The Yearning To Be Seen: a Review of Do You Want What I Have Got? A Craigslist Cantata

Deeply touched by the Arts Club Theatre Company’s production of Do You Want What I Have Got? A Craigslist Cantata.  Veda Hille and Bill Richardson have written a non-linear musical that uses actual Craigslist ads for its lyrics.  Craigslist, in case you’ve been in a hole, is an online one-stop-shopping for finding whatever it is you want— from someone you saw on the train that day, to an old trumpet, to homes for your cats.  It’s a pared down, non-glitzy site—just text–where you have to use words to sell what it is you want to sell, or get what you want. Ads are quirky.  I think with the number of them, people have to come up with newer and more outlandish ways to make their ad stand out.  It’s not a Tumblr site so there’s no pics in your subject line to make you stand out–just a line of text.  What is Craigslist anyway?

The musical is episodic, going from ad to ad, occasionally reverberating or repeating a motif in another ad, enough to make it stick together well.  There are a number of “characters” who have very specific and ludicrous (sometimes even strange) desires and wants.  It would be easy just to laugh at all of them–and we do.  Audience tonight was having a great time laughing it up at the woman trying to sell her 300 stuffed penguins, singing an alphabetical list of the different species of penguins and hoping to find a special child who might want them all.  Or the man who wants someone to sit in his bathtub of cooked noodles…  Or the wanderers who keep missing each other–though having a brief moment with someone they fall for.

It would be easy to laugh, except Hille and Richardson don’t let us off that easy.  They have found a way to make that search poignant, a statement on 21st Century technology becoming the medium for expressing our desires.  There’s a song though that Hille sings in the middle–a quite surprising song about Noah and the doves he sends out into the world to find land.  And this becomes the central metaphor that pulls the show together in a quite exposing, vulnerable, emotional way— that Craigslist is a collection of those doves, sent out–with no replies, really.  “No one learns how the story ends.  Did they find each other?  We don’t know,” Hille says in the Artist talkback tonight.  There are only beginning moments–story starters, if you will–but we don’t know if any of the missed connections actually connect.

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Which do you want? Love or Power: Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen

I was living with my folks the last time I saw the Ring Cycle on PBS in the US.  I made my parents endure several hours of it before they said, enough!  After all I had hi-jacked the TV for several nights.  And I was in the middle of Siegfried, and well, maybe…..  actually my mother came to me and said, “Are you really enjoying this?” with a hint that she’d probably prefer something else.  And actually, then, without the absence of distraction–I was inside the living room of an active six person house with dog–I don’t remember much of the Ring Cycle at all.  I do remember telling my mom that we could change the channel.

I know, high recommendation eh?  But it was a small tv, on a fuzzy station, in a mad house of six people and dog— it wasn’t the Yukon Arts Centre, with its HD and surround sound.  It’s giant screen.  And it wasn’t hunky Bryn Terfel, the Wotan of this Ring Cycle.  I’m unabashedly crushing on Bryn Terfel.

Needless to say, I am looking forward to going through my first RING CYCLE in its entirety!  As a fully realized, aware, culturally-interested adult (without a dog).  I want the t-shirt that says I got through it.  I may ask Triple J’s to make some!

Anyway, a FREE movie begins the cycle–it’s Wagner’s Dream: the Making of the Ring Cycle at 7pm on Saturday, May 12.

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Because we are offering the Ring Cycle and because I’m kind of the defacto host of these Met Opera’s, I needed to know more about it–so I looked up the story.  It’s freakin’ amazing!

It might sound familiar: A ring forged that will let the wearer rule the world, dwarves fighting for the ring, dragons that guard it, doomed lovers— seems like Wagner’s Ring Cycle might be  The Lord of the Rings with music.  It’s not true.

Though there is a strong case that Wagner and Tolkien both got their source material from the same places–German and Norse mythology and sagas–what they crafted is very different.  And with all proper credit to Tolkien, Wagner’s opera has just as much amazing storytelling as the tale of hobbits and wizards.

