Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Goodbye white boots.

I have been, it seems, a truly pathetic blogger. It has been more than a year since I last posted anything. It's not that I haven't been writing, I have. I just haven't been posting.

But, today, this evening, I am having a problem with these boots.

The real problem is that I am what polite society would call a pack rat. It could be said that I exhibit the tendencies that would make me ripe for becoming a hoarder. It might even be said that I have demonstrated issues with letting things go. Some might go so far as to say that I affix irrational sentiment to things. All of those things would be true.

Which bring us, or me, to these damn boots. The are not regular boots you see. They are Sorels. And, not just regular Sorels. They are the kind they don't make any more, for true Arctic conditions. They are white, and, unlike most Sorels, do not have that full rubber boot bottom with a fabric top. Instead, they are almost all fabric have a super-soft white rubber tread, with soft rubber cleats that, in extremely cold weather, remain pliable, and grippy. They are far to warm for these southern conditions, and they are no good in slush and wet snow. Indeed, I've replaced them with the fully insulated rubber boot style of winter boot, like fishermen wear. These new boots are perfect for PEI. My feet stay warm and dry, even in a foot of salty slush. The old boots wouldn't stand a chance in those conditions. But they weren't made for it.

What those old boots are, to me, is the embodiment of many, many good memories. They are stained with caribou blood from going on hunts with my friends back in Naujat (that's Repluse Bay on our maps). One has a small tear on one side from where I got it caught on a skidoo tread. The owner of that skidoo was the grandson of the first Hudson Bay company trader to man that station. He was also the best hunter in town, and proudly wore a full polar bear set of winter clothing when travelling or hunting.

I got lost for a short while when I borrowed my friend Richard's rifle and skidoo for my first solo trip. I found myself and got home safely after a bit of a scare. I used what they'd taught me. I learned to pay more attention.

When Paul, who teased me constantly, began to tease me about how kablunaq can't shoot straight, and how he'd been the one to actually shoot all the caribou, I asked him for his rifle and nailed a tiny exposed rock at 200 yards in one shot. He had a beautiful stainless bolt action rifle chambered in Winchester .270. His scope was sighted in perfectly. I remember with perfect clarity the exhale and the steadying pause... before I pulled the trigger. Paul didn't tease me again.

I lay on frozen lakes with ice five, and six, and seven feet thick, my face over a hole we'd chiselled into that ice, taking turns when we were winded. My breath blowing onto the water that had rushed to the top of that hole when we had broken through the bottom and my hood pulled over to keep that heat in, to keep the water from freezing. Of course, it would freeze over, quickly, so I'd pull my hand from my seal skin mittens, and skim of the ice, so that I could peer into that crystal clear water, and see my lure, and see the fish, and jerk the lure just the right moment, and pull up a fat Arctic char.

All of these things I did in these boots.

Their condition is such that I would not take them were I ever to return to the North. They are not saleable. They are meaningful only to me. And now it is time for them to go and there is a physical resistance, even pain, to considering their departure.

Have a transferred enough of those memories, from those boots to these pixels on a screen? I hope so.

The insulating layers inside are worn thin from walking across treeless tundras so silent it was deafening.

Goodbye white boots.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Coulter, Free Speech, and a whole lot of nonsense.

While most of the damage is done, I'd like to think that Canadian, on the whole, are well capable of learning from this sort of mistake.

To that end, I've been wondering why nobody seems to be talking about the difference between inviting someone such as Anne Coulter to a debate, and inviting them to simply speak. Even with an attached Q&A period, there are vast differences between the two.

I simply adore a good debate. I'm not much of a debater myself (although some would argue that), but I have long enjoyed the formal format of the debate and it's ability to both allow for ideas to be expressed, and, moments later, allow for those same ideas to be questioned. A good debate might be considered to be one of the highest forms of human communications.

What baffles me is when an organization or institution seems to forget all about such a format and blithely invites contentious speakers under the general heading (and I simplify greatly) "We believe in Free Speech". Well, so do I, but I wouldn't want Coulter speaking to my kids without reasoned opposition at the same time. Nor would I want someone from the extreme left having the same access, again, without reasoned opposition from the other side. And that means a debate.

I cannot help but think that if organizers or officials had taken some time and energy to invite Coulter to a proper debate, the host institutions, their students and faculty, and citizens alike would have been glued to the proceedings. Some to see if Coulter would hold her own, some to see if her arguments would fall apart, some just to enjoy the spectacle. But the need for protest would have been largely, and appropriately, negated.

It is important for all of us to hear the voices of left, right, and centre. Sometime it's more important still to hear, or at least be aware of the voices that fall more to the extremes, as to think that these voices don't have followers is to be unbelievably naive. How better to understand the scope of belief systems operating on the continent than to hear those voices out... and hear them challenged at the same time.

When we do as we have done, we invite the systems in place to fail. We invite the protest, we invite the shrieking from the soapbox. And now, what was really a couple of hundred protester has turned into two thousand protesters threatening with "rocks and sticks". A little planning and wisdom could have showed Coulter for what she is. Instead, we handed the right-wing a couple boxes of ammunition. And more ammunition is the last thing the right-wing needs.

To close, I'll invite you to view a little bit of Coulter...  Enjoy.

And here's an interesting bit:

Really, you can find whatever you need about Anne Coulter with a quick Google or YouTube search. You don't need a speech at a University.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Calling all artists: GET THE FLU SHOT

For whatever it's worth, this is my call to action to try to encourage all artists to get their H1N1 flu vaccine shot. With conspiracy theories zinging about the internet with all the fury of a balloon boy hoax it seems that more and more people are buying into unsubstantiated hype, and fewer and fewer people are making informed decisions based on the available facts.

Well here are some facts regarding the arts community:

Artists tend to be among the poorer elements of the population - and their low income level is significantly chronic. This is reflected in their ability to get, and maintain, a high level of health care, and their ability to follow up that care with prescription medications and other ancillary care. Most do not have drug or comprehensive health and dental care.

This is significant enough that when I have tried to arrange group coverage for arts communities, the insurers have been hesitant for precisely these reasons. On the whole, artists tend to have more complicated (read expensive) health issues as many issues have gone undiagnosed or untreated. It is community that scares them. So, for many artists, their health may already be somewhat compromised by way of economic circumstance.

Among artists, and economically speaking, women are particularly hard it, according to available statistics. Certainly, and quite sadly, women artists are among the lowest income earners, particularly here on Prince Edward Island. At the very same time, women seem to be amongst the most vulnerable to H1N1.

Not only that, but many of the people in the arts community, especially those in the high risk demographics, have families and children to support and care for. If they become ill, this could have a devastating impact on their families ability to simply make ends meet.

And so, I am calling upon every member of the arts community to get the H1N1 vaccine. I don't want to see anyone in this community fall seriously ill, let alone, perish. I also don't want to see anyone from this community spreading this virus amongst the community, and potentially endangering someone whose health may already be compromised, and whose family is relying on them.

In short, do your part, and help protect yourself and our community.