Sunday, June 29, 2014

Just Not Ready to Laugh at Climate Change

We had a great end-of-year send off by a few teachers who took the time and effort to make the final day entertaining.   Years ago, we had a team that would roast all the teachers.  Some audience members were visibly upset and offended by the comments, so it went away, but most of us were just offended if we were neglected to be mentioned in the jokes.  This year is the closest we've come to that level of comedy.

It's through self-recognition and humility that we develop as a community.  It's healthy to laugh at our idiosyncrasies a bit.  And we all love laughing at each other, right?

This year, they took me down a notch for worrying about climate change with a bit about our parking lots being covered in water within two years.

And maybe it's because I'm really crazy that I didn't laugh but instead thought, "Not here, we won't be covered in water.  Give it 60 years, and we'll be positively scorched!"

My lack of a sense of humour on this reminded me of watching Harold and Kumar with an old boyfriend.  We watched the first one and both laughed uproariously.  I love the randomness of the humour.   But then we started watching the second one about Guantanamo Bay. My boyfriend was laughing, but I couldn't see the humour in it.  I've read all about the sexual abuse issues going on there, and the "jokes" about guards forcing inmates to blow them for lunch just couldn't elicit a laugh from me.  It's too close, too real, to possibly be funny.  It was my boyfriend's innocent ignorance that allowed him to keep laughing.  I had to leave.

So it goes with climate change.  For any of us that read the IPCC report in detail, or kept abreast of the news, it's far too close and too real to be funny anymore.  It's downright frightening.  And it's so sad that we'll lose the awe-inspiring beauty of nature, not to mention our many friends and relations.    

And I remember the episode of SNL when they asked the Mayor of NY if it was okay to make fun of 9/11 yet.  He gave his blessing.  We need time after a tragedy to grieve before we can laugh.  But this issue is a tragedy that won't end.  There won't be a time we can start healing from it.

Had they video-taped me dancing and trying to drunkenly harmonize to Wagon Wheel the previous night, repeatedly (and my loud irritation that the band didn't know "Winona's Big Brown Beaver"), I might have been in tears and short of breath laughing so hard.  I'm far from humourless.  Their choice of target fell painfully short of the mark.

Unfortunately, that people found it funny left me feeling all the more isolated in the building.  Too many people just don't get the profound seriousness of this topic.  It's up there with rape jokes now.  I'm not a prude for not finding them funny.  I'm too aware of the harshness of this life to override the ache in my belly at the thought of it.  It's real.  And it's happening right now.

Or maybe I'm just crazy.  We can only hope.

More Wagon Wheel!!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

What's a Mother to Do?

It's always harder to have something taken away than to never have it in the first place.  But still...

A local high school is removing a few dozen students from the school bus route because the board realized the kids are within official walking distance to the school - 3.2 km.  Families are upset because they can't afford the bus fare, their teenagers can't be expected to walk that far, and, during a couple weeks of December and January, the sun will be just about to rise when they embark on their morning trek.  One parent commented in The Record, "I will not make them walk. It is way too far."

Google maps estimates it takes the average person 35 minutes to walk 3K.  I can do it in less, and I'm really old, so I'm tipping that average to the one end.  Yet the parents of these healthy young men and women don't expect their kids to be able to make it in less than 45 minutes.

"It's a hell of a walk."

Some are concerned with safety in the dark since the walk passes an industrial park, but I'm not convinced sunrise is prime time for muggings.  And it's not really "after dark" when they'll be walking - implying late evening, but actually before dawn.  And only just - by minutes.  And I'm also not convinced industrial areas are in some way more dangerous than city streets.

Here's my old geezer story:  Back in the day, when I was in middle school (11-13 years old), we had to walk over 3K to school in the rain and snow and sleet, and NOBODY CARED!!  None of our parents rallied to have us bussed!  None of them felt remotely bad for our plight!  We trudged through adverse conditions for three whole kilometres in torrential downpours or baking sun, and not one of the parents in the area ever offered us a ride.  I clearly remember a blizzard one year: snow was almost waist high and yet our troubles did nary make dinner table headlines.  And I'm really short, so it was even higher on me!

"It'll build character," my dad told me.  "Walking is good for what ails ya," my ma agreed.  Seriously, they talked like that.  "Quit yer bellyachin' already. Count your lucky stars you don't have to walk twice as far just for a glass of water like some people do!"  We couldn't get air conditioning either.  "It'll prevent your body from acclimatizing to the heat."  Ya whatever, dad.  

