Primarily a writing exercise, this dream journal-inspired blog is a quiet introspective sojourn into the process that we traverse in going from private dream to public art. I see our dreaming as an internalized mythmaking. As I philosophize and expressively exhibit dreams, both private and public, I encourage and delight in creative language as a way to practice experiential metaphors through a “public dreaming." Writing Theory: Creative Dream Fiction

Monday, 27 May 2013

Persian Jewry and the Art of Peace: A Sound Vision of Coexistence

Why think thus O men of piety
I have returned to sobriety
I am neither a Moslem nor a Hindu
I am not Christian, Zoroastrian, nor Jew

I am neither of the West nor the East
Not of the ocean, nor an earthly beast
I am neither a natural wonder
Nor from the stars yonder
My place is the no-place
My image is without face
Neither of body nor the soul
I am of the Divine Whole.

I eliminated duality with joyous laughter
Saw the unity of here and the hereafter
Unity is what I sing, unity is what I speak
Unity is what I know, unity is what I seek
Beloved Master, Shams-e Tabrizi
In this world with Love I’m so drunk
The path of Love isn’t easy
I am shipwrecked and must be sunk.

Rumi, translated by Shahriar Shahriari

Judeo-Persian Literature: HERE and HERE and HERE
CALGARY - This year, the Persian New Year (Nowruz) on March 20, marked another day of global significance: the ten-year anniversary since the American invasion of Iraq. The hotbed issue, still on the map, is WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction), the bane of nuclear energy. The decade of remembrance also reflects European Union sanctions imposed on the Iranian economy. While Iran is a signatory of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which implies non-proliferation, disarmament and the right to peacefully use nuclear technology, the potential use of nuclear weapons by the Iranian government is crux of the diplomatic standstill.

In a visiting lecture to the University of Calgary, Dr. Alan Dowty, Professor Emeritus and expert on Israeli politics from the University of Notre Dame, pointed out that Iran-Israel nuclear aggression in the Middle East has the potential to end the Non-Proliferation Treaty. “Canada has foregone the right to use nuclear weapons, so they have an interest in non-proliferation. Israel would join [the NPT] if the Arab-Israel conflict were resolved.” Dr. Dowty told The Media Co-op. “There is actually no way to conduct polls in Iran, so there is no recent social science research and no way to know what percentage of support base the Iranian government has.” In today’s world of globalized democracy and worldwide communications, public support, or lack thereof, is among the most consequential paths toward conflict resolution, and therefore, the greatest threat to government hegemony.

In 2006, 67% of Israelis believed in an attack from Iran was certain. In 2009, the poll fluctuated dramatically, where 79% did not think Iran would attack Israel. A poll published in the leading Israeli newspaper Haaretz confirmed that now only 27% of Jewish Israelis support an attack on Iranian nuclear facilities. “In 2009 the poll shifted dramatically but the polls themselves are hardly reliable for consistency. A different wording in the question could change answers by 20%. At the time, in the top positions of military defense represented in the Israeli government, the opinion was that an attack on Iran is implausible,” Dr. Dowty said in an interview with The Media Co-op after his recent March 18 lecture at UofC.

Diplomatic negotiations taper out as talks enter into a “full fuel cycle” right to enrich uranium. The line between nuclear facilities for energy purposes and military purposes is based on a thin margin of uranium enrichment. The Iranian government has converted 40% of the uranium enriched to the 20% level (the most threatening part of the existing stockpile) to an oxide for medical use, limiting their weapon capacity. “They blinked, they are aware they're being watched closely,” Dr. Dowty closed his lecture. “Are they serious? We'll know in the next few weeks. We'll see though, I said this last year.”

Originally published by Al-Monitor, Jerusalem Post seconds the investigation on Iran’s diverted nuclear energy resources. The article closes remarking, “With inflation and unemployment soaring and the value of the Iranian currency halved since a year ago, the vast majority of Iranians have tightened their belts to celebrate Iran's new year - or Nowruz, the nation's most important holiday.”

The Jewish Holocaust underlies much of the political negotiations on the topic of nuclear war between Israel and Iran. The Holocaust is part of Israeli policy. Netanyahu once compared the Allied failure to bomb the train lines to Auschwitz in WWII to the current standstill with Iran. Israeli politicians often compare Ahmedinjad to Hitler, an infamous Holocaust-denier. “The truth is that a nuclear-armed Iran is an existential threat of the State of Israel,” Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu said during his 2012 Holocaust Remembrance Day speech on April 18.

Last month, Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird made his way through an unprecedented tour into the countries to speak with political allies regarding “extremists” and “radicals” in the Middle East, specifically Jordan, which is receiving nearly half a million refugees from Syria, Iran’s ally in the Middle East. “I’m fascinated by the Arab world,” Baird is quoted in The Globe and Mail, before boarding a plane to become the first Canadian foreign minister to visit Iraq in 37 years. Yet, in Canada, the Iranian community continues to pursue a pluralistic vision of the Middle East and its emigrants both in the public and private sphere.

Recent Canadian immigrant and former history professor and senior researcher at the University of Tehran, Calgary resident Manijeh Rabieie shared with The Media Co-opabout her work. “Beginning from 2000-2003, I began to conduct research in Jewish communities, looking into their civil centers, their synagogues, their schools. I have prepared 70 articles and a book on the Jews in Iran. The government in Iran denied publication of all my work related to Jews.” The story of the Jews in Iran reflects a widely misinterpreted theme in Middle East affairs regarding religious identity, ethnicity and political rhetoric. “Jews and Christians are traditionally protected in Islamic law. Though the Jewish community has to lay low,” Dr. Alan Dowty confirmed with The Media Co-op. Dr. Dowty had once tried to attain a visa to Iran to conduct social science research as a visiting scholar. He was barred due to his extended residence in Israel.

