Tag Archives: culture

The Last Mile, by j

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We’re getting ready to leave on a jet plane (get those margaritas ready!), but before we do- I saw these amazing videos.

Happy Friday!

A 15 year old boy’s poem. What the what?!

Attacking the Word “Gay”

This makes me want to watch “The Newsroom”.

Want to know what “mansplaining” is? You’ve already experienced. Like all the time.

Remember that irritating gossip reporter on ETalk, Lainey? Well, it turns out she gave a Ted Talk and it WAS ACTUALLY INTERESTING. She talks about fidelity, women, slut shaming, perceived homosexuality, masculinity and the phenomenon of mommyhood.

Mish Mash: Summer Edition, by j

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Well, hello there.  It has been another self imposed break for myself from blogging (little A it seems has taken a more severe hiatus).

What did you miss?  Not too much.  Just summer.

Some of us have been living it up, enjoying summer to its fullest potential, and others (like me) have been slogging through the southwestern Ontario heat to make the big bucks.

And yet again, we find ourselves at the end of August, looking at the tail end of summer wondering, what in the heck happened to the last two months.  It has been a fairly eventful summer, full of goodbyes/hellos/food/fun/family/work.

This is what you’ve missed from my life:

– Absolutley nothing.  As a student in mid-grad school I was given the opportuntity to work full time (rather than the .5 hour work week I had planned) this summer at the job.  Yea for my tuition bill, not so exciting for my summer.  Working hard 44 hour weeks makes me sleepy.  But that will be the end of my complaining- I have a job, and by Friday, I’ll have my fourth semester’s tuition in hand (Ha-llay-lu!).

Other than than that what have I been up to?

– an awesome weekend in Niagara with my favourite peeps

– an expensive trip to the Toronto Women’s Bookstore (woot!)

– corn shucking

– making killer fresh peach daquiris (any opportunity to get my aunt E drunken is an event that deserves copious amounts of run)

– kid-hanging-out-with-fun (except for the 6 year old who told me he wanted me to leave his house the other day…)

– dreaming about having my own apartment again (sidenote: I am totally appreciative of the gift of free living at my parents’ house…don’t read that as ungrateful…Dad, I’m looking at you)

– helped set up a blog here for a family member who will not be named (as she is not utlizing her wordpress tutorial I gave her).  We want snarky posts!

– book clubbin’ it up (“Best Laid Plans” by Terry Fallis last month…a hit)

– the Australians have descended (or ascended?  as they are on the bottom of the globe?)

– World Prisoner Justice Day in TO (heavy conference, but kind of amazing)

– M has been gone for almost two months!  Seems like yesterday she and FFD were broke down in Wawa.  I’m currently stewing over the fact that I am not leaving for Fort Fab next week with A.  She gets a whole week of vacay in a small northern town where they are mere minutes away from (what I hear) are the best long island ice teas west of Toronto.  Maybe that’s a good thing.  Because I do believes that FFD has only been around me when I have been inebriated.  My goal will be to remain stone cold sober then next time I see him.  The fact that I just wrote that being sober is “a goal” is perhaps a giant red flag that I will ignore.

– did I mention the 44 hour work weeks?

– dreaming of fall.  Yes, and I will not feel bad for it.  A and I had this convo last week.  We will not be silenced, you summer lovers.  We are lovers of fall.  HEAR US!  Don’t try and make us feel badly for loving crisp breezes, sweaters, hot apple cider and closed toe shoes.  We will not wane in our excited anticipation of the next couple of months!  So stop with your cries of “Just enjoy the sunshine, we’ll be in the snow before you know it” and chastizing us for not loving summer enough.  We’ve had just about enough of you.  STOP OPPRESSING US!

– started back at therapy…an expensive, but wonderful choice

Things that have not happened:

– those summer walks (although A and I did get a Saturday night stroll to the SuperStore at 10pm…living it up)

– one final mark from last semester has not popped up yet.  Are we surprised that it’s practicum related?  (Remember they’re kind of a hot mess)

– farmers’ marketing w/ dad, I could not say no to sleeping on Saturday mornings after a year of working at 9am on the weekend.  Although I will say I miss the free breakfast

– Toronto time, seems a waste when my fave Torontonian has left the Big Smoke for big stars up North!

Things to look forward to:

– starting my second internship next week!  Wahoo!  Eight months to go before I am a gen-u-ine MSW!

– fall, obvs.

– starting classes

– seeing my MSW peeps!  Living 1.5 hours away from school has its advantages, but a disadvantage?  Missing my people and our pub.

– high school bestie moving back to Ontario!  12 years is long enough, I command Newfoundland to return my beloved vegetarian!

– Oktoberfest…with bestie back in Ontario, I believe it is a sign that she is moving to the K-W area.

