4.03.2021

beverly cleary, rest in peace, and thank you

Beverly Cleary, who died last week at the astounding age of 104, was a pivotal figure in the world of children's literature. Her books are treasures; her influence can scarcely be measured.

Cleary was one of the first authors to feature young characters who were realistically imperfect. If she was not the first, then certainly she was the first popular, widely-read writer who, as The Atlantic put it, "saw children as they are". 

Before Henry Huggins and Ramona, before Otis and Ellen and Ralph S. Mouse, children's literature was preachy and moralistic. The sanitized characters bore little resemblance to actual children. Books typically stood above children, and spoke at them. Cleary's books stood beside children and reflected them. 

Cleary's books were among the first that respected children -- their intelligence, their experiences. This would become the norm, of course, but it started somewhere, and that somewhere is Beverly Cleary. 

From a tribute (not the obit) in The New York Times:

The much-adored author of 42 books for children, who was declared a "Living Legend" by the Library of Congress in 2000, died on Thursday at the age of 104.

To borrow a response from Cleary's most famous character, Ramona Quimby: "Guts! Guts! Guts!" What else is there to say?

Cleary's novels — "The Mouse and the Motorcycle," "Henry and Ribsy" and "Ralph S. Mouse," just to name a few — are now in the hands of a third generation of readers. Her books are a cornerstone of modern children's literature, front and center in the bedtime canon, and among the first that many young children enjoy on their own. She was the recipient of every accolade available to authors of books for young readers — from the Newbery Medal to the National Book Award — and will remain alive in the imagination of every child who met Ramona and Beezus Quimby, Henry Huggins, Otis Spofford, Ellen Tebbits or any one of her dear, flawed, funny characters, and thought: "That's me."

I also loved this context for Cleary's most popular character, Ramona. 

One could argue that Ramona was the forerunner of what is now known as "girl power." Before Junie B. Jones and Ivy and Bean arrived on bookshelves, before words like "fierce" and "boss" migrated from zoos and office parks onto girls' T-shirts, she was strutting around with her hands on her hips, signing her name with a flourish — whiskers, pointy ears and a tail on the Q. No heart over the "i" for this girl.

"She was not a slowpoke grown-up," Cleary wrote in "Ramona and Her Mother". "She was a girl who could not wait. Life was so interesting she had to find out what happened next."

Right now I happen to be reading a biography of Louise Fitzhugh, who created the prototype of girl power for my generation, and many to follow. Harriet the Spy was published in 1964, Beezus and Ramona in 1955. I think Fitzhugh must have been influenced by Cleary... but I'll find out. 

Many women cite Nancy Drew as a character that inspired them, and certainly series like the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys mysteries gave children agency. But those characters are fantasies. Fantasies are useful and important, but they don't bring children recognition, a feeling of belonging, a comfort that they are not alone, that readers find from realistic depictions of lives and feelings.

From a 21st Century perspective, Cleary's books exhibit a seeming total absence of diversity. Every character is white, as was the custom of the day. But girlsGirls are front and centre. Girls have agency. Girls are the boss. At the time, this was diversity.

Henry Huggins was the first book I ever read. Naturally I read it many, many times. As you may know, the story involves a boy who finds a lost dog, so skinny that its ribs are showing, hence the name Henry gives the pup. 

Here's the part that is an indelible memory. The original owner shows up and insists the dog is his. He and Henry argue. They agree to let the dog decide, each person calling the dog, hoping the dog will choose him. The interloper uses the dog's original name, which of course Henry never knew. Unfair! Then Henry realizes he, too, can use the dog's old name... and Ribsy runs to him. Hurrah!

My family didn't have a dog yet, and I dreamed of finding a Ribsy and taking him home. Little did I know!

This 2011 interview with Cleary in The Atlantic is wonderful: "Beverly Cleary: 'I Just Wrote About Childhood as I Had Known It'".

The official Beverly Cleary website gives a great perspective on the characters she created.

Beverly Cleary, thank you, thank you, thank you!

3.22.2021

reflections on a year of piano lessons by a dedicated (and untalented) student

The covid lockdown began on March 17, 2020. On March 20, I began piano lessons.

I took piano lessons from age 6-10, before switching to violin (a mistake), then quitting. I later resumed piano lessons as a teenager -- a very positive experience that ended when I left home for university. 