“The Jewish community in Iran has lived in Iran for over 2500 years. Judaism is at the root of ancient culture and religion in Iranian history. Every culture in Iranian history was influenced by Jewish history. In a sense, we are all Jews,” Manijeh Rabieie told The Media Co-op. “Their schools and hospitals are segregated. Under the current Muslim government they are subject to many forms of abuse. Although there is currently a Jewish MP in Iran, the Jewish community can not take part in politics.” The presence of Jews in Iran precedes Muslim and Arab culture. Political rhetoric naming the Israel-Iran crisis as a religious conflict undermines the underlying social fabric of the Middle East.

Manijeh Rabieie plans to publish a paper to educate the public regarding the historic relationship between Persians and Jews as one people, and how this is related to peace. Rabieie said to The Media Co-op, “The conflict in Iran between the Jewish community and the government is not based on foreign policy with Israel, it's an internal problem within the society based on living under the oppressive government. The government sees all Jews as Zionists. This is not true. Iranian Jews are as Iranian as anyone else in the country, it is their culture, it's there home, that's why they remain.”

A deeper understanding of the Iranian society as a whole reveals more about the current Western paradigm and how the West views Iranians and Muslims of the Middle East, than it does about Iran itself. Recent winner of the Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing, Calgary-based author and journalist Marcello Di Cintio spoke withThe Media Co-op on Iran, Nowruz and how the West continues to demonize Muslim culture. “Rhetoric on Iran has gone way up around the world. The nuclear program and Israel's fear promotes scary talk not backed up by facts,” Marcello Di Cintio said. “I think when we shut down embassies in Iran, it's more to do with standing in solidarity with Israel position. My biggest problem is this a symbolic action. ‘Now you can't get a visa to visit your family?’ That's ridiculous. Closing the embassy, is that our way of bringing down the regime? It's a symbolic action that has consequences on people that have done nothing wrong, that's what bothers me. I don't think people understand Iranians in Iran.”

Last month, Marcello Di Cintio wrote a short post on his website, Elsewhere, regarding his reflection with a local book club after revisiting his 2006 book, Poets and Pahelvans: A Journey into the Heart of Iran for Nowruz. Much of the content echoed what Marcello Di Cintio remarked for The Media Co-op. “There's a vast canyon between government policy and actual life. When we make decisions what does that actually mean for people who do not live in suits?” said Di Cintio. “Sanctions are not going to change things. To me, those are symbolic. You think the West hates Ahmedinijad? Iranians hate him more. It's the job of the journalists to report on government policy, and to report what the politicians are saying. They don't have time on the ground. I'm attempting to fill the void.” The Persian New Year, Nowruz, the biggest holiday in Iran, is still a non-Islamic celebration. Nowruz predates Islam.

"It’s a public holiday in parts of the Middle East, Central Asia and Europe. Thanks to global migration it’s now celebrated worldwide…It’s a non-denominational holiday…It predates modern politics, modern states and the squabbling that comes with them. This is a secular holiday…You might hear a lot about Iran in the next twelve months, its leaders, its politics, its policies, its threats, how the world reacts to them. Hey you may watch a popular film like Argo and decide that all Persians are barbaric and archaic and evil enemies of the West. Well, if you really want to get to know the culture of Iran, Persian culture that is, the literature, the family values, the poetry, the positivity, the progressive sides, and the romance, then get to know Nowruz…Here’s hoping for a peaceful and positive period for all.” Jian Ghomeshi broadcasted on CBC on March 20.
As Persian New Year also celebrates the vernal equinox, coincidentally the Jewish spring holiday of Purim commemorates the story of Esther, a Jewish woman who married King Ahasuerus of Persia. Canadian politics, throughout most of the 20th century, reveals a history as anomalous from the present as a Jewish marriage to the Persian head of state is to the world of today.

In 2003, more people took to the streets in Calgary to protest the American invasion of Iraq than any public demonstration since World War Two. A fully community-funded organization at the University of Calgary known as the Consortium for Peace Studies was founded based on popular opposition to the war in Iraq. “If the Iranian people want to change the Iranian government or their situation, that's their prerogative, but if they want to change it simply because foreign powers are making their life miserable, then I don't think that's legitimate. That's just war by another means,” said George Melnyk, director of the Consortium for Peace Studies to The Media Co-op. “I would like to see Canada develop a balance where we have more neutrality, where we're not always looking at military solutions, not always taking a strong stand to support the Untied States or Britain in whatever kind of military actions they want to take. I'd like us to have another aspect to our lives which has been completely lost.”

Professor Melnyk recently published a paper entitled, Canada and Afghanistan - Peacemaking as Counterinsurgency Warfare, a Conflict in Terms. In this paper, Professor Melnyk outlines the paradoxical rhetoric of militarism together with propaganda related to national self-image in Canada. "Because Canada refused to participate in that war [in Iraq], it has been argued that it felt compelled to offer its services in Afghanistan," writes Melnyk. As Canada adopts new policies that effectively change the image of the country, the political leadership in the West (of both the world and of Canada) overrides traditional democracy. “The Canadian government, by being involved militarily in Afghanistan, of which I am critical, see Iran as the enemy. That's what happens in war, you define an enemy,” Melnyk told The Media Co-op.

Canadians are faced with new decisions and choices as government becomes increasingly self-serving and exclusive in both its military partisanship abroad and political representation domestically. “What we have is a Federal Government based in Calgary, and very powerful in Alberta. And it is pro-military, and anti-environmental. These guys are now reflecting more of the West, between Saskatchewan, B.C. and Alberta are totally energy related,” said Melnyk to The Media Co-op. “The more anti-environmental it is, the more pro-military it becomes, they are part of the same package.”

The Consortium for Peace Studies awarded the 2013 Dr. Arthur Clark Research Fellowship in Global Citizenship to sustainable housing expert Jorg Ostrowski, for a project that focuses on development in Iran called A New Silk Road of Peace. “We have a completely different approach than the Harper government. Our approach is not to get involved in this debate, this political debate between Israel and Iran. Our position is to support those people who are building people-to-people relationships,” Professor Melnyk told The Media Co-op.

Recognition for the great wealth of intercultural heritage is an increasingly important area for growth and discussion as civil society moves forward in organizational solidarity. “It is so critical to counter western threats of war with Iran. Together, as a human family with a team of visionary professionals, we can build unity and demonstrate collaboration, explore other lands and respect their traditions, seek education and understand other perspectives, work for common security and build a lasting peace, for all species and our common environment and world heritage,” Ostrowski shared with The Media Co-op via email.

