Friday, July 31, 2009

Dug The Dog

We've all had dogs that were so human, we swear they could talk. And they certainly understood every word we said. I had a Scottie dog named Maggie who absolutely loved aged cheddar cheese. It got to the point where we actually had to spell the word.

"Would you like a c-h-e-e-s-e sandwich?"

However, Maggie learned to spell.

Yesterday I saw the most beautiful movie I have ever seen. Ever... Yes, it was. It was done by Pixar, it was 3-D, and it was wonderful. We have been looking for ways to cool off, so we have been spending a bit of time in air conditioned movie theatres during the hottest (100 degrees) part of the day. The Munchkins suggested a movie called "Up", and I have never seen a more visually beautiful movie. The 3-D glasses are not the red/green glasses of regular 3-D movies, but eyeglasses similar to sunglasses, and very comfortable to wear. Seeing a movie like this in three dimensions is breathtaking. When the audience arrived at Paradise Falls in South America, I could actually hear everyone in the theatre *gasp*.

My favorite character was Dug the talking dog. If you've ever imagined what your dog would say if he could actually talk, that's Dug.

"I am Dug; I have just met you, and I love you..."

Here is a wonderful clip of Dug the Dog, and here is the trailer for the movie. If you're looking for somewhere to keep cool, or just for an enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours, please do check out this movie -- in the theatres with the 3-D glasses. You will be gobsmacked. And you will fall in love with Dug.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Hotter Than Blazes

If I appear to be temporarily missing, it's because my frains are bried ... by briens are fraid ... my brains are fried with this heat. The thermometer is reaching 40 degrees Celsius, which is 110 Fahrenheit, and on Vancouver Island in the town where I grew up, it was 45 degrees Celsius yesterday, or 120 Fahrenheit. That's fairly warm. As I type this, my glasses are fogging up.

Phinnaeus and Marigold are staying with me for a few days, and the heat has curtailed some of our activities, but we have managed to spend a few days at Kitsilano Pool, the best place to be in this weather. The second best place to be is in an air-conditioned movie theatre, and we have seen "Harry Potter and the Half Blood Price" and "G-Force" both of which were a hoot. And air conditioned.


Today the temperature recorded in Vancouver was the hottest ever recorded here, and there is no relief in sight. Health Canada has issued an advisory for people to stay indoors between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. I'll be back when it cools off a bit.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Japeth The Goat -- Be Prepared

The other night the Munchkins and I watched a fun little movie called "Hoodwinked". I had never seen it before, and I loved it. It starred Anne Hathaway, Glenn Close, James Belushi, Patrick Warburton, Anthony Anderson, David Ogden Stiers, Xzibit, Chazz Palminteri, Andy Dick, Cory Edwards, and Benjy Gaither as Japeth the Goat.

"Hookwinked" is a hoot, and Japeth the Goat steals the show. He is the most wonderful character I have ever seen -- ever -- in an animated movie. He's a singing hermit goat, who lives in an old shack on the mountain. Several years ago a mountain witch put a spell on him, forcing him to sing everything he says. He plays the banjo and sings in Appalachian mountain style, as only a goat can sing. I was mesmerized. Did I mention ... he steals every scene he's in. I keep playing this little video over ... and over ... until the Munchkins are hollering, "Nooooo ... not again...!" I thought I would share this character with you, and I hope you enjoy him as much as I do.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Civil Disobedience

The Burning of the Houses of Parliament
JMW Turner

In 1834 the Houses of Parliament in Great Britain caught fire and burnt to the ground. The cause of the fire was wooden tally sticks used by the Exchequer for the collection of taxes from local farmers by local sheriffs. It was an accident, but Charles Dicksens, speaking at a conference on governmental reform, told how counting devices destroyed "the halls of government". In 1849 the House of Parliament in Canada was burnt down by a group of angry Canadian citizens. They destroyed everything.

What is my point, you ask? Well my point is this: if you don't like your government -- change it. I mean, really change it. Don't just say you're going to change it -- actually change it. During the 1960s and 1970s, people took to the streets in violent mass demonstrations. People not only changed laws and government, they changed the culture and the social order -- forever -- and I might add, for the better. The call was "Power to the People!" As a result, in the last three or four decades unacceptable laws, rules and practices that were once taken for granted, are no longer acceptable. These things were changed in a major way, not by the government but by the people.

In his famous Gettysburg Address, President Lincoln referred to "government of the people, by the people, for the people." This concept can be applied to any democratic country where the government representatives are elected. In Canada, we go through an election process, which is essentially a job interview. We interview the candidates -- thoroughly -- and we hire the person who we think is the right one for the job. And then we send that person to represent us. Every person in our House of Parliament is someone who has been hired -- by us. And they had better do a good job, or they're out.

