surviving the holidays

I am not a big fan of Christmas. It's not just that I'm not a Christian, it's all the baggage that comes with it.

For as long as I can remember, the whole family get-together thing has been fraught with stress, and featured tears before bedtime for someone, usually me. As the only child, and even only grandchild for many years, I was both the focus of attention and the rope in the annual tug of war between in-laws that had little in common and no incentive to find any such thing. Apart from me.

Spoiled? Yes, at least showered with gifts, some of them actually quite nice. No complaints there, provided there were plenty of books. Overfed, too. My female parent would on the one hand offer endless goodies and on the other accuse me of gluttony and ask when I was going to lose weight. Something wrong with this picture? D'oh. Then there were the grandmothers. They agreed that I didn't attend church enough, although they differed as to which one. Both Protestant. Music was ok but discourse was so laced with hypocrisy I gave up church even before I had read the Bible and realized what a dreadful tome it is. People who take it literally simply cannot have read it. But, I digress.

Nobody in our family would dream of inflicting physical abuse, apart from the occasional well-deserved swat on the seat of the pants. They just went in for sarcastic comments and galloping perfectionism, focused inevitably on me. It was required to "view" the presents given by & to each family member, whether to foster envy or disgust was never clear to me. Failure to effuse sufficiently was punishable by solicitous enquiries as to the state of ones health. Throwing up wasn't an option, even if overfed. In a nutshell, everyone disliked each other and competed over the child, since Christmas is for children, right? Spare me.

So, although I learned to cook all the festive dishes, and now do so for my entire ageing family (thank goodness I produced no offspring myself), and although I learned a huge repertoire of carols so I could be the pianist for the obligatory sing-along, I really don't care for the season.

Next year, I'm doing something entirely different. They can have their Christmas at a restaurant.


Have these people never heard of martyrs?

The ubiquitous wailing & gnashing of teeth in the international media over the "case" of one J. Assange and his organization, WikiLeaks, continue to astound me.

In particular, his arrest and bail denial on what may or may not turn out to be a proven charge, one that some might say was all too conveniently timed, have garnered publicly flaunted satisfaction in both media and diplomatic quarters, not to mention international security forces and others alarmed by the success of whistle-blowers in publicizing "sensitive documents".

Never mind that the "sensitive documents" are, generally speaking, mere confirmation of what a cynical public has long supposed about the purveyors of power. Never mind that these same power-brokers have many more intact secrets that may well exceed the imagination of public cynicism. After all, none of us wants to imagine that we might be living, not in our cherished (if mythical) democracies, but in incipient totalitarian states. Forsooth, that could never be!

Evidently those in power and their media lapdogs have failed yet again to learn from the history they have mostly used to their good advantage. It's true that the public attention span is short when it comes to public wrongdoing, whether political, religious, or financial. It's also true that the public memory is extremely long when it comes to situations where an individual (worthy or not) is sacrificed in the name of the powerful. One might cite the putative execution of a proselytizing carpenter circa 2000 years ago as a case in point.

This Assange fellow has an organization, and followers. Mirror sites already abound. These folks know how to work the Internet. If I were a betting person, I'd lay heavy odds that those in power themselves find the Internet too useful to take it down all over the world. The time appears ripe for creation of a martyr and a grass-roots mythology that will continue to nibble at the heels of those currently holding the reins and writing the cheques.

I wonder who will be first against the wall?


Most enjoyable rally in ages

Only caught snippets of the rally this afternoon, among other things going on in my house, but I have to say that it looked like a fun event, the most a-political thing I've seen coming out of the USofA in Lo! these many years. And bravo to those 2 great satirists, Stewart & Colbert, for putting it on.

It's not just sanity & damping down the fear that's needed -- it's ability to laugh at one's foibles & respect one's neighbours that are so sorely missed in the jingoistic rhetoric we hear all too much of on the USAmerican media these days. If only they would stop shouting so much & listen to how ridiculous they sound.

