- Bread and Puppet Bus Arrives
- God of Papier Maché
- Ancient History
- Collateral Damage
- Iraqi Woman Mask
- Iraqi Women Collect Bodies
- Modern History
- Computer Dance
- Population Puppets
- Rehearsing Population Puppets 01
- Rehearsing Population Puppets 02
- Rotten Idea Theatre
- Packing Up 01
- Packing Up 02
- Packing Up 03
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
Tuesday, October 25, 2005
Tuesday, October 18, 2005
Monday, October 17, 2005
There once dwelt, in the region of Naucratis in Egypt, one of the old gods, an inventor, named Theuth. One day he came before Thamus, the king, and presented his newest inventions of calculation, astronomy, geometry and more. But when he came to the invention of writing and said: "Here, O king, is a branch of learning that will make the people of Egypt wiser and improve their memories: my discovery provides a recipe for memory and wisdom," the king answered: "No, Theuth, you have declared the very opposite of its true effect. If people learn this, it will implant forgetfulness in their souls: they will cease to exercise memory because they rely on that which is written, calling things to remembrance no longer from within themselves, but by means of external marks; what you have discovered is not a recipe for memory, but for reminder." Plato, Phaedrus, R. Hackforth,tr.
Thursday, October 13, 2005
Monday, October 03, 2005
Now for the good news. Once you understand the logic behind modern schooling, its tricks and traps are fairly easy to avoid. School trains children to be employees and consumers; teach your own to be leaders and adventurers. School trains children to obey reflexively; teach your own to think critically and independently. Well-schooled kids have a low threshold for boredom; help your own to develop an inner life so that they'll never be bored. Urge them to take on the serious material, the grown-up material, in history, literature, philosophy, music, art, economics, theology - all the stuff schoolteachers know well enough to avoid. Challenge your kids with plenty of solitude so that they can learn to enjoy their own company, to conduct inner dialogues. Well-schooled people are conditioned to dread being alone, and they seek constant companionship through the TV, the computer, the cell phone, and through shallow friendships quickly acquired and quickly abandoned. Your children should have a more meaningful life, and they can.Thanks for the link, Erin.
First, though, we must wake up to what our schools really are: laboratories of experimentation on young minds, drill centers for the habits and attitudes that corporate society demands. Mandatory education serves children only incidentally; its real purpose is to turn them into servants. Don't let your own have their childhoods extended, not even for a day. If David Farragut could take command of a captured British warship as a pre-teen, if Thomas Edison could publish a broadsheet at the age of twelve, if Ben Franklin could apprentice himself to a printer at the same age (then put himself through a course of study that would choke a Yale senior today), there's no telling what your own kids could do. After a long life, and thirty years in the public school trenches, I've concluded that genius is as common as dirt. We suppress our genius only because we haven't yet figured out how to manage a population of educated men and women. The solution, I think, is simple and glorious. Let them manage themselves. (Harper's, September 2003)
The conclusion from these articles should either be that meetings are often being used for the wrong purpose or that they are examining the wrong piece of the puzzle. Instead they myopically share tactics of manouevre which keeps the focus off the real problem.
These articles give me a strong feeling that there's a need to analyse (in a dialectical, popular education kind of way) so-called "meeting culture" from the point of view of a thorough analysis of power (a la Foucault, Gramsci, et al). Not to come up with better technocratic (perhaps even rebellious) "skills" and "techniques" but rather to structure and exercise real strategies of resistance. Not sure what that would look like.
This resonates for me with what i've long-believed is a major weakness in the way that popular education was brought to Canada (with the important exception of Quebec). Lots of well-intentioned mostly middle class white activists went to Latin America (me being one of them) and witnessed and participated in the revolutionary pedagogy and politics that make up popular education. We were understandably enthused by it and thought, with good conviction and solidarity, that we should bring this practice home. We did so. But i think something important was left behind. What came home was mostly the better "process" of learning and meeting and so on. What was left behind was mostly the revolutionary engagement with power relations or, more simply put, the resisting oppression stuff. Those who returned to Canada with popular education in their starry eyes, did not, needless to say, have the experience of oppression (nor the risks of choosing to confront and resist oppression) that gave rise to popular education in the first place (albeit popular education has roots as far back as the French Revolution as well as overlaps with many other forms of radical learning). And, i've long suspected that related to this lack of experience was a relatively naive understanding of power relations. We've gotten better. But slowly. And thus the popular education movement in Canada is unfortunately weighted towards it being a practice that is simply better process. And that counts for something. It is more just. But unfortunately it's weak when it comes to promoting the radical, even revolutionary, politics of social change which also includes the necessary reinvention of the person (or "subject" in the Foucauldian sense). Yeesh, i can wax on, can't i....
(Thanks for the links, Corvin.)
Friday, September 30, 2005
So, i've been thinking about that book and a number of others that i would argue are part of a 20th Century canon of anti-colonial literature. Or perhaps "post-colonial" or "emancipatory" literature would be a better naming. I've read many of these books and have yet to read as many more. And i know that there are many of you out there who have thought, like me, "wouldn't it be nice to read some of those classics?"
So, i've got this idea about a community-based popular education course in which participants would read some of this dissident canon. Matt, with whom i work at Catalyst, as usual had a great name for this course right away: "Meant To Read That." I gotta think about what the criteria would be. I think they should be "classics" which is to say they must have continued to be relevant to subsequent generations. Or, perhaps, have survived the death of their author. I'm thinking that they should be mostly so-called non-fiction works, but i do want to include at least some fiction such as Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart. At any rate, i would like to create a good criteria that has a bit of flexibility.
