Archive for January, 2009

On the Value of a View

January 31, 2009

Ever since I was a child I’ve had a habit of stopping and staring off into the distance.  I don’t really gaze at people, rather I lose myself in the sky or in the horizon, or in the city below.  As humans we love lookouts and have built trails to high places all over the world. I greatly appreciate those people. Houses that come with beautiful scenery cost more, and hot air balloons were popular in part because they gave passengers a million dollar view. What do we see when we gaze at a static scene.  The stars twinkle and slowly move, but we don’t really perceive that.  The mountains certainly don’t go anywhere, and although trees wave in the wind, I doubt people really notice, I know I don’t.  For me, a great view is not about attention to detail. Rather I think it relates to two important factors, the primordial connection with trees and nature, and the opportunity to become lost.

A couple of years ago, I attended a symposium on “green” urban planning.  I was there because I am interested in the use of greenspace in the city.  One of the presenters was a University professor in Chicago who studied the effect of trees on the mood of residents in low income housing.  He discovered that people who lived in units with trees around them were happier, felt safer, and committed fewer violent crimes then those who did not have trees.  Since the units were more or less identical in every other regard, and the tenants were randomly assigned to their units, he hypothesized that the trees could explain the discrepancy.   He drew our attention to the primordial landscape, which was predominately the Savannah plains of Africa, with the occasional lush oasis.  In a time when finding water was a matter of life and death, the sight of vegetation was comforting, and would have represented temporary refuge.  Thus scenes of nature, particularly those with trees, help people relax.

Beyond that nature can be observed and enjoyed passively. This is what I mean by becoming lost and it is another reason that nature is so relaxing to watch. The theory goes that viewing a natural scene does not require the human brain to analyze in order to comprehend.  Essentially, we enjoy the natural world because it is easy for us to grasp.  Reading, watching films or tv, viewing art, attending a play or sporting event, all require a degree of higher thought to appreciate, whereas viewing a static scene of nature is simple and straightforward.

I suppose to some degree I am advocating increased greenspace in urban environments. I am actually very interested in the role of gardens in institutional settings.  In homeless shelters, prisons, and hospitals there is some evidence that greenspace could improve the mood of clients/inmates and decrease incidents of violence.  There is also the added environmental benefits that come from adding plant life to the urban landscape.

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I’ve Got You and You’ve Got Me

January 30, 2009

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New podcast is up today with a very special guest, Emily Chen an Ottawa area designer and t-shirt maker.  You can find out about her deisgn work here and her t-shirts/blog here. The pictures above and below feature a number of her t-shirt designs. They are fantastic and you can pick them up through the website. The photos were taken by her boyfriend, John Bagnell. You can find more of his work here. Our conversation was a lot of fun, and she has some interesting things to say. As always you can check out the podcast over there–>.

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It was great to sit down and chat with someone about their passion (as it always is on the show) and to learn a little bit about the world of independent design.  Since I am not an artist I cannot give any kind of critical response to her work, but as a fan of art and design I can say I find her work thought provoking, and visually pleasing.

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Ever since I first did screen printing in high school as part of graphics class, I have been a fan of the homemade t-shirt. Emily’s designs are funky, fun, and unique. She does the work herself, so when you buy her shirts you are supporting a working Canadian artist along with getting a stylish piece of fashion.

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This podcast also features music by New Buffalo from Australia and Toronto’s Apostle of Hustle. They are both on the Arts & Crafts Label, and you can expect to hear more from their artists on future episodes of the podcast.

That’s all for today I will be back tomorrow with more exciting The Alder Fork Blog material.

Awake and Cold At Night

January 29, 2009

I am on a roll with these thesis related posts so I’m going to continue today. Tomorrow is  a link day because of the podcast.  The following selection contains a number of summarized studies with accompanying discussion. If you’d like more details about any of the studies please contact me at the alderfork@gmail.com. Click if you missed Part I and/or Part II.

