Signs, placards and messages

On my way to work this morning, I saw what I thought was a picket line, a demonstration  with people holding up

 signs with messages on placards.

I approached and asked questions.  As it turned out, it was an appropriation of a legitimate vehicle for protest in order to promote a play.  I felt a little cheated.

As a consolation prize, they gave me this memo pad.

I think I might use this.

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Day 9 at TIFF and this is the one that brought me to tears. The most beautiful, poignant and powerful documentary.  Hope to see it again and share with others.

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TIFF Day One: Land of Mine


Land of Mine (2015, Denmark) directed and written by Martin Zandvliet  is about a young group of German POWs who were conscripted to dig up land mines with their bare hands.

The film demonstrated how dangerous land mines are.  The film also contrasted the drama of  defusing dangerous bombs with the confrontation of defusing human rage and its need for revenge.

This blog is not to put a spoiler on the film but to talk about memories raised by this film.

Some years ago, I invited members of the Canadian military for a presentation to 1,000 school children on land mines at a World Food Day event held at Metro Hall in Toronto. Land mines are a food security issue as food producers cannot venture to work in the fields. As an example, the presence of unexploded and abandoned artillery from World War Two (WWII) in the Pacific Islands region continues to endanger lives and hinder development 70 years after the conclusion of hostilities. Yet land mines continue to be produced, and used, continue to maim and kill, and some countries continue to refuse to agree to ban land mines.

The biggest land mine that needs to be defused is the human rage that continues to declare war and build fences. “Land of mine” is like a play of words, contrasting that dangerous weapon with that dangerous selfishness that means only to exclude the other.

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“The Ordering of Moses” an extension of “Recovered Voices”

On Friday, 9 May 2014 at 7:30 p.m. at Carnegie Hall, James Conlon conducted the May Festival Chorus and Cincinnati Symphony in the fourth and final instalment of the Spring for Music festival. Keeping with the festival’s concept of presenting uncommon works, the program features two 20th-Century American choral works including John Adams’ Harmonium and Robert Nathaniel Dett’s The Ordering of Moses, an oratorio that received its world premiere at the 1937 Cincinnati May Festival – then also performed by the May Festival Chorus and Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. James Conlon celebrates his 35th year as Music Director of the Cincinnati May Festival in 2014.

James discussed the Carnegie Hall program in his recent interview with Tavis Smiley on PBS [Season 11, Episode 89] where he highlighted how this piece fits his work of Recovered Voices, The concert brought clips at the beginning from the original 1937 national broadcast, along with the original interruption that abruptly ended the broadcast, now believed due to angry phone calls received at the station that were motivated by racism.

Cincinnati is the home of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center opened in 2004 to “teach, convene and inspire.”

The New York concert can be heard live at!/story/cincinnati-symphony-plays-john-adams-and-dett-oratorio/.

This concert, which played earlier that week at Music Hall in Cincinnati on Wednesday, 7 May, will be broadcast on WGUC-FM,, on 19 October 2014 at 8pm.

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Sanaaq and my thoughts on the TRC

Sanaaq and my thoughts on the TRC.

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Sanaaq and my thoughts on the TRC

ImageI just recently read Sanaaq. If I were to transliterate this into Baybayin, that is, my first language’s way of writing syllabics, this is what it would look like. Sanaaq is an Inuit novel by Mitiarjuk Nappaaluk. From the flyleaf, “Mitiarjuk Nappaaluk (1931-2007) was an educator and author based in the northern Quebec territory of Nunavik. Dedicated to preserving Inuit culture, Nappaluk authored over twenty books, including Sanaaq, the first novel written in Inuttitut syllabics…” The novel was transliterated from Inuktikut to French by Bernard Saladin d’Anglure and translated from French by Peter Frost.

I am grateful to have been able to get a copy to read from the Toronto Public Library. The book, published by University of Manitoba Press, contain interesting information, including a foreword and a glossary. The  “Historical and Cultural Context” in the foreword cites  many historical references covered by the novel as in the arrival of the fist whites by boat and establishment of the traders, visit of the Anglican and Catholic missionaries, first evacuation by air to a hospital in the South, first visit by a Northern Affairs agent, payment of family allowances and old age pensions. Events that happened before she was born, as in the establishment of Révillon Frères at Kangirsujuaq in 1910 followed by the Hudson’s Bay Company post four years later, as what she heard from her elders, condensed into a shorter time frame.