Here's an initial brainstorm list. Feel free to send a suggestion or two.
- Wretched of the Earth - Franz Fanon
- Borderlands/La Frontera - Gloria Anzaldua
- Pedagogy of the Oppressed - Paulo Freire
- Talking Back - bell hooks
- The Educated Imagination - Northrop Frye
- Orientalism - Edward Said
- Open Veins of Latin America - Eduardo Galeano
- Things Fall Apart - Chinua Achebe
- What Is to Be Done - Lenin
- The Second Sex - Simone de Beauvoir
- The Dialogic Imagination - Four Essays - Mikhail Bakhtin
- A Fate Worse Than Debt – Susan George
- A Peoples History of the United States – Howard Zinn
- Rules for Radicals – Saul Alinsky
- In the Spirit of Crazy Horse – Peter Mathiesson
- The Communist Manifesto – Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels
- God is Red – Vine Deloria
- The Port Huron Statement - SDS
- On the Poverty of Student Life – The Situationists
Thursday, September 29, 2005
- Key Contributions of the Popular Education Movement by José Rivero
- Contributions to the Latin American Debate on the Present and Future Relevance of Popular Education by Carlo Núñez Hurtado
- Reflections on Popular Education by Raúl Leis
- The Outlook for Popular Education at the Time of the 6th General Assembly of CEAAL by Nydia González
- Popular Education Seen “From Afar” by Liam Kane
Wednesday, September 28, 2005
The Thirty-Six Just Men
There was once a young boy who lived alone with his grandfather. Every day the boy would wake and take care of their two goats, Rachel and Leah. One day the boy noticed that the goats no longer bounced around as much as when they were smaller. He mentioned this to his grandfather who nodded slowly and said, “Yes, they are growing older and someday they will die.”
“What does it mean to die, grandfather?” asked the boy.
The grandfather explained about life and death, birth and growth and how all things had their time on earth. We each had a lifetime, long or short, deep or wide – we each had a time that would one day come to an end at which time we would journey into the mysterious realms beyond life. Such was the fate of the boy’s parents, his grandfather explained.
The boy thought he understood and went back to tending the goats. As he sat in the sun watching the goats and shooing away flies he pondered what his grandfather had said. Suddenly a thought occurred to him and, in a panic, he ran into the house. “Grandfather, Grandfather, are you going to die?” the boy shouted as he ran.
The boy found his grandfather in the kitchen laughing. “Of course I will die,” he said gently. “We will all someday die. But I will not die just yet.” This calmed the boy and once again he returned to tending the goats.
That night the boy woke to strange sounds in the house. He followed the noise to its source where he was shocked to see his grandfather sitting at the table in the middle of the kitchen which was a chaos of swirling pots, pans, dishes. Every object in the kitchen save the table and chairs was flying crazily about the room. The boy was afraid and managed to dodge his way to his grandfather’s side. There, in the centre, all was calm. “What is happening, grandfather,” the boy asked.
“One of the Thirty-Six Just Men has died,” the grandfather said.
“Who are they?” the boy asked.
“Once, long ago,” the grandfather explained, “after God had destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, He made a promise not to do it again as long as there were thirty-six just men alive on earth. You see, at any one time there live amongst us thirty-six just men and these people carry the weight of the world on their shoulders. They live anonymously and commit acts of kindness and compassion. Some say that even they do not know who they are. And now one of them has died and, until a new one comes forth, the world is out of balance. Now, off to bed with you. All will be well soon enough.”
“Are you one of the Just Men, grandfather,” asked the boy.
“No, I am not. Now, to bed with you.”The next day the boy was sitting on the doorstep watching over the goats when a fly came buzzing near. And, as little boys often do, he caught the fly in his hand. He held it tightly and could hear its buzzing. He shook it beside his ear. But suddenly the buzzing changed. The boy could hear the panic and fear of the fly. He let it go. But it was too late. In that moment, the fear of the fly cracked open the boy’s heart. And into that heart poured all the suffering and sorrow and loss of the world. And in that moment that boy became the new thirty-sixth Just Man.
Word came to the Jews of a small Russian town that a much beloved and very wise Rabbi was to pay them a visit. The whole town prepared. The wise men and the talmudic students polished their questions. Foods were prepared for a feast.
The Rabbi arrived in the town which was fairly vibrating with anticipation. All the townspeople gathered in the village square. Some of the talmudic students were so eager and worried that their questions might go unasked and unnoticed that they simply blurted them out. Very quickly there was a clamour of voices directed at the Rabbi.
The Rabbi raised a hand and quickly all were silent. He held his hand steady and all listened. The breeze stirred the leaves of trees. Birds chirped in the warm sunlight. The Rabbi began to hum a tune. He closed his eyes and swayed back and forth. First the children followed suit, humming the gentle melody and swaying on their feet. Soon all the villagers were humming and swaying. The Rabbi began to dance, first in slow, measured steps and then quicker and quicker until he was spinning around the square. The villagers all joined in until the square was a mass of dancing and spinning and singing people. The joy of the dance and the song reached out and touched the trees and the birds, the sunlight and the clouds in the sky. The entire earth seemed to be vibrating in time with the dancers.
Hours passed before the dance was done. All sat in the square, tired and still. They looked to the Rabbi who said, “I trust that I have answered your questions.”
