Monday, December 28, 2009

Get to Know an Edmontonian

Brittney Le Blanc is a reporter with iNews880 and avid local Twitter user. On her blog at iNews' website, she often features profiles of interesting Edmontonians. I am quite proud and excited that she featured me, in my role as a writer, editor, photographer, and social activist. Here is the profile: Get to know an Edmontonian: Paula E. Kirman

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Home For the Holidays

The last week has been filled with more holiday goodness. A couple of days after Chanukah ended, my friend Tamara hosted a party at her home, featuring a lesson in making latkes (potato pancakes). I met Tamara on Twitter, and she invited several people in the local Twitter community to come. We had a really great time hanging out. Here is a look.

Christmas fell on a Friday this year, which means Shabbat dinner with my folks. I was invited to Christmas dinner by my friend Kylee, which unfortunately I had to decline as a result. Kylee is one of my volunteers at Boyle McCauley News, where she writes and helps deliver the paper. Her father is also co-chair of the board - which makes him technically my boss. Technically. He's one of my best friends and I've gotten close with others in his family as a result. It meant the world to me that I was asked to join the family on Christmas, even though I could not go.

Speaking of Boyle McCauley News, Boxing Day saw me volunteering at a casino for the McCauley Community League. The League helps the paper with its casino, so we try to return the favour. When I wasn't running chips, I was relaxing in the volunteer lounge watching movies (Australia and Mamma Mia) and eating free food. The restaurant in the Yellowhead Casino really rocks. The prime rib was superb!

I worked off some of the calories by taking a stroll down Candy Cane Lane Saturday evening. Some of the houses were great, but it sure isn't like it was when I was a kid. Still, there was a lot to enjoy. Here is my photo set.

This afternoon, I headed to Brewsters for Torah on Tap. It is basically a schmooze with the rabbis from the Reform and Conservative congregations, on a specific topic and its relation to Jewish law. Today's discussion was on mitzvot, which are commandments. I kept quiet for most of it (yes, I can actually be quiet sometimes, especially when I am in a situation where I don't know a lot of people), but find these sorts of discussions fascinating. I expect I will attend again.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A Cold Chanukah

We got hit by a huge cold snap over the weekend - at one point, Edmonton was the second coldest place on Earth, beaten out by some remote location in Siberia! Here is a look at what some of the windows in my house looked like: one and two. Still, I managed to head out and enjoy some holiday parties and events.

The Jewish Festival of Light, Chanukah, began last Friday evening. On Saturday, I went to a Chanukah celebration held at B'nai Chayim, a church that celebrates the Jewish roots of Christianity. The latkes (potato pancakes) served right out of the oil were delicious. Here are some photos from the party and their morning service. As well, I recently took part in a re-design of the congregation's website, along with the help of John.

The following day, I ventured out (with assistance!) to the annual menorah lighting at the Alberta Legislature. Speeches were made by Premier Ed Stelmach (yes, I behaved myself), Mayor Mandel, and other Conservative political types, as well as Rabbi Ari Drelich who organizes the event. Then, we headed out into the -35 darkness and watched the menorah be lit, as Rabbi Drelich, Premier Stelmach, and another rabbi went up in a lift. Here are some photos and the coverage from iNews880.

Since we were there anyways, despite the cold we decided to take some photos of the Christmas lights decorating the Legislature grounds. Here are my results.

Then, it was off to Temple Beth Ora's Chanukah celebration. The program featured songs, lighting the menorah, and a dramatic presentation. Here are some photos.

Chanukah is not over yet. We're lighting the menorah every evening at home. Chag sameach!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Boyle McCauley News: December/January 2009-2010

The Dec./Jan. issue of Boyle McCauley News is now online!

Here is a look at some of the goodness that rests within:

* Hope Mission Opens Immigration Hall
* McCauley Mural Celebration
* Diversity and Inclusion
* Letters To The Editor
* AGM Highlights
* Volunteer News
* Christmas in Peru
* Homefest 2009
* Community League Updates

To download a copy of the entire paper in PDF format, click here.

Friday, December 04, 2009

December 6, 20 Years Later

December 6, 2009 marks the 20th anniversary of what has come to be known as the Montreal Massacre - the day a lone gunman walked into a classroom in L'Ecole Polytechnique and shot to death 14 women. I was a teenager when this tragic event occurred, and being a young woman heading to university, it made an indelible mark on my life. A few years later, I was at a December 6 memorial service held on my local campus, and wrote this song shortly thereafter. To hear the song, you can visit my MySpace page, and scroll down in the music player - it is the fifth song.

Today I Lit A Candle

Today I lit a candle
When I was caught in the middle
Of a service marking fourteen memories;
Most of us were crying,
Some of us were sighing
At the horror of such a tragedy;

And then the preacher sang a lesson
That was a sad confession
To the longing left within our lonely hearts;
He sang about forgiveness,
And let us all bear witness
To the changes that we would have to start.

It was a song of hope and sorrow,
A testament to follow such a crime,
Our voices joined together in the chorus;
We were all joined in spirit for that time,
We were all joined in spirit for that time.

The candle’s flame it flickered
When I blew on the wick, but it
Could not be extinguished by my breath;
Even though I would be leaving,
I could not end my grieving
Or the memories that still live on in death;

And I remembered the weeping,
The sounds that are still creeping,
When I lay down to go to sleep at night;
She stood right there beside me,
Barely conscious of me,
Singing, knowing that we had the right.

She sang a song of hope and sorrow,
A testament to follow such a crime,
And our voices joined together in the chorus;
We were all joined in spirit for that time,
We were all joined in spirit for that time.

Today I lit a candle
When I was caught in the middle
Of a service marking fourteen memories;
I barely held back my tears,
But still I could not see clear
Why so many lives had changed eternally;

And then the preacher sang a lesson,
Oh, it was a sad confession
To the longing left within our lonely hearts;
He sang about forgiveness,
And he let us all bear witness
To a brand new life that we would have to start.

It was a song of hope and sorrow,
A testament to follow such a crime,
Our voices joined together in the chorus;
We were all joined in spirit for that time,

We sang a song a hope and sorrow,
A testament to follow such a crime,
Our voices joined together in the chorus,
We were all joined in spirit for that time,
We were all joined in spirit for that time.

We were all joined in spirit for that time,
We were all joined in spirit for that time.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

He Said, She Said: Interfaith Relationships

Several weeks ago I had the pleasure of meeting one of my long-term Twitter contacts in person, @Sirthinks. John, his name in the real world, showed up with his Flickr photo group at a rally where I was singing (totally by coincidence, I have been told). Apparently, our meeting prompted John to check out some of my work online, including the two articles I have written about interfaith relationships: Single Jewish Female: Dating Within the Faith and Small Community, Big Problems: What's a Jewish Girl to Do?.

John had some very strong opinions about what I wrote, and we decided it would be a great idea if we did a "he said/she said" exchange about interfaith romance on his blog. He and I went back and forth for a while, adding our thoughts to the same post, then opened up the post to comments from others. Here is the post: Tradition v. The Heart v. Expectation.

When our thoughts started winding down, we each wrote separate summary posts. Here is John's: On compromise and the devil's advocate. And, here is mine: Straight From the Heart: Traditions and Love.

As readers can see, John and I are both very opinionated people. I am not sure that we see eye to eye on everything (in fact, Ia m sure we don't), but this exchange was definitely worth having as it caused both of us to reflect on our values and beliefs.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Stuffing A Bus

On Saturday, I took part in a direct action. Not the kind with which I am usually involved. I donned a green vest and helped out with the Edmonton Food Bank's annual Stuff-a-Bus event. ETS buses were located at various Save-Ons across the city. My location was at The Hamptons, way our in the west end.

Our job was pretty straightforward. We stood in the Save-On lobby and encouraged people to donate food or money to the Food Bank. Many people bought five dollar hampers for sale, and then loaded them onto the bus (or handed them to the perky ETS volunteer to do). The children really enjoyed coming on to the bus. By the end of the afternoon, the bus was indeed quite stuffed.

As an activist, I always stay focused on the reasons why people go hungry. If we don't work on the underlying causes, then food banks and soup kitchens and shelters are just band-aid solutions to a greater societal problem. At the same time, we have to help those in immediate need. This is why volunteering with a mainstream charitable organization like the Edmonton Food Bank is so important. There is tangible work done for those who need it most.

Overall, the event collected 30,683 kilograms of food, up from 20,000 last year.

Here is a photo set from the event.

Friday, November 27, 2009

World March for Peace and Nonviolence

On October 2, a group of marchers in New Zealand decided they would go on a worldwide peace march. November 21 was Canada's day for the march, and Edmonton held a march in solidarity. Some of the reasons for this march include:

• Because eliminating wars and violence means leaving human pre-history behind and taking a giant step forward in the evolution of our species.

• Because we are accompanied by the voices of the hundreds of generations that came before us who have longed and worked for peace.

• Because with 10% of what is spent on arms, we can end world hunger.

