Friday, May 26, 2017

On not going to the art gallery

I went to the city yesterday to visit a friend who just got out of hospital and to go to the art gallery. My friend--I'll call her Jane--had said she wanted to go to the art gallery too, so I was expecting to pick her up and go for lunch and then the gallery. I brought along another mutual friend (let's call her Beth). Well, when Beth and I got to Jane's place it turned out that Jane didn't feel like going to the art gallery but did want to go for lunch. I was disappointed but went along with the change of plan. Jane is blind and in a wheel chair. Beth is also blind, but not in a wheel chair. Both women can sort of see, but they are both legally blind. Beth told me later that she couldn't look at me, she just knew how I was feeling about giving up the art gallery visit.

Anyway, we went for lunch. The restaurant we went to had excellent food but it was crowded and extremely noisy. It was hard to hear each other talking, so I kind of spaced out. Plus, Jane is not well at all and is on medical marijuana for pain and she was kind of stoned, so conversation with her was limited. People talk about medical marijuana as if it was so superior to synthetic drugs, but from what I can see it has its problems just like any drug. Jane said it dulled the pain but the price for it was being stoned all the time.

After lunch Jane wanted to visit a nearby shop so we did that. It turned out the shop was selling off all its stock in preparation for a move to an area too far away for Jane to visit, so I guess going there when we did was a good thing; Jane got one last kick at that can. But I'm not an enthusiastic shopper and felt like I was basically there as a guide to read labels and identify various objects for sale. No art gallery, just shopping instead.

After a while we walked Jane home and dropped her off. On the drive back to the Valley I commented to Beth that Jane did not look good. I hadn't seen her since before she went into the hospital and she clearly was much worse than she had been then. Beth said, "Somebody had to mention the elephant in the room!" It is not pleasant watching an old friend slide away.

Being the only sighted person with two blind people is a little stressful. I never used to pay attention to the obstacles for a wheel chair but now I do. It is shocking how little thought goes into all the little ramps that are supposed to make it easier for wheel chairs to navigate sidewalks. I have to keep an eye out for everything, give verbal warnings of red lights, rough terrain, when to turn, when to avoid other pedestrians and so forth. Not to mention reading menus out loud and identifying objects in shops and reading their price tags.

I have such mixed feelings about that trip! I really wanted to go to the art gallery and was seeing that as the main point of the whole trip. It was hard to let go of that. Jane had said she wanted to go too, but I guess she was a little naive about her energy level. She was still in the hospital when we planned the trip, she probably had no idea how hard it was going to be living outside the hospital.

Much as I want to participate in get togethers with Jane and Beth, it is really draining for me; I come home exhausted and irritable. I would do better if it was just one or the other, but Beth can't go into the city to see Jane on her own, she needs a chauffeur. So all in all it was not a fun trip for me. But I can't not do it. Jane will never get better. There is a time limit and then the relationship will be gone for good and I don't know when that time limit is.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Bread and Musicals

I volunteer as an usher at the Festival Theatre and occasionally at Acadia Convocation Hall. I mostly volunteer for theatre and musical events, in particular the Acadia Performing Arts Series. This past weekend I ushered for the Stage Prophets performance of the musical "Anne and Gilbert", a kind of sequel to the "Anne of Green Gables" musical (which they performed a few years ago). I especially appreciated the two solos performed by a friend of mine as Mirella. It was both comedic and serious, as much of the Stage Prophets' material is. Great show, and some fabulous musical and dance talent.

In other news I baked my last loaf of bread for the season. I've run out of both freezer space and large freezer bags; I take that as a sign that I have done enough. No bread baking over the hot summer months! The sourdough starter is resting in the freezer now, atop all the loaves it produced this year. Good work, starter!

Thursday, May 11, 2017

I Own the Media

Photo above from website

The last few years I have been subscribing to magazines. It started with The Economist and The Walrus. I found a great deal on a 2-year subscription to The Economist and I wanted to try The Walrus, a Canadian magazine that seems to be trying emulate The New Yorker.

I thought I had subscribed to The Walrus for only one year and at the end of that year I had seen enough to know I didn't want to renew. But it turns out I subscribed for two years and when the subscription finally expired they apparently hoped to lure me into re-upping by continuing to send me issues for several months after. The Economist on the other hand I found quite interesting and I did renew the subscription for another year.

Then I thought I would try another magazine to replace the expired (I believed) Walrus, and so I got a subscription to The New Internationalist. My idea was that since The Economist is a 'right-of-centre' news magazine, subscribing to a 'left-of-centre' news magazine would be kind of balancing. So far I like it and will probably renew.

As noted earlier this year my son gave me a subscription to The New Yorker for Christmas. And I forgot to mention my free magazine, Aramco World, which I have been subscribing to for several years. It is a stunningly illustrated oil company magazine about Moslem and Arab culture, very broadly defined. So in the early months of this year I was getting five magazines on a regular basis. Extremely hard to keep up with especially since two of them are weekly magazines.

