Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Around the City: Burma Rally; Hip Hop in the Park; Ben Calf Robe Pow Wow; The Office Show; Fort Edmonton

I've had a busy few days taking in a lot of events here in Edmonton. Festival season has not yet officially kicked off, but there were still a number of things going on this past weekend.

On Saturday, I swung by the Legislature to witness a small protest by the local Burmese community (as well as members of the local chapter of Amnesty International) for the Burmese junta to free their leaders Aung San Suu Kyi. Aung San Suu Kyi is a Nobel Peace Prize winner who was elected Prime Minister of the country, only to be forced into house arrest by the Burmese junta. Here are some photos and a short video.

From there, it was off to Hip Hop in the Park. Held for the second year, the event took place in Louise McKinney Park and was a celebration of hip hop culture including rappers, beat boxers, graffiti artists, and dancers. I wore a hip hop cap I bought recently, and was told that it was (and I quote) "phat" and "dope." That was the first time those two terms were applied to me in a positive way. I could not stay as long as I wanted, but managed to take some photos and shoot a video.

I rode my bike through the river valley, over the LRT bridge and to the university campus to the Butterdome, where the Ben Calf Robe Pow Wow was being held. I normally put my bike on one of the ETS bus routes to get to the south side, and after going up and down some major hills (walking part of the way) I remembered why I have not taken that route in years. Sweating and panting, I made it to the Butterdome in one tired piece, and took some photos and videos of the dancers and drumming groups. This is a composite video of different dancers. Some of the drumming groups in attendance included River Cree, Young Cree, Eagle River, and I also filmed a couple of groups whose names I did not manage to catch such as this one and this one. The Ben Calf Robe Society is an educational organization that works with Aboriginal children, in conjunction with the Catholic school board.

Sunday brought me to the High Street area to shop for bicycle parts, have coffee, and enjoy some local music in the MEC Second Cup. A singer-songwriter named Eric Miller was playing. On my way between shops, I passed by a local art exhibit called The Office Show. Part installation and part video, The Office Show examined how we view and use our work spaces. Some of the display was creepy, like the upside-down maps and clock with no hands, some was scary, like the cubicle where someone had obviously been killed or committed suicide, and some of it was familiar - sticky notes and personal photos, piles of shredded paper, home offices as opposed to blue collar sites. Take a look.

My time at home during the weekend was spent working on the final proofs of the two newspapers I edit, The SPURR and Boyle McCauley News. By Monday, things were winding down and I had enough free time during the day to head to Fort Edmonton Park with a couple of friends. Fort Edmonton is my favourite of all of Edmonton's attractions, and I am amazed how even now I can always find something I have never seen before. We dined in the Selkirk Hotel - a first for me. I renewed my yearly pass and hope to go again a few times this season. Here is my soon-to-be growing photo collection.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Parashat Bamidbar

Parashat Bamidbar (In the Wilderness)
May 23, 2009/29 Iyar 5769

Torah: Num. 1:1-4:20
Haftarah: Hosea 2:1-22
Brit Chadashah: 1 Cor. 12:12-20 (Lederer)
Romans 9:22-33 (Feinberg)

While Moses was leading the Israelites through the wilderness after the Exodus from Egypt, the L-rd asked him to take a census. He gave instructions on how it was to be carried out:

Numbers 1:1 The LORD spoke to Moses in the Tent of Meeting in the Desert of Sinai on the first day of the second month of the second year after the Israelites came out of Egypt. He said: 2 "Take a census of the whole Israelite community by their clans and families, listing every man by name, one by one. 3 You and Aaron are to number by their divisions all the men in Israel twenty years old or more who are able to serve in the army. 4 One man from each tribe, each the head of his family, is to help you. (NIV)

Needless to say, this was a very big job. But it had to be done, because every Israelite was important to God. These were God’s people, and He appointed Moses to be in charge of them during their time on earth. The Torah portion progresses with an extensive list of names of the tribes, and then concludes with specific instructions to Aaron and his sons on how to care for the Tabernacle.

The prophetic portion is from Hosea. Hosea was commanded by God to marry a harlot, despite her corrupt and atrocious behavior. Through his love, Hosea was able to redeem her.

Hosea 2:19 I will betroth you to me forever;
I will betroth you in righteousness and justice,
in love and compassion.

