Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year!

Here's a little U2 to get you all revved-up for tonight's festivities. See you all in 2008!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Posting Hiatus Until After the New Year....

I hope all of you have an awesome New Year's! I'll be back with some new posts in 2008.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Benazir Bhutto Assassinated

Pakistan's former prime minister and first woman to lead a Muslim state, Benazir Bhutto, was assassinated earlier today while leaving a rally in Rawalpindi. Bhutto was fatally shot twice as she greeted her supporters from the sun-roof of her armored vehicle. Afterwards, the gunman detonated himself, killing 20 others and injuring many more.

Bhutto's death has led her already unstable country down a path of further turmoil. Riots erupted in Bhutto's hometown of Karachi as a hospital, a gas station, and several vehicles were set on fire. The Army Rangers have been called to secure neigbouring areas as explosions, arson, and random gunfire have also been reported in Lahore, Sarghoda, and Sukkur.

While some analysts are quick to point fingers at President Pervez Musharraf for possible involvement in the attack, others have tied Bhutto's murder to Al Qaeda. In any case, they do agree on one thing. Musharraf did not provide his political opponent with adequate security following the last threat on her life in October. According to Bhutto's security adviser, "We repeatedly informed the government to provide her proper security and appropriate equipment including jammers, but they paid no heed to our requests."

What are the implications of Bhutto's death?

The assassination comes just weeks prior to Pakistan's parliamentary election in which Bhutto's People's Party of Pakistan hoped to end Musharraf's military reign. Her main rival, Nawaz Sharif, claimed that his party would boycott the elections following Bhutto's death as he condemned the current president: "The holding of fair and free elections is not possible in the presence of Pervez Musharraf." And as the country slips into further unrest, would it really be in Pakistan's best interest to force the upcoming election? Therefore, the prospects of a January 8th vote actually taking place are looking especially grim at this time.

Equally disconcerting is the rapidly deteriorating stability within an already troubled region. As Pakistani security will need to be vamped in anticipation of escalating post-Bhutto protests, some political analysts fear that this extra manpower will come at the price of equally crucial border security along the Afghanistan-Pakistan divide. Only time will tell how seriously this will impact NATO's mission in Afghanistan.

And as many of Bhutto's supporters continue to mourn worldwide, one senses their universal fear that the light of hope for peace and stability in Pakistan may have just gone out.

the BBC
the CBC

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Farewell Oscar Peterson!

While most of us were busy stuffing stockings and turkeys, the world lost one of the best pianists to hit modern jazz--Oscar Peterson. The mind-blowing virtuoso passed away early Sunday as a result of kidney failure. He was 82.

Known for his fingers' lightning speed, Peterson could tickle the ivories from one end to another in a flash prestissimo. His left-hand wielded such uncanny strength that many of Peterson's bebop basslines matched the feverish pace of his finger lickin' melodies.

As he played with the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, and Duke Ellington, Peterson became legendary as a member of the Oscar Peterson Trio. With Ray Brown on stand-up bass and Herb Ellis on guitar, the trio's musical chemistry and spine-tingling improvisations really came to life on the At Zardi's recording. Some of my favourite tracks would probably be the bass-heavy "Falling in Love with Love," the smooth groove of "Big Fat Mama," and "Autumn Leaves"' addictive melody, as each song seems to embody the pinnacle of each member's musicianship.

And as the world bids farewell to its most revered jazz pianist, let me leave you with a little piece of Oscar Peterson heaven....

*The Oscar Peterson Trio play "A Gal in Gallico" circa 1958.

Monday, December 24, 2007


Since I'll be busy living out the Christmas cliche by watching cheesy movies, eating copious amounts of turkey, and drinking lots of spiked punch, new posts will commence after the holidays. I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas with your family and loved ones!!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Fumbling Towards Equality

My first experience with racism occurred in elementary school. I was around 8 years-old at the time, and my mom had just dropped me off at the playground before classes started. On my way to the monkey bars, or tire swings, or whatever fit my fancy on that particular day, I heard this grating little voice heckling me from behind. As the voice got closer, I started to get a good look at the chubby kid taunting me, “You’re a n*****!” Honestly, I didn’t really know how to react to this little jerk’s comments. What I should have done, was walk right up to that mini bigot and kick him in the nuts, but alas, hindsight’s only 20/20. I knew he was calling me a really bad name, but I categorized it in the same way a child does for shit, fuck, bitch, etc. So as far as I can recall, the school day carried on like this little occurrence never happened.

That night, I somehow let the whole story slip to my mom. It probably started off like, “Mom, what’s a n*****?” And boy, was she ever PISSED—as in downright LIVID! If I’ve learned one thing in my 26 years on this planet is to watch out when a Filipino mom is angry! Seriously, they are downright scary! Needless to say, we marched right into the principal’s office the very next morning and my mom unleashed the beast. She did such a great job that not only did the little guy get that dreaded phone call home, but I scored an official apology out of the deal. Not a surprise considering I had the world heavyweight mom on my side of the ring.

But I wasn’t going to get off that easily. When I got home from school that day, my mom and I had a little sit-down. And that’s when she basically educated me on how cruel that “N-word” really was—how Black people were once treated like slaves and how that one word symbolized their years of oppression. She obviously gave me the simplified version at the time, minus the lynchings and the rapes and the KKK, but I still got it. But I somehow knew that after learning this dark truth, I would never be the same.