The Walrus finally gave up on me and I have to say it is a bit of a relief. Aramco World only comes out six times a year and is mostly pictures so it is not a taxing read. But I can no longer read The Economist all the way through (I used to!), nor can I read The New Yorker in its entirety. I would have to be full-time professional magazine reader to keep up.

A couple of months ago The New Internationalist decided to do a crowdfunding campaign to raise money for themselves. As they often tell us, print media are having some difficulty staying afloat financially, and niche magazines such as this one have an even more difficult time. So they decided to raise money to keep themselves afloat by selling shares in the magazine. Their crowdfunding campaign goal was £500,000 and they were wildly successful, raising over £700,000.

I am now a co-owner (there are 3400 of us) of a successful left-of-centre independent news magazine and if you would like to read my magazine you can go here: The New Internationalist. I'm quite proud of it, I've never owned a magazine before.

Monday, May 8, 2017


It seems to me the only person you can forgive is yourself.
"Why does forgiveness irritate me so much?" I ask Chuck.
"Because it's the ultimate act of passive aggression," he says.
"Because it keeps sin alive," my sister says.

       ~Abigail Thomas,  What Comes Next and How to Like It
Reading this makes me feel vindicated.
There is nothing quite so rankling as unsolicited forgiveness.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Black Swan week

It is early morning as I write. I couldn't stay in bed any longer, my brain was whirring restlessly. Some folks can quiet that monkey mind at 5am, I cannot. Coffee and homemade sourdough toast and quince jam were calling.

Now that the coffee is drunk and the toast and jam eaten, I can open the laptop without fear of dumping coffee and crumbs into the keyboard. I have two readings on the go, an umpteen-volume fantasy story and Nassim Nicholas Taleb's "The Black Swan".

The fantasy story is slow-moving and I have read it before so sometimes I get bored with it, I wish it were faster-paced. But that makes it excellent middle-of-the-night reading, at a certain point sleeplessness looks less boring than the book. It's also good first thing in the morning when I'm not up to more mentally challenging entertainment.

Can't say the same of The Black Swan, this book is a bit of a feast. Taleb is a philosopher expounding on a novel idea, every other sentence is a zinger. Sometimes I have to put it down just to appreciate the last sentence I read. I have just read the Prologue and Chapter One and already he has changed my thinking about nationalism, the (so-called) Middle East and the financial world. And those aren't even his main topics, just prefatory remarks about his own background. I just read something he said about personal libraries. I have always felt a little guilty about how many books I have around that I have never read, as if I shouldn't have those books if I am not going to read them. Taleb says that the more unread books in one's personal library the better; they remind us of how much we don't know and the more we know about how much we don't know the better. I guess I'm doing pretty good on that score.

My writing group meets in a few hours. Yesterday afternoon I was working on having something to read at the meeting, so I feel like my homework is done and I can write whatever now. I have badly organized my week thus far, what started out looking like a busy week became less and less so as various events got sidelined. I was going to work in the garden but decided to postpone until after the expected deluge this weekend as there is no point planting stuff that is just going to drown. I had two events scheduled yesterday and decided to cancel one; the other cancelled itself and I regretted cancelling the first. I had a doctor's appointment that the doctor's office postponed. Went shopping for an item that was supposed to be on sale, the store had not received the item in the latest shipment so I went home empty-handed feeling like it was a waste of gas (the store is in the next town over). It went on like that.

I walked Hapi to her friend Eva's place yesterday morning and had coffee with Eva's owners. Friendship among dogs is a funny thing, Hapi is always eager to see Eva but after a few minutes of greeting Eva and checking out her yard for hidden food Hapi is ready to move on. If we happen to meet on a walk then the two will greet each other and then seem not to be interested anymore. They are both old ladies who have known each other for half their lives, I guess they've said all there is to be said to each other. Eva's owners are old friends of mine as well (40 years and counting), we nevertheless seem to find endless topics of conversation. Hapi just stares at me like: are you done yet? Can we go home now?

Tonight I am ushering, my one and only volunteer job. I have gotten fed up with volunteering, too often I end up frustrated and pissy; I say something I shouldn't and that bridge is burnt. But ushering is basically getting to listen to a concert or watch a theatrical production for free. I don't even have to speak to anyone, although I usually do. One chats with other ushers and exchanges a few words with the folks being ushered. Tonight I am ushering at a concert of a musician I have never heard of. He apparently has a string of sold-out concerts behind him on his current national tour, but there has been no local advertising. I did check him out on Youtube but I fail to understand the phenomenon. I'll find out tonight I guess. Unless it gets cancelled.

And tomorrow the deluge.