Category Archives: Commentary

Bill Murray Came to Visit

On Monday we had a snap federal election. Our fearless leader, Justin Trudeau, thought that his popularity could secure him a majority government, so he called for a quickie. “I have to do it fast,” he thought, “before I act like a bonehead again and people change their minds!”

Justin Trudeau

Actually, I don’t blame him for wanting a majority. That way, he can move more easily to carry out his government’s platform without deferring to the other parties. Any other leader would have, at the very least, thought about doing exactly the same. I believe that most would have seized the opportunity.

But two things really irritated me. The first is that he wouldn’t admit to the simple fact that a majority would have made governing a whole lot easier, and the second is that he went ahead with the election despite Canadians’ express desire that he not do so, and especially not with the pandemic still going on. Given that he had two more years left in his mandate, there was absolutely no need to put us through it, including having to pay for the costs of it.

So we slapped his hands, and deservedly so. We gifted him with his very own version of Bill Murray’s Groundhog Day in the form of another minority.

Trudeau and one of his children.

The new seat distribution in Parliament is almost identical to that of the 2019 election. There was little movement at all, although there may be some slight adjustments given that mail-ins are still being counted.

The cold hard fact is that the public has spoken, and we want a minority government. We are not going to turn over the shop to one party. In the end, we don’t trust any of them enough to do that. We have given them their marching orders: an expectation that the parties will work together to represent all of us and will stop trying to do what’s in their best interests instead of ours.

Good. They need to pay attention and go to work. All of them.

Do not Feed the Birds

I saw several of these signs when I stopped for lunch at Vancouver’s Granville Island.

On the other side, the signs say this.

Very true. As M and I sat on a bench overlooking the water to drink our coffees, a mom with two young daughters arrived to sit on the bench next to us. The youngest one, who is about 5, began to take a bite from her sandwich but within seconds, a gull flew in and ripped the whole sandwich practically out of her mouth.

In the blink of an eye, there were no less than five or six gulls aggressively fighting over the sandwich in the small space between me and the little girl. I would not have wanted to get in their way!

The little girl was scared and her mom shocked. I wondered what would have happened if they hadn’t quite gotten the sandwich; they might have swarmed the child.

So I agree with the BCSPCA. Feeding the birds is not healthy for them, in more ways than one.

Sylvia Hotel

The Sylvia Hotel is a Vancouver landmark. Built in 1912 next to the waterfront and Vancouver’s iconic Stanley Park, it was the tallest building in the area and originally contained swanky apartments for the affluent. It became a hotel after World War I.

Circa 1920

It went through a short period of decline but was designated as a heritage building in 1975. Since then its fortunes have increased.

The Sylvia as it looked today.

After a long walk through Stanley Park it was a great place to stop for some lunch and a break.

Greetings from Vancouver. 🙂

Signs

Sign, sign
Everywhere a sign
Blockin’ out the scenery
Breakin’ my mind
Do this, don’t do that
Can’t you read the sign?

~ Five Man Electrical Band

We certainly love our signs. They tell us how to think, act and talk and what to do or not do. Some are good, some aren’t. I’ve sometimes thought that we really shouldn’t need so many signs.

This serious sign collection is definitely blocking out the scenery, but with our terribly dry conditions and a major out-of-control fire just 10 km away, do we need the reminder about not starting fires or smoking? People will do what they are determined to do, I guess, but at least the city can feel that it has done its best to warn people.

The original song from Five Man Electrical Band can be found here: https://youtu.be/c9lh7lqZojc

Hazy Okanagan Lake

After our time under the “heat dome” where our temperatures reached into the mid-to-high C40s, we have finally cooled down to the more usual, which is about low-to-mid 30s for this time of year.

After all that extreme heat and only very minimal precipitation, moisture conditions are dire and fires are developing everywhere. Currently, there are 180 fires in British Columbia, 12 of which are a potential threat to safety. Additionally, the smoke and heat from these fires are combining to create a separate weather system that has lead to huge vertical smoke clouds with their own lightening bolts and fire tornadoes.

