About sqedmonton

Community Developer, Actor, Director, Father, Husband, Beer Snob, Fisher of Fish, and a creaotr always thinking about the next project.

exuberant, lame, yellow with cream and sugar

exuberant exigent sunlight floods eye and a bounty, green in start, ruby reds in completion, wends it’s way to my attention. All day I have thought about the next 5 minutes i say, and the man on the radio quotes Matthew to the masses.

lame luddite words burp on their screen and they react like dust trapped in the furnace air filter. Fast in approach but stopped and stuck in resolve. All day I have thought about the next 5 minutes i say and the lady laughs and pirouettes out of shot.

yellow yielding warmth offers a chance for joy and you take the moment and instagram it out of existence. All day I have thought about the next 5 minutes says the lady with the too large glasses as I go through the door with bell clanging finality.

the next 5 minutes get filled for the next 3 hours – conversation, coffee, and potential



The sun, yellow bright in it’s inevitability, one handedly shakes us up and at em with a blank page invitation to other opportunities, and in the first precious hours of wakedness, you read mornings news, contemplate the laughter conversations of yesterday, and finish another 1000 words of intention.

Here comes the mob media posts of lovely people that sonder into your awareness and the insistent shout and satisfying of fur friends answered and satiated.

Now the wonder of breakfast begins frying pan busy and oven insistent and I cut and chop my way through “i should have said” considerations and D minor C major progressions of sparkler flared recollection.

Not for nothing and nothing is what you’ll get but …..oh wait….bacon!

Lunch times laugh still pings about my soul from yesterday and the technicians exasperation at the old timers insistence still makes me warm smile curl around its recollection. A note of sour trashcan ended discord interrupts my progress with comments of someone else angst.

Toaster pops, coffee wafts, poached eggs shimmer, potatoes smile, and the table conversations begins in a newspaper spread passing of family on a Sunday morn.

Not for nothing and nothing is what you’ll get but …..oh wait….bacon!


Buzzsaw Cowardice

Your buzzsaw quick cowardice dresses itself in the theft
of Judy, Doris, Rosemary, Anne, and Heather’s work.

Who? you ask ….Yeah .

And now you stand on the shores of the pacific, reeking of privilege and anglo pride,
bringing salvation to the poor people of a nation whose history and struggle you only notice in the airport gift shop.

What? you ask …..Yeah.

I would gladly stand in a court made of Y and 46XX to be judged.
And when sentence is passed would say thank while you slink out the backdoor
with your eyes down.

Uh? you say….. Yeah

So go a head spit spite and shout your words yelled from safe distances.
I am unafraid of any judgement you may generate and offer the evidence of your incompetence dressed in other peoples struggles.

But! you say……Yeah

it is not built within me

You cannot imagine the deflation of try no more than you could utter the words to someone else’s heart. In calling across the recreated glories of my sometime past I feel…

ah, there it is. feel.

So I act, and as is the timing of my thought to action, act quickly. It is not built within me to hesitate, and as I hesitate, i almost invariably go wrong. Nor is it within me to greet and smile and nod and be quiet when I cannot mean it.

You cannot imagine the deflation of try no more than you could intercept the slapped out words of others said to others. In calling across the recreated glories of my sometime past i fail…

ah, there it is. fail.

Lost in the where of when and why I am encumbered by your idea of my next steps and so I act, and act quickly. It is not built within me to be careful, and as i am careful, I almost invariably go wrong. Nor is it within me to spend careful hours and long spans in deliberation when I cannot mean it.

The full-tilt boogie of my mind rim-shots against the foolish idealism of what should be and results in a jangling jive of now, now, now.

ah there it is.

You cannot imagine the deflation of try


Then said they unto him, Say now Shibboleth: and he said Sibboleth: for he could not frame to pronounce it right.” Book of Judges, Chapter 12


I have been considering first principles for sometime now. More specifically my own first principles and what they mean to me and what I do with them. In my beginning there was art and it informed what I did and how I went about my life. It began with music and moved on to theatre. Art and its creation was a first principle.  And then came to a stop.

Over the last 10 or so years i have tried a number of times to restart the process of creating but it was always abortive in the doing. Always came to a point of confusion and non-completion. The largest part of the blame for this resides within myself by holding on to past wrongs and failures. Some part of this is because of where I live. It has not been as fertile a place to create as other places I have lived. But again and again, for sometime now, I keep thinking about these first principles of where I started. The first principle of creating art.

