Thursday, February 25, 2010

Boyle McCauley News - March 2010

Our March issue is now online. Here is a look at some of the contents:

* Happy 100th Birthday, Bissell Centre!
* Save Our School!
* Skating Party
* Lunar New Year
* Letters To The Editor
* A Family of Volunteers
* Revitalization Update
* 2010 Soccer Registration
* Community League Updates
* Dining Out

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

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Family Day Photos

February 15 was Family Day, a civic holiday here in Edmonton, which made for a long weekend. On Family Day I headed to two events - the Global Village at Churchill Square (a presentation of the Winter Light Festival folks) and the annual skating party at McCauley Rink.

The day before was Valentine's Day, but for people who use a Lunar calendar, it was the start of the New Year. Here are some photos from the celebrations in Chinatown, as well as a short video. 97 Street was totally shut down for most of the afternoon, so that the lion dancers could make their way to all of the businesses, bringing blessings for the new year.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Memorial March of Edmonton

Valentine's Day wasn't a commercialized holiday for those of us attending the fifth annual Memorial March for all the Missing and Murdered Women on February 14. It was a day to show our love to all those women of Edmonton who have been taken from us - women from all cultures and walks of life. Women whose deaths are not always properly investigated or are written off by society because the woman lived a particular lifestyle.

I was honoured to be asked by the organizer to sing the opening song and was presented with an offering of tobacco (an Aboriginal custom to show respect towards someone) before I sang. I chose my song "Summer" because it is about a woman who becomes homeless. Women who are living in poverty are at a higher risk of becoming exploited or the victims of violent crime, as I explained before I sang. Here is a video of my performance, and a short video from the march. As well, here is my photo set from the event.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

February 2010 of Boyle McCauley News

Our February issue is now online. Here is a look at what's inside:

* St. Stephen’s Church to Be Demolished
* Love Letter to the Community
* Skating Schedule
* City to Buy York Hotel
* Letters To The Editor
* Volunteer News
* Iris Court
* The McCauley Cup
* Community League Updates
* Dining Out

Download a complete copy of the issue as a PDF here.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Alberta Needs A Living Wage

This week, Employment Minister Thomas Lukaszuk announced he would not raise the Province's minimum wage a mere 12 cents (to $8.92 from $8.80). Even if he did approve such a generous raise (can you hear my sarcasm?) this is hardly anywhere near a living wage. This article I wrote for the April 2008 issue of Our Voice, a street newspaper in Edmonton, is as true today as it was back then.

Everyone who is willing and able to work deserves to make a living. How to achieve that in our supposedly booming economy is another matter.

The gap between the rich and poor is growing wider, with the extremes growing on both ends of the equation. A possible solution to the growing class of the “working poor” – those who have jobs but still find themselves coming up short each month for the basic necessities of life – is the institution of a living wage.

According to Public Interest Alberta, 21.9% of all working Albertans earn less than $12 per hour . One suggested solution is to raise the minimum wage, but even $12 is not a whole lot when it comes to keeping up with the cost of living resulting from the province’s supposed “boom.”

One of the problems concerning setting a living wage is defining an exact amount. Realistically, this can vary from person to person depending on circumstances. A single mother with three pre-teen children is going to have very different needs than a twenty-five year old bachelor who lives alone.

Another consideration is that certain kinds of jobs have limited potential for both career development and actual monetary value. The career ceiling is very limited for someone who pumps gas or checks out groceries, unless they end up an owner or a manager – certainly not in the majority of cases. Gradual pay increases over time for these sorts of jobs tend to be small because they do not require a lot of skill and training.

However, not everyone can or is supposed to be a doctor, lawyer or executive. This does not mean that other jobs are any less vital to our economy. Many so-called menial jobs ensure that society as we know it functions smoothly. It is the workers, through their labour, who provide the backbone for a quality of life that those in the upper echelons take for granted. Think about this: what would happen if all of the cashiers at Safeway simply decided not to show up for work one day? Or, if the same scenario ensued with any other job that is generally taken for granted?

