Wednesday, October 31, 2012

zombie apocalypse on a northern highway

Zombie apocalypse in northwestern Ontario? Yep. Read all about it in the new graphic novel Nowadays by Jafo (Kurt Martell) and Chris Merkley. The launch for the book is this Friday 7 pm at Definitely Superior Art Gallery.
Featuring art, video works, NOWADAYS image projection, wandering
zombies, music performance by 'Memory Loss' (members of Ocean City
Defender), get make up artist Ashley Meagher to turn you into a
zombie, eat zombie food, spooky refreshment and much more to
come! Don't toss your Halloween costume out yet! Come as a zombie or
whatever you like and join the madness!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

travel and tourism today

Will they be teaching this new travel opportunity in college Travel and Tourism courses?

While it is true that, for jaded travelers who have been everywhere, vacations can get boring at times, who would imagine that learning to shoot a military weapon and taking up anti-terrorist training would be a good way to kill some time? That you can kill time by learning to kill!

And as the training facility that offers these classes for tourists is in an illegal Jewish settlement in the Palestinian Occupied Territories, I wonder who the tourists get to imagine is the enemy they need to waste?

How much more mainstream can you get if anti-terrorist training is noted under "Leisure" on the Travelers Today website? Indeed, as Rachel Frogel, who gave her four children all under the age of 10 this chance to learn to target people with military weapons, says, "It's a fun experience for the whole family." 

In the news clip I embedded above, we see American tourists to Israel excited to learn to shoot not just any old gun but a military weapon. What better way to spend time on a vacation than this "exciting new program for tourists" that capitalizes on fears and taking up violence as fun and entertainment? The brainchild of an American Jew from Los Angeles, who, I assume, is also an Israeli citizen, this training facility of "security solutions" that "works in close cooperation with the Israel Defense Forces (IDF)" uses former Israeli soldiers for the real "authentic" experience.

And, when you get back home from your travels, you can tack up on the wall at home or in your office a certificate that you have completed a basic shooting-course in Israel--or in the case of a young child, you might bring it to school for show-and-tell or maybe your mom will pin it onto the fridge with cute fridge magnets. 

young female American tourist learning anti-terrorist training. Maybe when this business grows, she could ask for a turquoise coloured gun to match her sunglasses? 

You do not have to be of age to learn how to shoot with a military weapon. It is an experience not to be missed even by the youngest child!
Taking that advice recently was Michel Brown, a Miami banker who brought his wife and children to Caliber 3 with the aim of "teaching them values."
"This is part of their education," he told YNet, as his 5-year-old daughter wielded a gun. "They should know where they come from and also feel some action."
The banker's daughter Take that back to Miami!

Seems there is no shortage of moms and dads who want their kids to learn how to shoot people...I mean, terrorists...I mean, Palestinians: 
"travelers and families take turns shooting at photos of men wearing the keffiyeh scarf worn by Palestinians."

Now, the "security" company's website does not say if it's any tourists who can take their learn-to-attack-terrorists-training. They do say that they have a lot of visitors from around the world come to take their "exciting" course. But I wonder if Palestinian or Arab tourists can take the training, too?

Or do they just get to be the target in this fun activity?

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Jesus the Bear?

Rough translation from Finnish to English: 


Do you have a bit of time to chat about Jesus? 

This made me laugh because when out driving down the highway in the middle of the Northwestern Ontario bush, suddenly you are accosted by a billboard sign reminding you about Jesus. The signs always make you laugh because they are so absurd; so misplaced. This bear reminds me of that. But who knows? Maybe the bear is a Jehovah's Witness out proselytizing.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Stephen Harper's Foreign Policy

Yves Engler's book tour is making a stop in Thunder Bay tomorrow. Yves has recently published a new book called The Ugly Canadian; Stephen Harper's Foreign Policy. In his talk, "The Role of Stephen Harper in Canada's Foreign Policy," Yves discusses the numerous problematic policy paths that Harper and his ministers have instituted, steering Canada into a dark corner of isolation, globally. Is this the Canada we want? No. 

Sat. Oct. 27
1:30 pm
Waverley Library,
downtown P.A., Thunder Bay.

