Canada In the Line of Fire? How Will The U.S. Election Outcome Affect Our Sovereign Nation?

“For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbors and laugh at them in our turn?” In the words of 18th century novelist Jane Austen, comes the thrust behind Canadian and U.S. relations.  Joining the popular crowds of the Western world, Canada takes aim at the theatrical display of 21rst century gladiatorial campaigning that is American politics.  While the U.S. election crusades continues to draw audience like a dark satirical comedy, Canadians watch on, mesmerized by the sucker-punch politics, the heavy-handed propaganda campaigns, and the skyrocketing expenditures that plague Uncle Sam.  It is perfect fodder for Canadian censure, and albeit Canadian phlegmatic resolve, despite the secret desire to import some of that U.S. political drama to our own political monotony.  And while American dollars continue to pour over the presidential elections from the drains of its dripping economy, Canadians continue to point a sanctimonious finger, veiled by the ‘sucker-to-saint effect’ by which we do not suffer fools gladly.  But whether envy or hubris, the irony lies in the fact that the joke is really on us.  No matter how ridiculous the U.S. political scene may seem at times, there is nothing laughable about the militate affect its thereafter has on our own.

So just how will the US election results affect Canada? Well first let’s have a look at the policies and positions of our current conservative Harper government and cross compare those with both the democratic and republican agendas.  Despite Canada’s sometimes-haughty opinion over its neighbor, Canadians must understand the interdependent nature of Canada’s relationship with the United States, (in which case, burning down our neighbor’s house will only make ours look worse!) To put it into perspective, no other economy comes close to the American weight in our trade flows, with more than 70 per cent of our exports bound for the U.S. market.  And it doesn’t stop there.  So just what is on the table?  Both parties have distinctive approaches when it comes to mitigating America’s national debt and high unemployment rates.  Obama’s tactic is simple: cut military expenditure and put a greater tax burden on the country’s biggest businesses and wealthiest citizens. Romney’s plan on the other hand, mirrors more closely the Canadian program, which emphasizes tax cuts for big business in an attempt to boost job creation and investment.  So while the U.S. economy directly impacts the performance and growth plans of a substantial number of Canadian businesses, both plans therefore have far-reaching ramifications for Canada.  Slashing the U.S. corporate tax rate will directly affect Canada’s ability to attract foreign investment and further republican cuts to government funding could likewise result in less work for Canadian companies that have benefited from American government contracts in recent years.  However the democrat’s plan to maintain government spending and re-invest in infrastructure may mean more opportunities for Canadian companies.

While energy and environment issues continue to plague our politicians, the big headline thundering across Canadian media of late has been the debate over the Keystone XL pipeline, the outcome of which will be reflected by the outcome of the U.S. election. A means of weaning U.S. dependency on foreign oil by carrying Alberta crude more than 2500 kilometers south to refineries along the Gulf of Mexico, the jury is still out.  And while both Obama and Romney may in fact approve the pipeline proposal, they each have very different views on securing U.S. energy, decisions that influence Canada’s own energy industry.  With the copycat Harper government imitating U.S. environmental policies, a more environmentally relaxed republican administration may mean less emission-reduction targets for Canada in the coming years.  Likewise the fate of the U.S. healthcare system, which has notoriously been at the epicenter of much global criticism and controversy over the years, (albeit something to really laugh about), will also perturb the Canadian medical sector.  Commonly known by the colloquial moniker Obamacare, The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is expected to result in 32 million more Americans having access to health care, which will in turn, result in a shortage of 63,000 doctors by 2015.  This will inadvertently see a southward flow of Canadian doctors and nurses that will pull at the fibers of our own distressed healthcare system.

Amidst the political fray, let us not forget the figureheads behind these campaigns. Over the years, we have seen Stephen Harper construct a good working relationship with President Obama, however critics are quick to point out the similarities between the two conservative mouthpieces, which may result in a much closer relationship between Canada and the United States.  And while Obama’s wariness over free trade has helped Harper drive home his free-trade agenda to maintain a competitive advantage over the European and Indian markets, a Romney presidency may see a renewed commitment to fast-tracking talks and concluding agreements, resulting in a more competitive trade environment for Canada.

In conclusion, our schadenfreude, or moral triumph over the U.S. economic decline, and our holier-than-thou humor over American political outplay is ultimately misplaced.  Whether we like it or not, Canada can no longer consider itself partisan or independently thinking from its southern neighbor, especially while we share clothes and bank accounts.  In the end, whether Mitt Romney or Barack Obama resume the presidency, Canada can be certain, the outcome either way will be incumbent upon Canada’s geopolitical, economical, environmental and social landscapes.

-Elizabeth Cucnik





Can Halloween Survive 21st Century Cynicism?


Halloween may well be an outdated brand of the past, and yet All Hallows Eve continues to captivate the hearts and minds of generations young and old.  A transcendental knickknack handed down from a bygone era of supreme superstition, Halloween reminds us that no matter how sensible and adult-like we’ve become; there lurks a creeping subconscious awaiting its chance to wreak havoc on our imagination.  Despite the fun and fancy aspect of Halloween, many parents today view the whole ghost-ghoul-goblin spectacle rather cynically, considering its ideology unfit for our children and its customary practices ultimately unsafe.

Childhood fear by way of imagination and storytelling is not a new thing.  In fact, for centuries, mythologies and folklore were created to scare children into complacency during a time when discipline relied on fear.  Instead of calming and soothing children, fairytales and folklore were used as tools to teach children, albeit at a very young age, the harsher realities of life through metaphorical anthologies.  The Brothers Grimm, for example, introduced their collection of ghoulish, eerie “children’s stories” in 1812, believing the tales were of significant value as they labored to reflect the intrinsic cultural qualities of their time.  Purposefully written in a didactic fashion, stories such as Hansel and Gretel and Little Red Riding Hood were cautionary tales and warnings for young children rather than comforting and happy make-believe.

