Oz Going Down Under (Water).

Timing is certainly not my strong suit. I chose one very interesting time to pay a visit to my homeland, Australia. Over December and this first part of January we have experienced forest fires on the west coast, flooding in Queensland ( a chunk of land the size of Germany and France put together is underwater), cyclone warnings in the north west, drought in the centre and snow in the south. Can those climate change skeptics out there please explain?

Heroes and Villains Review

For classical music skeptics I would like to say this: I was surprised by how much fun I had on Saturday night at the Heroes and Villains concert at the Regina Symphony. Now perhaps this is because I am a bit of a nerd and the combination of two of my favourite things, music and film, was cause for a level of enjoyment I would not have been able to muster had I the best seats, free tickets and perfect weather at the Rider’s game being played at the same time. That’s just me. But I brought my boyfriend along and he would be just as inclined to go to a football game as the Symphony. When I asked him his impression of the night, he said he really enjoyed it and asked me at one point during the night why we didn’t do this more often.

The night began with the Superman theme, an instantly recognizable piece that was executed brilliantly. The whole programme’s delivery was refined and livid, the orchestral so well rehearsed, surmounting often very difficult scores. (We were told the Robin Hood Suite was the most demanding. To my untrained ears it appeared flawless). Musical Director and Conductor Victor Sawa’s ability to keep the night highly engaging in between the pieces added to it being so entertaining, as was several of the musicians dressed up in character. It felt like Halloween again with Frankenstein, Darth Vader, the Dark Knight and a few merry men throughout the orchestra’s black and white. The programme continued with The Bride of Frankenstein and Gladiator themes and ended the first half with Liszt’s Les Preludes, which was used in the highly successful Flash Gordon series in the 1930’s.

Stripping the music of it’s visual accompaniment, it became the primary focus of attention. The hero (or villain) was still there, as was the action, but by taking away the more obvious component to a film, the music was revealed in a complexity and depth not present when we watch a film. The music tells us to hold our breath or let out a sigh of relief, but only in respect to what is happening before our eyes. It’s as though the visuals disguise the scope of the score because the music is doing its job so well. By experiencing the music alone, It felt like I was shown parts of a movie that I had missed.

Without the mise en scene, the music of a film appears as emotion without a face, atmosphere without a landscape. In this way it doesn’t belong to any one particular scene, story or character, but stands on it’s own. This can be said for Les Preludes, which was not written for film, but 80 years prior to it’s use in the 1930’s series. However once coupled with a movie and characters, it becomes inseparable from that identity. Of course some of the scores were written for film, such as the The Dark Knight and Gladiator themes by the prolific Hans Zimmer, and I guess these resonated the clearest for me in capturing the essence of the hero’s and villains.With a real life, suited up Darth Vader look alike playing in musical form the character’s persona, it was impossible to separate the music from the menace.

The theme song of the Man of La Mancha was unfamiliar to me prior to this evening. Based on the classic novel Don Quixote, I was introduced to a new film through the music (the score itself was a lot of fun), and I was intrigued. The whole night was, for the non- classical music connoisseur, just that I think: an introduction to not only the art, skill and complexities of classical music but to how absorbing and fun it can be. I left wanting more.

The Price of Protesting: Part 1.

It’s been revealed that the Harper government spent roughly $1 Billion on security to host the world for 7 days over the summer for the G8 and G20 summit. I may be brushing out old dirt from under the carpet here, but as far as I know we still don’t know where all that money went. A CBC Point of View News poll last week asked readers if they thought the cost was justified. Of over 2800 votes, 92.9 % said no. The outcome of this poll, while not surprising, is exceptional in its near unanimity. It occurs to me that sadly, polls like this mean little in affecting change. With the Conseratives wanting to scrap the long form census, they won’t be gathering or looking at official figures, let alone readers polls like this. The government has defended the expense citing the violent scenes in downtown Toronto as cause for the security measures. It is indeed sad that protestors (the majority of them peaceful) were to blame for the exorbitant security price tag. As the government is still being questioned over the huge sum, the prime minister has repeated the government’s position that “Canadians do not want a debate on this matter”. Read more: http://www.cbc.ca/politics/story/2010/05/26/g8-g20-security-summit-toews.html#ixzz13iAddDR. Judging from the CBC news pole page, I can see almost 3000 people in the general public hungry for a debate, and I don’t think I’d be wrong in estimating that there are thousands more, as the full cost of the proceedings are unveiled and comparisons drawn from previous summits. (G20 summit London, April 2009: $30 million. G20 summit Pittsburgh, September 2009: $18 million US).

