Credit where credit due

My introduction to the frontier lifestyle of the West Coast came shortly after I began my articling year in Nanaimo, when the herring fleet hit town.

Those were the glory days of the herring fishery, when high-balling crews of “Cold water Cowboys” exuberantly chased enormous schools of  herring around the Straits of Georgia, loading  their skiffs with fish until their gunwales were almost awash, then frantically signaling to the hovering packer boats displaying “Cash Buyer” signs, to sell their catch before they capsized. Herring roe is a delicacy in Japan, and the  Japanese were flush, paying huge prices for the roe. Continue reading

Categories: First Nations, Nature, Politics, Reflections | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Reductio Ad Absurdum

Like lawyers everywhere I relish every opportunity to throw around obscure Latin phrases, to confuse and confound the uninitiated. This blog’s headline is an example, although it will be instantly recognizable to students of logic amongst the readership, as well as those who keep a copy of Aristotle’s Prior Analytics on their bedside table.

It refers to a type of argument that seeks to destroy a proposition by taking it to the extreme. In legal argument it is sometimes employed along with its sister, the “Floodgates” argument (“judge, if you find in favor of the idiot on the other side, it will open the floodgates of litigation”)

Let’s have some fun with Reductio Ad Absurdum. Readers of my companion blog will know that I’ve been alternately bemused and incensed by the swelling tide of political correctness that seems bent on erasing the names of Sir John A. Macdonald and Sir Matthew Baillie Begbie from public view, because of their actions against aboriginal people. There have been shrill demands for their names to be removed from schools, bridges and even pubs that have been named after them.

Logically then, any historical public figure whose actions were abhorrent by today’s standard should receive the same treatment. May I present Chief Maquinna, a well known chief of the Nuu-Cha-Nulth. While history will remember him best as the chief who welcomed Capt. James Cook to Nootka Sound, it also records that he was an enthusiastic owner of slaves. Slavery of course, was an established part of First Nations culture, pre-European contact, but Maquinna is also known to have captured European whalers who strayed into his territory, keeping them as slaves, and putting some to death when they attempted to escape. It seems to me that the chief’s conduct ticks all the same boxes as Sir John A. and Sir Matthew.

So, when various school boards vote to rename schools named after Sir John A. McDonald, surely  the name of Maquinna  Elementary school  should also get axed (there are two schools named after Maquinna, incidentally, one in Vancouver and one in Port Alberni )

Last, but not least, since the Kingston  pub Sir John’s Public House recently felt compelled to change its name to simply ‘The Public House’ to avoid offending patrons, should not Tofino’s  venerable Maquinna Hotel follow suit ? Ironically the Maquinna  Hotel bar is  a favorite First Nations watering hole, being conveniently located just above the pier where the water taxi from the Ahousaht First nations Reserve  docks.

Reductio Ad Absudum ?

 

Categories: First Nations, humour, law, Reflections | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Of bucket lists and tramp steamers and such

A very long time ago I was a fan of the comic strip Terry and the Pirates. It was a wonderful piece of escapism with a swashbuckling hero traveling through exotic lands and surviving incredible adventures. The lure of faraway places with strange sounding names triggered something in my adolescent brain, and a nascent bucket list was born. I too would someday trudge the markets of old Rangoon, hike the temples of  mysterious Mandalay and stroll moonlit tropical beaches.

Bucket lists are funny things: ever-growing, they tend to morph over time, as tastes and circumstances and resources change. For myself, common sense has pretty well ruled out an ascent of the Matterhorn or a solo crossing of the Spearhead Traverse, and  my financial advisor has strongly suggested that if I wish to eat at least a couple of meals a day in retirement I should abandon any idea of a  submarine ride to the Titanic, or space tourism in general.

I confess to feeling a bit wistful as I stare down yet another birthday and the realization dawns that I may be running out of runway to make it to the bottom of a very long and ever-growing bucket list, but also chagrined, as I have just learned  that my list has unexpectedly amended itself

Last week the venerable  old mail ship the RMS St. Helena (one of only two Royal Mail ships remaining in the entire world), which has for decades been the only link to the isolated island of St. Helena in the South Atlantic, embarked upon its final voyage and I have never had the opportunity to walk its decks.

A  voyage to the island has long been on my list, since it is reputedly stunning, is steeped in history, having been once Napoleon’s residence in exile, but moreover has had the cachet of inaccessibility.  I once investigated the possibility of sailing there aboard a square rigger,  but abandoned the idea after learning that it would have set me back over 50 grand and a year of my time, and I’d have to scramble up the rat lines to reef sails in all weather; so the mail ship was my only other option.

Alas the island has now installed an airport, destroying not only the mystique of sea-only access, but also the viability of the mail ship, which is being retired from service and sold.

Is an island now accessible to any tourist with a plane ticket worthy of a spot on the list? Thinning hair and creaking joints suggest a bit of bucket list triage is in order, so I am afraid St. Helena no longer makes the cut, which is a shame- it’s not the way one should remove items from the list. A big black  “completed” check mark is hardly preferred.

Speaking of which is anyone out there up for a wee jaunt up Mount Kilimanjaro?

Categories: Bucket list, humour, Reflections, Travel | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

“The discontented man finds no easy chair “-Benjamin Franklin

We saw our first pair on the windswept point below the Mayne Island lighthouse: perched high to take advantage of the views over the Straits of Georgia and the entrance to Active Pass. A few months later, on a stormy winter day we encountered another pair, this time on the rocky promontory that juts into the Pacific Ocean at Green Point,marking the boundary between Combers Beach and Long Beach.

“They” are pairs of red Adirondack chairs, placed by Parks Canada in well over 100 locations across Canada, the first ones appearing in Gros Morne National Park over three years ago. they serve no purpose other than to invite the traveler to sit and linger and take in the view, and they are delightful.

For the ardent hiker they offer  the surprise of  an unexpectedly luxurious repose;  to the ambler, a ready excuse to dally a while, and to the photographer, a splash of color to help compose the perfect landscape photo. It’s not often that one can accuse  a government bureaucrat of harboring a sense of whimsy. but clearly one or two playful types have somehow infiltrated Parks Canada and I think our parks are better for them.

I feel compelled to register my approval of the Red Chair Project since it is not without controversy. There are it seems, purists amongst the users of the parks who are affronted by those little splashes of color, or feel that the wilderness is somehow tainted by the presence of the chairs. To each his own I suppose, but for the critics I think the words of Benjamin Franklin quoted above are apt.

For the rest of us-  let’s sink back into the comfort of these chairs, draw a long, deep breath, relax and enjoy the view!

 

Categories: Nature, Parks, Reflections, Travel | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Of Gremlins and Etymologiae and such

I have long believed in wee forest folk, and have blogged about my affinity towards them previously. My belief now extends to their urban cousins, the computer Gremlins. These rascals take up residence in the machines that have now taken over our lives, where their mischievous ways wreak utter havoc.  Continue reading

Categories: computers, humour, Reflections, religion | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

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