So now, as a Filipina Canadian in her late twenties, that certainly wouldn’t be the last time I’d have to deflect a racial slur. I’ve been called “chink” and “paki” since then, but to me, neither has carried the same weight as the “N-word.” And while I’m obviously not Black, and therefore, truly cannot understand the very magnitude of that word, I am deeply saddened when I think how damaging that experience would be for an 8 year-old Black child. Just to be minding your own business while playing in the playground and then BOOM—some dumb little kid, who probably doesn’t even know what that word means, drops the “N-bomb.” Then what? That dumb little kid gets reprimanded by the school, his/her parents get involved, end of story, right? Unfortunately, the world is a lot more complicated than that.

The bottom line is that hate does not exist in a vacuum. This is pretty obvious. I don’t believe that people are inherently evil and thus become the Hitlers, or Pol Pots, or top Klansmen from birth. It isn’t biology that spreads racism and intolerance, ideologies pursued in ignorance do. And whose minds are the most impressionable of such beliefs? Well our children, of course. We all know that kids are like sponges.

And the problem is obviously not just black or white either. There are Asians who hate Black people, Arabs who hate Asians, White people who hate Aboriginals, and Aboriginals who hate Whites. So what is the reasoning behind such racism? "All Black men are dangerous.” “All Arabs are terrorists.” “All Aboriginals are lazy drunks.” “All White people are racists.” Really sound logic, eh?

But that’s the kind of intolerance that’s easy to see. What about systemic discrimination--the kind of intolerance that often flies below the radar of the PC police? Well, it’s just as insidious. It’s the overrepresentation of Aboriginals in Canadian penitentiaries, while African Americans and Hispanics pack the prisons down South. And it's the disturbing way more than 40 sex trade workers (most of whom being Aboriginal women) went missing from Vancouver's downtown Eastside over the last thirty years--without so much of an RCMP investigation--until only 6 years ago. Like I said, systemic intolerance is insidious.

And while I haven't even touched on the implications regarding religion and borders, this post is already slipping into a state of doom and gloom. So instead, let's see how the glass looks when its half full.

A few years ago I had the pleasure of knowing an amazing youth group, known as Youth Against Racism (YAR), through the Intercultural Association of Victoria. Each of the youth fell between the ages of 12 and 18, and seemed to represent quite the multicultural mosaic which covered the map from China to Haiti to Russia.

YAR's big project during that year was to create their very own documentary. When I say create, these adolescents wrote the script, directed each scene, and starred in the short film aptly entitled, Sifting Through the Layers. And if you haven't already guessed, the film explored the realities of racism as seen through their own experiences.

And was it ever a success! These ambitious youth effectively tackled the complexities of racism and structural discrimination through a powerful commentary that came straight from their hearts. YAR explored the need for cultural visibility in media and pop culture, the distorted racialized messages sent by the beauty industry, and the undeniable power of education. In fact, Sifting Through the Layers has now become a DVD resource package in which teachers and youth workers can facilitate lessons around the subject. Ultimately, this really is a brilliant example of youth empowering other youth.

So as I bring this story to a close, I would like to go off with a bang with the help of Dr. Maya Angelou:

When we come to it
We, this people, on this wayward, floating body
Created on this earth, of this earth
Have the power to fashion for this earth
A climate where every man and every woman
Can live freely without sanctimonious piety
Without crippling fear

When we come to it
We must confess that we are the possible
We are the miraculous, the true wonder of this world
That is when, and only when
We come to it.

--from the last two stanzas of "A Brave and Startling Truth"

Monday, December 17, 2007

Kickin' It Old School....

I was born during an era of Reaganomics and Trudeaumania, a year when the New York Islanders would take home Lord Stanley’s Cup for the second time in a row, and when Ordinary People beat out The Cole Miner’s Daughter for Best Picture at The Oscars. The year was also a time when the world lost two of its heroes—Terry Fox and Bob Marley. Yes, my friends, I’m saying it loud and proud: 1981...represent!

But even though I cuffed my pants, crimped my hair, owned a couple of Cabbage Patch Kids, bounced on my Pogo Ball, tuned into Transformers and The Smurfs, wished that He-Man and She-Ra would hook-up (until I discovered they were siblings…eewww!), teased my bangs, collected Garbage Pail Kids cards, loved The Goonies, chose Jem over Barbie, and believed that Michael Jackson was a god, I didn’t really come of age until the following decade.

And come of age I did! As hair metal and bubble gum pop surrendered to the grunge wave, the 90s was my time to break some major barriers. It was filled with first kisses, first boyfriends, first heartbreaks, first rock shows, a first car, a first job, and my very first time snowboarding. But in the midst of all these firsts, was the music. All of these inaugural moments could all be nicely captured on a couple of well-orchestrated mix tapes....

So where's all this nostalgic energy coming from?

A few days ago, I had the sudden urge to embark on some major spring cleaning. Since this happens on the rarest of occasions, I decided to take advantage of the moment and go with it. So I started by tackling an old box that dates back to my youth. I don't consider myself too much of a pack rat, but this box is sort of a time capsule of my coming of age so I've had a hard time throwing a lot of this crap away. And what kind of treasures could one find amidst all this teenage junk? Let's just say that there's evidence of a first boyfriend, old posters, some incriminating photos, and the mother load of mix tapes.

So there I was, mix tapes in hand, on the verge of chuckin' those damn cassettes into the trash when I suddenly came to my senses. Instead, I opted for giving them a listen before I made anymore rash decisions....