• Because a “world without wars” is an image that opens the future and seeks to become reality in every corner of the planet, as violence gives way to dialogue.”

The Edmonton event saw around 100 people march from Laurier Park/Buena Vista to Hawrelak via the pedestrian bridge. A rally followed with music and speakers. Here is my photo set.

Here are videos that I shot at the event:

The March (0:33)
Raging Grannies (2:37)
Rev. Audrey Brooks (4:30)
Letter from Mayor Mandel (1:23)
Me singing "I Only Ask of God" (4:13)
Krystal Dos Santos singing "Redemption Song" (3:44)
Peter Johnston from the Alberta Green Party (4:44)
Linda Dunca, MP Edmonton-Strathcona (6:06)
Naomi Rankin, Communist Party of Canada (2:02)
Unitarian children singing "Shalom Chaverim" (1:39)
Raging Grannies sing another song (1:59)
Finale: "Let There be Peace on Earth" (1:24)

The march will end in Argentina on January 2.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Crisis and Opportunity: It's Time for a Progressive Economy

The Parkland Institute's Fall Conference took place on November 20 and 21. The theme was Crisis and Opportunity: It's Time for a Progressive Economy. Writers, academics, and activists came together to discuss Alberta's economic boom and recent bust. I was only able to attend a few sessions in the afternoon, but I did manage to take some photos.

I also videoed Judy Rebick's closing plenary and question and answer period. This was my first time seeing Judy Rebick speak, and she was just as incredible as I imagined. Rebick is a long-time feminist and activist. She is articulate and hilarious.

I was also a conference blogger once again, so for specifics on the sessions I attended and my reflections on the themes discussed at the conference, visit my blog page.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Moving the Earth

Earth's General Store has been a valuable source of information and supplies for the activist community. The store sells goods that are ethically sourced, environmentally friendly, and fairly traded. Owner Michael Kalmanovitch also helps the community in many other ways, such as storing our banners, sound equipment, and distributing posters for upcoming events.

However, the store is very small. It is also up a huge flight of stairs, making it inaccessible to many.

This is changing soon.

Earth's is moving to a new location further up Whyte Avenue on 96 street. I checked out the place yesterday and it much larger and on ground level. While definitely still under construction, I was amused by the quirky colour scheme and could tell that there is a lot of potential in this spot. Here is a very preliminary sneak peak courtesy of my photoset.

Friday, November 20, 2009

We Are Omar Khadr

On November 15 a rally to support the repatriation of Omar Khadr was held in Churchill Square. The event was organized by several groups, including the local chapter of Amnesty International, students from King's College, and Muslim young adults. Around 300 people listened to songs, speeches, and took part in a short march around Jasper Avenue and back to Churchill.

I normally report on these events without leaving much comment. This time, I have a few words based on feedback I have received for taking part in the rally. One such comment is that Khadr is a criminal and thus should not be welcome back in Canada. However, he has not been tried or convicted of anything. He has been held in Guantanamo for the past six or so years - a prison which, according to international law, is illegal. But these same people who criticize Khadr are not calling for steps to be taken against the United States for its war crimes.

Khadr was also a child when the alleged crime took place (the allegation being that he threw a grenade that killed a medic - according to Amnesty, witnesses have since recanted). He was fifteen, for those who may not know. There are special provisions for child soldiers.

Others have criticized his entire family, saying they are enemies of Canada because of their fundamentalist Islamic beliefs. I am not saying we have to agree with their religious beliefs. I am not even saying they are necessarily nice people. What I am saying is that Khadr is a Canadian citizen and as such, the government has an obligation to protect its citizens abroad. "We are Omar Khadr" because it is our government and our rights at stake. Once people start being stripped of their human rights, there is the risk that those rights will never be returned and that these violations will be extended to others.

And now, here are the photos from the event.

The videos:

Charlene Scharf with Amnesty International (6:01)
Peter Johnston of the former Alberta Green Party (8:25)
Paula Kirman sings "I Only Ask of God" (4:52)
Marching (3:04)
Rally back in Churchill (1:14)
Closing with "Oh Canada" (0:45)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Twenty-Five Lessons of Nonviolence

1. There is no proactive word for violence.
2. Nations that build military forces as deterrents will eventually use them.
3. Practitioners of nonviolence are seen as enemies of the state.
4. Once a state takes over a religion, the religion loses its nonviolent teachings.
5. A rebel can be defanged and co-opted by making him a saint after he is dead.
6. Somewhere behind every war there are always a few founding lies.
7. A propaganda machine promoting hatred always has a war waiting in the wings.
8. People who go to war start to resemble their enemy.
9. A conflict between a violent and a nonviolent force is a moral argument. If the violent side can provoke the nonviolent side into violence, the violent side has won.
10. The problem lies not in the nature of man but in the nature of power.
11. The longer a war lasts, the less popular it becomes.
12. The state imagines it is impotent without a military because it cannot conceive of power without force.
13. It is often not the largest but the best organized and most articulate group that prevails.
14. All debate momentarily ends with an “enforced silence” once the first shots are fired.
15. A shooting war is not necessary to overthrow an established power but is used to consolidate the revolution itself.
16. Violence does not resolve. It always leads to more violence.
17. Warfare produces peace activists. A group of veterans is a likely place to find peace activists.
18. People motivated by fear do not act well.
19. While it is perfectly feasible to convince a people faced with brutal repression to rise up in a suicidal attack on their oppressor, it is almost impossible to convince them to meet deadly violence with nonviolent resistance.
20. Wars do not have to be sold to the general public if they can be carried out by an all-volunteer professional military.
21. Once you start the business of killing, you just get “deeper and deeper,” without limits.
22. Violence always comes with a supposed rational explanation—which is only dismissed as irrational if the violence fails.
23. Violence is a virus that infects and takes over.
24. The miracle is that despite all of society’s promotion of warfare, most soldiers find warfare to be a wrenching departure from their own moral values.
25. The hard work of beginning a movement to end war has already been done.

Take from Non-Violence: Twenty-Five Lessons From the The History of A Dangerous Idea by Mark Kurlansky. The Modern Library: New York, 2006.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Support the Troops - Bring Them Home Decal

***I am posting this on behalf of some friends of mine who are long-time members of the peace movement here in Edmonton***

We are an Edmonton couple who are very disturbed by the loss of life of 133 young Canadians and probably 1,000 Afghanis due to the participation of Canadian troops in the war in Afghanistan. An Ipsos Reid poll of Oct./09 states that 37% of Canadians want our troops out of this war theatre. For this reason we have started a campaign to gain support to bring our troops home and to counter the propaganda by the Canadian military to justify our troops continued involvement.

Consequently, we have purchased and have on hand 500 magnetic ribbon decals for placement on the back of cars. These state, "Support our Troops, Bring Them HOME". They are 3 1/2" x 8", very attractive with bold red lettering, a red maple leaf on one end and set on a white background. We can acquire thousands more of these. Please see attachment for decal photo.

The rational for our stand on this question is as follows:-

Most of us know that Canadian troops went in to Afghanistan to support the war on terrorism. We have now learned that Mr Bush's main purpose was to acquire an oil pipe line through Afghanistan to supply more oil to the West.

The Afghan war is promoted by our government to Canadians stating,"if we kill the terrorists, it will make us all more safe". In truth, with todays mindset,the families of every one of the 1,000 Afghanis who have died, will be targeting Canadians in future. CSIS warns us regularly to be prepared for an attack in Canada.

Further, the Taliban are not stupid. They will be infiltrating Karzai's army for several obvious reasons; one of which is that NATO invaders will leave when the Afghan army is big enough. Karzai's army will then consist of a large percentage of Taliban sympathizers so their country will be back to square one.

Some people say our troops need to be in Afghanistan to insure girls get an education. We, agree with retired Canadian diplomat, Robert Fowler, who commented recently on CBC TV. I can show you many countries where girls need to be educated and we could help, where no lives would be lost".

More and more people are becoming aware of the hopelessness of using violence to stop violence. Recently the family of the 131st. Canadian soldier to die in Afghanistan spoke out against the war. The loss of these lives, massive suffering and exorbitant costs is unconscionable compared to the benefits. Lets demand our government engage our troops in peacemaking, peacekeeping and other humanitarian work.

We are selling these decals at $2.00 (tooney) each, or $1.50 each for over 10 or more and $1.40 for 50 or more, plus express.

We look forward to hearing from you and we have every hope that this campaign and other initiatives will save lives.

Yours in Peace,
Bill & Rhyl Stollery

FOR SALE Magnetic decals 3 1/2 " x 8" to display on rear of vehicles
$2.00 each or 10 for $15.00,plus mailing
To order and receive details to promote campaign: e-mail or
Order cheaper in larger quantities from
Ph. (860) 455-9621 Fax (800) 553-0006


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Holiday Light Up and Farm Fair

It is less than 40 days until Christmas, and by the looks and sounds of things, the city is gearing up for the holidays. Most stores and coffee shops where I head have Christmas decorations on display, gifts for sale, and are even blasting Christmas tunes (I can live without the latter).

