Sunday, October 31, 2010

Vic West

Vancouver is a much larger city than Victoria by a few orders of magnitude, and yet as a cab driver who worked in both cities I can vouch for the fact that Victoria is much the harder to learn. Vancouver has a few peculiarities but it is mostly built on a grid pattern. Outside of the downtown areas most of the east -west streets are numbered and the north-south streets have names. Kingsway, the original route to New Westminster, is the main peculiarity because it runs diagonally to the grid pattern. This confuses the newcomer but the numbering system is still fairly logical. The other peculiarity is that the numbering of addresses don't correspond to the street numbers. Broadway, which would be 9th if it had a number, is actually the 2500 block.
Victoria is the elder of the two and until the transcontinental railroads came along it was also the larger. Victoria is full of Kingsways, and unlike Kingsway our off kilter streets are short, change names, and seldom follow straight lines. We have a numbering system but it's very difficult to make any sense of it. And we don't have any numbered streets. Well, we do have a Fifth street. No Third, Sixth or any other, only a Fifth.
Victoria is essentially a 20th Century city grafted onto a 19th Century city. We have grids but they are small and isolated from each other. That's because our main streets were originally roads to farms and other parts of the Island. In an era of horse transportation it obstacles such as hills were circumvented. Like Kingsway, the roads gradually became streets. Street cars made it easier for people to get to town and so the spaces between farms gradually filled in and smaller streets were built to service the new houses. Then as the population became denser the farms were converted to smaller lots for residential construction. All this took place very haphazardly, different stages at different times without any overall plan. That's why the older neighbourhoods have houses of many different styles and ages.
We're in the post industrial age now... or I should say environmentalists and big unions have pushed the industrial age over to China where neither the environment nor the worker count for much. The downtown side of the Upper Harbour is still quite industrial. Not everything can be shunted off to China. The Vic West side is quickly becoming yuppified. Formerly the area was covered with railroad yards. There has been an interruption in this process due to the recession, but it has changed drastically since I have been here. The rail yards were gone but not much had come along to replace them. Some marine related industry remained but it was otherwise derelict. Now it is decidedly upscale. I would call it an entry level settlement for the upwardly mobile. And it is a lovely area close to downtown and to a new office/residential complex on the other side of the Selkirk Bridge, either way easily walkable along the Galloping Goose Trail, now nicely paved and cobbled with landing spots for kayaks and racing shells. A regatta was underway on Saturday.
Vic West historically has been on the 'wrong side of the tracks.' It remains to be seen if the new development will succeed in promoting it. To a casual visitor Vic West seems to be in Esquimalt. At the end of Esquimault Rd is the west coast headquarters of the Canadian Navy. Along the Gorge Water side of Vic West the border is at Arm Street, in fact in the middle of arm street, one side of which is in Victoria and the other in Esquimalt. And since the numbering of streets is different in Esquimalt, the 1400 block on one side will be the 900 block on the other. Very exasperating for a new cab driver. But I have grown to love the wonderful illogicality of Victoria.
I'm glad to see some liveaboard boats moored in the Gorge again. That surprised me. There used to be many more but several years ago complaints from shore dwellers led to their eviction. So how is it that they are back? Apparently it has been discovered that this particular section of the waterway is still under federal jurisdiction and therefore the city has no authority here. Since most of the people living on the boats were obviously poor, I thought it was strange that the same people who complained probably profess extreme anguish over the homeless problem and the lack of affordable housing. I always liked to see them there when I crossed the Selkirk Bridge. The person who informed me of the new situation was not happy with their presence, and there are important considerations, ie sewage and other wastes, safety, among others. But I think it shows a lot of initiative for a poor person to acquire and maintain a boat. It sure beats camping in parks. It seems to me a bit of intelligent regulation would solve most problems.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

November 2

A review of The Closing of the Muslim Mind appears in the American Spectator today under the title, Faith Without Reason. Sounds interesting but nowhere near as profound as comments made by Pope Benedict on the same subject in his Regensburg Lecture of 2006.
Thinking of Islam as a faith without reason is not entirely true. Reasoning is allowed in Islam, but only on the meaning of the words in the Koran, not on whether the words themselves are reasonable or factual.
To illustrate his message the Pope cited a conversation between a Byzantine Emperor and an educated Persian. In Byzantine Christianity, by the way, the Emperor was also the head of the Church. Here is the money quote:

The decisive statement in this argument against violent conversion is this: not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God's nature.[5] The editor, Theodore Khoury, observes: For the emperor, as a Byzantine shaped by Greek philosophy, this statement is self-evident. But for Muslim teaching, God is absolutely transcendent. His will is not bound up with any of our categories, even that of rationality.[6] Here Khoury quotes a work of the noted French Islamist R. Arnaldez, who points out that Ibn Hazm went so far as to state that God is not bound even by his own word, and that nothing would oblige him to reveal the truth to us. Were it God's will, we would even have to practise idolatry.

