Archive for February 12th, 2009

But will it float?

Feb 12 2009 Published by under Features


Illustration by Alex Pierson

The idea of a sustainable city has been on the receiving end of much fervour and debate in the past while. It’s one of those concepts that seems easy enough to grasp, but is almost impossible to define clearly. The easiest way out is to say a sustainable city is one which leaves the smallest possible ecological footprint, or generates the smallest amount of pollution possible. Lofty? Excruciatingly intricate? Yes, but it’s all the rage in environmental and urban planning circles these days. You can now earn yourself a degree in Urban Sustainability at York University. You can also visit Curitiba, Brazil, which is often heralded as a shining example of urban sustainability, with a public transport supersystem which 85 per cent of its residents use. Compare that stat with here at home, where 90 per cent of people in St. John’s are car-dependent, and you’ve got yourself a fair idea of where we might fare on the sustainability scale.

In fact, St. John’s is the least sustainable city in Canada. At least according to this year’s survey by Toronto-based environmental business ethics magazine Corporate Knights.

Two weeks ago, the magazine released the results from its third annual ranking of sustainable Canadian cities. Bottoming out the Small City category was good old St. John’s, skidding arse-first across the finish line with a final score of 5.10 out of 10, just behind Whitehorse, Yukon. Next in line in that Small City category was Charlottetown, then Saint John, and then Saskatoon. Yellowknife lorded over the section with a mighty score of 6.14.

Yes, Yellowknife, the capital city of the Northwest Territories. They won last year, too, back when we were second last.

But just who are these Toronto punks and where do they get off dissing our car-dependent, non-recycling ways? How much of a right do they have to call us unsustainable? And what the heck does it mean to be called “Canada’s least sustainable city,” if anything at all? We rounded up the editor of Corporate Knights, a couple of local academics, and a city council watchdog to try and help us sort out these questions and figure out what to make of the whole thing.

By Sarah Smellie.

Melissa Shin is the editor of Corporate Knights, which began in 2002 with a mission to create a magazine that fell somewhere between Adbusters and Forbes. They regularly publish articles by the likes of David Suzuki and Globe and Mail columnist Ken Wiwa, and they’re all about sustainability-themed rankings. They’re the folks responsible for the Global 100 Most Sustainable Corporations rankings, and for anointing Brian Mulroney the Greenest Prime Minister in Canadian History.

“Our magazine is the Canadian magazine for responsible business. And we’re focused on prompting sustainable development in Canada,” says Shin. “We started off just by looking at companies but, realizing that companies operate in cities, we decided to look at municipal policies and what’s happening in cities.” And so the Most Sustainable Cities in Canada Rankings began.

Shin and the Corporate Knights team enlisted the lead adviser from The Natural Step Canada—a non-profit organization which has helped green up businesses like the car-maker Volvo—and a team of advisers from Greening Greater Toronto and Smart Growth BC. Working with a concept of sustainability that incorporates everything from the economic security of the city to its municipal policies, they came up with five categories of “indicators”—specific criteria, like recycling programs and gender diversity on city council. They divided the cities into Small, Medium and Large, then ranked them according to these indicators. All their information was culled from StatsCan reports, academic studies, city websites, and a survey that was completed by a representative from each city hall.

So just how far behind did we end up?


 
St. John’s vs. Yellowknife.
Thankfully, it turns out pagecount didn’t matter much. St. John’s submitted a six page response, compared to Yellowknife’s five, and the whopping thirteen-pager from keeners St. John, New Brunswick.

Asked how many sustainable planning staff the city employs, and what percentage of the city’s annual budget was directed towards sustainability initiatives, we answered “not available.” We were the only city to use this response.

Yellowknife, on the other hand, says it dedicates approximately three out of its 13 staff to sustainable planning issues, for which 5.4% of its budget is allocated. Their response for this included a detailed breakdown on their annual budget to back up their claim.

St. John’s also gave a flat-out “no” to three other questions on the survey: one on whether we had residential or commercial geothermal or solar programs, and two more about whether or not the city provides incentives to build green buildings or to attract eco-friendly businesses.No, no, and no.

Yellowknife, in partnership with the Government of the Northwest Territories, offers all kinds of incentives for solar, wind, and geothermal systems. They have bylaws to enforce minimum energy efficiency standards on all new buildings, standards they claim to be the toughest in the country. They’re also developing a tax reduction plan for businesses who operate in green buildings under green principles.

Yellowknife listed a municipal goal of a 20% reduction in its operational greenhouse gas emissions by 2014. They estimate they’ll be at par by the end of 2009. In contrast, St. John’s touted its membership in the Partnership for Climate Protection Program, which aims for a similar 20% reduction in emissions by 2010. To fulfill their obligations, the city council did draw up its Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Strategy—but the city’s inaction with respect to these emission reduction goals were a topic of discussion at last summer’s Sierra Club AGM.

Shall I go on? In the survey, the city cites its solid waste diversion target of 50% by 2015, but didn’t, however, mention last fall’s delay with the curb-side recycling program, which would take a huge chunk out of the stream of solid waste headed for Robin Hood Bay.

Yellowknife’s goal is to divert 40% of its waste by 2011. Mind you, in 2008 alone, they already diverted about 16% of that. They’ve got a municipal composting program set to gear up this year which should help them increase that number.

Shin found the volume of “no”and “not available” responses on the St. John’s survey especially discouraging.

“I guess measurement is not a priority,” she says. “Some cities would say, ‘This is not under our jurisdiction’ or that they didn’t have a certain program, and then say, ‘but, we have these programs that we have implemented to compliment that.’ It’s unfortunate that St. John’s has so few programs, but there are quite a few studies that they are undertaking that are important to note—for example they did do that pilot project for curb-side recycling, and they’re a part of the Partners For Climate Change Project—but we’d definitely like to see more.”

So what?
Over in the Geography department at MUN, Chris Sharpe, professor of Urban Studies and city consultant, says we ought to think twice before we pack up and move to Yellowknife.

“It was the media relations person who filled [our survey] out,” he says. “And yet,[at city hall] we have a manager of environmental initiatives, Gerri King. She wasn’t asked to fill it out. Ken O’Brien in the planning office hadn’t seen it either. So there is a legitimate question as to whether the person asked to fill it out was the appropriate one.”

“We also have these answers on the St. John’s survey that say ‘not available,’ and we don’t know how they were dealt with [by Corporate Knights],” Sharpe points out.

According to Shin, these answers were weighted in relation to what other cities responses were to the same question. Sometimes they were treated neutrally, sometimes negatively. This didn’t impress Sharpe.

“We don’t have anyone that’s called a sustainable planner. But we have all kinds of people working on environmental issues, like Gerri King. And it’s entirely unclear how that was weighted, if at all. Furthermore, I couldn’t find any indication of what the weighting is. So there’s no information at all that would allow you to unpack these rankings”

Define “sustainable.”
One of the biggest problems with the rankings, Sharpe says, lies in the attempt to define sustainability.

Corporate Knight’s working definition of “sustainable” was quite broad.

“We used the framework of the five categories of indicators: Ecological Integrity, Economic Security, Governance and Empowerment, Infrastructure and Built Environment, and Social Well Being. That would all contribute to a city that could go on into perpetuity, which is the technical definition of sustainability. If a city is riddled with crime and no one’s voting and no one’s employed, it’s probably going to die.”

Sharpe doesn’t believe such a broad definition imparts much concrete meaning to the rankings, or to our bottom-of-the-heap finish.

“Nowhere do they say they consulted the literature,” he says. “There’s a truckload of literature about what sustainability and urban sustainability is, and no two people will define it the same way. And I think that’s part of the problem—they don’t know exactly what they think sustainability is. Is it a process or is it an outcome? Do you measure sustainability by intent or by result?”

“With respect to these indicators, there’s a question of whether you should even be putting all of these different things together into one index,” he continues. “One of the arguments in the literature is that you shouldn’t try to make a composite issue like this. If you’re interested in air quality, just rank air quality.”

“I think there is a lot of validity to that,” chimes in Robin Whitaker, professor of Political Anthropology at MUN. “Even what kinds of practices constitute true sustainability is debatable. Sometimes things have a lot of symbolic weight, but they end up being more cosmetic than real.”

Lionel West, author of the city council watch-blog St. John’s City Council Business, also agrees that the survey method isn’t perfect. But Neither West nor Whitaker think the results are entirely dismissible.

 

“I think the study may be a little flawed in the sense that Corporate Knights, themselves, admit that the data is incomplete because not all cities are able to provide answers to all questions,” says West. “Factoring that in, I believe St John’s does have some way to go before we will receive a higher ranking.”

For example, West thinks the city could be a doing a better job enforcing ecologically sound development, asking, “What ‘green’ initiatives has the city requested for the new hotel developments? Are they telling them to create a recycling program within those new hotels? The same for new condo developments? What about the Tiffany Lane project? What are the city’s building code requirements?”

“I found it frustrating listening to Dennis O’Keefe talk about that drive-thru issue recently,” says Whitaker, referring to the proposed moratorium on new drive-thrus in the city. It was quickly lifted following a meeting with officials from Tim Hortons. “He basically said that it wasn’t their job to stand in the way of business, but all I could think was, ‘wait a minute, yes it is your job!’ Businesses aren’t your only constituency… There are so many other issues—social issues, environmental issues—that go along with the territory, and it was disappointing to have them ignored.”

Social ill-being.
The category where St. John’s really skidded out was Social Well-Being. We finished dead last in that one, despite an impressive allocation as the sixth “happiest” city in Canada, as per the Life Satisfaction and Trust in Neighbours Study, conducted at the Canadian Institute For Advanced Research. So what gives?

