Sunday, March 19, 2017

Response to Retribution

No words can prepare one for the event. I sit in the Broadway Theater in Saskatoon and Tanya Tagaq gently guides us into her performance by inviting us into an improvisation. She motions to and introduces Jean Martin and Jesse Zubot as long time fellow collaborators about to dialog together. 

Days afterward, I struggle to articulate the experience ... not to name and grasp but to activate and research ... Retribution. 

Somehow bracketed by the ever present notions of truth and reconciliation I experienced Retribution as a way of "schizo-analysis" - a pragmatic, disciplined, playful, experimental and collective process. Tagaq sources her ancestral throat-singing to follow an extreme vocal imaginative analysis induced by the colonial capitalist neurosis systems that pillage ourselves and the earth. Her deeply rooted presence enforces her acts of incarnated cultural reality of Cambridge Bay in the northern Canadian territory of Nunavut, as a way of maintaining normality while engaging in an act of micro/macro political subversion. "Retribution will be swift" ... notice not a revolution but retribution.

Talking to Erroll Kinistino, an original actor in Tomson Highway's play Dry Lips Oughta Move to Kapuskasing, during a session where we vision remounting the play with a renewed group of Rez brothers, I mention going to see Tanya ... he nods, "Oh she is a medicine ..." 
There it is ... Retribution is medicine.

I am haunted by the quote from Lyle Longclaws that opens Highway’s Dry Lips Oughta Move to Kapuskasing

 " ... before the healing can take place, the poison must first be exposed ..."

During the act of Retribution, there is this sense that Tagaq inhabits the place of poison. She stakes out the territories and zones in on the nerve sphere ... there are moments of what could be described as complete physical abandon ... journeying with her becomes a delirious movement towards exile then paradoxically, in the end, you occupy a space beyond poison ... Retribution is not an exorcism ... it is an emblem, a great medicinal gift ... Retribution is healing ...

album cover for Dementia
I am reminded of my awakening in 2006 encountering Jesse Zubot's album Dementia ... the vibrational sound was a dream visioning my years beside my now ninety-two-year-old mother slipping into dementia ... it is no accident that Zubot & Tagaq collaborate ... they play in the Dreamtime ...  dream with the Indigenous meaning "ways of knowing" ... dream "that can be seen as having the dual function to envision and prepare for possible trials and difficulties and to find creative and peaceful solutions" ... dream is " 'actual' experience of the self in some ways more meaningful than experiences in the waking life" ... dream is an "important vehicle by which we communicate with the larger community and spirit world" ... dream "to share the responsibility of our problems working collectively with others towards solutions" ...

I know Tagaq has said

"I hate pretense, all that garbage, all that head-stuff is really boring. As soon as music gets paved over with ideas of what you’re supposed to be, what you’re supposed to look like, what you’re supposed to sound like, that’s when I lose interest. My eyes start to glaze over.”

What I need to say is thank you and I just want to celebrate. Thank you and I surrender to the act of retribution. So I write/wrote:
... Absolutely stunning Retribution improvisation ... the power of the trio ... the dynamic shifts ... the rhythms ... the sounds of the animal, plant, human & other worlds plea for Retribution ... no demand Retribution ... it is a wild & loving prayer/call song from the belly of the universe ... the heart is mouth ... the vibration is soul
 ::Note:: ... all of what is written about dreams is from "And What Are You Dreaming About?”: An Analysis of Tomson Highway’s Dry Lips Oughta Move to Kapuskasing - Lindsay Diehl ... & please listen to Retribution commentary on Spotify ... Tagaq is so lucid expressing how & what she does ...

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Top ten

There's a meme going around, list the top ten albums you listened to as a teen, only one album per group.

My Dad was a physicist and had a workshop in the basement ... a fixit master. I believe he wanted me to learn this way. When I said I needed a record player in my room, that the family player in the living room wasn't for me he replied by purchasing a Heathkit turntable. I had to put it all together soldering the transistors and wiring the speakers ... I hated it but wanted desperately to buy records & listen with some sense of privacy. In the end I loved my Heathkit system.

