Archive for August, 2009

Where In The World Is…

August 31, 2009

Although Rockapella brought geography and acapella music to a generation of youngsters, this post is not about them, or the Carmen Sandiego line of video games. Instead, I have an update on a previous Alder Fork Podcast guest.

Laura Smith is a very talent B.C. based musician and songwriter. You can hear her on the June 15th, 2009 episode of the podcast.  Her music is available here. She has a tour diary and some live videos on her youtube page. I mention her today because she is setting out on a West Coast tour and I am privy to the dates. If you get a chance to check her out live, you will be very pleased. Here is the list:

September 1st 8pm-10pm Melodies in Mind on CJSF 90.1FM, Vancouver, British Columbia

September 6th 8pm The Railway Club w/ City of Glass and Isobel Trigger, Vancouver, British Columbia

September 8th 11:30am UVIC BBQ – w/ City of Glass, Victoria, British Columbia

September 8th 3:00pm CFUV 101.9 FM live acoustic performance/interview, Victoria, British Columbia

September 8th 9:00pm Logan’s w/ City of Glass and We are the City  Victoria, British Columbia

September 10th 8:00pm The Habitat w/ Immaculate Machine, Kelowna, British Columbia

Friday, September 11th at the Ironwood in Calgary

September 12th 4pm-6pm The Empress w/ Colleen Brown (early show!), Edmonton, Alberta

September 14th 8:00pm The Exchange w/ Eldorado, Shiloh Lindsay and Joseph Blood, Regina, Saskatchewan

September 15th 8:00pm The Park Theater  w/ Living in Red, Patrick Keenan and guests, Winnipeg, Manitoba

September 18th 10pm Houstons Western Canada Music Awards Brandon, Manitoba

September 26th 8:00pm Rifflandia Festival  Metro Theatre, Victoria, British Columbia

First Star I See Tonight

August 25, 2009

Please take a second to click on this link and marvel at our universe. Each dot on that picture represents a galaxy of around 100 billion stars. Amazing.

New podcast is up and as always you can find it over there–> In this episode I talk about eating disorders. You can find lots of information and statistics about the symptoms, causes, and treatments of eating disorders by visiting the website of the National Eating Disorder Information Centre. This topic is relevant because of The Alder Fork Festival, which is raising money for the Eating Disorder Awareness Coalition of Waterloo Region.

The music comes from two True North Records artists, Madison Violet, and Le Vent Du Nord.

I’m On My Way From Misery To Happiness Today, Part I

August 24, 2009

You can burn down my church, but I shall be free!

Simon & Garfunkel

A Church Is Burning

Theodicy was one of my many academic wanderings as a graduate student.  It is essentially the study of the relationship between the Christian notion of God and pain/suffering/evil in the world.  Of course, it could be extended to any of religious reflection on the meaning of the negative aspects of life.  There are those who would argue that religion itself was born out of people’s need to explain pain and death in particular. It is compelling to ask why life can suddenly end, and why this type of loss is an essential part of life.

I’ve recently been re-reading Suffering by Dorothee Soelle, as well as a great deal about the Holocaust.  Needless to say, evil and suffering have been on my mind. I want to explore several ideas around the idea of suffering.  I begin with a look at whether suffering is essential to being human, from a theistic perspective.

There are many elements that define the human being.  Our general shape, cognitive awareness, behaviour, and emotional capacity are among them.  The concept of both heaven, and heaven on earth (that post judgment day/rapture idea that appears in some eschatological literature) seem to imply a changed condition for people.  This could include the physical state, such as the form of spirit or energy, as well as a psychological and emotional well-being that is not found on earth. It can then be suggested that suffering is excluded from this state of being.  After all, a heaven composed of a perfect union with God would not include pain of any form.  Thus the ideal and perfect form of human exists without suffering. This line of thinking exists in all of the religions I have studied (though not always dependent on a concept of heaven), and perhaps even fits into more secular worldviews, particularly those advocating the pursuit of science and humanitarianism.  This is likely because one element of the human condition is a desire to escape suffering, except for those more masochistic people, and even they would like to avoid intense uncontrollable suffering and human depravity.

