Unit Two

Fictional worlds are real. They frequently exist in the minds of authors and artists, not to mention those of their readers and viewers. Unit One is, at best, only half fictional. It consists of a tangible workspace, currently under construction, at Vangshylla, Norway, as well as a co-located, intangible faux-institution, Ginnunga Gap Polytechnic.

While Trish & Brock McLellan are real, personas Daffy & Jade Marmot are fictional. Marmot family members, and other personas, can express alternative (even contradictory) values to those of living people. That’s one reason personas are fun people to be with.

Most first class polytechnics as institutions have had their names changed. In Britain, most lasted only from 1965 to 1992. Almost all have become second class universities. Whereas polytechnics were grounded in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) and teaching oriented towards professional qualifications, the new universities offer a wider variety of courses, frequently in the humanities.

The purpose of Unit One, both the workspace as well as the faux-institution, is not to make stuff. It is to promote “Innovation & Equality – for a better world”. The term workspace is used instead of workshop, because workshop has lost much of its original meaning: “A room or building in which goods are manufactured or repaired” as it acquired an additional meaning: “A meeting at which a group of people engage in intensive discussion and activity on a particular subject or project.” (Oxford Dictionary)

From the beginning of the new year 2018, the Unit One workspace will be a place to develop (as in innovate), build and use equipment. The space and machine park will be available for others to use, under some conditions, but free of charge. The space and equipment will also be available for the sharing of knowledge and skills in woodwork and metalwork, microprocessors, mechatronics, robotics and the like. Target users include disadvantaged groups, especially women, young people and immigrants.

The Garden Project will show some of the thinking at Unit One. One consequence of constructing the Unit One workspace, was the displacement of the gardener from her shed. It became the Unit One Annex. Thus, one of the first products to be built at the Unit One workspace, will be a replacement shed, built on SIP (structural insulated panel) principles, which can be used for storage of equipment and more. In addition, a geodesic dome will be built that can be used as a greenhouse.

Unit One is scheduled to open on Monday, 01 January 2018 at 12.00 noon. At the moment a number of speakers have been invited to entertain guests.

1. Proton Bletchley: Unit 1 – A community work space? (10 minutes)

2. Precious Dollar: What does it cost to build a workshop? (10 minutes)

3. Billi Sodd: Workshops in Prison (This is dependent on Billi being given day release from Verdal prison) (unknown duration)

4. Refreshments

5. Jade Marmot: The fun with DIY videos (30 minutes)

6. Brock McLellan: Concluding remarks (10 minutes)

After the official opening, at 14.00, Ginnunga Gap Polytechnic’s first course will be offered. It is a 2-hour health, environment and safety course for people who want to use the workspace. They will receive training on how to protect themselves from danger, when working in the workspace.

Initially, the equipment at the workspace will focus on woodworking. A number of stationary machines will be available, if not on the opening day, soon after: table saw, band saw, miter saw, router, planer, jointer and drill stand.


As time progresses new equipment and courses will be added. In fact, it may be desirable for other people to build and share new workshops. In other words, a Unit Two, Unit Three … It will be up to other people to decide.

Despite this suggestion, Unit Two may not be something physical at all, but another fictional environment, a virtual work space, with a focus on creating instructive videos that can be viewed by anyone anywhere. This is the type of topic to be discussed at a monthly “fredags fika” (Friday Coffee). This will be a forum for people to discuss how they want to use the workspace, its development over time, and rules needed for its use.

8 Classes of People

There are two types of people – those who refuse to classify people, and those who put everyone into some sort of category.

Here, we are going to strip everyone of their individualism and insist that they place themselves into one of eight ranked groups. These rankings reflect the degree to which an individual is engaged in do-it-yourself activities.

Sometimes, literary sources can be just as schizophrenic as the authors writing about them. Such is the case here. Reading http://www.dictionary.com/browse/do-it-yourself one finds that the phase do-it-yourself is “has its origins in 1950 – 1955”, at the same time that it is used “as a modifier, attested by 1941. The expression is much older.” Depending on what “much older” means, one might be able to call it a mid-20th century term. It relates to amateurs, and is defined as “the practice or hobby of building or repairing things for oneself, usually in one’s own home.”

Class 0. User

This class of person has no role in the acquisition of an object, but in some manner of speaking has that object thrust upon them for their use.

Class 1. Shopper

There are two operative words that distinguish a shopper from a user. The first is that the shopper selects the object. The second that she pays for it.

Class 2. Assembler

Here one is entering the “flat-pack” universe. Ideally, an assembler can follow instructions, so that the object ends up looking and functioning as intended.

Class 3. Hacker

The primary characteristic of a hacker is her ability to modify an object, especially in terms of appearance or operation.

Class 4. Constructor

It is at this level that fabrication skills become important. Craftsmanship is a term often used to describe the necessary skill sets. Since the start of the new millennium, many have seen computer programming as a new form of craftsmanship. For further details, see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Software_craftsmanship

Class 5. Prototyper

Experimentation is a key word to describe the activities of someone in this class. Engineering is not an activity that leads instantly to nirvana. Vague ideas ha ve to be fleshed out. Proposed solutions have to be tweaked, teased and tinkered with. The results are not always beautiful.

Class 6. Designer

Once engineering is complete, product design can begin. While many think of aesthetics, ergonomics is also an important consideration. With design work completed, batch and other forms of small-scale production can be used to make a limited series of objects.

Class 7. Manufacturer

The preliminary step before large-scale manufacturing involves real-world testing. Not everyone will treat an object as delicately as its designer. Thus, it is important that insights be gained into how an object will be used, and misused. There will be few amateurs at this level but new opportunities are arising through programs such as Kickstarter or Indiegogo.

An inspiring real world example

Cedar Anderson’s work over a decade developing a revolutionary bee hive shows just what can be done. World class innovation, performed by amateurs. See: https://www.honeyflow.com.au/ especially the Flow Story.

Three generations of the Andersons, with their revolutionary bee hive (Photo: https://www.honeyflow.com.au)




R* and other realities

Billi Sodd comments on metaphysical dimensions

 La trahison des images by René Magritte, 1928-9, Oil on Canvas, 635 × 939.8 mm

In an attempt to explain my own artworks to Arild, an inmate at another institution, I have been forced to rely upon another frequently misunderstood artist, René Magritte, and his painting – shown above – The Treachery of Images. In the work he writes, in French, “This is not a pipe.”  It is a true statement because what he is trying to say is “This is an image of a pipe.”

In the Billi metaphysical language, there are an infinite varieties of realities. Because it is so difficult for me to keep such a large number of these in my brain, I have codified them into several different levels, and one special instance.

I use the letter R to represent a reality level. In my work, I am particularly concerned about five levels of abstraction, including the one level where I work exclusively.

R is the day to day reality that people experience in their day to day existence. There is absolutely nothing remarkable about it, if one excludes the fact that life, in itself, is totally remarkable.

R* represents my own personal life, the only life I understand as an insider. This is the special instance of life from which I view other lives, the other Rs moving about me.

R+n is my way of representing aggregated realities, such as families. However, nothing further will be said about these in this post.

R-n is my way of representing abstraction.

R-1 (theatre) is a three dimensional art form that unfolds in time. From my perspective it is the artform that is closest to reality.

