Thursday, April 26, 2012

Singing in Norway

FOX news thinks The Muppets are brainwashing our children with messages of equality, empathy, kindness and tolerance—which they deem leftist; a school in British Columbia bans Dr. Seuss's Yertle the Turtle for being too “political” (the offending quote,“I know up on top you are seeing great sights, but down here on the bottom, we too should have rights”); and Anders Behring Breivik hates the Norwegian children’s song Children of the Rainbow, by Lillebjoern Nilsen—an adaptation of US folk singer Pete Seeger's, My Rainbow Race—because of its brainwashing ability.
In Norway, thousands of people are going to take to the streets, arm-in-arm, and sing the song, “We think it represents diversity, and it stands for the community we have chosen to live in, and which Breivik and similar people want to tear down,” said Lill Hjoennevaag, one of the organizers of the demonstration.
I’m so humbled that Norway saw fit to translate and release both my books; the people of that nation seem so intelligent and compassionate.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Beaver Tales

"Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so."  
Douglas Adams 

I love stories: reading, listening to, telling, in a book, on film, over a pint or around a campfirewhatever. I've heard some writers don't like being called storytellers, I have no problem with it. There's a long and rich tradition of storytelling that runs throughout human history. It's been shown that reading stories, especially fiction, can help deepen our empathy and compassion, which is an invaluable part of the human experience. 

When nature turns sharply it's our empathy and imagination that allows us to adapt and survive. It's survival of the species after-all, not the television show Survivor, an individual can't win it all; not to give away the ending, but the reality is, on an individual basis, everybody dies. But that's a reality people tend to avoid, and stories can bring us face to face with it. 

Stories bring people together, they offer us a shared experience, a common ground to pull together on when need be. The odd duck who spent all his/her time reading and listening to stories, perhaps, teaching them-self how to build a boat, isn't seen as an outcast when the waters start rising. I don't buy the notion that bigger and stronger is better . . . Neanderthals were bigger and stronger, look how it turned out for them. I'll bet they were shite at telling stories. 

But what has this got to do with music? I like to hear stories being sung, also. Today I'm posting four Canadian Stories. Stories that allow us to share in, perhaps even learn from, the struggles of our fellow human beings. 

The first I felt should be Stompin' Tom Connors, since he's a legendary Canadian storyteller. In this one he's singing about picking tobacco in the fields of Tillsonburg. I choose it since Jason Leighfield, who acted in my audio play, "An Ongoing Process" which you can hear this summer as part of Festival Players' 'Sounding Ground' series, is from Tillsonburg, has worked in the tobacco fields and used to, occasionally, sing parts of this song in college, "My back still aches when I hear that word . . . "

Barrett's Privateers, by Stan Rogers, is a sea shanty about an ill-fate sea voyage that set out from the east coast of Canada, toward Jamaica, in search of American merchantmen and their gold. 

The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald is another story of tragedy on the water. This time it was on the Great Lakes. The story is shared by the Americans. In fact, the story is more theirs, in a way, since the crew, that sadly perished, were Americans; many from Wisconsin, where most of my cousins live. But, Gordon Lightfoot (who was J's, in 'Just J', favourite singer/songwriter) is Canadian, and he tells the story, and does a crackin' job of it, capturing the listener so well you almost feel sea sick when you listen; and your heart aches with each of the 29 bell tolls; even though you never actually hear them. The story often ends up belonging to the one who tells it best.

Finally, I had to do a Hockey song. Though this isn't so much about hockey as a player and the story about his disappearance and discovery and how it tied into the Toronto Maple Leafs success on the ice. It's Bashin' Bill" Barilko's story, as told by Kingston, Ontario's Tragically Hip.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Music, Lyrics and True North

I've wanted to add a music section to my blog for sometime. I am, after-all, a graduate from Radio Broadcasting at Loyalist College, one of the top radio programs in the country, and music has always been a large part of my life.
Some of my main writing influences were/are lyricists, such as Leonard Cohan, Nick Cave, Tom Waits, David Bowie, Lou Reed, Eddie Vedder, Joni Mitchell, Sarah McLachlan, Tori Amos, Roger Waters, Andy Prieboy, Stan Ridgway, Black Francis, the list is too long and is constantly being added to. The spirit of the music, with bands like the Pixies and Iggy Pop, that freedom and self-expression, even the Andy Warhol and The Factory with the Velvet Underground where Lou Reed had to write a certain number of songs per dayyou take care of the quantity and the quality will comeit's work, don't forget it, has had great influence on how I approach writing, or anything creative: more emotionally raw than delicately refined. And that do it for love, even if they hate you, has, along with my faith, helped keep me going. Music has been my sin and my salvation.

