Sunday, February 25, 2007

conspiracy 911

A friend just sent me this very clever video by a friend of hers (thanks, Sushil). I'm not much into conspiracy theories (except for their strange power as compelling stories.) And I'm not sure if Apeman888 (the director) is for or against conspiracies. He writes:

I made this film as a rejoinder to all the crazy 911 theories floating around the Internet. My plan is to fight madness with madness. It's a battle the conspiracy nuts cannot hope to win. For I am the Moscow of madness, whereas they are merely the provincial weather stations.

Is he saying that his conspiracy theorizing is better than all the "nuts"? Regardless, I love the cleverness of the juxtapositions that Apeman888 has made. And the warning about Iran as the next target of US aggression is timely. See my previous post with the slide show scored to Cat Stevens music.

Ethics for Activists - 10

The Stream & The Desert

Once there was a stream that began high in a mountain range where it was a mere trickle. As it travelled down the mountain it grew and grew until it was a lovely cascade which coursed on down into a valley to become a rushing river. It widened as it crossed the land and it flowed strongly until it reached a vast expanse of sand. The stream that had become a river tried to cross this desert but as fast as the waters poured forth so equally as fast the waters disappeared into the sand. The river was discouraged. It could see no way to continue its journey.

Just then a voice on the wind said, “you must let go. The harder you try the more water you’ll lose to the sands.”

“But if I let go,” said the river, “how will I know where I am to go, what I am to become?”

“Let go and see,” said the voice on the wind.

The stream that had become a river let go. It gave itself up to the sun and sky and wind where it became clouds. The clouds were carried high over the desert by the winds. Now, having crossed the desert, the stream poured down from the sky, with the power of storms.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Now that i have to learn more about parenting:

Not exactly something you wanna show the kids (for a variety of reasons)but this is rather falling-down-funny. Thanks to my sister for telling me about this one.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Ever wonder about the "runcible spoon"?

Some friends gave me and J'net a gift of the Owl & The Pussycat (by Edward Lear) along with a hearty rendition of the song. Which got me to wondering about that good 'ole runcible spoon. And i'm glad to say that i've learned all about runcibility at last. Here's what the Straight Dope has to say about the runcible spoon. I just know you were wanting to know this.

Cadboro Bay, Victoria in February - hard to believe this is winter

Spent the afternoon on the beach yesterday, with kids making driftwood & sand houses. A beautiful February day in Victoria, BC.

Friday, February 16, 2007

The View from Port Alberni's Harbour Quay

The sun was out yesterday in this Pacific Coast land of trees and water. My heart goes out to all my Ontarian family and neighbours currently in the arctic deep freeze. I'll be with you soon.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Popular Education, Puppetry and….

Meeting with a friend and some young students interested in popular education I was asked about the relationship between popular education and Bread & Puppet which my friend knows me to have been involved with for over 25 years. Coincidentally, I’ve been thinking a great deal about the history of popular education in Canada and the world and I am currently working on a manuscript provisionally titled Trickster Pedagogy that puts some of my ideas out there as well as scrutinizes my experience with popular education these couple of decades past. When asked about Bread & Puppet in the context of popular education it crystallized for me some thoughts about the uniqueness of Canadian popular education history, practice and theory or, in a word, praxis. As with all things human, there are contradictions (some widely-recognized and some not so) in the history and praxis of popular education in Canada – something I am exploring even as we speak. That said, I am also confident in saying that there are some wonderful contributions that deserve attention including The Naming the Moment Project (inspired by the practice of conjunctural analysis in Latin America), The Doris Marshall Institute for Education and Action (a group of over 20 educators who worked together in Toronto between 1986 and 1997), The Centre de Formation Populaire in Montreal, The Tatamagouche Centre in Nova Scotia and Kairos (an ecumenical social justice umbrella group), and the Catalyst Centre of which I am a co-founder. There are countless events that have been part of this history including popular theatre workshops, social justice conferences, the Popular Education weeks that happened on Grindstone Island in 1987 and 1988. And Canadian popular education has integrated anti-racist theory and practice as well as made some serious headway in influencing trade union pedagogy. And, to return to the inspiration for this post, it has always incorporated a healthy dose of the arts – whether this is the use of mural production and other forms of visual art, the training and use of Theatre of the Oppressed (including forum theatre), song, ‘zines and puppets. As part of the Naming the Moment workshops of 1991-1992 in Toronto, we both produced a performance of Bread and Puppet as well as our own production of the Ojibway Prophecy of the Seven Fires (performed at the Native Canadian Centre in October of 1992 as part of the reframing of the much-vaunted Columbus quincentenary). I plan to write a more detailed history of that event which was a remarkable moment of coalition and collaboration. More recently, with respect to popular education and the arts, Deborah Barndt edited a collection of essays about community art that is well-worth checking out: Wild Fire: Art as Activism. And, apropos of my friend’s question about popular education and Bread & Puppet I continue to research this wonderful link and will share more of this in future. Meanwhile you could always check out these local (Toronto) groups for which I hold enormous respect:

Toronto Social Forum has new website

This new website is a good place to check regularly for many social justice and social movement activities. The World Social Forum began in Port Alegre Brazil in 2001 in response to the annual capitalist love-fest (aka the World Economic Forum) that happens in Davos, Switzerland. The most recent happened in Nairobi, Kenya last month. Here's an excellent report from Judy Rebick.

