Monday, November 29, 2010

white witch and black devil

Witches Sabbath. Francisco de Goya. 1798

In our discussion on witches, one of my students linked to kimber scott's blog post on art about witches. Although there are a number of interesting images on scott's post that can be read for representations of gender, the male imagination, the supernatural, and the body, among other cultural meanings, the image above by Goya caught my eye for its Orientalism. The painting can be read for its gendered racialization as its Orientalist tropes are evident in: the reclining figure, the veiled women, the sand, the crescent moon, and, of course, the "black devil" in the middle. The he-goat pagan animal god who is holding court over a group of spellbound women who are beneath him. The Wiki page, however, reads Goya's painting as an earlier part of a series of "Black Paintings" condemning superstition, the Spanish Inquisition, and disillusionment with Spanish political and religious developments. Although it can be argued that that is true, it is also true that he used Orientalist tropes to do that. What's so radical about linking Arabs with superstition? Nothing.
On the other hand, look at the lily whiteness of this angelic looking witch painted by another Spanish painter, Luis Ricardo Falero, in 1880, This painting is also called The Witches Sabbath. Seems men like witches. This red-headed woman looks like a neo-classical goddess: beautiful, nude, fantasy-like, dreamy. She looks like an alabaster statue straight out of classical Greek tradition. Her red hair, of course, adding that hint of recklessness as red-haired women were seen as closer to the devil, more likely to be hot-tempered. She may be riding a broomstick with bats hovering in the sky over her shoulder, but she is clearly sailing into a man's dream -- indeed, this painting is also known as Muse of the Night. In other words, the path to a man's imaginative power. What's so radical about using women to fuel male creativity? Nothing.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

an empty nest, a dog, and a deer

I saw this bird's nest in a shrub alongside the sidewalk on my walk the other morning. I had gone out looking for fake tea lights; I've got a surprise in mind. The nest was empty; the birds who haven't left town now that the snow is flying are huddled inside conifers for protection from the wind. The bird that made this nest was quite the artist as well as practical. The puffs of dog fur and batting that it wove into its nest look quite comfy and warm.
Dog in the snow, photo by Johanna

The photo of the dog is not taken by me; it's just a dog galloping through the snow somewhere around Thunder Bay. It's a sweetheart of a photo that has captured that wonderful sense of pure joy simply for being alive on a snowy day! Dog medicine is simple: have dog, joy enters your heart. A dog's spirit is unbreakable; dog medicine teaches us faithfulness and unbounded love.
Buck near the creek, photo by Rod and Roger Pollard

And this photo is simply majestic. It reminds me of the majesty of charismatic animals. Deer medicine tells us to be gentle with ourselves and others. Deer appears on our path to take us back to old teachings. Deer are extremely acute to subtle movements and changes. Deer medicine comes to tell us to listen carefully for that which is not spoken.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Northern Woman's Bookstore and ONWA present First Voices

Northern Woman's Bookstore presents

First Voices: An Aboriginal Women’s Reader

Patricia A. Monture & Patricia D. McGuire (Editors)

Join us to launch!

Refreshments provided.

Wednesday, November 24th at 7:30 pm

65 South Court Street

For more information contact: 344-7979

{Please note that Pat McGuire will also be doing a reading and signing for First Voices Thursday November 25, 1:00 - 2:15 p.m., at ONWA's Open House, which is being held at the Prince Arthur Hotel in recognition of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

Do stop by, for Pat's reading, as well as various other planned ceremonies and presentations,
beginning at 11 a.m. and commencing at 8 p.m.}


International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women
November 25th, 2010

Thursday, November 25th, 2010
10 am – 4:30 pm
Prince Arthur Hotel
17 North Cumberland Street, Thunder Bay, ON

We will be accepting donations for Christmas Hampers. Please bring a non-perishable food item. Miigwetch!

