Red Dirt Skinners at Studio 64

Studio 64 (Kimberley) Spring 2022 Jazz and Blues Concert Series – Red Dirt Skinners.    – 2022/05/13,8pm

This was the original poster for the Red Dirt Skinners concert  but as we all know the pandemic has ruined many a plan of mice and men and here we are two years further down the road………..

Music is a performance art that, at its best exists at the moment of creation. It requires performers (obviously) and an audience in a physical environment that promotes the interaction between the two. Given the right mix the experience can be transcendental. During the pandemic there has been no shortage of downloadable digital music. Music is just about every where, but live performances have virtually disappeared. This has been extremely hard on performers. Incomes have disappeared and the emotional feed back required for the self actualization of the artist is non-existent. That has been the situation for over two years but now appears to be becoming to an end. The Pandemic is not over but restrictions on social and cultural gatherings are easing to the point where live music is emerging from its enforced hibernation. The Kimberly Arts Council Spring Jazz and Blues Concert Series is part of the renewal of the live music scene in Kimberley. The Melody Diachun Quartet concert in April was the very first in the 2022 Spring Jazz and Blues Concert Series. It was a very tentative step with only about 40 patrons in the audience. In this, the second concert in the series, the audience has been  increased to around 75. It is anticipated that for the third and final concert in the series the audience numbers will be back up to full capacity.

Keith Nicolas, on behalf of the Kimberley Arts Council, has been negotiating with The Red Dirt Skinners for over two years and after numerous cancellations and postponements, The Red Dirt Skinners (Rob Skinner – guitar, vocals and foot percussion; Sarah Skinner – back up vocals and soprano sax) finally made it to Kimberley for a much-anticipated concert. “The Red Dirt Skinners are an Anglo-Canadian multi-genre duo, who formed in 2011”. They had been very active in Britain and Europe before their “accidental” relocation to Canada about five years ago. As the duo explains it, they were contacted by the Stratford Festival for an engagement. It wasn’t until the festival organizers sent them airline tickets that they realized that it was Stratford Ontario and not Stratford, England. Driving to the gig would not be an option. They ended up doing 12 shows over 17 days. During that time they were exposed to some Canadian cultural norms such as Bear Spray and a whole new understanding of distances between gigs.  The engagement was so successful that the duo started looking at the possibility and final relocation to Canada.

Patrons may have a hard time categorizing their music. Based on the Kimberley performance I suggest they have a very unique blend of a “classic rock” vibe, singer/song writer sensibilities with jazzy melodic enhancements provided by the soprano sax. Their acknowledged musical influences include Supertramp, Pink Floyd, David Bowie and Queen.  Their repertoire is mostly original material with the occasional cover songs. As with the best of song writers their songs and stories have come out of a wealth of personal encounters and experiences. Currently their use of soprano sax in a rock environment is unusual. The only other similar use of the soprano sax that I can recall is Branford Marsalis performing with Sting in the mid 80s and 90s.

The evening kicked off with an original song advising young performers to follow their muse (“Why Don’t you listen to your own dreams?”). What followed was a number of songs that included an ode to the pandemic A Life on Pause; Hey Crawford – a nod to a long-time teacher they met in Ontario; Your Hearts Not Here – a song lamenting dementia; Bad Apple; Brighter Days Ahead; Blossoms and Rain (a day in Brussels); Lay Me Down; Day Break and a cover of David Bowie’s Space Oddity (“Ground Control to Major Tom”). For me the best story of the evening was “Frank’s” persistent request for Pink Floyd’s Comfortably Numb. The final song of the evening, Feet of Clay, celebrated Fionna Campbell’s eleven-year 20,000 mile walk around the world.

Here are some images from the evening ……..

    

     

Once again thanks must go to the Kimberley Arts Council,  the organizing Committee and the volunteers who made the evening possible. In keeping live music, well “Live”, they have stepped up to the plate in these difficult times. Thank you, Thank you, Thank You.

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COVID 19 – An ill-wind that blew some good.

In late December 2019, a previous unidentified coronavirus, currently named as the 2019 novel coronavirus, emerged from Wuhan, China, and resulted in a formidable outbreak in many cities in China and expanded to every country on the globe. Millions of people have become infected and many millions have died. It is the greatest pandemic since the “Spanish Flu”  of 1919.  We have all experienced enough death, disruption and economic hardship to agree with the notion that the Covid-19 pandemic is an ill wind.

However, there is one impact of the pandemic that cannot be denied. The Covid-19 pandemic ended Donald Trump’s dream of a second term as the President of the United States. Despite a record number of lies, political fumbles and gross incompetence he had every chance of winning a second term but his mishandling of the pandemic brought that possibility crashing down. Personally I think that was a good thing. Consider the political events in the Ukraine over the last six months. Donald Trump had managed to muddle through most of his first term, by lying, firing staff, ignoring sound advice, shifting blame and, as I said muddling through. But Putin’s invasion of Ukraine imposed a whole new set of realities. Ones that could not be dismissed with unthinking random off the top of the head solutions. It required a realistic measured response based on good advice, knowledge of the issues, sound judgement and an ability to work with allies. So as terrible as it has been just imagine how much worse it could have been if Donald Trump was still in the White House with his finger on the “Nuclear button”

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Postscript: UNFIT – A trailer of an Anti-Trump documentary

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Melody Diachun Quartet at Studio 64