Stop Eating Sugar
There was once a father who was told by doctors that his son had diabetes. The father was told to tell his son to stop eating sugar or else he would die. The father, obedient of the doctor’s instructions told his son to stop eating sugar. But the boy refused saying, “can’t and won’t!”
The father thought about forcing his son to stop eating sugar but knew, as he thought this, that enforcing this would be an impossibility. His son could eat sugar the first time he was out of sight of his father and thus endanger his life.
The father loved his son very much and was at his wit’s end when the boy suggested: “You know, father, there’s that wise woman who loves a few valleys over. If she were tell me to stop eating sugar, I would.”
The father thought this an odd situation, but, if that’s what it would take to save his son’s life, he would do it. They packed their few belongings and made the long journey to the home of the wise woman.
Once inside, the father told the wise woman the reason for their visit. The wise woman nodded, then said, “Come back in fourteen days and I will tell you what I must.”
The father was irritated. After all, their request was simple enough. But, he had little choice and left.
After fourteen days they returned to the home of the wise woman. Once inside, the wise woman looked at the boy and said, “you must stop eating sugar or else you will die.”
“Okay,” said the boy and he turned and left the room.
The father looked at the wise woman and said, “I mean no disrespect, but you can see we are poor and that the journey was long and costly. I must ask you why you could not have said those words fourteen days ago?”The wise woman was smiling and she nodded and said, “Ah! you see, I felt that for me to tell your son to stop eating sugar, I had to stop eating sugar first.”
The Lost Supper
a feast of stories around the communal meal
Tarragon Theatre Extra Space, 30 Bridgman Ave.
Preview Thurs. Sept. 22, Opens Fri. Sept. 23, runs to October 9, 2005
Performances: Tues.-Sat. 8:00pm & Sun. 2:30pm
"beautiful, provocative, everything a puppet show should be" Jamie Ashby, audience member
Directed by Mark Cassidy/ Music by David Buchbinder/ Lighting Design by Rebecca Picherack
Created by Performed by Anne Barber, Brad Harley, Mark Keetch, Noah Kenneally and Clea Minaker
Tuesday/ Wednesday $15
Friday $20A group of strangers has been invited to attend a dinner. The table is the one civilized place in an uncivilized world. Taste memories, childhood habits, etiquette and desire abound as the assembled guests tell their stories, but true glory is found in a simple meal shared.
Tarragon Theatre Box Office: 416 531 1827
In a culture obsessed with food issues and eating habits, Shadowland uses its unique, visual theatre style to shine a light on the fundamentals of dining and the communal meal.
For more information visit www.shadowlandtheatre.ca or call 416 203 0946
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
Tuesday, September 13, 2005
Sunday, July 24, 2005
But for now, i am elsewhere. On the Northumberland Strait that separates PEI from Nova Scotia. The most wonderful memories of my childhood are of the summer weeks i spent at Casey Cape with my Acadian cousins. Casey Cape is north of Moncton and remains the most magical beach i've ever known.
Monday, July 04, 2005
We have designed our Building A Movement Popular Education Skills Retreat to address the critical questions facing Educators, Teachers, and Professors. Learn how to use popular education models, engage with other educators about the issues that matter most, & create your own tools for movement building in the classroom.
Times come in every life when one’s world view is not solid, when traditional mores and rules seem not to pertain. One feels awash, with no structure to guide one’s actions. As young children, all of us are subject to the turbulent chaos of an adult world beyond our understanding. What children have traditionally been given to structure their relationship to life are fairy tales. A child’s way of experiencing, as Gawan learned from Obilot, can augment an adult’s, and the fairy tale best expresses this way of experiencing. Incredible as it might seem to the initiate-speaker, a child’s book of fairy tales harbors a treasure. It is no coincidence that interest in fairy tales, and other traditional stories, burgeons now when so many adults feel divided of a secure world view, when so many aspects of life merit questioning.
Thursday, June 30, 2005
Our months, similarly, hold stories. January named for the Janus the Roman god of doors for we enter each new year through a new door; February from the Sabine word februo meaning to boil or purify as this was the month that rituals of purification were practiced; March named for the war god Mars (the time when wars could recommence after winter); April from the Roman Aprilis which came from the Etruscan name (Apru) for Greek Aphrodite for this was the month trees opened their leaves; May from the Roman Maia goddess of growth; June from the Roman goddess Juno; July from Julius Caesar who created the Julian calendar; August from Augustus Caesar; and September, October, November and December meaning, respectively, seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth months since the old Roman calendar had ten months beginning with March.The ancient Babylonian calendar included month-names that meant flight, healing, Tree of Life and nothingness. The Hebrew calendar includes month names that mean first fruits, rosette blossom. The Mayan calendar included 20 different names for days including ones that meant waterlily, corn, snake, death head, venus, dog, jaguar and storm cloud; and months that meant new sun and owl. And native north American nations’ lunar calendars include such descriptions as Moon when the geese come home, Wolf moon, Moon when the leaves break forth and Moon of the Popping trees.
Wednesday, June 29, 2005
Chrysogone and i were talking about the relationship between human rights education and advocacy. My three principle points were:
- There is no such thing as neutral education and no such thing as a neutral educator
- All education is advocacy – though not all advocacy is education
- Education is the act of engaging common sense persuasively in order together to create good sense and change bad sense.
