"at your library" in the north island eagle: you can now borrow video games from your library

I am very pleased to announce that all Vancouver Island Regional Library (VIRL) branches now offer video games! You can request and borrow games for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Switch.

Video games are a great fit for the public library.

You -- our customers -- want media. Whether you borrow DVDs, stream Kanopy, or listen to downloadable audiobooks, we want to help you access media. We believe our library services should reflect what our customers are interested in.

Video games are for play – but play can be educational. Video games help develop "digital literacy," the ability to use information and communication technologies, and also "visual literacy," the ability to understand and interpret images.

This may surprise you, but playing video games can help improve reading skills – especially for reluctant readers. Many games require a lot of reading, and the interactive story building helps develop reading comprehension. Games can also help develop decision-making and critical thinking skills. We all learn best when we enjoy what we're learning. Video games can be a way to sneak more reading practice into your child's day.

A video game collection also reflects VIRL's strong belief in access for all. Video games are expensive, and rental stores no longer exist. As with books, computers, and internet access, the Library helps even the playing field a bit, giving everyone the opportunity to enjoy recreation options that they might not be able to afford.

VIRL's video game collection has something for everyone – games that the whole family can play together, and games that are intended for mature audiences. We don't believe it's the Library's place to tell people what they can or cannot read or watch. When it comes to children, that's a job best left to parents and caregivers.

Every video game sold in Canada has an "ESRB" rating, to help parents and caregivers decide what's appropriate. ESRB is the Entertainment Software Rating Board, the video game industry organization that provides information about the content of games. The ESRB rating system was developed with input from experts in child development.

If you're concerned about inappropriate content of games, and you're not sure how to interpret the ratings, we're there to help.

You can borrow video games for one week, and if no one's waiting for it, you can renew it two times.

If you do borrow a video game, we want to hear from you. You'll find comment cards in every game. Let us know what you think!

in which i reflect on many one-year anniversaries of a big life change

It's November. Here at the northern tip of Vancouver Island, the days are getting mighty short. It's not cold -- most days still reach 9 or 10 C -- but the gray sky and low sun feel like winter.

This time last year, everything was happening. I was buzzing with nervous energy -- making lists, organizing the cross-country move, preparing to leave my job, preparing to leave my life and start anew.

Now, I feel a tremendous sense of calm and contentment.

Next week begins all the "one year since". One year since we left our jobs, began driving from Ontario to BC, one year since moved into the rental house, began our new jobs and our new lives. One year since we stepped off a cliff into the unknown.

Nothing is ever 100%. There's no such thing in life. I accept that and like to acknowledge it without regret. I miss people. I miss the unique joy and energy I found working with an incredible union team and what we accomplished together. We lost Diego, and -- since we adopted new dogs while he was still with us -- I barely had time to mourn him.

This downside is a small corner of my brain against a huge wash of happiness. I sometimes feel a little twinge of guilt or embarrassment at my good fortune. I remember when we first moved to Canada, I had the same feeling. I wish everyone could be this happy.

My job has given me an opportunity to really stretch out professionally, to test my skills, to turn my knowledge into action. There's been a huge learning curve and a lot to negotiate, but it's unfolding the way it's supposed to. I see the impact we're making on the communities we serve. It's incredibly gratifying.

My job brought me to this unique little corner of the world, where a strange combination -- both of us being well-employed in a place with un-inflated housing costs -- led us to buy a house. We are thrilled. Not because we now own instead of renting -- in fact, I often wish I could call a landlord to get something done! It's the house itself. It's the nicest place we've ever lived, and it suits us perfectly. I feel so perfectly cozy and content in it.

And there's one more change in my own life, one I knew was coming, but couldn't predict how it would feel. I suddenly have time to myself. A giant chunk of time that was formerly devoted to activism or grad school or my union is suddenly... free. It's more than a little strange.

On one hand, I miss activism. I miss the passion, the collaboration, the unique and powerful feeling of being part of a team, all working together for something we deeply believe in. Whatever I was involved in, over most of my adult life, I've had incredible experiences that imbued my life with meaning.

My activism has always taken up a big chunk of my time. I've taken breaks in between causes or groups, but in those cases I was either recovering from illness, making a huge life change, or going to grad school while working two part-time jobs.

Plus, for much of my adult life, I had two job streams -- my day job, and my writing. I would juggle and cycle back and forth between them.

Now, the meaning that I found from activism, I derive from my paid employment. Meaningful work -- what a concept!

And add in one more factor: small-town life. We spend no time commuting. We spend no time stuck in traffic, or looking for parking. Everything we need is in one place, two minutes away.

So all at once, the constant busy-ness of my life stopped. Even though I work full-time, I feel I have a lot of time to myself, because my calendar isn't packed full of meetings and events.

Most of this free time, I spend doing the things I've always done: reading, writing, watching movies or series, doing jigsaw puzzles, walking, hiking. Taking the dogs to the beach. Cooking. Eventually, piano lessons. It's nothing special -- but it's hugely special. I feel so at peace.


11.11: there is no glory in war

Eleven people, on war.

*  *  *  *

Imprisoned for opposing U.S. involvement in the
war in Europe, Debs ran for President from jail.
He garnered 1,000,000 votes, at a time when
the US population was 103,208,000, and
only men could vote.
These are the gentry who are today wrapped up in the American flag, who shout their claim from the housetops that they are the only patriots, and who have their magnifying glasses in hand, scanning the country for evidence of disloyalty, eager to apply the brand of treason to the men who dare to even whisper their opposition. . . . No wonder Sam Johnson declared that “patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.” He must have had this Wall Street gentry in mind, or at least their prototypes, for in every age it has been the tyrant, the oppressor and the exploiter who has wrapped himself in the cloak of patriotism, or religion, or both to deceive and overawe the people. . . .

Wars throughout history have been waged for conquest and plunder. In the Middle Ages when the feudal lords who inhabited the castles whose towers may still be seen along the Rhine concluded to enlarge their domains, to increase their power, their prestige and their wealth they declared war upon one another. But they themselves did not go to war any more than the modern feudal lords, the barons of Wall Street go to war. The feudal barons of the Middle Ages, the economic predecessors of the capitalists of our day, declared all wars. And their miserable serfs fought all the battles. The poor, ignorant serfs had been taught to revere their masters; to believe that when their masters declared war upon one another, it was their patriotic duty to fall upon one another and to cut one another’s throats for the profit and glory of the lords and barons who held them in contempt.

And that is war in a nutshell. The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and all to lose—especially their lives.

-- Eugene V. Debs, from the Canton, Ohio speech, June 16, 1918 (Speech here; context here.)

*  *  *  *

War is methodical, organized, gigantic murder.

-- Rosa Luxemburg, The Junius Pamphlet, 1916
Rosa Luxemburg travels into the twenty-first century like a great messenger bird, spanning continents, scanning history, to remind us that our present is not new but a continuation of a long human conflict changing only in intensity and scope. Her fiery critical intellect and ardent spirit are as vital for this time as in her own. 
-- Adrienne Rich

*  *  *  *

Mohandas Gandhi, 1869-1948
What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or in the holy name of liberty or democracy?

-- Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

This photo is from the Salt March, a pivotal moment in the history of civil disobedience.

*  *  *  *

And Göring said, "Why, of course, the people don't want war. Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war? But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy. The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. All you have to do is tell them they're being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism. It works the same way in any country."

I was interested in that last line: "It works the same way in any country." I mean, here, these are the Nazis. That's the fascist regime. We are a democracy. But it works the same way in any country, whatever you call yourself. Whether you call yourself a totalitarian state or you call yourself a democracy, it works the same way, and that is, the leaders of the country are able to cajole or coerce and entice the people into war by scaring them, telling them they're in danger, and threatening them and coercing them, that if they don't go along, they will be considered unpatriotic. And this is what really happened in this country right after 9/11. And this is happened right after Bush raised the specter of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and got for a while the American people to go along with this.

But the question is, how did they get away with it? What about the press? What about the media? Isn't it the job of the press, isn't it the job of the media, isn't it the job of journalism to expose what governments do? Don't journalists learn from I.F. Stone, who said, "Just remember two words," he said to young people who were studying journalism, he said, "Just remember two words: governments lie"? . . . .

Howard Zinn, 1922-2010
And the question is, why still did the people believe what they read in the press, and why did they believe what they saw on television? And I would argue that it has something to do with a loss of history, has something to do with, well, what Studs Terkel called "national amnesia," either the forgetting of history or the learning of bad history, the learning of the kind of history that you do get, of Columbus was a hero, and Teddy Roosevelt is a hero, and Andrew Jackson is a hero, and all these guys who were presidents and generals and industrialists, and so on. They are the great -- they are the people who made America great, and America has always done good things in the world. And we have had our little problems, of course -- like slavery, for instance, you know -- but we overcome them, you know, and, you know. No, not that kind of history.

If the American people really knew history, if they learned history, if the educational institutions did their job, if the press did its job in giving people historical perspective, then a people would understand. When the President gets up before the microphone, says we must go to war for this or for that, for liberty or for democracy, or because we're in danger, and so on, if people had some history behind them, they would know how many times presidents have announced to the nation, we must go to war for this reason or that reason. They would know that President Polk said, "Oh, we must go to war against Mexico, because, well, there was an incident that took place on the border there, and our honor demands that we go to war."

They would know, if they knew some history, how President McKinley took the nation into war against Spain and Cuba, saying, "Oh, we're going in to liberate the Cubans from Spanish control." And in fact, there was a little bit of truth to that: we did go in, we fought against Spain, we got Spain out of Cuba, we liberated them from Spain, but not from ourselves. And so, Spain was out, and United Fruit was in, and then the American banks and the American corporations were in. (It goes on... you should keep reading.)

-- Howard Zinn

*  *  *  *

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.
-- Dwight D. Eisenhower

A quote from a POTUS in an approving context: this may be a first -- and an only -- for wmtc. This man had great insight: he gave us this.

*  *  *  *

I am convinced that it is one of the most unjust wars that has ever been fought in the history of the world. Our involvement in the war in Vietnam has torn up the Geneva Accord. It has strengthened the military-industrial complex; it has strengthened the forces of reaction in our nation. It has put us against the self-determination of a vast majority of the Vietnamese people, and put us in the position of protecting a corrupt regime that is stacked against the poor.

Selma to Montgomery, 1965
King came to believe that the civil rights movement
and the anti-war movement were inextricable.
It has played havoc with our domestic destinies. This day we are spending five hundred thousand dollars to kill every Vietcong soldier. Every time we kill one we spend about five hundred thousand dollars while we spend only fifty-three dollars a year for every person characterized as poverty-stricken in the so-called poverty program, which is not even a good skirmish against poverty.

Not only that, it has put us in a position of appearing to the world as an arrogant nation. And here we are ten thousand miles away from home fighting for the so-called freedom of the Vietnamese people when we have not even put our own house in order. And we force young black men and young white men to fight and kill in brutal solidarity. Yet when they come back home that can’t hardly live on the same block together.

-- Martin Luther King, Jr., from Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution, sermon on March 31, 1968, National Cathedral in Washington, DC

*  *  *  *

Every war when it comes, or before it comes, is represented not as a war but as an act of self-defense against a homicidal maniac. . . .

All the war-propaganda, all the screaming and lies and hatred, comes invariably from people who are not fighting.

-- George Orwell, Homage to Catalonia

War is a way of shattering to pieces, or pouring into the stratosphere, or sinking in the depths of the sea, materials which might otherwise be used to make the masses too comfortable, and hence, in the long run, too intelligent.

-- George Orwell, 1984

*  *  *  *

For his refusal to be drafted, Ali was stripped of
his heavyweight title, his boxing license, and his passport.
He had no idea if he would ever box again. 
My conscience won’t let me go shoot my brother, or some darker people, or some poor hungry people in the mud for big powerful America. And shoot them for what? They never called me nigger, they never lynched me, they didn’t put no dogs on me, they didn’t rob me of my nationality, rape and kill my mother and father.

Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go 10,000 miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on Brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights?

No. I’m not going 10,000 miles from home to help murder and burn another poor nation simply to continue the domination of white slave masters of the darker people the world over. This is the day when such evils must come to an end. I have been warned that to take such a stand would cost me millions of dollars. But I have said it once and I will say it again. The real enemy of my people is here. I will not disgrace my religion, my people or myself by becoming a tool to enslave those who are fighting for their own justice, freedom and equality. If I thought the war was going to bring freedom and equality to 22 million of my people they wouldn’t have to draft me, I’d join tomorrow. I have nothing to lose by standing up for my beliefs. So I’ll go to jail, so what? We’ve been in jail for 400 years.

-- Muhammad Ali, 1968

*  *  *  *

I no longer feel allegiance to these monsters called human beings, despite being one myself. I think that Peeta was onto something about us destroying one another and letting some decent species take over. Because something is significantly wrong with a creature that sacrifices its children’s lives to settle its differences.

-- Suzanne Collins, Mockingjay

Collins: I was flipping though images on reality television where these young people were competing for a million dollars, then I was seeing footage from the Iraq war, and these two things began to fuse together in a very unsettling way.

*  *  *  *

He wrote the greatest anti-war novel of all time.
But now, for the first time, I see you are a man like me. I thought of your hand-grenades, of your bayonet, of your rifle; now I see your wife and your face and our fellowship. Forgive me, comrade. We always see it too late. Why do they never tell us that you are poor devils like us, that your mothers are just as anxious as ours, and that we have the same fear of death, and the same dying and the same agony. Forgive me, comrade; how could you be my enemy?

-- Erich Maria Remarque, All Quiet on the Western Front, 1929

*  *  *  *

Historically, the most terrible things -- war, genocide, and slavery -- have resulted not from disobedience, but from obedience.