Just to show how wrong the Pope was about Islam's lack of respect for reason, thousands of Muslims rioted in cities all over the world.
Christian thinkers have had an ongoing discussion of the relationship of faith and reason- especially during medieval times-and it continues today in our modern secular culture which seems to believe in reason without faith. That supposition is an article of faith in itself. The secular society is still deeply embedded in Christian Civilization whether its advocates realize it or not. I think mostly not, since they have received their education in universities where religion is villified. Thus they are largely ignorant of the great Christian intellectual heritage which has looked deeply into the problem and of the simple fact that it was the Christian belief in the ultimate reasonableness of God that opened up a space where secularism could flourish.
The Regensburg lecture was given over four years ago, so why am I bringing it up now? Well, there's a big election coming up next week in the US and it appears a massive sea change in American public life is going to occur. For many years now a massive fissure has been opening up between the people who produce wealth, otherwise known as the private sector, and the political class, also known as the public sector. The people who produce wealth would be farmers, engineers, manufacturers, business people, tradesmen as well as the administrators who keep things organized and the investors who allocate funds. The political class exists to facilitate all this activity, to enact and enforce a common set of rules, and to protect the whole community.
For many years now the proportion of the economy going to support the public sector has been growing. At the same time many of the services it is supposed to provide have been deteriorating. The members of the private sector are largely apolitical. They are too busy minding their own business to worry too much about what anybody else is doing. But it has become increasingly obvious that the political class, which has now captured virtually every organ of public communication (with the exception of the internet and talk radio) actively hates the productive class. Sarah Palin is sort of a lightning rod for this energy. When a TV personality expresses contempt for Sarah Palin he or she is using her to stand for who they really hate: us.
The rank and file of the American public must be like what was said of the law in ancient Rome: it was a lion that preferred to sleep. The implication was that you could get away with a lot as long as you didn't make too much noise. But if you did wake up the lion you were in real trouble. The so-called liberals in the US are just discovering that what they thought was a tame pussycat is actually a dangerous and ferocious lion, and it was Barack Obama and his crew of Chicago radicals and crooks who woke it up. It will be interesting to see what price they will pay, but I'm hoping a day of reckoning is on its way.
What does this have to do with ancient Byzantium, Muslims, and a scholarly disquisition by our Pope? I did propose that modern secular society believes in reason without faith, but that mindset is virtually dead. We are in the post modern phase now which believes in neither faith nor reason. It just believe's what it wants to believe, and like the Queen in Alice in Wonderland is perfectly capable of believing two impossible ideas at the same time and before breakfast.
There are so many impossible ideas to choose from but I'll restrict myself to the ones that deliberately undermine the ability of a community to perpetuate itself.
Gay marriage. Yes, we all know that out of every generation of boys a few will grow up preferring to have sex with each other instead of women. Crazy, and a bit disgusting, but true. I think of it as a kind of handicap, and when I meet a homosexual I try to pretend it doesn't bother me. After all, many homosexuals, like Cole Porter and Billy Strayhorn, have made valuable contributions to our culture, and there are many homosexuals I have known and liked. But they can't have babies, and marriage is the institution established by society to sanctify the lifelong commitment to childrearing that a young man and a young woman make when they join their lives together. No babies, no society.
Abortion. But of course, the postmoderns don't like the idea of population growth and it follows that they don't see much point in having babies. People are a cancer on the earth. We are destroying the planet. The fewer babies the better, and if we kill a few, so what. A million here, a million there, it adds up, and we're saving the planet. All the more room for the endangered Nicaraguan purple fruit fly, by gum. Widespread homosexual marriage would save us a lot in abortion clinics.
Feminism. That's that peculiar social movement among women who claim to be advocates of women while denying the one thing that makes a woman a woman: her womb. It's true that women can do a lot of the things that men traditionally do, and men can do a lot of things women traditionally do but feminists hate the one thing women can do that men can't. Doesn't that strike anyone as a little demented? It's hard to escape the conclusion that feminists hate life itself. It's no wonder they hate Sarah Palin.
Crime. The justice system no longer believes its function is to suppress criminal behaviour. Instead it has become an extension of social services. So now the entire purpose of laws, courts, and police is inverted. For them the criminal has become the victim and the victim (that's us) has become the criminal. The criminal is a criminal because we made him that way. It's our fault that he or she breaks into our houses or rapes our daughters. So when you get your car broken into don't expect the police to show any interest. Redistributing the wealth is what socialism is all about. This low level street crime is just a primitive form of communism.
This is insane. The rumbling you hear south of the border is the sound of the lion waking up. It's called the Tea Party in commemoration of an episode that set off the American Revolution. It really isn't a political party in the usual sense of the word. It doesn't have any kind of centralized organization, it doesn't have any fund-raising apparatus, it doesn't have a slate of candidates. It's really kind of amazing. You can only observe what kind of a beast this lion is.
And one thing that stands out is the contrast between the reasonableness of the Tea Partiers and the hysterical invective of the dying media dragon. That in itself is worth studying. In the Soviet dictatorship the state owned the media. To some extent that happens in the US with NPR, even more so in Canada with the CBC. But the more obvious reality is that the media owns the state by controlling the debate. The traditional media has controlled the debate for a half century. And the traditional media is dying. Next Tuesday should be pretty interesting. One thing for sure: the lion is NOT sleeping tonight.
We don't have a Tea Party in Canada, but I think it's very interesting what happened in the Toronto city elections this week. The media attempt to install one of its pets as mayor failed. Massively. A harbinger of things to come? I am hopeful.
The culture wars have been going on for a long time, and the left has held the strong points for a half century. It has used its advantage to promote an insane agenda. But through it all most people have continued to marry, raise children, and contribute their share of the work to maintaining a community where they can live in safety and relative harmony. They may not think about it much, but they have faith that life has some meaning beyond the mere gratification of momentary urges. Without thinking about it most people have a deep seated faith that we were made the way are for a reason. The reason is for us to discover as we go along. In fact without faith reason is impossible and without reason we can't possibly understand why we have faith, nor can we separate bad ideas from good ones. Faith and reason go together just like man and woman go together. It's just the way we're made.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Stormy weather

