that tree -- spring, summer, fall, winter.  The tree has become like a friend.  When winter is nearing its end, I watch for the leaves to start budding on the tree, and then I watch for the blossoms.  Often I will go to work in the morning, and they aren't there, but at the end of the day when I turn the corner to come home -- et voila! -- the tree is in full bloom.  Everything about the tree is perfect -- the shape of it, the way the branches stretch above the sidewalk.  Across the street from the tree is a tiny corner park with a park bench, and on the hottest summer afternoons I sometimes sit on the little bench and watch the breeze in the tree, and watch the passersby on their bikes, skateboards or on foot.  It's a wonderful cool, calm people-watching spot, and the tree and I keep each other company.

Today as I came home from work, I turned the corner and all I saw was a huge, raw hole in the ground.  The most beautiful tree in Vancouver no longer exists.  It's gone.  The adjacent building is an old heritage church, and it now houses a neighbourhood community centre.  The centre is expanding and renovating its premises, and during renovations of the building, they chopped down the tree.  I actually feel real grief.

No matter what "improvements" they make to the building, it will never look the same without that wonderful tree.  It just looks like yet another barren structure in the middle of the city.  I'm sure it will be very nice, and it will provide better services to the community it supports.  But as Holly Golightly would have said, "But, oh, golly, gee, damn...!" did they really have to chop down such an exquisitely beautiful tree in the process?

I'm glad I took pictures of it, to remember it.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Childhood's End...

When my daughter was a child, one of my biggest fears was that she would be abducted.  I was a single mom, and trying to juggle full-time work with being a full-time mother, and along with that I had a lot of concern that I wasn't doing any of it right.  And at the time there had been a rash of abductions, including one of a little girl named Abby Drover who was abducted by a neighbour and held in an underground bunker for 181 days.  She was discovered by accident, when the abductor's wife found him emerging from a pit underneath the family garage. The wife was shocked when an emaciated girl scrambled out behind him, trying to make her escape.

The stuff of nightmares.

What makes these monsters do these things?  Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, Amanda Knight, Elizabeth Smart, Jaycee Lee Dugard -- all abducted, and all fortunate to have been found, even as much as almost two decades later.

Children have had their childhoods robbed of them because of these fiends.  Parents have turned into helicopter parents.  I know, I did.  My daughter's childhood was quite different from mine.  When I was a child, we heard horror stories of a kid getting lockjaw from stepping on a rusty nail, or contracting rabies from being bitten by a rabid dog -- none of them true of course -- but they were the horror stories of our childhood.  The bogeyman was a figment of our imagination.  Now he is very real, and he climbs into children's windows and takes them from their beds at night, or -- like Michael Dunahee -- snatches them from playgrounds when their parents have looked away for just a moment.

Just a brief nanosecond.

How do we keep children safe from predators?  I hope those three men in Ohio who abducted the girls and held them captive, never see the light of day again.  In a civilized society, we can't keep them locked in fetid dungeons the way they kept their prey.  Too bad.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Beyond a Reasonable Doubt

Amanda Knox has now published a book about her journey through the Italian courts, and I am looking forward to reading it.  For some strange reason, which I cannot explain, I am not entirely convinced of her innocence.  Intellectually, I think she is probably not guilty of the crime, but if I were on a jury, there would be that small, nagging voice in the back of my mind that would create "reasonable doubt".  I cannot explain it.  It's just there -- questioning.  Amanda Knox has now been ordered to stand trial again in Italy for the murder of Meredith Kercher, even though the Italian Appeals Court stated the prosecution's charges against her were"not corroborated by any objective element of evidence." Amanda Knox will most likely not be expedited back to Italy because it violates the U.S. legal principle that a criminal defendant can't be tried twice on the same allegation.

Double jeopardy.

I'm looking forward to reading the book, and maybe it will silence that little voice in my mind that questions ... hmmm ... is there more to this story than we know?

Beyond a reasonable doubt...

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Back to the Future...