A smoke-hazy Okanagan Lake from Saturday.

One fire has already consumed the majority of a small town, Lytton, which became famous for breaking temperature records in Canada for three days in a row. Before 90% of it was destroyed late last week by a swiftly-moving fire, it recorded a temperature of 49.5°C (121°F).

There are no fires in our immediate vicinity, but there is smoke.

Clear views from a nearby location a year ago.

I hope that we get some rain soon and the firefighters are able to get these fires under control, but this will likely be just a temporary fix. Climate scientists have indicated that we should start expecting much more of this in the seasons to come.

Happy Canada Day?

First of all, I am going to take a leaf from my blog friend Melanie (http://sparksfromacombustiblemind.com) and warn you, dear reader, that controversial opinions follow. I don’t wish to offend, but just so that you know, there are religious and political speed bumps in this post.

Let me start by saying that I am a fiercely proud Canadian. I served in the military. I have done lots of volunteering. I like the values that have developed here and I grew to appreciate them even more by living in other countries.

But I have been very upset and troubled by what has been unfolding with respect to our indigenous peoples.

If you’re Canadian, you will know what I’m referring to: all the children’s bodies that have been discovered in unmarked graves at three former residential schools.

If you’re not Canadian, here’s a quick history: from the 1870s to the 1980s, the federal government decided that in order to destroy indigenous peoples’ languages and culture and force them to assimilate, all children between ages 4-16 should be taken from their families and required to attend residential schools. About 150,000 indigenous children were literally stolen from their families and compelled to attend; sometimes these schools were hundreds of kilometres away from their homes and the children were rarely allowed back home to visit.

In this tragic tale, what’s the most tragic is that many, many of these children never survived the schools to return home at all, and their families were never given any kind of explanation. The federal government contracted with several Christian churches to run these schools: Anglican, United, Presbyterian and Roman Catholic. The vast majority of these schools – 75% – were run by the Roman Catholic Church. These Catholic residential schools were also operated the longest and were the last to close.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission detailed the mistreatment at these schools, including the emotional, physical and sexual abuse that occurred. It also found that the crowded living conditions, poor nutrition and substandard medical care made the children more likely to die of disease and infection.

When this barbaric practice was finally fully stopped (this torture continued in some places longer than in others) the Anglican, United and Presbyterian churches apologised, turned over their records, and tried to make amends. The federal government apologised. The Roman Catholic Church? Nothing. Nada. Zero. No apologies. No records. No acknowledgment of any kind of responsibility.

It was long believed that there were the unmarked graves of children on many of the schools’ grounds, and now explicit proof is being found with the use of ground-penetrating radar. In the last month, more than 1000 graves in three different locations have been found. I am not surprised; I expect that now the search has begun, many, many more will be found.

I have very strong feelings about this: anger, embarrassment, guilt, sadness, and outrage.

I am mad at my government and I’m mad at the Roman Catholic Church. I was raised in that church.

But its actions have been despicable, it hasn’t apologised or taken any responsibility, and if it were any other organisation, it would be disbanded and its assets seized. At the very least, our government should immediately remove its tax-free status.

Meanwhile across the country, more and more Catholic Churches are being burned to the ground in the dead of night.

But instead of taking action, our PM stands around, shuffling his feet and spouting platitudes about how we need to behave ourselves. He’s a Catholic, and he hasn’t said or done anything about this horrible institution.

Some people are saying that Canada Day should be cancelled in favour of a day of mourning, reflection and amendment, and in many locations, it has been. Others say that this is nothing more than “cancel culture” and that we can’t blame historical figures for behaving in the context of their time.

I disagree. Human behaviour is human behaviour. Sir John A MacDonald, our first PM, knew exactly what he was doing when he helped to design the residential school system, and so did all the others who were also a part of this. His greed, his need for control and his sense of entitlement and superiority drove him and the many others who participated, including the Roman Catholic Church.

I work with many indigenous people, and I know first-hand how awful they have had it. As a result, I frequently experience white guilt when I really consider the fact that although I, personally, don’t bear any direct responsibility for what the colonialists did, every day I reap the “rewards” of what they stole. So does anyone who chooses to make this country their home.

