Friday, June 22, 2012

Past Deadline: Earth to Venus - Come In, Please

“Huh. See?” said Groom-boy on the weekend. “There IS a full moon coming up!”

In the days previous we had been talking about all the weird, freaky things that had been happening in the world, such as the guy strung out on bath salts who chewed off another guy’s face or the guy who killed his roommate and then ate his brains and heart, not to mention the guy who killed and dismembered a foreign student and sent body parts to various political party headquarters in Ottawa.

The day after the full-moon proclamation, I watched as the Twitterverse exploded with tweets from people running for their lives as a shooter rampaged in the Eaton Centre in Toronto.

The full moon always gets blamed. Maybe that’s more comforting than the idea that these things happen only because this weird, freaky world is full of weird, freaky people who do weird, freaky things.

Still, it’s all been super strange lately, so I wondered if, perhaps, the transit of Venus is to blame?

This astronomical phenomenon takes place when the planet Venus slowly crosses in front of the sun. The Venus transits occur in pairs with eight years between them, but each pair is spaced more than a hundred years apart. The last one was in 2004 and, after this week (June 6), it won’t happen again until 2117.

It’s considered to be a pretty big deal in astronomical circles. You can bet there have been some festivals to celebrate the event.

Scientifically, the transit of Venus is an opportunity to get a measurement of the distance of the Earth from the sun.

Astrologically, it has other applications. While “causes weird, freaky behaviour” does not appear to be one of them, communication seems to be a theme.

Astrologists appear to agree this astronomical event is a powerful thing. Throughout history, people have recorded things that have happened in association with the timing of the transit.

One source I found mentions the 1874 event coincided with the completion of the Transatlantic telegraph cable, creating intercontinental communications by wire between the east and the west.

UK astrologer and author Alison Chester-Lambert suggests the June 6 transit just might save the planet, likening the sun and Venus to be a sort of “cosmic Superman and Superwoman.” She wonders if a magical solution to such things as over-population, over-consumerism, over-inflation, over-consumption and just plain over everything might occur.

She notes that when the Venus transit occurred in 1631 and 1639, it brought about a new world view. We learned the sun is the centre of our solar system (not Earth) and scientists were busy proving certain previously held theories were bunk.

Oh – and she mentions something about chocolate arriving, so this is serious stuff!

When the event occurred in the 1700s, all kinds of interesting things were happening with world power and churches, and the industrial revolution began.

In the 1800s, the transits marked giant strides in technology – including electricity for public use, the telephone, light bulb and recording equipment. An explosion of information began – with newspapers, the phone, telegraph and radio, and it has led right up to our current information technologies – and the Interwebs, of course.

Many astrologists talk about the transit in terms of communication within relationships. Apparently, because these phenomena often occur in the sign of Gemini, which is the sign of communication, it can serve to bring humanity closer together.

I suppose as we consider what has happened over the last eight years between transits, one could argue humanity has been brought closer together through technology.

Is this a good thing? It certainly means that whilst various weird, freaky people do their weird, freaky things, we can be sure to find them live on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

By the time most of you are reading this (if any of you are still reading, that is), the transit of Venus will likely be over for another 105 years. I, for one, will be staring at my phone with great anticipation to learn what it all has meant.

Or maybe I’ll just go find some chocolate. Woohoo!

Published in The Perth Courier, June /12

Past Deadline: Hairdos in my Future

I remember one time, years ago, we went to our friend’s house and Girlchild happened to have braids in her hair. My friend expressed her great relief that she has two boys and didn’t have to deal with things like braids.

I laughed. One of her boys is very much into hockey. My boy is not. I expressed my great relief that I don’t have to deal with hockey equipment. So many laces and straps and stuff.

I couldn’t help but think of this conversation as I volunteered on Friday night at Girlchild’s dance recital.

For the past four years, Girlchild has been a student at Arts In Motion-Perth School of Dance run by Svetlana Timtsenko. The year of lessons culminates in the whole school participating in a great stage production – an elaborate affair complete with fantastic costumes. Svetlana and her team develop the show over many months.

Girlchild took ballet with Svetlana and Alize Abele for her first three years. In her first recital she was an adorable chick, complete with fluffy yellow feathers. In the second one she was “Austria.” Last year she was a snowy owl, wearing a shimmery white body suit, a white tutu and a feathery headband – she looked like a real ballerina!

This year Girlchild decided to try highland dancing at the school with Samantha Shaw, which delighted our Scottish-rooted relatives on all sides of the family. For this year’s recital, “The Adventures of Mary Mitty,” she was a Loch Ness Monster – wearing a slick body suit complete with a ridge of scales and a long tail. She loved it.

For the last few years I have volunteered for one of the two nights of the recital. Until this year, I helped in the cafeteria at Perth & District Collegiate Institute, where all of the primary students congregated until it was time to go on stage.