Where were you on Friday, April 12, 2013?  That's the day Marty McFly came back to the future  -- all the way from the 1980s.  That, for me, was an interesting decade.

Shoulder pads, big hair, Calvin Klein perfume, Dynasty, Joan Collins.

Joan Jett.

Spandau Ballet...

Would Mary McFly recognize the world if he were to arrive here today?  We are able to sit  in comfort of our living rooms communicating with the world on these little screens with keyboards attached.  Got something to say?  Well, just say it, whether anyone is listening or not.  We can watch TV on our miniature smart phones while we're eating lunch in the food court.  See news happening?  Take a picture, tap the screen and e-mail the picture to every news agency in the world, et voila! the whole world can see it in nanoseconds.  Not just Big Brother is watching -- everyone is watching.  Everything.  All the time.  There is almost no such thing as the media anymore.  We are the media.  It may seem strange, but I like it.  I don't see it as an invasion of privacy, but rather as transparency.  Would the Boston Marathon bombing suspects have been apprehended without the social media?  Maybe not.  And the RCMP officers who tasered Robert Dziekanski to death at Vancouver Airport would never have been caught, had it not been for a bystander with a cell phone camera.

Oops.

This is a world Mary McFly would never have been able to imagine, back there in the deepest, darkest 1980s. In his 1986 State of the Union speech, President Reagan referred to the movie when he said, "Never has there been a more exciting time to be alive, a time of rousing wonder and heroic achievement. As they said in the film Back to the Future, 'Where we're going, we don't need roads' ". Well, we still need roads, we just don't have DeLoreans anymore.

Time travel has always fascinated me.  As yet, we cannot go forward in time, but we can go backwards.  If I could, I would go back to the 1980s and bring back a younger version of me.

And the Spandau Ballet.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

What the Hell is a False Flag...?

The Boston Marathon yesterday was dedicated to the 26 victims at Sandy Hook in Newton -- 26.2 miles -- one mile for each victim.  A small group of the parents from Newtown ran in the marathon; they were called 'Newtown Strong'.  "In the first 20 miles we're honouring the 20 Sandy Hook first graders," Laura Nowacki, a spokeswoman for Newtown Strong, explained to WBUR Boston. "When we crest Heartbreak Hill, and we're coming back towards Boston, we run the final six for our six fallen educators, including their lives, to protect our children." Survivors and families of the Newtown tragedy were invited to watch the race from a VIP area near the finish line.  We all know what happened at that point.  In a horrible twist of irony, an eight-year-old boy was one of the people killed.

Before the smoke had even cleared, Alex Jones, an execrable, sorry specimen of a human being, had declared the incident a "false flag".  In the past, he has also declared the World Trade Center collapse and the Colorado and Newtown massacres "false flags" as well.  Children died in all of these tragedies.

What the hell is a false flag?

Who the hell is Alex Jones?

(Pardonnez mon français)

Why is this piece of human garbage man even allowed to perpetuate these rumours?  I can't think of a worse way to pay disrespect to the dead and their loved ones.

Alex Jones should thank his lucky stars that he lives in a country where he is able to spew his verbal diarrhea speak in freedom.  In many other countries, he would have been made to disappear -- a long time ago.

Oh, if only...

“Conspiracy theory is the ultimate refuge of the powerless. If you cannot change your own life, it must be that some greater force controls the world.” ~~ Roger Cohen

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Jo's Ridiculist...

When I was in high school, I wanted to be a teacher.  I joined the Future Teacher's Club, and went out to some of the elementary schools and did "practice" teaching.  It was fun and I enjoyed it.  I thought teaching was one of the most noble professions a person could undertake.  I still do.  Some of my favourite teachers -- Mr. Chalmers, Mrs. Littleton, Mr. Atkinson -- made a deep impact on me, and opened doors for me that might otherwise have stayed closed.  Other teachers -- Mrs. Hutchison, Ms. Somerville -- made me realize that not all teachers love teaching.  For the most part, however, I still have a great respect for teachers.  They influence our lives in ways we cannot understand until we are older.  I often think of my teachers, and of something they said during the course of a lesson.