It was always assumed that I would one day inherit our family piano. That didn't turn out as planned, but that magnificent heirloom has stayed in the family, and in a wonderfully random way, I ended up with a piano anyway. I told this story here: why it is interesting and significant that i own a piano.

As soon as that happened, I decided that I would find a way to take piano lessons again. The pandemic presented me with the perfect opportunity. I did some research, and easily identified Pianote as my method of choice: in which i begin re-learning how to play piano -- using pianote.com.

And now I've been learning piano for one year! So... some thoughts.

  • Pianote has exceeded my expectations. It is a fantastic program, a brilliant combination of self-directed learning with a huge array of resources and support. I now have a lifetime membership -- an investment in myself. 
  • Learning as an adult is great! I use the methods and resources that work for me, and ignore the ones that don't. (More detail on this below.)
  • Shorter practices are better.
  • For the first six months, I practiced every day. Never missed a day! But at some point my practice routine had grown ridiculously long and tiring. With advice from Pianote teachers, I shortened and simplified the routine. Now my practice fits in better with my life and my (in)ability to concentrate. I now practice five or six days each week for roughly 30 minutes per day. On days I feel too rushed or stressed to practice, I've adopted the habit of at least playing some scales or other warm-up exercises for five minutes. 

  • I actually remembered a few things from my childhood lessons!
  • I did not remember how to read music, but I was able to recognize certain notes. I also remembered the mnemonics for note-reading and, strangely, the pattern of the major scale: whole-whole-half-whole-whole-whole-half. Perhaps I should have expected some bits to be lodged in long-term memory, but still, it amazed me.

  • I am seeing progress!
  • Up to now, my playing has been hampered by my almost constant need to look at my hands. I'd unintentionally memorize bits of a song, and look at my hands while playing it. Then, looking up at the sheet music, I'd be lost. This kept my playing sounding very hesitant and choppy. Just now, after a full year, I find myself able to sight-read without looking at my hands! Which leads me to conclude that...

  • My learning is very slow.
  • I have zero musical aptitude, and learning to do something you are not naturally good at is very challenging! Which leads to my number one rule...

  • Think small!
  • When something I am trying to learn -- any challenging phrase, any rhythm, any tiny bit of hand independence -- becomes less difficult, when I move from painfully trying to a basic ability, that's a win. Any. Tiny. Thing. Because really, what is learning if not a collection of tiny wins, strung together?

    --------

    Regarding Pianote, here's what I ignore -- and what I adore.

    The Metronome. The principal instructor at Pianote -- who is amazing -- believes that using a metronome for some part of every practice is essential. Free digital metronomes are available online (google metronome) and I did try it, but ran away screaming. My hearing isn't great, and my concentration is even worse, and I just couldn't stand it. So, no metronome!

    The Q&A. Pianote features a weekly live Q&A with instructors, with questions submitted in advance. (The session is later posted as a video.) Pianote students from all over the world participate in this, a group piano lesson and hangout. I tried this a few times, but I found it tedious and time-wasting. If I have a question, I'll post it to a forum, leave a comment below a lesson, or if necessary, email an instructor. So, no live Q&A for me!

    The Student Review. Similarly, there is a weekly live lesson. Students submit video clips, then get support, advice, and critiques, as well as some experience playing in front of a (virtual) audience. Many students regard this as Pianote's best feature, and what sets it apart from other online learning experiences.

    I tried this once. I didn't find it at all helpful -- except to clarify that I have no interest in playing in front of an audience of any kind. It's simply not part of my learning goals. So, no more Student Review!

    To each their own, eh?

    But there are so many features of Pianote that I love!

    I love the beautiful set of books that complement the Foundations course. I read them all while working my way through Foundations, and I continue to use them for reference.

    I love the ability to download and print sheet music.

    I love the "Quick Tips" -- short mini-lessons focusing on one specific technique, practice tip, or challenge.

    I love the Planner, a beautiful book that helps me track my progress.

    I love the fluidity of learning both ear training and sight-reading, and using a combination of various methods and learning styles to learn to read music.

    I love learning music theory, and Pianote's approach to it. It feels like unlocking the mystery of how music is created. 

    I love the supportive community, and although I don't spend a huge amount of time there, I do enjoy supporting other students, and seeing different perspectives and styles.

    I love the incredibly user-friendly website that really leverages design to support learning.

    I love learning at my own pace and through my own path.