November 25th has been designated as a day to fight violence against women and is internationally recognized as the “Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women.” ONWA has organized this event in order to take part in this international observance and to bring awareness to the scale and the true nature of the violence against Aboriginal women.
This event will include a book reading of “First Voices, an aboriginal women’s reader,” by Patricia McGuire and a film screening of “3rd World Canada, by Andree Cazabon. A discussion of both and an opportunity to network will take place afterwards.

Please join us afterwards for
“Open Mic Night at the Coffee House”
The Learning Café
510 East Victoria Ave
6:30 pm – 8:00 pm

Many will share poems and other personal expressions about this important issue. “By raising awareness, together we can work to eliminate it.”
For more information, please contact Kahla Moses at 807- 623-3442 or toll free 1-800-667-0816.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

a document of history

This eye-catching and inspiring print called "Fight Patriarchy" was made by Favianna Rodriguez, or perhaps I should say from reading her post that it came through her as she "meditated" with the artist's materials in front of her. True: Is not an artist a magician of rituals who enters unknown realms always returning with new gifts to help all of us see with new eyes?

This print is such an arresting visual image. It's strong red, black, and white presence reminds me of vintage revolutionary posters, but then again it also has a strong Mexican/Indigenous look; however, the image on the top also reminds me of sci-fi. I like the simplicity and clean lines of the words and how the word "WOMEN" is the largest word, blazing red, the first word calling you to attention.

The image at the top of the print, as Favianna explains on her blog, shows a woman feeding a dove to the monster of patriarchy:

"The figure up top is a woman that is feeding a dove to the monster that is Patriarchy. The monster has a woman warrior inside him, who he is refusing to let free. She represents the ways in which patriarchy affects us all, men and women, and does not allow us to reach our full potential as human beings, because we are limited by gender roles and institutionalized sexism."

In her post, Favianna explains how this particular piece was inspired by an essay by Maryam Roberts titled "War, Climate & Women" and a song by Sylvio Rodriguez, "Sueño con Serpientes." Favianna is an artist whose cup of creativity is repeatedly re-filled by the Muse; as she explains:

"In my work, I consistently seek out examples of how women, immigrants, queer folks, youth and people of color are affected by climate change, war, and militarism. People ask me all the time how it is that I get my ideas. I tell them I have so many issues that I want to make art about that the next 50 years is not enough. The ideas come to me because of what I see around me, what people around me are fighting for. In fact calling it an "idea" is not accurate, its more like - a moment in time. There are times when I read something, or when I witness something, or hear about a particular person's story - and immediately am so touched that I make the decision to record it in a visual piece. So that it may live as testament to that time, a document of history."

For more of her wisdom, read Favianna's whole post here, where you can also find a link to purchase the print. She also has a 2011 calendar with images of her striking prints for sale for only $10!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Lately, I always seem to be on top of a rock

The trail to Finger Point starts in the bush. You access the trail from the Ontario Tourist Information Office right at the Canadian border, so park your car in the lot. At the beginning of the trail, the uprooted trees weren't too bad, but as we got further down the trail,
they become a serious impediment. At times, having to skirt around, leap over, limbo under, and break our way through the fallen trees, we momentarily lost the path. From all the cracked bark and broken branches and trunks, the aromatic scent of balsam and spruce permeated the air and was quite delicious. Have you ever walked for kilometres with the scent of balsam filling your head? Then you know what I mean. The air was healing.
However, the blown down trees made going down the path so arduous, and the creaking and groaning of tall skinny old trees swaying ominously in the wind threatening to crash down at any moment spooked us, so we decided to walk along the shore instead. I had stopped to take photos of the trees but my son shouted at me, "Are you crazy? Don't you hear the trees? Look at them swaying! We have to hurry up and get out of here! This is not a photo-op moment." He was right. No time for photos in the bush.