There are similarities between fasting and anorexia nervosa, such as restricted food intake and attempts to control the body. It appears that strict ascetic codes and other religious restrictions on food, paired with an emphasis on the human body as inherently sinful or evil, could lead to more cases of anorexia among the devoutly religious.  This does not mean that ascetics share the other psychological symptoms of anorexics, such as anxiety disorders, perfectionism, or obsessive compulsive disorder, but rather that their attitude towards eating and the body may be similar. Harold Koenig points out in his brief survey of the literature, that there is no empirical support that belonging to an ascetic community increases the likelihood of anorexia.  In fact, research into ascetic and other religious communities has shown virtually no difference between eating attitudes and body image within the group or the controls. For example, in 2003 Macias, Leal and Vaz conducted a study of 44 women living in open communities in Spain.  The results of the study indicate that the distribution of body satisfaction and dissatisfaction was similar to a control group of university-aged women.  The study showed that 50% of the nuns either perceived that they had a high weight or were fat.    In addition these women exhibited disordered eating behaviour that was also comparable to the control.  Although religious women may not be at an increased risk of developing eating disorders, such as anorexia, as outlined above, a growing body of research indicates that religious and spiritual beliefs do not guarantee protection against the development of this illness. A significant level of dissatisfaction with body shape and size, while often assumed by the public at large to be a problem of middle-class teenage girls, has been documented in communities of nuns in Spain,  an Old Order Amish community,  and among extrinsically religious university students.   It has also been noted in case studies that some anorectics who have a strong Christian affiliation will justify their condition as a type of “spiritual starvation.”
Macias, Leal and Vaz speculate that the source of the nuns’ discomfort could come from the pressure to maintain regimented eating practices or a specified state of holiness.   The daily pressures of ascetic life might create an environment conducive to anorexia.  The challenge of controlling ordinary human desires and urges could lead some to control body weight and food intake.  Despite the author’s initial hypothesis that a cloistered community would insulate the nuns from negative body image and disordered eating, the research showed that the conditions necessary for anorexia to develop exist in an ascetic community.  Other studies of cloistered religious communities have had similar results.   In their study of an Amish community, Platte, Zelten and Stunkard, found that while the young people exhibited a healthy view of their own bodies, the elders often did not.  The authors proposed that this resulted from the focus on physical labour in the farming community.   When members of the community became unable to contribute to the work of the farm, satisfaction with their bodies decreased. It is important to note that the community was mostly shielded from secular media, and as such, these cases of negative body image are unlikely to be connected to the “thin ideal”.
In neither the Spanish study of cloistered nuns, nor the Amish study, did the authors identify a single case of anorexia in those communities.  They did, however, measure the incidence of disordered eating, which in both cases was the same as the general public.  While the sample sizes of these studies are too small to draw general conclusions, they do present the possibility that even strongly religious communities need to address body image because their current theology is not creating a significant difference from the general public. In addition, because both groups were isolated from the influence of the “thin ideal”, these studies demonstrate that this is not the only factor influencing women towards poor body image and disordered eating.
Correlation between high religiosity and positive body image has been found in several studies that have attempted to quantify this relationship.  Based on their own prior research, Mahoney et al. hypothesized that “greater sanctification of the body” would lead to a “great investment in maintaining one’s physical well-being.”   Body sanctification refers to an individual’s view of her body that recognizes its value in religious terms.  It should also be noted that studies by Levin  and Strawbridge et al.  have shown that general religiousness leads to health-protective behaviour.   The Mahoney study was comprehensive, examining a wide range of experimental factors including manifestation of God in the body, sacred qualities of the body, general health-protective practices, as well as physical fitness and asceticism.  The sample included 289 university students 77.5% of which were female.   The study participants were predominately Christian (74%), which makes the results particularly useful for this thesis.   The results of the study supported the authors’ initial hypothesis.  Of particular note they found that higher levels of body sanctification were associated with greater satisfaction with the body.   Thus those participants who attributed religious meaning to their bodies were more likely to have a positive body image.