The first storm of the season has arrived. It's not much of a storm so far. A few broken branches, falling leaves, a bit of wind, a heavy drizzle, are not enough to keep Victorians inside. We will have worse. We might even get the mountains. And it will get darker, gloomier, and the darkness and gloom will feel endless. But then most years we will get breaks of sunshine while we wait for spring, and by the end of January we will start to look for crocuses and daffodils to start blooming.

In the meantime, Halloween is approaching. The word means Hallowed Evening, but the meaning of what is hallowed is almost forgotten. It's the evening before All Souls Day, an occasion in the formerly Christian countries to pay homage to one's ancestors, or it may be children or spouses taken away prematurely. Families would make pilgrimages to the cemetery and gather around the graves, sometimes bringing offerings. It was a day when death was remembered, when people reminded themselves that it is the fate of all who are born. And yet, the homage paid to the dead is also an acknowledgement that something of the person survives death, and instinctively we feel closer to the deceased when we are near their bodily remains. The evening before was when we feared they would be walking the earth, and that's the origin of the games of dress-up we play now, and the handouts were meant to avert the ill-will of the formerly living. Such rituals were among us long before Christianity came along.

On Saturday I was surprised to see a procession along Douglas Street. It was quite a long procession, perhaps two or three blocks. The police were standing by to direct traffic. Rather than mourning death, the paraders seemed to be celebrating it, seemed to think it was an object of amusement. Most of them were young, some were parents with small children, all dressed up in ragged clothing, their faces disfigured with the semblance of death and violence. Blood, pallor, wounds, shambling gaits, and periodical screeches were all in good fun, I guess. But I am slightly superstitious about some things, and one of my superstitions is that by imagining something you help to bring it about. So why would a parent dress up his small child to imitate death? I wonder. What is amusing about that? It seems really wrong to me. It's called tempting fate.