    And above all, I love the amazing teaching staff, headed by the incomparable (and Canadian!) Lisa Witt.

    3.21.2021

    roots and icebergs: decolonizing community spaces: a workshop

    I recently attended a six-hour workshop called Decolonizing Community Spaces. The workshop was led by two facilitators, one a Native American speaking to us from her traditional territories in Montana, and the other a Filipina-Canadian. 

    About 30 people attended; I believe all were health and service providers in the province of BC. 

    All the other participants raved about how much they learned, and how they will change their daily practices accordingly. I don't know if they were exaggerating, or if they were starting from a different place than I was. I encountered few, if any, ideas that were new to me, and was left feeling hopeless about the prospects for change. This was clearly not the intended result!

    Making the invisible visible

    Much of the course was spent on activities aimed at making visible the many invisible forces and conditions that shape our world. My graduate school experience in Information Sciences often involved similar exercises. One often-used example is uncovering the bias embedded in classification systems, whether the Dewey Decimal System, the dog breed standards, or any other. You quickly learn that no systems are purely objective; there are assumptions and biases built in to every human-made system. 

    This is turn reminds me of another favourite topic of mine: how certain beliefs and actions outside the mainstream are labelled "political", while the dominant narrative is thought of as apolitical. For example, my choosing to sit as the crowd in a ballpark cheers a military display is political, but the war display is -- ridiculously -- not thought of as political.

    I read a wonderful article once about academic freedom, how professors can enjoy that so-called freedom as long as they don't voice certain opinions, among them "questioning the naturalness of capitalism". 

    Trees and icebergs

    In seeking to make visible the constant presence of contemporary white supremacy and systemic racism, the course used these analogies: a tree, sometimes called "The Oppression Tree", and an iceberg.

    Here are some images of the Tree of Colonial Oppression and the Tree of Liberation, borrowed with gratitude Indigenous Solidarity Ottawa


    We can contrast the Tree of Oppression with a Tree of Liberation.

    Another handy visualization is the iceberg, which (obviously) implies that most of the forces that shape and direct our world are beneath the surface. 

    Here are two iceberg visualizations, one very simple and a pear-shaped iceberg that is more fleshed out. (These images seem to be passed around without attribution, so I apologize for not crediting someone's work.)




    I find both the tree and the iceberg very useful -- especially the tree. I believe that history is constantly affecting the present, so seeing colonialism, slavery, and capitalism named as constant root forces is satisfying. It feels right.

    The view from the leaves

    So how do these metaphors apply to our communities, our institutions, and our organizations? 

    Here is one tiny example of how institutions and organizations are influenced by these invisible forces, and thus perpetuate the structures of the dominant, white, European-derived culture. 

    A new service organization is being formed. In order to achieve official non-profit status so it can legally raise funds, hire staff, and operate, the organization must have a board of directors. 

    The interested parties conduct a search for suitable people to sit on the board. They claim they are reaching out to a broad and diverse group of people, and, in all likelihood, they truly believe they are. The people on their list of potential directors reflect a diversity of skin colours, perceived ethnicities, and genders. 

    But who is considered for boards? Who is in a position to serve? 

    Whose background is deemed "professional"?
    What formal education have they had that led to this professionalism?
    What familial and cultural background supported their early education, and put them on a track that would lead to this professionalism?
    Who has a comfortable retirement, so they can participate in this context without earning income?

    In other words, who has the privilege of fitting the profile of board material? 

    Thus the search for directors is superficially diverse, but it sees only a small subset of society. 

    In 2021, thanks to changes (forced by popular movements) over the past decades, that subset appears more diverse than it did in, say, 1941 or 1971. But the diversity is still very narrow. 

    Large segments of our society are precluded from this participation, almost from birth. Poverty, poor nutrition, substandard education, family violence and disintegration, foster care, incarceration, addiction, mental health -- often all of the above. The fact that a tiny percentage of people faced with this suite of barriers manages to overcome them changes nothing. 

    The privilege of time

    One long thread of discussion in this workshop looked at Indigenous ways of knowing, contrasted with the modes of the dominant (western, white supremacist) society. 

    Those not familiar with the term "Indigenous ways of knowing" might like to google and read about it. I had never heard the expression until I took the Indigenous Canada course online. (It's free! Open to all! Go for it!)

    Indigenous ways of knowing reflect an entirely different worldview than that of the dominant society. And while there are hundreds, thousands, of Indigenous cultures, most or all Indigenous societies have this in common. 