Some of the greatest changes in laws and government have taken place through civil disobedience, or nonviolent resistance. Civil disobedience is one of the many ways people have rebelled against unfair laws. It has been used in many well-documented nonviolent resistance movements in India (Gandhi's campaigns for independence from the British Empire), in Czechoslovakia's Velvet Revolution and in East Germany to oust their communist dictatorships, in South Africa in the fight against apartheid, in the American Civil Rights Movement, in the Singing Revolution to bring independence to the Baltic countries from the Soviet Union, and recently in the 2004 Orange Revolution and 2005 Rose Revolution, among other various movements worldwide. ... Wikipedia

I am not a student of political science, so to those folks out there who understand this more than I do, the premise of my blog will seem very naïve, which in fact it is. However, lately I have been hearing so many people whining complaining about their governments. Henry David Thoreau wrote an essay called "Resistance to Civil Government" in which he said people do not have to support a government with which they do not agree. People have the right to protest anything with which they disagree. In other words, if you don't like something your government is doing -- or not doing -- get off your butts and change it. Stop being complacent. The power is in your hands; you are the government.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Fire In The Sky

Last night we had a strange thunderstorm over Vancouver, after weeks of hot, dry weather. The rain was a cool, welcome relief, but unfortunately the Munchkins and I were not able to attend the fireworks because of the lightning, thunder, rain, hail... We were very disappointed -- to say the least -- because the competitor was South Africa, and I had been looking forward to seeing them. But we were treated to our own fireworks, and the most brilliant red sky, which I thought I would share with you. I'm not a photographer, and I wasn't sure if the photo would turn out when I snapped it, et voila! here it is. I once watched an episode of The Twilight Zone where a whole neighborhood had been scooped up and deposited on another planet. Looking at the red sky made me think ... perhaps that had happened to us. I have never seen a blood red sky before, and it was a bit disconcerting at first, but unusually beautiful as it reflected on all the buildings around us. In some ways, I think our fireworks may have been just as beautiful -- and much more interesting -- as the ones we missed.

Saturday, July 25, 2009


Dining Out
Beryl Cook

I read an article recently by Elizabeth Kolbert in The New Yorker magazine, that amused and shocked me, all at the same time. In a survey done by a CDC researcher in the early 1990s, 33.3 per cent of North American adults are overweight. In the space of a decade since the 1980s, folks had gained more than a billion pounds. "If this was about tuberculosis, it would be called an epidemic", one researcher wrote. Since that time, people have continued gaining weight, and sadly, the proportion of overweight children and teenagers has more than tripled.

In the past 20 years, the cost of food has decreased. Fats and oils, in particular, are very inexpensive, as are soft drinks. Soft drinks have now become the number one food consumed in North America. Food companies have learned how to re-engineer foods to make them addictive to consumers. Fat, sugar and salt, in particular, have been blended in highly caloric combinations in the quest for "eatertainment" for the consumer.

A food scientist for Frito-Lay relates how the company is seeking to create “a lot of fun in your mouth” with products like Nacho Cheese Doritos, which meld “three different cheese notes” with lots of salt and oil. Another product-development expert talks about how she is trying to “unlock the code of craveability,” and a third about the effort to “cram as much hedonics as you can in one dish.” ... The New Yorker

About 40 years ago, the owner of a chain of movie theatres in the Midwest discovered that increasing the size of popcorn servings to jumbo-sized also increased sales. In addition, this increased the sales of soda pop. Ten years later, the same man was on the board of directors of McDonald's. He used the same philosophy there to increase the size of a bag of french fries and servings of soft drinks. A researcher from Cornell University discovered that people will eat everything that is put in front of them. They don't know when to stop. So when they have a large bag of popcorn, french fries, or serving of soda pop, they will consume the whole thing. "Give them a lot and they will eat a lot." Before the jumbo-sized french fries were introduced at McDonald's a regular-sized serving of fries was 200 calories. Now, the larger "regular-sized" serving of fries contains 500 calories. A small soda was 150 calories, now the larger "small" soda is 300 calories. Similarly, before the 1980s, a regular-sized bagel was 140 calories. Today a "regular-sized" bagel is 300 calories. In the past two decades, newer editions of cookbooks such as "The Joy of Cooking" have increased their single portion sizes in their recipes.

Food has become big business, and the more people eat and become addicted to fat, salt and sugar, the more profits are earned by corporations in the food business. According to the article in The New Yorker magazine, the extra pounds carried by Americans add ninety billion (yes billion!) dollars a year to the country's medical spending. "Obesity is inescapably confirming itself as one of the biggest drains on national health-care budgets." This is not just in North America, but globally. U.S. food corporations invest fifty-five billion dollars a year in food-processing and distribution facilities throughout the world. There is now a McDonald's on the Champs-Élysées in Paris. That is criminal.

For anyone who struggles with weight issues, and I think that is almost everyone at some point in their lives, this information is extremely interesting. The article doesn't mention the lack of nutritional value in these fast food items, but that's a given. Now, put down that Burger King Quad Stacker with four beef patties, four pieces of bacon, and four slices of cheese (for only $4.99) and that large bag of fries and jumbo soda pop, and step away from the table.

Friday, July 24, 2009

The Cult of Celebrity

Last night I watched a documentary on the tragic skiing accident that killed Natasha Richardson. I saw photographs of her grief stricken family visiting the hospital where she died -- her husband, her sons, her mother, her sister -- all in the depths of despair. Here was their beloved wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, and they had lost her. Anyone who has experienced that knows it is the lowest form of misery. And the whole world was watching them, shoving cameras in their faces, interviewing them. At the time, Liam Neeson released a statement through his publicist: “Liam Neeson, his sons, and the entire family are shocked and devastated by the tragic death of their beloved Natasha. They are profoundly grateful for the support, love and prayers of everyone, and ask for privacy during this very difficult time.” What an elegant and succinct way to tell the world to "Butt out of their private family matter".

My friend Russell watched the movie "The Queen" the other night, and we were discussing the mass hysteria that surrounded the death of Princess Diana. Millions of people were "grief sticken" -- people who had never met her, and whom Diana had never met.

