Sunday, December 23, 2012

Possible Solution to Christmas/Xmas Solitude

It is effing cold. I really want to say it is FUCKING cold except that Google (inc., earth overlord) will likely put up a notice that you can’t read the word until you give them your phone number, a couple credit cards and $60 cash to prove you are an adult.
Because getting ripped off by a computer is what makes a 20-60 year old adult. If you don’t believe me, the local Victoria newspaper wrote this week about Elder Abuse, and warns about DOOR to DOOR salesmen ripping off Gran. Yes, while 52% of elderly in Victoria interacting with VIHA are chemically sedated, the real threat is ‘stranger danger!’ from encyclopedia and bible door to door salesmen in December. I love Bizzaro Victoria.

The cold does help my head from overheating, but makes the extremities very cold. We sleep with open windows. The fact that we sleep with open windows AND run an air conditions is likely why Fran, our snooping manager, opened the door for me while at the same time pressing herself against the wall with her head turned away, so as not to endure the sight of me. I choose to think she means well, or that she is trying to be chaste regarding her lust which overwhelms her at the sight of me.

They tell me that Xmas and New Years are coming. And going. For us ‘time confused’ folks, it seems like every date is either coming or going.

To those viewing this season and its hustle bustle with solitude, I suggest that you email me. In return, I will endeavor to start each day by responding. I suggest this because I am sympathetic from experience of the aching solitude of seeming to live on the same planet, but in a different world at Xmas. It can becomes painfully clear that the connections or enjoyment of this time of year have something to do with a social bubble that doesn’t extend to all.

This is what I think I can do, and that is my choice. Taking that chance to risk by emailing might be yours. take the chance is yours. My email is: mpshiel@hotmail.com.

For those with Spotify, this song, God Yu Tekem Laef Blong Mi, gives me pleasure: song
For those without spotify, I recommend deciding if you want to get it through itunes: the hymn was written in 1874 by Frances R. Havergal. I like to crank the bass until my sternum vibrates:

Friday, December 14, 2012

A Victorian Xmas/Christmas & Wildlife Photographer of the Year

The Royal British Columbia Museum, right next to our Victorian era Parliament, offers several special displays at Yuletide. The museum specializes in a 3-D walk through experience including an entire Victorian town, complete with cobblestone, shops, hotels (walkthrough as well), train station, cinema and Chinatown: a Victorian Victoria at Christmas time (and me with the skull kittens oversized top).
The whole museum decorates, including the adjoining bell tower/Carillion and outside lighting. Helmckin House, an intact on-site Victorian house, opens the last week of this month to demonstrate Victorian Christmas Crafts like making crackers and cards.

Linda and I first visited the Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2012 exhibit which is hosted by the Natural History Museum in London and shown in other venues. The photos were displayed with special lighting which made many of them truly 3-D viewing, and not something that could be reproduced on a computer screen or print. You can see some of the pictures online here.

We anticipated seeing them in under an hour but it took over two hours to look at all the pictures. It was often as interesting seeing how they took the picture as the picture itself. Some took days in a hidden blind with equipment costing thousands while another was taken in a single shot with almost the same digital camera I have. One category was ‘Urban Wildlife’ which featured the Northwest and this squirrel.

Photos were often taken in the Arctic or Tanzania and occasionally the UK, while the US seemed only represented by Yellowstone. There was a photo of a Kermode Bear, known as a Spirit Bear and perhaps Linda’s favorite animal. Due to a recessive trait, 25% of these bears are white. This photo was taken by Paul Nicklen, and is located right at the exit of the sea lane where the tankers will be going to and from the proposed oil pipeline starting at the Alberta sands and ending at the BC ocean. To reach it requires over 100 miles of traveling between hard granite mountains, shoals and some of the worst storm weather in the world, with supertankers. It has people concerned that with an oil spill, and contaminated protein sources, these bears would soon be extinct.

Ofer Levy stood in water chest high for a week to take a picture of the endangered grey haired flying fox, Australia’s largest bat. He wanted to show how it drinks water: by skimming the surface with belly and chest and then licking the water off.

