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Hockey, Art & the Vancouver Riots: Was it us? Was it the sport? And is there any chance it won’t happen again?

This weekend’s ‘Celebration of Light’ fireworks competition marked Vancouver’s biggest outdoor party since Game 7. Like the leaders of Oslo, Vancouver believed that continuing with annual outdoor events after catastrophe was worth the investment of trust in residents. Free societies should continue as free societies. Limiting freedom based on isolated events is counter-productive.

Not that Vancouver’s June 15th is truly comparable to Norway’s July 22nd.

June 15th, we did to ourselves. July 22nd was inflicted by a seriously disturbed individual.

The only commonality, really, is that incredibly sick feeling deep down inside.

Confession time, Vancouver: Were any of you holding your breath in the last 48 hours? Did you wonder if gut-wrenching images of our city would once again splatter the global media?

Yeah, me neither.

Now, if you were, I’m curious: why? Do you believe us a pack of senseless morons, ready for destruction at the first opportunity? Do you believe us to have such poor memories that the results of June 15th are already washed from our minds?

Many of my non-Vancouverite friends have asked me why the riots happened. That’s not really an issue I want to touch with a twenty-foot, aluminum-plated pole, sound-proof pole. Paid professionals will soon answer that question, and until they do, I’d like to keep my comments on ‘why’ to myself.

But I never believed, deep down, that it was ‘just us.’

Sure, our reputation is still tarnished. I talked with a friend last night who said she felt sheepish admitting her home city while talking with the locals on her vacation. Their response? “Oh. Vancouver. You take your hockey very seriously.”

Well, I guess that’s true.

But here’s my question: is that bad?

Several June-15th related comments have intrigued me.  One has recently protruded: the implication that, had our residents been more invested in arts than sports, the riots would never have happened. Sports increase emotional contagion. Arts decrease irrational behavior.

And, as Steven Stosny says, ’emotions are more contagious than any known virus.’

I have long found the arts to be soothing for my soul. I can not count the number of times I find myself at my piano, behind my guitar, or, sitting here writing, when my spirit feels crushed, depressed, or severely frustrated. The cathartic release brings a sense of peace afterwards. I am less irritated by my surroundings, more compassionate.

And I have yet to meet one person face-to-face who is actually proud of what happened in our city following Game 7. I have to believe that the majority, if not all, of our city, is willing to do whatever it takes that it doesn’t happen again. I certainly am. And if more attention to the arts would help us, that’s something I’m willing to pursue.

In other words, if its not ‘just us,’ that led to the riot, is it our past times?

Without delving into ridiculously cold scientific jargon or syrupy-sweet artsy-fartsy-ness, I asked the internet this question, and my extremely-talented pianist friend pointed me towards an interesting community called “Hill Strategies.”

According to Hill Strategies, arts education produces a host of emotionally intelligent traits:

– increased confidence;

– fewer emotional problems;

– better conflict-resolution skills;

– improved problem-solving skills;

– increased school abilities;

– increased social skills; and

– increased motivation to learn.

Impressive statistics. Persuasive enough to ask the question: are arts a healthier past-time than sports?

I’m not sure how to answer that. If you are, feel free to enlighten us. All I know is I feel a burst of meanness coming on, and I need to hang with Jillian Michaels and my hand weights for awhile.

See, for me, exercise endorphins are often far more anxiety-purging than the serotonin brain bath I receive from playing Clair de Lune.   So maybe its not that arts are healthier than sports. After all, could we not claim each of those above-listed effects of arts education for sports as well?

Perhaps, but then we need to make an important distinction.

I know some arts and music fans who have behaved just as obnoxiously as sports fans. Artists are notoriously moody, irritable creatures. We (yes, I’m one of them) often think our tastes are the best. We are quick to judge those who like things we don’t. We can be critical, finger-pointing, anal-retentive human beings.

Not always the healthiest behaviours, really. What happened to all that emotional intelligence I mentioned before?

But perhaps we should consider the benefits listed above apply to arts and sports participants, not their spectators.

Is that the problem, then? Should we only play sports and not watch it? Should we only draw and paint and write our own artistic creation, and not appreciate another?

Or, is it just that as spectators we have an inappropriate distance between ourselves and the thing we spectate? By watching someone else do something, are we somehow both too close and too far away from the thing we enjoy?

