Nash the Slash

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Been enjoying some memories of the early 80s lately.

nash-the-slashIn 81 or 82 I made the trip into Edmonton to catch Iggy Pop at the Dinwoodie Lounge on the University of Alberta campus. The opening act caught me completely by surprise: Nash the Slash.

Nash was a Toronto-based violinist/mandolinist. He played looping tracks on his keyboards and drum machine, and just let it rip. His show was electrifying. I had never seen or heard anything like it.

Apparently Nash started performing wrapped in white bandages as a commentary during the 3-Mile Island disaster.

Anyway, has Nash floated in and out of my consciousness since that first show. He was never a big star, but he always made an impression and maintained a loyal following. Nash was fabulous because he understood that popular music is theatre. Everything about his show hit hard and deep.

Nash the Slash–aka Jeff Plewman–died in 2014 at age 66.

Here’s a fabulous TV performance from the early 80s. Nash is dressed as I remember him on that tour so long ago.

RIP Nash and thanks for the music.

Christmas in Canada: Dave Cooks the Turkey

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Stuart McLean is Canada’s storyteller. He tours the country with his show “The Vinyl Cafe”. The show is broadcast weekly on the CBC.

Perhaps Stuart’s funniest story is “Dave Cooks the Turkey”. I found a copy on Soundcloud.

Grab a cup of coffee, put your feet up and enjoy a great story, well told.

Christmas in Canada: The Huron Carol(e)

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The Jesuit Jean de Brébeuf arrived in what is now Canada in 1625 and set about to live with, understand and, of course, convert the people he met. He settled amongst the Huron, and after learning the language, wrote the first dictionary of the language.

More than a century later, a priest at La jeune Lorette, Qué heard a Huron man from the Eastern Georgian Bay area sing a Christian hymn to the nativity in his own language. The priest wrote it down, giving it the title Jesous Ahatonhia. Tradition holds that Père de Brébeuf wrote the hymn and taught it to the indigenous people of the area, and that they had passed it down. Evidence is scarce, but the story is a nice one.

The carol has been translated in English and French and has been a staple of Canadian Christmas for more than two centuries.

‘Twas in the moon of wintertime
When all the birds had fled
That mighty Gitchi Manitou
Sent angel choirs instead
Before their light the stars grew dim
And wandering hunters heard the hymn

Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born
In excelsis gloria
Within a lodge of broken bark
The tender Babe was found
A ragged robe of rabbit skin
Enwrapp’d His beauty round
And as the hunter braves drew nigh
The angel song rang loud and high
Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born
In excelsis gloria
The earliest moon of wintertime
Is not so round and fair
As was the ring of glory
On the helpless infant there
The chiefs from far before him knelt
With gifts of fur and beaver pelt

Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born
In excelsis gloria
O children of the forest free
O sons of Manitou
The Holy Child of earth and heaven
Is born today for you
Come kneel before the radiant Boy
Who brings you beauty, peace and joy
Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born
In excelsis gloria
Ehstehn yayau deh tsaun we yisus ahattonnia
O na wateh wado:kwi nonnwa ‘ndasqua entai
ehnau sherskwa trivota nonnwa ‘ndi yaun rashata
Iesus Ahattonnia, Ahattonnia, Iesus Ahattonnia

Ayoki onki hm-ashe eran yayeh raunnaun
yauntaun kanntatya hm-deh ‘ndyaun sehnsatoa ronnyaun
Waria hnawakweh tond Yosehf sataunn haronnyaun
Iesus Ahattonnia, Ahattonnia, Iesus Ahattonnia

Asheh kaunnta horraskwa deh ha tirri gwames
Tishyaun ayau ha’ndeh ta aun hwa ashya a ha trreh
aundata:kwa Tishyaun yayaun yaun n-dehta
Iesus Ahattonnia, Ahattonnia, Iesus Ahattonnia

Dau yishyeh sta atyaun errdautau ‘ndi Yisus
avwa tateh dn-deh Tishyaun stanshi teya wennyau
aha yaunna torrehntehn yataun katsyaun skehnn
Iesus Ahattonnia, Ahattonnia, Iesus Ahattonnia

Eyeh kwata tehnaunnte aheh kwashyehn ayehn
kiyeh kwanaun aukwayaun dehtsaun we ‘ndeh adeh
tarrya diskwann aunkwe yishyehr eya ke naun sta
Iesus Ahattonnia, Ahattonnia, Iesus Ahattonnia

In recent years, actor Tom Jackson has been mobilizing the Carol to bring relief to Canadians in need. This year, 2016, marks the 29th consecutive year that Tom has brought The Huron Carole on tour for Canadian Christmas. The show supports food banks and other sources of relief.

From huroncarole.ca:

 The Huron Carole brings “those we help” together with “those who give” for a night of breaking bread, breaking barriers, and celebrating our roles in the world of social responsibility.

The Huron Carole is a Christmas story.  A story filled with reflection, humor, passion, and the journey of a homeless man through darkness to light. Traditional, contemporary and signature music releases the spirit of Christmas into one’s heart.  Miracles do not go out of style.