On Saturday, I went to the Christmas on the Square Holiday Light Up. Although I have often admired the large Christmas tree placed every year in Churchill Square, I never went to the actual light up. After an afternoon of horse-drawn carriage rides, ice carvings, food, balloons, and music, at 5 p.m. the tree was turned on. Then, a spectacular fireworks show began. Here are some photos and this is a video of the fireworks. As well, here is an iReport for iNews880 that used my media.

Another first for me took place on Friday when I headed to Farm Fair with some friends. Farm Fair is like a trade show for farmers, with different kinds of livestock on display and in competitions. Friday was bull day apparently, as the Northlands was filled with these gigantic animals. It was amazing to be so close to animals that huge. I also saw a calf herding competition. Here are my photos.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Boyle McCauley News - November 2009

November's issue of Boyle McCauley News is online! Here is a sneak peek at the contents:

* City Revokes York Hotel’s Tavern License
* The Works Moves to Boyle
* The Dedicated Helpers of Innroads
* Letters To The Editor
* Homeless Connect
* Volunteer News
* Rally for Healthcare
* Revitalization Update
* Community League Updates

To download the entire copy in its colour goodness (it's in PDF format), click here.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Die-Ins, No Nukes, Health, And More

The last couple of weeks have been a whirlwind. Towards the end of October, I went to three rallies in four days. First came the International Day of Climate Action on October 24. Greenpeace held a die-in on the steps of the Legislature, where a group of about 100 of us lay down to show that we were "dying" for leadership in Canada in terms of the climate. For once, I decided to hand my camera off to someone else and take part. Our group shot made it into the local media. Here are the photos taken by the daughter of one of The Raging Grannies, who sang as we lay dying.

October 26 was yet another healthcare rally, organized by Friends of Medicare. It was short and sweet during the noon hour. Not as huge a turnout as some of the other healthcare rallies, but important nonetheless. Here are some photos.

The next day, a rally was held outside the Legislature calling to Keep Alberta Nuclear Free. It was a colourful and spirited event, despite the rain. Here are some photos and this is a short video.

Last week, I went with a friend to hear Andrew Nikiforuk speak about the Tar Sands, in particular the effects of the resulting pollution affecting Aboriginal communities who live downstream. I videoed the presentation - it is about an hour and worth watching. I saw Mr. Nikiforuk speak again on Saturday afternoon as part of the Global Visions documentary film festival after two films dealing with the Tar Sands were shown. He had a major update to report, in that the doctor who had been treating Aboriginal patients in Fort Chipewyan (John O'Connor), was cleared of all charges brough on by Health Canada. He had been accused to causing "undue alarm" in the community because of his questioning the connection between the Tar Sands and the high prevalence of rare cancers amongst his patients.

Another documentary I watched at Global Visions was Broke, about a pawnshop owner and his relationship to an Aboriginal man who helps him around his shop. The film was shot in the very inner city community where I spend most of my time, and it was extremely interesting to see the area on film. A lot of neighbourhood folks were at the screening (it was a repeat screening and was previously shown on opening night) and they all had different reactions to the film, the pawnshop owner, and how he conducted business. I'm gathering these opinions for an article in the next issue of Boyle McCauley News.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

The Goldstone Report - A Jewish Opinion

The B’nai B’rith has denounced the Goldstone Report. Now, I’m Jewish, and I’ve read the report. I’ve also read criticism of it and support of it. My conclusion? I don’t find the Goldstone Report biased or an attack on Israel. We can’t just blindly support a nation in everything it does when it commits atrocities. Just because a UN sanctioned report is critical of Israel, doesn’t mean it is attacking Israel either. There’s a saying: the truth hurts. Perhaps instead of condemning everything that doesn’t paint Israel in a positive light, we as Jews should be looking towards ways of building peace in that nation with the Palestinians. I say this as a Jewish person and someone who fully believes Israel has a right to exist. I realize I am going to take a lot of flack for this, but I don’t believe blind nationalism is a Jewish value. In fact, the only people who are saying the Goldstone Report is biased and one-sided are the Zionist lobby and those who support them. So who is really being one-sided?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Impark Imperfect

On Monday, October 26 I attended a rally for healthcare at the Legislature. I got there via a friend and his van. Thinking that all of the parking meters in the area only allowed 20 minutes (we would be there at least an hour and did not want to have to keep running back to the vehicle), we parked in a lot owned by Imperial Parking, known to most in Edmonton as Impark. The lot was located at 109 street and 99 avenue.

I volunteered to pay for the parking, and since I did not have six dollars in coins (yup - six bucks for an hour), I decided to use my Mastercard. I read the instructions: first I was to press any button to get started. Then, I was to pick what amount of time I wanted. Then, I was to insert my credit card and have the appropriate amount charged. I have done this before and thought I knew what to expect.

I went ahead and pushed a button. I was then prompted to insert my credit card. I thought, "OK, maybe I'll be asked what amount of time I want after I insert." I wasn't. The machine went ahead and charged me for a full day of parking: $34. Thirty four dollars down the drain. I managed to calm down, went to the rally, and then at one p.m. sharp (we had arrived at 12:08 p.m. according to the ticket) left and went on to other errands we had to do that afternoon. My intention was to call Impark to dispute the ticket, but by the time I got home and took care of some time-sensitive work issues, it was too late to call.

So, I called first thing Tuesday morning. I explained to the the very polite person at the other end who told me that I should have called immediately - since it was an all day ticket I could have continued to use it or given it to someone else to use. And of course, she had never ever heard of anything like this happening before. I told her that when we returned to the lot, there was a crowd of people around the meter shrugging their shoulders and making other actions in frustration.

Now, I sort of see their point, however, I did not such thing and what happened to me was wrong: my credit card should not have been charged without giving me the option of picking what I wanted to pay. Nor does it say anywhere on the ticket that if there is a dispute with the charge to call immediately -- just the usual disclaimer about damage and theft. I did not know I had a limited window in which I had to make the call. I feel very ripped off.

Needless to say, when I attended the Keep Alberta Nuclear Free rally at the Legislature on Tuesday, we avoided the Impark lot and used a meter -- some of them are only good for 20 minutes but others are hourly. We paid $2.50 for one hour, right in front of the lot. I don't plan on using an Impark lot again in the near future and I am encouraging others to do the same. I don't believe the onus should be on the consumer when something goes wrong.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Bush Go Home

On October 20, former U. S. president George W. Bush was in Edmonton as part of a cross-Canada speaking tour. This was not the first time he was in Canada. Last March, he made an appearance in Calgary. There was a protest outside of the venue where he spoke, and numerous people from Edmonton went down there to join the ruckus.

The peace group I am with, the Edmonton Coalition Against War and Racism organized a protest outside of the Shaw Conference Centre, along with the Palestine Solidarity Network. Around 600 people showed up for the un-welcoming party - more than in Calgary, and certainly more than the mainstream media reported.

Everything remained peaceful for the most part, despite security guards trying to show their bravado before things got rolling. The half dozen or so of us who got there early to start to set up in front of the Shaw were told that the entire sidewalk was private property and that we had to move our protest across the street in front of Canada Place, or else we would be arrested and charged with trespassing. The members of the Edmonton Police, dressed in full riot gear, clarified that there was actually a portion of the sidewalk that was public. Using their bicycles as a barrier, we crossed over to the front of the Shaw. The bicycles were later replaced by yellow metal barriers.

When entering and leaving, the crowd of mostly white, upper middle class, 30-ish audience members were booed. Mayor Mandel also emerged after the talk, and spoke with reporters. The person next to me commented that she wondered if he would go to see Hitler speak.

Despite a few glitches, like not having power, we were able to set up a sound system. I belted out "Masters of War" because no one says it better than Bob Dylan. Later, I sang "I Only Ask of God" in English, after which a Latin American family came up to me asking if they could sing it with me in Spanish. We positioned them in front of another microphone and went for it. The People's Poets also sang words of solidarity.

Here is my photo set from the event. This short video gives you an idea of what was going on for most of the afternoon/evening. As well, here is the video of me singing "Masters of War" (note: the volume is very high and I had no monitor).

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Getting Ready for Bush

On Tuesday afternoon I was interviewed by the Edmonton Journal concerning that evening's planned protest against George W. Bush. The article was on the Journal's website for a few hours, until it was replaced with the one about the event itself. I think I said some things that were still pertinent after the fact.

All Protesters gear up for Bush event in Edmonton
By Richard Warnica,
October 20, 2009 3:02 PM

EDMONTON - Though controversial and oft critically loathed, the presidency of George W. Bush was nonetheless unquestionably crammed with historical moments.

Bush, who is speaking tonight in Edmonton, presided over a world-changing terrorist attack, started two wars and arguably set the stage-with his own historic unpopularity- for the election of the first black president of the United States.

And oh yeah, one time, he almost got hit by a shoe.

For many nobushniks, the shoe-throwing Iraqi journalist, who missed the then-president in two attempts, has come to symbolize their own distaste for Bush.