Studio 64 (Kimberley) Spring 2022 Jazz and Blues Concert Series – Melody Diachun Quartet. (2022/04/16)

When starting out on a new project it is always a good idea to have a clear goal in mind. It provides stimulus and focus. Last time round (2017) the Nelson musician Melody Daichun zeroed in on the music of Brazil and the Beatles. It informed the program for a brilliant concert held on October 28,2017 at the Studio 64. This time round the goal of choice for Melody and her quartet was the music of Sting. Now, Sting is best known as the front man for the band The Police. This loud, powerhouse trio of Sting (Bass, vocals), Andy Summers (guitar) and Stewart Copeland (percussion) dominated the international pop scene in the years 1977 through 1986. While, I always thought that Sting was a bit of a poser, the band’s mixture of Punk, Reggae and Jazz appealed to me. Once I overlooked the abrasive loudness and hype of the band I realized their music had substance. Maybe it was just the jazz influences that appealed to me.  Post-Police, with his strong song writing skills, Sting emerged as a solo performer with musicality and an uncanny ability to form brilliant collaborations with musicians from across the musical spectrum. At one stage he was fronting “the best jazz band in the world”. An exaggeration perhaps but not by much. That band included saxophonist Branford Marsalis and pianist Kenny Kirkland and they definitely had solid jazz credentials. Their performances provided a whole new sophisticated way of presenting the music of Sting. In light of this new perspective it is no wonder that Melody Diachun (vocals) Doug Stephenson (bass), David Restivo (piano) and Tony Ferraro (drums) chose a program of Sting’s music. Originally, the intent was to go into the studio and record the material for a new CD. Of course, the Covid pandemic put that on pause for over two years. We are slowly emerging from the shadow of the last two years and the recording project is back on track. This concert was a preview of the CD that will be released later this year.

The first tune of the evening was the reggae inspired Walking on the Moon. Originally recorded by The Police in October 1979 the title is a euphemism for walking on air i.e.. “falling in Love”. The second song was The Shape of my Heart, a song that reveals Sting’s nice gift for crafting words.

I know that the spades are the swords of a soldier
I know that the clubs are weapons of war
I know that diamonds mean money for this art
But that’s not the shape of my heart

Fragile is my all time favorite song by Sting and the 5/4 bass intro by Doug Stephenson took the performance to another level. Don’t Stand So Close to Me, also from The Police repertoire, is a rumination on the mixed feelings of lust, fear and guilt. Roxanne is one of those songs that lends itself to a myriad of interpretations. From a soft bossa nova to ear numbing power house rock. The songs and the brilliant interpretations rolled on through the evening with sparkling instrumental solos on bass, piano and drums interspersed among the lyrics. It was nice to hear David Restivo on the Centre’s grand piano and, of course, the Kootenay’s “go to drummer” Tony Ferraro with all his tasty licks, fills, punctuations and sonic shadings.  Other songs included When we Dance, Tea in Sahara, Love is a Seventh Wave (with some great brushwork by Tony Ferraro), Consider Me Gone (based on Shakespeare’s Sonnet #35 and featuring a great bass line explored on the piano), We Worked the Black Seam, I Burn for You and Fields of Barley. The song lyrics for  Russians, written in another time, in another place and in a different set of circumstances are  so appropriate for today that they could have been written any time in the past month.

There is no monopoly on common sense

On either side of the political fence

We share the same biology, regardless of ideology

Believe me when I say to you

I hope the Russians love their children too

The audience participation on the final line “I hope the Russians love their children too” was a nice touch.

The evening had some touches of humor. Melody gave up on her high, high, training heels and opted for gym shoes in the second half and we thought we had lost her for the rest of the evening when she accidently locked her self out of the performance area when the musicians were taking extended solos on a tune.

The audience for the evening was small. That was a shame because it was a stellar performance and if the musicians decide to come back and do a repeat show then it should not be missed. The numbers of patrons  may have been low because of pandemic hesitancy or just the fact that it was Easter Saturday.

Thanks must go to the Kimberley Arts Council and the organizing Committee. In keeping live music, well “Live”, they stepped up to the plate in these difficult times. Thank you, Thank you, Thank You. And thanks Ray for the excellent sound and lights.

I am looking forward to the release of the CD later in the year. In the meantime here are some images from the evening………….

          

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POSTSCRIPT:

Rick Beato’s interview with Sting –

Fragile – The Jazz Baltica 2003 Performance –

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The Name Has Changed ………

I knew it as “The Bower”, short for Fairy Bower, a right hand reef break off the headland just beyond the south end of Manly Beach in Sydney Australia.  In days gone bye, as the story goes, the bush land trails there about was notorious as a meeting places for gays.  But that is another story. The break was not often in good condition but when the swell was up and coming from the right direction it was a magnet for aspiring “hard men”. There were a number of ways to get to the break. You could walk the promenade from Manly beach to the Milk Bar mid-way between Manly and Shelley  Beach and hop the sea wall to a  convenient launching spot for the short paddle across the bay.. Alternatively one could drive to the side road that lead down to the Milk Bar and that adjacent launching spot. Because of the lack of parking that was not usually advised. The final route was to drive to the parking spot on the top of the Fairy Bower headland, unload your surf board  and walk down through the bush or down by Shelley Beach  to find a convenient launching spot at the base of the cliff. The surf was the stuff of legends. The take off spot was as close to the cliff as one dared to go. The idea was to  jockey for the ideal take off spot, paddle in, drop down into a bottom turn, climb up the wave high enough to navigate around Surge Rock then settle in for The Race Track out into the channel. In days before leg leashes it was inevitable that at some time during the day you would take a tumble and have to swim out into the middle of channel to retrieve your surf board. It was always a little unsettling to look down as you swam swim over the reef and watch it drop away below you into the deep dark water of the channel. I often wondered who or what actually lived down there.

