66 Years in the Making!
3 Plays for a Quarter!
Yes, it’s true!
Download the Jukebox for free:
play-the-jukebox PDF version
play-the-jukebox-reid-Dickie ZIP file epub for tablets and ereaders
With gratitude and love I dedicate this book to my parents, Helen and Bruce Dickie, whose gifts I used every day of my life, and to Linda, who lit my way.
Available now at McNally Robinson
Moments away from puberty, young Jim Crawford begins to discover how his newly effervescent maleness gives fresh meaning and expression to manhood in his family, friendships, community and beyond. Set in a small Canadian prairie town just as the tumultuous social and cultural changes of the 1960s begin, Play the Jukebox is a character-driven story entwining bright wholesome and dark pathological expressions of masculinity. As his own unique gifts reveal themselves, Jim learns the heights and depths to which men will go to defend family and future and how shared experience creates diverse forms of camaraderie between men and women.
Jim’s life revolves around pop music and records. The 45 – the little record with the big hole – is king; radio disc jockeys, record players and jukeboxes spin the seven-inch discs constantly. He discovers intimate links between hit songs and his own development as he travels from town to town changing the records in jukeboxes with Percy Peel, a mystery media mogul who leaves lasting impressions on Jim. As they did for millions of 1960s youth, The Beatles play a defining role as one of Jim’s change agents.
McNally Robinson: If you are coming into one of our stores, we suggest that you confirm that the book you want is in stock by emailing the location nearest you: Grant Park, Saskatoon, or by phoning the location nearest you.
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!!
After the Sunday service at the Squishy Church for Everybody and communal Sacrificing of Common Sense, it’s the Pulp and Pancake Breakfast in the Bally Crawlspaces presented by the International Forestry Industry (their motto is “Do we look oriented?”) who are introducing a new line of edible tree products, basically poorly-disguised sawdust – oak oats, elm nuts, cedar wheat, aspen aspic (yuck, first; and second, who needs or craves or can even be sold fucking aspic in the 21st century? They’ve been smoking their bibles at the Big Tree Club!), pine sugar, willow eggs, teak Tylenol, unknown nanotree additives for cereals, potato chips and anything that fizzes at any time during its processing and/or consumption and yew yogurt. The pancakes are actually irradiated plumped birch bark, plumped ground pulp, and acidophilus infused with the genes of a panther and a ring-tailed chubhyct. What will those wacky biogeneticists think of next?! The syrup is maple, of course. Collage festival week concludes, as usual, with regression: smiting, keening, ulullating, bisoning, quailing, shaling, stoning, and sexual frolic. Hope you can come at least once. These are the last two collages (I could be swayed by public opinion…) of the week.
THEREA’S BLIND TASTE TEST
Her men gathered in the kitchen, each eager to be blindfolded, spun around and fed pot roast with extra pot.
“And this is how you were conceived, son. Do you understand?”
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.
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.
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.
“We never know how we will affect people by just being who we are.” – Chris Scholl
Looking back over my six decades as Reid Dickie, I see patterns that define who I am. The older I get and the more honest I am with myself, the more evident my patterns become. Recurring events and themes that were confusing and unhappy at the time now make sense in the long view. By seeking out our patterns, we make ourselves wise, wise about ourselves and others, wise about the world. The trade-off in this life is wisdom for youth. As our bodies age and start to limit us, we are given the opportunity to become wise, to blossom mentally, possibly spiritually. Wisdom is not guaranteed though. It takes work.
A major pattern of my life has been luck. Starting when I was a little boy I can recall my father often saying to me that I had a lucky horseshoe up my bum. When your father tells you something like that, you tend to take it literally which I did until Mom explained what he meant. Dad was trying to tell me what a lucky boy I was. In the long view, he was right, as ever! Dad’s wisdom flowed smoothly and naturally through him. He inspired me more and more intensely the older and wiser he got. Every day I aspire to become like him. I have my work cut out for me.
Whether I was born lucky or grew into it, the horseshoe became a lifelong symbol and reminder of my good fortune. It certainly contributed to the notion that we create our own luck. Here’s an example of creating my own luck.
I am one of those incredibly lucky people who knew from a young age what I wanted to do with my life, what I wanted to “be.” When I was eleven I decided I would become a radio announcer, more specifically a disc jockey. I remember earnestly discussing this with my parents when I was about 12. Although, as parents do, they both had higher aspirations for their only child: Mom wanted a doctor and Dad wanted…huh? Dad wanted me to be myself. Whoever that was or would be, that’s what Dad wanted me to “be.” Thanks Dad. Though Mom persisted good-naturedly with the doctor thing, we all decided that if I wanted to be a disc jockey, I’d be a damn good one and go to school to learn how it was done well. And I did.