Anyway here's the list. This is the stuff I really listened to as a teen.

Not only my top ten albums as a teen but as close to order of purchase as memory serves (teen years '66 - '72)

Absolutely Free - Mothers of Invention
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band - The Beatles
Beggars Banquet - Rolling Stones
John Wesley Harding - Bob Dylan
Songs to a Seagull - Joni Mitchell
Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M. - Simon & Garfunkel
Johnny Winter - Johnny Winter
Wheels of Fire - Cream
Cheap Thrills - Big Brother and the Holding Company (Janis Joplin)

:: Note :: ... had to laugh as my son wrote he saw all that vinyl ...

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Twelve thoughts

... have lived for 20 years in what could be considered a pretty nondescript community ... others call it rough ...

... true it is on the "wrong" side of the river ... the west side ... on the edge of "downtown" ... across the railroad tracks ... at the bottom of "C" hill ... should there be any more stereotypes ... one more ... heard "once you turn the corner ya know you're in the hood" ...

... i feel safe ... even though have survived one break in resulting in all electronics stolen, a number of house windows broken, car vandalized, tires slashed, driver window shattered, ignition switch destroyed, even a second car torched by a fire ... house side graffitied a couple of times ... oh ya ... two homicides less than 100 meters from the yard (2014) ... still feel relatively safe ... 

... yet when opened the backdoor this morning saw a knife on top of the fence post ... it was a bit unsettling ...

... perhaps I should explain the lone fence post ... at one time there was a wooden fence surrounding the property ... always being scratched or damaged ... dismantled it ... destroying a wooden fence can be a truly cathartic act ... that bullshit about good fences make good neighbors ... now neighborhood dogs have full access to the beautiful huge tree trunks & there is a well worn short cut path ... it's a corner lot and using the sidewalk means an extra, i don't know, ten steps ... i'm a good neighbor without a fence ... back to the fence post ... left one standing for winter extension cord purposes ... winter is an eight month proposition ... temperatures dip to -40 C ... car needs plugging in ... extension cord needs tying down ... hence lone fence post standing ...

... well the knife was a butcher's knife ... first thought ... what's the message ... yet if it were a message ... like straight out of Coppola's The Godfather it should have been a horse head ... don't mean to suggest this is an Italian neighborhood ... i'm Italian heritage ... the rest of the neighborhood is hugely mixed ... primarily low income edging ever so slowly to hipster ... second thought maybe someone had dropped it ... another had found it ... being considerate had politely placed the knife nice and high and visible on the fence post ... 

... thought for a moment ... just leave it there for the owner to find it again ... fourth thought ... no way ... took it inside and laid it down in the entrance way ... locked the door behind me ... rushed off because I was a few minutes off schedule being delayed by the knife action ... had to get past the railway tracks before the morning train came ... hated waiting in the resulting halted traffic jam so always timed drive early enough to avoid the train ... sped over the tracks and was well on my way to work ...

... waiting at a red light thought asked ... keep the knife ... hadn't really had time to inspect it ... looked expensive ... first glance ... seemed in good condition ... sharp ... but what can you determine by just looking at a knife ... sixth thought ... didn't need a knife ... knew if I kept it ... every time I looked or used it ... would remember this strange incident ... seven ... could keep it and hide it ... what would be the use of that ...

eight ... throw it away ...not in my trash though and no one near here ... people regularly went through the trash searching for anything ... didn't want them finding a good butchers knife ... remember that time you were helping that eight year old fix his bike ... he pulled out this kitchen knife from his backpack ... asked him why he had the knife ... "Just like to carry a knife" he replied ... "Do your parents know you have a knife?" I asked ... "No" he stated eyeing me ... "Maybe you should tell them." I suggested ... "Sure!" he lied ...  

nine ... been two days ... knife lays waiting for a decision ... a baseball bat at the front ... a butcher knife at the back ... told you I felt safe ... so why the bat & knife ... don't even know where the bat came from ... 

ten ... can never be too careful ... always be prepared ... had been a Boy Scout ... 

eleven ... replace the knife ... take a picture ... put it back inside ... write about it ... post on blog ... seems logical ... 

twelve ...

