66 Years in the Making!
3 Plays for a Quarter!
Yes, it’s true!
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The temperature soared to 26 degrees today with clear skies and slight breeze – perfect hiking weather. I enjoyed the 2 hour drive out Highway #2 today with a few fields already being seeded. I had the whole Spirit Sands to myself when I arrived about 12:30. Stripped down to hiking boots and shorts I headed out on the new beginning to the old familiar trail that I’ve hiked at least 200 times in my life.
The new trail begins with a set of stairs to the top of a ridge. In the picture above you can see the top of the new stairs on the left and a bit of the old sand trail on the right.In the foreground is the newly ground trail. Long time hikers will recognize the split spruce tree as The Sentinel.
Many nice views along the ridge and, due to the heat and the freshly hewn brush, the air was redolent with the rich aroma of juniper and spruce. Mauve crocuses poked out of the dun understory on south slopes. Not much bird song and no bugs at all, not even wood ticks…yet. I watched two young chipmunks tussle over a cashew I threw them at the first shelter.
The dunes were as welcoming as ever today. I hiked to our spot and sat on the balcony for awhile. Linda and I used to sit on this little ridge on the edge of the dune face that overlooks the spruce and aspen forest which we called the balcony. It was perfect there today.
On the way back a park interpreter was taking a group of high school students on a guided tour. At the trailhead I talked to Max, the interpreter, saying how I liked the new trail route. We chatted about the changes. Lucky guy gets to live in the park all summer! I find all the staff at Spruce Woods Park friendly and always helpful plus it is among the best maintained provincial parks. It’s one of the best day trips in Manitoba with some of our most interesting hiking trails and unique attractions.
The reason for the new trail route relates to the covered wagon rides offered in the summer. A team of heavy horses pulls a covered wagon seating about 24 to the dune face where you can de-wagon and climb to the top of the open sand. The wagon proceeds to the punch bowl, a pond of eerie emerald water, then returns through savanna and mixed spruce forest. The previous wagon route was cutting precariously close to the eroding escarpment above the Assiniboine River. For safety the new route uses some of the old trail and veers off into the bush eventually meeting up with the old route. The wagon ride is a memorable family experience that reveals several of Manitoba’s hidden gem attractions. Plus you’ll get to meet Larry Robinson, a real cowboy, who operates the wagon rides. He’s a terrific guy!
There! Have I convinced you to hop in the car and find Spruce Woods Park yet? No! Here’s six other posts and videos about the park plus a map of how to get there:
September hike post
Moonlight hike on Spirit Sands post
Yurting at Spruce Woods post
Yurt #4 Spruce Woods video
Dog Day Harvest Flies on Spirit Sands trail video
Spirit Sands hike video
How about now? Great! See you on the dunes!
Here’s a map to help you get there.
“We have been transmogrified from mad bodies dancing on hillsides to a pair of eyes staring in the dark.” – Jim Morrison
Two years at Ryerson in Toronto had opened my eyes to all kinds of films from W.C. Fields marathons to Fellini Satyricon (below) to Andy Warhol’s erotic western Lonesome Cowboys which was shown on multiple TV screens (to avoid the censors) in Cinema 2000, a modern XXX emporium on the Yonge Street strip. I craved a similar experience in Winnipeg and found it at the Med Movies.
A year or so after I moved here in the summer of 1973 I started hearing about underground movies that some med students showed every Friday night. Asking around I discovered the Med Movies tucked away in a lecture hall in the Basic Sciences Building at Emily and Bannatyne, part of the newly named Health Sciences Centre.
From October 3, 1975 to May 21, 1976 I went to both Med Movies every Friday. Sixty-four movies and I didn’t miss one. It was like getting a crash PhD in classic and modern films at $1.25 per movie. What a bargain!
The theatre was a large lecture hall with full size screen. The continuous bench seating let you stretch out for comfy viewing. It pulled small discerning crowds, the size often winter-weather dependent. The atmosphere was casual, laid back and reverent to the movies. Here are the films in my “20th century cinema course” on the original schedule sheets.
Looking at the schedule, the series offered an eclectic cross section of genre-busting, rarely seen films that together create an exceptional overview of world cinema in the first 75 years of the 20th century. Several of these films left indelible impressions on me: Little Murders, Death in Venice, Zabriskie Point, Mean Streets, Red Desert, Amarcord (below).
I still recall my gasps as I watched Jodorowsky’s El Topo (top) for the first time, being abducted to his strange and cruel world where you couldn’t just watch the movie, your entire nervous system and every bit of viscera also had to fully participate in the experience. I recently re-watched El Topo and it had a similar effect on me as it did 40 years ago. Don’t die without seeing El Topo.
This wasn’t the first year the med students showed movies and I don’t know how long they went on. I didn’t go the next year because my life had changed. I’d fallen in love with Linda.
She and I sat in on an experimental film course at the University of Manitoba a couple of winters later. We created films together several of which can be found on my YouTube channel. One of the more experimental films we made together was called Passionate Leave, shot in 1978/79 on Super 8. More details with the video here
Linda took this picture of the punch bowl at Spruce Woods Park about 15 years ago. The hike to and from the punch bowl is rather daunting at 7 km return so we only went there twice.
Naturally forming in wet sand dunes, small eerie-coloured ponds, called punch bowls, usually display a blue-green opalescence. To exploit the rarity and strangeness of the site, propeller-head tourism bureaucrats at the province mulled and mulled. Finally, in a stroke of sheer dumb PR, the pools were deemed the Devil’s Punch Bowl. That’s a load of BS, of course, as well as being a ridiculous and, once you see the pool, disappointing demonization.
Recently I became aware that a short film by Winnipeg producer and director Brendon Sawatzky was dedicated to Linda. In her role as Film Liaison for the City of Winnipeg, Linda worked closely with all kinds of filmmakers. I remember her speaking highly of Brendon and his work.
Brendon’s short film North American Perspective was shot in Winnipeg before 2009 and released on 2011. Linda is mentioned at the end.
In response to my email thanking him for the dedication, Brendon wrote back, “Linda was always such a huge help to me when I was working on my own films and always so fast to get things done.”
Click the picture to watch the film which is 5:50.
If I had to choose two words that describe my year, curiosity and gratitude come to mind. Regular readers of this blog know I have an insatiable curiosity that lures me to out-of-the-way, little-known places on the prairies and causes me to investigate and report on what I find there. Whatever form the journey takes and whatever I find at its end, expected and unexpected, are always causes for gratitude.
Once again I rented an Avenger from Enterprise Car Rental and followed my summer wanderlust, all 23,000 kms of it. My friend Troy and I ventured into Saskatchewan for a couple of days exploring sacred sites. The rest of my travel was done in Manitoba, mostly chasing my heritage geekness, rooting out heritage sites and doing documentation. Southeastern Manitoba and north of Dauphin, two areas of the province I wasn’t familiar with, supplied a wealth of new heritage sites. This is my picture of a pincushion cactus in bloom on the trail to Spirit Sands.