However, I couldn't find a bridge from the books to the music that I felt comfortable taking. Then when redoing the blog, and considering it yet again, the Prince Edward Country Authors Festival, that I was a presenter at a couple years back, brought in Bernie Finkelstein for the launch of his new book, "True North: A Life Inside The Music Business". Bernie Finkelstein is the founder of  True North Records and has worked with the likes of Bruce Cockburn, Dan Hill, The Rheostatics, Blackie and The Rodeo Kings ect. He's done a great deal for Canadian Music, and considering how Canadians in the position to support fellow Canadians often do the opposite it makes it all the more admirable.
So here it is, the beginning of a music section, starting with 3 bands that Mr. Finkelstein, who kindly autographed his book for me and told me how much he admired writers, has worked with.
First, Bruce Cockburn, who Bernie stills manages. The song I picked is Peggy's Kitchen Wall because I listened to it over and over again, on vinyl, when I was a wee lad, trying to figure out who it was that put that bullet hole in Peggy's kitchen wall. And why?

Second is The Rheostatics. The song I chose is Clair, a song that was in the great Canadian film, Whale Music. I choose it because I love the song and had a very enjoyable night at the Horseshoe Taven, in Toronto, at their show. And, the lyrics: "Purify me, purify me Claire, let me see you save a mind that isn't there . . . Liquify me, liquify these walls, let me see them gushing like Niagara falls . . . vapourize me . . .  Let me see you save a soul that is impaired . . . Clarify me, Claire."

Finally, Junkhouse, which Bernie didn't work with (as far as I know) but he did work with Tom Wilson in Blackie and the Rodeo Kings; Tom Wilson's first band was Junkhouse, who had a song on the second Due South soundtrack, which was a Canadian TV program that I very much enjoyed, though I got to see more of it in Belfast, on the BBC, than I did at home in Canada. This isn't the song from the soundtrack, mind you, nor is it the first song I heard from Junkhouse, back when I was in that Radio Broadcasting course I was talking about eariler. It is non the less, on of my favourites. It's only a matter of time before we all shine . . .

They're all examples of great Canadian music. Actually, it's great music song full stop. One of the wonderful things about Canadian Music, is that for it to be Canadian Music it has to be music that has been created by a Canadian or Canadians as the case may be. I've been informed that the same can't be said for film and literature where Canadian is seen more of as a genre than a people. Enjoy.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

A card I received from the students after my last semester with S.W.A.T. I received thank you cards after all my classes and have kept all of them. This was the largest and the only one I recall where someone drew a picture of me, and gave me a catchphrase!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

A Fantastic Place To Be

The Rhino's, A Fantastic Place To Be , is a song that I loved in college but couldn't find it on youtube. I wanted to teach myself Movie Maker, so, I took a bunch of the winter photos that I took around the farm in 2010/11, since we didn't get much of a winter in 2011/12, and put this together.
It was just a learning project. I don't have any rights to the song; I hope they don't mind, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I always have.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Puppets Without Borders

"You might be poor, your shoes might be broken, but your mind is a palace."
― Frank McCourt

Puppets Without Borders is a new program providing access to the arts for children in need. The arts and the imagination can be powerful tools in keeping the spirit strong through times of great adversity and poverty. Like Krista talks about in the video, I too have seen and experienced the difference that creativity, and a healthy form of self expression, can make in the lives of young people—from all different cultural backgrounds. Please take a moment to follow the link and watch the video. Here's an excerpt:

"In November 2012 Krista Dalby and Tanis De Sa Pereira will be travelling to Ghana, Africa, as volunteers. They’ll be working in small rural villages in the Volta Region where there is limited schooling, medicine, housing and other basic needs. Over the course of 2 weeks they will be teaching puppetry to up to 200 children; working together to tell traditional Ghanaian stories through shadow puppetry, culminating in a community performance . . . "

Farewell Little Mosque on the Prairie, and Thank You.

Little Mosque on the Prairie is having its final episode tonight, on CBC. To be absolutely honest I’ve only been getting into it recently but I’ve enjoyed much of what I’ve seen. It reminds me of the Canada I used to know: good humour, tolerance and understanding.
A Canada, which when the world goes going crazy steps back and says,