R-2 (film) is a three dimensional art form that has been compressed to two dimensions. However, like theatre it also has a time dimension.

R-3 (photography) removes the flow of time from an artwork. Yes, there is a temporal element in that all photographs are taken at a precise moment in time.

R-4  (painting) is the level at which I work at. In my own particular work I consciously avoid the use of shadows, and gradiations of colour in order to avoid giving my works “depth”.

R-5 (drawing) provides an almost perfect level of abstraction for the artist. Here, the line is paramount.

These levels work for me, a visual artist working in two dimensions. Sam, a fellow inmate and sculptor, has a totally different perspective on reality. She codes every artwork A in terms of dimensions (3 or 2) and time with c = continuous, d = discrete, i = instantaneous, n = not relevant. Using her system A3c codes theatre while A3n codes sculpture.  In contrast, A2d codes film, A2i codes photography, while A2n codes painting and drawing.

In my next post, I will try to explain to Arild why these different levels of abstraction mean that an image of a naked person is very different from a naked person.



General Systems Theory – Nine Requirements

Proton Bletchley is responsible for General Systems Theory at Unit One. Here are his Nine Requirements for working effectively with Systems.

1. Persona

Life can be distracting. A person who has a mind divided between, say, surfing in Australia and general systems theory will accomplish little, because they will be bouncing between dreams of waves and boxes of GST content. At Unit One, work is divided between several different personas. While Brock heads off to virtually surf at Bondi Beach, Proton Bletchley is responsible for GST. His last name comes from the secret WW2 centre where Alan Turing worked, and developed much of the foundation for computer science. His first name comes from Earnest Rutherford, who named protons in 1920.


Proton Bletchley is Unit One’s resident expert in General Systems Theory. He is also an environmentalist, which helps him focus his thoughts.

2. Wardrobe

If one goes to the trouble to develop a persona, the very least one can do is to clothe that persona in something relevant. Proton uses corn blue workwear. This in part is because his environmental focus is on water.

Workwear is useful because people who work with General Systems Theory also have to function in many different places in the real world. A typical example, might involve the collection of environmental data using Arduinos with SD cards. Devices may have to be made in a workshop, then transported to a site where they would be used as data loggers.

Of course there are GST theorists, sitting around producing virtual thoughts while puffing away on their virtual pipes, can reduce their clothing budgets considerably, by purchasing only virtual clothing.

Workwear feels appropriate when working with General Systems Theory. While Proton has only a blue outfit, other workers may wear green, black or red – depending on their moods.

3. Computer

Computing is an integral part of General Systems Theory. At one level this means supercomputing. Meteorologists and other -ists who want data in real time, need fast computers.

The fastest computer in the world is arguably D-wave’s quantum computer in Burnaby, just a few blocks from where our good friends Roy Sinn and Sue Innes live. See: http://www.dwavesys.com/

So, there is no point in Proton having anything big. It will never be big or fast enough. He is opting for the exact opposite – minimal computing. Proton remembers seeing his first ad for an EEEbook, and thought “I want that!” He was referring to the computer, not the girl!

Asus EEE PC 701 was launched in Japan in January 2008. (Photo: Asus)

By June 2008, Asus had probably realized that many of its customers were women and offended by its previous ad. With the launch of the Asus EEE PC 900, it replaced its beach girl user with one referred to as “The Housewife”.

“The Housewife” was used to promote the new and improved Asus EEE PC 900 in June 2008. (Photo: Asus)

Today’s (2016) ads for Asus have not changed much, although the computers are larger and more powerful.

Asus EeeBook X205TA (Photo: possibly odishafast.in)

Sam Rutherford, in Laptop Mag concludes, “The Asus EeeBook X205TA offers excellent battery life, a solid display and strong everyday computing that puts it a notch above other budget laptops.”

4. Operating System

Proton prefers Linux. Because of Proton’s connections with New Westminster, the original answer was Mandrake. Mandrake the Magician takes his name from Leon Mandrake, the stage name of New Westminster resident Leon Giglio. Leon Mandrake had been performing for more than ten years before Lee Falk “invented” the comic strip character. However, in 2004, MandrakeSoft lost a court case to Hearst Corporation, and was forced to change the name of its Linux distribution.

New Westminster’s very own Leon Mandrake with Princess Narda (Photo: Yes, well looks like Romaine down at the bottom …citing sources can be difficult at the best of times)

Fast forward to 2016. Mandrake has morphed into Mageia. Version 5.1 was announced 2016-12-02.

Proton has considered using other Linux distributions, including Linux Mint and elementary OS (which has a unique and simple design). If Proton wasn’t so prejudiced, I’m sure that he would be wanting to experiment with elementary OS.

5. Browser

In keeping with the open source philosophy of Linux, Firefox is an open-source web browser. There are many other open source browsers, including Chromium and Opera. However, Proton is concerned about the close bindings between Chromium and Google. Opera has started to require users to log on every twelve hours, so they can profit from advertisements. As an alternative to Firefox, Midori is a lightweight, fast and open-source (free) browser.

6. Email address

One of the main challenges of employing so many personas, is the habit of having only a single personal email address. Proton disagrees with this philosophy, and is considering having an additional email address just for the Proton Bletchley persona. The advantage is that one can keep all of the material related to that persona in a single place.

7. Office software

Open source office software provides many of the features and functions provided by Microsoft Office. LibreOffice is a fork of OpenOffice consisting of a suite of programs packaged in a single install. Components of the LibreOffice suite are:

  • Writer: word processor.
  • Calc: spreadsheet editor.
  • Impress: presentation editor.
  • Draw: graphical editor.
  • Math: mathematical formulae editor.
  • Base: database program.

Project planning software has always been something of a problem. LibrePlan, for example, states that it is open source, but that only applies to a limited suite of software. Anything really useful is excluded from the open source version, and has to be purchased. At the moment, Proton’s favored open source project software is Open Project.

8. Simulation software

There is a close connection between general systems theory and computer simulation. While Insight Maker is not open source, it is free and available, although Proton notes disturbingly, that it has not been updated for over a year. The last bimonthly newsletter was posted in August 2015. His fear is that someday it will simply disappear.

While some simulation programs are general, others are made for specific purposes. This topic will be covered again in another post.

9. Library

Books and articles are needed for inspiration. Ideally, they also have to be available for scrutiny at any time. It is becoming more and more important to use ebooks, which compress the space of even the largest library into less than a litre.

Update: 2022-01-26 13:00

This is historical content written and published in 2016. There is little point in updating this post, except to add how some things have changed, while others have remained the same.

  1. Persona: From the number of weblog posts being written, a person might suspect that Proton had retired, rather than Brock.
  2. Wardrobe: It is difficult to acquire cornflower blue workwear. Brock did manage to get some red workwear about 2017, but even these are difficult to get hold of. He is now using grey work trousers. Arduinos are no longer being used. These have been replaced by Raspberry Pi Picos, starting in late 2021.
  3. Computers: Asus computers are still in use, but Brock’s latest laptop is now a VivoBook, with a 14″ screen, Ryzen 3 processor, 8 GB of RAM, and 512 GB SSD. Trish is still content with her ZenBook UX305C. At some point, but only at her request, it will be upgraded. Other computers include an Asus VivoMini VC65, an Asus PN-50, an Asus AiO Pro.
  4. Operating system: Linux Mint is in use. Brock still dreams of using Mageia, with version 8 the latest incarnation. The latest experimentation in the household has been with Linux Endeveaur. However, it was not performing adequately to replace Linux Mint. Mageia
  5. Browser: Firefox is still the main browser in use. Brave has been installed.
  6. Email Address: Currently, the McLellans have a domain at mclellan.no that serves their needs in terms of email addresses and websites.
  7. Office software: no changes.
  8. Simulation software: no changes
  9. Library: A Calibre library stores household ebooks. People in the household then use their personal Kobo ebook readers to read books. We have ordered two new Kobo Libra H20 models, as replacements for our current Glo HD models, purchased in 2016-.