-- Howard Zinn


what i'm reading: the birth of the pill by jonathan eig

The Birth of the Pill: How Four Crusaders Reinvented Sex and Launched a Revolution by Jonathan Eig was a fascinating and very readable look at how oral contraceptives -- otherwise known as The Pill -- came to be.

The Pill changed the world. It was the first contraception that was nearly 100% effective, easy to use, did not interrupt or alter sex, and crucially, controlled by the woman who used it. It was also the first option to be both effective and reversible; pre-Pill, the only completely effective birth-control was sterilization. The advent of oral contraceptives, and later, the availability of safe and legal abortion, liberated millions of women from the fear of unwanted pregnancy, and in doing so, lifted millions of children out of poverty, by giving women the ability to limit the size of their families.

Eig tells the story through the lens of four people -- all iconoclasts, all rebels, and none of them saints.

Safe, effective, reversible, female-controlled, non-barrier birth control was the dream and lifelong quest of Margaret Sanger. Sanger had dual motivations. She saw the effects of unlimited conception all around her, in families forced into poverty by the burden of too many children, and above all in women who were physically and mentally exhausted from breeding, women dying from too many births or unsafe abortions. Women from around the world begged Sanger to help them.

The ill effects of too-large families was a prime motivator, but Sanger wanted more than a limit to pregnancy. She wanted women to be able to fulfill their sexual potential, by freeing sex from the fear of unwanted pregnancy, and freeing birth-control from dependence on the male partner. She wanted women to know the liberating powers of joyful, consensual sex. She wanted women to be able to enjoy sex just because they could.

Contraception and sex for pleasure: both goals put Sanger directly in the crosshairs of the government and the Catholic Church. In 1950, when Eig's story begins, it was illegal to distribute birth control, or even to share information about it, in the U.S.

Sanger was arrested more than once, and served jail time for founding the United States' first birth-control clinic, in Brooklyn in 1916. Yet for all her feminism, Sanger is a hero. She found common cause with eugenicists, and favoured sterilization of "undesirable" people, which could mean people with disabilities or brown people -- or whatever else. Eig doesn't shy away from this, or try to sugar-coat it, but he keeps it in perspective. Sanger is a hero with a dark side.

Gregory Pincus held a similar position in the scientific community -- a passionate outsider. A biologist, Pincus had been bounced out of Harvard University for his experiments in in vitro fertilization. He founded his own foundation on a shoestring, going door-to-door in Worcester, Massachusetts for tiny donations.

Pincus was a cowboy scientist, with reckless ethical standards, a flare for public relations, and an ego that wouldn't quit. Eig's portrait of Pincus is amusing and head-shaking by turns.

The third iconoclast in the rebellious quartet was Katharine McCormick, a brilliant woman with a scientific background (she was one of the first women to graduate from MIT), an unshakable feminism, and a ton of money to give away. She spent vast sums on the project, without so much as a formal grant proposal. When Pincus said he needed funds, McCormick opened her checkbook.

McCormick figures in to the one of the book's best anecdotes, which gives a nice taste of Eig's lively writing.
"...Demand [for diaphragms] far exceeded supply. Diaphragms were smuggled into the country from Canada, but still the Bureau [the birth control clinic] couldn't get enough. Katharine proposed bringing in more from Europe and developed a plan for doing it. In May 1923, she sailed across the Atlantic with eight pieces of luggage, including three large trunks. While there, she bought more large trunks, explaining that she intended to purchase many of the "latest fashions" during her trip. She met with diaphragm manufacturers, placed her orders, and had the devices shipped to her chateau. Then she hired local seamstresses to sew the diaphragms into newly purchased clothing, put the clothing on hangers, and packed the exquisite dresses and coats in tissue. Eight large trunks were loaded, sent through customs, and carried aboard the ship as Katharine sailed for home, handing out generous gratuities at every station. Katharine McCormick, aristocrat, smuggler, rebel, arrived at the clinic by taxi trailing a truck containing the most exquisitely packaged diaphragms the works had ever seen -- more than a thousand in all, enough to last the clinic a year.
The fourth pillar in this odd quartet was, to me, the least interesting, but he played a key role that no one else could have filled. John Rock, a gynecologist, was the epitome of the trusted physician -- tall, silver-haired, elegant, formal, charming. He was also a devout Catholic. Rock had deep faith, but he didn't believe the institutional Church was infallible. He believed that a woman’s health was more important than that of her fetus. He believed that sex within a marriage, not necessarily for procreation, was a good and healthy thing. He believed in the potential of science to improve lives, and that, as he put it, "religion is a very poor scientist".

Rock became the public spokesman for The Pill. He wanted to convince ordinary Catholics -- and the Catholic Church -- to embrace birth control. Rock was never able to persuade the Church, but he helped soothe public fears, and he helped The Pill get FDA approval despite massive pressure from the Vatican.

Researching a bit for this post, I noticed several reviewers took exception to Eig's storyline. One thought he glossed over Sanger's involvement in eugenics. The book definitely does not do this, but it's also not a book about Sanger or eugenics. Another writer felt Eig didn't properly expand on the changing social mores that The Pill helped bring about. I thought he made a good case for that, but again, the book isn't about the "sexual revolution" itself. It's about, as the title says, the birth of The Pill.

As that, The Birth of the Pill is an entertaining and very readable account of a hidden history that deserves to be known.


listening to joni: #11: wild things run fast

Wild Things Run Fast, 1982

Front Cover
Wild Things Run Fast feels like the beginning of a new Joni era.

Mingus ended a trajectory. After Mingus, Joni toured, and took a break from recording. From now on she would release an album every three or four years, rather than annually as she once did.

For me, Wild Things is an easy album to enjoy. It's tuneful and accessible, Joni's voice velvety over well-honed pop-jazz. With the opening notes of the first track, "Chinese Cafe/Unchained Melody", you know you're in familiar territory, reminiscent of Hissing and Hejira, but simplified and streamlined.

Back Cover
I wonder if this lady has a hole in her stockings.

"Chinese Cafe" laments lost youth, and the lost landmarks of youth, the paved-over paradise, not with a deep sadness, just a wistfulness, an acceptance. Joni sings to an old friend, as she did in "Song for Sharon". Careful listeners, hearing My child's a stranger, I bore her, but I could not raise her, can flash back to "Little Green" from Blue. But Joni's reunion with her daughter is still 15 years away.

Joni weaves the "Chinese Cafe" tune into the classic "Unchained Melody", but without the deep despair that song is often given by singers, more of a straightforward reading. This is in keeping with the feel of the whole album. After all, a centerpiece is "Play It Cool", with the refrain, Play it cool, play it cool, fifty-fifty, fire and ice.

In the title track, Joni touches on the love-vs-freedom conflict, this time from the perspective of "Coyote" or "Blond in the Bleachers". No sadness here either -- more of a bemused understanding: eating from her hand at last. But when it gets too cozy:
Fast tracks in the powder white
Leading out to the road
Winding from her tender grasp
Perhaps "Ladies Man" was inspired by the same dude, a man who can charm the diamonds off a rattlesnake. This is a wonderfully provocative line:
Why do you keep on trying to
Make a man of me
Couldn't you just love me
Like you love cocaine
"Moon at the Window" has the feel of a jazz standard, Joni's voice dipping and swooping into high and low registers, Wayne Shorter's soprano sax flying alongside, Joni's signature harmonies, once again her own backup singer.
Is it possible to learn
How to care and not care
Since love has two faces
Hope and despair
Inside Cover
Classic Joni lyrics, but with a cool sound, no angst here.