A lot depended on the tide and the direction of the swell to create a quality wave but when the quality arrived the  spot had its legends and heroes. In the mid-1960s “Nipper” Williams, Glenn Ritchie and Robbie Lane were the acknowledged masters.  There was one very famous photo of “Nipper” Williams taking off way “inside” and navigating around the top of Surge Rock. One day, in a monumental breach  of surfing etiquette I made the mistake of “dropping in” on “Nipper” Williams as he came roaring out of the inside take off area. At the end of the ride he reminded me of my breach of etiquette. No harsh words,  just a gentlemanly reminder to do the right thing in future.  Those were kinder, gentler days and in modern times it might have lead to a punch up in the water or a later altercation on the beach. Over the years surfers started pushing the boundaries of what was possible by moving into more dangerous take off spots closer and closer to the cliff face.  Warren Smith opened up one such spot that became known as Winky Pop. At the time we thought he was insane.

I did have one monumental day. I think it was an early morning session before heading off to work.The surf was up, way, way up. I drove to the Milk Bar and parked the car. There were lots of available parking spaces. That should have been my first clue. Even though it was very early in the day it was still unusual for so many parking spots to be available. I looked across the bay and it did look big. That should have been my second clue.  I paddled across the bay and further and further out to what I assumed would be the take off spot. I was getting more nervous by the minute. The swell was absolutely massive. Probably fifteen foot plus and thick, thick, thick…….. and the roar of the breaking waves that filled the air was thunderous.  Eventually, I realized I was the only surfer in the water and maybe there was reason for that. That was clue number three. In the past I had ridden beach breaks of over ten feet or so and I thought maybe I could handle this. But on reconsidering the situation I realized that this swell was way out of my league. If I got into trouble it would be big, big trouble and I was out here all alone. In the end I chickened out, counted my blessings and paddled back across the bay to the Milk Bar. I can’t remember if it was the same day, same weekend end or even the same storm swell but around that time there was a photo story in the local surf magazine of a big surf day at the Fairy Bower. It featured a photo of  Billy Hannah racing across the bottom of a massive twenty foot face that hovered over him like the “hammer of doom”. He took a pounding and lost his board. It was last seen being swept out to sea. It was never recovered. For all we knew it could have ended up in New Zealand.

That was then and this is now. We are fifty years further on into April 2022 with big storm swells hitting the East Coast of Australia. There are many YouTube videos of a surf spot called Deadman’s at Manly Beach in Sydney Australia. I had never heard of this spot but after viewing the videos it became evident to my eyes this was the old surf spot I knew as The Fairy Bower. Somewhere along the way the prissy name had be replaced with the more threatening Deadman’s. Considering the size of the waves, “the do or die” take off spot right in front of the cliff it is a very apt name. Over the past fifty years big wave riding has evolved to the point where surfers are attacking giant swells in a manner that in former times would have been considered suicidal. This is a big wave surfing spot almost in the middle of big city suburbia that rivals some of the legendary big wave spots in Hawaii and California. Check out the following video of a big day at Deadman’s ………

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Read any Good Books lately ? (#23)- Truckers eh!

Well, the reputation of tuckers has recently taken a pounding so it is good to read some novels that portray these knights of the road  in a more pleasing light. Better  yet, these are Canadian stories written by the Canadian author  R.E.Donald. This series of six stories is called The  Hunter Rayne Highway Mystery Books.

Ruth E. Donald was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba. She worked in the transportation industry in various capacities for 25 years (from 1972 until 2001) and draws on this experience, as well as those of Jim Donald (her late husband), in creating the realistic situations and characters in her novels. She went to the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, B.C., where she studied creative writing and languages (French, Russian, and German) to get a Bachelor of Arts degree. Ruth’s always been an avid reader and has been especially attracted to murder mysteries. She loves the puzzle and loves the satisfaction that comes with solving the crime and seeing justice done. ” The novels in the series include:

  • Slow Curve on the Coquihalla (2011)
  • Ice on the Grapevine (2011)
  • Sea to Sky (2012)
  • Sundown on Top of the World ( 2015)
  • White Liners (2015
  • Yellowhead Blues (2019)

Ruth’s debut novel, called Slow Curve on the Coquihalla”. In this novel a well respected truck driver and owner of a family trucking business, is discovered dead in his truck down a steep embankment along the Coquihalla highway which winds through the mountains in British Columbia, his distraught daughter wants to know how and why his truck left the highway on an easy uphill curve. This compels Hunter Rayne, a fellow trucker and retired RCMP detective with daughters of his own, to help her find answers. As he uncovers signs of illegal cross border activity originating in a Seattle warehouse, Hunter recruits an old friend, an outlaw biker, to infiltrate what appears to be an international smuggling ring. But while Hunter follows up clues and waits for critical information from his old friend, the wily biker starts to play his own angles. Finally, putting all the pieces together, there in the dark on the same uphill curve on the Coquihalla highway, Hunter risks it all to confront the murderer. Slow Curve on the Coquihalla is the first in a traditional mystery series featuring “semi-” professional sleuth, Hunter Rayne. After serving over 20 years in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and becoming a skilled detective, Hunter resigned from the force and took to the road as a long haul trucker. His ex-wife is convinced he is running away from the personal tragedy that made him leave a job he loved. Hunter himself doesn’t know why, he only knows he has to keep following the white lines. ……… Amazon Books

