December 01, 2014

Walking the Squamish Estuary Trails

Within a short walk of downtown Squamish are some wonderful trails around the river's estuary, providing fantastic views of the mountains and life on the estuary itself.

Bordered by the Spit on the west, the Squamish Estuary stretches across the bay to the back of downtown. There are several trails and boardwalks of varying lengths.

The railroad tracks are walkable too, unless otherwise occupied by a train.

Trails wind their way over streams, through trees and tall reeds.

Over 200 species of birds pass through this place on their way north or south depending on which way they are going and the season. Any season is a good time for a walk and this place is ideal for just that. Anytime.

Some excellent information about the Squamish River Estuary, its history and development, and its future, is provided by the Squamish River Watershed Committee.

Photos by Jim Murray. Copyright 2014.

November 29, 2014

Vancouver's first snow of the season

It was cold last night when we were out walking, to our weekly lesson en francais, and the air felt like snow, that heavy dampness kind of thing, as though the clouds were falling to earth.

Through the night it did snow and by morning, the skies had mostly cleared and the first snow of the season remained.

And remain it did through the entire day. There wasn't much, only a few centimetres. The streets were clear of course, but through the parks the white crust stuck, especially in the shade.

The birds were active at our bird feeder, which they are every day, but there was something slightly more frantic in their behaviour today.

This afternoon we went walking again, through the nearby park. The snow was more than a dusting, but only barely.

The shadows of the late afternoon revealed their own hues of blue and purple, reflecting the snow, and everything else.

It's only minus six, yet it feels rigid, though nothing like our memories of the first snow in the Yukon two years ago. That snow happened early in October, and unlike Vancouver, once the snow starts in Dawson, it doesn't disappear until spring.

Our first snow of the season will soon be washed away and we will await the next snow day.

Photos by Jim Murray. Copyright 2014.

November 24, 2014

Views from Squamish

Squamish is located about an hour away from both Vancouver and Whistler and it certainly appears to be a pleasant community of about 15,000.

The town had its beginnings with the construction of the Pacific Great Eastern Railway in the early 1900s. That strangely named railroad is now part of CN.

Forestry has always been important to the town and in recent years Squamish has become a bedroom community of sorts for people working in Vancouver or Whistler, wishing to escape the high cost of living in both places.

Squamish is also the  name of the group of Coast Salish people who have lived in villages in Metro Vancouver, Howe Sound and the Squamish River watershed "since time immemorial."

After contact with the European settlers, sixteen tribes united as the Squamish Band in 1923. Their territory is recognised as comprising over 6,000 square kilometres, though the lands controlled directly by the Squamish Nation are scarce indeed.

The views from Squamish on a sunny winter's day are incredible. This is a beautiful place.

Photos by Jim Murray. Copyright 2014.

November 18, 2014

Howe Sound Inn ~ Squamish

In retrospect, we probably should have stayed here.

At the end of the main street in downtown Squamish, the award winning Howe Sound Inn and Brewing Company appears to be all that one might expect in a pub. Excellent craft beers of course, great pub food and a casually warm atmosphere too. The house made lamb burger was superb, with its curry mayo and pineapple chutney.

There's a comfort factor here that isn't present in most hotels and on the day we visited the sun was shining through the grand windows, Chelsea and Man City were on one of the screens and the service was fine indeed.

Speaking of screens, though there are a number, they aren't as obtrusive and obstructionist as is the case in other venues. Perhaps it's the high ceilings,  the open post and beam construction, the beautiful views or the pleasant company I keep.

Both Sherry and I had flights of different ales and stouts, enjoying all, some enthusiastically. The Pothole Filler Stout was excellent, as was the more seasonal Pumpkineater Ale . The Baldwin & Cooper Bitter exceeded expectations too. Truth is, they all seemed good to me, especially as the afternoon progressed.

Yes, in retrospect, we probably should have stayed here. And we will on another occasion.

Photos by Jim Murray. Copyright 2014.

November 17, 2014

Heather Mallick and the FHRITP assault on women TV reporters

Sometimes I wonder how much worse things can get in this country. Heather Mallick of the Toronto Star reports on the latest act of violence against women, and like Mallick, I have a feeling this thing is going to get much worse before it gets better. 

When in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes, I think about female TV reporters doing stand-up reports on the street and I am bloody grateful I work indoors, frankly.

Thanks to "FHRITP," which is code for a horrible insult, some men have been walking up to female TV reporters on the street as they talk to the camera and shouting something aloud they hope will go out live to the TV audience, which it occasionally does. The words are "f--- her right in the p----!" The men cackle with delight, the reporters are humiliated, their interviewees are embarrassed and, somewhere in a distant clean polite world, a toilet can be heard flushing.

