Thursday, June 30, 2016

Vancouver is Cool (as in temperature)

Kamloops is on the Banks of the Thompson River

There's not much to do in Kamloops but, boy, is it a lovely little town. It's the perfect size city for me but I could never move to live in a city that gets this hot. It was thirty-five life-sucking degrees here yesterday. When I went anywhere, I walked at a snail's pace and only in the shade.

I spent most of the morning in Riverside Park watching marmots and flickers as I meandered through its shadiest sections. Then I met Dwight for a late lunch before spending the afternoon in my air conditioned room napping, writing and reading. I got some Proseco and snacks to share with Dwight after he finished his work.

He got here at around six and at seven-thirty, we headed back to Terra for a final meal together before returning home. As we arrived back, there was a fellow having a smoke outside whom Dwight had met in the elevator. He is a classic Coronation Street labour-loving Brit and listening to him talk about Corbyn, Johnson, Cameron, immigration and their NHS was like actually being in the TV series.

Later this morning I will meet Dwight for breakfast and then I will head home to where the weather is supposed to change. It's going to be sunny all day today, here and there, but as I drive the temperature will slowly drop to the low twenties where it will stay for the weekend. I'm more than okay with that.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

My Kamloops Adventure

I am thoroughly enjoying my Kamloops adventure. I’m writing this post in my huge bed in my deluxe suite. I have five pillows to give me perfect support. I took a suite and it’s on the floor with the swimming pool. It’s 31° here in the afternoon and the night is hot too, so the pool is vital.
I went to Dr. Shoja in the morning so that I’d be leaving with a clear head and I was rollin’ down the highway immediately afterwards. I pulled out of the city at noon. The top down, of course; I have a hot fire engine red Fiat, for God’s sake. I had to. It’s the best time to be bald.
It was a 3.5-hour fabulous drive. I was nervous driving my new tiny Fiat on the highway but the experience has bolstered my confidence about the drive home.  It’s very noisy driving with the top down at speeds between 120 and 140 kilometers and hour; I couldn’t listen to my music. But the views, Boss, the views!
I spent the first hour was spent getting out of the lower mainland. You know you’re in Chilliwack by the smell of manure. But hey, it’s one of nature’s perfumes. Then came the first sighting of Mount Baker. It’s a little like seeing God.
It has a glorious shape and an enormous white crown that shines like a spotlight in the summer sun. It’s an amazing thing to see; since childhood, volcanoes and everything geographic has fascinated me. Seeing it so close and bright, I felt as I did when I visited the Vatican.
From then on, the views were spectacular. My God, I love BC! I left from the bank of the Pacific Ocean, passed an active and magnificent volcano, traversed huge wild roaring rivers and drove over through and around stunning sheer-faced mountains.  
Within an hour of checking in, Dwight was at my door. We went to the pool, but it is just too hot for me to enjoy myself and the noise and bustle of all the people made me want to go back to my air conditioned and quiet room, so we set out to find a place to eat.
The choices had not seemed great online but I didn’t care; the company was perfect. But on the way to the place we’d reluctantly chosen, we passed, Terra. One look at the place and its proud commitment to local food and I was interested. The genuine casual welcoming hostess who greeted us convinced us to stay.
It was truly one of the most memorable dining experiences I’ve had. It has a quiet, unpretentious interior and the food—and its presentation—was impeccable. But more than anything else, it was the delight of discovery that made the night unforgettable. And I mean that. I had given up all hope of fine dining and there is nothing better than unexpected perfection.
We walked in the riverside park after dinner; I am smitten with Kamloops. It’s a perfect size, the downtown is clean and our hotel is right beside the art gallery and library. There’s a theatre company here and there’s also a huge community centre. (I forgot my camera cable, so I cannot post photos easily. I may try from my phone later.)
I am very glad I came. I think Dwight enjoys the distraction of my company. We are meeting later for lunch and tonight, Terra again. Last night, I could not stop telling Dwight and the staff how perfect their place is. They will know how much I meant it when we walk in again tonight and ask to be seated at Rebecca’s station.

Really! There is naught better than fine dinning in the heat of high summer after a swim and champagne—all in such excellent company.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Off to Kamloops

Sunday evening, I went to see my friends, John and Bunny. They live in West Vancouver where I grew up and where everything happened that gave me C-PTSD. It’s an emotional place to go, but as I got close to their house on a brilliant and hot summer night, I felt all the joy I remember as a kid when I’d go to play with a best friend.
We ate an incredibly delicious meal on their deck. I particularly liked the grilled watermelon and feta salad. It was something I’m dying to make.
I came home to a terribly moving email from a friend whose sister obtained permission to avail herself of medically assisted suicide. The photo was heartbreaking. My friend’s sister is a pioneer bringing this dramatic change in social policy up close, just as my friends Morris and Ken did when they married right after gay marriage was legalized.
This morning, I’m off to Kelowna. I’m going to play with another great friend, Dwight. It’s 30° in Kamloops but our hotel has a pool. I hope to treat us to a meal in a highly regarded restaurant there called Raudz.

