Archive for May, 2008

Buck 65, Nuala O’Faolain, and the Color Pink

When I’m in the San Francisco Bay Area, NPR and local radio programming provide most of my news and music and keep me updated on arts and culture. KQED and KALW are my two default stations for background ‘company’.

In Vancouver, it’s CBC Radio One for news and other chatter and CBC Radio 2 for late night musical company. I’d like to share a few of the programs that I particularly enjoyed over the last week:

1. Buck 65 with Symphony Nova Scotia, a concert recorded on April 18, 2008 in Halifax and available on Concerts On Demand on CBC Radio 2

“It was something that could only happen in Halifax” says Halifax Chronicle Herald critic Stephen Pedersen. That’s because Symphony Nova Scotia is an unusually versatile first class chamber symphony orchestra, Buck 65 is a truly imaginative and creative poet and hip hop artist, and conductor/composer Dinuk Wijeratne has the imagination and skill to pull it all together – a combination of talents and attitude that you don’t often find.

The night featured arrangements of Buck 65’s hits like “Way Back When” and “Cries a Girl”, but also a CBC commission of a brand new work by Dinuk Wijeratne – a triple concerto for Cellist (Norman Adams), turntable artist Buck 65 and percussionist Terry O’Mahoney.

2. An interview with Nuala O’Faolain, recorded in 2003 at the Literary Arts Festival in Victoria, Canada. Nuala O’Faolain died May 9 of cancer at the age of 68. She is best known for her literary debut Are You Somebody, written when she was 60. Eleanor Wachtel, host of Writers & Company, rebroadcasts her interview, which is engaging and funny, here:

Listen to Nuala O’Faolain – 18 May 2008 in RealAudio.

3. Re: Thinking Pink, an Outfront program by a breast cancer survivor upset that the breast cancer marketing machine has co-opted what used to be her favorite color. “Breast cancer is not pink … it is puke green… or shit brown…”

Re: Thinking Pink
by Roseanne Cohen

Pink ribbon fundraisers and pink ribbon merchandise are everywhere. Tonight, breast cancer survivor Roseanne Cohen asks us to reconsider the colour and the campaign.

Panties for Peace

Rights and Democracy and the Quebec Women’s Federation are coordinating Canada’s “Panties for Peace” movement, launched yesterday to urge women to mail their undergarments to the Burmese Embassy in Ottawa.  (The launch coincides with the Burmese junta’s renewal of house arrest of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi for another year.)

The Panties for Peace initiative was started in October 2007 by Lanna Action for Burma, an activist group based in Chiang Mai, Thailand, after the junta’s brutal crackdown on protests for democracy led by monks.  According to organizers, the members of the junta, in particular its leader, General Than Shwe, believe that any contact with women’s panties or sarongs will make them lose their strength.  Burmese embassies in Thailand, Singapore, Australia, UK and other European countries were targeted in the initial campaign.

This is a powerful, non-violent way for women to empower themselves against a brutal, repressive and superstitious military regime.

Here’s the address to send your underpants (preferably used) in Canada:

Embassy of the Union of Myanmar, Ottawa
85 Range Road, Suite 902-903
The Sandringham, Ottawa
Ontario KIN 8J6
Telephone: (613) 232-6434
Facsimile: (613) 232-6435

Random Acts of (Climate Action) Rebate

On July 1, 2008, subject to approval by the legislature, British Columbia will begin to phase in a revenue-neutral carbon tax.

The purpose of the carbon tax is to encourage individuals and businesses to make more environmentally responsible choices, reducing their use of fossil fuels and related emissions. The tax has the advantage of providing an incentive without favouring one way to reduce emissions over another. Business and individuals can choose to avoid it by reducing usage, increasing efficiency, changing fuels, adopting new technology or any combination of these approaches. BC Climate Action Secretariat

In addition to and separate from the carbon tax, every resident of British Columbia will receive a Climate Action Dividend of CD$ 100 in June to facilitate their transition to a “greener” lifestyle.