But I’m not ashamed, and I’m not ashamed of my country. Shame won’t solve anything – it’s just a revolving door.

What will help is for us to face our past, squarely and honestly, without trying to sugar-coat or side-step, and without allowing a religious institution to escape taking responsibility because it’s religious. It’s the only way we can support our indigenous peoples. It’s the only way we can show our respect. And maybe, it’s how we can finally turn to them and say, “yes, I get it now. I understand.”

This Canada Day, I won’t be having a party while my friends are in mourning.

Blogging Experience

Salted Caramel https://saltedcaramel670.wordpress.com/2021/04/19/blogging-insights-blogging-experience/ asks the question What has your blogging experience taught you?

Well, good question. In blogging age, I’m an old timer. WP has been a second home for eight and a half years now, so I’ve been around a bit.

Great Slave Lake, Northwest Territories

I think that through my blogging experience I have learned to get my thoughts out better. When I first started blogging, I hadn’t done much writing for quite a long time and I found the process cumbersome. Not the writing itself, but the thinking required to get a thought out in a streamlined or cogent manner (or maybe I’m just getting old). Whatever the problem was, blogging has been good for my brain. Writing, and in particular, reading the writing of others, has helped to keep my thinking sharper.

It has also taught me a lot about socialisation. I’m an introvert; in some ways, a rather big one. According to Myers-Briggs, I’m an INTP. The I stands for introverted. I don’t like parties, crowds or big gatherings. It’s not that I have any kind of discomfort; crowds don’t scare me or worry me; it’s more that I prefer to be with others in twos, or threes, or fours, and especially with those I know well.

Another thing is that I’m inept at small talk. I can’t stand around with a drink in one hand, a canapé in the other and wittily hold forth on the merits of Camembert over Brie. At a big party, I feel like I’m nowhere. I’m the one who will be sitting alone, reading my phone and wishing I was somewhere else having a glass of wine with a good friend.

But WP allows me to be in a crowd without being in a crowd. I don’t have to do small talk (I REALLY don’t like small talk). I can read interesting posts and then leave the room. 😉 There’s a lot about blogging that works well for an introvert.

Caribbean Sea, Dominican Republic

But my blogging experience has also taught me that there are drawbacks to it, too. You get to “know” someone, and then they disappear. Sometimes, they will say in a post or comment that they are leaving, but most of the time, there’s just … silence. Cue the tumbleweeds.

But that’s kind of the point, right? In blogging there’s an element of non-commitment commitment, like it’s not real life or a real thing. And maybe the person you’re chatting with isn’t real anyway. The “person” could be a construct, a complete lie designed to fool you, confuse you, or otherwise mule you.

And there are other issues. Issues that are made of people’s worst characteristics.

I had only been on WP for a couple of months when I saw a “takedown.” A blogger announced in a post that another, very popular blogger had made unwanted sexual advances to her over email; apparently, he was taking advantage of her as a childhood sexual abuse survivor. I had only recently started following the popular blogger, and found him to be witty, funny and irreverent, but … I also found his comments section to be clubby, exclusive and arrogant. And there was something else, too. A sort of jockeying for position among the commenters that I found off-putting.

Pacific Ocean off North Vancouver, British Columbia

Just as I was thinking of dropping the popular blogger, the complaint around the unwanted sexual advances occurred. I had no idea who was right or wrong and felt very uncomfortable as people started taking sides and voicing their opinions back and forth.

So I backed off. I later learned that the popular blogger removed his three WP sites and stopped blogging, at least here or at least under that name. As a result, I considered dropping blogging altogether, because I wondered if this type of situation was more common. As someone who had fairly recently extricated herself from a relationship with a malignant narcissist, I was cautious.

And I suppose it is common. Like any other situation where there are humans, contretemps can, and does, occur. Blogging is a microcosm of the wider world. And as in the wider world, there are always going to be those who try to manipulate, obfuscate, lie, cheat, and otherwise cause mayhem, so you have to be as on guard as you normally would be in the real world while you find your feet in the blogging world.