Update: 2022-12-24 23:00

Our general policy is for Trish and Brock to use the same equipment. Thus on 2022-08-30, we purchased 2 x Asus Zenfone 9 (A12202) hand-held devices, then in 2022-10-20 we purchased 2 x Acer Swift 3 14″ (SF314-43) laptops. Both sets of machines use USB-C ports for charging.

Soon after the previous update, the 2 x Kobo Libra H2O e-readers arrived. They supplement, rather than replace the Glo HD models. All of the Kobos use USB-micro ports for charging. Any future e-readers will have to use USB-C ports.

Lost Tribes of Inderøy

“Lost Tribes of Inderøy” is the title of a comic videography about five tribes living in Inderøy, rural Norway.It is being produced by Jade Marmot.


Joyful Marmot Creations is an unusual family business. Its genius is that anyone can become a member of the Marmot family, and thus a stakeholder in the video project. The only requirement is that participants choose a unique “marmot name” and work on the project. Even scriptwriter Qwerty Asdf has been forced into using a Marmot name, Qwerty Marmot.

A little more about … Joyful Marmot Creations and “Lost Tribes of Inderøy”

Slogan: Inclusive multimedia storytelling
Mission: The purpose of the JMC is for people to have fun. While hoping to avoid financial losses, projects are not designed for commercial success. Everyone, especially locals, immigrants, people with mental and somatic health challenges are welcome. To avoid wearing people out, a long working day is limited to four hours (with breaks).

The production is based on the five tribes of Inderøy. Below is an overview of some of the the codes that describe the members of each tribe.

Attribute A B C D E
Area Utøy Sandvollan Straumen Røra Mosvik
Values Traditional Ecological Upper Crust Metal Geek
Hobby Crafts Gardening Bridge Motorcycles Data
Fashion National costume Jeans Haute couture Leather Relaxed
Food «Sodd» Vegetarian French cuisine Meat Pizza
Drink Coffee Water Wine Beer Cola
Car Veteran Volvo EV Mercedes American Bicycle
Dance Rhinelander Swing Ballet Raw No
Music Fiddle Pink Floyd Classic Heavy metal Electronic
Art Tidemand & Gude Teodor Kittelsen Edvard Munch Anders Kjær Marianne Aulie
Housing Farmhouse Plain Luxury Workshop Apartment
Pet Dog Cat Aquarium fish Snake No

Not all participants are ethnic Norwegian. For example, upper crusters could have a Sudanese origin, while their servants could be ethnic Norwegian. Living in Sandvollan, for example, does not mean you have to play a role featuring ecological values. Even people from Leksvik, Steinkjer, Verdal or Ontario can be given temporarily Inderøy citizenship, allowing them to participate.

Note: Sodd is a traditional meat soup eaten in Inderøy. The artists are (in)famous Scandinavian artists. Billi Sodd has offered to create fake works that show some of the qualities that make the works (in)famous.

Plot: The plot mirrors headlines in the local newspaper and other media, with all the tribes wanting to preserve their own local school, and waring against all the other tribes. About the only thing the five tribes have in common is that all enjoy the natural environment, and want to protect the municipal eagle population. When foreigners climb up into an eagle’s nest and steal eagle eggs, then tribes unite. The historic wooden sailing vessel Pauline (referred to as the Royal Yacht) and the hamlet of Kjerknesvågen represent a centre where all the tribes can meet. The remainder of the film becomes a hunt for the culprits along the roads criss-crossing the municipality, where all sorts of vehicles (historic and otherwise) are used to track the thieves. When thieves finally stop for a meal, locals replace the stolen eggs with imitations. They then return the eggs to the eagle’s nest. The film ends with the foreign thieves despairing that their “eggs” will not hatch, while alternate images of the hatched eagle chicks in the wild.

Rora Station. Røra is home to Inderøy’s Metal tribe. Photo: Alasdair McLellan

There is also a sixth tribe, the Vikings. Initially, they are only found in Kjerknesvågen and aboard the “Royal Yacht”. However, by the end of the film, all of the participants dress in their Viking uniforms – the lost tribes are united.


The Jekt Pauline, being considered for a role as the Royal Yacht in Lost Tribes of Inderøy. Photo: Ivar Svare Holand

If you are interested in working with Jade Marmot and everyone in the Marmot family, contact Jade’s agent: brock.mclellan@gmail.com


Housing Bubbles

Once again, this blog has been seized by Precious Dollar, who wants to write a short comment about Canada’s housing bubble, which has hit Vancouver, followed by Toronto, hardest.

I’m having to rely on Jesse Ferraras for information that appeared in Huffpost.ca since Capital Economics wants to be paid to let me read their report, “House Price Gains Fuelled by Increasingly High-Risk Mortgages” by Paul Ashworth. Jesse’s article is here.

Jesse is not just a “reporter” but adds critical content to Ashworth’s report.

Ashworth makes two important statements.

First important statement: “This is a bubble. A very big bubble. And it is going to end in tears.”

Second important statement: “… the value of asset prices is variable while the value of debt is fixed.”

Lets head back to the future to understand what is happening.

Capital Economics has been wrong and pessimistic about real estate in the past. This time Ashworth felt compelled to support his claims, that the growth of household credit is due to the low cost of debt. Declining interest rates allow households to expand debt without increasing the proportion of incomes needed to finance that debt.

The following chart shows household debt at around 165 per cent of disposable income (2016-Q1).


While the chart shows that household net wealth is high it is important to remember that  if house values drop in value, the amount of money owed doesn’t change.

Ashworth concludes that it’s Canadians, not foreign money, driving growth in the housing market. This contrasts with Vancouver planner Andy Yan’s 2015 study showing that 66 per cent of west side Vancouver houses  were owned by people with non-anglicized Chinese names. Yan said this suggested they were recent arrivals to Canada. Similarly a 2016-05 Royal LePage survey of 250 real estate advisors saw 66 per cent of them say foreign buying had risen in the luxury home market between 2005 and 2015. More than half of those advisors said foreign buyers mostly came from China.

Data from the U.S. National Association of Realtors has shown that buyers from China made up almost 30% of residential real estate acquisitions in 2015, with average an home purchase price of $831,800, more than international buyers from any other country. These purchases are concentrated along the West Coast: Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle, as well as East Coast New York.

Assessing the influence of international buyers on Canadian housing markets is difficult, because that data isn’t collected.


Precious Dollar continues her occupation of this blog, with a new series focusing on what ordinary people can do to promote the economic welfare of everyone, rather than on the economic ambitions of the elite.

On 2015-06-16, almost exactly one year ago, Donald Trump announced his candidacy to be President of the United States. Now, he is the official Republican candidate. Yet, rather than representing the ideals of the party, many regard Trump as being a conduit for the disenchanted, the poor and oppressed.

