Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Islands in the sun (or Rum, Sodomy and the Lash or land of rape and honey or you can take the boy out of an island but...)

Can you imagine discovering an Island in the middle of the south pacific? Just you, your bestfriends and a couple of hot island girls that you met along your travels? This land is essentially lawless, thats fine because you are all law abiding men (for the most part), you no longer have to answer to a boss (he was disposed of earlier) and its up to you when you work, when you rest, when you procreate. Its a veritable heaven...

This island is Pitcairn Island located right in the middle of the south pacific and lord does it hang heavy with vicious history.

In the year 1789 a man named Fletcher Christian tossed his commanding officer (the ships captain) on to a raft as demanded by his fellow officers. The unity of the ships men that had been created by the mutiny was short lived upon reaching the Island of Tahiti. This story has been depicted a million times by Hollywood, one of the more popular versions involves the anti semitic actor Mel Gibson as Fletcher Christian. What is never really acknowledged is the story that occurs shortly after the mutiny...

At one point Fletcher Christian had found more than half of the Bounty's crew in support of him and his cause, upon his dispersal from the Island of Tahiti he had only 8 of the crew, 6 Tahitian men, 11 women and 1 child. Thankfully it was a short trip to Pitcairn Islands. As treason was considered a high crime punishable by death (abandoning the navy was considered treason) the new colonialists burned their ship in order to evade detection. A new home was found and the crew quickly settled in.

It makes one wonder why on earth would one agree to go on a trip, particularly a trip where you dont intend on coming back, where the men outnumber the women... Sailors are like dogs in heat at the best of times, one can only imagine how they react when they are gazing upon their neighbours wife, knowing that they are never going to meet another woman as they are on an uninhabited island out in the middle of the pacific ocean. Needless to say that the happiness was short lived. It was not long before one of the crew was responsible for breaking up a marriage between two Tahitians and a small scale war commenced. By the end of it in 1793, all but four of the original ships crew, ten of the tahitian men and several children had been killed. The names of these four men are still used by the current inhabitents of the island (along with some of the names of the dead). This of course will be touched on later in the article as it would seem that tradition seems to carry with family name.

The remaining four men, John Adams, Edward Young, Matthew Quintall and William McCoy did what any man would do if they found themselves with some time on their hands...drink. Not unlike several places in the south pacific there were roots that could be distilled into very potent drinks (most common concoction/root being Kava). Its intoxicating effects soon ran amuck with the four sailors minds. Half of the remaining women on the Island were made in to concubines for their 'great white rulers', the other half took their children and created a fortress away from the camp. The first to go was William McCoy, the initiator of the drinking binge. So unsatisfied with the islands outcome he jumped off a cliff. Not long after Quintall became insane with the drink and began to threaten every living being on the island. Young and Adams soon hatched a plan. Quintall had to be done away with, they were not going to put to death by a drunken madman (unlike themselves, drunken gentlemen they were). It was a long bitter death, having nothing but crude tools on the Island, Quintalls life was extinguished by way of axe. After Quintalls death Young was taken in by the women and children (good idea, he has consumption, thats not infectious) and Adams lived by himself on the far end of the Island amongst the wreckage that had been created.

It was amongst the wreckage that Adams found the ships bible that had been taken ashore by one of the other ship members. Unfortunately for Adams, he was illiterate and it took the return of the women, children and Young for him to understand its words. Shortly after educating (of sorts) Adams Young passed away. Adams was then the only adult male on the Island. He continued to drink. It was hardly surprising that one morning Adams claimed that he had religious awakening and soon the small population began practicing christian services.

Over the next few years there would be brief points of contact with members of the British goverment. For the most part the Islands and their community would be ignored as there were more important home issues such as the Napoleonic wars and a variety of other bits and pieces. Some of the outside world contact they would have would even be with some Americans. These same Americans would lead the community to religious conversion, abandoning the Church of England, the small community of Pitcairn would become Seventh Day Adventists.