Princes William and Harry were just young boys, and they were forced to leave the protection of their home and family, and stroll around amongst a bunch of plastic-wrapped flowers, forcing smiles for the public and the media, when they had just lost their mother hours earlier. Diana would have been furious at the intrusion of their privacy at such a time. Their grandparents were doing what all grandparents instinctively do -- wrapping their arms around the boys and giving them love and support in the privacy and sanctity of the family home in Balmoral, Scotland. They should have been left alone to grieve in private.

The same mass hysteria surrounded Michael Jackson when he died, but in fact, how many people had even given him much thought in the past decade? What is it about the cult of celebrity that causes these reactions? I'm always amazed when a public figure dies, and folks react as if this were someone they actually knew. I watched millions of people in London, weeping and wailing and crying out Diana's name after she died. I wonder if -- 12 years later -- those same people are just slightly embarrassed at their behavior. At least Diana's family, and the two young boys in particular, conducted themselves with dignity.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Health Care In Canada vs. The United States

I am really tired of hearing Canada's Health Care system being dissed by folks in other countries. Our health care system is not perfect, but it is pretty damn good. Socialized health care -- gasp... At least we are not at the mercy of big business insurance and pharmaceutical companies, who play God and decide who will get the proper diagnosis, medical attention and health care, and who will not. No one should ever have to suffer or die because they cannot afford treatment. In the US, 60% of personal bankruptcies are due to medical bills, in Canada that percentage is zero. Zero percent. I read statistics about how inferior Canada's Health Care system is overall, but statisics can be skewed. In the United States, they have more diagnostic imaging machines per capita than they do in Canada. However, the diagnostic imaging machines are used more per capita in Canada than they are in the United States. That's just a small part of the statistics they fail to add. And Americans cross-border shop in Canada for medications, because we have the same medications here, and they are far less expensive. America has one of the highest incidence of type 2 diabetes, especially amongst children and young adults, and insulin for the treatment of diabetes was discovered by two Nobel Prize winning Canadian doctors, Sir Frederick Banting and Charles Herbert Best.

I'm not going to fill my rant post with meaningless statistics, but if you really want to read statistics, here are the latest statistics from the World Health Organization on the ranking of countries regarding longevity and overall medical care.


1 Japan
2 Australia
3 France
4 Sweden
5 Spain
6 Italy
7 Greece
8 Switzerland
9 Monaco
10 Andorra
11 San Marino
12 Canada
13 Netherlands
14 United Kingdom
15 Norway
16 Belgium
17 Austria
18 Luxembourg
19 Iceland
20 Finland
21 Malta
22 Germany
23 Israel
24 United States

Overall health care

1 France
2 Italy
3 San Marino
4 Andorra
5 Malta
6 Singapore
7 Spain
8 Oman
9 Austria
10 Japan
11 Norway
12 Portugal
13 Monaco
14 Greece
15 Iceland
16 Luxembourg
17 Netherlands
18 United Kingdom
19 Ireland
20 Switzerland
21 Belgium
22 Colombia
23 Sweden
24 Cyprus
25 Germany
26 Saudi Arabia
27 United Arab Emirates
28 Israel
29 Morocco
30 Canada
31 Finland
32 Australia
33 Chile
34 Denmark
35 Dominica
36 Costa Rica
37 United States of America

France has the best health care system in the world. American folks would be astonished at how good it is, and it is "socialized" health care. And the statistical results of their health care system shows in their World Health Organization rankings. If Americans want to continue being at the mercy of their insurance and pharmaceutical companies, that's their business. But they should not criticize other countries who do have superior health care systems, and use them as a "reason" not to have universal health care.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

"A" Is For "Attention Span"

Our friend Denise has a fun game called "ABC Wednesday". I don't usually participate in these sorts of things, because they are usually guided by the person who is running them, and I like to think for myself. However, Denise's is different in that we simply do a post using that particular letter of the alphabet, starting with "A", "B", "C" ... well, you get the idea. But the fun thing is, she has so many people participating, that it's a great way to learn of new blogs and meet new people. At the moment I have zero ideas on which to do blog posts, so ... that is my blog post.

We are having a spectacular summer here in Vancouver, and my mind is outdoors, playing in the sunshine. For the time being, my "Attention Span" is just slightly less than that of a fruit fly. I hope everyone out there is having a wonderful summer. I know I am ...! And check out Denise's "ABC Wednesday". It's fun.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Man In The Moon

When I was a little girl, my brothers used to point up towards the night sky and ask me if I could see the Man in the Moon. For the longest time, I could not see him and then one day -- there he was. I remember where I was the first time I saw the Man in the Moon. I couldn't figure out how he got there, and I wondered if he might be lonely, all the way up there in the night sky, in the dark. I felt as if he were gazing down upon Earth, wishing he could join us, watching us with our families and friends, while he was all alone.

I had that same feeling when Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon 40 years ago today. What if they are stuck there? What if they can't come back? Will we see them gazing down at Earth in longing and loneliness? I think everyone collectively held their breath until the "Eagle" ascended back up to rejoin "Columbia", to journey home to Earth.

What an amazing feat that was (no pun intended) to leave the footprint of man on the surface of the moon. They also left a plaque inscribed, "Here Men From The Planet Earth First Set Foot Upon the Moon, July 1969 A.D. We Came in Peace For All Mankind." Perhaps future generations will use the Moon as a rest stop on their way to other planets, Mars perhaps. The idea of man going to Mars fascinates me. Some day a human child will be born on Mars, and he will be the first Martian. If he visits Earth, the planet of his ancestors, he will truly be the first Martian to visit Earth.