"This Solid Love" was and always will be about Joni's relationship with bassist and producer Larry Klein (who Joni has always called Klein). It's no small feat to write a happy, celebratory love song that isn't sappy or simplistic.
Love always made me feel so uneasy
I couldn't relax and just be me
More like some strange disease
Than this solid love
She also uses a bit of talk-singing to proclaim their love Un-believable and Hot dog darlin'.

"Underneath the Streetlight" is also a celebration of love. And the closing track is one of the most profound celebrations of love ever written: Corinthians 13. I love the cadences of the King James Bible, and am a huge fan of the poetry of Corinthians; Joni singing them is a rare treat for me. This is not a religious thing; I'm a Jewish atheist. But if you love Shakespeare, you've got to give King James a chance.

The woman whose heartweariness sang Maybe I've never really loved, I guess that is the truth, the woman who growled Love's a repetitious danger, now offers, If I didn't have love, I'd have nothing.

Wild Things Run Fast is a celebration of love in many forms.

Joni and Klein, from inside cover

Along with "Unchained Melody", there's another cover on this album, Leiber and Stoller's "(You're So Square) Baby I Don't Care". It's a bit of a throwaway track, but it works well with "Solid Love" and "Underneath the Streetlight".

Bad critic comment of the album

There are quite a few to choose from for this album. Although some critics praised Wild Things, most found it too simplistic, too pop, not pop enough, too unstructured, too this, too that.

Richard Cook, writing in NME, finds "nothing of consequence to remark on", pans the "distressingly simple" rock sound, and dismisses Wayne Shorter and certain production values as "a rich woman's indulgence". He damns-with-faint-praise Joni's voice, and sneers at past lyrics: "And there were always her diaries to look through, over and over."

The worst stab of the review, however, is a very low -- and ignorant -- blow: comparing Joni unfavourably to Rickie Lee Jones. Jones at the time was wearing a beret and smoking brown cigarillos, telling the music media how she wasn't influenced by Joni.

The album cover

I really like this album cover. On the front, Joni's given us another self-portrait, in a casual, jaunty pose, but with a serious or neutral expression on her face. She's leaning on a television, which is showing another of her paintings -- a herd of wild horses, running fast. In the same room, used on the back cover, are a pair of women's shoes, black heels that appear hastily kicked-off.

We get two other Joni paintings, too: one of Joni and Klein, which was a study for this painting, "Solid Love". Also on the inside cover, there's another black-and-white study, a little glimpse of Joni the painter at work, or perhaps her mind at work. There's an art book, open to a two-page spread showing Matisse's "La Danse", a wicker chair that looks straight out of Paris, paints and brushes, and a painting of the shoes shown on the back cover.

I love how so many of Joni's paintings include a frame of some type -- a picture frame, the TV, a painting in a painting.

Cacti or stockings?

I think we're done with references to cactus and stockings.

Other musicians on this album

Drums, John Guerin, Vinnie Colaiuta
Bass, Larry Klein
Electric Guitar, Steve Lukather, Larry Carlton, Mike Landau
Prophet Synth, Larry Williams
Soprano Sax, Wayne Shorter
Tenor Sax, Larry Williams
Baritone Sax, Kim Hutchcroft
Oberheim Synth, Russell Ferrante
Percussion, Victor Feldman
Background vocals, Lionel Richie, Charles Valentino, Howard Kinney, James Taylor, John Guerin, Kenny Rankin, Robert De La Garza, Skip Cottrell


bcgeu 100: six short videos about labour history in the province of bc

I love history -- the history of anything that I'm interested in. Music, baseball, science and technology, and of course, the history of people's movements. Women, peace, civil rights, LGBT -- and above all, I love labour history.

Learning about how working people organized and fought for justice in the workplace is thrilling to me, especially the ground-breakers, the pioneers, the courageous women and men who defied unjust law and immoral authority, who risked everything.

Those people are my heroes. I feel a kinship, a solidarity with these historical figures. I feel the chain of labour battles stretching out across the ages, the torch passed from their hands to ours.

Sometimes I feel like I was born in the wrong era. I dream of the time when workers would "down tools" and walk out, shutting the whole factory down. I dream of general strikes, of the IWW crossing class and colour lines, of the "mill girls" of Lowell and Laurence, Massachusetts (my all-time favourite moment of labour history) -- the radical edge of movement of risk and reward.

Of course I know those were brutal and dangerous times. Coming from working-class immigrant roots as I do, I would not have had a privileged life. But I know something about how alive those activists must have felt, how passion must have infused their lives with deep meaning. The power they must have felt, however briefly. The difference they made.

My own union, the BCGEU, is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. These six short, beautifully made videos describe the history of our union. I'm proud to carry its tradition.

BCGEU100 Series #1: Neither Servant Nor Civil
A strong beginning, a dip and almost death... and renewal.

BCGEU100 Series #2: From Begging to Bargaining
Things get militant. The NDP forms the BC govt,
and provincial workers win collective bargaining rights.

BCGEU100 Series #3: Defending Public Services
How we fight for public services and public good.
Plus wildcat strikes and workplace takeovers! Be still my heart.
(But a general strike was called off... to great detriment.)

BCGEU100 Series #4: Growing the Union
The union adapts and changes as times demand.
It decides to continue to represent members who have been
driven into the private sector -- and by doing so, gains diversity and strength.

BCGEU100 Series #5: Diversity and Equity in our Union
Diversity, equity, representative leadership, and equal pay.
"We still have a long way to go, but each step forward makes us stronger."

BCGEU100 Series #6: Campaigning for Justice
How we fight for justice.
Unions do more than fight for members. When unions win, we all win.

#elxn43: my (completely mundane) thoughts on the results

Since I posted my useless blather just before the recent Canadian federal election, I feel like I should weigh in on the outcome. My thoughts are not trenchant or incisive, but then, neither are the thoughts of 95 percent of the pundits out there, whether employed by CBC or writing independently on their own blog.

The NDP.  I'm sorry to see the party lose so many seats. We'll never know how much of that was attributable to racism, how much to the NDP's lack of preparation, and how much to Singh's weak performance in the House of Commons. Based on what I know of people and voting, I would say more of the first and second, and little of the third. But my completely nonscientific tiny-sample-size polling tells me many disaffected Dippers are going Green, and Jagmeet has to wear some of that.

I'm not into party politics, but I do want to have a strong choice on the left -- not just on climate change, but on all issues. I ask only two things of the NDP. One, be consistently and strongly in opposition to the Liberals and Conservatives, from a democratic socialist point of view. And two, invest resources in ridings other than the few enclaves already considered safe. This should not be an impossible dream. And yet.