"Little girls! I am in the business of putting old heads on young shoulders, and all my pupils are the creme de la creme. Give me a girl at an impressionable age and she is mine for life."  ~~ Maggie Smith, "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie"

So, I was very disappointed to read the following article in our local newspaper three days ago:

"The cost of Vancouver teachers’ unlimited massage benefit soared to $1.62 million last year, contributing to the district's latest multimillion-dollar budget crisis. The Vancouver School Board confirmed teachers’ 2012 claims represented a 50 per cent increase over 2008, when they filed for $1.08 million worth of massages. Over the same period, the number of teachers actually decreased from 3,728 to 3,605.

Board spokesman Kurt Heinrich told CTV News that while the pricey job perk is paid for by the VSB, it was negotiated at the provincial level. “Any changes to it would have to be bargained by the BC Public School Employers Association,” Heinrich said in an email. “Unfortunately, the VSB has no control over this.” The board confirmed all claims are subject to the Pacific Blue Cross’ reasonable and customary limits, though the organization can only request a doctor’s note for massage claims after 24 visits in a calendar year. The claims must also be for registered massage treatments.

Gerry Kent of the Vancouver Elementary School Teachers Association defended the unlimited massage benefit, describing the work of an educator as “very stressful and challenging.” “I’m not privy to why they’re taking the therapy but I believe teachers who are taking these therapies are doing it to maintain their ability to go to work,” Kent said."

Massage therapy?  Really?  What happened to bringing the teacher an apple?

Ridiculous.

Not Another Trudeau...!


We don't need another Trudeau as Prime Minister of Canada, and we certainly don't need a dynasty. No one would have heard of this man if his last name had not been Trudeau. He should pay his dues first, and gain some experience instead of becoming a puppet for the backroom boys. He is an ex-school teacher and a political lightweight with a penchant for gaffes, and a wafer-thin record on policy matters. He has a sense of entitlement because of his name.

Canada deserves better. Please, no more Trudeaus. The first one was bad enough.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Tweeters, Twitters and Twits ... Oh, My

Well, apparently even God has a Twitter account.  I opened one a couple of years ago, and I have tweeted, twitted? twice.  To be honest, I find it difficult to keep up with the social media overload -- blogging, e-mail, Facebook, Reddit, Twitter, Pinterest, Skype, Tumblr, Instagram, texting -- who has time for a real life anymore?  I'm not sure how to use my Twitter account.  If I want to tweet to someone else, do I go to their page, or do I tweet (twitter?) from my page?  And do I use a #hashtag or an @sign?  If I want to twitter to someone, do I have to follow them first, or do they have to follow me?  What if what I have to say is more than 140 characters?  Can I tweet twice?

I'm so confused.

Do any of us really have anything interesting to say?  Well, perhaps that is why the number of characters is limited.  Keep it short, sweetheart.  What you're saying is actually a giant yawn. Of the top 100 people who are followed on Twitter, Justin Beiber is number one, followed by Lady Gaga and Katy Perry.  Kim Kardashian is number 15 and Selena Gomez is number 22.  Justin Bieber?  Selena Gomez?

Kim Kardashian!?

What on earth do these people have to say?

One of Katy Perry's tweets was, "Back to werk."  Justin Bieber wrote, "How R U?"

Oh, good lord.

Last night I watched the finale of the execrable "Real Housewives of Vancouver."  I wanted to see what the social media was saying about the shriek-fest psychotic melt-down of Jody Claman at the party at Van Dusen Gardens.  Twitter, Facebook, and all the other social media sites absolutely lit up with tweets, twitters, Facebook entries and various and other sundry comments around the internet, regarding Jody's abusive behaviour towards Mary.  I understand that the police are now involved.  The news was instant, and I was almost able to read it, despite the abbreviations, shortforms, @signs and #hashtags.  At no other point in time have we been able to learn the latest news, the moment it happens.  And we can all participate. Got news?  Just tweet, text, blog, and post it on Facebook, all from the convenience of your smart phone.