In retrospect, our 21rst century bias may feel a sense of triumph over our ‘provincial’ Brother’s-Grimm-past.  And yet all the components that mark our history – violence, war and destruction, disconnect and disillusionment, continue to plague modern day society.  In many ways, while culture has indeed undergone drastic changes, humanity remains very much the same throughout the course of human history.  We have simply traded fairytales for video games and storybooks for iPods and TV, but these newer, fresher renditions of the past, are simply wolves in sheep’s clothing.  So the question remains: What is the relevancy of Halloween in the 21rst century, and should we be concerned over its message and its safety?

Today’s Halloween customs are the amalgamation of an epigenetic inheritance passed down by immigrant families who arrived in North America from the British Isles during the 1800s.  Like many Western traditional celebrations, Halloween takes root in both pagan and Christian ideologies.  Historically, on All Souls Day, impoverished people and children solicited door-to-door, singing and praying for those souls trapped in purgatory in return for food and cakes.   Likewise, customs surrounding the festivals of Samhain throughout the British Isles saw local townspeople wearing guises and costumes to ward-off harmful spirits, while petitioning door-to-door for fuel for bonfires, and food for feasts and spirit offerings. The modern-day notion of dressing-up for Halloween, did not however become commonplace until the late 19th century, when British children disguised in costumes, would parade throughout the neighborhood carrying lanterns made from hollowed turnips.  By 1911, this practice had migrated to the New World along with the influx of British immigrants and by 1952, the custom was widespread in North American popular culture.

Despite Halloween being a very historical and long-lived tradition, the last few decades have bared witness to its change and perhaps its ultimate demise.  Long gone are the days of the five and dime, homespun costumes, treat-bag pillowcases, and groups of unaccompanied children of all ages, (usually chaperoning a younger sibling or two).  Trick-or-treating is becoming something of the past, while kids no longer reach for candied apples, popcorn balls, taffy bites, tootsie rolls and homemade treats.  Welcoming neighbors with hot apple cider and warm cookies are but a wistful image of a time departed, while neighbourhoods, once a child’s sanctuary, are now unlit suspicious streets.  Yes, the very idea of Halloween seems as outdated as the Grimm’s fairytales and their politically incorrect classic Disney counterparts.  So what happened to Halloween?

Undoubtedly tremendous change in both the makeup of our population and how we live our lives has reshaped the social and political landscapes of our civilization – stretching, pulling and retracting the very fibers of society.  While 100 years ago most people lived in rural areas alongside several families, today, we see the majority of our population in metropolitan centers, with households of no more than one or two people.  Along with the drastic population growth, developments in both the private and business sectors, together with the ‘Technological Revolution,’ has ushered in the dawn of a new age.  Over-crowding, competition, redefined family structures, immigration, globalization and social media are some of the many things that has made our world a much smaller place, and a much bigger threat.  Having replaced communal strategy for individualistic thought-think, we are seeing an insurgence of isolationism, distrust, suspicion and tenacity, the many pitfalls of our modern, fight-or-flight society.   Given these changes of the social mechanism, it does not come as a surprise that Halloween and other traditional holidays and festivals, have come under much scrutiny and controversy in recent years.  We have arrived at the event horizon.   Cities now offer alternatives to the traditional door-to-door trick-or-treating, by providing gatherings and festivals at churches, community centers, and neighborhood malls, while in some cases, trick-or-treating has been banned altogether.  Hospitals continue to offer X-rays for Halloween candy, and health officials resume their campaign for germ-free in the name of prevention, while those Children who do choose to brave the streets, are shadowed by a studying parental presence.  It is a fact: gone are the days of laissez-faire Halloween-ing. But it’s not the homemade costumes that we miss, or the candied apples, or the story telling or the worn-out pillowcases and Ouija boards.  What we truly yearn for is a return to the nostalgia of historical society – to the authenticity of family and community, to the simplified lifestyle of DIY without the busybodies of Wikipedia and YouTube.  We covet earthly connection, to our food source, to our friends and family, away from the Big Brother watchdogs of cyber world’s final frontier.  Halloween may indeed be out of favor, but our politicians and corporate heads are still churning the pot, chanting: “double, double, toil and trouble; fire burn and cauldron bubble!”

Even though street safety and in some cases, safe costume-wearing and costume-handling, is just as prevalent a threat now as it was 50 years ago, we must reconsider the meaning of Halloween in the 21rst century.  Pumpkin patches, pumpkin carving and pie making, pumpkin seed roasting and jack-o-lantern flickering, bobbing for apples and fireside stories, dress up and make-believe, decorations and corn mazes… castles of leaves, parties and hay rides, friends and family and treats!  The value of Halloween is in the gatherings and get-togethers, the laughter and fun, the sharing, the caring.  And whether you choose to trick-or-treat, or buy your costume or make your own out of bed linens and tablecloths, this Hallows Eve is all about the little toasts of the season.  After all, that’s what life’s about, right?  All the little things. So eat, drink and be scary!

-Elizabeth Cucnik




So What’s This About October 24th…?

October 24 is United Nations Day, a day that is meant to celebrate the achievement and ongoing success of the United Nations.  This year’s celebrated theme echoes Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s most recent statement: “Let us unite, seven billion strong, in the name of the global common good.”  Yet one can’t help but wonder, what is the “global common good” and how does an organization like the United Nations help to unite our seven billion strong?  What does the United Nations actually do? 