Ice on the Grapevine – On a warm July morning in L.A. County, a frozen corpse turns up at a highway brake check just south of the Grapevine Pass. Ex-homicide detective Hunter Rayne, who now drives an eighteen wheeler, is persuaded by his irascible dispatcher, Elspeth Watson, to help clear two fellow truck drivers who are arrested for the murder. His job is made more difficult by the fact that the suspects, a newlywed couple, won’t speak up in their own defense. The circumstantial evidence is strong, and a rookie detective from the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department is eager to score a win. The investigation crosses the Canada-U.S. border when the victim is identified as a second rate musician from Vancouver, and it turns out there were more than a few desperate people happy to see him dead, including the accused couple. Hunter has to use all his investigative skills to uncover the truth.Hunter’s ex-wife maintains that by taking to the highway Hunter is running away from his past, but he believes that the solitude of days on the road is helping him to heal from guilt over the failure of his marriage and the suicide of his best friend. Tangled relationships and multiple suspects emerge throughout the novel, as Hunter butts heads with more than one officer of the law to solve the crime”………… Amazon Books

Sea to Sky – During what was supposed to be a few days of skiing at the Whistler Mountain resort with an attractive female acquaintance, former homicide detective Hunter Rayne finds himself the prime suspect in the RCMP’s hunt for “The Chairlift Killer”. Hunter has no choice but to get involved in the investigation in order to clear his name.Scheduled to haul a load of freight to Northern California, trucker Hunter calls up his old friend, biker Dan Sorenson, to take his place behind the wheel. What connects the badass biker from Yreka, California to the most prolific female serial killer in US history? And what happens when dispatcher El Watson ignores Hunter’s warning and sends the biker on a search for clues to the motive behind the murder? In the midst of the investigation, Hunter’s life gets complicated when the progress of his new relationship is hampered by the appearance of a woman from his troubled past. ………. Amazon Books

Sundown on Top of World ” Former homicide investigator Hunter Rayne follows the white lines north on the Alaska Highway, but a truck breakdown forces him to take an unscheduled stop in Whitehorse, Yukon, where he started his career as a rookie cop. While his Freightliner is awaiting repairs, Hunter takes a side trip to bush Alaska where a chance meeting with a young Alaskan woman reawakens his interest in a baffling cold case. A reclusive trapper and his young girlfriend disappeared from a bloody cabin in 1972, leaving their sled dogs chained outside. Riddles from the past coupled with a recent murder find Hunter back in investigative mode with the blessings of Whitehorse RCMP boss Bartholomew Sam, son of a shaman and Hunter’s old friend. He finds himself searching the banks of the mighty Yukon River for a tough old bush woman who may hold the key to more than one bloody death. It’s a vivid reminder that the breathtaking beauty of the northern wilderness camouflages its brutal indifference to human life. What readers are saying about ‘Sundown on Top of the World’ and the Hunter Rayne Highway Mysteries: “Very good continuation of a strong series, and the best so far.” “I have read and enjoyed all of the Hunter Rayne series. This is the best one to date with more intriguing characters and lots of action” ………. Amazon Books

White Liners – “Love a good mystery? Three short stories introduce the three main characters from R.E. Donald’s Highway Mysteries series, traditional mysteries featuring Hunter Rayne, a former homicide detective turned long haul truck driver. His boss is Elspeth Watson, also known to her drivers as Big Mother Trucker. In spite of being a woman in a man’s world, she has no trouble keeping her drivers in line. Hunter also has a friend and sometime co-driver named Dan Sorenson. He’s a garrulous biker who sometimes has difficulty with impulse control. Meet these three characters for free (in Kindle eBooks) and if you like spending time with them, you might just have found yourself a favorite new mystery series.” ………. Amazon Books

Yellowhead Blues – “Just west of the Rocky Mountains, a frightened horse with a bloody saddle is found running loose on the Yellowhead highway. Former RCMP investigator Hunter Rayne is on the road in his eighteen-wheeler when he’s flagged down to help calm the horse and find its missing rider. The horse with the bloody saddle leads Hunter and a good-natured French Canadian cowboy into a complicated murder mystery. The police are none too happy with his interference, but Hunter strongly believes the RCMP has arrested the wrong man and sets out to uncover who stood to gain from the death of a wealthy ranch owner. His belief in the suspect’s innocence is shared by a rookie female RCMP constable who joins him in the search for the truth. She befriends the dead man’s young fiancé in an effort to get answers, and discovers that the vulnerable Texas beauty is not who the victim’s family believes her to be. This is the fifth novel in a unique mystery series set on the highways of North America.What readers are saying about the Highway Mysteries:“Love the author’s books. Excellent characters and settings. She is now on my short list of current favorite authors.” “This series is beautifully researched, vividly written, and always captivating. It respects the nobility which resides in everyone while portraying some unforgettable characters.”“… great writing, excellent pacing that sucks you in right away and makes you forget about the world around you, characters you like and who talk and act the way real people do, set in a place that makes it feel like an adventure, and best of all– a wicked smart plot.“I love the way the main character, Hunter Rayne, thinks, interacts with people, and in general would put him into the lofty echelons with Adam Dalgliesh, Morse and the Hon. Det Lynley. Great and satisfying series.“ Hunter is the man. Donald has written a super story that would make a good movie. I think we have another Harry Bosch character.” …….. Amazon Books

Ruth lives on a ranch in Lone Butte, BC, where she and Gilbert Roy (her partner) enjoy their Canadian Horses and other assorted animals.