– my own home again.  currently salivating over the idea.  Sorry, dad.  This time around you will be invited more.  And I will make you meat dinners.  Despite the cost of animal protein.

Things that I am currently obsessed with:

– a food blog, “Joy the Baker”.  This only makes me dream of my own kitchen.  Although that’s ridiculous, as I live in a home with the nicest and most beautiful kitchen I’ve ever (and probably will ever) have.  But it’s not mine.

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Tomato cobbler with blue cheese biscuits.  This needs to happen.

– Teagan and Sara.  Obvs.

– cider, I’ve decided that Alexander Keith’s is my new fave, sorry Strongbow

– Michele Landsberg’s new book “Writing the Revolution”.  Slogging through, but ultimately fascinating.  In my dreams I imagine that Michele and Stephen Lewis are my family.

– Top Chef.  Sorry dad, that’s where all that bandwidth went this month.  But seriously, I’m obsessed.  Taking a break from the watching.

– My friends.  Currently smashing as much time as I can with all those lovelies before school starts.  Started today off by a lovely visit with this little one and her mama.

–  Adoption. Kind of liking that thought.  For now.

– when her new album will be dropped.  Can’t. Stand. Anticipation.

– we (and by “we” I mean “me”) bought “The Hunger Games” during the late night SuperStore run.  A-mazing.

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Paradise, by j

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A week ago our parents were in the South Pacific – Hawaii!

Dad told us all about the scenery.  Mom told us all about the poverty.  Par for the course.

Since the three of us couldn’t go (not all of us can go to paradise).  But living through their pictures is just as good, right?  Right?!

Oh, and I’m supposed to be working on my end of term papers.  So naturally, I’m blogging instead.

Trees on the beach

The Nut Farm (insert A’s fatal nut allergy joke and/or mental illness reference)

Pina coladas!

Pineapple Plantation (orchard? farm? bush?)

On the tip of the board

Fierce

Weee!

Ohhhh noooo!

Turtle.

Multiple turtles

A palace.  Obviously not now.  But it used to be.

Waterfall.  All digitized and shizz.

A lookout.

Sunset!

 “Bye paradise!  Next time I’ll remember to bring my kids!  They deserve a vacation waaay more than I do!  Gotta go!  Off to Ireland.”

Stephen Lewis. If you haven’t seen this- please watch now, by j

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If you had the great chance to watch Jack’s funeral you would have gotten to see Stephen Lewis give the eulogy.  I’ve been able to see Stephen Lewis speak on a number of occasions.  I have seen a lot of different lecturers, but I’ve never seen a lecturer that is able to bring others to their feet with his eloquent and powerful words like Stephen Lewis.  He was the perfect choice.

I know that there are some who don’t get the reaction that has been going on in Canada this past week after learning of Jack’s passing.  Some think it was over the top or ridiculous.

I just think- thank goodness I live in a country where we mourn a public servant more than a pop star or a member of a royal family.

Thank goodness I live in a community that recognizes the great voice and optimism that was a man who brought an amazing amount of Canadians together to say that we were not happy with the status quo, we were not happy with the check and balances we had in place and dammit, we wanted to ensure that every decision in our country was made in good faith and keeping in mind equality, kindness and for crying out loud some fucking g-d common sense.

Some say that Jack’s final letter was politically charged and partisan.

What?  Of course it was politically charged and partisan.  What would expect from the leader of the opposition on his death bed?  He was a politician entering the most exciting and important role of his political life, Leader of the Opposition.  He didn’t get a chance to sit in Parliament and say what he wanted to in response to policies, bills and the like.  So he took pen to paper to ensure that his ideology was stamped in our collective conscious.  Does it surprise me that a lot of Canadians find themselves agreeing with what Jack wrote?  Of course not.  It’s hard to argue with the values of love and optimism.  And I think it’s something folks in this country have been missing for a while.

I love what Jack’s work and legacy has helped create this week.  Moments and spaces where people gathered to remember not just a leader of a political party, but a to remind ourselves of what we are capable of.  And in a time when our country is taking frightening steps towards U.S. style politics and policies, I think it is not a moment too soon.

But I will say one thing to all those wonderful people who took time to write messages, mourn Jack, and celebrate the work that he and so many others do:

I’m sorry we missed you on May 2nd.  I hope to see you on October 6th.

Please watch the eulogy below, and see what I mean about Lewis (text below):

 

Never in our collective lifetime have we seen such an outpouring, so much emotional intensity, from every corner of this country. There have been occasions, historically, when we’ve seen respect and admiration but never so much love, never such a shocked sense of personal loss.