It is the government’s hope that British Columbians will apply the funds toward purchases that can help reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and, by doing so, also reduce the amount of carbon tax they would otherwise pay.

Polls indicate that most British Columbians will use their dividends for beer or gas. However, members gathered at a Victoria Sierra Club Cooling Party saw more potential in the hundred bucks. They have decided to pool their funds to perform “Random Acts of Rebate” for households that may not have the resources to reduce their carbon footprint. So, they are offering The Great Rebate Ecochallenge and inviting people to contribute their dividends to a Climate Action Fund that would go to the Random Acts of Rebate.

Here’s what they are planning with the pooled funds:

Install clotheslines for 5 families, buy and distribute light bulbs, buy Gordon [ Cambell – Premier of British Columbia ] a vermicomposting bin
All of the above + car share co-op membership for one family
All of the above + compost pick up service for a school for one year
All of the above + electric bike, bicycle, large appliance, compost pick up service for a household
All of the above + organic food delivery for one year for 2 families in need
All of the above + a brand new hybrid car for a family in need

British Columbia’s 2008 budget focuses heavily on environmental issues. In addition the the carbon tax and dividend, it includes CD$ 1 billion in funding over 4 years for climate change initiatives, including funding technology and provide incentives for energy efficiency and clean energy use.

Even with these initiatives, most Canadians do not believe that BC will be able to meet its emission reduction goal to reduce carbon emissions by 33 per cent below 2007 levels by 2020.

However, BC is the only province that gives individuals the choice and means to reduce their personal carbon footprint.

Goondagiri in Vancouver

Bollywood actor and producer Jagdarshan Samra was beaten up by five men at a soccer and kabaddi tournament at the Ross Street Sikh Temple in Vancouver. He was beaten so badly that he lost an eye.  The public beating was allegedly in retaliation for a lawsuit that Samra filed in this native state of Punjab against people who have illegally occupied a piece of land that Samra owns.  A few more details can be seen in this article in The Province.

Squatting is the most common form of land transfer in India – from urban slum dwellers taking over scraps of available land on sidewalks, by railway lines, or on marshland to relatives expropriating property put in their names by fathers, brothers, uncles, or cousins overseas.  All over India, you will see vacant lots with high fences – their sole occupant: the guard.  People would rather leave their property empty for 40 years than rent it out for fear that the renters would never relinquish the property.  After all, your only recourse is the courts, and that process, even if uncorrupted, can take decades to resolve and is rarely decided in the nonresident’s favor.  So, even “respectable” people resort to violence, or the threat of violence, to get a piece of property or to get it back.  The only surprise here is that that resolution process, accepted as the “norm” in India, has been transfered to Vancouver.  Why face the potential of time for a crime committed in Canada for a lawsuit whose jurisdiction is in India?  Does Samra not have any relatives left in Punjab to beat up?  Are the transgressor’s family members all in Vancouver too?  What is the price of a goonda in Vancouver?


We are in Vancouver earlier in the year than we have been before and are pleased (and surprised) to find everything in bloom.

The first Rhododendron bloom

The first Rhododendron

Apple Blossoms

Apple blossoms

Pink Dogwood

Pink Dogwood (didn’t know what this tree was let alone that it bloomed)

The Hedge

The hedge too?


Could have sworn this Camelia used to be white


Wisteria around the front porch


I don’t know what this is, but I like it

Thank You Keith and Tammy

Kayaking on English Bay, Vancouver, British Columbia

Kayaking on English Bay, Vancouver, BC

Mark and I always talked of getting kayaks for our place in Vancouver. After all, we are right on the beach! That was when at least one of us was working. Should we get singles? Doubles? Wouldn’t it be great to walk our kayaks across the street and put in right there?