A study by Boyatzis, Kline and Backof specifically investigated written religious affirmations and their effect on body image.   The authors attempted to establish causality through pre and posttests dealing with body image and the viewing of “thin ideal” photos.    The women were divided into three groups: a control group that read random statements not related to body image, a “spiritual group” that read positive secular body image statements, and a “religious group” that read similar theistic statements.   The religious group showed the greatest improvement in body image on the post test, while the control group saw a decline in their body image.  This study supports Mahoney’s findings about religious beliefs and body satisfaction.
The results of the studies cited above demonstrate a connection between the content of religious belief and body satisfaction. The authors’ conclusions focused on the positive effects of religious belief on body image.  Research into small religious sects has shown that religious beliefs can also have a negative influence on body image.   Although new religious groups are typically small, their experience represents the extreme of devout religious belief, much as anorexia represents an extreme of either the “thin ideal” or fasting.  The Church Universal and Triumphant provides an example of use of restrictive diet in a new religious movement and the consequences of this practice.  The leader of the group, Elizabeth Clare Prophet, dictated all aspects of eating among her followers and framed her directives in a religious context.    She dictated the content and quantity of her follower’s food intake and to avoid “the appetites of the physical body and the appetites of death.”   Members of the community ate primarily rice and vegetables while Prophet had a fridge stocked with “exotic food.”   This last point implies that the food restrictions were related to control rather than a theology of eating practice.  The Church Universal and Triumphant is an unusual example because it does not represent the normal practice of the majority of religious believers. Anorexia, too, is an extreme behaviour. This particular case, along with others cited by Paolini and Paolini,   shows the negative effects of religious teachings on body image. As noted, some care must be taken in considering followers of new religious movements that are, by their nature, part of smaller tight-knit communities. These results, however, support the findings of other studies cited in this thesis, that religious beliefs can influence body image.
In addition to the studies of people or groups who have developed positive or negative relationships with food or their bodies due to religious affiliation and belief, research has been conducted to discover if certain types of people are more susceptible to poor body image or eating disorders due to their religious beliefs.  A notable study by Smith, Richards, and Maglio examined religious orientation and eating attitude in both clinical and sub-clinical anorexic populations.   They defined four types of religiousness based on the commonly used religious orientation scale (ROS).  Intrinsic religiousness is associated with orthodox practice and personal belief, while an extrinsically religious person often belongs to a community for social purposes.  On the two extremes are the pro-religious and nontraditional groups.  The former scored high on both intrinsic and extrinsic scales, and the latter scored low on both and could be considered non-religious.  In simplest terms the difference lies in the extent to which religiousness is an internal or external commitment on the part of the person.  Although the study sample was small, no correlation was found between the intrinsically religious group and anorexia.  As predicted eating disorder symptoms were most prevalent in the pro-religious and nontraditional groups.  Therefore, those for whom religion was an internal commitment were least likely to develop eating disorders.  From this study it can be concluded that there is no connection between religiousness and eating disorder pathology since the most traditionally religious group and the intrinsically religious group did not demonstrate a connection with anorexia nervosa. Based on the research cited above, the promotion of a healthy body image, in religious terms, has positive effects on people. This conclusion will return in Chapter 3.