Jack was so alive, so much fun, so engaged in daily life with so much gusto, so unpretentious, that it was hard while he lived to focus on how incredibly important that was to us, he was to us. Until he was so suddenly gone, cruelly gone, at the pinnacle of his career.

To hear so many Canadians speak so open-heartedly of love, to see young and old take chalk in hand to write without embarrassment of hope, or hang banners from overpasses to express their grief and loss. It’s astonishing.

Somehow Jack connected with Canadians in a way that vanquished the cynicism that erodes our political culture. He connected whether you knew him or didn’t know him, whether you were with him or against him.

Jack simply radiated an authenticity and honesty and a commitment to his ideals that we know realize we’ve been thirsting for. He was so civil, so open, so accessible that he made politics seem so natural and good as breathing. There was no guile. That’s why everybody who knew Jack recognized that the public man and the private man were synonymous.

But it obviously goes much deeper than that. Jack, I think, tapped into a yearning, sometimes ephemeral, rarely articulated, a yearning that politics be conducted in a different way, and from that difference would emerge a better Canada.

That difference was by no means an end to rancour, an end to the abusive, vituperative practice of the political arts. The difference was also, and critically, one of policy — a fundamentally different way of viewing the future of Canada.

His remarkable letter made it absolutely clear. This was a testament written in the very throes of death that set out what Jack wanted for his caucus, for his party, for young people, for all Canadians.

Inevitably, we fastened on those last memorable lines about hope, optimism and love. But the letter was, at its heart, a manifesto for social democracy. And if there was one word that might sum up Jack Layton’s unabashed social democratic message, it would be generosity. He wanted, in the simplest and most visceral terms, a more generous Canada.

His letter embodies that generosity. In his very last hours of life he wanted to give encouragement to others suffering from cancer. He wanted to share a larger, bolder, more decent vision of what Canada should be for all its inhabitants.

He talks of social justice, health care, pensions, no one left behind, seniors, children, climate change, equality and again that defining phrase, “a more inclusive and generous Canada.” All of that is entirely consistent with Jack’s lifelong convictions. In those early days of municipal politics in Toronto Jack took on gay and lesbian rights, HIV and AIDS, housing for the homeless, the white ribbon campaign to fight violence against women and consecrate gender equality once and for all.

And of course a succession of environmental innovations, bike lanes, wind power, the Toronto atmospheric fund — and now Michael, his progressive and talented son, as councillor can carry the torch forward.

And then came his tenure as president of the Canadian Federation of Municipalities, where he showed that growing deftness of political touch in uniting municipalities of all sizes and geographic locations, winning their recognition of the preeminence of cities and the invaluable pillar of the public sector. Jack made the leap to federal politics look easy.

The same deeply held principles of social democracy that made him a superb politician at the city level, as I know, transferred brilliantly to federal politics. And also, from the many wonderful conversations we had together, I know led him to a formidable commitment to internationalism.

He was fearless in his positions once embraced. Thus, when he argued for negotiations with the Taliban to bring the carnage in Afghanistan to an end he was ridiculed but stood firm. And now it’s conventional wisdom. I move to recall that Jack came to the New Democratic Party at the time of the imposition of the War Measures Act, when tanks rolled into the streets of Montreal and civil liberties were shredded, and when the NDP’s brave opposition brought us to our nadir in public opinion.

But his convictions and his courage were intertwined — yet another reason for celebrating Jack and for understanding the pain and sadness with which his death has been received.

Above all — and his letter makes this palpably clear — Jack understood that we are headed into even more perilous economic times. He wanted Canadians to have a choice between what he described as the unfairness of an economy that excludes so many from our collective wealth, and an economy that would embrace equity, fairness, balance and creative generosity.

This was the essence of the manifesto. That’s why he insists that we’re a great country, but we can be a better one — a country of greater equality, justice and opportunity. These were not rhetorical concepts to Jack. They were the very core of his social democratic philosophy. He was prepared to do ideological battle, but as all things with Jack there was nothing impulsive or ill-considered.

He would listen as he always listened — he was a great listener — he would synthesize thoughtfully as he always did, and he would choose a political route that was dignified, pragmatic and principled. He was so proud of his caucus and what they would do to advance the agenda of social democracy.

He cultivated and mentored every member of that caucus, and as the country will see, that will speak volumes in the days ahead.

The victory in Quebec — and I will be followed by a eulogist in the francophone language — the victory in Quebec was an affirmation of Jack’s singular personal appeal, reinforced by Quebec’s support for progressive values shared by so many Canadians. And his powerful belief and trust in youth to forge the grand transformation to a better world is by now legendary. Indeed, the reference to youth spawns a digression.