For Christians, this question is answered in the creation account, where Adam and Eve are punished with the pains of labour for their actions in Eden.  People were created without the capacity for suffering, or more accurately there was no such thing as suffering. Heaven is an extension of this suffering-free existence. Yet so very much of life is suffering.  People experience many different types of pain. Soelle quotes Simone Weil’s three levels of suffering, physical, psychological, and social.  Virtually every day of our lives we will ourselves experience some pain, or we will witness it in another. Failing that we are aware that in the world people are suffering, and it is only a matter of time before we do again.  Although we do experience times of joy and happiness, it may not be possible to isolate those incidents to the point that a true notion of suffering free life can be imagined.

A final question can be asked, does essential humanity require suffering?  Is there such an idea as being human with suffering? It is difficult to reflect on both sides of this question because the one argument is so hypothetical.  The real answer lies in the value and role ascribed to suffering in the human experience. Is it merely an accessory to life, like breathing air, or consuming food, or is it a fundamental aspect of the emotional and psychological course of life?  Much like breathing suffering is more or less ever present in life. Our lungs, however, work mostly unnoticed throughout the day.  While we are asleep any knowledge of breathing is lost.  When we suffer, we must make a conscious effort to ignore the pain, for its presence is announced at all times.  It can prevent us from reaching sleep, and often affects our dreams. Suffering becomes an integral part of our lives whenever it occurs.  Imagining a life without it, while very attractive seems impossible.

For all these arguments there is one final point.  We do not consider suffering to be normal.  Pain, torture, illness, depression, and violence are all viewed as abnormal.  We have created entire professions to combat it, and to use it as a weapon because it is so powerful.  Very few people actively seek pain in their lives, and only the very sick, mentally ill, or in some cases devoutly religious seek death.  In some of those cases they want to die to escape overwhelming suffering.  Although it is a normal part of life, it is not an essential part of being human.  Could we live without pain? Certainly, we could.  Those who argue that suffering builds character or shows commitment to a belief system or prepares people for the harsh realities of life, would probably still trade their pain for a suffering-free life.

Rah Rah Rah

August 19, 2009

It is a rare day that this blog ventures into the realm of sports, but this is one of those days.  The two sports teams that I closely follow, and actually cared about, are the Detroit Tigers and the Hamilton Tiger Cats.  In the time I have been a fan of those two teams they have combined to have 8 winning seasons a handful of playoff appearances and 1 championship.  Considering I’ve been following them for a combined 35 years, this record is far from impressive.

There are people who become fans of whatever teams are successful when they are young. In fact there is a proliferation of 49ers, Lakers, Cowboys, Bulls, and Yankees fans among people my age.  But I was always a contrarian.   I picked the Tiger Cats because they are our local team, and the Tigers because they were playing the Jays one day and I wanted to cheer for the other team.  A strange thing happens when you cheer for teams that perpetually lose.  Eventually you come to expect the worst all of the time.  Bill Simmons has written and spoken at length about this phenomenon, and I agree with his assessment that bad teams lead to paranoid fans.

There is another segment of that fan population.  These are the people, like myself, who remain eternally optimistic, and always believe their team will finally find a way to pull it off.  For me, this continuous hope paid off with a 1999 Grey Cup victory, and to a lesser degre, the Tigers appearance in the 2006 World Series. Just thinking they would make is so soon after the 119 loss season was considered a bit extreme.

Perhaps I just don’t care enough about the results to get worked up or paranoid about my favourite teams.  It takes a certain level of investment to take losses to heart.  I don’t regularly attend either team’s games, though I do watch some games on television, or follow them on the internet. The truth is I expect sorts to provide a positive counterpoint to the more awful parts of our world.  If I want to be pessimistic or sad I focus on the many negative issues  and what can be done about them.  I expect sports to entertain me, and provide an occasional lift.  I don’t want to spend anytime being upset about a tough loss. I hope that my favourite teams will succeed because that is the best possible outcome, and the only one that will truly affect me.

A Twin Engine Beechcraft

August 17, 2009

New episode of the podcast is up and as always can be reached over there –>. It’s been a long summer off and it’s nice to be back into the swing of things.  Music by The James Clark Institute, The Alder Fork, and Urban Moon.

As promised I discuss a bit about other benefit concerts.  Live Aid actually came up as a topic of discussion when I was on Random Green Dots (a Sound FM show) the other night.  I was only 3 on that memorable day, so I’ve only seen clips from that day.  It was such an outlandish idea, yet it achieved its stated goals.