I'm such a Luddite.  I suppose at this point I will just content myself with reading tweets, twitters and other little golden gems of wisdom and communication, until I figure out how to actually use it.

Good day 2 U. Hve a fab week and B well.

Friday, April 5, 2013

"Wave" by Sonali Deraniyagala

Sonali Deraniyagala's universe changed the moment the sea came and took away her entire family -- her parents, her husband and her children -- on December 26, 2004, just as they were preparing to leave their resort hotel in Yala on the south coast of Sri Lanka. In her book "Wave" she writes, “No moment of separation, not one that I was aware of anyway. It was not like I tried to cling to my children as they were torn from my arms, it was not like they were yanked from me, not like I saw them dead. They simply vanished from my life forever.”


Ms. Deraniyagala’s writing is stark, almost poetic, with brief, concise sentences, almost as if to write one more word would be to open the floodgates  (no pun intended) of unimaginable horror. For eight years, she struggles to forget and then forces herself to remember, lest she lose them again. With grace and dignity, Ms. Deraniyagala lets us into the darkest  areas of her heart as she goes on her journey of grief, and eventually finds a semblance of a new life and a degree of peace.

Often we are witness to horrendous events such as the 2004 tsunami, the 2001 World Trade Center collapse, the Newtown massacre, and we say, “How terrible, how ghastly…” Ms. Deraniyagala takes us inside the event. We watch the wave coming in, we smell the ocean; we feel the emptiness as she returns to her house in London and finds all her family's belongings just where they were when she left, her sons' soccer outfits with the grass stains still on them.

Years after the tsunami struck, Deraniyagala returned to what was left of the demolished hotel in Sri Lanka. "I lay on the warm floor of our hotel room as a slow moon scaled above the sea…. At the edge of this floor, there was a small bolt-hole, filled with sand. When I saw the wave coming toward us, I asked Vik to shut that back door.  It was into this bolt-hole that he pulled down the lock. Now I traced the rim with my fingers. I cleaned out the sand."  This book is not for the faint of heart. It is gut-wrenchingly honest, but you won't want to put it down. Over 230,000 people perished in the 2004 tsunami. This book brings home the fact that each and every one of them had lives and stories, and grass-stained soccer outfits left behind.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Marigold at 14...!

On April 4th, Marigold will be 14 years old.  I still think of her as the little girl in this photograph, but she has grown into a tall, slim extremely beautiful young woman, with fine features and a gorgeous turned-up nose.  When did that happen?  I must have blinked.  Marigold is the enigma of the family.  She has long, dark, straight hair and a quiet personality.   Even Marigold has noticed how she seems to be the odd person out, in a family of rather boisterous, loud, curly-haired people.  Where did her genetic material come from? The older she gets, the less I know about her, and I would like to know more.  Who is this mysterious young lady who is growing up before our eyes?  Marigold loves to sing, and she's a good singer.  I wonder what other mysteries are hiding under that quiet exterior.  I think there is actually a little one-woman party going on in there.  She often sees things from a slightly quirky perspective, and sometimes I will look over at Marigold, and she is giggling at something that the rest of us have missed.  It's a hoot.  She is quite delightful.

Marigold is the one person in the family who does indeed walk to the beat of her own drummer, and I think she will go on to do great things in her life. She is quietly stubborn, which will prove to be a positive attribute when she enters the real world. No one will ever be able to sway her. At the moment, of course, that quality often gets her into trouble with her parental units. I keep telling her that while she is still at home, it's very important to pay attention to her parents. Digging her heels in when her parents tell her to do the dishes or clean up her room is counter-productive.  Typical 14-year-old behaviour.  I know, because I was one once too, back when the dinosaurs roamed the earth.  It's good to know that some things never change.

Marigold is a lovely young lady, and she is well-loved by everyone in the family.  I hope she enjoys her teenage years. I know her brother looks out for her too, and they are good friends -- most of the time, anyway.

Happy Birthday, Marigold...!

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Hypothermia at Easter...