After the photo exhibit, I popped in to the Kwakiult Lodge, one of my favorite places in the Museum. As it is kept at the lighting level of firewood (it smells of cedar, lovely), it makes it hard to photograph, which is why I took a tripod. This was created by Mungo Martin, who help teach native carving to communities along the coast who had lost the skill, after Christian Missionaries banned it for decades.

Mungo helped create the carving shed at the Museum, where his son in law, Henry Hunt, master carver, taught many of the Hunt brothers and sons. Jason Hunt, who carved the Whale, shown below, for Linda’s Birthday is his grandson. Jason has carved masks for the museum, as well as tables but wants to focus on Totem’s and moved back up island (near Port Hardy) to be with his family. This year Jason worked with his father, Stanley to restore a Totem pole made by Henry Hunt (now deceased) at Sunnylands. Henry made Stanley create his own tools, and Jason and Stan follow the very traditional Kwakiult style as did Henry Hunt and Mungo. For example, Stanley Hunt created a 42 foot totem pole for Canada Place in Argentina with Jason, finishing and shipped to arrive July 1, 2012. It is replacing the original totem pole (deteriorated) in Buenos Aires which Mungo made with Henry Hunt.

Old Town in the Museum was and still is one of my favorite places. There is an old cinema.
Inside it is still showing silent films, and you can sit in the velvet seats to watch.

Plus there is the dimly lit historic Chinatown. I never was able to take pictures before, without the tripod to keep the camera still over a second. Victoria’s Chinatown was reduced dramatically by fire to the smaller size today. The Museum shows the vibrant Victorian Chinatown, whose inhabitants were 30-35% of the population of Victoria.

The old Chinatown was, during the days when Victoria was a ‘Freeport’, full of alleys, stacked and tight houses, and hidden backdoors for gambling or opium dens. I like how this alley includes the chalk sign on the brick, with more signs and windows going past the gate.

Many of the stores have no English signs, while one offers both herbs and tailoring. With no Panama Canal, or railway to the West Coast, China was far closer to Victoria than Britain.

The main hotel, which you can walk up the stairs and through, hosts a small Yule tree, below the picture of Queen Victoria. It has candles, to be lit on Xmas eve. And with all the fir around, decorations of green were not hard to come by. The tree at the end of the street shown in the picture at start of post stands at 14 feet.

A night on the town of course would include your fan and long gloves. Something which seems out of fashion, alas. We still however have the peacocks in the park, so collecting feathers to make your own fan like this might be possible.

Looking into a house, you see the Victorian Parlor, much like the one my grandparents built into their house in East Sooke. The notable things I remember as a child were a) chairs too hard and painful to easily sit on, b) the organ, c) the fireplace and mantle, d) the long clock and e) the tea service which was far too valuable for clumsy hands like mine.

Over here, through the other Parlor window you can see the Victoria style pop-up, or propped up card, sitting under the small Christmas tree.

My favorite place as a child was the Train station. It is as lowly lit as Chinatown, with oil skin windows. You can hear the train coming, then the station shakes as you see the lit windows of the train go by your oil skin station windows. Before the train comes, the telegraph rings out telling the schedule of the oncoming trains. The station ticket window was closed but showed an old phone, the telegraph key, a Station Clock, a CP train calendar, old adverts and tickets in rows for all stops on the line.

Leaving the Museum at 5:00, the dusk was already on the city and the lights on the Parliament building had been turned on. You can see the Xmas touches they have added to light up this Victorian Building as well.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Living the See-saw life

Living is a bit of a see-saw: Up on Saturday, to see Xmas trees and Museum (though I missed all the bits but one), down on Sunday, up on Monday when it is four hours at the museum, then an hour at the drug store, getting Xmas food (like peppermint ice cream), then Fish and Chips, watching You and Me (the anime); down on Tuesday, up on Wednesday, out to see the optometrist and a full eye exam and then 15 hours asleep, almost missing Thursday. Yesh, between that and survival it is more like a tilt-a-whirl.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Are Bodacious Pirates' Salacious?