Some blame the riots on our over-identification with our hockey team. I’ve written about that before here. But if the healthiest benefits of our past times come when we fully participate, limiting our engagement may be exactly the opposite of what we need to do.

And, had we been more engaged with art than sport, maybe we would have rioted over that instead.

Arts spectators have rioted before. Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring caused quite a stir when it debuted in Paris in 1913. Wikipedia observes that the ballet’s “intensely rhythmic score and primitive scenario and choreography shocked the audience that was accustomed to the elegant conventions of classical ballet.” Indeed, Paris was not only shocked at the progressive content and style, they were deeply offended.  Thus began the most famous classical music riot to date.

Hmm. They rioted because they were offended.


What if that is our problem? What if all the destruction of six weeks ago – images that still lurk in my brain’s recesses – started because we were offended?

It’s possible. Everything about that night felt not right. Unfair, even. Shocking, to a city and a team that (gulp) expected to win.

Perhaps our issue, then, isn’t sports. Maybe, its getting offended.

I cringe inside. I’m not exactly the role model for handling offense with grace. But I want to be better. A lot of inappropriate, terrible things originate in offense. Again, we need only to look at Norway to see just how terrible. And, we need only look at any of our social media investments to see how inappropriate we can be when offended.

I’m not sure how to get better, exactly. But I know that part of it is starting to get behind the eyes of the person who offends. Perhaps there is some detail of his perspective, some narrative of her history, that invites me to compassion. Perhaps there is some merit to their perspective; to his likes or her dislikes.

And there is the great challenge: to learn to embrace those who think differently from us. If you’re interested, I urge you to pick something you never thought you’d like, something a friend or acquaintance enjoys, even something you might judge them for liking, and figure out if there’s anything there you find appealing. This isn’t about peer pressure. Peer pressure urges us to like something so we will fit in. Choosing to invest in a loved one’s hobby urges us to like something so others will fit in.

Helping others fit in. Hmm. Kind of the definition of a good host, eh, Vancouver?  We’ve done it before. We can do it again.

Your thoughts? I’d love to hear them.







What Zooey Deschanel & Fozzie Bear Have in Common: Friday Reads – er, Blogs, for the Non-Compulsive Reader

Tonight I stared at my Lego-spattered living room floor and realized I had absolutely no Friday Reads for non-compulsive readers. I try to put their needs first when writing Friday posts, because frankly, those of us maniacal, seek-out-novels-or-perish types of readers will find our fixes. The bigger challenge lies in finding what you normal types want to read.

And, despite the excitement generated by my discovery of a new phenomenon I hereby dub, Readers Block (yeah, I doubt I’m the first one to say that, so… don’t kill me, you who really own the copyright to ‘reader’s block’), I was devastated to learn I had nothing to excite the socialites of our little circle.

Seriously. This was madness.

I had no paperback or hardcover set of pages packaged with promise of a ‘as-good-as-a-condo-in-Maui’ kind of feeling.  I found no, ‘hey, no, you’ll really like this one!’ ideas for the readers whose occasional visits cause as much stir as Pippa Middleton on her sister’s wedding day.

(Seriously, when you non-voracious reader types leave me comments, I get positively giddy.)

And then, when all hope seemed lost and I was ready to drown my sorrows in chocolate and peanut butter (yum, Reece’s pieces, something I dream about but don’t let myself eat, since I’ve had two babies and my pants don’t fit as good as they used to!)…. the great hero #fridayreads offered a downright fabulous suggestion.

(FYI: #fridayreads is a hashtag group on twitter. Tweeps contribute what books they plan to read, or think the rest of the world should plan to read, each Friday, and put #fridayreads at the end of their tweet/post. The site collects these suggestions and shows readers trends for that week. They also have some great prizes offered for those who participate, so follow that link below and head on over!)

But, back to my deliverance from a Thursday evening breakdown.

These brilliant #fridayreads people conceded that contributions did not need to be actual books. Blogs or newspapers would do. (I almost typed, ‘papes,’ instead of ‘newspapers.’ Forgive me. That was a flashback to Newsies, and please tell me some of you remember that movie because then I won’t feel so unbelievably old).