Well, just like its name, the United Nations is in fact, a union between nations worldwide.  An international organization whose stated purpose is to facilitate cooperation in international law, international security, social progress, economic development, human rights, and achievement of world peace, the UN acts as a global governing advisory assembly.  The six principal organs of the United Nations are the General Assembly, the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council, the Secretariat, the International Court of Justice and the United Nations Trusteeship Council (which is currently inactive). Other prolific UN System agencies include the World Food Programme (WFP), the World Health Organization (WHO), and United Nations Children’s Fund  (UNICEF).  Each branch of the organization labors to implement its missions.  For example, the Security Council is charged with upholding peace and security worldwide by facilitating binding decisions that member states must adhere to under the terms of the Charter.  Although the Security Council is made up of 15 member states, only 5 are in fact permanent.  These include China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States.  The International Criminal Court on the other hand, is charged with trying those who commit the most serious crimes under international law, such as war crimes, genocide, crimes against humanity and the crime of aggression.  The Economic and Social Council however, assists in promoting international economic and social cooperation and development, and whose chief finance ministers also head central committees like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.  Financed solely from assessed and voluntary contribution from its member states, the United Nations remains a global cooperative, seemingly forged from the needs of humanity.

Now it may seem that a political liaison among the world’s super powers and their allies is either counterintuitive or rather avant-garde, and yet, the UN is not the beacon of our postmodern era.  In fact, the United Nations was founded in 1945 following the Second World War, a historical concept born about by historical events.  A replacement for the League of Nations, the UN was initially designed to be both a global goodwill ambassador, and an intergovernmental policing platform, to stop armed war between countries and provide an arena for open debate and discussion.  Since it’s beginning, membership has significantly grown to presently include 193 member states, with the joining of South Sudan in 2011.  Today, the UN is more commonly known for its peacekeeping initiatives.  While the UN does not maintain it’s own military, peacekeeping forces are therefore voluntarily provided by its member states.  Commonly referred to as the “Blue Helmets,” the UN’s peacekeeping force is recognized worldwide by the UN’s renowned blue and white insignia, and boasts many accolades to boot, including the Nobel Peace Prize in 1988.

So, one might ask, what is the relevance of an organization like the UN, if conflict between countries persists?  One might also consider the moral caboose of the UN – whether or not a central governing body should in fact be responsible for the well being of individual states. Despite the apparent successes of the UN, criticism and conflict continue to plague the organization for its perceived failures.  Many argue that due to the UN’s intergovernmental nature, member states demonstrate reluctance to achieve or enforce Security Council resolutions, and that disagreements in the Security Council about military action have failed to prevent many of the atrocities of the 20th century, including the Cold War, the Rwandan Genocide, the Second Congo War, starvation in Somalia, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the continuing conflict in Darfur.  In addition to these professed shortcomings, critics have also accused the UN peacekeeping force of sexual crimes starting in 2003, in the Congo, Haiti, Liberia, Sudan, Burundi and Cote d’Ivoire.

Apart from controversy over the UN’s actions, the very structure of the United Nations has been called into question.  Critics challenge the democratic nature of the UN, stating it serves only the interests of the governments of the nations who form it, rather than the individuals within those nations.  Other concerns are aimed directly at the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.  Some contemporaries are quick to criticize their veto power, while others point out their heavy investment in arms exportation and exclusive rights to nuclear power.  In this respect, the UNSC is viewed as a platform for the strategic interests and political motives of its permanent members.  Critics argue that examples can be taken from the UN’s protection over the oil-rich Kuwaitis in 1991 and its dithering with the resource-poor Rwandans in 1994, as well as its quick military action through NATO against Libya in 2011, but its present-day indecision over whether to take military action against Syria.

Whether or not one agrees with the political or moral aspects of the United Nations, or whether one even agrees with its relevancy to date, the United Nations is inarguably still a vital force for globalization, which sees the cooperation of many different states, societies, cultures and histories under the incentive of world peace.  Too good to be true?  Perhaps.  But where it fails, it may also succeed, and while the world is becoming smaller through mico and macro technologies, organizations like the UN seem to be where our future is headed.  So all hail on October 24!

-Elizabeth Cucnik






TEDx At The Penticton Lakeside Resort, October 27!

TEDx At The Penticton Lakeside ResortThis month the most talked about event of the year is happening right here at the Penticton Lakeside Resort, Saturday October 27th!  TEDx is more than just an event; it is a movement. Based on the incentive of global integration, TEDx strives to integrate local community within a global perspective from which the world is constantly evolving.  This year’s theme, Where Do We Go From Here, echoes the reality of change whereby we are constantly on the precipice.   TEDxPenticton is indeed a movement based on creation and change in real time, a revolution that we are all inherently apart of.