The primary area was always interesting. We helped with final costume adjustments, led group expeditions to the bathrooms (which, depending on the complexity of the costume and the size of the child, could be quite a process), administered snacks, helped with crafts, organized video watching and consoled nervous little ones.

Eventually another volunteer would come to the cafeteria to retrieve whatever group was next to dance.

It was always a busy night.

This year, Girlchild’s class was grouped in with the older classes, so I got to spend the evening in Gym 3, which is much closer to the backstage area.

And that was really cool!

I’ve never been involved with stage productions in the past, so beyond knowing a good show takes a tremendous amount of hard work and coordination behind the scenes, I didn’t have much of a clue.

I stand in awe.

From my new vantage point, I was able to see how the dance behind the scenes made for the show onstage. It was like a well-oiled machine, with quick changes and hairdos and make-up and things to keep little people busy in between. (One of my big jobs involved pinning tails on Funky Dragons.)

Watching how the things came together behind the scenes on Friday night made it all that much more interesting to soak in the show on Saturday night.

I remember standing in the hallway near Gym 3 at one point while another volunteer was quizzing one of the senior students about what hair-do she was supposed to be wearing. Meanwhile, “Twisted Fairies” were walking in and out of the area with their jazzy costumes and their freaky hair standing up all over the place. (My hair looks that way most mornings, but they had to work at it.)

I couldn’t help but think of my conversation with my friend about braids. Braids are easy! Heck, with this costume all Girlchild needed was a pony tail and some hairspray because her hair was tucked into a hood.

For a moment I wondered what I would be doing a few years from now if Girlchild continues to dance – could I handle Twisted Fairy hair and Funky Dragon tails?

Oh, yeah!

Congrats to everyone at AIM for yet another awesome show!

Published in The Perth Courier, May 31/12

Past Deadline: He Did WHAT to my Car

You know, I’m sure we’ve all done some dumb stuff in our lives. Probably some of that stuff happened when we were young and goofy. Possibly someone yelled: “Hey-you-kids-get-offa-my-lawn” or “Shut-up-and-go-home” or some such thing.

I understand why people yell those things at roving gangs of idiots. Actually, I have understood this for a long time, at least since I started having to pay for things with my own money.

My tolerance for “stupid” is getting lower.

Here’s a little story.

Not long ago I wrote a column about how we have become a two-car family. We bought a shiny, pretty, new car that Groom-boy uses to commute to his job in Ottawa.

Our driveway is tiny. When we had a van, it barely fit. Even with a small car we have to suck in our guts to get between the car and the neighbouring house if we are carrying groceries.

Needless to say, there is nowhere to park a second car. In the winter, when parking on the street is prohibited, we have made arrangements to share the in-laws’ driveway, but now that spring is here we have been parking across from our house on the street.

Our neighbourhood is residential, but it is sandwiched between two very busy streets. We are a block from a high school and about three blocks from the downtown core.

During the school year, large groups of kids travel between downtown and the high school. I can’t tell you how many gravy-coated/pizza-stained Styrofoam plates I have retrieved from my front lawn. Recycling bins have been known to get booted down the street like impromptu rectangular soccer balls.

On the weekends, we are often awakened by throngs of morons hooting and screeching down our street on their way home from the bars. Once our car was “tagged” by someone with a marker. We’ve had mats and planters stolen off of our porch.

It’s charming.

The Perth police routinely patrol our street. I see them often. It’s just that even the dumbest of stupid people don’t tend to do bad things when the police are watching.

Case in point. Sometime between 2 and 3 a.m. on Sunday, May 20, I awoke to the sound of voices and banging. In my foggy-headed sleepiness, I equated the sounds to someone kicking something. Someone yelled, “Hey!” I got up and looked out a window, but by then could only see one guy walking down the street. I went back to bed and heard nothing else.

The next morning, one of our neighbours came to the door. He had been awakened, too, except he went right to his front door and saw a group of young people walking by. He says one of them jumped on the hood of another neighbour’s car, which was parked on the street. He climbed onto the roof and then the trunk.

Then this genius jumped from that trunk onto the hood of the car parked directly behind it.

Our car. The shiny pretty two-month-old one.

He jumped onto the roof before jumping off.

At some point our neighbour yelled “Hey!” and the kids carried on around the corner.

(I would like to mention here that because this is a family newspaper, I am not allowed to use the word or supporting adjectives I would like to use to describe this person who did this thing.)

Sigh. It’s one thing if the first ding or scratch on your new car is caused by a random stone chip or a careless action on your part, but when some butthead comes along and, in mere seconds, manages to damage property with a thoughtless act, it’s beyond annoying.

There are several dents on the hood and roof of our car. We contacted the Perth police and an officer collected evidence. There are witnesses. We’ll see what comes of it. (By all means, call the police at 613-267-3131 if you know anything about it.)

Now I get to take time away from work to look into repairs, not to mention what it may ultimately cost. Thank you, butthead.

Now get offa my street.