I was more prepared than ever for my heritage tours, doing thorough pre-travel research, planning itineraries and making arrangements for access and interviews at various spots along the way. I documented about ninety heritage sites this year, wrote and produced videos about many of them and still have a backlog of new ones for posting and uploading in 2013.
For a 49 second video clip of the map of Manitoba with my 2012 roads marked, click the pic.
When my heritage list was cleared, I hiked to Spirit Sands in Spruce Woods Park about 30 times this year. I was able to introduce friends, both new and old, to the marvels of the park, especially Spirit Sands. I yurted at Spruce Woods Park in June and August, both enjoyable experiences and ones I’d recommend for the almost-camper. Easy, inexpensive (take some friends) and fun. During my June stay at the yurt, I hiked into Spirit Sands just at sundown on the full moon. My post about the hike is called Gathering Moonlight at Spruce Woods Park.
Another hang-out of mine this year was the Criddle Vane Homestead which I have documented in several different ways including my 11:30 video tour of the site. Coming in 2013 another video and a post about this heritage site and the people who lived there.
Best Heritage Experiences
Two sites stood out this year, providing unique and very dissimilar experiences. Carberry, a little town just off the TCH east of Brandon, is a Manitoba heritage gem! Two blocks of Carberry’s Main Street have been officially deemed a heritage district, the only one in Manitoba. The concentration of well-preserved brick buildings constructed before and after 1900 earned the street the designation. I documented the street thoroughly and posted reports on all the individual heritage buildings on the west side of the street, sixteen in all. The east side of Main Street is in the works for 2013 along with a video of the street. This picture shows some of the east side brick buildings which will be featured on my blog in the coming months.
The other enthralling heritage site is Negrych Pioneer Homestead, north of Gilbert Plains between Riding and Duck Mountains. Ten original log buildings from the 1890s and the equipment the family used, all of it fashioned from materials available on their farm, make this the best preserved Ukrainian pioneer homestead in North America! Lovingly preserved and maintained, the
site provides summer student guides who are knowledgeable and very empathetic to the Negrych family and their lives in the bush. The
remoteness of the location, the complexity of the site and the attention to detail created a deep understanding of the hardships and the glories of early pioneer life. This bunkhouse with long shingle Carpathian roof is an iconic image from the Negrych farm. I am working on a video and feature article about the homestead.
Best Online Heritage Experience
The website for the Manitoba Historical Society is the best online resource I have found for referencing anything about Manitoba’s past. There is nothing that compares to it for its wealth of current details about heritage sites of all kinds, in-depth background on our history and people, and overall accuracy of the information. I have referred to it hundreds of times in my research. A major aspect to the website and a gargantuan project is an interactive map with over 4,000 Manitoba historic sites just a click away! Yes, 4,000 sites! I have a few hundred heritage sites on this blog and feel I’m getting things done. The 4,000 is the work of the MHS webmaster Gordon Goldsborough, a fellow heritage seeker who also likes heading out for a few days and gleaning every piece of heritage he can find, taking pictures, gathering information and GPS co-ordinates, all of which wind up on the website. Gord is much more successful at this than I am. Secretly, I get a little thrill on the very rare occasions when I discover a heritage site that Gord hasn’t already visited and posted on the MHS map! At all other times, I am in total awe of his work. Thank you Gord, for your integrity and determination. Links: MHS website and historic sites map.
I added 55 new videos to my YouTube channel this year, many of them with some kind of heritage angle, all of them original, bringing the total to over 170 videos. Heritage churches accounted for 13 new videos, heritage houses for 6, trains going by (I’m a train fan!) for 6, the rest on sundry topics. This month I exceeded 61,000 hits on the channel in the two years of its existence. I am humbled and grateful. Thank you for watching.
Here is a new video from my summer travels. Come on Along the Road with Reid and visit 12 Manitoba places in 5 minutes.
Two books, both loaned to me by dear friends, offered explanations for some deep and old mysteries this year. The Old Way of Seeing: How Architecture Lost Its Magic (And How To Get It Back) by architect Jonathan Hale clarified why some buildings appeal and seem to sing while others are disharmonious and ordinary. The secret is the Golden Section, the system most architects working before 1840 used to create human spaces, spaces that resonated with our bodies and spirits. I started to use Hale’s schematics on heritage buildings of all kinds to determine if the Golden Section was employed or not and discovered subtle and essential qualities that empathetic places all have. Published in 1994, the book is still available. Thank you Vonda.
The other book, Falling Into Grace: Insights on the End of Suffering by Adyashanti suggests another old way of seeing…with the spirit. If you are openly looking with love in your heart, other Old Souls join you on your journey and you on theirs. Within minutes of reading the opening pages of this book, I knew I was in the presence of not just an Old Soul, but someone who is reincarnated by choice, a man with a spiritual mission. He knows stuff we all can benefit from knowing. The initial simple idea of “They are only thoughts” led to recognizing the illusion of having any kind of control over anything to finally following Spirit’s invitation. Very often our paths crossed, the words are different but the experiences described flow from one source only. A book that tells the truth. Thank you Garcea.
It is just over three years since I lost Linda, my soul mate, to cancer. I now feel more accepting of her death due, in part, to the time that has
passed but also because of dear and loving friends. Adyashanti’s book helped me take large strides towards acceptance, giving me
perspective on my suffering and offering simple methods to get out of my own way and help myself, to “fall into grace.” Thoughtful phone calls, chance encounters and many long coffees with friends have given me healing opportunities for which I am enormously grateful. Linda’s message to me is still “be happy.” This picture of smiling Linda was taken in the 1980s at our vintage clothing store called IF you have to get dressed in the morning…
Ezra Reid Scholl
Regular readers of my blog will recognize the name of my longtime friend Chris Scholl. For over a dozen years Chris and I have helped each other through many difficult life changes and we’ve celebrated our successes, too. We have traveled the prairie together, visited sacred places and made pacts with Nature together. We’ve become family. Chris and his beautiful partner Megan had a full moon baby boy in October. To my complete amazement, they named the boy after me – Ezra Reid Scholl! (just the Reid part.) For an intentionally-childless guy like me, I was, and still am, overwhelmed knowing I have a namesake in the world. More than a metaphor, the first image that came to me was Ezra is “a tunnel into the future.” I explore so many tunnels into the past that having one going in the other direction flummoxed me for awhile but I am starting to find language for him now. He is six weeks old in this picture. I am so grateful to Megan and Chris for their loving gesture, for adding a fresh and unexpected dimension to my life resulting in a brand new kind of joy for me. As only an innocent new-born can, Ezra helped me bear my grief at its most intense. The Christmas season was more real to me this year. I am humbled and happy to express my gratitude to a little child.
