Reflecting on the colours of Autumn

3 10 2015
Autumn Colours

Autumn Colours

VIFF – Hyena Road

27 09 2015

Went to a showing of Hyena Road at VIFF last night. Horrified to have to sit through many excruciating minutes of bagpipe playing before things got going. Delighted to learn that Writer/Director/Actor Paul Gross was there to give a bit of a spiel and do Q&A. Also Vancouver-born actor Rossif Sutherland, son of Donald and half-brother of Kiefer. This seemed fair compensation for the tortured cat.

Paul Gross explained how he’d been part of a group of entertainers/celebrities who’d gone to Afghanistan to boost the morale of Canadian troops out there. He’d spent some time “outside the wire” and determined that there was a Canadian story to be told. He went back later and shot lots of footage of “interesting stuff” – stock footage of heavy artillery, planes, etc. Later he’d woven the story and went to Jordan a couple of years later to shoot film in the desert for 30 days to create this well-crafted tale. “The Ghost” and “The Cleaner” were real people he spoke with, and the events of the film were drawn from conversations with Canadian troops.

I thoroughly recommend the film. It’s well balanced and devoid of any “gung-ho” sentiment. Au contraire, the narrative revolves around how nothing is quite black and white in such situations. There’s even a gratuitous plug for Timmie Ho’s in the early frames.

Go see it when it’s on general release… you won’t be disappointed!


Photos from today’s dog walk

20 09 2015

At the weekend I like to try and give the dog a bit more of a long walk. It’s good for the pair of us.

The weather has changed distinctly autumnal recently and though the temperatures are still on the balmy side, it’s a lot wetter and today – windier. I absolutely adore this time of year. The winds make everything fresh and somehow renewed. The dead leaves and twigs are stripped from the trees. Sometimes a whole tree at a time! And I love walking in the rain. When I’m suitably attired of course!

Anyway, I had my phone camera with me so I snapped a few impressions as we walked around.

Bark Detail

Bark Detail

No idea what kind of trees these were, but the layered effect of the bark made them almost look like relief models of some strange planet. Note the small growths of lichen.

The way we came

The way we came

I really enjoy the way Surrey’s parks use natural materials so they become part of the landscape.

Footstep Fungus

Footstep Fungus

The long dry summer and now wet autumn has really boosted the various fruiting bodies of the local fungi. This one was evident in the cracks of three or four steps.

Alpha and Omega

Alpha and Omega

I thought it poignant that here in one place were the very beginnings of a tree – a seed, and also the very end – machined planks made into a handrail.



On the way back out of the forest I suddenly became aware that every couple of metres there was one or more of these metallic copper beetles. They were quite large. I can only think the dry summer had squeezed their activity into the short period remaining until winter hits.

Whose Rights are more right?

20 09 2015

Source: Forgotten deal means MUN prof doesn’t have to accommodate hearing-impaired students – Newfoundland & Labrador – CBC News

Source CBC: Prof. Ranee Panjabi

More than anything, I’m curious about the religious aspect of this story.

Below, there are various direct quotes from and links to CBC articles about this incident, and I urge you to read them and form your own opinions/questions. I do not wish to pillory Prof. Panjabi or naively believe everything at face value. I am simply intrigued what ancient Hindu tenet could possibly have included barring its most devout followers from wearing an as-yet un-invented microphone to help a less fortunate scholar.

Since the 1980’s this lecturer at Memorial University of Newfoundland has apparently refused (at least) three times to wear the microphone for an FM transmitter to help hearing impaired students hear more clearly what she’s lecturing, citing religious reasons.

Memorial University of Newfoundland says an agreement made with Ranee Panjabi in 1996 means the professor does not have to wear an FM transmitter to accommodate students with hearing impairments.

Naturally there’s at least one other perspective. While Panjabi refused to speak with CBC, the professor told local broadcaster NTV News she’s the victim of “egregious tabloid journalism.

From the CBC articles we learn:

In 1996, Panjabi told CBC News that wearing such a device was against her Hindu beliefs. The Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion (CCDP) issued an open letter to the president and vice-chancellor of Memorial last Thursday, stating that Panjabi is causing undue hardship on her students.

The CCDP said it consulted a Hindu scholar and professor from St. Olaf College in Minnesota and couldn’t find any evidence to suggest that the technology conflicts with Panjabi’s Hindu faith.

“I am not aware of any teaching in my tradition that prevents a committed teacher from using helpful technology to foster learning in a student,” Anantanand Rambachan said in a statement provided by the CCDP.

In “The Friends of Voltaire” Evelyn Beatrice Hall wrote the phrase “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it” (which is sometimes wrongly attributed to Voltaire himself) as an illustration of Voltaire’s beliefs regarding freedom of expression.

I try and follow such a stance myself. I am not a religious person, nor – plainly – am I woman. However, I do try to support religious freedom and women’s rights. Also, other basic Human Rights like access to education.

If there is a genuine restriction inherent to Ms. Panjabi’s religious beliefs then I have some sympathy for her position. If too – as she claims to NTV – her course is mainly video content and doesn’t include much talking from her, then perhaps the case against her is too strongly stated.

It still leaves open the question though why she has repeatedly stated that it is for religious reasons that she will not wear the microphone. The intersection of workplace expectations/cultural norms – local and imported/religious requirements etc. is a far from trivial one, with the point of balance in continual flux.

Vancouver Maple Leaves

19 09 2015

No, this isn’t some great upset in the NHL franchise. Nor is it a sudden realisation by Toronto that their Ice Hockey team has been spelling its name incorrectly for decades. It’s simply a posting about maple leaves. From Vancouver.