In the United Kingdom, similar rage is being expressed in the Brexit referendum. Again, large segments of the population are letting political leaders know their discontent.  From my perspective, Leavers are contenting themselves at finding a scapegoat for their problems – immigrants. They are blaming the economic ills they experience on these people, rather than looking at the root cause, the unfair distribution of wealth and income.

Podemos is a Spanish political party, founded in March 2014.  It is the successor of the anti-austerity 15-M Movement. It addresses inequality, unemployment and economic malaise that followed in the wake of the European debt crisis.  It seeks full application of the 128th article of the constitution (“All wealth of the country in all its forms and no matter who owns it, is subordinated to the people’s interest”).

The reason Podemos is mentioned is the need to change rage into action. I have not seen anything in Trump’s campaign that indicate an understanding of a need for a new world order, with an emphasis on affordable health and education, and with greater equality in terms of income and wealth. Similarly, I don’t think any reduction in migration in Britain will make any noticeable improvement in the standard of living of the working poor in Britain.

Podemos is not perfect. It is grounded in nationalism, rather than universalism. It is still a political party, with all the evils that represents.


This is a translation taken from a post of Cunning Hired Knaves: https://hiredknaves.wordpress.com/2014/01/20/podemos-translated-manifesto/  It is the manifesto titled Mover ficha, which literally means to move a piece on a board game, as in chess, but which might best be translated as Making a move. It is from the new political initiative in Spain called Podemos, literally We can, or We can do it. The signatories are listed at the bottom of the original document.

“Making a Move”

Turning outrage into political change

Just as with other moments in history, we see today a European continent submerged in perplexity. Whilst the majorities look back with nostalgia on the past that is lost, certain powerful minorities, with no criterion other than their own survival, show that enrichment is their flag and impunity their horizon. Never in Europe have there been so many people discontented with their loss of rights, and, at the same time, so few perspectives for challenging this outrage through a voting option that excites while at the same time, shows the capacity to represent the majorities under attack and a capacity for committed and efficient administration that makes the best possible options become real. Many find it intolerable that in the greatest crisis in the system since the crash of 1929, those forces that claim to be progressive are at their weakest point, thereby condemning the majorities in our countries to a kind of melancholy that leads to resignation and political depression. But we have gone through worse times and have been able to overcome the difficulties. Why should now be any different?

The elections to the European Parliament will be held at a time of a profound crisis of legitimacy for the European Union. In our case, we are faced with the greatest loss of credibility for the regime born out of the 1978 Constitution. Movements of political outrage such as the 15M connected with a clear popular will: against the sacrifice of rights on the altar of markets driven by speculation and plunder. The impotence or abdication of responsibility by governments, the voluntary ineptitude of government political parties, the conversion of parliaments into bureaucratic organs deprived of political power and the stupor of the unions have left citizens abandoned to their own fate. As in so many other countries, the confusion is being used to turn private debts into public ones, for the transfer of common goods developed over decades to private interests, and to dedicate what remains of public resources to the funding of narrow and private business interests. We are faced with a financial coup d’état against the peoples of the south of the Eurozone. Those who are in charge are selling off the country and our future in pieces. The rise in repression (with more authoritarian laws, the rise in fines in a situation of economic impoverishment, and even, obstacles to the exercise of civil and political rights) is the final element of a landscape dominated by the deepening of social and gender inequalities and increased plunder of natural resources. It is not strange to see the apparent pessimism and defeatism among sectors who, however, would need only a spark of excitement to exit the trap of despair.

The citizen safety laws (which turn the forms of protest inaugurated by the 15M into offences), the return of the repression of women’s freedom, the curtailment of democracy at the local political level, the greater control over communications media and the control of the judiciary seek to create a scenario where fear suspends democracy. Forms on the pathway to authoritarian regimes wrapped up in electoral processes ever emptier of content. Does it make sense that the 90% of the population suffering the brunt of these policies should have no access to tools to create a brighter future?

But it is not true that we are consigned to defeat. Despite their efforts, we can see that this wall is not unbreachable, and that, from below, it is possible to put a stop to these processes that are dismantling our democracies. Today our demand for a politics that goes back onto to the streets, that talks like the majority of people who have had enough, is a reality. Our demand for a greater generosity from representatives, for a greater horizontality and transparency, for a return of the republican values of public virtue and social justice, for the recognition of our plurinational and pluricultural reality is more real than ever. It is decades since our desire for making our own decisions and answering our own questions was so real. The caste is driving us into the abyss for their own selfish benefit. It is only from the citizens that the solution can come, as happened with the protection of jobs, the defence of families through the blocking of evictions, or the guarantee of public services: small but meaningful victories. Popular mobilisation, civil disobedience and confidence in our own abilities are essential, but so too is the forging of keys in order to open the doors that they want to close on us: to bring to the institutions the voice and the demands of this social majority that no longer recognises itself either in this EU or in a corrupt regime that has no possible regeneration.

In the next European Parliament elections there needs to be a candidacy that offers itself to the wave of popular indignation that astounded the world. We are glad to see the advance of the forces of the left, but we are conscious of the need to do something more in order to set in gear the changes we need. It is a time for courage and for not allowing the closure of the window of opportunity that the commitment of so many good people has opened. We need a candidacy of unity and of rupture, led by people who express new ways of relating to politics and which will entail a real threat to the two-party regime of the PP and PSOE and those who have taken our democracy hostage. A candidacy that in addition to stewardship of what is public, proves able to involve the majorities in the configuration of their own future. A candidacy that responds to the young people who are invited to get out of the country, to workers who day by day see their rights diluted, to women forced to go back to demanding what should obviously be theirs, to older people who are finding it was not enough to have struggled and worked for a lifetime. A candidacy that advances from spaces already conquered and manages to go beyond the present paralysis. A candidacy that makes the move that turns pessimism into optimism and discontent into popular will for change and democratic openness.