Some of the most enthusiastic screamers were young teen age girls, expressing their inner banshees, who would be quite pretty if they weren't dressed up like the walking dead. And these same girls, if they should lose a friend in an auto accident would tell the news anchor how devastated they were. Are they defying death or inviting it when they mock it? Have they given a thought to the reality of death?

I do remember vividly my first Halloween. I had no idea what it was about, but I knew I would not, absolutely would not, dress up like a girl, the way the ladies of the household had planned. I don't know what compromise was reached. Probably I became a cowboy or a pirate, like most boys. But I know I won that argument. No girl I! Girls were most often angels or fairies. We didn't yell 'Trick or Treat' then, we chanted "Halloween Apples." Parents didn't escort us, either. They just shoved us out the door into the dark.

On Sunday the rain held off and so it must have been a good day for a sailing race. I happen to think that sailboats are one of man's most beautiful creations. The race viewed from above with a backdrop of sea, rock and sky was especially beautiful. A sailboat, you see, must be in balance with all the forces of nature. It's a test of man's ingenuity to use those forces for his own benefit. Is it simply fortuitous that the result is beautiful? For a sailor, the job of balancing all those forces becomes play. Whose boat, whose skills will best allow him to go around the Trial islands the quickest, regardless of the wind's direction or velocity. This is a defiance of death as well, as a boat with a ton of lead in its keel can sink quite handily, thank you. But it's one I much prefer to dressing up in grave clothes.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Around Chinatown

When downtown I usually take my morning coffee in the genteel surrounds of Murchies or the cosmopolitan atmosphere of the Starbucks in Chapters, but sometimes I walk into town along the upper harbour and then across the railroad side of the Blue Bridge and from there it's more natural to turn toward the Bean Around the World outlet on Fisgard Street. The establishment comes by its name honestly as the proprietor, an Englishman, sold the yacht he had sailed around the world in with his family when he settled in Victoria. Chinatown is Victoria's minuscule Bohemian district and Bean Around the World is where many of the middle class population of Victoria who play at being Bohemian take their coffee. Bohemianism, not being what it used to be, is no longer the province of the outcast, and is now mostly characterized by that extreme form of almost pathological conformism called politically correctness. It's almost an idolatry. Anyway, this is where they come to mumble their pieties to each other. Depending on my mood the aura can be oppressive or amusing. Ironically, the owner of the place doesn't have a politically correct bone in his body. There is something about regular ale quaffing that confers immunity from the disease, and I see him at Swans around the corner as often as at his java joint.

I became familiar with the place when it was the home of Cafe Philosophy. I was at the very first meeting more than a dozen years ago and for a long time attended it regularly as it moved from place to place. As it migrated Cafe Philosophy gradually sloughed off any attendees who might have had anything interesting or provocative to say. This was due to the personality of the organizer of the event, one Michael Picard. Possibly he had some interest in ideas though I never saw any evidence of it. Possibly he didn't believe the lumpen proletariat had any business pretending to think for themselves. A PhD in philosophy from MIT is really a certification warranting that the recipient has been purged of any tendency toward original thought and the resulting creature treats interesting thoughts like little Miss Muffet treats spiders. Eek. Politically correct groupthink, not philosophy, seemed to be Michael's guiding principle. I'm pretty sure he was convinced of his own superior qualities and so it must have been quite humiliating for him to be stuck with such a paltry job. I don't know if Cafe Philosophy still exists somewhere. Somebody told me that Michael had at last found a real job at a university. Undoubtedly he will share with the academic community his experiences among the unwashed.

I noticed a long time ago that people with ideas have very little money and people with money have very few ideas… as a general rule. Not all ideas are good. Some are bad. Most are not so new. The only way to find out is to submit them to the Darwinian ordeal of free enterprise. So for a city to have a creative heart it needs a low rent district so those people with lots of ideas but not much money can get a start. Unfortunately, even in the rather seedy part of town that surrounds Chinatown the rents are quite high. Still, this is where you will find Victoria's highest concentration of niche and odd ball shops. Government, Johnson, Pandora, Wharf are where to look for them. Especially notable are Fan Tan Alley, the narrowest street in Canada, and Market Square. Honestly, I don't know how these places are able to make a living. And judging by the turnover of shops in the area I guess many of them don't. But it's a tribute to the entrepreneurial spirit that another optimistic and enthusiastic soul will be ready to fill the gap left when another goes down. People who want to be their own bosses, people who get excited about an idea, who want to try something new, something from their own imaginations, and are willing to hustle and work and take risks have my admiration. I like these kind of people. Sometimes I want to buy something from them even though I'm really not the kind of person who likes to accumulate things.