    I'm not at all qualified to teach this concept, but here are some graphics that speak to the general ideas.

    Kalantzis & Cope, Works & Days


    Full Circle: First Nations, Metis, Inuit Ways of Knowing
    Resource from OSSTF/FEESO; more sources found at link.


    Combining Two Ways of Knowing


    Combining Two Ways of Knowing

     

    Combining Two Ways of Knowing: more sources at link.

    In a world that didn't reflect colonial oppression, our interactions would be more relational and less transactional. We would make decisions more by consensus and less by top-down authority. To create change, we could try many different approaches, then come together to discuss the results and collectively decide how to more forward. 

    I have worked within structures like this, in grassroots activism. It is generally a slow process, which can lead to deep feelings of trust, solidarity, and friendship among members. Unity is forged from shared values and purpose. Leaders emerge naturally, and they serve more as coordinators than authority figures. 

    This model has its drawbacks, of course, but working within this framework can be a deeply satisfying experience. It is a framework that exists outside of official, established institutions.

    What is possible?

    In our work lives none of these things are possible. We have deadlines. We have limited funds and, above all, limited time.

    We must justify our time, and in order to continue receiving funding, we must demonstrate results in a manner defined by external sources. For most organizations, funding relies on statistics, and those statistics must be generated on a regular basis.

    All this is embedded into the organization. No matter how much good that organization seeks to do in the world, its processes and practices reflect a top-down approach. It is a tree that grows from colonial, capitalist, patriarchal roots.

    Where does that leave our prospects for creating change in our work?

    Many librarians and library administrators care deeply about reconciliation. We want to acknowledge the deep roots of colonialism and the many poisons that have grown from that tree. We want to welcome all people as equals. We want the community's needs and wishes to determine the direction our libraries take.

    But we cannot change roots. Roots are history, and history can never be changed. 

    We can pull back the veil to reveal levels of privilege. 

    We can seek and create opportunities to use our privilege for the greater good.

    We can shut up and step back. We can let others take the floor and we can listen to them when they speak.

    We can build relationships, creating opportunities for community input.

    If we are white, we will inevitably hear racism from people who look like us, and when we do, we can speak up.

    But. 

    We cannot change how a board of directors is chosen. 

    We cannot change top-down governance in the organizations that employ us. 

    We cannot change a system driven by statistics meant to justify the use of public funds.

    Thus this workshop left me feeling despair about the prospects of decolonizing our communities.

    3.06.2021

    five negatives and five positives of living in a remote region

    Everything in life is a trade-off. 

    Everything has pros and cons, advantages and pitfalls, clouds and silver linings. I honestly can't think of anything this rule doesn't apply to, including the Big Life Choices that are the most obvious and clear to us.

    This post has an additional disclaimer, more like a geographical quirk. 

    Aerial views really emphasize remoteness.

    Although we live in what most people would consider a small town -- population approximately 4,200 -- Port Hardy is actually a regional hub. The next-largest town clocks in at population 2,500. The other communities in the region have populations of less than 500, many in double-digits.

    Because it's a hub, Port Hardy has more services than many towns of its size -- primary healthcare, a hospital, a few restaurants, a café, a large supermarket that is open every day (and serves the entire region), more than one hardware store, two hair salons. There's an airport!

    But the northern end of Vancouver Island -- the "north island" -- is considered remote. Each small community is at least a 30-minute drive to any other. Many communities are accessible only by water or dirt roads. 

    Five negatives of living in a remote region

    1. There is a shortage of practitioners. If you're in a larger town, there may be one chiropractor, one dentist, one physiotherapist, one massage therapist. They are very busy! 

    In Port Hardy, we have primary health care and an emergency room. For appointments with specialists, we drive three hours each way. 

    2. There are very few restaurants. 

    Unless you know the area, regional maps can be misleading.
    Some places on this map are tiny, isolated communities.

    3. Gas and groceries are more expensive -- although not nearly as bad as advertised.

    4. Travel is expensive and time-consuming. 

    Although Port Hardy has an airport, commercial flights are only connectors to Vancouver; they are infrequent and expensive. Connecting to Vancouver by car and ferry is extremely time-consuming and also expensive. This means that travel, other than road trips, takes an additional day on either end and can easily cost an additional $500 per person.