  1. A candidacy for the recovery of popular sovereignty: it is the citizens who have to decide, not the selfish minority who have brought us here. People’s needs come first. Austerity and cutbacks are choking the economy and our lives. There must be a derogation of article 135 of the Spanish constitution and a moratorium for a citizen debt audit that determines what parts of the debt are not legitimate; the illegitimate debts will not be paid.  Alternative policies are needed in order to establish a tax on financial transactions and controls on the movement of capital, along with the nationalisation of the private banking sector. Those administrations in our country that have adopted the prescriptions of austerity are proof of how useless they are for resolving people’s problems. We want a candidacy that therefore opposes the cuts that are being applied in the name of austerity by the Government of the Partido Popular in the State but also by the PSOE and other parties in different Autonomous Communities. We want another Europe, one that is just, the Europe of rights and democracy, not that of plunder and contempt for the peoples.
  2. A candidacy that, faced with governments in the service of the 1% minority, calls for a ‘real democracy’ based on the sovereignty of peoples and their right to decide their future freely and in solidarity. Democracy holds no fear for us democrats; we are delighted that Scottish and Catalan people can talk and say what future they desire. As such, one that supports the consultation called in Catalonia for the 9th of November.
  3. A candidacy that defends decent wages and pensions, a progressive tax regime so that those who have the most pay the most, one that goes after tax fraud, that rejects redundancies in profitable firms, and that stands for the sharing of all jobs, including domestic work and unpaid care work. It is essential to defend decent labour conditions for young people condemned to eternal precarity or exile.
  4. A candidacy for the right to decent housing. There must be a programme to build public housing, as well as a model of decent and affordable rents. The human drama of evictions can and must be ended, by suspending every single one and by approving retrospective surrender of houses by way of payment, as demanded by the Mortgage Victims’ Platform.
  5. A candidacy that rejects every form of privatisation of public services and common goods: education, health, justice, transport, information, housing and culture, that stands for its reversal in all of these and opts for their democratic management. They are rights and must be under public control. A candidacy that stands for a radical democracy where binding referendums and popular legislative initiatives form an important part of a new legal order following a constituent process.
  6. A candidacy that combats against gender based violence and defends the rights of women over their own bodies, and as such, the right to decide if they want to end their pregnancy or not. And that also defends freedom of sexual orientation and identity against every form of discrimination and homophobia. A candidacy for the unbreakable right to be and to love as one wishes.
  7. A candidacy that seeks a change in the productive model so that it is at the service of people, through an ecological reconversion of the economy, through the nationalisation and socialisation of energy firms, and through food sovereignty.
  8. A candidacy that defends citizen rights for everyone and demands derogation from immigration laws. A candidacy for a country in which everyone is a citizen and no-one is invisible, prisoner of over-exploitation, persecution or marginalisation due to institutional xenophobia.
  9. A candidacy that rejects military interventions, that stands for an exit from NATO and is a firm defender of relations of solidarity between peoples.
  10. A candidacy that is the result of an open participative process for citizens, in the elaboration of its programme and in the composition of its list, based upon the criteria of the presence of social, political and cultural activists, with role rotation and income equivalent to the average wage. A candidacy with commitment to transparency and accountability, with financial resources independent from the private banking sector and from lobby groups.

Those of us signing this manifesto are convinced that now is the time to make a step forward and that by making it many more will join us. Those at the top tell us that nothing can be done except resign ourselves, and, at best, choose between the same colours as always. We think it is no longer time for giving up but for making a move and pulling together, by offering tools to outrage and the desire for change. In the streets “SÍ se puede” (“Yes, it can be done”) is repeatedly heard. We say: “Podemos” (“We can do it”).

Next time, Precious Dollar will be looking at co-operatives.


Once again, Precious Dollar reports on post-modern economic (and other) values.

One academic game that can be played by almost anyone is to find the start date for post-modern society. While some are very general, Charles Jencks proposes 1972-07-15 at 15:32. It is based on the demolition of the Pruitt-Igoe brutalist housing complex in St Louis, Missouri. Another date, favored by some economists is 1971-08-13, the day Richard Nixon ended the last remains of a Gold Standard. If the de facto end is preferred, then one should look to Franklin Roosevelt, and 1933-06-05.  A characteristic of post-modern society is that the rule book has been thrown out. Everything is allowed.

Perhaps the greatest failure of the Clinton administration, was its determination to open the world to free trade, by abolishing tariff barriers. Because of their lower wages, this meant that countries in the developing world, like China, could produce and sell goods cheaper than producers in the developed world, like USA. Clinton tried to sell the American public “cheapness”, but even in the beginning, it was a hard sell.

Bill Clinton’s administration passed trade legislation that lowered trade barriers with other nations. It negotiated about 300 trade agreements with other countries. This alienated many previous supporters, including labor unions. These argued that lower tariffs and more relaxed trade barriers would eliminate American jobs. Clinton argued that free trade would allow the U.S. to increase exports, growing the American economy. He also stated a belief that free trade could result in economic and political reform in developing countries. What that reform would consist of was never discussed.

Lawrence Summers

What Clinton failed to do was to place any restrictions on developing country exporters. They did not have to meet any requirements with respect to child labor, slavery, hours or work, other matters affecting working conditions, or protection of the environment. This is far from an exhaustive list. This meant that there was no level playing field. Countries that improved worker safety were penalized, while those who didn’t profited. That is, the owners of the companies profited, the workers simply had to accept their fate.

Clinton’s last Secretary of the Treasury, Lawrence Summers, stated that lowered tariffs reduced consumer prices and kept inflation low, and were technically “the largest tax cut in the history of the world.

Fast forward to Ottawa, Canada on 2016-06-01.

Stephane Dion Wang Yi
Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Stephane Dion, right, meets with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Wednesday 2016-06-01. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi lost his temper after Amanda Connolly asked Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion a question about three touchy subjects: Hong Kong book sellers critical of Beijing that have gone missing, the country’s aggressive moves in the South China Sea, and the detention of Canadian citizen Kevin Garratt in China. “Why is Canada pursuing closer ties with China, how do you plan to use that relationship to improve human rights and security in the region, and did you specifically raise the case of the Garratts during your talks?”

CTV 2016-06-01 Amanda Connolly
Amanda Connolly

After Dion answered, Wang was asked a question by Chinese state-run media CCTV news, a question that within it made accusations about foreign aggression toward China. Rather than answering, Wang attacked Connolly, through a translator, for asking about human rights.

“I have to say that your question is full of prejudice against China and arrogance where I have heard that come from and this is totally unacceptable. I have to ask whether you understand China. Have you been to China?” Wang said, then repeated familiar Communist Party of China defenses, becoming increasingly upset. He noted that Chinese law also incorporates civil rights, and ended with ,”I would like to ask you to please don’t ask questions in such an irresponsible manner and we welcome good will suggestions but we reject groundless or unwarranted accusations.”

Ryan Dunch, University of Alberta, China Institute, professor of history and classics said there is a lack of experts who understand the nuances of China. Canada has a knowledge gap that threatens to put Canada at a political and economic disadvantage, unable to protect its own interests when making deals with China.

Dunch said that Canadians need to be able to interpret what’s being said when the government of China scolds or says, ‘We’ve got human rights in our constitution.’ The same protections and legal process to ensure such rights are upheld in Canada do not exist in China, and many Canadians may not understand the difference.

Another example, Dunch said, is the Chinese government’s insistence that it is the definitive voice of every citizen, although China is a vast country with many different views and opinions. China’s current government claims, “an absolute and unlimited mandate to be the sole authoritative voice for the Chinese nation.”

“It’s important for Canadians and Canadian business to be able to develop an informed, critical perspective for understanding the statements coming from the Chinese government and the Chinese media,” Dunch said.

Charles Burton, Brock University, associate professor, notes that the Canadian government has said it intends to address concerns about human rights through trade and engagement, but does not seem to be contemplating any other actions to address human rights issues. Such a passive attitude toward Beijing and a poor understanding of it in the past is something Hong Kong is now coming to terms with. In the 1980s it was generally assumed that after China took over Hong Kong from the United Kingdom in 1997, the country would become more democratic.

Hong Kong residents, who had come to enjoy freedoms that mainland residents did not, were therefore fairly passive towards Beijing’s actions on human rights, expecting it to change. Instead, in 2014, Hong Kong saw massive street demonstrations following Beijing’s refusal to allow the region to hold completely open elections. China no longer talks about democracy as an ultimate political goal, instead referring to it as being a western ideal.

“That realization in Hong Kong I think is what is spawning the localism movement,” Burton said. “A conflict is happening because the expectations of Hong Kong people with regard to the mainland have not been fulfilled, and they were naive to think so.”