After two years studying Radio and television Arts at Ryerson in Toronto, I got my first radio job in Flin Flon at CFAR where I was DJ, news reader, commercial writer and general joeboy. I loved it! I had made the right choice. Nine months later, in 1971, I got on at CKX in Brandon where I did the all-night show for 23 months. Five nights a week, starting at 1 a.m., I played whatever music I wanted for four hours then two hours of country music from 5 to 7 a.m. and I was done. I loved it! In the summer of 1973 I got a job in a major market – Winnipeg on CFRW-FM. At the time CFRW-FM simulcast the AM station for 18 hours a day and let me free range in their FM band for the other six. Again I could play or do whatever I wanted…and did. I loved it!
Hairy and happy, this is a picture of me in the CFRW-FM studio about 1974. There are more pics of me from my radio days in the Gallery.
For a short time after I got there, CFRW-FM studios were in the Confederation Building on the bend on Winnipeg’s Main Street. The station moved across the street to the old CKY radio studios near Main and McDermot. (The building is gone now.) The FM studio happened to be the very same studio where the CKY DJs who inspired me to work in radio did their shows in the early 1960s. I had come full circle. I had been devoured by the medium and spit out nightly on air, free to do and be whoever I wanted in a major market! It was the fruition of my dream from when I was eleven, a little bit of heaven, a luxury that few DJs thereafter ever got to experience. I created my radio fantasy for nearly two years before CHUM from Toronto bought both stations, turning FM into heavily-formatted CHIQ-FM.
CHUM buying CFRW-FM was another irony of my radio career. When I attended Ryerson in Toronto, I listened to CHUM-FM which was a terrific free-form radio station, a creative leader. CHUM-FM inspired the style of radio I would do in my early career but, in Winnipeg, CHUM was eliminating free-form radio in favour of tight formats.
Since its inception in the 1930s, FM radio had largely been a commercial mystery to broadcasters. Its stereo capacity attracted classical music but it wasn’t until the 1960s that FM’s commercial potential began to be exploited. First it was free-form radio, alternative, hippie stations that played lots of new music, had no format and played no hits. This was the first hint that FM held enormous possibilities to make money. By the mid-1970s FM had come under the thumb of the “format geniuses” and the end of free-form loomed. I was among the last DJs on a commercial station to create radio without formats or any kind of restrictions, other than playing the Club Beer commercials after 10 p.m. College and university radio stations would provide the next opportunity for people to create free-form radio. I was very lucky.
CFRW-FM added to my luck because it was there I met Linda. She worked in various capacities at the station, one of which was to give me a wake-up call about 1:00 every the afternoon. Linda lived in my neighbourhood so we started to hang out together, fell madly in love and spent the next thirty-three years together. Again, lucky, lucky!
Since getting online ten years ago, I have been contacted out of the blue by three former radio listeners who remember my work at CFRW-FM. All three claimed that my words and music left an indelible impression on their lives, whether it was their taste in music, their outlook on life or as an example of personal freedom. Recently one former listener contacted me and I hope he won’t mind if I quote his first email: I just wanted to let you know that you had a most profound affect on my life. I listened to your radio show on CFRW FM nearly every night. I`m talking about the show you did from 8pm -2am. Your words and music have stayed with me in my life. Right now I can barely type these words as memories keep flooding back. I am glad I was able to finally tell these things to you. Thank you so much. And remember “the harder you pull, the tighter it gets”.
I was surprised, humbled and overwhelmed by this email. I am enormously grateful to this man for sharing with me. Talk about a day-maker! As my friend Chris pointed out in this post’s opening quote, we never know the positive change we make in the world by simply being ourselves, by following our bliss. But every once in a while…
Lucky, very lucky!!
Six weeks after I had double bypass heart surgery in 2002, I wrote this piece about healing and prayer circles.
Before we got our home desktop, whenever my computer-literate friends would talk about virtual reality, virtual communities, virtual museums, virtual anything, I would smile, nod and appear to know exactly what they meant. I didn’t, of course.
I understood the word ‘virtual’ and the concept they were using it to support but I was not adequate to their meaning of the term. It was the context I was missing. I didn’t have the necessary tool to create the possibility of something/anything being ‘virtual’ in my life. That changed the day I unpacked the computer. Soon I’d be keenly aware of the new meaning of this word ‘virtual’.