And you? What has your blogging experience taught you?

Getting the Jabs

I haven’t written much about the Moderna jabs, the second of which I got almost two weeks ago.

While vaccine accessibility has been slow in some parts of Canada, initially owing to delays in shipments but also to what now seems like, from here anyway, a decided lack of organisation, in other parts it has been efficient and fast.

Some of this has been surprising. I work in the Northwest Territories, and we deal with enormous distances and a lot of the time, very scary weather where even the snowmen take shelter. If distribution can be streamlined here, then I would think it should be easier in places that don’t have to deal much with weather and distance.

As to the vaccine reaction, yes, I did get one. It lasted about 36 hours after my second shot, but it was eased by ibuprofen, lots of ice cream, really silly movies and naps. Basically, I felt like I had the flu. My husband, M, had a very minor reaction – he said that if he was still working, it wouldn’t have prevented him from going. Almost all of my employees, regardless of age, had reactions ranging from “what shot?” to “just let me crawl away and moan.” Everyone bounced back quickly though.

As far as I’m concerned, the reaction I had is loads better than getting coronavirus or inadvertently spreading it.

But, (there’s always one of these, right?) there’s been a lot of confusion around the Astra-Zeneca. That’s not surprising. This is a novel virus, and tons of data, on a world-wide level, keeps informing us of how this vaccine (and others) is functioning. When our patience for this pandemic is dropping by the micro-second, it’s hard to hang on to it while the research types keep trying to do their best to help us. We have to remember to do ours.

How is it in your area? Are you satisfied with the timeline and how the vaccine distribution has been organised?

And if you have had a shot or shots, how did you do? Any reaction? Or, are you at all concerned about getting the vaccine?

Markle’s Sparkle … Or, Maybe not so Much

Ahead of Oprah’s big interview of Harry and Meghan, I have to say that I’m kind of tired of hearing about them and their so-called issues. It’s getting irritating.

Well, maybe there are issues, but really, are they that bad? Bad enough that after carrying on endlessly about privacy and media intrusion, they go to the absolute biggest doyen of celebrity journalism, Oprah Winfrey, to “tell their truth.” Am I missing something here, or isn’t that inviting more attention? Are they now invading their own privacy?

Meghan

Queen Elizabeth II of the UK is also queen of Canada, and Harry is her grandson, so as a Canadian, I think I can chat about this. After all, when they first escaped the British Royal Family, they hid out on Vancouver Island, and as I understand it, were for the most part unbothered by the media. Locals apparently tried their best to hide their location, and to be as unhelpful as possible to any paparazzi or other prying types.

But soon thereafter, they headed to the US, a country that Meghan said she would never set foot in while Trump was still president. Interesting. They played around with using their royal status to make money. They cut very lucrative deals with Netflix and Spotify, all the while releasing communiques about charity and public service and telling people how to live. Really, what qualifications do either of them have for telling people how to live?

By any measure, Meghan, a very cute but third-rate actress, has done very well out of her royal connections. Would she be making these deals if she were one of Harry’s ex-girlfriends? Unlikely.

Queen Elizabeth II of Canada

Which leads me to what I think happened with those two while they were still in UK. I think they wanted to run the show, so to speak. Playing second fiddle to Kate and William (for the rest of their lives!) was just not very palatable. Following royal protocols and doing what a 94 year-old woman wanted them to do was just not in their wheelhouse. Having the agenda set for them was just not their cup of tea.

So, they decided to leave. I admire them for that. If you don’t like the song, gather up your courage and change the channel. But what I find rather off-putting, aside from their seeming inability to stay out of the media spotlight, (if they really wanted privacy, all they had to do was stay on Vancouver Island or another place like it) is the way they did it. In my, well, unimportant opinion, they glow with hypocrisy.