20 I will betroth you in faithfulness,
and you will acknowledge the LORD. (NIV)

Hosea’s love for his wife reflects God’s love for His people, for even when our actions and thoughts and lives are against His standards, He still loves us and wants to draw us closer to Him.

In one of the suggested Brit Chadasha portions, the Apostle Paul lists how different parts of the body make up the whole being of a person. Each part of the body, in turn, works together so that the entire body functions as it should. This is a metaphor for how all of us as believers make up the body of Messiah. Paul’s main point comes in this verse:

1 Cor. 12:13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body--whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free--and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. (NIV)

When we accept Messiah Yeshua, we automatically are counted in God’s census. It’s not just open to Israelites anymore, but to everyone. As well, each one of us has gifts and abilities that G-d gave us and that we need to use in order for the Body of Messiah to work properly. Have you made sure that you are counted?

Monday, May 18, 2009

Keep Alberta's Healthcare Public

On May 9, around 1200 Albertans descended upon the Legislature grounds to protest recent cutbacks and deregulations to Alberta's healthcare system. Many people bused in from out of town, and there was quite a number of seniors there. Photos from the event can be seen at RaiseMyVoice.com and Flickr. I also filmed the event but a little differently this time around - from the perspective of the stage facing the audience.

Senior's Action and Liaison Team (13:01)
Raging Grannies (8:11)
Diana Gibson, Parkland Institute (4:48)
Transgender Community (2:18)
Notre Dame des Bananes (3:25)
Brian Mason, MLA (6:30)
Hugh MacDonald, MLA (5:34)
Musical Finale (2:01)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Weekend Adventures: City Centre Market, Art Gallery, Rain

On Saturday morning I hopped on my bike and checked out the grand opening of City Market for the 2009 season. City Centre is Edmonton's original Farmer's Market and is located downtown. There are more vendors than ever, and I picked up a few Latin American style bead necklaces. Unfortunately, one of them fell off my neck as I was cycling to my next destination. I also enjoyed a Fat Franks hot dog and a small bag of kettle popcorn. I considered it to be a balanced lunch! A short opening ceremony featured many local politicians giving short speeches, including Mayor Mandel. Check out some photos here.

I ran into quite a few people I know at City Market, including a few I have not seen for a while. I've also started to notice more and more of my Internet friends in real life. Sometimes I say hello and introduce myself in person; other times I am not quite sure if it really is the person, so I avoid doing anything so as not to embarass myself. However, I for sure saw Mack, Sharon, and @jasdarrah - although I was not positive it was Jas until later on. Fellow photographer Ian McKenzie had a similar incident seeing me, but wasn't completely sure. Internet friends - if you see me wandering around this summer at Edmonton's many festivals, events, and attractions - please say hi!

Anyways, after I left City Market I did a quick bike ride around the McCauley neighbourhood to see what was up. Saw one of my friends who was on his way to a family member's baptism and we had a quick chat. Then, it was off to the Art Gallery of Alberta. I was mistakenly told that the gallery was open in its original location, currently being rebuilt. However, teh sign on the construction fence indicated otherwise, so I pedaled in the direction of Enterprise Square, where the AGA is temporarily located. I had a free pass (a stamped passport from the recent 124th Street Art Walk) and was particularly interested in the "Koshashin" exhibit of photographs from 19th century Japan. The exhibit was huge and the variety of images blew me away, especially the coloured ones. If you wanted a colour photograph in those days, it had to be coloured by hand. The results look somewhat between a photo and painting. There was another Japan-related exhibit of paintings done of 53 rest stations that Japanese princes would pass through on their annual trip to Tokyo.

An exhibit that I was not expecting was "Polaroids," by Attila Richard Lukacs and Michael Morris. This collection of over 3000 Polaroid images depict masculinity and male behaviour in ways that differ from popular culture. In particular, there are many photos of skinheads and Neo-Nazis that emerged in Berlin after the fall of the Wall. The photos are at once disturbing and fascinating, with poses that represent work, play, sexuality, and other themes. Seeing the huge walls literally covered in Polaroids was overwhelming to say the least, especially when most of the models were in various stages of undress (we're talking Full Monty here). I would expect this kind of exhibit more at an independent gallery than the AGA - it took a lot of courage for them to take on something like this. A related exhibit, "Leaving Olympia," explored different depictions of the nude figure, both male and female, and in different time periods.