I was so relieved for the blog-and-newspaper caveat. Before that, not even my signed Ryan Kesler jersey provided the necessary inspiration for this post. None of the 35 books stacked on my nightstand seemed good enough. None of the listings on my Kindle home page sparked an epiphany. Because, this week, all I seemed to have-just-read were painful grammar books.

Yes, I know. If I’ve seemed… stressed, well, ahem. That’s why.

Of course – though I was delighted to discover the ‘White’ of ‘Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style was the E.B. White, as in master craftsman of the beloved children’s novel ‘Charlotte’s Web,’ – I had no intention of subjecting your summers to the right way to punctuate this’es and that’es.

And yes, I see you, red underline!!! I did that WRONG on purpose!! ha ha, Lana ONE, Grammar Nazis… ok, I won’t look at their tally. Suffice to say they have a commanding lead.

But back to things we all care about. See, a blog, now, I could offer you one, nay, two, of those:

1) Comedy geniuses of the world, unite! Er, no. Sorry, I had a moment there out of ‘Dwight’s Speech’ in Season 2 of The Office. Um, for those of you who love to laugh, and for those of you who have always wondered why there wasn’t more good, clean, female comedic fun, may I present to you: Hello Giggles. Yes, you Twitterers are likely already following this great site. Hello Giggles is the recent inception of three really funny ladies: 1)actress/musician Zooey Deschanel (you know, crazy-fun girl on Yes Man that eerily looks-and-sounds like my friend Melanie; also, sister of the lovely-and-talented Emily Deschanel of Bones); 2) producer Sophia Rossi; and 3)internet sensation Molly McAleer. I promise you, it is some of the best of girl humour out there. And yes, boys, I think you may be welcome, if you wish. And yes, in my next life, I want to come back as a member of the Deschanel family. Why? Well, because they are that smart and that funny. I wouldn’t need to be in their immediate family. A second cousin, maybe. Or, a part of the Hello Giggles crowd. A girl can dream, right? Just sayin.’

2) The Wuc Blog – for those of you who like bizarre, edgier humour, The Wuc, derived from the Muppets’ Fozzie Bear’s Wucca wucca wucca, is for you. How I found them: The Wuc had the amazingness to ‘like’ my post from earlier this week and TELL ME SO!! So I promptly headed over to their site and thought, this blog is seriously funny. How had I missed out on the great Wuc before? ‘Tis a tragedy, I say.

SO… What do you guys think? What are you reading this weekend? Or, what are you trying to read and having a difficult time getting into? OR, what hilarity do you wish to share with us? Us Vancouverites are still searching for summer behind every rock and rain puddle and need all the bright stuff we can get! Any and all of your contributions are welcome.

Oh, AND, as you see under part 2), if you are kind enough to share your thoughts with us, I may just have to trek over to your land and see what life is like through your lens. AND then I might say how awesome you are next week! Isn’t that great?

And, since it is now Friday on the East Coast, Happy #fridayreads, everyone!




Two Women Who Would Have Made The Real Housewives of Beverley Hills Blush

Wednesday’s “Profiles in Courage” has morphed, my friends. I’ve found just too many amazing women in history, film, TV, and books that beg to be applauded for their pioneering efforts. So, here is the first installment of “Wednesday’s Wonder Woman.”

In an effort to rectify my poorly-chosen snap judgments against two women whose writing I once dismissed as “childish,” or “sappy,” I present you with two candidates for Wonder Wom-en today.

I urge you to re-discover the authoresses behind two of the most famous children’s books of all time: Louisa May Alcott and Lucy Maud Montgomery.

Stop! Don’t leave yet. I promise, should we really learn about these ladies, we’d find they would make the Real Housewives of Beverley Hills blush with their candor. Read more

Two Reasons to Pick Reading Over the Bachelorette

I have nothing against the Bachelorette. I have nothing against TV. And I won’t always blog about reading. But I found two links for Tuesday’s Pick-of-the-Week that may inspire us to pick up those dusty books sitting on our nightstand.