And as the former president has taken his first tentative steps back on the global stage, shoe-wielding protesters have followed him at every turn.

Tonight, inside the Shaw Conference Centre, Bush is scheduled to speak in front of a sold-out crowd of 2,000. Outside, meanwhile, protest organizers promise there will be shoes.

In a uniquely Canadian twist, though, the footwear will not be flung, said Paula Kirman, an organizer with the Edmonton Coalition Against War and Racism, the main body behind tonight's rally. Instead the shoes will be stacked in a pile and later given to charity.

"We're intending this to be a peaceful protest," Kirman said.

Kirman expects at least several hundred protesters to show up for the event, beginning at about 4 p.m. In addition to the shoes, there will be speakers and live music.

"He is just responsible for so much inhumanity," Kirman said. "We want to send a very strong message to the Canadian government that war criminals should not be allowed in the country."

Inside, ticket holders will be treated to anecdotes from the former president as well as a question-and-answer session with former L.A. Kings goaltender and hockey commentator Kelly Hrudey.

© Copyright (c) The Edmonton Journal

Monday, October 19, 2009

Healthcare Rallies and Local Events

Healthcare cuts continue to be a huge issue here in Alberta. I have attended two more rallies in the last week or so. One was to Save Alberta Hospital, and we marched and rallied around Alberta Hospital Edmonton. Here is my photo set and a video. This was the first time I ever ran through a cabbage patch during a rally!

On October 16, the United Nurses of Alberta marched from West Edmonton Mall to the Misericordia Hospital to protest healthcare cuts. Here are photos and the video.

In addition to activism, I've also been having some fun at local events. On Saturday, I went to the Old Time Country Fair in Churchill Square. This was my first time at the event. It attempted to recreate an old-fashioned carnival with games, jugglers, stilt-walkers, horse-drawn carriage rides, food, and balloon fairies. Take a look at the photos. My highlight was riding in the horse-drawn carriage around City Hall.

On Saturday night, I went to Storefront Cinema Night. This was the second year for this block festival, and this year it was expanded to two evenings. Friday night was the family program, while Saturday was the "main event." Three blocks of Stony Plain Road were shut down with movies projected in the windows of several of the businesses in the area. Live hip hop artists provided live entertainment, bonfires kept everyone warm (and it was a nice night, thankfully), and a "throwie" board in the parking lot of Jasper Gates Plaza attracted some attention. People threw coloured LED lights onto a magnetic board, creating a very colourful result. Take a look at my photos.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Climate Change and Relevance

This post is written as part of Blog Action Day 2009.

Climate change is one of those issues that has my friends divided. Many of them believe this to be a threat to our world, while others think it is media hype as our temperatures wax and wane based upon pre-determined cycles. They feel there is nothing the human race can do to change anything when it comes to our weather.

My ecologically inclined friends (and I count myself in amongst these numbers) on the other hand, think that we have a huge role to play in what happens to the world via our carbon footprints. We are the ones who try to ride or walk instead of drive, recycle, and consume less in general. We hope and sometimes pray our efforts will have an effect on the melting polar ice caps and other environmental carnage the world currently faces.

I believe this comes down to a question of life values concerning materialism and consumption (and ultimately capitalism itself, as some of my more radical friends may suggest). Let's just set aside the argument of whether or not our actions can affect climate change. Do we still have an obligation to be responsible about those actions? Absolutely! There is no benefit to growing landfills, pollution, poisoned rivers, and other environmental disasters caused by our relentless quest for oil and possessions.

Climate change may seem like a big issue that is far from our abilities as individuals to make a dent. In fact, what is truly needed are governmental policies to foster protection of the earth. Countries need to follow existing policies, like the Kyoto Accord, which Canada tends to ignore. However, as individuals, we can at least try to make a cleaner, better world around us.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

October 2009 Boyle McCauley News

Today's Edmonton Journal had a feature story about Boyle McCauley News' 30th anniversary - check it out here!

The October issue of Boyle McCauley News is online - check out what we have in store this month:

* East Meets West Cultural Event A Success
* Celebrating Our Senior Volunteers
* Letters To The Editor
* Free Guitar Lessons
* Cop’s Corner: Calling the Police
* Inn Roads Coop Celebrates 25 Years of Community Building
* Residents to Be Relocated
* Looking Back
* Shop Talk: New Businesses in McCauley
* Portrait of a Life in McCauley
* Community League Updates

Download a copy of the paper as a PDF here.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

UN International Day of Peace; Save Our Healthcare

I had the privilege of taking part once again in the UN International Day of Peace on September 21. Held over the noon hour at City Hall Plaza, we had a great turnout. Students from Belgravia Elementary School sang for us, speakers told about the importance of peace, and yes, I sang "I Only Ask of God." Here are the photos. I videoed the whole event and broke it down speaker by speaker:

Belgravia Elementary School sings "Shalom" (2:47)
City Councillor Amarjeet Sohi with the Proclamation (5:58)
Raising the Flag (0:33)
Students with the group Global Effects (1:57)
Paula Kirman Sings "I Only Ask of God" (4:55)
Keynote Speaker David King, Redefining the Peace Movement (13:37)
Sharon Ingraham, Unitarian Universalist Social Justice Committee (2:36)
Raging Grannies - Circle Round for Peace (1:25)

September 21 was also the International Day of Action on Climate Change, and several "flash mobs" were held throughout the city. A flash mob is when a group of people come together and do something short and attention-getting for a few minutes. Then, as quickly as they came together, they disperse. The Raging Grannies staged a flash mob shortly following the peace event. They brought with them a bucket of what represented bitumen (the dirty oil created in the tar sands) and decided to spread it around. Here is a look - yuck!

On Friday, for the first time ever I traveled out of town to attend an activist event. OK, it was only to Fort Saskatchewan, but it was quite the drive nonetheless. Friends of Medicare was holding a rally to Save Our Healthcare outside of Premier Ed Stelmach's office. The organization bused in six loads from Edmonton. As well, a lot of Fort Sask locals were in attendance. All told, there were around 500 people there. Ed Stelmach was not in his office (and if he was, he likely would not have come out), but it made quite a media impact nonetheless. Here are the photos and a short video.

This past weekend, the Kaleido Festival was held on Alberta Avenue. It was a free family festival and featured music, food, visual art, performance art, and much more. Billed as "Edmonton's biggest block party," it is a great initiative in this area that is currently under revitalization. Here are some photos.

In life otherwise, I can't get enough of Oysterband and The Skydiggers, both bands I saw at this summer's Edmonton Folk Music Festival.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Activist Season Begins - Bring on the Photos

Now that school, particularly university and college, is back in full swing, activist events are starting to pop up all over the place. And so begins my running (and riding) around, camera in hand. Here is a look at what's been happening.

One of the headlines in Edmonton this past week was Bob Barker's visit to the Valley Zoo, with the hopes of Lucy the Elephant being sent to a sanctuary when her health allows her to be up for the trip. He is a very friendly and sincere man and it was great to meet him. Here is a short video of his time at the rally.

The NDP held their Alberta convention in Edmonton last weekend, and I briefly stopped by to take a few shots. The same day, the Mustard Seed church in the inner city was having an open house with guided tours, so that the public can see first hand the work of this important community organization.

After the open house, I pedaled back to the west end to cover a couple of events on Stony Plain road. September 12 was the International Taoist Tai Chi Awareness Day, and there was a free class and demonstration. A few blocks west was Dogapalooza, featuring organizations like animal rescues, service animal training, and obedience. Who let the dogs out? A lot of people - the place was packed, considering it was the event's first year.

The weekend prior was Labour Day weekend, and the annual Edmonton District Labour Council BBQ for the Unemployed and Under-Employed was held at Giovanni Caboto Park. It was the most well-attended one yet (unfortunately), and the lineup for the free food stretched all the way to the park entrance, through the playground.

Some other events I have photographed since the beginning of the month include the Corn Festival from Action for Healthy Communities, with Latin American dancing and food. Sunshine and Grass at Louise McKinney Park was a pothead haven and I didn't stay too long. That same day, iHuman Youth Society held a block party in Boyle Street, with lots of great local hip hop music.

In general photographic pursuits, I took a bike ride through Hermitage Park and visited Fort Edmonton for the final time this season. There was a car show in Churchill Square in late August. I have gone on several walks in the Buena Vista offleash area and took a bike ride around Laurier Park for the first time in several years.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Rosh Hashana Ramble

It's the Jewish New Year
Time to repent;
Makes me wonder
Where the last year went.

Time to reflect,
Time to look ahead
Time to start to read
What the Torah said.

Apples and honey,
Bread and wine,
After a while
I'm feeling just fine!

Make it sweet and happy
Just like it should,
As for right now?
Shofar, so good!

(c) 2009 Paula E. Kirman

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Culture and Physical Attributes

Like I used to do in the days when I had more time in the afternoons on my hands (as in, when I didn't edit two community newspapers and juggle a plethora of other freelance work), I used to go out, run errands, and then park myself in a coffee shop for the rest of the day. Armed with notebooks, letters, and a book or two, I was set - combined with caffeine, it was a pastime that was creative and productive.