Wouldn’t you know, Ezra already comes with philosophy! Now just over two moons old, Ezra has grown and changed so much. When I think of the changes ahead of him, I smile. All those changes can be viewed on Ken Wilber’s Map of the Evolution of our Consciousness. Read from bottom up. Ezra is lolling in the primary matrix right now, undifferentiated from the world around him but just itching to climb as far up the ladder as he can. Soon he’ll start differentiating himself from the world. Such as? Noticing the difference between biting the blanket and biting his thumb or – in grandly-hewn Wilberese – “the hatching of the physical self.”
The Lonesomes: Sixteen Prairie Stories
Strange births and strange deaths and the lives lived in between on the Canadian prairies. Stirred by the forsaken tumbledown farmhouses and barns, rusting farm equipment and lonely places they abandoned to the prairie wind, the voices of the pioneers and their descendants tell their poignant tales. Farm folk recall their struggles against the elements. Town folk recount interpersonal conflicts and complexities. There is no music but for the lonesome prairie wind. A beautiful dance of sadness and joy ensues.
When you drive down a country road and see a lonesome old farmhouse, sun-baked and tumbling down, or a broken-down rusty half ton on a rise or an abandoned red barn, don’t you wonder what happened in those places, to those things? Maybe you even start making up stories about them. That’s what I did. I found sixteen such places on the prairies and let their stories arise in my imagination. The Lonesomes is the result!
A forty-seven minute docudrama eighteen months in the making, The Lonesomes is a creative extension of my interest in heritage. The sixteen original stories, ranging in length from one to five minutes, span more than a century of history, roughly 1890 to 2005, from pioneers opening the harsh prairie and early railroading to second and third generations living complex lives in small towns and villages. The stories tell of the desperate births of people, towns and ideas, mysterious barns, trickery, magical windmills, memories of machinery, revenge and bizarre deaths.
The Lonesomes is a place where rusty old farm equipment suddenly spouts poetry, where the blue vastness of the prairie sky frightens a woman to death, where an innocent red barn is revealed as the scene of an old mystery, where a defeated small-town mayor sheepishly tells his odorous story, where two retired telephone operators have a chance encounter with life-changing results and where a pair of long-abandoned grain elevators have a wonderful dream.
I hired professional actors to voice the roles and recorded them at state-of-the-art Video Pool Studios. The sound quality is exceptional thanks to Michel Germain, an extraordinary audio engineer. The actors brought their best game to The Lonesomes. I’m thrilled to have my characters brought to life so thoroughly, so convincingly.
I shot all the images in HD digital myself. Visually The Lonesomes ranges from subtly changing still life to montage to live action always suggesting the location where the story occurs. The images are simple; the raw, explicit stories blow through them like the restless prairie wind.
This is much bigger than my YouTube stuff. Since I have a financial investment in it, I’ll explore the commercial potential of the piece. My plan is to market The Lonesomes in several ways. The options are many: from apps to E-books, on-demand TV to film festivals. I will keep you apprised. It’s a little too early for a preview but stay tuned to a blog near you.
Another year of posts done, about 180 in all, covering the length and breadth of my interests. These are some of my best posts of the year with links to the original articles.
Early in the year I started my reporting on Carberry and its unique heritage position in Manitoba. An example is this incredible
gingerbread house built by James White. Starting in the late 1800s, the Canadian government advertised free land in the west to fill up the newly acquired North West Territories I created the TV commercial for their ad campaign. If you think Winnipeg’s current mayor is a sleazebag, he’s carrying on a well-established tradition begun by our first mayor, Francis Cornish. Find out what I mean.
I reported on another bit of Carberry heritage – their vintage octagonal agricultural display building. A rarity in Manitoba. On the 20th, Louis Riel Day, I celebrated the day with two posts about the two Louis Riel statues that have had prominent places in Winnipeg. First statue, second statue. I ended our leap year with the first of several posts about Manitoba Heritage Under Duress, showing a couple of examples of damaged and disappeared sites.
Early in the month I posted a piece I had written a few months after my double-bypass heart surgery in 2002. The palpable power of an online prayer circle that formed around me for the surgery aiding the success of the procedure and speeding my healing afterwards is recounted in Nothing Virtual About It. On the 15th, in a grateful post called Lucky, Very Lucky, I wrote about the pattern of luck that has shaped my life. Last winter I watched a series of documentaries from the library and reported on four excellent ones – Gasland, Buck, Exit Through the Gift Shop and Catfish. I recommend them all highly. I inadvertently created one of the most popular posts when I wrote about Bruce Springsteen’s first two albums. Included with my thoughts on his music was a highly revealing photograph of a young, mostly naked Bruce taken by Lynn Goldsmith. Now when anyone searches springsteen naked, which happens surprisingly often, they find my post. I’ll bet one or two have even read the article. The post is called Forcing a Light, one of my best titles.To end the month, in case you missed memo, I posted a short video on why it’s called a combine.
The month began with a report on my beloved Spruce Woods Park and its state after the snow. This is the first of many park reports over the summer. It is love. That’s the only explanation for this amazing relationship between a man and 38 lions, a video I reposted from the internet. It will make your day. I posted about another great documentary called Waste Land – turning garbage into art. The Manitoba Escarpment, a geological step upward as you proceed west across the prairies, offers some spectacular views of the old lake bed below. One is at newly created Alexander Ridge Park near Miami, MB. On the 15th, I posted Convergence – 35 Years Ago Today. It commemorated the day Linda and I moved into a little house on Lorette Avenue – our first home together. We stayed there a couple of years. The house is gone now but not the Super 8 I shot out its front window.
Reports from the road started in earnest this month as my summer travels got underway The Fort La Reine Museum on the east side of Portage la Prairie is a terrific museum. I hiked the Spirit Sands in Spruce Woods Park about 30 times last summer and did two reports this month: the first about the park’s recovery from the floods of 2011, and the second post on my hikes so far. We’ll take any excuse for a long weekend in Canada and Victoria Day is a prime example. I explain why we celebrate the day. I suppose it’s because of its general outrageousness, but this Email from an Old Friend draws views for all kinds of reasons.
I started my posts about one of Manitoba’s heritage gems, Carberry and the turn-of-the-century buildings lining its main drag. The first three buildings on the street are here, here and here. In an early report from along the road, I covered a drive I took up to Dauphin and beyond. I did a report on an alluvial fan which has garnered a surprising number of views. People wanna know! I ended the month with something for armchair engineers – chug chug chug.
I kicked off the month with another report from the road, this time
from a tour through southwestern Manitoba including Spirit Sands and Brandon. In July I reported on six more of the fine old buildings along Carberry’s Main Street. The best way to access all my reports is to choose Carberry in the categories. A provocative title about what happens after death caught some views thanks to Dr. Kenneth Ring.
Two trains and two trestle bridges provided some excellent video as did my exploration of two bridges, one trestle, one swinging, over the Roseau River. Another road report from southern Manitoba including Miniota, Hartney and Spruce Woods Park. The dog days of summer found me reporting from southeast of Winnipeg. A veteran thrift store haunter, I celebrated the 40th anniversary of MCCs (Mennonite Central Committee) thrift stores. Based on years of seeking out and exploring often remote heritage sites, I make some observations in a post called Sex and the Solitary Heritage Site.