Wednesday, June 22, 2005
Tuesday, June 21, 2005
Monday, June 20, 2005
The Sufis advise us to speak only after our words have managed to pass through three gates. At the first gate, we ask ourselves, "Are these words true?" If so, we let them pass on; if not, back they go. At the second gate we ask, "Are they necessary?" At the last gate, we ask, "Are they kind?"
Friday, June 17, 2005
I have a love of theory. And rarely the time to indulge this love. Which makes me a pretty sloppy theorist. I’m reminded of a Saturday Night Live Christmas sketch in which John Belushi leads a dishevelled group of carollers in a comically pathetic attempt to sing the familiar and ubiquitous (every December) songs. Each carol is launched with gusto but none gets beyond a few lines of their first verse before devolving into embarrassed muttered “la-la-la’s”. So it is, often, with me and theory. I admire the elegant contours and crave the time to examine them more closely. For there are riches to be had that often leave me in awe. For instance, I find in post-structural and post-modern theory a wonderful wrestling with the complexity of human identity—how we understand ourselves, what we think that we are. And I’ve always found there to be a peculiar resonance between post-structuralism and Buddhism (and Buddhism has a couple of thousand year head start, to boot).
I am currently reading Robert Thurman’s new book The Jewel Tree of Tibet: The Enlightenment Engine of Tibetan Buddhism. It’s a practical course in enlightenment, though I think I’m failing. I’m feeling kinda dim this week. Alas. Good reading though. I always feel, when reading books about Buddhism, that I can almost see (perhaps hear) that world of spiritual enlightenment of which they write. Thurman instructs that you are supposed to visualize this remarkable Jewel Tree, wonderfully crowded with mentor spirits all there to help you become enlightened. That’s an awful lot of help. It’s a lovely book that I recommend – written in lucid and plain language.
In my wanderings through Buddhist literature I came across another jewel image: a 2000-year-old description that strikes me as quintessentially modern when I think about each jewel representing a living being.
From the Avatamsaka Sutra
Far away in the heavenly abode of the great god Indra, there is a wonderful net that has been hung by some cunning artificer in such a manner that it stretches out infinitely in all directions. In accordance with the extravagant tastes of deities, the artificer has hung a single glittering jewel in each "eye" of the net, and since the net itself is infinite in all dimensions, the jewels are infinite in number. There hang the jewels, glittering like stars of the first magnitude, a wonderful sight to behold. If we now arbitrarily select one of these jewels for inspection and look closely at it, we will discover that in its polished surface there are reflected all the other jewels in the net, infinite in number. Not only that, but each of the jewels reflected in this one jewel is also reflecting all the other jewels, so that there is an infinite reflecting process occurring.
(Francis H. Cook, Hua-yen Buddhism: The Jewel Net of Indra, University Park: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1977, p. 2.)
Wednesday, June 15, 2005
The stranger walked slowly into the inner office and sat in a chair opposite the doctor. “What seems to be the problem, my friend with the pocket of gold coins,” asked the doctor kindly. The stranger lifted his head and struggled to speak. “Lately I have been beset by an unceasing melancholy. Nothing gives me joy. All seems pointless. I don’t know what to do. They say that you are a doctor of the mind and you are my last hope.” The doctor smiled widely. “You have nothing to worry about friend. For you have come at exactly the right moment. For, you see, the circus has just arrived in Vienna and they perform this very night. I myself plan to attend. As must you. You see, in this circus is the funniest man in the world. He has the saddest face of any clown that has ever lived – he never smiles. But it is said that when you see him perform you forget all your worries and know only laughter. His name is Grimaldi and he is your cure.” The stranger looked even more sad, if that was possible and he said, “Then there I no cure for me kind sir. For I am Grimaldi.”
The doctor nodded slowly. “I see. I see. Then there is only one thing you can do.” The stranger looked up hopefully. “Tonight,” said the doctor, “you must kill yourself.” “Then it is true,” said Grimaldi. “There is no cure and I must end my life. I will not hesitate. I will do it this very night.” “No, no,” said the doctor smiling. “You must kill yourself this evening, at the circus, for all to see.” Grimaldi looked at the doctor and slowly a slight smile crept onto his face. “Thank-you,” he said to the doctor and left a handful of gold coins on the desk as he left.
That night Grimaldi set about to kill himself before the sold-out audience. He first tried to cut his throat with an overlarge knife. But the blade, made of rubber, cut and cut and made no mark. Then he tried to shoot himself but the gun shot out nothing but smoke and paper. He tried to hang himself but the rope broke and he tumbled to the circus floor with the crowd roaring all the while. Finally he climbed a tall ladder to throw himself to his death. He leapt from the ladder and everyone screamed. But Grimaldi’s suspenders were caught and he was pulled back to the ladder. No circus crowd had ever laughed so loud.And they say that that was the only night in his career that Grimaldi himself could not help but laugh. He laughed and laughed until the tears flowed.
Tuesday, June 14, 2005
Drop a word in the ocean of meaning and concentric ripples form. To define a single word means to try to catch those ripples. No one’s hands are fast enough. Now drop two or three words in at once. Interference patterns form, reinforcing one another here and cancelling each other there. To catch the meaning of the words is not to catch the ripples that they cause; it is to catch the interaction of those ripples. This is what it means to listen; this is what it means to read. It is incredibly complex, yet humans do it every day, and very often laugh and weep at the same time. Writing, by comparison, seems altogether simple, at least until you try.