Yesterday, I relived those days when I spent several hours in a nearby Starbucks - OK, I know what my activist friends think of that place, but I had an early evening get-together and it was the most convenient spot for both of us. After locking up my bike in the parking lot, I passed by an elderly couple heading into the drugstore that neighbours the coffee shop. Older folks in that shopping complex are nothing unusual, but this couple caught my attention because the husband was dressed in a suit, aiding his wife who was using a walker. I had one of those intense, "these people are noticing you" kinds of feelings.

In Starbucks, I sat at a table in a comfy chair, finishing off correspondence, writing in my journal, finishing a poem. I noticed that Mr. Smartly-Dressed and his wife occupied a table near the door. After a while, I looked up, and there he was, asking me if he could have the Edmonton Sun someone who occupied the table before me had left behind. Of course he could (I did not even flip through the thing). In his dignified British accent, he made mention of my "cross." I wasn't wearing a cross - I was wearing a large, silver-coloured Star of David I purchased recently. However, I knew what he meant. He went on to ask me if I was a Jewess (yes, I do believe he used that word). I answered in the affirmative. He said he and his wife had noticed me wearing it, and figured I must be pretty proud. I said I was.

He went on to ask if the symbol had any political meaning to it. I said in this case no, it was just an indication of my culture and faith. He proceeded to tell me he was Roman Catholic, even though he wore no symbols indicating such, and said there were lots of Jews who had become Catholic, and recommended a certain cable tv channel which was Catholic-oriented and featured some personalities with Jewish backgrounds. I thanked him for the information.

Picking up on whatever suble clues I apparently give out that I am a keen student of human behaviour, he launched into a story about his family's ethnic and religious background, the worldviews of Jewish philosophers versus Greek ones, and how Jesus never discussed Aristotle. Pointing to my wire frame glasses, he said he could tell I was an intellectual and thus interested in such things. Which I am, on both counts I hope, but wonder what his reaction would have been had I been wearing my sunglasses or thicker, plastic frames.

Finally, he asked me if I spoke Hebrew. While I know a few words here and there, alas I do not. He added that I certainly do not, "look that way." Rather, I looked Northern European. Yes, I have gotten the, "That's funny - you don't look Jewish" line before, so I was gracious about it, but I always wonder what the subtext actually is. Are cultural stereotypes still so ingrained in us, that we assume just because someone is a member of such-and-such group that they have to have certain physical features?

Now, I don't assume for one moment that this man - who said he was a scientist, no less - was an anti-Semite. Nor was I offended. I just find these kinds of comments curious. A friend recently told me she thinks I look Dutch (that's Northern European, isn't it?), and I found that interesting as well. On the other hand, I have also been told that I do, in fact, look Jewish. What does that mean or imply? Does it really mean anything? Would this same person have gone up to someone wearing a cross and tell them that he or she looked Christian?

I know a lot of different people from a lot of different backgrounds. Whether or not they fit the "look" of a particular group is usually not a discussion topic. Yes, there are some ethnic body issues, but again, those are universal. White, Anglo-Saxon women have issues also. In popular culture, we do sometimes discuss personality or temperamental cultural behaviours (again, stereotypes like the hot-tempered Irishman, stingy Sottish person, or over-protective Jewish mother) and sometimes even exploit them - where would Woody Allen, or even Jerry Seinfeld, be without playing up neurotic Jewish characteristics?

I am purposely bringing up more questions than answers, because, frankly, there really aren't any answers. These are philosophical questions one can continue to mull over - just how tightly is the physical tied to the cultural?

Monday, September 07, 2009

September BMC News

Our September issue of Boyle McCauley News is online - and it is an exciting one because it is our first issue ever to feature four pages of full colour! That's right - we are now publishing with full colour. You can download a copy in PDF format, colour and everything, here. Here is a sneak peek at what's inside:

* Summer Camp Gives McCauley Kids Hope
* More Murals Liven Up the LRT Corridor
* Fabulous Flowers - The Natural Beauty of McCauley
* Shoptalk - three new businesses
* Artist Poster Show
* Getting Excited About School, Again...
* Home Security: A Challenge Inside and Out
* The Happy Wanderer
* Community League Updates
* Community Soccer Update

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

So Many Photos

In the last week or so I think I have taken more photos than the entire season combined. I did a huge photo shoot at the Fringe Festival for a social media company called FusedLogic who partnered with the Fringe to provide social networking services. Here is my huge photo set of over 600 shots. Walter Schwabe, FusedLogic's CEO, later wrote a blog post thanking the photographers and listing me as one of Edmonton's ten "trust agents."

Eastwoodfest is a community initiative of the Alberta Avenue revitalization currently happening. I managed to stroll down there on August 15 and for some shots which were later used by iNews880 as a photo gallery.

This past weekend I shot a wedding for some friends of mine. It was my first time ever shooting a wedding so I was pretty stressed about it. I was with the bridal party from early afternoon to the ceremony getting shots of everyone getting ready, then it was off to the church where, go figure, I knew the priest doing the ceremony. Then, after some basic formals, it was time for the reception. The food was mostly home-cooked, and great! I was glad to actually be able to sit down with some of my friends and enjoy myself. Some of the most memorable moments for me included two very cute little girls who had no problem posing for me, until they got dressed and it was time to go outside for their portraits. Then, one of them started crying and I had to chase the other one throughout the back yard. In bare feet. On dry grass. Fortunately, my camera was fast enough to catch them before the theatrics started.

At the reception, I sat at a table with a close friend and his son and family. His oldest granddaughter, who has really beautiful red hair, exclaimed that she was the only redhead in attendance. I said that I was the only Jewish person. Hey -- if I dyed my hair red before the wedding, I would have been the only Jewish redhead! Silly jokes aside, it was a fun time, and I also got some shots of the preparations and day before and gift-opening after. Here is a look at some of the shots on Facebook.

After the gift-opening on Sunday I headed down to the dragonboat races. Louise McKinney Park was totally full for parking, so we went to the south side and then scampered down to the riverbank. I never shot the boats from this perspective before, and the results were pretty decent.

That pretty well wraps up festival season for 2009. I am looking forward to getting out and shooting events in the fall and winter months - but not just yet. I still want to capture images in the sunshine and snow-less streets.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Small Community, Big Problems: What's a Jewish Girl to Do? -

I still get a lot of feedback concerning an article I wrote in 2000 about the Jewish dating scene in my city. Lately, I have been asked on more than one occasion to write a follow up. I honestly wasn't sure if I had anything further to say on the topic. However, when asked me, I reconsidered. Here is the result.

Small Community, Big Problems: What's a Jewish Girl to Do? -

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Friday, August 14, 2009

Girl On A Bicycle

Girl On A Bicycle
Originally uploaded by raise my voice
I went out for dinner with one of my staff on Tuesday evening, after which she had a quick errand to run on the south side. On our way back west, we spotted someone in long black trench coat riding a bicycle with fresh daisies in back. She insisted I take a picture, and we ended up following that cyclist down several side streets. Finally, we just pulled up alongside her and insisted we were not stalking her, but wanted to take a picture of her fabulous bike. Sylvia, as she told us her name, had a terrific European accent (I think German) to match the stylish sensibilities of her bike. She posed for us before peddling away near Whyte Avenue.

Monday, August 10, 2009

A Folk Fest Weekend

I spent this past weekend in Gallagher Park for the Edmonton Folk Music Festival. Does anyone ever go to Gallagher Park in the summer for any other reason? I think people ski there in the winter. I don't ski, but I sure got a good workout walking all over the park and up and down the main hill enjoying a vast variety of excellent music. I heard and saw some of my favourite acts and was introduced to a few new faves.

The highlight for me was seeing The Skydiggers on Saturday afternoon. The Skydiggers was one of my favourite bands in university and yet I had never had the opportunity to see them live yet. Did I ever feel nostalgic when the announcer said the band was celebrating 20 years! Some other memorable performances included Oysterband, Arrested Development, Hot Tuna, Great Lake Swimmers, and the Agnostic Mountain Gospel Choir.

I am writing in detail about many of these performances at my music-related blog, Inside World Music. To see my full photo set from the weekend, click here.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Dancing With the Lions -

Vote for my story at and you could win an iPod shuffle! My story is accompanied by a video. Here is the link:

You can vote once per day.

Heritage Days Are Here Again

The Heritage Festival (or, Heritage Days as us long-time Edmontonians know it) is likely my favourite of all our summer festivals. The combination of ethnic music, dance, dress, and food really does it for me. I also enjoy bargain hunting for cool, inexpensive trinkets. This year I got two bracelets: a stretch wooden bracelet with anarchy symbols, the likeness of Che Guevara, and other subversive images, and a magnetic stretch band with Jesus and some of the saints pictured. I am not into saint veneration, but think of these images as art. It apparently seems to be all the rage now, I think because a main character in the teen vampire flick Twilight wears something similar. I also got a small, colourful bag at the Ibero-American tent (a friend of mine was working there) and my name spelled out in pictures at Korea. This is a Korean art form and I was amazed at how quickly the artist used these little brushes to make the pictures. "P" was made using a butterfly and rainbow - if you know my music, you'll get the symbolism of that! Of course, I gorged myself on ethnic treats, mostly from South America (empanadas, churros, flautas), but also made sure to grab my favourites from Afghanistan (kebab, bolani). Here is a look at what I saw and what I ate!