There She Is

January 28, 2009

I read an account today of the recent Miss America Pageant.  I didn’t watch it because I’m not particularly interested in that sort of contest. I was intrigued to learn that the contestants body’s have more in common with varsity athletes than super models.  Perhaps this has long been the case, but I doubt it. A quick look through the contestants in the swimsuit competition (which is the easiest way to gauge body shape, size, and composition) reveals that they are indeed quite shapely though certainly not average.  A quick look through past winners of the competition doesn’t give any definitive proof that the ultra thin ideal was at play in previous years, but the fact that the Miss America Pageant represents an idea of beauty that is fit rather than miniature is a good thing.  I am going to ignore the other social issues associated with beauty pageants, and instead focus on the notion of the thin ideal in society.  It is unrealistic to expect people to ignore their natural inclination towards subjective beauty because it’s part of our wiring.  We can, however, embrace a wide range of notions of beauty and, more importantly, accept ourselves as we are.  Most people are aware of the pressure of being healthy,  and thin though they are not the same thing.  With the growing movement against super thin models, and the often unrealistic ideal portrayed in the media, perhaps the Miss America Pageant is one sign of this change.  The following is Part II of my thesis chapter on the relationship between anorexia and religion.

Anorexia has only been widely recognized among the general public since the 1970’s, a period of increasing secularization in North America, and is often connected with a society obsessed with beauty and the self.  Thanks to the work of Rudolph Bell in particular, scholars have recognized what appears to be a much longer history of anorexia than had been commonly acknowledged.  The relative infancy of the modern field of psychology limits the amount of historical data that exist for anorexia. In his survey of the literature, Bell states that it was not until the late 19th Century that self-starvation was recognized as a mental disorder rather than as either a devout or diabolical pursuit.   Although it had been apparent for centuries that extreme fasting was dangerous and ultimately fatal, medical science and psychology struggled to make sense of what many early doctors termed hysteria.   In the Twentieth Century, the advancement of psychiatry and psychology provided greater understanding of anorexia nervosa, and an increasing body of clinical research.  As with other mental disorders, however, the religiosity of anorexics was generally ignored or considered part of the pathology. Thus it cannot be said definitively what, if any, effect religion has had on anorexics in the past.  Fortunately there is an ever-growing body of contemporary research chronicling the connections between religion and anorexia, from Patricia Marsden’s work with English anorexics, to Richards and Bergin’s spiritually-oriented treatment.   These authors, and others,  conclude that religiosity has a role in anorexia.  The studies discussed in this chapter examine the role of religious beliefs in the prevention, pathology, and treatment of eating disorders. This section will present the results of relevant studies in two stages of anorexia: prevention/development/pathology, and treatment/recovery.
Christianity is a religion that preaches love, acceptance, and the dignity of the human person, as part of its core message. Current research suggests that the relationship between religious beliefs and the development of an eating disorder is complex.  Notably, in the areas of body satisfaction and eating habits, several studies have shown that religious communities often offer a similar distribution of outcomes to the general population.
Despite the lack of historical empirical data concerning anorexia, both, the human body and food have been major concerns of religion for thousands of years.  From a biblical perspective, the human relationship with the body and consumption dates to the creation story and the earliest human activity.  In the book of Genesis 3:17 an act of eating is used as the symbol for sin entering the world.  This action is then connected to feelings of shame about being naked. The ancient Israelites practiced the sacrifice of edible items, animals and grains, and ritualized significant historical events with food-based celebrations, such as Passover, which features a meal as a central activity. Modern Jews (as well as Hindus, Muslims and others) continue to practice dietary restrictions. In other ancient communities, food played an important role in ritual and religious belief, particularly in relation to agriculture and fertility.   To this day, faith communities continue to incorporate food into their worship through feasting, ritual, and fasting, such as Ramadan for Muslims, and Lent for Christians. Religiously prescribed limits on food intake are similar to eating disorder behaviour in that they seek to achieve a goal through control over eating.
Current research raises questions about the nature of body image presented by religious groups.  One study discovered that Catholics and Jews had higher rates of eating disorders compared to other religious groups.   Results such as this can lead to questions about the theology of the body that is internalized by believers and possibly leads to change when necessary.  John Paul II’s Theology of the Body was itself a response to questions that were being asked about the nature of the human body in relation to sexuality.  Dialogue about body image and its relationship to disordered eating and low self-esteem is an overlooked part of Christian theology.  Its significance for anorexia lies in its connection to poor body image. Since the relationship with the body is an important aspect of anorexia nervosa pathology, influences on body image have the potential to impact the development of this illness. Religious beliefs have the potential to damage body image as well as improve it.  Research has been done on the role of religious belief in poor body image, disordered eating, and the development of eating disorders.  For example, Bell found evidence of religiously motivated behaviour that resembled anorexia among ascetic women in medieval and renaissance Italy.  As well, a survey of two large collections of case studies reveals a variety of experiences among eating disorder patients.    For example, some adhered to religious prescriptions while others rebelled against them.   In cases of anorexia, the illness was viewed as the moral high ground, operating against greediness especially, but also the less obvious concepts of “anger,” and “sadness.”  These emotions are viewed by some patients as wrong or sinful and must be controlled.  The inability to completely control “sinful” behaviour can exacerbate the negative self-image that is common to anorexia.