My reports from Carberry continued this month and I also wrote about heritage sites that have been lost for various reasons. I reposted my Map of Dying from the Tibetan Book of the Dead followed by two more road reports. The first offers interesting pictures from here and there; the second has a dozen pictures from around the province with my short write-ups. Language always fascinates me and the hobo code, a series of symbols that transients in the first half of the 20th century created, resulted in a popular video. I explored a spooky old house inside and out, resulting in another original video.
The appeal of ruins along the road was expressed in several original videos including one called Portals to the Past, which combines live images with harrowing sounds. My curiosity about language found me exploring Diner Slang, food to the nth degree. I wrote about two more buildings in Carberry’s heritage district this month. Things to do along the road included Reid’s Roadside Junk, which meant filling a small box with highly miscellaneous items and leaving it somewhere out there, all documented on video, of course. On the 20th, I wrote about the impending canonization of Kateri Tekakwitha in the context of Leonard Cohen’s second novel, Beautiful Losers, in which she is a central character.
I elaborated on a post I found online about Friendship, adding a few items gathered from my life. Desperate for free stuff to fill the ever-increasing white space between their ads, the Winnipeg Free Press ran the Friendship post in their Sunday edition as blog of the week. Later in the month I posted a piece about digital executors and new forms of memorializing yourself after death called Log Off in Peace – Cyber Wills and the Virtual Beyond.
In a repost from the internet, which I called Mayo = Life, a succinct explanation of our basic empty awareness ensues. I celebrated the second anniversary of this blog on the 11th. As the year ends, the blog’s view count is more than 182,000 in just over two years. Thank you one and all! The tradition of the 12 Days of Christmas began in the 14th, this year heritage churches and houses alternated daily until Christmas.
The immediate future will see 31 short absurd videos – one a day, every day, like a pill, throughout January. The series called Sorry Notes to the Future starts January 1st. I plan to kick back in January, let the blog ride with Sorry Notes and focus on some other projects I’ve been putting off. Thereafter, expect more heritage reports from this year’s travels and loads more of the other guff you’ve come to expect from RRR.
I wish you only happiness in 2013 and may you awaken each day with this kind of determination in your spirit.
It was two years ago today that I first proffered my blogishness online, a rather clueless beginner with massive curiosity and a tad of talent with words. My intent had been to find my audience which I accomplished in the first year. In my second year, I managed to retain and build my audience. The blog has attracted an average of 240 hits a day for the past year. Amazing! Thank you for coming back to review my latest meanderings time and again.
In my second year 185 new posts appeared on my blog, significantly fewer than my first year. I have found a nice pace for posting that doesn’t create stress, only enjoyment and a sense of accomplishment.
If there is a fly in my blog life, it is WordPress, which hosts both my blogs (www.shoallakehistory.com is the other blog) and millions of others. When I started with WordPress two years ago it was a simple and straight-forward blog builder where most everything worked every time I needed it. Today I have come to dislike WordPress greatly. Every week there is some new wrinkle they introduce that makes something more complicated, more time-consuming and much less enjoyable. The tall foreheads who administer WordPress can’t seem to leave anything alone.
The latest annoying feature is a spell check WP introduced when you compose posts right on the blog. I am certain Monty Python designed this spell check. It gives the most outrageously complicated and/or irrelevant suggestions to simple errors making it useful less than half the time. I can’t figure out how to stop the damn thing.
Regular readers will have noticed how sometimes pictures and text don’t format well together, leaving large white spaces in the middle of paragraphs. This is a recent thing due to some mysterious change to WordPress and again I am at a loss on how to fix it. Bottom line is, if you want to start a blog, don’t use WordPress. Shop for a simpler and easier blog maker.
That said, I still enjoy having a blog or two. I need the outlet and I am enormously grateful to everyone who has visited RRR in the past year. Thank you.
Buzz Buzz Buzz
What’s ahead for RRR, you ask?
The tradition of the Twelve Days of Christmas that Linda and I started back in 2005 continues, beginning this Friday, December 14. This year, alternating daily, there will be six heritage churches and six heritage houses featured, all in Manitoba, of course. Something new this year: nine of the heritage buildings will have short videos along with pictures and descriptive write-ups!
On the last day of the year, I’ll post my year-end review, another tradition and one I particularly enjoy writing because I get to reflect on my life using the blog as a filter. What a year it has been! So much to report.
Starting January 1st, watch for a new feature called Sorry Notes to the Future. It’s a series of original videos which I created over the past few months combining collage, sound and story. All are very short (under a minute) and quite absurd. I’ll be posting one a day, every day during the month of January.
The past and the future are both experiences in the present moment. Thanks for being here now.
Two years have passed since that pivotal moment when the first Dick Tool Co video was uploaded onto YouTube. It was Be An Artist Now, the excellent and disturbing long form coming in at 29 seconds. Sit down and watch it now by clicking the pic.
I have shot, edited and uploaded 49 new videos in the past year bringing the total number on my channel to 167. The number of views has shot up this year by 40,000 bringing the total to around 53,000. This is still remarkable and humbling for me so thank you for tuning in.
Top Ten Most Viewed Videos on Dick Tool Co Channel
— 1. Canadian National Railroad Fast Freight 9597 hits
— 2. The Doll House by Heather Benning 6956
1. 3. Giant Manitoba Sinkhole June 16/11 5562
2. 4. Lake Manitoba Flood at The Narrows 1441
8. 5. Caligari’s Mirror – Pere Ubu 1422
— 6. Tim Horton’s Car Crash 1406
7. 7. Go – Pere Ubu 1164
— 8. Manitoba Boogeyman Percy Moggey 946
— 9. Giant Manitoba Sinkhole 2012 Update 858
4. 10. Kangaroo Birth Cycle Coat 841
“I’d rather have two good friends than 500,000 admirers.” e.e. cummings
“We love those who can lead us to a place we will never reach without them.” Norman Mailer
“Hold a true friend with both your hands.” Nigerian proverb
The odd time that a pre-read copy of The Globe and Mail, Canada’s “national” newspaper, shows up in the coffee shop, I make a point of perusing it. I always find something interesting on the Facts and Arguments page. It happened again this week.
A clip item referred to a website called http://www.thoughtcatalog.com and gave as an example of its content – The Five Types of Friends Everyone Should Have by Ryan O’Connell. Ryan is the self-described “brat” who writes and edits Thought Catalog. He encourages writers and thinkers to submit “fun stuff.”
I like anything that gives me a new perspective on myself and/or my life, teaches me something new and/or shines a light into a dark place and/or gives me numerous opportunities to use and/or, which I will stop using immediately. Anyway, the ‘five friends’ idea captured my attention. As I read through Ryan’s list I reckoned if I have each kind of friend in my life. I’ll tell you what I found after you read the list. See if you have such friends.