Monday, June 13, 2005
There is no insurmountable solitude. All paths lead to the same goal: to convey to others what we are. And we must pass through solitude and difficulty, isolation and silence, in order to reach forth to the enchanted place where we can dance our clumsy dance and sing our sorrowful song - but in this dance or in this song there are fulfilled the most ancient rites of our conscience in the awareness of being human and of believing in a common destiny.
Rebellion is our very life asserting itself, willing to settle for nothing less than freedom. But if our rebellion is have any hope of achieving that freedom, it must transform itself into resistance.
Resistance challenges the framework of reality defined by systems of punishment. Rebellion can be the first step towards resistance, but we must avoid the sidetracks of self-destruction along the way.
Resistance differs from rebellion because it embodies a reality incongruent with that of domination. We do more than defy reality: we present its alternatives, communicating our beliefs and values.
Gathered from my journals, my database of quotes, my archive of stories, my palmpilot notepad, my internet bookmarks and the countless handwritten notes that I am perpetually jotting down in the books that I read I have composed this selection for you. I might have called it a scrapbook of sorts until recently. But I have only just learned that something that i have been doing quite unselfconsciously for over 25 years is, actually, an ancient practice with a long and venerable history. Once again I am reminded that there is little new under the sun and we do well to remember in our 21st Century so so post-modern pride that humans have been solving the same problems for millennia. It is not because we do things first that we should be pleased with our accomplishments – this is merely one of the lies of the modern myth of progress. But I digress…
I've never considered my habit of collecting quotes and poems and aphorisms and so on as more than a curiosity of my nature - i've always suspected that this collecting habit is a thinly-disguised and carefully managed neurosis. It may well be so. But i have now learned that this type of collecting has been practiced since at least the days of the Greek and Roman civilizations. People - well, men, it would seem - kept a type of a journal - called hupomnemata, meaning “record of remembrances” – in which they recorded things that they deemed worth remembering. A curious practice perhaps, but what really fascinates me about this is why they did this. The French philosopher Michel Foucault explains it as a practice that people engaged in in order to develop better selves. (This Graeco-Roman practice gave rise to a later Christian monastic practice of writing to expose one’s inner self to scrutiny and both these practices are linked to letter-writing all of which are part of the history that our modern practices of writing emerge from.)
So all this writing was a way of ‘living in the open’ - exposing your process of self-reflection in order to test your ‘self’ against the perceptions of others. And I can’t help but compare this ancient practice to the more modern practices of ‘zines and blogs, both of which are used by people to share with others their thoughts and doubts and opinions and interests (and obsessions) and more. ‘Zines and blogs are only the latest means by which some people have chosen to practice ‘living in the open’. Ahhh… but in-between the ancient practice of hupomnemata and the modern ‘zine and blog was a brief flourishing of a nineteenth century Victorian practice of keeping a book of remembered items – the commonplace book. And so I come circuitously to my inspiration for this sort-of commonplace book that you hold now - my modest attempt at living in the open. More than a journal, more than a collection of quotes, this is a collection meant simultaneously to amuse, delight, reveal (though more often in the way riddles reveal) and, hopefully, provoke interest. But there is one more important inspiration to note.
Before learning of the male-dominated practice of hupomnemata I had already learned of an 11th Century literary wonder written by a Japanese woman. A lady-in-waiting in the court of Empress Sadako, Sei Shonagan, kept a personal journal that she filled with a wide range of observations and lists and poems known as The Pillow Book. I learned of this ancient wonder from my friend Nicole who was inspired by it to write a series of poems for which i designed and published a chapbook called Some of the Love. Amongst the 326 entries are included such things as: These Are the Months, Different Ways of Speaking, Things That Give a Pleasant Feeling, Things Not Worth Doing, Things That Make One Sorry.So here's an odd collection of things: lists and riddles and stories and poems and more. Some will amuse, some will puzzle, i hope some will delight. I don’t know what to call this strange thing – an homage to The Pillow Book, the Commonplace Book, hupomnemata, scrapbooks and so on.
Thursday, June 02, 2005
This is definitely the best thing happening in Toronto next Thursday evening (June 9). Spread the word.
Celebration and fundraiser with live music, DJ, door prizes, and of course Carol Wall!
Thursday, June 9th - 7:00pm at the NOW Lounge
189 Church Street (1 block north of Queen)
Sliding Scale $5-20
- Lazo (winner Juno award best Reggae song and winner Top Reggae Performer Canadian Reggae Music Awards)
- La Libertad
- Mad Love
- DJ No Capitalista
- MC's Judy Rebick and Chris Ramsaroop
Fully wheelchair accessible
Learn how Carol Wall will promote community, democracy and equity as CLC president: http://www.carolwall.ca/
Wednesday, June 01, 2005
There once lived a farmer who worked hard to till his land and feed his three children. His wife had died some years before and he realized that he was getting on in years and should think about how he would one day pass on the land to his children. Should he die suddenly he didn’t want there to be any fighting over who would get what. So he called his two sons and his daughter together and told them that he had designed a contest. Each would have a turn at filling the shed beside the barn as full as it could be. The one to fill it the most would be the winner and would get to have the first choice of land to inherit. The children agreed and the father turned to his oldest child – his son – and nodded.
The boy went all over the land and gathered every stone and boulder and pebble and brought them back to the shed where he piled them all in. He pushed and shoved and carried until he closed the shed door with difficulty. The shed’s walls and door bulged with the weight of the stones inside. The boy, knees and elbows scraped and bloodied, turned to his father.
