Pop culture

Hedgehog therapy

In a world currently plagued by COVID-19, falling stock markets, the condo insurance crisis in B.C., protests and rampages and climate destruction and possibly the end of life on earth as we know it, today I would like to talk to you about hedgehogs.

Up until this past Christmas, I never gave hedgehogs any thought. I might have seen them in a children’s book when I was a child, but other than the boxes of chocolate hedgehogs that Purdy’s Chocolates sells, I never think of hedgehogs. Do you?

Oh, on second thought, I’ve already lied to you. I guess there was that one day last fall when I wondered whether I might consider getting a hedgehog as a pet since I can’t have a real pet, a cat or a dog, in my apartment which I consider to be a human rights slight. 

Then I found out that hedgehogs are nocturnal and I am an early-to-bed, early-to-rise creature and I didn’t want the spiky little thing running over me or manically racing for the edge of an imaginary cliff on its hedgehog wheel at 4 a.m. during a strenuous workout right smack dab in the middle of my preferred hours of shuteye.

At Christmas, I thought I would give a few neighbours on my floor in my apartment building Christmas cards. Rummaging  through my Christmas box, I came across some cute cards from years gone by. There was a quaintly illustrated picture of a stylized hedgehog on these cards. I don’t actually recall what the hedgehog was doing or what the card said or what hedgehogs have to do with Christmas at all, but it was a Christmas card so I wrote something in each of them and slipped them under the doors of a few neighbours.

The next time I ran into one of my neighbours, she thanked me for the card. She proceeded to tell me how she thought it was very strange that I should give her a card with a hedgehog on it since she’d just returned from France, she may have said Normandy, and every night, through the mist in the backyard, they made a ritual of watching for the hedgehogs. The spunky, spiky little ones would never disappoint. In turn, I found her story a little odd since in my research on whether to get a pet hedgehog or Erinaceinae, I thought it said that you weren’t likely to spot a hedgehog during the winter months because a little like bears, they hibernate, albeit less intensely.

When she told me her story, I had to remind myself that hedgehogs were actually real. They weren’t just cartoon characters or stuffed animals or chocolates in triangular boxes waiting to be devoured. I smiled inside with  contentment learning that somehow my choice in card had been so innocently spot on.

Before Valentine’s Day, in my local Pharmasave, there were a bunch of hand drawn cards and it said on the back that the artist was a mere 13 years old and a James Bay resident. These cards were wonderful and the first one I spotted was of two hedgehogs, one giving the other a single rose, the rose in the shape of a heart. It was so damn cute. What is it with hedgehogs lately, I thought to myself as I bought the card. That was hedgehog coincidence numero trois!

Yesterday in my Saturday wanderings, I was at Munro’s, a local iconic bookstore adjoining Murchies, a local iconic tea shop. I was doing what you do there: scanning and browsing and considering, and I came across a package of things called “Book Buddies.” And to think I’ve always considered the book all the “buddy” anyone would ever need. I didn’t know what these “Book Buddies” were so I had to read the package. I thought they were bookmarks. But as I took a closer look, I realized they were perfectly useless post-it notes for your book in case you had an epiphany during your reading.

This particular package of “Book Buddies” when I looked even more closely, contained paper hedgehogs. What is going on here? There they were again. Three hedgehogs of varying shades. “Helpful Hedgehogs” the marketing said. And they even had plucky names: Henry. Stucky. And Frenchie.  How could I not be charmed?

Sometimes, it’s these inane moments that bring such joy in their innocence and the uselessness of something like a Hedgehog post-it note for your book, with only enough space to write a single word, that can make an ordinary day almost sublime.

How would I use these? What one special, cryptic word would I write to myself that could be so significant and necessary? Someone had killed a tree for this? Would “Kaboom” suffice on page 35? How about “Wow” for page 42? Page 240: “Kowabunga?” Page 350: “Hegderama?” You see? Useless! Utterly useless.

But having said that, can I just say, I’ve come to understand how lowering one’s expectations is a highly under-rated exercise, and one that I partake in almost every single day.

Maybe we should all learn to be happy with the small coincidences and the weirdness of that unspoken but well known life law. You know the one. The one whereby as soon as something–a name, a word, a car– enters your awareness, especially when you’ve never previously given it two thoughts or even knew of its existence, it will pop up everywhere. Like a hello from a long lost friend, you will feel like everything you need is suddenly in that moment. For a few seconds you will be very happy and for a change that will be enough.

