Sunday, 15 March 2015

(Poem) What's that sound?

This poem was written for the Jen Mesch Dance Conspiracy performance at the Centennial Centre for Interdisciplinary Science (CCIS) building at the University of Alberta on March 12, 2015. The poem was inspired by radio-telescopic recordings of the sounds made by the planets in our solar system.

All the celestial bodies referenced here are in the video linked above. Enjoy!

What’s that sound?
Yes, that one
The ringing echoes
of the orb that wears the crown
This is Radio Free Jupiter!
Pugnacious punk ambient radiophonic red-spot rock ‘n’ roll
ringing through the solar system
like it was hers to begin with
Big sexy gas giant, switched-on solar circuitry with storms to burn

What’s that sound?
No, that one
That rumbling in the shadows
that frosty splash of sulphur ash aside the colossus
Hadal contrabass counterpoint
Volcanic blasts splattering at the swirling gaseous canvas
spread across its sky
Ionic artspace, Jackson Pollock studio, Jovian circuitry, silver and gold pockmarks
with guttural undulating undertones

What’s that sound?
No, that one
That swirling urgency
that plaintive pulse
from the dark side of the ringed one
singing and sobbing
Miranda is bleeding, scratched and forlorn
Saturnine by nature and temperament
forever howling at the canopy of night

What’s that sound?
Not that one, that one
For whom does that bell toll?
Ringing like arctic blasts
through a hundred haunted bell towers
Is this the solemn chill that calmed the waters to somnolent Sri Lanka?
The dissonant chimes that calls the Milky Way to prayer?
Váruna, Ouranos, sawing sideways through cosmic currents
buzzsaw of the beyond, slicing space with morbid grace

What’s that sound?
Yes, that one
That splash of blue ocean
amid the black beyond
delicately orchestrated typhoons
of silver strings
rhapsody in cobalt and ultramarine
Holst never stopped to listen to the blue voice
The Mystic, it turns out, was also the romantic

What’s that sound?
The slow hiss
Hubble’s dilemma
That pulsing spectral omnipresence
the gears of the cosmic wheelhouse
locking and grinding
forever stretching the perimeter
of the Eridanus Supervoid
Hello darkness, my old friend

In space everybody can year you scream
hear you scratch and rage against the void
skip along the stone paths of the Kuiper Belt
and sing along with mournful Sedna’s
Skeleton Woman blues
pausing at Señor Gomez’s burger bar
before a night swim in the gently lapping magenta lagoon nebula
Sounds like a nothingth of an eternity in the universe
where superlatives reign supreme and dark matter matters

What’s that sound?
Which one?

Friday, 6 March 2015

I looked in the mirror, Jim. And this is what I saw.

First of all, can somebody smarter than me please explain to me what the hell is going on in this province?? First we were suddenly broke and hemorrhaging money left, right, and centre thanks to sagging global oil prices. Then, somehow, inexplicably, the province was running a surplus. And now gas prices are back up to nearly a buck a litre. And wasn't the whole gas price slide a punitive measure by the OPEC bigwigs against the psycho KGB cowboy in Moscow and his pals in Tehran and Damascus? I don't get it.

Whatever the case, our boom-and-bust economy is now, apparently, bust again, and our esteemed crown prince now tells us, in a nutshell, that it's our own fault. According to Jim Prentice, we all have to “look in the mirror” and take responsibility for the province’s precarious financial situation. OK Jim, I take responsibility. But what I want to know at this juncture is how much responsibility I, personally, should take. After all, I'm not from Alberta originally and have only been taking advantage of government programs and opportunities here since mid-2008. Does that mean I'm less responsible for our present mess than someone who's lived here all their life, while at the same time more so than someone who just arrived?

If we were to portion out blame equally, among all Albertans, we would technically be looking at about 7.6 seconds of penance per Albertan per year. Given that there are now 4,146,000 of us in this province, and 365 days in a year, that's literally how our wages of guilt would be monetized. You know, like the flat tax our esteemed leaders still stubbornly stand by.