Friday, July 31, 2009

The Ride of My Life

Last week, I decided to enter a contest that was being sponsored by the City of Edmonton's website. The contest was to write a "tweet" about a favourite Edmonton memory on Twitter The two best tweets would win tickets to the Edmonton Indy and a ride around the track in a pace car.

Not being a huge race fan (I mean, I sometimes watch NASCAR on tv, but that is about it) the prize really did not entice me. The thought of how to creatively convey my feelings about Edmonton in 140 characters or less, however, did. Still, I really did not bother to think about it much until the afternoon of Wednesday, July 22 - the final day of the contest, which closed at 11:59 that night. I happened to be strolling around the High Street area, a Fat Frank in hand (vegetarian at that), doing some shopping. Suddenly, the line "hot dogs on High Street" started to roll through my mind. I thought it would make an excellent line in a poem. Since it was something specific to Edmonton, perhaps I could fashion it into an entry to the contest.

However, writing a poem in 140 characters is not easy. I decided upon the Haiku form since it is short yet can often convey a lot in terms of emotion or scenery. I have a lot of experience writing Haiku, as I was a contributor for one of the seasonal cycles of and was published in the first print volume published by this site.

I tend to use the traditional 5-7-5 syllable structure for Haiku, even though some modern poets deviate from this. "Hot dogs on High Street" already was five syllables, so I could have used it as the first or last line, but I decided to add to it to make it the middle line, since I wanted to write about my experience and was shopping at the time. Hence, the middle line became, "Shops and hot dogs on High Street." Seven syllables!

Now, I needed a first and last line. For me, the festivals are an integral part of life in Edmonton. "Summer festivals" is five syllables all on its own. My first line was born. I only needed another five for the final line. I tend to spend a lot of time in specific parts of the city, like Whyte Avenue - which is four syllables. I could only add one more word if I wanted to stick with tradition. "Fun" seemed too cliché. Nights? No, that implies bar-hopping more than anything. What do I do on Whyte? I hang out with friends, have meals, shop, walk . . . "romps" came into my mind. "Whyte Avenue romps." A Haiku was born!

Early evening on June 22 I submitted this tweet:

An Edmonton haiku: Summer festivals/Shops and hot dogs on High Street /Whyte Avenue romps

I even had enough characters left over to be able to add the identifying hashtags of #yeg (for Edmonton), #yegmoment (the identifying tag for the contest), and #yegstories (for Edmonton Stories).

The following afternoon I received a call from informing me that my tweet was one of the winners! Surprised does not begin to cover it. I decided to take my ride on Saturday, the 25th which gave me two days to mentally prepare. Truth be told, this bicycle commuter who does not own a car had never been to the Indy before and did not even know what a pace car was. I was relieved to find out that it does not go as fast as a race car, but as someone who finds the rides a little too thrilling at Capital EX, I was still somewhat nervous. Reality started to hit when the City issues this press release about the contest and winners.

My time at the Indy was quite interesting and enlightening. The place was huge with lots to see and do besides just sitting in the grandstands, watching the cars zipping by. I saw all kinds of cars from different time periods, people working on cars, people talking about cars - it was almost like being in a great big outdoor museum. I took a lot of pictures, which you can see here. And it was loud - you can hear the racing all the way at my home in the west end, but up close it was an exercise for the eardrums. I found that I did not need the earplugs I bought for the occasion, however.

Shortly before 4 p.m., the film crew from the City and I met up and we did an interview, and I got signed in for my pace car ride. While waiting I also did an interview with a reporter from the Edmonton Journal. You can find that story online here. The photo, which clearly shows how hot I was (it was around 33 celcius that afternoon) ended up on the front page of Sunday's Journal, with the story on page A2.

I was also handed a small video camera to take in the car with me to record my ride. I asked the driver a few questions, particularly just how fast we were going to move. 150 km/hour is about a third of what a race car goes at, but it was very fast nonetheless. I could see the city skyline zipping by in the distance and could not refrain from screaming a couple of times as we went around the twists and turns of the track. Yet it was over within a couple of minutes and stumbling like a new-born fawn I emerged from the vehicle triumphantly. I had experienced something new, fast, and exciting. It truly was the ride of my life.

To get a good look at what happened, this page at has photos and videos from my big day!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

July/August 2009 Boyle McCauley News

Our July/August issue is online - you can download a copy here.

VOLUME 30 NUMBER 6 - July-August, 2009

* EPSB Opens Public Discussion Over the Fate of Our Schools
* McCauley Cleans Up
* Heart of the City Wraps Up for Another Year
* Community League Updates
* Community Soccer Update
* Dining Out: Nyala Ethiopian Restaurant
* Cop’s Corner: Summer Safety
* Plan to End Homelessness will address housing needs of most vulnerable citizens

Sunday, July 26, 2009

A Week in the Life

The past week has been a whirlwind. Between work, events, and activism I have hardly had a chance to catch up on relaxing, let alone blogging. Add to that the fact I have been trying to get in as much bike time as possible, and you have a recipe for Paula not being in front of her computer very much.

On Monday I went to Capital EX. This was the first time I have been there since the event re-branded from Klondike Days. The midway was owned by a different company, and there seemed to be fewer rides. Not that I am much of a ride person. I was tricked into going on the Crazy Mouse and had a sore throat for the rest of the afternoon from screaming. I actually found the displays in the Agricom the most interesting part of the afternoon, especially the butterfly area. I also enjoyed going on the big ferris wheel and getting photos from the top. Here are the photos of that and everything else.

On Tuesday I went to Taste of Edmonton for the second time. I enjoy trying different foods from different restaurants. I just wish it was not so expensive! Here is a look at what I tasted and tried. Most of it was good, and some of the portions were not bad values.

Prior to heading to Churchill Square, I took some shots around McCauley. We had a really intense storm last Saturday evening that resulted in a lot of trees going down, including this one on 93 street. I also got a few pictures of new community murals that have gone up along the LRT pedestrian/bike trail.

I attended a board meeting of the Phoenix Multi-Faith Society, for which I have been writing articles about interfaith cooperation. It is always great to be able to put faces to names of people with whom I have been working. The board consists of representatives from the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim faiths.

On Wednesday I attended an animal rights event for the first time. It was presented by Voice for Animals and Friends of Lucy and took place in front of City Hall. They are calling for independent experts to examine Lucy the Elephant at the Valley Zoo and determine whether she should stay put or be moved to a sanctuary in Tennessee. I am trying to keep an open mind on this issue and think City Hall should be taking a mroe active role in getting involved in the discussion. Here is a look at the rally (I admire the woman in the elephant suit - it was a hot afternoon!) and a short video.

Thursday had me bring my bike out to Terwillegar Park for some off-road fun. I don't really like riding on non-paved trails, so this was a bike and hike. Besides, the scenery is so beautiful I had to keep stopping to take pictures.

I also worked at my music this past week. "The Side of Peace" is another song I have written about the situation in Israel/Palestine. I performed it once live at an event called Expressions Against Repression, but I wanted to do a more "serious" recording of it. I also uploaded it to my main YouTube account with the hope of more people seeing it as they come to my channel to view videos about activism. Here it is.

Back at my music YouTube channel, there have been two new additions. I recorded a cover version in Spanish of a song called "Maria del Campo," a very old León Gieco song. In my video I got so into the song I did not realize my head was at times getting cut off! Also, by popular demand, I did a quick video of "Solo le Pido a Dios" yet again, clearly showing the guitar chords I am playing.

I had another huge adventure this past week, but it is worthy of its own blog post, so that is what I am going to do!

Monday, July 13, 2009

A Civilian Weekend

I ran into a friend of mine outside the Commercial on Saturday. Camera in hand, I was strolling the avenue checking out the Art Walk (link leads to my photo set). He said he had never seen me before as a "civilian" and could even sense a different aura around me. That got me to thinking, that I spent the weekend pretty much apart from activist goings on, at least in public.

My weekend pretty much started on Friday, when I headed to Fort Edmonton for the third time this summer. On this visit, the train was not working (first time I ever remember that happening) but I checked out a few buildings I have not been in for quite some time, such as St. Anthony's Church and School and the Masonic Hall (the top part, not the food concession). Here is my ever-growing photo set.

Earlier last week I went to the Alberta Aviation Museum for the first time ever. I don't know how many times I have passed the museum, since it is not far from McCauley where I work. This has to be one of the most overlooked attractions in the city. I was blown away by the number of full-sized aircrafts, numerous cabinet displays, and other nooks and crannies filled with airplane and military memorabilia - although I have to admit the Third Reich stuff sort of creeped me out. You can even go into the area where they restore the aircrafts. I was literally blown away when I went outside to look at a few of the aircrafts too large to fit inside the museum (it was a very windy day), including a full-sized Boeing 747. Check out my photo set here.