Taking the toxic out of masculinity and femininity

I heard that term toxic masculinity the other day, which of course I’ve heard before, but this time for the first time ever, I thought to myself, Ouch!

It could be that I felt that pang of emotion because I spend most of my weekdays with guys who seem to have more feminine qualities in many instances than the females they work with and I include myself in that assessment.

They’re quiet. They’re thoughtful. They’re intelligent. They read a lot. They have excellent manners. I feel like they barely take up any psychological space at all which is a rare and precious quality even though it sometimes leaves me wondering how all that restraint impacts them. Do they go home at night and beat the hell out of their childhood stuffed animals after biting their tongues all day long?

If there was a toxic masculinity scale, I’m sure they’d fall within the under 5 percentile. They’ve all probably even been victims of the reality behind the term.

On the other hand, our leader, a female, while very feminine in appearance has no trouble pulling out the yang when she needs to. She often yells out between walls when she wants to talk to someone like she’s some old grizzled print editor from a 1940s newsroom. She does have a really good sense of humour but in order to be funny, it does help to not be overly concerned about political correctness, so she isn’t.

And then there’s me. Let’s just say, should toxic masculinity raise its entitled head anywhere within the vicinity of our cubicles, it would be smacked down faster than unevenly matched opponents during a wrestling match in a high school gymnasium!

Toxic masculinity is all about power and entitlement to that power and then blindness to each of those things and the impact of those qualities on all those around who are being impacted by it.

It’s always confused me that men still have all the power in the formal world when it seems like women have almost all the power in interpersonal relationships. Or maybe that’s just true of the people I know. Or maybe it just looks like that observing people’s intimate relationships from the outside. 

It made me wonder what toxic femininity looks like. Helplessness. Pretending to be less intelligent than you really are. Talking about nails to an extreme. Expecting dates to pick up the tab even when you make more money than they do. Using sexuality as a manipulation tool. I wonder what else might fit into the category.

There are those who argue that there is no such thing as toxic femininity because all femininity is a response to toxic masculinity and the imbalance of power that has resulted from it.  This assumes that everyone in the world is cis-gendered.

As you can imagine, I’m not here to defend men, but it would still hurt to have a term that trashes an entire gender applied to oneself as an individual, especially if you’ve been a victim of that reality yourself. 

Here is a way more assertive, insightful and sometimes humorous reflection on toxic femininity in a feminist magazine I’d never read before called Bust.

And here’s a history of the term toxic masculinity in a sometimes hard to understand article in the Atlantic.  

You’ll never get this time back so don’t blame me if you click the links.

I liked thinking about this topic through these articles even though there are way TOO MANY ADS getting in the way.

Top of Mind 2020

1. Privilege  Educate yourself about what the term privilege means and how it’s bigger than you, yourself and oh yeah, you again.

2. Gender Pronouns

If you don’t already know, discover why personal pronouns matter and what it means to not just be okay with them but how respect for others is inherent in using them.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9iKHjl5xAaA

 3. United National Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: https://www.un.org/development/desa/indigenouspeoples/wp-content/uploads/sites/19/2018/11/UNDRIP_E_web.pdf

 4. Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, Final Report: https://www.mmiwg-ffada.ca/

5. The #Me Too Movement in Canada

6. Climate and Earth

7.  The Sustainable Way

The fastest trip to Japan from Vancouver

I spent most of this past weekend at the Powell Street Festival which has got to be one of the best entertainment deals in Vancouver taking place at Oppenheimer Park and the streets around it with events at the Firehall Arts Centre, the Japanese Language School, and the Vancouver Buddhist Temple.

This area was home to the largest concentration of Japanese people in Vancouver prior to WWII before they were banished from the West Coast in Canada and the U.S. as a result of Japan’s bombing of Pearl Harbour and a build up, prior to that, of racism and fear-mongering.

I had to get my little fix of Takoyaki (Osaka Balls),  those tasty street vendor treats that instead of the traditional style which are filled with octopus, these are filled with shrimp and scallops, a creamy middle with a crunchy deep-fried outer and with fish shavings on top. I stayed traditional but you can get the wasabi version or with mayo. 