I was greatly interested by the following recipe for bannock and thought about issues of food security, the introduction of new foods, how the incorporation of new foods to their diets affected their lifestyle and also affected the very food that they now own.

“Arnatuinnaq was getting ready to make bannock. ‘Flour!’ she called out. ‘And also baking powder’ After adding baking powder, she scooped out a hole in the middle of the flour and spat oil into it, The cold, however, had congealed the oil, making it painful to sink her teeth into. Even her mouth felt the freezing pain. ‘Aatataa!‘ she shrieked, ‘My mouth has been burned by the cold!’

After spitting the oil, she went for salt water on the foreshore… Arnatuinnaq was hard at work making dough. She used an ulu to cut a piece of blubber from the aki. She crushed it with her teeth and spat the oil out… When Arnatuinnaq had finished spitting oil, she poured a little salt water into the flour and kneaded her dough… she kneaded the dough and made it consistent. She then adjusted the flame of the oil lamp with a tarquti cut from a dwarf willow branch. She started to bake the bannock for their moving out meal. She turned it over and flattened it several times.” (pp. 49-50).

There are many other wonderful passages and incidents about life, death, violence, love, sex, marriage, community life, mental health, in the novel but was struck with the simplicity of the following exchange as to how one chooses which church to follow:

“With the coming of summer, the ajuqirtuiji and his assistants arrived and attended to the Inuit. He questioned Qalingu and Sanaaq.

‘But this baby, who is her father?’

‘Her father is a Qallunaaq!’ answered Qalingu.

‘Her baptism has no value,’ said the minister ‘for she is the fruit of sin. Her mother and you are truly lacking in common sense!’

‘You are right,’ replied Qalingu. ‘If we’re not acceptable to you, it doesn’t matter. We can’t always act perfectly. We must be humble, but this little baby will be baptized by the Catholic missionary!’

‘How is that possible when neither you nor the baby’s mother are Catholics? I’m the one who will baptize her!’

‘No! I love this baby too much. You’ve just said that she’s not worthy of baptism, so we want her baptized by the Catholic missionary, whom we’ll now follow. You may have worthy disciples, who’ll always do good. But we aren’t worthy of you, so we’ll be confessing at the Catholic mission.'” (page 192)

As The Truth and Reconciliation Commission wraps up its final national event in Edmonton later today, we are struck not only by the stories but also of the Quallunaat’s way of looking at the clock and hurrying up the last few persons who were still about to tell their stories.

Time to forgive and move forward. On to the next agenda. The work is to bring others “on board.” Time is running. Hurry up. In the meantime, we sit in awe of discontinued funding for healing centres.

If a gathering were to be truly restorative, it must not only serve to address its stated purpose, that is to hear the stories, but this must also be an occasion for each person to decide to become engaged as an owner because the future is not a problem to be solved.

In the exchange, to the extent that every person came to tell their story by choice, were they heard? Were people happy to eat Sanaaq’s bannock? Were those denied agency in the past able to articulate possibilities for the future? In our future together? How were people able to give dissent? What gifts have we received from each other?

In this, I render Sanaaq in the syllabics that was attacked in the 15th century when the Quallunaat were not yet literate and their women were not yet persons, and in the vocabulary I was prevented to speak in a school I attended as a child.

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New Year Wishes

New Year Wishes

Looking forward to a year that all 3-year-olds around the world can look forward to. [image is detail of “Fruit Bowl,” an unfinished painting by Ma.C.Conlon]

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Balloons at CPW

Balloons at CPW.

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Balloons at CPW

Balloons at CPW

I recently joined my husband at his 50th high school reunion. It was a pleasure to watch him rejoin the friends of his youth, like these colourful balloons joyfully bobbing together. He happily reconnected both with those who he remembered and those who remembered him. Like these balloons, they may fly away, pop, or simply lose what made them fly, but that joyful moment of reconnection was sheer beauty.

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We All Become Stories

This is an invitation to a conversation about aging.

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