Read more: http://www.cbc.ca/politics/story/2010/05/26/g8-g20-security-summit-toews.html#ixzz13iSbtUGp



Hug A Tree. Or, You Know, At Least Acknowledge One.

With the cooler weather of late, I’m reminded of how amazing summer has been and how much I am not ready for it to be over yet! And that, holy shit, I’ve only been out of Regina twice since the start of the season. So, I’m frantically trying to organize my next camping weekend or two (I am really wanting to get up to northern Saskatchewan. If my lasting memory of the province is Regina and a 100km radius around it, it will be so inaccurate). I’m thinking of ways to enjoy the natural environment here while it’s still clothed in summer and doing it conscious of the impact a vacation might have on the environment.

In the July 29th issue of prairie dog in the article “Indoor Kids”, David Suzuki points to a generation growing up increasingly unfamiliar with nature, and therefore not being concerned about it’s plight. Ahmed Djoghlaf, secretary general of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, has echoed Suzuki’s words in a Guardian article earlier this week saying “Children today haven’t a clue about nature… How can you protect nature if you do not know it?”

I don’t think it’s just children who are becoming increasingly detached from nature. I was horrified at hearing the other day that a friend of mine went camping with some mates in an RV! I mean, you’re in your early 20’s, you can’t be retired yet! Have we become far too attached to our creature comforts? Are we becoming disengaged with the natural world and then wondering why we don’t think more about how we can live greener?

I hope the answer is a resounding ‘NO!’. The challenge is to think of how our next trip away will include being conscious of the natural world, and a challenge even bigger still, to make getting back to nature part of our daily lives and not just a camping trip or two when the weather is right. I’m beginning to think more and more that “getting back” to nature is the only way we will ever go forward.

guardian.co.uk, Monday 16 August 2010 17.21 BST

Aussie’s First Folk Festival

At dusk on Saturday, Caracol’s folky accoustic-pop tunes mingled with the last of the day’s sunshine. I’d had a very shit day, so when she announced her next song was for anyone who had had a bad day, I sat back, took a few swigs of my amber beverage and let the Ukulele do it’s magic. This was the sentiment of the folk festival for me: letting go of my stresses, inhibitions, distractions etc… and engaging with the performers, the art and the community of people around me, who i discovered to my delight were doing the same thing.

I have an outsiders perspective of the folk festival, as it is my first one here. Coming from Sydney, I have missed the eclectic, diverse and vibrant cultural exchange that comes with living in a big, cosmopolitan city. Almost every weekend over the summer there was a festival or celebration of some sort to attend. So the folk festival was important in proving to me that a small city in the midwest of Canada is not without these things and reminded me that the challenge is to tap into this energy and community on a day to day level instead of waiting for ‘events to attend’. It is the role of festivals like this one to draw out these qualities in a place and this was the essence of my experience over the weekend.

The Dandy Warhol’s once said that “every day should be a holiday”. I After seeing how much the Folk Festival brings out the best in people and creates a sense of community, I declare that every day should be a festival. WIth the energy, vibrancy, declaration of unity and celebration of life that acts such as Aterciopelados, Calexico, and D.J Dolores (my favourites) and others brought to this festival through their music and message, I’m sure they would agree.

Stories to Save the World

Wednesday night saw me at a creative writing workshop run by Calgary’s James Davidge. Davidge has authored several books and graphic novels (you may have heard of The Dutchess Ranch of Old John Ware), concerned with themes of social dilemma. The Driftwood Saga is a series of five novels in which a young girl enlists the power of magic to bring the world out of a state of chaos, and solve world problems such as child labour, the disappearance of forests and war. Davidge’s insight and imagination prove a refreshing and entertaining perusal amid the bewildering social ills we read about in the papers each day. His books can be found (along with many other hidden gems I have just discovered) at www.bayeux.com. Check it out!

Regina Fringe Festival Review

SCHEDULE: JULY 3 at 7.30 p.m.; JULY 4 at 9.15 p.m.; JULY 5 at 3.30 p.m.; JULY 6 at 5.15 p.m.

Welcome to the colourful world of your best childhood playacting memories.
Remember when bath time meant an adventure over the high seas?
Or when you talked to your pets and toys as though they were your closest friends? (Or maybe that was just me. Weird). Be prepared to relive those memories through the quirky antics of Miss Hiccup as we follow her through her day.