About four years ago I suddenly had my eyes opened. I started to notice little things that had previously just passed me by un-remarked. Beautiful things. Interesting things. Remarkable things. Amongst this long list was maple leaves. Around this time of year, or actually a little later, the local trees start shedding their leaves. The maples – up until now pretty anonymous and blending in with the rest of the biosphere – suddenly decide to get all showy, turn bright vermilion and yell “look at me, peasants!” The glory of the red in the trees (and shortly thereafter – the pavement) can literally be breathtaking.

This year our BC summer was particularly long and hot. So much so that many trees went into shock and started behaving like autumn was already here. It was apparently more prudent to shut up shop early for the winter rather than try to continue actively growing in the face of a complete absence of the usually plentiful wet coast airborne moisture. So – we started to get beautiful red maple leaves falling in ever growing numbers even in what should really still be late summer. Without the accompaniment of the autumn wetness though, many of these leaves remained pristine after falling to the ground. Every year I take note of the fallen leaves and occasionally am moved to pause and pick one up. I couldn’t really explain why to you. Something about a specific leaf simply moves me to stoop and save it from a fate worse than compost. With the dry ground, there have been more occasions than usual this year.

I began to consider these leaves as a metaphor for people. We each have the potential to be wonderful, eye-catching. Either individually or as part of a broader group. We can still create an impact in the world even after we’ve ceased to live. We can continue to contribute to our world by leaving a legacy of beauty. Of positive psychological impact on others around us. Then again, even the most beautiful amongst us – if we care to look more closely – is imperfect. A slight asymmetry perhaps. A little rougher on the edges than we’d first perceived. Sometimes completely broken on the inside despite the appearance of complete wholesomeness to the casual glance. We can be downtrodden, utterly destroyed by the casual or indeed intimate passing interaction of another. We can be ignored and slowly disappear into the noise of the world, never to be recognised for our individual contribution – great though it may well have been.

So now I take notice. I LOOK at the fallen leaves. Notice them. Especially the maples. They have come to represent for me the unknown people of the world. Those I’ll never meet but have a contribution to make to the space I inhabit. Occasionally I am so moved that I pause and pick one up. I press it in the pages of the book I am inevitably carrying at such thoughtful moments. I save it. For what, I am not sure. To share? To offer as a cryptic gift to someone else on this weird journey we call life? Perhaps. Or perhaps just to say in some small way “you mattered”. You were noticed. Your contribution did not go without reaction.

Vancouver Maple Leaves

Vancouver Maple Leaves

Dee-bee dee-bee dee…

19 09 2015

My now-wife used to work for a guy who incessantly hummed “Strangers in the Night” by Frank Sinatra. Drove her mad. Naturally I have since “doo-bi doo-bi doo’d” on occasions I particularly want to annoy her. You know. Special occasions. When I’m awake.

Anyway yesterday we had some shopping chores to attend to in Richmond and I happened to park next to an Aston Martin DB9. Aston Martin-Lagonda is based in Newport Pagnell which is essentially Milton Keynes (though the DB9 is made in Gaydon, Warks.). In the many years I lived there I only ever saw one – an ugly ’80s Lagonda. It was covered in thick white wax as it was being driven to the dealership. Or a horror film set. Not sure now. Did you know there was a Lagonda Flamethrower used during WWII? Wow! What a way to go – flambé’d by a luxury flamethrower!

Since moving to Vancouver though I see loads of Aston Martins. Thankfully they have now returned to a much more stylish form like they had in Bond’s days (DB5). The DB tag comes from Sir David Brown (the head of Aston Martin from 1947 to 1972).

Thank-you, I'll take two!

Thank-you, I’ll take two!

Style on a stick

Style on a stick

Shame about the crass number plate!

Shame about the crass number plate!

So what would you have done?

18 09 2015

On my daily lunchtime walk, I pass a High School. Today, just as the drizzle was trying to decide whether to bother to turn into proper rain or save its strength for another time, I glanced down and saw a sum of money lying on the ground. Crisp new notes, probably as yet unsullied by taking part in any grubby financial transaction.
I was in a dilemma!
Not, as you may assume, about whether to keep it or not. That was never a choice for me. The money was not mine, and despite having a low probability of success, I felt I had to do what little I could to reunite it with its owner. I once had a similar issue with a set of found Porsche car-keys… right next to a tempting unattended Porsche. No, my dilemma was simply where to hand it in.
Glancing around, I decided the office of the nearby High School was the best option. If I’d lost such a sum in the vicinity of the school, I’d probably at least ask there. There was even a chance some poor kid had just lost his lunch money… though there was sufficient cash for a very nice lunch in a reasonably swanky restaurant.
Kids today, eh?!
The secretary in the school seemed completely bewildered when I handed in the cash. Checking that I really had only brought the one “work day” head, I was a little put out. Still, she soldiered on (this was a High School – I’m sure she’s seen many weird things in her work life). I explained where I’d found it and suggested some poor kid might be upset at losing it. As I turned to leave, she insisted I left my name and number. To be fair, there is a vanishingly small chance that the rightful owner will come looking, but it had never really occurred to me that she’d want to return it to me in that case. I hesitated, but divulged the details and left.
No CBC camera crew leapt out and told me I’d won best citizen of the year or anything, but I did feel a little pleased with myself as the drizzle decided to turn to rain after all.

Of course the real problem is yet to come. What will I do when I get the inevitable call telling me the owner never came looking?
I’m tending towards telling them to give it to the school librarian to make a couple of choice additions to their reading matter. I think it’d be quite nice being memorialised in a school book. The point being… I don’t think I could keep the money. It’s simply not mine to have.

What would you have done…?


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