Still today you see the names Brown, Christian, Adams, Young, McCoy amongst the islanders. It would also seem that not only did they carry on their names but they carried on their brutal legacies.

In 2004 seven of the 45 islanders stood trial for sexual abuse dating back almost 40 years. The islanders were hand in their guns as there were concerns that a riot might brake out during the proceedings. Several of the accused included the islands mayor Steve Christian (a descendent of Fletcher Christian) and his own son, Randy. Some of the charges had been sexual interference with a child under the age of eight as well as a variety of rapes. Six of the seven men were convicted, the islands magistrate, Jay Warren was set free. Just recently, October in fact, their convictions were upheld. Thankfully the most time anyone did was about 6 years. Fphew, thank god, godforbid they be punished for tradition. Speculation is rarely a good tool for investigation, however one might suspect that inbreeding may have been involved in all of this...

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Personality by the bucketful.

Now that is a healthy head of hair.

North America (and in fact, North Americans) have a vague text book idea of what is involved in a cult of personality. It seems almost like a cartoonish concept that might be conceived by a caricature of a science fiction villain used to scare the villagers below. It should however be noted that in fact some of the worlds most vicious tyrants have almost turned concept the cult of personality into an art (we dont include Mao Tsetung in this one cuz that was primarily Warhols doing, awful joke, i know).

One of the most ignored, yet colorful of such rulers was the recently departed Saparmurat Niyazov. Born from the shocking poverty of central asia came a man that could be described as one part Liberace, one part Imelda Marcos and one part Stalin. Needless to say this equals a recipe for fun!

Turkmenistan lies to the right of the Caspian sea and is sandwiched between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan to the north and Iran and Afghanistan to the south. The population of Turkmenistan just like much of the other countries in the area are a rich mix of local tribes and ethnicities (primarily Turkmen and Uzbekistani, some Russki's thrown in for good measure). Its not uncommon for most (if not all) countries in this region to fall into ex-soviet hands after the fall of the USSR. Turkmenistan being hardly an exception to the rule, Niyazov took rule almost immediately after glasnost/perestroika. It wasnt much longer after that that he also named himself "Turkmenbashi" or in english, the leader of all ethnic turks and why not? He HAD won the 'election'. Please note the quotation marks around the word election, those are supposed to denote a tone of sarcasm.

Like any good leader it was necessary for him to let the people know who was truly boss. What better way is there to show the general public that youre the boss than by posting posters and paintings of you everywhere. Stalin did it, so did Hitler and Mao and they were all fairly successful in their work. Why not one up those suckers anyways... it could be suggested that perhaps you build a gold statue of yourself on the tallest building in your capitol city. Just to spice it up, you should make it rotate 24 hours a day with the sun. Thatd be really bitching. Seriously. Niyazov did this.

That is the fucking statue

The best part is that noone is going to stop you. Its not because you carry the threatening title of 'Turkmenbashi' or because of your impecable taste (you banned the following: Ballet, beards, long hair and music) but because you, hold one of the worlds largest supplies of oil. Please also take this as encouragement to rename several days of the week and if necessary a month (as well as buildings, planes and a meteorite) after your beloved mother (and self, its nice to switch it up every once in a while).

Initially Turkmenistan, although a predominently desert country, had out produced its neighbours in the 1980s and 90s in the cotton industry. However, as of late its crops had begun to diminish and it was now time to focus on its golden goose, gasoline. It wasnt long before old friendships were refreshed. Its here that Niyazov's old buddy Russia (and distant cousin Ukraine) step into the picture. Needless to say both are very hungry for oil and gas and are willing to do quite a bit to receive it (not unlike a sick crackhead). The true question is what is going to happen to this country and what is Russia (and to a lesser extent the Ukraine) going to do about it?

