Sunday, May 29, 2011

Homeless Shelter Part I

     This cosy little nook is right in the heart of downtown Toronto on University Avenue just north of Queen. It is on the east side of the street next to two Temples of Justice; Osgoode Hall and the Court House. It is just a stone’s throw from the local Seat of Democracy, Toronto City Hall. As well it is close to a Palace of Culture, aka the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, # 5 on Christopher Hume’s ugliest City buildings of the 21st century. It is just across the street from that Bastion of Wealth, The Canada Life Building.
     This functional homeless dwelling, with cardboard flooring, makes clever use of an existing structure, in this case a park bench, to create a rain and wind proof shelter. This is a cocoon that will stand up to Jack Frost. The blue tarp contrasts nicely with the sandstone exterior of the Court House. The conical shape of the structure creates a harmonious counterpoint to the negative space represented by the pedestrian sidewalk and the jarring verticals of the fire hydrant and garbage bin.
     Variation: a little further north, just south of Dundas, we have the opportune use of black plastic garbage bags and nylon twine. A very snug little niche.

     Variation: for a fair weather version of the above, behold a little corner above a stairwell, adjacent to the City’s great concrete icon of mediocrity, the CN Tower.

     Canada's homeless population is somewhere between 200,000 and 300,000 people, while another 1.7 million residents struggle with "housing affordability issues," says an analysis of the latest research on shelter.

What country has the lowest percentage of homeless people?

- It has to be Alaska North and South Pole because it’s so cold over there that people must live indoors.

- I am not real sure but I read something the other day about this and it is either Norway or Sweden because of the Government plan of giveing everybody a way of life to the point to where no one is working, something like what “They” want to do here in the USA. If “they” support the many poor then it is the same as ruleing them, a dictatorship at the least, because “they” can tell you what to do, when to do it, and have to have no reason why. Freedom isn’t Free.

- .  .  .  .  homeless people would die off during the winter season in most part of Norway and Sweden. That would annually decrease the population of homeless people – like a culling of sorts. It’s not considered a nice thing to let people freeze to death so, being a bit well off, there are relatively strong institutions for taking care of the homeless in those countries. I would guess the Vatican is a safe bet at 0%.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Notes on an Apocalypse

     Christianity has always been, at its core, an Apocalyptic movement. Paul certainly expected to see the end of the world in his own time. When they lopped off his head in Rome circa 65 CE he probably felt a little cheated at missing the terrible, final confrontation with the anti-Christ; and the Rapture where the bones of the faithful rise out of the earth, surrounded by the Seraphim and Cherubim and Erelim and a host of trumpeting and do-wa angels as supernatural sinew, nerve and flesh bind bone to an individual soul and thus, whole and complete, the Chosen are each lifted up by Divine Power unto Heaven and Eternal Life.


     Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord!

1 Thessalonians 4 15:17


By God’s grace and tremendous mercy, He is giving us advanced warning as to what He is about to do. On Judgment Day, May 21st, 2011, this 5-month period of horrible torment will begin for all the inhabitants of the earth. It will be on May 21st that God will raise up all the dead that have ever died from their graves. Earthquakes will ravage the whole world as the earth will no longer conceal its dead (Isaiah 26:21). People who died as saved individuals will experience the resurrection of their bodies and immediately leave this world to forever be with the Lord. Those who died unsaved will be raised up as well, but only to have their lifeless bodies scattered about the face of all the earth. Death will be everywhere.

                                                                                                                      Harold Camping

But no sooner were these dire words spoken   .  .  .  .

At once a voice arose among
The bleak twigs overhead
In a full-hearted evensong
Of joy illimited;
An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small,
In blast-beruffled plume,
Had chosen thus to fling his soul
Upon the growing gloom.