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We, British Columbians  that is, have a knee jerk mental response to think of other places and situations in the wider world as “Exotic”. Yet when we realistically look around at our immediate environment we are actually the  “Exotic”. It is not some far off land. It’s right here. Just take a look at the scenery outside our window. Snow capped mountains and glaciers; forests as far as the eye can see; deer and elk in the front yard; cougars, black bear, mountain goats etc just down the road. All of this populated by citizens as varied and exotic as anywhere else in the world.  Each morning I look out the window and I say to myself “another rotten day in paradise”. So when I pick up a novel, or in this case a series of novels that celebrates the “exotic” of my day to day world I am entranced. And when they are just good reads to boot then I only think it is fair to spread the news far and wide. This series of novels may not be monumental literature but they are good reads so go ahead and visit our “Exotic” world. So treat yourself, pick up one up today.

Also, do not let your opinion of truckers be colored by the political nonsense of recent days in Ottawa. That was an aberration and has little to do with the day to day life of your average trucker.

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The Day the Freedumb Died.

Is it only about a month since the truckers occupation of Ottawa was in full swing? How quickly things change. From the stupid, idiotic, chants of “Freeedom”  in one of the freest country’s on the planet to the the real crushing attempts of Russia to stamp a country out of existence and end the freedoms of its Ukrainian citizens. It kind of throws the whole stupid pretext of the convoy and “freedom” demonstrations into context. To add weight to a correct perspective of the events take a listen to the following song. It takes Don MacLean’s classic song American Pie and adds new lyrics that brings truth to the events.

I hope all those people who supported the convoy now feel stupid and embarrassed. For the rest of us just remember the names of the politicians who tried to score political points by supporting the convoy and at election time vote accordingly.

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Postscript: A Study in  Contrasts – When Russian citizens started protesting the war in Ukraine they were very quickly met with riot police and threats of jail terms of up to fifteen years.Fifteen thousand citizens were arrested.  When police in Ottawa finally started moving in on the convoy protesters they were still wearing “soft” uniforms and applying minimum force. A day or so later they had started to wear “hard” uniforms and face shields. Batons were in evidence but not aggressively used. Full riot gear and aggressive crowd control was not in evidence. Mounted Police were used to skillfully to  separate the protestors from the police line and force them back. To my knowledge in Ottawa there are only two incidents under investigation. There was a single use of tear gas and woman was knocked down, but uninjured,  by a horse. I think there was over 170 arrests most of whom were released. Several of the organizers face charges of “mischief” and were held pending bail proceedings. In the scale of things this was pretty minor stuff. At a number of border blockades the police in “soft” uniforms formed single lines that slowly marched forward forcing the protestors to fall back. The police line would then fall back, re-form and slowly advance again. The procedure was repeated until the protestors were cleared away. In another time and in another country the process would have included police in full riot gear beating their shields with their batons and advancing with intent to beat the protestors into submission. There would have been tear gas in the air, blood on streets and mass arrests. But this is Canada and that is not how things work here. So, supporters of the convoy, do you still think we live in a police state? I think the police should be commended for their discipline and restraint in very difficult circumstances.

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PUTIN’S RELIGIOUS MISSION

This is an interesting perspective of “What are the deeper religious and philosophical currents informing Vladimir Putin and the Russian invasion of Ukraine? “. It is not entirely without controversy, read the comments in the post, but interesting never-the-less.

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Postscript: Why Angels Fall – A journey Through Orthodox Europe from Byzantium to Kosovo by Victoria Clark (2000). This is an excellent read that explores the modern day reverberations of the great religious  “schism” of 1054. That was when the Christian world was split between the “rational” Christian West and and the “mystic/spiritual” Orthodox East.  It kind of backs up the analysis in the above YouTube.  Back in the heyday of the Soviet empire there was a belief that the Soviet empire was evil because the communists had lost religion. It was thought that once they once again found religion the world would come back into balance. That has turned out to be a pretty naive assumption. The Soviet empire has been well and truly gone for thirty years and Putin’s Russia is once again Orthodox and yet nothing much has changed.  Victoria Clark’s book is an exploration of the impact of the various Christian Orthodox religions on modern Eastern Europe.  My edition I picked up in a second hand book store in Sydney Australia. It is now listed on on Amazon and Kindle.

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Convoy Commentary from the pages of THE GLOBE AND MAIL (2022/02/23)

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Beverley McLachlin: The Ottawa truck convoy has revealed the ugly side of freedom.  Beverley McLachlin is a former justice of the Supreme Court of Canada and served as Chief Justice from 2000 to 2017.

During the truck convoy protests, we have watched banners demanding “freedom” waving over big rigs parked in front of Parliament. But what does this vaunted “freedom” mean? The answer is, everything and nothing.

