Category Archives: Article of Interest

I will always remember

Saturday, the twenty-sixth of May, I had the privilege of attending the fifty-fifth anniversary celebration of the Lockerby Legion. As I sat there enjoying good fellowship among new friends, and old, an excellent meal, a few cold beers, and great entertainment, I took a little time to reflect on the ones who made, not only the amazing evening possible, but my freedom, and the freedom of every Canadian as well.

I owe our brave and gallant soldiers everything I have, for without their great sacrifice, I would not have the freedom to enjoy anything. I can do nothing for those whom have gone beyond the mysterious dark veil, but remember them, but I can speak out for the maimed, the wounded, the blind, and the lame.

I can try to shame our politicians, who sent them off to war, and then discarded them like trash, when they come back, missing arms, legs, and suffering from PTSD. I can hope and pray that they will give our soldiers everything they need, everything they deserve in order to put their shattered lives back as best they can. All of the shame, all of the blame doesn’t rest on the back of the government; we too carry our share, because we don’t speak out on their behalf.

I urge, no I beg everyone who reads this to write, or email your MP, and tell them unless they do something to help our wounded, our broken vets, and do it soon, that they better not come knocking on your door, asking for your vote when the next election rolls around, because you won’t give it to them.

To new Canadians, I bid you welcome to your new home, your new life, your new freedom, from whatever oppressive regime you came from. I ask you to pray,  at the rising and the going down of the sun for our soldiers who’ve been wounded, and who’ve died to provide you and your family with a fresh start. Without their gallant bravery, without their selfless sacrifice, you would still be suffering at the hands of some despot.

I urge you to embrace all that Canada has to offer, and not try to change our customs, or our faith. It is because of our inherent decency, because of our Christianity that we welcome you. I understand that you come from lands with different customs than we have, but before you start demanding that your wife and children have to follow the old rules, stop; reflect and ask yourself why you came to Canada in the first place. If your answer is, you came to have a better life for them, then let them embrace that better life. Let them enjoy every freedom that we have to offer.

If however you wish to cling to the old oppressive ways of your former country, perhaps you should consider returning to it, because it will be far easier to control your children and wife or wives there, than it is here. It will be easier to tell them how to dress, how to act, who to have for friends, and who your children are to marry as well.

If you stay here, you can expect that your girls will to want to be popular, want to wear makeup, want to dress the way Canadian girls do, and want to have boyfriends, because it is in their nature to do so.

Once again I bid you welcome, because you are, but only if you truly want to be a Canadian.

One last thought before I end this open letter. I make a promise now to the fallen, the forgotten, that as long as I draw breath, I will remember you. I will remember your great sacrifice, and be thankful. I also promise not to forget the soldiers coming home from another far off war, and do whatever is in my power to help them, even if it is no more than my poor attempt at writing poetry in their honour.

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Heads in the Sand

Tons of flotsam and jetsam, wending its way across the expanse of the Pacific Ocean have reached pristine Alaskan, and Canadian west coast shores, bearing unknown hazards, unknown risks, threatening to destroy fishing industries that have existed for decades , threatening the food supply, and the livelihood of first nations people, and whites alike.

Large buoys, small ones, buoys made from plastic, made from metal are flooding into inlets, washing up on sandy and rocky shores, and the worst of this rubbish, are the buoys made from Styrofoam, because small flakes falling off are ending up as dinner for the sea creatures at the lowest end of the food chain.

Without proper nutrition, they won’t have the strength to eluded larger predators, or have immune systems strong enough to fend off any disease this deluge of trash might carry with it, and in time, perhaps a short one, they’ll become extinct. This will have a catastrophic effect on the salmon, crabs, lobsters that depend on this food stock for survival, and in turn, it will deprive, whales, sharks, and even bears of sustenance.

It’s not as if this is an overnight phenomenon, because we’ve known about it since the tsunami washed over Japanese shores, smashing buildings, destroying villages, ripping fishing boats from their moorings, and dragging the resulting debris out to sea, as the contaminated waters receded.

To date, neither the American government, the Canadian government, or the Japanese government have come up with a policy or concrete plan to deal with this disaster, like all governments before them, it seems they’ve decided to play ostrich, stick their heads in the sand, or in some other place I won’t mention, and do nothing.

