May 06, 2015

Sherry MacDonald appears at The Flame

Before we left for our Sojourn in Paris, Sherry appeared at The Flame in Vancouver.  In this case, the event took place on April 1st and featured eight storytellers.

The Flame is an almost-monthly event that features storytellers telling stories. The stories have to be true, personal and have some sort of consequence for the teller. And, they have to be told without any notes. Storytellers are given from 8 to 12 minutes to tell their tales.

About 150 people attended the Cottage Bistro on Main Street where this event, and others like it, happen throughout most months. The Cottage Bistro features an eclectic mix of menu items, and the usual refreshments. It's always best to arrive early for The Flame as standing-room-only often happens before the stories begin.

The Flame is open to the public though many friends and family come to support their storyteller. Others attend because it supports the art of storytelling, and is great entertainment too. Sherry had a wide swath of friends and family attending on this night too.

The genial host for the April 1st Flame was Joel Wirkkunen. He gets to refer to, and even read from, his notes.

Sherry's story was about the events around the birth of her second second Adam. It is called "Are we like the video yet?" and is from a series of stories Sherry is writing about being a single mom raising three boys.

And when your storytelling time is finished, the applause has drifted into silence and your breathing has become normal again, it is time to relax and enjoy the storytellers who follow.

Photos by Jim Murray. Copyright 2015.

May 05, 2015

Jeem's visit to the French Senate

Within Jardin du Luxembourg rests the old Palais du Luxembourg, a majestic edifice to be sure, almost palace-like. It is here that one of Canada's newest senators recently attempted to visit.

The truth is, after a lengthy career attacking and vilifying the Canadian Senate as unrepresentative, unelected and certainly ineffective in every possible way, Jeem now finds himself a member of that august body, and ready to ring up all kinds of expenses as is the appropriate custom of senators in Canada.

To be clear, possibly more honest and certainly less deceptive, Jeem has been elected to the University Senate of Kwantlen Polytechnic University, his term beginning in September. And to further clarify the previous statement, which might be slightly misleading, though not in any way by intention, Jeem wasn't actually elected, instead he was declared "elected by acclamation." Jeem would argue that acclamation is a higher, purer form of democracy. The bothersome spectacle of campaigning for votes is, somehow, an ugly side of democracy and unworthy of true democrats. Like Jeem. Better to be appointed. By acclamation if at all possible. According to Jeem.

Having wasted no time getting on the gravy train, Jeem has journeyed to Paris, and in the true spirit of international goodwill, made his way to le Sénat. His goal, and the reason for the expense to KPU and to the taxpayers of British Columbia, is to research ways the Senate at KPU might benefit from improved relations with le Sénat of France. And of course Jeem hopes to confer with like-minded members of the Senate accustomed to even larger expense accounts than those of any senator in Canada.

All of this might have seemed a good idea in the morning when Jeem et Sherry caught the 95 bus from the 18e arrondissement.  Now, in the afternoon, the enterprise is complicated by the fact that the Palais du Luxembourg is guarded by large, burly men carrying sub-machine guns. They aren't all that keen on letting some guy with an ID badge from some unknown École polytechnique in Canada into the halls of serious second thought, or whatever the hell they do in there.

Maybe raising his voice didn't help either. Claiming diplomatic immunity when the guard asked for proper identification might not have been the right choice to make at the time. In the end, much later that night in fact, Jeem was released. He has promised never to return to le Sénat.

His claim for expenses, including legal costs, and a personal trainer while in custody, will be submitted. Of course. It's the Canadian way.

Photos by Jim Murray. Copyright 2015. 

First published at www.sojourninparis.com

May 04, 2015

Trudeau's tax cuts as seen by John Ibbitson

The Liberals have released a major policy announcement around taxes. The Globe and Mail's John Ibbitson reviewed the election-platform plank and here are some of his observations:

The Liberal Leader is dedicating himself, his party and his electoral prospects to making life easier for people earning between $44,700 and $89,401 a year. 
If you make less than that, especially if you’re childless, Monday’s announcement offers you less.
And there's more:
It punishes the wealthy, and focuses laser-like on the middle of the middle. It is as important for what it leaves out as for what it includes.
If you believe that Canada has dug itself an infrastructure hole, and that Ottawa should be spending more to repair it, then be warned: Mr. Trudeau’s middle-class tax cut sucks up so much money that there will be little for trains and airports and sewers and highways.
If you believe that fighting global warming should be the first priority, then be warned: There will be few dollars available for converting from mean to green.
Many activists who are sick to death of years of Conservative hostility to their cause, whatever that cause might be, and who have poured their aspirations into the empty vessel known as Justin Trudeau, may only now be realizing that their hopes were misplaced.
And this, about Trudeau and the NDP:
... Mr. Trudeau has clearly decided to ignore the NDP. If they want to tailor policies for lower-income workers, if they want to guarantee subsidized daycare spaces, if they want to fight climate change, the Liberals are happy to let them... It can be exceedingly dangerous to turn your back on Thomas Mulcair.
Five months until the election, and:
Mr. Trudeau’s biggest challenge is to persuade those middle-income voters that he gets them and is willing to fight for them. It may be a hard sell... 
Five months can be a long time in politics. The NDP are going up in the polls while the Liberals and Conservatives are done slightly. Will tomorrow's provincial election results in Alberta boost the NDP federally? 