So little cause for carolings
Of such ecstatic sound
Was written on terrestrial things
Afar or nigh around,
That I could think there trembled through
His happy good-night air
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew
And I was unaware

            Excerpt from: The Darkling Thrush
            Thomas Hardy


 Vasiliy Koren' (ca.1640 - early 1700s)

Judgement  bus by: Bart Everson

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Milky Way

      My son said, Dad, God turns on the streetlights. We were coming off a country road into a built up area around dark and the streetlights had just come on. He said it right away, look Dad! He might have been six years old. His Mother had made a wise decision to put him into a Catholic French immersion program where he experienced some great teachers and a little bit of religion. I guess he made some kind of a connection between God and light. I didn't dissuade him. You  know, really you can make a good theological argument for God turning on the streetlights. I remember the comment from the little fella because it came from that sacred place of childhood imagination.
     Out on the farm we could look up on a clear night and see the universe. Underneath the universe long distance planes etched fine lines north to south and all points of the compass. It was sort of like they were tickling the under belly of infinity. (And beyond!) The Kid and me standing on the back stoop on a clear night could see the great swath of stars and unseen worlds, (unseen except in the imagination) the cosmic footpath of light just around the corner at a few million light years. The Milky Way! Who really turned on those lights I wonder?

     In Parkdale the sky drifting over the sharp edged buildings isn’t much to look at. It’s kind of soupy at times, other times it's just plain washed out. In our Parkdalian version of the sky there’s not much up there to inspire you beyond the basic orbs. Maybe some guy in a light plane trailing a banner over the Sky Dome. Turbo props taking off from Billy Bishop. Once a year the CNE brings American made jets to town and scares the bejesus out of the local bird population. The Big Smoke including Parkdale is more about looking down, looking away, looking at your reflection in the plate glass. But that’s OK.  Parkdale has its own Milky Way to inspire a little bit of wonder. I mean if you've managed to hang on to a little of that sacred imagination!

     The Milky Way is a lane that runs parallel to Queen from Dufferin to Cowan, about two and a half City blocks. It’s a narrow passage with graffiti and tagging, ragged trees growing out of concrete, a concrete road, broken and in need of repair in places. The lane is a short cut option if you believe short cuts in the City actually get you anywhere faster. It's not much used during the day. After dark might be another question. In fact wait just a minute! Yikes! Suddenly, even as I write, a deadly night has fallen and it is filled with ominous portents of evil! OMG! What is happening?

     An oily mist oozes along the lane. Overhead staccato bursts of lightening are etched in a sky bruised yellow and purple. The air is sharp with the smell of ozone. There is a macabre pit-a-pat of hail on the slanted roofs. Ice pellets bounce in the lane like a army of fleeing marbles. A leprous looking rat skitters along a wall and dives through a chain-link fence. They come marching in, metallic green grey helmets, robed in sulphurous black. It's the  Samurai-Vader mob that has been plaguing the Milky Way. They are grim and determined. Whipped on by their relentless master they exude the stench of cruelty.
     With the Samurai-Vader mob The Way has suddenly fallen on hard times. The hail ebbs into the sewage drains. The lane is quiet and eerie. The mob taut and restless. Night has sunk into the deep pit of its own lurid propensity for evil. OMG. I can't believe this is happening! Is there no Way Out?Will the dark tide of lawlessness rule in Parkdale? Is there no one to show us The Way of Hope in The Milky Way
     But wait! Do I not hear the William Tell Overture? The ground shakes. A benevolent breeze wafts down the lane. What is this I see? Who is that riding to the rescue on a multicoloured Triceratops and wearing the Aluminum Helmet of Justice and the Golden Sword of Truth? Is that not the Silver Sceptre of Peace and Harmony? Perhaps all is not lost. Perhaps Hope has come to the The Milky Way after all! Who is that Kid?

