Jim Taylor's Columns - 'Soft Edges' and 'Sharp Edges'

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26

Feb

2017

What government does with a surplus

Author: Jim Taylor

“I don’t know what to write about this week,” I lamented to my wife.

            “The provincial government just presented its budget,” Joan suggested.

            “I don’t know anything about budgets,” I replied.

            And then I wondered why that should disqualify me from commenting. After all, the emperor-with-no-clothes in Washington clearly knows about nothing beyond his own corporate tunnel-vision. That hasn’t stopped him.

            Our budgeting process is simple. If we spend less than we take in, we save the surplus for times when we take in less than we spend.

            Those principles might seem reasonable for government budgeting, too. The B.C. Government, from what I can see, operates on a different philosophy. 


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22

Feb

2017

Storytellers help us define ourselves

Author: Jim Taylor

 Stuart McLean was a national treasure. I’ve heard him called Canada’s Garrison Keillor. Maybe he was also Canada’s Mark Twain. He told the stories of our people, our land, our whatever-we-are, with wit, gentle humour, and insight. 

            Like a limited number of other writers – Elizabeth Goudge and Dorothy Gilman come to mind – McLean didn’t need to create villains. He recognized that conflict isn’t necessarily between good and evil, but simply between differing personalities. Between Dave’s good-hearted attempts to be helpful, and Mary Turlington’s obsession with getting things just right. Between Morley, whose Christmases always seemed to get away from her somehow, and Polly Anderson’s perfect parties. 

            But they were kindly differences. There was no malice in any of his characters. Not even in Murphy, the boy who kept enticing young Sam into risky adventures.


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19

Feb

2017

Bullying goes beyond schoolyards

Author: Jim Taylor

I don’t know much about bullying. Either by being bullied, or being a bully myself. 

            I had a boss, for a short while, who was a bully. And when I was a skinny kid with an English accent, the boy next door attempted to bully me, but a bigger kid took me under his wing, and that ended the bullying.

            I won’t pretend my high school had no bullying. I didn’t get bullied – at least, not that I can remember. \But I remember one boy who seemed to get constantly picked on – perhaps because he never fought back. One day some of the other kids locked him into a locker, too cramped to move, with no light, for a whole period. 

            I didn’t stop them. Maybe that makes me an accomplice. 

            But here’s the thing – not one of those people would have called what they were doing “bullying.”

            Bullying is defined by the victim. Never by the bully.


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15

Feb

2017

Listening with your whole body

Author: Jim Taylor

Why would most of us rather attend a live concert than listen to a recording – even though the recording may be technically superior? Why do we go to hockey games, when we can see the puck better on TV?

            A deaf percussionist offers some answers.

            Dame Evelyn Glennie can hear next to nothing through her ears. But when she performs with an orchestra, she has to know when the trombones blare, when the violins sing. She says that she feels the vibrations. Through her bare feet. Through her skin. Through her internal organs. Different parts of her body resonate to different frequencies.

            "The whole body's like a huge ear," Glennie says. "It's as simple as that."


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12

Feb

2017

The problem in polygamy is power

Author: Jim Taylor

At long last, a Blackmore has been convicted of a crime.

            To refresh your memory, the Blackmores are, quite literally, the “fathers” of the community of Bountiful, an idyllic patch of farmland in B.C.’s Kootenay region, close to the U.S. border. Winston Blackmore alone is father to 147 children, by 27 wives.

            Most of the 130 or so students who attend the school in Bountiful are Winston’s children or grandchildren. The B.C. government turns a blind eye to his polygamy, providing $637,000 a year in school funding.

            On February 3, Justice Paul Pearlman found Winston’s older brother, Brandon Blackmore, guilty. But not of polygamy. Rather, of child trafficking. In what seems to be have been a common practice, various Blackmores took underage children from their community across the border into the U.S. to become child brides for Warren Jeffs, head of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

            Jeffs, now serving a life sentence in the U.S. for child sexual assault, instructed Brandon Blackmore and his wife at the time, Gail Blackmore, to bring their 13-year-old daughter to him.

            They were “married” on July 3, 2004. Six days later, 49-year-old Jeffs recorded for posterity his consummation of the marriage.

            Yes – sex with a 13-year-old.


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8

Feb

2017

A Declaration of Interdependence

Author: Jim Taylor

Daily, the news suggests that human civilization spirals toward chaos. On some parts of the planet, humans wage war with other humans. In other parts, they war with words, firing accusations and denials at each other, engendering hatred and hostility.

            Yet evolution teaches that survival is not to the fittest, or the strongest, but to the most cooperative. Physics, astronomy, sociology, psychology – all reinforce the same message. We do not live in a stand-alone universe. We are not independent, but interdependent. 

            I’ll repeat that word, in case you slid over it – INTERdependent.


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5

Feb

2017

Canadian blood on Trump's hands

Author: Jim Taylor

A week ago Friday, U.S. President Donald Trump issued an Executive Order restricting immigration from seven Muslim countries where he doesn’t have business ties. He branded them “evil”.

            Two days later, a Canadian with far-right sympathies entered a mosque in Quebec City and shot six men in the back as they knelt in prayer. Eight others were injured.

            The timing is too close for pure coincidence. If you’re a white supremacist feeling you should take action against people you dislike, what better justification could you ask for than encouragement from the world’s most powerful person? 

            Trump called Ottawa to offer his condolences. I think he should be charged as an accessory to murder.


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1

Feb

2017

Making do with what I have

Author: Jim Taylor

I was asked recently to do a talk about books that had influenced me as a child. Robinson Crusoe, for example. And its imitator, The Swiss Family Robinson. Treasure Island. Ernest Thompson Seton’s books about wood lore. Enid Blyton’s Railway Children. 

            Perhaps most influential, the Arthur Ransome series, about English kids turned loose for summer holidays in the Lake District – and in later books, around the world – with no adult supervision! In the first book, Swallows and Amazons, the oldest was a boy of twelve, the youngest seven. Unthinkable today. But in the 1930s, that was apparently quite acceptable parenting. 

            And I realized that all of these books had a common theme -- making do with what you have. Crusoe couldn’t run to the nearest Canadian Tire store for a package of nails. Seton’s boy heroes didn’t have a Mountain Equipment Co-op handy for bows and arrows.

 

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