Abridged and in no particular order:
How did you do with the list? Got a friend for every occasion?
Luckily I can claim to have a person in my life who fulfills each of those roles. I won’t name them but they are all solid to the list and special to me in their own ways. If I were in dire straits and needed any of these friends, they would be there for me in a flash. Every day I am grateful for this boon. Ryan’s piece is here.
I’d like to add three other kinds of friends to Ryan’s list that we would all benefit from having:
Again I am fortunate to have such people in my life.
I want to elaborate a little on that last friend type. Also attending the Radio and Television Arts course I took at Ryerson Polytechnical Institute in Toronto in the late 1960s was a guy named Ted Barris. He was bright, curious, a people person and a lot like me. We hit it off right away. I was familiar with his family name from Canadian TV. His dad was Alex Barris – think the panel on Front Page Challenge.
The last time I saw Ted, he was passing through Winnipeg in the early 1980s on his first book tour. He stayed with Linda and I and we had a fine time. A few decades passed, life happened and the week or two ago I suddenly thought of Ted, wondering how he was doing. Quick Google search and there was his website and contact. Quick email and we were in touch again.
I called Ted last night and we gabbed for half an hour. He told me about his family. His daughter Whitney will be appearing in MTC’s Assassins in January. He teaches at Centennial College in Toronto and writes every day, currently working on his 17th book! Our conversation was easy and casual even after so many years having passed since we spoke. Ted is also the kind of friend you can blog about and he doesn’t mind.
I am rich with friendship in its many forms. The richness has shown me that the underlying pulse common to every important friendship is love, a basic human response to another being, a caring understanding that persists no matter what happens.
In the recent movie The Master (go see it!) there is a scene where they show the album cover to the soundtrack for a 1973 Lindsay Anderson film called O Lucky Man starring Malcolm McDowell. Alan Price, original keyboardist with The Animals, wrote and performed terrific songs for the movie. The title track lyric leads with, “If you have a friend on whom you think you can rely you are a lucky man.” By this definition I humbly acknowledge my luck once again. Hear and see Alan Price sing the song in the opening scene of the movie.
For another take on friendship watch poet Henry Gibson recite his verse on Laugh-In.
“Yes. I have a truck. No. I’m not helping you move.” – T-shirt at On the Run in west Winnipeg defining the edges of friendship.
Coda: there is also the kind of friend who names their child after you but that’s a whole other post!!
The traditional Saturday morning Rock Paper Scissors Parade kicks off today’s collagic festivities. Four thousand floats are entered in this year’s parade; most are mere inches high, made of paper with paper motors and will likely be stepped on and crushed. Parade tip: listen for the pitiful thrashing of the broken floats’ near-spent springs, their limbs shredding away against unforgiving concrete. In the afternoon, watch a paper-making demonstration using lard, chard and Right Guard in the Cataclysmic Centre’s FU Fate Room. It’s amazing! Saturday night is the all-night street dance. The exact street has yet to be decided but Fido’s Dog Bowl, Fiddle and Ligament Band (non-housebroken line-up) will perform, as promised on the poster. Oh, we forgot to do a poster. Anyway, they are an all-dog band, a must see! The Shagging Feral Inbreds were booked. I hear they are spectacular too, dog upon dog upon dog. Elsewise, see this now!
Cassius thought he recognized the waitress. She smelled familiar when she bent toward him clearing away the drugged imps that sometimes come unglued from the bottoms of the tables. Her name tag said Veronica in fake rhinestones.
Television works so well due to its predictability. Television says money supplants skills. Television delivers people. Television is a tranquilizer that evens things out. Television allows us to be happily stupid.
It’s a big day! Keep your energy up, collagers!! Extinct hunting will happen this afternoon, despite it being controversial and all over the Big Head’s face gobs. The hunters vote on which extinct specie they’d like to kill most, a simple majority of votes decides the beast and off they go, an afternoon of complete futility, chasing something they know is non-existent, armed with weapons ranging from slingshots, bows and arrows and atlatls to submachine guns, grenade launchers and small nuclear tasers that zipline a custom hole in anything or anybody of desire. After a few hopeless, vain, senseless hours, many hunters will weep for the first time in their lives. And isn’t that what it’s all about? Tonight is the elegant ball in the elegant ballroom of the Bally Theme Hotel, Inn, Suites, Closets and Crawlspaces. The ball’s theme is Balls. “No yellow” is the ball’s only law. If you wear yellow, you’ll get kicked in the balls and/or equivalent. Should be a ball! Party on, specie!
After sitting through a long dinner with adults, little Whispa was glad to be off to her room. With her rubber stamp set, scissors and glue she assembled this poster of her daddy. She presented the little gift to her father at the table, much to the delight of the dinner guests. Whispa blushed as Daddy pulled her close to his warm smooth suit that smelled like cinnamon and exotic wind.
Umber Aja swims next to his dolphin brother, Climie, through the Gulf of Boredom as they try for the world title in tandem flexing at 8:30 every time it comes around which for the boys is just about often enough as they catch their combined breaths gulping the sewage-spoiled water. Climie almost swallowed an eyeball about an hour ago but spit it out at the last second.
I know, I know, we’re all hungover and edgy after the Shred-A-Thon but we need to focus, keep pretending we are actually in control of something/anything and move on. Are you with me on that? Good. It’s more or less a relaxing day today except for those who have opted for the voluntary public flogging which starts at noon at The Forks. I have a low tolerance for paper cuts so shant be attending. Instead I’m spending the afternoon at the forum of people who’ve been struck by lightning more than ten times. The things they say…and wear! It’s an entertainment you won’t soon forget, bluntly said. I haven’t been struck by lightning yet. Have you? Suck up these images, will ya!
Groober wasn’t sure what happened to the previous drummer in the band but he had his suspicions.
BABY’S FIRST VACCINATION
“Time for your DTaP-IPV baby. This’ll keep you healthy and happy with never a disease capsizing your future aromas,” said nurse Guido while injecting Little Ricky with the wrong vaccine. Within minutes Little Ricky saw his whole little life flash before his little eyes: biting grandma’s foot, the hydrogen filled inflatable pool and Glufus, the maniacally-jealous family dog, trying to drown him in the lake.
Today’s big event is the International Shred-a-thon which began at 2:00 this morning worldwide and runs for 24 hours. It’s Cloud Nine for paper fetishists. Due to the Miracle of Technology, the whirring and chewing of millions of paper shredders of all sizes will be heard echoing without stint through the ancient octagonal drums of Our Lady of Ouch Ouch Grotto, one of the area’s major tourist attractions. Here are today’s celebratory collages. Yummy!