A nonprofit initiative, born from the TED enterprise, (Technology, Entertainment, Design) and fashioned by the spirit of its mission: Ideas Worth Spreading.  The scope of TED has exponentially grown since its beginnings in 1984, reaching communities all around the world with TEDGlobal, the award-winning TEDtalks video site, the Open Translation Project and the inspiring TED Fellows and TEDx programs.  The TED initiative continues to attract millions of subscribers worldwide, partaking in free, accessible knowledge lead by the world’s leading, front-line thinkers and doers.  Past TED speakers have included Bill Gates, Al Gore, Jane Goodall, Elizabeth Gilbert, Sir Richard Branson, Nandan Nilekani, Philippe Starck, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Isabel Allende and UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown.  Over the years the TED initiative has helped to create an international platform from which positive change in people and their societies is made real.  In this sense, the movement of TED is quite literally the movement of humanity. TEDx photo

In an effort to convert the dialogue of modern day into a comprehensive thought-think, TEDxPenticton draws upon the communities of the South Okanagan, to share in a TED-like know-how, by engaging societal and individual appreciations on all levels.  This year, an inspiring program orchestrated by world-class speakers and stirring musical performances touching on a wide-range of subjects, will leave you wanting more.  Streaming live from the Penticton Lakeside Resort, TEDxPenitcton 2012 will be made accessible to the world through the renowned TEDx website, a ground-breaking affair you won’t want to miss!  Following the event, an exclusive dinner at the Bufflehead Pasta and Tapas Room, hosted by Executive chef, Chris Remington, will feature a set menu of mixed greens, a choice of salmon, chicken parmigiana, or an 8oz New York steak, served with seasonal vegetables and potatoes with a tiramisu dessert for only $25++.  Seating is limited at both events, so to reserve your table today, go to or call 250-493-9768, and to book your TEDxPenticton experience and for information, please visit:

– Elizabeth Cucnik





Preserving The Season…

Living as we do in rural bliss near an abundant harvest, Penticton-ites have the luxury of indulging in the delights of farmer’s markets, fall fairs, and field-to-table produce. The earthly labor of love that yields all this natural, whole, unprocessed food compels us to put every last tomato and apple to good use.  Indeed the terra firma of humanity is our intrinsic connection to the earth and its soils, nostalgia if you will, that compounds the harvest season and fills us with an indiscriminate sense of plentiful contentment. Heralded as a fall tradition, the once vital historical understanding of food preservation, (which facilitated our survival through the dearth of winter), has bestowed upon us a diverse culinary repertoire of jams, jellies, pickles, chutneys, smoking, salting, drying, canning or bottling.  While food preservation is no longer necessary for subsistence, it nevertheless remains imperative to the conjoint nature of our relationship with the natural world, as well as our role within the food web. So why not exploit this cornucopia of historic medleys this autumn, to revisit the roots of food conception and explore a myriad of sensational flavours, tastes and smells?

Food preservation has long been used as the process of treating and handling food to halt or slow down food spoilage, edibility, and loss of quality and nutritional value.  There are several methods of food preservation, each of which helps to preserve and store the food in different ways.  Many vegetables for instance, keep well frozen, retaining nutrients as well as texture, flavor and color.  Canning is a superior method for preserving fruits and vegetables with high water content, such as mushrooms, tomatoes, beans and peaches.  The most ancient food preservation technique however is drying or dehydration and often goes hand-in-hand with fermentation and smoking, as well as the burying of food in the earth’s soil.  Pickling fruits and veggies such as peppers, cauliflower, onions, beetroot, fish, apples and pears, make excellent relishes and sauces.  They also lend themselves well to jelly, jam, chutney, and ketchup, like apple thyme jelly, fresh fig preserves or pear and butternut squash preserve.

Recipes for culinary fall favorites characteristically involve some type of food preservation technique, be it canning, pickling, drying or smoking.  Now is the perfect time to take full advantage of the abundant harvest from our local farmers.  Simple or decadent applesauce recipes can be made sweetened or unsweetened, chunky or smooth, dried apple chips are the perfect healthy grab-it-and-go snack, apple pie, apple cider, and with nothing going to waste, leftover apple cores and peels can be used to make homemade apple pectin for jams, jellies and marmalade.  Freezing our tomatoes is a surefire way to create the most flavorful pasta; pizza sauces and soups, while freezing leafy greens and herbs make for excellent dips, casseroles, soups, stews, smoothies and sauces.   By taking full advantage of the widely prolific summer squash for instance, one can enjoy a plentiful supply of breads, muffins, soups and purées.

Contrary to popular belief, capitalizing on the abundance of fall does not require much added effort, and the benefits of conserving nutrient-rich bounty are outstanding.  With each new harvest season comes new options and possibilities in which we can branch out and expand our culinary repertoire. Preserving our food cannot only free up time in the busy season, but also allows for the enjoyment of a diverse menu throughout the winter months.  The food revolution of today proclaims a newfound independence from the corporate food industry along with greater insight and knowledge of our foodstuff.   Food preservation crafts the pulse of the season and gives back to ourselves the love of real food, not only rooted in our history, but from our history, our future.

-Elizabeth Cucnik







A Little Taste of Tuscany…

Get ready to partake in a true feast for the senses, as the changing seasons usher in a new rhythm of cultural exposé to toast an array of fall occasions in the South Okanagan!  The renowned Downtown Community Market, every Saturday morning on 100-block Main Street, continues to hallmark the season’s calendar, as well as the Parrot Summer Nights, heralding live music every weekend on the Barking Parrot patio.  A colorful selection of fast-approaching culture, entertainment, food and wine events, will show off the best the South Okanagan has to offer in the coming weeks.  With events to stir the senses and sensationalize the seasonal experience, you can easily dive into the roster of fun-filled, dynamic, culturally driven ventures.  Come check out the fast pace action of the 12th annual Penticton Dragon Boat Festival, or get your funk on during the Penticton Jazz Festival, a three-day music spectacular.  Become a bohemian for the day at the ReImagine Art Festival, an artistic revolution of sorts that will see local artists take to the streets in a celebration of innovation and creativity.  And, of course, if your glutton for a little bit of countrified worldliness, to quench that insatiable appetite for fine wines and delectable foods, the Festival of the Grape will surely please your palate, followed by Oktoberfest, (great beers, great food and tons of fun – need we say more?) and of course, the celebrated Okanagan Fall Wine Festival, (assured to unravel you in a wash of cultural extravagance).

