Thursday, August 20, 2009

Skunk Season! %#@

There seem to be an unusually large number of skunks in the hood this summer. They also seem to be very nervous and spray at the slightest disturbance. Almost every night one of them lets off in the vicinity of our home and the smell comes in the window. They usually do this around 3 to 4 am, and the smell wakes me up.

Tonight I made the mistake of letting the dogs out when they barked and they caught a skunk full in the face. This is the second time it's happened in 3 years. This time I didn't let them back in the house for more than a second. Still, the smell is suffocating. Here's the recipe that seems the most vouched for for skunk smell. I can hardly wait til the drugstore opens and I can try to buy a gallon of peroxide!

Whatever you do, don't bring a freshly skunked pooch into the house! The dog will rub on things and tranfer the smell, then the whole house will smell like a skunk. If you must bring him in, wrap him in something washable until you get to the bathtub.

Skunk Smell Remover
1 quart 3% Hydrogen Peroxide
1/4 cup Baking Soda
2 tbsp Dish Detergent. The stuff for washing dishes in the sink, not something for dishwashers.
Mix the ingredients in a large bowl, because it will boil up like Vesuvius. We are, after all, making an oxygen generator. Wash the dog with this while it is still foaming, because it is the oxygen which reacts with the thiols in the skunk stink to neutralize the odor. If it sits around, it will loose it's efficacy because the oxygen boils off. Don't try to store it in an airtight container, because it will blow up. The brew also works for clothes, humans and unlucky cats.

Sometimes being chased by a dog is not enough to scare a polecat off the property, in which case, mothballs will do the trick.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Current State of Community Television in Metro Vancouver

Vancouver used to be among the best of the world's cities in terms of having public access to community television. There were local facilities very near if not actually in Mt. Pleasant back then. Now, many parts of the world, including in Asia, the US, and Latin America, have passed us as we went backwards. Here's the story from one who was there. - FW

Current State of Community Television in Metro Vancouver

By Sid Chow Tan, August 13, 2009

A dozen years ago, government regulators and cable companies delivered a near lethal blow to community television. The government ruling and self-serving interpretation by dominant cable operators Rogers and Shaw led to the dismantling of community television thousands strong volunteer networks and local office infrastructure and resources in Metro Vancouver. This near death scenario continues, seemingly with government and corporate collusion, and begs for a judicial review. As well, the Auditor General should review the $800-million in public money handed to cable companies across Canada on behalf of community television the past ten years. That’s $60-million to Rogers and Shaw in Metro Vancouver the last ten years. In 2003, a Senate (the Lincoln) report stated its “frustration” and “dismay” that no information exists on what happens to cable company expenditures on behalf of community television. There’s no way to find out if citizens got their money’s worth!

In Public Broadcasting Notice 1997-25:131, the government regulator - the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) - handed community television to cable companies. It boldly and trustingly states: “This policy reflects the Commission's belief that opportunities for local expression would continue to be provided in the absence of a regulatory requirement. In the Commission's view, after more than twenty-five years of operation, the community channel has achieved a level of maturity and success such that it no longer needs to be mandated. Apart from its benefits to the public through local reflection, the community channel provides cable operators with a highly effective medium to establish a local presence and to promote a positive corporate image for themselves.”

The Commission’s boldness was mistaken and its trust misplaced. On November 19, 1996, more than three months before the new policy announcement, Rogers began shutting down its neighbourhood television offices, beginning with 1010 Commercial Drive. Thousands of volunteers and dozens of staff worked in this and another sixteen or so community television studios and offices throughout Metro Vancouver. In Vancouver alone, there was a full studio along with four neighbourhood community television offices – two in Kitsilano, one in the West End and the Commercial Drive location. Volunteer community-based productions such as Complaint Department, Production Parade, Metro Magazine, Chinatown Today, Global Justice, Pressure Point and East Side Story dominated the then Rogers cable community channel. The programming opportunities, production training in local offices, mentorship and extensive volunteer networks are all but gone from Shaw, now the dominant cable operator in the region through a swap of assets with Rogers in 2001.

Shortly after Rogers announced the closure of the Commercial Drive office, the volunteers there hastily constituted a not-for-profit society to weather the anticipated corporate assault on community television. Rogers, taking flak for the closures, agreed to support the volunteers for two years while Community Media Education Society was organised to safeguard the spirit and legacy of community television. Two workgroups developed. One to work on regulatory and public education efforts and the other to continued the production of community television programs. The production workgroup begat three not-for-profit community television corporations. First came Independent Community Television Co-operative, then Vancouver Community Television Association and ACCESS TV (Association of Chinese Canadians for Equality and Solidarity Society), which initiated and helps produce FearlessTV and Saltwater City Television. Along with the Slim Evans Society, best known for its Working TV. All now have regular timeslots on Shaw’s local cable community channel. None receives any financial support from the public funds collected by Shaw - an estimated $6-million annually in Metro Vancouver.