A theoretical proposal is that society as a whole needs to examine and evaluate what is important in terms of its values. In practical terms, change has to start with each of us, to slowly and gradually create a paradigm shift in our society. On an individual level, this means taking stock of our own priorities, and allowing our lives to be living reflections of what we hold most dear. This may involve becoming less materialistic, or taking a different career path that allows us more time to pursue our passions or spend more time with loved ones.

As well, the average person needs to support workers’ rights. When a group of workers are on strike, don’t cross the picket line. In terms of day to day activities, don’t support corporations with lousy track records when it comes to employee treatment and pay. While low prices might be tempting to anyone on a budget or fixed income, supporting these kinds of businesses is only adding to the problem while lining the pockets of some of the biggest corporations in the world (and the obscenely rich executives who run them). At the very least, make an effort to shop at Canadian-owned companies, as well as ones that utilize the standards of Fair Trade, whereby the goods are certified not to have been produced in sweatshops and where the producers are paid a decent amount for their labour.

Perhaps it is some sort of fair trade regulations we need on a local level. Our quality of life should not have to suffer because of arbitrarily set wage limitations. The term “working poor” needs to be made obsolete.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

The Future of Story

I was invited to a reception for Governor Award winning poet and novelist Robert Kroetsch yesterday. The reception was held by the University of Alberta Press on the occasion of Kroetsch's 30th book, a poetry collection entitled Too Bad. Kroetsch is known for his witty take on Alberta, as well as his pioneering the form of post-modern literature. I have interviewed Robert Kroetsch a number of times over the years (here is part one of a lengthy interview from 2001, and here is part two), and I find him a source of inspiration and wisdom.

Robert Kroetsch's reception was the final event in a conference held at the Macewan Centre for the Arts called "The Future of Story." Writers, journalists, new media experts, and others who are involved with the telling of stories in our society discussed just that - how we tell stories, what they mean to us, and what the future holds. I did not attend most of the conference, but I did sneak in to the last session which featured a panel of seasoned storytellers, including Robert Kroetsch as well as Rudy Wiebe, Gloria Sawai, Jack Hodgins, and moderated by Aritha van Herk. It was certainly a who's who of Alberta writers (okay, Hodgins is an expat, but who's keeping track?).

I tweeted quite a bit during that session, and here is some of what I gleaned:

Every story begets need for more stories.

We base our very existence on stories.

The task is to make up what isn't made up.

Story is at once glue and solvents. It brings us together, breaks us down. (All of these pearls above came from Robert Kroetsch)

We are all Titanics and going down with the ship. We read for distraction and entertainment. (Glorai Sawai)

A place or person can be certified through being in a story or movie. (Jack Hodgins)

Humans are story making species. It is who we are and what we do. (Rudy Wiebe)

Speech and language greatest creative power we have. (Rudy Wiebe)

Stories help us live. Instruct us, help us to deal with death. (Rudy Wiebe)

Questions were raised as to the role of fact in storytelling, and how the distinction between fact and fiction are getting blurred, in part because of the use of social media (I suppose because rumours, lies, and rants can take on a life of their own).

So what is the future of storytelling? My observations and reflections come from my different roles as an editor, journalist, songwriter, photographer, and avid user of social media. Stories can be told in so many different ways. News articles record history and tells what is hopefully an accurate report to a community. Songs tell stories of love, loss, or social issues using a medium that appeals to the ears instead of the eyes. Photographs? They really do tell a thousand words - and are sometimes open to interpretation. Social media can tell what is happening in real time, can spread ideas, can also be a source of frustration when ideas and words clash.

Stories will always be with us, as long as we are here because like us, stories live and grow. The medium by which they are communicated and preserved may vary and likely will change over time. However, we are never going to lose stories unless we banish ourselves to silence.

Monday, February 01, 2010

No Prorogue/Green Drinks

Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament held a rally on January 23, a national day of action against Prime Minister Stephen Harper's decision to shut down Parliament. I was interested to learn that Canadians held rallies as far away as London, as well as all over the US. Here is a look at the one here in Edmonton. Also, here is a short video of the march from Corbett Hall to Gazebo Park, and another video of the speeches at the rally.

On January 27 I photographed Green Drinks Edmonton at the Kasbar. Green Drinks is a networking event for environmentally-minded professionals, organized by E-Sage and Young Environmental Professionals (YEP). I had a great time and made some interesting connections. Here are the photos.