Friday, December 28, 2012

Pure Irie: Pelican Bar

I've been searching far and wide for a bamboo bar perched above tropical waters and I finally found it with the help of a trusty guide, Kanute. It lies just off the southern coast of Jamaica between Black River and Treasure Beach. Floyde, a local fisherman, dreamed up the idea about twelve years ago and then had to rebuild in 2004 after Hurricane Ivan wiped out the original. Thank Jah he did.

Pelican Bar stands on a shallow sandbank about half a kilometer from shore and gets its name from the great flocks of pelicans that hang out there. Kanute, an Abbott and Costello fan, ferried us in his skiff, "Why You Ask," from Billy's Bay in Treasure Beach about forty-five minutes away.

Along the way we passed a pod of dolphins lazily breaking the surface like floppy tires under the blazing sun. Once at the bar we tucked in for a plate of delicious curried lobster and a couple of Red Stripe stubbies. Pure irie was achieved by all.

Friday, December 21, 2012

A Design To Kill: Guns

Guns kill. Pencils write. No imbecile could use a gun to write a letter and if he tried to kill someone with a pencil, he might inflict a slow demise by lead poisoning. As any designer knows, the way something is made will determine its use. I can't eat breakfast with a pencil and a gun won't mow my lawn. The gun is a tool specifically designed to kill. That this seems obvious is all the more painful in the aftermath of the Newtown massacre, yet the old ruse, "people kill, not guns," continues to obfuscate. As George Orwell wrote, "To see what is in front of one's nose needs a constant struggle."
("The Knotted Gun" - Carl Fredrik Reuterswärd, United Nations, NYC)
Is the U.S. capable of opening its eyes wide enough to tackle gun violence? Or will the N.R.A. continue to hold it hostage with dreamtime fantasies?   

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Celebration Rock: 12 From 2012

This has been a great year for music. Yuko and I drove to Coachella in April to experience Radiohead and Tupac's hologram; we saw Lucinda Williams at the Bowery Ballroom in New York and the Knights at the historic Naumburg Bandshell in Central Park, then Public Enemy in Brooklyn's Wingate Park...back to Edmonton for The Tallest Man on Earth with the phenomenal Strand of Oaks supporting; then Leonard Cohen, Paul McCartney....and we're ending the year on a high note in Jamaica following some crazy riddims. Here are 12 of my fave tunes from the year:

1. Japandroids: "The House That Heaven Built"

2. First Aid Kit: "Emmylou"

3. Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti: "Only In My Dreams"

4. Alabama Shakes: "Hold On"

5. Grizzly Bear: "Yet Again"

6. A.C. Newman: "I'm Not Talking"

7. Kishi Bashi: "Manchester"

8. Rufus Wainwright: "Montauk"

9. Grimes: "Genesis"

10. Low Cut Connie: "Boozophilia"

11. Leonard Cohen: "Going Home"

12: Himanshu: "Womyn"


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Beneath The Surface: A Telling Silence

Minus twenty degrees in creaky-cold Edmonton...another reason to look back to the West Coast. Here's one of mine from a few years ago that was published in The Antigonish Review:
Beneath The Surface

Shadows rub against the surface
of the lake like ghosts at a window.
They move towards me on the
shore - tangles of orange, black, flashes
of red. A rubbery mouth yawns from
the depths groping for a mayfly or the soft
belly of wet bread. A frog pops from the
mud; dragonflies veer left and right.
The wind is silent in its telling.

I close my eyes and feel
a breeze through my veins stretching
into a gale. I remember days blind
as a Vancouver weather
forecast, English Bay, slow
coffee - faces at a window.
(photo by Yewco)

Friday, December 07, 2012

K-Tel: Tinsel And Trash

This is the time of year when I get nostalgic for the tinsel and trash of my childhood holidays. Christmas was when the K-Tel schmaltz factory would infiltrate my cartoon afternoons with commercials hawking the "hits" from the likes of Mac Davis, Mouth & MacNeal and Donny Osmond...

But for my seventh Yuletide I caught the buzz from another K-Tel classic compilation: Superstars! The year was 1974. I was in grade two at HT Thrift in South Surrey and I was ready to rock to the sounds of BTO, Paper Lace and...The Three Degrees. I begged my parents for the album, declared that I was going to be a "rockstar," and on that magical morning when I ripped open the tinsel trash *voila!* Superstars awaited.      

It wasn't until years later, after my double album and my collection of 8-tracks had disappeared, that I learned K-Tel was a Canadian company founded by Philip Kives, a native of Saskatchewan. K-Tel got started in the late 60s with blockbusters like Twenty-five Polka Greats, which, according to their website, "sold a million and a half in Canada and [sic] USA."

Those were much simpler times, indeed.


Sunday, December 02, 2012

Eden Robinson: Nuyem

The Haisla concept of nuyem, or the handing down of protocols, suggests a universal pursuit common to all centers of cultural production. In the case of Eden Robinson, it refers to the customs of the Haisla from the Kitamaat territory of B.C.'s northern coast. Nearby Kitimat also happens to be the area where the Enbridge Pipeline Project wants to set up shop.

Protocols can take on many different forms and lurk beneath the most innocuous of intentions. Enbridge and the Harper government suggest the pipeline will be a boon to the economy and transform Canada for the better. The so-called benefits will create a legacy that will sustain future generations. As for any local protocols, however, only the strong can survive. In The Sasquatch at Home: Traditional Protocols and Modern Storytelling, Robinson provides a response:
“As clear and complete as we want this discussion of our nuyem to be, it is important to recognize that the Old People realized that some things cannot be shared. This was and remains a way of preserving our culture. In times past, it was recognized that whatever the missionaries knew about our culture, they tried to suppress. The less they knew, the safer our traditions remained. Nowadays, we simply realize that there are aspects of our traditional perspective and values that non-Haislas would never be able to understand.”
(Roy Henry Vickers)
This strategy of exclusion, one limited to the Haisla community and those close to it, is seen as essential for their survival. Any "Canadian" protocols, such as those advocated by Harper or Enbridge, are simply neoliberal economic assumptions - other forms of cultural imperialism - masquerading as national virtues. For me, someone sympathetic to the Haisla nuyem but outside their community, I wonder how any strategy that concludes the "other" is beyond understanding is sustainable in the long run. As Robinson realizes after taking her mother on a trip to Graceland:
“You should not go to Graceland without an Elvis fan. It’s like Christmas without kids – you lose that sense of wonder...In each story was everything she valued and loved and wanted me to remember and carry with me. This is nusa."
This "nusa," this way of teaching, is a conversation I want to be a part of, yet I know that history stands in the way. Can it be undone?