I watched The Bodacious Space Pirates yesterday. It is pictured as a harem type anime, but is the opposite, a school days slice of life in a girls’ school on a future far away planet. Well, throw in some Drake style letters of Marque and you have a high school sophomore inheriting her dead father’s pirating license.
Mom turns out to be a famous pirate who settled down, and takes a mother/daughter bonding trip into the desert to teach her how to shoot guns. As the letter has to be renewed every 50 days, her taking up as pirate captain means she has to do ‘small’ jobs; learning both how to be a captain and how to be a good businesswoman.

Much of the series still happens at home, with her school life and her space yacht club (rich girls school), while the pirate arcs involve hunting for a centuries old ship meant to settle a planet but now lost at sub light, a 'ghost ship.' This is a contract from a royal princess from the now settled planet. Another one involves learning how to hijack a space cruise liner. There are some 'close friendships' and lesbian themes, and not particularly subtly done: But I learned a new word, Japanese for same sex partner.
The series is overlooked though I found it addictive. Most of the comments I read were from guys who were irked at not getting the usual dish of boobs and butt. Watch the series on crunchyroll for free. The front page and intro are misleading as they show a host of girls (the friends at school), giving you the assumption those are the pirates.

Linda said she hadn’t heard ‘bodacious’ used in a long time. I think they used it because they thought it would tie the different meanings of bold and attractive (pirates=bold, girls=attractive), and because they sound like boobies. Never underestimate the Japanese obsession with breasts (women’s bras are padded up one size and resized to eliminate AA and A also – so an A is now a size B, and padded to a C – of course if the manga is for boys/men, that immediately gets drawn as a EE to J).

Then I went for my afternoon nap at 2:00, and woke in the early hours of Friday. Lovely.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Kidney failure can be a laughing matter

“I haven’t seen you for so long, how are you?” Asked a favorite neighbor.

“Good, well bad, but I’m alive.” I was laughing, because it was such a pleasure to see him, to be up, awake and out of the apartment. “It is a challenge, when my kidney’s fail, or liver and heart problems: so much to manage.”

“My God!” he stared at me with his mouth open, “your kidneys’ fail?”

“Yeah, it’s funny, like I drank a couple glasses of wine and to filter it out of the blood, it crashed my system.” I make a flat cutting hand gesture. “Stopped me peeing for three days.” I smile and give a laugh to show that everything is okay.

He’s giving me THAT look, a mix between the horror that I am having body failure, but I’m not in a hospital or on a TV show, I’m here, waiting for the elevator. Helpless Pity might be the name of the look. It makes me want to help him feel better. I make a joke out of it, because that is how I make people feel better; if I am laughing, then it can’t be too bad.

“Yeah, when I stop peeing at all, I’m up in the mirror every day checking my eyes for yellow ‘nope, don’t have jaundice today.’”

He’s not laughing, ‘That’s so awful.’

‘I know, now no more wine for me. It sucks." Hmmm, is my timing off? "So now I just drink apple juice.” I tell him and laugh. Nope, turns out the whole world doesn't laugh with you. Tough crowd.

I’ve been asleep for 2 out of 3 days, and just up, I’m off to the library. The computer says they have the ‘three day free fast view’ of the DVD ‘Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter’ at Central Library, just over four blocks away and I want to be there when they open.

When I am there, everyone moves away from me. Plus the Abraham Lincoln DVD was stolen, so I am still number 143 on the wait list for the regular library copy (only 60+ more weeks to wait). The ‘fast view’ DVD you just have to happen to be there.

‘It’s okay’ I tell the people looking at the DVD’s when I wheel to the end, ‘I can see it fine.’ They scatter like I am a mobile land mine and stay far away.

I spent two hours getting ready to come. I am freshly showered, nice earrings, nice clothes, some pink grapefruit moisturizer. They continue to scatter if I even turn the chair slightly toward them. ‘Nice earrings’ one girl says, but stays at least six feet away.