And I'm glad I did. Instantly, I was transported to a time when Anthony was inviting us into a world of Blood Sugar Sex Magik, Kurt was sharing Polly's sad story, and Shannon was giving us some Tones of Home.

Housed in this Converse shoebox of cassettes were also memories of the tedious mix making process. Remember how you had to had to hold down both the PLAY and RECORD buttons in order for anything to actually happen? Or how the most groundbreaking technology to hit cassette players was AUTO REVERSE. And we can't forget about setting the right mood. While I have to admit that many of my homemade tapes were literally slapped together at the last minute, I had been known to carefully craft a cassette or two in my day. Not only did you have to worry about the usual PAUSE-RECORD routine, but now had to factor in smooth transitions and contrasting tempos. But wasn't it all worthwhile in the end? This labour of love actually began to pay off once you slipped that personally mixed tape into the hands of your high school sweetheart, or even your best friend, and got to see that deeply appreciative look on their face. Oh, those were the days....

So as we now take comfort in the drag-and-drop ease of MP3s, and have long tossed-out our clunky Walkmans and even Discmans in favour of the teeny-weeny IPOD, don't you miss the raw charm of vinyl, cassette tapes, and CDs? Since I'm sure that Apple and Microsoft are just waiting for the perfect moment to introduce their latest line of gizmos and gadgets to their loyal legions of tekkies, you better believe that you'll always find a record player, boombox, and CD player in my house! There's nothing wrong with preserving a little piece of history, is there?

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Soul Searching...aka T.M.I.

Disclaimer: You'll all have to bear with me as I go off on a philosophical tangent here. Lately, I guess you can say that I've been in what seems a constant state of contemplation. I know what you're thinking: Can I be any more cryptic? Like I said, I'm going off on a philosophical tangent here....

As I find myself in a time of transition, my mind suddenly becomes bombarded by a horrible onslaught of bad cliches that have probably been the stale leftovers of cheesy syndicated TV. When one door closes, another one opens--OR my personal favourite--When life throws you lemons, make lemonade. Seriously. Who comes up with this crap? At any rate, I suppose these proverbial mantras were created to give people hope in the absence thereof, or whatever, so I shouldn't diss them too much, right?

It's just that I've been confronted by the realities of human mortality more than once during the last year so as a result, I've been doing a lot of contemplating. And if I've come up with anything meaningful during my pseudo epistemological journey, it's been this: I've wasted way too much energy on stupid shit. I know it may not a take life-changing circumstance to actually come to this realization, however, I'm convinced that a good kick in the pants always helps.

So if I had to define stupid shit in the most general of terms, the list would be comprised of the usual "sins"--money, resentment, apathy, vanity, and lame relationships. I know it's all part of the grand scheme of life's live and learn process. Believe me, I know. And it's not that I feel like I'm suddenly running out of time because I still indeed, have a whole lot of life to live. What I have realized is that contrary to my former mindset, my time is not endless--but finite. So as I begin to put a new found value on the minutes, hours, and years, I'm ready to spend my time a bit more wisely....

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Buying a Filipina Wife: Voices of Mail-Order Brides in Canada

The Philippine Women's Centre of BC (PWC) defines mail-order brides as "a formal transaction between a man and a woman from different countries, usually brokered by an agent, who is part of the mail-order bride industry, via catalogues or the Internet. The term is also applied to situations where men go to the Philippines with the intention of finding a wife."

It is no secret that many Western men love shopping for their potential wives in the Philippines. In fact, the desire for an Island wife is so strong that a whopping 5000 Filipina mail-order brides arrive in the United States every year, while 20,000 catalogue wives already reside in Australia. And Canada is also joining this growing club as the country's large Filipina domestic worker demographic will be soon eclipsed by that of Island-bought brides.

You’re not liking Filipina dating sites? We are what we are. The Philippines is over populated with mostly women. There is a very high poverty level and Filipino do not treat their women very well. So what it adds up to is so many [F]ilipina want out! The desire to leave and the fact they are the most beautiful women in the world and treat their men better than any other culture of women. That makes the Filipina very desirable to most men around the world. (quoted from a guy that runs one of the many objectionable Filipina "dating" sites)

Well, this must mean that Filipinas are living the high-life overseas in the comfort of their new mail-order marriages. Let's take a look at some of their experiences...

"Maria" expresses the economic disempowerment she is subjected to by her Canadian husband: "We then fight. I don’t have money at all. I have to make him satisfied. We have so many incidents. I can’t go shopping. Of course it’s natural for us women to go out shopping, to buy something. He’s not giving me any money. He doesn’t know that he should give me money and he just learned from me in the long run...."

"Then the lifestyle here, there is no respect at all. Like it’s not easy for me to just ask or borrow something like the vacuum or money. Sometimes I feel shy to tell him that we need this or we need that."

"Nika" grew up in the Visayan region of the Philippines in a peasant family. Since her older sister had married a foreigner and was reaping the financial rewards of her new lifestyle, Nika was also determined to become a mail-order bride...She finally decided on her future husband, "Tom," after exchanging a series of letters with him. Tom had boasted about his booming taxi business back in Canada and had promised to sponsor Nika to the country.

Sadly, Nika's new life in Canada would be marked by her husband's incessant verbal and emotional abuse. He monitored her phone calls, he forbade her from watching TV, and even regulated how much she ate. In order to signal Nika to stop eating, Tom would simply slap her.