The father nodded and smiled and said, “That is a very good effort. I am most impressed.” Then he bent down and picked up a handful of dirt which he threw into the shed through a small window. The sand disappeared inside and the son breathed a sigh a disappointment for he had failed to fill the shed completely. But his father kindly said, “A very good effort. Well done! Now let us see how your brother can do.”
The shed was cleaned out and the second child, taking a wheelbarrow, gathered as much sand and dirt as he could from all over the farm. Load after load, he piled the sand and dirt into the shed. He pushed it in and stamped it down and packed it tight. With the door shut and bulging he still pushed sand and dirt in under the crack. He packed it into the window. Again the walls of the shed bulged from the weight of the sand inside. The boy turned to his father.
“Very impressive. A mighty feat. I congratulate you.” The father went over to a bucket of water and dipped a ladle in. He brought this back to the shed and poured the water in through a crack in the roof. The water disappeared inside. The boy looked crestfallen. But the father said, “A good and noble effort, my son. Now let us see what your sister can do.”The young girl disappeared into the house. The shed was cleaned out and prepared. After a while the girl emerged from the house with her hands cupped around something small. She walked into the shed and placed something down. She stepped back and her brothers and father saw that it was a candle. And the light from that candle filled that shed to its furthest corner. The girl turned and faced her father and brothers and they smiled at her.
Sunday, May 29, 2005
Saturday, May 28, 2005
Monday, May 16, 2005
Greetings my friends, As many of you know by now my mom, CAROL WALL, is running for the presidency of the Canadian Labour Congress. Her victory would not only be a huge step forward for workers of colour and community members whom have been largely under-represented in the labour movement, but for all workers in general. The progress of the labour movement in the past has not only been slow, but deteriating and the time for change is now. I'm asking all of you as a friend, family member and co-community person for your help in supporting my mom win this election, which will take place in Montreal June 16th 2005. What I need you to do is help with contacting all those that you might know who could possibly be going to convention or know someone that is and either you can talk about my mom and what she stands for, which can be found on her website www.carolwall.ca or you can give me their contact information and i would be more than happy to call them. For those of you that can do more or want to help and do not know anyone going to convention if you have some time to spare and could help with doing a phone around, in the next little while a bunch of Carol Wall supporters will be gathering in the Toronto area to celebrate the possibly of this upcoming election over food, while phoning more potential supporters. Please if you can help with any of these tasks or have suggestions for other strategies we should be using to gain more support please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 416-660-2540 or Chris Ramsaroop at 416-832-4932. Thank you again for whatever you can do! Nicole
Carol is one of the co-authors of an excellent book on popular education and trade unions: Educating for Changing Unions. Check it out!
My sister just bought Zachary Richard's CD of Acadian songs: Cap Enragé. And surprise surprise, Zachary Richard has a blog called Monthly Report that here chronicles his recent trip through Acadia. How it makes me yearn to do something simliar. About ten years ago i spent a couple of days at the Acadian archives at the University of Moncton and, looking for a particular book of family records, i was disappointed to find it missing. The room being full of people doing research, i thought i'd ask around and appeal to whomever had the book to let me have a peak at it since i was only passing through town and had only that afternoon left to do research. I found the person with the book who looked at me and listened to my plea. He asked me curtly, "Who's your grandfather?" I told him. He looked at me again, with an air of appraising whether i was worth the effort and then he spoke curtly once again, "Then I'm your cousin." I thought he was having me on. But, as it turned out, he was telling the truth. And, of course, he'd been messing with me a little devilishly. He proved very helpful and turned out still to be living where my great granfather had built a house in the 19th Century - a house that still stood and that i would later visit on that trip with my aunt and uncle. The house is still there in Haute Aboujagane.
Friday, April 29, 2005
Well, not quite a book, this advent calendar is fashioned from cigar boxes and covered in handmade papers. I made this for my neices and it's stoof the test of time well. Here's two more views: one; two.
Here's two views of a daybook i make for a dear friend every year: one; two. As with the rabble book, this book is bound using a coptic binding - an ancient technique first developed in Ethiopia - it allows a book to lie open flat and to be bound with a hard cover.
Here's a small accordian book of poems by Nicole Bauberger.
And one of my annual solstice books - also an accordion book (with 26 little accordion books inside: the Vanished Library.
Tuesday, April 19, 2005
Heaven and Hell
There was once a samurai who wanted to learn the difference between heaven and hell. He sought until he found a master from whom he thought he could learn. He stood before the Master and asked him what was the difference between heaven and hell. The Master took the samurai’s sword and, turning it to the flat of the blade, struck the samurai on the head. The samurai was surprised at this but chose to ignore it. He thought that the Master had failed to understand his question. He once again asked the Master about the difference between heaven and hell. Again the Master struck the samurai on the head. The samurai staggered back and puzzled over this. He approached with his question for a third time and, before he could utter a word, the Master struck him a third time. The samurai was now so enraged at this behaviour that he grabbed his sword from the Master, raised it over his head and was prepared to bring it down on the Master’s head when the Master raised one finger and the samurai paused.
“That is hell,” said the Master.
The samurai was instantly so overcome by the courage of this frail old man - to have risked his life for the sake of a stranger’s question - that he fell to his knees and bowed before the Master.“That is heaven,” said the Master.