After a hour of this, I wheel and murmur, “Please stay, I promise I won’t explode and shower you with meat particles.”

They stay even further away.

Only the elderly will talk to me, or not move away. Perhaps it is because it is too much effort. One man from James Bay in his late 60’s/early 70’s tells me that he is mentally okay but wants to do more, “I’m just so darn weak” he states with bitterness.

“THAT,” I tell him, “I can relate to.”

We talk Victoria history and the changing city. In James bay, the city has sold the largest park to make into condos. Heritage homes are being torn down to use the yard space to make condos. The Province, still overspent from the Olympics and economy crash is selling assets, including one of the handfuls of parks left in James Bay. It too will be condos. My problem is that once a park is turned into a condo they aren’t going to tear down some building to make another park.

“They’ll change the city,” The older man, who had lived here in the 50’s when James Bay was all Industrial and shipyards, “And when they finish, they change it all over again.”

I talk to a older Korean man about the Korean war and Korean films. British Columbia passed a law allowing no Japanese or Chinese and likely no Koreans to move here for over two generations while Europeans, particularly British were welcomed. Before 1900 the city census showed that Chinese alone were almost 30-35% of the population. City Hall passed a resolution that no Chinese would be hired by the city. My grandfather’s grandfather came here, was welcomed here.

The Korean gentleman tells me that it was 30 years ago when most of the Korean’s came. We talk about different Korean dishes and where the good restaurants are in Victoria and Seattle. Both of the men tell me that I must be an expert in history.

I think instead that I am finally aware of where I am in space and time.

I knew my great grandmother. She raised rabbits. She fed them, I fed them. She skinned them, ate them, then stuffed the skins and gave them to us kids. I still have one. My grandfather’s house, which he built in part with the salvaged timber from the first ship built in the Esquimalt shipyards, the SS Fort Camosun. The ship was loaded with timber, even up on the decks. A ship built in 1941 for Britian, it was torpedoed by Japanese sub I-25 just outside the harbor, right where the Alaska cruise ships wait before unloading day trip passengers.
Capital Iron in Victoria, which is now a building and exterior design store was a ship salvage store until the owner died in the 1970’s. For 20 years after the basement was full of old ship lights, rowboats, and gear.

The SS Fort Camosun should have sunk. But all the fir timber kept it afloat. They towed it back, fixed and filled it and off it went. But it left a shipful of cheap lumber, which was several feet short in length (they cut off they wet and damaged parts). That worked for my Grandfather, he was a ‘make do’ kind of guy.

His front yard is now a shopping mall. Change.

When I was in my 20’s I was new in this ‘New World.’ I had no sense of place, probably because I was more interested in how I wasn’t going to be like parents, siblings, etc. Only in my 30’s did I understand enough of history, both family, social and local to realize that there wasn’t much of a gap between 1900 and me.

Canadians proved themselves a country in WWI, dying at battles which are known mostly for the high number of Casualties, like Vimy Ridge. My Great Grandfather was wounded at Vimy Ridge, which is why his pregnant wife travelled from Victoria to Britian, and while there, gave birth to my Grandfather.

That made my grandfather British, which made my mother British and let me live, work and study in the UK. All because of Vimy Ridge. My Grandfather told me about growing up, and my Nan, and my father. Except that my father kept telling me how easy it was to get a job, except his first big job was at a paint plant in James Bay. Now there is a luxury Hotel on that site. Nor are there jobs on the DEW line, watching a screen in Northern Canada for Soviet missiles coming over the arctic. And one of my mother’s only jobs, working at City Hall, requires more than high school education now. But at least City Hall is still there.

It was a good day out. I waited to hear Carols, but the time advertised was wrong. They yesterday. The day I was asleep all day. I’d flown out of the wheelchair when hitting one of the curb cuts. It made my back funky.

I’m glad I went out.

But between juggling energy to keep the internal organs working, the sleep I need to recover and seizing the day when I can, I find that I’ll likely be ready for Xmas, gifts and letter by Feb or March – right now I’m almost ready for thanksgiving.

So maybe not so in tune with time and space as I thought.