That was why I was initially so enthusiastic about Cafe Philosophy. Let's talk about ideas in a public, commercial setting where anyone can walk in and take part in the give and take of an exchange of ideas. It can be contentious but when moderated by someone with a genuine interest and knowledge of philosophy and the kind of personality to keep the discussion moving and courteous, I thought it could turn Victoria into a modest echo of Periclean Athens. I was really disappointed in the way it fizzled out.

But even though I'm not that crazy about shopping, I enjoy looking in the windows and seeing the turn of the 19th and 20th century buildings where they are sheltered. Why are older buildings so much more pleasing to the eye and the soul than their modern equivalents? They suit each other, the new shops and the old buildings.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Chinese Cemetery

One of the things I like about Victoria is that it has such a variety of obscure and highly distinct neighbourhoods tucked away where the casual visitor would never think to look. Not far east from Clover Point along the south shore, on a peninsula that separates Gonzales and McNeill bays, is one of those neighbourhoods. I don't know if it has a name, but it has a couple of distinguishing features. Best known is the Chinese cemetery, used in the early days of Victoria. It was somewhat derelict for years but is now well looked after. It's on a beautiful spot overlooking the Strait. You can see Clover Point from here, and when the air is clear, the Olympic Mountains and Port Angeles across the way.
An odd fact about the geology of the neighbourhood is that it joined Vancouver Island after drifting from some distant location in the south seas. There is a certain crease in the rock where these two terranes join so you can stand with one foot on one side and the other on the other side. Some people get a mild thrill out of such things. This might explain why this chunk of rock is relatively flat while Gonzales hill rises behind it, studded with the type of tony residences preferred by wealthy people who want everybody to know they are wealthy- and who never have to walk up the steep streets that lead to them. The views are spectacular from up there. By contrast, the homes in the little neighbourhood by the Chinese cemetery tend to be modest, many of them with a decidedly hand-built look to them. However, the prices of even modest houses are so high now that every neighbourhood is expensive, and it is obvious that the lower gentry are taking over. But somehow the newer houses have neither that homey handbuilt look nor the high craftsmanship of the older mansions on the hill.
A good overview of the area can be had from a scenic turnout at the top of King George Crescent. To get there from Clover Point along the south shore you go east along Dallas Road until it turns into Hollywood Crescent, follow Hollywood Crescent until it becomes Crescent Road. At the foot of Foul Bay Road, Crescent Road turns off to the right into the subject of this post. Ah, the wonderful illogicality of Victoria street names. To get to the Gonzales Hill turnout keep on the main road which is now called King George Terrace. To get the kind of commanding view that the wealthy get from their living room windows, take any one of the dead end lanes going up the hill from King George Terrace.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Clover Point

