CBC Nooners

Nooner concert series at CBC Plaza

So, I have not been blogging much.  Probably because I have either been chained to my desk or on the road.  I actually got away from my desk at lunch today, and headed over to the CBC building on Hamilton for their “Nooner” concert series.

Every weekday this summer, they are putting on a free live concert during the lunch hour.  Today, Juno award winning Greg Sczebel and his band played a rousing set.  It was a little rock, a little jazz, and a whole lot of fun!  Sczebel will be touring with Paul Brandt in the very near future.

The best part is that I was able to combine two of my great loves – the CBC AND good coffee!  Adjacent to the CBC’s outdoor stage area is a very quaint JJ Bean cafe, complete with green roof and patio seating.  Talk about a great location!


CBC’s “Live Chemical Reaction” in Vancouver


CBC Studios (Vancouver)

My wife and I had the pleasure of sitting in on a live taping of Go!  (CBC’s “live chemical reaction”) in Vancouver last Friday.  It was the western finals of the Canada Writes competition, and there were a few surprises in store.

The Go! cast warmed up the audience (and presumably themselves) with banter and a skit.  After that, the show started, and Brent Bambery soon introduced the guest judges.  The panelists included film maker Mina Shum, Spirit of the West frontman John Mann, and commedian Sugar Sammy.


The Judges

The contestants were introduced, and they each performed a piece written earlier on the worst advice they had ever received (memorable among these were “dude, let’s take your Dad’s van”, and simply “jump!”).

In the second round, a vocalist delivered new lyrics that the aspiring authors penned for popular songs.   One hapless contestant had to rewrite the lyrics to a Spirit of the West classic!  After that, it was time for the first contestant to be ejected from the contest by way of the show’s metaphorical trapdoor.

The remaining contestants had to write a movie pitch in five minutes with assigned titles including “the Fourth Cauldron” (shades of 2010, anyone?), and then produced their shortest works of fiction ever (with a 60 second time limit, no less).

In the midst of all of this, John Mann performed two numbers, and Ian Hanomansing popped in to promo a new NHL themed game that he created.  By the end of the show, one more contestant had been ejected and the two Western finalists were proclaimed.

If you live in the Winnipeg or Toronto areas, additional Canada Writes shows are coming up, and tickets are free!

Most urban aboriginal people opt to stay in city


My initial reaction/rant regarding this story:

While the national Urban Aboriginal Peoples Study bore noteworthy results, this CBC story demonstrates an appalling lack of sophistication. The piece states that “almost half of Canadian Aboriginal people are city dwellers” (this part is true), and goes on to say that “many have no plans to return to their home reserves” (this is terribly off the mark).

What’s wrong with the latter statement? It is a gross generalization. It seems that the terms “Aboriginal” and “First Nations” are being used interchangeably in much of the print and radio coverage today, but these words are not synonymous. The Constitution Act of 1982 recognizes three Aboriginal peoples: Indian (First Nations), Inuit and Métis.

As anyone with a passing knowledge of Canadian history should know, Métis and Inuit people do not have reserves to return to. Moreover, many Aboriginal Canadians – including First Nations people whether or not they hold status under the Indian Act – have been in urban settings for multiple generations. Of course the cities have become home!

As a person of Métis descent, I can attest to the fact that many Aboriginal people feel strong connections to their ancestral homes; however, these bonds are far more varied and complex than this story would lead us to believe.

I still love the CBC!

CBC has shuffled much of its line up, presumably due to budget constraints.  Unfortunately, it seems that many of the late night rebroadcasts that I previously mentioned (e.g., Curious Orange, Deutsche Welle) seem to have fallen out of rotation.  One silver lining is that they are now broadcasting Radio Canada International’s Link, a two hour show that is intended to “connect new immigrants to Canada and Canada to the world”.

Last night, they featured the Royal Ontario Museum’s Fakes & Forgeries exhibit.  A wide range of artefacts –  and their counterpart counterfeits – are on display.  These include bank notes, ancient Mexican rain gods, classical Greek statuettes, fossils, and even software.  Visitors are given a few clues and challenged to spot the fakes.  According to the commentator, the exhibit will make its way to Surrey (although I haven’t found any details online so far).

A little later, the commentators discussed a recent fatwa issued by twenty North American Muslim clerics in response to the recent underwear bomber.  Released under the banner of the Canadian Islamic Congress, it highlighted the fact that North America’s ten million Muslims have complete freedom to practice their faith.  It also included an opinion that any attack on Canada or the USA would also represent an attack on Muslims as well.

The Link broadcast also featured music by a number of artists including Melissa Bel, a talented young woman from Burlington, Ontario.  Her vocal quality was slightly reminiscent of Janice Joplin and her repertoire is apparently fairly broad, spanning jazz, pop and rock.

And at some point, I finally managed to get back to sleep…

The view from inside a CBC radio show… looking out on a Métis nation…

So, a colleague and I attended the sixth annual UBC – Laurier Institution Multiculturalism Lecture last night.  I was held at the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts, and was hosted by the good people from CBC’s Ideas program.  Incidentally, they will be broadcasting this event on June 25, 2009.  I assure you that it will be well worth a listen.

After a welcome to the Musqueam territories, we were treated to a “conscious hip hop” performance by Miss Christie Lee, who hails from the Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh Nations.  Her music combined elders’ voices, funky beats, and rap lyrics in both Hunquminum (a Salishan language) and English.  She emphasized respect and pride in culture, wherever we’re from.  For me, her performance highlighted the dynamic, living nature of Aboriginal cultures in contrast to the static portrait we are often fed.  Christie also plugged Beat Nation, where you can find out about a number of Aboriginal hip hop artists.