Tolkien’s Trilogy of books starts off with a prelude book, The Hobbit, just as Wagner’s trilogy of operas starts off with Das Rheingold.

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Dancing Bears on Main Street, Whitehorse: Sarah MacDougall, The Greatest Ones Alive

So, I’ve always wanted to be a bear.  Sarah MacDougall’s album, The Greatest Ones Alive, is being released at the Yukon Arts Centre on Saturday, Nov 12, and Erin and I decided to promote the album by being the dancing bears on the cover of her album.

Costumes rented, we danced up and down Main Street.  We had a great time.  Sarah MacDougall was there, and captured us in a video and put us dancing to her beautiful song, “Sometimes You Lose, Sometimes You Win.”

I already love her CD.  And I was already looking forward to seeing her live in concert.  Now I feel deeply honoured to be part of her VIDEO!!  And I get to be the bear I always wanted to be. I think I was born to be a mascot–what do you think??

Tickets are still available (667-8574, box office).

I would go on and on about a) her music, and b) the existential moment of being a bear, but I’ll let you watch the video instead.

 

Find Sarah MacDougall’s CD, The Greatest Ones Alive here.

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Janelle Monáe and Science Fiction: Metropolis, Freedom, and the Other

I like finding science fiction in odd places.   Janelle Monáe is a genius.  Think if the Archies had been a ska band with a funk lead singer.  But she’s more than that.  She’s also a brilliant storyteller.  Her “Many Moons” reimagines the beginnings of science fiction cinema, Metropolis.  She gives the silent film Metropolis the soundtrack it needed.  For Janelle, Metropolis is about many androids now…and there are comments on slave auctions, blaxploitation, and the lack of freedom–for anyone.  For women, for minorities, for humans in a world overcome by technology.  There is no fear of androids in “Many Moons”—but even I would think that at the corners of the movie Monae makes, there is jealousy at the perfection of the androids, and even a bit of jealousy when Cindy Mayweather erupts in a spasm of freedom, or is it a spasm of realization that she is not free…. all I know is that she breaks loose and begins to dance, dance so high, that she short circuits.  But the crowd is in ecstasy with her.

Monae has certainly looked here at humanity as commodity.  She’s done it with brass.  And artistry.  She’s even mixed in a bit of Sesame Street.

I like finding science fiction in odd places.  And this small film is beautiful.    It’s got solid worldbuilding where she’s imagined, in one scene, the state of society.  The characters all have the hint of well-developed backstories; they have desires, weaknesses, past confrontations.  Cindy Mayweather grows as an android/character.  Her growth, perhaps, comes from her realizations–of the names that keep her as Other.  The names are not androidish—they are names leveled at minorities.  Check out the Cybernetic Chantdown after the break.

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Howls and Hell Yeahs: The Celebration of the Life of Reid A. Parent

I just returned from a beautiful service honouring the life of Reid A. Parent, a 25 year old man who touched the lives of tons of people before his untimely death in a car accident.

Reid was the main speaker at the event.  His words were all over the program–several of his journal entries revealed a creative, philosophical man who loved others and adored life.  His Sweater Video gave a discussion of how most people will lie and tell you that your sweater is beautiful, even if it’s the ugliest thing on earth, but that his own mother sincerely believes any sweater on him becomes beautiful.  I love the shock on his face when he realizes his mother honestly believes in the beauty.  Other videos of him rapping and singing were played.  Pictures of him showed a life of daring himself to be himself in all situations, and a life of making sure that he found “the goodness in other people,” as his stepdad, Darrell Hookey remarked.  His family and friends had the funniest stories about him–stories where he turned life into a beautiful game, and made every moment count.  Reid was there–all over the place–and he said his peace, and keeps saying his peace, through those who loved and knew him.

I am so glad there are celebrations of life–like participatory memoirs, we get a full picture of the life of a person, and get to celebrate what he gave that life.  It was horribly short, but it was grandly full.  And the proof was in the hundreds of people who showed up in Whitehorse, not to mention the hundreds that showed up in BC for the first memorial service.