“Part of what we based our rating on was that you guys have a 77-year life expectancy,” says Shin. “The rest of Canada is somewhere between 79 and 80-something. In Canada, that’s a pretty significant gap.”

Contributing to those early deaths are things like our obesity rates which, at 36% of the population, is one of the highest in the country, and our violent crime rates, which increased by 20% in 2007—the highest increase in the country. Both of these figures come from Statistics Canada reports.

According to Shin, all the categories are intricately linked. Our dismal showing in this category may be a direct result of poor placings in the others. “If the air you breathe is not clean, you might develop respiratory problems,” she suggests. “You may experience high obesity rates because you aren’t encouraged with cycling paths. Buildings which are energy efficient can help you save money on your energy bills … If people are employed, they’re going to be more inclined to vote, and they might be more inclined to run for municipal government and represent the people around them.” She and her team believe that all of these factors play a huge role in the overall well-being of municipal population.

Huh? This is partly our fault?
One of the things the Corporate Knights ranking does stress is that sustainable cities arise from a joint effort and co-operation between the municipality and its residents. As easy as it is to rail against the city for their eco-blunders, us townsfolk aren’t exactly free of fault. And absolutely everyone on the jury agrees.

“For me, the report is not only a reflection on the city bureaucracy and governance but also its citizens,” says West. “The city cannot bear full responsibility for personal issues such as obesity and low commuter use of public transport. Citizens have to accept some of it.”

“We have a pretty decent framework for public participation here,” says Sharpe. “It doesn’t always work, but in general it’s good.” But you only get a handful of people at public forums or discussions.

People don’t come out to discuss principles of city planning. Is that because people don’t know about these opportunities, or they don’t care, or they’re too happy? I don’t know.”

The bottom line.
So where does this leave us? Are we a parasitic, wasteful, unsustainable city, on the road to massive health problems and a despondent, disenfranchised public?

“Obviously there are positive things that are happening in the city,” says Shin. “Your score overall is 5.1 out of 10, it’s still above halfway, and that’s good to see. All cities in Canada have strides to make. The highest score we had was a little bit above 7.5, I think, so there’s not a huge range. There’s room for improvement across the board.”

Again, Chris Sharpe doesn’t think that the rankings warrant much of a response from anyone.

“It seems to me that the reaction to this would be say, ‘Good for Corporate Knights, they’re trying to raise environmental consciousness,’” he says. “In terms of how they defined things and in terms of how they ranked everybody else, yeah, we’re last. So what? Against what standards? This is not something to get our knickers in a knot about.”

He does, however, think there is work to be done within the city if we want to move towards some semblance of sustainability—definable or not.

“I certainly would not want to give the impression that I’m in favor of everything the city does and that we can’t do better,” he says. “We certainly could do better. Are we trying? Yes. Are we trying as hard as we could? Maybe not.”

Now what?
Despite all the setbacks, we do have a few things going for us. Everyone we spoke with—Sharpe, Whitaker, West and Shin—was quick to point out all of the initiatives and programs which have sprung up in an effort to steer the city onto a more sustainable planning path. Projects like BikeShare, the community gardens at the Lantern and in Rabbittown, new neighbourhood associations popping up, the farmer’s market, For The Love of Learning, and the continuous expansion of the Stella Burry Centre, were proclaimed bright spots in an uncertain future, and indicative of good things to come. It seems if change is going to happen, it’s going to happen first at the street level, at the hands an increasingly active and engaged local population.

“In terms of the municipal government, as I said, there are some programs and some initiatives there and that’s good,” says Shin. “But really making these issues a top-line priority—along with things like the police department and the fire department—is crucial. In terms of the citizens, being more active, looking around and seeing what can be done in your area and what can be done without the city government telling them what to do. People do seem to care. It’s just a matter of turning that into action which has effects on the municipal level.”

Speaking about all the public initiatives on the go, Robin Whitaker suggests coordinating some of those things into larger representative bodies would translate into government results.

“Mechanisms that really allow people to be involved in different ways—because not everyone wants to run in an election—will have some kind of an outcome,” she says.
“My [research] is mostly in Northern Ireland, and one thing that came out of the peace process there was a civic forum that worked alongside the assembly with representatives from all aspects of civil society: business, trade unions, the churches, women’s organizations, whatever. It didn’t have decision-making power, just advisory power, and it was another basis for people to get involved in public life. Maybe a model like that would work for us here.”

Lionel West suggests looking to some of the better-ranked cities for ideas and inspiration.

“The city certainly can be more pro-active on sustainability,” he says. “It should consult with other cities in the survey to learn and share ideas with them.”

For someone who thinks sustainability is a tad pie-in-the-sky, Chris Sharpe proposes the most far-fetched idea of them all:

“You want a sustainable city? Then don’t allow any more Kelsey Drives, or Stavanger Drives,” he says, sitting back in his chair and smirking slightly. “Have a policy that prevents any more box stores. I mean, come on, there’s never been much appetite here for saying no to anyone who wants to develop anything, but, theoretically, if all cities across Canada all said no to stores like Wal-Mart, they’d adjust. And they’d do it real quick.”

inbox@thescope.ca 

But will it float?

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Fudgy sludgy (gluten free) brownies

Feb 12 2009 Published by under Food Nerd

Andreae Prozesky is a gluten for punishment.

Go ahead: ask me something about gluten. ‘Cause I can tell ya. And if I can’t tell ya, I can find out and tell ya next week.

For the last few months I’ve been reading books about gluten-free cooking, scouring the web for gluten-free recipes, and lurking in the far corner of the Bulk Barn, where the freaky flours live. My last bag of all-purpose flour languishes on the shelf, crowded out by flours made from rice, buckwheat, chickpeas, quinoa, tapioca, potatoes, and corn. I actually own a bag of xanthan gum, and I dip into it almost every day.

Oh—and I make brownies out of black beans.

Whuh?

Well, way back in December I figured out that gluten wasn’t agreeing with my darling daughter’s constitution one bit. You want to talk about mood swings? Try living with a five-year-old who sulks and stomps like a black-nail-polish-wearing, Smiths-t-shirt-sporting teenager who’s just realized, too late, that she really did want to go to the grad after all. Yeah, it was that bad. After some desperate consultation with the internet and my nutritionist, I felt that wheat and its gluten-y brethren might be the problem. We cut the gluten out of the kiddo’s diet on the first of December, and by December third her moods were like those of your average (okay, moderately melodramatic) kindergartener. Even at Christmas. Go figure.

Gluten, if you’re unfamiliar, is a protein present in large amounts in wheat, and in smaller amounts in spelt, kamut, rye, and barley, and which sometimes contaminates processed oats. For most people, it’s either fully digestible or only mildly annoying, causing a bit of bloating, some sinus congestion, or a headache. If I overdo it on the baked goods and sandwiches, for example, I get a stuffy head something fierce. The same thing happens, I’m afraid to say, after about half a beer. Which, I guess, makes me and wheat frienemies: we can hang out, but every now and then she’ll totally turn on me.

But for people with more acute sensitivities or intolerances, gluten can cause digestive misery, migraines, skin and hair conditions, and mood imbalances. For people with celiac disease, which is actually an autoimmune disorder, the body’s reaction to gluten prevents the body from absorbing nutrients the way it should. This, in turn, can result in any number of awful problems, including depression, fatigue, anemia, gastric agony of all description, miscarriage and infertility, dermatitis, and an all-over feeling of intense and unyielding bleh.

The good news is that, for most people with gluten issues, there’s no medication required: all you have to do is eliminate gluten from your diet.

The bad news is, it’s is a lot easier said than done. You see, every flippin’ thing in the grocery store, and at almost every restaurant, has some form of wheat or gluten in it. If you don’t believe me, do a quick ingredient scan next time you’re out shopping. Tomato soup, vegetable stock, yogurt, hot dogs, meatless burger patties, seasoned chicken breast strips: any one of them can be a gluten disaster waiting to happen. So you’ve got to be awfully careful. Do your research, spend some quality time in the health-food section, and work up the nerve to ask a lot of questions when you eat out.

If you happen to like a baking challenge, and if you cook everything from scratch anyway, well, this makes it kind of fun. You get to think of yourself as a bit of a mad scientist. Nothing in the world behaves like wheat, which is why it’s so popular, so you can’t just replace wheat flour with some other flour. You’ve got to get experimental. My bread recipe uses ground pumpkin seeds, almond flour, corn flour, tapioca flour, oats, and eggs (and xanthan gum!) And it works. Too cool, what? You also have to apply every bit of baking knowledge you have. If non-wheat flours make cupcakes dry, you have to compensate with something moistifying, like buttermilk, or applesauce, or both. There’s a lot of trial and error involved, and you have to accept that you’ll end up tossing out some very expensive ingredients that you’ve baked into inedible bricks.

But the results are well worth it in the end.

Intriguingly enough, the recipes I’m using these days really are the best I’ve ever had. My buttermilk-applesauce chocolate cupcake recipe blows all my previous chocolate cupcake recipes away. My buckwheat-rice waffles rule. My quinoa-teff peanut butter bars are causing serious addictions issues around the Food Nerd Laboratories.

And the black bean brownies? Oh merciful heavens. Even if you eat white flour by the scoopful without any trouble at all, you really should try these. Fudgy, sludgy, dense, and black. Just in time for Valentine’s day. Now there’s nothing to stop you from bestowing some gluten-free love upon the world. Dig it.

Fudgy sludgy (gluten free) brownies
(makes one 8”x 8” pan)

To make the black bean purée, drain and rinse one 19 oz tin of black beans, then whizz them in the blender with a little water until they reach a good, smooth consistency. One tin will yield a little more than a cup of purée, which may mean that you have to make two batches of brownies. There are worse things.

