Telus “World of Science” (Edmonton, Alberta)

Decided to check out the Telus “World of Science” when we were in Edmonton recently.

Unfortunately, the price of admission—$35, including a surcharge for the ridiculous Marvel Comics feature exhibit (and that has what to do with science, exactly?)—was a complete ripoff so I decided to wait in the foyer while the folks I was with ponied up the necessary coin.

To add insult to injury, the Telus folks have created a scale model of a new building they’d like to construct, with the help of public donations. Folks, Telus are the arseholes who are over-charging you for your cell phone service and making billions at your expense.  They could easily fund the entire facility, while asking only a nominal fee for admission, but that is not part of their mentality.

These corporate sponsorships are a joke, advertising for companies that are socially irresponsible, capitalistic, greedy and self-serving. They pay low taxes, while earning all the benefits of the infrastructure we’ve paid for out of our pockets.

Here’s what I wrote as I waited for the group I was with to finish their tour:

When you commodify the sciences and arts, charge a fee to access records of our shared achievements, whose agenda is served and whose interests ignored?

The corporate mindset is not generous or benevolent, it exacts a price for its puny tithes and refuses to acknowledge the public ownership of knowledge or the common good served by true acts of charity.

“Peasants were never permitted within the gardens of Versailles
their presence an affront to the beauty residing there;
Only the wealthy could produce the price of admission,
only they had license to piss on its manicured grounds.”

Free Flow Dance Company, Saskatoon

I have been privileged to have Jackie Latendresse and her Free Flow Dance company use numerous pieces of my music in their performances. I treasure that relationship and am always amazed by the interpretations and insight they bring to my work.

Later this week, they’ll be presenting to the public and if you’re in the Saskatoon area, I hope you’ll attend. Modern dance has never been more entertaining and impressive. Give it a chance and support a wonderful, original company of dancers and choreographers.

Justin Trudeau in “Black Face” is not the issue

Anyone who has even a passing acquaintance with me is aware that I despise mealy-mouthed liberals in general and Justin Trudeau in particular.

For nearly two decades I have regarded Trudeau, Jr. as a prime example of the kind of vapid, insufferable personality that has made a home on the centre-Left of the political spectrum. The sheer hypocrisy of these people is something to behold. They’re in favor of all the grand social causes of the day, any issue that doesn’t endanger their personal interests or cause them to lose their privileged status. They call themselves “progressives” because it makes them feel better, but their political activism comes to a screeching halt when their bank accounts and vacation homes are threatened or if their kids can no longer attend elite private schools that help prep them for life among the one-percenters.

J.T. is the embodiment of a “on one hand this, on the other hand that” breed of people that can utter contradictory positions without realizing (or caring about) the intellectual and ideological cowardice of their stance. Look at the way he championed the notion of proportional representation before the last federal election, abandoning it as soon as he had secured a comfortable majority in the House of Commons. He can bemoan the poor state of the environment, offer his support to the Kyoto Protocol and other climate accords, yet spend billions of taxpayer $$$ on new pipelines that, if Canada aggressively pursued alternative energy strategies and technologies, will be obsolete in a decade. He and his office personally intervened on behalf of SNC-Lavalin, trying to ensure that corruption-plagued company would receive special treatment from our judicial system, a lenient slap on the wrist for consorting with despicable regimes, bribing their way into the good books of the likes of Muammar Gaddafi.

Yet instead of being continually raked over the coals for these cynical ploys, today J.T. finds himself vilified for photos and video from the distant past, the politically correct posse baying for blood. Remember, apologizing and showing remorse isn’t enough for these arbiters of decency and morality, they want your existence permanently expunged from the record, the very mention of your name subject to boos and hisses from the peanut gallery.

Some of the wisest words ever uttered are: “Let those without sin be the first to cast stones”. How many of us have something to hide, some indiscretion, ill-advised joke, stupid quip we’re ashamed of? Have you never behaved badly or caused distress to someone else, deliberately or inadvertently? Well, then, you’re among a very tiny minority and good for you. And, by the way, you’re also a big, fat liar, liar, pants on fire.

Folks, the reason our politicians suck these days, why we have difficulty convincing thoughtful individuals to run for public office, is because of the ridiculous standards we impose on them, insisting that everything they’ve done in their lives either be above reproach or so well concealed they never have a chance of seeing the light of day. If you happened to fart in church back in 2003 and wish to run for mayor, town dogcatcher or, God help you, member of Parliament, well, someone is bound to bring it up and use it against you. Never mind your genuine desire to serve others—less fortunate people who have (rightfully) become disenchanted with the candidates they’ve been offered and would like to see a politician possessing new, exciting ideas and the mettle to carry them through.

How many of our best leaders and statesmen, men and women who made their mark on history, could bear the kind of scrutiny they’d be subjected to today? How many would be denied the opportunity to contribute their unique gifts and visions to the world? Mackenzie King talked to ghosts, JFK was a serial philanderer, Lincoln famously stated that if given a choice between preserving the union and outlawing slavery, he would choose the former option.

And Jesus Christ, we’re told, regularly hung around with whores and tax-collectors (shame on him!).

We get the kind of government we deserve and if the self-appointed poobahs of righteousness and virtue have their way democracy will suffer grievously…and we will continue to be represented by officials unstained by scandal, but lacking any of the passion and fire required to enact real change in our unequal, superficial, broken society.

Getting caught with your pants down is one thing—being exposed for lack of conviction, duplicity, a paucity of empathy and compassion, wanton disregard for democratic institutions and values is something quite different.

It’s perfectly okay to be a Justin Trudeau hater…just make sure you’re hating him for all the right reasons.