"That's one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind."

Sunday, July 19, 2009

An Apology To My Blogging Friends

Vancouver has been blessed with a spectacular summer this year. We often get wonderful, hot summers and this year is no exception. So I have been spending as much time outdoors as I can, taking advantage of the weather. As a result, I haven't visited many blogs lately, This evening was a perfect summer evening, and I went for a stroll to Kitsilano Beach and Kits Pool. You remember recently Kitsilano Beach was named by Forbes Magazine as being the "third sexiest beach" in the world, after South Beach in Miami, and a beach in the Hamptons. Oh, lord-luv-a-duck... Well, here is a little video of the world's "third sexiest beach" on a summer evening. Stay cool, everyone.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Food, Glorious Food

Still Life, A Russian Lunch
Maria Feodorovna

Why are people so afraid of food? Or, to be more specific, why are people embarrassed about enjoying food, or the act of eating food? Yesterday after work I stopped at a food court to have a cold drink. It was the hottest day we have had in Vancouver since 1941 -- over 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the city -- and I wanted to cool off. A very tall, extremely thin woman came to the Indian food kiosk next to where I was sitting and ordered a samosa. She then sat down next to me and proceeded to eat -- to enjoy -- the samosa. One of her colleagues from work walked past her table, and stopped to chat. The woman put down her samosa, and said to her colleague, "I never do this, usually I am really good, but I was very hungry..." I wondered what the heck she was talking about, and then I realized, she was hungry, but she was embarrassed that she had been "caught" in the act of eating. She obviously needed a good meal; her shoulder blades protruded through her blouse.

At our office, we often have baked goods brought in by some of our co-workers. One of the nurses is a master baker, and she brings in wonderful cakes and pastries. Invariably half the women in the office will say, "Oh, no, I can't have any. I'm being good." And invariably, after everyone else has had some, these same women will sidle over and "sneak" a piece of the treats when they think no one else is looking. Why are they ashamed of enjoying the food, and what do they mean by "being good"? Does enjoying the food mean they're "bad"?

No one will ever mistake me for being anorexic, and apart from rice pudding -- which I detest -- I enjoy everything. Am I bad? Is this a character fault? I don't know.

I recently read an article in Vanity Fair magazine about the wonderful Julia Child. The author, Laura Jacobs, describes a meal Julia had in the city of Paris. "For Julia’s first meal on French soil, Paul ordered sole meunière, that simplest, purest, most implicitly French preparation of fresh fish. All it required was butter, flour, parsley, lemon, precision, history, and heat. “It was heaven to eat,” Julia wrote in From Julia Child’s Kitchen—“a dining experience,” she remembered in My Life in France, “of a higher order than any I’d ever had before.” One could say it was another shaft of light, not angled upward as from a signal mirror, but piercing inward—an annunciation. “Paul and I floated out the door into the brilliant sunshine and cool air. Our first lunch together in France had been absolute perfection. It was the most exciting meal of my life.” Mrs. Child had received her vocation, her crown." ... Laura Jacobs, Vanity Fair

Food as a life-changing experience? A higher order? Well, why not? Julia Child spent her life preparing food, enjoying food, teaching other people to enjoy good food, and the history and traditions of food. Good food is really very simple, and the sole meunière that changed Julia Child's life is made with very simple ingredients: sole, butter, white wine, fresh lemon juice, a bit of flour, and some salt and pepper. Does it get any simpler than that? My mother used to make it all the time, and it was wonderful. Hmmmm... I just decided what I will have for dinner tonight. And I just might have some ice cream afterwards. Why not? It's summer. My bad...

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Insomnia ... Y - A - W - N

I usually sleep fairly well, but occasionally I go through short bouts of insomnia, and when that happens ... well, just let's say ... I can't sleep. Last night for some reason, I slept for about two hours. It never fails that when things turn a bit strange in my life, all the bases are covered -- work, home, family. I feel like some strange planet that is being bombarded by a meteor shower. There's never just one meteor, there is always a bunch of them. I just sit here, minding my own business -- et voila -- BAM. Does that ever happen to you? Usually it ends as quickly as it starts, and I manage to get through it as long as I have lots of Häagen-Dazs Vanilla Bean ice cream -- my drug of choice. I think hope have put out all the little residual fires left by the meteorites, and tonight I am going to have an early night.

Here's Goofy in "How To Sleep". 'Nite, all...

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Road Trip...!

The other day at work we were chatting about the perfect vacation we would have, if we could choose any vacation. One person said he would like to trek through the Himalayan Mountains, someone else said she would spend the summer in Rome, a third person said she would find the nearest tropical beach and park herself there for the summer. I was almost embarrassed to admit, the perfect vacation -- in my opinion -- would be a road trip in an RV. What better way to travel and see the sights than in your very own home?

These things are nicer than many hotel rooms, and they're certainly more spacious than my treehouse. I think anyone would be comfortable in this room after a long day of hiking, swimming, fishing, sightseeing, or just lazing around in some remote little corner of the country. You could go where you pleased, when you pleased, without having to stand in some crowded lineup in an airport. Of course, the fact that I am not a huge fan of flying may have something to do with my preference for keeping at least one of my feet on the ground at all times.

But still...

