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Good fences make good neighbours and other lies your father told you

in Featured/Indy Essay by

Any number of  critics have noted how a poem, play, or novel appears to shift, to evolve, to grow with a reader. The change can feel quite dramatic in some cases, so much so that even a delicate haiku—all seventeen gossamer syllables—appears to become something quite different. You read it when you were thirty, and childless; now in your thirty-third year, your infant daughter has appeared. You have changed—not the three lines—but the profound change can make it feel like you are reading a new poem. This evolution of interpretation becomes even more intriguing when applied to entire cultures, rather than individuals. After the nuclear annihilation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, after the fire-bombing of Dresden, after the My Lai massacre, the stirring patriotic speeches of Henry Vread a little differently, perhaps. Or take an example from pop culture: my entire generation has had to learn to reread the classic teen…

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Local books, universal journeys: The 2018 Newfoundland & Labrador Book Awards

in About Books/Arts & Culture by

There is a strength to local writing grounded in, but not limited to, connections to Newfoundland and Labrador. You can see this in the six books nominated for the 2018 Newfoundland and Labrador Book Awards, in the categories of Fiction and Children’s/Young Adult this year. There’s something about recognizing place. Now that I have come to know the streets of St. John’s, I can walk in Wanda Jaynes’ footsteps through Georgestown to Sobeys, thanks to Bridget Canning. I know someone who lives near the street Maureen grew up on and I recognize the significance of her desire to get away, as Mary Walsh did when she came up with Maureen’s story. And like Johnny, I am familiar with the bizarre connections that can be formed with strangers on the road here, as Joel Thomas Hynes writes.   Reading the three children’s books, I saw what Lar’s Fruit Stand looked like through…

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70/70: The Art of Modern Fabric

in IndyShorts/Journalism by

 

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Is creativity overrated? On the arts in Newfoundland and Labrador

in Arts & Culture/Featured/Opinion by

Is creativity overrated? Oli Mould is a human geographer at University of London in the UK, and the title of his latest book—Against Creativity—might lead you to think so. The provocative argument Mould makes in his book is that “creativity is a barely hidden form of neoliberal appropriation. It is a regime that prioritises individual success over collective flourishing. It refuses to recognize anything…that is not profitable.” He’s referring to the manner in which neoliberal, corporate capitalism has appropriated everything we thought of as creative—from the arts to scientific innovation—and harnessed it for the exploitation of profit. His book offers numerous examples. Real estate developers have taken to spray-painting graffiti in housing developments in the hope of making them seem trendy and appealing to the hip and wealthy. Other developers will convert empty warehouses into art galleries or offer free apartments to artists, not because they want the arts to…

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The year of Newfoundland’s triumph

in About Books/Arts & Culture/Journalism by

1974. For most of us, it’s just a year – either one buried in distant memory, or one we are too young to have even experienced. Places have a longer memory, however, and for Newfoundland and Labrador, the year was a momentous one. It marked the province’s twenty-fifth anniversary of Confederation with Canada: an event celebrated with awkward abandon, including a series of disastrous dinners and fishing expeditions with the country’s premiers. For a new generation that had grown up after the entire Confederation imbroglio, it was an exciting time, and one aptly reflected in the province’s first big national game-show triumph. Reach For the Top was a quiz-style trivia program broadcast nationally on CBC television from 1966 to 1989 (with a brief revival in the mid 2000s). Teams of high school students across the country competed for prominence, and no Newfoundland team had ever won. But that year—1974—a team…

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Waste, weeds, and poetry

in About Books/Featured by

Waste defines not only the modern era, but modern humanity, according to some writers. We are what we throw away. Or: we are because we throw away. Yet, waste has been invisible to many of us most of the time. No longer. Today waste is appearing everywhere. It isn’t staying neatly out of the sight of the middle and upper classes. It’s on our streets; it’s on our beaches; it’s in our fish and in our birds. There’s a waste research fund here at MUN. Researchers are grappling with questions about social justice and micro plastics in our oceans and mapping e-waste as it travels around the globe. Amidst all this, one small book of poetry appears on the scene in Newfoundland and Labrador: Mary Dalton’s Waste Ground, a book of short poems from the point of view of local plants that have been categorized as weeds. Defined as waste,…

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Science fiction helps us understand the future as well as past and present

in About Books/The Nonagenarian’s Notebook by

When I started reading science fiction, in my teens, it was widely regarded as a disreputable form of literature. This was not surprising, since at that time—the early 1940s—sci-fi was confined to pulp magazines with lurid covers, often depicting scantily-clad heroines shooting ray-guns at BEMS (bug-eyed monsters). Living in Newfoundland at the time, while it was still a British colony, I had to order sci-fi periodicals from the United States. They had to be cleared by customs officers, who also doubled as the colony’s censors. The censor who examined the magazines mailed to me from New York was Mr. Howell, who happened to be our nearby neighbour. Shocked by the trashy cover art, he spent an hour or more leafing page by page through Amazing Stories, Thrilling Wonder Stories, and Weird Tales, searching for evidence of pornography or obscenity, all the while shooting suspicious glances at me. Fortunately, the stories…