Bread & Puppet Website - YAY!

Bread and Puppet has a website - joy-oh-joy. As some of you know, i have been attending Bread & Puppet events since 1980 - they've been a big part of my life, as you can imagine. They are one of world greats of theatre - not just puppet theatre. And for all you budding community artists and activists you might want to check out their APPRENTICESHIP PROGRAM. Throughout the 80s i longed to apply to work with them but instead found myself in Nicaragua working for the Sandinistas instead. Their website also includes an interview with Peter Schumann and a link to a "academic" article on Bread & Puppet. (The above photo is one i took in November 2006 when i co-produced a performance at York University. This is the face of an Iraqi woman puppet. You can see more images from that performance in this old blog post.)

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

I miss the snow... no, really, i do ....

I understand the snow is a-falling in Toronto right now. And i love a good snowfall. For my part, i' enjoying some west coast winter weather as you can see from this picture. This is hard for me to call winter. Pretty though. And warm.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Peace Train by Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens)

It’s funny how memories of growing up can suddenly sweep back into view with all the richness of the emotion of those moments lived, for some of us, long ago. Seeing the video by Lucas Gray about Iran scored to Peace Train by Yusuf Islam (aka Cat Stevens) my memory of long-forgotten teenage days was rekindled. Partly because my closest friend from the age of 17 until I was well-into my twenties was a Persian student, Majid, who became a refugee after the revolution in Iran and who continues to live and work in Montreal to this day. And the other memory rekindled was my almost-complete collection of Cat Stevens records. His music was one of a set of things (which also included the Rocky Horror Picture Show, lentils and Harold & Maude) that ushered me from the suburban hinterland in which I had been raised into the urban (inner-city, really) world in which I have lived ever since. So it was with dismay that I learned (now long ago as well) of his conversion to Islam (ironically not a couple of years after I had discovered his music). Despite having muslim friends, I can see now that I was suspicious and even a bit resentful of this conversion. And while I am somewhat critical-minded about all religious conversion experiences I can see from this vantage of three-decades distance that my feelings about Cat Stevens’ conversion were certainly fuelled by both ignorance and fear of Islam. So, when the headlines that alleged Cat Stevens’ support of the fatwa issued against Salman Rushdie by Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini in 1989, I was, sadly, inclined to grant them credence without the scepticism I usually apply to all media coverage. I was not inclined to look more closely at what the truth of the matter might be. I allowed my suspicions that Cat Stevens had become a fundamentalist, doctrinaire muslim to be confirmed. I can see now that this passive acceptance of this media-sense and “common-sense” opinion was, in part, due to my own suspicions (which are most accurately called racist) of islam.

I still don’t know the whole truth of the matter and this wikipedia info at least suggests that further research and reflection is necessary. I can see now that I was practicing a common strategy of oppression, commonly called the double-standard (though triple, quadruple and so on is probably more accurate). And, like many people, I tolerate contradictions in people and institutions I otherwise approve of while expecting people and institutions of which I am suspicious or fearful to prove themselves contradiction-free. Just one of the many tactics of racism/white-supremacy, sexism/patriarchy, classism and so on.

So learning of Lucas Gray’s piece about Iran, and quite moved by it (see previous post), I checked out YouTube to see what might be there and found this rendition of Peace Train that brought tears (both sad and bitter) to my eyes and that has caused me to regret cutting out of my life some music that I once loved dearly. Fear and ignorance, especially of the racist variety, are insidious things that seep into all our lives.

Cataloguing Books on-line

Hey fellow campers, i've just discovered Library Thing - an on-line book-cataloguing site. You get to catalogue 200 books for free after which you have to pay $10 a year or $25 for life - given the price of many softwares, it's a pretty good deal. And many of you know what a book geek i am. The thing about this site is that you can view other people's libraries. In theory it's a way of sharing libraries, swapping books and such. Though i'm pretty protective of my collection - again, as many of you know. Nonetheless i like sharing and a couple of dozen of my books are abroad in the world at any one time.

Popular Education News - Jan 2007

I'm catching up on posting and here's one things i have been delinquent about: The Popular Education News which has been published devotedly by Larry Olds for these past few years. Some great links, resources, meeting announcements and more.

Peace Train memories and new inspiration

Here's a slide show that's worth a couple of minutes of your time : (thanks, Kim).

Community Arts University

Well, i've quite loved the Community Arts Network website for some time and now i love it even more as they have created a virtual university (actually a collection of articles and syllabi) about community arts. Despite some syllabi about global perspectives, it's a tad U.S-centric - which is small detriment to using this wonderful collection of stuff. You could say i'm a bit of a syllabi junky.