On Sunday I briefly passed through the final afternoon of the Street Performers, then walked to Little Italy for a celebration of the young soccer players in the community. After that I enjoyed a potluck supper with a friend and his family. Good times all around.

It wasn't good times when the heavy rains last week resulted in my office flooding. Fortunately, I happened to be down there at the time and everything was able to be moved before it got damaged. I had the opportunity to go through a few boxes of archival materials, and am going to try to have to hook up one of my old zip disk readers to see what is on a bunch of old disks I found.

Speaking of discoveries, I have finally started to tackle the last ten year's or so worth of spring cleaning. I have found old diaries, journals, and notebooks containing early attempts at poetry and songs. I have found books, photos, toys - all kinds of junk and treasure. In particular, I went through some old sketchbooks of mine and scanned some of the better stuff. I posted it at my online portfolio at DeviantArt.

The "Lights Down, Stars Up" photo exhibit at City Hall may be over, but a slideshow of the photos in the exhibit is online here.

Finally, two of my songs are now available for download on iTunes: "Walls" and "Falling." "Walls" is a song I often sing at peace rallies, while "Falling" is a very early song I wrote about life. Both downloads are 99 cents and can be found by searching on my last name. For some reason, when you use my full name "Walls" does not appear in the search results.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Just Friends

I wrote this article a while back, partially to vent and partially by request. I want to dedicate it to all of my incredibly wonderful platonic male friends.

Just Friends

He looked at me across the table at our regular haunt, a coffee shop not too far from my neighbourhood. We had been dating casually for about six months, and it was time for “The Talk.” Decision time over the future course of our courtship had come. Both of us had our doubts, due to various differences in our worldviews, interests, and goals. However, he wanted to make one thing perfectly clear.

“You are such a super, incredible person. If this does not work out, I really hope we can be friends.” It was the kiss of death to our relationship, because basically what he was saying that he thought I was an incredible person – just not good enough for him.

This was not the first time that I have been on the giving or receiving end of the “just friends” scenario. It usually comes at the end of a romantic relationship, when things are fizzling out, but for some reason one or both of us just want to keep hanging on. Sometimes it comes at the beginning, when the chemistry is not right (or there at all), and instead of completely blowing the other person off, being friends seems like a viable option.

Yet now I find myself questioning my motives, as well as those of the other person. It is way too easy to end a relationship, then keep the person around as a friend – just in case one of us changes our minds. Or, as a way of working through unresolved emotions left over after the romance is over.

There don’t seem to be any rules or etiquette when it comes to being friends, post-dating. How much time are you supposed to spend together? Too much can result in a relationship mutation, dating without actually naming the activity as dating. Boundaries become unclear and feelings end up getting hurt.

Going back to being just friends can appear like a natural evolution, a coming full circle. But getting so close changes things, and I find it hard to look at the person the same way as before, especially if it ends badly. However, since most of my boyfriends were platonic friends with me first, making a clean break when the romance is over is difficult. When the person is gone, he leaves a very obvious voice in my life. Can friendship fill that gap, or create more problems?

Let’s look at my track record. Just about every friendship post-romance I have ever had has eventually fizzled out. New girlfriends make me redundant. New boyfriends get jealous. Growing apart, a major reason for relationship breakdown in the first place, takes its toll. I guess when the substance of your conversations consists of “Hi, how are you?” and “How about this weather we’re having?” it’s time to move on.

The whole “just friends” thing might even trivialize friendship itself -- the relationship did not work out, so let’s settle for something less. What then, is friendship? I don’t think I could be a lover to someone without being his friend first. It builds an important foundation. Any two people can have sex. Any two people can go to a concert or other public event. But not every two people can connect on that intellectual, emotional, and sometimes spiritual level that is called true friendship.

And that kind of friendship is a gift and a blessing, not a consolation prize.

Friday, July 10, 2009

On Jewish Mothers

My culture and faith has profoundly impacted my written work. I used to be the Editor of the Judaism site for until time constraints forced me to stop. My work remained on the site for a while but has since vanished from the web. I will be posting some of the more resonant articles I wrote here, to keep them real and alive.

Few figures in Judaism are as mocked, feared, and respected as the Jewish Mother. Here are some thought and observations about our Yiddishe Mommas.

On Jewish Mothers

Jewish mothers. Are there any other two words that when juxtaposed, they illicit feelings at once of both reverence and fear. That is, only if you happen to be the child of one of them.

The stereotype of the over-protective, constantly fretting Jewish mother is well-known across cultures and religion -- the woman who does not cut the apron strings even after her children have passed the age of 25. Heck, even after they passed the age of 40, and have children of their own. Do you know the old joke about what the difference is between a Jewish mother and a rottweiler? The rottweiler will eventually let go.

Yes, there are indeed some Jewish mothers who fit the mold, and we all have our stories and experiences either encountering or living with them. I don't know what it is about being Jewish that turns a woman who would probably otherwise be normal into a worrying basketcase. Does being Jewish have anything to do with it? Does being a woman? Woody Allen is Jewish, and certainly is known for portraying characters that are more than slightly neurotic, and he isn't a woman.

Families are important in Judaism. Most of life cycle events and holidays are geared to be celebrated within a family unit. But family is also important in other cultures. Greek and Italian mothers have also been known to watch over their youngsters closely, but still do not have the stigma attached to them that Jewish mothers do.

Could this stereotype be a form of anti-Semitism? Perhaps. But at the same time, it is not exactly a false profile. I can't count how many times I have commiserated with other Jews about my parents, only to see them nodding their heads in empathy. There is such a thing as self-hatred, but one's experiences are their experiences: if we come from a home with a nutty Jewish mother, than that is our experience, and chalking the stereotype up to anti-Semitism is an aside.

So, here are some suggestions about why things are as they are with our maternal bonds. I mentioned earlier that family is important in Judaism. So is food. Food is crammed down our throats at every available moment. Food is linked with Jewish holidays. So when we refuse to eat for no reason other than we are simply not hungry, it is easy for one's mother to get offended or worried that something is wrong ("No mom, I won't waste away if I don't eat my third latke/blintz/cabbage roll/fill in with the ethnic food of your choice.").

As well, in a world where it is only recent that Jews are not pariahs in society, a person who lived in more dangerous times may feel more protective of her flock. I don't see the worry and fretting in my contemporaries -- it is mostly older women who were alive during the time of the Holocaust. Women who may have lived part of their lives in an Eastern European Jewish shtetl, then experiencing the culture shock of North America, and the non-Jewish cultural and religious influences that being part of a more dispersed Jewish community brought into their lives and families.

Basically then, I think the problem is with a certain generation of Jewish women who have their mindset in another time and place. Let me give you a personal example. My mother would not allow me to ride my bicycle unaccompanied, even though I was well into my teens, because she was afraid of me getting caught in traffic. We live in Western Canada. When my grandparents visited one summer from New York, my grandfather (of blessed memory) asked me why I did not go for a bike ride. When I explained to him the reason, he promptly marched inside and in a bewildered tone of voice asked my mother, "What traffic?" Thanks to Grandpa, she relented. But until then, my dear mother's vision of congested roads was still focused on the hectic streets of New York.

With these women, the universal and general become the local and specific. We must eat because children are starving in Africa. We must be home before dark because someone's sister's best friend's aunt's cousin was attacked twenty years before.

The stereotypical Yiddishe Mama is probably a species that will not remain beyond another generation, as the face and makeup of Jewish families change and we are more used to living amongst non-Jews. But her mark upon Jewish literature, popular culture, and our lives, will ensure that the legend of the Jewish mother will remain a part of the Jewish consciousness.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

They're Closing the Airport

So, it is official. City Council voted to progressively close the Municipal Airport yesterday. This issue has been on my mind since I visited the Alberta Aviation Museum a few days ago (pictures are here), which is very close in proximity to the airport. The museum will not be affected, as it is a protected historic site. I wonder if the same could not have been done for the airport. Or, at the very least, a city-wide plebiscite vote should have been held. This doesn't have to do with "yay" or "nay" - when it comes to a decision of this magnitude, the entire city should have been involved.

Most of my activist comrades from whom I have heard voice an opinion on this matter have been in favour of closing the airport. The main reason is that one of the plans for the area is high-density, affordable housing in a green community. While I admit that this is a need in Edmonton's core, to my knowledge the plans at this stage are all talk. There is no proposed business plan or developer (other than the City itself). The only thing that can be counted on is the NAIT expansion (definitely worthy in its own right). We don't have any assurance that these affordable housing units will actually come to fruition. Some smooth-talking, high-rolling developers could come onto the scene and persuade things to go their way and ritzy condos could sprout up. Don't forget, it's going to be public money that will front most of whatever happens in that space. "Affordable housing" and "green" are buzzwords making closing the Muni attractive to progressive folks. My activist comrades, do we really take at face value the words of those in authority?