John Ralston Saul then took the stage.  He spoke to the central themes of his latest book, A Fair Country: Telling Truths About Canada.  There is nothing surprising in Saul’s premise that Canada is a “small m” métis nation, i.e., that our politics and society have been shaped significantly by Aboriginal worldviews.  His more provocative statement is that Canada will not move forward until we align our political structures with this reality rather than relying on 19th century, colonial myths – the two founding nations construct being one example.

Saul also criticized the political elite’s insistence on holding separate conversations with Aboriginal people and newcomers to Canada rather than involving both constituencies into the dialogue that began in earnest at the time of first contact.  Immigration is one example of where Canada parts ways with its former colonial masters.  We accept well over 200,000 new immigrants each year, 85% of whom become citizens within five years.  Saul calls this immigration as adoption (an Aboriginal conceptualization) in contrast to the USA’s “melting pot” or the racialized approaches of many European countries.

BC Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief Shawn Atleo and UBC Associate Dean for Indigenous Education Jo-anne Archibald then joined Saul on stage to answer questions from the moderator and, in turn, members of the audience.  I am not going to lie, it seemed that some of the people asking questions wanted to hear their own voice rather than what the panellists might have added.  In spite of this, they did manage to offer some interesting perspectives.  At the end of the evening, Chief Atleo called on Ms. Archibald as well as Bruce Dumont, President of Métis Nation BC, to present Saul with a traditional First Nations paddle.

I was struck by a few little ironies throughout the evening.  For example, it took the husband of the Queen’s former representative in Canada to bring recognition of Canada’s Aboriginal underpinnings into the mainstream discourse.  Maybe this is appropriate given the Crown’s special relationship(s) with Aboriginal people; however, the Vice Regent also represents the colonial myths that Saul would have us abandon.

Another irony is that it took Saul’s tool of trade – the written word – to highlight the importance of oral traditions in constructing shared understanding.  Finally, Saul’s new book was printed in the USA, the very bastion of the monolithic capitalist ideology that he also criticizes.  I get that he would probably not describe himself as a nationalist in the conventional sense of the word, but it still seems incongruent given much of his message.

Nevertheless, I stayed for the reception after the fact and shelled out the $35.00 for a hardcover copy of Saul’s book so I could get it signed by the author.  I am strangely gleeful to have this and, luckily, it is an engaging read thus far…

Art imitates life imitates art…?

I will admit it up front, I am not an art critic.  That said, I recently heard about two “art installations” that struck me as particularly unusual.  The April 6, 2009 podcast edition of CBC’s Dispatches included a feature on the production of an advertising campaign for a perfume called “Greed”.  For the television advertisement, Roman Polanski directed A-list actresses Natalie Portman and Michelle Williams as rivals, locked in fierce combat over a bottle of the irresistible essence.

The punch line is that “Greed” does not exist.  Conceptual artist Francesco Vezzoli dreamt up the non-existent product and corresponding advertising campaign to explore the simultaneously attractive and repulsive elements of consumerism.  The end result was an art installation at the Gagosian Gallery in Rome.  Reactions were mixed.  Some people seemed to feel that the timing was poor in light of the current economic troubles.  Others didn’t get the joke at all.  Vezzoli does not proclaim to offer a message, but instead claims to hold up a mirror to society.  He states “we are not wasting money, we are entertaining ourselves”.

The other so-called installation was featured on a late-night re-broadcast from the Deutsche Welle network (yes, insomnia again).  Daimler, the automobile manufacturer,  recently allowed the Rimini Protokoll theatre group to turn its annual shareholders’ meeting into a twelve hour staged production in Berlin.  The audience was made up of shareholders or voters by proxy, most of whom wouldn’t have known an IPO from a dividend but nevertheless wanted to see the show.  The viewers were riveted  as Daimler’s executives addressed their lagging fortunes

I will leave it to others with more refined tastes to judge whether or not either of these installations actually qualify as art, but both struck me as somewhat bizarre.  Vezzoli may offer a commentary on the unrelenting greed that  has brought the global economy to its knees, but is he really saying anything new about this excess?  Daimler’s shareholders’ meeting was opened up to a whole new audience, but to what end?  And what does it say that many actual shareholders were willing to hand their voting rights over to disinterested third parties?

Art can exist simply to be pleasing aesthetically, or it can act as a lens to focus our attention on aspects of the human experience that deserve contemplation.  I am all for art as social commentary; however, I believe there needs to be a next step – do I come away with an increased awareness, or am I called to take some form of action – big or small.  Without this next step, the interaction between art and the connoisseur seems incomplete…

Public Broadcasting from Around the World

So, last night I had another bout of insomnia.  Who knows why – some random worries, something I ate – whatever.  The one and only good thing about insomnia is that I get to listen to CBC Radio One’s late night offerings.  On weeknights, this consists of radio shows from public broadcasters around the globe.

I caught two shows, one from the Netherlands and one from Sweden.  “Curious Orange”, the Dutch show, featured prominent bands including the Electric Barbarians.  Their track was sort of experimental, acid jazz –  slightly reminiscent of the Propellerheads.  It turns out that the Electric Barbarians are on iTunes.

The Swedish commentators broke down their national political scene.   Alarmingly, one party with decidedly anti-immigrant in sentiments appears to be making significant gains.

I can’t remember which broadcast it was – must have got a few minutes of sleep there – but there was a piece on French President Sarkozy, who has called for an ambitious architectural reimagining of Paris to encourage densification.  Nothing on this scale has been seen since  Georges-Eugène Haussmann’s work under the auspices of Napolean III in the 1860s .

While these particular broadcasts hailed from Europe, CBC regularly features shows from Africa and Asia as well, and it is fascinating to hear different perspectives on current events – both in terms of what stories are covered in the first place, and how they are covered.

I’d encourage you to give CBC a listen if you find yourself battling a bout of late night insomnia.