White Collar Criminals

January 27, 2009

Friendly reminder about The Alder Fork From First to Worst Poetry Contest.  The entry deadline is less than a week away. Details here.

I have never embedded a video on here before, but the time is right. My friend Iwona, author of a previous post, is friends with many people in the film and theatre industry thanks to her boyfriend Sean, an aspiring actor.  The following video was the runner up in the 2009 Youtube Project Direct contest. Second place came with a trip to the Sundance Film Festival, and I think a screening. Anyway this is a clever short film that will both surprise and delight. Enjoy!

Not Near Enough

January 26, 2009

Praise the Lord above and sell, sell, sell

David Gray

Sell, Sell, Sell

New podcast is finally up!

In this episode I reveal 3 albums that I think people should listen to, because they probably haven’t.  I am also aware that people are having a hard time keeping up with my podcast schedule, so I am contemplating a change. I haven’t made a firm decision yet, but I will.

This week’s show features music by two artists.

First up is another Shameless Records act, Leisure Co.  They are mainly a side project for several West Coast musicians, and their tunes are infectious. You can find out more about them and get more of their music here.

The other group on this week’s show is Mujaji. A Canadian-American-British grou that seems to have specialized in creating licensed music for film and tv. Their electronic music is well crafted, catchy, and highly entertaining. Although they don’t really function as a group anymore they are stil worth checking out here.  There will be more music from the members of Mujaji in the future, stay tuned to The Alder Fork for that.

Short post today because of the podcast, back tomorrow with some usual content.

Should We Forget Ourselves

January 25, 2009

As I was walking through a life one morning the sun was out, the air was warm, but oh I was cold, and though I must’ve looked a half a person, to tell the truth in my own version, it was only then that I felt whole.

Ted Leo and the Pharmacists

Me and Mia

Long time readers of The Alder Fork Blog will know that I don’t always write about music, art, film, and theatre because my mind likes to wander.  I wrote my Master’s thesis on the connections between Anorexia Nervosa and religious belief, with an aim towards exploring pastoral options for treatment and prevention.  Many people asked to read it, and some have.  The second and third chapters of my thesis (when I was discussing the pastoral elements) are not as well written as I would have liked. I kind of tired of the process and allowed myself to make some leaps in the writing. In the end it was good enough to pass, but could have been better. The first chapter, however, is one of my proudest pieces of writing.  In that chapter I reviewed the relevant literature and drew some conclusions of my own about the existing and potential roles for religious interventions, and poastoral education.  Over the next little while I will be featuring that chapter in its entirety,obviously broken up into smaller parts. It begins today with the Part I. Please don’t hesitate to contact me about it, I love to discuss my research. If you or someone you know might have an eating disorder please seek professional help.

Anorexia Nervosa and the “Thin Ideal”
The purpose of this chapter is to present research on the relationship between anorexia and religion.  It will focus on defining anorexia nervosa, and on research about religion and anorexia.  Although there are few empirical studies related to this topic, some hypotheses can be drawn from the available literature.   Notably, the evidence suggests that a religious worldview can influence an individual’s relationship with his/her body. For example, fasting and the valuing of spirit above body have been correlated with poor body image.  As well, spiritual interventions have been useful in the treatment of anorexia nervosa.
Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by an individual’s efforts to control her body weight through eating, exercise and other means.   The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Eating Disorders IV presents the following four criteria for a diagnosis of anorexia:

