Thursday, October 27, 2005

When Mainlanders Come to Town

I guess this one qualifies as weird news.

While Stephen Harper was in St. John's recently he followed a great Newfoundland Group called 8-track favourites. Turns out the band had a lucky charm of sorts in the form of a bra that was donated one night by a very enthusiastic fan. The bra even has its own pet-name, the boys dubbed her "Yvette". Turns out that after the leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition had his few words to the Conservative crowd poor ole Yvette went missing. The boys feared that Yvette had fallen for the big city charms and cowboy suave of Mr. Harper. They e-mailed Mr. Harper's office and explained their concern for her virtue. By this time her innocence was already spoiled. Harper was at this point probably hurrying from a hotel room - shirt partially unbuttoned and sticking through his fly like a little fabric weiner, saying "ya ya, I'll call you."

But the story has a happy ending. Apparently someone from Steve's office said they forgot to get their "Harper's Bazaar" and an aide thought that he said "get Harper's brassiere" - Innocent enough. Yvette has been returned to the band just in time for her to participate in Bras-Across-The-Bay in aid of breast cancer awareness month. She will join her sisters hand-in-hand across Quidi-Vidi on October 28 at 10:30am. Even though there will likely be larger bras than the one from Harper, I bet neither one came from a bigger boob.

CBC News Story

Congratulations to the organizers and sponsors of this event

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Capturing a Soul

Can a photo capture your soul? As a photography enthusiast myself I often see people as portraits. The strong curve of a jaw, or defining eyes that speaks so much about who we are and where we have come from. As it stands though, the greatest number of my photos are landscapes. There is something very intimate about capturing a person's face on film. There is a part of me that sees it as an invasion. Many cultures of the world feel that a photo captures something of your soul and many artifacts and symbols are forbidden to be photographed. And, we also cannot forget that the Princess of Wales died because of someone's attempt to capture her image.

I am reminded of a photo from National Geographic of a young Afghan lady. A photographer on assignment in Afghanistan about twenty years ago captured the image that would capture the world. Her eyes are deep and agressive, her gaze insinuating. The photographer had intruded in her world and her eyes burn with the fire of a caged animal.

There is another very popular photo that you'll see locally in the souvenoir shops and dollar stores, it is called "Three Fishermen" or "Jolly Fishermen". This image is available on placemats, postcards, playing cards - you name it. It is a great photo that captures the heart and soul of the Newfoundland and Labrador fishermen. Two thoughts come to mind when I see this picture. My immediate thought is for the fishermen, who were standing on a dock in Norman's Cove one summer when a photographer from Nova Scotia had a quick chat with them and asked to take their picture. One of them grabs a Sculpin and holds it, it's mouth in a broad grimacing smile matched by the broad warm smile of the gentlemen. The photographer says he might like to print the photo; the gentlemen sign the photographers consent form... My first thought turns to these gentlemen because I know their story. I know that after signing the consent they never heard from the photographer again. They never gave it a second thought until they started seeing their images on the placemats, postcards, playing cards... They were never contacted by the photographer, they were not compensated in any way. Legally I guess they weren't owed anything. I'm not sure if there is a code of ethics among photographers, perhaps it was all par for the course. There does seem to be a blatant unfairness about it though.

This is perhaps telling of a greater issue in Newfoundland and Labrador; of the pieces of our soul, our resources and culture that we have allowed others to take and sell, making profit at our expense. I don't need to list examples - we are all to painfully aware of them- they jab our sides like knifes and except for the occasional twist of the blade we have come to ignore them.

My other thought is how we quite often fail to see the beauty and potential of our own culture, people and resources. Why have we consistently failed to capitalize on our own inherent wealth?

Can a photo capture your soul? I will continue to take my second-rate landscapes and let the quiet dignity of my countrymen lie undisturbed.

A footnote:

The photographer does have the names and details of the gentlemen. The two gentleman on the left have passed away. The gentleman on the right, I have met on a couple of occasions and I have a deep respect for him. He is very quiet and unassuming and worked a good hard life. The photo was taken in Norman's Cove near Chapel Arm in the 1970's. I wonder how much thirty years of royalties on numberous calendar and souvenoir products has been made on this image.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Portrait of a Protestor

I've been writing so much about this on other sites that I stood to be accused of blog haunting. I thought it best to retreat to my own space for a while.

MES is a seal hunt protestor from the United States. If you want to know where, simply take a pin and drive it into the centre of the continental United States; it'll be as far away from either ocean as you can be in North America. MES is the archetype of the Seal Protest Movement. She devotes her full time (by her own admission) to the Seal Hunt. She fails to devote any of her time to any local Animal Welfare concerns. Nothing in her community, her state, or her country is worth even a tiny bit of her time. MES is a product of the anti-seal hunt public relations machine. She saw a horrid video of seals being killed when she was just seven. It permanently etched her memory and scarred her innocence. I have to wonder at who would allow a seven year old to witness the killing of an animal. I am tempted to blame it on American culture that adores violence in media but is shocked by a nipple slip... but I don't know if this is the case. Just my attempt at understanding the whole thing.

MES seeks anything on the web related to the seal hunt. She is a persistent poster to sites that even vaguely mentions the seal hunt. Her words are nothing new: "baby seals", "skinned alive", "barbarians", she uses celebrity quotes as if they should be held with a higher authority than us mortals. Their information is largely straight from the GreenPeace Anti-Sealers Manual of the 1970s (before founder Paul Watson was asked to pick up and leave). MES has one agenda - "Stop the Seal Hunt".

"But what if we determine that seals are being harvested in the most humane way possible?"