The shore, however, was terribly windy. I stopped to re-wrap my scarf that used to be a poncho I bought in Cuetzalan but which I cut up to make it more practical. I wrapped its soft black cotton weave tightly around my head and ears and crisscrossed it around my neck to protect against the fierce wind. On the shore we scavenged for some driftwood poles to use as walking sticks. I found one that was just like a cane with a curved handle. Perfect! With my huivi (scarf) and my keppi (cane), I am sure if anyone crossed our path, he or she would think an old lady gnome just stepped out of the forest.
After awhile, we had to give up walking along the shore, not only because it was quite difficult to navigate the hundreds of odd-shaped rocks, so you have to walk the whole way with your eyes to the ground, but also because the trail begins its climb towards the mound through the bush. So, it was back to battling blowdown.
When we got close to the top of the lookout, I turned around and noticed that you can see the mouth of the Pigeon River from this height of land. The US is on the left, Canada on the right, and the bay is Lake Superior. The sun was shining right at us, so it was difficult for me to get a photo without any glare.
As I mentioned in my last post, to get to the of the Finger Point lookout, you have to spiral along the edge of the path, which at this point is millions of pieces of shale rock. Earlier, where the path dips, there were huge rocks shaped like immense chairs that had broken off a cliff face. Patterns often repeat themselves, and I noticed the spiral designs in the iron artwork that wraps around the bench repeats the spiralling of the path to the lookout.
There are actually two mounds at the top of this lookout, like two hills or two breasts. One is bigger than the other. My son is sitting on the smaller one; the land just falls away behind it, which is hard to capture with a camera. The entire lookout is a magical place because it is not visible from the highway, yet it is just off of it. On the right, you can see a line that crosses the bush just below the horizon; that's Highway 61 cutting through. Yet few people realize as they speed down the highway to the US that there is a beautiful lookout on the other side of the trees. You can't see this bay from the road, but it is merely -- or should I say, literally, given the scores of fallen down balsam, spruce, birches and poplars on the path -- a hop, skip and a jump away.
On the way back, to avoid the worst of the fallen down trees, we got back onto the shore as soon as we could. Coming around a rock outcropping. we met a man with white hair, thin, older than us, with a camera in one hand and a cast on his other hand. He asked us how much farther to the lookout, whether the fallen trees ease up at all, and should he turn back? We told him that he's almost at the end, only about 20 more minutes, and that when the land begins to climb, there is less blowdown. We wished him well as we went our separate ways. A few steps later, my son and I wondered aloud why anyone with only one good hand would go on a hike through the bush. Never mind, I said, why would anyone risk hiking by themselves in the Canadian bush? What if you met a bear? a wolf? A tree fell on you? You tripped on a root and hit your head on the edge of a rock? You slid on the shale and tumbled down the ridge?
At the end of the trail, we decided to cut across the beach at the bottom of the bay. It is full of thousands of pieces of driftwood and logs that have collected here over the years. They are smooth as silk and have been bleached a pale grey by the sun.

The hike took us much longer than we anticipated due to the blowdown, and so we arrived home in the late afternoon. I do not recommend hiking this trail until next spring when the fallen trees have all been cleared. Then you can do the 5 k in a breeze.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Star on Finger Point

Like I do whenever I reach a high elevation where the air is thin and clear and clean and the sky an immense circle and you feel like you're falling even while standing up, I struck some yoga poses: tadasana with fingers pointing overhead into the blue, warrior one, warrior two with fingers pointing east and west, and five pointed star. Here I am, bracing myself against the wind, facing south towards the US, the Canadian woods and water behind me.Climbing the spiral edge of the mound reminded me of the serpent pyramid I climbed in Mexico a few years back. Perhaps this, too, was a sacred place of pilgrimage for the Indigenous people before settlers came and made a park out of this land.

Last Thursday, I hiked Finger Point trail with my son. The trail is off Highway 61 just this side of the US border, on the Canadian side; it's part of Pigeon River Provincial Park. At the top of the lookout -- it's a steep spiral climb -- is a wooden bench/platform shaped like Lake Superior. Wrought iron wings depicting voyageurs curve around the bench. You are not expecting to find art suddenly in this desolate place, so coming upon it is a joy.