We the citizens of these three great countries have no reason to crow either, because we’ve sat idle on the sidelines, twittering away, playing our online games, texting meaningless messages, watching movies, indulging in other unimportant things, instead of protesting. Once upon a time people cared about the world around them, and made an effort to change things for the better. However, unfortunately for us and for the future it seems we’ve become nothing more than a self-serving, generation, intent on, bent on self-destruction.   It’s time for every one of us to pull our heads from the sand, or wherever else we’ve shoved them, and do something. At the very least we can write to our members of congress, write to our senators, write to our members of parliament, and let them know in no uncertain terms  how displeased we are with their inaction.

If a little brown-skinned man could free his country from the might of the British Empire,   without firing a shot, and a young black skinned preacher’s speeches ended segregation by peaceful means, just imagine how much we the people of three countries could change things, if for once we spoke out with one mind and one voice

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My Sudbury

On an April day forty-years ago I became a permanent resident of Sudbury and an employee of one of the largest nickel producers in the world, Inco. My first sight of the desolate, moon-like landscape, red slag piles lighting up the night, and smoke pouring into the air from three stacks made me wonder what was I getting into, and I made up my mind to spend as little time as possible here.

My first day on the job, and my first taste of the flavourful sulphur dioxide gas that hung in the air of the smelter complex only heightened my resolve to shake the dust of this place off my shoes as soon as I possibly could. Fortunately events and circumstances kept me here far longer than I intended to.

Sudbury grew, changed and mellowed over the years that sped past me like a comet through the night, and I have changed with it, my dislike of this Nickel City has faded, and been replaced by a genuine affection, a pride in it being my home.

I love to walk through the downtown core, and gather inspiration for writing. Many of the old stores are gone, yet vague memories of Zellers, Kresges, Woolworths, Silvermans, the Nickel Range Hotel, and other places push through the many years. New business have replaced the old, and in some-ways have made the heart of the city more enjoyable.

As I pass by places like Frank’s Delicatessen, Respect is Burning, Simons Gallery Grill, Nibbler’s, my olfactory senses drown in the mouth-watering aromas drifting out every-time their doors open. Even the most jaded pallet must surrender to the promise of delectable delicacies offered up by friendly and lovely waitresses.

I have several favourite spots where I pass idle moments writing a new poem, a short story, or a chapter of whatever book I am working on. The Fromageri on Elgin is a delightful place to spend part of an afternoon, trying out cheese from around the world. Whatever my taste is at the moment, whatever my craving is, whether it is for a sharp cheddar, or something of a milder nature, it is always available, and to wash it down, a cold beer or a glass of wine does the trick
quite nicely.

On a warm summer day I enjoy stopping at Peddlers for pint or two of Guinness, and if my stomach grumbles when the delicious odours coming from the kitchen overwhelms my senses, all it takes to put things right again is a burger, a steak sandwich, or one of their other offerings.

Another gem, another oasis where I while away an hour or two over a hot coffee, and a delicate, delightful piece of pastry, is The old Rock on Durham, and sharing this building is The Grand Ciel Bleu, a French bookstore and library. Every time I look at the stacks and stacks of books, with their seductive covers, some written by local authors, I wish that I had of taken the time to learn Canada’s other official language.

One thing that always surprises me is that the place isn’t overrun with teachers, parents of French and French immersion children and bilingual students from our university and college.

I don’t believe for a moment that young people no longer read, or that parents and teachers don’t encourage their charges to read. Perhaps why so few avail themselves of this hub of Francophone culture, the plethora of French novels and magazines, is that they don’t know about it.

Beneath the hustle, beneath the bustle of this made over city, there lingers a touch of that mining camp, of that boom town I once knew, and I hope it is always with us, because it would be a shame to lose such an important part of our heritage.

The next time you are downtown, spend a little time exploring the many things that our beautiful city of Sudbury has to offer.

 

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Vancouver Sunday

I caught my first glimpse of that beautiful city by the sea on a mid-April Sunday. My great journey into the unknown had brought me far from my northern Ontario homeland, still clutched fast by winter’s chill hand, brought me through the Canadian Shield, over pancake flat prairie land, through passes surrounded by rugged snow peaked mountains, along the Fraser River Valley, past Hell’s Gate and into summer.

Bright blooms of flowers I never knew existed decorated the landscape. Pretty girls in shorts, miniskirts, and colourful dresses were everywhere I looked, adding their own perfect beauty to the scenery.