TOP TEN CHARTS
She watched the fuzzy dice sway gently back and forth from the rearview as the Chiffons sang “He’s So Fine.” He was large and hot, increased his pace inside her, did a few dick tricks and groaned. She told him to bark like a dog and he always did which made her even hotter and hornier. His face and shoulders were getting red. He was just about to come when…
No time for coffee? Need the caffeine anyway? Try the new Caffeine Patch from Maulco. Slap one on first thing every morning and you are caffeinated for the day. Convenient, non-allergenic, contains no peanuts. Side effects include jitters, shitters and quitters. Extreme but rare side effects include machete-wielding serial killing, exploding penis, taserable panic attacks and/or death.
Collage week celebrations continue! At noon today, join me and the gang down at the Fussy Eaters Clubroom at Sunshine and Suchness. We’ll be chowing down on lymph burgers and yamato juice. Later is the hike through the Recanted PVC Forest, a rebuilt plastic imitation of a forest that once stood there, tree for tree, tick for tick. It’s a remarkable accomplishment in simulacra. Experience it before it’s against the law! Meanwhile, enjoy today’s collages.
“Of course we can convince them that one plus one equals three. They are sheep. They believe what their television tells them to believe. They sit or stand at the touch of a button. They think they are who they are told they are. Of course we can convince them…”
While Jack and his drinking buddies watched the game in the living room, Michelle, in the guise of painting the bathroom, was actually communing with Medusa.
Today, among Linda’s things, I found this picture she had taken of Teedy, our lovely cat that lived with Linda and me for seventeen years. Clipped to the picture was a little piece of paper with this quote from one of Linda’s favourite authors written on it. “The slow petting of the beloved cat is the increasingly complicated heart speaking with the hand.” – Barry Lopez.
I just needed to share this with you.
I am such a lucky man! I had my seventh hike so far this summer on Spirit Sands in Spruce Woods Park today. After a cool rainy week, the weather is warming. No wind, a few popcorn clouds and an upbeat attitude made it a perfect day for a hike. The hoary puccoon – it’s just fun to say, go ahead, say it out loud – and three-flowered aven are still blooming wildly everywhere, tiny violets wave trailside and the poison ivy is having a great year. I loll at the special place Linda and I have on the dunes. Back at the parking lot two and a half hours later I’m a little sunburned but happy and calm.
This is a shot of the kiosk at the trailhead with The Sentinel in the distance.
At Marsh Lake I pitch my camp chair between the four red maples located at the picnic shelter. All four trees are in full delicious bloom as witnessed by the bees and butterflies swarming the trees. The air is abuzz with happy insects and redolent with the precious scent of the maple blossoms. In the fall these maples turn blazing red. I saw my first red-tailed hawk of the summer in the park today
It appears Spruce Woods Park will have its amenities mostly prepared for the full tourist season in July and August. Other than the lower campground, most of the park will be in operation. Access to the campground and day use area is much easier now off Hwy #5. Crews are working on further repairs to the washed-out sections of the highway through the park.
I’ll be back to Spirit Sands later this week and again next week when I’m booked in at the yurts. Check for wood ticks. Happy hiking!
As John Lennon would say, today is a “red lettuce” day in the history of Linda and Reid. On this date, 35 years ago, we formally amalgamated our households and our lives by moving into a small house at 729 Lorette Avenue in Winnipeg. Since we had fallen madly in love, the move was inevitable. It was an usually hot April day, at least for back then, as the temperature soared into the 80s. Sweat was pouring off us and my friend Ted who helped with the move but we managed to clear out two apartments and find space for our combined stuff in the little house.
The house had been a rental property for some time before we moved in and had been reasonably well-maintained. I think we paid $130 a month for it which was appropriate. It became our “one-and-a-half-storey utopia” as we called it, alternating with “the boxcar” because it was long, narrow and open. This picture shows 729 Lorette in 2010 just before it was demolished. It hadn’t been lived in or heated for several years and was deemed “unihabitable.” It had served its purpose, satisfied intent and provided all its shelter.
About Lorette Avenue: it’s a Winnipeg anomaly, a “hermaphrodite street,” as Guy Maddin calls it in My Winnipeg (See this movie please). The front yards of one side of the street, our side, face backyards across the street. This odd bit of urban planning goes on for a couple of blocks then shifts over a block then dissolves into correct property lines. “No one speaks of Lorette Avenue,” again from My Winnipeg. This is the view directly across from 729 Lorette today.
Putting Lorette Avenue’s hermaphroditic charm to use, during the hot summer of 1978 I shot a fast frame Super 8 film out our front window into the backyards across the street. It wound up with a great Pere Ubu soundtrack, a song called Go, and is a popular choice on my DickTool channel on YouTube. Catch a glimpse of Lorette back then.
Linda and I lived on Lorette for two years, making our early art together – photography, films, collage, video. You can find the detailed chronological history of our artlife on my DTC Art page. Some of our strangest video art ensued from the Lorette house. Videos shot on Lorette include Cheap Grace, No Shirt No Shoes No Service, The Yard, Evidence of Winter and Video Shoes. The Super 8, Passionate Leave, was also shot there.
The little house was demolished and replaced with a spanky new duplex over the past year. This is what stands at 729 Lorette Avenue today.
“Sandy, the fireworks are hailin’ over Little Eden tonight, forcing a light into all those stony faces left stranded on this warm July.” – Bruce Springsteen
My high school English teacher, Mrs. Smith, along with my teacher Mom, instilled in me a deep appreciation of images conjured out of mere words and the power that ability holds. They made me realize that to stimulate the imagination of others using language carries a mysterious power, creates a direct bond between people and satisfies our need to share experiences. I have pursued the satisfactions of words ever since, in what I write, what I hear and what I read. I am always listening for an original turn of phrase, a dazzling metaphor, an unexpected linkage of images to include in my writing. I admire writers who do this with alacrity and clarity. Annie Proulx’s best work is a cascade of exciting and unexpected images. Almost every page of her fiction offers something that makes me think, ‘Yes, that’s a unique way of expressing it.’ Annie intimidates me and inspires me with her imagery.
Songwriters have garnered my admiration for their abilities to build pictures with words, especially Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, Tom Waits and Bruce Springsteen. Last summer, when I listened to music on my travels in the mighty Avenger, it was almost always Bruce Springsteen’s first two albums, Greetings from Asbury Park, NJ and The Wild, The Innocent and the E Street Shuffle, both released in 1973, the year Bruce turned 24. That year I started at CFRW-FM in Winnipeg doing a free-form evening radio show that often spun tracks from Greetings… When the second album came out in the fall, it became a huge hit on my show with listener requests every night. The Boss had arrived!
This revealing picture of Bruce was taken by Lynn Goldsmith and appears in her 1995 book Photodiary. Opposite the full page picture the copy reads: “Once during a studio shoot Bruce started taking off his clothes. I yelled at him to stop. He thought it was funny. I was angry. I told him that if he ever took his clothes off for any photographer he’d be putting himself in the position where one day the pictures could be published.”
The work on Bruce’s first two albums reflected and, to a degree, created American mythology, some of it dredged from adolescent fantasies, some captured from flocks of fresh and fleeting visions in the form of stream of consciousness rants.
Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.
released January 5, 1973
Greetings… consists of nine songs, all written and arranged by Bruce. Every song is infused with youthful vigour and keen enthusiasm, images tumble by as a peculiar cast of characters emerge, live their short urban lives then recede only to be followed by others. The album quickly, and somewhat justifably, earned Bruce the title of “the next Bob Dylan,” an endless quest of 1970s rock journalists. Bruce’s encyclopedic knowledge of 1950 and 60s rock and roll combined with the heavy influence of American movies meant the images from Bruce’s first album already felt familiar. Most songs on Greetings…, especially Lost in the Flood and The Angel, have great cinematic flare. Bruce writes what he knows. His milieu is the big city and seaside resort as experienced by a bright curious American boy. Right from the album title through the postcard cover design to the last track, Bruce invites you into his world. His vision has knowable, safe parameters and sources; he is confident that his world is worth visiting and he is ready to show the rest of the world why.
I always like to know the first words of an artist’s career, meaning the first lyrics they sing on the first track on their first album. In Bruce’s case, Blinded by the Light kicks off Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. with these words: “Madman drummers bummers and Indians in the summer with a teenage diplomat in the dumps with the mumps as the adolescent pumps his way into his hat.” That’s a helluva start to a career! And only the beginning as a rampage of characters follow. In 1977 Manfred Mann’s Earth Band had a #1 hit with their dreadful version of this tune but you need to know the original. It is Bruce’s first song.
Growin’ Up is a wistful mid tempo rocker that demonstrates Bruce’s evolved perspective on vanishing youth. Bruce was 23 years old when this album was recorded.
Mary Queen of Arkansas appears to live on Dylan’s Desolation Row having just returned from My Last Trip to Tulsa on Neil Young’s first album. Harrowing, sparse and personal yet lyrically opaque, Mary has just enough ambiguity and heartbreak showing through to make us yearn along with the poor confused boy.
Does This Bus Stop at 82nd Street? One of rock’s great question songs, it’s a peon to entertaining yourself by people watching while riding the bus. A favourite line is, “Man, the dope’s that there’s still hope.” Bruce conjures another wild cast that build to a gorgeous cinematic finale.
“Everybody’s wrecked on Main Street from drinkin’ unholy blood,” – an apt description of the misfits and cops who populate Lost in the Flood. Three things about this track: it has some of Bruce’s most dramatic poetic images that build in an enticing musical and lyrical swell, Steven Van Zandt makes his first appearance on a Bruce album providing “sound effects” (he’d next appear on Born to Run two years later) and I love this track. It takes me there every time! Back in the day, that was the end of Side One of Greetings…
The Angel is the outline for a movie, sung plaintive and plain with a denouement I wish I’d thought of. It demonstrates that right from the get-go Bruce wasn’t afraid to use quiet strings and solo piano to frame his stories.
For You is another cascade of brief but urgent glimpses into the psychic field between devotion and rejection, disease and healing and all the angst contained therein. Bruce and the boys relay the emergency convincingly.
One of Bruce’s sexiest grooves, Spirit in the Night is my favorite track here. Today Martin Scorsese would direct the movie in which this is but one marvellous scene. The characters are high, happy and horny and the events at Greasy Lake are your basic orgy on the beach. Body and soul unite in a magical sex flight “where the gypsy angels go. They’re built like light,” one of my favourite Bruce characterisations. Clarence, who is under used on the album, establishes and maintains the bubbling groove and reenforces it with a fine break. Wild Billy has “a bottle of rose so let’s try it” which I take to mean Wild Irish Rose, a long-time harsh and cheap bum wine. The hint of sadness in Bruce’s voice in the last verse when they leave Greasy Lake makes me feel very nostalgic for youth, for the freedom the unknowable future encourages.
As if he foresaw or richly imagined the life and work ahead of him, such as becoming a Planetary Treasure, It’s Hard To Be a Saint in the City is tongue-in-cheek bluster from one of the coolest guys Bruce ever described. Pumping along, high definition city core images arise then sink back into the steam in the street. The tune and album end with a burbling fadeout.
The E Street Band was in its formative stages on Greetings… The only players here who became permanent band members are saxman Clarence Clemmons and Garry Tallent on bass. The album suffers from muffled production by Mike Appel and Jim Creteros. The biggest drag on the band is the ham-fisted drumming of Vincent Lopez, one of rock’s worst over-drummers. Otherwise the playing is worthy of the songs, Bruce the lone guitar on the entire album.
In order to save some of the cash Columbia Records had advanced to Bruce, Greetings… was recorded quickly in an inexpensive studio in Blauvelt, N.Y. and it sounds like it. The tunes and the songs are there, the talent is evident and the whole album has the feeling of being just the tip of a very large iceberg but the production detracts more than it should. Nonetheless an auspicious beginning!
The album only sold about 25,000 copies in the first year of its release, but had significant critical impact. On its 2003 list of the 500 greatest albums of all time, Rolling Stone ranked it #379. It’s #57 on my list.
The Wild, The Innocent and the E Street Shuffle
released September 11, 1973
This was the convincer for me. Like Axis: Bold As Love, Hendrix’s second album, The Wild… proved without doubt Bruce was a force that the future required, beckoned, quickened. Although again produced by Appel and Cretecos and recorded at 914 Sound Studios, the same studio as the first album, this outing is less muddy than the debut, in fact almost throughout it’s downright bright. Future permanent E Streeter, Danny Federici, turns up on keys, everything’s bigger, even Vini Lopez steps up a little – maybe it’s just how he was recorded this time. Again Bruce is the only guitarist on the album. The Wild… is attractive, convincing, eloquent, beautifully sequenced so every song complements and contrasts the ones around it and Clarence gets to wail!
The Wild, The Innocent and the E Street Shuffle kicks off the escapade with clattery horns resolving into a smooth groove maintained by Clarence that bounces around under a story of sexy youthful diversions performed by a fleeting cast. The last minute and a half feature a sweet guitar break followed by a funky percussion workout to the fade. Sweet and a perfect introduction the next track.
One of my all-time favourite Bruce songs, 4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy), like all great rock and roll, is about fucking and the pursuit thereof. It’s Sandy’s big chance for sex with the needy poet boy from the beach. The fireworks of the first line promise orgasms later. Throughout he’s telling Sandy what he thinks she’ll buy, what will make her sexually sympathetic to him. He mentions getting stuck on the tilt-a-whirl, shares boardwalk gossip, explains his break-up with his waitress girfriend, tires of the factory girls who tease him, generally uses all his “lines.” To create empathy, he tries to explain that he and Sandy are the same stuff, know the same lives. I like how during the line “And the wizards play down on pinball way” Bruce’s acoustic guitar imitates Pete Townsend’s work on Pinball Wizard. Near the end of the song Bruce promises that if she loves him tonight he’ll love her forever. The delivery of the word forever is truly marvellous – a mixture of sexual urge, youthful promise and doubt with a huge scary question mark beside it which acknowledges the understanding between he and Sandy on this potentially special night! Beautiful! But he’s quitting the beach scene and encourages Sandy to do the same, to give up the “carnival life.” Although the song ends without a denouement, I like to think it all worked and they had mad, once-in-a-lifetime sex under the boardwalk that night creating more fireworks as promised.