    5. There is very little diversity. 

    For the most part, people in our area are either white, of European descent, or Indigenous. Non-indigenous brown people are so rare as to stand out. 

    Some things that could be negatives, but aren't:

    1. The dearth of shopping choices. I don't think I could have lived here pre-internet. For me, being able to have anything delivered makes this area livable. 

    2. Conservative politics, which one often finds in small towns. In our area, most jobs are union, and most people vote NDP. There are conservatives here -- and this area has had Conservative MPs in the past -- but a leftist viewpoint is not odd or marginalized.  

    3. There is "nothing to do". See below.

    Five good things about living in a remote region

    1. Affordable real estate if you earn a middle-class salary. 

    There is a serious housing crisis here -- a principal reason it's so difficult to attract practitioners to the area. But if you can find the right place for sale -- which may mean living in temporary housing while waiting for a house to go on the market -- the housing prices are insanely low, compared to large metropolitan areas.

    2. It is beautiful. Nature is everywhere -- mountains, water, forest, wildlife.

    3. It is quiet

    The quiet is not just aural; it is visually quiet. One of the things that constantly irritated me living in suburban sprawl (in the Toronto area) was visual pollution -- being surrounded by crushes of parking lots, fast-food restaurants, advertising, logos, strip malls. Everything just looked so ugly and noisy. 

    4. It is slow. No one is in a rush. 

    5. There's nothing to do. 

    Of course there is plenty to do outdoors! But having spent my adult life in areas where there were seemingly limitless cultural options, I always felt a certain amount of pressure to partake in some portion of them. Having nothing to do is heavenly. I enjoy my cozy pastimes with zero guilt or pressure.  

    * * * *

    I loved living in New York City, despite the challenges. I always felt that NYC's challenges made its strengths possible. 

    I love living in Port Hardy in much the same way. The challenges enable the strengths. If the area was more accessible, it wouldn't be so peaceful and undeveloped. 

    2.28.2021

    what i'm reading: janis, her life and music

    As a teenager and in my early 20s, I was somewhat obsessed with Janis Joplin. I read all the available biographies of her, and took any opportunity to see footage of her legendary performances.

    I never lost my fascination; I've continued to love Janis' music throughout my life. Reading Janis: Her Life and Music by Holly George-Warren deepened my appreciation of Janis' intelligence and artistry. The book also shifted my adult view of Janis, from a misunderstood, tragic figure, to a joyful, life-affirming woman intent on living life on her own terms.

    George-Warren was the first Janis biographer to have full access to all her diaries, journals, and letters, and truly, the first to care about facts. I didn't realize that Myra Friedman, author of the famous Janis biography Buried Alive (which I read and re-read) was in fact a publicist for Janis' record label. Turns out the book was mostly myth and rumour.

    * * * *

    Of course it is tragic that Janis died at only 27 years of age, by an accidental heroin overdose. She had been working hard to get clean, then relapsed, unknowingly injecting heroin that was 40 or 50% pure, rather than the 10% that was typical. An early death is a terrible thing, and when an artist has only begun to scratch the surface of her talents, it's also a tragic loss for music and culture. But Janis' life was anything but sad or tragic, and George-Warren's book reminded me of that. Janis' had her challenges, but her story is joyous and triumphant.

    Without a doubt, Janis was insecure and had a profound need for attention. She went through some very severe bouts of depression, and was prone to fear and anxiety. She didn't love herself as she should have. With her personal evolution cut short at age 27, she had little time to do the hard work of adult self-acceptance.

    Janis clearly sought to numb her pain with alcohol and drugs. With her addictive personality, this was a lethal combination. She was first addicted to shooting speed (what is now called crystal meth), later to heroin, and always, from start to finish, to alcohol.

    * * * *

    Janis was very intelligent, loved to read, and never traveled without a big stack of books. She was a self-taught music scholar. In her youngest musical days, she discovered the blues, listening to and teaching herself all the old blues forms. Bessie Smith, Empress of the Blues, became her first musical idol, and she taught herself to emulate this great artist who died six years before she was born.

    Later, after seeing Otis Redding perform in San Francisco, Janis saw her own potential in his style, and sought to emulate him -- as Robert Plant and other singers would later do with her.

    Janis was always keenly aware of her musical influences, always seeking to honour rather than co-opt them. When adapting signature songs by Willie Mae "Big Mama" Thornton, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, and Etta James, Janis asked permission, and always acknowledged the originators onstage. She always cared deeply that she was standing on big musical shoulders.