Now Shaw’s cable community channel is called Shaw TV and its community television in Metro Vancouver is directed from the Shaw tower at Coal Harbour. Ironically, with a studio there, volunteers from Vancouver need to go to Surrey for studio production. Volunteers from Port Moody need to come to downtown Vancouver to pick up a camera to do a shoot in Port Moody and then return the gear. Shaw’s appreciation of community-based volunteers is underscored by their miserly ways towards them. Volunteers and non-profit groups pay for all transportation, parking, refreshment and tape expenses for their productions. Yet Shaw has the public money to provide the same to its production personnel, including company vehicles. More miserly and destructive was the shutdown of local offices and studios and laying off production staff over the past eight years. Shaw continues to believe and explain community television is better after cuts to local offices and staff and loss of the volunteer network. These are dastardly deeds and show Shaw’s corporate greed trumping community need.

A judicial review is in order. The Broadcasting Act clearly states the Canadian broadcast system is comprised of public, private and community elements providing a public service essential to the maintenance and enhancement of national identity and cultural sovereignty. Yet the CRTC, our broadcast regulator mandated to uphold the Broadcasting Act, believes the community element no longer needs to be a regulatory requirement for cable operators. The resultant confusion allowed cable companies such as Shaw to refuse broadcast of programs produced by not-for-profits. This was a clear violation of CRTC rules and the spirit of community television. A judicial review may explain why cable companies receive and control the entire cable community channel levy, leaving not-for-profit groups to fundraise for their community television needs. There is no logic when community programming produced by volunteers is only available by subscribing to a corporate service. Unbelievably, the CRTC says Vancouver cannot have a low power community television is because there is no room on the broadcast spectrum. There’s room for public and private broadcasters but none for a community broadcaster, one of three elements in the Canadian broadcasting system. How is that fair?

Canada has played a central role in the development of community television and is considered by many to be the birthplace of community broadcasting. The community element was developed to provide local groups with training to access the broadcasting system. Community broadcasting, which is local, volunteer-based and largely not-for-profit, is often able to broadcast a diverse range of voices, alternative points of view, and innovative programming ideas. In January 2008, CRTC Broadcasting Public Notice 2008-4 announced a comprehensive review of its policies with respect to community-based radio and television. The objective of this review will be to ensure that the Commission’s regulatory policy supports the development of a healthy community broadcasting sector. Over two months have passed and there is still no information available on when the review will begin.

Given the community television carnage wrought by Shaw and Rogers in Metro Vancouver, one could say the CRTC’s review is too little to late. It would be better to have a judicial review of the current state of community television. At the least, the Auditor General should let citizens know what happened to the $800-million in public money given to cable companies. The worrisome lesson here is that the federal government can hand the public trust of community television to cable companies, who want citizens to be passive consumers and not active makers of media.

For more on community television, go to and see CRTC Broadcasting Public Notices 1991-59, 1997-25 and 2002-61. You can email cmes @ if you want to get involved in community television.


Sid Chow Tan has been a community television volunteer for over twenty years. He help found and has been or currently is a director of Community Media Education Society, Independent Community Television Co-operative (Vancouver and Victoria), ACCESS TV (Association of Chinese Canadians for Equality and Solidarity Society), W2 Community Media Arts Society and Slim Evans Society, which produces workingTV.

Your Help Needed to Reinstate Community TV in Vancouver

Yesterday, I met Sid Chow Tan, who is one of the elders of community media in Vancouver. He told me more about what excellent community TV access Vancouver used to have, and about the many groups that are coalescing to ask to have this service restored. Here's a website and a letter he forwarded to me - I'll also blog his history of the Vancouver community TV:

Dear Friends of community-access TV:

CACTUS needs your help to prepare for the review of the community TV
sector. The hearings are scheduled for Feb. 1st, and the call for
comments is likely to be posted in late September.

We need your help now, to contact and ask support from many
organizations and individuals across the country. We'd like to
familiarize them with CACTUS' position before the call for comments is
published, and are asking for help for members willing to make phone
calls during the last week of August and September.