Happy Easter, everyone.  This has always been my favourite time of the year.  It's spring, but to me it's the official start of summer.  When I was growing up on Vancouver Island, as soon as Easter weekend was over, that was our cue that summer was here, and it was time to go swimming. We would run home after school, put on our bathing suits, and head off down to Rogers Creek.  The water was just barely melted ice, but you can actually feel quite warm, once hypothermia sets in.  On Easter Sunday, our family would wear our "Sunday best" and go to the morning service at All Saints Anglican Church.  I sang in the choir, with my little robes and velvet bow.  But the best part of Easter is the renewal of all that has been dormant over the past few months.  The Japanese plum tree outside my window is in full bloom, in all its glory.  To me, that has always had a connection to the resurrection.  Life, rising again.

Have a wonderful Easter, everyone.  I hope the Easter bunny found you.  In Canada, this is a four-day weekend, and it's just what the Easter bunny ordered.

Happy Easter.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Who Would You Be...?

Every month Vanity Fair magazine interviews various people with the Proust Questionnaire.  One of the questions is "If not yourself, who would you be?"  I would definitely be one of the grand ladies of the silver screen, such as Greer Garson or Deborah Kerr. They were ladylike, elegant, and with just enough mischievousness to make them interesting.  They were never vulgar or crass.  Whatever life threw at them, they faced with determination and humour.  In a way, they were the role models for the women of their generation.

In any case, and without further ado -- drum roll, please -- here are my answers to the Proust Questionnaire.

What is your greatest fear?
Flying.

Which historical figure do you most identify with?
Queen Elizabeth the First.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
Procrastination.

What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Stupidity.

What is your greatest extravagance?
Spending money on my family.  Unfortunately, I won’t have a fortune to leave to them, but I love treating them to things now.

What is your favorite journey?
Anywhere I don’t have to fly.

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
Following orders.

On what occasion do you lie?
To spare someone’s feelings.

What do you dislike most about your appearance?
Where do I start?

Which living person do you most despise?
Anyone who lies in order to start an unnecessary war.

What is your greatest regret?
My lack of university education.

What or who is the greatest love of your life?
A lady doesn’t kiss and tell.

When and where were you happiest?
Now.

Which talent would you most like to have?
To be a trained classical pianist.

What is your current state of mind?
Serene.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
My bank account.  And my eyebrows.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Raising my daughter to be a well-educated, accomplished person in her own right.

What is your most treasured possession?
Any gifts that people give me.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
Losing a friend.

Where would you like to live?
Anywhere I could do a lot of travelling without having to fly.

If not yourself, who would you be:
Greer Garson or Deborah Kerr.

What is your most marked characteristic?
My nose.

What do you most value in your friends?
Honesty.

Who are your favorite writers?
Maugham, Steinbeck, O’Hara, Cheever, DuMaurier

Who is your favorite hero of fiction?
Tall Bob Smoke in “Tortilla Flat”.

Who are your heroes in real life?
People who are not afraid to speak their mind.

What is it that you most dislike?
Political correctness.

If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?
An apple tree.

How would you like to die?
Do I have to?

What is your motto?
“Never look out the rear view window.”

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Coincidence...?

When I was a little girl, I thought my mother was a movie star.  She was beautiful, and possessed a very French je ne sais quoi, much like Coco Chanel.  She wore Chanel suits and Chanel No. 5 fragrance, and she never left home without being impeccably dressed.  Often, when she and I went shopping, we would meet some of my friends from school, and the following day they would say to me, "Omigoodness, your mother is so beautiful; what happened to you?"  *sigh*  I inherited most of my genes from my father's side of the family, along with his rather pointy Gallic nose.  My mother was a brilliant artist, she was well-read and extremely intellectual, and she was very, very funny, with a slightly off-colour sense of humour.  Wherever she went, she was the centre of attention, and she knew it.  One year we were invited to a Christmas party in West Vancouver at the home of the C.E.O. of one of Canada's major banks.  The party was filled with snooty doyennes from the British Properties.  My mother walked in, sat on one of the chesterfields and began chatting with folks.  Within ten minutes, everyone in the room had gravitated towards her as she entertained them with her wonderful stories.    I laughed, "Oh, yes."