Nunc adhibetur iocum

      Paddy, after a long day quaffing at his local, staggers into a Catholic Church. He enters a confessional booth and sits down. He doesn’t say a word, but manages a few pathetic groans. The Priest, impatient for the penitent to unburden himself of his sins, coughs a few times to get his attention. Paddy continues to groan. Finally, the Priest, out of patience, pounds three times on the wall. Paddy, annoyed, barks at the priest, shut up over there youse, there's no paper on this side either.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

This Once Mighty Elm

     This tree might be 125 yrs old. It is just budding out and, as you can see, the graceful appearance of the Elm is projected through its branch structure. The tree would have been planted sometime in the 1880s. You could say it’s seen a lot of history. It’s safe to say it’s seen a more than a few governments come and ago.
     Now the Elm (Ulmus) thanks to Dutch Elm Disease is a tree in peril. Dutch Elm Disease (while a fungal infection transmitted by insects) is sort of like a flu or cholera epidemic in that a lot of people die, some don't and when they don't nobody knows why. This particular Parkdale tree is a survivor.
     Around about the time it was planted, probably by Scots immigrants (it's a non native variety I believe, Ulmus glabra, so an immigrant tree) the Metis and the Cree were stirring things up in Saskatchewan. After some initial victories the rebellion was put down. Louis Riel, a belated Father of Confederation, was hanged. John MacDonald and the Tories were in power. The building of the Transcontinental Railroad, and the judicial killing of M. Riel are to this day active metaphors in the psyche of our nation.
     That little Elm tree probably got off to a good start. Parkdale was a village in those days, sort of an independent bedroom community, with lots of posh houses. The Grand Trunk Railroad passed through the Village and if a passenger had business here he would have stayed at the Gladstone Hotel. The train station is gone, but the hotel is still around, newly recovered and gentrified.
     In 1889 the Village of Parkdale was subsumed by the City of Toronto. Wilfred Laurier was the Liberal PM. He was our first Quebcois PM and yikes, a Catholic! He sent the troops on a dopey unwinnable military adventure; South Africa and the Boer War. We lost about 224 soldiers in that one. So I guess we’re ahead in the dopey war department with the Afghan lark courtesy of both the Liberals and Conservatives. Now Laurier (like Progressive Conservative Brian Mulroney) was a free trader. It was known as Reciprocity back then. Robert Borden, the leader of the Tories, was the Made in Canada hero.
     Parkdale went through some tough times. It wasn’t such a great place to live after The War to end all Wars. There was the birth of the League of Nations, not to be confused with the League of Extraordinary Men but about as memorable. The Roaring Twenties came along. In those days greed was good, sort of like the 1980s. Another War to End All Wars. The war the Commies won unless you watch a lot of Hollywood movies.
     In August of 1945 my father was enroute in his Lancaster bomber from Europe to the Pacific theatre of operations. The Yanks dropped the bomb on Nagasaki and it was as bad as the British and Canadian fire bombing of Dresden. My Dad got drunk in Halifax, got de-mobbed in Calgary and married Margaret Mary, raised a family, voted Liberal all his life and believed that technology would save us from ourselves.
     Our little tree by then was a big vital specimen, easily towering over the houses. Saskatchewan was making some noise again. Tommy Douglas put an end to outhouses. He also went up against the Doctors. The Doctors threatened to move to Las Vegas or Reno. Tommy stared them down and went on to become the greatest Canadian.
     I voted for the NDP candidate Peggy Nash, who, as Joe Fiorito pointed out, showed up to all the Parkdalian meetings. In the last provincial election I voted for the NDP candidate Cheri di Novo. I last saw Ms. di Novo at the the George Wass memorial. I believe Ms. Nash and Ms. di Novo want what is best for Parkdale, for the Province and for the Nation. My difficulty is that I'm not sure they or their Party have a handle on the main problem..
     The Greens have mushroomed to one seat in the House of Commons and continued irrelevance. One has only imagine a room full of decapitated chickens to get a sense of things going down at Liberal and Bloc Headquarters. No help there. My sense is that we don't have decades but years to solve our main problem. So?
     The real story for me is this Elm tree; this great and lovely survivor, a benevolent witnesses to our neighbourhood’s and our nation’s journey. To me the Elm is, like the Nation, bigger than Stephen Harper and his obese local toady, Rob Ford. I worry about this particular Elm.
      I've read that some of these magnificent trees live 500 yrs.   It seems to me this tree, at 125 or thereabouts is old. This once mighty Elm has become old, perhaps before its time, and it seems ever so vulnerable. I worry that it will become, like the railroad and a dangling Louis Riel, a powerful image of our Nation.
     I worry that this old and vulnerable Elm is to become the last image of us, a defining metaphor, perhaps a cell phone movie on You Tube, the final blurred, shaky images, the chipper truck and its chain saws parked on Elm Grove Ave, orange safety cones, reams of yellow caution tape jumping in the wind as the dead limbs fall.
     That's the Main Problem.