Local sponsors of the tour are the CIC and Human Rights Education; national sponsors of the tour are Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) and

Fernwood Publishers on the book: 
Stephen Harper’s foreign policy documents the sordid story of the Canadian government’s sabotage of international environmental efforts, a government totally committed to tar sands producers and a mining industry widely criticized for abuses. Furthermore, this sweeping critique details Harper’s opposition to the “Arab Spring” democracy movement and his backing of repressive Middle East monarchies, as well as his support for a military coup in Honduras and indifference to suffering of Haitians following the earthquake that devastated their country. The book explores Canada’s extensive military campaign in Libya, opposition to social transformation in Latin America and support for a right-wing Israeli government. With an eye to Canada’s growing international isolation, The Ugly Canadian is a must read for those who would like to see Canada adopt a more just foreign policy.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

catching fish

photo by Tofino Photography

Just sharing a captivating photo I saw this morning on the Weathernetwork while checking the weather. On the Weathernetwork people from across Canada upload images of weather, animals, and geography. This one by Tofino Photography (based on the west coast) reminded me of the story I wrote, My Mother, the Bear.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

protective eye

A few years ago, on a road trip up into the mountains of north Lebanon, we traveled along the holy Qadisha Valley, up Mount el-Makmel, passed the village of Bcharre, and stopped at the Horst Arz (The Forest of the Cedars of God) where the artisans sell their souvenirs.
The cedar trees and grove at Horst Arz is a remnant of a once magnificent and huge sacred forest of cedars. The cedars that are left are survivors of thousands of years of travelers and takers. From building ships, temples, and palaces, to using its resin for Egyptian mummification and its wood for sacred fires, the cedars of the holy Qadisha Valley have been prized. 
This particular tree, to me, is symbolic of the destruction of this once magnificent and holy forest. It has been mutilated. The small remnant forest on the side of Mount Makmel is a protected area. There is a path through the cedars that you pay to enter. Last year when I visited Lebanon, we went on different road trips. The cedars I saw at Tannourine, to me, were much more impressive. Traveling to Lebanon right now, however, is not practical. 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Mourning Cloak

Sometimes you have to pay attention to what you're doing. This afternoon while continuing to go about the yard getting it ready for winter (a task that is not done in one day), I carried Lily, Cherub, Angel, and the Chinese Fortune Ball into the garage. They will not last the frosts and winds of our winters unprotected outdoors; they've got to put into hiding in the garage.

I am sorry to report that I snapped Lily's head off while putting her on a shelf. Oh, dear. I'll have to glue her head back on next spring.

Once back in the yard, I threw junk into the garbage, carried our lovebird Sydney's outdoor cage into the garage, picked up gardening tools, and collected flower pots lying here and there.

Then, I saw the old wooden bird's nest that I once found in the middle of the bush while blueberry picking with my mom a number of summers ago. It was lying in an awkward place, tossed there by my son when he was putting in rubber patio tiles (made from recycled tires).

"This stupid thing," I said. "What's it doing here?" I threw it under the juniper.

When it landed, a little flutter in the opening caught my eye. "Geez," I thought, "it's full of old leaves and spider webs; I should just throw it out." As I reached under the tree for it, I noticed blue-tipped brown wings opening and closing slowly. I looked a little closer and saw a mourning cloak butterfly hiding inside.

Mourning cloak butterflies overwinter by finding a place away from wind and danger and falling into cryo-preservation. As almost any safe place "will do as a hibernaculum (an overwintering den)," it seems this mourning cloak finds the shelter of the old bird's nest a perfect place to fall into a deep freeze for the winter. 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Israel and Jim Crow

Increasingly, more people are beginning to speak out for the rights of Palestinians for justice against Israel's occupation of Palestine, its illegal settlements, its disregard of UN resolutions, and separation wall, among other injustices. Increasingly, more people are speaking out against Israel's apartheid policies and practices, which segregate people according to race. Arabs are prohibited from living in Jewish-only buildings and Jewish-only neighbourhoods--and settlements--going to Jewish-only schools and driving on roads closed to Palestinians. These separatist policies, which clearly expose the hypocrisy of Israel as a democracy, extend beyond the Palestinians to include the Bedouin as well as African migrant workers and refugees to Israel.

Angela Davis compares Israeli's segregation policies with the previous Jim Crow laws of the US. Jim Crow was more than just racist laws of segregation but a whole way of life. Davis recently stated at the 2012 Russell Tribunal on Palestine that

We here in the U.S. should be especially conscious of the similarities between historical Jim Crow practices and contemporary regimes of segregation in Occupied Palestine. 

Today I read an article by Heidi-Jane Esakov, a Jewish South African of Lithuanian origin who once supported Zionism but who came to realize her complicity in supporting the dispossession of indigenous Bedouin and Palestinians through seemingly benevolent acts like donating money to plant trees to green Israel. 

