In Turn completes its coverage of Morocco’s Master Musicians of Jajouka with a review of their Toronto performance. Photos by Joel Trenaman. (Read the interview/show preview.)
The nine men of Jajouka arrived at the Phoenix Concert Theatre for a July 15 performance—their first in Toronto in fifteen years — to almost otherworldly expectations.
A tradition passed down over thousands of years. The originators of the world music genre. Spiritual expression rooted in transcendental mysticism. These are some of the heady descriptions that have followed the Master Musicians of Jajouka around the globe for decades.
A week before the show, featured performer and hereditary standard-bearer Bachir Attar told my fellow blogger that, “This music can build, for the human being, mercy in the heart.” So, for a night, I put the details of the history and debates over rightful group representation out of my head, and focused on the visceral experience of a cultural legacy. (more…)
JEJU-DO—The sun is broiling, the humidex is high, and in Korea that means it’s time for a nice, hot bowl of chicken soup. Just as people in the West associate certain foods with holidays, so do Korean people enjoy special meals during particular seasons. July 19 in Korea was Chobok, the first day of Sambok, a period that spans the three 복날 (pronounced “bok-nal”), or “dog days,” which Koreans believe are the hottest of the summer, and which are usually spent eating things that most North Americans would consider perfect fare for a cold winter night.
The consumption of hot dishes to beat hot weather is tied to Asian medicine, which suggests eating hot foods causes perspiration, cooling the outside of the body, while warming and rejuvenating the inside, thereby fighting fatigue brought on by the scorching heat. The Sambok tradition dates back hundreds of years to the dynastic period, when farmers believed that exhaustion caused by working too hard in the heat would lead to a bad harvest; they took the Sambok period off to vacation in a cooler locale, often somewhere in the mountains or by the seaside. (more…)
PARIS—It’s not fair. I followed the rules. So why am I the one who feels cheated?
Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme, at the outset of this year’s race, was doing and saying all the right things to convince the casual sports fan that this was the year that the Tour would break free of the doping scandals that have diminished its reputation over the past ten years.
And then, the Italian star-in-the-making Riccardo Ricco, winner of two stages, holder of the Tour’s polka dot jersey (top-ranked climber) and white jersey (top-ranked rider under 25), a popular rider with a decent chance of finding himself on the podium next weekend in Paris, flunked a drug test. He was later charged by the French gendarmerie with possession of a controlled substance.
And so here we go again. Guess we know why Ricco was so fast in the Pyrenees. (more…)
Hercules gets the initial credit for discovering purpura. He was strolling along the seashore with a svelte nymph, Tyros, and his dog was trotting along ahead in the sand. When they caught up with the dog, its muzzle was smeared with a brilliant, deep red-purple colour—a colour neither of them had ever seen before. Tyros begged Hercules to make her a garment with that hue (in fact, she told him she wouldn’t be with him unless he produced it), so he began collecting shells from the beach.
Shells? Yes, the famous Tyrian purple dye was made from snail shells: from the murex mollusk (shown above), a type of sea snail. It would take 250,000 murex shellfish to obtain one ounce of Tyrian purple, so the dye was highly valued. Purpura (its latin name) became the colour of royalty. It was produced in the city of Tyre, by the Phoenicians (whose name came from the Greek word phoinos, meaning “blood red”). They had been producing dyes in Tyre, and beyond, since 1000 BC.
“The Tyrian colour is most appreciated when it is the colour of clotted blood,” Pliny wrote, “dark by reflected and brilliant by transmitted light.”
By 400 AD, the murex mollusk was on the brink of extinction—a colour vanished from the world, perhaps.
Can a colour really go extinct? (more…)
PARIS—The withdrawal symptoms have graciously abated. It’s been twelve days since I went cold turkey on international football. I’ve been following the advice of my doctor, taking each day as it comes, and keeping in mind that—however strong I might feel in the weeks and months and years to come—it would take me just a careless channel-flick past an ESPN Classic broadcast of the 1970 West Germany-Italy match to fall off the wagon.