I only know about this because two female CBC Montreal TV journalists, Tanya Birkbeck and Morgan Dunlop, wrote on about enduring this repeatedly in the course of a workday. Another, Catharine Tunney in Halifax, told me it happened to her and she has since heard from three more women and one man, all at the CBC. I worry that writing about it will spatter the emotional blood even more, but post-Ghomeshi, I am going to anyway.
Here’s how FHRITP began: an elderly American man calling himself John Cain — you can see him online if you so wish, a hairy guy with a southern accent and a black hoodie standing on a gravel road beside a rusted barrel — invented the acronym and in January uploaded fake news reports in which he shouted this to women, with a fake link to a female news anchor reacting with shock. It spread on YouTube and is now a Thing. It has egged on awful men, like offering a whiff of a murder victim’s sweater to hounds and they leap out into the darkness looking for the corpse.

True, it’s a tiny group of no-hopers, but an equally tiny group of women have jobs in TV news. Reporters used to head out with a crew, but as ad revenue and news budgets shrink, they often work alone as videographers standing beside a camera with a branded microphone that announces their job for mainstream news. They are then bitten by beasts, on the air.
It happened three times in one day to Birkbeck. You can watch the assaults online. Birkbeck was outside Montreal's football stadium interviewing two male Alouettes fans, who laughed riotously as another man popped on camera and assaulted her with these words. Then, as she was interviewing a fan with his very young son, it happened again, a man cackling and running off. "Welcome to Montreal," the kind father said to Birkbeck, shocked and trying to cover the boy's ears. The boy, whose face has since been pixelated, looked puzzled. What did he learn that day?
"I was too taken aback to respond," Birkbeck wrote, which is how women often react when assaulted. The brain and body go on high alert, muffling action. The second time, she began to wonder if her appearance had invited the words. She was embarrassed for the man and his son.
This is how women are raised, trained to blame themselves and to care for others. The video left me frozen. It’s only now, typing later indoors, that I wish I’d been there to defend Birkbeck and take that man apart. I thought I had no violence in me, but I was wrong.
Dunlop assessed the damage. She wrote, correctly, that: 1) Women, particularly those on air, are inured to insult. 2) These attacks are a job-killer. Women are made unemployable. In this economy, editors will not send out people who suffer assault and need bodyguards. They will hire burly men. 3) The men who do this look like idiots.
FHRITP is not unlike the famous video of the 108 leering catcalls a young woman endured in the course of 10 hours as she walked, dressed unobtrusively, along New York City sidewalks. Women have one defence only, and that's the camera that records them being openly hunted when they leave a building.
Dunlop has heard from Cain via email. He's proud of the attention and is making money out of it, selling FHRITP rubber bracelets. He himself is sexually desperate and — I know this signals a damaged human — under the impression that "fame" will get him a date. "I am the guy who started the FHRITP trend," he told her. "It's not an attack on women in any way. In fact, I love women and I would FHRITP all of them if they wanted." Here’s the weird part. He doesn’t grasp that they don’t.
After the story appeared, he emailed to say he'd read it. "It was put together great," he wrote, under the impression his praise would be valued. "If I'm ever in your area, I'd like to buy you lunch."
So Cain planted a seed. Any idiot can do it, any idiot has and many idiots have attached themselves to this triffid-like growth — "mobile, prolific and highly venomous" — like a virtual gang rape where the attackers haven't met but congratulate each other online. These basement monkeys are on film, forever identifiable. The CBC should be calling the police.
Women used to stay silent. Then came #jianghomeshi, then came #BeenRapedNeverReported and now this. I ask CBC President Hubert Lacroix and senior executive Heather Conway — both tough, smart people — to call the cops, to tell human resources departments to begin logging the attacks and to offer support for reporters who need it.
The meme is spreading across North America. It will get worse before it gets better.
By Heather Mallick
Published in the Toronto Star
Friday, November 14, 2014 

Art by Vik Muniz: Vancouver Bienalle in Squamish

Approaching this art installation, part of the Vancouver Biennale, one first views a pile of rock, wood and dirt, surrounded by a fence. What is this thing?

The installation is by Vik Muniz and covers an area just off the main street of Squamish of about 20 by 30 metres.

The artist met with members of the Squamish Nation to discuss how to capture the spirit of the community through art. Hundreds of local residents worked with the artist to create a symbol of collaboration and strength in unity.

Only after climbing to a point above the work, can one see the true form of what appears from the ground as rubble. Built during the summer, the installation has suffered erosion by the heavy rains of fall, particularly most recently. Still the powerful image of a wolf is visible to all those able to climb the steps, which is not everyone.

Photos by Jim Murray. Copyright 2014.