Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Maya Angelou

She was raped at the age of 8. Her rapist was found guilty, but spent only one day in jail. After he was released, he was murdered. Because of this, she became mute for almost 5 years, believing her "voice killed him." "I killed him that man. because I told his name. And, then I thought I would never speak again, because my voice would kill anyone ..."

Her name was Marguerite Ann Johnson. Later in life, she would change her name . . . to Maya Angelou.

During this time, this period of suffering, this period of shame and guilt, this period of silence that she "developed her extraordinary memory, her love for books and literature, and her ability to listen and observe the world around her." A teacher and friend of the family helped Angelou speak again, introducing her to the world of books with authors such as Charles Dickens and William Shakespeare.

When she finally did speak, she said she had a lot to say.

Maya Angelou became a voice for women, a voice for the black community, garnering respect and admiration for her honesty.

She would say, "There is no agony like bearing an untold story inside of you."

Angelou was challenged by her friend, author James Baldwin, to write an autobiography, which became "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings". The book would be critically acclaimed, but banned in schools and libraries because of its honest depiction of rape.

When asked by an interviewer why she wrote about the experience, she indicated that she wanted to demonstrate the complexities of rape. She also wanted to prevent it from happening to someone else, so that anyone who had been raped might gain understanding and not blame herself for it.

She would also later write another book titled "Letter to My Daughter", which was dedicated to the daughter she never had but sees all around her.

In the book, she says, "You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them."

She would also write in her poem, "And, Still I Rise":

"Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries...

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise..."
(The Jon S. Randal Peace Page - FB)

Astral Weeks - Van Morrison (John Stewart - Mississauga News)

This month marks the 50th anniversary of the recording of Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks.
Its genius was recognized right away by listeners, even if not by the record company that was perplexed and disappointed with the Boston-recorded album and, therefore, did virtually nothing to promote it.
Critic Greil Marcus of Rolling Stone magazine prophetically called it “unique and timeless” on its release.Like many, Marcus had trouble characterizing the contents and settled on lauding its “spirit of risk and experiment.”

A decade later in his famous piece for the Marcus-edited critical collection Stranded: Rock and Roll For a Desert Island, Lester Bangs said the songs and the artist seem “transfixed between rapture and anguish.” It is chamber jazz, stream-of-consciousness questing music that simultaneously seems to anchor you to the earth and release you from it. It’s not like any other record Morrison ever made or any other record you’ve ever heard. You venture into the slipstream of an artist’s subconscious, transported by Morrison’s childlike visions leaping into view.

It’s a coming-of-age, revelatory experience that returns you to formative days. Much of the imagery recalls childhood/teen memories of swigging cherry wine by the railroad tracks, jumping hedges on the way back home from school and making those lightning bolt connections to the adult world that one never forgets.

The lyrics are impressionistic and intoxicating, telling the story of a drag queen who anchors a swirling social whirl of back street kids (Madame George), an emboldened lover (“I’m dynamite and I don’t know why”) transfixed in “gardens all misty wet with rain” (Sweet Thing) and a tongue-tied former schoolboy recalling the power of a high school crush (Cypress Avenue).

Morrison’s sings in slur/soul style, ignoring boundaries, repeating phrases hypnotically (You breathe in/ You breathe out etc. etc.) in a self-absorbed trance that’s equally audacious and captivating.
It feels like a delicious auditory tour of the inside of someone’s else’s dream.
A new book by Ryan H. Walsh, Astral Weeks: A Secret History of 1968 outlines its strange history. Morrison strummed his songs in a separate booth as an elite group of session jazz artists, including the incomparable Richard Davis on bass, fleshed them out with astonishing sympathetic telepathy.
None of them had seen the music before or knew who Morrison was.

The notoriously cantankerous composer has minimized that achievement through the years (likely because he didn’t control its production), dismissing it as simply the product of a particular time, place and musical moment in time.

That’s exactly its brilliance. Its beautiful anguish captures the artist’s raw conception in its incomparable first blossoming. “Wrapped up in your magic shroud as ecstasy surrounds you. This time it’s found you.”This time and every time.

John Stewart is a retired longtime journalist with the Mississauga News. His column, My Back Pages, appears each week.

Sunday, September 16, 2018


Ostend organized a competition for photographers between 16 and 25 years old this Summer. They had to send in pictures of what makes Ostend unique to them. The 27 winning pictures, which were announced on 14 September 2018, are on display at the Venetian Galleries until 25 October 2018. Below you find some of my favorite photographs.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Bruges... What Tourists Do Not See

Australian athlete Dominic Di Tommaso showcases our beautiful city of Bruges from an unseen perspective. As a tourist, Bruges’ typical canal boats are the perfect way to discover the fabulous city from the inside. Well, you might want to reconsider. World-class freerunner Dominic Di Tommaso reveals this stunning piece of UNESCO World Heritage from a completely different perspective in the amazing video ‘What tourists don’t see’. On and across the roofs, towers, stepped gables and even the Belfry of Bruges, Dominic invites us on an athletic, jump- and flip-filled journey along the most beautiful spots of the inner city. Always on the move, freerunning in its purest form.

Bruges, What Tourists Do Not See

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Jimmy Carter

Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter

The 39th president of the United States lives modestly, a sharp contrast to his successors, who have left the White House to embrace power of another kind: wealth.

Even those who didn’t start out rich, including Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, have made tens of millions of dollars on the private-sector opportunities that flow so easily to ex-presidents.

The Democratic former president decided not to join corporate boards or give speeches for big money because, he says, he didn’t want to “capitalize financially on being in the White House.”

Presidential historian Michael Beschloss said that Gerald Ford, Carter’s predecessor and close friend, was the first to fully take advantage of those high-paid post-presidential opportunities, but that “Carter did the opposite.”

Since Ford, other former presidents, and sometimes their spouses, routinely earn hundreds of thousands of dollars per speech.

“I don’t see anything wrong with it; I don’t blame other people for doing it,” Carter says over dinner. “It just never had been my ambition to be rich.”

Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter 

Carter costs U.S. taxpayers less than any other ex-president, according to the General Services Administration, with a total bill in the current fiscal year of $456,000, covering pensions, an office, staff and other expenses. That’s less than half the $952,000 budgeted for George H.W. Bush; the three other living ex-presidents. Clinton, G. W. Bush and Obama  cost taxpayers more than $1 million each per year.

Carter doesn’t even have federal retirement health benefits because he worked for the government for four years — less than the five years needed to qualify, according to the GSA. He says he receives health benefits through Emory University, where he has taught for 36 years.

 The Washington Post