My mother, "Gambie" was very fond of my daughter.  They had a special connection, and I do believe those connections endure.  Some scientists believe that time is not linear, but an endlessly repeating loop.  So, what is happening now has happened before, or will happen again, or is perhaps even happening at the same time.  It might explain some strange events.  Last year my daughter took Phinnaeus and Marigold to Victoria on Vancouver Island for a three-day outing.  On their way back to Vancouver, they stopped at my mother's final resting place just outside Victoria, and took her some flowers.  They phoned me and said they were there, and I told them it was a wonderful coincidence, because -- unbeknownst to them -- it just happened to be her birthday on that very day, and she would be pleased to meet Phinnaeus and Marigold, and receive flowers on her birthday.

When my mother passed away, I inherited a lot of furniture that I didn't have room to keep.  I kept the pieces that I loved the most -- her Queen Anne desk and a few other things -- and the rest I sold.  One piece that I regretted selling was a footstool that she had done in needlepoint.  I have looked for it over the years, but could never find it.  Yesterday, my daughter took Phinnaeus and Marigold on a day outing to some antique stores in the Fraser Valley.  Yes, you guessed it -- there was the footstool.  My daughter sent me a text with the image of the stool, and I recognized it immediately.  It's a little worse for the wear after several years, but it's the same stool.  

Today is my mother's birthday.

Do we receive messages from beyond the veil that divides us from the people we have loved and lost?  No one knows, but it is comforting to think so.  At some place in time, Gambie is very pleased that she has not been forgotten, and she is sending everyone reminders that, yes, she is still here.  We just have to look.  And yes, my daughter bought the stool and took it home.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Heart of Vancity

Lately, I have not done much blogging.  I haven't felt as if I have anything interesting to say, here on my boring little blog, in my boring little life.  But today is the first day of spring, and I am looking forward to summer.  This is the year that I have finally decided to quit working.  We are all of us allotted just so many minutes on this earth -- no more and no less -- and unlike money, when we run out of time, we cannot get more.  I want to spend some time doing the things I enjoy, and I live in a wonderful city in which to do them.  This photo is a picture of English Bay here in Vancouver -- yes, we have palm trees -- and this is my favourite part of the city.

Yesterday someone posted a wonderful video of Vancouver on YouTube, so I thought I would share it with you.  It really is a beautiful city.  Prepare to be amazed somewhat amused.  In the meantime, I'm going to concentrate on getting back my groove.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Separated at Birth...

It has occurred to me recently, that I really do need to get a life.  Seriously.  I have way too much time on my hands.  Yesterday evening I was watching a Jonathan Pryce movie -- he is one of my favourite actors -- and I realized that he looks exactly like the fellow who was just elected as Pope.  Faces fascinate me.  Mythology says that we all have a doppelgänger somewhere.  Some folks have glimpsed their own doppelgänger, but science has explained this as an epileptic seizure of the left temporal lobe.

Not long after my mother passed away, I saw her doppelgänger in the produce department of our local supermarket.  It was strangely comforting, and I followed her around for about 15 minutes, trying not to look obvious.  Everything about the woman was identical to my mother, including her mannerisms.  It was a surreal experience.  I shopped at the same supermarket for months afterwards, and never saw her again.

Do you have a doppelgänger?  You never know.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Tradition, Pomp and Circumstance...

I'm not particularly religious, which in any case is not the same thing as being spiritual, but I find today's election of a new Pope is rather historical. The last time a Pope abdicated, over 500 years ago, and a new one was chosen, Michelangelo had not yet painted the beautiful frescoes on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, under which today’s vote took place. In the larger picture, we are witnessing history, a history that has a long connection to the past. Whether we agree with Catholicism or not, today was a historical process.