As the heat of the summer slowly fades into a new kind of nostalgic warmth, we turn our attention to the changing colors, the ripening grapes and the season’s harvest. In keeping with the fall’s food and wine agenda, The Penticton Lakeside Resort will play host to an exclusive alfresco dining experience this month, with “Taste of Tuscany,” happening this September 28th.  Featuring Executive Chef, Chris Remington, of the Bufflehead Pasta and Tapas Room, indulge in exquisite culinary creations paired by the best BC vintages amongst the sweeping panorama of Lake Okanagan and the breathtaking beauty of the valley.  Taste of Tuscany is truly the penultimate dining experience, exemplifying the spirit of Italy with real Canadian conviction.  A locally inspired five-course menu featuring organic produce direct from Valley View Farm, along with live entertainment will enrapture and enthuse.  Limited space is available, so book early. You can call to make reservations at: 250-493-8221.

This season take in all the valley has to offer, and indulge yourself in the valley’s authentic local culture and harvest celebrations!

-Elizabeth Cucnik




Subaru Ironman Canada This Sunday!

This Sunday, August 26th, all eyes turn to Penticton, as the Sports world bows its gracious head to Subaru Ironman Canada, one of the most grueling and yet awe-inspiring events in the world of sport.  Ironman triathlon features a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike and a complete marathon (26.2 miles) all in succession without break. Athletes have 17 hours to complete the event (from the 7 a.m. start until midnight).  Penticton’s Subaru Ironman Canada is the oldest Ironman race hosted on the North American continent and will see its 30th anniversary this year as it continues to be revered as one of the best Ironman events attested by its history and model course.  With a population of only 30,000, Penticton’s community contributes over 4500 volunteers, nick-named the “Iron Army,” and is generally upheld as one of the most athlete-friendly cities.  This year more than 2800 athletes will compete in the 30th annual triathlon.  The large field includes athletes from each of the Canadian provinces, 44 U.S. states and more than 25 countries.

Like many great things, Ironman triathlon owes much of its greatness to the humblest of beginnings.  In the late 1970s, a group of Navy Seals stationed in Hawai’i, argued the moot point of archetype athleticism, debating whether cycling, running or biking produced the best athletes in the world.  Unable to concede, Navy commander John Collins suggested they put their theories to the test, by hosting a race that would combine all three sporting activities in succession.  Hence, on February 18th, 1978, 15 competitors decided to put themselves to the test by swimming 2.4 miles, biking 112 miles and running 26.2 miles.   Collins was quoted saying, “Whoever finishes first will be called the Ironman,” and thus, the Ironman Triathlon was born.  Of the 15 men to start off in the early morning on February 18, only twelve completed the race.  With no further marketing efforts, the race gathered as many as 50 athletes the following year, seeing its first female athlete, Lyn Lemaire, a championship cyclist from Boston, place sixth overall to become the first “Ironwoman.”   Following a ten-page article in Sports Illustrated, hundreds of curious participants contacted Collins about signing up for the next year’s race… and it has continued to grow in world renown ever since.

Interestingly, of all the athletes to have competed in 2011 Suburu Ironman Canada, 70% were men and only 29.9% were female.  Although the numbers of female athletes are growing, men generally dominate the sport.  Surprisingly, the oldest women to compete in the 2011 Subaru Ironman Canada was Madonna Buder at 81 years of age, while the youngest was Ciena Calavitta, 21 years of age, both of whom were from the United States.  While the top professional athletes exalt finishing times above and beyond what seems humanly possible, the female professional athlete’s finishing times fall short of their male counterparts by a mere half an hour.   However, the women of the Ironman Triathlon have inspired some of the most enduring and memorable races throughout the event’s history.  For example, in 1982, Julie Moss, a then college student competing to gather research for her exercise physiology thesis, collapsed just yards from the finish line after being the first-place hopeful.  Despite Kathleen McCartney passing her to take the women’s title, Moss nevertheless crawled to the finish line, a performance that was broadcast worldwide and created the Ironman mantra that just finishing is a victory.

Today thousands of athletes worldwide compete at an Ironman event each year, the vast majority aim simply to just finish the course, or set a personal record if they’ve raced this distance before. People completing the event within the strict timeline, are thus recognized as “Ironmen” or “Ironwomen.”   Apart from the Ironman mantra, many professional and amateur athletes alike compete around the world at Ironman Triathlon races to qualify for the annual Ironman World Championships.   Although much has changed since the event’s humble beginnings with Navy commander John Collins and his group of sporting enthusiasts, the Ironman format remains constant, and with 28 full-distance races worldwide and more than 25,000 athletes, the franchise and brand has truly become a worldwide phenomenon.



The Greater Our Sociability, The Greater Our Social Alienation


While summer moves to press upon us a deeper experience of summertime as we near the peak of its season, we find ourselves teetering two ends of a social spectrum.  One such end embraces the en mass ethos of summertime crowds, and the communal energy of public forums; the other finds reproach and social martyrdom by private retreat.   It seems whichever end of the spectrum one familiarizes with has more to do with personality and character disposition than anything else.  Or does it?  While society at large has generally become more obnoxious and overbearing, more laissez-faire and consequently, more pervasive, we are beginning to see recoil of nonconforming minorities.    All this begs the question: What are the unspoken social rules that govern our public campsites, beaches, restaurants, public transport, museums, plazas, and so forth?  Who polices our behaviors beyond the bubble land of “good parenting”?