::Note:: ... still waiting for the 12th thought ... "good knives make good neighbours" - jc FB comment ...

Saturday, April 02, 2016


... Miles in Vienna 1973 ...

... was twenty ... two months married & having fled what I felt was the cultural wasteland of my Canadian prairie home, barely a couple of months in Vienna had seen Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention ... was now witnessing Miles Davis ... yes goodbye cultural wasteland ...

 ... forty-two years later I stumble on a YouTube of the whole Stadthalle concert ... the mythical memory faces the recorded image … 

... didn't remember any of the visual colors ... remembered the intensity of that single, slim figure focusing the entire energy of the momentary space and time into a place at his feet ... we, the audience, were present only to provide a testimonial vortex of the magnetic center of the mysterious electric field ...

... Miles had has back to us the whole time ... trumpet pointing straight down to his foot peddle ... exploring ... no more of a reaching/searching/probing ...  like one who had seen the abyss ... 

... i didn't know what the hell was going on but knew it was ... well shamanic & seared somewhere invisibly within breaking barriers pushing beyond normal limits ... i could only surrender to the trust nurturance ...

... here were dialogues ... obscure, undramatic, fierce ... echoing, repetition, counterpointing ... segments resembling cuneiform signs ... remote, futuristic and ancient ... piercing fragments ... expressions of the force of a personality …

… the experience lived inarticulately … 

… now i could see the whole up close … albeit edited through a film makers eyes … nothing yet everything was the same just as i am and not the same … i could reconstruct/recreate/research to find other incarnations what was described as "the greatest electric funk-rock jazz" ... learnt: 
Miles was recovering from a car accident, but refused to quit playing. "Just because I was forty-seven years old in 1973 didn't mean I was supposed to sit down in some rocking chair and stop thinking about how to keep doing interesting things. I had to do what I was doing if I was going to keep thinking of myself as a creative artist", he explained in his autobiography.” - Taken from the liner notes
 … his words validated the thrust of what it takes to be a creative artist or at least the type of artist i have dedicated my pedagogy towards … i recognize it takes tremendous courage and will to be that "creative artist" ... watching the filmed archive led to a recognition i had succumbed to the participation mystique … more than succumbed had turned the concept into a practice ... oh well so it goes ... oh how i wish I had seen John Coltrane ... so it goes ...

::Note:: ... heading out this evening to see daughter Ileana sing Beethoven's 9th with Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra ... yes back in the cultural wasteland ... so it goes ...

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Passing on

... there is a rhythmic undulation when traveling. When a child he watched and listened absorbing the process in a kind of intergenerational journey continuance. Ancestors witnessing from the corners guiding the way. Once on the path it is a song/call/dance towards an engagement. The practice is acquired, exchanged then valued. Each repetition is a creative movement embodiment ...

... we, by ourselves, cannot bring about the kinds of knowing that endure. So we journey together beyond geographical and cultural boundaries grounded in a place-specific standing under territory and self, experience and innocence, knowledge and play ...

... in the streets of Ottawa and in the homes of my relations I watch my son move with strength and with a sensual maturity shaped by attention, awareness and insight. My mother on my arm, weak and unsteady, follows doing the things she always did giving thanks. Myself, unsure as to exactly how the push/pull of existence works right now feel between, precisely as I am now on the plane flying ...

... flying to a place I call the Temple. Yes it is in the space between, in the air, connecting something to something, mother to son, the place of my ancestors to ... well it is in this connectedness I locate the feeling of home ...

We walk in a shared reality traversing all the places (in)be[ing](to)(we)en while we pass on.


::Note:: ... A week in Ottawa staying with Don mapping my ignorance ... Mom's 90th birthday present for us all ... Huge thanks Don ... Big hug Stefan ... special warmth to Brant, Betty, Margaret, Marge, Shirley, Deb, Tim & others ... Till next year! 