Let me say that Art is a completely illogical thing. Where the impulse for its creation comes from for me is almost undefinable. In trying to II sputter and flail about. But still it is there; a very deep and strong impulse despite my abuse of it. So I chose to go back to first principles. The drive to create art.

This will mean i will need to set aside some other plans and processes I have currently started or am doing. To those of you who will see me leave that work I am sorry for not finishing it with you. I hope you will understand. I must do this other thing.

I will begin by understanding and writing and talking about the parts of this first principle of creating art. About sharing my thoughts on what it means here in my community and most importantly creating it. For those that create art there is a kind of shibboleth that we recognize amongst one another; a way of identifying those who understand these impulses and need to create. I will be seeking you out and will know you, and you me, by how we frame our thoughts. How we say Shibboleth to one another.

This will not be easy but i sense already it will be a worth while. I am filled with a mad excitement and a real terror at the thought of starting .or is it restarting and of abandoning the safer path I am currently on. So let this be a declaration of a beginning.

Wish me Gods speed and turbulent waters. Everything else is merde .


The Hard Work of Love; Happy Valentines Heather


I don’t want to talk about chocolates and hearts and romantic dinners. I don’t want talk about moonlit walks or handholding on the beach . Those are other people’s ideas of romance and love that aren’t really what happens. No, I want to talk about the hard work of love, the day after day , ongoing , never-ending , one thing after another work of love. Love is hard work and it is work that never ever ends.

Love is about being woken up at 6 in the morning and hearing about the worries she has. Love is about seeing her being mad at you for something stupid you did and standing there and taking it because she’s right. Love is about going to see her parents year after year and not understanding where they are coming from and growing to love them.

Love is about the arguments about what to do when your kid goes of the rails, and is about what to do when there’s not enough money. It’s about making her laugh when you don’t want to laugh and is about caring the laundry from the basement when you just want to sit and watch your show.

It’s about picking her up from work for 202 years cause she refuses to get a licence and about hearing all about the minutiae, really listening, when your brain is stuck on a meeting you had at work three hours earlier. It’s about vacations where you see her overwhelmed with the memory of the place she thought it would be,  and seeing it live up to that expectation. it’s about arguing about the state of the world and about listening for the 10 millionth time about her tiny house obsession.

Love is about staying in the conversation and the argument and the laughter and the expectations and fears and the hope and the pure joy of seeing things we’ve worked on for years and years finally, finally, finally get some where. Love is the long game when you’d sometimes rather have the coach call in someone else to take your place. Love is about the pure pig-headed stubbornness to never ever give up on her and her on you. It is so much more than a box of candies or a card or a dinner. It is what love is about and that love goes on for years and years and carries you both through times of despair and times of laughter.

This is the heart of our romance. So happy Valentines Day Heather, I love you.

Throwing Birds

I have been struggling for some time now to articulate my growing alarm in how we come to grips with the bewildering way we work on mental health. In London Ontario mental illness has increased 132% since 2003 and the question I have to ask is why was there an increase given the attention mental health has received? Today is Bell Lets Talk and this is a laudable effort by Bell Media to create conversations and awareness around mental illness. Yet I would argue that there has been no significant change in how we address the causes, or in the the access to care, for those with a mental illness. So I have to ask “Do we know what we are doing?”

I believe, deeply , that this is not the fault of organizations like CMHA, CAMH, Vanier, Ways, Family Service Thames Valley, or any other agency locally or provincial.These agencies act on the priorities of funders such as governments and foundations.They make the best case they can for funding services largely based upon how funders believe we should be addressing this issue. Yet we don’t really seem to be making any progress on moving the needle significantly on mental health so my next question is “ Do funders understand where we should be focusing our efforts?”

Let me also make you aware that other issues come into play when we speak of mental illness. Poverty is the greatest cause of mental illness and my friend Abe Oudshoorn laid out a compelling case about this and how we discuss mental health. Take some time to read Abe’s important blog on this.

I believe that in order to make significant progress on creating the conditions for recovery we have to address three main areas. The first is obvious and that is funding. In mental health, funding is significantly lower than for other health issues and if you are a child or youth the funding is even lower. In any issue in which the most vulnerable are supported, funding is the gas in the tank to power the motor toward a sustainable system of care.