So many interesting offerings  at The Firehall Arts Centre. We were introduced to a HAPA comic from L.A., Katie Malia and her Almost Asian vignettes which are being picked up by Netflix in the near future.

Listened to Dr. Asato Ikeda from Japan talk about a Third Gender in early modern Japan, a spin off from an exhibit at the ROM in 2016 A Third Gender: Beautiful Youths in Japanese prints. Descriptions of wakashu or boys between the ages of 12-18 who fulfilled the pleasures of men and women and how to hear about that part of cultural history in Japan without imposing contemporary North American values on that part of Japanese history which has been kept under wraps mostly because, if I understood the speaker correctly, of how it fits into the Kabuki theatre in the Edo period. Since Kabuki has been designated the official theatre of Japan, there’s a reluctance to acknowledge the roots of it in this expression of sexuality. Super interesting!

Introduced to two men (both Gaijin or caucasian) Jay Rubin and Ted Goossen, Americans who are elders in the translation of Japanese literature. They spoke about the novelist Haruki Murakami and mostly that stood out for me because it’s always amazing to me how some people just fall into their professions without any effort on their part and that becomes their entire life.

Admired that Joy Kogawa who is looking very fit and in her eighties was open to participating in an experimental performance that included her poetry, a young Hapa poet Soramaru Takayama and a wonderful mime (whose name I can’t find, unfortunately)  as part of a 20 minute performance.

 

Also took in two interesting short films called Born with it and Blasian Narratives about Black-Asian kids’ experiences. I’d never heard the word “Blasian” before.

Listened to a wonderful shakuhachi player who resides on the Sunshine Coast.  Alcvin Ryuzen Ramos, is one of the leading teachers and performers of the shakuhachi in North America who teaches at the Bamboo-In Retreat Centre.  His performance was exquisite and a rare treat. I love the breathy, haunting sounds of the shakuhachi, an instrument that may be the hardest instrument to learn taking years of mentorship and practice.

And of course George and Noriko, a crowd favourite. He’s known as the Japanese cowboy and she’s the Tsugaru shamisen player. Together they have a fun and unique sound. 

Taiko. Walking tours. Ikebana. Martial Arts. My god. It’s a veritable trip to Japan without the hell of the long flight.

Must do a shout out to Leanne Dunic (seated in photo) who led the curation in her first year as the new artistic director.  It’s been a busy year for her. She’s a writer, singer and multi-instrumentalist who plays with the band The Deep Cove. Her book To Love the Coming End published by Chin Music Press was released this year as well.  The weekend was awesome and it didn’t cost a dime. The only thing wrong with it was that I didn’t win the trip to Japan for two or dinner for six put on by Hapa Izakaya restaurant chefs.

Fermented beverages, lemon macarons and 77KFREEZE

June 2, 2017

Dear Diary,

A friend, Karen, alerted me to a free course at the new Tommy Douglas Library on Kingsway near Edmonds which is a small library but a bright open space. Very inviting indeed.

There was a workshop there on fermented beverages on Monday night. Now I know what you’re thinking. What miniscule little pocket of tree huggers would check THAT out? Well, there were close to 30 people there. And not who I was expecting. A multicultural bunch for sure, more middle-aged than young.

A young twenty-something female, a Ginger, whose name I didn’t catch, and who, as you might guess, liked to use the word “cool!” with fervour, was sharing her considerable knowledge, minus the not very well thought out decision to go around the room first and have people introduce themselves. That left about an hour for her to share the knowledge we’d come for, but when you know better you do better.

She was sharing recipes for Kombucha, Kefir, and Ginger Ale with Ginger Bug. A while ago Karen had shared some Kefir culture with me because I love Kefir (pronounced Kuh FEAR, not KEE fer)  and thought it might be even better to make it myself until I realized that with one person, that’s a lot of Kefir. It wasn’t long before I felt like a slave to the kefir grains, like I was doing that experiment from high school to teach you what a drag it is to have children (or a boiled egg) that you’re responsible for 24/7.

Many people were there to learn how to make Kombucha and other fermented stuff, even Kimchi, for the benefits of the probiotics and the taste. Kombucha is made from black or green tea, non caffeinated. I learned a new word – SCOBY – which stands for Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast. A SCOBY is critical for Kombucha.

