Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Wabi Sabi

When I moved to Ottawa in the fall of 2004, I lived quite close to the river and walked along it often. One of my first great discoveries was a rocky landing that was populated with stone figures. Small ones, large ones, some very simple and others quite elaborate. A plaque mounted at the site explained that the artist built these figures up each year, allowing them to wash away with each winter. Apparently he'd been doing this for some years.

The following year, I watched the process with real pleasure. He began in spring, and I'd often see him out there in hip waders, searching for the right stones and building his figures. By the height of summer there was a whole community dotting the landing and out into the river. Not to mention the human spectators who had paused in their walks/rides/skates to take a look.

And as winter arrived, and the ice started to take over, the whole thing would disappear, almost overnight. Only a few of the larger stones were left as a reminder that something had once happened there.

Last fall, I moved, and I don't live close to the river anymore. Yesterday, I went out for a bike ride that took me along that path for the first time this year. The installation isn't there. It appears there will be no community of stone figures this year.

I don't know why, and I may never know. Perhaps the artist didn't get some grant he needed to keep devoting the time to a project that had no revenue-generating capacity. Perhaps he moved on to something else. Perhaps he's sick or even dead.

The story goes that Zen monk Sen no Rikyu was asked to tend his master's garden. Having raked the ground until it was pristine, he surveyed the result and then shook the branch of a cherry tree, so that a few leaves fell back to the ground. This was his recognition that beauty exists in the transitive nature of things. Everything is either growing or decaying. Often both at the same time.

I know that all things come to an end and that other things take their place. But I sat for a long time looking out over where those figures used to be.

Friday, May 18, 2007

My apology to Canada's New Government™

I have previously mocked the Conservatives for their amateurish branding exercise. For one thing, "Canada's New Government" rings in my ears like an attempt to sell soap flakes or breakfast cereal (Now with 25% more smugness and 18 essential panders!). And surely there's some natural statute of limitations on calling something New. Six months maybe. A year tops.

But with this demonstration of just how New they are, I must offer a clear and unequivocal apology:

To Messrs. Harper, Baird, Flaherty, et. al. I sincerely regret having suggested, either in word or action, that you were experienced and thoughtful politicians who shouldn't consider yourselves New. Clearly I was wrong, and I regret any hurt feelings my actions may have caused.

I assumed that spending 13 years watching from the opposition benches, you would have picked up some tips about how to manage relations with the civil service. That assumption was naïve and unfair, and I promise never again to suggest that you learned anything other than smear tactics and the ability to pass off complete fabrications as truth. In fairness, you're really good at those things, and one shouldn't be criticized for honing their specialized skills.

So since you're New, and need more time to get the hang of things, I will humbly offer a morsel of advice:

Don't mess with the civil service. They have way too much ability to fuck you up. If you continue to try to get heavy, you're in for a world of hurt.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Bomb drama just a creative way of getting future boss' attention

The RCMP's explosives disposal unit was called to the scene of 24 Sussex yesterday, after a nervous-looking man tossed a duffel bag over the security fence. Upon investigation, however, the bag was found to contain an assortment of personal hygiene products. The police canine unit was called in to track the man, who fled on foot, but he has not yet been apprehended.

"We're hoping the individual will contact us soon," said PMO spokeswoman Sandra Buckler. "The bag also contained a resume and cover letter, indicating the gentleman is interested in a position on the Prime Minister's grooming detail. Mr. Harper was quite intrigued by some of the product samples contained in the package, and the resume lists some impressive credentials." Ms. Buckler declined to comment as to whether those credentials included palmology and channeling.

When asked about the conduct of the man, who was seen pacing in front of the property prior to the incident, and the possibility of mental health implications, Ms. Buckler was dismissive. "I imagine he was just nervous about applying for a job of such importance. I remember how anxious I was in my interview for this job. I was perspiring so much, I had to ask for a break to change my clothes. I completely understand the gentleman's desire to run away. But with the summer barbeque tour fast approaching, I do hope he'll be in touch. "

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Just a random observance

It's the time of year when Parliament Hill is increasingly full of tour groups and visitors and people who just want to spend some time on a nice, big, sunny lawn. Yesterday, as I was walking up towards Centre Block, I had to pass through a large group of people 'speaking' to one another in sign language.

There were probably about 50 or 60 of them. I don't know why they were there. It didn't seem to be a demonstration of any kind. Mostly it just looked like any other group, except quieter and with a lot of hands waving around and making interesting shapes. And I don't know why it made me feel happy, but it did.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Re-emerging from the void

Before I become another blogger with good intentions and no follow through, I'd better get back in. I've been thinking about lots of stuff, but having taken on a new project, I've barely had time to tie my shoes lately, let alone write stuff down.

The project is this. Previously, I've limited my activity to federal politics, but I guess I just can't resist a great candidate, and I seem to have a soft spot for activists with the courage to run. As I've said before, I sometimes wonder why anyone would do it.

Anyway, if anyone from Ottawa Centre happens to be reading this, and you're free this evening, come on out to the Newport Restaurant at Richmond & Churchill and meet her.