Ever since I read "Travels With Charley" by John Steinbeck, I have wanted to take exactly the same trip that he did. Steinbeck traveled throughout the United States in a specially-made camper which he named "Rocinante" after the horse of Don Quixote. He started his travels in Long Island, New York roughly following the outer border of the United States, from Maine to the Pacific Northwest, down into his native Salinas Valley in California, across to Texas, up through the Deep South, and then back to New York, a trip encompassing nearly 10,000 miles. ... Wikipedia. John Steinbeck is one of my heroes, and I have read every one of his books, including "Travels with Charley" several times. You will find copies of all his books in my bookcases. John Steinbeck reminded me a bit of my father -- they even resembled each other -- and my father owned a camper van just like "Rocinante". We used to travel all over Vancouver Island when I was a girl, camping in Qualicum, Long Beach, Tofino -- everywhere. My father would pick oysters fresh off the beach and my mother would make a batter out of breadcrumbs, butter and lemon, and then grill the oysters on the barbeque. Mom and Dad would open a bottle of white wine, and they would listen to Beethoven, Mozart, or my Dad's favorite -- Haydn -- while they ate the fresh oysters and drink wine, with the waves breaking on the shore. To me, that was the perfect vacation.

The other day I watched a re-run of "The Long, Long Trailer" with Lucille Ball and Desi Arnez, and despite all the tight spots they got into, they looked as if they were having a wonderful time. I think it would just be so much fun to pile into an RV and go wherever the road takes me.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Workplace Bullies

I think at some time or another we have all experienced them -- workplace bullies. In my humble opinion they are the lowest form of humanity, and deserve less respect than they afford other people. Workplace bullies can -- and do -- get away with anything, because no one wants to deal with them. Co-workers and subordinates cannot deal with them, and management refuses to deal with them. It's easier to blame the victims of the bullying than it is to deal with the perpetrators. So, the bullying continues.

Most organizations have initiated respectful workplace policies, together with human rights policies, but most organizations never utilize the policies. Dealing with a workplace bully is like chasing smoke, and workplace bullies rely on that. They are fully aware of the fact that, the worse their behavior is, the more people will run and hide to avoid it -- including management.

The favorite tools of a work place bully are yelling, intimidation, gossip, threats, inuendoes, ridiculing people in front of their peers, pitting co-workers against each other ... the list goes on.

Workplace bullies can drain the life right out of an organization, and bullies set themselves up as "the only productive worker" in the place.

"What would this place do without me...!!!???"

Well, let me tell you what we would do without you... *heh*

When the workplace bully finally retires, guess who will be the first person to break open the champagne.


Monday, July 13, 2009


Marigold and I had a "girls only" visit over the weekend, and it was fun. Marigold is a delightful young lady, very bright, with an inherent elegance. I noticed a few years ago whenever we were sitting on a bus, or anywhere, she would sit up very straight with her legs crossed -- just so -- and other little girls would look at her and then imitate how she was sitting. She's fortunate that she has inherited her mother's beautiful hands and feet. Marigold has a sweet nature, although she can be feisty too. She doesn't take any nonsense, but I don't remember ever having seen Marigold in a bad or whiny mood. She has a very steady centre, so it is always easy to be around her. She has a very easy laugh, and she loves a good joke.

On Saturday night we watched "Whale Rider", which is one of the best movies ever made. Afterwards I told her that Keisha Castle-Hughes, the little girl who played the lead role, was only eleven years-old when she was cast for the role, and she had never acted before. She went from the classroom to the film set. When the movie was released, Keisha was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress, and was the youngest person ever nominated for such an award. Marigold loved the movie, and particularly loved the Maori Haka dancing.

On Sunday morning Marigold and I had blueberry pancakes at the table outdoors on the terrace. After we were finished breakfast I said to her, "Now only if we had a lake or a pool we could dive into and go for a swim right now..." She chuckled.

Marigold and I had fun. We painted our toenails and we both mentioned -- more than once -- how *quiet* it was with just the two of us. *heh*

Sunday, July 12, 2009


Now that I have "Video on Demand" on my new TV, there is no stopping me. I can watch all the newest releases simply by pushing a button, et voila! it's on my screen. I love it, and I have been able to watch a couple of movies that I might not otherwise have chosen. The one I watched the other night is one I had not heard of before, called "Knowing" with Nicolas Cage. I love Nicolas Cage, so I chose the movie just to watch him, and I ended up being mesmerized by this movie. The theme of the movie is a subject of which I have had recurring dreams over the years.

The movie begins 50 years ago in 1959 with a group of school children burying a time capsule containing their ideas and visions of what our world will be like in 2009. When the time capsule is unearthed, one little boy -- Caleb -- is giving a series of chilling predictions that had been placed into the capsule by a little girl 50 years earlier. Caleb's father, John, (Nicolas Cage) is an MIT professor and astrophysicist, and he begins to realize the implications of the 50 year-old predictions.

The movie can be interpreted in a couple of different ways, and I think based on one's philosophical ideas, the indications of the ultimate prediction are very clear. If you have seen the movie, I would be interested to hear how you interpret it. If you haven't seen it, I would recommend you definitely put it on your list.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Letting Go...

William Merritt Chase

One of my biggest problems is that I have never been able to live in the past. I am not a collector of memorabilia. I don't save ticket stubs or mementoes of any kind. The past is the past. I once read a book by Stephen King called "The Langoliers". A group of ten people on a flight from Los Angeles to Boston are caught in a time warp, and are living four minutes in the past. Everything is colorless, food is tasteless, and the passengers are trapped in a deadened, lifeless world of a past timestream. The Langoliers' job was to erase moments in time that have already passed into history. That is how I feel about the past. It is the past. All of us have a past, and we have good memories and perhaps not so good memories. But that is really all they are -- memories. We live in the present. The past is gone -- gobbled up by the Langoliers. The past should stay in the past.