As I sat there I was reminded of a drink called Sima made by the family I stayed with in Finland so many years ago and recollected that, amazingly, I’d kept the recipe. Here it is if you want to try it. Super simple.

SIMA (Recipe from Kuisma’s in Finland)

  • 2-1/2 litres water
  • 2 whole sliced lemons
  • 1/4 kilo brown sugar
  • 1/4 kilo white sugar
  • 1 tsp. yeast
  • raisins.

Boil the water. Add two whole sliced lemons, 1/4 kilo of brown sugar, 1/4 kilo of white sugar. Shake well. Leave sit for an hour. Add 2-1/2 litres of cold water. Add 1 tsp of yeast and shake. Let sit for 12 hours. Put through strainer squishing lemon juice out of lemon pieces. Put into bottles. Put two raisins in every bottle. Leave in fridge. When raisins rise to the top, it’s ready.

You can also check out Cultures for Health for all you need to get started with fermentation.

The young woman was starting her own company where she’ll be selling some of her fermented beverages and she’s part of a new social venture market that’s going to happen every Tuesday, 11-4, on Granville Island called Groundswell.

Artist Barb Webb at her opening at The Gallery at Queen’s Park in New West’s Queen’s Park.

On Wednesday, I took a few photos at The Gallery at Queen’s Park as I usually do once a month at the opening of a new art show. June’s show is Barbara Webb’s acrylic paintings called Nature of Layers. It was nice to have a full house at the gallery. The food was to die for, especially the lemon macarons made by her daughter, and can I just say, her two kids just had the nicest energy. I mean look at them. Don’t you just get the best feeling when you see them. No, they’re not twins.

Spy those lemon macarons? To die for! Made by Barb Webb’s daughter.

 

Went out with Colleen last night to a teeny, weeny Lebanese place called The Jam Jar on Commercial drive. Good energy. Very friendly service. The food was good and there was one dish we had that was super delish called Kafta Skillet. I loved that one.  A lot of people on TripAdvisor raved about the deep fried cauliflower tossed in pomegranate molasses but I wasn’t crazy about it. A small appetizer of it would have been good enough given the strong taste.

Employee behind the cloud making our frozen dessert using liquid nitrogen.

Afterwards, we wandered into the place, almost next door, called 77KFreeze and for $8 you too can wait to get some ice cream made from a liquid nitrogen process. You can choose from a variety of liquid bases (cream, light cream, almond, soy, coconut, etc.) and then you add to that with fresh fruit (or they have their own suggested recipes) and then they put it in those metal cylinders and there’s lots of white clouds arising from their equipment and voila, frozen dessert. Good luck to them. It is a novelty.

Recently went to a place called Sula on Commercial Drive. Indian food. Now that is good. I would highly recommend it.

And now here we are: Full circle. The weekend’s winding back around faster than you can say Kalamazoo or What’s for dinner?

I’m not the C-word police [but I could be]

female anatomyIt’s not every day you get pulled aside by a 75-year-old woman celebrating her birthday who wants to read you a poem that she wrote and wants your opinion on whether the c-word should be left in or removed from a stanza.

“I removed it because I didn’t want to offend that older lady,” said the birthday girl nodding to the woman across the room fiddling with her hearing aid. I found that amusing since the even older woman with hearing difficulties wouldn’t have heard it anyway.

It’s weird that she should pick me to ask my opinion. Or maybe not. After all, I am sometimes referred to both affectionately and derisively by one close friend as The Presbyterian Nun.  Therefore staying true to my virtuous (uptight?) nature, I’m not about to be a big fan of the c-word even though I have read many of the arguments about how its reputation as the most shocking and taboo word in the English language derives from and represents misogyny and therefore we should, as owners of said part of anatomy, take it back. We should take back the c-word in a march or something and if we took back ownership of ourselves “down there” we’d happily be flinging out the c-word in casual conversation because we could, dammit! And with pride!

Of course, on closer examination, it’s not about us at all, or our anatomy. It’s about inequality and belief systems related to women’s sexuality and I guess we’d  known things had finally, actually changed in the world when the c-word loses all potency as the absolute worst thing to say to a woman.  It’s unlikely you or I will be alive to see that day.