Tuesday, March 03, 2015


If you should go half dreaming where 
the soul quietly leaves the body 
insensitive to all suffering.

saying "I love you."

& encounter millions, desiring hundreds 
but love only the one who haunts life 
& watches death 

say "I love you."

Then go to the horizon of the impossible 
believing happiness will inevitably come.

And get rid of your identity, bury it in a hiding place
like a secret caught mid-air in a trust so gentle.

hearing "I love you."

::Note:: ... the Temple space has been unused this past month ... have not heated the space ... with the weather extremes yo-yo - melting/freezing ... ice has appeared on the carpet this morning ... like a body ... soon disappeared ... like all the experiments within the Temple space ... reminiscent of  Dante @tweet

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Stoon Shakespeare Lab

Sometimes it's best to let the director speak:

Directors Notes 

    So, what exactly are we up to? Well, I've had a number of conversations and debates over the past few years as to what a theatre company really needs in order to put on a Shakespeare play. Do you have to have a dozen actors to do Shakespeare justice? Do you have to have elaborate historical costumes? And that isn't knocking large cast productions (nothing makes me happier than wearing chainmail and wielding a sword) or even knocking large cast productions (more actors on stage, yes please!). But if we're already willing to accept that we're all in a theatre and not in a castle that is over two thousand years old, then how "simple" can we go? Shakespeare's company didn't trouble themselves with accurate costumes, so we're not worried about it either. If Shakespeare's company had men playing women, then I see no reason why women can't play men (if an actor is wearing a dress, then they're playing a woman). If someone says they have a sword then they have a sword.

    We've got the story, and we've got the text. Let's find out if it's enough.

    And while we're at it, why don't we do one of Shakespeare's plays that most people don't know. Our friends at Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan and Persephone Theatre will no doubt continue to do an excellent job of bringing Shakespeare to life, but they can't do them all. We're just bringing a different kind of Shakespeare to the table. We hope you're willing to come along for the ride.


... those were the notes in the program to The Saskatoon Shakespeare Lab's Cymbeline ... mission statement: "committed to giving theatre artists the chance to explore the plays of Shakespeare to bring Shakespeare to students and to produce the lesser known works of Shakespeare." (taken from the postcard flyer) ...

... so with some high school students I went ... debates will rage where two or more passionate theatre lovers meet ... witness this twitter "conversation" between a theatre maker and a critic ... but no debate after this show ... just awe, wonder, curiosity and thankfulness ... 

... something about just the story being told, the text exquistely articulated and the space so open, empty and white allowing the action to carve into the imagination ... something about the music, a delicate funeral lament sung, a ukelele toyed and plucked on and a startling thunder crash which tuned the imagination  ... something about the harsh white light of day, the soft blue light of night and the silhouettes of ghosts that so precisely pierced the imagination ... it was enough ... no it was just the right enough to free the imaginative body, space and image into a curious, complex story ...

... just right enough ... my Polish mentor Zygmunt Molik loved to share the "spring" metaphor ... I hear his broken English ... holding an invisible spring between his thumb and forefinger: "you see if you push the spring too hard it collapses and breaks ... if you don't press hard enough then nothing ... you must find just the right pressure then release and it will fly ..."

What was the pressure that made the imagination fly in Cymbeline?

 ... the actors ... yes their complete selfless effort ...the work of six to be seventeen characters was an uncomprosmising challenge ... & we experienced their work as play ... 

In everyday life, "if" is a fiction, in the theatre "if" is an experiment. In everyday life, "if" is an evasion, in the theatre "if" is the truth. When we are  persuaded to believe in this truth then the theatre and life are one. This is a high aim. It sounds like hard work. To play needs much work. But when we experience the work as play, then it is not work anymore. A play is play.”― Peter Brook

... the truth was we did not  ask whether that was a real fight with real swords and a real wound ... or could a poison cause death & resurrection ... or was that based on a true story of a king & queen ... or can a woman with flowing hair really be disguised as a young man ... 
... we listened and saw a battle and questioned why they were fighting & who exactly they were & when they won or lost what did they win or lose ... we watched a diamond ring move from finger to finger to finger and back again asking whose finger wore it well & who decieved us ... we never wondered whether the diamond was real ... 

