Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Robert Kroetsch

I just learned of the tragic death of Robert Kroetsch from an automobile accident in Alberta yesterday.   Robert was the acclaimed author of books of poetry, fiction and non-fiction and is revered as one of Canada's top writers.  He was recognized with the Governor General's Award as well as the Order of Canada. The news is especially hard for me to accept, since I had worked on an edition of one of his books.  I had been commissioned by the late Dennis Johnson to illustrate the Red Deer Press edition of "Seed Catalogue".  I traveled to the Heisler area to get a feel for the location of the poem and was able to locate his former house and farm following the descriptions in the poem.  While working on the wood engravings I communicated with Robert regularly and sent him sketches as I prepared for each wood engraving.  I grew to admire and respect him and appreciated his guidance on this project, and especially appreciated his elegant and visual use of the language.

The nation and the world has lost a literary giant.

Friday, June 17, 2011


It's been a couple of days since the final Stanley Cup game in Vancouver.  It's taken me that long to get my head around what happened out there, when Vancouver lost to Boston.  I've watched, spellbound, as images of that night have been shown on the news and as the commentators have tried to explain what happened.  It's impossible to avoid shaking the head and mumbling, "What the hell is going on?  It's just a damned game for cryin' out loud!"  And that's when I realized it had nothing to do with the game; whether Vancouver lost or won, there was going to be a riot.  When thousands and thousands of people are invited to the streets to watch the game on large screens and to party, the mob mentality takes over.  Of course, as the commentators have pointed out, there were instigators in the crowd with the specific goal of igniting this and they understand how a mob works.  All they have to do is strike the spark and the mob of sheep take over.  That doesn't excuse the mob, made up of hockey fans fired up with enthusiasm and booze and their inhibitions and common sense taking the night off.  The same thing happens in soccer (football to the world outside North America).  Britain has had their share of "lager louts", "skinheads" and "hooligans" who have created havoc throughout Britain and Europe.

I didn't grow up with hockey and I've had difficulty understanding the street fights which are tolerated on the ice during games.  When I've tried to point out the radical difference between sanctioned violence and brutality in hockey and the quick removal of violence and brutality in other sports, die-hard hockey fans dismiss the violence as being "part of the sport".  I was told once, by a relative that I should study hockey so I would understand!  Even that idiot clown Don Cherry, who sees himself as Canada's authority on hockey, defends the violence and brutality.  But the violence tolerated on the ice has nothing to do with the rioting and vandalism that went on Wednesday night in the streets of Vancouver.  The brainless, pampered and spoiled idiots who tore up Vancouver had long since turned their brains off and let themselves be mindlessly led into that disgusting mess.  I watched a reporter ask the mayor of Vancouver if there was going to be a ban on street parties during events like this in the future.  I couldn't believe it when the mayor replied that street parties would continue to be allowed!

Kudos to those few individuals in the crowd who tried to reason with the idiots who were rioting and tried to calm them down.  All some of those heroes got was what some hockey players get on the ice at the hands of sanctioned "enforcers" while the referees look on... a beating.

In the end I can't help comparing the riots I saw on TV, that took place in Egypt a while back, and the riot in Vancouver that I watched Wednesday night.  There was a big difference.  The rioters in Egypt were focused on overthrowing a tyrant and taking back there lives.  The rioters in Vancouver were laughing and having fun, watching cars burn and breaking store windows and looting them.