And, if only every USAmerican citizen who attended a sanity rally today would just get out there & vote their conscience, & each drag 10 friends with them! That'd go a long way to alleviating some of the pain. When I think of our grandmothers & great-grandmothers who struggled for the vote...they'd all be ashamed of those who just can't be bothered today.


fried green tomatoes

I must remember for next year that this recipe was NOT a success. Of all the things I've tried to do with end-of-season green tomatoes, this was in fact the least successful of all. Much better to make a green tomato chutney or mincemeat. The breading was nasty and so was the tomato inside. Very disappointing.

Tomatillos, on the other hand, make a great salsa from the green stage. I guess it's just a sad fact that green tomatoes have so little flavour it's almost impossible to do anything with them that doesn't involve mixing with a lot of other, more highly flavoured ingredients.

As I recall, I didn't think much of the movie, either...


Time for Writing

Again, a long gap between posts. Excuses proliferate like rabbits, or, in my garden, squirrels.

It's been a long, hot, lovely summer filled with projects, none of which involved writing, apart from some correspondence with friends. I don't expect anything much to change, except the weather. However, writing will take its place among the projects, with this blog included from time to time.

Since nobody reads it but me, how often I post doesn't matter. What does matter is that I write something on a regular basis. So, I will.


Inspiration from the Beehive

Not the actual beehive, of course. Think vuvuzelas, in quantity. A strange place to find inspiration? Maybe. They've certainly inspired complaints from World Cup viewers around the world. This is about a different, if related, kind of inspiration.

Mi esposo is embedded in the World Cup. When he isn't on the tennis court, he's glued to the HD screen, ruining his eyesight and hearing in one fell swoop. A Nederlander by birth, it's no mystery who he's backing, as is most of his family, apart from the Argentinian in-laws. I'm not a great afficionado of the game, but am quietly rooting for New Zealand, a rank underdog. What was it someone said? Oh yes, 3 pre-game hakas and they're toast!

But, I digress.

The World Cup is a very strange place for me to find inspiration, consisting of huge, generally mindless crowds and team sports which I typically find abhorrent in principle. However, football, or soccer as it's known here in the upper two thirds of North America, is the least obnoxiously violent team sport. Apart from the fans...

I used to listen to CBC Radio 2 a lot. (No, not another digression). Lately not so much, after they squished out most of the classical music, but I still have my alarm clock set to it, for when I bother with an alarm. Most of the drivel that issues from the mouth of the morning show host is utter garbage, but this morning he surprised me. I was only half awake, so can't quote him accurately, but I was sufficiently impressed by his comment that I wanted to share it.

So, to paraphrase Bob Mackowycz of Radio 2 Morning:

After the World Cup they should ship all the vuvuzelas to Toronto, for use by the protesters at the G8 meetings later this month. Perhaps, like international World Cup fans, the attendees will be so anxious for the noise to stop that they'll commit to some real action to address the needs of real people rather than the privileged few. Like seeking some realistic solutions for problems like world hunger, health of women & children, managing international debt, to name just a few.

Perhaps a faint hope, but worth a try!


I'm ashamed

that a minority government, voted for by only about 35% of the 65% of us who bothered to vote in the last federal election, are spending more than a billion of our tax dollars pandering to the G8, G20, and the slavering media hounds who lick their Armani shoes.

that religious-right-nutbar ideology is being used to justify withholding of funding from organizations from groups they don't approve of, including women, gays, working poor...and that they would withhold access to safe abortion as a component of international funding for the health of women and children.

What on earth has happened to Canada? We've become the laughing-stock of the world, that's what.

It's called c.R.a.p.


Mixed bag of musings

We just got back from a visit to my family, down in the Niagara Peninsula. It's always lovely down there, but spring is one of the best times. As with so much of the rest of the province, spring has been very hasty this year, so flowers, shrubs and fruit trees have all bloomed in a short space of time. Most people seem to find the time to do a little gardening, and the whole area was in bloom. Lovely. Lately though, it seems there's always a diseased branch on that blooming shrub. Sometimes more than one.