The sweet music of bells form churches, from cathedrals peeling throughout the city, echoing back from towering mountains, with jagged peaks clad in snow, greeted me when I stepped off that greyhound into my new life. I think it was at that moment I fell in love with Vancouver, and fore ever after, when I hear bells ringing out, calling the faithful to worship, I am transported back to not only to my first, but all of my Vancouver Sundays. I have tried to put my feelings about those special days into the following poem.

Beautiful city
girded by mountains,
your soft sandy shores
brushed by the sea.

Church bells ringing,
echo back
from snow hatted mountains.
Sunday blankets you
deep with its grace.

I look down
from my perch
high on Grouse Mountain.
down through wispy white clouds,
sailing over your beautiful face.

Stanley Park,
sparkling emerald green
in the distance,
beckons me down
from my towering place.

I leave my eyrie,
descend from the mountains,
journey once more
across Lions Gate.

I wonder through wild woods,
stay in their fastness.
Birds sweetly singing
brighten my mind,
and all of my worries erase.

Time flows
like water, from
a spring on the mountains.
English Bay
sparkles with
frothy foaming waves.

Boats, with sails
coloured like a rainbow,
prance across the water,
dance towards me.

The face of the sun
touches the ocean,
setting a great fire over the sea.

I linger until
the final fingers
of flickering flames
ebb away on the tide,
linger long after
a haunting, melancholy
loon call, fades on the wind.

With regret I turn away
from fairyland enchantment.
My mind fills with wonder
of this Vancouver Sunday,
as I walk east on Hastings.

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Filed under Article of Interest, essay, narrative, non-fiction, Poem

Musings of a Novice Writer’s Mind

If I had of known how much I didn’t know about the mechanics and art of writing fiction before I started my first, but not last novel, I might never have opened my lap-top or dusted off my dictionary, an old dog-eared one from my primary school
days, or spent money from my fixed income on a brand new thesaurus for the occasion. Like all amateurs, or most of them anyway, I plunged into the writing game headfirst, plunged right into the deep end of the pool, without taking a deep
breath, without holding my nose, without pausing for a second thought.

What I didn’t know about writing would drown the state of Texas, overflow into the Gulf of Mexico, flood Louisiana, submerge New Mexico, spill over its border and fill up most of Arizona and what I did know would fit comfortably into a walnut
shell, with plenty of room left over for Ontario, Quebec, the Maritimes and most of, if not all of Newfoundland.

The short list of my writing knowledge and skills at that time are too small a thing to waste words on, but I will give an
honourable mention, or a dishonourable one, as the case maybe, to the long list of things I didn’t know how to use and for the most part things I’d never heard about.

Ah where to begin, where to begin? I suppose punctuation because of its importance to create pauses, indicate stops
in thought, isolate dialogue, shorten phrases and indicate possession of something, like changing, “That is a sandwich belonging to Mary,” to “That’s Mary’s sandwich,” all quite useful things on their own, but when used together wisely, form the basis of coherent thought, is a good a place as any to start.

When I took the first toddling steps of my journey I didn’t know how to punctuate properly with a period, I didn’t know that it’s used to end a sentence and when it came to the colon or semicolon, I thought they were things a physician probed periodically under the most personal, most embarrassing circumstances, while the comma, the apostrophe, quotation marks and even the exclamation mark were things living under rocks in some unknown uncharted country and best left alone by the unwary.

Besides these fascinating and I might add useful and necessary things, there are and I dread dragging them into this essay,
but I must, there are the rules and tools of good grammar. Unfortunately for me, my Grammar died when I was quite young and never had the time to lay out her guidelines and even if she had tried to instil the rules in me, I never would have taken the time, or had the inclination to learn them.

That’s why for the longest time I believed that a main clause, being able to stand on its own two feet as a complete sentence was Santa and that a subordinate clause had to be his wife. I never knew what a metaphor was for, or what a modifier modified, if anything, and I thought a pronoun was a noun that went to the gym every day, worked hard, won a gold medal at the Olympics and went on to a happy married life, with a wife and two point two children, turned pro and ended up in a bestselling novel and a simple noun was a thing that never had the gumption or getup to work hard and stayed an amateur all its natural born days, lived in a park, smoked pot, drank aftershave lotion and cussed every time his popular rich brother drove by his bed in a red Rolls Royce and until I found out different I believed that a preposition was an improper proposition made by a pretty prostitute eager to
earn a few more pennies before going home to her pimp.