When I was at Clover Point the other day it was clear but this morning a low-lying mist blankets Victoria. It's being quickly dissipated by the October sun's slanting rays. A foghorn's mournful tones seem to emerge from nowhere, everywhere, directionless. Here at Clover Point it is calm, the tide partway out, the water pooling among the rocks is still and clear. Birds skim the water.
Clover Point is the location of one of Victoria's notorious sewage outfalls. Notorious among some. Jutting out into the water in the shape of a tear drop, it's also a favourite place for Victorians to walk or just park their cars and look out at the sea. Every day the picture changes. Today it's fog and calm, other days violent storms whip over it. Exposed as it is to winds coming up the strait, it's a favourite spot for kite flyers and parasailers. Sometimes you can see sea lions or sea otters, even whales from Clover Point. The salmon are finished running for the year so I see no fish boats in the offing, only the Victoria Clipper heading into the harbour and a sailboat motoring out with it's rigging sailess. It almost feels like a holy place. Maybe that's why very few are rude enough to leave their stereos on while they park. Still, not everyone respects it, as the overflowing garbage station shows. And if you wander down among the rocks you can see that our "homeless" population uses it as a latrine.
I wish the activists who agitate against Victoria because of the sewage outfall would spend a little time here- but it's always futile to try to open a determinedly closed mind. They don't want to hear evidence that would contradict their apocalyptic mind set and their desire to control everybody's lives. The fact is that study after study after study, all by reputable scientists, has shown that the outfall is not only a good way of handling our sewage, it is better than any alternative... by far. More effective, safer, more sanitary, less intrusive, and economical.
The controversy has been dogging the city for longer than I have lived here. When I lived in Vancouver twenty years ago I recall going to a presentation on the subject. It was a very rational and sane presentation by someone very knowledgeable on the subject. Facts and figures were well attested. And yet that was not enough for some Sierra Club types in attendance. With them it was like my grandfather liked to say of some people- in one ear and out the other. They just wouldn't listen. I am a natural environmentalist and this was the beginning of my disenchantment of environmentalism with a capital E.
Periodically, the issue is resurrected and periodically new studies are commissioned- with the same result. Locally, most of us know that we have a good system in place, so the focus of the Environmentalists is to agitate in some far off place among audiences who are unfamiliar with the history and the science. The more remote the audience, the easier it is to mislead- and during slow periods when not much else is going on, the Environmentalists decide to pick on Victoria. What's it all about, as Alfie used to say? Fund raising. Environmental groups have become not much more than shakedown operations. From corporations they exert pressure for donations. From governments they strong arm. And from the suckers (that's us) they always have their hands out. That's all there is to it folks.
Except for one thing. Not only are they frauds, they do harm. So those curly cone lightbulbs are filled with poisonous mercury? So windfarms kill birds? So banning DDT has caused the deaths of millions of brown-skinned people in poor counties? So they are preventing the use of seeds provided by Monsanto that would improve the lives of Haitian farmers?
It doesn't add up does it? Unless you know that many in the environmental movement think of human beings as a plague on the earth. Our very own David Suzuki once mused that the population of the earth would be reduced by half. It's unclear to me whether he wanted half the population of the earth to perish, if he thought policies should be adopted to reduce the population to prevent ecological damage, or if he thought some calamity might transpire to cause a population collapse. But the logic is clear. Human beings don't count. Somehow, to the Environmentalist way of thinking human beings are not part of nature. That's us. We are invasive weeds that need to be uprooted.
It's true that most people who think of themselves as environmentalists don't think this way. They are mostly guilty of being gullible. But make no mistake. Big Environment wants to control the world.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Ogden point

All the ships are gone, and a wintry tranquility settles on James Bay. Fleets of tour buses are silent, hibernating, and it's possible to get a seat at the Ogden Point Cafe. I don't think there is any doubt that this cafe has the best ocean view of any in Victoria. Right above the dive shop, it looks out over the half mile long curve of the breakwater where waves thunder on blustery days. Today is not blustery. Today, the ocean sparkles. The sky is blue. The air has an autumnal briskness to it. Walkers stroll out to the navigation light. The haze in the sky toward Port Angeles would be hardly noticeable if it weren't for the vague dreaminess of the Olympics. Absent the haze they are overwhelmingly massive. When the haze increases, they are invisible. This is the time of the year when the sun's rays come to us northerners at an angle, illuminating everything in a soft glow, especially in late afternoon.
James Bay is becoming gentrified and the clientele at the Ogden Point Cafe are obviously members of the gentry- retired civil servants and business people, largely. I feel like a bit of an imposter here.
Not that long ago James Bay had a seedy reputation ignored and tucked away where it was behind the government buildings and the fancy hotels that line the inner harbour. Most of the moneyed sort migrated to Uplands and Oak Bay, while young families went to the suburbs. A burst of apartment building in the '60's came to a stop in the '70's when the Dave Barrett's socialists instituted a rent control law which made apartment building an unprofitable proposition. To make matters worse, they revised the landlord tenancy act to make it virtually impossible to get rid of a bad tenant. Thus began the condominium era, and a subsequent dearth of 'affordable housing,' for which the nefarious capitalists were blamed. I used to think socialist policies were just stupid, but now I favour the view that they were actually intended to create a shortage of housing precisely so they could blame the capitalists. With an economically uneducated media to help it must have seemed like a sure thing. In any event the self-described business friendly government we have now has not had the courage to repeal the rent control law, although they have eased the landlord tenancy provisions slightly. Not enough to attract investors to the rental market, though.
The Socialists are OK with a housing shortage. Not only can they blame the capitalists, but they can huff and puff and pretend to come to the rescue with 'social housing' programs. There are quite a few of those in James Bay, and like government housing projects everywhere they are frequently infested with drug dealers and other undesirables. Oh, but it's impolite to mention that our government actually subsidizes the drug trade or that without such subsidies the gruesome butcheries of Robert Picton in Coquitlam might never have happened. Socialists depend for their survival on people being stupid, which may explain what they have done to our schools.
I feel sorry for the drug people. Why would somebody want to do drugs in Victoria? Victoria in itself is a drug, but a healthy, nourishing drug, like a tonic full of vitamins and minerals. How can they not see that?
I don't see any fisherman on the breakwater today. The salmon season is over but the rockfish and ling cod are still out there. I'm thinking of taking up the pastime next season, though I can barely tie a square knot. I've never had much luck in my previous attempts to catch fish, but no matter. How can you call an hour or two on the breakwater a waste of time? And then there are numerous other rocky points and beaches in the vicinity still unfamiliar to me.
Meanwhile, I'll just look out of my eyes.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Victoria yards