Esakov's critical reflection on her changing role as a Jewish person is heartening. Rather than angry defensiveness of Israel no matter what, she not only has learned to see her complicity in once supporting land confiscation and population displacement, but also to talk about that in public and expose Israeli injustice.   

Israel has undertaken the Prawer Plan whose aim is to remove and expel 30,000 Bedouin from the Negev Desert so an "environmental forest" and new homes for Jewish Israelis can be built. The Bedouin villages, like Palestinian villages since 1948, are being razed to the ground. Removed. Obliterated from history so that a  new history can be encoded on top.

The Bedouin people of Al-Arakb have been displaced and removed from their village 39 times! Although their village has been in place for hundreds of years, it was recently once again expunged from the landscape by the Israeli government so that they can built a Jewish-only settlement on top of its ground.
In the short (under 2 min) clip above, Sherine Tadros, through the example of the city of Lod (Lydda in Arabic), explains the segregation of Arab citizens in Israeli cities. I was shocked to learn that the Israelis have also built a separation wall around the Palestinian quarter of Lod. Confined behind the 3 metre high concrete wall, the Palestinian residents of Lod get no services like lighting or garbage collection. And as a Palestinian resident of Lod in the clip explains, the Israelis truck their garbage to the Arab area and dump it there.     

To make the Jewish city of Lod, the Arab city of Lydda was cleansed of Arabs in 1948. Along with orders to shoot anyone seen on the streets, the people expelled were forced to walk out of the city and didn't even know where they should go. On top of their terror and fear, it was Ramadan and many died of thirst along the way. The history of the expulsion of the Arab residents of Lydda by the Israeli army in July 1948 is a difficult read.    

I am sure that many Jewish residents of Lod don't even know that they live inside houses of Palestinians who were expelled by force. I am sure many Jewish residents of Lod don't even know the violent history of their city and the sadness, suffering, and grief inflicted on Palestinians. Like many Canadians, they are ignorant of the injustices and violence that occurred in making their country. Like many Canadians, I am sure many Israelis are not only ignorant of the continuing legacies of injustice that continue while they enjoy privileges denied to Others, but also blame the victims and disparage them. 

Friday, October 12, 2012

Ophelia re-imagined

Shakespeare's women never die. Although female characters are overshadowed by the male characters in Shakespeare's plays, that does not mean that they have to stay in the margins, shadows, in madness or death.

Ophelia, from Hamlet, is one of the most re-imagined Shakespearean women. Above you can watch Natalie Merchant's captivating video/song performance of Ophelia re-envisioned through Merchant's haunting lyrics, mesmerizing vocals and performances. Ophelia is many women. In Shakespeare's play, Ophelia goes mad and then falls into a stream and as her dress gets heavier and heavier with water, she resigns herself to drowning. She dies chanting old tunes; leading to her death, she had been singing Hey non nonny, nonny, hey nonny songs of madness as her mind breaks because of male power.

Millais' Ophelia (1851-52) romanticizes and eroticizes Ophelia's death, immortalizing her as a martyr for love, as a saintly woman more beautiful and desirous in death and ever lasting silence, than in life. In the play, Ophelia's death is off stage; it is recounted through Queen Gertrude to Laertes, Ophelia's brother. It is from the words of Queen Gertrude that Millais imagines and paints his Ophelia:

When down her weedy trophies and herself
Fell in the weeping brook. Her clothes spread wide;
And, mermaid-like, awhile they bore her up:
Which time she chanted snatches of old tunes;
As one incapable of her own distress,
Or like a creature native and indued
Unto that element: but long it could not be
Till that her garments, heavy with their drink,
Pull'd the poor wretch from her melodious lay
To muddy death
. (4.7.2)
MariCruz Suarez Rolobos reimagines Millais' imaging of Shakespeare's Ophelia.In Rolobos' remake, the strand of violets around Ophelia's neck becomes a crown.  

Because MariCruz's image is digital, it is unlikely that her model had to lie in cold water for hours and hours like Millais' model did. Perhaps, as a digital image, the model is not even in water! On the other hand, Lizzy Siddal, Millais' 19 year old model, caught a terrible cold and pneumonia from lying in the bath, warmed only by some candles on the floor around it (Millais painted the creek and foliage separately), from which she never recovered. She died years later of ill health, addiction, anorexia, stress from her tumultuous relationship with Dante Rossetti and, perhaps as some believe, suicide.