A top the high, yet small in circumference, mound that pops up into the sky at the end of the trail, I felt like I was going to be blown away. We had not expected the wind to be so strong, as it hadn't been forecast. The blowdown from the previous storm a few weeks back made the trail a gruelling challenge, and at one point, I shouted over the wind to my son, "Should we turn back?" Once we made it to the top, however, our difficulties were behind us. The point of land beyond the lookout juts out like a skinny finger into Lake Superior. The view is outstanding, something a camera can never capture as it is beyond sight.
Here is the lookout from a distance, from the shore of Lake Superior, halfway there. You can see the finger of land pointing into the water, the mound that is the lookout like a cushion calling you. Who would turn back?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Cranberry Carrot Muffins on a Winter's Day

Last night, it started snowing heavily. "Oh, my goodness!" I exclaimed late last night when I glanced out the window. When you live in a climate where the weather changes quickly causing your routine to change suddenly and dramatically, you comment on the weather. You even talk to yourself about the weather, saying corny things like, "Look how beautiful it is!"
Seeing through snow is zen. You don't need to go to any temple nor pay money for a yoga retreat nor listen to a motivational speaker telling you what you need; you just go outside and look around. The metaphor of snow blanketing the earth is not an accident of tongue -- snow does comfort you like a blanket. Snow brings a stillness to the air and to your being. Of course, I'm speaking like a Northerner. If you are from somewhere else, you might hate snow. But to me, snow is yoga. Union.
This morning, like last year about this time, I knew that snow was imminent. But as this November has been so mild, I kept pressing my luck. So, I didn't actually prepare for it, which meant that I had to go rummage in my basement for my boots. Well, it's not exactly true that I didn't prepare for it because last week I did make a scarf out of one of my favorite old wool sweaters. My sister had bought me the sweater 25 plus years ago when she went to Italy with Ritva, and I have never been able to throw out that purple and brown sweater even though it went hopelessly out of style.
I trudged through the heavy, wet snow to pick Tassu up to take her for a walk. By the time I returned, I was sweaty and winded from the extra effort of dragging my boots through clumpy snow. So, I made some comfort food -- cranberry carrot muffins with spelt flour and ground flax seeds -- even though I read yesterday that one way to avoid extra calories in winter is to be aware of "emotional eating," that is, comfort foods.

I wonder though: are the people who write those articles about avoiding "extra calories" Northerners?

Friday, November 12, 2010

choke on this, Canadians. You paid how much for policing civic-minded people?

image source G20 police officers in Toronto this past summer.

Continuing with my last post on the policing of the G20 meeting in Toronto, today's Toronto Star has an article about the exorbitant cost of policing this weekend event. (This is in addition to the exorbitant cost of the so-called security fence which has since been taken down, that is, for a temporary fence.)

"A report by [Police Chief Bill] Blair that will be presented to the police board on Monday reveals the Toronto force spent $5.3 million on hotels, more than $2 million on food and $4.6 million on radio rentals."

There are many reasons why costs sky-rocketed out of control -- paid for by us, the Canadian taxpayers! -- but one reason stems from holding the meetings in Toronto, a large Canadian urban center, and, with the normalization of security and policing that has become Canadian policy, police officers were flown in from across Canada to police the demonstrators (last minute flights and we know what that means!) and put up in hotels in downtown Toronto (pricey even without this event descending on the city!). Excerpt from "Staggering G20 blamed on timing":

"Roughly half of the 10,000 officers on duty during the G20 came from other jurisdictions. Of those, about 2,000 flew in. All of them, including Toronto police officers who live out of the city and were on call round the clock, were put up in hotels such as the Hyatt, Marriott and Delta Chelsea, at a time when room costs were inflated.

The summit may have lasted only three days, but the officers stayed two weeks. The first week was spent training. Demonstrations began early the week of the summit.

Approximately 4,400 personnel were housed for up to 13 nights.

