Archive for the 'Canada' Category



Born Orphans, Died Childless

Mating Pair of Sockeye Salmon, Adams River, BC, October 2010

Sockeye salmon have a four-year life cycle. The hatchlings spend their first year in the streams and connected lake systems of their birth and three years roaming far-and-wide in the northern regions of the Pacific Ocean. In the late autumn of their fourth year, they return to the streams of their birth – by imprinted sense of smell for the terroir of the natal drainage, perhaps along with some combination of sensitivity to magnetism and light polarization, or other Hogwartsian capabilities – to spawn and die.

In British Columbia, approximately half of the annual sockeye run occurs in the Adams River, 12 kms of class II water in the heart of the Shuswap, 450 km upstream of the sea. The fish make this arduous journey in five or six days. By the time they reach their spawning grounds they are exhausted, having taken no nourishment since leaving the ocean. They have also turned color, from silver to brilliant crimson.

Because the return of the sockeye is cyclical, the runs are not of equal proportions each year. One year in four is an enormous run, followed by a lesser run, and then two small runs. This year was a big year in the cycle. How big? Perhaps the biggest run of sockeye in 100 years.

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Postcard to a Stranger

Vancouver Art Gallery (VAG) Fuse, i want to be alone (with you), Postcard to a Stranger

The Vancouver Art Gallery hosts periodic late-night parties they call “FUSE”. In addition to the ongoing fare of the current exhibitions, VAG brings in musicians, dancers and other performance artists; and there is usually an element of participatory art, as well. At the FUSE party around Halloween, for example, the guest-involvement piece had professional make-up artists from the Vancouver film industry creating gruesome wounds and fantastical face-paintings. At the most recent FUSE, entitled and themed “i want to be alone (with you)”, the project involved the writing and receiving of postcards to and from another guest, assigned at random.

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Enjoy Your Stay

Peace Arch US - Canada Border Crossing
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The US – Canada “Peace Arch” border crossing, south of Vancouver, has always been a slightly Kafkaesque experience. In fact, until I got a second, “clean” passport (in which I don’t allow visa stamps from the Islamic Republic of Anywhere) and the new passport card, I used to be routinely “orange carded” upon entering the States, requiring interviews with various INS morons about my activities in countries they couldn’t pronounce or find on a well-labeled map.

My favorite television commercial from the Olympics nicely parodies the experience of crossing into the US from Canada.

My experience going the other way has always been different. Sure, Canadian Border agents are probably no smarter than their American counterparts, wear essentially the same uniforms, ask the same questions, and have the same concerns and jurisdiction. But there is a marked contrast in tone. The same questions asked accusingly by the American officers are asked politely and without any sense of prejudice by the Canadian officers. Going south, one is essentially told, “Okay, we’ll let you enter the US.” Going north, the tenor of the message is, “Welcome to Canada.”

This is a story of a northward crossing.

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Golden Olympics

Logo of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games

A week before the start to the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games, I had the temerity to wonder whether the experience would be fun for the city and its visitors. At the time, there were few tell-tales to be seen on the city streets. Now the games are concluded and I have absolutely no difficulty declaring them a resounding success.

VANOC put on a superb show, not only for the world’s best winter athletes but for Vancouver as well. The experience was inclusive, inspirational, and delightful. Much has been made, and will continue to be made, of the economic costs and benefits that go into hosting an Olympic Games. That accounting will play-out in the years to come and the ultimate judgment cannot be predicted with any certainty, one way or the other. But only the most Grinch-like observer, pushing an ulterior agenda, could say that these games were anything but marvelous.

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No Fun Olympics?

Rain-Soaked Olympic Rings in Vancouver

Last summer, in the face of the fabulously successful Summer Olympic Games in Beijing, I raised the question: Could India host an impressive Olympics? With the Winter Games now a scant two weeks away, that same question must be asked of Vancouver. Though I write this from my Vancouver home, I cannot say that I have a clue what the answer might be.

I assume than the Vancouver Olympic Organizing Committee (VANOC) has the infrastructure and logistical matters well taken care of. I’m sure the events will go-off in decent venues, visitors will find themselves well accommodated and transported, and that they’ll even overcome the snow shortage occasioned by the rotten luck of an Olympic year El Niño in the Pacific. But will it be any fun?

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Care

Face painting at the Vancouver Art Gallery during a Fuse event, October 2009

While America ties itself in knots in a farcical debate whether it will make health care available to all its citizens, here in Canada I am enrolled in the provincial Medical Service Plan, which covers all my basic health needs: emergent, urgent, preventative, and elective care. It costs $48 per month. Paperwork? My doctor’s office simply swipes my Care Card when I arrive, hands it back to me, and we’re done. Ask a Canadian what a deductible or co-pay is; they’ll just look at you with a blank stare.

And lucky thing I’m covered. Just look at that gash on my forehead!

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America Dreaming Small

american dream

What’s in it for me?

That’s the way Americans debate health care, just as it is the way we debate everything these days. What will it cost me? What will be my options? What will be the effect on my taxes? This is not an entirely absurd or venal approach. Self-interest is an appropriate prism through which to evaluate public policy. But this narrowness and solipsism illustrates the way in which America has personalized, and thereby stunted, what used to be called the American Dream.

The American Dream represented the idea that the United States was a place where any person could accede to whatever life their talent, ambition, and diligence would allow. It was about universal, common opportunity. Today, it is about my opportunities. It is the notion that I can succeed, I can acquire; and it’s every dog for themselves.

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Blasts from the Past

Man Up!
Man up you pussy!

... because the idiocy of manliness is an evergreen topic.

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Talking Turkey
how to cook a perfect turkey in half the time

... because Canada and the US will celebrate their Thanksgiving holidays and, regrettably and preventably, not 1-cook-in-10 will serve a decent turkey.

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Filial Piety Awareness Day
Kaki Tusler, Mother's Day Celebrant

... because everyday is Mother's Day.

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America Dreaming Small
American Dream

... because the American Dream seems but a distant memory, given the country's dominant ethos of small-mindedness.

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Serenity and Gratitude to Bring in the New Year
New Year's Eve at Tibetan Pavillion

... to remind us that not every mix of Tibetans and Western spiritual seekers has to be nauseating.

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Incredible Vision
Infinite Vision

... to celebrate the new edition of Infinite Vision published in India.

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Expelliarmus! Harry Potter and the Path to Gandhian Nonviolence
Expelliarmus, Potter, Gandhi, Nonviolence

... reprised because military strategy seems more cruel and less effective than ever -- and certainly there is a better way.

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India Going Nowhere Fast
Nano in Flames

... because cars are ruining Pondicherry, where I live. How badly are they fucking up your Indian town?

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Understanding the Gift Economy
Gift Economy Explained

... reprinted because more-and-more people seem want to understand the gift economy. (Yeah!)

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