    * * * *

    Here's something I never knew: the main reason Janis was hated and ostracized in her hometown of Port Arthur, Texas, wasn't her original clothing or her wild hair or her singing. She was many years away from developing her signature style. It was all racism: Janis was hated because she was friends with Black people.

    Janis frequented segregated bars on both sides of the divide, seeking music to hear, learn, and perform. She didn't hide the fact that she had Black friends; she regarded the racist norms as stupid and small-minded, and she wasn't shy about saying so. There may have been others in the small Texas town that opposed segregation, but no one else was open about it.

    In Buried Alive, Friedman hints at Janis' pan-sexuality, and her relationships with women. I don't know if Friedman thought she was protecting Janis' reputation, but George-Warren finds a woman who was openly bisexual, who had both fleeting and serious relationships with both men and women.

    Other writers have seen tragedy and dysfunction in Janis' very active sex life, but I see a woman with exuberant appetites, who lived by her own rules. Janis was very serious about her music, and she was also serious about enjoying life. She worked hard and she played hard.

    Janis' overactive sex life is served up as evidence of a troubled, lonely soul. Did anyone say that about Mick Jagger (or Leonard Cohen, for that matter)? This is just the old double-standard, the same one that Joni Mitchell was subjected to, the one that all women are subject to, especially those who live and love independently. Janis did want someone to love, and she had serious, loving relationships with both men and women, but she also wanted to fuck around as much as she wanted. This wasn't sad! It was joyful and life-affirming. Janis was so alive to life and to possibilities. She loved intensely -- she loved sex -- and she loved being wild and free.

    Janis also loved trying new things musically. When her talent outgrew her first band, Big Brother and the Holding Company, everyone around her urged Janis to dump them and move on. But the members of that band were more than friends, they were a family. Breaking with them meant losing love; it meant choosing her art over love. It was necessary, but it was very painful.

    Janis craved attention, craved the spotlight, whether on a tiny stage in a coffee house or in an arena; the more attention, the better. And of course that is also a drug. With fame comes fans' expectations, while an artist still wants to grow and change musically. The attention quickly becomes a prison, choking the life out of creativity. Janis: Her Life and Music is excellent at showing how popular success becomes a death sentence for music.

    * * * *

    This book is also full of wonderful insider stories of other musicians' and artists' encounters with Janis, and great quotes from critics discovering her incredible talent for the first time. Here are a few small samples.

    From one of her band members on her interpretation of the Gershwin classic "Summertime":

    It was as if molten lead had been poured into the rather conventional form of the song. Her voice was so high in emotional content that it split into two lines, one modal line accompanying the other at an exotic distance we felt rather than heard.

    From the infamous Ralph Gleason, who booked Janis and Big Brother at the famous Monterey Jazz Festival.

    There she was, this freaky-looking white kid from Texas onstage with all the hierarchy of the traditional blues world, facing an audience that was steeped in blues tradition, which was older than her ordinary audience and which had a built-in tendency to regard electric music as the enemy. The first thing she did was to say, 'shit', and that endeared her right away. Then she stomped her foot and shook her hair and started to scream. They held still for a couple of seconds, but here and there in the great sunlit arena, longhairs started getting up and out into the aisles and stomping along with the band. By the end of the first number, the arena was packed with people writhing and twisting and snaking along. It was an incredible sight. Nothing like it had ever happened before in the festival's ten years. It was Janis's day, no doubt about it. Old and young, long hair or short, black or white, they reacted like somebody had stuck a hot wire in their ass.

    From Robert Shelton, New York Times critic "whose 1961 review of a Bob Dylan gig led to Dylan's recording contract with Columbia".

    As fine as the whole evening was, it belonged mostly to sparky, spunky Miss Joplin. There are few voices of such power, flexibility and virtuosity in pop music anywhere. Occasionally Miss Joplin appeared to be hitting two harmonizing notes at once. Her voice shouted with ecstasy or anger one minute, trailed off into coquettish curlicues the next. It glided from soprano highs to chesty alto lows. . . . In an unaccompanied section of "Love Is Like a Ball and Chain," Miss Joplin went on a flight that alternately suggested a violin cadenza and the climax of a flamenco session. In "Light Is Faster Than Sound" and "Down on Me," she unleashed more energy than most singers bring to a whole program.