In a nutshell, CACTUS is asking that:

1) a new production fund be established to which independent community
production groups can apply to set up their own community-access

2) that these channels will be multi-platform access centres that may
hold a radio and television license simultaneously, broadcast over the
air, teach web design and webstream programming, and share resources
with other community organizations that specialize in communications;
for example, community newspapers, libraries, theatres. The idea is
that the community should be able to "one-stop-shop" if they have a
project that they want to get the message out about. We envision that
this model will leverage existing infrastructure, be efficient, is
flexible enough to evolve in the future, and will enhance the
understanding of media literacy in the community. It is becoming more
and more common around the world.

3) We will ask that the programming produced have must-carry status
on cable, Telcos, and any other distributors that serve the area so
that the signal will be truly accessible to all.

Here are some of the groups that we want to contact during the next 6
weeks. If you have a particular interest or already have good
contacts with any of these groups and are willing to spend time on the
phone, please contact Cathy Edwards ASAP:

- video and filmmaking co-operatives, including IFVA, the Independent
Film and Video Alliance
- municipalities and town councils
- university closed circuit television channels
- well-known people who got their start on community TV (e.g. Mike
Meyers, Dan Ackroyd, Tom Green, Guy Madden)
- other organizations that have intervened at recent hearings in
support of community media and diversity; for example, Friends of
Canadian Broadcasting, the Canadian Conference on the Arts, guilds and
professional associations whose members historically received training
at community-access channels.
- MPs
- community service organizations, non-profits, etc. that benefit from
exposure on community TV
- organizations that promote media literacy, equal access to IT,
Internet access, etc.
- others that you can think of

What would help is if you are willing to take on one category to
contact. We will help prepare you with the phone script, sample
letters of support that the contactees might send in, etc. Aside from
helping out the sector now that we've finally got a committed hearing,
it's an opportunity for you to network with like-minded individuals.

If you can help, please call Cathy at (819) 772-2862.

The CACTUS Team.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

front porch farmers' markets


A farmer's life is feast or famine. During the long hot days of summer, crops are flourishing and farmers' markets gathering twice a week to sell the bounty. Any harvest a farm can't sell now, will go to waste, or if another few hours can be found at the end of a 16hr day, maybe a few surplus raspberries will get frozen for winter sale. Come winter though, farmers markets dwindle and local fresh food becomes less abundant—what a farmer makes in the summer better carry the cost of farm and family through the rest of the year.

Front porches all over Greater Vancouver are joining a movement to smooth out the feast and the famine farmers experience by becoming 'mini farmers markets' every week. Yes, that's right, front porches--and car ports and even play houses are being converted for a few hours every week into pick-up spots for those ordering their foods through an on-line farmers market. Established by a group of loyal local foodies and farmers market groupies, NOWBC Co-op (Neighbours Organic Weekly) has organized this on-line farmers market and neighbourhood delivery system. By scooping the summer's excess and bringing farmers' bounty to any neighbourhood in the city where it is wanted, when the feast is on, the co-op can help farmers reach more people and get all of their food sold.

“There is no farmers market here, the closest is Kits, but with the kids and busy weekends, I just don't get there.” says Joanna Michal of Dunbar, who gets food through NOWBC. Now it doesn't matter whether there's a farmers market near a person, or if a person is available during the hours a market is open, they can still get food from these small local farms through a front porch near them. And it doesn't stop at the end of the summer. When the feast is over, the on-line farmers market continues running year round--because farmers keep farming, even in winter here. “We're getting ready to to transplant our fall and winter crops of cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, collards and brussels sprouts” Christopher Bodnar of Glen Valley Organic Farm reports. Though winter crops may be less plentiful, there is still harvest, just very few places to sell it. “One of the challenges for small-scale farms is finding appropriate outlets to market their products.” says Bodnar.

NOWBC Co-op is a 50% volunteer run co-op interested in sustainable foods, the 100 mile diet and supporting our local organic growers. There are currently 25 of these pick-up spots around and about the city, and the number is growing. Front porches have been volunteered in Mt Pleasant, Riley Park, North Van, Dunbar, UBC, Fairview, Renfrew Heights, Commercial Drive, Coquitlam, New West—you name it. To check-out the on-line market and look for one of these farmers market drop-offs, or start one in your own neighbourhood, go to or email

Meg O'Shea orders food from NOWBC's on-line farmers market, “I choose to buy through NOWBC because I know the organization has done my homework for me, selecting farmers and producers who supply local, organic, REAL food.”

For more information contact:

Joanna Michal - 604-222-0262
NOWBC Co-op Community Outreach