1)Vancouver is Awesome Book Club

I frequent this great website called Vancouver Is Awesome. They study, promote, and preserve Vancouver Arts and Culture, with a positive spin (from the Google profile). Something I really enjoy are the interviews with famous Vancouverites – ie. Ryan Reynolds, Michael J. Fox – on why their city is so great. I hope one day they add Joshua Jackson to that list of people, since, let’s face it, I’m still a Mighty Ducks fan at heart.  But this week I discovered a link on Vancouver is Awesome to their Vancouver Book Club. The club features local authors and subjects important to Vancouverites. This past week, they highlighted the book ‘Adventures in Solitude’ by Grant Lawrence in their secrets-to-taking-BC-Ferries post (fabulous on its own). So if you’re interested in supporting local authors/publishers, check out the rest of their list here.

2)Why Science Says Reading Fiction is Good for You

This one speaks for itself. My favorite part describes writing as a ‘co-conspiracy between reader and writer’ and ‘not just the writer’s creation.’ I love the idea of fiction as a collaboration between author and audience.

What do you guys think? Your favorite novels, are they a combination of effort on your part as well as the author’s? Or is it something you just consume? Let me know (and I will be much faster replying to comments on this one).

Beach Reads: Bad, Good, or A Declaration of Independence?

Summer is here!

Okay, maybe its not. But today is a gorgeous day in southwestern British Columbia. So much so, that everyone is outside. Kids are giggling, squealing, playing in water. The neighbourhood moms are out chatting and soaking up the Vitamin D.

None of us are inside on our computers right now; who has time to check Twitter and Facebook and read blogs when its this gorgeous out?

Then there’s me. Hee hee. I’m typing in the sun. Best of both worlds, right?

Just kidding.

Sort of. See, besides all the pool parties, BBQ’s, and outdoor gatherings of the summer months, one of the great things about these kinds of days is

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Of Hunger and Heat Waves: Why Our Current ‘Reverse Heat Stroke’ May be Crippling More Than Just Our Tans

I was teaching in one of the universities while the country was suffering from a severe famine. People were dying of hunger, and I felt very helpless. As an economist, I had no tool in my tool box to fix that kind of situation. – Muhammad Yunus

The sun is out. It is a ridiculously beautiful day. My kids are wearing short sleeves and getting ready to play in the yard. It’s wonderful, a welcome change from the summer-substituted overcast cold, which has the Wet Coast running for their fall sweaters and bellyaching about every aspect of our rain-torn lives.

Oh, no, I’m not ragging on anyone else. I’m one of the guilty.

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Bad Advice My Grandma Gave Me, and What I Learned From Her Anyways

Okay, so those of you who know me well are asking yourselves two questions: 1) Is this Monday? Cause you were supposed to blog on Monday? and 2) I thought you loved your grandma? In a ‘world-hasn’t-been-the-same-since-she-died’ kind of way? Confession: you are right on both counts. 1) This is not a strictly ‘Monday’s Mama’s Musings’ post today, and heaven knows those may not come very often, because me and inspirational parenting? Yeah, I’m not the model for that! I love my kids but I am grateful that they have lots of grace for me, and 2) My Grannie was one of the best and brightest people this world has ever seen. And yes, we do tend to endow loved ones to sainthood after they die, but in Grannie’s case, its really true. She was one of the best.

But think about it for a moment: can’t you remember one of the best people you ever knew, telling you to do something really, really, er… on the side of not wise?

Ten years ago, my ‘i’m-so-old-look-at-me-i’m-going-to-get-married’ self Read more

Friday Reads for the Non-Compulsive Reader: Why Harry Potter Was So Successful

Okay, so I’ve never really been a Harry Potter person, but, as Kristen Lamb pointed out in We Are Not Alone, one of the reasons those books took the world by storm was really because they drew in the non-compulsive readers, those people who, Read more

What on earth was that Carmageddon thing about? And, What on Earth is This Website Called Again?

Just an update for you faithfuls that have been saying to yourself, why for the price of eggs in China has this woman kept her website link so unbelievably, obnoxiously, LONG? My techie husband – seriously, my absolute hero – has gotten me a domain name that is far easier to find. Read more

Why I am Grateful for Demi Moore: CNN’s 2010 Woman of the Year, Anuradha Koirala

You know when people compare something to a trainwreck, meaning that they know they should look away but just can’t? Reading David Batstone’s Not For Sale is like a reverse trainwreck; you want to stop reading because its just so awful, what’s happening to these real, live, human beings, all over the world, but you know you shouldn’t. Every page that Read more

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