Not only didn’t I know what adjectives adverbs, antonyms, homonyms, similes, synonyms and verbs did, or were, but I couldn’t spell or pronounce them properly and since I didn’t know how to spell them, I couldn’t even look them up in the dusty dog-eared dictionary from my primary school days.

Now that I have ploughed my way through two novels, ploughed two thirds through another one and completed several short stories, I am beginning to understand what a sentence is. It is, and please forgive me for gloating or showing off, it is a clause with a subject and a predicate. Here are two basic samples. “The dog barked loud. The kitten and the puppy got ready for school.”

Not exactly earth shaking and not likely to ever win a Pulitzer prize, but and I don’t use but lightly either, if a few little things are added like a simile, a modifier or two or three, then our simple little sentence can take on a new life, a life that is more interesting,
a life of its own. I would love to show you how it’s done and since in some respects you are a captive audience, I intend to do so. I will use my second example and add some of the things I’ve learned through arduous and diligent work, but things I’m still not yet well versed in.

Tom, an aloof Siamese kitten, with a black circle around one blue eye and a white circle around the other one, always looking like an arrogant rock star, was nick-named Mouser by Mr. Roland Ferguson, who owned the rickety old brown barn with a red roof where Tom was born on a blustery December evening, with a bitter north wind blowing, shaking, rattling the dilapidated building, threatening to tear the shingles off the roof, howling around the eaves, slamming the door back and forth, screaming through the
cracks, sending shivers through the group of people gathered around Minnie, Tom’s mother, a group waiting expectantly for her to produce her first litter, which she did in due time and mewing proudly presented them for inspection, and a beautiful black boy beagle, named Bob when he crawled nose first into the world on a sunny June day, two-thirty in the afternoon, down by the gold fish pond, a pond surrounded by blooming lilac trees, trees filled with buzzing bees and birds in full song, birds that stopped mid-song, bees that stopped buzzing and lilac trees that stopped swaying and rustling their leaves when the miraculous moment took place, had their faces washed, had their hair combed and brushed until it gleamed, before they trotted down the dusty road on their first day of school.

Whew, please excuse me while a pause for a long and well deserved breather…………Well now that I feel somewhat refreshed, I can honestly say that I’m quite relieved to be finished with this example.

I admit that I am not as converse with the intricate thrusts and parries of riveting, stimulating dialogue or the delicate beautiful pirouette of scintillating prose as I want to be and perhaps I never will achieve my goal, but it certainly isn’t going to stop me from
trying.

I may never scale the Olympian heights and walk amidst such literary giants as James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway or F. Scot
Fitzgerald and I may never be able to scare the panties off a lady the way Steven King can, or mystify a reader with a mystery like Agatha Christie does, but just because I might never soar like an eagle high above the earth, drifting on a poetic or prosaic updraft from some sun warmed plain, doesn’t mean that I’m going to sit safe in some nest and never dare to leap off the cliff and try my
wings.

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The Arab Spring

From where I sit it looks like the Arab spring that bloomed with so
much promise for millions of people has now turned into a bleak winter. It
seems that Egypt’s and Tunisia’s great revolutions have been hijacked by the
military, and the people are once more under the thumb of dictators, whose only
goal is to rule with an iron fist, and as for Libya, Moammar Gadhafi and his
goon squad still hold power.

Every day in Iran, in Syria, thousands of citizens march peacefully for
freedom, and face armed soldiers who have been given the order to shoot to
kill, yet despite all most certain death they march on, day after day. If
courage counted in the halls of power, if determination was of any value,
Syrians and Iranians would now rule themselves. Unfortunately such noble things
have little or no meaning for dictators who believe it is a sign of weakness to
lift their heavy hands off their people’s neck.

I who live in a democracy, live in a land where I can speak my mind,
where if I don’t like a politician or a government’s actions, I can speak out
and voice my displeasure, without fear, and without threat of violence, or
censure, cannot fully comprehend the frustration these good people must feel.

Freedom of choice, freedom to live one’s life without being burdened by
the heavy yoke of oppression, the freedom to speak one’s mind without threat of
disappearing, or going to jail for a long period of time, the freedom to
worship, to follow the religion of choice is the right of every man or woman on
the face of this planet, and no leader has the right to prevent this.