Each day, officers were given either a $60 per diem or the equivalent in meal costs. Many were working on time-and-a-half overtime, on 12-hour shifts."

image source

Take a look at some of the figures:

Delta Chelsea Inn, 17 rooms, meals, meeting rooms: $2,619,555
Allen-Vanguard Corp., tactical headgear — helmets, gas masks, eye shields (5,200 units): $2,246,479

Met-Scan Canada Ltd., CCTV cameras, fibre-optics, related equipment: $1,176,180

Eastern Developments Co-Tenancy, lease of Eastern Ave. site used for detentions: $1,769,853

Seriously, this last one really makes me mad -- the cost of a place to detain people arrested! Almost all of the people detained have had their charges dropped, which shows the baselessness of the charges. And Canadian taxpayers paid how much for the folly of rounding up innocent people demonstrating their civic right to voice dissent? For the rightful and legal practice of saying no to corporate greed? 1.7 million. Choke on that taxpayers.

And there is no money for much needed social services for disadvantaged people in the north or in the inner cities? No money to make the cost of educating a First Nations student on a reserve equal to that which is spend on students in mainstream provincial schools?

Read the full report of the staggering costs, with the specific costs noted at the end of the article.

[Note: I am having a recurring problem with formatting my blog. It seems blogger is changing some formats and does not allow more than one post on the main page, so everything after the last post goes to Older Posts. I have tried changing the number of posts on a page, but it doesn't matter what I put, I end up with the same problem. I am not sure if this is "formatting from above" is just for some blogs or for all bloggers at Blogspot, but I can tell you it is irritating me. I prefer at least 3-5 posts on the opening page so that there is a history to posts. Bear with me as I try to amend this (if possible!)]

Thursday, November 11, 2010

can you be sued for posting a comment online? Officer Bubbles says yes.

This is one of the animated videos that caused Officer Bubbles to sue YouTube and about 25 people who commented on the YouTube videos. He is suing YouTube to get the names of the people who made the comments. The Toronto Star article says the cartoon videos are no longer available on YouTube, but that's where I found them. Who is Officer Bubbles? See the video below:

During the G20 in Canada earlier this year, the Canadian state was heavy-handed with security. This clip of "Officer Bubbles" shows part of the criminalization of peaceful protest; it is just one example that reveals the harsh measures and abuse of authority that some police used to arrest many people, including massive detention of about 1000 people -- the largest mass arrests in Canadian history. Some people who were just waiting for the bus got rounded up by police and put in detention! A journalist for The Guardian, Jesse Rosenfeld, was arrested and beaten, despite having identified himself as a journalist to the police. Most have had their charges dropped, and recently 100 Canadian protesters had their charges dropped.

Because of the abuse of civil rights, "A class action lawsuit has been started against the Toronto Polices Services Board (TPSB) and the Attorney General of Canada (AGC) on behalf of all of those who were arrested and/or detained June 26 and 27, 2010 but were later released without charge."

Further, G20 defendant, Alex Hundert, who was arrested before the G20 meetings began, is facing serious charges and has punitive bail conditions that curb his right to free speech:

"Hundert is facing politically-motivated conspiracy and counseling charges in relation to the Toronto G8/G20 protests. He was arrested preemptively at gunpoint on the morning of June 26th, before the protests began, and is being targeted as a member of the community group AW@L and Southern Ontario Anarchist Resistance.

Hundert was re-arrested on September 17th after speaking at a panel discussion. He remained in jail for almost one month awaiting a hearing, and on October 7 Hundert was unreasonably found to be in breach of his previous no-demonstration bail condition for speaking as an invited panellist at two forums at Ryerson University and Wilfrid-Laurier

According to Judy Rebick, organizer of the Ryerson University event and co-panelist, 'The draconian bail restrictions on Alex Hundert are an attempt to silence and vilify him. No supporter of democracy can stand for such an assault on civil rights.'

'These bail conditions and the politically-motivated conspiracy charge is setting a dangerous precedent in the intensifying criminalization of political speech since the G-20 protest. This is an attempt to intimidate and harass and is a serious assault on freedom of expression and the right to assemble,' further states Gary Kinsman, a Professor at Laurentian University."