The range of social etiquettes has always been dictated and policed by society at large, which in itself, is reflected by the present day culture.  Society and culture, in turn, are arguably ordained by social and political contract, (a general understanding between peoples about how they want and choose to live).  Like all things, social etiquettes are changing with the times to accommodate a wider range of acceptable behaviors, and with cruel irony, they flip the rules of yesteryear on its head to embrace a sort of, anarchistic, all-access, social neoliberalism.    America is partly to blame.  Reality TV is partly to blame.  Capitalism is partly to blame.  Social media, digital technologies, globalization, the internet, advertising, multinationals, in short, all things that link us to a greater social community by way of stripping down our personal privacies and civil liberties, have each contributed to a different set of social guidelines.  Propriety and decorum, once revered as two of the most sacred understandings of social etiquette, (the holy grails of society, if you will), have now become obsolete.  “Society” is not what it used to be.  Though still a governing body of sorts, society feels more anarchy than order.  It’s mantra holds, the-louder-and-more grotesque-the better attitude that trashes the “ancient” ways of propriety and decorum for a newfound belief in the rock star mentality, self-entitlement, intimidation, quick gratification, and ego-laden precedence, all propelled by a growing global consciousness.   This has seen an increase in gun violence throughout North America, gang-related crimes, drugs, road-rage, domestic abuse, bullying in our schools, and so on.  It is not surprising then, that we are becoming far less trusting, more suspicious, bitter and irritable.   It is even less surprising that summertime crowds can now be seen as an annoyance, or a source of stress rather than a cause for celebration.  So what about this thing called, “personal privacy”?  How has it become so compromised and what will be the inevitable outcome of its untimely demise?  With global overcrowding and overpopulating, it seems privacy will forever be a thing of the past.  However, that doesn’t mean privacy should become forfeit all together, nor does it mean we should leave society to its own devices.  We must therefore re-examine social etiquette, to determine its true meaning and purpose in order to come to grips with who we collectively are and who we want to be.

In North America, etiquette rules have always generally applied to all individuals, (unlike those cultures with more formal class structures), its bearings orientated by a shared European heritage.   However, we have since done a lot of “growing up,” whereby the social norms inherited from our European ancestors have mutated into a new kind of social understanding.  Described by sociologists as being informal laws that govern society’s behaviors, social norms seem essential to the welfare of society at large, as they labor to promote a great deal of social control.  Often times, if people do not adhere to these norms, they will be labeled as deviants, delinquents or misfits, making them social pariahs.  Nonetheless herein lies the inherent crux of the problem – what is considered “normal,” is relative to the culture in which the social interaction is taking place.   So we must then ask ourselves: what are the norms in our culture that allow people to become socialized through conformity?  While norms dictate the interactions of people in all social encounters to promote certain roles of society, we can’t help but reflect upon the generally accepted behaviors of today.  The Real Housewives franchise and TLC’s Toddler’s and Tiara’s are testaments to that.  Televised sports, another illustration.  The food industry, the pharmaceutical industry, the oil industry, Justin Bieber and other YouTube phenomenon all serve as other such examples.  This is reflected within the breakdown of the home.  Television is the new babysitter.  Pop tarts the new breakfast.  Fame over family, money over intellect, and digital technologies have become the platform from which we can grow into the social Frankensteins of our modern era.  All of this sees a loss of personal space, privacy and our ultimate civil liberties.  Psychologists tend to agree that most people value their sense of privacy and personal space and feel discomfort, anger, or anxiety when their sense of privacy is encroached.   However, what was once considered an indication of familiarity and intimacy, has now become communal and unrestricted, whereby social media has made the publication of personal life a social norm. Even though, ironically, things like social media were initially created on the premise of expanding social networks, creating greater social communities and extending social acceptance, they have, in essence, done the complete opposite.

Despite all the inherent issues concerning the historical social etiquettes of the Old World, today’s social norms seem even more insufferable, nonsensical, unethical and nonhuman.  Like a rebellious teen, we have dissented against the social norms of our forbearers, to swing out as far as we possibly can away from a perceivable oppressive past.  However in doing so, so we have also lost our integrity, our intelligence, and our sensitivity… in short, our humanity.  It is now the time to re-evaluate.  It is time to make serious decisions.  How do we want to raise our children?  Bearing in mind cause and affect, what kinds of pop culture things do we want to support and why?  Perhaps we must forego the freedom of social media and the Internet, in order to protect our civil liberties and human rights.  Perhaps we must do the unthinkable we thought we’d never do: we must disconnect.  We must limit.  We must show restraint.   This is how and where we shall recover our privacy.

In the heart of the summer months, it is easy to feel this sense of urgency over our private space.  Crowded public pools, beaches, tennis courts, walkways, campsites, buses, coffee shops, high volume traffic and lineups, see us all fighting for a piece of the pie.  But it’s not just summer thronging that creates this kind of anxiety.  Indeed it is our very culture that acts the sincere instrument of personal stress, exacerbated by what was once an enjoyable thing like beach days and family fishing trips. So, when the Beverly Hillbillies move in on your campfire with their caravan of cats, dogs screaming children and roaring engines simply because you’ve got the best spot on the beach, you now know who and what to blame.  But you have the choice.  You can stay and pitch a tent alongside them, or you can get up and walk away, never looking back.

-Elizabeth Cucnik


Banning Backyard Hens is Bawwwwk-ward Indeed!