Russia has been in the spotlight as of recent with accusations of partaking in activities of the espionage variety and have not been particularly shy about supporting dictators in the past. Even today there are huge human rights issues with regards to how it is carrying itself in Chechnya. The next question will be how and where do Western Europe and North America fit in? This isnt to mention the fact that the neighbouring countries have been in an uproar (particularly Iran and Afghanistan). There is a giant gaping hole in Turkmenistan waiting to be filled and noone with any credibility to fill it.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Xmas Holocaust or A Christmas Clusterfuck - A Photo Essay by Regan Brunette and Christian Parlee

Initially i was going to make an attempt to write something pseudo intellectual (as i always do) instead ill just write what this honestly is. We drove around hung over on several Saturday afternoons taking pictures of people who went completely overboard with their xmas decorations. You can say the recipe is: 1 spoonful of christmas cheer, a cup of love and a heaping bowl of portugese/italian exterior design.

This was the original inspiration for the project. Obviously nothing comes close to this.

Those Jaysis figures are all pretty much lifesize.

The lady that lives here seriously looks like a Voodoo priestess. I think im now cursed.

Please note the Bulldog in the midleft hand side and the tiger on the right

Bulldog and tigers less impressive neighbour

This last pic is entitled 'Christmas in the Ghetto'. Thank you Parkdale.

Now if youll excuse me, ive gotta get back to watching Ghoulies 2. I promise to write more soon. Fucking lack of inspiration, but more importantly fucking WORK...

Monday, December 04, 2006

"God blesses those whose hearts are pure, for they will see God" A photo Essay by Paul and Christian Parlee

Stratford Ontario is home to the Pork Congress of Ontario, 30,000 people, The Stratford Festival and the biggest concentration of Methamphetimine abuse in all of Ontario. It is also placed right in the bible belt of South Western Ontario. As a result there are quite a few escatological churches that have found a great amount of support within the community. The main belief behind the concept of escatology is the idea that destruction of the world is imminent and that only belief in Jesus Christ as the true savior can save you. We have decided to document them during the cold winter months. Small town religion has never looked so big.

Faith Bible Church

Cornerstone Christian Fellowship

Jubilee Christian Fellowship

First Church of Christ Scientist

Bethel Pentecostal Tabernacle

Monday, November 27, 2006

Haiti'n it

Christianity has a long history of melding with local cultures, religions and rituals. More often than not it has helped shape many contemporary societies. What is most interesting is to see how Christianity was shaped by these interactions, as opposed to the shape that it may have left.

For instance in Ireland (and some of Scotland) one can survey the land or even a graveyard and see a stamp of the interaction between local culture and imported religion with the Celtic Cross. The Celts had been a long standing tribe that had developed their own sense of culture and art. When Christianity was introduced in 432 AD (some argue 460) by St Patrick, his first moves were to recreate local festivals, so as to attract locals and then preach what he believed to be the word of God. Even here it was necessary to have Christianity submit to local practices so it could then be embraced but by the rules and practices of the locals.

Another example would be Mexico's national holiday, "Dias de los Muertos" (or 'Day of the Dead'). When the Spanish conquered Latin America in the early 1500s, they found that although they were able to eradicate masses of people without any effort, the local culture was going to be harder to erase. For almost more than 3000 years the Aztecs had practiced their own beliefs without any interference and upon the introduction of Christianity they continued to do so with very little restrain. In fact, since all attempts to wipe out their practices failed by the Conquistadores, public events like "Dias de los Muertos" were simply moved to Catholic Holidays and Gods, Saints and Holy Figures were equated with one another. As a result, even today 'Dias De Los Muertos' although primarily an Aztec influenced holiday has varying degrees of Catholic influence, such as Crosses on Floats, statues of Saints on alters and Candles which represent the light of Christ.

What is most ignored and without a doubt most significant is how Christianity was altered and helped shape the nation of Haiti.