Life is awfully boring without a little pomp and circumstance occasionally. In many ways, our traditions and cultures are what define us and make us feel part of the larger community.  The church is a very old organization, and like any large, old organization, it has its problems. Lots of problems. I believe the church will address its problems, and I wish Pope Francis the best of luck.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Photoshop...? Just Say No


This is one of my favourite photographs, by one of my favourite photographers.  To my untrained eye, everything about this picture is perfect.  There is a stillness to the picture, but at the same time, one's eye moves over it from left to right, and then back again.  The stately old barn is all that is left of the homestead, and it tells a story of days long gone.  I love the dead, windblown grass in the foreground.

When the photographer had the photo developed, he was told he could tweak the snow and make it whiter,  using Photoshop.  His reaction was ... "No."  Why would anyone want to do that to this wonderful picture?  If you look at the snow, it is actually filled with colours -- blues, browns, even some greens.  Tweaking the snow to make it whiter would turn the photograph into a ghastly Thomas Kincaid picture.  Sometimes less is more.

Photoshop is a wonderful program, I'm sure, but I think it has ruined more photographs than it has improved them.  Folks tweak perfectly wonderful photographs until they are shades of greens, yellow and pinks that do not exist in nature.  Sometimes more is just ... garish.

To me, this photograph is lovely, and what you see is what you get.  Photographers don't need Photoshop to make their photos better.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Spring Forward? Not If I Can Help It...

This weekend is the beginning of daylight saving time.  We will gain one hour of daylight in the evenings and lose one hour in the mornings.  I have never understood the reasoning behind this.  One of the first proponents of daylight saving time was an Englishman named William Willett.  He disliked having his evening round of golf cut short by the setting sun, so in 1905 he proposed advancing the clock during the summer months.  During the First World War, daylight saving time was adopted as a way to conserve coal and save electricity.  We live in a 24 hour schedule here in the 21st Century, and our schedules are no longer governed by the movements of the earth in relation to the sun.  We are surrounded by light, noise and electrical gadets.

"First electricity, now telephones.  Sometimes I feel as if I'm living in an H.G. Wells novel."  ~~ Countess Violet Grantham

I detest daylight saving time.

Most living things are biologically set to a circadian rhythm.  We need a certain amount of daylight and a certain amount of darkness, and our biological functions are tied to the light-dark cycle.  One of the most important of these biological functions is sleep.  Modern humans already live in a desperately sleep-deprived environment.  Indoor lighting and other stimuli already disrupt our circadian rhythm and our sleep-wake patterns.  This, in turn affects our health.  Why in the name of all that's wonderful do we need more light at ten o'clock at night?

Did I mention I detest daylight saving time?  The residents of the animal fraternity house next door will begin to stir, they will venture outdoors blinking at the bright blue sky, and they'll party down -- until the wee hours of the morning.  I'll be lucky to get four hours of sleep.  Folks will haul out their barbeques -- what is it about a summer evening that compels people to cook huge slabs of meat until they're charred to a crisp?

I'm thinking of buying a double-barrelled super soaker water blaster, but I would probably be arrested.  I hear jail is very noisy.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Faces, No Two Are Alike ... Or Are They?


Mona Lisa (La Gioconda)
Leonardo da Vinci
1503

The Mona Lisa is the most famous portrait, and arguably the most famous painting.  By today's standards, she would not be considered "cosmetically" beautiful, but her expression still speaks to us from 510 years ago.  Da Vinci captured her perfectly.  He was also not able to paint her hands correctly, and if you look closely, you can see where he has made a couple of attempts to correct the position of her fingers on her left hand.  To me, that gives the painting a human touch -- no pun intended.  But her face is what draws the eye.  The words most used to describe her are enigmatic and mysterious.  Our faces tell so much about us; a movement of a single muscle can change our expressions and convey a message to the people observing us.

Ever since I was a child, I have been fascinated by human faces.  Like snowflakes, no two faces are alike, but sometimes they can be very close.  Last weekend when I was watching all the celebrities prancing and preening walking the red carpet, all that was going through my mind was, "Hey!  She looks just like..." or "He looks just like..."  It was a hoot.  So, in no particular order, and for no reason whatsoever except it's fun, I put some faces together.  See what you think.