Burton said he is concerned about how Canada makes deals with China, noting that many Ottawa advisers don’t speak a Chinese language, let alone have an intimate understanding of the country. The federal government is too reliant on advice from big business more concerned with economic growth than human rights and other worries. “Any government in Canada doesn’t seem to have the sophistication to be able to engage in a China policy that satisfies both Canadians’ concern over human rights and security and our desire to grow our economy. The government just doesn’t understanding the importance of having the expertise necessary.”

“People now have a very determined attitude that our government has to represent Canadian values, and in our dealing with China we cannot compromise the things that make Canada great: our respect for human rights and rule of law,” Burton said.

A Nik Nanos poll shows 76 per cent of Canadians have a negative view of free trade with China.

Kai Nagata of the anti-pipeline group Dogwood Initiative said it’s been evident to him for some time that Canada’s politicians are willing to put Beijing’s concerns ahead of Canadians’. Dogwood Initiative wants Canadians to “stand up to China” over its demand for a pipeline and tanker port in British Columbia as a condition to start free trade talks.

He said China is dangling a free trade deal in front of the Liberal govenment and using it to get Canada to accept an “unusual amount of diplomatic abuse.” He said Ottawa’s timid response doesn’t give him hope the Liberal Government will stand up for Canadians’ concerns. “I wonder how much (China) cares about rights and title of First Nations on the west coast and how much they care about the rights of British Columbians who don’t want more oil tanker traffic through our communities.”

In January, 2016 David H Autor, David Dorn & Gordon H Hanson published The China Shock: Learning from Labor Market Adjustment to Large Changes in Trade.

China’s emergence as a great economic power has significantly changed patterns of world trade, and challenged thinking about how labor markets adjust to trade shocks. Autor et al are particularly concerned about the substantial adjustment costs and distributional consequences.

They write that these impacts are most visible in the local labor markets in which the industries exposed to foreign competition are concentrated. Here, adjustment is remarkably slow, with wages and labor-force participation rates remaining depressed (and unemployment rates remaining elevated) a full decade or more after the China trade shock started, usually regarded as 2000, the year China joined the World Trade Organization. Regions that have been hit hard, have not recovered. Workers in these industries and regions don’t go on to better jobs, or even similar jobs in different industries. Instead, they shuffle from low-paid job to low-paid job, never recovering the prosperity they had. Many end up on welfare. This is very different from earlier decades, when workers who lost their jobs to import competition usually went into higher-productivity industries, to the benefit of almost everyone.

Popular opinion seems to be exactly right about the effect of trade with China — it has killed jobs and damaged the lives of many, many Americans. Economist researchers have shown that public misgivings about free-trade reassurances have been completely justified.

Autor et al. sternly rebuke the economics profession for relying too much on theory, and not enough on evidence, when it comes to the mantra that free trade is good. Part of the problem is the definition of “good.” According to most models of trade, reducing trade barriers raises efficiency, increasing total gross domestic product. Unfortunately, efficiency says nothing about fairness. Almost any trade model shows that some people, industries and regions lose out.

If most people experience slight gains from lower import prices, and a few lose their livelihoods and have to go on welfare, economists call that a “good” outcome, because of  the focus on efficiency. The public has more important concerns, regional job losses rank higher than efficiency. This makes people regard economists as callous and out of touch.

Autor et al. see economists as (stubbornly) unwilling to question benchmark theories, even when evidence contradicts them. While total national employment declined in response to trade with China, standard trade models predict that this shouldn’t happen. The authors present evidence that real-world economies are worse at adjusting to big changes than their economic models assume. It is expensive and time-consuming for workers to retrain and relocate. It takes time and money for businesses to change their business models. Evidence shows these adjustment costs overwhelming trade gains.

Autor et al. concede their warning is too late for China. Its economy is slowing and its costs are rising rapidly. No new prospective trade partners will be able to replicate anything close to the China shock. In other words, the China free trade experience is unique.

What Autor et al seem to be saying is that the initial cheapness that free trade provided American and other consumers, will soon be over. Despite this, the harm caused by the shock continues.

Concrete Economics, by Stephen S Cohen & J Bradford DeLong was also published in 2016. They suggest that economists should spend more time studying history rather than ideology. One of the main points made by Cohen & DeLong is that the American economy has been repeatedly reshaped ever since Alexander Hamilton’s first, foundational redesign.

The authors remind readers how the economy actually grew and the major role played by government in redesigning and reinvigorating it. The government not only sets the ground rules for entrepreneurial activity, but invests directly and indirectly in infrastructure.

Beginning with the contrast between Thomas Jefferson’s attempt to continue an agrarian economy, and Alexander Hamilton’s determination to shape an industrial society, through the imposition of tariffs. This encouraged the birth of New England manufacturing at the dawn of the nineteenth century. This work also looks at other pragmatic changes (not all for the better) made over time. The second transformation examined was that from slave to free labour, in the aftermath of the American Civil War. This period also looked at the concept of homesteading, and providing free land, to encourage western settlement.

One of the most critical periods in world history, came with the depression of the 1930s. Franklin Roosevelt had to find solutions to a devastated economy. The New Deal was the name of this redesign. It was needed because austerity wasn’t working! In March 1933, one third of non-farm workers were unemployed. Half of home mortgages were in default. The stock market had lost 80% of its 1929 value, farm prices had collapsed, as had house building. Car production was at 25% of pre-depression levels, banks were defaulting on depositors. Even the rich and powerful were scared and powerless. FDR rewrote the rules.

Since then rules governing the economy have been rewritten several times, including during the post-world war II period during the reign of Eisenhower. It was yet again changed by Reagan, and his conservative successors. It is important to understanding how an economy has been redesigned in the past, to provide a blueprint for how it might again be redesigned and reinvigorated for today.

The point being made here is that it is possible to makeover an economy. Economics is not sacred. It can serve different masters, although currently the elite 1% appear to be the only ones fully served. It can be changed at any time.

Remember too, that there are other values that are more important than volatile economic principle of the month. Working conditions, health and environmental concerns take precedence in most people’s minds over cheapness and free trade. Fortunately, the important values can be accommodated into any and every economic system, if there is a will to do so.

Soon cheapness will no longer be an option, and an unpleasant future may await the former middle and working classes, if they continue to allow the elite to determine how the economy is run. If economic change is to occur, one has to ask one basic question. How do you want the economic system to serve you?







Soul & Landscape

Brigand Brewer continues his investigation of Cascadian poets, this time looking at the spiritual in the landscape. Most people referenced in the text are teachers or students taking Cascadia College’s Innovative Cascadian Poetry course.

Joseph Campbell’s, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, is a good starting place to understand the relationship between a poem and its landscape. Within the monomyth – poetic or otherwise – a  hero (m/f) undertakes a single supernatural and archetypal journey into the landscape; the landscape being home to innumerable heroes, and some unimaginable number of archetypal journeys.

Lew Welch
Lew Welch (1926-1971?)

With respect to Lew Welch’s poem, Wobbly Rock, I appreciated Joe Chiveney’s reference to Gunter Nitschke’s explanation that the garden of Ryōan-ji does not symbolize. Finally, we have an artifact representing the non-symbolic. The qualities incarnated include materiality, location, abstraction, multiplicity, composition and functionality. Like a fiery orator rousing a crowd to rebellion, this Zen temple garden at Kyoto incites the visitor to meditation.