Still, with all of the activism in Canada to facilitate social stability in Iran, for democratic diplomacy in the Middle East, and lasting peace, there are countless who continue to suffer unjustly in Iran. As residents of Canada, active in working towards greater democracy and justice, the focus remains ever on the plight of innocent civilians. While the Canadian government works towards the proposed resolution of the greater evil, i.e. nuclear conflict, the gap between civil society and government widens due to the growing pertinence of foreign policy. It is becoming more and more clear to Canadian residents that with every government measure to protect Canada and other Western nations, including Israel, from a nuclear conflict, the costs of war by another means begin to show its ugly face.

"Persian Jews and the Iran-Israel Crisis: Canadian Civil Society Works Toward A New Year of Peace and Understanding" previously appeared on The Media Co-op
ruins of ruins by RK
the entrance is the exit by RK
dan tien sky by RK
old world taste by RK
belly of the ultra modern beast by RK
"turning over the ashes of the Unnamed" is a piece commemorating the Indigenous struggles of Latin America. Initially, the writing process is based on experiences in Yucatec Maya communities. Recently,  the sounding was recorded while following the tragic cycle of intermittent, and ultimately, futile justice in Guatemala to reconcile its genocidal history. The track is featured on the Sound-Art EP "Evocations: Exotic Settlers"

In nearly every traveller's experience, the settlements of (un)civilization often provide an impermanent, temporal space even for the most autonomous of vagabonds. Especially in my experience, the piano has been a portal through which my sojourning meets the firm legs of tradition. In this union, both the ephemeral and everlasting are bonded under a greater mystery of the always passing, transient truth, elevating us to a higher sense of travel as mutually relative to the foundational ground of human tradition. Memory and history seed the pangs of movement with the brilliant emanations of creative ingenuity and inspired reflection.

So, in this track, imagine the traveller, or "exotic settler" chancing upon a piano under the weary heel of an empty horizon ahead, and the spiralling beauty of tradition below. "turning over the ashes of the Unnamed" is featured in the new self-published chapbook, "The Deceived Plane"

"The Deceived Plane" is a six poem chapbook on themes of social failure, the unsustainable psyche of Western Man, devolving at an insuperable pace through the mire of good intentions.

Beginning with personal irreconcilable defeatism in the breakdown of the Western family, towards a psyche of madness and the unwilling expansion of selfish ego into greater realities of the imagination, spirit and creativity.

Yet, each of the six poems reveals and awakes the deleterious mind of foul vanity with a brushstroke of unitive spirituality. The wake of greed pulls back in a tidal rush of release, and so these poems offer the ingredients of a raft on which to traverse the open oceanic beyond.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Dreamers Reconcile with Harsh Truths: S. Sudan and the Music of Memory

One thing that keeps me pushing these painful stories; the dreams I have. Sometimes, like, the voices of the dead that I have seen would tell me don't give up, keep on going, because sometimes I feel like stopping and not doing it, because I didn't know what I was putting myself into. (Emmanuel Jal, 2009)

What are your hopes and dreams?

I want to fly an airplane.

What else?

I want to be able to study in the daytime. And in the morning. And I want a day that I can just live…so I can build my house…where there aren't any problems that could destroy it.

Emmanuel Jal, age 9 (War Child)

On April 8, the Peace and Reconciliation Conference in Juba, the capital of South Sudan, began an unprecedented step forward in the nation’s history. On Monday April 15, South Sudan President Salva Kiir Mayardit suspended the conference indefinitely. Besides the $885 million contributed by the Canadian federal government to Sudan for humanitarian assistance between 2006-2012, many of the 4 million plus South Sudanese displaced have resettled in Canada to remain active in community rehabilitation. Activist groups, both based in South Sudanese communities as well as larger Canadian social organizations continue to sustain the meaning of reconciliation not only as an example for South Sudan, but for the globe.

            The most pressing issue with regard to reconciliation in South Sudan is creating an inclusive society where larger social participation is grassroots-oriented. In a country with one of the lowest literacy rates in the world, with over sixty unique spoken languages, democracy is a precarious notion for most. In an open letter to South Sudanese Vice-President, Dr. Riek Machar, David Mabior Atem of New Sudan Vision wrote:

Healing those long inflicted wounds against one another cannot be dealt with in 3-4 days as well as top down approach instead of bottom up approach…Another added advantage of beginning at grassroots level is the flexibility of language (dialects), which can result into high interactive and productive engagement.

            Dr. Riek Machar launched the official opening of the conference, which trains 200 peace and reconciliation mobilizers. “The newest nation on earth has embarked on a journey of healing for the national reconciliation,” the Sudan Tribune noted. Dr. Machar had also been married to British aid worker Emma McCune. International recording artist Emmanuel Jal, winner of the 2013 Calgary Peace Prize, had been rescued from Waat, South Sudan by Emma McCune as a Lost Boy. Jal took refuge in Kenya, eventually leading him to the UK, and Canada. Emmanuel Jal’s acceptance of the Calgary Peace Prize on behalf of all South Sudanese marks an especially significant moment in the common reconciliation efforts of Canada and South Sudan.

            “He uses himself as an example in his storytelling of how hard and difficult and long it's taken for him to begin the process of healing and of reconciliation with his former enemies, and that's the story that he told,” Consortium for Peace Studies director George Melnyk told The Media Co-op. “He's also very careful to not critique the South Sudanese who made him a child soldier.” The Consortium awards the Calgary Peace Prize to global visionaries working towards peace, beginning with Hiroshima Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba in 2006. The Consortium is currently the only post-secondary Peace Studies initiative in Calgary.

            James Nguen, founder of Biluany Literacy and Water project, responded with deep concern in an Op-Ed piece in South Sudan News Agency, decrying the indefinite suspension of the Peace and Reconciliation Conference in Juba. “This unfortunate development shocked everyone in South Sudan and around the world. There were no further details why the project was suspended,” Nguen wrote to The Media Co-op via email. “If people reconciled, then there will be no petty tribal raids which the past 8 years cost South Sudan government and the international community millions of dollars.”