Bryce Dallas Howard and Jessica Chastain


Michelle Williams and Carey Mulligan


Julia Roberts and Steven Tyler


James Marsden and Rachel McAdams
If they ever married and had children, their kids would look just like both parents.

The next time you're standing in line at the supermarket, or in a crowd of people anywhere, check out people's faces.  They're fascinating and amazing, and you will always find someone who look just like someone else.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

The Little Town Over the Hill...


An old farmer was working in his field one afternoon.  It was fairly hot, and the only sound was his older tractor.  He heard a car on the gravel road.  It was driving fast and kicking up a lot of dust, but it slowed down as it got closer to him.  The car came to a stop.  The old farmer saw a young man get out of the car and walk towards him.  “Hey!” the young man called out, “My family and I are moving to that town over the hill.  What’s it like?”

The old farmer looked at this rather sullen young man.  “What’s the town like you live in now?” he asked.

“Pretty bad,” the young man snapped.  “People are so backward.  They are so cliquish.  They don’t like me because I didn’t grow up there.  The police pick on people, the taxes are too high, the teachers are not very good, there’s too much gossip.  We can’t wait to leave that town.”

The old man said, Well, son, I’m sorry, but that little town over the hill is just like it.”  The young man walked away, dejected.

A while later, another car pulled up.  This time a young woman got out and walked into the field.  “Hi!” she smiled, “Can I ask you something?”

The old farmer was impressed with this young woman.  She was pleasant and polite, and he liked her even though he did not know her.  Like the young man earlier, she said she and her family were moving to the little town over the hill.  She wanted to know what the new town was like.

As with the young man, the old farmer asked the young woman what the town was like she lived in now.

“Oh, it is such a great town!” she exclaimed.  “We love it and are so sad to be leaving.  The school is so good and they care so much for the children.  We will miss the teachers so much, and the kids just love their school.  And our neighbors are so nice.  People really care for each other – nice churches, progressive government, good stores.  It is a really nice town.”

The old farmer smiled and said to the young woman, 


“Well, I have good news for you.  That little town over the hill is just like it.”

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Into the 21st Century...

It's not often we have the opportunity to observe history, but we will today when Pope Benedict XVI retires.  It will be the first time in 600 years that a Pope has stepped down from his position. He has pledged "unconditional reverence and obedience" to whomever succeeds him as head of the Roman Catholic church as he prepares to stand down. And when he retires, perhaps now would be a good time for the Catholic church to become part of the 21st century.

When I was getting married, my husband was Catholic and I was required to convert from Anglicanism to Catholicism in order to be baptized in the Catholic church.  Every week, I took instructions from a priest by the name of Father Belanger.  We would have long conversations, and one day Father Belanger said to me, "You'll never make a good Catholic, you ask too many questions."  I was baptized, however, and on the morning of my wedding, Father Belanger was in a car accident and, prophetically, his car struck a part of the Vancouver Island Mountain Range known as Angel Rock.  He survived and officiated at my wedding with a bruised face and a black eye.

The Catholic church has its problems, to be sure, but I prefer to believe that, for the most part, the priests and nuns are good people.  However, an institution as large as the Catholic church, with 1.8 billion followers, has to modernize.  It has to become part of the world in which its followers live.  Folks don't live in the 13th Century, they live in the 21st century, with all the ramifications of life in the 21st century.  Celibacy does not work.  My feeling is that Pope Benedict understood that, and had difficulty with it.  He is one of the more intellectual Popes to have governed the Catholic church.  Pope Benedict's legacy will be his resignation; that in itself is a "modern" act, if you will.  I don't believe Cardinal Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger ever wanted to be Pope, and his predecessor was certainly a hard act to follow.

The next Pope will be facing plenty of challenges.  Hopefully he will be a younger man who has experienced modern life, and has more understanding of the human condition.  And, I hope he asks a lot of questions.