All too often the discussion of funding conditions for sustainable recovery are drowned out in the media and online by cries of taxes being to high. As a matter of fact this issues, and others, cannot be heard over the hue and cry of MY TAXES ARE TO HIGH. The result is that politicians, especially during elections, are fully engaged in the dance politic and issues of poverty and mental health are left on the side hoping someone will ask them to dance. This is our fault fellow citizens. The narrative we create is about our money when perhaps it should be about compassion and care. If we collectively change the tune then perhaps issues of care for the most vulnerable will be asked to the dance .

The second area is all about the funders themselves. From the Federal, Provincial, and Municipal governments the narrative is more about accountability than it is about quality and efficacy of care. The same is true of foundations and other funders locally, provincially, and nationally. Rather than ensuring the way we are addressing issues of wellness are responsive, effective, and adaptable , we end up with a system that adheres strictly to the regimes of outputs and outcomes. There is very little opportunity to sustainably test new approaches and implement them in our systems. Rather there is an endless series of pilots and initiatives that are rolled out with a lot of fanfare but usually end up being shelved and never implemented. So unless we the citizens, and the funders who we support, frankly get revolutionary about the criteria for funding and reporting then there will be no change.

The third and final area is planning. I believe the way we now plan how to respond to mental health, or any other social issue, is so woefully inadequate that we end up with a patch work system of care that has become a culture of fractured intentions rather than a meaningful eco-system approach. Each of the players on this field, from funders to agencies, have their own mission and vision combined with a mountain of strategic plans surrounded by a public that is worried about their own individual economic well-being, that leaves an ever-increasing number of people stranded and ill. In his smart book Social Labs: A Revolution, Zaid Hassan described how we think planning works and what actually is happening when we do. Said makes the point that we live in a complex adaptive environment with massive interconnected systems that continually create ruptures in our societies. We only need look to economic train wreck of 2008 or the current value of the looney for examples of complex systems creating local ruptures. In the example on planning he points to this analogy: Imagine you throw a rock. You can pretty reasonably guess where that rock will land. You can plot its trajectory and understand the impact it will make when it hits the ground. This is how we do planning today. We create plans that say by X date we will have done X things with X number of people. But now imagine instead of throwing a rock you throw a bird. Can you reasonably plot it’s trajectory? Can you make a reasonable guess where it will land? Can you make a reasoned guess as to the impact it will make? No you cannot. You will have no idea where that bird will fly or the path it will take. So why, when we are dealing with complex macro economic forces, complex societal forces, complex interdependent systems, and the most complex of all – human beings in crisis, do we make plans based on throwing rocks when in fact we are throwing birds? Governments, funders, and agencies need to think about this seriously and invite us citizens in to come up with a different approach. There is a way to do this.

SO on this, Bell Lets Talk Day 2016, what should we be talking about? Abe did a great job of speaking to the issues of poverty and mental health, but we also need to be talking about the system and methods we create to sustainably and effectively MOVE THE NEEDLE. Right now we are not and the results, unless we are willing to make a meaningful effort, will be even more tragic than they are today.

Doing it Right – The North East Community Conversations Group


In the last 6 years much has been made about citizen engagement in our city. Hack the Vote, Citizens Panel, London X, The London Plan, Shift, and now an idea to change our cities name. All interesting, all needing attention, but one group , The North East Community Conversations Group, has been unique speaking to issues and coming from a unique place. The grass roots of average citizens.

I first became aware of their efforts in the last year and a half and since then have sen them engage the community in elections, ability and disability, and poverty. They recently held a large forum on poverty for The Mayors Poverty Panel and have been asked by them to continue this important engagement work. Gabriel Marcel , french philosopher and playwright, said ”On a grassroots level we say that man can touch more than he can grasp.”. This has been very true The North East Community Conversations group as their efforts at engaging in issues do not come from governments, business, or the non-profit sector, but form citizens wanting to gather and exchange ideas and concerns over what are important issues. Their reach extends beyond a mandate and extends into what we think about as a community.

At a meeting I attended recently the group was talking about the role of schools, the needs of students, and what our education system could be. It covered the gamut from  students with special needs to where our focus needed to be to help students develop so they could confidently face the challenges of the 21st century . My wife was at another conversation last week about ability and disability and what are our collective responsibilities as participants in a community that espouses to be inclusive. The results of the conversation were illuminating and posted out that we had more work to do while celebrating what we have accomplished.

I have been involved in the sometimes frenetic initiatives of community engagement a lot over the last 6 years but I am impressed at the way this group comes together and works. There go about it in a quiet and thoughtful way without pushing an agendas, with out massive social media campaigns or fancy websites, they go about it not for gain or attention, but because they are called by a need to connect to their neighbours and community and discuss the issues that effect is everyday.