Minority all the way. There was some good news in this election, for sure. I assumed we'd see a minority Liberal government, and I'm relieved that we did. I'm relieved to not have a majority government of any kind, and not a Conservative government of any kind.

Goodbye Mr. Bernier. The racist, xenophobic, radically regressive PPC did not win any seats, and Maxime Bernier is no longer an MP. Excellent news. I also support the party's right to exist and to speak freely. I'm disgusted by attempts from the left to shut the PPC out of the debate.

Hello Green voters. It's good to see the Greens gain ground, even though they are not my party of choice. I want to see more people vote for more parties that are not Liberal or Conservative.

Welcome back, Bloc. I also think the resurgence of the Bloc is healthy for democracy (although bad for the NDP). When I listen to the Bloc leader in translation -- not just now, but throughout my time in Canada -- I always admire them. With one important exception, of course: their racism and Islamophobia, hardly disguised by the label "secularism". I'd love to see the NDP represent democratic socialism as clearly and strongly as the Bloc Quebecois represents its constituents.

Electoral. Reform. Now. When I look at the colour chart and look at the popular vote, I have a renewed resolve to work on electoral reform in some way. I don't know what I can do, beyond supporting Fair Vote Canada, but there must be something.

We moved to BC in the middle of a referendum on election reform, and weren't eligible to vote in it. Now I've seen two referenda of this kind, one in Ontario and one in BC. Both were massive campaigns, and both failed. I believe we should keep trying. Huge electoral change won't happen overnight. We must keep working for this. But how?

Thank you, Vancouver Island. And finally, I am grateful for the good people of Vancouver Island, where we remain staunchly orange with a touch of green.


#elxn43: the choice is clear, as always: progressives who vote liberal are not progressive at all

Jagmeet Singh marching with striking hotel workers
in Vancouver.
For weeks now, I've ignored all commentary and punditry about the upcoming Canadian federal election. I feel that literally no one has anything new or interesting thing to say.

I ignored polls for weeks, too, knowing that they are pretty much proven to be bullshit every time out. But a few days ago, I caved, and now anxiously check seat projections daily, as if they mean anything -- but knowing they do not.

It's all beyond predictable.

Calls for us to vote so-called strategically, casting blame and shame on anyone who wants something different. Dire warnings about so-called vote splitting -- the term itself worthy of derision, as if Liberal and NDP voters all want the same thing, as if the parties are actually the same. As if we're somehow divvying up the votes, as opposed to, you know, voting. Perhaps we should talk about vote-splitting between the Tories and the Liberals.

In BC, where everyone hates the Liberals, the Conservatives are scaremongering about the NDP. In all provinces, the Liberals are scaremongering about the Conservatives, while they peddle their false centrism.

And so many people spending their precious, measly little vote by trying to predict what other people will do! So many people not voting for what they want, and instead falling for the biggest self-fulfilling scam of them all.

Our awesome MP
I don't know if we're about to see a Liberal minority or a Conservative minority. And although I don't want Andrew Scheer to become Prime Minister, I cannot and will not vote for the pipeline-buying, corporate-loving, environment-killing, indigenous-hating, lying, duplicitous, unprincipled Trudeau Liberals.

Most right-thinking Canadians don't want Canada to mimic the United States. Yet they continue to believe that there are only two parties worthy of their vote, rather than building a movement for something better.

Not this voter. Not now, not ever.


"at your library" in the north island eagle: awil'gola open house: celebrate first nations communities at the library

On Thursday, October 24, the Port Hardy Library will host Awil'gola Open House, a celebration of local Indigenous cultures.

Awil'gola is a Kwak'wala word loosely translated as "in celebration", "being with one another", or "all being together". We will be celebrating beautiful new Cultural Literacy Kits focusing on the Kwakwaka'wakw, the Kwak'wala-speaking peoples.

At the Awil'gola Open House, we'll unveil and launch these new kits. Members of the Kwakiutl Nation will demonstrate button-blanket making and cedar weaving, and students from the Gwa'sala-Nakwaxda'dw School will perform traditional drumming and dancing. There will be refreshments and prize draws – 10 children will each win a Kwak'wala-themed colouring book.

Cultural Literacy Kits are a learning experience in a box. Along with books, they may contain DVDs, CDs, or learning games and puzzles. Vancouver Island Regional Library (VIRL) has many Cultural Literacy Kits in our collection, celebrating languages and cultures from around the world, all of which have helped shape Canada, and who continue to contribute to our multicultural world.

These new Kwak'wala Cultural Literacy Kits have an interesting history. In recent years, VIRL has been proud to participate in reconciliation, through programs like Read for Reconciliation and the Indigenous Voices series.

In Port Hardy, we reached out to members of the Indigenous community, especially those involved in literacy and education. We asked how we could better serve these communities, and we got together to discuss the possibilities.

VIRL already had two Kwak'wala kits. The local group thought they were great, and recommended ways we could make them even better.

VIRL was excited about the possibilities. It was decided not only to update the materials in the kit, but to increase the number of kits from two to nine. We consulted with educators and publishers to choose books, puzzles, puppets, and other materials. The new kits celebrate the history, strength, and resiliency of the Kwak'waka'kw. It also walks the path of reconciliation, teaching about the Residential School System, the trauma it caused, and the healing that continues.

Each Kwak'wala Cultural Literacy Kit features a selection of relevant books, a puppet, a wooden puzzle, and an educational card game, plus a colouring book, a CD of traditional music, and a DVD of "Potlatch – To Give", a movie by the celebrated Indigenous filmmaker Barbara Cranmer.

The U'mista Cultural Centre generously donated copies of the Kwak'wala-language edition of Love You Forever, by Canadian children's author Robert Munsch.

I hope that families from all backgrounds will borrow a Kwak'wala Cultural Literacy Kit to learn and explore. And I hope you'll join us for the Awil'gola Open House – all celebrating together.


"at your library" in the north island eagle: computer help in port alice, woss... and everywhere

These days, basic computer skills are as essential as knowing how to boil water. Whether it's sending an email, using Skype to chat with a grandchild, or taking care of banking, computers have great potential to make our lives easier. Sometimes, computer use is a necessity. When the residents of Port Alice learned that their bank branch was closing, many people realized they should learn how to bank online.

But how are we expected to acquire these skills? Despite what you may hear, no one is born knowing how to use a computer. If you're already an adult, finished with school, and perhaps retired, who is going to teach you?

The public library, that's who.

The Port Alice branch of the Vancouver Island Regional Library (VIRL) is offering a special opportunity for computer education. Working with the Mt. Waddington Health Network, Mt. Waddington Community Futures, and the Village of Port Alice, the Library is holding free computer learning sessions for adults.

Adults who register in advance will work on either a desktop or laptop computer, or a tablet, and get hands-on instruction from our Community Support Technician. We'll focus on whatever that individual wants to learn. For some people, that will mean setting up an email account to stay in touch with family. For others, online banking is the most pressing concern. Someone else may want to write a letter using a basic word-processing program.