I have difficulty understanding people who are so entrenched in the past, they have lost the ability to live in the present. I know so many people are like that, and I don't understand it. I work with people who are always bemoaning the fact that "Things were so much better here 25 years ago." Well, no they weren't. Does anyone remember carbon paper? It was unforgiving. But these folks are convinced that the past was better. Of course, things always look better -- or worse -- from the distance of several years.

People will often hold onto negative things from the past as well, and this is where the concept of forgiveness comes in. I struggle with forgiveness all the time, but thankfully because I do not hold onto the past, I am able to let go of things. Forgiveness is not for the individual who has harmed us, but rather it is for us -- the forgiver. When we forgive, we are able to let go of the negative feelings -- anger and resentment -- that create poisonous chemicals that flow through our bodies. When we hold onto these feelings, the only people we are harming is ourselves. These chemicals can kill us. We cannot be responsible for the things that people do to us, but we can take responsibility for how we let them affect us. We can also make sure that we do not perpetuate the damage done to us. We can just let it go.

I believe life is to be enjoyed. We all deserve a measure of happiness and serenity. We are the only ones who can give that to ourselves. No one else. The most fortunate people are the ones who have figured that out.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Like Watching Paint Dry -- A Tour Of My Treehouse Terrace

Of all the ridiculous things, "Forbes Magazine" has voted Kitsilano Beach in Vancouver the third sexiest beach in the world. Oh, goodness, what will they think of next?. Just when you think things can't get any sillier -- they do. The number one sexiest beach was South Beach in Miami, and number two was Main Beach in East Hampton, New York.

"Vancouver's Kitsilano Beach is where sexy locals and Hollywood interlopers relish the opportunity to peel down to their swimsuits and flaunt what they've got among the sand, beachwood and mountain vistas," the article says. Kits Beach is graced by hedonistic frenzy — when the July and August sun heats this intoxicating nexus of sea, forest and mountains." ... Forbes Magazine

Hedonistic frenzy?

Well, I guess that's why I avoid Kits Beach in July and August, and stay right here in my little treehouse. Not much hedonistic frenzy here, and that's just fine with me. It's quiet, it's peaceful, and it's the best place to be in the middle of the summer. So, at the risk of boring the tar out of you, here is a tour of my little treehouse terrace, taken today -- on a summer morning.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Dinner With My Niece

The other night I had dinner with my niece, at Bridges, a wonderful restaurant on Granville Island. It was a lovely evening with excellent food, delightful company, fabulous ambience -- all the things that make up a perfect evening. My niece and I don't see each other as often as I would like, so when we get together, we have lots of catching up to do. It was a rainy evening, and we were seated by the window and next to the fireplace. It doesn't get any better than that.

The menu in the upstairs formal dining room was an interesting concept. For a set price, we could order appetizers, a choice of entrée and a choice of dessert. The appetizers were particularly interesting, because the chef sent out an assortment of wonderful things, but the one I absolutely loved the most was watermelon and feta salad. Yes! It's delicious and very refreshing. The combination of sweet watermelon, salty feta cheese and tart balsamic vinegar will make your tastebuds do the dance of joy. It's a fabulous salad for a summer evening and very easy to make. And you can substitute the feta cheese with low-fat feta cheese, and it's just as good.

• Per serving:
• 3/4 - 1 cup of cold watermelon, cubed
• 1/4 cup of feta cheese, crumbled or cubed
• 1/4 medium red onion, cut in paper-thin slices
• 1/4 teaspoon of balsamic vinegar or balsamic vinaigrette

Place the watermelon in a bowl, top with most of the onions, then the feta cheese. Place remaining onions on top. Sprinkle with balsamic vinegar, and serve. This recipe can be made in individual servings or multiplied and served in a large salad bowl.

Today is my niece's birthday. I remember the summer morning when my brother called to tell me she was born, and now she has grown up to be a lovely young woman.

Happy Birthday, Colleen...!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

What Might Have Been -- Revolutionary Road

Some women, no matter how hard they try, are not cut out to be housewives. Now -- before I go any further, please let me emphasize that this is not a criticism of women who choose to stay at home. When my daughter was small, I would have given anything to be able to stay home, and be there when she got home from school, but it was not to be. I admire and even envy women who can do that. But, for some women it is not the life they choose. When I watched "Revolutionary Road", Kate Winslet's character, April Wheeler, reminded me of my mother. My mother was a talented artist, and her dream was to study in Paris. When she was 23, she had booked passage on an ocean liner and was ready to set sail for Paris, and her father stopped her. For the rest of her life, my mother had a faraway look of quiet desperation in her eyes.

April Wheeler has it all, the beautiful house, two children, a husband whom she loves -- but it is not enough. She also has that faraway look in her eyes. Her husband, Frank, has settled for a job he hates -- he has become "The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit", riding the commuter train into the city every day. April tries to convince him to leave it all behind, take their two children, and start again in Paris, but Frank is not convinced.

April: "Don't you see? That's the whole idea! You'll be able to do what you should have been allowed to do seven years ago, you'll have the time. For the first time in your life, you'll have the time to find out what it is you actually want to do. And when you figure it out, you'll have the time and the freedom, to start doing."

Frank: "This doesn't seem very realistic.

