Monday, January 26, 2009

traffic (the start of something)

Linden trees emblazon in amber and gold along the banks of Nærøyfjorden near Gudvangen, Norway. (2007).

Jack cast his lure into the still water in front of him. A small splash ensued. Satisfied, he sat down with both his feet hanging over the edge of the weathered pier, and waited.

October now, tall lindens emblazoned both banks of the fjord in fists of amber and gold. Overhead, a mist obscured the view of a thousand steep metres to the top.

Down below, the fish weren't striking, but Jack didn't care. He waited.

After some time, the silence of the valley was broken by the rhythmic rip of oars on water, out of sight beyond the elbow of the fjord.

Stroke, stroke, stroke ... in rising Doppler crescendo.

Stroke, stroke, stroke ... until, at last, she appeared.

A wooden rowboat painted in sapphire and spring. Marsaxlokk, Malta. (2008).

Sanna glided alongside the pier in a rowboat painted sapphire and spring.

"Catch anything?" she asked.

"No, you scared all of the fish away," Jack playfully countered.

Sanna frowned teasingly and crinkled her nose. Jack got up and stretched his aching back, then knelt down again to hold her boat steady against the side of the pier.

Sanna stepped out with picnic basket in hand. She had won the basket, years ago, finishing first in a footrace somewhere in the south of Sweden.

"Hungry?" she asked.

Jack nodded.

Sanna unfolded a checkered blanket onto the pier and seated herself overlooking the water. Jack came over and sat down behind her, facing the opposite direction in view of the mountainside. He leaned his back against hers.

The soothing warmth of Sanna's back ran deeply. Jack swallowed and closed his eyes.

Smiling, Sanna reached into the picnic basket, and handed Jack a sandwich above their touching shoulders.

"This is fun, isn't it?" she asked.

"It is," Jack replied.

And he really meant it, too.

Editor's note: The characters and events of the preceding story are fictitious, unless they aren't. Traffic (The Start of Something) is based on Ernest Hemingway's semi-autobiographical short story, The End of Something, which you can read here in its entirety.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

six ways from sunday: circadian arcadium

Is it day or night? The sky says one thing, the streetlamps another. Hjärup, Sweden. (2009).

At this point, I'm sure some of you clever readers out there are wondering why we're publishing our intermittently regular, Six Ways from Sunday music column on a Wednesday. Are Felix and the editor really suffering that badly from jetlag? To that question, I would reply: is eschewing obfuscation in the spirit of espousing elucidation an effectual endeavour? Figure that one out, smart guy.

So. I suppose you're here for the music. First word: right. Second word: place. Third word: huzzah!

For those of you new to Six Ways from Sunday: clicking on the active links below lead you to full-length, YouTube tracks of our very own, six-pack of mix-tape selections. Give it a try and, as usual, happy listening.

1. 1234 :: Feist :: The Reminder (2007). I consider Leslie Feist a contemporary since we are both roughly the same age and also because we share western Canadian and Maritime roots. A reach? Maybe. But the fact that she's cute in an artsy, God-I-regret-I-didn't-ask-you-out-back-in-high-school sort of way is grounds enough for us to give her top billing here. "One, two, three, four / Tell me that you love me more / Sleepless long nights / That is what my youth was for."

2. Dayvan Cowboy :: Boards of Canada :: Trans Canada Highway (2006). The band name says Canada. The album name says Canada. Therefore, it follows that the highly-acclaimed brother duo of Michael Sandison and Marcus Eoin Sandison is actually from Scotland. What? Now that makes about as much sense as the Tartan Pimps, the ska band me and the editor are starting up. Oh, just roll the clip.

3. Hide And Seek :: Imogen Heap :: Speak For Yourself (2005). Lamentable is the music column that doesn't use the word "ethereal" at least once. Ethereal. There, we said it. "Spin me 'round again and rub my eyes / This can't be happening / When busy streets a mess with people / Would stop to hold their heads heavy / Hide and seek."

4. At the Edge of the Ocean :: Ivy :: Long Distance (2001). Criminal! An abomination! Yeah, yeah, I'm sure electronica audiophiles are balking heavy at the inclusion of this track, which featured dated beats and uncool synth-pop even at the time of its release almost eight years ago. Memo: we don't care ... it's our playlist. "Ohhh, we can begin again / Shed our skin, let the sun shine in / At the edge of the ocean / We can start over again."

5. Mirrorball :: Elbow :: The Seldom Seen Kid (2008). And let the superficial comparisons begin! More accessible than Sigur Rós. Less ego than Coldplay. Emotional art-rock like Radiohead. Where are my headphones? "When we make the moon our mirror ball / The street's an empty stage / The city sirens, violins / Everything has changed."

6. Chariot :: Page France :: Hello, Dear Wind (2006). Because everyone likes a happy ending. "Like a chariot / Swing it low for us / Come and carry us away / So we will become a happy ending."

Thursday, January 08, 2009

extra innings

Dedicated and diligent, the peerless editor of felix's daily starfish and waffles continues to work late into the night even when everyone else has gone home. Ottawa MacDonald-Cartier International Airport, Ottawa, Canada. (2009).

Travelling at special discount fares always entails a catch. Today's attached string: a 10-hour layover in Ottawa - Canada's national capital. An untimely transit strike and predictably snowy conditions mean we're more or less trapped in the terminal ... what is there to do but work? So here we are, burning the candles at both ends. Still, there's always time for a quick, in-transit "hello" from me and the editor. Hope you're well, wherever you are.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

base camp

It's been one of the coldest western Canadian winters in the last half century; here's a shot of what it looks like. Approximate air temperature: -35C (-31F). Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. (2009).

Home for the holidays, the inertia of familiarity weighs and time slows to a standstill, much like molecular motion in a deep-freeze Canadian winter. Senses shutter. Listlessness reigns. Let's leave it, for another day.

Yet, in this vacuum of space-time, the heart and mind remain active, as thoughts bounce and emotions prod, implicitly charting a course in search of the next life equilibrium.

For most of us, somewhere along the way, a realization sets in that there are few absolutes in this existence ... and, like Einstein's greatest theories, all is relative. Even home.

Home is a base camp - or at least I tend to think of it that way. It's exposed to the elements like anything else. Sometimes, after having been away, you come back finding that the ground has shifted, for better or for worse. Yet, with a core consisting of those you care about most, home is what it is: a reference point here, for expeditions to there ... wherever there may be.

Bearings reset, we'll trek on when the sun rises next. For the first half of 2009, it'll be Scandinavian Europe once more. Beyond that? Who knows what ranges we'll seek then. Stay tuned.