Saturday, April 16, 2005
And what a busy week it was. Beginning with the stories told last Sunday at the Annual Toronto Festival of Storytelling (check out the “One Wish” post for a taste) and ending last night with a perfectly wonderful evening of 1,001 Friday Nights of Storytelling. I’m sitting at home listening to CBC’s Go – hosted by Brent Banbury (worth it – check it out) and thinking about my crazy week. Monday I facilitated the last of three sessions reflecting on needed structural changes at Sketch (a “working arts studio for street involved and homeless youth”) – ya gotta see this place to believe it – a few thousand square feet of studio space (for painting, sculpture, woodshop, photography and more) with a wonderful staff of community artists doing what I think is the most challenging and innovative use of art in urban life that I know of – an arts drop-in centre – every city should have at least one of these (hint-hint for any of youse folk looking for something to put your hearts into – call Sketch – talk to Phyllis – think about one for your city).
One Tuesday we met at Catalyst to talk about our future – we’re a stubborn lot and it’s been tough times and we’re talking about closing the office soon and finding both a new basis of unity and a new way to work together (e.g. a network of home offices). We’re in our 7th year and we’ve failed to find a way to make our work economically viable – we’re all burning out as we continue to impoverish ourselves to make the dream of a popular education collective work. But popular education remains a wonderful idea poorly understood by funders. They love the democratic practice – but continue to insist on risk-free guaranteed outcomes that they fail to realize are contradictory to democratic practice. Alas. We’re determined to continue to exist. But it’s a big year of change for us.
Wednesday and Thursday I jetted off to Ottawa to do a two-day Naming the Moment workshop for the political team of the Council of Canadians. (Well, it was a prop plane, actually, that left from Toronto Island airport – about a 15 minute bike-ride from my home – ya gotta love that – down to the Island, across a small strait on a ferry and onto the very lovely Dash 8 aircraft). The Council of Canadians is one of the largest groups in Canada taking on the issue of “deep integration” (i.e. with the US economy – the strategy that aims to eliminate Canadian sovereignty over our water, food production, energy, foreign policy and more). The Council is 20 years old and has grown a great deal in the past few years – and I hope they continue to grow and reach new communities across the country including Quebec.
A quick flight back to Toronto Island in time to dash over to see the play I wrote about in my last post. And last night it was over to the 1,001 Friday Nights of Storytelling. As some of you know, we’ve relocated from our home of 15 years to Innis College Café. And last night was well as the next three, we are itinerant due to Innis having had prior commitments for the Café. We were across the street in a small lecture auditorium in the Faculty of Information Science building – an odd space that I had thought would work when Dan and Celia and I had looked at it a couple of months ago but of which I was pretty sceptical last night. It was looking pretty thin as 8:00 pm rolled around but, sure enough, a dozen folks showed up for what proved to be a wonderful evening. No less than 5 people told stories at the 1,001 for the very first time. It’s always nice to hear at least one new voice – but to have 5 is a most rare event. And 5 wonderful tellings they were. Inspired by Martin’s whimsical tale of his seeking out of Merlin’s cave (as described by Nikolai Tolstoy in The Quest for Merlin) one fellow told a tale of seeking out Amethyst Cove near Cape Split on the Bay of Fundy; another fellow told a tale of seeking out a megalithic tomb with his younger brother in the mountains of Portugal (including one very uncomfortable night of non-sleep beside the tomb, accosted by an unidentifiable creature screeching and circling the insomniac brothers); a young woman told of the mysterious and magical appearance of a doll at Christmas; and one fellow from Newfoundland told a tale of his boyhood – a winter walk over to his aunts’ home to get a fine-toothed comb. He had been led to believe these two widows were witches; and I wish you could have heard the tale, for I mark it as one of the most memorable tellings I’ve listened to in 15 years of attending the 1,001 Friday Nights. Thank you, John, for that. I was asked to tell “Chivalry” by Neil Gaiman (to go with the grail theme begun by Martin); Shawna told a harrowing tale of her time in Spain – misadventure avoided by the power of a dream; David told the “Porcelain Man” by Richard Kennedy – and a fine telling it was (parents, if your looking for modern fairy tales to tell your kids, look for Richard Kennedy’s work – you’ll thank me, I’m sure). And Karen rounded out the evening with a delightful Jack tale she learned from Duncan Williamson – one that I am particularly fond of and may get around to sharing in this here blog one day. And there you have a taste of what the 1,001 Friday Nights of Storytelling is like. Spread the word. Come down and listen. Who know, you might even feel like telling yourself. (As I mentioned above, we’re not in the Café again for a few weeks – we’ll be in Innis College room 204 for the next three weeks.)
Friday, April 15, 2005
Sunday, April 10, 2005
In a small cottage beside a stormy sea there once lived an aging couple who lived a hard life. The man’s blind mother lived with them. They were poor and they were kind. No matter how little they had they were always willing to share with those who were in need. They asked little enough for themselves. Though there was one sorrow in their life they wished dearly to end, and that was their lack of a child. One day the man went down to the seaside where he cast a line absent-mindedly into the surf. He wasn’t trying very hard to catch anything so he was quite surprised to feel a tug on the line. He pulled it in and saw that he had hooked the largest and most colourful fish he had ever seen. He walked into the surf to grab the fish and remove the hook and the fish spoke, “Kind sir, please release me and I will give thee a wish.” The man had heard of many strange things in his life, but a talking fish was surely a stranger sight than he ever imagined seeing. “Surely, I will release thee, magical creature. But I cannot make a wish without asking my family. Might I ask that I return here tomorrow to tell you my wish?” “I will be here tomorrow,” said the fish. And the man freed the fish, made his way home and told his wife and mother of his strange encounter. They spoke about what they would wish for. The man suggested riches, saying that they could live better, have more to share, that life need not be as hard as it had been. The woman reminded the man that his mother was blind and that he could use his wish to make her see once more. But the mother said that she knew what sorrow it was to be childless and that she would dearly love to have a grandchild. The wife said to the husband, “go to sleep, trust in the divine, the morning is wiser than the evening.” The next morning the woman woke her husband, leaned over him saying, “This is what you will wish for.” And she leaned closer and whispered. The man nodded and smiled and said, “You are the wisest woman in the world.” He made his way down to the sea and sure enough, the magical, colourful fish awaited him. They greeted each other cheerfully and the man told the fish how hard it had been to decide on one wish. “And what would be your wish, kind sir?” asked the fish. The man looked calmly at the fish and said, “I wish that my mother lives long enough to see her grandchildren eat from golden plates.” And it was so.