From time to time, Jack and I would meet in the corridors of my foundation, where his supernaturally competent daughter Sarah works, and we would invariably speak of our grandchildren. You cannot imagine — I guess you saw it in the video — the radiating joy that glowed from Jack as he talked of Sarah’s daughter, his granddaughter Beatrice, and when he said as he often said that he wanted to create a better world for Beatrice and all the other Beatrices to inherit, you instantly knew of one of his strongest and most compelling motivations.

He was a lovely, lovely man. Filled with laughter and affection and commitment. He was also mischievous and musical, possessed of normal imperfections but deeply deserving of the love you have all shown. His indelible romance with Olivia was beautiful to behold, and it sustained them both.

When my wife and I met with the family a few hours after Jack died, Olivia said, as she said in the video, that we must look forward to see what we all can accomplish together.

I loved Jack’s goodness and his ideals in equal measure. Watching all of you react so genuinely to his death, the thousands upon thousands who lined up for hours to say a last goodbye in Ottawa and Toronto, it’s clear that everyone recognized how rare and precious his character was.

We’re all shaken by grief but I believe we’re slowly being steadied by a new resolve and I see that resolve in words written in chalk and in a fresh determination on people’s faces. A resolve to honour Jack by bringing the politics of respect for all, respect for the Earth and respect for principle and generosity back to life.

My wife Michele reminded me of a perfect quote from the celebrated Indian novelist, activist and feminist Arundhati Roy. Jack doubtless knew it. He might have seen it as a mantra. “Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day I can hear her breathing.”

Thank you Jack.

Warsaw…An Education in Communism and Landmines, by j

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Eleven days ago I started off on a Eastern European jaunt to get to know Poland.  Whenever I would tell people I was going on vacation this was the standard conversation:

Co-worker/colleague/friend/stranger: (very excited) Where are you going on your vacation?

Me:  Poland!

Co-worker/colleague/friend/stranger: (deflated) Why?

I know that the appeal of Poland is not apparent to the unenlighted.  However, if you take 30 minutes to learn about the country I think your opinion would drastically change.

The country, or at least significant parts of it, were destroyed by the Nazi in WWII.  A giant group of youth in Warsaw started a fantastical, yet doomed uprising.  Ghettos were plentiful from 1939-1945, as was the systematic killing of Jews and Polish P.O.W.s.  After the Nazis were expelled and the end of WWII, communism settled in for a nice long stay in Poland.  In 1978 a Polish pontiff was appointed in Rome, resulting in Poland making an enormous amount of statues out of Karol Wojtyla.

And it’s the land of pierogies and kielbasa.  Need I say more?

So, last fall when my aunt emailed me one of her very wordy emails asking if I wanted to go to Poland I paused.  In a previous life I spent a large amount of time learning and reading about the Holocaust and had recently developed a love of saurkraut. 

And 10 zlotys equal 4 Canadian dollars.  And my uncle works for an airline (Standby ticket price? Yes please!).  So I said yes and was on my way.

Our first stop (after one night in Frankfurt, Germany) was in Warsaw, the capital of Poland.  Apparently the royal family moved the capital from Krakow to Warsaw about 400 years ago.  From what we gathered Krakow still isn’t over the betrayal.

Warsaw was an interesting town.  It was leveled during WWII, so all of it is either reconstructed towns to make it look “old” or communist-esque buildings that look sad (and made me feel sad).

I definitely feel like we saw all there was of Warsaw, we didn’t need more than 2 days in the capital.

At times this city made me feel depressed, it’s seen a lot of crappy situations.  Ugly buildings, and the old looking buildings were newer than some here at home.  However, after thinking about it some more the city of Warsaw is actually more resilient that I first thought.  This is a town that has been through an intense amount of destruction.  First the Nazis bomb the shit out of it, then the Communists create a grey, boring and oppressive town.  All that and Warsaw was still bustling and has come out on the other side intact and with almost a stoic “fuck you” attitude.  Warsaw is not going anywhere and has outlived Nazis and Commies.  Boo-ya.

So here are the Warsaw pictures…enjoy!

Old Town (I over exposed it...now it's arty).

 

"Charles de Gaulle" Roundabout....they LOVED that guy.

The Polonia Palace...our hotel...nice.

 

Jazz bar in Warsaw (did you know that jazz is HUGE in Poland? Yes, it is.)

 

Warsaw!

 

A Portion of the Ghetto Wall in Warsaw Old Town Wall (reconstructed)

 

Sign on the Warsaw Ghetto Wall

The Palace of Culture. Built by Stalin as a "gift" to Poland. As our driver told us, "It is a very bloody gift we are still paying for." Deep cab driver. Very deep.

A church on Nowy Swiat with a photo of their favourite Pole, JPII

 
 

The Warsaw Uprising Monument

 

Market Square...showing a movie of Warsaw being destroyed...kind of a downer.Warsaw's Barbican (gates to the city)