While I'm a dedicated wine lover, and always enjoy visiting wineries & sampling their produce, I do miss the orchards that used to line the QEW from just past Stoney Creek right through to the Falls. These days, fruit trees are a liability, it seems, and have been yanked out in favour of lakeside condominium developments, strip malls, and vineyards. Ironically, the vineyards can go on much poorer soil than fruit trees require, but the saddest thing is that most of the prime agricultural land in that very special region has been lost to housing and industrial development. If urban planners had the foresight they claim, development below the Niagara Escarpment would have been forbidden, and the greater part of the development would have been on the top, in the southern part of the Peninsula. Now, every time we make that drive, there are more strip malls & less agricultural land. What a waste.

Much of the development is driven out of Toronto. When I was growing up, we thought of Toronto as "our" big city, and it was even known as "Toronto the Good". Even today, when it's more commonly known as Canada's 1st American city (Calgary's hard on its heels), you can find pockets of greenery and relative peace in unexpected corners of the city. We were there just last weekend, and enjoyed a ferry ride out to the Toronto Islands, where there is a small residential area among the parklands. A welcome relief from the downtown fug, and still within the means of most. There are only a few emergency vehicles allowed, so it's all walking or cycling. We went to a shapenote sing in an old wood-panelled church, and enjoyed ourselves thoroughly. It took some of the bad taste of the last few weeks' political events out of our mouths.

Provincial politics in Ontario are currently focused on a new amalgamation of federal & provincial sales taxes, which is going to result in an increase in the cost of many essentials for people at all income levels. Not a popular move. However, it's one we can & will have to bear. Less easy to bear is some of the posturing at the federal level. Those who follow G8 and G20 news may have heard of the maternal health care initiative. Our Harpocritical minority Prime Minister and his vegetative colleagues only reluctantly agreed to entertain the issue of birth control as an essential component of the health of women & children, provided that abortion was "off the table". This thinly veiled push to impose their own narrow views on other countries when Canada is a country where a woman's right to choose has been well established has encouraged anti-abortion fanatics here to demonstrate to challenge Canadian women's right to choose. Many of our aid organizations who assist women have had their funding withdrawn, & those remaining appear to have been successfully intimidated into believing that if they speak out theirs will be cut too. I find this both sickening and unnerving. We have had numerous indications, including a wall of silence from the minority regime, that their political tastes are of the totalitarian kind. This should be a wake-up call for Canadians to put pressure on (a) the current regime for maintenance of our right to choose and (b) the other parties who must find some working coalition to depose these petty tyrants at the next opportunity. And some leadership that will have the balls to call for a vote of non-confidence to force an election before the current gang of thugs does any more damage to our culture.

And what am I doing, you may ask? At the moment, a lot of letter writing. Drafting petitions. Talking to people about the situation. Exercising my rights of free speech & choice, and my responsibility to speak out about issues that concern all of us. And, if it comes to it, my marching legs aren't what they used to be, but if necessary I'll rent a scooter!

I suppose our political affairs here don't seem like much with the lunatic fringe holding "tea parties" south of the border, the usual market paranoia in full swing, and most of the Gulf under a film of oil. They're pretty dang serious for us, though.


Is it really THAT long ago?

I didn't realize that my last post here was actually LAST YEAR!

Well, there are some good reasons for that.

1. Spent 65 days travelling in New Zealand (will try to post some pics, sometime, don't hold your breath)

2. Got talked into a couple of consulting contracts that took more of my time than anticipated.

3. Tax season (yuck)

4. Starting my indoor garden so I'll have stuff to transplant outside later this month

5. General procrastination

All of the above, in effect! I simply haven't been doing much in the way of writing, other than keeping a trip journal, which I did the old-fashioned way, with pen & paper. Really haven't been on-line as much, either. However, I'm back now & plan to post semi-regularly, when I have something to say.

Missed the chatter here, but it's impossible to catch up nearly 5 months, so I'll just have to start fresh.