½ cup unsalted butter
½ cocoa powder (splurge on the best you can find)
2 eggs
1 cup dark brown sugar or ½ cup brown sugar and ½ cup muscovado sugar
½ cup black bean purée
2 tablespoons instant coffee
½ teaspoon sea salt
½ cup chopped pecans, or ¼ cup mini white chocolate chips (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line your pan with parchment paper so that there’s some overhang on two sides; this way you’ll be able to lift the brownies out of the pan.
2. Melt butter and add to cocoa; stir until smooth.
3. Beat eggs and sugar until light. Mix in bean purée, cocoa mixture, instant coffee, and salt until well combined.
4. Stir in pecans or chocolate chips, if using.
5. Pour batter into prepared pan. Smooth top and bake about 35 minutes, or until top is dry and centre is set. Let cool in pan on a rack. When completely cool, lift brownie slab out by the parchment paper overhang and cut into pieces.

If you want to make these in the ever-popular two-bite style, grease a mini-muffin tin, fill cups ¾ full, and bake about 15 minutes. Cool completely before tipping out of the pan.

Send your questions, comments, and gluten-free suggestions to dreae@thescope.ca

Fudgy sludgy (gluten free) brownies

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Death to the pixies

Feb 12 2009 Published by under On Screen


Happy Go Lucky (MUN Cinema, February 26 at Avalon Mall Empire Studio 12)

If there’s one modern cliché that’s really gotten on my nerves as a movie-goer, it’s the Manic Pixie Girl.

What’s that? You don’t know what the Manic Pixie Girl is? Sure you do. Hell, it seems like the bulk of romantic comedies rely on them these days. Picture a stodgy, buttoned-down curmudgeon who is lured away from his cardboard cut-out lifestyle by a “free spirit,” a girl who “doesn’t play by the rules” who causes the menfolk to think. (“A girl standing on her head? How positively zany! My heart will grow two sizes this day!”) The male variation on this cliché is the Loveable Slacker, as seen in fare like Smart People, but that’s a different story.

A story is a terrible thing to waste, and it’s a real shame that writer-director Mike Leigh (Naked, Secrets & Lies) decided to make one the centerpiece of Happy Go Lucky.

While Leigh hasn’t made a tired romantic comedy here, the end result is remarkably tedious. The film follows a primary schoolteacher nicknamed “Poppy” (Sally Hawkins) as she drinks, hangs out with friends, goes to work and takes driving lessons. Happy Go Lucky never ceases to show us how happy and friendly Poppy is in contrast to the public at large—but precious little insight is given beyond that. A scene where a character suggests Poppy is an unhappy slacker at heart arrives very late in the film, is never developed, and there’s precious little variation on the character that results. Poppy tries to chat up the bookstore clerk, the Flamenco instructor, the driving instructor, the insert-character-here, and these hapless victims usually find her unbearably irritating. This isn’t surprising, since Poppy is the cinematic embodiment of that bore at parties who laughs loudest at their own stupid jokes. Poppy is The Office’s David Brent in a film without a punch line.

A number of critics have been raving about this navel-gazing affair, but it’s hard to see why. The only point of interest is the subplot involving Scott, a deranged driving instructor played by Eddie Marsan. He’s a paranoid, uptight, cynical and thoroughly awkward human being whose relationship with Poppy slowly develops into something messy and complicated. Unfortunately, there’s no payoff to their interactions, as the movie abruptly ends just as things get interesting.

I admit, there’s potential in a film about someone like Poppy, even though she is a Manic Pixie, but Leigh doesn’t seem interested in anything resembling story mechanics. Happy Go Lucky looks good, and the actors all hit their marks, but it’s just as empty as its two-dimensional lead.

Adam Clarke

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cMwD7Zy6Vno 540 500]

Death to the pixies

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TMNT

Feb 12 2009 Published by under Field Notes

Proving moms wrong everywhere, Andrew Bonia is making a career out of comic books.

While managing a comic book store in Connecticut, Bonia has taken the reins of an issue of Mirage’s Tales of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

So how do you start writing for the comic based on an internationally successful, 25-year-old cartoon franchise? Take notes, kids. Bonia, who was raised in St. John’s, started out much like many comic book aficionados.

“I was always into comics and adventure stories growing up,” he says. “I had kind of inherited a comic collection from my mom, and my friends and I used to trade them back and forth in school to get new ones we had never read.”

His lifelong love of comics led him to the New York Comic Con, where he introduced himself to people from Mirage Studios because was a fan of the Turtles series as a kid.

Then he got his break.

“A short time later I found myself in front of the Mirage table with Turtles co-creator Peter Laird there, and I just walked up and introduced myself and said I wanted to write for his comic,” Bonia says. “After that it was just a long process of trying to propose a story that they wanted to publish.”

In his installment of the comic, The Fugitoid, a Turtles-allied robot with the mind of a scientist, gets injured during a fight and the Turtles have to help him out.

As a writer, Bonia was particularly interested in working on an established series and having the back-story and the fanbase built in.

“When you’re just writing from scratch, you’ve got to re-invent everything—you’re really creating a world from the ground up,” he says. “If you jump into a pre-existing series like the Turtles a lot of that work has been done for you so you can just focus on the story.

Tales of the TMNT #54 hit comic shops on Jan. 21.

Kerri Breen

Up to something field noteworthy? E-mail kerri@thescope.ca

TMNT

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Bruce Springsteen tribute

Feb 12 2009 Published by under Music

“Whenever I hear someone say, ‘Oh, I don’t really like Bruce Springsteen,’ I say, ‘No, man, you’re thinking of John Cougar Mellancamp,” says Phil Churchill—comedian,guitarist, singer, and self-professed Bruce Springsteen super-fan.

He is one of more than a dozen local musicians paying tribute to Springsteen’s music this Valentine’s weekend. The lineup for the evening reads like a who’s-who of local music, featuring vocalists Tim Baker, Blair Harvey, Sean Panting, Jody Richardson, Mark Bragg and the list goes on. Backing them all up will be Mark Bragg and the G Street band, an 8-piece group.

What is it about are so many people getting up to sing the songs of Bruce Springsteen?

“We’ve pushed him up on the soapbox for the blue collar worker,” says Churchill. “He’s a kind of loveable loser who really has nothing, but is still gonna put on his jean jacket and go down and knock on that girl’s door to ask her out.”

“The tunes just kick ass too,” he says.

Springsteen has been tributed by the same bunch twice before here in town, and, again, both times were during the most forbidding days of winter. The first show at The Ship coincided with a snow storm that knocked the power out just as Sean Panting was breaking into the first 10 seconds of “The Ghost of Joad.”

“He kept going,” says Phil, “and we filled in behind him the best we could.”

Once the song ended, they called a break and Churchill and Bragg ran to an apartment to fetch a guitar amp powered by a car battery, as well as whatever else they could carry that made sound and didn’t have to be plugged in. They returned to The Ship to finish the set.

“Everybody moved a bit closer to the stage, and we lit candles.” he says. Definitely appropriate for the sensitive tough-guy sound of The Boss.

St. John’s Does Bruce Springsteen will take place Friday, February 13 and Saturday, February 14 at the Rock House. Tickets are $15 in advance, available at Fred’s Records and the Rock House. Show starts at 11pm.

Bruce Springsteen tribute

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Accordion revolution

Feb 12 2009 Published by under Features,Music


Geoff Berner

It seems that the rest of North America is starting to wise up to the fact that, when it comes to loving accordions, we’ve been right all along. While the rest of the West was busy lumping accordion and goofy people in lederhosen in the same category, Newfoundland musicians weren’t paying too much attention, and just carried on squeezing out dance music.

Here, T-shirts have long predicted a great accordion uprising, Harry Hibbs’ At The Caribou Club can be found in most record collections, and on August 6, 2005, the Guinness World Record for most accordionists playing a tune together was set in Bannerman Park—at 989 players.

Two popular indie music acts from upalong will be rolling into town in the next while, with accordions in tow.

Elling Lien asks Felicity Hamer (of The United Steelworkers of Montreal) and singer-songwriter Geoff Berner what the big idea is.

GEOFF BERNER
is Vancouver, BC musician who plays what could be described as klezmer punk folk dance. Or something. You can drink to it, think to it, and dance to it. He’s stopping here as part of a cross-country tour in support of his new album, “Klezmer Mongrels”, which is blocked with hilarious, wise, and raucous tunes like “Half German Girlfriend” and a song advising people not to put tobacco in the joints you offer him after the show. He’s written a book called How to be an Accordion Player, and he’s hardcore. Just look at his picture up there.

You’re coming to St. John’s again!
Yes, we’re very excited about coming to St. John’s. It’ll be the last show on this leg of the tour, and then we have a day off there, so we’ll be able to hang out on Sunday. Saturday will be a kind of celebratory blow-out, so it’ll be a big deal, and it seems like St. John’s is the place to do that. …It’s fun there.

Frankly, you’re exotic. You’re difficult to get to, and most Canadian musicians don’t make it there as part of the tour, because of the expense and distance and that kind of thing, so it would seem like a terrible shame to just go play a show and then load out. It would be pathetic.

Yes, but one thing that you didn’t mention is we have a deep, profound, long-standing respect for accordion players here.
I am familiar with that, and I have a deep respect for that deep respect. It’s an indicator of Newfoundland’s more-European style culture. The people in France and Ireland and Scandinavia and Germany, they never had that period where they all hated the accordion, and it sounds like Newfoundland didn’t either.

So you think there was a period in the rest of Canada where people hated the accordion?
In mainstream North American culture, there definitely was a time where people hated the accordion. Have you ever read the book Accordion Crimes, by Annie Proulx?

No I haven’t.
It’s a bunch of linked short stories about all the different cultures that came to North America playing the accordion. This one accordion travels between them, and it shows how people, when they melted into the melting pot of North American culture—especially American culture—they distained their original culture. They wanted to assimilate into the hip, modern, WASPy, Wonderbread culture, and the accordion was something their grandpa did that they wanted to forget. But, for some reason, I don’t think Newfoundland really went through that period of seperation between the generations, or something, like where “I don’t even want to know what my grandpa was into, because that was boring.” I don’t think that Newfoundland was touched by the dead hand of cultural assimilation in the same way.

Was there ever that kind of feeling inside you about accordions?
Not particularly. I was into punky, rocky music when I was a kid, and so I embraced the accordion partly just because regular people seemed to hate it. From a punk rock perspective, that’s a good sign. If everybody else hates it, then it’s definitely worth a look.

Was there a moment when you were younger when you heard an accordion and said, “yeah, I want that”?
Well, yes, about the same year I started listening to punk music, I discovered Tom Waits and the Pogues—pretty much in the same month, I guess—and there’s no question that they made the accordion pretty cool.

What was it about the accordion that interested you?
Well, I was a piano player, and I wanted to tour and busk, and I never was attracted to synthesizers and stuff like that. The accordion was an organic instrument that was portable, which is what really got me started playing it. Then it kind of took over my brain, once I picked it up. It’s a great singer-songwriter instrument, because you’ve got the bass in your left hand, and you’ve got the chords in your right, and you can actually get a lot more going on with it than a guitar as an accompaniment. And these days, there are a lot of people using it that way. Wendy MacNeill, Jason Webley, Anna Bon-Bon… You could definitely put on a festival of accordion singer-songwriters.

Anything you’d like to say about the show?
I’d really just like to emphasize that this music we’ll be playing is drunken dancing music. For us, the show will be a fun, drunk party, and I hope that the audience feels the same way.

Life is about accordions, drinking, and dancing.
Those are the good parts.

Geoff Berner will play at The Ship on Saturday, February 21 along with the Pathological Lovers. Tickets are $7 at the door. www.geoffberner.com


Photo by Jen Ford.

FELICITY HAMER of THE UNITED STEELWORKERS OF MONTREAL
This band has just released a new album Three on the Tree, bringing another dark-roast blend of upbeat music to dance and cry to. Some might call it country, blues, or bluegrass, but they’d be missing the point—which is that this is a six-member band that will be shaking the walls at CBTGs for three nights in a row. You will know Felicity by her raspy, powerful singing voice (she says she was taught to sing by bartenders) and her beautiful Hohner accordion—which she claims she bought for just 75 dollars on eBay.

So I mentioned before that Geoff Berner is coming to town a week after you guys, and he’s the indie accordion king, so I wanted to talk to you both about accordions.
We played a show with him a couple of years ago! And that was when I was just learning to play. One of our bandmates had just moved to Europe, and he was the only one who played accordion. Looking around at the band, I was the only one who wasn’t holding an instrument, so they passed it over to me. So that night I went over to Geoff and said, “hey, look! I’m trying to learn to accordion!” And he gave me a copy of How to be an Accordion Player, which is hilarious. There are full chapters on choosing the colour of your accordion, and the importance of the shininess. He goes off on these great historical tangents.

When did you happen upon playing the accordion? It was seriously just handed to you?
Yeah, I’ve since gotten my own accordion, because the one that was handed to me was in pretty rough shape. An ex-bandmate of ours, Sean Buymore—who is from Newfoundland, actually—he decided to move to Berlin, and he was the only one who played accordion in the band, so seeing as how I was the only one not playing an instrument at the time, it fell on me to learn his parts and create new parts for the songs. I have to admit, I don’t play very much accordion on the album, but it’s just enough so that we can put the accordion on our logo. [laugh]

It really is a beautiful instrument.
It is! It is. I’m just really bad about making the time to practice, but now that we’re going to be on the road, playing a million shows in a row, I will be actually playing the accordion every day, so perhaps I’ll actually advance. I definitely remember being very intimidated to play in front of Geoff Berner. I remember hoping he would go out for a cigarette during those songs. [laugh] But he didn’t say anything mean.

You guys are often described as folk-punk-country, but is there anything punk about accordion?
Because I’m playing it! [laugh] I bring the punk to the accordion.

We have a really hard time categorizing ourselves, because we don’t fall into the country niche, and we don’t even really fall into the alt-country niche. We don’t really fall into punk, or bluegrass, or any of that stuff, but we have all the elements. So we’re alt-country-cow-punk-grass-folk with some jazzy undertones and a little bit of polka.

The polka, that’s the accordion part maybe?
That’s just when I play the buttons on the left… oom pa pa, oom pa pa… [laugh] That’s the polka element. On the new album, there’s one song called “Son, Your Daddy was Bad” and that’s my contribution—oom pa pa—the whole way through. It’s very tiring on the left arm though, because I don’t practice very much. I’m sure a week into the tour, it’ll be a piece of cake and I’ll have an overly-developed left arm. Actually, until recently I’ve been doing a lot of waitressing, so maybe my arms will even out!

What do you like about the accordion?
I don’t know. It’s pretty. I consider it the better-looking instrument in the band, so it’s nice to be holding it. I never really took to any stringed instruments, and I did a little bit of keyboard when I was young, so a lot of the positions for the chords come naturally to me. As a vocalist, it’s a natural instrument, because it’s easy, even as someone who can’t read music, it’s easier for me to figure out my parts because it’s just like singing.

So you find it more intuitive?
Yeah, it feels intuitive. And also, it’s quite high, pitch-wise, which is great because it’s quite close to my voice. When I’m in a band, I’m used to being up in that range, so with this instrument it’s familiar territory. But mostly because it’s very pretty. [laugh]

The United Steelworkers of Montreal will be at CBTGs on Friday, February 13 (with Black Molly), Saturday, February 14 (with the Angelshakes) and Sunday, February 15 (with Jack Betty and His Bluegrass Boys). 10pm.

Accordion revolution

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Storefront

Feb 12 2009 Published by under Storefront


Soap from the Aseela Women’s Cooperative in Palestine

Sydney Blackmore knows where you shop.

Pieces of Palestine
Matthew Fitz, Tyler Lovell and Kevin Sooley are three MUN students who have started using Facebook as an online marketplace for fairly-traded Palestinian goods. In January 2009, the trio teamed up to create the group, ‘The Buy Palestinian Initiative!’ and are using this space as an online fair-trade marketplace to sell Palestinian made products to people here in the province.

“We’re importing Palestinian handmade soap. Right now we’re selling bars of pure olive oil soap, made by the Aseela Woman’s Collective,” explains Fitz. “The Aseela group is a group of women from Bethlehem who want to export their culture, and it seemed like a perfect way to help out. They make the soap themselves and they buy the olives from the Palestinian farmers. So it really does promote sustainability there.”

As the Israeli-Palestinian conflict rages on, the boys’ mission is relevant to the times. But Fitz insists their Initiative is apolitical and is really about helping people.

“In Palestine, the average rate of unemployment for women is about 20% and in some places it’s 40%. Even if there wasn’t a war going on it would still be an extremely unstable situation.”

A quote from Aseela co-founder Wafa Khatib on the website reads, “people outside Palestine hear only about violence and poverty. We wanted to show the world something beautiful from our country.”

On February 18, the Buy Palestinian Initiative will have a booth set up in Memorial’s University Centre to sell the $5 bars of soap. The boys are also hoping to soon have their own booth at the Avalon Mall’s Sunday Flea market while they work on establishing their own website and e-mail domain, for future orders.

To learn more about The Buy Palestinian Initiative, check out their Facebook group and keep an eye out for their website which is in the works at www.buypalestine.com.

Red, white and drank
So you think you’re good at drinking wine? You should meet Nick Hender, a wine stewart. A few years ago, Nick followed his taste buds to the Algonquin University of Ottawa and after two years of intense study with over 25 wine tastings a week, he became a sommelier. Translation? “A ‘sommeleir’ is a fancy french term for someone who is the person who controls all beverages in a restaurant. It’s a wine expert,” explains Nick.

Through his business, Grape Expectations, Hender offers wine tasting sessions and consultations to all wine drinkers in the St. John’s area. “I go to people’s homes and talk at length about wine. I can go to the liquor store with them and help them buy the wine.”

Being a lover of wine, Nick wants to remove the snobbery that’s associated with the drink.

“Wine tastings can be stuffy and uptight and not very welcoming. It’s like you have to know something about wine before you go—and that must be very intimidating to somebody who doesn’t know anything about wine. With my business I’m hoping to make wine accessible and just make it fun.”

Nick is also a Red Seal Chef, so he offers his services as an at-home cooking instructor and catering chef. He makes his own bread and gourmet cheese spreads to bring to the tastings as well.

“The tastings are a really nice evening—usually with about 6 or 8 of your friends over. You get to taste 6-8 wines, one by one over the entire evening, and you learn about the wines as you go.”

Nick also has a bit of fun with his clients and incorporates a ‘guess the aroma’ game into his sessions.

A basic wine tasting with bread is $25 a person and a tasting with the cheese spread costs $30 a person. Both sessions last 3-4 hours.

For more details about how you can book an evening with Grape Expectations, call 765-7527, 726-5957 or visit the website at www.winefoodfun.ca.

Locker graffiti
He wants to draw you in and then draw on you. Tomas Shea is a seventeen year old student of Gonzaga High School who is running his own custom clothing design business—right out of his locker—called Locker 101 Custom Clothing.

Says Tomas, “I can transform your basic clothes. Every single item is hand-drawn, I have special types of markers that work on different fabrics. I’ve always been able to draw well, so that’s an advantage for me.”

Locker 101 is an idea spawned from Tomas’ appreciation for one-of-a-kind graphic tees and his high school’s Enterprise class.

“There are two other clothing companies at my school, so it’s growing surprisingly common [for students to sell clothes],” he says. “But 101 is doing really well. I have help from my friend Patrick Stapleton who takes care of the business side. So far we have made over $225 in profit and we’ve only been doing the business a little over two weeks.”

So is Tomas going to get an A for his effort?

“Right now I have a 97% in enterprise. But I’ll definitely get 100% if I can prove to my teacher that The Scope exists.”

(Yes, Mr. Mazerolle, we do exist.)

Tomas has his own Facebook group called ‘Custom Clothing 101’ where people, both students and non-students, can place their orders. He’s also posted his own youtube commercial that showcases some of his creations on the Facebook group. Prices are $10 to buy a shirt with accompanying design, or $3-5 for a design if the clothing is provided. Tomas has his own original designs to choose from, or customers can request their own design.

“The customer is always right. If they want something, that’s what they get.“ Potential customers can e-mail Tomas at tomasshea13@hotmail.com, or Gonzaga students can see him during his lunchtime business hours—at Locker 101 in Gonzaga’s basement.

Gut feelings
A new, fast-food Thai restaurant called Thai in a Box is opening this week, next to the old Totally Greek location in Atlantic Place that closed a few months ago.

Also, while The Fat Duck on Water Street may look closed, it’s just hibernating. The restaurant is closed for the winter season and will open again in May.

Unfortunately that’s not the case for Christopher’s, the restaurant on Duckworth that specialised in contemporary Newfoundland traditional cuisine, which closed this past week.

One last note: Peter’s Pizza is going to the dogs.

Every Tuesday, the tips and profits made from the ‘daily slice’ special at the pizza place on 142 Patrick Street goes to the local animal charity, Heavenly Creatures. Woof!

Send your fresh business news to storefront@thescope.ca

Storefront

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DIY cold remedies

Feb 12 2009 Published by under DIY

Bryhanna Greenough is sick of being sick.

After three healthy winters, I’ve become a cold magnet. It’s been relentless. The runny nose of one infection turns into another sore throat and the cycle of snot and suffering repeats itself. I’ve rested, bobbed in a bath, chugged gallons of juice, and mega-dosed on Vitamin C to the point where my tongue is orange for days. There was a denial period where symptomatic support options were completely ignored. Then a new battle broke out, and I broke down and splurged on $25 bottle of hope in the form of Cold FX.

I did start getting better, s-l-o-w-l-y, but I want to believe my body is strong enough to get over this vile treachery without a trip to the doctor for antibiotics.

I just can’t stop a common cold from treating my body like a cheap hotel room.

As you probably all know, the common cold is a virus, and the experts say all you can do is treat the symptoms. And, unfortunately, nothing really seems to work that well. That said, it’s always interesting to learn what others do, and have done, in their desperate search for a little relief. A handful of Scopemakers called up their families for traditional home remedies for seasonal sickness and recalled memories of friends and neighbours helping them fight the common plague. If nothing else, it was a good excuse to finally get around to calling. As you can see I’ve lost all hope. But here you have it.

Chicken soup is the comfort food of the masses. It sells books, and, supposedly, cures colds too. It’s filled with all sorts of vitamins and it’s easy on the stomach when you don’t feel like eating very much. Editor Elling Lien’s mother Judy Lien remembers friends bringing soup by the house.

“It’s a wonderful gift for any family going through colds,” she says. And it’s true, a few spoonfuls of salty, brothy goodness lifts the mood and re-affirms life.

Cartoonist Tara Fleming puts a twist on the Vicks VapoRub standard by smearing it onto the bottom of a bowl, and then very carefully adding hot water. She makes a tent by draping a towel over her head, closes her eyes and inhales the steamy camphor, eucalyptus and menthol to relieve congestion.

“Though if you don’t close your eyes you may experience temporary blindness,” says Tara. “Hey, my grandparents weren’t doctors!”

(Vicks also warns against this because so many people have been burned in the process!)

Journalism intern Ross Mair has experienced some bizarre home remedies in his lifetime. His old neighbour on York Street claimed wrapping your left sock around the neck and securing it with a pin before bed would cure a sore throat. Luckily, he was too young to remember. These days he digs the hot water bag, “an instant cure-all for all things muscle related, and without the smell, hassle and burning of Tiger Balm,” he says.

This is off-topic, but Ross also has an incredible antidote for nasty tooth pain: Microwave a ceramic plate to burning hot, wrap it in a thick cloth and lay down pressing the sore side of your face into it. Bah! Who needs a dentist anyhow?

Goose grease is the cold remedy of choice for Sydney Blackmore’s family in Grand Falls-Windsor.

“Whenever a goose was prepared for a special family meal, the grease drippings were kept to be used as a decongestant,” says her mother about her grandfather’s Sidney Butler. The grease was applied to the chest to relieve congestion in the lungs, and a few drops of camphorated oil were also used in this way.

Black currants, those tasty little temptations growing on bushes in backyard everywhere, are also a traditional Newfoundland home remedy. Sydney’s family ate homemade black currant jam to ease the pain and swelling of a sore throat. Elling’s mother is also convinced of the benefits, claiming black currants are high in anti-oxidants. One year she canned her own black currant juice, the reinstated it by mixing it with some water and heat. She says you can also use frozen black currants to make juice by heating them with some water on the stove, then straining them.

Last but not least, I called my grandparents and ask them about their home remedies for colds. My grandpa says if you’re fairly healthy your body can fight it off. His words exactly, “suffer it out.” And if you can, don’t go to bed, because you’ll just feel worse. No rest for the wicked.

Illustration by Tara Fleming

diy@thescope.ca

DIY cold remedies

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From art house to poor house

Feb 12 2009 Published by under Field Notes

A new study indicates that incomes for artists were in decline long before the credit crunch and bailout bonanza, and that the recession will deepen artists’ poverty.

The report, based on 2006 Census data, found that 43 per cent of Canada’s 140,000 artists— from musicians to dancers—were living on less than $10,000 a year. The cultural labour force has tripled in size since 1990, but pay for artists has decreased by 11 per cent over that time period.

“To bridge the earnings gap and bring the average earnings of artists up to the same level as the overall labour force would require an additional $1.9 billion in earnings for artists,” the report reads.

Other interesting facts: Artists are almost twice as likely to work part-time hours than the rest of the labour force, and almost 40 per cent of them have at least bachelor’s degrees.

Visual artists made the least money and were much more likely to be self-employed. Women and minorities of all disciplines made less money than men.

It did not break down the earnings by region.

The full report, released earlier this month, can be found at www.hillstrategies.com.

Kerri Breen

Up to something field noteworthy? E-mail kerri@thescope.ca

From art house to poor house

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Only the lonely

Feb 12 2009 Published by under On Screen


Mister Lonely (DVD)

After 9 years spent in relative obscurity since directing his last feature, Julien Donkey-Boy, Harmony Korine has returned with a noticeable change in style and approach.

Mister Lonely, co-written with his brother, Avi Korine, tells the story of a young Michael Jackson impersonator (Diego Luna) who roams the streets of Paris and falls in love with a beautiful Marilyn Monroe impersonator (Samantha Morton). We learn almost nothing about what has lead these characters to such a peculiar fate, but things do become somewhat clear once Marilyn convinces Michael to join her commune of impersonators in the Scottish Highlands. Michael, reluctant at first, is charmed by the tales of this magical land, and with the prospect of being closer to his new friend.

The Harmony Korine of 9 years ago might have used this setup as a starting point to unleash an assortment of perverts, glue-freaks, black albinos, and amputees on the viewer, but it becomes clear he wants to get away from his nihilistic reputation, and away from the lifestyle that came along with it.

Rather than an opposing storyline, Korine chooses to string visual metaphors against the film’s main narrative. This is where famous German director Werner Herzog makes an appearance as an obstinate but compassionate Catholic priest, who is either intent on convincing a group of South American nuns that they can fly or hell-bent on orchestrating their destruction en-masse. This sub-plot of sorts contains some breathtaking shots of nuns riding bicycles through the sky which give the film a heavy-handed sense of wonder. Things don’t stay there for long though, and soon we have an extended take of a young Buckwheat impersonator riding a donkey through the woods proclaiming his love for chicken breasts.

To sum it up, this is among Korine’s best work. While it doesn’t touch Gummo in terms of cinematic recklessness and doesn’t have the cultural relevance of Kids (Directed by Larry Clark but which Korine wrote at age 19) however, its comment on identity and the process of ridding oneself of self-destructive dreams is a well-crafted, often hilarious, work of introspection.

Also note, guys, that stirring feeling in your shorts every time Samantha Morton appears on screen is perfectly natural.

Check out the DVD for about an hour’s worth of extra footage including a drop-dead funny routine of Michael and a bonkers Abe Lincoln (played brilliantly by Richard Strange) dancing with a megaphone, as well as a making-of featurette.

Colin Browne

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cDJiBshtxS0 540 500]

Only the lonely

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Inbox

Feb 12 2009 Published by under Inbox

canadapost

The Scope welcomes comments on all aspects of city life and the paper’s performance. Letters, e-mails, and website comments may be edited for space and clarity.

E-mail: inbox@thescope.ca

VOWR vs. CBC
I was amused by the response of VOWR’s Geoff Peters to the use of the phrase “that old people one in the Church”. I suspect it wasn’t so much a slight by the Scope as an admiring inclusion of an 85-year-old conservative institution into the pages of a breezy, alternative newspaper. Surely there’s room for both! The Scope may not have as many volunteers as VOWR but it is to be admired for its ability to have a band of hard-scrabble, passionate, downtown guerillas who keep older townies like me plugged into what’s happening in the arts, music and entertainment in this beloved city of mine. And it does so in a paper that’s imaginative, lively and fresh.

By the way, I also am a fan of VOWR, listening every Saturday afternoon to Tom Hann’s music show (the second-best show
on radio!)

If there is any issue I take with this, it is the use of Mr. Peters paternalistic and dismissive phrase “rag” in describing The Scope. He seems to suggest that if the Scope was judgmental in its description of VOWR (it wasn’t) then that’s wrong, but it’s okay for VOWR to try to destroy all the good work of the paper by using a word that is unkind, hurtful and untrue. Is that the Christian message that the Voice of Wesley Radio likes to spread?
John Furlong
Host of The Fisheries Broadcast
CBC Radio

S’ALL GOOD
I do thank you for including my email as a letter to the editor in your latest edition of The Scope. I have had a number of calls from friends and listeners to VOWR concerning my remarks, so your paper is being read and that’s a good thing. I would suggest that some of your younger readers tune in to us at times as groups like the Eagles, ABBA, Shania Twain, Josh Groban, and even the Beach Boys have a wide appeal—however our target market are those a little older. Which is fine with us.

I have to say, I enjoy most items in The Scope, especially what’s happening on the entertainment scene. I usually get my copy at Coffee & Co where I am a regular.

I wish you continued success with the paper.

Sincerely,
Geoff Peters
Host and Coordinator
Morning Radio
VOWR 800 AM

CULINARILY BANKRUPT
Dear Food Nerd,

I’m wondering if you happen to shop at Sobeys Ropewalk Lane? That’s my local grocery store—I always go with several potential recipes dancing in my head, only to leave with enough ingredients for buttered toast and muttering curses on Mark Bittman for even daring to mention shallots.

One day last fall I nearly had a complete meltdown in the produce department (it was a rough week). It had been over a month since I’d seen cilantro at that store and figured I’d give it another go (cuz I ♥’s me some cilantro). In case cilantro was MIA again, I’d get some fresh ginger root for a few stir fries and chana masala. When there was no ginger, I left. I had to stop shopping and remove myself from the store, the temptation to declare culinary bankruptcy and stuff my cart with Pogos and frozen pizza was too great.
Steven Granter
online at thescope.ca


WON’T YOU BE…
There’s a Neighbourhood Association needed in the Carter’s Hill, Long’s Hill, and West to Casey Street area, it is definitely not one of the prettiest areas of the City. There are hardly any green areas or flowers. There are no park-like setting for our seniors to enjoy a nice day. Most residents don’t have backgardens, and have to sit on their front steps to get fresh air in the summertime. Beer bottle smashing seems to be a great past time for some people, we have no dog park, we have very little city garbage containers, and in the spring the whole area looks awful. Hopefully an association can be started to improve this area of town.
Mary
online at thescope.ca


…MY NEIGHBOUR?
While I enjoy a good flea market as much as anyone, aside from that annual event, the Georgestown Neighbourhood Association seems to miss the dart board completely. What rock do I have to look under to find out about your outreach meetings? Why not try knocking on a few doors? With all the different people and social issues that go on in the area, I find it more than a little selfish and high-browed to say preserving historical significance is one of the biggest priorities in the neighbourhood. I would burn Holy Heart Auditorium to the ground if something useful to the area would replace it, even if it didn’t look like it was from the 19th century.
CMurphy
online at thescope.ca

Inbox

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Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards

Feb 12 2009 Published by under 8bits

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XqXpWJhsuaI 540 500]

The original 40-year old virgin

At the fiercely impressionable age of six I learned a great deal from Leisure Suit Larry. How to spell ‘prophylactic,’ for example. And, more importantly, I learned that your crotch would flash a range of bright colors if you a had sex with a hooker without one.

From the days when adventure games ruled the PC, Leisure Suit Larry was among the multitude of Sierra titles that defined and dominated a genre before anyone knew what the hell an MMORPG was.

Larry provided an extensive journey not soon forgotten, teeming with $1 bottles of wine, disco dancing, and easily distracted, overweight pimps. Unlike the bullshit mini-game-based Leisure Suit Larry games of latter days, this one of yore was—albeit crude—a benchmark title for its time, as equal in weight as its Space and Police Quest counterparts. It was chock-full of elaborate and cheeky puzzles to solve and women to ‘know.’ In fact, in this game, they were one and the same.

— Paul Warford

Download this abandonware game at
tinyurl.com/leisuresuit

Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards

One response so far

Your Valentines

Feb 12 2009 Published by under Inbox

Happy Valentine’s Day from The Scope!

Aimee W…you are such a wonderful gal. Hope you enjoy v-day this year. I know your hosting abilities on stage will surpass those that came before you. Love, the one who wears her heart on her sleeve as much as you do. xo

All kinds of warm, gooshy sweetness on Valentines’ Day… to my Pookie Bear, my Sweet-Pea Monkey, my Sugar Plum and an extra sugary glop to my Sweet-O Wright-O ! xoxox

Amore mio, la mia dolce metà, la mia anima gemella: Vorrei andare a Firenze con me? Un milione di baci per te.

Baaaaaaaaaaaaaaah.

baby, after three years, I’m still smitten.

Can’t wait to kiss your nose, B. Slithering like a snake is so much more fun when we’re together. HK

CFP + ST u r sweetness xxx bunnies on p street

Conquinarious Caffe: Aperitivi per due, mezzanotte, July 5th, 2009? And wear something slinky – I will if you will. Yours, Fedelina

Dave, I want all of St. John’s to know that you are the very best of men. You demonstrate your love for me and our son in every thing that you do. I am blessed in you. Love, Jenn.

dearest st.john’s how i miss thee my ladies of the film fest a former schoolmate named joy the folks at the scope my old roomies, the human one and the clumsy, furry one a no-bullshit college prof from the days of yore for now, i will just have to adore st.john’s from afar ~ s.

DC, the very thought of seeing you makes me do an excited puppy wiggle. With you as pirate captain I eagerly await more fantastic adventures of dancing, exploring, familiar-finding, swimming, and world domination whimsy. But that’s just a vague outline.

Dear C. you are the YANG to my YIN.

Dear L. Cohen, I remember your hands on my hourglass body, and bickering. If it be your will. But you lost the lady of your dreams and I the man of mine Sincerely, Sheila

dear l.e.w. you are cuter than a box of puppies and sweeter than that kraft peanut butter you don’t like :P. i love you more than grilled cheese sandwiches, weed and biggie smalls put together. you’re my favorite. from, guess who :)

Dear Maeve, Never stop singing and dancing. Happy Heart’s Day! Love M, N + K bunnies

Dear Morgan, We think you will one day be an award winning author. Happy Heart’s Day! Love the bunnies on Pleasant Street

Dear Mr. Awesome: If the sun never rises, stars no longer shine, my world will still be bright knowing you’re mine. You love like no other, “our life” has now begun. I need nobody else, for me you’re The One.

Dear Nalanie, Data base queen, musical machine and coffee fiend, you’ve filed our heARTs! xxx m+m

Dear Pretty Girl, I realize that I’ve been winning the past few games of hugs-on-top. You should know that I’m going let you win the next few. Then it’s my turn again, I love you. Love, b

Don’t Be a Grumpy Camel….You Are Loved By Your Neighbour.

Eastern Edge, no matter how hard you make me work I still love you!

eefoc rof tuo uoy ksa d’I ebyam neht yhs os t’nerew I ylno fI

Elayne & Kym, I am so grateful to have us all living in the same city! Let’s keep the sister sister party’s going! Love, Joann

Fantastic 5 I appreciate your commitment to your workplace and the collective group. I admire your determination. Keep the faith valentines! Your Admirer

From Lavalife to Calgary, around the world, a cockpit proposal, three weddings, our very own row house and baby MT on the way, you’re still (and always will be) my bestfriend, my lover, my partner-in-crime. Wo ai ni Bei.

G.O.P. You complement every plate. Be my gherkin forever!

Green Green Green Green Green Green Green Green Green

Happy Heart Day Peesack…. All the loaf to you. Love your Turnip. Smooooch.

Happy Valentine’s to my McDreamy. Here’s to the 10-Year Plan and a cat who sounds like he’s wearing high heels when he walks.

Hava Java, Plain bagels are great with plain cream cheese is better You make my soy sicilian Better than anyone EVER!! Marry me!

he likes to play in the dirt, is nice to dogs, has many silly-bones, is cute & clever, creative, at ease…hmm, sure hope i’ll meet him at the Slow Food Speed

Hiya smelly! What’s your name? What’s your favourite colour? Hee hee hee ? Loves & bum 4ever. From your one and only you know who.

Dating funky dance party!

hey bravocado! add some strips & you warm my heart!

Hey Monkey! Are you nice? I think you are!

Hey there breakwater lady, wont you be mine? xoxo McDreamy

Hey there breakwater lady, wont you be mine? xoxo McDreamy

i am totally in like with you. your nerdiness is the best! and it secretly turns me on! i think about you all the time and i want you to be my valentine.

I O U 1 slow dancing party Mary

I saw you wearing a Dream Theater t-shirt one day and you stole my heart away. I doubt that I’ll ever know you, but still I hope you have a happy valentine’s day. Always remember that “Love is the dance of eternity…”

I’d like to wish a Happy Valentine’s Day to my son Neil, and all my nephews and niece living away or in Nfld.

If I fell in love with you could you promise to be true And help me understand ‘Cause I’ve been in love before And I’ve found that love is more Than just holding hands

if you love me you’ll draw me a bird

I’ll see you in a tent, on a mountain top. Can’t wait till our June unfolds!

