Saturday, October 31, 2009

six ways from sunday: another time, another place

Anna's globe. Lund, Sweden. (2008).

"Baaaa-aaa!" I called out, down in the direction of the sure-footed mountain goats on the cliffs below.

Ironically, I felt sheepish when Myra, my Californian travel buddy, pointed out that goats didn't make that sound.

We were in Byron Bay, hiking the winding path up to the Cape Byron Lighthouse, the most-easterly point in Australia. I remember the blue of the Pacific. I remember the rippling patterns of the waves.

That was more than nine years ago. There's no good reason for me to be thinking about Australia now, not at 4am when I should be sleeping and dreaming of other things. But there you go.

Another time, another place.

The Cape Byron Lighthouse, Byron Bay, Australia. This goregeous multi-exposure HDR photo was taken and processed by Jose Alfonso Palad, and is published here on felix's daily starfish and waffles under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic license.

Six Ways from Sunday is felix's daily starfish and waffles' resident music column. Your mix tape with a theme, clicking on the active links below lead you to full-length, third-party, tracks of the day's musical selections.

As always, happy listening.

1. Stars All Seem To Weep :: Beth Orton :: Pass in Time (2003). According to legend, Orton showed up at the studio, threw down this hauntingly captivating track in one take, and left. Ben Watt, of Everything But The Girl and Buzzin' Fly fame, on the synthesizer. "I think about you on a moonlit night / And the stars all seem to weep. / When there's so much to lose / There's never any time for sleep."

2. Do It Now :: Dubtribe Sound System :: Baggage (2003). The disco song to end all disco songs. Lyrics kick in somewhere past four minutes. "You say you're lonely / Don't care anymore / Emptiness abounds / And love surrounds / The hole besides your heart."

3. Unspoken :: Four Tet :: Rounds (2003). No words here. Just hit repeat on the player and drift off to another time, another place.

4. Day's End :: DJ Krush, featuring Kazufumi Kodama :: 漸 -Zen- (2001). In the Six Ways From Sunday universe, Hideaki Ishii (a.k.a. Krush) is Tokyo's finest at 33 1/3 rpm. Kazufumi Kodama on jazz trumpet.

5. Meiso (Da Beatminerz Remix) :: DJ Krush, featuring Black Thought and Malik B. :: Another Maze (1996). Just clap your hands to the beat. "Yin for yang, I walk on a line / Between ghetto slang and stimulation of the mind / Life is a labyrinth for dollars and cents."

6. Final Straw :: R.E.M. :: Around the Sun (2004). Simmering defiance, growing anger, bulletproof conviction. Rare activist candor in an indifferent age. "I raise my voice up higher / And I look you in the eye / And I offer love with one condition / With conviction, tell me why / Tell me why."

Saturday, October 24, 2009

follow your star

Follow your star. Hjärup, Sweden. (2009).

Rare October fog drifts in from the river valley at first light, obscuring the normally bland skyline from view. From within the mist, faint outlines of shady elms and still-lit streetlamps diffuse a certain understated charm, detached from the regular, smog-filled bustle of the morning traffic rush.

I dawdle slowly, by foot, to work.

On a day like today, I think to myself that one could actually mistake the city for being beautiful, which is interesting for at least two reasons. First, I know better than this. Second, I find it ironic that I consider Edmonton to be at its most beautiful best when I actually can't see most of it.

Both times, I moved here out of financial necessity (read: employment), and maybe that's explanation enough as to why I have little in the way of real or sentimental attachment to this provincial capital. With Edmonton, the ugly city, it's just business. Fine. But be that as it may, what troubles me most is that many of the relationships I've managed to form here seem terribly fairweather and superficial - and, this, after six-plus broken years, grows incredibly tiresome. For whatever part of this fatigue is my fault, I take full responsibility. But as the saying goes, I doubt it's all me, so it's high time I quit being an apologist for those who simply don't deserve it.

For the lone, independent thinker, the city is a lonely, uninspiring place. In order to fit in here, I've always felt that one has had to adhere to an unspoken, you're-either-with-us-or-against-us type of social contract, which underwrites all of the headline features of the self-proclaimed, "advantaged" Alberta life. Business friendly. Low taxes. Plentiful shopping. People who are willing to do anything, to get ahead.

Funny, and maybe it's a matter of perspective, but from the window of my overpriced downtown apartment, all I see are downsides to the deal. Another SUV on the crumbling roads. Senseless, unplanned urban sprawl stretching to the suburbs as far as the eye can see. Rising poverty, homelessness and inner-city street crime. Kowtowing to the whims of Big Oil, without regard to the environment or the future. Electing right-wing governments that stay in majority power for 30 years at a time, entrenching the flaws of the status quo. Declaring war on dangerously radical and progressive ideas like, say, that theory on evolution. Proudly living off the world while remaining grossly ignorant of living in it, all the while waving a flag. And so forth.

If these really are the terms, then maybe I don't want to fit in here. But the fact remains: until I decide to either give in and conform or successfully leave altogether, I'm left wandering in a fog, looking for whatever beauty I can find in so much blank space. Although I remain (blindly?) hopeful for some kind of positive upside surprise after all this time, right now, this just feels like a whole lot of empty nothingness.

So here I am, stuck, writing about a whole lot of apparent nothing.

"Just follow your own star," Amanda used to say, when I would get stuck during an assignment and stare at a blank screen back in the days when I studied at the Castleman School of Travel Writing.

Follow your own star. I always kind of liked how she said that, and not just in the context of writing - but also life. It could be because there ought to be enough stars in the night sky for each of us to look up and choose one as our own ... and, in this, there's inherent hope somewhere in the skylight of finding some semblance of singularity against the backdrop of a society so seemingly characterized by abject sameness.

Needless to say, I'm not in a good place right now. But as the fog of day dissipates into the clarity of night, stars shine and the promise of something better, awaits.

In the meantime, let's see what kind of hate mail I get for posting this.

Evocative space. Edmonton, Canada. (2009).

Magnolia. Lund, Sweden. (2009). I suppose six months ago, I could foresee what was going to happen.

Festival of Lights. Berlin, Germany. (2008). I suppose one year ago, life was different.

At least the cupcakes here are good. Edmonton, Canada. (2009).

Sunday, October 04, 2009

the ugly city

The ugly city. Edmonton, Canada. (2009).

Six weeks in, there's plenty to say. But to just downright pan the place to oblivion isn't what starfish and waffles is about and, besides, it wouldn't be productive anyway.

So, all I'll say is this.

This, is pretty much playing out as I envisioned it. This, is proving to be a creative sinkhole. This, isn't the answer.

More stories to come.

The skating rink at West Edmonton Mall, the region's biggest tourist attraction. This retail monstrosity and tribute to North American consumerism covers real estate equal to some 48(!) city blocks, and still ranks as the fifth largest shopping mall in the world. Edmonton, Canada. (2009).

The provincial capital. Edmonton, Canada. (2009).