            Although the Second Sudanese Civil War, which ultimately led to an independent South Sudan, started in 1984, the world did not respond until 2004. The political situation in Sudan, and now in South Sudan as well, is very complex and is steeped in both European colonial history as well as Egyptian foreign policy. The legalities of genocide with regard to reconciliation have remained unparalleled in controversy ever since the United Nations adopted the Genocide Convention in 1948. “There was a genocide in Darfur, and there was genocide in South Sudan from the beginning,” James Nguen said to The Media Co-op. “In order to secure the CPA [Comprehensive Peace Agreement], they could not force Al-Bashir to step down without confidence that his successor would respect the CPA. Only one of the three agreements of the CPA was met, which included peace agreements with Abyei, secondly, and Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains as a third agreement.”

            The outstanding agreement to respect the right to self-determination with the people in the Nuba Mountains has especially intensified on the issue of genocide. Global activism in solidarity with the Nuba people has followed in the wake of the independence of South Sudan in 2011, including the End the Nuba Genocide Coalition. The only area not consulted in drawing the new national border, Abyei, is directly impacted and holds outstanding land disputes. Abyei territory is a priority for the Juba Conference.

            South Sudan’s independence was “the most significant redrawing of the map of Africa since the colonization,” Angel Batiste, Area Specialist with the Africa and Middle Eastern Division of the Library of Congress in Washington D.C., noted, before introducing the lecture, Cultural Heritage in South Sudan in November 2012. 

            During the Calgary Peace Prize events this March, Emmanuel Jal raised eyebrows concerning the latest news from South Kordofan, where another genocide in Sudan seems to be taking shape with unprecedented momentum. “UN people down in Sudan are saying there’s a possibility that in South Kordofan that the genocide there could be worse than in Darfur,” said Jal to an eager crowd at the University of Calgary on March 1, 2013.

            The diaspora is truly integral to peace activism for South Sudanese. “They actually support their family members more than even the government does,” Jal told The Media Co-op, referring to the diaspora of South Sudan and their role in the reconciliation efforts ahead. “If you’re educated, if you have a degree in whatever form, don’t go home to look like you’re going to be employed by the government. You go there as an employer. Go there and use the skills we have there and establish something, because the country is still new. Whatever you touch will prosper.”

            Since late last year over sixty genocide scholars and anti-genocide activists initiated a letter writing campaign in response to the genocide atrocities in the Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains. These letters have fallen on what South Sudan’s leading independent news source, South Sudan News Agency has called, “absolute silence”. The Atrocities Prevention Board (APB), founded by U.S. President Obama specifically in response to the lack of U.S. governmental initiative towards preventing crimes against humanity and genocide, became the most important, and also most unresponsive, target audience. This April, South Sudan News Agency published the latest letter, sent to U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice. An excerpt from the letter reads:

We never expected, though, to have our letter (and now letters) go unanswered… when we, scholars of genocide studies and human rights activists, fail to receive a reply to a letter that we first wrote back in December 2012 and have now sent five times to four different individuals affiliated with the APB, it, indeed, feels as if the APB and its focus/work is little more than “a sideline in our foreign policy.”

             Similarly, in recent news, the only head of state in the Americas to be tried for genocide crimes, U.S.-backed Guatemalan dictator Efraín Ríos Montt, saw amnesty on April 18 after the current Guatemalan president intervened to have the case annulled. “It was the first time that any nation had been able to use its domestic criminal courts to try a former head of state for genocide,” said investigative journalist Allan Nairn on Democracy Now!

            Despite ineffective government intervention, independent non-profit and charity organizations, spearheaded by leaders from South Sudan, continue to work towards a sustainable society through reconciliation efforts. Biluany Literacy and Water Project, a development initiative led by James Nguen based in Calgary, has been active for over three years in building wells and providing educational resources in South Sudan. “There is no sustainable infrastructure in South Sudan, and without a lot of assistance from the international community, trust cannot be rebuilt,” Nguen said to The Media Co-op. “The greatest struggle is to represent ourselves, to know who we are as one community. The war eroded our cultural values, our history, our society.” Nguen recently partnered with Gua Africa, the charity of Emmanuel Jal, to fund well development and to organize a conference in Canada to mirror the Peace and Reconciliation Conference in Juba.

            Since winning national independence, other organizations in the Calgary area, home to the predominant South Sudanese community in Canada, are working towards reconciliation. South Sudan Peace Building International Foundation Inc. (SSPBIF) is one among them. Secretary of the SSPBIF Kuir ë Garang is also a prolific multi-genre author of six books. “People in South Sudan tend to regard literature as ornamental, they don't see how it can help relate people, to help people find relations between one another, so they can get together and have mutual understanding through education,” Garang told The Media Co-op. “Through literature, we can better represent ourselves. Now up to 70% [of people in South Sudan] are dissatisfied with their government.” Garang is currently working with a publishing house and bookstore in Juba to open a forum on multiculturalism and diversity for professional writers from Canada and South Sudan.

            Rural South Sudan is reputedly the most marginalized and underrepresented, effectively causing the need for grassroots inclusivity in Juba’s Peace and Reconciliation Conference and beyond. Resource conflicts both at national (oil exploitation) and grassroots (cattle raiding) levels have been at the root of social disorder in South Sudan. Augustino Lucano, a South Sudanese migrant from the Equatoria region living in Calgary, shares an unrivalled success story in bringing together divided rural ethnic groups and organizing incipient meetings with government representatives.

            Lucano received personal permission from South Sudan MP Joseph Lokodo Kolombos to open a peace center in his home region of Equatoria after presenting to the MP a research paper inspired by an Initiatives of Change workshop. “The problem is that people in rural South Sudan are still very divided, they do not see a way to live together yet with the whole nation yet,” Lucano said to The Media Co-op. Lucano, a member of the Didinga ethnic group, lost two brothers in conflicts with the neighboring Toposa people. “The Maaji peace centre is located in the middle of Didinga and Toposa land, in a flatland valley, where both tribes can meet peacefully,” Lucano conveyed to The Media Co-op. “So far there has been no raiding at the peace centre in Maaji. First, it was necessary to establish the peace centre where resources could be shared, and then we can discuss reconciliation.”

             In February 2013, the South Sudanese Minister of Wildlife’s visit to the Maaji Peace Centre drew tears from elders and children alike who had never before seen a car, no less a government car. “It showed how marginalized these people had been in the national developments, and also that the government was starting to establish a relationship with rural people, including them in the dialogue of the upcoming Peace and Reconciliation Conference in Juba,” Lucano told The Media Co-op.

             2013 is quickly becoming a year of unprecedented global reconciliation movements. The Peace and Reconciliation Conference in Juba is especially significant to Canada with its direct relationship to the activism of the Canadian diaspora of South Sudan. With the first head of state in the Americas having faced genocide charges, a more intimate link can be made with Indigenous peoples’ history in Canada. Will Canada renew its role as a global human rights leader in the wake of mounting genocide awareness around the world? Ongoing debates in Canada, spurred by Idle No More, emphasize reconciliation with First Nations as an inclusive reconciliation with humanity. 

This article previously appeared for The Media Co-op on April 29, 2013
the road to rome is paved in bones by RK
madness by RK
the human rabbit hole by RK
old west art by RK
papercut & stoned by RK
conjuring a sense of the once roaming herds of mammals that lit upon the open horizons of our once naked landscapes - the frame drum evokes a sacred connection to our mammalian evolution through a heartened soul brethren with large mammals, and our precarious evolutionary stability as one of the most vulnerable types of living creatures on planet earth - in the piece, i speak of the charge of the electric pole of patriotic industry over the breadth of our continent as the sacrifice of ourselves, as male-female witch, burned on the flagpole of national identity, a sacrifice brought about by the all-devastating silence of voice, speaking of a way of life not bound to the dominant settler society, yet existing now only in negation to the sedentary ecology of consumerism and vacation, with regard to the lost history and memory of our true selves in communion with the deeper movement of life as we once knew it

Placed Anonymity, like the chapbook, "A Sick Society Amuck" is inspired by the words of Jiddhu Krishnamurti, iconoclastic spiritual philosopher, who said, "truth is a pathless land". Truth lies in the anonymity of place as is, without meaning, as a river is in essence meaningless until commemorated by a name and story, whether of scientific or folkloric mythologies.

in a pathless land, how do we come to know the land, or know what is true, HERE? that exploration is the foundation for this four poem chapbook, eventually culminating in collectivist thinking, to aspire towards a basis of unity evading the muddled institutionalization of creative freedom

Monday, 13 May 2013

Sky IS the Limit: Sustainable Architects Transform Our Militarized World

"If all of the soldiers in all of the armies in all of the world were to put down their weapons and pick up tools and start making sustainable housing for all the people in the world, life would just begin on this planet." Michael Reynolds, Garbage Warrior, on Democracy Now!

Jorg Ostrowski and his wife Helen are two trained architects who have trail blazed sustainable housing in Canada and around the world. On April 20, Jorg opened his home on Scurfield Drive in northwest Calgary to the public, in celebration of Earth Day, for RecoSolutions, offering free tours on sustainability. “All of my projects since 1972 have been sustainable,” Jorg wrote via email. “We have built with rammed earth, straw bale, stack wall, double log, EcoStuds, prefab, Blackie Block and stick built. I have given ‘hands on’ workshops on rammed earth and straw bale in various provinces, including a 6 day workshop for the David Suzuki Foundation, in BC.” 

Arriving at the doorstep beneath the iconic sunray-painted awning above the front door, Jorg announced, “Transportation is part of the equation,” pointing to two automobiles in the driveway. Behind the Smart Car is a VW Golf that is converted to run on waste vegetable oil as part of a continuing R&D program. Recent trips to Vancouver and back, and cross-country on other excursions have cost zero dollars. People often donate vegetable oil. Japanese restaurants are reputed for the highest-grade waste vegetable oil. "The goal is to download electric and thermal energy into batteries, grid and slab," Jorg wrote. 

Along the outside porch, the most noted sustainability measures are various blue water bins collecting rainwater that goes into a cistern able to store enough water for many months, based on low consumption and average rainfall. An apparatus below the front porch is shaped like an oversized foghorn with a square container fitted inside with a cooking pot. The solar cooker concentrates enough sunlight that even in -25 Celsius on a clear day, the inside temperature rises to 100 degrees centigrade.  

Inside the home, a large office space to the left leads down a short hallway to a cozy living room reception. About ten people attended the ecoTour at three o’clock in the snowy afternoon under unlit LED lights, also fitted throughout the home. With over 140,000 guests so far in its 20-year history, the Alberta home/office is unique in Canada for not using city water, sewer, gas or furnace. The ecoHouse is heated by passive/active solar, internal heat gain and left over waste as backup. 

On any given month, schoolchildren will graduate from the ecoTour given by Jorg Ostrowski himself, chock-full of architectural knowledge (the legacy of a career spanning four decades beginning with an M.I.T. graduate education in architecture) and an astounding display of hands-on examples for small-scale, local sustainability. Beginning in the living room, natural light pours in from all angles, especially south-facing, including an “experimental window” featuring unrivalled five-pane krypton-sealed glass. On the coffee table, a seemingly unimpressive array of likely architectural samples is strewn about. As conversation ensues, each item reveals itself as highly innovative environmentally friendly material or technology, including organic wool carpet, flaxseed Marmoleum flooring, recycled newsprint insulation, and solvent-free adhesive, motorized airtight damper, and the latest LED lights, among many others. 

The moral of the story: making the home airtight is the key to conserving energy. Utilizing natural heat sources like the position of the sun, and even body temperature are integral and often underwritten in the dominant modes of contemporary architecture. A centerpiece of the home is a traditional fireplace and oven common to many European and Asian traditions, known as a Russian Stove, Korean Ondol or Chinese Kang heating systems among many other names. The fireplace is used for central backup heating and cooking, including for heating water. After priming the central heating mechanism before a recent month-long trip during the winter month of March, the empty house only lost about eight degrees centigrade without additional oversight. 