If You Twist And Turn Away

August 16, 2009

It is with great pleasure that I announce the return of The Alder Fork Podcast. As we gear up for the big festival in less than a month, the podcast will feature several episodes with appropriate topics.  The episode, which will be up as of Tuesday August 18, will feature a discussion of previous benefit concerts.  Most of those festivals were on a much larger scale and featured a who’s who of popular music.  The Alder Fork Festival will be a low key event, yet it maintains the sense of optimism about the power of people and music to make a difference in the world.

As an undergraduate student I took a number of courses on music history, tracing people’s efforts to make sound from the ancient past up to the Twentieth Century.  For our ancestors music was often a powerful spiritual experience, connected to worship, storytelling, and community bonding.  Right through the time of the great composers and into the last century music was a special treasure, and truly gifted musicians could only be enjoyed periodically if at all for most.  The evolution of recording technology has meant a steady bombardment of music is now the norm for most people.  It follows us wherever  we go, and a great many people prefer it that way.  While this has meant that a greater number of musical performers can find a piece of people’s days, it has meant that music isn’t quite as special as it once was. Yet even today, a well constructed melody can illicit irreplaceable feelings in the listener.  At its core, music is still spiritual, and still soul moving in its way.

Perhaps then, this is why we have come to so often associate music with causes.  Of course, the rise of the rock star has contributed to the relationship, but when it comes to events like Live Aid, it is the most poignant songs that bring us to contribute.  The whole event becomes an out of body experience shared by millions, in a way no ordinary telethon possibly could.  While my little festival cannot provide such a thrill to the millions, for those of us who are deeply involved it will be a magical night.  I have worked very hard over the years to create as many of these mystical nights as possible.  The fact that I can use them to help a very worthwhile cause heightens the feeling.

I have provided people with many reasons to come to The Alder Fork Festival. A short list would read: 1) It’s a great cause 2) The music is top notch 3) The venue is fantastic 4) It’s a fun way to help people out 5) There will be cookies. But the real reason to come is the magic of such an event.  The magic begins when a group of caring people gathers to listen to passionate musicians in the name of worthy cause.  Out of that foundation, the possibilities are endless, and that is all I ever wanted.

I Can’t Find Nothin’ On The Radio, Yo Turn To That Station

August 15, 2009

I’m going to be chatting on the University of Waterloo’s radio station tonight at 8pm.  You can stream it here:

Click on the big “listen live”. If you live in Kitchener-Waterloo you can also find it on the dial at 100.3 FM.

I will be playing a tune or two and chatting about music, the festival, and who knows what else!

A Poster and Some News

August 10, 2009
Festival Poster by Caillin Kowalczyk

Festival Poster by Caillin Kowalczyk

This fantastic poster for this year’s Alder Fork Festival. High school friend, and gifted artist Caillin Kowalczyk put this together for the event.  He made the very first festival sign back in 2000 when it was The Mid-Summer Festival of Peace and Tranquility and he was the bass player for Urban Moon.  You can see more of his work, and even pick some up for yourself, here.

In other Alder Fork related news, CBC Radio 3/New Music Canada has added the band to its featured artist page. Here’s what they had to say about the album:

Hamilton native Peter Snow’s latest CD “The Colour I Remember Most” is an inventive collection of rock, electronic, folk & pop songs that resonate long after you’ve hit the stop button.

Thanks CBC Radio 3/New Music Canada!

For more info about the band and the festival head over here.


August 4, 2009

Back from a weekend in Montreal, I continue my love affair with the Group of Seven. Le musee des beaux arts (yes the French was painfully dusted off this weekend) features many works by Lawren Harris and Tom Thomson. I actually didn’t realize they had such a large selection of Harris’ work. Of all the members of the group his work is probably the most attractive to me. Though I have Casson, Thomson and Harris prints in my room, it is Harris’ deep blues and strong lines that inspire me most.

The relationship between the work of the Group of Seven and their favourite subjects (Northern Ontario, BC, Quebec, and the Maritimes) is a fascinating one, because it seems to me that above all else, these artists are interested in translating the experience of their location.  Obviously, most visual art intends to convey a perspective, and a set of feelings associated with the object of the work.  But like the Impressionists these Canadian masters captured the essence of the location along with its appearance.  For me at least, and I suspect many others their art replicates the intense feeling of viewing a natural vista, be it a forest around Lake Superior, or the hills of Algoma.