# 7: A Parkdale Walk:

Joe Fiorito:
Doom and Gloom: re the Main Problem

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Shocking Election News!!! The Rhinoceros Party of Canada Sees Red Running Shoes and Mounts a Nearly Blind Charge!!! Shocking Revelation (i) Jack Layton Imapled by Rub and Tug Scandal!!! Wife Denies Happy Ending!!! Shocking Revelation (ii): Stephen Harper was the Queen of Egypt in a Previous Lifetime!!!

Charlie McKenzie, ‘concierge’ of the Party as reported by the Globe and Mail in a new conference in 1988:
     ‘We cannot fool all of the people some of the time, or even some of the people all of the time, but if we can fool a majority of the people at election time, that’s the time we need.’
     It sounds like a description of a diagram from Stephen Harper’s election playbook.
     The RPC was formed in 1963 by Jacques Ferron. M. Ferron was an accomplished writer. He received the GG Award for his book Contes du pay incertain. Later he became a member of the Parti Quebecois. He was awarded the Prix Athanase-David by the Quebec Government in 1977. M. Ferron committed suicide in 1985 at the age of 64.
     Jacques Ferron took his inspiration for the RPC from Cacareco, a five year old female rhinoceros who was elected to city council in Sao Paulo Brazil through the mischievous intervention of a group of students. See the link below for more on Cacareco.
     The Rhinoceros Party is still around as you will see from the link at the bottom of the page. They are running 14 candidates in the May 2nd election, mostly in Quebec.

     Some pranks in the RPC platform over the years:

     Freedom of screech for Newfoundlanders.
     The Queen of Canada would be seated in Buckingham, Quebec.
     Rather than award money as prizes in the lottery winners to be appointed to the Canadian Senate.
     Replace chlorine in the water with steroids to make Canada the strongest country in the world.
     Abolish oil exploration as that oil is there to keep the earth rotating smoothly on its axis.
     Build one nuclear power plant per household, include monthly distributions of lead underwear to Canadians. Indoor lighting would then be provided by radioactive citizens.
     Bottle acid rain and export it.
     Repeal the law of gravity.
     Provide higher education by building taller schools.
     Institute English, French and Illiteracy as Canada's three official languages.
     Tear down the Rocky Mountains so that Albertans could see the Pacific sunset.
     Make Montreal the Venice of North America by damming the St. Lawrence River.
     Abolish the environment because it's too hard to keep clean and it takes up so much space.
     Annex the United States in order to eliminate foreign control of Canada's natural resources.
     Provide more parking in the Maritimes and create the world's largest parking lot by paving the Bay of Fundy and the province of Manitoba.
     Turn Montreal's Saint Catherine Street into the world's longest bowling alley.
     Make the Canadian climate more temperate by tapping into the natural resource of hot air in Ottawa.        
     Store nuclear waste in the Senate. After all, we've been storing political waste there for years.
     Adopt the British system of driving on the left; to be gradually phased in over five years with large trucks and tractors first, then buses, eventually including small cars and bicycles last.
     Force people to exhale into bags. Those bags would then be placed over photosynthetic plants, reducing the amount of CO2 we emit.
     Put the national debt on Visa.
     Paint Canada's coastal sea limits in watercolour so that Canadian fish would know where they were at all times.
     Ban guns and butter, since both kill.
     Change Canada's currency to bubble gum, so it could be inflated or deflated at will.
     Count the Thousand Islands to see if the Americans have stolen any.

The Rhinoceros Party of Canada: