Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Folk Fest 2016: When the People Rocked the Music

When they announced this year's lineup, I was super disappointed. No big names. No Quebecois band. No one I loved. Heck, very few I even sort of liked!

In fact, I almost didn't go. It's such hard work and quite stressful, but one of my music people really wanted us to be there for her, so go I did.

And I don't regret it. Because while the music was meh, the people were awesome. I love my tarp family, and cherish the moments I get to spend with them. So much so, that despite the lineup, I'll be there for 2017 too.

But here's a Top 3 nonetheless:

1. The Year of the African Bands
I always try to see an African Band at the folk fest, but this year was their year and I had all the time for them. Friday's second session with Daby Toure, Black Umfolosi, Joel Fafard and Samantha Martin and Delta Sugar was probably the best jamming session I saw.

Joel Fafard, Black Umfolosi, Daby Toure and Samantha Martin et al.

I took in Black Umfolosi's concert and it was as joyful as ever. Here's a quick video I shot of my favourite song of theirs.

Black Umfolosi

And the last small stage concert of the weekend, Jah Prayzah and the 3rd Generation Band, had my tarp family up like dancing fools and it was a fun time to share together.

Dance Party with Jah Prayzah!

Next year, I'll make an extra point to check out the African groups!

2. Sometimes I surprise even myself, but I really enjoyed The Cat Empire's afternoon main stage concert. I'd definitely see them again.

3. Besides Friday's jammy session, the second best session I was was on Sunday and included Martyn Carthy, Matt Molloy and John Carty with Arty McGlynn, Dervish and the Kruger Brothers. It was a celtic jammy master class and very enjoyable. I had forgotten how funny Cathy Jordan ("Cathy Dervish") is.

Martyn Carthy, Matt Molloy and John Carty with Arty McGlynn, Dervish and the Kruger Brothers

Honourable Mention

The Step Crew was a little showy (they remind me of Barrage), but put on a good side stage concert.

The Step Crew

No super stand outs, besides the African contingent, but another year of perfect weather spent with perfect people with a perfect view of the hill. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

iRodeo 2016: Or Why It's My Favourite Music Festival

Interstellar Rodeo handily won over the crown of my most favourite music festival. Civilized. Relaxed. It was a fantastic venue for spending time with my favourite music family.

Here's my top 3 of 2016:

1. Marty Stuart
I knew I'd enjoy him, because my dad used to play his 'Tempted' cassette tape all the time, but I was surprised he was the top highlight of the festival. The music. The showmanship. The voice. The outfits. And he capped it all off by shaking fans hands as he walked off the stage. A set can't get much better than that!

2. The Strumbellas
You gotta love singing along, knowing all the words, dancing in your chair. They are a great live band.

3. Kathleen Edwards
Since she's technically retired, it's always a privilege to see her in concert. She was high-larious, with her own brand of self deprecating humour, and the songs are as always fantastic. She brought out Luke Doucet to play a few songs with her too.

Honourable Mention:

Henry Wagons only did a tweeter but he won over the crowd with his song 'Willie Nelson'. Dude needs his own full set next year! Check out a short video I shot of my favourite song.

Whitehorse was back, and while I love the duo and their music, I don't 100% buy into all the looping and electronic stuff. Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland's voices are so amazing that I feel all the extra takes away from that. But fun to watch nonetheless.

Six Shooter Records (we love them!) have treated us fans so well over the years. We'll be back next year for sure!!

Just be awesome...

Book Review: Graphic Novels by David Alexander Robertson

I can't remember how I found out about David Alexander Robertson, through the rabbit hole of the internet at work one day. Robertson is of Cree heritage, and the author of many graphic novels portraying Aboriginal history and present day issues.

Betty: The Helen Betty Osborne Story
By David Alexander Robertson and Scott B. Henderson

A story about a murdered indigenous women, this is an emotional read with not a happy ending.

Sugar Falls: A Residential School Story
By David Alexander Robertson and Scott B. Henderson

This poignant story about a residential school experience, ultimately ends with strength and hope.

7 Generations
By David Alexander Robertson and Scott B. Henderson

Collecting four stories in one volume, this novel traces a family from 1800 to present day, through tragedy and bravery and strength.

All of these graphic novels were great reads and I recommend them to everyone. I opened my mind and learned. I sure hope Robertson's works find themselves in schools across Canada!

Book Review: Buffy Sainte-Marie: It's My Way

In June of 2015, I happened to be in Ottawa for a library conference at the same time as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada wrapped up. I happened to be walking by the park where Buffy Sainte-Maire was performing, just in time to catch her entire set. I was mesmerized. The music was amazing, and she was just...well she's one cool lady. I spent the next six weeks listening to her CDs, and a month later she played a fantastic show at Interstellar Rodeo. Her music continues to get heavy play as my office music.

So I was pleased to come across her biography recently, and excitedly learned more about one of the world's great women...

Buffy Sainte-Maire: It's My Way
By Blair Stonechild
282 pages

And learn more about Buffy I did. Though not strictly chronological, Stonechild takes us through Buffy's life from childhood, to university, to her early music career, to her artistic pursuits, to her advocacy and impact on Aboriginal education and culture, to her later/current music career. She's lived a fascinating life, and I was especially interested in reading about her early music experiences (like the story about the connection between Buffy and Joni Mitchell) and her work with Aboriginal education. Stonechild uses extensive footnotes, and via interviews with Buffy and the people in her life, as well as media stories, I believe he presents an accurate biography. His writing is very accessible: this is not a hard read. In the end, I got confirmation that Buffy Sainte-Marie herself is a fantastic role model, a principled woman who stuck by herself and her heritage, and as I said before...one cool lady.

The neatest thing about reading this book, was the mentions and stories of all the songs and CDs. Some I knew, and could sing in my head. Some I listened to on youtube while I was reading. Some I googled the lyrics for. This really added to the experience of reading the book. It reminded me of the time I visited the Museum of Musical Instruments in Brussels a lifetime ago - you wear a set of headphones as you tour around, and when you are standing outside a display, the sound of the instruments automatically plays for you via sensors in the ceiling. It was a fantastic way to experience a gallery, and I found myself wishing the book came with a similar well timed soundtrack!

I'd recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn more about a Canadian music legend! And pick up the new CD, it's great!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Book Review: The Colour of Magic

After I finished reading Game of Thrones, I felt a bit...lost. I didn't have thousands of pages waiting for me to read. Some how I got it in my head that I needed to read all of Discworld. No idea where I got the idea from. I had read two books ages ago and thought they were pretty good so hey, why not. So I researched the order. And then got scared about how I was going to find all the books to read, so I decided I would download the ebooks from the library to save on the wait time in between books. Now I'd like to point that I've never read an ebook before. I don't have a tablet, so would have to read it on my phone. How bad could it be? 

It seemed like a good idea at the time...

The Colour of Magic
By Terry Pratchett
288 pages

Rincewind is a wizard, a very bad wizard. During a series of unfortunate events, he meets Twoflower, a tourist, and his luggage. There are more misadventures and unfortunate events. And then it's over in a to be continued manner.

Oh that's a terrible summary, but I sort of only a little bit remember the book. I blame this on the fact it took me four months to finish it, so my comprehension of it was a bit stuttery. The first problem is now that I'm not in a book club I have no motivation to read: I'm in a knitting phase and you can't knit and read at the same time. The second problem was trying to read an ebook on my iphone. Horrible. Never to be repeated.

The third problem was the book was only just ok. The world Pratchett created is interesting and fun and detailed, but I didn't really like the main character of Rincewind. I guess it wouldn't be a problem because he's only in some of the books, and I did like some of the characters - like Death. But the fourth problem is I'm not a huge fan of deus ex machina as a plot device. Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is good but...Discworld is good but...well I guess I like things a bit more realistic. I'll give Pratchett credit though, it was a fun book with a good sense of humour and even though it took me forever to finish it, I did enjoy the book and would recommend Discworld to anyone who like humourous fantasy.

Will I keep reading the series? I don't know. The whole ebook thing is definitely a no go. And 40+ books is a lot especially if it takes 4 months to read one. I'm still thinking about it. I might read the Witch books and the Death books though. The whole start to finish thing is just a bit too much.

I'm definitely going to have to fix this reading motivation thing. Might be time to get back into a book club...

Monday, May 23, 2016

Grand Slam of Curling: Champions Cup Volunteer Wrap Up

I've volunteered for a dozen Curling Canada events, numerous local curling events, and a ton of other major sport type events. I've done everything from taking out garbages, selling merchandise, pretending to be media, and leading teams of other volunteers. But one volunteer gig remained elusive...I hadn't gotten the opportunity to volunteer for a Grand Slam of Curling* event. Until last month...

When I heard Heather Nedohin and her team from the Sherwood Park Curling Club had gotten the first ever Champions Cup, I knew I had to volunteer. I tweeted at various people and eventually was sent a link to fill out the volunteer form online. I couldn't attend any pre event volunteer rallys to size a jacket or anything. I got the impression most of the volunteers were coming from the curling club, as everything was done there pre-event, though the actual event took place at a local arena.

I was sent a volunteer schedule a few weeks before the event. This was more first clue it would be an "interesting" week, as I'd been assigned 3 different jobs. Interesting.

TV production bench. Always nice to be back working on the bench!

I received an email telling me to pick up my jacket and enjoy pizza a week before the event. When I got there, it turned out to be a volunteer orientation. Not sure why this surprised me, but it wasn't necessarily communicated that the jacket pick up was a meeting. Interesting. I picked up my jacket and asked if we'd be meeting our team directors. Turns out there were no teams and no team directors. One woman did the volunteer scheduling for all volunteers. No one was in charge of any one area. Interesting. I had been assigned 3 areas that were relatively similar, basically part of the officials team (though I did meet a volunteer who had been assigned 5 different distinct areas to volunteer for!). And it turned out there was someone in charge of this area, but that person wasn't in charge of the volunteers. So this person didn't know us or our contact info and had not done the scheduling. Interesting.

The volunteer orientation was quite disorganized. There was pizza and some people talked, but they didn't have a microphone so I barely heard anything. And they made the mistake of asking if anyone had questions (don't ever ask 200 people if they have questions, that's just asking for trouble). An hour later, they finally talked about volunteer parking. And that's it. I learned nothing about my jobs or anything else really. Interesting.

The next day I attended training to learn how to be a statistician (I had 3 stats shifts). We were handed out a manual, and talked to for a couple hours. I'd always assumed the statisticians were trained officials. But at the slams, 2 hours of training and we were good to go. Terrified actually. That night we were emailed the manual and a cheat sheet. Apparently the SportsNet stats guy had sent them to the organising committee to send to us, but no one had passed it on, which highlights an interesting lack of communication due to the lack of a volunteer team structure. It would have been really really really helpful to have that manual more than 24hrs before the event so we could read it and learn. Interesting.

Statistician training: learning during the calm before the storm.

The next day I attended a 30 minute training session for scorekeeping (1 shift) and timekeeping (5 shifts). Though I was terrified to be a statistician, scoreboard and time clocks seemed to be easier. Keep in mind here that I had at this point driven 45 minutes in rush hour to the arena three days in a row and the event hadn't even started yet. That's three 90 minute driving sessions pre event. This made me quite cranky. This organization can only be described as...interesting.

Finally the event started. The first day I did stats for 2 draws. It was...difficult. There were like 10 variables to check off in the computer program for each shot. Each shot. And I had to score both teams. And they curl quickly. It certainly was an experience. I've always wondered if I could do stats, so this opportunity was useful because it proved to me I can't do stats. I mean, I did an ok job, learned some new skills, met some nice people, but stats is not for me. I liked the challenge, but it was just too challenging. I think being a curling statistician is a fantastic job for a skip. I am not a skip. I know curling, I watch curling, but I don't KNOW curling. For one of my shifts, a former skip of mine helped me out and I learned a lot from that too. Lot's of learning on the stats bench that first day!

Scorekeeping was...hard.

My third shift was on time keeping. This was more my speed. I had to pay a lot of attention, but it was super fun to be down at ice level in the midst of the action. I did find that it got a bit boring after awhile and quite repetitive, but it was definitely an ok job.

Timekeeper's tools.

The next day I woke up with a raging head cold and a bit of a fever. Good thing I was sitting at ice level for my only score keeping shift! Score keeping was, well kind of boring. I got to watch a lot of curling though! And do math. Mostly I was worried about getting the math wrong. But score keeping was a decent job, despite the freezing toes.

Nice view from the scorekeeper's chair!

By now we'd figured out everything was sort of disorganized, and I had started checking when my next shifts were before I left the arena for the day. Good thing too because I had been told I had a Friday 8am shift but was not on the schedule at that time at all. Interesting.

I finished the event doing a bunch of time keeping shifts. Cold toes, but fun.

Not a bad view eh?

Let's just say the volunteer experience initially was disappointing and disorganized, but in then end, it was a great week and I enjoyed my self because the volunteers themselves were fantastic. I've gotten to know a couple officials over the past year and spent a lot of time chatting to them, plus I hung out a bit with a guy I used to curl with, and I knew a few people from the Sherwood Park Curling Club since that's where I learned to curl. I've no doubt the organizing committee put on a great tv event - they've been given the event back in 2018. At the start of the week I had decided not to sign up for 2018 because it was a bit lacking, but after the week played itself out I decided to probably sign up again if given the chance. The curling was good and the people were great. That there is the marker of a good curling event! Perhaps events can be run in different ways, to a similar end. I guess as long as it looks good on TV, then everyone is happy, right?

*Curling Canada runs the TSN events, and I have a long standing relationship with their team. I consider them my people and enjoy hanging out with them a couple times a year. Some I consider colleagues, and some friends. I hope to continue to work with them all for many years to come, and am indeed a Director for an event next year. The Grand Slam of Curling people run the SportsNet events. I've never attended one as they've never been local.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Roller Derby, Or How I Sorta Became a Derby Girl

Recently, I blogged about a knitting book I had taken out of the library that was full of roller derby patterns. It then occurred to me that I've never blogged about roller derby! Which is crazy, because it's been a big part of my life for the past couple years. Why wouldn't I archive my involvement on my blog? Admit it, you're all sick of hearing about curling anyway.

Years ago, like years ago - 2008 maybe? - I went to my first roller derby game. I think it was one of my classmate's birthday and a group of us went. I had no idea, no idea how awesome of a sport it was! One game in and I was hooked - derby is the best mix of fast, loud, violence, and girl power. I didn't grow up watching the banked track games of the 70s, but flat track roller derby in Edmonton became a staple in our lives. For a couple years, a rotating group of friends and I would attend local games semi-regularly. We had our favourite teams and our favourite players. They were like rocks stars every once in awhile on a Saturday night.

And then derby got popular. Like really popular: you couldn't get in unless you bought tickets in advance and even then you had to line up super early just to get a seat. So, we quit going.

There are three sort of "leagues" in and around Edmonton: Oil City Roller Derby (OCRD - which includes River City Riot, a men's team), E-Ville Roller Derby, and St. Albert Heavenly Rollers, plus Greater Edmonton Junior Roller Derby (GEJRDA). There's sort of a main association, the Women's Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA) that everyone sort of belongs too, but it's not like each of Edmonton's leagues play each other in any routine fashion for points of anything. Each league has their own house teams and travel teams, and these teams play in interleague play or maybe they'll scrimmage with each other or teams will come from out of town or they'll travel out of town. Plus there are tournaments and events. Each "league" has a different culture. It's all a bit loosey goosey but it's amateur sport so it works. Derby is certainly it's own little world with it's own culture.

A few years ago I started going to watch roller derby again. The crowds had dissipated, and tickets were easy to come by, but not so the company. I would drag out particular friends for games, but that got to be annoying. I seemed to love it more than anyone else I knew. I wanted to go to every game, weekly or monthly, but no one wanted to come with me after awhile. This is what happens when, unlike the good ol'days, everyone you know is married or partnered or a parent. No one has time to hang out with the single girl who would rather watch sports than drink wine while gossiping about fashion or home decorating pinterest ideas.

Cue Facebook. Turns out a good friend from way back in the day, like junior high days, had started playing derby. She said if I volunteered I'd get in free. Well, I'm a thrifty el' cheapo so that was right up my alley! She put me in touch with someone (who would later become my first derby friend), and I had a job for the next Saturday night bout. I think I timed penalties?

One game on the stopwatch and I was hooked. I got on some email list or Facebook group or something and started NSOing for OCRD. An NSO is a non-skating official. So the skating refs control the game, but the NSOs run the game. NSOs keep time and score. We time and track penalties, record lineups, and run the scoreboard.

Scoreboard and score keeping. Best view in the house. Hmm, maybe the penalty box is actually the best view?

It was fun. I liked it. The people are different from the people in my real life, and I like that about derby. Over the years I've made derby friends and though I still don't feel like I completely fit in, it's nice to hang out with nice people and mostly everyone has made me feel welcome and one of the team.

Even in the early days, it was always a dream of mine to play. I went to a fresh meat recruitment clinic early on, and actually made it out to two practices, but it became quite clear that I wasn't a natural derby girl. I would have to work super hard at it, the skills, the fitness. I would have to give up most other things (curling, yeah right) to train to get better at it. And I would always worry about my vision - my glasses cost $1000 and I don't have a second pair so what would I ever do if they got crushed?! I just couldn't commit at that point.

Early on in my NSO career, the officials crew for OCRD split to form their own independent crew, and I went with them. So now I'm an NSO for Fistful O'fficials. The benefit to being independent is that we get to officiate everyone and assumingly bring no bias, only experience.

Yes, I do have a derby name. It's a play on my last name, and similar to a nickname my dad had when he was younger. It's not the cleverest (or easiest to spell), but it makes me part of the culture and that's cool. I finally got an item of clothing with my name on it too!

Shortly after the split, I attended an NSO clinic and got learned up. I started regularly attending Rules Nights, a sort of monthly gathering of officials where they talk rules and gossip. I love listening to their stories! I'm active on the Facebook group anyway. It's a nice diversion.

Last September I NSO'd a weekend tournament out of town. This was big for me because though I'm part of the world, I'm not really part of the world, so sharing rides/hotels with other officials hasn't happened yet. Fortunately my aunt lived close to the tournament so I got the best of both worlds. It was a good time. Lot's of derby. Lately I've been carpooling to out of town games, and plan to do at least one tournament this summer again.

I've done all the NSO jobs, I even recently learned how to use a whistle to jam time. I recently sort of sucked at being a Head NSO, but there's time to learn that yet. My favourite positions are penalties, either penalty timing, penalty box managing, or penalty tracking. Timing/box is the best view and you get to watch a lot of derby from the penalty box, but my favourite is penalty tracking. I'm not super great at it yet and still need to work at remembering the hand signals and penalty codes, but it's super fun to be in the middle where all the action is!

I know a goodly number of officials by now, and have a good core group of people who I feel comfortable hanging out with. It's overwhelming socially sometimes: there's lot's of people, and small talk or drinking at an after party is so not my thing, but I'm trying to get to know people.

Probably I'll always wish I was a skating ref. I'm over my dream of being a derby girl, but wouldn't it be great (and safer) to be a skating ref?! But then I'd have to learn to skate. And learn all the rules. And man there are sooooo many rules. At the moment I'm concentrating on being a good, reliable NSO. That's enough for now.

"It doesn't matter what you did, it only matters what the ref thinks they saw you do."

So once or twice a month I head out to the arena and hang out for an evening. I'm more comfortable with the role I play and the people I play with. I'm almost at 50 games as an NSO, which is not as many as some but more than others in Derbyland.

I love it. When there's no derby for awhile I miss it. I'll always love the game, and I'm so fortunate they like having me around! Even though I bring mediocre baking to the double headers, I really do think this is where I'm going to stay for awhile yet!