For the record, I don’t like the b-word either. It’s probably my age but I’m regularly annoyed by the use of the word Bitch. Then again, I can’t say I typically throw around the word dick either but saying that to a guy certainly has less impact than the slap-across-the-face feeling that the c-word can provoke. Some guys would actually take it as a compliment.

I guess for me it’s more about feeling that such aggressive and angry language should be curbed in a world that’s elevated aggressive and angry to an art form, the Kama Sutra of anger.  If each one of us refrained from using these aggressive words, we could, to use an overused phrase that makes me feel somewhat ill, even if I wholeheartedly agree with it in principle: “Be The Change We Wish to See in the World.” PUHLEEZ!

So my vote was take it out. Nix the c-word from the poem.  In hindsight, I realized that it was actually the sentence that didn’t make sense and to C or not to C, was the secondary factor.

On a lighter note, I found this great joke off the First Presbyterian Church of Oneida New York website.

THREE NUNS WERE ATTENDING A YANKEES BASEBALL GAME.

THREE MEN WERE SITTING DIRECTLY BEHIND THEM.
BECAUSE THEIR HABITS WERE PARTIALLY BLOCKING THE VIEW,
THE MEN DECIDED TO BADGER THE NUNS,
HOPING THEY’D GET ANNOYED ENOUGH TO MOVE TO ANOTHER AREA.

IN A VERY LOUD VOICE,
THE FIRST GUY SAID,
“I THINK I’M GOING TO MOVE TO UTAH .
THERE ARE ONLY 100 NUNS LIVING THERE.”

THEN THE SECOND GUY SPOKE UP AND SAID LOUDLY,
“I WANT TO MOVE TO MONTANA .
THERE ARE ONLY 5O NUNS LIVING THERE!”

THE THIRD GUY YELLED,
“I WANT TO GO TO IDAHO .
THERE ARE ONLY 25 NUNS LIVING THERE!”

THE MOTHER SUPERIOR TURNED AROUND,
LOOKED AT THE MEN
AND IN A VERY “SWEET” AND CALM VOICE SAID,

“WHY DON’T YOU GO TO HELL…
THERE AREN’T ANY NUNS THERE.”

Oh, and for more information than you’ll ever need in this lifetime related to the C-word, check out this site by Matthew Hunt.

Sound like you’ve never experienced it

Basantasound2

I went to a talk last night by a young guy from Montreal named Adam Basanta. He describes himself as a sound artist, composer and performer of experimental music and he has an installation in New West’s New Media Gallery on the third floor of Anvil Centre.

I read the other day in the local community newspaper, The Royal City Record, that the curators of this new space in Anvil Centre actually used to work at the Tate Modern. Wow! Talk about having the crème de la crème of experience.

It was a small turnout, maybe 35 people, and Basanta, who is one of four sound artists in the exhibit, began to speak about his work related to experimental sound with a particular emphasis in his piece on feedback, but not in the way we’re all used to; not that unexpected siren from a microphone that rises like a banshee in a deafening way.

BasantaexhibitHis installation is part of OTIC: Systems of Sound. His emphasis on feedback had to do with space and tones and how humans’ presence in a space can change feedback and how he played with feedback to bring to our attention our experience in the world and of the sounds around us.

He had this really cool project, Positive Vibes, in Finland where he used a recorded voice of women saying “I love you all very, very much.” He tied that to a bunch of helium balloons and then floated it near people in public spaces and watched as they reacted to this disembodied recording telling them they were loved. I love weird projects like that.

As he spoke I was both challenged by the topic in terms of its weirdness and a foreign way of thinking about sound, and then I was really heartened that in Canada, there’s still some money, apparently, to be found to encourage those who are approaching the arts in a way that calls on all their courage and expertise to interpret and reinterpret and challenge their own boundaries in order to challenge that of any audience.

It’s worth the exercise to be open enough to expose yourselves to others’ far out ways of approaching their passions.

I realized as I was listening to him,  my own personal resistance to weirdness, to foreign and difficult approaches, was rising. Being able to be aware of that, acknowledge it, and then let it wash over me and feel it lessen, is perhaps really getting closer to the essence of the kind of curiosity required to accept others’ interpretation of all the shared worlds that exist on the planet.

The exhibit, which will undoubtedly be richer if you have someone to interpret it as we did last night, runs at Anvil Centre to March 20, 2016.