Monday, February 29, 2016

Canadian Authors host Robert Wiersema in Saanich

Yesterday novelist, reviewer and journalist Robert Wiersema spoke to a group of writers who gathered under the aegis of Canadian Authors in Victoria.

For his presentation, he chose to debunk seven myths about the writing life. His comments emphasized the stunning variety of stories and ways they are made. Also, a self-described movie fan, and in keeping with Oscar season, he pointed out that many of the stories that were nominated as films started out as books.

Examples included Bridge of Spies, recently rediscovered after the novel's original publication in 1964. Room was a prize-winning Canadian novel whose author, Emma Donoghue, wrote the screenplay while she created the book. The Martian began as a series of blog posts by a space science aficionado. At the request of readers, it became an e-book. Then, the movie rights were sold; the print rights came last. Truly, ours is a fascinating era of opportunity for story making.

More good news. Unlike the paranoiac myth fuelled by aspiring but as yet unpublished writers, said Wiersema, publishing is decidedly NOT a closed world. He assured his listeners of the falsehood of the idea that the publishing world consists of "only five people" who "sleep together on the pages of discarded manuscripts."

Many thanks to Victoria Canadian Authors members Liz, Steve and Myrtle for hosting this fun, enjoyable and encouraging talk.

Robert Wiersema's recent novel, Black Feather, is a "mythic thriller" set in Victoria. He has also just published Walk Like a Man, a biography of singer Bruce Springsteen.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Shelly Fralic your words will sure be missed

OMG Shelly Fralic. I can't believe I've read your last column. I feel bereft at the prospect that you will no longer be part of the newspaper that has landed on our doorstep for nearly as long as you've been part of it. I sure will miss your words.

I met you twice in person: once when you were a featured speaker at an Editors' Association of Canada conference, and then again when you signed my copy of your book Making Headlines, one Hundred Years of the Vancouver Sun.

But that's not why I feel I know you. It's all those comments on the affairs of the day, your insight and revelation and self-deprecating humour. And your impassioned and personal first hand reporting about negotiating the perilous waters of change as the Vancouver Sun, along with other newspapers, moved from print to digital delivery.

I wish you the best retirement ever.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Donna Leon and Guido Brunetti

Through Donna Leon's mysteries, the principled Venetian detective Commissario Guido Brunetti soldiers on at the Questura in an atmosphere of indifference, inefficiency and corruption.

About Face (Grove Atlantic, image left) was a chance discovery. In that remarkable work, I love how the author plays on readers' judgments about manufactured female beauty even as she unspools an intricately constructed police procedural. The sensual descriptions of Venice make the city function as a character. Much taken by Guido, his family, and his lieutenant, Ispettore Vianello, I wanted to know more. Had the talented Leon written other Brunetti novels? Happily, she had. Twenty-four of them.

Today I finished A Question of Belief, my sixth Leon this month. They just keep getting better. I particularly enjoy savouring the linguistic gems and ironic zingers.

In one scene, the detective is about to interview a bank manager who is a murder suspect. "Brunetti fought down the impulse to growl and wave his hands in their faces, but then remembered that, in the land where money was god, policemen were not meant to enter the places of worship."

Donna Leon, an American academic, began her love affair with Italy in 1965. She lived and worked in Iran, China and Saudi Arabia before settling in Venice over two decades ago. I suspect that Guido's beautifully drawn wife Paola, who teaches at the university, shares a lot with her creator.

The Brunetti mysteries have been made into a German TV series.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Where once were mature trees

This  Burlington Northern engine hauls its long string of freight cars along the beach in White Rock.

Until last year, a stand of mature trees stood between the roadway above and the railway below. It was home to bald eagles and many other birds.

For walkers, this grove was full of wildflowers, and it emitted a bouquet of fragrances from various native plants. The trees were not tall enough to screen the view from the new homes that stand above the naked bank, now shorn of all but a few roots and weeds. It's hard to see any justification for taking those trees down.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Adios, Christmas poinsettia, but not just yet

This poinsettia was a gift from a neighbour in early December. After two months of solid blooming, I thought it was on the way out.

Since it had dropped most of its leaves, and many of the red bracts had shrivelled, I decided to put it outside, to make room for pots of spring hyacinths indoors.

The weather has been so mild that it doesn't seem bothered at all. These last bracts showed so velvety and beautiful in the dewy night that I had to take a picture.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Witch hazel brightens winter days in Vancouver and Surrey

Hamamelis is one type of tree recently planted along Nordel Way. These are winter bloomers, and some types, like the one below in the Van Dusen Garden, have a light fragrance. The common name is witch hazel.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Crocuses already!

These brave crocuses are not the only flowers in our garden. We've got some snowdrops too.

After last summer's drought conditions, our wet coast weather seems to be back to normal.

This winter has been warm and moist so far, and the flowers are loving it. Clematis buds are in evidence, daffodil shoots are reaching 6" in places, and lots of other greenery is sprouting.

Let's hope the Groundhog didn't take fright when he saw his shadow last Tuesday. That would mean more wintry weather coming, leaving these posies, as well as the early cherry blossoms seen elsewhere, very vulnerable.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Winter turns to spring in Van Dusen

It's wheelbarrow season in the garden, as path improvement work proceeds in preparation for spring. Palms are now commonly planted in our area.

Above right, a tiny clump of hardy cyclamen ventures to bloom, and below we see a very early azalea and a marvelously bright camellia.


Below, right, winter jasmine, and to the left, delightful green-tipped snowdrops.

Postcards: The King's Singers visit Richmond

Last night at a church in Richmond, The King's Singers kicked off a tour that will take them across Canada and the US. In mid-March, they'll begin a European tour. Then they'll head for Japan and continue around the world, returning to Toronto in December.

Invited here by the BC Choral Federation, these immensely talented men gave a single concert in our area; tonight they sang in Winnipeg and tomorrow they'll perform in Edmonton.

This a cappella group first sang together at King's College Cambridge. The unique mix of voices -- one bass, one tenor, two baritones (both named Christoper), and two countertenors -- gives this group a unique sound.

Consummate professionals, the King's Singers dress with a certain formality. All six wore white shirts, red ties, and blue suits with waistcoats. Being in the front row, I got a glimpse of the rich red and white print linings of their jackets, and admired the high gloss of their black patent shoes.

The concert began with old airs from the British Isles, and later the men sang in German, Korean, Italian, Spanish, French, and Portuguese. With sure grace, the singers expressed sadness, joy and humour. Some of their songs have been composed for the group; they've collected or adapted others from old songs that originate in a range of countries and continents.

It was a true delight to enjoy the King's Singers perform their postcards of song from around the world. The audience was so appreciative that after two return bows, they decided to sing us their delightful version of Danny Boy before bidding a final adieu.

This summer, they run two choral schools -- one at the Royal Holloway in London and one in Depauw, Indiana.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Filming in the wet garden

Film crew sets up in a dry moment.

When I left the garden, it was raining hard.

By then I knew there was filming going on, and so could understand the meaning of the signs that had puzzled me when I came in.

The rain-blurred arrows read as follows:



To Set