It was Valentine’s Day 2002 when I found out I needed double-bypass heart surgery. The stress test, angiogram and nuclear heart scan all pointed to the same conclusion: two of my coronary arteries were almost completely blocked. Surgery was recommended though not urgent since I could function with medication and moderation.
Ten years before, at age forty-two, I’d had a heart attack shoveling snow on another February day. It was my wake-up call! I paid attention. Changing my diet, habits and attitude, and walking twenty miles a week for a year at a rehabilitation-fitness centre saved my life. I had ten good years before my “genetic predisposition” caught up with me. The cousin who minds the family tree mentioned how many of my male predecessors had heart problems and attacks. The surgeon who performed the bypasses commented on how I’d gotten a bit of a raw deal genetically since I was slim, otherwise healthy and “young.”
There is a limit to the amount of responsibility for one’s situation you can attribute to “genetic predisposition.” The guilty food pleasures, the walks I should have taken but didn’t, the negative thoughts and aggression that always work against the heart; this is where my responsibility lay, how I started to jam up my own arteries. And now the consequence, the feedback was making itself known. Heart surgery!
Nothing virtual about it. This was a problem at the level of matter and meat. It was something we could fix, do fix everyday, almost routinely, with modern medical tools and skills. A re-arranging of arteries and veins, the right drugs for the various stages of the procedure and afterwards, the pump to take over from the heart and lungs, the drainage pathways required, the restricted movements to allow proper healing of bone and flesh – all this we are very accomplished at doing.
I had the surgery in mid-June. With at least six weeks of recovery after the operation, some financial planning had to be arranged and I needed to research the surgery and the alternatives. I spent many hours online reading about the heart, bypass surgery – often in full colour graphic detail – and the other resources available.
After weighing the alternatives, Linda and I decided the surgery would be my best option at this stage of life. I was strong and healthy enough to survive it intact, we were confident about the skills of the surgeon and the surgical staff.
One idea I came up with during this time was to create a prayer circle of family and friends online and elsewhere when the day of my operation neared; a ‘virtual’ prayer circle as one of my friends dubbed it.
As resilient and resourceful as the human body is, it necessarily houses a spirit that requires expression in the world and thrives on love exchanged between beings. That was what I wanted to tap into with the prayer circle.
I was on the cardiac surgery waiting list four weeks. On a Friday, I got my date. It would be in one week. Linda and I kept the date to ourselves during the weekend giving us a chance to mull it over and feel more settled about the whole procedure. It weighed heavy on my mind.
When we live more intensely, as in a pre-operative state, life begins to manifest itself in ways that are necessary and appropriate. As we began to inform family and friends about the surgery date, something wonderful happened! When we shared the burden of knowing, an increasing lightness started to grow in both Linda and me. The simple act of sharing the burden relieved the weightiness of the immediate future. With each successive person we informed, anxiety melted away. An unexpected confidence started to build in me, complete certainty that this was the right thing to do.
Two days before surgery I emailed the prayer circle request to about 25 family and friends. It was straightforward with date and time of surgery, approximate hospital recovery time and a simple sincere request:
“Please join together in a circle of love during and after my surgery with your prayers and positive energy. Your loving help means so much to us at this time and will aid in my full and speedy recovery. Thank you for sharing in my healing. Now that you have read this, the healing has already begun!”
Several people emailed me right back with their messages of hope and loving support. The rest I felt in my heart. On surgery eve, I was awash in the positive energies and expressions of love generated by the prayer circle; bliss in full measure took over my being. It was palpable. Linda felt it too. I had invoked the healing interplay between body, mind and spirit and wept at the sheer perfection of its unfolding. I was ready for the repairs!
There was nothing virtual about it. The reality of love and friendship, expressed with singular intent across many miles from many sources, converged in me. This aura of love carried me through the surgery, the immediate recovery and onto the ward where I spent four days. I basked in the afterglow of this healing intent, aware of how it was fueling my recovery, abetting the natural regenerative abilities of my body and lifting me when I felt some post-operative depression.
This outpouring of loving support manifested in other ways. It helped me sustain a positive attitude during my hospital stay. The people who noticed this immediately were those angels of mercy, the nurses. They’d seen people deal with this same situation in all manner of ways, some more successful than others. Maybe it was my spiritual preparedness or the intangible support that I brought with me; whatever it was, the nurses and staff recognized something extra was happening.
Looking back on this I now realize what was happening: the ‘virtual’ was being made real in the world. The prayers and loving intent that I asked for ‘virtually’ online became my reality. While the computer tool made the virtual prayer circle possible, it was the spirit and expression of our loving first nature that made it real in the world. I was living those special conditions.