    For Janis fans, this book is a gift.

    For anyone who enjoys reading about the roots of rock of the 1950s and 60s, the music of the 1960s, and the San Francisco scene of that era, this is a must-read.

    For those who only know the Janis Joplin of her one radio hit (albeit an incredible song), do some Googling and some listening. Then read this book.

    2.21.2021

    very sad news: boomer cannot stay

    My heart is heavy. My heart is broken.

    Boomer cannot stay with us.

    We can't even foster him while we search for his forever home.

    One of our dogs is extremely stressed by Boomer's presence. It's causing some behaviours that are intolerable and potentially dangerous, and will only worsen over time.

    From information from the vet, a behaviourist, and several people with multi-dog households, I've learned that this is not uncommon when a third dog is introduced to an existing pair, especially a male coming into a established female pack.

    We must put the safety and well-being of Kai and Cookie first. Add this to the list of things I thought I'd never do: tomorrow morning we will take Boomer to the local shelter and surrender him. I can only hope that we have set him on a path to a warm, safe, loving home.

    And we hope we can reverse and repair the problems Kai and Cookie are experiencing.

    Boomer's a lovely dog -- sweet and docile, a fast learner, happy and easy-going. I hope he can stay that way until he finds his people.

    2.11.2021

    in which the "no third dog rule" is happily thrown away: introducing boomer!


    This handsome boy is Boomer, the newest addition to our family. I saw him a couple of times outside the library, scrounging food. He was quiet and meek, friendly but very cautious. A library regular -- the person who used to have Cookie -- told me folks have been calling him Boomer. Allan and I couldn't agree on a different name, so Boomer he is.

    He's less than a year old. I'm guestimating seven to nine months; we'll know more after his first visit to the vet in a few days. It's likely that he had never been in a car or a house before today.

    I checked around to make sure he was not anyone else's dog, and broached the idea at home. We've always had a strict "no third dog" rule! If one of us was melting over a pup, the other one had to be strong. (We did briefly have Diego, Kai, and Cookie, but Diego was old; we knew that was temporary.) But, as I reminded Allan, we were renters then. Finding rentals with two dogs was difficult enough. We knew we could never have three!

    But now we own our own home. We have the space, and we have the means... so why not?


    It's been very cold lately, and I couldn't get Boomer out of mind, knowing he was sleeping outside so nearby. This morning we drove down to the reserve, and we saw him right away, playing with another dog. We brought some food and fed bits to both of them. 

    A woman came out of her house, wanting to know what we were doing. The second dog was hers, and she was concerned. There is often suspicion between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people here, until introductions are made and intentions are established. (Very understandable!) 

    I told her we were a friend of [Cookie's former person], and this dog had been in town, and we are hoping to take it in. She said again that one dog was hers, and brought it inside, and said she doesn't know the other dog (Boomer), but she has seen him on his own many times. She and her partner both wished us luck and we all exchanged friendly goodbyes.

    With the other dog gone, we continued feeding Boomer bits of sardines, petting him, and calling him by name. He was shy and cautious, moving away when we tried to put a collar on him, and not wanting to put a paw in the car, even to retrieve food.

    Allan had the brilliant idea to try walking him on the leash -- and lo and behold, Boomer really seemed to like that! Allan and Boomer walked down the street, and I drove slowly beside them -- and that made all the difference. Allan took Boomer in the back seat, and we drove home!

    We took Boomer in the backyard, and Kai and Cookie came barrelling out, full tilt. Naturally Boomer ran for the hills -- just as Cookie did when she first met Diego and Kai. But in a few moments, they were sniffing each other, then came the play bows, and within 30 seconds of meeting, they were all playing together. Cookie seemed overjoyed, repeatedly leaping up on me and Allan, which is very unusual.
    They ran and played for a while, then we took Boomer -- who was quite fragrant -- for a bath at the nearby dog wash. (It's so weird, what this town has and doesn't have!) Allan walked there with Mister Boomer on the leash, and I drove over. Boomer was pretty freaked out about the bath, but he accepted it, then we drove home with man and dog together in the back seat.

    I can already see that Allan is Boomer's special guy. In my experience, dogs develop a very deep bond with the first person in on the rescue. That was the case with me and Buster, to an extreme degree, since he was near death on the street when I found him, and it is certainly the case with me and Cookie. I can see Boomer is already a bit more attached to Allan than to me.