I don’t doubt, not for a second, that they have legitimate complaints. But I think it’s probably a two-way street. And no matter which way you cut it, these two are amazingly privileged (mostly because of royal connections). So while most of the rest of us think about vaccines, masks, the economy, and how to get our kids through online high school, to say nothing of how we can help those who are less well off during this pandemic, these two are wallowing. Shouldn’t they be happy that they have done so well and gotten what they wanted?

Apparently not. One of the interview ads suggests that Harry is going to compare Meghan (and their situation) to Diana’s. Meghan accuses “the firm” of lying about them. So it seems that they are going to do some major bashing, going all the way back to the death of Harry’s mother.

Why would they feel they need to do this to a 94 year-old woman whose 99 year-old husband is in the hospital? For a couple who says that one of their missions of service is the development of compassion, this doesn’t seem very compassionate.

So, here’s what seems to be the reality. Harry and Meghan are very privileged people who are extracting further privilege out of the fact that they are connected to a very privileged institution. To me, doing an interview at the expense of Harry’s elderly grandparents (setting aside that they are at the head of the royal family) makes them look kind of mean, and more than a little self-centred.

While I’m sure they have issues with “the firm” I have no doubt that “the firm” has issues with them. Most things in life are not as one-sided as these two are trying to insist, including a completely saintly Diana or a completely villainous Charles.

Wild about Harry?

These two were given every opportunity to do what they wanted; now they should shut up, do it, stop whining and while they’re at it, drop the whole title bit (how can you continue to complain about the royal family when you keep using a royal title to facilitate your climb to the top?). He says, “Call me Harry.” She says, “Call me Meghan.” Harry and Meghan Windsor – maybe they should really follow through on that. It would certainly improve their credibility, especially in a country that threw out the monarchy a long time ago.

Meghan is no Diana, no matter how much Harry tries to say that she is. Meghan strikes me as a big-time toughie (isn’t acting a pretty tough gig?); Diana was much more vulnerable. I really can’t feature Meghan being chased to death by paparazzi, or some other similar scenario.

Meghan has been accused of bullying by some of her former employees, and I have no doubt there’s truth to it. On the other hand, has Meghan had to deal with racially motivated criticism? I have no doubt that there’s truth to that, too. All I have to do is think about that horrible Piers Morgan and the vindictive way he talks about her to see that there is, indeed, truth to it.

But what they are about to do is probably very unwise. It’s something that they will never be able to take back; a very public airing of their problems and issues. To me, this is totally unnecessary. They have already made their point with their feet. What’s the use of rubbing salt in the wound? Are they trying to bring down the royal family? Cause their demise? Actually, they’re probably just trying to be right, and a lot of wrong has been done in the name of trying to be right.

Kate and William

Almost certainly, Meghan will cry or be teary-eyed during this interview, but I don’t think she really has all that much to cry about; they will wring themselves out for the public, to get “their version out there.” But why does their “version” need to be “out there?” If they cared about their privacy, they wouldn’t need the public to know. It all just sounds like they are trying to persuade the public, especially the American public, of how awful the royal family is and how badly they have been treated.

The public’s opinion is clearly very important to them, and they feel they need to do some convincing. But their actions have already spoken much louder than their words. Can’t they continue that approach and earn the good opinion of the public through their hard work? They keep saying they are committed to public service; why don’t they just start doing that?

These two are rich and famous and living in one of the priciest and most exclusive areas of the US. They are about to release an interview that may contain something important (support for Black Lives Matter, maybe, or other important movements?) but more likely, is going to contain drivel, and spun in a way that attempts to make them look like saints and the royal family look like devils on speed.

As for me, I’m royalled out. Ms Markle has lost her sparkle. I am not going to watch their interview. I am going to try to avoid reading about them or other royal types. The only royal I want to see is the picture of Elizabeth on the 20 dollar bill. And frankly, when Elizabeth passes on, I would like to see the end of monarchy in Canada.

The bottom line is that in the scheme of things, these two just aren’t that important, not unless they really do something to change that. They are second-fiddle chairs in an outdated orchestra that’s struggling to find relevance in the modern world. They say they have “stepped back” from that orchestra, but in the end, what does that even mean? I’m just not seeing it. Do you?