These photos are similar but it is the amazing differences between them, all from one bush, that endear me to this hybrid hydrangea.

Monday, June 27, 2016

The Times Have NOT Changed

As politicians in England and America sink as low in my estimation as foreign dictators, an actor shows a remarkably sound level of intelligence and social awareness in his speech for winning the Humanitarian Award at the Black Entertainment Television ceremony. Jesse Williams is startlingly eloquent.

Sadly, this is a weak clip because I downloaded a pirated video. Viacom, the producer of the award show does not want this clip circulated for some reason. It should be shared.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Creative Fulfillment and Me

I am very happy I am a creative person. That is what I have always said:  I am a creative person. I have never called myself an artist, so I decided to think about why. (Prepare yourself: I am going to generalize, that’s how I express theory.)
To be an artist is something many seek. It is a highly admired profession. People use the word to describe themselves based on their lifestyle, source of income or ambition. (I believe “source of income” is the only valid reason of the three.)
But perhaps because I write, I like to use words precisely. The word “artist” is a fuzzy descriptor that can be earned or self-determined or earned. When I use the word, I usually precede it with the words “professional” or “amateur.”
I prefer the word I use: Creator. It’s a good one; it’s the one we use for Him or Her.
Creators seek two things: Mastery of their chosen medium and respect/praise. They passionately and obsessively do little other than invent/create. Praise/respect sneaks up on the greatest of them, it seems to me, and yields its rewards — respect, wealth and fame.
Those lesser blessed are more strategic about obtaining their respect. Consequently, it is often they who make the most money; their commitment to financial success or media visibility is equal to, or dominates, their creative drive.

My talent is average but diverse. At least I was able to professionalize it. Modestly endowed artists like me can easily earn fame or money but it is hard for us to earn respect and, therefore, to feel the hot flame of pride.

My creativity is best expressed in the alphabetic medium. I earned my living as a technical writer; my most lucrative contract lasted twenty-seven years. My thousand-word monthly editorials earned me almost three-quarters of a million dollars. A (text) book I wrote earned me well over a hundred grand. (I still cannot believe that.)

I took pride in my earnings but self-respect eluded me. The ebb tide of the Bay of Fundy is nothing compared to the depth of my low self-esteem. That may be one reason, but there is another: I felt my success was based on the content of my writing, not the writing itself. Technical writing did not fulfill me no matter how much it earned me. Why? The content came from my brain.
I took math at a local university when I was eleven. I knew I had a good brain, but the recognition I earned from the creative writing and art I made in school gave me far greater pride — hence my career decision.
The soul is a mysterious thing. It’s often referenced in conversation and in the media, but what is it? And where is it? If we “accept” the concept of a soul, I find it to be the right repository in which to site our creativity. Although intelligence certainly enhances creativity, I cannot site the brain as the home of imagination.

That is why my most satisfying income, a mere $1,500, came from licensing my screenplay. Although the film won’t be made, I sold entertainment, not information. The pride, the fulfillment, coming from selling the rights to Uncle Gus’ Monkey (SGM) is largely because the buyers came to me. I did not go to them. It was incredibly rewarding to receive praise I did not seek.
However, it was autobiographical and that feels a bit like a cheat to me because autobiographical writing is technical writing when it is not absolutely masterfully written and technical writing gets no respect—not from me or externally. It’s when writers use their experience to create fiction that they earn the respect that all creators seek (or so it seems to me).
So … if there were one thing left for me to accomplish, it would be to write something even more abstracted from my own life than SGM. I’m trying to do that now. But if nothing comes of it, I don’t care. That’s how great selling SGM was for me; my pride in that accomplishment is enough to get me into artist’s heaven.
Thank God for that. I ‘ll be going out content.

(Click on an image to see them better. Pause on the New Yorker cover.)

Saturday, June 25, 2016


Thursday afternoon, Nicola called me and suggested I meet her at the Dollar Store in the Tinseltown Mall where we bought oodles of little doodads to play with, and then we went for a walkabout in Chinatown. We had the best day! It had started so dark and gloomy, but when we exited the Dollar Store, the sun was hot on our skin.

I went crazy in the Dollar Store. I bought some artificial roses—yes, I bought fake flowers and I love them. Perhaps I’ve “jumped the shark” because I also bought gold placemats, spectacular cloth ribbons with Chinese classical print imagery on them, a hand painted glass egg, fabulous little bags (for candy), candy molds, little note pads, a great hand-painted fan (again, with Chinese imagery) and pine incense. How butch am I?