I’LL N’YA RIEN AU MONDE QUE TOI MA JOLLIE FILLE to: T-Mo Love: Sir

I’ve fallen in love many times… always with you. KW

Jam Jam I love you and that is simple. I am glad that you are my company on this crazy roller coaster called life. Weiner

Karla me lover…give dat handsome young man o’ yours a big smooch for me on v-day. “Which one?” you ask…your choice ;) Miss you girl! With love from Halifornia, your secret admirer xo

Kimmmmmmm How do I love thee… let me count the ways…. xxx your secret admirer

Leeanna & Lindsay, Thanks for all the warm hugging and loving. Thanks for letting me sleep in you bed! Love, Angel Greeley

Let’s be zombie lovers until the end of time.<3 keep me? -cmd

Lil Monkee. Lil Sweets McGee. Lil Booter. Sweet lil head with a butt for a head with nice bipper sauce. Hunter Sweets. Barn an raised on Bell Island.

Genka genka. Loves me sweet bip. Be mine.

lips love light laughter / soft skin and strong stature / a strange glow / an indescribable being / she’ll be over the rainbow / teaching pigs to sing

Lori, Don’t play hard to get, can’t you tell I’m pining. Love your secret admirer.

loverboy! you are the best thing I could have ever imported. Ever. XXOO

Mango Love, Escape the chaos of our children, work, and bands. Meet me at our tropical island Saturday night. I’ll turn up the heater and meet you with a plate of tropical fruit and girly drinks. Lemon Love

Master Rowe, You are a pleasure to have as a student. I look forward to many successful terms in the future. Miss J. Button

Michelle will you be my caterpillar?

Mitten You make winter warm and cozy. I love my life with you…L’il Pink xo

Monkey Boober Head, Did you know that you are my little Sweets MaGee? Also my tiny baby monkey butt head. Also a nice. xxx yer monk

Monkey Butt, You have a nice butt. I love it.

Monkey, I love you. Will you cuddle me tonight? Love yer lil Edvard Monk.

MR, I wants yer bird and I knows yer queer as February 29th. Let’s get ‘er done.

MTBR, I have fallen off the fence into your warm and loving arms. I never thought this could ever happen to me and here I am falling for you. It’s as simple as it should be! Smooches! Miss J. Button

Not when I stop and just stargaze/Not when I stare at the moon’s phase/Not when I watch comets cross the skies/When I look in your eyes.

Nushka + Kaila Hop Hop Heart Bunnies Love always mom

Oh baby I, I, I, I’m fallin’ I, I, I, I’m fallin’ Fall

Oh me Dollie… I miss and love you so much. Your owner too, though it’s a shame he’s a weirdo.

oh she may be weary them girls they do get wearied wearing that same old shaggy dress, yeah yeah but when she gets weary try a little tenderness, yeah yeah

Old town; out there west. / You tell coming weather, / Help me have sound rest. / Old tunnel; where we best / Hold silence together -/ Wind without our chest. / Old love; come here lest / We could forget whether / Life be toil, or blest.

On this day we both ignore, of myself i do implore to ask of you but one small chore: forever will you be my whore? To Elsa. With romantic, horny love. From Darcy.

One day will you paint the chicken?

Pardon the way that I stare. There’s nothing else to compare. The sight of you leaves me weak. There are no words left to speak, But if you feel like I feel, Please let me know that it’s real. You’re just too good to be true. Can’t take my eyes off you.

pumpkinbread-thank you for being the most exquisite and forthright lovah. i loves you, i do. -sugarbear

Ryan Snodden Your bringing on a high-pressure system… in my pants.

SAK, you’re my very favorite! xoxo

See you almost everyday, your so close yet so far away / Been feeling this feeling for so long, yet beautiful our time has but begun / Love is a long road

I once was told (TP) / The right place the right time your arms I will hold. / :)

The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea In a beautiful pea green boat, They took some honey, and plenty of money, Wrapped up in a five pound note. The Owl looked up to the stars above, And sang to a small guitar…

The Poet In Me / I find the poet in me… / not when I stop and just star gaze / not when I stare at the moon’s phase / not when I watch comets cross the skies / when I look in your eyes / Wayne

Timmer Tots Thank you for being my sunshine and the right side of my brain. Oh, you should know that you are delightful in a strapless dress. Weiner

To all of the local gals who do burlesque shows these days, I say thank you for your sensual va-va-voom. I love you all.

To Cyril, The cute boy in the window of Hava Java on my way to work… luvs ya

To lil’ sister MARY, newbie in town and Eastern Edge worker-extraordinaire. Here’s hoping Edward Cullen finds you this Valentine’s.

To Maria, Jordan, and little baby Gabe: I hope you enjoy your first Valentine’s Day together as a new family! With much love from Halifax…em xoxo

To my beautiful Ship Inn girl… no, not you…the funny. pink, delightful one. I love you more every day.

To my catterpillar you make everyday worth living. Kisses.

To my goof: one down, many more to go – all thanks to Harper – who woulda thought he’d be good for something, eh?! <3 *squint*

to my quebec lovers, one twisted sister employee, residents of the QV house (cats included), and one sweet young thing in the bright yellow coat-

COME THE FRIG TO HALIFORNIA AND GIVUS SOME LOVIN’? (I love you always, like the bon jovi song)

To Niko, Anita and Will, WE LOVE YOU!!!!! from the Pleasant street bunnies

To: The Handsome Shop Boy Your smile makes me feel shy, but I like it a lot. From: Shy Guy

Valentine, I am sorry that I killed the gerbils. I didnt really like them but I still feel bad. I hope that you still love me. The Neglectful Mother

whose bed have your boots been under? and by boots i mean reeboks. i’ll miss ya.

Why do I lover her? Julie is super cute, y’knows; Makes me green smoothies.

You are my favorite everything.

You are the sky.

You broke my heart and treated me like poop. Still, I can smile when I think of you because I know deep inside – no one will ever give you an orgasm like I did. Enjoy your right hand!

You who held an orange in the palm of your hand, who pours love into all your culinary delights and magical mixtures, who remains in your castle of warmth, may all your wishes come true!

Your bumfly loves you!

Your car is Red Your jacket is Blue You’re the sweetest boy I know And I’ll always love you! You’re my favorite, thanks for the best 5 EVER! tots

You’re mine, Hubby C. I am smack upside the head with love. xoxo Wifey P

You’ve got the window and the heater but you light up my lifeeee!!!!! for michelle, xoxo mary

Zucca…Dolci & gelatti with Arturo?

Your Valentines

One response so far

Savage Love

Feb 12 2009 Published by under Savage Love

Sex and love columnist Dan Savage gives his straight, honest feedback.

Recently, I celebrated my first year of marriage to the most amazing man. When we first began dating, he told me that he enjoys open sexuality and wants swinging to be part of any partnership he’s in. I regard myself as free-spirited and agreed to explore this with him. We delayed experimentation because I had a stressful job and I wanted to spend my limited free time with him instead of exploring our sexuality with multiple partners. My work situation changed, and we have since had about a dozen experiences in the past year. I have discovered that these situations are not a turn-on for me—in fact, they are a turnoff. I feel resentful after these episodes, and I don’t feel like having sex for days. We have discussed this at length, and we have been seeing a counselor. Recently, we had a civil discussion wherein we discussed the possibility of him having these sexual experiences without me, since I do not find them compelling. This idea appealed to him. He proposed going to a sex party alone that very night.

Ever since then, I have been crushed by the prospect of my husband having a sex life outside of our relationship. Since we met, his sexuality has had an outward trajectory, rather than being relationship centered. Having a healthy sexual relationship with him is enough for me. He makes a good point that he has been straight about his desire for this lifestyle since day one, but I am still frustrated and horrified that my husband needs to have sex outside of our marriage. I can’t help but feel hurt that I alone am not enough for him.

I’d appreciate your straight, honest feedback on this.

Sex Best One On One

 

Straight, honest feedback: You are an idiot. Your husband informed you in advance about the “outward trajectory” of his sexuality; you knew going in that your husband could never be satisfied in a marriage that didn’t involve “open sexuality” and swinging. Don’t come crying to me now because the man you married wants to actually have sex with other people. You knew that before you married him, SBOOO, because he fucking told you so.

You’re unlikely to encounter a marriage counselor who’ll take your husband’s side (nonmonogamy? boo!) over yours (monogamy? yay!), SBOOO, so I’m going to aggressively come his defense: You’re never going to convince your husband that one-on-one ought to be enough for him. Sorry. You’re also going to have a hard time convincing him that you didn’t deceive him in the run-up to this marriage. When he told you that monogamy was a deal breaker, SBOOO, you replied that you were “free-spirited” and willing to “explore.” But, alas, circumstances beyond your control prevented you from embarking on any explorations until after the wedding, and only then—only after he married you—did you discover that your husband’s sexual interests both frustrated and horrified.

How convenient.

Because if you’d been a little less stressed at work, SBOOO, maybe you could’ve made time for a little swinging before the wedding. Then you might’ve learned that nonmonogamy wasn’t for you and been able to give this amazing man that information before he married your ass. Oh, but your work schedule didn’t allow for premarital explorations, and now this amazing man has to decide whether to go through the hell of a divorce—knowing full well that he will be seen as the bad guy by all your relatives and friends, and 99.99 percent of marriage counselors—or give in to your emotional, sexual, and financial blackmail.

Want more evidence that you weren’t negotiating with your husband in good faith before the wedding, SBOOO? How about this: You aren’t negotiating with him in good faith now. So you recently had “a civil discussion” with him about the possibility of his going to sex parties alone—how many uncivil discussions have you had?—but then you were crushed when he wanted to take you up on this proposed compromise. So once again he wants to fuck around, once again you agree to his fucking around in principle, once again he proposes fucking around in earnest, and once again you lose your shit—only this time you go boohooing to an advice columnist and not a marriage counselor.