 

 

Tribute to a Classic Monster

Kong

Skull Island wasn’t the same without him. The indigenous inhabitants, denied their traditional object of veneration and sacrifice, disintegrated into sects and internecine squabbling, nearly eradicating themselves. Survivors fell victim to the missionaries who inevitably follow in the wake of white explorers, displacing pagan idols, substituting ones more to their liking.

Robbed of its apex predator, the jungle lost coherence and structure, descending into chaos. And then came invasive species, animals and plants foreign to the closed ecosystem, devastating the pristine wilderness.

It wasn’t long before a consortium of Far Eastern financiers and venture capitalists bought the beachfront and lagoon for the equivalent of some beads and hand mirrors, evicting the natives, erecting exclusive vacation resorts catering to jet-setting millionaires and trust fund slackers.

Gift shops featuring statuettes, t-shirts and keepsakes commemorating the Island’s most famous denizen did brisk business, affluent tourists sporting colorful gear celebrating a fearsome creature once dubbed “the Eighth Wonder of the World”.

Descendants of the original islanders toiled in service industry roles, existing precariously, pining for the days when their god still lived and breathed, uprooting trees, bellowing his defiance, exacting regular tribute for the privilege of viewing divinity in the flesh.

Poem of the day

Homegrown Terror

The people who walk down back alleys
must have something to hide
subversives, if not terrorists
avoiding prying eyes

They seem poor and tired
but that could be just a front
they’re probably a sleeper cell
dreaming of martyrdom

Tourist: An Epithet

In the past several weeks I’ve had conversations during which I made disparaging remarks about tourists.

“I hate ’em,” I snarled, “they are lower order creatures, on par with ambulatory trilobites.”

Words to that effect.

But on one occasion, I was reminded that during the summer of 2016 my wife and I spent an entire month overseas, visiting three countries and soaking up the atmosphere like parched sponges. Didn’t that make me, ahem, a tourist?

Immediately after the accusation was leveled at me I became angry, defensive, denying the charge vehemently.

See, my notion of tourism is that it’s a necessary evil, like gut bacteria or liberal politicians. Yes, it can greatly benefit the economy of a nation but, in so doing, it also exacts a certain psychic toll. I mean, there were some parts of Prague that reminded me of Disneyland (and that is not a good thing).

For myself, rather than tourist, I prefer the term “visitor” or perhaps even “guest”.

Let me illustrate what I think is the difference between a visitor to a foreign country and a tourist with this analogy:

After a perfunctory knock, a stranger enters your home, basically brushing past you as he marches over to the table, seats himself and waits to be served. He doesn’t look right or left, doesn’t check out the pictures on the walls, the arrangement of the furniture; there’s no small talk, this person just wants to be fed.

And so you bring forth the courses you’ve spent all day preparing, but the food is unpleasant and exotic to the stranger, who loudly bemoans the lack of familiar favorites. The water tastes funny too and they can’t understand your weird accent.

Then, finally, the stranger glances at his watch, bolting abruptly because they have another dinner appointment further down the road (hopefully boasting better fare than this sorry joint). No real human contact, no effort made to immerse themselves in their surroundings and engage with their host. Only interested in stuffing their fat faces as quickly as possible and then moving on to the next trough.

See what I mean?

I personally think it’s quite easy to make distinctions between feelthy touristas and those who are genuinely interested in their chosen destination, doing their research, learning a few words of the language ahead of time, apprising themselves of some of the historical and cultural features specific to the region in question.

Further:

Visitors have bucket lists, tourists have checklists.

A visitor will seek out a nondescript street corner once glimpsed in an obscure “B” movie; a tourist goes on inclusive, all-you-can-eat-and-drink junkets, spending hours trying to tan their pasty bodies on a private beach, the only locals in evidence the ones employed as service personnel.

Tourists patronize expat bars and seek out others of their kind; visitors deftly avoid anyone reeking of their home country and venture far afield to escape their idiotic compatriots.

Visitors seek experience, interaction; tourists are after visuals, placing themselves front and center in every picture they take, “selfies” amid the ruins, egos the size of the Parthenon.

A tourist never gets deliberately lost or risks chance encounters.

A tourist is rarely pleasantly surprised or jolted by insight.

A tourist secretly despises the countries they visit and can’t wait to get back home and pretend otherwise.

A visitor gamely struggles with the native dialect; tourists insist on talking their own lingo in A VERY LOUD VOICE.

To a tourist, any place worth seeing has to look like it belongs on a postcard.

A tourist says “cool”, meaning worthy of yet another picture, and “quaint” when they mean old and useless.

A tourist can enter a thousand-year-old church and completely ignore the gorgeous, stained glass windows, hand-carved pulpit and ancient aura, instead fixating on a middle-aged nun praying near the back who’s a dead ringer for their aunt Gladys.

A visitor never completely shakes off the places they explore and inhabit; a tourist takes nothing from the sites and monuments they see and leaves nothing of themselves behind.

A visitor is respectful, tolerant, gracious; a tourist vain, easily bored, rude, suspicious  and disdainful.

A visitor departs with regret, a tourist with relief.

Visitors smile, tourists grimace.

Visitors say “thank you”, tourists begrudge even a modest tip.

Visitors try and fit in, tourists don’t bother.

Visitors are pilgrims, tourists consumers.

 

“Navigating Purgatory”: An EP of weird, ambient music

Yes, I’ve been ensconced in my office-slash-recording studio, concocting more strange music with no audience or venue in mind.

Just fucking around on my MIDI keyboard and seeing what I can come up with.

Quite pleased by this latest batch o’  tunes, especially the very first cut, “Ominous IV”, which wouldn’t be out of place as the main title track of the next “Alien” movie.

Here’s the tune in question and if you want to listen to the entire EP, go to my BandCamp page (everything there is FREE, no strings attached, honest) and download away.