Everything: the right not to wear masks in public places; the right not to be vaccinated; the right to hold Ottawa’s downtown residents and businesses hostage; the right to malign public officials and call for the Prime Minister’s death; the right to shout epithets at people of color.

And nothing: Because freedom is an empty word unless you ask further questions: “Freedom from what?” “Freedom to do what?” And beyond that, “Where do my freedoms end and the freedoms of others begin?” Freedom is not absolute. We live in a social matrix, where one person’s exercise of freedom may conflict with another person’s exercise of freedom. Section 1 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms states this plainly. The Charter gives Canadians a bundle of rights and freedoms. But it prefaces them with this caution – these rights and freedoms, precious as they are, are not absolute. Governments, it proclaims, can limit freedoms, provided the limits are “reasonable” and can be “justified in a free and democratic society.”

The bottom line is that you can’t use your freedoms in a way that unreasonably conflicts with or affects the freedoms of other people. The freedoms guaranteed by the Charter stop where they harm others. With freedom comes responsibility. Who sets the limits on our freedoms?

In the first instance, it is our governments – our duly elected representatives in Parliament, and the executive branch that has the responsibility to maintain “peace, order and good government,” to quote the Constitution, for the good of all. Our governments must draw the difficult lines that mark the limits of freedom in a particular situation. When you must wear a mask. Whether you can cross a border without a vaccine certificate. How many people can attend a party and who gets to go to school. But governments are not free agents. They are accountable. Accountable to the people, who can vote them out at the next election if they get the line-drawing wrong, and accountable through the courts. Citizens have the right to challenge the limits governments set on our freedoms in court. In the midst of a crisis like the pandemic, the immediate challenges may be difficult. But in due course what governments have done can be examined by the courts to see if the limits governments imposed on people’s rights and freedoms were reasonable and justified. The mechanisms of accountability may not be immediate, and that may frustrate people fed up with what they view as an illegitimate here and now impingement on their freedom. But the mechanisms of accountability work in the long run. They are rooted in our Constitution and our common commitment to the rule of law. They provide an orderly and effective process to restore the balance if governments go too far. The alternative is anarchy.

Throughout the never-ending pandemic, we have watched our governments, provincial and federal, struggle to draw the lines on freedom in the right place – to echo the words of the Charter, to set limits that are “reasonable” and can be “justified in a free and democratic society.” Inevitably, some people will disagree with where a particular government has drawn a particular limit, how long that limit should be maintained and how it should be enforced. If we care about our democracy and common future together, we will submit to those limits in the short run and use elections and courts to hold governments responsible in the longer run. The danger is that people who disagree with particular limits on the exercise of rights that governments have drawn may become impatient and decide to take matters into their own hands, threatening the welfare of people around them and, more broadly, the constitutional framework that allows us to continue to live together.

The heady notion of freedom, defined as the unconstrained right to do what you want free of government limits, serves as a cloak for actions that harm women, men and children who are simply going about their business and trying to do the right thing. Freedom without limits slides imperceptibly into freedom to say and do what you want about people who don’t look like you or talk like you. Sadly, the Ottawa truckers’ convoy has revealed this ugly side of freedom. Scholar Elisabeth Anker in her book Ugly Freedoms examines the historic use of freedom in America to justify discrimination, domination and avoidance of the law and regulation essential to a peaceful and prosperous society. The same, we now know, can happen in Canada.

As we move forward from the pandemic into the future, we need to understand the true nature of freedom under our Constitution.

Freedom is not absolute but subject to reasonable limits.

Freedom, misconstrued as license to do and say whatever one wants, is dangerous.

True freedom – freedom subject to reasonable limits that allow us to live together – is essential to a peaceful and prosperous future for us all. Let’s not allow the freedoms we cherish to become ugly freedoms.

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Andrew Coyne: Our shared reality – and the knowledge that undergirds it – is being assaulted

The blockades that paralyzed Ottawa and various border points have been removed, at least for now. But the blockades are merely the symptom. The disease is disinformation. We are discovering for ourselves what until now we had observed at secondhand: large numbers of our fellow citizens can be made to believe almost anything. This is a challenge to our democracy orders of magnitude greater than the disruptive possibilities of a few strategically placed trucks. It is a challenge, in part, because we are so reluctant to consider it. If so many people are so upset about something, we think, surely there must be some basis to it. There are two sides to every question, we are taught, and by and large this is a good rule to follow. Too many people nowadays are too ready to declare too many debates “closed.” But we should not fall prey to the opposite mistake, of assuming any belief is worth discussing, simply because lots of people believe it. There are not two sides to whether the world is flat, or whether Donald Trump won the 2020 election. And yet millions of people believe both.

It was possible for a reasonable person to worry, circa December, 2020, whether the vaccines developed in such relative haste against the coronavirus might pose some risk to human health. Fourteen months and 10 billion safely delivered doses later, it is not. Valid health exceptions are well known and accommodated; unanticipated adverse events are vanishingly rare. And yet thousands of people were persuaded that vaccines, and vaccine mandates, pose such a monstrous threat to their health or freedom as to justify occupying the national capital and menacing its citizens, in defiance of the law, for weeks on end. Hundreds were willing to risk arrest rather than obey a police order to disperse. This is not normal.