As a Filipina working in Hong Kong, "Perlita" met her Canadian husband, "Keith" through a "friendship" service....She decided to apply for residency through Canada's Live-in Caregiver Program (LCP) in order to secure her own incomce once she arrived in the new country. However, once Perlita had the couple's first baby, Keith would no longer allow her to work outside of the home.

And his abuse would not stop there. After Perlita gave birth to their second child, Keith started to control all aspects of her life--her social life, her finances, and even her mobility. He also inflicted brutal attacks on her in which he punched Perlita in the face, suffocated her in front of their children, and cruelly threatened her by holding a gun to her head.

Right, so despite the high instances of domestic abuse, the inherent marginalization of being bought in a developing nation and brought into the First World as a wife-servant, and being caught in this devastating Catch-22 with very few options, this really sounds like a better life...

All the personal excerpts from Filipina Canadians were borrowed from Canada: The New Frontier for Filipin Mail-Order Brides as published by the Philippine Women's Centre of BC. Please note that this is only a brief overview of the issue so please visit the above links for a more comprehensive exploration...

Monday, December 10, 2007

In Memoriam: Pickton's Six (proven) Victims

On Sunday night, one long-awaited event dominated Canadian news networks: the official verdict of the Robert Pickton trial. Once the jury had spoken, Pickton joined the likes of one of the country's most prolific serial killers as he was found guilty on all 6 counts of second-degree murder. While many were initially dismayed by the seemingly lesser charges of homicide, lead Crown councel, Michael Petrie, reassured the media that the only difference between a first-degree and second-degree charge was in the culprit's parole eligibility. Pickton's second-degree sentencing means that he would receive life in prison while being eligible for parole after 10 years. A first-degree charge would also result in life imprisonment, however the accused would only be eligible for parole after 25 years behind bars. But as Pickton has 6 counts of murder under his belt, his chances for parole seem pretty dire. He will be sentenced on Tuesday and still faces 20 additional counts of murder in the first-degree.

As the media has since moved onto the verdict of the Conrad Black trial, I would like to turn your attention to the victims of Pickton's misogynistic crimes. The real story lies behind the lives of these women who were brutally murdered and soon forgotten on account of their work in the sex trade. They deserve to be remembered.

Andrea Joesbury was a vibrant young woman with a new lease on life. She had a troubled childhood and ran away from her home in Victoria in search of a better life. At only 16 years-old, Andrea had been lured onto the streets of Vancouver's Downtown Eastside by her drug dealer boyfriend. Once excelling in drama and sports in school, she was soon trapped in a world of drugs and prostitution.

But her future still looked bright.

Having spent nearly 7 years on the streets, Andrea was in the process of kicking her long-time heroin addiction with the help of Vancouver's methadone program. In her last phone conversation with her grandfather, the young woman expressed excitement in turning her life around and eventually moving back to the Island.

Sadly, Andrea did not have the chance to follow through on her dreams. Alarm bells started to go off as she missed her daily methadone dose at a local clinic. On June 8, 2001, Andrea was reported missing.
(photo courtesy of Victoria's Time Colonist)

Sereena Abotsway had a heart of gold and a hearty laugh to match. She had been raised by her foster parents until she was 17, but Sereena had started to reflect serious behaviourial issues associated with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. She was then moved into a group home for troubled teens. It was there that Sereena was introduced to drugs and soon found herself on the streets of the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, using sex to support her drug habit.

But after years on this path, Sereena had found solace in Christianity. She had started attending a church, located on ground-zero of Vancouver's most notorious strip, and had even been baptized in the ocean tide of Burard Inlet.

Ironically, Sereena had also become a strong advocate for the missing women from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. Many of those lost were her friends and she had participated in community rallies in order to pressure local law enforcement to investigate each of their disappearances.

Sereena became one of these tragic statistics once she disappeared in August 2001
(photo courtesy of

Marnie Frey was a generous person--so generous, that she often came home from school with missing articles of clothing since she gave away pieces of her wardrobe to friends in need. Even when she became a young mother at 18, Marnie was still known for sharing her formula, diapers, and baby clothes with other moms in order to lend a helping hand.

And her bright spirit didn't stop there. Marnie loved animals. Growing up in Campbell River, her family had a little chicken coop on their property. When Marnie was 10 years-old, she became extremely distraught when one of her chickens was suddenly found dead. So in order to placate her daughter's pleas, Marnie's father, Rick, agreed to have an autopsy done on the deceased fowl. What was the cause of death? Apparently, the poor chicken had swallowed a nail.

But as the sad story goes, Marnie unfortunately got tangled up in drugs and eventually ended up on Vancouver's Downtown Eastside as a sex trade worker. The last time her parents heard from her was right before her birthday in 1997. While Marnie was last seen on August 1997, she wouldn't be reported missing until an entire year later.
(photo courtesy of the Vancouver Sun)

Brenda Wolfe was often known as a "guardian angel" as she worked as both a "street bodyguard" in order to provide protection for those working on the streets, and a bouncer/server at Downtown Eastside's Balmoral. But despite the tough exterior, many remember her as a caring and gentle soul.

While Brenda originally came from southern Alberta, the events surrounding her descent into drugs and the streets of Vancouver is highly speculated.

Like the tragic fate of so many before her, Brenda also became one of the dozens of missing women on February 1999.
(photo courtesy of Vancouver 24 Hours)

Mona Wilson had endured a heart-wrenching childhood marred by both physical and sexual abuse at the hands of her biological family. When she was finally taken into protective custody, Mona was welcomed into the home of her foster family.