If there is ever to be a power shift in countries ruled by greedy
autocratic men, who want to hold on to power at all costs, then there will have
to be outside intervention, and this intervention will have to involve more
than sanctions, because sanctions are no more than a slap on the hand, and don’t
bother the leaders any more than a mosquito bite bothers us. They simple shrug
these sanctions off and go on about their business.

Sanctions, no matter how many or how strong they are never harm the
ones in power all they do is put more burdens on the poor, and make it harder
for them in their fight for freedom.

What are we in the west, we who live in freedom supposed to do? Do we
leave these poor unfortunates to fight on against impossible odds, and die in
the streets, in the alleyways like dogs, or do we go in with guns blazing, like
a cowboy from the Saturday matinees of long ago?

We’ve tried military intervention in Libya, dropped millions of tons of
bombs, blown up control and command centers, destroyed much of Gadhafi’s own
compound, yet in spite of all this effort, in spite of months of air raids,
this monster, this mad man still holds his countrymen in a cruel iron grip. A
grip that doesn’t look it will be released anytime in the near future, if at
all.

The coalition that started out with so much bravado, so much conviction
that they are in the right, has ended up with egg on their face. The might of
Great Briton, France, and the most powerful military force on earth, the United
States has failed to bring Gadhafi to his knees. On the contrary, it has only
strengthened his determination to hold onto power.

What next? Will it be boots on the ground? Will it be a protracted war
over desert dunes, or instead, after more billions are spent fighting a war
that looks more and more unwinnable with each passing day, will the great
armies pack up their toys and run home to momma with their tails tucked between
their legs?

Do we have the right to interfere, to interject our political beliefs,
to tell others in the world how to live, and if they fail to measure up to our
standards, do we have the right to use military force to make them obey?

Unfortunately, even after we have spent billions of dollars, sacrificed
thousands of our young men to lift the yoke of tyranny from the necks of the
oppressed, there is no guarantee that the majority will want our brand of
democracy. Even if it is there will for freedom, after thousands of years of
tribalism, thousands of years of patriarchal rule, democracy, true democracy is
going to be a long time in coming. Afghanistan and Iraq illustrate this truth.

The question is, do we have the desire to continue with our crusades?
Are we willing to sacrifice more of our youth in what looks like a lost cause?

It is a lost cause, because the moment the last soldier lcomes home, the
moment the last plane flies over desert dunes, the moment the last ship sails away,
chaos, corruption, and the grab for absolute power will be the order of the
day. The rule of law, the rights and freedom of women, the right for girls to
get an education and to be treated like first class citizens instead of third
or fourth class ones, will be tossed out the window, darkness will return, and
the Arab spring will be nothing more than a footnote in obscure history books.

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Brew and Bubble, Toil and Trouble

As an outsider looking into that steaming cauldron known far and wide as American politics, I can only shake my head in confusion. How does this strange mixture ever work? It is a strange mixture indeed. Not all democrats or republicans wear the same stripes, because this would make things too easy and far less confusing.

There are the liberal democrats, the far left, the socialist democrats, and then there the moderates that lean towards the center. Throw the republicans into the mix, with their tea party, which is no longer confined to Boston harbour, but has spread over the length and breadth of the land, mix in less conservatives ones, and the ones that lean towards the center and you have a wild witches brew indeed.

It is hard enough for a president to get legislation passed when his party controls both houses, but when the opposition owns one or both of them he is indeed a lame duck. Every bill that becomes law is never simple or straight forward. It always has to have special interest riders attached to it in order to get it passed, and that is none of the reasons for America’s huge and ever growing debt.

The first step in balancing the budget is to get rid of pork barrel politics and outlaw lobbying, because they are nothing more than blackmail and bribery at the highest level, and cost the taxpayers a great deal of money. The next thing to do is end the two wars and bring the troops home from all the foreign bases.

Having pointed all the flaws and pitfalls of this great experiment, and there are many, when this great democracy works the way it is supposed to, which is far too infrequent,  it is a very beautiful thing to behold. It is more valuable than the rarest gem, worth more than all the gold on earth.

Even though most time America is like a big elephant stumbling over its shoelaces, I prefer it to be the world leader when it comes to democracy or the economy, than any other country I can name.

It will be a sad day for the world indeed, if the Stars and Stripe, the symbol of hope, freedom, peace and justice is pulled down to half-mast because partisan politics is the order of the day instead of bi-partisanship and compromise.

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