Friday, April 08, 2005
- Instituto Terra – Official Salgado Website
An assortment of High resolution images by Salgado:
Thursday, April 07, 2005
Wednesday, April 06, 2005
I got to thinking about guilt yesterday - something being raised catholic taught me a lot about. It was during a seminar on social sustainability and diversity at York University’s Institute for Research and Innovation in Sustainability (IRIS). (Here’s a pdf document that describes the seminar.) Barbara Rahder and Patricia Wood made an excellent case that sustainability (a popular buzz word for almost 20 years – going back to the Brundtland Commission Report of 1987 and perhaps about to get new life from the Millenium Report), which usually gets talked about only in ecological and economic terms, is completely linked with the social. But I can’t report on the seminar without risking misrepresenting it badly. I take very wacky notes.
Barbara or Patricia (I can’t recall who) criticized the One Tonne Challenge as using “guilt” to do public education. I wanted to cheer. And, as I said above, it got me to thinking about guilt (and its close cousin “shame”). I don’t want to diss the One Tonne Challenge (who knows, it might make a difference). But insofar as it relies upon (even promotes) guilt to get people to change their behaviour I think it is flawed. I’ve certainly had my moments of heralding the horrors around us and those to come in the hopes that it might change peoples’ minds and actions – but I also learned early in my career as an activist that guilt (and shame) achieve the exact opposite of education. I think I first learned this from John Berger in his famous essay Photographs of Agony. He reflects on the publishing of violent images from the Vietnam War (images of people in agony).
Many people would argue that such photographs remind us shockingly of the reality, the lived reality, behind the abstractions of political theory, casualty statistics or news bulletins. Such photographs, they might go on to say, are printed on the black curtain which is drawn across what we choose to forget or refuse to know. (in About Looking, 1980, p.38)
Berger makes an eloquent and persuasive case that the reaction to these photos is not what we might think according to that always tricky beast – common sense.
The possible contradictions of the war photograph now become apparent. It is generally assumed that its purpose is to awaken concern. The most extreme examples - as in most of McCullin's work - show moments of agony in order to extort the maximum concern. Such moments, whether photographed or not, are discontinuous with all other moments. They exist by themselves. But the reader who has been arrested by the photograph may tend to feel this discontinuity as his own personal moral inadequacy. And as soon as this happens even his sense of shock is dispersed: his own moral inadequacy may now shock him as much as the crimes being committed in the war. Either he shrugs off this sense of inadequacy as being only too familiar, or else he thinks of performing a kind of penance - of which the purest example would be to make a contribution to OXFAM or to UNICEF.
In both cases, the issue of the war which has caused that moment is effectively depoliticised. The picture becomes evidence of the general human condition. It accuses nobody and everybody.
Confrontation with a photographed moment of agony can mask a far more extensive and urgent confrontation. Usually the wars which we are shown are being fought directly or indirectly in "our" name. What we are shown horrifies us. The next step should be for us to confront our own lack of political freedom. In the political systems as they exist, we have no legal opportunity of effectively influencing the conduct of wars waged in our name. To realise this and to act accordingly is the only effective way of responding to what the photograph shows. Yet the double violence of the photographed moment actually works against this realisation. That is why they can be published with impunity. (in About Looking, 1980, p.40)
Curiously, in looking back at this article for the first time in many years I see that Berger doesn’t use the word “guilt” though my memory has long associated the word with this piece. Feelings of “guilt” are certainly one of the things Berger is referring to. Starting with having read this piece by Berger 25 years ago, I have come to believe deeply that guilt is a terribly negative emotion (or disposition). When we provoke feelings of guilt in people whom we fancy we are educating, it is the guilt that becomes the object of attention, not the issue you are trying to bring attention to. Guilt has two relatively simple solutions: penance and denial – neither of which necessarily has anything to do with changing things that are wrong with society. Using guilt gives people the terribly easy out of displacing their discomfort (or “shock” or horror or grief) from the cause of that discomfort to the more private domain of ones feelings (of guilt). And so, not only does guilt displace attention, it can further obscure that which needs changed.Remember Cassandra? Cursed by Apollo to speak the truth and yet be ignored? This ancient myth could be an early warning about the efficacy of making people feel bad as a means of getting them to change. Cassandra’s truth was met with denial. (Oddly, people today use the term “Cassandra” as a synonym for doomsayer. And, ironically, should you call someone a Cassandra, you’re simultaneously recognizing that they are speaking truth and planning to disbelieve that truth. Calling someone a Cassandra is about as useful as poking yourself in the eye. So is guilt.