April: "No, Frank. This is what's unrealistic. It's unrealistic for a man with a fine mind to go on working year after year at a job he can't stand. Coming home to a place he can't stand, to a wife who's equally unable to stand the same things. And you know what the worst part of it is? Our whole existence here is based on this great premise that we're special. They we're superior to the whole thing. But we're not. We're just like everyone else! We bought into the same, ridiculous delusion. That we have to resign from life and settle down the moment we have children. And we've been punishing each other for it."

This movie broke my heart, because there are so many people who do not fit into the so-called "American (Canadian) dream". My mother was one of them. Women in the 1950s and 1960s were beginning to see that they had other options if they wanted them. But they were trapped. They turned to pills and alcohol (mother's little helpers) to get them through their days -- and nights. In my mother's case, she created a beautiful home and garden, and she was a wonderful chef and hostess. She used her artistic abilities to make everything perfect. But she always had that far-away look in her eyes, and for days -- sometimes weeks on end -- she would disappear into a deep depression and shut herself away from her family. Those were the times, I imagine, when she would think about "what might have been".

Women still struggle with this issue today, even though there are no limitations to what they are able to do. That's why a movie like "Revolutionary Road" is still relevant, and it touches a chord with everyone. If you have a chance to see it, you may see your parents, or even yourselves, in April and Frank Wheeler.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Michael Jackson ... Mass Hysteria

Am I the only one who doesn't understand the mass hysteria over Michael Jackson? I don't get it. Michael Jackson has been washed up, musically and artistically speaking, for over a decade. We have witnessed the spectacle of his disgrace and humiliation in both his public and private life, and the world turned its back on him and called him "Wacko Jacko" -- amongst other things -- just when he needed them most. Not long ago, an auction of his personal items generated no interest whatsoever.

Michael Jackson was a fabulously talented and amazing singer and dancer, and his "Thriller" album is still one of the best albums ever produced. It is still such a good album, I bought a copy for Phinnaeus and Marigold a couple of years ago. But "Thriller" was really Michael Jackson's last relevant album, and it was almost 30 years ago. Of course, everyone feels terrible that he died at such a relatively young age, but what on on earth is generating this over-the-top deification of an entertainer? Could there be a modicum of guilt involved?

I don't mean to sound mean-spirited, but I just don't get it... What am I missing?

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Sounds Of Silence...

The End of Dinner
Jules-Alexandre Grün

Occasionally I like to treat myself and go out for lunch, or perhaps a light dinner on my way home from work. Whenever I am in a noisy restaurant, I find myself wondering what conversation must have been like in a lovely dining room during, say, the Edwardian era. I often think I would like to transport myself into the painting on this post, and join in the conversations these folks are having. I think they must be discussing all sorts of interesting topics, all the while being witty and charming.

The other afternoon I visited my favorite Japanese restaurant not far from my home. The restaurant has a wonderful ambience, delicious food, superb service, and soft traditional Japanese music playing in the background. Everything about it is perfect. But the day I was there, I was seated not far from a table of young women in their early twenties. There was one woman in particular who never stopped talking, I was watching to see if she was even able to breathe, she prattled on so much -- about nothing. And of course, she had to speak loudly enough so that not only everyone at her table heard her, but everyone else in the restaurant. It gave me such a headache, I had to leave.

Has anyone else noticed lately that people seem to be getting louder? No one listens anymore, they talk more, but they say less. It's just babble to fill the air. People seem to be losing the gift of making conversation. I think conversation should be speaking with someone, rather than "talking at" them, but I have noticed that conversation now seems to consist of someone jabbering away at people, rather than engaging them in a to-and-fro exchange of thoughts and ideas. We are held captive by the rapid-fire talker, who spews words at us like bullets from a machine gun, and there's no escape. Any attempt to engage them in conversation with us is futile, because -- they're not listening.

The young lady in the Japanese restaurant chattered away at her three companions, completely unaware that they looked like deer caught in the headlights of a car. Do we owe this lost art of conversation to the fact that we are living in a louder society, and we have to talk louder in order to be heard? Or perhaps we are so used to watching the "talking heads" on TV that we subconsciously emulate them when we speak with people, and we think we're making conversation.

Ah ... sometimes I love the sounds of silence.

Sunday, July 5, 2009


Rooms by the Sea
Edward Hopper
Yale University Art Gallery
New Haven, Connecticut

Isn't this a wonderful painting? It's very simple, but one can feel the ocean breezes blowing in through the open door. I love living near the ocean. There is something about the sea breezes that puts everything in my life into perspective. I have been feeling a bit -- unsociable -- lately, and I have not meant to appear that way. I haven't visited any of your fabulous blogs, and I have not had time to respond to your comments on mine, but I appreciate them all. What lovely people live in the blogging world...! You're all fabulous.

I have had to make some decisions about a few things in my life, and a few recent events have -- shall we say -- nudged me towards my decision. But sometimes that is what we need, isn't it, or else we stay within our comfort zone. I love that term. My friend Russell, with whom I have long, interesting and wonderful conversations, has another term that is so appropriate. "You can't unring a bell..." Yes, its so true. Or, in the words of Omar Khayyám ...

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all your Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it

So, I say ... I will make my decision ... and then I will eat copious amounts of ice cream with chocolate sauce, whipped cream, sprinkles and a cherry on top. It always works for me.