Each person will set their own goals and learn at their own pace. Learning can be stressful, but we try to make it as stress-free and fun as possible. Remember, at the Library, there are no stupid questions. Ask, ask, ask.

These computer learning sessions take place in the Port Alice Community Centre. The Village of Port Alice has generously allowed us to use the space at no cost. We're using the Community Centre's computers, plus more laptops and tablets supplied by VIRL. The good folks at Community Futures are handling the registration. And thanks to the Health Network, we're all moving together in the same direction.

If you live in Port Alice and feel that you would benefit from some computer learning, get in touch! The Port Alice Library can give you all the information. We're beginning a similar program in Woss, too, at the town's Community Hall. Ask at the library and we'll get you started.

If you already have some computer skills and you want to learn more – or you can't make it to any of the classes -- the Library can help in two different ways.

First: books. Some people learn best by reading. VIRL has dozens of titles that can help you learn more about using a computer. There's even a whole series of books written specifically for seniors. Check out the catalog at virl.bc.ca > learn > learn computers or ask any of our friendly and knowledgeable staff.

If you're more of a visual learner, try Lynda.com. Lynda contains hundreds of instructional videos taught by professionals and experts. You can work at your own pace and build up to more advanced skills as you go along. Like everything in our Library, it's free to use with your library card. You find it in the same place: virl.bc.ca > learn > learn computers, then scroll down for Lynda.com.

Have fun and good luck!


listening to joni: #10: mingus

Mingus, 1979

Mingus is unique in Joni's work, in that she wrote lyrics to someone else's instrumental music. Four of the six tracks on Mingus were written collaboratively by Joni and Charles Mingus.

Charles Mingus was a jazz composer and band leader. He was enormously influential, and anyone following contemporary jazz music would have known his work. But it's doubtful whether in 1979 most Joni Mitchell fans even knew his name, let alone recognized his music.

In the late 1970s, Mingus had ALS and was failing physically. He reached out to Joni, and they began a long-distance friendship. After about a year, he asked Joni to write lyrics to a group of songs he had composed.

The full story of how the collaboration began is more complex, but it wasn't known at the time. Mingus died before the album was finished, although he did hear finished versions of most of the songs.

Mingus is another step on the jazz path Joni began with Court and Spark, and which became a greater part of her music with each album since. It turned out to be Joni's last jazz album.

Mingus will never be my favourite Joni album, but I do like it, and of course I admire Joni's willingness to follow her musical star wherever it led her. When I listen to this album, I find myself focusing almost exclusively on Joni's voice and the lyrics, and almost not hearing the other instruments, keeping them well in the background.

The music behind the lyrics is abstract and challenging. There's a wash of soft sounds, over-buzzy echoing bass lines, and Joni's own guitar, unmistakable, but more restrained and minimalist than we've ever heard her before. I listen to a lot of jazz, but this kind of abstract fusion is not my thing.

The most unusual piece on the album is one of the two that Joni composed: "The Wolf That Lives In Lindsey". On a blog called "Ethan's Greats," I found this wonderful description.
"The Wolf That Lives in Lindsey" is a battle between furious plucks of a bass, playing at a different tune of the acoustic guitar that plays high and low at once, and the hand drums that beat, well, to their own drum, appropriately. Mitchell, though past the age in which a listener could tell her voice was going, soars to old vocal heights – "Of the darkness in men's minds/ what can you say/ that wasn't marked by history," she ponders and sort of tells a story of the men and their darknesses, wandering the streets, as well as of Lindsey, who finds her own darkness expressed within. There is one more instrument combining here as well – howls of wolves, used as a composition that actually complements all the desultory elements. "The Wolf" isn't the sort of song that you can pull out of a jazz record and turn into a standard, but it is one that takes hold reflecting the uncertainty and mystery of the world and wanders gorgeously with its consciousness into the dark. The guitar, the howls, the voice, the deep pluck of that bass awaken something – fear and sadness living simultaneously with sensuality.
For me, the most memorable song on Mingus is a jazz standard, "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat," written by Charles Mingus in 1959, about the late, great Lester Young. In her lyrics, written 20 years after Young's death, Joni doesn't pretend she knew Lester Young. She doesn't try to write his eulogy. She boldly states her perspective in the opening line.
When Charlie speaks of Lester...
That line says so much. Joni has only recently become part of the jazz scene. She's not presuming or pretending. She's telling you about a Lester Young that she knows through Charles Mingus.

Back Cover
The song is about racism – the racism Young faced as a musician, and about the anger he encountered when he married a white woman.

Sue Graham Mingus, Charles Mingus' wife, was also white. Joni herself was harshly criticized – and accused of racism – for following her musical journey into supposedly Black territory.
...When the bandstands had a thousand ways
Of refusing a black man admission
Black musician
In those days they put him in an
Underdog position
Cellars and chitlins'

When Lester took him a wife
Arm and arm went black and white
And some saw red
And drove them from their hotel bed
Love is never easy
It's short of the hope we have for happiness
Bright and sweet
Love is never easy street!
The song also includes this beautiful New York City moment.
We came up from the subway
On the music midnight makes
To Charlie's bass and Lester's saxophone
In taxi horns and brakes
In "Sweet Sucker Dance," Joni revisits a familiar theme in yet another new way. She wonders if she can let herself do the "sweet sucker dance" – fall in love – again. She admits she "almost closed the door" because "the shadows had their way".
Inside Cover
They'd turn my heart against you
Since I was fool enough
To find romance
I'm trying to convince myself
This is just a dance

We move in measures
Through loves' changing faces
Needy and nonchalant
Greedy and gracious
Through petty dismissals
And grand embraces
Like it was only a dance

We are survivors
Some get broken
Some get mended
Some can't surrender
They're too well defended
Some get lucky
Some are blessed
And some pretend
This is only a dance

We're dancing fools
You and me
Tonight it's a dance of insecurity
It's my solo
While you're away
And shadows have the saddest thing to say
Joni asks, "Am I a sucker to love you?" The song answers the question Joni-style. While it may be sad to think that falling in love is a "sucker dance," it's also sweet, and it's inevitable, and it's part of life, because sometimes the shadows have had their way.

Another song on Mingus that I like is "The Dry Cleaner from Des Moines". The singer meets the Iowa man in a casino, where he is cleaning up.
He got three oranges
Three lemons
Three cherries
Three plums
I'm losing my taste for fruit! ...

Des Moines was stacking the chips
Raking off the tables
Ringing the bandit's bells
This is a story that's a drag to tell
(In some ways)
Since I lost every dime
I laid on the line
But the cleaner from Des Moines
Could put a coin
In the door of a John
And get twenty for one
It's just luck!
I read this as a lighthearted take on the random chance of everything. Perhaps Mingus, dying while possessing the full force of his talent, was feeling the random chance of the universe particularly sharply just then.

Mingus also includes interludes that the album cover calls "raps" – five short sound clips of Charles Mingus talking and joking around with the session musicians. These can be unnecessary distractions or amusing insider views, depending on how you're listening. They were not planned. Sue Mingus made the session tapes available to Joni and she decided to pull out clips for the album. They are the last recordings Charles Mingus made.

