(Sally McKay is on blog-sabbatical, writing her PhD.)
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Muskwa-Kechika photos by Wayne Sawchuk. See the full sized photo essay at The Tyee
A few weeks ago I reported that Nanmac and I walked from Trinity Bellwoods Park to the Toronto Zoo. In fact, our desintation was specifially the grizzly bear pen at the zoo. I wanted to make an urban expedition to bear country (shooting Grizzly Man-style video all the way) in preparation for my August expedition to a large tract of wilderness called the Muskwa-Kechika in Northern B.C. Von Bark and I are going there with my father, Don McKay, for an Artist Exploration Camp, co-organised by poet Donna Kane and photographer/ conservationist Wayne Sawchuk. Donna's website has more details on the camp and bios of all the participants. If you follow this link to a photo essay by Wayne Sawchuk in The Tyee you will see that, unlike the Toronto Zoo, the Muskwa-Kechika is a bona fide wilderness. The animals in this area are not contained for our viewing pleasure, and the grizzly bears just roam around all day doing bear stuff. This means the chances of us actually seeing one are pretty slim, and I'm definitely not hopefull about getting any big fauna on video. No worries, though, cause I am packing the following props.
The ultimate goal of the Artist Exploration Camp is to help draw attention to the Muskwa-Kechika, a unique, vast, mostly undeveloped area (the size of Ireland, they say), that has recently been designated a management area. The whole group of us artist/campers will be collaborating on a touring art exhibition about the region, so watch for us in your town! I will keep you posted.
A while ago I posted preliminary sketches, including the one above, for a video about the ghost of the victim of a grizzly bear attack, trapped forever in the grizzly bear afterlife. Yesterday we shot good ghost footage with actor Brian Marler, using a home-made green screen at Trinity Bellwoods Park. My work plan for the Muskwa-Kechika includes shooting some landscape video for the project to key in later. I also plan to create a digital "Muskwa-Kechika Menagerie" of animal gifs, similar to the windy tree-pig I posted a few days ago. I will also be doing drawings and research for the upcoming Thicket, an evolving series of multi-media installations, created in collaboration with Von Bark, that speculates on the interior consciousness of animals in diorama form. Thicket 1: The Voyage is coming up at Harbourfront Centre in November.
I am pretty excited about this expedition, and I'm very much looking forward to meeting and collaborating with the other participants. There ain't no internet in them thar hills, so L.M. will be holding the blog fort on her own for the month of August.
The images above are from previous projects of mine involving the concept of wilderness. The first version of the Miss Mouse "Fight Club" lectures included a section on people who obssess about predators. The mouse herself had a slightly perverse interest in cats. The Killer Whale Victim performance was the story of a lost dog, told from the posthumous POV of a man who had been mauled at Marineland. The Trouble With Oscillation is about a tourist who tires of whale watching expeditions, and goes on a quantum physics vacation instead, seeking the ultimate wilderness 'hit'.
Lisa N. Goldman is a "Canadian-Israeli freelance journalist, based in Tel Aviv." She has a groovy looking blog called, On The Face. She also writes for Global Voices Online where her very thorough post of July 18th starts out:
"Israel is at war and the Israeli blogosphere is on fire. There are so many posts to mention that I can hardly think where to start. Since the events of the past week turned Israelisí reality upside down literally overnight they are trying to make sense of it all - and many are doing so online."The rest of the post is a really great list of links and summaries to Israeli blogs about the war, and I highly recommend it as a starting point for exploring non-mass media perspectives on life in Israel.
Extraordinary interview with Robert Fisk at the Democracy Now! web site.
I just received links to the following blogs through an email thread initiated by Palestinian artist Emily Jacir. I've just glanced through the drawing blog and it is totally fantastic. Scroll down for the talking bombed out building.
A Beiruti's drawn diaries: "How can I show sound in a drawing?"
Mazen Kerbaj, Live from Lebanon, 18 July 2006
Laila al Haddad's blog in Gaza:
Message from e-flux:
Dear friends, we are forwarding this request for help for refugees in Lebanon on behalf of Ashkal Alwan, an organization we highly respect which organizes some of the most important contemporary art events in the Middle East. We ourselves are making a financial contribution and strongly urge you to also do so, if possible, as it is really a critical situation.More information and donation details here.
all of us at e-flux
|"I'm very grateful for the lucky accident that plopped me into the world during this particular junction of space/time because once in a while I get to read Paul Hong's writing."
- Sally McKay
That quote by me appears on the back jacket of Paul Hong's new book, Your Love is Murder, Or the Case of the Mangled Pie, from Tightrope Books. Having been raised in a writerly setting, I am somewhat phobic about first books by new authors I am accquainted with and I rarely read them unless I absolutely have to. This one is different. Having read some of Hong's perfectly balanced, lateral, frightening and surprising stories in Kiss Machine magazine, I was waiting for the book with out-and-out anticipation. While reading it I experienced not one flinch, nor sigh of awkward pity, but rather found myself completely absorbed, disbelief suspended, with utter confidence in the author and eagerness to see what would happen next. |
The stories are hard to describe: they are short and precise, and a lot of them have animals. The animals are sometimes sort of supernatural, like the shark that appears to the boy in the hospital. Other times they are locked in the material world with the rest of us, like the dog who must borrow a child's plastic shovel in order to scratch complaints to his owner in the sand box. The stories are also about aliens. Neurologist Ramachandran talks about the zombie in our brain, a literal aspect of our physiological functionality that is impassive but observant. I recognize a certain deatchment in Hong's point of view, as if the narrator was just a visitor to this world, seeing through the eyes of a human boy. Except for the parts of the book that express a deep, confused and seething rage. This is the subtext, and it is linked to racial discrimination, to the infuriating impotence that comes from witnessing and experiencing human violence, and to the alienation of swimming through a culture's tropes and modes that do not speak to you, yet envelope you.