"Doesn't matter"

"What if we show you the economic benefits to rural Newfoundland and Labrador, what if we show you how thoroughly the animal is used, for oils, furs, meat, medicinal products"

"Doesn't matter"

Nothing really matters. There is no argument that MES can accept that will erase those horrid images from childhood. And luckily for Paul Watson that is just the type of person he needs. Blind Faith. The money machine of the Seal Hunt movement depends on extremes. How well would a campaign do that has a sign reading "Reforms in the Seal Industry Now!" Doesn't work; how about "Stop baby seals from being skinned alive!" That'll work, where is the red paint - we need lots and lots of red paint.

Occasionally they get caught in their own web. I recall in last season's storm of activity that there was a sealer on the ice who had a confrontation with a protester. The fact that there should be a boundary around the sealers to allow them to work and minimize confrontation does not seem to matter to Capt. Watson's Posse. It produced a highly published video of poor old Dr. Vlasak in a shoving match with a sealer. It made for great video - just like the old days. People were enraged. Who provoked whom? Innocent Dr. V just taking some photos, just an innocent tourist.

The Sea Shepherd Society was quick to rally support behind Dr. V. They published the photo, names and phone number of the sealer. He received harassing phone calls and threats. His family heard horrendous, brutal threats of violence from unseen faces in distant lands. Only after the fact do we realize that this mode of attack is Jerry Vlasak's game. He provokes violence for good video. He condones violence. He is considered a terrorist in some countries and denied entry. He told a conference in 2003 that ‘if a person is targeted for assassination, that kind of fear and intimidation is an effective tactic...’ Same guy on the video being shoved by a sealer. I wonder what happened there? Capt. W. eventually had to reluctantly resign Dr. V's seat and issue a statement (after quite a bit of time)

The problem with the extreme view is it will inevitably run amok. Out of the control of even the great Shepherd. When this happens Watson is prepared to cut the tumor lose, the catalyst for surgery is when the media begins to shift ever so slightly out of his favour. He lives for the camera. Is it any wonder that actors are quick on this bandwagon?

Back to MES: Does she condone the use of violence like Jerry Vlasak? Does she condone the publishing of that sealer's name, photo and contact information? The fact is MES is a real person. Her name, contact information - it's all available. Is it fair to feed her private information to the public? Do I encourage harassing phone calls and disturb the sanctity of her home? My upbringing tells me not to do it. We are not barbarians after all...

Friday, October 14, 2005

Out of Our Hands

The Portnoys are an Israeli family who now call Marystown home. Two of the Portnoy children are born and bred Canadians, the other Portnoys anxiously await to be officially Canadian. After about a decade the Portnoy file finally reached the top of the heap of some faceless federal Bureaucrat. Scratching his protruding belly and sipping his StarBucks Latte he grabs the Rubber Stamp and seals the fate of a new Newfoundland and Labrador family. "Send 'em Back" (or some bureaucratic equivalent), stamped in red across the file. And Geeze it is hard to convince that guy otherwise. Allegations of car thief in his homeland have been dealt with by Mr. Portnoy and Isaeli documents shows the issue to be closed - but... The Stamp has spoken!

Bill Matthews has spoken on behalf of the Portnoys, so has educators, community leaders, and friends. The simple fact remains that it is not up to Newfoundland and Labradorians who we wish to live in our land.

After Bill Matthews spoke with Immigration he told the Portnoys it's "out of his hands". Isn't there a problem when we cannot determine for ourselves who makes up our communities? Out of our hands; out of our pockets; out of our waters and out of our soil. What's next from Ottawa.

The NEW Official Website of the Portnoy Family

A Very Good Detailed Account of Mr. Portnoy's Story is Here

Immigration Link:

Monday, October 03, 2005

Split Peas

The opinions are varied. On the one extreme is the "Colony" of Newfoundland and Labrador. Newfoundland and Labrador is a child of mother England adopted by Canada. It is young and dependant like a young Robin sitting with its mouth open to altruistic Ottawa. On the other extreme are the people who would see us as our own country. This group may be a more extreme view. "We couldn't possibly make it as our own country - could we?" The Independents are quick to mention Iceland. A country with practically nil Unemployment, a country that produces a great deal of its own consumer goods, a country of wealth and culture... A country that very much reflects Newfoundland and Labrador’s resource base and strong cultural backbone.

In between is everyone else; the less vocal majority. This group has no intension of packing up and leaving. Secretly perhaps they look at the old Newfoundland Coins and Stamps with some pride. They may fly the pink white and green, and wear the T-Shirts. They are enraged when a mainland journalist writes about "hand-outs" from Ottawa and they are proud when a Newfoundlander and Labradorean makes top ten in Canadian Idol.

There is indeed a feeling in this land. The Pink White and Green flag is perhaps the most visible, concrete part of this. It is evident in blogs, in the newspapers, the open line shows, the gentlemen on my street with the "Free Newfoundland" bumper sticker, the rallying behind Rex Goudie, the Accordion Revolution, the tremendous support behind our premier during the Atlantic Accord fight, the tears in hearing "Salt Water Joys", the petitions fighting for the Gander weather station, the outpouring of support for Stephenville, Badger, Bishop's Falls during the floods.... We have our native son draped in the Maple Leaf after being killed in Afghanistan fighting for this country’s freedom so that some mainlander wanting to get a high-five from her bigoted readers can call us a "scenic welfare ghetto".

I can see the Pink White and Green on the south side from where I sit and I am proud to see it there. It does my heart good to see it flying higher than all others. The Maple Leaf flys from City Hall and from the Government buildings; I have pride in them too, but seeing them in the shadow of the South Side Pink White and Green makes me smile.