Greg Bem questions the concept of value. I am tempted to reference Oscar Wilde’s “Lady Windemere’s Fan” where Darlington defines a cynic as ‘a man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.‘ Perhaps we are all cynics unable – in this material world – to appreciate the beautiful and orderly chaos that sustains our biological existence. Perhaps, a spiritual realm encountered after death will reveal a fuller meaning of the experiences that constitute a life.

Michelle Schaefer interprets “I have travelled, I have made a circuit….. When I was a boy” as an acknowledgement of the past as sacred. Then she goes on to add that every moment is sacred, as shown in  “and now all rocks are different and all the spaces in between. Which includes about everything. The instant after it’s made.”

I appreciated Brent Schaeffer’s classification of the poems being discussed.

Soudough Mountain Lookout

Philip Whalen
Philip Whalen (1923-2002)

Mengyu Li presents two of the key lines in Philip Whalen’s Sourdough Mountain Lookout:

BUDDHA: “All the constituents of being are
Transitory: Work out your salvation with diligence.””

The confluence between the passivity of meditating at the garden of Ryōan-ji and the world of restrained action at the Sourdough Mountain lookout is that everyone, in fact – every organic life form, is marching irrevocably, one day at a time, towards its ultimate death. Buddha suggests that our salvation, perhaps more understandably our status or situation after death, is dependent on our actions while we live. It will be too late to regret or to repent for our mistakes after we have left this organic world!

Carol Blackbird Edson notes that she experiences “a resonance of a changing consciousness” in the poems and commentaries selected. My understanding is that she regards the poems, despite their temporal and cultural limitations, as maps to explore the Cascadia bioregion, allowing the reader to enter into deeper relationships with primal nature found therein, and to gain a better understanding of themselves. I’m not quite sure how primal nature differs from other forms of nature, but that is one of my limitations.

Michelle Schaefer comments, “… our bodies are as sacred as our surroundings and they interact together.” I’d like to respond to this by bringing up the Baha’i concept that the essence of human identity is a rational and immortal soul, with the body being a temple temporarily housing the human spirit.

Brent Schaeffer adds to an understanding of the poem with, “Whalen’s exploration of ‘sacred’ is the folkloric/bildungsroman idea of returning to where you are, but seeing it different again for the first time. That only after touching the sacred can we see that our ‘mundane’ has always been sacred.”

Things to do …

Gary Snyder
Gary Snyder (1930- ) photo: Beth Nakamura, 2011

We have all had an opportunity to write our own “Things to do …” poem. One non-poetic of Gary Snyder’s poem is that it provides a template that anyone can follow. The real advantage of this form is that it allows a juxtaposition of events that break with chronology. Michelle Schaefer comments on the line, “Do pushups. Sew up jeans. Get divorced” I am not sure that I agree with her that these represent sacred moments, even if I do admit that they provide insight into human vulnerabilities.


In Wobbly Rock, Welch refers to the Pacific Ocean with the lines:

“I like playing that game
Standing on a high rock looking way out over it all:

“I think I’ll call it the Pacific”

Wind water
Wave rock
Sea sand

Thankfully, Welch makes no mention of the Atlantic, which is a foreign intrusion into Cascadia. In contrast, Whalen makes no mention of the Pacific, in Sourdough Mountain Lookout, but does mention the Atlantic, with these lines:

“Everything else they hauled across Atlantic
Scattered and lost in the buffalo plains
Among these trees and mountains “

Oceans are important in terms of our sense of identity. One can regard a continent in its uninhabited state as a succession of barriers, inhibiting movement. An ocean is a flat surface, encouraging movement. Admittedly, storms happen, and there is a need for some form of propulsion. Oceans connect people. The connections may be good (trade?) or bad (war), but mostly somewhere in between.

I have difficulty using the word Pacific in creative works. It invokes a feeling of alienation. Originating with Ferdinand Magellan, who first used it in 1520, finding calm waters after rounding Cape Horn in a storm.

Teresa Lea Schulze brings up the point that, “We are shaped by what is around us…. Humans may think they are unique, but we are connected to all around us. Poems and poetry strip away the ‘over word usage’ and uses the minimal amount to convey the largest picture…” One of the most effective ways we have of conveying the largest picture is to use names. Yet, the name Pacific is presenting a false image – peacefulness. Peaceful is not the essence of this vast ocean, as can be attested by countless sailors. Cascadians have managed to find an appropriate name for the Salish Sea. I hope they will also find an appropriate name for the Ocean that touches their shore.

Markers of Time

Mount Saint Helens
Louwala-Clough (Mount Saint Helens)

As seen in the poems studied this week, places are sacred or, at the very least, have a spiritual component. Just as places in the Cascadian bioregion function as markers of place, so too do events function of markers of time. As the world experienced on 18 May 1980, with the explosion of Louwala-Clough (Mount Saint Helens), Cascadia is an active participant in the Ring of Fire. This event was one of the most important regional time markers. A larger eruption 500 years earlier (1480) was another time marker.

I’d like to thank all of the people who posted before me. They have given many ideas to reflect on.


TISH – Vancouver’s poetry magazine 1961 – 1966

Cascadia logo

Brigand Brewer is undertaking a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) in Innovative Cascadian Poetry, at Cascadia College in Bothell, Washington – under the guidance of Jared Leising. Naturally, he is using a nom de plume in the course.

This week’s assignment was to discuss Vancouver’s TISH poetry magazine, which had its heyday in the early 1960s.

As always, one must begin with a sense of place, followed almost immediately with a sense of history. One of the challenges faced by TISH and other Cascadian poets (as well as other creative persons) is that San Francisco has been, is and probably always will be the capital not only of North and Central California, but also of Cascadia, despite the bioregion having three great cities of its own – Portland, Seattle and (this week’s subject) Vancouver. I am not quite sure what one can do about San Francisco’s cultural dominance, except to note that it extends further north than south, because of competition from Los Angeles. When one asks about poems/ artefacts and their connection with TISH aesthetics, it strikes me that it is resonating with greater San Francisco. Yet, the original source of inspiration to TISH was undoubtedly Black Mountain College. Its closure in 1957, and the movement of many of its most influential poets to San Francisco, reinforced San Francisco’s status.

Why couldn’t poets at the University of British Columbia find their aesthetic inspiration from Canadian sources? As I write this I am trying to find my own inspiration from a watercolour in my living room, painted in 1909. It is of someone in a dugout canoe, a deserted beach and the mouth of the Capilano River between North and West Vancouver, with the Lions (mountains) in the background. What did those early settlers seek in a wilderness? It has always been easier to travel north and south, both inside and outside of British Columbia than eastwards. British Columbia only joined Canada because of the promise of a railway, and in many ways, its attachment to eastern Canada was originally only as thick as the railway line, and some nonsense about The Empire. It is thicker now because of several highways leading into Alberta, but the thickness measures in meters, rather than hundreds of kilometers. The empire is dead, and its replacement, the commonwealth, is dying. My maternal grandfather from northeast England knew he wanted to immigrate to Cascadia, although I am also sure he never knew its proper name. In 1910, he endured a sea journey from Liverpool, followed by a rail journey from Montreal. Arriving in the Promised Land, he flipped a coin to decide if he should stay in Vancouver or travel onward to Seattle.