This 5 minute news video explains the broader context of the police conduct during the G20. One main point this report discusses is that the video of Officer Bubbles that went viral wrongly put the focus on whether one officer had overstepped his authority rather than the larger issue: the long list of police violence that defined the weekend and the abuse of power in the police institution itself. The report suggests that Toronto police have a history of abuse of authority as it also addresses the death of a young black male, Junior Alexander Minon, while in police custody.

Monday, November 8, 2010

writing as sorcery

The Sorcerer's Apprentice from Fantasia, 1940s Disney film. This scene from the Disney film is based on the story told in a poem written by Goethe in 1797. In Goethe's poem, a magician in training decides to take it upon himself to make magic when the sorcerer leaves, yet without knowing how to stop the magic once it starts. Axing into splinters the broom the apprentice summoned to help him do his work doesn't stop the mayhem. They just keep multiplying.

Words are like that, too, according to Anais Nin:

"The writer writes her letter to the world. When the world answers, it is like the sorcerer's apprentice. You cannot control what you have summoned." Anais Nin

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Vanhemmat: Those Older Than You

It's dark outside my window, completely black. I just felt like a poem today; must be the influence of Kekri calling out to my soul, telling me to start gathering up word magic as winter is coming. So I am sharing with you a "postcard" poem I wrote about this time a few years ago. It's a postcard poem not because it gets sent out in the mail but because it fits onto a postcard sized blank card. Above, you can see the collection of postcard poems I took with me once when I went out to read poetry around town.
Part of the Random Acts of Poetry (RAP) crew I joined one October: Dave, Duncan and Rene on the steps of Hillcrest High School. I'm at the bottom of the steps, behind the camera. We wear these orange worker's overalls because we are the word construction crew.

Over the last five years when I roamed the streets of Thunder Bay in early October with a Random Acts of Poetry crew, I found that it was more effective to have short poems as you never knew who your audience would be, so I worked on crafting shorter poems. I also found out that it was more comfortable to hold a stiff small card in your hand than an 8"x11" paper. I had used regular paper the first year but didn't like the sloppy ruffling and shuffling through papers; it made you nervous; you could lose your words, or just get confused. Short and sweet worked the best.
Once, the RAP crew I joined went to a seniors' residence. We have read to many different audiences, including at public libraries, coffee shops, on a high school stage, in university classes, at a health center, a dog park, in front of the Hoito, random stops on the street, the Northern Women's Bookstore, the Farmer's Market, and Lakehead University Radio.

I liked the postcard poem format also because if it was windy on the day we went out, and we had outdoor stops, well, it could be hard to find your words on a rattling piece of paper that was threatening to blow away. So, I discovered this postcard method. I bought a pack of blank postcard sheets at a local stationary shop, wrote a poem on one side and decorated the back of the card with random cut-outs from magazines and scraps of left-over paper I collect in a shoebox.

I am also challenging myself to use less words to say something. Maybe this is good for winter. Short and sweet -- but you won't find me Tweeting.
image from Suomalaisia Kansansatuja (Finnish Folktales). 1981. This picture by Matti Waren illustrates the story "Utelias akka," which translates to "The Curious/Nosy Old Woman." I found this book of stories at a rummage sale at the Finlandia Club.

Vanhemmat. Those Older Than You.

The wind bending tall grasses
brings memories of an old woman,
her earthy smell precedes her.

Those who have lost their amulets
cannot hear her footsteps
nor see her crazed dance.

An old man follows, his beard
gnarled like the wayward fur
of a pukki, a goat gone the wrong way.

Although the people busy themselves
buying rooms and closets full of stuff
there is hope that one day, they too
will greet Grandmother and Grandfather

Muori ja Faari
Akka ja Ukko
Eukko ja Mies
Mummo ja Pappa
Emȁntȁ a ja Isȁntȁ
Ȁiti ja Isȁ

The vanha pari/old pair
part of you.