I went for a stroll to Kitsilano Beach recently, and I discovered I could take a little video with my camera, and I managed to upload it to YouTube, et voila! There's no stopping me now...!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Think Before You Speak

When I was a little girl, and I might have done something "bad", my mother always used to tell me I was naughty. Oh, goodness, if I heard that word once, I heard it a hundred thousand times. I think all children are born innocent and are not inherently naughty, but they do manage to get themselves into trouble by being overly curious, or perhaps imitating what other children are doing. Or perhaps they haven't been taught the difference between right and wrong yet. I don't think my mother meant any harm by saying what she did, but as a child, it was imbedded in my brain. The word "naughty" rang in my ears for many years, and I grew up thinking I was a bad person. I have always felt that I did not deserve all the good things that other people have, and I often describe the feeling as being "outside the candy store, looking inside at everyone else". Inside my heart, I know I am not a bad person, but perhaps rather to the contrary, I might actually be a good person.

My father used to get very upset with my mother at times, and he would take me for a ride in the car and tell me I was very much like his sister Evelyn, whom everyone loved. It would make me feel better about myself -- for a while, anyway. But it has always been a struggle for me, because I know I don't treat people badly, and in my heart I am not "naughty" and I always have good intentions.

Over the past few months, and perhaps couple of years, I have observed some behaviors by other people -- good people -- that have laid me flat with their selfishness and insensitivity. I know they meant no harm, but I have seen people do and say things that I would never do -- things that would be incomprehensible to me. It has made me realize as well, that we are all only human. Sometimes people's behaviors are based on lack of knowledge, or misinformation, or perhaps a misunderstanding of how other people will be affected.

I was having a conversation today with my friend Russell about the theory of "six degrees of separation". It is an interesting theory, and it made me realize how closely we are all connected, and how much everyone's behavior can have repercussions on others. The smallest thing can have a huge effect, and I always try to consider how my behavior, my actions or my speech will affect the people around me. I'm not perfect, but I try very hard not to hurt other people. I think sometimes we have a tendency to be overly critical of ouselves, and maybe sometimes we can realize we're not so bad after all.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Get Off My Lawn...!

I was never a huge Clint Eastwood fan, and in fact with his "spaghetti westerns" and his squinty-eyed "Dirty Harry" characters I thought he was almost a parody of himself. And then about 14 years ago, Clint Eastwood changed somehow. The only way I can describe it is that he grew up. And now, just when I have discovered how wonderful an actor he is, he has decided to retire and will not be acting anymore. "Gran Torino" was his final film as an actor. If you haven't seen it yet, my gosh -- rent it. It's on DVD now.

In the movie, Clint plays Walter Kowalski, a bigoted veteran of the Korean War, and a retired employee of a Detroit auto manufacturing plant. A Hmong family from Southeast Asia moves in next door, and he is not happy about it. He calls them every racial slur he knows. So, be prepared. But the Hmong family is undeterred and they win him over with their warmth and hospitality, and he discovers he loves them more than he does his own family. He takes them under his wing and in return for their wonderful cooking and his favorite chicken dumplings, he teaches them how to survive in America.

Clint Eastwood is a once (still?) handsome man who obviously hasn't had any "work" done on his face. His face is his main acting tool and throughout the movie, watching his face is like listening to a symphony by Beethoven or Mozart. Where were the Oscar folks when the movies were being considered for best picture, best actor, best director, best producer, best screenplay ... heck, Clint even sings in this movie, and he hasn't done that since "Paint Your Wagon".

You will fall in love with Walter Kowalski when you watch this movie, and Clint Eastwood really brings him to life.

Walter Kowalski: "Take these three items, some WD-40, a vice grip, and a roll of duct tape. Any man worth his salt can fix almost any problem with this stuff alone."

Throughout the movie, Clint pays homage to almost every movie he has ever made. It's fun to watch for the scenes where he does this, and the ending will knock you right out of your socks. If you haven't seen it, you're in for a treat.

Blowin' In The Wind...

Yesterday my friend Leslie and I started out on one of our excellent adventures, but the beaches were packed with wall-to-wall bodies, barbeques, frisbies ... etc. We went to the farthest reaches of Spanish Banks and Locarno, only to be stuck in traffic jams, and the wind was so fierce, I could barely see through the sand storm. We managed to find a log to hide behind, only to be bombarded by a loud boombox from the log next door, together with the pungent smell of cultured cigarettes ... um ... grass they were smoking. I actually started to feel a bit of a "buzz", and I had to move. I'm glad I wore my cozy red Canada Day sweater, because it was actually quite chilly. But it was wonderful to get outdoors and let the wind blow the cobwebs out of my head. Speaking of which, Charlotte has vacated her home, but it is still there. I will leave it up in case it comes back.

Have a wonderful day, everyone. I will be off to visit you on Saturday morning -- with my coffee.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Threads Of Gold

I'm not a photographer, so I'm not sure how well you can see these photographs, but my little tree house has been honored by the presence of a spider, in the most perfect spider web. I opened my terrace doors this morning and I saw what looked like golden thread, gleaming in the sunlight. Inspecting it closer, it saw the most perfect spider web, neatly anchored on one side to a planter box, and on the other side to the roof of my terrace. In the middle, basking in the sunshine, is a little golden spider whom I have named -- what else -- Charlotte.

Charlotte's creation reminds me of a rose window in a grand cathedral, it is such a wonderful feat of engineering. And it's all done by one teeny, tiny little spider. Charlotte obviously worked very hard to create this little home and she's not disturbing anyone, so I am going to leave her there as the perfect accoutrement to my terrace. Somehow, it makes it feel complete. If you click on the pictures, you can get a better look. If anyone out there knows anything about spiders, perhaps you can tell me what type of spider is Charlotte?