A. Refusal to maintain body weight at or above a minimally normal weight for age and height (e.g., weight loss leading to maintenance of body weight less than 85% of that expected; or failure to make expected weight gain during period of growth, leading to body weight less than 85% of that expected).
B. Intense fear of gaining weight or becoming fat, even though underweight.
C. Disturbance in the way in which one’s body weight or shape is experienced, undue influence of body weight or shape on self-evaluation, or denial of the seriousness of the current low body weight.
D. In postmenarcheal females, amenorrhea, i.e., the absence of at least three consecutive menstrual cycles.
(A woman is considered to have amenorrhea if her periods occur only following hormone, e.g., estrogen, administration.)

Based on the clinical criteria for a diagnosis of anorexia nervosa, it is apparent that the condition is a mix of psychological (B, C) and physiological (A, D) concerns.
There are two subtypes of anorexia, “restricting type,” and “binge eating/purging type,” which reflect two different methods of controlling food intake and body size.  Restricting anorexia could be considered the extreme dieting model where the individual limits her food intake to the point that she starves herself.  Binge eating/purging type is similar to bulimia nervosa in that the individual eats large quantities of food and then attempts to expunge them through vomiting, or laxative abuse. When a person stops eating, her body first reacts by storing as much energy as possible, entering what is called starvation mode.  Without enough food energy the body shuts down organs and wastes away. For anorexics this extreme weight loss is considered a mark of achievement of body control. If untreated, anorexia can lead to death.
Although persons of any age are at risk for developing anorexia nervosa, this eating disorder is most common among young females between 12 and 25 years of age.  It is estimated that 1 out of every 8 adolescent girls displays eating disorder symptoms (including bulimia and eating disorders not otherwise specified).  The prevalence of anorexia, specifically, ranges between 0.5% and 3.7% in females, and 0.05% and 0.37% in males, with the number of new cases continuing to increase.   Up to 20% of all patients diagnosed with anorexia will eventually die from their condition.
Those who suffer from anorexia come from a wide range of socio-economic backgrounds.   Anorexia occurs most often in industrialized nations that have an abundance of available food.  Eating disorders are common in North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand, and Japan, although research in other areas of the world is currently limited.
As this eating disorder affects a diverse population, the root causes of anorexia are complex.  There is evidence to suggest that certain psychological stresses, such as dysfunctional family life, a sense of helplessness, or even genetics have a role in many cases.   There are two prominent explanations for the proliferation of eating disorders in North America.  The first can be termed controlling the body, and relates specifically to personality variables such as perfectionism, low self esteem, fear of maturation, and familial/cultural variables that leave an individual feeling out of control or dominated (primarily known as the psychodynamic explanation).  The second explanation deals with cultural and peer pressure to achieve and maintain a certain appearance, a misunderstanding of the concepts of body type and development, and fear of obesity.
A negative consequence of the social stigma associated with anorexia is the proliferation of “pro-Ana” (short for anorexia) movements among teenage girls that promote anorexia as a lifestyle choice and ideal.   This situation is perhaps the most extreme outcome of a society that values physical beauty, in the form of thinness, as a high ideal.   The glamourization of anorexia as a celebrity disease and a path to acceptance can be seen in the content of these sites.   This type of online community provides anonymous support for girls that they cannot find in the “real world,”  partly due to the fact that anorexics do not speak openly about their condition, as well as the stigma associated with the illness.  The community fostered on these sites is dangerous for those at risk of developing an eating disorder.   This issue will be addressed as part of the discussion of the theology of the body because it relates to the community of those at risk.

Exciting News, Be Heard

January 24, 2009

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You are probably wondering what is being depicted in that picture. Those are the “CD cases” for the upcoming The Alder Fork EP. Those fabric sleeves were originally conceived as a promotional gimmick at the Festival of Peace and Tranquility in 2005. Crystal Kemkes did all the sewing while I cut out the fabric squares.  I am resurrecting the concept for the EP because it is fun, different, easy to do, and has a very down to earth feel.

