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Over the last ten days I have watched -- reluctantly, I admit -- parts of the Democratic and Republican national conventions in the U.S.
Long ago, I had to write essays to “compare and contrast” Shakespeare’s sonnets with, say, Wordsworth’s. Or John Milton’s metaphors versus T.S. Eliot’s.
It can be an illuminating exercise. But it’s easier when you can lay out two manuscripts side by side.
I wish technology enabled me to compare the two political conventions side by side. Perhaps with 30 seconds of this audio, then 30 seconds of that one. So that I could flip back and forth, instead of relying on memory of two separate events.
Still, the most obvious difference was visual. The Republican convention paid lip service to the COVID-19 pandemic, but its body language didn’t. During the speeches by both Melania and Donald Trump, Republican dignitaries sat cheek-to-cheek, buttwise. No physical separation. No masks that I could see. Lots of handshaking and back-patting.
The Democratic convention didn’t have masks either. But they didn’t need them. No one else in the room – they actually practiced isolation.
Categories: Sharp Edges
Tags: Trump, Democratic, Republican, Biden
“Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be,” Yogi Berra said. Or maybe he didn’t. Berra is like Mark Twain -- the more outrageous the quote, the more likely it will be attributed to one of them.
Or to Pogo.
Pogo was the loveable possum invented by cartoonist Walt Kelly, in 1948. Pogo’s most famous quote is “We has seen the enemy, and he is us.” People quote it who have never read Kelly’s comic strip.
Forty-five years after Pogo last appeared in newspapers, some of his other quotations seem oddly prescient:
· “Having lost sight of our objectives, we redoubled our efforts.”
· “If you can’t win, don’t join ‘em.”
· “Don’t take life so serious. It ain’t nohow permanent.”
· “We are confronted with insurmountable opportunities.”
Categories: Soft Edges
Tags: Pogo, Peanuts, L'il Abner, Fearless Fosdick, Kelly, Capp, Schulz
On Thursday, federal Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau announced a $50-million program to get surplus perishable food products to vulnerable people during the pandemic.
According to a CBC news report, “Bibeau said 12 million kilograms of food that otherwise would have been wasted, including one million fresh eggs, would go to families.
“Surplus fruit, vegetables, meat and seafood was generated because the COVID-19 crisis shut down much of the restaurant and hospitality industry, leaving producers with unprecedented surpluses.”
Sounds good. Except that a lot of that surplus isn’t in a warehouse somewhere, easy to access. It’s still on the ground.
Another report, from Global News, says. “The Okanagan agriculture industry, especially orchards and farms, is struggling to find enough workers to harvest their crops.”
Fruit left on the trees will not even enter Bibeau’s program of getting food to families and food banks.
Tags: Mexico, Farmworkers
In the Bible, I find only two instances of come-hell-or-high-water friendships.
David and Jonathan were more than buddies. Jonathan risked the royal wrath of his father King Saul by befriending David.
Ruth and Naomi seem also to have been more than mother and daughter-in-law. Ruth could have abandoned Naomi and returned to her own people. But the two stuck together, and eventually Ruth became David’s great-grandmother.
The other instances commonly cited aren’t as clearly “friendships of the good.” Elijah and Elisha were mentor and pupil. Moses and Aaron, Mary and Elizabeth, Abraham and Lot, all had family ties.
Paul built friendships with his missionary companions Barnabas, Timothy, and Mark. But he also quarrelled and split angrily with them.
King Herod valued his conversations with John the Baptist. But it’s hard to call it friendship when one of you is chained to the wall.
Tags: Bible, Friendship, Aristotle
Carlton Street in Toronto starts at Yonge Street’s frenzy of retailing. Carlton then moves west, crossing Church Street’s gay bars and the former upper-crust mansions along Jarvis Street. Past the tropical greenhouses of Allan Gardens, the stone fortress of St. Luke’s United Church on Sherbourne Street, and Bleeker Street where, in the early 1990s, prostitutes flashed breasts and crotches at passing drivers.
It is, like Canada, a mosaic of cultures.
But one building stood out.
The original brick had been painted white. It had massive iron bars on all its windows. A heavy wrought-iron fence. High powered lights. A security camera over the front door.
Tags: Zundel, Holocaust, Hiroshima, Holomodor, paranoia
Harvest times tend to come along all at once. I went out last week to offer volunteer services to my vegetable garden, and realized that the peas, raspberries, onions, and potatoes all needed attention at the same time.
I know how to pick and shell peas. I know how to pick raspberries. But I realized I didn’t have a clue about the right time to pull onions or dig potatoes.
So I called a friend. Who is, fortunately, kind enough not to laugh at my ignorance.
“You need to bend the tops of the onions over,” she said.
The tops of my onions had fallen over already, on their own.
“Then you can pull them,” she said. “But they’ll need to be dried.”
Tags: learning, onions, potatoes, osmosis
Dying is never fun. I think I can safely say that, although I suppose there may be people who gather together for some kind of final bacchanalia as they expire.
As Peggy Lee sang, long ago, “If that’s all there is, my friend, then let’s keep dancing. Let’s break out the booze, and have a ball…”
But such a party would, I imagine, be only a way of suppressing their fear of dying.
Those who have been close to a dying person know what it’s like. Pain, even with constant medication. Helplessness. Loss of independence. Loss of control. Loss of memory. Bewilderment. Confusion. Sometimes calm resignation, sometimes anger and bitterness.
Tags: COVID-19, children, starving
We took Joan Taylor home two weekends ago.
The four remaining members of her family – her daughter, two grandchildren, and I, her husband – drove her ashes 500 km and five mountain passes back to Kootenay Lake, where she had grown up.
She had been clear, all through her leukemia, that she wanted to be cremated, not buried.
“What do you want done with your ashes,” we asked her, in her final months.
“I don’t care,” she said. “I won’t be there.”
Oddly enough, those were the same words my father used, when I asked him the same question. A few days later, he had second thoughts. He wanted his ashes scattered in his favourite fishing river.
Tags: Kootenay Lake, ashes, cremation, Crawford Bay
Until early July, B.C. had been a model for North America. This province was the first to be hit by the pandemic; it was the first to “flatten the curve” and bring infections under control. B.C.’s interior had no new cases in weeks.
And then around Canada Day, a bunch of younger people gathered at private parties in two Kelowna resort hotels. Some of those people later visited two other sites where infected individuals were present.
As a result, around 300 new cases have been identified. And around 1000 people are now in self-isolation because of the possibility of having been infected.
And those figures, admits Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, are “absolutely going to go higher.”
Tags: Kelowna, COVID-19, mammals
He got cancer. A rare kind of cancer, his doctor told him. He knew he was looking death in the eye.
He remembered an old saying: “There are no atheists in foxholes.” When bullets zip past your head, you don’t turn to philosophical theories for comfort.
And he realized that no matter how sincere his convictions about a God who was inside, outside, and everywhere, a God embodied in the world and in him, at that moment what he wanted was a God who could do something about his cancer. A God who was more than an abstract understanding.
He realized he still yearned for that God “out there.”
Tags: God, fear, cancer