Inside Cover
Bad critic comment of the album

I had remembered this album being very badly received, and some bizarre accusations being hurled at Joni. When I look for that now, however, I find very little of it. Most of the reviews and features collected here on the jonimitchell.com are very positive.

I don't know if those stories just aren't online, or if I'm misremembering or unknowingly exaggerating what I read at the time.

What I remember is Joni accused of what is now called cultural appropriation: Joni was "trying to be black". She was trashed for being a jazz novice and dilettante – a kind of "how dare she" collaborate with a Jazz Great like Mingus.

These are just about the stupidest things you can say about a musician – about any artist – and even stupider when we consider that Mingus reached out to Joni, and not the other way around. (Although if she had reached out to him, or any other musician, there would be absolutely nothing wrong with that.)

There are many tributes to this album online, celebrating both its music and its lyrics. Cameron Crowe did this wonderful interview in Rolling Stone (I remember reading it in real time) (really, I do), and a few months later, the album was panned in the same venue.

The most idiotic critic comment I found was in a university newspaper. I normally don't trash novice writers, but the evidence here is too good to pass up. I'm also including it because it's typical of what I remember reading at the time.
I've nothing against an established artist trying to break away from the stuff they've already done so that they might "advance their art," but I protest against artsy experiments in areas where a particular artist has no business being.
Yep, a guy in college is passing judgment on where Joni Mitchell "has business being".
Though the music and lyrics jell [sic] better this time than on her previous Don Juan's Reckless Daughter (a bottomless pit of amorphous atonalism and free-associative lyrics that expressed the forgettable in terms of the incomprehensible)...
You just know he was dying to get this line in, something he thought of for the previous album and didn't get a chance to publish. I'll be generous and assume he would now find that line embarrassing.

The album cover

If you like Joni's painting, the Mingus cover art is a treat – four pieces on this one album.

On the front cover, there's an abstract expressionist painting, and if you look closely, you'll see a figure in a wheelchair (from behind), and a long-legged, female figure, sitting, possibly at a piano, her arm raised, hand on head. Interestingly, the painting is not the full cover. The painting is in the centre of the cover, framed by white space, with the album and artist's names above and below. This serves to make the cover more minimalist – which is what you'll find inside, music that is abstract and minimal.

Inside, there's an expressionist portrait of Mingus as big, clumsy, immobile, possibly paralyzed. But he also seems deified, like some of kind of ancient god descending from the heavens.

Also inside, there's another slightly abstract, slightly cubist portrait of Mingus, with Joni beside and behind him, smiling, but unseeing. It's a painted version of a lovely photo that you can see here.

On the back cover, Joni has painted Charles Mingus in his wheelchair, from behind, on a front porch or veranda with a sweeping view. It might be a sad and lonely picture, or perhaps just contemplative.

Cacti or stockings?

Naturally there are no cactus or stockings in this album, as the lyrics are not about Joni. I wonder, is the age of cacti and stockings behind us? Does she do that on any of the later albums? We shall see.

Now it can be told

David Yaffe, in Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell, revealed the genesis of the Mingus-Mitchell collaboration. This excerpt, published in Jazz Times, credits Sue Graham Mingus – Mingus's wife, a record producer, band manager, and former editor – with the idea. She was casting around for a fitting final project for Mingus, an outsize talent who was dying. It seems more marketing decision than a musician's desire to connect.

This bit has stayed with me.
When she first met Mingus, he was already in a wheelchair, facing the Hudson River. He had not yet lost his ability to provoke. "That song 'Paprika Plains,'" he told her. "The strings are out of tune." Mingus was testing Joni, but she adored him immediately and, of course, agreed with him about the strings on "Paprika Plains." She wished someone else had noticed. Illness had made Mingus vulnerable. He was sweet, but she saw the devil in him, too. Joni takes pride in her jive detector, and she knew she was in the presence of the real thing.
Other musicians on this album

For the "other musicians" section on this album, I'm using Joni's own liner notes.
The first time I saw his face it shone up at me with a joyous mischief. I liked him immediately I had come to New York to hear six new songs he had written for me. I was honored! I was curious! It was as if I had been standing by a river – one toe in the water – feeling it out – and Charlie came by and pushed me in – "sink or swim" – him laughing at me dog paddling around in the currents of black classical music.

Time never ticked so loudly for me as it did this last year. I wanted Charlie to witness the project's completion. He heard every song but one – GOD MUST BE A BOOGIE MAN. I know it would have given him a chuckle. Inspired by the first four pages of his autobiography – Beneath The Underdog – on the night of our first meeting – it was the last to actually take form – two days after his death.

This was a difficult but challenging project. I was trying to please Charlie and still be true to myself. I cut each song three or four times. I was after something personal – something mutual – something indescribable. During these experimental recording dates, I had the opportunity to play with some great musicians. I would like to thanks them here – they helped me to search.

Eddie Gomez - Bass
John Guerin - Drums
Phil Woods - Alto Sax
Gerry Mulligan - Baritone Sax
Danny Richmond - Narration
Tony Williams - Drums
John McLaughlin - Guitar
Jan Hammer - Mini Moog
Stanley Clark - Bass

I would especially like to thank Jeremy Lubbock for helping me to overcome inertia. And thank you Daniel Senatore for introducing my music to Charlie. Thanks to everyone who played on the final sessions. These versions satisfy me. They are audio paintings.

Sue Graham-Mingus graciously gave me access to the tapes I have interspersed throughout the album. For me they add a pertinent resonance. They preserve fragments of a large and colorful soul.

Charles Mingus, a musical mystic, died in Mexico, January 5, 1979 at the age of 56. He was cremated the next day. That same day, 56 sperm whales beached themselves on the Mexican coastline and were removed by fire. These are the coincidences that thrill my imagination.

Sue, at his request – carried his ashes to India and finding a place at the source of the Ganges River, where it ran turquoise and glinting with large gold carp, released him, with flowers and prayers at the break of a new day.

Sue and the holy river
Will send you to the saints of jazz –
To Duke and Bird and Fats –
And any other saints you have.


"at your library" in the north island eagle: ahoy there, matey! you can learn how to talk like a pirate – plus lots of fun facts about real pirates – through free apps from your library

Can you talk like a pirate?

September 19 is International Talk Like a Pirate Day, a bit of fun invented by two friends in 1995 and spread around the globe via the internet. Typical “pirate-speak” are growly phrases like Arrr Matey, Avast Ye Landlubbers, and the ever-popular Shiver Me Timbers.

What does this have to do with the Library, you ask? Good question! Pirate is one of 75 languages you can learn through Mango Languages, an amazing language-learning app. If you subscribed to Mango on your own, it would cost you $8/month for one language, or $18/month for access to all the languages – but it’s free with your library card.