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Ed Riche on satire and our capacity for self-delusion

in Arts & Culture/Journalism/Uncategorized by

Ed Riche is an award-winning playwright, screenwriter, novelist, and more. However, he’s perhaps best known for his humour, and especially his satire. But according to Riche, we are now living in a “post-satiric” age. It’s one in which the seemingly satirical often turns out to be true; and in which there is a feeling in some quarters that speech which hurts should be shut down. How does a satirist ply their trade in a post-satiric age? “You just get ready to absorb more blows,” he says. “We’ve got the unthinkable – Donald Trump in the White House. That’s a punch line. It’s beyond all comprehension. Every day we look at that same reality and go ‘How could this have ever happened?’ He’s a horror clown, he’s a con man, he’s a grifter, he’s an idiot, he’s a crook, and yet he’s the most powerful man in the world. “And on…

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‘You’re not this and you’re not that’: author Lorri Neilsen Glenn

in About Books/Featured by

A few years ago, an aunt told writer Lorri Neilsen Glenn  about her great-grandmother’s tragic death in a steamboat fire in 1908 in northern Manitoba. Wanting to know more, she started a journey that led her to histories she didn’t know were hers. Neilsen Glenn learned that she had roots in northern Indigenous and prairie Métis communities. The haunting account of her journey became Following the River: Traces of Red River Women, a book that gives the reader insight into uncelebrated histories, including the stories of Neilsen Glenn’s ancestors and their contemporaries. The book mirrors the fragmented nature of these women’s lives, Neilsen Glenn says. She shows us who these women are in a mix of evocative poetry, documentary material, and narrative prose. Together, these pieces offer the reader incredible glimpses of the lives of Neilsen Glenn’s ancestors based on what she could find in newspaper reports, archives, and museums. I wanted…

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Coming out and finding a home in music: Gays of Our Lives comes to NL

in Arts & Culture/Featured/Inkshed by

I was in my early twenties when I told my happy-go-lucky uncle Jim I was gay. He froze with a look of shock and horror on his face, he even started to cry, which utterly bewildered me because he, too, was gay. This was not the reaction I was expecting. Wait this isn’t about me. It’s about the Vancouver Men’s Chorus. Let me refocus. I live downtown in one of the densest areas of North America and if I leave the house I have almost a 95 per cent chance of seeing someone from the chorus. Actually, as I was told, Sandra Oh was in town and she almost collided with one of us named Yogi; that alone would be a tale, be like her bumping into Vancouver’s very own Kevin Bacon/Glinda the good witch. So, frankly, we are literally everywhere. There’s a 130 plus guys engaged in what I’d…

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Beothuk Romanticism and Mi’Kmaq Realities

in Featured/Indy Essay by

The Beothuk hold a unique place in Newfoundland culture. Objects of romanticism, they can be found in songs, poems, and paintings. Oft-repeated are claims of how their presence can sometimes be felt in the woods. But what are the roots of Beothuk romanticism and how does it impact the island’s surviving Indigenous people, the Mi’kmaq? As most know, the Beothuk were a small Indigenous group of about 200-300 when Europeans arrived, pushed them away from harbours, and brought disease and violent conflict. The Mi’kmaq were a larger Eastern Algonquian people with a vast homeland, called Mi’kma’ki, extending from Quebec’s Gaspé Peninsula through the Maritimes, the Magdalen Islands, St. Pierre and Miquelon, and parts of Newfoundland. Northern Indigenous people like the Mi’Kmaq did not farm but moved from one place to another during the seasons to access resources. As anthropologist Charles Martijn has proven, Newfoundland was very much a part of…

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The rise of xenophobia and the death of Anthony Bourdain

in Featured/Indy Essay/Journalism by

In 2015 a Canadian Immigration officer handed me a beige laminated card, about the size of a driver’s license, and I breathed a sigh of relief: no longer would I have to worry about being separated from my spouse and my child. After my marriage to a Canadian citizen in 2010, and even more so after the birth of my Canadian-born son, I had grown to expect that my wife would be pulled aside by American immigration authorities, just as I kept a thick dossier of important documents to show to Canadian immigration authorities. That dossier included all three of our birth certificates, as well as my proof of employment by an American university, as well as the sheaf of papers that documented my wife’s application for American permanent residence, as well as my own growing sheaf of papers that documented my own application for Canadian permanent residence. I did…