Tom Jackson, founder of The Huron Carole Benefit Concert Series, is a musician, beloved TV personality (North of 60, Star Trek, Law and Order), and long-time champion for the marginalized. Having experienced life on the streets himself, he discovered music was a way to help others.

The Huron Carole is a project of the Christmas & Winter Relief Association whose mandate is to support organizations doing hands-on work with the homeless and hungry in Canada.

Christmas in Canada: The Hockey Sweater

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This week, I’ll give a few thoughts about Christmas in Canada. Today it’s Roch Carrier’s fabulous story “The Hockey Sweater” (“Le chandail de hockey”). The story was published in French in 1979 as “Une abominable feuille d’érable sur la glace” (An Abominable Maple Leaf on Ice).

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Roch Carrier. From http://www.cbc.ca

Let me give some background to the story. The story is set, presumably, in Carrier’s childhood. At that time there were only two NHL teams in Canada. The Montréal Canadiens and the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Canadiens had a monopoly on the best francophone players from Québec. Their sweaters were Liberal Red. And they were the greatest team in hockey. The Maple Leafs were essentially an anglophone team, wearing Tory blue. The formula was simple: the French Liberals cheered for Montréal; the English Conservatives cheered for Toronto. And Montréal won. Repeatedly.

More deeply, the story was published just three years after the first separatist government was elected in Québec, and one year before the first referendum on sovereignty. It was a time for Québec francophones to reflect on past injustices and their implications for the future.

On one hand, the story is nationalistic. On the other, it is a gentle and funny story about childhood, dreams and inclusion.

Here is a lovely short animated feature by the National Film Board of Canada. The Sweater.

The Marvelous Orange Tree

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In the mid-19th century the celebrated French conjurer Robert-Houdin produced a magnificent magic effect. He created an orange tree that produced flowers and fruit right before the audience’s eyes.

Here, British magician Paul Daniels reproduces Rober-Houdin’s illusion.

Enjoy.

November 11, 2016 Remembrance Day

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November 11. Remembrance.

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November 11 is a somber day for many. In Canada, we call it Remembrance Day. There is much to remember.

I was born in 1960, and my country was continually at peace until I was in my 30s. My children have grown up in a period of nearly continual war for our country, with our soldiers seeing combat in the Gulf War, Kosovo, Somalia and Afghanistan.
Growing up in Calgary, my home was nestled between two military bases, called at the time Currie and Sarcee. Soldiers were part of everyday experience on the streets. Military vehicles and helicopters were an everyday sight. We even played on a pair of WWII tanks that were displayed at the entrance to Sarcee Barracks.

Although we were at peace, war was still in the air.

My father, like many of the fathers in the neighbourhood was a veteran of the Second World War. A few of the younger men had served in Korea. There were two seniors’ homes nearby; many of the residents loved to tell their memories to eager little boys like me.

How odd that my childhood was full of memories of war, with games of war with other boys, with the very real presence of soldiers and equipment, and peace. Glorious peace.

One small memory before I search for a way to conclude this piece. In my early teens—sometime in the early to mid 1970s—a couple of friends and I cut through a corner of the Sarcee base, on our way to trout fishing in the Elbow river. There was a firing range and a few out buildings in that corner. If there were no shots, we knew there was no one around to interrupt our shortcut. We walked past a small storage building and looked inside a screened window. The building housed hundreds of WWII targets: squint-eyed Japanese soldiers, crouching while holding machine guns. Every target identical, and every target the size of a small man. For the first time, I felt the violence of the long passed war. I felt the reality that these men I knew had been taught to shoot at a de-humanized caricature of men, so that they could one day shoot at the real thing.
I don’t know if they were still using these targets, 30 years after the conflict ended. It must’ve seemed cartoonish and comical to the soldiers if they did.

So what does this all add up to? I don’t know, really. November 11 is a day of remembrance. And I remember. I mostly remember my father, even though he found his wartime experiences to be rather uninteresting, so far as I could tell. I remember the men who smelled of pipe smoke as they told me stories that seemed unreal. I remember that November 11 was very important to them. And I remember that it is only by luck that I was not required to serve in similarly dehumanizing circumstances.

Summer is a-comin’ in

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Well, we’ve had a late season snow, but why not look forward to the weekend?

Sumer is icumen in,
Loude sing cuckou!
Groweth seed and bloweth meed,
And springth the wode now.
Sing cuckou!

Ewe bleteth after lamb,
Loweth after calve cow,
Bulloc sterteth, bucke verteth,
Merye sing cuckou!
Cuckou, cuckou,
Wel singest thou cuckou:
Ne swik thou never now

Yes, that’s English all right. And yes, “bucke verteth” really does mean “the buck farts”–how else would we know it’s summer?

And while we’re at it, let’s listen to the song–it’s a round, so you can join in wherever you like.

 

Juggling in the 21st Century

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Circus has always appealed to a dark sexuality, while simultaneously being silly and somehow childlike.

Cirque du Soleil has brilliantly pushed the dark sexuality to the front of the circus while still giving us a bit of a backdoor into ordinary life.