Suddenly, the leaves are changing. Lots of green on the trees still, but not for long. So it was a treat to have a day like yesterday, a day to store up in the memory banks to call up when the dark days close in on us. I gravitated toward Willows Beach as I often do on a beautiful day. My idea of a beautiful day is warm sun and cool air, and that's the way it was on Saturday. Cool enough to discourage sunbathers but warm enough for walking down Estevan Street and along the beach. There's something about Willows Beach that I like. Victoria has lots of beaches but I always end up there. It was warm enough for kids to splash in the water and dig in the sand, too. A breeze off shore was enough to fill the spinnakers for the crowd of sailors racing around the pylons.
There was a model railroad show at the Cedar Hill Rec Centre last Sunday, but my favourite model railroad is outside a house on the corner of Estevan and Cadboro Bay. I haven't seen it running for quite a while. Here's hoping the gentleman who built it isn't ailing.
Culture is a word that has taken on a number of meanings. It might refer to arts and literature, or it might be a semi- scientific description of all the traits of a society. One has to tip-toe around such descriptions nowadays or one could be branded a racist. But it's true. Whether you are German, Ibo, Mexican, Korean or Navajo, there is something about your place of origin, your membership in a particular group, that sets you apart from someone from another group. It's the society itself that has something about it unlike other societies, something subtler than the type of government it operates under, or what it reads. Culture in this sense is to a society what character is to a person. A person is born with a certain character, but it isn't exactly genetic. If it was than all brothers and sisters would be exactly alike, but everyone who has lived in a large family knows that isn't the case. Nevertheless, every family has its own character.
One thing I notice about the Canadian character is a certain fondness for yards. The gentleman with the model train in his yard is an example, but just about any Victoria yard, even the yards of run down old apartment buildings may display some botanical flourish, or a remnant of one. In the 500 block of Discovery Street across from the Sports Traders I spotted a clump of rhubarb. Some yards are truly extraordinary. One I particularly remember belonged to a Ukrainian lady in Dean Park who I had just driven from the airport. Her front yard was nothing short of extravagant.
In the Willows Beach Village at Musgrave is a mini Arc de Triomphe intersection where Estevan, Musgrave, Hamiota and Thompson converge. And in the pie shaped lot formed by Thompson and Estevan is a tiny little park. Enclosed by a hedge and surmounted by a few tall trees it forms an island of tranquility where someone can sit quietly on a bench and read... or compose a blog. Victoria swarms with such places, and this is as much a part of Victoria's character or culture as the Empress Hotel.
A desire to preserve such places is, in my estimation, a conservative value. It's also a value held by the type of person who thinks of himself as liberal. Unlike the liberal, I do not think that government programs are the way to preserve these spaces. Government regulations and rules will never replace the cultural values that move people to create such places in the first place.
The public spaces are continuations of the private spaces Victorians create on their own private properties, and private property depends on a political culture that believes its citizens should retain the fruits of their own labours. As government grows bigger it gets greedy and eventually chokes the private property owner to death. At the same time it chokes out the incentive to create and contribute to one's community. This is really what private enterprise is all about. It's not complicated at all, as some conversationalists at the Cook Street Serious Coffee hangout this morning seemed to think.
Besides gardens, another thing Victorians are serious about is beer, and we are extremely lucky to have watering spots like Swans where a man can refresh himself with an IPA after an afternoon at the beach.