In some cases the animals seem to proffer a bridge across a chasm. A creature that functions as icon in one set of mythologies (for instance a beaver) functions for our protagonist as a kind of existential entry-point to forming relationships with the world, or maybe, and this is where it all gets spooky, a relationship with the underworld? Ben Okri's Famished Road springs to mind, with his boy protagonist trapped between the spirit world and the living world, constantly courted and seduced by ghosts, barely clinging to the version of reality that is shared by friends and family.
The struggles in Paul Hong's stories are handled with a light touch, with perfect tension, with lots of humour, and efficient yet unpredictable prose. He is an incredibly good writer, and I am an envious, admiring and enriched-for-the-experience die-hard fan.
How Lebanon Gets Fucked part 3
During all the drama in the late 70's we heard from Sunni, Christian, Druze, Israeli, Palestinian, Socialists, Ba'athist, Fascists etc. and all subsets of each organized entity were doing fast deals all over the place.
Enter a new party in 1982, the Shia militant group, Hezbollah, and as mentioned before, their ideological parent and sugar-daddy, Iran. (As with the rest of them, publicly dedicated to the eradication of Israel, the only serpent in this garden of Eden) (if you are unfamiliar with irony, go fuck yourself, which I only mean ironically, of course) Another commonality with all the other agents in this area, is that they claimed to speak for all whom they identify themselves as ~ whether the spoken-for agrees to that or not. (That happens to the best of us, whether we like it or not.)
Hezbollah's POV was that the PLO would never succeed in their fight with Israel as long as it remained a secular movement with ties to Arab monarchies. (and they don't like the Sunnis or Christians either) Therefore good representation for Iranian interests in that region. Have I touched upon the converging business interests of Syria, Iran and Israel over the years? Beirut is a very important seaport.
The English Aljazeera site has some good background info on the evolution of Hezbollah from radical upstarts to a powerful political entity in Lebanon.
I think the article overestimates the role of Hezbollah in the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon. As mentioned in part one of this sad story, Israel would not give up control without some sort of back room deal with Syria to keep Hezbollah on a tight leash. (remember Syria publicly hates Israel, privately couldn't care less about the Palestinians and, as a secular Ba'athist state, doesn't have much love for Islamic political movements, and lastly, believes itself to be entitled to any wealth left in Lebanon) The Syrians appeared to keep their part of the deal for many years until recently when, much to their regret, they had to leave Lebanon.
The consequences of the Syrian withdrawal was outlined in this frighteningly prescient analysis from 2005.
And currently from Stratfor:
"The uncertain question is Syria. No matter how effectively Israel seals the Lebanese coast, so long as the Syrian frontier is open, Hezbollah might get supplies from there, and might be able to retreat there. So far, there has been only one reported airstrike on a Syrian target. Both Israel and Syria were quick to deny this.
What is interesting is that it was the Syrians who insisted very publicly that no such attack took place. The Syrians are clearly trying to avoid a situation in which they are locked into a confrontation with Israel. Israel might well think this is the time to have it out with Syria as well, but Syria is trying very hard not to give Israel casus belli. In addition, Syria is facilitating the movement of Westerners out of Lebanon, allowing them free transit. They are trying to signal that they are being cooperative and nonaggressive."
So is Syria sitting tight for now, just waiting to see what the spoils will be? Robert Fisk is thinking along these lines too.
Nothing is as it seems.
Now, a little more history for How Lebanon Gets Fucked part 2: Back in the late '70's and early 80's Iran was ground zero for revolutionary Islamism, (and that Iranian Islamic Revolution is the initial inspiration and bankroller for Hezbollah.)
During Iran's war with Iraq in the 80's, tactical needs trumped the ideology and the revolutionary purity of Iran, and led them to the 1986 U.S. brokered purchase of weapons from Israel. (the Iran-Contra Affair, perhaps you've heard of it) If our American friends think this was an outrageous scandal in their country, imagine what this arrangement with two major enemies did for the Iranian revolutionary position in the middle east. (as for the loss of revolutionary purity, don't you worry, that battle will always be fought on that special frontier I call 'Ladies'.)
Fast forward to the late 90's and onwards and al Qaeda, a Sunni movement.
"The Iranians always saw al Qaeda as an outgrowth of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan and therefore, through Shiite and Iranian eyes, never trusted it. Iran certainly didn't want al Qaeda to usurp the position of primary challenger to the West. Under any circumstances, it did not want al Qaeda to flourish. It was caught in a challenge. First, it had to reduce al Qaeda's influence, or concede that the Sunnis had taken the banner from Khomeini's revolution. Second, Iran had to reclaim its place. Third, it had to do this without undermining its geopolitical interests.
Tehran spent the time from 2003 through 2005 maximizing what it could from the Iraq situation. It also quietly participated in the reduction of al Qaeda's network and global reach. In doing so, it appeared to much of the Islamic world as clever and capable, but not particularly principled. Tehran's clear willingness to collaborate on some level with the United States in Afghanistan, in Iraq and in the war on al Qaeda made it appear as collaborationist as it had accused the Kuwaitis or Saudis of being in the past. By the end of 2005, Iran had secured its western frontier as well as it could, had achieved what influence it could in Baghdad, had seen al Qaeda weakened. It was time for the next phase. It had to reclaim its position as the leader of the Islamic revolutionary movement for itself and for Shi'ism."
(One of the initial steps in this process of reclamation involves the cultivated nuttiness of the Iranian President shooting off his mouth about Tehran's nuclear program and threatening to wipe Israel off the face of the earth with the nuclear weapons they don't have yet. But Israel does. This was for his domestic audience.)
Ok I promise more Hezbollah in part 3.