From http://viktorkee.com/

Viktor Kiktev, who performs as Viktor Kee, was born in Priluki, Ukraine. His mother worked as a dancer and his father was a musician. At four, he attended a children’s ballet school, but it wasn’t long before his journey to the circus began. His older brother was attending the local children circus School “Uday” and smuggled Viktor into the school at the age of six. There, he was introduced to a remarkable teacher, Alex Gruzin, who was to become a major inspiration to Viktor. He took the young boy under his wing and trained him in acrobatic, equilibristic, magic, clowning and last but not least: juggling. He passed on a great deal more than just skills – he gave Viktor something very precious to treasure for the rest of his life – Love for the Art of Circus. By the age of 11 Viktor was focusing more & more on juggling. Two years later, he developed and conceived his first act, in which he brought together juggling of 3 & 5 large balls with a popular, trendy Break Dance routine that was so popular at the time. The success of that act confirmed to the young man what he wanted to be above all else in the world: a juggler. In 1989, Viktor entered the Professional Circus School in Kiev where he began a four year long, arduous, highly specialized training program. There he practised juggling along with acrobatics, acting and dance for 10-14 hours a day which brought Viktor to a point where he, besides being a good acrobat, a hand balancer, or an actor could also juggle 9 balls, do a 7-ball pirouette, a 5-ball double pirouette and a 6-ball pirouette with the 7th ball on his forehead. However, Viktor was more fascinated by the artistic aspects of juggling than the numbers, or technical characteristics of that art form.

There’s more, of course.

For now, sit back and enjoy Viktor at the Cabare du Monde in 2000.

 

http://www.johndarke.ca

 

 

 

 

Can spring be far behind?

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A white-breasted nuthatch enjoying Edmonton’s winter. Photo by Jim Brohman

 

Here in the great white north, winter is not so much bitter (ok it can be) as it is long. 2015-16 has been a lovely and mild winter (thank you El Nino!)  but the temperatures are sagging again this week.

 

 

 

 

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In Alberta, the winds blow mainly from the West or the North. Take your pick: you want air from the Rockies or the Arctic? Which brings me to Percy Bysshe Shelley: If winter comes, can spring be far behind?

 

 

Ode to the West Wind

BY PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY

I
O wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn’s being,
Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead
Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing,
Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red,
Pestilence-stricken multitudes: O thou,
Who chariotest to their dark wintry bed
The winged seeds, where they lie cold and low,
Each like a corpse within its grave, until
Thine azure sister of the Spring shall blow
Her clarion o’er the dreaming earth, and fill
(Driving sweet buds like flocks to feed in air)
With living hues and odours plain and hill:
Wild Spirit, which art moving everywhere;
Destroyer and preserver; hear, oh hear!
II
Thou on whose stream, mid the steep sky’s commotion,
Loose clouds like earth’s decaying leaves are shed,
Shook from the tangled boughs of Heaven and Ocean,
Angels of rain and lightning: there are spread
On the blue surface of thine aëry surge,
Like the bright hair uplifted from the head
Of some fierce Maenad, even from the dim verge
Of the horizon to the zenith’s height,
The locks of the approaching storm. Thou dirge
Of the dying year, to which this closing night
Will be the dome of a vast sepulchre,
Vaulted with all thy congregated might
Of vapours, from whose solid atmosphere
Black rain, and fire, and hail will burst: oh hear!
III
Thou who didst waken from his summer dreams
The blue Mediterranean, where he lay,
Lull’d by the coil of his crystalline streams,
Beside a pumice isle in Baiae’s bay,
And saw in sleep old palaces and towers
Quivering within the wave’s intenser day,
All overgrown with azure moss and flowers
So sweet, the sense faints picturing them! Thou
For whose path the Atlantic’s level powers
Cleave themselves into chasms, while far below
The sea-blooms and the oozy woods which wear
The sapless foliage of the ocean, know
Thy voice, and suddenly grow gray with fear,
And tremble and despoil themselves: oh hear!
IV
If I were a dead leaf thou mightest bear;
If I were a swift cloud to fly with thee;
A wave to pant beneath thy power, and share
The impulse of thy strength, only less free
Than thou, O uncontrollable! If even
I were as in my boyhood, and could be
The comrade of thy wanderings over Heaven,
As then, when to outstrip thy skiey speed
Scarce seem’d a vision; I would ne’er have striven
As thus with thee in prayer in my sore need.
Oh, lift me as a wave, a leaf, a cloud!
I fall upon the thorns of life! I bleed!
A heavy weight of hours has chain’d and bow’d
One too like thee: tameless, and swift, and proud.
V
Make me thy lyre, even as the forest is:
What if my leaves are falling like its own!
The tumult of thy mighty harmonies
Will take from both a deep, autumnal tone,
Sweet though in sadness. Be thou, Spirit fierce,
My spirit! Be thou me, impetuous one!
Drive my dead thoughts over the universe
Like wither’d leaves to quicken a new birth!
And, by the incantation of this verse,
Scatter, as from an unextinguish’d hearth
Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind!
Be through my lips to unawaken’d earth
The trumpet of a prophecy! O Wind,
If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?