I have always believed that conversations lead to relationships that then lead to action. The North East Community Conversations group do this. It is built into their DNA and those of us who are , or have, been involved in various engagement exercises could do a lot worse than to pay attention on how this group does it. It was born from community and continues to be be rooted there. They’re lesson for us is that they don’t need meetings to discuss engagement burnout, they just do it and as you know great changes are created the doing. Engagement is not a product  or an outcome but , as shown by this group, something we should just do.Take some time and do, and do it with the North East Community Conversations.

On Basic Income: A great idea but not as simple as some may think


Amir Farahi, Executive Director of the relatively new London Institute, posted a piece in Our London paper regarding the popular idea of Guaranteed Basic Income. On a very broad level, I agree with Amir that this kind of guarantee is needed for our most vulnerable including those who face precarious work, mental illness, and lack of affordable housing. As Amir shared in his post, there have been some experiments in our nations past but, If I may be so bold, implementing a GBI may not be as simple as  “fixing it”. I agree with GBI and believe we should leave no one behind, but a simplistic approach results in complex problems.

Before diving headlong into converting every program that supports those in poverty to a basic income we first have to consider what goes along with those programs. Are support personnel still going to be needed? What if someone receives a GBI but has mobility issue? What happens if they receive this money, but there’s an addiction issue that needs serious support and intervention? There are important issues to unpack and unlike Amir I think it is a complex issue. To suggest it isn’t perhaps is uninformed.

A very real issue could be if future governments decide to change the funding for base income. We in Ontario remember the Harris government cuts to various social programs and still see the effects resonating through systems today. We must also be aware that there is a difference between basic needs and basic income. Basic needs are about food and shelter. Basic income must allow individuals to thrive and lift themselves out of poverty as opposed to creating another poverty trap as our system often does today.

We must also be aware of the sometimes large inflationary costs of living that happen. If we look at the price of food and how much it has fluctuated over the last ten years then a system of basic income must be very fluid in reacting to changing market conditions. If it is slow and unresponsive, then the very thing that GBI hopes to address becomes a hindrance to those we try to help.

I have to argue with Amir’s point “It’s time to stop the danger of subtle manipulations by our governments, special-interest groups, organizations, agencies that are perpetuating the problem and not actually fixing it.”. This is a very cynical view and assumes that there is some zeitgeist amongst those that work with vulnerable populations to perpetuate a system of inequity. Many of the people Amir includes in his criticism, especially at the agency level, see and hear the daily struggle of those they serve. To suggest that they are working counter to “fixing” the problem is at best cynical and at worst insulting. It’s easy to say “Fix it” but much, much harder to create the conditions for people to overcome and thrive in difficult circumstances.

I do agree with Amir though that guaranteed income if thoughtfully done, can decrease overlap and increase efficiency while providing dignity for those in difficult circumstances. But like everything else we must be prepared to pay for this program and to be flexible in our approach to ensuring funding. Providing someone with a serious health, mental health, or social challenge can do this, but we also need to ensure that the supports for them to thrive and continue to do so over the long term have to be in place as well.


In a crystalline fog they are the accusation of our indifference.

We sit on concrete ignorance and cannot see them nor wish to know of their breadth and scope, yet they are there like a silent accusation of our own hypocrisy.

You could say that there is no solution but we know it’s a lie.

You could say I have no power but it’s a lie.

You could say that they are there and if they chose they would not be, but it’s a lie.

So their existence slide by as we pass and consider the next comfort or respite but the accusation remains.

We chose not to do what we know is the right thing to do.

We chose not to obey the morals we so effortlessly espouse

We chose not to acknowledge our own part in this drive by climate

We chose to white wash our own better angels in small gestures during guilt alieving holidays.

I am no better than you, for my soul shouts in condemnation and I am my own hearts executioner. If I could point the finger of blame then I will begin it with myself and slowly outstretch my arm extending it to indite us all.

if we chose, this could end in the space it would take to breathe in summers heady perfume

if we choose, the concrete sitters would be lifted from their hard perch and encircled with the honesty of notice and care.

If we choose, houses would be built, coffers would be opened, doors swung wide, and abundance shared.

If we choose, dignity would be restored amongst sitter and passer and a new verse would be written.

If we choose, the blue pearl on which we ride would lift its collective voice in celebration of the sanctity of human compassion and human dignity uplifted.

So they sit and we cruise until we strike the first note and a new music replaces the cold crystalline air