Sorry, SBOOO, you picked the wrong columnist. You want and always wanted a monogamous commitment. Free spirit, my ass. Your husband didn’t and doesn’t. Don’t drag this out. You are—surprise!—sexually incompatible. Divorce. Get it over with.

I’m in my 20s and have a loving girlfriend. We have phenomenal sex, but I love anal sex and she doesn’t. We’ve done it many times, but it’s always painful for her and that makes it less enjoyable for me. Now every time I bring it up, she’s against it.

Off The Pot

 

Taking less enjoyment in anal sex when it causes your partner pain—you are a gentleman, OTP. But chivalry requires more of you, I’m afraid: Your girlfriend tried it and doesn’t like it, and you can’t expect her to keep doing it. If you can’t live without the butt, break up with the girlfriend. If you can’t live without the girlfriend, break up with the butt.

I’m a male with submissive tendencies, and my wife decides when I get to orgasm. We have sex regularly, but she only lets me ejaculate occasionally. She finds that I’m more attentive to her now that we’re doing “orgasm denial,” and I get to scratch my submissive itch. Ain’t life grand?

Here’s my question: I enjoy pushing the limits, and I’ve gone as long as six weeks without release. (We use a CB-6000 chastity cage on my cock so I won’t succumb in a moment of weakness.) But I’m a little concerned about the effects on my prostate. After several weeks of denial, I leak precome when aroused. I’ve read that recent studies showed that frequent ejaculation reduces the risk of prostate cancer. Am I putting myself at greater risk by ejaculating so infrequently? Can you ask your medical expert?

Loving Orgasms And Denial Every Day

 

Two orgasm-denial questions in two weeks—it’s officially a trend! Can a Good Morning America segment be far behind?

“We still have very little idea what might cause or prevent prostate cancer,” says Dr. Barak Gaster, associate professor of medicine at the University of Washington and our resident medical expert. “There are some clues—red meat, probably bad; vegetables, probably good; vitamin E, probably not helpful—but we’re really still in the dark.” And while most studies have shown frequent ejaculation to be good for prostate health, one recent study out of the UK showed the exact opposite.

So what should you do? Rely on the best-available study, advises Gaster. “[That study] followed U.S. men for eight years and found that those with the most ejaculations per month (more than 20) had a 30 percent lower risk of prostate cancer compared to those who were having fewer per month (about five).” But there is good news in the study for you, LOADED: “The 5 percent of men who reported having zero to three per month appeared to have a lower risk for prostate cancer as well,” said Gaster. “The caveat is that this group was too small to make definite conclusions about them. But it looks like coming more than 20 times a month could be good for you in terms of prostate cancer, but it’s unlikely that coming very little, like zero to three times per month, is necessarily bad for you compared to coming once or twice a week.”

So ejaculate frequently, guys, or ejaculate rarely, because it would appear that moderation in pursuit of prostate health is no virtue. 

 

mail@savagelove.net

Savage Love

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Free Will Astrology

Feb 12 2009 Published by under Free Will Astrology

Why only spend 336 hours of your life kissing? asks Rob Brezsny.

Aquarius (January 20 – February 18)
“When we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours,” wrote author Robert Fulghum, “we join up with them and fall into mutually satisfying weirdness — and call it love.” I mention this, Aquarius, because the Valentine season will offer you ample opportunity to bask in the wonders of mutually compatible weirdness. It could come in the form of friendship or romance or some other collaboration, but one way or another it will help you feel less alone in the world, suggesting that maybe you’re not an extraterrestrial time-traveler from the 29th century after all.

Happy birthday to Kerri Breen, Ted Bonnah, and Sherri Levesque (Pisces). Send birthday info to birthdays@thescope.ca

Pisces (February 19 – March 20)
We’re faced with an economic downturn as well as the need to take strenuous measures to heal the environment. Does that mean we have to dial down our pursuit of happiness? Are we obligated to have less fun and deny ourselves pleasure? I say no, as do the editors at TreeHugger.com. One of their articles, for example, gives extensive advice on how to have great sex in small, fuel-efficient, low-emissions cars. With this as your inspiration, Pisces, identify five other ways to enjoy yourself without having to spend a fortune or hurt the earth. It’s an excellent time, astrologically speaking, to experiment with the hypothesis that cutting down on consumerism can help you discover new approaches to feeling really good. (For other ideas, check out tinyurl.com/6ofzvt.)

Aries (March 21 – April 19)
I invite you to get all the mind-blowing sex you can this Valentine season, Aries. The entire cosmos will be on your side if you generate erotic wonders that rearrange your thought processes. For best results, cultivate the attitude described by the philosopher Voltaire in a letter to his partner Marie Louise Denis: “Sensual pleasure passes and vanishes, but the friendship between us, the mutual confidence, the delight of the heart, the enchantment of the soul, these things do not perish and can never be destroyed.”

Taurus (April 20 – May 20)
Gertrude Stein defined love as “the skillful audacity required to share an inner life.” That’s the perfect seed idea for you to meditate on this Valentine season. It suggests that expressing the truth about who you are is not something that amateurs do very well: Practice and ingenuity are required. It also implies that courage is an essential element of successful intimacy. You’ve got to be adventurous if you want to weave your life together with another’s.

Gemini (May 21 – June 20)
A mischievous voice in my head rose up as I was contemplating your astrological omens. It said I should tell you to make love in a bed covered with ten-dollar bills. I asked the voice if this was a cracked metaphor for a more practical piece of advice. The voice just cackled. So I’ll have to surmise what it was driving at. First, it could mean that you should make a business proposition to your lover or spouse, or somehow collaborate with each other to increase your prosperity. Second, maybe you should spend money on enhancing romance, either by taking a workshop to upgrade your intimacy skills or getting creative about fostering togetherness. Another possibility is that you should add imaginative and humorous touches to your love-making, like by doing it in a bed full of money.

Cancer (June 21 – July 22)
Over the course of your lifetime, if you’re average, you will spend about 336 hours kissing. But why be average? Especially now, when the cosmos is begging you to use your mouth to incite ingenious bliss and explore the frontiers of closeness? To be in maximum alignment with the great cycles of nature and make God happy, I suggest you experiment with Guinness-Book-of-World-Records-levels of smooching and licking and sucking. If you can’t find a human partner to collaborate with, then kiss the sky, the trees, the rivers, and even the mist. (P.S. For extra credit, use your mouth to murmur lyrical praises and whisper poetic temptations.)

Leo (July 23 – August 22)
It’s a perfect time to cast a love spell on yourself. You don’t necessarily need to consult any pagan books about how to proceed. It may even be better if you improvise your own homemade conjurations and incantations. I can think of two main goals for you to accomplish with your spell. (But feel free to add others.) First, rouse your imagination into visualizing romantic possibilities you’ve been closed to before. Second, make sure you banish the curse that you yourself cast on your love life once upon a time. P.S. For best results, stand naked in front of an altar crammed with magical objects that symbolize both lust and compassion.

Virgo (August 23 – September 22)
“The person one loves never really exists,” said Arthur C. Clarke, “but is a projection focused through the lens of the mind onto whatever screen it fits with least distortion.” Your assignment, Virgo, is to prove Clarke at least partially wrong. See if you can figure out a way to dissolve or elude your own projections long enough so that you can see the raw truth about a certain person you crave or adore or care about. Not a reflection of the dream lover who hides in your heart. Not a fantasy you wish your beloved would become. But the perfectly imperfect soul who is actually there in front of you.

Libra (September 23 – October 22)
The Madonna of Orgasm Church is a Swedish institution. Its leader claims that the sect is not obsessed with sex, nor are orgies included in the regular worship services. Rather, deifying the orgasm is a symbol for cultivating a lust for life. Making love is just one of many ways to experience peak states and explore the spiritual potencies of pleasure. You don’t have to be a member of the church to experiment with this approach, Libra. I hope you’ll have fun with it during this Valentine season, which happens to be a time in your astrological cycle when seeking intense bliss and cathartic release is your sacred mandate.

Scorpio (October 23 – November 21)
In creating this oracle, I’ve borrowed words from the artist and poet Wolff Bowden. Please steal them from me and use them in cryptic, affectionate communiqués that will deepen your connection with someone who makes your heart sing. Here’s the first batch: “You belong to love as wheels belong to roads, as grapes belong to the blossoming of taste, as corn belongs to crows, as shadows belong to the ache of heat, as happiness belongs to the capricious pangs of the soul.” Here’s the second: “May the color blue behold your body while sun washes your shoulders near the window. May your lips refuse the kiss unless your heart is home. May euphoria find you in the place where you are lonely. May you light a billion candles with your mind.”

Sagittarius (Nov 22 – December 21)
“Greet one another with a holy kiss,” says the Bible’s first book of Corinthians. I think that’s great advice for you. What I take it to mean is that when you come together with someone you care about, bestow a kiss that’s more than merely affectionate or polite. Use it to invoke a sense of sacred space, surrounding the two of you with a mood of deep gratitude for the privilege of being alive. Even further, make your holy kiss be a prayer for the well-being of your ally, an affirmation of your desire that he or she will thrive and prosper and become the gorgeous genius he or she was born to be.

Capricorn (December 22 – January 19)
Would you like to stir up deeper and smarter intimacy? Are you interested in attracting good surprises that would air out your romantic dogmas? Do you think it might be fun to discover a new love secret? To encourage these happy developments, Capricorn, carry out the following assignments. First, practice loving something or someone you don’t understand. Second, any time you start longing to be loved more than you are, make it a point to go out and love someone more than you have in the past. Third, visualize your heart growing softer and warmer and more receptive.

Homework: Proposed experiment: Carry out an act of love that’s unique in your history. Testify at FreeWillAstrology.com.

Free Will Astrology

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