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