As noted in the Canadian Encyclopedia’s article on TISH, “Most controversial among TISH poetics was the conviction that poets can co-author their poems with the local physical and cultural environments in which they write, as well as with the language itself, and must be alert to explore such interactions. In this they were working from both New England poet Charles Olson’s influential essay, “Projective Verse,” and its suggestion that place and history offer cultural fields of force which can energize one’s writing with “secrets objects share,” and Robert Duncan’s belief that the images, rhythms and sounds of one’s own lines can point the way to unanticipated subsequent lines and subject matter.”

I try to enter the mindscape of the original TISH poets about 1960, fifty-six years ago. Help comes from the Chuck Davis History of Metropolitan Vancouver, as well as online resources.

British Columbia has not always been a cultural mecca. It’s economic history has always been focused on resource extraction. First, fur trapping, then the Fraser goldfields, followed by more mining, including coal on Vancouver Island, and more valuable minerals in the Slocan Valley. There are rich soils for farming in the Fraser Valley, and less fertile land suitable for ranching in the interior. Irrigation has allowed fruit farming in the Okanogan Valley. The sea permitted harvesting of vast fisheries resources. Forests have also been major resources to exploit.

From its first settlement to at least the 1950s, British Columbia was racist. The Canadian Pacific Railway used Chinese labour, but Canada imposed a head tax on Chinese immigrants in 1885. Sikhs faced extreme difficulties in exercising their rights as British Subjects, most famously in the Komagata Maru incident of 1914. Internment and restrictions were placed on 20 881 Japanese Canadians from 1942 to 1949.

Yet, it has also been a home for the religiously oppressed. Between 1908 and 1912, about 8 000 Doukhobors moved to the British Columbia interior. They were pacifists, living communally, with little regard for materialism or education. In 1953, children of Sons of Freedom Doukhobors were forcibly interned in the same New Denver residential school that previously served Japanese internees. The Sons of Freedom retaliated with arson, and nude protest marches. At Argenta, a Quaker meeting was established in the 1950s by three families who had been school teachers in California. They refused to swear an oath of loyalty to the United States, and lost their jobs then moved to Canada.

In 1958 British Columbia celebrated its Centenary of the mainland colony of British Columbia. Century Sam reinforced a mining heritage. This was also a time when the transportation infrastructure began to expand, with the Trans-Canada and Hope-Princeton highways opening up the interior, and British Columbia Ferries improving connections between the mainland and Vancouver Island. Notorious Ripple Rock was blown up in the largest non-nuclear explosion to that time. Located near Campbell River, it had sunk more than 100 ships and taken more than 100 lives.

After the depression of 1929 and throughout much of the 1930s, modern life was kickstarted with the return of veterans from World War II. Time to conceive the boomers. But to begin with those modern times had their challenges. Housing, then as now, was a scarcity.

Personally, I regard the start of Cascadia’s modern era with the opening of Seattle World’s Fair in 1962. In particular, I remember taking the high speed elevators in the Space Needle, as well as travelling on the Alweg monorail. Then, there was some house of tomorrow, with its electronic wizardry. During this period most North Americans were caught up in the Space Race, and the cold war. By October, Modernity had descended into fear. With the Cuban Missile Crisis, and America’s nuclear Naval Submarine Base Bangor, housing a fleet of nuclear submarines. There were real fears that we would end up like the citizens of Hiroshima in a holocaust of radiation sickness outside a bomb shelter, or dying of starvation inside. With the assassination of president Kennedy in 1963, the modern age came to an end, after 580 days.

To end this summary of the TISH timeline, I will conclude with some approximate dates for the start of my own personal Post Modern era. The Vietnam War caused enduring pain. As Canadians, we were not directly involved with it. Indirectly, we befriended draft dodgers and deserters. In 1964, LSD came to the attention of the world. A child had eaten a sugar cube containing this unknown substance. We were curious and our chemistry teacher spent one hour giving us detailed information about it. A kilometer away from my house, at the Hollywood Hospital in New Westminster, “Acid” Al (Cappy) Hubbard, was becoming the Johnny Appleseed of LSD. Read all about it.

What do the artefacts reveal? Beginning with the TISH editorial, one can immediately see that this is no Century 21 journal. Nor does it retreat to the delicate world of William Morris’ Arts and Crafts Movement. Instead, one descends into a mimeograph underground. One wonders if the editors would have preferred to write disposable poems, printed on toilet paper, if it was technically possible. They confess to an obsession with sound, which doesn’t always come through on the videos of Marlatt, Bowering and Wah.

Acknowledging a liking for puns, one wonders what sort of movement the editors share with other people? The term bowel, comes to mind, and is reinforced with “coins dropped in its slot” and “TISH will be always on the bum.”

Arendt Oak Speser wrote one of the discussion postings that awakened interest: “I’m always struck with the difference between poets that listen and those that don’t. And sometimes good poets stop listening; I tend not to like the poems that come after that.” I wondered if he was trying to convey something similar to Greg Bem: “… none of the video recordings really resonated with me, …” then continues in another posting a quotation from Richardson dismissing Canada as an entity for poetic composition. Perhaps that is the ultimate fate of TISH. It fails to resonate with its intended audience.

Unlike Joe Chiveney, I never felt that Cascadia with its densest green, was a place to escape to. Even short distances take time, when mountain passes determine every east-west route. I am more inclined to agree with him that authenticity is important. However, I expected him to add that people lacking real authenticity, should at least try to project fake authenticity. I am not certain that everyone has the capability of being truly authentic. Rather, they purchase the latest iPhones and Teslas, and pretend that consumption is living. Perhaps I am being too, critical. I am forgetting Joe’s advice that people “who live in wood houses should not be throwing matches”.

If I comment on Teresa Lea Schulze, I have to agree with her that traditional poems, Blake as an example in my case, take me to a harmonious realm, where I feel secure. I am not sure that I like the world TISH inhabits. I am not sure that I am capable of using the vocabulary they use. At the same time, I am not certain that TISH are true revolutionaries. Brendan McBreen’s reference to Matsuo Bashō was most appropriate, in stressing that poets are not followers, but seekers.

I would like to thank Carol Blackbird Edison for pointing out Daphne Marlett’s use of water as a unifying Cascadian force, and her vision of the rainstorm as a drumming call. I also agree with her that a sense of “soul” was something that was lacking during the early TISH period. However, I am uncertain if the TISH poets provided any of the impetus that encouraged many to seek alternative spiritual understandings. I am not sure that they were leaders promoting an understanding of First Nation cultures, or that they were instrumental in encouraging feminism, or reducing the rampant racism of the time. Regardless, I am very happy that we are celebrating ethnic diversity.

Perhaps the most revealing note I have read this week comes from a Wikipedia article about Jamie Reid.   Some time around 1969 Reid “joined the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist) and stopped writing for 25 years in favour of political activism “because [he] didn’t have a way of working the language of politics into the language of poetry.” Relevance in a time of austerity is possibly the challenge poets face in our current age, and think particularly of the works of Thomas Piketty, “Capitalism in the Twenty-First Century” and Robert J Gordon, “The Rise and Fall of American Growth” and their concern for growing inequality, and the massive wealth extraction undertaken mercilessly by the elite.