The Muni has the city's medevac service. I know someone personally who flies search and rescue out of there. The close proximity to the Royal Alex hospital has been essential. But according to Mayor Mandel, that really doesn't matter because, after all, health care is a Provincial, not Municipal concern, so we're not under any obligation to provide land for it. I hope he gets a chance to tell this to the critically injured person who will have to land at the International Airport and be transported to a hospital via ambulance.

In many ways it is a good thing the vote is finally over, so there is a place from where to work. But that in itself is not an excuse to rush or force a decision. I stand by what I said earlier that this should have been voted on my the people. Power to all the people -- not the 13 who sit in City Hall.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

The Fuss About Intermarriage

My culture and faith has profoundly impacted my written work. I used to be the Editor of the Judaism site for until time constraints forced me to stop. My work remained on the site for a while but has since vanished from the web. I will be posting some of the more resonant articles I wrote here, to keep them real and alive.

Intermarriage is one of the biggest issues that is blamed for assimilation. Yet the number of Jews who intermarry is on the rise. This really isn't news and in the years since I wrote this article, the rates have only increased.

The Fuss About Intermarriage

When statistics that indicate that, for the most part, 50 per cent of the Jewish people who choose marriage partners choose non-Jewish, the first instinct can be that of alarm. If, that is, you happen to be one of the people who are happily married to a Jewish partner, and/or believe that intermarriage equals the certain destruction of the Jewish people.

I live in a large city with a disproportionately small number of Jews. The intermarriage rate is extremely high. Most of the people who marry Jews either leave the city, or find someone from someplace else who is willing to relocate.

What is a Jew in a small community to do? The Internet has helped create some long-distance matches, but long-distance relationships are not for everyone. Nor is relocation. Staying single out of loyalty has been done, but is not realistic.

There are a lot of Jewish singles in areas of higher Jewish populations, so the problem of finding an appropriate Jewish spouse is universal. When you combine the necessary factors of sharing spiritual goals, feelings for one another, and having enough in common to sustain a marriage, the pickings can suddenly seem very slim.

Without laying blame, or explaining the (mostly obvious) reasons why, intermarriage is a fact of life for contemporary Jews. We can raise children with as many Jewish values as possible, but if there simply are not enough kosher fish in the sea when they grow up, most of them will marry out.

For women, this is not that big of a deal, because our kids are still Jewish in all of the movements. For men, their children will only be considered Jewish in the more left-wing denominations. We cannot bank on false hopes that the Orthodox will ever accept these children as Jewish, or accept Reform conversions as valid.

I have seen that Orthodox communities will still welcome the Jewish spouse in an intermarried couple, and if the woman is the one who is Jewish, the children as well. And Reform, of course, welcomes non-Jewish spouses.

What it comes down to, is whether or not Judaism is passed down through the generations. A child who has had positive experience with Judaism is far more likely to make Jewish choices. Children of intermarriage who experience loving, affirming Jewish grandparents are more likely to stick with Judaism than dive headfirst into the religion of the other parent.

Even if the child is not halachically Jewish, there is still hope -- a boy born to a non-Jewish mother may indeed marry a Jewish girl, thus restoring the lineage. Stranger things have happened.

I honestly believe that deep down inside, a lot of Jews who marry Gentiles wish their partner was Jewish, but due to circumstances beyond their control, it just didn't happen. "Fighting" intermarriage is like fighting industrialization or desegregation. Frowning upon it isn't going to stop it from happening. Disowning our relatives who "marry out" is only going to further alienate them from Judaism.

The worry that intermarriage is going to completely erode Judaism is, I believe, an overreaction. First of all, there is always going to be the Orthodox branch of Judaism, which has the lowest intermarriage rate of all the movements. Secondly, look at all of the adversity that we have survived over the centuries. And yet we are still here.

While I am not going to go so far as to say that intermarriage always has a positive outcome, there are cases where marrying someone who is not Jewish increased one's sense of Jewish identity. Let me explain: when a Jewish person marries a non-Jew, there is negotiation, the explanation of rituals and holidays, and a true effort has to be made to inject Judaism into the home. One has to soul-search about what being Jewish really means. When two secular Jews marry, there are no such issues. You simply exist as a bona fide Jewish family, when the home might actually be devoid of Jewish spiritual flair.

The trend towards intermarriage might very well turn itself around. But I am not counting on it. Whether one's children's children are Jewish will likely depend on too many variables to control. The face of Judaism is changing, while Halacha remains the same. We need to respect our laws and traditions, while accepting change as a fact of life.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

The Other Half

My culture and faith has profoundly impacted my written work. I used to be the Editor of the Judaism site for until time constraints forced me to stop. My work remained on the site for a while but has since vanished from the web. I will be posting some of the more resonant articles I wrote here, to keep them real and alive.

I got a lot of flack over this piece, mostly by Jewish men saying it just wasn't so. Well, I can tell you from personal experience that it is. I will add that some of the Jewish men I have dated have gone on to marry Jewish women - only after "sowing their wild oats" and/or finding someone matching and essentially secular and tenuous attachment to Judaism as a culture rather than as a faith.

The Other Half

I wanted to call this article "The Problem With Jewish Men," but I decided against it. This is for all of the Jewish women out there having problems finding a partner. The Jewish singles scene is a difficult place. The gripes of Jewish women tend to focus on – you guessed it – Jewish men.

Before I get started, I just want to say that I do not intend to offend anyone here (although I am sure it is more than likely to happen). I like Jewish men. I really do. I find them sexy, funny, intelligent, and cultured. I like dark hair. I like piercing eyes. I like eccentricities. I think it is cool when someone is close with his mom.

So then, why don’t Jewish men like me?

I’m apparently not alone in my amazement. There are multitudes of Jewish women who have a sincere desire to marry a Jewish man, only to take one look at the dating scene, shrug their shoulders, and ask a resounding “huh?”

The first problem is finding where the Jewish men are keeping themselves hidden. Many of us live outside of major Jewish centers, where a Jewish social scene is non-existent. Plus, Jewish men are more likely to fade into the background. According to Jewish relationship pundit Shmuley Boteach, Jewish men are twice as likely to intermarry than Jewish women.

So what happens to the Jewish women? I think we’re more likely simply never to marry at all. After all, Jews in general tend to get married later anyways, and finding decent, available guys in their 30’s and 40’s without excessive baggage or “issues” is about as likely as winning the lottery.

As a last resort, many Jewish singles are turning to online dating services, such as, one of the most popular Jewish dating sites. Purely in the interest of research for this article (why don’t you believe me?), I placed an ad. I used photographs in which I allegedly look good and which reflect my personality. And much to my surprise, there is a fair amount of men in my locale on the system. Most of them I have never met or dated before.

At last count, my profile had been viewed a grand total of – drumroll please – 19 times.

Men who are supposedly interested in marrying a Jewish woman are not even reading the profile of a single, available gal in their own city. Either something is wrong here, or I am horrendously hideous. (In case you would like to judge for yourself, my profile name is ArtsyGal2652)

However, this is apparently a universal problem. A friend who was recently visiting form California has had similar experiences. She does not yet have a photo on her profile, but as soon as she sends a prospective date her snapshot, she stops hearing back from him. And just for comparison’s sake, she is blond-haired, blue-eyed, and slim. So much for the argument that Jewish guys are only looking for skinny blondes.

Oh, but we don’t seem to have any problem finding non-Jewish guys to date. First off, there are far more of them, and secondly, we’re “exotic.” Halachically, our children are Jewish no matter what. Good deal, no?

Not necessarily. Prospective gentile partners have families also who might object; have their own childhood cultural and religious experiences they may want to pass on to their children (and rightfully so); have issues with our Jewish traditions and practises. Some years back I wrote an article about my Jewish and non-Jewish dating experiences, here. Likely one of the most popular articles I have ever written, sadly, nothing much seems to have changed. We either don’t fit the “mythical shiksa” body type, or we are simply “too Jewish” in practise (even if we are not Orthodox. I have had guys cringe and run for cover when I tell them I don’t eat bacon).

Which brings me to another issue. Many of these guys on Jdate are never-married who are also getting on up there in years. I question just how much of a momma’s boy a man 35 and up is who has never been married. Yes, they are looking hard to find a Jewish woman, but with all of their effort, they just don’t seem to find one they can build a life with. Hmmmm. I know what it is – their standards must just be too high. Yeah, that’s right.

So what hope is there for those of us Jewish single gals who have passed the ‘30’ benchmark? I honestly can’t answer that question. And it saddens me. We live in a world where shallowness and liaisons based exclusively on physical attraction reign supreme, and it is pathetic and discouraging that such this worldly influence has infiltrated our ranks. Instant gratification has replaced the pursuit of higher actions leading us into a deeper relationship with the Almighty. Jewish women are guilty of this also, but Jewish men are far more likely to say they want a Jewish woman, then find every excuse under the sun not to marry one.