And what was my responsibility? The answer came to me with such brash certainty I could not ignore it. It made perfect sense. The only way I could repay my family and friends for their limitless sharing of love was to recover fully, completely. It would answer their prayers. It was the exchange the special conditions demanded.
In the six weeks after the surgery, my recovery was nothing short of remarkable. My heart, with its new stamina, allowed me the increasing exercise I needed, the flesh and bone healed with little scarring and no infection. An unexpected benefit of the procedure was increased creativity. Suddenly I had all this extra blood flowing to my brain causing fresh new ideas to spew out of me. For a writer that’s almost a miracle! One of the risks of heart bypass surgery is cognitive decline. For the exact opposite to happen is an unexpected bonus.
The fact is, love lives large in the world and, when focused, produces amazing results! The love shared by my family and friends merged with Linda’s unconditional love and devotion resulting in a perfect healing environment for body, mind and spirit. Nothing virtual about it.
Read an earlier post about my heart surgery.
The cat you see above is my buddy, Tulu. Linda and I found Tulu at an animal shelter about 18 months before Linda died. Tulu won the lottery then lost half of it, so to speak. She’s a beautiful little cat. If you look closely you can see Linda reflected in her eyes when she took the picture.
This is my friend, Chris Scholl. He is happy in this picture. This is a link to his blog post today. It’s called “Happy.”
The old saw goes, “The only things you can count on in life are death and taxes.” At some point these two parallel inevitabilites must intersect.
Apparently we aren’t truly dead, bureaucratically dead, until we experience tax death. This week Canada Revenue Agency sent me a letter saying that Linda is now tax dead (my terminology). That means that every level of government is satisfied that she owes them no further taxes. Hey Baby, off the hook! You win!
This got me thinking about all the different ways we can be and need to be dead in this culture. Physically, when the body stops and certain disposal processes start, you end up six feet under in a tight one-room apartment with no doorbell, or your anonymous ashes dust away somewhere appropriate or inappropriate, depending on how clear you were about this with your family. That seems easy and familiar. Being the 21st century, there are numerous new ways you can dispose of your precious remains ranging from being shot into space to being liquified and flushed to being buried inside a large dead animal instead of a coffin. Seriously!
Mentally, if you are very lucky, some of your ideas and/or creations linger on after you die. This can happen through children, media exposure, art, notoriety, genius, setting an example and so on. Soul persists past physical and mental death yet it is the one aspect of ourselves we are most uncomfortable with and least educated about.
An oft-used crossword puzzle clue is Last words? with the answer obit. Your obituary proclaims and asserts your death by recounting Part One of your story, or, most likely, your story as interpreted by family members or friends under duress, each of whom would write a very different obituary depending on how close they were to you. Sometimes agencies or companies you deal with after a death will request a copy of the obituary.
Here’s a great idea! Write your own obituary! I did. Tell your own story. It saves time and confusion and illustrates your understanding of what your loved ones are going through after your death. It’s an expression of love. For more information on writing your own obituary, read my post called Obituary Euphemisms.
Part Two of your story is your last will and testament or what happens to your worldly stuff now that you are dead. This is an important part of your story because it directly states your wishes and enables an orderly and fair dispersion of your estate. Keep it simple and honest. Some people see their will as one last opportunity to be small and extract revenge. Try not to be that person. Be large and grateful instead. If you are over 18 years old, you should have a will. Like writing your own obituary, creating a will is your opportunity to have your life story end exactly the way you want. As luck would have it, I have written about wills.
What other parts of your story remain to be told? Bureaucratic death must be satisfied. Almost immediately after a death, the province issues a thwack of death certificates because every company and level of government you deal with is going to ask for one. You are now dead to the province. Insurance death was, in Linda’s case, quick and efficient, though often it is not. Her estate was not complicated and she had a clear and concise will. Linda’s tax death, other than, what my Mom would call, a schmozzle with H & R Block (an eye-roller for a later post), was smooth and sympathetically administered by Canada Revenue Agency. This means that Linda is, officially and in every other way, as dead as she possibly can be.
In a shaman’s world, in my world, Linda lives on, in my heart, as a spirit, as a helper, infinitely. She guides me every day; we communicate in a pure and direct manner using shamanic techniques and a special agate. We exchange a love that transcends death by accepting what death is – natural, neutral, necessary. Linda is never far away.
To a shaman who accesses non-ordinary reality, the old saw now goes: The only things in life you can count on are no death and no taxes.