As citizens concerned about the least fortunate in our society, about climate change and about the terrible state of our nation's infrastructure, we need to be very careful about Mr Trudeau and the Liberal Party. Very careful indeed.

John Ibbitson's column appeared in Monday's Globe and Mail, 04 May 2015.

Floyd Mayweather & Manny Pacquiao and the celebration of violence against women

Apparently, there was some sort of mult-million dollar sporting event broadcast to the world just the other day. It was a boxing match, a sport where men try to injure each other with their fists. I don't follow boxing, nor do I consider it a sport. The disturbing details surrounding the two boxers, Floyd Mayweather Jr and Manny Pacquiao, do interest me, and should to all of us who are concerned about violence against women.

Mayweather is a man with a history of misogynistic behaviour towards women. This man has been arrested or cited for at least seven assaults against five different women, including an attack against the mother of his children, witnessed by one of them.

Despite the nature of his crimes, he has served only two months of a measly 90-day jail sentence and been fined the amazing sum of $4000. Some say he has paid for his crime and, in the words of some commentators, "moved on." In fact he has done no such thing. His lack of an apology and remorse extends so far that his team banned two female journalists from receiving media accreditation ahead of the grand fight because they had, in the past, been critical of Mayweather's history of violence.

Then there is Pacquiao. Some fans, critical of Mayweather, have supported Pacquiao hoping he can work some suitable revenge. Apparently to some humans, violence can only be punished by more violence. Pacquiao's trainer described the fight as one of "good against evil."

Pacquiao is no friend to women either. Nor to gays. As an elected representative to the Philippine Congress, Pacquiao opposed a bill that would mandate government support for family planning services and contraception. He also cites his faith in God, and the Roman Catholic Church, for opposing same sex marriage. He has described the use of condoms and abortion as "sinful." Denying family planning services to women is a known risk factor for women and family violence. Not allowing women to protect themselves from forced reproductive labour is violence against women.

But back to the glorious match and all that it celebrates. Justin Bieber was there, as were Beyonce, Jay Z, Robert De Niro, Drew Barrymore and Denzel Washington, to name but a few. Violence was celebrated that day. Reportedly, Pacquiao was to receive $120 million for his part, and Mayweather an even more impressive $180 million.

At the end, people cheered as Mayweather raised his fist in triumph. This is the same man who hospitalized a woman after stomping on her and punching her with the very same fist he used to beat four others.

What does this disgusting spectacle of money and violence say about our civilisation? Why would anyone cheer while one man who beats women fought another man who denies them their reproductive rights?

And what are we to do? What can we do?

By Jim Murray. Copyright 2015.

May 01, 2015

May Day! May Day!

Since 1947, the Fête du Travail, on 1 May, has been a paid public holiday in France. It is a legal requirement that on this day, all employees are entitled to a paid holiday. Traditionally a day on which trade unions protest across the country, it is also la fête du muguet, or the Lily of the Valley Day, on which it is customary to exchange lily-of-the-valley flowers for good luck.

May Day has its origins in 1886, when on that day, 200,000 American workers won the right to work an eight-hour day. The battle for an eight-hour day was not won by all workers, and riots broke out in Chicago. The Haymarket Square event was a turning point for the labour movement of the time. Three years later, the International Socialist Congress, meeting in Paris, adopted 1 May as International Workers Day and began an international campaign for the eight-hour working day. On 23 April 1919, the French senate sanctioned the eight-hour day and remarkably made 1 May a public holiday.

After having been officially named the Fête du Travail et de la Concorde sociale (day to celebrate work and social harmony) on 27 April 1941, the post-liberation government of 1947 legislated to make 1 May a paid public holiday, without actually officially naming it the Fête du Travail.

Members of the Socialist Party sometimes distribute their symbol, a red rose, on this day. Most public offices and buildings are closed on May 1st in France, as are many smaller businesses. Many, if not most restaurants and cafes, remain open as usual. While in years past, the day was often a day for protest, today union members and citizens gather, listen to music and speeches, and probably more speeches, and then march through the streets in a family-friendly festive atmosphere.

It's been a difficult year for workers in France. The Charlie Hebdo and HyperCacher attacks have created a national concern for security. The pressure to implement measures that will ultimately curtail free expression and movement, is significant. As well, the French economy continues to struggle, and nearly 10 percent of the workforce is without employment. Unemployment numbers among young males is much higher of course, especially in the usual ethnic communities. This adds pressure to the impressive social structure that makes France enviable in the eyes of many.

Since our last visit to Paris five years ago, there appears to be a significant increase in the number of homeless people and of beggars. They appear on street corners, at transit stations, and in churchyards. As they do in Canada.

May Day is a celebration to be sure. In France, and elsewhere too, it is a day to consider all that needs to be done to create the society described in their national motto. Liberté, égalité, fraternité.  In France, in Canada, we're all in this together.

Copyright 2015 by Jim Murray.