We had no itinerary or objective; we just wandered. We had Ramen at the end of the afternoon on a quiet patio and shared a piece of pie in a Chinatown that is vastly changed from the one we remember from our youth. It was such fun. Oh, I also bought some great teal shoes; there are a zillion very chic boutiques now in Chinatown.

I did all that with minimal stuttering and neither seizures nor medications but when I got home, my left leg was swollen from knee to toes and it was red.

Last Tuesday, I fell and scraped some skin off my leg. I pushed the skin back into place, covered it with a large bandage and carried on. I don’t like bandages; I like the air to get at wounds so I wore shorts around the house but at nights and on my walkabout day with Nicola, I’d don a bandage.      

My friend Mike stepped on a nail one day and then, after a week with no symptoms, he dropped dead from septicemia. That has made me afraid of infection, so when I saw my leg after our walkabout I decided that this weekend would be about healing.  I am binge-watching Dicte on Netflix with my leg raised and with thrice daily anti-bacterial cleansing and I am winning. 

The young have no idea how much fun ageing is. Let’s keep it a secret.

Yes, I am smitten.

Friday, June 24, 2016

The Brexit Debate Is Not Over

By Dr. James Strong, a Fellow in Foreign Policy Analysis and International Relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science
First, when will the Brexit negotiations begin? This morning David Cameron broke two promises he made during the referendum campaign. He resigned as Prime Minister. And he announced that he would not immediately inform the European Council that Britain wishes to withdraw from the EU, in line with Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.
This is significant. Once a state activates Article 50, it has two years to negotiate its future relationship with the remaining 27 member states. After two years its membership terminates automatically.
Cameron’s successor, presumably Boris Johnson, will have to decide in October whether or not to invoke Article 50. Early in the campaign, Johnson suggested that Britain might yet be able to wring a better deal (e.g. further restrictions on freedom of movement) out of other EU states if the government already had a mandate to leave.
Most EU leaders have ruled out this option. But that doesn’t mean they won’t consider now. Remember, most didn’t take the prospect of Brexit entirely seriously during the previous round of negotiations. And even if they did take the prospect seriously, it makes no sense from a bargaining perspective to admit that you are willing to offer more to a bargaining partner who does something you don’t want.
We could yet see a second re-negotiation followed by a second referendum in which Prime Minister Johnson successfully campaigns for Remain, having achieved his primary goal by becoming Prime Minister.
Second, what sort of mandate does the leave camp have? Two key concerns appear to have driven the leave vote - fear of mass immigration and a desire to repatriate sovereign authority currently pooled with other EU states, for example the power to alter employment regulations or to negotiate new free trade deals.
To an extent these concerns can both be resolved by leaving the EU. But many of those who argue for a leave vote on sovereignty grounds nevertheless still want Britain to have the best possible trading relationship with other EU states, which makes sense since most of our exports go to them. They say they would like Britain to stay in the European single market as far as possible.
Both Norway and Switzerland are in the single market but not the EU, so there is precedent here. The problem is that the rest of the EU sees free movement of people as one of the fundamental pillars of the single market. In other words, the price of retaining access to the EU market is likely to be allowing free movement of people. There is a fundamental clash between the desire to remake Britain as a free-trading nation and the desire to restrict immigration (this is true conceptually as much as in practice).
So what sort of deal will the post-leave government pursue? I suspect the answer is that it will be unable to negotiate a deal because it will be unable to concede on free movement, leaving Britain outside of the single market by default at the end of its two year withdrawal period.
Thirdly, and relatedly, what sort of deal will parliament approve? Most MPs favour remaining in the EU, but they will have to sign off on any post-Brexit agreement. Will they be willing to do so in principle? Probably, given most have more respect for the electorate than is often implied.
But, again, what sort of deal will they have a mandate to approve? One that retains access to the single market at the cost of allowing free movement, or one that cuts off both? The differences are stark, and the reality is that the leave vote is split between the two broad approaches. There will have to be a second referendum, like it or not.
Fourthly, what happens if there is an early general election before the two years are up? This is entirely possible, though the Fixed Terms Parliament Act sets a high bar (assuming the government does not lose a confidence vote, which it probably wouldn’t, two-thirds of MPs have to vote for an early election, which means both Labour and the Conservatives have to be confident they’ll win).
It could happen if the Conservative Party splits, which looks like a realistic possibility. It could also happen if the worst economic predictions of the Remain camp come true. If the hit to business confidence already apparent in the markets continues into a recession, that in turn could undermine the government’s position.
The prospect of an early election is interesting for this reason: What if the Labour Party campaigns on a pro-EU mandate, and wins? Could a new government withdraw the Article 50 notification before the two year period is up? Article 50 doesn’t say, which means presumably the possibility is there. But it would have to be negotiated, and Europe may be in no mood for second guessing.
The Brexit debate is far from over, in other words. One way or another there will have to be a further vote.