It may come as a surprise that most major U.S. cities permit the keeping of backyard hens on urban properties, and now many Canadian cities are following in suit.  Vancouver, Surrey, New Westminster, Victoria, Burnaby, Nelson, Gibsons, London and Niagara Falls, Ontario, are just a few that have jumped on the clucking bandwagon to join a growing number of North Americans advocating for the right to grow and maintain their own food.  Unfortunately however, many municipalities continue to ban backyard flocks despite surmounting research, encouraging statistics and productive action from neighboring boroughs.   Sadly, Penticton is one such municipality, whereby the City has established certain residential zoning bylaws restricting the keeping of backyard hens.  This then begs the question: if New York, one of the world’s largest, most densely populated cities, permits backyard hens on urban properties, why can’t Penticton, a small rural town with a population of 32,000, not also comply?

The issue is not unique to our city.  It is one that has caused a lot of clucking in the mainstream media across Canada.  McLean’s Magazine and Canadian Living recently issued articles deliberating the moot point of backyard hen keeping.  Many proponents contend that the productive argument for backyard flocks finds root in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well as the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights (to which Canada is a signatory).  They propose that the reality of growing one’s own food in any sensible way is an absolute human right, a fundamental freedom of conscience, thought, belief and expression, and a systemic right to life, liberty and security of person, (as covered in Sections 2 and 7 of the Canadian Charter).   This developing right-to-food trial has taken over much of the thought-think of contemporary urban living worldwide, in which a growing number of Canadians now attribute their love of backyard farming as a way to re-engage with nature, control the quality and source of their food and cut the chord of dependence on the industrial food industry.  Moreover proponents for backyard hen keeping base their argument on strong ethical objections to commercial egg-producing methods.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency provides detailed descriptions and analysis on how to maintain backyard flocks, humane considerations, how to prevent and detect disease and basic hen care, as well as providing resources for backyard hen owners.  The humane treatment of chickens as well as other domesticated animals, is generally defined by the “five freedoms,” as developed by the Farm Animal Welfare Council, (an advisory body to the British government). These include: freedom from hunger and thirst; freedom from discomfort; freedom from pain, injury and disease; freedom to express normal behavior and freedom from fear and distress.  It seems the stipulated “Five Freedoms” could be easily facilitated by the keeping of backyard hens in residential zones, provided the urban dwelling hen keepers maintain a level of commonsense and responsibility, (as one should with do with any domestic pet).  Ironically, most large commercial and industrial chicken farms and manufacturers across North America do not even come close to meeting such criterion as the “Five Freedoms.”  So why not backyard hens in Penticton?

Under Penticton’s zoning bylaw, chickens are only permitted in agricultural structures situated within agricultural zones.  The bylaw defines an agricultural structure as a structure used for agriculture and “intensive impact agriculture,” in which the primary production of farm products (dairy, poultry, cattle, hogs, sheep and other animals) is designated as “farm use” under the Agricultural Land Commission Act.  These agricultural zones are therefore defined to provide appropriate development within rural areas, while safeguarding against the intrusion of agricultural uses and farm operations on residential zones.  Accordingly, the City of Penticton has designated the minimum setback from all property lines for “intensive impact agriculture,” (which includes poultry, game and fur barns) to be 30 meters, and the minimum setback from any urban area boundary to be at least 60 meters.

At first glance, these restrictions and regulations may seem pretty standard.    However, upon greater inspection, it is not difficult to point out the shortcomings.  What was once standard is now, simply outdated. Penticton’s agricultural and zoning bylaws are not at all progressive by way of contemporary living, whereby the greater part of the population does not live on a farm.  Indeed there are several unfitting elements to Penticton’s agricultural and zoning bylaw.  Firstly, chickens are classified as “intensive impact agriculture,” the very same classification higher agricultural impact livestock, such as cattle, sheep, pigs, horses and goats fall under.  It seems more commonsense than policy, to have a distinctive category for Chickens, (especially those considered for backyard use).  Moreover under such bylaws, the agricultural impact of chickens is made equal to agricultural waste storage and agricultural compost (both of which have required setbacks of 30 meters from all property lines), which of course, is grossly inequitable.  Backyard hen keeping with a restriction on number and size is not the equivalent to large agricultural waste storage and agricultural compost.  But again, this is more commonsense than anything else.  Secondly, while the parameters and guidelines of hen keeping (as stipulated by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency) indubitably comply with an urban setting, why does the City of Penticton designate chickens as “farm use” only?  Lastly, backyard hens should not be considered an “intrusion” to residential zoning and residential uses.  They are no more intrusive than cats and dogs, both of which require a general knowledge of pet-ownership, maintenance, care and responsibility.

It is a fact that the benefits of raising backyard hens, far outweighs any detriment.  Eggs from well-tended backyard flocks are far superior than eggs from factory farmed chickens.  In contrast to factory farm eggs, backyard hen eggs have 25 percent more vitamin E, a third more vitamin A, 75 percent more beta-carotene, (that rich orange yolk color) and have significantly more omega-3 fatty acids than their factory farm counterparts.  Moreover, eggs from backyard hands are fresh and therefore much more flavorful.  And that is only the health aspect of consuming backyard chicken eggs.  The positive environmental impact of keeping backyard hens is astonishing.  Hens provide chemical free bug and weed control, their scratching is good for the soil, and hen droppings enrich backyard composts, (chickens are known to produce the world’s best fertilizer).  Not to mention chickens provide excellent lessons for children and families about responsibility while learning about where our food comes from.

In those Canadian cities that have reformed their bylaws to permit backyard hens, there is little evidence that urban coops have caused problems.  This is mainly due to the fact that such municipalities have established sound guidelines; restrictions and registration programs to ensure hen keepers become familiar and comfortable with animal husbandry and veterinary care.  The City of Vancouver for example, ensures that its backyard hen policy focuses on protecting the health and welfare of its citizens while supporting the humane treatment of backyard hens.  Working closely with Vancouver Coastal Health to guarantee regulations satisfy concerns of health and safety, Vancouver’s Health Authority now concurs with the City’s regulations and supports it’s efforts to increase local food options, which allows residents to participate in the local food system.