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Brake receives freedom of expression award

in Journalism by

Justin Brake received the PEN Canada/Ken Filkow Prize for freedom of expression On Thursday, June 14, at an event in Toronto. This is the second award that Brake has been honoured with for his coverage of the protests in Muskrat Falls in October, 2016. At the time, he was working as a reporter and editor for this publication. Last month, on World Press Freedom Day, he was presented with the 20th Annual Press Freedom Award. While both awards celebrate Brake’s contribution to media freedom in Canada, he says the fight for that freedom is far from over. Brake faces civil and criminal charges after covering the protest and occupation at the Muskrat Falls site in the fall of 2016, which led to an emergency marathon meeting and a subsequent agreement between the provincial government and Indigenous leaders.  On October 22, 2016, demonstrators entered the worksite and Brake followed them, live streaming…

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Alleviating child poverty would save much more money than it would cost

in Featured/Indy Essay by

Oh God! That bread should be so dear, And flesh and blood so cheap! –Thomas Hood, “The Song of the Shirt.” Canadians are fortunate to live in one of the world’s better countries, but we delude ourselves when we claim to be living in the best—or even one of the best. Not when more than a million Canadian children—15.1 percent or one in seven of them—are living in poverty, many thousands bereft of adequate nutrition and health care. Not when the OECD ranks Canada 15th—third last—among the 17 leading industrialized countries in the extent of its child poverty. (The OECD gives Canada a C grade, not much lower than the D grade given the last nation on the list, the United States.) Not when children in millions of Canadian households are living in sub-standard, crowded, poorly furnished housing conditions. Not when 21 percent of single Canadian mothers have to raise…

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Indian Road Trip: The summer movie you haven’t seen but totally will, once it’s finished

in Featured/Indy Essay by

I suppose the only way is to get in the car with them. How else to tell the story of the production of an independent Indigenous movie called Indian Road Trip? Just get into the car on a reservation somewhere near Merritt, British Columbia, on a hot summer morning and feel the dust enter your lungs as the tires turn.  Allan Hopkins (writer/director): It’s about two young guys who want to leave the reserve because they’re bored. They want to go on a road trip.  Dale Hunter (plays elder Hetta Yellow-Fly):  Once you stay on the reservation you’re a lifer. Hank doesn’t want to be a lifer.  …… Where’s the car going? Wreck Beach, a well-known nude beach in Vancouver, British Columbia.  That’s how the movie begins. …… So much history–First Nation, Métis, and European–has to come together at the right time to make an independent movie like this one.  …

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‘The opportunity to move toward prosperity’: Gerry Rogers

in Featured/Journalism/Q&A by

A Stephen Harper rally “catapulted” Gerry Rogers into politics back in 2011. In April this year she became Newfoundland and Labrador’s first openly gay leader of a political party. Still, she says it “doesn’t roll off my tongue very easily to say I’m a politician.”  I wanted to know how she made the transition from filmmaking to politics and what her plans are as leader. Here’s what she had to say.  Q: When did you know you wanted to get involved in politics? I never knew that I wanted to get involved in politics. Did I ever think that I would do this? No. I’ve always been on the margins pushing from that space. But I was a breech birth, so I always knew that there was always more than one way of doing things. Q: How did you make the decision?  So in 2011, just before the federal election, Kathey Dunderdale was…

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War in Comics: ‘the training, the waiting, and the growing fear of the approaching invasion’

in About Books/Featured by

Given the chance to interview Canadian cartoonist Scott Chantler, I was both thrilled and filled with angst. Scott has made quite a name for himself in the comics world. His most recent work, Two Generals, (the graphic biography of his grandfather’s experiences in WW2) was nominated for two Eisner Awards, distinguished by the CBC as one of the 40 best Canadian non-fiction books of all time, and was selected by comics powerhouse Françoise Mouly as one of the Best American Comics of 2012. And his comic series for children, The Three Thieves and his graphic novel Northwest Passage were also nominated for multiple prestigious awards. Chantler agreed to chat with me about Two Generals, a comic, based on the 1943 diary of his grandfather, Law Chantler. It tells the story of Law and his best friend Jack Chrysler during World War Two. At the beginning of the book, the two young men from Ontario travel to England…

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Disney’s workers: Realities, fantasies, and lessons for NL

in Featured/Journalism by

Disney is a word that inspires children across the world and the name of a company whose reputation stands for innocence, play, and beloved stories often featuring the victory of good over evil. But it’s a reputation built, squarely, upon the increasingly strained backs of America’s working class. In Orange County, California a Disney worker can expect to spend their day making every desire of visiting families come true, while watching their own hopes fade to dust as inflation and expenses speed ahead of their wages and benefits. “Sometimes I skip meals, so my kids can eat,” noted one worker speaking at a recent public roundtable entitled StopDisneyPoverty in Anaheim, California. The event, a live-stream of which is available for view, was intended to draw attention to the plight being faced by Disney’s employees, and was attended by Senator Bernie Sanders, who gave a speech defending workers’ rights to a fair wage…

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