Haiti first became the worlds first independent black nation in 1804 after a long bloody revolt. Although initially dominated by Spanish rule, Haiti for a long time served as a slave colony to the French who importated slaves from West Africa. What needs to be recognized is the fact that in the West African regions of Ghana, Benin and Nigeria that Yoruba (along with Bakango and Igbo) were dominant animist religions and were easily exported to Haiti by the Catholic french.
Not unlike both Mexico and Ireland, a new culture with new rituals were founded. However, rather than become simply part of the landscape or embraced as a national holiday, Voudun (or Voodoo) inspired decades of fear amongst a weak empoverished populace.

Haiti is reknowned for its successive unstable goverments that have led to brutal in fighting between neighbourhoods and political rivals. One of the few goverments that lasted longer than 4 years was that of Papa Doc Duvalier and his successor and son, Baby Doc.

In 1957 Dr Francois Duvalier won the Haitian national elections on a platform that appealed primarily to the poor lower class afro-haitian community. It is not long after his election (which was helped by the Haitian army) that he begins to create a private army called "The Tonton Macoutes" named after a Voudun spirit who 'catches people and makes them disappear forever'. Oddly enough this becomes common practice in Haiti as anywhere from 20, 000 - 60, 000 people disappear and/or are murdered at the end of this horrid saga.

To make matters worse Papa Doc openly dresses like Baron Samedi and claims to be a high priest (as well as BFF with Jesus). Within the next seven years (1957-1964) Papa Doc evades an invasion, an assasination, jails the head of the Tontons then kills him and reportedly teams up with the CIA. It was only 7 years after that that Baby Doc Jean-Claude Duvalier at the tender age of 19 takes over the goverment while his father is on his death bed.

It would appear that Baby Doc was equally as brutal but somewhat less religious. Apparently he may have made up for that in corruption as when he did finally flee for France in 1986 (with the assistance of the American goverment, they both hated commies), Haiti happened to be millions of dollars poorer (its pretty hard to imagine that it was even possible at that point).

Even in current times and politics Voodoo (and private armys dedicated to Voodoo saints) are prevelant. It has been suggested that ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a former catholic priest, was elected with the aid of both Voodoo priests/priestesses and voodoo gangs like the Cannibal Army (who later turned against him). It has been speculated that popular singer and Voodoo priestess, Anne Auguste lead a great deal of these militias in honor of Jean-Bertrand.

Currently there are gangs that rule both suburbs and areas in the countryside and are often referred to by both locals and media as 'Chimeres' or 'Nightmares' in creole. What is very interesting is the fact that in 2003 Voodoo was finally recognized as a state religion in Haiti. Guess who was President at the time... Jean-Bertrand. What would be very curious to see is how and whether Voodoo still affects and influences daily life for the common haitian man or woman, as well as whether or not it Voodoo is involved in how local goverment politics play out. Seeing as it wasnt that long ago that Baby Doc was threatening to come back to Haiti to reclaim his throne, its probably not that far off the mark. I guess neither is the old saying "80% of Haiti is Catholic but 120% of it is Voodoo".

Ooooo, footnote, that i really should have worked in here, Mother Theresa was a close friends of the Duvaliers, seriously, look it up. Im not kidding.

Mother Theresa and Michele Duvalier, no shit.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


Jon Naar has led a particularly fascinating and varied life; he has fought fascists in both the streets of London and the Mountains of Serbia, counted Henry Miller and Andy Warhol as personal friends as well as been the first person to document graffiti art.

Jon Naar had no clue (as is the case with most artists) how influential his works were going to be when they were first conceived. Regardless, over the last 34 years since its release “The Faith of Graffiti” has awed artists, photographers and civilians alike. Although this particular work was a focus on the birth and first footsteps of graffiti, Jon’s primary focus with his photography has been to capture ‘the layering of one thing over another as a revelation of history’.

This is exemplified in many of his photos whether it involves writing over top of a brick wall with a can of paint in Harlem in 1971 or the postering of a strong armed government over top of student protestors in France during the ’68 riots.