His sister, Leah, another beautiful soul, said all she could do was howl–and so she invited us all to howl.  And we did.  All of us.  Howled like a pack of wolves who had lost their leader.  It seemed to me that Reid led a lot of people away from the brooding part of life into the happiness part.  Darrell Hookey challenged the crowd to live lives that took in every moment.  He didn’t accept our little silent nods.  He said we should answer that challenge the way Reid always did, with a “Hell yeah!”  And so he posed the question again, and pointed to us, and just like our earlier howl, we responded with a hearty “HELL YEAH” as we promised Reid, and ourselves, that time would not get away from us, that we would live full lives, and that we would love others as part of living full lives.

So many funerals can be much more final, more, shall I say, depressing, but this one was full of pain, yes, but was also full of celebration and promise–as Reid now inhabits all of us through his stories, his videos, his music, his writings, his friends, his family.  Reid goes on in particle form, or as the emcee said, he goes on in “seed” form…planting a renewed, and vigorous, life-living plant inside of us.

Go out there and howl, and let your yesses be Hell Yeahs. And give people enough of yourself that when you leave this Earth, you leave behind a garden of goodness and good stories.

God bless you, Reid Parent.  God bless you Darrell and Daisy, Leah, and all the relatives and all the friends who carry Reid’s seeds of joy.

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Another moving tribute from the Yukon News.

When Both the US and Canadian National Anthems Mean a Lot, You Sing Them Both With Your Hand On Your Heart

I’m really proud to have been asked to sing the national anthems of the US and Canada at the Yukon Quest Banquet held in Whitehorse, this past February, 2010.  As an immigrant to Canada, it meant the world to sing both anthems–they have a special meaning for me.  

It was a race from the US to Canada that we were there to celebrate this year.  So I could relate.  

I also like how much the Canadians like to sing along when we start “O Canada”.  

Hounded (and Happy) in the Yukon Woods

I can’t tell you how much I’ve enjoyed sitting a house with a dog over the holidays.  I got to spend two weeks with a fine German Shepherd named Qimmik.  He’s about 5 years old and over the last while we’ve bonded.  How do I know this?  He wants to go on long walks with me, but he doesn’t run that far ahead.  And when I get out of breath–dang hill I had to climb–he walks slowly ahead of me and turns to check on me, leading me back home.  He even waits till I catch up with him.  

He’ll greet other dogs—very friendly–but he’ll stick close to me, and walk beside me most of the time.  He protects me from being too “hounded” –but in a way, I like being “hounded”–encountering dogs in the woods that greet you, as if they are the doorgreeters.  And with Qimmik, I’ve become permanently “hounded”.  And this is a good thing.  

I LOVE dogs.  I want a dog.  And I love their company.  This one is a great companion.  I wish he could talk, honestly.  So I could understand what he wants.  But sometimes he just wants to be with me.  

When I get home he’s wound up like a top–runs, gets excited, out of breath, jumps!  So we go on a walk right away.  And he also sleeps in the same bed, down at the bottom of the bed.  He breathes at night, and he sighs really big if I’m turning over too much.  I like his company and the structure he gives my day.  It’s too bad that I have to give him up on Wednesday.  

There’s a great culture of dog owners in the Yukon–nearly everyone I meet has a dog or two or three….  And everyone walks their dogs in the woods, so you meet lots of people.  

I did make this video, my first iMovie, of Qimmik and I walking each other on Christmas Eve.  I made it as a gift for a dear friend, Susan Zettell, who let me sit her house 8 years ago, with her dog, Misery.  It was a wonderful time.  

In the video, it’s mostly him in the woods.  I set it to Bon Iver’s “Woods” a song that builds and builds with the same four lines:

I’m up in the woods

And I’m down on my mind

I’m building a still

to slow down the time.  

                                         —until there are multiple voices, multiple harmonies.  I’d like to slow down the time and enjoy the season more, enjoy the moment more, enjoy just being in the woods….

Hoping you get “hounded” this year, and you enjoy being “hounded” by the four footed friend that loves you most.  (Okay, even you catted people count….or are you felined….)  

Be Hounded and Happy.