We watch as her her morning calisthenics are worked up into a flower flopping, berry bouncing frenzy and cleaning her teeth is transformed into a latino inspired dance routine. (Her flamboyant costume would not be out of place at a Brazilian Carnival). A highlight was when Miss Hiccup’s eye ball “popped out” and was used as a ping pong ball with an audience member. Fun stuff!

Miss Hiccup wears shiny, red shoes, but unlike Alice in Wonderland, she doesn’t need to tap them three times to suddenly be in a very different world. Her fantastical, topsy-turvy world is in her breakfast, and leaking roofs, and in going to the washroom and in any other activity that she can, with a lot of imagination and an array of facial expressions and slap stick humour, turn into a world of childlike wonder and play (and several amusing musical digressions).

The performance can seem a little drawn out for the very minimal story line. However if we’re willing, we can walk away from this performance with a renewed appreciation for the power of imagination and the ability of a creative and child-like mind to transform ordinary, daily activities and annoyances into a whacky and wonder- filled world.

Vacant Boxes and Treasure Troves

Bewildered at the amount of vacant buildings in the warehouse district in North Central, I’ve realised that the area is a bit like a treasure map. I sometimes perouse this area to find bargains at the various thrift stores, and hidden amid the wasteland of gutted supermarket buildings and warehouses lie a few gems worth checking out (which many of you may already be familiar with). The Regina Antique Mall at 1175 Rose St is a massive building jam packed with an varied assortment of the wierd and wonderful of yesteryear. You don’t have to have a penchant for painted tea cups or cookie tins to appreciate the plethora of interesting items within the labyrinth. Another such place is the Blue Mantle Thrift shop on 7th Ave with a downstairs full of outdated clothing perfect for the eclectic dresser (or the next themed party).
While I am disturbed at the amount of unused box buildings everywhere, maybe if i venture behind that warehouse or around that narrow street, I may just find an unlikely shop that’s worth exploring.

No Cable Causes Chaos

During a recent, brief stint working at one of the better cable companies here in Regina, I encountered a moment of confusion and despair.

Amid wind storms that swept through the province late last week, we were inundated with calls from customers disgruntled at the trouble in connection. What was disturbing was the number of people who implied this was a tragedy. My colleagues and I had customers ask us in all seriousness what they were supposed to do now that there wasn’t any TV. These callers did not sound like people who were ill, or could, for whatever reason, do little else than watch television. It appeared they had resigned themselves to being this way. I suggested reading a book, putting on their favourite music or (novel idea) talking to family members and friends as ways to pass the time. These suggestions were met with a) laughter (followed by “not funny”), b) swearing, or c) a simple hang up of the phone.

What has the world come to when cable TV is as necessary a family staple as bread? When taken away from us we turn into angry, irrational children, demanding this vital artery of our existence be switched back on immediately, as though someone has pulled the plug on a life support machine? Is there any hope for us, when people are needing to be told how to go on living without this big, rectangle box? A service that is in actual fact a privilege is somehow being demanded as a right, like so many other ‘things’ we have grown tenaciously possessive of.

Ignorant Aussie Seeking Translation

Upon setting foot in this fine city from the land Downunder, there have been a few moments in which I have felt the need for a translator. Is a Bunny Hug a gesture of affection? A small vest put on rabbits, similar to the ones worn by pooches? Is Duo-Tang a new type of martial art?

One source of confusion that hasn’t yet found an answer (I’ve managed to clear the others up) is the astounding amount of tank-sized vehicles in this city (or perhaps in all of North America). It’s not just the volume, but who appears to be driving them and how. Many a time I’ve seen only one person inside these monstrous vehicles who don’t appear to be tradesmen/women. For having such large wheels, many drivers appear to treat them as delicate instruments, driving slowly and crawling around curbs and avoiding piles of snow and mud. Either that, or muscling their way rudely through queues and parking lots. Some of the beds are covered completely with a steel lid, rendering them useless. If people don’t have these gigantic beasts for the purpose of plowing through snow, and using the trays for carrying equipment etc, then why on earth do they have a two ton truck? They’re not environmentally friendly, and even if you don’t have a green bone in your body, they’re certainly not economically efficient. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen Soccer Mom’s back home insisting on driving massive SUV’s to cart themselves and their whining children from one fast food outlet to another. And I know that since Happy Days there has been an infatuation with all things that rev and that a man (or woman) is allowed to feel powerful and masculine by owning one of these giants. But I’m not convinced that totally explains the massive amount of them Regina streets. Anyone care to enlighten me?