Kitty’s Back is the perfect companion piece to Sandy, filled with seaside characters and their relationship to Kitty. Bruce’s sweet guitar playing sets the tone for the piece which has a free-for-all break that allowed most of the band members to improvise during concerts. This tune and Rosalita were the album’s most requested songs on CFRW-FM.
Continuing the fast-slow-fast-slow flow of the album, Wild Billy’s Circus Story ends side one with a delightful visit to the circus and some brief glimpses of its odd denizens. Garry Tallent pumps the tuba, Federici provides accordian and Bruce strums guitar and mandolin to create a midway atmosphere so pure and convincing you can smell the hot dogs, taste the cotton candy and hear the screams of the roller coaster riders. Bruce writes what he knows yet the tune only hints at the drama that awaits us.
Side two consists of three epics starting with Incident on 57th Street which features Spanish Johnny and his adventures in bed and out on the street. Here’s Bruce’s opening description of our hero: “Spanish Johnny drove in from the underworld last night with bruised arms and broken rhythm and a beat-up old Buick but dressed just like dynamite.” The whole song could be the outline for a great movie script. The track is dominated by gorgeous piano and organ work from Federici and David Sancious and a bunch of tedious over-drumming from Lopez.
Fuelled by Clarence’s sax and Sancious’ organ, Rosalita (Come Out Tonight) rocks! A long-time concert closer, it’s the story of our poor boy pursuing beautiful Rosie, his “stone desire,” against the strong will of her parents. He’s sure things will work out because “The record company, Rosie, just gave me a big advance!” – one of Bruce’s happiest deliveries.
New York City Serenade offers romantic mythology couched in dramatic piano work from Sancious. The entire epic floats, buoyed by Sancious’ piano and string arrangement and Clarence’s sexy sax wail. A new cast arises, starting with Billy and Diamond Jackie getting it on in the backseat of Billy’s Cadillac at “midnight in Manhattan” with hookers, jazz musicians, small time crooks in “a mad dog’s promenade.” Clarence’s contributes glorious sax throughout. On a personal note, there are two lines from this song that I have said aloud to myself every night for the past 20 years just before I fall asleep. These words have become my day-ending mnemonic device to induce sleep: “Shake away street life, shake away city life.” Works every night. Thanks Bruce!
In 2003, The Wild… was ranked #132 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. On my personal list, it’s #17.
FM radio caught on to Bruce right away. He was hopeful, humorous, intense and great fun! For me, from the beginning, he was a breath of fresh and honest air in a growing sea of mediocrity dominated by phony bands like Kiss.
Bruce Springsteen changed my life. Find out how in this post https://readreidread.wordpress.com/2011/02/05/linda-and-the-boss/
Next my Bruce post is Born to Run. Coming soon to blog near you.
I’ve been pillaging the Winnipeg library system’s terrific collection of DVDs for recent documentaries and have four to recommend to you. I’m sure you can find some or all of these on the internet.
Gasland by Josh Fox Wanna see a guy light his tap water on fire? Hydraulic fracturing, more commonly known as fracking, is a dangerous and earth-killing technique that oil and gas companies all over North America use to release natural gas from shale deposits deep underground. A combination of water, sand and over 900 chemicals under enormous pressure is pumped into the shale, fracturing the rock. Trouble is, without any oversight, the drillers pollute the groundwater of area residents with natural gas and chemicals causing dire consequences. On the Canadian prairies, fracking is used extensively in southwestern Manitoba and southeastern Saskatchewan. It would be interesting to look at the groundwater purity in places like Waskada and Melita, MB and Stoughton, Carlyle and Weyburn, SK today and see what happens to it over the next year or two. Click the pic to watch a preview of Gasland.
Buck by Cindy Meehl Buck Brannaman is an American “horse whisperer” of sorts. Raised by a violently abusive father, Buck bucked the typical imitative lifestyle of the beaten-young and lived the opposite life, one of compassion, love and understanding for people and animals, especially horses. We follow Buck as he travels to various four-day horse-training workshops and we encounter the people and horses he meets and tames using his gentle technique which he teaches to the horse owners. We get to listen to Buck’s country philosophy delivered with humour and true wisdom. As Buck says, “Often, instead of helping people with horse problems, I’m helping horses with people problems.” I was honoured and humbled to spend ninety minutes in the presence of someone as highly evolved as Buck Brannaman and you will be too when you watch it. Click pic to see preview.
Exit Through the Gift Shop by Banksy When Linda and me first got together in 1977 we made all sorts of art including street art. Our outdoor work included putting fancy decorated bras on the “breasts” of fire hydrants, postering neighbourhood telephone poles with paper collages and so on. (You can find out much more about our early art efforts on my DTC Art page.) The spirit of street art has grown since then to the degree that one of the genre’s most shadowy figures, British graffiti artist Banksy, has made an Academy Award nominated documentary on the topic. Banksy tries to give us some direction here but this film twists and turns until you’re not sure who or what it is about. Fascinating glimpses into the lives of Shepard Fairey (OBEY) and Thierry Guetta whose role changes as the film progresses. Overall a statement on art beyond post-modernism demonstrating that the distance between graffiti on a brick wall in an alley and on the wall of a cocktail-muzak art gallery is very short. There is some indication the whole movie was a hoax, a prank by Banksy. Decide for yourself. Click pic for a preview.
Catfish by Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost After a discussion on the veracity of the internet, my friend Kenn recommended Catfish to me. Thanks Kenn! Here we find a nice Jewish photographer who starts to buy art ostensibly painted by a little girl over the internet. Soon he meets her older sister, again over the internet. They talk on the phone, exchange pictures, check each other out on Facebook and he starts to fall in love with her. He desperately needs something to believe in but gradually things about her don’t add up so he and his filmmaker friends decide to visit her in Michigan. That’s as far as the trailer takes you and I’m leaving you there too. You’re on your own for the rest of this fast-paced eye-opener. I didn’t have much sympathy for the gullible photographer who seemed incapable of any kind of critical thinking, dumbed down and fully in the sway of Born-Yesterday Syndrome but I was richly entertained by the film. The upshot: Believe nothing you read on the internet, including my reviews, unless you can personally verify it, which in my case you can by seeing the films. Click the pic for trailer.
Four non-docs I recommend: Red State is a departure for that Kevin Smith and the antidote to Clerks. Tyrannosaur is a powerful British film completely peopled with despicables. The first season of British crime drama Luther features the incredible Idris Elba in the scary title role. Pirate Radio is a nostalgic romp that includes one of the best Beatles homage moments ever.