Well yesterday, we did just that, thanks to our wonderful friends Keith Miller and Tammy Borichevsky of California Canoe & Kayak who gave us two kayaks (sized to fit the 14′ U-Haul truck), spray skirts and paddles the day before we drove to Vancouver.

Keith and Tammy have been great supporters of our service projects over the last few years, but they have been involved in environmental protection and community service for more than 30 years. They were fixtures at Friends of the River conferences, helped raise over $185,000 to date to fight breast cancer with annual Support Strokes events, and provide internships and other opportunities for low-income youth in Oakland.

It was beautiful on the water despite the fact that my stroke isn’t even (I need a rudder!) and I’m using too much arm (oh yeah – I feel those muscles today). And wouldn’t you know it, the wind picked up on our return and it was not at my back.

Out of Storage

For weeks, we’d laughed about our decision to take the Greyhound bus to Vancouver, British Columbia, milking it for all the sympathy we might muster from our friends and family. (None was forthcoming.) As Canadian residents (we “landed” in October 2007), we can no longer drive a US-registered vehicle into Canada. What to do? Flying was too expensive, and the Amtrak train entailed a switch to a bus in Seattle and would take over 26 hours. So, the bus it would have to be. With a week’s advance purchase, our trip would cost $157 and would take 24 hours. Mark joked that we would have to take up smoking to have something to do at the rest stops along the way. Privately, we were both getting ready to blog about the experience.

The day before we needed to purchase our tickets, we decided to rent a U-Haul truck, empty out our storage locker in Alameda, and drive to Vancouver. “We’re driving to Beverly” we announced. But that image didn’t quite fit the U-Haul truck, even though we managed to fill the entire volume of the 14’ truck. We’d done the “Beverly Hillbillies” thing some years ago, when we borrowed a friend’s open-bed truck, propped the sides up with plywood, filled the truck up with junk, covered it up with tarp, and tied it down as best we could. The customs official on duty at 2am that rainy morning was not amused. “What do you have in there?” “Oh, we don’t really know – it’s just a lot of junk.” “Then why are you bringing it in?” “To store it at our house.” “You can’t just bring things into the country to store in your house!” “We can’t?” … But I digress…

Mark and I have had a personal storage unit since early 2003, when friends sold our house on Telegraph Hill and had the contents packed up and moved – lock, stock and 3,600 square feet barrel – into a fancy storage facility in San Francisco while we were in India. Most of the contents of those three containers stayed untouched during our couple-month stay with friends on Henry Street and 9-month stint on a houseboat and were only removed when we moved into our 2,500 square foot loft space on 10th Street in April 2004. A year and a bit later, we sold SomaSala, fostered our furniture, art and artifacts among friends and family as far away as Seattle, took up most of a friend’s garage and put the rest of our things into City Storage in San Francisco. Then when Betsy bought a house in Rockridge, Oakland, we moved in with her and Zing and moved our stuff into a smaller storage space at Public Storage in Alameda.

Why keep all this stuff? First and foremost, we are lazy. Getting rid of things properly takes more effort than keeping them. Second, ever since we’ve been “homeless” in the San Francisco Bay Area, we’ve entertained vague hopes of eventually having some kind of dwelling of our own again. And I guess we still do. (We must not be alone. According to a recent New York Times article, the self storage industry has grown from almost non-existent to over 51,000 facilities nationwide in 35 years, and is still booming despite the overall economic downturn.) “We’ll never be able to afford to replace the furniture we have,” we rationalized. But now, if we ever get a place, we’ll have to manage without the contents of our four previous kitchens.

It feels great not to have a storage locker any more. But that feeling is mitigated by the fact that we still have all this “stuff.” Even though we’ve meted out some of our plates and bowls we still have remnants of our First Sunday Soirees – china, cups, glasses and silverware for 50. The tens of boxes of files from my days of international development work will get recycled. Our clothes and coats will be donated. The books… I don’t know… hard to get rid of books…

We still have too much stuff – in four different households in three continents and two garages. Oh, and all the fostered furniture and art.


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