At 14, the ministry moved her out of the safey of her long-time foster home into another. Two years later, Mona was walking the downtown streets of Vancouver's notorious Eastside in order to support her emerging heroin addiction.

As Mona became one of the city's many missing women in November 2001, her foster dad, Ken Garley, laments, "She would have been a great wife and great mother, she had true love in her heart."
(photo courtesy of

Georgina Papin was a loving mother of 6 who had fallen on hard times. As a child, she was bounced between foster homes and residential schools in Alberta.

Despite Georgina's downfalls as a drug addict, her daughters, Kristina and Ruth Bateman, still had fond memories of their mother. Since Georgina was a member of the Enoch Cree First Nations outside of Edmonton, she really wanted her daughters to be in touch with their Native heritage so she encouraged them to attend Cree powwows and taught them the secret to making the perfect bannock (traditional biscuit).

When she finally jumped on the wagon of sobriety in an attempt to gain custody of her kids, Georgina went missing in March 1999. However, her disappearance wouldn't be reported until two years later.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Storytelling Our Lives

"Home is where the heart is. My heart is at home." --from "Storytelling Our Lives" project

Last year, I had the pleasure of working on the Intercultural Centre of Victoria's "Storytelling Our Lives" project. It was a community-based program which sought to empower immigrant and refugee women, as well as women of colour, through a series of workshops appealing to a variety of modes of self-expression--theatre, music, dance, and like the name suggests, storytelling. Each of these workshops eventually culminated into a theatrical production of the same name put on by the Puente Theatre.

As you can imagine, participants came from all walks of life and represented various cultures. There were women from Ethiopia, Korea, the Philippines, China, Sweden, Chile, Bangladesh, Mexico, Iran, India, the UK, and of course Aboriginal women from Canada. Even though these women started off as strangers at the beginning of each workshop, they came out as sisters, mothers, and daughters by the end.

The essence of each event could be summed up in one word: powerful. Since I was piecing together a story about the project, I was originally going to sit on the sidelines and watch from afar. But I soon realized that was not an option as I got roped into every single activity--and absolutely loved it! Not only did you get to hear the diverse voices of women often silenced by racism, sexism, and language, cultural, or religious barriers, I had the privilege of listening to their individual songs, while learning to dance their dances.

Most notable of all the activities would have to be both the storytelling and voice workshops. As each woman was encouraged to share a special story from either her family or culture, this lovely First Nations women brought all of us to tears as she candidly took us all along on her spiritual journey. From her tortured childhood within the confines of the residential school system to her current work in building a cultural revitalization program for her band, this amazing women shared how she eventually found her own peace in her nation's special spiritual relationship with the land. It was truly moving.

During the voice workshop, an exuberant vocal coach led the group through a series of exercises that helped the women ease into the idea of singing their lungs out to a bunch of strangers. In the beginning, one would get the sense that most of the group was extremely uncomfortable with the prospect of singing...well...anything. Some participants even decided to sit-out during the first few activities. However, this all changed once the women realized how great they sounded together. Since the first language of most of the women was one other than English, the coach designed an activity to showcase their diversity. As the women were broken into various "language groups," each section was to sing "Home is where the heart is/My heart is at home" in their designated language. Working like dominoes, the first group would start, then subsequent sections would layer each of their songs until the group formed one harmonized voice. As I looked around the room, I realized that we were all sharing a very special moment with one another. And at that melodic climax, I couldn't help but think how strong and beautiful our voices sounded as they resonated together as one.

Friday, December 7, 2007

"Picasso of the North" Dies at 75

photo courtesy of Louie Palu

Canada mourns the death of one of its most treasured icons--Norval Morrisseau. Waging a long-time battle with Parkinson's disease, Morrisseau passed away on Tuesday after suffering from related health complications.

Morrisseau was a groundbreaking painter and Grand Shaman of the Anishinabe (Ojibwa) nation. As a self-taught artist, he revitalized Ojibwa iconography by creating the Woodlands art movement which showcases his culture's visual artistry. An honorary inductee into the Order of Canada and a recipient of the the eagle feather, the highest honor of the Assembly of First Nations, Morrisseau's critical acclaim reached far beyond national borders. In 1989, Paris' Museum of Modern Art showcased his work in the Magicians of the Earth exhibit, calling Morrisseau the "Picasso of the North."

But like many significant artists before him, Morrisseau's greatness was often eclipsed by his personal troubles. As a victim of Canada's residential school system, the future painter endured sexual abuse by a priest when he was a young boy. This painful experience led Morrisseau to drop out of school in the fourth grade to pursue work as a miner.

After a vision came to him in a dream, Morrisseau turned to a canvas and paintbrush for self-expression in 1959. Three years later, the Anishinabe artist was putting on his breakthrough art exhibition at Jack Pollock's gallery. And that's when the people had spoken. Each of Morrisseau's featured pieces sold-out within 24 hours of the show's opening.

And as his artistic vision began to take Canada by storm, Morrisseau's personal demons began taking on a life of their own. Before long, he began his dark descent into addiction and eventually homelessness. Morrisseau started shaking hands with devil by trading his valuable paintings with a Toronto mobster in exchange for cocaine and booze, and soon began wondering self-destructively through both Canada and the States. Sadly, the painter finally hit rock bottom on the streets of Vancouver.