From the living room through a concave hallway into the kitchen, numerous plants line windows and vegetation of all kinds hangs from the ceiling. A beautifully set deadfall tree acts as a post for second floor beams. Allowing live trees is important to continue to absorb CO2. Especially abundant are aloe plants for their exceptional capacity to purify the air and provide a natural source for glyconutrients and medicine. The energy mainstay of the kitchen is the refrigerator. Used for only about six months in the year, an indubitably pragmatic cold closet replaces the need for a refrigerator in the cold climate, substantially reducing kilowatt-hours per year and extending the life cycle of the very energy efficient fridge/freezer right beside it. 

Next, Jorg leads the ecoTour into a personal office space, where small portholes, reminiscent of a ship’s cabin, line the wall. Behind the glass at least six examples of alternative insulation are exhibited, including sheep’s wool, an expensive though probable example. Around the house, vents are fitted to facilitate heat and air circulation, and air-to-air heat exchangers minimize heat loss.

The middle of the home features the dry compost toilets on both levels, with the upstairs fully functional for guests. The system is “not perfect” said Ostrowski, although an exemplary means to recycle human waste, and in addressing a crucial need for water management in mainstream housing infrastructure. All biological waste goes into an engineered multi-purpose year-round composting chamber, combining 3 critical household operations.

  1. Major blue box recycling centre and deposit box of the house to receive all biodegradable waste, including all human and kitchen waste                                                                                                                                    
  2. Major water conservation equipment to save 200,000 litres of drinking water per year (family of four)                                                                                                      
  3. Fertilizer plant to produce healthy earth, and compost tea, a great liquid fertilizer

"In summary, although not perfect, it is the stomach of the house, quite efficient and critical to the sustainable future of the planet," wrote Jorg.       

Upstairs, bedrooms are designed for accessibility. Two smaller rooms on one side have a connecting doorway, to facilitate spatial linkages for small children and potential opportunities for bed & breakfast hospitality or simply an office-bedroom combination. The master bedroom is flooded with natural light from a panorama of south-facing windows tastefully mirrored, with ceiling windows, two hallways, and a catwalk built of metal grating above the living room, offering a distinctly interconnected ambiance between the master bedroom with the rest of the home. Ventilation above the center of the bed draws from the central, water-based heating system. An antique tub is installed in the adjacent ensuite, with consideration for recycling the work and material required to reuse such conventionally obsolete fixtures. With adequate attention, there is natural light enough to grow tomatoes aplenty on the windowsills. A small addition alcove to the master bedroom, located above the greenhouse, provides much needed sanctuary. 

Outdoors, solar panels are fitted on ground level around the ecoHouse with mind to wind, dust and snow that often collects on often poorly conceived roof-installations. Ground placement allows optimal accessibility in maintenance, and effectively the highest degree of energy output. 

All in all, RecoSolutions was a lesson in successful, off-the-grid sustainable housing within the limits of a major city in North America. With a single prime mover, such as the 70 HP power mechanism used in the VW Golf to provide heat and electricity for a long-distance car ride, over one hundred homes in the likelihood of Jorg Ostrowski’s ecoHouse can be sustained. These homes not only sustain renewable energy sources, but also reduce the risks of outgassing from chemicals in standard building materials, contaminants in public water and damage from power outages. Furthermore, the ecoHouse can facilitate the production of energy, exporting power back into the grid. 

The lack of sustainable housing development in Canada, especially when so willfully and ably illustrated as in the RecoSolutions ecoTour in Calgary, only adds to the shameful prerogatives of national priority. Helen Ostrowski, who co-organizes events and activities at the ecoHouse, also active with international development work in the Philippines, China and most recently Iran, among others, commented that when they were starting out in the 1970s, there was no opportunity for young people to be involved with sustainable housing in university programs, or in applying environmentally friendly architectural products as today. When they had built their ecoHouse nearly twenty years ago, the city of Calgary was uniquely open to their alternative housing development with respect to their work as two highly trained graduate architects, active and recognized in the field.    

At the end of the ecoTour, a very intelligent participant was flabbergasted that mainstream society continues to neglect the most important of these very simple and doable measures. Western lifestyle identifies human settlement first and foremost through consumer values. Modern human life is defined by consumerism, and is inextricably linked to the catastrophic waste-chains of urban and suburban housing. In the normative social and political agenda of North America, human existence depends on consumerism. True productivity and actual development does not merely contribute manufactured material to the growing waste stream but reciprocates human life with natural energy cycles.  

In the growing petro-state policies of the federal government of Canada, energy consumption far outweighs energy production. Without public awareness campaigns such as the RecoSolutions ecoTour, ignorance perpetuates the consumer mode of being as the only way of being. Yet, in this the same world as that of increasing urban sprawl, one energy/grid independent, sustainable ecoHouse illustrates how human beings also produce energy and give back to what Jorg named as the three most important points of sustainable living; clean water, healthy earth, and reusable energy. 

On June 1 and June 8, the Calgary ecoHome will be open for public tours.
Please see the Calgary ecoHome website, ASH - Autonomous & Sustainable Housing Inc. AND/OR Contact Jorg Ostrowski at for more details. 

This article is also published on The Media Co-opIndyMedia
Authentic Greenwash by RK
The Point of Return by RK
Sky Paint by RK
Empyreal Intersection by RK
Gloom & Hollow by RK
Urban Landing by RK
"I drank in the stupor", founded on the original Latin meaning of the word stupor, as, 'to be amazed or stunned,' the piece draws from an experience during the Day of Lady Guadalupe in Mexico, where I observed my future wife from afar as she street performed music in a city square. The overshadowing presence of Lady Guadalupe breathed the immense breath of the goddess of compassion Kuan Yin, through her Chinese zither music, and both protectresses mirrored their gaze through mine, visually and aurally with a searching heart bursting and blooming with the stupefying gift love. As French writer and philosopher Paul Valery said, "Love is being stupid together."  