But that's based on the assumption that everybody currently living in Alberta is equally culpable for getting us in the pickle that we're in. Which, as I previously mentioned, strikes me as unfair given our current rate of population growth. Alberta's population grew by 3.8 per cent in 2014, which means that of the aforementioned 4,146,000 people, about 150,000 just arrived from elsewhere, and frankly it would be unfair to saddle them with this burden of economic shame. Especially given our provincial leaders' heretofore urgent tone with regards to impending labour shortages here.

This reduces our pool of culpable Albertans to around 3,996,000. That raises our individual burden of guilt to around 7.9 seconds. Still totally manageable. That said, I don't think our dear leader would see it that way. Clearly Alberta's urban centres bear more of the blame than rural areas, given their pesky demands for better roads, better transit, more schools, more . . . everything, frankly. As of 2011 (the most recent statistics available), 83 per cent of Albertans resided in urban areas. That takes us down to roughly 3,316,000 people who are really blameworthy. So if you've lived in an urban area in Alberta for more than one full year, you now officially have to feel bad for 9.5 seconds a year.

Not so fast. At least 20 per cent of the remaining population is 18 years old or under, and clearly they can't be held responsible for the mess we're in - much as we'd like to blame them. So that takes us down to about 2,652,800 culpable individuals, or about 11.9 annual seconds of penance. And that's more substantial - more time than most of us stand with our heads bowed and our eyes closed on Remembrance Day.

And of course we haven't even begun to talk about the province's urban Aboriginal population, from whose ancestors the land now called Alberta was stolen in the first place, or the province's ethnic Japanese, Chinese, Ukrainian (that's at least 10 per cent of Edmonton), and Afro-Canadian populations, who at various times have faced fierce discrimination. Or women, who, it turns out, earn less than 65 per cent of their male counterparts in this province, putting Alberta nearly on par with South Korea, the OECD country with the worst gender wage parity. And while we're at it, LGBTQ Albertans, who still suffer from de-facto top-down discrimination through the provincial government's refusal to mandate gay-straight alliances in schools, get a pass as well.

So who are we left with? Basically a coterie of overpaid straight white men who live in urban centres and occupy positions of power. In other words, people like you, Jim. Perhaps you need to, ahem, take a look in the mirror.

Monday, 2 March 2015

Home is where the food is (a 107 Ave serenade)

Source: Faces of 107 Avenue
Adobo creative suites
Masala motion pictures
Mad about saffron
And high on wild rosewater nocturnes and the sweet Rumi-nations of old Tehran
Footsteps springy like fresh injera
With a fire-roasted coffee and frankincence chasers at my heels
Striding sing-song down the Avenue of Nations
Calibrating my olfactory GPS; new-world coordinates in old-country code
The dhows of Gwadar, Suquṭra, Muqdisho
Safely moored on a verdant bend in the North Saskatchewan
Bringing sustenance and satiety to shivering winter citizenry
Cracked cardamom pods, frim-fram shawarma sauce
Weaponized wild rice and a backup bottle of chili sauce for that extra zing
Here on the Ave this is kind of our thing

Some say home is where the heart is
But the heart falters when the stomach lies empty
Others say home is where the money is
But money for nothing? Have these chickpeas for free!
Home is where the food is
Where continents and condiments collide in cast-iron kitchen pots
With fierce chillies, midnight meat sweats, and moose nose stew with bannock sliders
Treaty 6 treats with Tagalog tagalongs
And palak paneer amid the backdrop of a bigos and kubasonic boomtown
It’s everything that’s good to eat
Right out there on the street
Yeggs benedict for breakfast
E-town empanadas for lunch
Prairie chicken Kiev with a side of doro. Wot?
It’s all here. It’s all us.

Give me a home where the free-range buffalo roam (out at Elk Island)
Where the kheer and the cantaloupe come out to play for dessert
Where seldom is heard a discouraging Urban Spoon word
And the skies are as wide open as our doors, as big as our portion sizes
And as vivid and alive as our spicecraft and foodscape
Welcome home