There are several language learning programs online, but none compare to Mango Languages. On Mango, each language is taught by a native speaker. Lessons start very simple, and build gradually, so you can immediately see progress and gain confidence. There’s lots of repetition and review built in. There’s even a feature where you can compare your pronunciation to the teacher’s and see how it matches up.

I love Mango Languages because it’s designed for real life. There’s none of that “the pen of my aunt is on the table”. Mango knows the kinds of words and phrases that you need for traveling or living in another country, and helps you get there.

It even includes cultural tips. For example, in some Spanish-speaking countries, people will use the familiar – the tu – after they have been introduced and spoken a few times. In other countries, the familiar is reserved for family and close friends, and referring to people you have recently met as tu or ti is considered insulting. Mango will clue you in on these points of culture to help you succeed.

Mango includes English-language learning too, for speakers of more than 20 different languages. And you can use Mango Languages on a computer or any mobile device.

There’s more to pirates than Ahoy Matey. Kids who want to learn about real pirates will enjoy another free library app: National Geographic Kids. National Geographic Kids gives access to thousands reliable facts and fascinating concepts in science, nature, culture, archaeology, and space. The app contains every issue of National Geographic Kids magazine from 2009 to the present, plus searchable books, videos, and images.

National Geographic Kids is part of the National Geographic Virtual Library, also free with your library card. The Nat Geo Virtual Library contains a complete archive of the famed Nat Geo magazine – every page of every issue! This is a treasure trove of information – articles, images, even the advertising is enlightening, an artifact of earlier eras. And there are pirates galore!

You can find Mango Languages and these National Geographic apps by going to virl.bc.ca > learn > all databases. If you need help getting started, call or stop by the library.

Since International Talk Like a Pirate Day is meant to be humorous, I’ll close this column with a riddle I heard from a library customer.

“What’s a pirate’s favourite letter?”

To which I replied, “That’s easy: Arrrr.”

She said, “Some might think it’s arrrr, but a pirate’s first love will always be the C.”

september 28: international safe abortion day

Today is International Safe Abortion Day. Because without access to safe, legal abortion, women can never be free.

In North America, you can help ensure that women are able to access safe abortions by donating to abortion funds. The National Network of Abortion Funds (N-NAF) can show you how.



picket lines, pupdates, and the 51st parallel: 10 things on my mind

It's been a while.

1. Mom went home.

My mom went home two weeks ago, after spending seven weeks here. I was sad to see her go! We had a great time, and it got better as we went along and settled into a routine. The dogs must especially miss her. They loved to hang out in her room, and she adored them.

2. I took union training.

I was in Nanaimo this week, participating in some training with my union, the BCGEU. I had three days of courses, plus a full day of travel each way, so I was gone for the whole work week.

My workplace has an interesting union model. All the frontline staff are members of CUPE, and the professional staff -- librarians, senior librarians, and library managers -- belong to the BCGEU. This means I'm the only BCGEU member in all five of my libraries.

However, there are BCGEU members in many other workplaces in my area. It's a very diverse union that represents social workers, administrative staff, BC Liquor and BC Cannabis workers, correctional officers, and many others. I'll be available to assist members who want a representative from outside of their workplace.

3. My union is amazing.

The courses I took were excellent, but the best part of the trip was spending time with other labour activists, and getting to know the culture of my new union.

I had heard good things about the BCGEU, but it was wonderful to see this for myself. I learned that Stephanie Smith, president of the union, came up through the rank-and-file, as a new activist. Her election (and re-election) as the union's first female president, and as a former frontline worker, transformed the union from an old-boys service model to a progressive, member-driven organizing model.

I'm pretty sure this was the best part of the training!

4. Loggers are on strike.

Forestry workers from USW Local 1-1937 are on strike against Western Forest Products, one of the largest employers on Vancouver Island. The strike is going into its fourth month, and there's no end in sight. Our North Island communities are severely impacted.

I was feeling really bad that I had done nothing to help these union brothers and their families. When the strike was called, we were closing on our house, then we were moving, then my mother was here... My focus was elsewhere, but every time we saw a picket site, I felt guilty.

Yesterday on my drive home from Nanaimo, I bought major quantities of snacks and some gas cards, and stopped at every line I passed. I also stopped into a USW office in Port McNeill: I figured a staff rep would know which families were most in need.

I visited seven lines, and should be able to hit two or three more this week. I admit much of this was to make myself feel better, but when you're on strike, picket support visits mean a lot. Presumably it wasn't an entirely selfish endeavour!

5. I wish Cookie would go on strike.

Image from Etsy
Our darling Cookie is driving us crazy. We're dealing with multiple issues: she's chewing stuff (not teething, just destroying), she's an escape artist, she has zero recall, and she seems to have developed separation anxiety.

Our friend Dharma Seeker has been consulting with us on training ideas, and suggested setting up a webcam. I learned how to make a webcam from two cell phones -- and we learned that Cookie does better when she's not crated. This was scary! The two young dogs alone in the house, not crated, could literally destroy everything. But it worked. Now they are confined to one room. We've dog-proofed the room as much as possible, and they seem calm and happy when we're gone.

This has resolved one issue. We have a long way to go.

6. We need a new fence.

We've learned the fence around our backyard is falling apart. Cookie has gotten out of at least four places.

Allan keeps working on it, but dog-fence whack-a-mole is a losing battle. We need to replace what's there with professional-grade stockade fencing. We're getting estimates, and it's not pretty. This is one reason we never wanted to own a home.

Cookie's latest chew toy: a rug we bought in Egypt.
7. I am swimming.

After ten years away from the pool, I've started to swim again. It's going to take a long time to get back my aerobic strength! But I have time.

8. I am not gardening.

I've discovered that I have little to no interest in gardening, which includes upkeep on the lovely landscaping that was already in place when we bought the house. If I didn't work full-time and if my joints didn't hurt, perhaps I would feel differently. But here in my real life, I just don't care.

Now I have a big backyard, a sizable front yard, and a whole mess of raised beds -- and I don't want to do anything with them. I'd love to find someone who loves to garden but who doesn't have one of their own. And doesn't mind dogs crashing through their work.

9. Summer is ending.*

Port Hardy is not far from the 51st parallel, the farthest north we've ever lived.** Summer days went on forever; at 10:30 pm it was still twilight. Now, of course, we're about to experience the other side. It will be interesting to see how our habits change in winter. But one thing we know: we won't be shoveling snow!

* I don't watch Game of Thrones and I was sick of hearing Winter Is Coming.

** The farthest north we've ever been is Denali National Park: 63rd parallel.

10. I love my job.

I can't believe how much I love my job. It's the perfect mix for me.

Many librarians, as their careers advance and become more managerial, lament no longer leading storytimes. I haven't done those in years (except in an emergency) and I've never missed them! Storytimes are skilled work and very valuable to the community, but I didn't get a Master's degree so I could read to kids. To me that's a poor use of my skills and a waste of taxpayer money.

For me, my job is a perfect mix of administrative work, community engagement, and hands-on librarianship. I really enjoy the admin work -- which is good, because there's a lot of it! But I still have lots of customer contact -- which is good, because I love it.