Listen in to a sound art vocalization-exclamation of "I drank in the stupor" on my newest album, "Evocations: Exotic Settlers" on, featuring an epic wave of shakuhachi improvisations. 

In two parts, A Sick Society Amuck features twelve pieces, and three original art interpretations on the theme and collection "Exotic Settlers". Four of these pieces were published in the 29th issue of Steel Bananas Quarterly "how in the year of the rabbit, the pure still need things," "I drank in the stupor," "interpretive direction," and "where is the mind in life?" 

The phrase, "sick in a sick society" is based on the spiritual wisdom of Jiddhu Krishnamurti, who said "It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society." So follows various observations and expressions supporting and steeped in this wisdom of seeing. Many of the pieces are satires equally on personal and collective health related to addiction and nationalism, where both divide and dismantle the health of human consciousness, which requires holism. Complementary themes of travel and history juxtapose subjection with abjection. 

Monday, 6 May 2013

Roots of a Grecian Heart: Seeds of Superstition and Truth

"Even in our day there are plenty of soothsayers and sibyls, and many people still believe in dreams and omens. It is no wonder that the ancients did so, too. But we should keep well in mind that while these arts are now despised by educated people and ranked with superstition they were an acknowledged part of Greek religion." Martin P. Nilsson, Greek Popular Religion

"I woke with this marble head in my hands; / It exhausts my elbows and I don't know where to put it down. / It was falling into the dream as I was coming out of the dream. / So our life became one and it will be very difficult for it to separate again." Seferis, Mythistorema

Sunday April 21 is another afternoon, like any other late winter day in Calgary, where sporadic snowfall lights on the sprawling residential landscape. A few blocks from the university in the northwest quarter of the city, one home opens its doors to lovers of Greek culture, ancient and contemporary. A neighbor walks down the road, on her way to the event, to show a bewildered downtown urbanite the way in a dizzying maze of suburbia. Host Karen Gummo greets at the door, a member-at-large of TALES, The Alberta League for the Encouragement of Storytelling.

The house concert event features Jennie Frost, recently selected in August 2012 byStorytellers of Canada / Conteurs du Canadaas an Elder in Canadian storytelling, a prestigious recognition awarded only once a year. She will be recording for the StorySave Project, which honors and preserves the oral storytelling traditions of Canada. Aboriginal, Irish and Canadian heritages are among the many recognized by Story Save storytellers. Frost, a classics scholar, published her first book, “The Courtship of Hippodameia” in 2005. Frost has performed stories for festivals, concerts, conferences, libraries and over one hundred schools in eight provinces and one territory since 1996. A 2-CD set of her workPygmalion and Other Greek Myths was for sale at the event, along with her book.

The event did not begin with storytelling, however, but a taksim, a term and practice borrowed from other Middle-Eastern cultures meaning the improvisatory opening to a song in Greek music. Calgary Greek music band, Rembetika Hipsters were present to provide dynamic energy to the overall muse and meaning of story in the Greek tradition. Having toured much of Canada and Greece, the Rembetika Hipsters have released three successful CDs. The band continues to receive great recognition in Greece, especially for a video recording of their tenth anniversary concert in Calgary, where they played with a nine-piece ensemble. After performing the first song, bouzouki player and vocalist Nick Diochnos told one of his own personal stories, set during his Greek wedding in Athens, where he bought his first bouzouki with extra wedding money.

Rhythm guitarist and singer Allen Baekeland of the Rembetika Hipsters gave historical background and taught the meaning of the Greek band name. In the wake of the most significant and traumatic period in Modern Greek history, the Greco-Turkish War (1919-1922), the Rembetika culture formed. The war, known as the Catastrophe by Greeks, led to the forced expulsion, or “population exchange treaty” of all Greek communities in Turkey, including the notable city of Smyrna. Over one million Greeks in Turkey were forced into exile. As a result, one in five people in Greece were refugees.

With their Turkish-influenced culture, vagrant impoverishment, drug use and outlaw mentality, refugee youth became what in Greek is known as Manges, loosely translated as hipsters. While very popular in the 1920s and 30s, the Rembetika music, likened to American blues, was banned by government authorities. Nick explained that there are two connotations to the word, either it is used between buddies to denote camaraderie, or between parent and child as a means of castigation. Throughout many songs played during the course of the event, Nick would exclaim, “Hey Mange…Opa!”

With a repertoire of over a hundred songs, the Rembetika Hipsters played a diverse selection, not only of Rembetika songs, but also of Greek folk and popular songs. Two songs were especially poignant for their performance, as well as the stories that accompany. Firstly, they sung Sto Perigiali To Krifo, with music by legendary Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis in collaboration with Greek poet, and Nobel laureate, Giorgos Seferis. The work of Theodorakis, spanning from orchestral suites to popular tunes, has also been integral to the revitalization of Rembetika music into post-WWII popularity. Secondly, Ta Pedia Tou Pirea was sung in memory of Melina Mercouri, a Greek actress, singer and political activist, who sung the ode to the beauty of the Greek port town of Pireus in the film, Never on Sunday. The Rembetika Hipsters commented that the port town’s charm is actually a bit more of the rough than the diamond.

Jennie Frost captivated a silent crowd of about twenty keen listeners with stories from the ancient sagas of the Greek pantheon. Storytelling alternated with the music throughout the afternoon. Frost introduced her storytelling modus operandi with a short prefatory anecdote regarding her break from conventional academic interpretations. She gives ancient stories a refreshing new life. During her lively orations, she holds an elegantly crafted wooden cane, in homage to Indigenous traditions of the talking-stick. An elephant sculpture melts into an Ankh-shaped handle, in which are tied innumerable paper-crafted memorabilia from all of the communities she has visited to enlighten through the living tradition of oral storytelling.