Opposition to vaccine mandates was not by any means the only idea behind the occupation, or the strangest. Protest leaders appear to sincerely believe, inter alia, that vaccines contain RFID chips, that the governor-general can rule by decree, and that Canada has a First Amendment. This is a movement in opposition not merely to vaccines, but to science, authority, expertise of all kinds: in a word, knowledge. What is at work here is not a series of individual deficiencies, but a collective failure of socialization. These are people who appear to have detached themselves not only from the behavioral norms of civil society, but from the whole transmission chain by which knowledge is spread among the population.

Knowledge, that is, is a social process. We form our beliefs about the world, not in isolation, but with the help of those around us. We learn from people with more knowledge, experience and judgment than we have, and through them absorb the accumulated wisdom of society. We have to. We cannot individually relitigate every elementary fact of human knowledge every day. But what happens when that breaks down? What happens when knowledge is transmitted, not vertically, as it were, but horizontally? Then you have what we have witnessed over the past few years. It has been described as a class war, but it is a class war of a particular kind, in which the dividing line is not money or birth but knowledge.

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Thanks to Douglas Francis Mitchell for bringing these two Globe and Mail articles to my attention. Thanks Doug.

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Read any Good Books lately? (#22) – Islands and Highlands Pandemic Binge Reading

In my youth I was never a big fan of Murder/Mystery/ Crime fiction. Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie were never on my reading list. But in my late middle age something must have changed because that particular genre of literature is almost my preferred recreational reading. My wife being Scottish may have had something to do with it. She introduced me to the Scottish writer Ian Rankin.  It was only a short hop to the Swedish novels of Henning Mankel  and a whole plethora of Nordic Noir. So now that I am hooked,  I am always on the look out for new writers in the genre and the latest one to come to my attention is B.M. Allsop. She is  an Australian writer of The Fiji Island Mysteries. She lived in the South Pacific islands for fourteen years, including four in Fiji where she worked at the University of the South Pacific in Suva. She now lives in Sydney with her husband and tabby cat. All of the key ingredients of the genre are there in the series. There are good plots with an unexpected twist here and there, peopled by believable, sometimes flawed, characters, all set in a specific geographical location that invests the  novel with a unique atmosphere. On the requirements of plot, personalities and character development The Fiji Island Mysteries scores top marks. In the series there are five novels that feature two main characters, DI Josefa (Joe) Horseman – a washed-up rugby player and DS Susie Singh  a driven Indian woman who has to deal with familiar gender issues as well the racial and feudal issues of Fijian society.

  • Death of a Hero: Fiji Islands Mysteries is the prequel to the Fiji Islands Mysteries series. Set in 1990s Suva, the young Horseman’s first case is not only a twisty whodunit that will have you reaching for your thinking cap, but a sensitive coming-of-age story that will touch your heart…..  Amazon.  This is  the rugby playing Josefa (Joe) Horseman in his youth at the University of the South Pacific (USP). Like most Fijians the motivating force in his life is Rugby and to this end he was on the University rugby team while studying for a business degree. All that changed when the team captain was murdered and he became a prime suspect.To clear his name he became involved in the investigation and in the process his academic focus shifted from business to policing. That’s how it all began.
  • Fijian Island Mysteries: Book one – Death on Paradise Island.  Joe had left University behind him and chosen a career in the police. The chance to play on the police rugby team was a  motivator. Rugby is a brutal game and he suffered some career ending injuries that required treatment and rehabilitation in the USA. On his return to Fiji he is immediately back on the job investigating  a murder on a resort island. Tourism and environmental concerns are big issues on the islands and the murder in a resort setting poses significant challenges and difficulties.
  • Fijian Island Mysteries: Book Two – Death by Tradition. “Only 5 more days… Horseman can’t wait for his American girlfriend, to join him in Fiji. So, when a young activist is murdered in the remote highlands, Horseman sets a deadline to crack the case. But he knows nothing of the dangers looming through the mountain mist.” ….. Amazon Books. Fiji must be one of the few feudal societies left on the planet and as such it creates some of the unique challenges that are explored in this story.
  • Fijian Island Mysteries: Book Three – Death Beyond the Limit. “DI Joe Horseman stares into the eyes of a severed head fished out of a shark’s gut. Did the tiger shark kill Jona or was he already dead when it clamped its teeth around his neck?” ….. Amazon Books. The novel explores the political and environmental complexities of industrial fishing and how a small island nation has to deal with the big political and commercial international players in the industry.
  • Fijian Island Mysteries: Book Four – Death Sentence. “Everyone in Fiji hates Dev Reddy, in prison for horrific abuse of his own son. When he is released after serving only half his term, the Fiji media whip up a public outcry in Suva. As protest escalates to riot, DI Joe Horseman fears Reddy’s parole may prove to be a death sentence. But Horseman defies the court of public opinion. He must even battle his new boss to protect Reddy just like any other citizen under threat. Together with DS Susie Singh, he pursues blind justice through the streets of Suva and the rural back blocks. Can he unearth a killer the public applauds?” …. Amazon Books.

The series has been a wonderful way to explore the geography and culture of a location that is tucked away from public view and allows one realize that despite the remoteness of the islands there are certain themes and issues that are universal. The place names and the Fijian language might be a bit of a challenge but the rewards are well worth the small effort required.