Pointing to a wall on Queen St W in Toronto, Jon exclaimed in his hybrid English/New York accent “Heres a perfect example, where you’ve got a wall, a 3D mailbox, a poster advertising Spanish. What interests me here is how people are living amongst this and as a part of it; I don’t see it as art that should be hung in a gallery”

“You’ve got the complete relationship between the functional like the mailboxes, the posters and then the graffiti overlay. It’s a fragment of history, as this could only happen here and now. I like to think that I am capturing it and capturing its zeitgeist.”

Although he directed great attention towards graffiti, he never followed up on its evolution. Jon always regarded graffiti as only one of many outlets that have been made available to the general public. He has however been of great assistance to many others who have influenced it over the years. People such as Tony Silver, the director of Style Wars, , whom he introduced to many of the graf writers (Jon, however has never seen the film), Martha Cooper, who spent numerous years studying both hip hop history and the evolution of graffiti. Even today he is being used as a consultant on the unreleased film ‘Bombing it’

As any craftsman would, Jon has figured out how to role with the punches that modern technology has thrown. Owning 3 digital cameras and 16 film cameras (which he doesn’t use anymore), he is still at the late age of 86 taking pictures to this very day. His newest book titled ‘Getting the picture’ (released out of Holland) is a study of his 50 years as a photographer. His subjects range from gang writings in New York in the mid 1950s to corporate photography used in advertisements. He has voiced that he will hopefully be penning a contract with a German publisher that will allow for him to release a second book on New York graffiti in the early 70s titled ‘The Birth of Graffiti’ which is to be outtakes from “The Faith of Graffiti”.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Kyrzy kryzy Kyrgyzstan (or How I met my wife)

Kyrgyzstan is a small central asian country with the population of 5,213,898. Located in the mideast of central asia, it is surrounded by Kazakhstan (home of Borat), China, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Annexed by Russia in the mid 19th century, 1864 to be exact, the Kyrgy population soon fell sway to Russian tradition (primarily vodka drinking).

What is most fascinating about central asia (let alone its inhabitants) is the fact that SO many ethnic groups can be found here, from Persians to ancestors of the Mongols (like in Krygyzstan). All of these groups, due to the years of Russian influence, found many of their traditions either bastardized or stamped out. One tradition which was made illegal but merely went underground is the practice of wifenapping in Kyrgyzstan.

What first needs to be done is a description of the Kyrgy people for the reader.
Its believed that the Kyrgy people are a mix of Mongol (like Genghis Kahn) and Kipchak peoples, about 75% of the population are practicing Muslims, however, as previously mentioned, there are quite a few that like to drink vodka (who can blame them). This obviously makes for an interesting interpretation of Islam. Traditionally the Kyrgyz people were of a turkic nomad herding tradition, much of which still exists within the country.

It could very well be argued that much of the original traditions of these people had been put on hold (press pause) throughout the Russian domination of central asia. It was only in 1994 that wifenapping had been made illegal (please keep in mind that Kyrgyzstan had only been an independent country for about 3 or so years at that point). However, even now, it is rarely prosecuted and it is estimated that 1/3 of the population's married women were bridenapped, whether consensually or against their will (it wouldnt be bridenapping if it was consensual hey?).
The practice itself is less than complicated. Essentially at one point or another within a young man's life he (or his family) decides that it is time for him to marry and procreate. It is then up to either the mans parents (or himself) to find him a suitable bride. In some circumstances it is simply an arranged marriage. In other circumstances he may see a girl on a street corner, working at a vendor or simply passing by and it is decided that she is to be his bride.

The girl is then kidnapped by the man and family (sometimes friends) and returned to his parents home where the women of the house (including mother, aunts, cousins, grandmothers) all attempt to convince this girl that the marriage will be advantageous to her being. Arguements vary from "Well, we got kidnapped too and look how happy we are" to "Lookit that Stove, see? You can use it whenever you like, thats right and that goat too!".

Needless to say this doesnt necessarily end well. Some women kill themselves, others simply run away (sometimes to be kidnapped again by the same man). Either way, its an excuse to not move to Kyrgyzstan.

Ooo, to see it all go down, see this film.