And as fate will have, this is also when Morrisseau's life began to change...for the better.

He met a street kid named Gabor Vidas and together, they became each other's crutch. Once they got off the streets, Morrisseau jumped on the wagon and even took Vidas under his wing as his adopted son.

So like the triumphant phoenix, Morrisseau re-emerged--amidst experiences of abuse, addiction, and self destruction--as one of the greatest artists of his time. Needless to say, Canada will miss him.

Morrisseau's Bio
CBC Story on Morrisseau
Collection of Morrisseau's paintings

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

So THIS is Christmas...

When did Christmas become...well...this?

You know, all of the damn shopping! And I don't mean this kind of shopping...

But this kind of CRAZED consumerism!

And God forbid you don't buy the right gifts! While Hollywood leads you to believe that this is the only consequence...

In reality, you're really going to be dealing with this...

Or even worse, this...

Which would probably leave you feeling like this (if you're lucky) ...

Or perhaps this (if you're not so lucky)...

And leaving somebody crashing on this.

Therefore, you can't really blame this guy for wanting to put a kibosh on Christmas.

So when did this all happen? Remember when you were a kid and the holidays were a lot more simple.

Sure, I looked forward to the huge Christmas payload...

But it was more about being fixated on this guy...

...and his trusty team.

Or spending entire winter days outside... our lives depended on it.

There's actually an ongoing joke in my family about the holidays. Since my mom came from really humble beginnings back in the Philippines, her parents didn't have enough money to buy all 8 kids a new gift each Christmas. So what did they do? Well, my grandma would actually give each of them the same toy every year. And folks, I'm dead serious. Sure she would wrap the things up to preserve the whole excitement in unwrapping something, but my little aunts and uncles essentially had to contend with these recycled gifts. Apparently, my mom was stuck with a wooden duck that laid eggs, while my aunt got a wooden cat. And were they bitter and miserable about their crappy presents? Hell no, because what their parents couldn't provide in fancy gifts, they compensated for in huge elaborate feasts where the whole neighbourhood was invited. And after the dinner festivities, all the children would make their way around the block as they knocked on doors and belted out Christmas carols for each of their neighbours. So even though my family has since come to North America and have all become successful in their own right, they all agree that those recycled gifts and Christmas block parties made for some of the best moments of their lives. And I believe it because that sounds like Christmas...

And the winner is...

Thank you so much Ivy for the sexy award!


Coincidentally, I've been tag-teamed by both Will and Leizlmarie to do the same meme so I'm going to kill two birds with one stone here. So the theme of the meme (yeah, I'm a poet and didn't even know it) is to tell you lovely readers either 5 (according to Will) or 7 (according to Leizlmarie) random things about myself. Always being the diplomat, I'll give you all 6 juicey tidbits:
1. I once won a Salomon snowboard in a raffle at a local rock show a few years ago.

2. I just learned how to crochet and am completely addicted so everyone's getting a freakin scarf for Christmas...

3. When I was in Tulum a few years ago, I went on a cenote bike tour through the Mayan jungle where our guides even took us to one of Pablo Escobar's (supposed ) abandoned hide-outs along. Who know if it was legit but it was a super eerie palapa-roof mansion...

4. My partner is exactly a foot taller than me--he's 6"1 and I'm a wee 5"1.
5. My favourite red wine is a merlot, while a Reisling is my favourite white...

6. My cat was once on the verge of death when she was kitten, but lived to become the crazy bastard that she is today...
So now I'll wave my tagging wand on pax compoundia and frenzy...

Sunday, December 2, 2007

On a lighter note...Check out The Cliks!

The Cliks are straight outta T-dot (a.k.a Toronto) and are totally killin' it! Okay, so I'm about 8 months too late to to provide an up-to-date album review here but that's Divinyl's thing anyway. Nevertheless, I'm still going to drop them a plug since I just can't get enough of this band right now.

Led by Lucas Silveira on vocals and guitar, Nina Martinez on guitar, and the rhythmic team of drummer, Morgan Doctor, and Jen Benton rockin' the bass, The Cliks released their sophomore album, Snakehouse, back in April. Not only does Silveira's songwriting shine with infectious pop sensibilities, his fierce contralto is a sweet combination of Bif Naked's roaring vocals and Monique Powell's sultry vibrato. The 10-track offering is characterized by bluesy melodies, grunge-esque chord progressions, and rock solid backbeats. Lyrically, each song wears Silveira's last break-up on its sleeve without all the whiny angst. From the bass-driven "Oh Yeah," to the acoustic ballad, "Nobody Else Will," The Cliks provide a satisfying smorgborg for your listening pleasure. They even do a killer electric cover of JT's "Cry Me a River," complete with Timberlake's signature falsetto in all the right places.

Oh yeah...and The Cliks have garnered further attention because of Silveira's transition as a male. Formerly known as Lilia, the press just can't get enough of Lucas' trans lifestyle and the band's queer roots. And with their androgynous rocker image comes all the comparisons to Chrissie Hynde and Joan Jett which are both huge shoes to fill so I won't go there. What I will say is that these three ladies and a guy are all solid musicians who completely rock out! If you're down, check out their official site and MySpace to get a little taste...

