fall is definitely here

What with the cooler nights (great for sleeping) & the leaves definitely turning colour, fall is here for sure. OK, it's also the equinox, but that's purely incidental. In fact this is about the only season here that times out with those traditional quarterly dates. Winter here comes a lot earlier & lasts a lot later than the winter solstice or vernal equinox, & spring is more of a wave in passing as we flip the switch to summer...at least, most years.

It's time to think about putting the garden to bed. Cool nights spell the end of most new growth, although some of the zucchinis are still setting fruit & the tomatilloes continue to ripen. It was a poor year for hot peppers, with all the rain & cool weather in July, almost a crop failure really. Beans, sugar snap peas, greens & onions did well, as did herbs in containers. I passed on tomatoes this year to give my poor little garden a rest (very hard to rotate spots for them, & they're susceptible to soil-borne pests & diseases) but will try again next year.

Every year we say we're only going to buy plants at the market or garden centre, but when the seed catalogues start to arrive in November I can't resist getting seeds to start in March & April. I'm sure it will be no different this year. Hard not to want to get a jump on the season, with our winters as long as they are.

These pics are from 2007, but are pretty typical of what we're starting to see:

It's my favourite time of the year!


film recommendations from TIFF'09

I just spent the past week at the Toronto International Film Festival. This is a really quick list of films I saw & my impressions.
You can look up the basic blurb on these & other films at http://tiff.net


Creation (aka Nature) -- bio of Charles Darwin during the period he was writing Origin of Species; picked up by Canadian distributor but USA distributors a bit cagey owing to fears of reaction from "religious right" (hey, it's all good publicity) -- this is great & I plan to see it again

The Road -- good adaptation of the post-apocalyptic Cormac McCarthy novel; Viggo Mortensen carries this one & does a great job; bleak of course but not totally unbearable; may be a bit difficult emotionally for parents of young children; even better on the second viewing

Chloe -- Atom Egoyan's latest & one of his best; widespread audience reaction at end was "holy shit!"; excellent cast, story, directing

Pretty Good:

Harry Brown -- Michael Caine is excellent as an elderly vigilante in the London projects; a bit too gory for my usual taste

Up In The Air -- not your usual Hollywood treatment; George Clooney & supporting cast are very good

Whip It -- coming of age meets roller derby; purely entertaining, nothing profound here; it's fun

The Invention of Lying -- great premise, well done, perhaps a little dragged out but good overall, especially if you enjoy Ricky Gervais

A Single Man -- it's obvious why Colin Firth won the acting accolade at Venice for this one; adapted from an Isherwood story


Bright Star -- bio of John Keats (he's dead by age 25 so you know this can't end well); Jane Campion can do better than this

Don't waste your money:

Leaves of Grass -- pure shite, don't bother; waste of a good cast; degenerates into something similar to Straw Dogs (remember that piece of crap?)

Like I said, a pretty good festival -- 9 of 10 films were OK or better. There was only one I'd have walked out of if I wasn't boxed in the middle of a row.

TIFF is a fun festival, one of the few truly accessible to the filmgoing public. While their ticketing system is truly arcane & frustrating with it, once you clear that hurdle the event itself is great. This was my 5th year attending with a friend, & I recommend it to anyone who loves films. The chance to hear director & cast in Q&A sessions is unique. There are plenty of associated free events & of course Toronto has a plethora of galleries, museums, restaurants &c to add to the general enjoyment.

Added to which we had great weather!


Recommended reading: James Lovelock

The writings of James Lovelock are of special relevance for anyone who has been feeling reassured by the media hype & political/corporate disinformation about "renewable" or "alternative" energy vs. nuclear power, or who still thinks the human species can continue to increase (or even renew) its population with disregard for the biosphere & the carrying capacity of the planet. But it's also worth more thought from everyone. And action, if one so desires after thinking about it.

There are others who write on the subjects of planetary ecology & climatology & our species' impacts on them, but the clearest, most succinct & well-balanced voice for a general audience is that of the multidisciplinary scientist James Lovelock. He is the originator of the Gaia theory (briefly, that the Earth is a living biosphere, with life as a whole exerting dynamic effects on climate & the composition of the atmosphere/oceans/soils, which systems are as yet poorly understood & subject to multiple feedbacks that may be beyond our means to actively control). You can find more about the man & his work at http://www.jameslovelock.org, http://www.ecolo.org/lovelock, and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Lovelock.

Now, Lovelock is human, capable of error as we all are. He's also quite the iconoclast, which in my view makes him more interesting, but he does have a tendency to argue the opposite of almost any commonly held view. Not that this necessarily makes his views incorrect. Frankly this is one of the things that makes him a good scientist. Unlike most iconoclasts, he does offer some possible, partial solutions, although not with much optimism. I don't happen to agree with everything he says because of my own opinions on certain subjects, & I'm sure other readers won't either. But his views on population & the benefits of nuclear power ring true to me, as do his remarks on the amount of misinformation & outright disinformation about so-called renewable energy sources.

In the short term, generation of electricity using nuclear power plants makes very good sense, & the arguments against it are mostly paper tigers. I'm disappointed that the Ontario provincial government has scrapped a planned new nuclear generating station, when one is so sorely needed. But then, politicians are really good at short-term thinking.

I also find it discouraging that so many individuals still believe it is their right to have as many children as they want, including the unwarranted use of in vitro methods resulting in multiple births. In my mind, it is the ultimate in selfishness to propagate our species unthinkingly. Bad enough for it to continue in parts of the world where women are repressed both socially & politically, & where education & access to cheap & effective birth control are both inadequate. For politicians & religious leaders in developed countries to condone or even encourage population increase is irresponsible when considered on a planetary basis. But then, politicians are really good at local thinking.

Until we can find ways to make long-term, planet-wide planning & action sufficiently attractive to those who make the decisions & write the cheques, it seems we are doomed to slide down the slippery slope into a Malthusian solution. It's not nice to think about, & we probably can't do much about it, but the signs are not good that we're even trying very hard. Maybe it's better this way -- our species has survived drastic reductions in population & survived through evolution in the past. Perhaps this time around the species will emerge more empathetic & sensible.

This is Lovelock's latest (& possibly final) book:
"The vanishing face of Gaia: A final warning"
Worthwhile reading, available everywhere, including your local public library. Go ahead, read it (it's not a lengthy book), I'm interested in other opinions & rational discussion.

Are we indeed "rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic"? It may well be so. Perhaps it's selfish, but I'm very glad I have no children. It's not going to be a pretty world in 50 years. Maybe not even in 20. Or less.


brief note on word play

In making a comment on a post by Kanuk on Open Salon, I noted that "Christian charity" has become an oxymoron in the hands of the religious right or so-called "moral majority", a more mean-spirited bunch than I've come across in Lo! these many years.

That got me to thinking about oxymora (that's the plural of oxymoron) in general, & I found this fun article by Richard Lederer under the heading "Oxymoronology".

It quotes a lot of good ones, including the well known "criminal lawyer", one of my all-time favourites. I also love that the word oxymoron is itself an oxymoron. How much fun is that?

I was reminded that this was a common theme used by the late, great George Carlin, a few of which I found on this little YouTube collection (for some reason, this didn't want to show up as a video link, I'll try to fix it later).


And now, it's a lovely sunny day & I'm out of here! Got to go take care of my "low-maintenance garden".