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Highlands and Islands Detective Thriller Series by G.R. Jordan

This box set collection contains the first six books in the Highlands and Islands Detective Thriller series which have already been published as individual books:

  • Water’s Edge
  • The Bothy
  • The Horror Weekend
  • The Small Ferry
  • Dead at Third Man
  • The Pirate Club

When we think about Scottish Murder/Mysteries the author Ian Rankin and his chief protagonist John Rebus comes to mind. His stories are generally in the urban settings of Edinburgh and we forget that there are are two Scottish realities.  One, the modern urban Scotland that is a land of modern cities similar to the rest of the world albeit with a Scottish accent. Two, the other part of Scotland,  the wilder more primitive  regions of the  north and west – The Highlands and Islands. Ian Rankin’s urban world is much the same as the rest of us, a little grittier perhaps  but with a Scottish accent.  G.R Jordan’s world is a Scotland  where the “Wee Free Church” and a Calvinistic mentality  still has some hold over the minds and manners of men and women. Sunday in that part of Scotland is the Sabbath with attendance at  two Church services and the rest of the day is spent in prayer and contemplation. Nothing moves or is pursued in that part of Scotland on Sunday. Just try and get a restaurant meal on Sunday in the Western Isles. Things are changing but on the Isle of Skye  in 1972 we found that just getting a meal on a Sunday was a challenge.

In this collection of six novels the author invites you to join stalwart policeman  DI Macleod and his burgeoning new DC McGrath as they look into the darker side of the stunningly scenic and wilder parts of the north of Scotland. From the Black Isle to Lewis, from Mull to Harris and across to the small Isles, the Uists and Barra.  This mismatched pair follow murders, thieves and vengeful victims in an effort to restore tranquillity to the remoter parts of the land. MacLeod is very, very  old school and is trying to come to terms with his traditional view of things and the political, cultural and professional changes taking place around him. His new partner, McGrath, is a very modern miss who has to deal with the macho male mentality of her chosen profession but is very much in tune with the changing world around her..

Become a observer of these tales of a surprise partnership, amid the foulest deeds and darkest souls who stalk this peaceful and most beautiful of lands, and you’ll never see the Highlands in the same light ever again.

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I do most of my reading on Kindle. By and large I have nothing but high praise for the device. I particularly like the bright screen and the  instant availability of the dictionary. The only time I find Kindle  less than satisfactory is when the reading material has a lot of graphics. I also subscribe to a service called BookBud that sends me daily listings of budget priced e-books. It has been a wonderful avenue for finding new and interesting books. All at a low cost.  The Fijian Island Mysteries and the Highlands and Islands Detective Thriller Series are two collections that I would not have found otherwise.

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YouTube Music (#42) – Manha de Carnival

In my opinion Manha de Carnival is one of the great melodies of the 20th century. It is a Brazilian Bossa Nova classic and a staple in the jazz repertoire. It is an original composition by Luiz Bonfa and is the theme song from the 1959 Academy Award film Black Orpheus. Luiz was born on October 17, 1922, in Rio de Janeiro and began studying  guitar with the Uruguayan classical guitarist Isaías Sávio at the age of 11. Luiz  is best known for his involvement with Antonio Carlos Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes and the development of Bossa Nova in the late 1950s. …. wikipedia

Stephanie Jones is a young classical guitarist originally from Perth Western Australia. “From a very young age her childhood resonated with the sound of music.She played many instruments, beginning first with the piano, and progressing to the violin, viola, saxophone and flute. However, it was the guitar with its captivating range of sounds and great versatility that especially appealed to her, and it quickly became her first love. She is a world-renowned soloist and chamber musician who specializes in classical guitar performance. Stephanie received her undergraduate degree with First Class Honours at the Australian National University under the guidance of Tim Kain and Minh le Hoang, as well as a Masters degree at the University of Music Franz Liszt Weimar with Prof. Thomas Müller-Pering. She is currently based in Germany and now studying Konzertexamen.

Stephanie continues to perform extensively around the globe in multiple tours and festivals, and has also released three solo albums; “Open Sky” (2020), “Colours of Spain” (2015), and “Bach, the Fly, and the Microphone” (2009). She is also a member of the acclaimed Weimar Guitar Quartet, releasing their debut album in 2019.

She has also won numerous awards in prestigious competitions, including first prize at the Hannabach Guitar competition, Uppsala International Guitar Festival Competition, and Fine Music Network Young “Virtuoso of the Year” Competition.”  …. Stephanie Jones website.

Over the past 50 years a number of versions of Manha de Carnival have made their way into the Classical Guitar repertoire. This is an outstanding arrangement by Stephanie Jones.

She plays a number of traditional Classical Guitars including a 2012 spruce top guitar by Perth luthier Paul Sheridan, a 2020 crossover guitar by Daniel Zucali, and a double top spruce guitar by Altamira. On this recording she is using a TransAcoustic & Silent Guitar manufactured by Yamaha. Essentially it is an electric travel guitar but as this video demonstrates it has a “true” acoustic Classical sound.

  • Nylon Strings, Natural Finish. Body and neck material is mahogany
  • The SLG is the perfect instrument for practice, travel or stage use – any time an acoustic guitar just won’t do.
  • Near-silent performance makes discrete practice simple
  • Yamaha’s exclusive SRT-Powered pickup system gives incredibly natural acoustic tone through headphones or line-out
  • Studio-quality on-board effects enhance playing to perfection and line-in functionality makes jamming easy

In performance Stephanie also uses a GuitarLift. This is an innovative device that enable the guitarist to hold the instrument in the most desirable stable configuration.

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Here is another Bossa Nove tune from Stephanie…

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