Here's The Cliks LIVE on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson:

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Hate's Twisted Logic

"For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others." -- Nelson Mandela

Today, I was cruising by one of my favourite blogs and became completely struck by their last post. It was a heated response to the blatantly racist sentiments expressed by a shameless hate monger on a South African blog. While I won't shed light on this individual's identity because I wouldn't want to intentionally link him to my site, I will try to logically critique his hateful rant without dropping too many F-bombs along the way. In the meantime, I will refer to this individual as X. (Please note that the following is a highly censored version of how I really feel about X's perspective)...

So the most disturbing of X's claims is: "Blacks deserved apartheid fair and square." If that isn't abhorrent enough, he even goes on to say, "In fact, blacks were treated way too softly; [South] African authorities made the fatal mistake of thinking of blacks as HUMANS, an item of faith which has been debunked by black African HISTORY (and ‘African-American’ behaviour in the civilised world). By ‘civilised world’ I mean WHITE-ruled states."

Not only is X's diatribe downright deplorable, it blatantly disregards both the historical and sociological implications of colonialism. First of all, to have the audacity to even suggest that Black Africans deserved apartheid is just as reasonable as saying that every individual who was ever lynched, raped, or murdered somehow deserved that fate. According to X's twisted reasoning, I would imagine that even slavery would also qualify as merely a deserved consequence of the grand plan. Having your villages pillaged, women raped, land stolen, cultures suppressed, languages lost, religions vilified, and not to mention being beaten, shackled, and shipped over to the New World as a "savage" would somehow all be justified in the name of civilizing Africa. Wow, X, you really provide one convincing argument.

If X had bothered to do any of his homework, he would realize that the colonial machine can only blame itself for the social, political, and economic fall-out facing Africa and other previously colonized nations. Perhaps X didn't realize that stripping entire societies of their traditional ways of life might somehow have devastating long-term effects on the system, or how the breakdown of colonial enterprises such as cash crop agriculture would also contribute to the continent's current instability. Not surprisingly, X didn't consider how colonial cartography, that conveniently ignored traditional religious and tribal territories, might play a part in Africa's civil conflicts. What about issues regarding the forced dislocation and diaspora of traditional African communities? Couldn't this trauma also be enough to have a negative ripple-effect for future generations? But according to X's worldview, such civilized powers are apparently infallible.

And clearly, X must have been sniffing glue when he blindly questioned the very humanity of both Black African and African American communities. Perhaps the following list will help sober him up enough to refrain from passing on such blatant garbage as truth--Nelson Mandela, Winnie Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr., Coretta Scott King, Alice Walker, Audre Lorde, Malcom X, Rosa Parks, C.L.R. James, Maya Angelou, Sojourner Truth, George Washington Carver, Phillis Wheatley, William Edward Burghardt DuBois, Toni Morrison, Spike Lee, James Brown, Duke Ellington, Akua Lezli Hope, Langston Hughes, Billie Holiday, Bob Marley, Jimi Hendrix, Qunicy Jones, Carol Mosely-Braun, Sidney Poitier, Sammy Davis Jr., Derek Walcott, Patricia Hill Collins, Harry Jerome, Portia White, Mary Ann Shadd... These individuals are all a mere tip of the iceberg when reflecting the enormous social, cultural, academic, artistic, athletic, scientific, technological and political contributions Black men and women have made around the world. This truth, X, is undeniable. Neither your hate nor your bigotry will ever take that away...

TAGGED--I'm it!

So I've been tagged by the lovely Ivy...

This particular birthday/astrology meme involves:
-choosing your birth month
-bolding the descriptions that most apply to you
-copying the rest of the 12 months onto your blog
-tagging 12 people from your friends list

MARCH: Attractive personality. Sexy. Affectionate. Shy and reserved. Secretive. Naturally honest, generous and sympathetic. Loves peace and serenity. Sensitive to others. Loves to serve others. Easily angered. Trustworthy. Appreciative and returns kindness. Observant and assesses others. Revengeful. Loves to dream and fantasize. Loves traveling. Loves attention. Hasty decisions in choosing partners. Loves home decors. Musically talented. Loves special things. Moody.

JANUARY: Stubborn and hard-hearted. Ambitious and serious. Loves to teach and be taught. Always looking at people’s flaws and weaknesses. Likes to criticize. Hardworking and productive. Smart, neat and organized. Sensitive and has deep thoughts. Knows how to make others happy. Quiet unless excited or tensed. Rather reserved. Highly attentive. Resistant to illnesses but prone to colds. Romantic but has difficulties expressing love. Loves children. Loyal. Has great social abilities yet easily jealous. Very stubborn and money cautious.

FEBRUARY: Abstract thoughts. Loves reality and abstract. Intelligent and clever. Changing personality. Attractive. Sexy. Temperamental. Quiet, shy and humble. Honest and loyal. Determined to reach goals. Loves freedom. Rebellious when restricted. Loves aggressiveness. Too sensitive and easily hurt. Gets angry really easily but does not show it. Dislikes unnecessary things. Loves making friends but rarely shows it. Daring and stubborn. Ambitious. Realizes dreams and hopes. Sharp. Loves entertainment and leisure. Romantic on the inside not outside. Superstitious and ludicrous. Spendthrift. Tries to learn to show emotions.

MARCH: Attractive personality. Sexy. Affectionate. Shy and reserved. Secretive. Naturally honest, generous and sympathetic. Loves peace and serenity. Sensitive to others. Loves to serve others. Easily angered. Trustworthy. Appreciative and returns kindness. Observant and assesses others. Revengeful. Loves to dream and fantasize. Loves traveling. Loves attention. Hasty decisions in choosing partners. Loves home decors. Musically talented. Loves special things. Moody.