So, maybe I'm just jealous that their complaints made front-page news, but I dare say we're raising a fussy lot.  In my day, in good stoic fashion, we were ever reminded of those less fortunate than ourselves.  And we learned to cope.  We learned to find the strength within to trudge through the depths, and we were all on time for school.  And some of us even learned to enjoy the daily ritual of losing ourselves in the rhythm of each step.

We've had it good for too long now.  We need headlines and posters and constant reminders of what real adversity looks like.  Because if we think this is bad, we might be in for a real shocker a few decades from now.    

Monday, June 2, 2014

Backyard Studio and Garden Build

Three summers ago, I decided to take over the backyard, get rid of the playhouse that the kids had deserted, and build a big garden and waterfall with a little studio to work in.  The next day, my son said all he wanted for his birthday was to take over the backyard to build an outdoor workout area with a wall, trapeze, a pole to climb, and boxes to flip off of.

The novelty wore off after two years, and now it's my turn.  The studio needs some interior work, and the waterfall is barely started, but the rest is coming along nicely.  

ETA:  Here's a video of the waterfall:

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Brief Hiatus

I've been busy gardening, and then I took a break to check out NYC.  The entire album, Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, played in my head on a loop while I was there.  It was a nice distraction from the provincial election stuff, and the NDP couldn't ask me for time or money for four whole days!  I'll be voting NDP today in the advanced polls because they're the likely party to keep out the Cons in my riding, but my typical steadfast support is wavering and the badgering isn't helping.  Because I run the Student Vote at school, I made a comparison chart for students, and, of course, some students complained of bias.  I just took top bullet points for each category off each official website.  That's not bias; it's real - and really scary.  Anyway...

It was interesting to me to check all the stereotypes about NYC I had developed from movies and late night shows perpetuated particularly by Letterman and Jon Stewart.
- New Yorkers don't walk fast - at all  It was a weekend, but still.  Monday was no different.
- It's as clean as Toronto.  The level of smoking and garbage is about the same.
- It felt as safe as home - maybe more so as there were families walking around even out past dark.
- Besides the hotel, prices were similar to Toronto.  Some galleries were by donation even.
- And most surprising, based on TV perceptions, was that everybody was very polite and friendly.  Bumping into someone elicited "sorry" from both parties.  Just like Canada.  And here I thought that was our thing.

Some of the stereotypes played out.  The place is bustley and noisy and crowded.  We really slept to cars honking all night.  And our hotel window faced a brick wall a few feet away.  Classic.  We walked everywhere, and I wondered about all the cars on the road barely moving faster than our pace.  It's about 20 km end to end; bikeable in an hour if you can get through traffic (and bikes get their own traffic lights!).  With subways and busses and cabs everywhere, it's curious how many people have cars - although we never did figure out how to get a cab.  Seriously.  And the food was fantastic. Every restaurant had flavourful food that tastes differently than the other restaurants.  That's not always the case in Waterloo where I swear most restaurants just heat up food from a central kitchen.

And the architecture was spectacular.  It evoked that bit from Hannah and Her Sisters where they tour the city pointing out the finer pieces that few notice with their heads down.

We went to see Hedwig and the Angry Inch with Neil Patrick Harris, and he didn't disappoint - except, that is, that we missed sitting in the audience with Hugh Jackman by two days!!  

The show was more physical than I expected, with NPH on stage almost the entire time - doing all costume changes while he sang.  And I regretted not spending the extra cash and phone time getting front row seats for the chance to participate (i.e. have his crotch in my face).  After the show, people crowded at the exit for a chance to get an autograph and picture.  I hung in there for about half an hour until someone in the crowd started smoking, and I bailed.

But what makes me want to go back for more - besides that Colbert Report tickets were ungettable this time round and that my daughter and I couldn't go to the Comedy Cellar to maybe stalk spot Louis CK because she's underage at 20 - is the Met.  It's too big for one day.  The Central Park Zoo was negligible  next to the Toronto Zoo, and the Museum of Natural History was more or less on par with the ROM, but the Met outshone the AGO by a mile.   This photo is me in a gardeny installation on the rooftop.  Very cool.

It was legen...wait for it...dary!