Book Review: Rumours of Glory

Memoir by Bruce Cockburn (co-written with Greg King)

Devoted fans and admirers of Canadian musician Bruce Cockburn will enjoy this tome. At over 500 pages, it’s like spending a short vacation with the man, during which you sit beside a cozy fire or maybe on the stool next to him in a palapa bar somewhere in the tropics and night after night he tells you his life story, until you are so enthralled you wish the experience will never end. He’s a fascinating, courageous, multi-dimensional poet of a man.
Musician readers will be delighted as he generously describes how and why his songs came to be. Recording sessions and live gigs with the likes of T Bone Burnett, Jackson Browne and Bonnie Rait will make guitarists salivate. I have to confess that I’ve been more of a fan of the man than his music, mostly because though his lyrics are poetry, they are often too much to bear. I tend to swim in the deep end myself so I usually prefer music that lifts my spirit or helps me escape altogether. Nevertheless, a few of his songs became totems during the years I moved fearlessly through Central America and saw the darkness of geopolitical warfare, such as this one:

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Book Review: Bear

fiction by Marian Engel

Though Bear was first published in 1976 it’s still being talked about so I felt compelled to read it. Bear won the Canadian Governor General’s Award and this is partly because the bestiality was clothed in some correct CanLit attire: the requisite references to myth (none of which were satisfying) and the intertextuality of the library setting. At the heart of the plot is a fallacy that blocked my full appreciation of the qualities for which the book has been lauded. A tour de force, said the New York Times. A startlingly alive narrative of the forbidden, said the Washington Post. Canada’s Lolita or Lady Chatterley’s Lover, said the Globe and Mail. Margaret Atwood called it “a strange and wonderful book, plausible as kitchens, but shapely as a folktale, and with the same disturbing resonance.”

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Canadian Lemonade

July Op-Ed for Bridge River Lillooet News

Recently, I emailed a criticism to a CBC radio show. While conducting an interview the host learned that slaves had been sold to buy molasses for the making of rum. Instead of the host commenting, she ignored it and kept the interview flowing along in the nice, polite manner for which she’s well known. I was shocked.

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Truth and Reconciliation

June Op-Ed for the Bridge River Lillooet News

The Truth and Reconciliation commission just ended and now the government must follow through with its recommendations. Top of the list should be making it mandatory that the history of residential schools is taught in grade school curriculum.
Two weeks ago I was in a Fraser Valley classroom and the teacher asked the students (all non-Native), whose ages ranged from 19 to 25, if the history of residential schools should be taught in schools. Of the ten students, two said yes, eight said variations of no. “They get enough handouts already,” one student said and the rest agreed, parroting what they’ve heard many times before from people just as ignorant. Further discussion revealed the students had little or no actual knowledge of residential schools, let alone the horrors that occurred inside them or the terrible repercussions that ensued.

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Guantanamo

**In honour of the release of Omar Khadr, a 15-year-old translator-turned-soldier who was held for over a decade in the gulag otherwise known as Gitmo, and in honour of the documentary about his experience being aired on CBC Thursday, May 28, 2015**

Guantanamo

in the spring
when the air was sprayed red
at the Hotel Misty on the shoreline
on the edge of Guantanamo Bay

raccoons were calling themselves family
inspired by neon lights while
the Stumps played Muskrat Love
and Daisy spun in her polka dot skirt
her lips plump as mushrooms
and heart without purchase
at the Hotel Misty on the shoreline
on the edge of Guantanamo Bay
when raccoons were calling themselves
family inspired by Japanese lanterns
and the clock struck twelve darkness
descended no mere absence
of light while Daisy spun slowly
in her polka dot skirt, Major General
her partner The Stumps playing
the final refrain of Muskrat
Love at the Hotel
Misty on the shoreline
on the edge
of Guantanamo Bay

when the air was sprayed
red
it’s not what anyone wanted
the military calling us family
and the guns lying
next to the camera

I guess I’m not a nice person anymore

Recently I was listening to a popular, long-running arts and culture show on CBC Radio One and the host was interviewing a celebrity bartender. Who knew that celebrity bartenders exist, let alone have become so fascinating, but in any case, this fellow was being interviewed about all things rum. At one point, he told the host that African slaves were sold in order to buy the molasses required for making rum. This information made me feel sick to my stomach but more disturbing was the host’s reaction. In the sweet, modulated voice for which she’s known, she completely ignored the information. Instead, she sailed past, wowing about rum minutiae, asking a syrupy question, sounding impressed and being oh-so delighted with everything the celebrity bartender had to say.

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I Love the CBC. But.

Since I spend so much time with the CBC it seems appropriate that it’s the subject of my inaugural post.
On CBC Radio One, Anna Maria Tremonti and The Current, Eleanor Wachtel and Writers and Company, Nora Young’s Spark, Rex Murphy on Cross Country Check-up, and too many others to list. And I love documentaries, for which this country is world renowned: The Fifth Estate, the Nature of Things, Doc Zone and The Passionate Eye. And the foreign correspondents: Melissa Fung, Sasa Petricic, Neil MacDonald and Adrienne Arsenault. Too many incredible people to list. All smart, articulate, and dedicated who inform, educate, entertain and make me feel good and proud to be a Canadian.
Some hosts become like family and when they pass I grieve. When Peter Gzowski died, I cried and moped around for days. I still miss his smoky voice and laughter. And Barbara Frum on As it Happens, I still miss her, too.
I even love Peter Mansbridge, though a bit like a grandfather who can be out of step. For example, he recently used the term “visible minorities” when describing the absence of people of colour in this year’s line-up of Oscar contenders. I cringed, then fired off a protest email to the National. He has used this phrase before. So: Dear Mr. Dinosaur, there’s no “visible minority”, at best this is an offensive fiction which gets perpetuated by white people with glaring racial blind spots, not to mention delusions of an “invisible majority”.

And what’s with the editorial staff on the national news allowing this to be aired? Is the news patriarch too powerful to correct?