APRIL: Active and dynamic. Decisive and hasty but tends to regret. Attractive and affectionate to oneself. Strong mentality. Loves attention. Diplomatic. Consoling, friendly and solves people’s problems. Brave and fearless. Adventurous. Loving and caring. Suave and generous. Emotional. Aggressive. Hasty. Good memory. Moving. Motivates oneself and others. Sickness usually of the head and chest. Sexy in a way that only their lover can see.

MAY: Stubborn and hard-hearted. Strong-willed and highly motivated. Sharp thoughts. Easily angered. Attracts others and loves attention. Deep feelings. Beautiful physically and mentally. Firm Standpoint. Needs no motivation. Easily consoled. Systematic (left brain). Loves to dream. Strong clairvoyance. Understanding. Sickness usually in the ear and neck. Good imagination. Good physical. Weak breathing. Loves literature and the arts. Loves traveling. Dislike being at home. Restless. Not having many children. Hardworking. High spirited. Spendthrift.

JUNE: Thinks far with vision. Easily influenced by kindness. Polite and soft-spoken. Having ideas. Sensitive. Active mind. Hesitating, tends to delay. Choosy and always wants the best. Temperamental. Funny and humorous. Loves to joke. Good debating skills. Talkative. Daydreamer. Friendly. Knows how to make friends. Able to show character. Easily hurt. Prone to getting colds. Loves to dress up. Easily bored. Fussy. Seldom shows emotions. Takes time to recover when hurt. Brand conscious. Executive. Stubborn.

JULY: Fun to be with. Secretive. Difficult to fathom and to be understood. Quiet unless excited or tensed. Takes pride in oneself. Has reputation. Easily consoled. Honest. Concerned about people’s feelings. Tactful. Friendly. Approachable. Emotional temperamental and unpredictable. Moody and easily hurt. Witty and sparkly. Not revengeful. Forgiving but never forgets. Dislikes nonsensical and unnecessary things. Guides others physically and mentally. Sensitive and forms impressions carefully. Caring and loving. Treats others equally. Strong sense of sympathy. Wary and sharp. Judges people through observations. Hardworking. No difficulties in studying. Loves to be alone. Always broods about the past and the old friends. Likes to be quiet. Homely person. Waits for friends. Never looks for friends. Not aggressive unless provoked. Prone to having stomach and dieting problems. Loves to be loved. Easily hurt but takes long to recover.

AUGUST: Loves to joke. Attractive. Suave and caring. Brave and fearless. Firm and has leadership qualities. Knows how to console others. Too generous and egoistic. Takes high pride in oneself. Thirsty for praises. Extraordinary spirit. Easily angered. Angry when provoked. Easily jealous. Observant. Careful and cautious. Thinks quickly. Independent thoughts. Loves to lead and to be led. Loves to dream. Talented in the arts, music and defense. Sensitive but not petty. Poor resistance against illnesses. Learns to relax. Hasty and trusty. Romantic. Loving and caring. Loves to make friends.

SEPTEMBER: Suave and compromising. Careful, cautious and organized. Likes to point out people’s mistakes. Likes to criticize. Stubborn. Quiet but able to talk well. Calm and cool. Kind and sympathetic. Concerned and detailed. Loyal but not always honest. Does work well. Very confident. Sensitive. Good memory. Clever and knowledgeable. Loves to look for information. Must control oneself when criticizing. Able to motivate oneself. Understanding. Fun to be around. Secretive. Loves leisure and traveling. Hardly shows emotions. Tends to bottle up feelings. Very choosy, especially in relationships. Systematic.

OCTOBER: Loves to chat. Loves those who loves them. Loves to take things at the center. Inner and physical beauty. Lies but doesn’t pretend. Gets angry often. Treats friends importantly. Always making friends. Easily hurt but recovers easily. Daydreamer. Opinionated. Does not care of what others think. Emotional. Decisive. Strong clairvoyance. Loves to travel, the arts and literature. Touchy and easily jealous. Concerned. Loves outdoors. Just and fair. Spendthrift. Easily influenced. Easily loses confidence. Loves children.

NOVEMBER: Has a lot of ideas. Difficult to fathom. Thinks forward. Unique and brilliant. Extraordinary ideas. Sharp thinking. Fine and strong clairvoyance. Can become good doctors. Dynamic in personality. Secretive. Inquisitive. Knows how to dig secrets. Always thinking. Less talkative but amiable. Brave and generous. Patient. Stubborn and hard-hearted. If there is a will, there is a way. Determined. Never give up. Hardly becomes angry unless provoked. Loves to be alone. Thinks differently from others. Sharp-minded. Motivates oneself. Does not appreciate praises. High-spirited. Well-built and tough. Deep love and emotions. Romantic. Uncertain in relationships. Homely. Hardworking. High abilities. Trustworthy. Honest and keeps secrets. Not able to control emotions. Unpredictable.

DECEMBER: Loyal and generous. Sexy. Patriotic. Active in games and interactions. Impatient and hasty. Ambitious. Influential in organizations. Fun to be with. Loves to socialize. Loves praises. Loves attention. Loves to be loved. Honest and trustworthy. Not pretending. Short tempered. Changing personality. Not egotistic. Take high pride in oneself. Hates restrictions. Loves to joke. Good sense of humor. Logical

Okay, I've always been one to break the rules so I'm only going to tag one other blogger who just happened to recently tag me: leizlmarie

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