So why not consider the proposition: What could be more commonsensical than exercising the human freedom to keep a reasonable number of well-looked-after chickens on Canadian urban properties?  Let’s pilot it, do a trial run of backyard hen keeping and generate a citywide survey to get the feedback from our residents.  We should seriously consider revising our dusty, old-fashioned agricultural bylaws, to accommodate a new-age philosophy on contemporary living.  Legislation that restricts those wanting to enjoy the benefits of raising and producing their own food without having to own a farm is not only counterproductive, it is arguably an infringement on our human rights.  The evidence is clear: backyard hens are far more ethically viable, healthier, environmentally friendly and natural than those commercially farmed chickens and are no different in maintenance and care than other domestic pets.  So let’s get on it Penticton and make backyard hens a healthy option for all Pentictonites!

-Elizabeth Cucnik


What Happened To The American Dream?

Summertime conjures a myriad of visual ideals, some from our past, some from magazine print ads and TV commercials, and some from the clichés of history.   Often times, wanderlust summer dreams are riddled with a sense of disenchantment that lectures gone are the days when the raspberries were always fresh, ripe, red and sweet, when river rope swings heralded the most majestic sun-kissed shallows, when bikes rested on the side of wide open neighbourhood streets without borders or divisions, when mothers mixed pitchers of homemade lemonade and fathers stood grill-side, sizzling chunks of juicy prime chargrilled goodness.  Was it ever real or should the refrain have been: gone are the dreams instead of gone are the days?  What are we lusting after today by way of the family ideal?   While social change coincides directly with economic and political development, we begin to see the emergence of a new-age ideal, a post-modernist social structure, which ironically heralds a return to the simplicities we were so eager to leave behind a century ago.

It is interesting to note that the breakdown of the family structure is not a new phenomenon.  Western society has reported a disturbance within the family model for the past 150 years; a disruption caused primarily by the emergence of the Industrial Revolution and later by the Industrial Age of the second half of the 19th century and early 20th century.  In 1875 the New York Times reported that the corrupting of morals in America, the separation of families and children from any knowledge or participation in family life, bears a direct correlation to the material development of resources, prosperous times and domestic and social ambition, (which inevitably lead to a sense of personal importance over family unity).   In 1916, an essayist in Harper’s Monthly Magazine wrote about the “Break-up of the Family” and in 1947, Life Magazine did a large feature on “The American Family in Trouble.” An opening paragraph divulged that emerging statistics proved a distinctive fact: the American family, stuck in the millrace of social and technological change, was in deep distress.   It is true that a shift from a predominantly agricultural society to the march of industrialization saw the breakup of large interconnected households, whereby family members migrated to booming cities that could support higher industrial wages that allowed for the development of social interests outside the family unit.

So how far have we come since then?  According to the United Nations, some of the major global trends effecting families today are migration, demographic aging and globalization.  Many argue that modern society now embodies an extreme form of individualism, whereby children as young as 2 and 3 years of age, imbibe a sense of early self-importance through technological escapism, (the social media crutch), a mutual relationship that only grows more strongly as the population ages.  It is this recent technological social phenomenon that has become the outward pull constantly threatening what little family unity remains.  Internet, though a fantastic catalytic tool for globalization, has brought the world closer together at the cost of separating us from ourselves.  The forces of social change see families where members do little more than sleep and eat together. They buy everything, yet produce nothing themselves but for the money to afford their purchases.  In many ways, the individual is becoming more atomistic, looking outside the home for his or her interest.  On the other hand, modernization has witnessed a newfound tolerance and acceptance for a variety of social forms and archetypes, which are the outcome of individual choice.

So the question is, what family ideal is more or less realistic? Is the summertime dream of raspberry picking, root beer floats, running through sprinklers, and smelling backyard BBQ alongside immediate and extended family a realistic identity? While most agree the celebrated breadwinner-homemaker family model of the 1950s that many of us tend to reference was a grossly impractical style, (inspired by the preceding depression years and the Second World War), most of us nevertheless want to return to some kind of simplistic harmony, where what we eat, what we say, what we do, how we dress and who we are, are not simply dictated to us by social online media sources.  We want simpler food.  We want our own gardens back again.  We want natural fibers.  We want to wash ourselves with fewer chemicals and ingest more wholesome, nutritious home-cooked meals.  We want books and music.  We want deeper connections with our children, our husbands and wives and our grandparents.  We want to live more synergistically within society.

Alongside our return to simplicity, it seems we must embrace new family forms as part of the expression of choice, to focus on strengthening freedom within the family and those principles of democratic equality.  As the economy gets increasingly difficult, competition for jobs escalates, resources dwindle, population increases and pollution rises, we begin to feel the tense grip of encumbering capitalism and the tight squeeze of globalization.   In strong defiance, families are beginning to band together again, as elements of the 18th and 19th century agrarian society have become the new ideal.  Economic interdependence and common interests that once formed the foundation for close family unity are beginning to have a driving impact once again.   Despite the endless sea of computer code and digital jungles in cyberspace, we are clinging to the soils of the earth and the fleshiness of our humanity.  Leaving our cellphones and IPads, IPods, cameras and technologies behind, we release ourselves into a new state of liberty – the kind that rejoices in the taste of ripe freshly picked fruit, of ice-cream, and cold water running from a tap.  The kind that embraces large family picnics and backyard BBQs, the kind that finds value in all the small, simple, yet beautiful things.

-Elizabeth Cucnik