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.

Click to add a blog post for Howe Sound Inn & Brewing Company on Zomato

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 Jeem.  Copyright 2014 by Jim Murray.

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 CBC.ca 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 CBC.ca 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.

November 16, 2014

Stop already! ~ Don't they know it's Christmas?

It had to happen. And it has. Yet another rehash of Do They Know it's Christmas. Same old group, plus some new faces to appeal to a whole new generation. Elizabeth Renzetti, one of the best reasons to read the Saturday Globe, puts the lunacy, and the paternalism, into perspective:

 It was 30 years ago that Bob Geldof woke up, combed his hair with a badger and got on the rotary dial phone to one of his mates in the music business. “Err, Midge, did you see that report about Ethiopia on the BBC last night? It was [expletive deleted] awful. We've got to do something." 
Midge hadn't seen it, and neither had Simon or Sting or Boy George or the Bananaramas, but they all still agreed to break the first article of the Pop Star Conventions (the one about waking before noon) and they assembled at a recording studio in London to record a song that would change the history of celebrity do-gooding.
Sir Bob, as he now is styled, though then he was just a scruffy one-hit wonder quite down on his luck, wrote the song with Midge Ure in a couple of days. Needs must, given the urgency of the matter, but it was too bad they didn’t have a bit longer to write the thing. Because frankly, it’s been tormenting the world for 30 years, and is about to do so again.

"It's Christmas time, and there's no need to be afraid …" There, I've ruined the day for you. I’m sorry. You'll need a stick of dynamite to blast that ear worm free.
Or perhaps you can replace it with the new version of the Do They Know it's Christmas charity single, which will be recorded this weekend in London, with proceeds going to help fight Ebola in West Africa. In place of the original bandits whose hairspray habits destroyed the ozone layer (Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet, Culture Club) is a new group of glistening, unimpeachable pop stars including Ed Sheeran, One Direction and Coldplay.
Sir Bob has promised to "tweak" the egregious lyrics of the earlier single, and one can only imagine the manoeuvring around this. Perhaps Chris Martin is at this moment suggesting, "Could we change it to Do they Know it's Eid? or maybeDo They Know it's Hanukkah?" And Sir Bob bellowing, "What rhymes with Hanukkah, then? Manuka? It's not a bloody song about honey."
He is a bit bellowy, Sir Bob, and you could say he’s earned the right: The combined earnings of the Band Aid songs and Live Aid concerts generated hundreds of millions of dollars for famine relief, and the trust still gives about $3-million (Canadian) each year to various causes. But at the press conference this week where he revealed he had answered the UN’s new summons for help (I imagine he has a batphone installed for this very purpose, although it’s shaped like Freddie Mercury), Sir Bob looked beaten down.
He said he didn't want to do another charity single; it was difficult and embarrassing to phone up young stars he didn't know. Perhaps he was worried that one of those juniors was going to call him “Bob Gandalf,” as Joss Stone did during the recording of Band Aid 20, a charity single in aid of Darfur.
Or perhaps he was just anticipating the controversy that would arise when the wealthy, leather-trousered troubadours of Britain set forth once again to rescue Africa. And sure enough, the controversy has come, some of it pointed and wise: As journalist Bim Adewunmi wrote this week in The Guardian, "There exists a paternalistic way of thinking about Africa, likely exacerbated by the original (and the second, and the third) Band Aid singles, in which it must be 'saved,' and usually from itself. We say 'Africa' in a way that we would never say 'Europe'or 'Asia'."

It's hard to argue with that. It’s also hard not to be skeptical of the new slogan, "Buy the single, stop the virus." If it were so simple, someone might have tried it before. ("Kurt Weill: Buy the sheet music, stop the fascism!") It’s hard to ignore the charge that so far, the lineup for Band Aid 30 is not exactly flush with African musicians, but instead leans toward pop stars manufactured in celebrity’s kitchen. As well, African musicians have already recorded their own, quite splendid Ebola relief song, with the proceeds going to Médecins sans frontières (Doctors Without Borders).
That charity single is called Africa Stop Ebola, and while Cole Porter may not have a hand in writing the lyrics, they do at least provide useful advice: “Ebola is not good, you should see a doctor … This is a very serious disease, once you have symptoms, please seek doctors.” This is perhaps the most striking difference between it and the much more famous charity single: The African song understands what it needs to do. It has a catchy melody, so that people will listen to it and hum and perhaps find the practical lyrics lodged in their heads. There is no hand-wringing, no talk of raising a toast to famine victims or feeding the world, and mercifully not even a whisper of Christmas.
I am resigned to having Do They Know it’s Christmas stuck in my head for a month, once the song is unveiled on the satanic altar of The X Factor this weekend. I hope it makes millions of dollars for Ebola relief. All I ask is that Sir Bob – and maybe you too, Midge – find it in your hearts to write a new song before the next crisis.
by Elizabeth Renzetti
Published in The Globe and Mail, November 15, 2014

The Sunflower Bakery Cafe and Zephyr Cafe in Squamish

We stopped at several coffee shops while visiting Squamish. Two were beside each other on the main drag.

The Sunflower is more a bakery, featuring gluten free breads made without additives or yeast. In place of yeast the Sunflower uses something called the mother sponge, which sounds a bit like a Seinfeld episode, conjuring all kinds of images. The cakes and pies did look fabulous. Everything is made on the premises and it all looks, and tastes, wonderful.

We were tempted to have some carrot juice, though wondered about the freshly squeezed part. Isn't that rather difficult?

Next door was the Zephyr Cafe which was more typical of coffee shops; cluttered in a good way with a determined sense of the town and its folk, and the moral responsibility of a socially conscious business.

Along one wall there are bios of all the candidates running in the municipal election, along with answers to common questions posed to each. That social responsibility thing in practice.

Tip jars answered the question of the day, with all too often beating out probably not enough.

The coffees were strong. Mine, a rather thick and chocolaty espresso, and Sherry's a pumpkin spice latte, with a strange swirl on top, and filled to the brim. Not necessarily the best coffee I've tasted, but on a cold and windy day... this is great and the political vibe is okay too. Coffee shops were traditionally places where discussions took place, where people debated endlessly, and with civility. It probably won't be allowed to happen at the big chain coffee operations, but maybe... here....

Photos by Jim Murray. Copyright 2014.

November 15, 2014

The eagles are coming to Brankendale

In Brankendale, a neighbourhood of Squamish, along the Squamish River, The eagles come every year. In fact, it is one of the most significant areas of wintering bald eagles in North America. Last year almost 4000 eagles wintered here, feasting on runs of chum salmon in the Squamish, Cheakamus and Mamquam rivers, as do the hopeful human fishers on this day too.

The eagles start to arrive in mid-November, though their numbers peak from mid-December to mid-January.

It is beautiful here. People walk along the dyke, photographers are common, and everyone watches, and waits, for the eagles to appear. And they do.

A new show everyday.

Photos by Jim Murray. Copyright 2014.