It was one year ago today I began my foray into finding an audience on the internet but it didn’t start with this blog. It started with the DickToolCo YouTube channel which uploaded its first video on November 8, 2010. The reason for the date was to coincide with the Celebration of Light and Linda, an evening of interesting entertainment I created for about 120 of our close friends, which occurred on November 9.
Thanks to the energy and efforts of friend and filmmaker Kevin Uddenberg, three of the videos Linda and I created in the late 1970s were available on YouTube that evening which I announced from the stage of the Park Theatre at the Celebration. The first video on the channel was Be An Artist Now, the long form, 29 seconds.
Since then my learning curve has been steep and a ton of fun. I now create and upload my own videos to YouTube. The HD video camera I bought this summer has opened up vast new possibilities for YouTube content. A major part of my winter activities plan is to delve into the hours of stuff that I shot this summer.
YouTube led to Flickr because I needed to show the world the terrific still pictures Kevin took of the Celebration and all our beautiful friends who were there. You can see them on the DickToolCo channel on Flickr. I have video of the event which I cherish and will someday edit. So, with original content on YouTube and Flickr, what my friend Terry calls, “Reid’s little empire” had begun.
In the past year the DickToolCo YouTube channel has attracted over 13,000 views, an astonishing and humbling number. I have augmented the videos Linda and I created with video reports from my various travels this year. Currently there are 118 videos on the channel, 41 that Linda and I made together, the rest are my more recent creations. Thank you for watching stuff on the DickToolCo channel! Keep checking back for new uploads. Be happy, Reid
The Top Ten Most Viewed Videos on DickToolCo Channel
“Nothing is lost, nothing is created … all is transformed. Nothing is the prey of death. All is the prey of life.” – Antoine Béchamp
“All goes onward and outward. Nothing collapses. And to die is different from what anyone supposes…and luckier.” -Walt Whitman
A good question and one asked of me several times since I began the Happy Deathday features on the blog. Don’t misinterpret this as me being happy these people no longer live. That’s not the point at all.
My perspective on this is shamanic and incorporates a shaman’s understanding of death which differs vastly from the mainstream idea of death being scary and unknowable. In the shaman’s world death is simply a change of being, a moving from organic to inorganic, from flesh to Spirit, that faithful old process we’ve lived and died with for eons.
Death is our next opportunity to express our spiritual evolution and put to use the soul building we have done during our life. It is a celebratory moment when we face Great Spirit and obtain final clarity for that lifetime. If we are prepared, if we have trained well during all our lifetimes, we transcend reincarnation, become enlightened and merge with The Light. If we still aren’t ready to achieve that, we contract away from The Light back through the mental realm as a sexual thought then reproduced again in a gross body with all its suffering and bondage. This is also our next opportunity for personal evolution, for pursuing our next level of soul building.
Because we communicate with spirits directly, shamans know that Spirit persists after the elemental needs of the body are gone and the mind is relieved of its duties. Seen simply, sometimes we are alive, sometimes we are dead, always we are Spirit. Since the aftermath of birth is life in the gross reflecting realm and the aftermath of death is heaven, it’s just as appropriate to wish someone a happy deathday. The hope that accompanies the loving wish is that you have used this life as a stepping stone on your path to enlightenment and eternal bliss, that you have done the real work, the necessary work.
“Those who do not fear Great Spirit are not strong.”
PLAINS SIOUX PROVERB
“Make my enemy brave and strong, so that if defeated I will not be ashamed.”
“Give me knowledge so I may have kindness for all.”
“You can’t get rich if you look after your relatives properly.”
“Everything the Power does, it does in a circle.”
Another warm sunny day with temperature climbing to 12 C. This required one more hike on Spirit Sands. Couldn’t have been more perfect out there today. I was the only one on the Sands when I arrived with just one other car in the parking lot when I returned from the hike. I like that density: one person or less per square mile. Now that the chatty aspens and poplars have lost all their leaves, the silence is enormous! The occasional caw of a crow and the soft sigh of the breeze through tall brown grass were the only sounds to disturb the stillness of the serene landscape. I start the pictures with two shots of the bare poplars and aspens ghostly white against rich evergreens. Click on pics to enlarge
The next two shots are from the top of the dune overlooking an area of open prairie. In the second picture the round “mounds” are, in fact, juniper bushes that grow in circular shapes low to the ground. By this time of year they have turned a chocolately brown and stand out in the landscape.
The juniper berries have turned bright blue and the bearberry has gone from glossy Christmas green into a tawny red as you can see in the first picture. Ditches in the park still hold some water and in the final picture sunshine twinkles off Marsh Lake.