All of that Japanese art made me hungry for sushi, so I biked over to Kyoto on 109 street. Avocado sushi and vegetable tempura make me happy.

Today I threw my 24-speed on the bus for the first time this season. I took the #4 which brought me to Whyte Avenue to check out the closing sale of Southside Sound. I am very sad to hear of this store's imminent closure, as I have spent many a time browsing through the once-extensive folk and World sections. Unexpected rain put a damper (ha ha) on my afternoon, so I was able to make it back home on my transfer.

It's a long weekend and I have no idea what tomorrow will bring, but according to weather reports it is going to be nasty. Likely I will stay home and edit, upload videos, work on my new online art portfolio (more on this later), and geek out with some movies and comics.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

From the Ground Up

Issue #2, Spring 2009 of From the Ground Up is now out!

From the Ground Up is an independent 'zine covering Edmonton's activist community. Look for copies coming soon to Earth's, Remedy, Apirg, CJSR, and other select locations, or download a copy from our website:


From the Ground Up is published quarterly and is FREE! (donations welcome to help cover the cost of paper/ink/printing).

Friday, May 08, 2009

My OCD Life

This past week was Mental Health Awareness Week in Edmonton. A friend of mine who is a fellow freelance writer wrote an excellent piece for the Edmonton Journal about her struggles with depression. I found it an inspiration to write something about my own journey with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. So here we go.

Years ago, a few of my friends commented that if I ever wanted to change careers I should consider becoming a safety inspection manager at a chemical plant. Not that I actually have an interest in such a profession - rather, I have an uncanny talent for taking any situation, picking it apart, and listing point for point everything that can go wrong.

I don't have any particular interest in this profession. What I do have, is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. People who have OCD perform a series of rituals (compulsions) in order to relieve troublesome thoughts (obsessions). I am a washer and a checker, because my obsessions tend to center around germs and safety. My symptoms ebb and flow depending on the general stress level in my life as well as other health factors. Others fellow OCD-ers are counters - they feel something bad will happen if they do not count to a certain number under various circumstances. Some of us are also concerned with activities being done in a certain order. As I often joke, I don't have OCD - I have CDO. It's like OCD, except the letters are in their PROPER alphabetical order the way they are SUPPOSED to be!

Like with any mental illness, OCD carries with it a stigma. There is the social humiliation of being discovered. As much as I try to hide my habits, sooner or later anyone who spends enough time with me will witness me wash my hands a few times too many, repeatedly check that the doors are locked, whip out my bottle of hand sanitizer, or eat a sandwich with a knife and fork. Even those close to me get a good laugh from time to time at my expense, including a few who also have mental health issues. Which leads to another problem that is caused by my OCD - I tend to take things very personally and can obsess if I feel someone is giving me short shrift.

I know I am not the easiest person to get along with because the struggle in my head makes me have problems even getting along with myself. Then, there are the aspects that no one sees - the ones that live inside my brain. Ruminations on upsetting conversations, negative experiences, worrisome thoughts. The end result is me being grumpy, tired, and anxious much of the time. And frustrated - OCD is a neurotic condition, which means that when I am in the midst of a hand-washing spin (for example), I know I am being ridiculous - but I feel helpless in stopping it.

At the same time, having OCD comes with benefits. One of the key ways I live with OCD is working with it instead of fighting it. I try to divert my energy from rituals and worrying to more productive activities. As a result, I am a very productive person in a variety of areas. When I get involved with something, whether it be a new hobby, interest, activity, or relationship, I go at it with gusto.

OCD was a factor in my career choice, as being self-employed requires me to constantly be on my toes when looking for and managing the number of contracts I balance. My profession as a freelance writer, photographer, editor, and sometimes musician allows me to have a variety of work scenarios, locations, and contacts - no two days are ever the same. And, most importantly, it allows me to call my own hours. I don't have to face explaining to a boss about needing to take the day off because I am suffering from lack of sleep as a result of the broken record going through my head all night.

To be truthful, if I could magically erase OCD from my life, I don't think I would do it (as if that would ever even be an option). While I hate the effects of OCD when I am in a full flare of my symptoms, I would not want to walk away from the creativity and intensity of my life. OCD is part of what makes me who and what I am, so I may as well view it as a gift instead of a curse.