Elizabeth (Lizzy) Siddal, known as the muse of neo-Raphealite painters and the wife of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, was also herself a poet and artist.

Ophelia (Drowning). Helen Morton, in a Birmingham University performance piece at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2009. In this re-imagining of Ophelia, in a bridal gown, she falls into a hotel swimming pool. Andrew Allen writes:

Helen Morton’s gloriously cracked voice husks across the water as she brokenly negotiates her way through a collection of brutal love songs, her useless wedding veil trailing ahead of her in the water like a precursor of her own ghost, while other characters indulge in a lot of kissing, thrusting and sighing in this pool, all warm, wet and heated, and savagely ignoring her.   We’re told that Serafina Kiszko’s character is new, created for this production, but she could just as easily be interpreted as a splinter of Ophelia’s paranoia, or a memory of herself in happier times.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

and let there be light

photo by Sonia Soberas, a photographer who is blind. You can find a slide show of some of her other photos on the link.

Do we need physical sight to see? To visualize the world in which we live / move through / negotiate / imagine? No. Looking is a practice that is multiple and open to many interpretations. There are many ways of seeing. Those whose sight is impaired or who are blind interrupt our normative viewing practices (and beliefs about them) and have many insights to open the eyes of those of us, like me, who have taken our practice of looking for granted.

The photographs above are part of a series of photos taken by Sonia Soberas, a 77 year old blind photographer who is part of the Seeing With Photography Collective. The NY based collective consists of visually impaired, blind, and sighted photographers. They work collectively on finding the intersections between sight loss and seeing. As they explain on  their website (which also has a Braille title), in their work:

Sighted assistants focus and compose the view camera’s frame directed by the blind artist. Then, in a darkened room, we leave the camera’s shutter open as we slowly paint our sitter with a small flashlight ...human scaled exposures, lasting many minutes, rather than the instant shutter click we typically hear. Luminous distortions, blurred or glowing forms result from the technique, not digital altering. The nature of our visual limitations can provoke any viewer or perceiver of these portraits...Is less, more? What is seeing? What does one choose to see?

Sunday, October 7, 2012

trying to tanka

I set my goal to write five poems last week for the Random Acts of Poetry outing yesterday. In an earlier post, I posted "Trickster Translation," which I read on air live on the Betty Howls show at LU Radio. I read "The Divine Goodness: A Tree Called Sacred" (which I posted earlier) at Starbucks in Chapter's. I also adapted my rant against John Baird's UN speech that I posted last post, into poetic form; I'll post that later. 

The poem I read at the Farmer's Market was the shortest poem I wrote. It was very hectic at the market as we (the poetry word crew) were amongst the pumpkins, squashes, apples and other winter vegetables. The colour of these foods just draw people to them. 

Earlier in the week, I tried my hand at writing a tanka, which is an ancient Japanese form. There are five lines, each with a specific syllable length: 5 7 5 7 7.  Often, nature, the seasons, and emotions are the theme. Of course, as a novice of this form, I fell short. After I finished it, I realized I had written 5 7 5 7 5 instead. Well, modifications are part of the tanka's popularity in the West today, so I hope I can be forgiven. Next one I write, I'll try to be more faithful to tradition. 

Here's what I came up with:


sweet smell of decay
yellow paper leaves crushing
surprise shout of red
My bike under the grapevine
I fall into hush. 

As properly I need two more syllables in that last line, here it is again with 5 7 5 7 7 form:


sweet smell of decay
yellow paper leaves crushing
surprise shout of red
My bike under the grapevine
Headfirst I fall into hush. 

Friday, October 5, 2012

The Divine Goodness: A Tree called Sacred (part 3)

image source

Just finishing the poem I started serializing awhile back. It has another ending somewhere in my notebooks and papers, but I can't find it so I wrote a new ending.

It is best to read parts 1 and 2, to make better sense of part 3. 

The Divine Goodness:   A Tree called Sacred

part 1

part 2

Lately, however, I have become bitter.
I stand in full sun in plantations, 
not clinging to the side of mountains, 
shaded by companions, tended by careful hands.  
Barefoot, my caretakers have left for the city, seeking survival.
My canopy gone, the birds no longer visit 
they can’t sing in the chemicals sprayed on my green lungs.
I struggle to keep the velvet brown bean alive within me.  

Good morning.
I am plantation coffee.
Even though I am dressed up in inciting names,
my history erased, I get thrown down the drain.
I sit cold in the bottom of your disposable cup,
stinking like stale coffee breath.