... we listened and watched the story ... & it's all in the telling ... we think we tell stories but often the stories tell us ... learning to free the imagination requires the actor to hear the story, to have questions, to pause and hear silence, to dare to name it and then become the storyteller ... all of this takes, what my wife suggests, a "distanced spontaneity" (that's another writing for another time) ...

... I could quibble ... I always see those practiced skillful artists as my former students desiring more ... the formalistic structure demanded bold associative/abstract projections not illustrative markers of mountains or castle ... & play the angles, twist the bodies to create dynamic spaces ... no, no more pedagogy ... all of you simply did it ... released us into the story ... 

... Stoon Shakespeare Lab did it all ... artists explored, students reached out and the lesser known became known ... Thanks.

::Note:: ... i can only watch in admiration the work of Skye&Josh who so inspired me as an educator too many years ago now ... how they continue to inspire me to this day ... the picture is of six of the eight students who came with me ... i put them onstage afterwards saying silently "Hope to see you there again in a few years" ...

Tuesday, January 27, 2015


You bring all you know about a person. Their life, their desires, their dreams, their likes, their dislikes, their duties and their practice.Yet it is the photos that haunt.

I remember entering the retirement home on a January evening. The body lay resting on the bed. She rested a lot these days. The mind - well who knows what is in the mind. Not wanting to startle but hoping she would wake, washed the few glasses accumulated from the daily pill taking each morning and night, collected the invoices and flyers sorting then dispatching most to the trash, checked the telephone messages, turned on the television to Law and Order, though not too loud, and waited.

Waited what seemed a long time. Only half an hour it turned out to be.

I felt she was ok. Still sometimes sleep looks so close to death. Couldn't really hear any sound. She was almost ninety. 

- Mom. Mom. I whispered.

She didn't stir. I reached down and brushed her shoulder.

- What? Oh, hi. My stomach's feeling much better now.

- You had an upset stomach?

- Yes. Right after supper. I'm quite tired.

- Ok. I'll come back tomorrow.

- Sorry you had to come over.

- No, don't be sorry. I wanted to come. Just rest. Get a good sleep and I'll look in on you tomorrow.

- How are you?

- Everything is fine Mom. Just sleep.

Reached for her hand and looked into her half shut eyes. She lay back and seemed to return immediately to sleep.

Quietly left the room, kept the hallway and bathroom lights on just as she liked. Put on my coat and slipped out of the apartment to the elevator.  Outside in the cold night with the sound of cracking ice underfoot I wondered if slipping into death was as easy as slipping into sleep or slipping out of a room.

At that moment I slipped on the black ice next to the car. Steadied myself and muttered - you can't even see it.

Writing this now I know one time and we can never really see it there will be no tomorrow and ...

And what? 

Monday, January 19, 2015

A Prayer on MacBird

Morning Prayer January 19, 2015
Our theatre guild has just wrapped another offering to our school and community. Last weekend, the play MacBird showed to audiences including grade 8 students who will become part of our Feehan Family. Thrilling tension, outstanding lead performances, many strong supporting performances, original writing, technical innovation – Macbird showcased the talent and commitment of our students and of course the guidance and permission of Mr. Montalbetti.
Macbird is based on Shakespeare’s MacBeth, and as all those who have been grade 10 English students remember fondly, both plays are about ambition which overpowers compassion in the lead character. Macbird is tempted by power, the ability to control other people, and their desire leads to violence which spirals into their destruction. The play prompts us to ask and to wonder: when have we been tempted to put aside compassion and pursue what we want ruthlessly?
Theatre, and all art, allows us to explore powerful emotions in ways which give us freedom from them. The word “catharsis” refers to when we feel so strongly with what is happening on stage that we essentially flush them out of our system. As we leave the theatre, we return to our lives better able to live with these strong emotions and still make good decisions.
Why these plays are so important is because they show us the reality of power. By the bloody end of the play, it is clear what the consequences of violence are. Macbird tries to seize power through violence, but in doing so makes himself powerless. He tries to rule through fear, yet he is the one most afraid. When he intentionally erases his compassion for others, he also loses compassion for himself, and submits himself to pain and violence.
This morning, we have a chance to think about how we want to live.
We only ever have happiness when we have compassion for others.  When we close off our natural concern for each other, we become locked up in ourselves like Macbird, afraid and alone. When we try to gain power to make others do what we want, we become enslaved to a thinking that only includes being controlled or controlling. God always clarifies the choice for his people: you can choose a life of peace or you can choose death by violence. In the end, it’s the only choice.
Jesus said, “My peace I leave you, my peace I give you.” I’m pretty sure that Jesus walked in the world so confident of his Father’s love because he shared peace with everyone he met. The human life of Jesus was the most happy one ever, and the saints who found him lived happy lives, peaceful within even if surrounded by violence.
Today the church celebrates St Agnes, who was a virgin like St. Kateri Tekakwitha, and she lived in the 3rd century in Rome. She affirmed she had the right to live without a man, and to choose her own faith, and the Romans sentenced her to death at the age of 12.  
St. Agnes, meet Macbird. Macbird, meet St. Agnes. One of you wielded the sword, the other was pierced by it. One of you prayed for your enemies, and the other could not pray when you wanted to. 
Let us pray.
Heavenly Father,
you know our weakness and
you know we want power.
Help us to see clearly that we can only be happy when we love others.
Set us free from the violence we inflict on others
in our words, thoughts and actions.
Show us your love and your peace
so that we never want to hurt others.
Give us the strength that 12-year-old St. Agnes had
to stand by the truth about ourselves.
We ask this with Jesus, your son, and your daughters Agnes and Kateri Tekakwitha, in your Holy Spirit.
St. Agnes pray for us
St Kateri
::Note:: ... prayer written by a colleague. I was moved. Working with the students I hope they get it but often wonder what the audience experiences ... do they get it each in their own way ... thanks Ryan and thank you cast and crew you inspire me ... photo below taken by a colleague at rehearsal ... students called it making love to a pot ...

Sunday, July 20, 2014

room on the way

... yellow, pink & orange walls shelter us from the heat as the air conditioner clicks on & off ... a place of contrasts ... garish lights & humble artistic center stretch outside ... clean swept streets & unkempt staircases ... aggressive drivers & exceedingly polite greeters ... wide, fast flowing highways & narrow, empty passageways ... buddhist temples, shaman homes & churches ... the one constant in clothes soaked in sweat is exquisite food ... everywhere in open markets to single small eateries ...

... probably only slightly different than any city anywhere but it is the place I now inhabit to experience the familiar as surreal ... here I am the other ... the naive wave to me shouting out "hi" excited they can use an english greeting ... an elder reaches out smiles & strokes my arm ... school girls on their way home exclaim "foreigner" ... it all happens "on the way" ...

... many are anxious to demonstrate the goodness & generosity of their culture ... others are suspicious if not even a bit hostile ... despite everything it is myself that is opening the door to a dance of distinctions ... a murkiness, a discordant beat, an open wound & entangling mind shadows resolve into no craving, no loathing ... moment by moment enter the unfolding "on the way" ...

... the acupuncture & outpatient treatment of pills & medicine, mindfulness & rest ... the relatively young master ... kind face of childlike purity, a face of decades of patience & practice, a relaxed manner & bright voice ... what is it that decides our ancestral homeland "on the way" ...

... humidy ... scorching sun ... chirping cicadas ... wife's face blossoming with happiness ... "on the way" in Inhwa Iksan Jeonbuk ... "on the way" ...

::Note:: ... Second week begins ...