With detail enough to craft the most intricate narrative, Frost weaves in and out of character dialogue and illustrates setting with the lithe energy of the overseeing deities she so magically conveys. One of her most memorably enchanting stories drew from Zeus, in relationship with his children, Hermes and Apollo. The visceral imagination of ancient Greek life, as in the story of Apollo’s maturation into his role as the god of music, knowledge and poetry evokes the divine majesty of creative human faculties. Hermes, who ultimately gifts Apollo his lyre in the story, becomes messenger of the gods, evincing respect for the underlying interconnectedness of all great worldly and divine phenomena into a harmonious narrative of familial interrelationships.

Frost told many stories, drawing not only from classical Greece. Her final story revealed a welcome gift for diverse cultural expression. Before reciting a quaint Chinese tale about a half-wit boy named Noodle, who eventually outsmarted the gentry of an ancient city through a spirited affinity to poetic meter, Frost proclaimed to all her enthusiasm for epic storytelling sessions. For Frost, a five-hour long telling passes with sparkling enthusiasm. Nonetheless, Frost finished telling her last line on time to close the three-hour event, leaving all with a smile.

The Calgary cityscape glowed from the picture window behind the musicians and storyteller. The love of storytelling is a common root of social cohesion, yet the traditional arts of oral storytelling are too often ignored with similar cultural dissolution as seen in the disappearance of global language diversity. Storytelling, in the traditional and artistic forms of oration, is not simply a nostalgic reversion to childhood.

The lyrics of Giorgos Seferis speak with god-like insight and metaphoric clarity. Impermanent love, the hasty fool’s rush to consummate young lust, is the subject of his poem Denial, better known as the song, Sto Perigiali To Krifo, sung by the Rembetika Hipsters. In a society dependent on non-renewable life sources, is the consumer resource paradigm of a young nation as Canada not also likened to a parable of the impermanent lust of young love? As Seferis writes in Denial:

On the secret seashore
white like a pigeon
we thirsted at noon;
but the water was brackish.

On the golden sand
we wrote her name;
but the sea-breeze blew
and the writing vanished.

With what spirit, what heart,
what desire and passion
we lived our life: a mistake!
So we changed our life...

Oral storytelling roots people to an inner renewal of life, as innately creative, and in continuity with the most fundamental and longest standing traditions of humanity.

This story has appeared on The Media Co-op and will also appear in the upcoming June issue of TALES (newsletter)
Where are we? Israel? Canada? No, North American Zion!
Zion Canyon by Frederick S. Dellenbaugh
Desolate summer ski hills are lush, verdant with pine undergrowth. Through an open ski lane, gargantuan Canadian flags billow. A park ranger sights us. I escape solo, just barely through a bush thicket. Trailing beside a river’s edge, where I once ogled at two young lovers, the Israeli sky burns with the beautiful bounty of original sin multiplying with infinity at every touch, every sight, sound, smell and every taste of spirit. The racket of espionage flutters in the newspaper wind. I heave a sigh, bitter with unrest.

Fleeing to Sichuan province from Chang'an to escape the violence by Li Chao-tao
Nightfall, the shattered windows and shades of old Brooklyn stare with criminal rites. Anger seethes from the manhole pores of the upended city. A ruinous dearth of humanity bleeds from my open-strung heart down the spinal chords of a silent song: my jungle cage. Television home blink, flicker, there! The thief, drunk, with rapist eyes eyes mine concrete stone grounded roof possessions. A friend points-blank his rifled arm into our pitch fate. The silence groans with inner loathing, like a brooding cancer unknown, deep in the marrow.

An Interesting Game by Frederick Arthur Bridgman
So, morning, we rise with the tide and board a ship set with haste. A vacant room, splotched with growl, we swung with the churning waves, a smiling rat-spawned day. The worst was over. America far behind, Zion of mind and heart derided in a momentary pause, to reflect on the Old World border of genocidal rampage, the forgotten wick, unlit on this Sabbath morning. Two friends, we disappear within a schizophrenic race. Evening fires glow soft with candlelight.

Painting of Dream Figures on Bark by Unknown
Tattooed mistresses, with raised skin, beset with the tribal bond of white scars breathe from lungs rising and falling under the most intricately carved bones. The monarch is absent. Bewildered, the ship sinks like a dead man, flooding as with the inverted pressure of the oceanic ambiance bursting outwards, into the wooden vessel of sleep and need.  
A hyper-ambient, atmospheric guitar & voice elucidation on themes of the variance between the doer and the doing, subject and object, creation and creator. The vocal sounding contemplates the inner nature of human life as the most provident offering back to nature. To learn reciprocity with the entire universe begins by looking within. The word is a gift. "shaped by more hands" refers to the creative act as in step with the dream-notion, going back to Carl Jung, that 'I am not the only one in my house' or that the psyche is full with collective consciousness, that within us is all of us. All things issue through us by way of conscious intent.

In the creative arts, dreaming and waking often cross paths. Is speaking and thinking similar in psychic variance from that of dreaming and waking?This is the question I am posing in the aftermath of the creative process, which led to the track, "shaped by more hands". The question is meant for all to ruminate with thoughtless meditation, through a constant emptying of mind, towards a renewal of deeper intelligence beyond the egotism of intellect and apparent word-logic.

The chapbook, "Seeds and Roots" from the larger collection, Exotic Settlers, contains 9 poems on the theme of cultural metaphors related to heritage, ancestry and the myths and rites of collective human identity. Beginning with simple muses on Jewish cultural roots, I then embellish a transcendence of nostalgia through a regression of biological metaphors.

The root, with all of its instilled metaphors of stability, truly originates from seed. While reminiscent of the old chicken-egg riddle, the seed is a transient holder of sacred inner truth, ultimately leading to a grounded promise of settlement. Yet, in exploring a healthy and holistic mind of settlement, i.e. through the experimental writings found in Exotic Settlers, the more ephemeral or fleeting reality of origination must be kept close at hand. For, in Buddhist terms, the root is the middle way, yet the seed is that ephemerality from which we come and to which we go.

The selected piece for sound art / experimental music works, found on Evocations: Exotic Settlers ( is "Shaped By More Hands" which I find to be a blissful rendering of the beauty of Wu Wei, or the Taoist philosophy of non-intervention with the flux of being and mind, where in the allowance of natural flow is the growth of the seed from the root to the flowering seed.