As far as the EP itself goes, I have several tracks done, including some remixes and I am aiming for a release date at the end of February, maybe coinciding with the announcement of the winner of the poetry contest. Don’t forget to enter that by the way. What I need today is some more public input.Please vote on your favourite potential title for the EP from those in the poll.  This strategy worked well for picking the name The Alder Fork, and selecting the album song that will lead this EP. If you do please email me at thealderfork@gmail.com and you could win a prize.

Thanks for your continued support of The Alder Fork in all it’s forms!

The Very Next Day

January 23, 2009

For he goes whirling down, and down whitewater, that’s where the log driver learns to tread lightly.

The Log Driver’s Waltz

I don’t often feature news on this site, but this morning I was watching CP24 and found out that one of my dreams had come true. The National Film Board of Canada was finally featuring many of its vast collection of films for viewing on the internet.  This afternoon I have been enjoying such classics as The Log Driver’s Waltz, and The Cat Came Back. I have also been discovering new films. For those of you unfamiliar with the NFB, it is a public institution dating back to the 1930’s and has been particularly influential in the promotion of Canadian animation, as the two shorts above demonstrate.

NFB films have won Academy awards in the foreign documentary category, and have left a significant mark on Canadian culture. I recommend taking some time to browse through the collection, and I will be taking a deeper look at many of this films in future posts.

One of the more controversial films, Neighbours, is regularly shown on Moviepix here in Canada.  So this was not my first viewing of it.  I now understand the context of the film, and the filmaker’s (Norman Mclaren) purpose in making it.  One of my friends commented that “if I were the type to get high I would get high to this,” which sums up the strangeness of the live action stop motion technique Mclaren uses.  He took the method usually reserved for creating claymation monsters and characters, and used it with live actors.  It allows him to move his characters about in strange and trippy ways, and facilitates his storytelling.  There is no dialogue in the film, but the action leaves little to the imagination. We have two men fighting over a flower that grows on their property line, and seems to have hallucinogenic qualities.  It is an obvious allegory for war, and when it was produced in 1952 the reality of armed conflict was still fresh from WWII and the ongoing Korean war, not to mention the growing Cold War with the Soviet Union.  It violently and vivdly portrays the futillity of fighting, in a way that is both shocking and thought provoking.  Although the effects are amateurish by modern standards, this cutting edge film succeeds at its experiment and at its message.  Well worth a look.

6 Things You Didn’t Know About The GTA

January 22, 2009

It is with great pleasure that I present our first guest writer here on The Alder Fork Blog. This is the second part of an ongoing series entitled 6 Things You Didn’t Know… Today the Greater Toronto Area is our topic, and Iwona Szkudlarek is our host on this amazing journey. She is a good friend of mine, a University of Toronto student, and a kindred spirit.  If you’d like to check out the first entry in the series you can find it here. If you want to learn about Alberta click here. Without further ado I bring you:

6 Things You Didn’t Know About the Greater Toronto Area

I love the area I live in.  I grew up in Oshawa and have called downtown Toronto home for the last few years. This makes  it really difficult to decide on only six things about the GTA that I consider to be interesting, important or little known. Despite that, I have agonized for days over it and here is my take on a few cool things about the area. 🙂

•    As we all probably know, diversity is the great pride of Canada and, to be honest, it is largely because of our metropolitan areas. With in mind, I  discovered that over 100+ languages are spoken in the GTA! Among these, Chinese, particularly Cantonese, is the most widely spoken in this area after English.  On a side note,  I attempted to find the number of languages spoken in the world for comparison but there doesn’t seem to be a definite statistics because of definition disputes (though I believe 6,000ish is a good guess). Regardless, 100+ is pretty awesome. Also, the  the region becomes even more diverse with each passing day, since a large portion of immigrants to Canada choose the GTA as their new home.  This definitely increases the diversity I encounter in my daily life, at the very least.

•    One quarter of Canada’s population lives within a 160 km radius of Toronto. This fact end up including more than just the GTA (I’m cheating a little) but it’s still significant. Being packed in like sardines seems to be the preference of many Canadians, if you consider how many live near the major city centres. Also, 3 GTA cities are in the top 20 most populated cities in Canada. Toronto is the most populated city in the nation, with Mississauga is 6th on the list and Oshawa as 15th.  All this probably comes to no surprise for GTAers,  especially those who have to commute through area during rush hour!

•    The Iroquois Shoreline is one of those facts that I’m never sure if people are aware of or what they may know about it. Well, it’s the shoreline of the glacial lake that existed where Lake Ontario is now.  The shoreline of this ancient lake extended inland 5km in Burlington and continued at various depths, east until the Scarborough Bluffs. It is really noticeable just south of St. Clair in Toronto, between Bathurst and the Don Valley. As a reminder of the last ice age, which happened 13,000 years ago, it was created when a giant chunk of ice blocked drainage from the lake and causing it to flood surrounding plains.  If you look really closely at the topography of the GTA, you can see ridges and valleys that mark areas that were once underwater.  This means that around 12,000 years ago, a good chunk of the Southern GTA was underwater. It’s amazing how much the area has changed since then! I recommend checking out the Scarborough bluffs and the ridge just south of St. Clair West, they both have beautiful views of the lake and the GTA.

•    Also on the edge of this shoreline, at Spadina and Davenport in Toronto, sits the only true castle in Canada.  I admit, I’m a history buff and living near Casa Loma absolutely feeds my love for castles, so this is a huge bias on my part.  Regardless, it’s a beautiful structure with an amazing view of the GTA from it’s turrets. Construction began in 1911, by Sir Henry Pellatt, a man who was clearly very wealthy. He never finished the project and eventually ended up bankrupt but the house landed in the hands of the Kiwanis Club of Toronto, who maintain the castle and land and run it’s tourist operations.  It is also a popular, if not expensive place, to hold a wedding. The Conservatory, with it’s gorgeous windows and fountains is regularly used for this purpose. It is also rented out for the purposes of film making and recently has been used for The Love Guru and X-Men. It is also might be used as a location of the up coming Scott Pilgrim movie, which is based on a  Toronto based comic series. All in all, it’s a pretty cool site!

•    Oshawa also has it’s own giant mansion, one that was home of the estate of R. S. McLaughlin. He was the founder of McLaughlin Carriages  (later McLaughlin Motor Car Company Limited), which became the catalyst for bringing General Motors into Canada. While in this day and age, people might argue as to whether GM is something to be proud of (with the environmental movement locking horns with the auto industry on a daily basis), Mclaughlin was an important guy for Oshawa. Not only did he start McLaughlin Carriages, he became the major of Oshawa and was the first president of the YMCA in the area. His company, and later GM and it’s subsidiaries, have provided tens of thousands of jobs for people in the GTA.  Plus, McLaughlin’s mansion is really nice and has served as a set for movies like Billy Madison and X-Men.

•    After mentioning several filming sites in the GTA already, I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about the impact that film and television has on the area. The entertainment industry has a large stake in the GTA, particularly the movie industry.  Since there is such a diversity of locations, significant tax breaks and a large amount of professionals around, it’s a fairly lucrative business. A lot of people know that movies are filmed in Toronto but most people don’t realize that it is a big moneymaker for the cities and businesses involved, bringing millions, if not billions into the economy of the GTA. The area is home to massive number of professionals, from hair and makeup, extras, actors, and crew who help this business thrive (and endure crazy hours and interesting locations to bring you the entertainment you enjoy on your screens). Everything from The Hulk to the American Pie franchise movies (we’re up to six, if you can believe it) are filmed in the area. While it’s no Hollywood, it’s important to our economy and a good place to start if you’re looking for a career in film and/or television. If you look closely while you watch movies, you might recognize a place that you are very familiar with!

Any information I used to support my information came from personal experience and Wikipedia.com.