Like a smoker who succeeds in quitting, only to find himself addicted to a replacement crutch, Diet Coke or chewing gum or coffee, I’ve found a new fix: the Tour de France. I’ve never been much of a cycling fan, but then again I’ve never lived in France until this year. When I mentioned the other day to an old friend that I was excited for this year’s Tour and he replied, “Oh, yeah, you always loved watching that back in the day” (not true), I realized that my sports obsessions are fertile ground for all kinds of dangerous revisionist history.
For the record, I’ve never:
1. Bet an unborn child of mine on the result of a Kansas City Royals spring training baseball game.
2. Won the New York marathon by cleverly riding the entire race in a yellow taxi cab to within twenty metres of the finish line (as if I’d have the kind of money to pay for a scheme like that—twenty-six miles is a hell of a fare!). (more…)
Just a quick note to point anyone who’s interested to a piece I wrote for Culture+Travel, a magazine that covers some cool, off-the-radar stories from travel destinations around the globe. This one’s about haenyeo, Jeju’s famous women divers, who free-dive — that means no air tanks — for seafood off Jeju’s coasts. A guy named Ian Baguskas, which is an awesome last name if ever I’ve heard one, took the photos.
You have to marvel at a country that, when looking for a way to show its commitment to peace, chooses to blow something up. That’s North Korea, which this week detonated the cooling tower at its controversial Yongbyon nuclear reactor as a way of saying, hey, we’re laying off the nukes. As a result, the U.S. has removed the DPRK from its list of states that sponsor terrorism and lifted some economic sanctions.
Not everyone believes the explosion means much, which is no surprise, given the North’s history of grandstanding, bloated rhetoric, lying and misguided attempts at image management. There are skeptics who say getting rid of the tower, which the New York Times calls a “technically insignificant structure, easy to rebuild,” is pure theatre, signifying nothing about more important disarmament efforts and perhaps suggesting that the North has done what it intended to at Yongbyon: produced enough nuclear weapons that the plant is no longer needed. (more…)
To all those who doubted it was possible: I did it! I was offline for one whole week!
My Offline Activities:
I read the print version of The Wall Street Journal (I found it discarded in the street).
I stood under the 118 degree Fahrenheit daytime sun in Death Valley for two whole minutes before diving back into my idling Prius.
I cleansed my clothes of filth in the machines of the Hollywood Madam, Heidi Fleiss, at Dirty Laundry in Pahrump, Nevada.
I must confess that near the beginning of the week I fell off the wagon and went online in a Westwood Cafe. After a guilty couple minutes I looked up and sitting across from me eating panini and sipping Orangina was Laurence Fishburne. (more…)
JEJU-DO—Coincident with the US beef kerfuffle sizzling in South Korean politics right now, I’ve been learning a lot about barbecue, through marathon grill-out sessions with my American friend Mark, his trusty portable Weber and his copy of grill maestro Stephen Raichlen’s fat BBQ bible, How to Grill.
According to Raichlen, when cooking beef, the ideal setup is to have a so-called “three-zone fire”—a situation in which the charcoal is distributed such that one area of the grill is super hot (for searing), one medium hot (for through cooking) and one cool (for when you need to save the meat from immolation). What can now be confidently called the political crisis in South Korea, spurred by US beef imports, has put SK’s president-for-now Lee Myung-bak squarely over the hot zone of the metaphorical grill, and the question now is how long he can burn before he has to jump off completely. (more…)
JEJU-DO—Restrictions on importing American beef into South Korea were set to be lifted this week—as of my writing this post, the government has delayed lifting the restrictions, but given no details on how long the delay will last—and from the shitstorm the move has caused, you’d think they were about to start selling American-made heroin cakes or child prostitutes from Miami. The Korean media is filled with beefy editorials, stories about beef-related protests, beef-laced apologies from politicians, warnings about killer beef diseases, and celebrations of pork as a nationalistic, non-insanity causing alternative (due to an outbreak of H5N1, chicken is also out).
The uproar is ostensibly a public health issue, spurred by the spectre of a frothy-mouthed demon cow bent on infecting the whole Korean population. Critics cite the potential dangers of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) , which most of us know as mad cow disease, as reason to uphold restrictions on US beef imports, especially high-risk material like spinal cords and brains (yum!). (more…)
PARIS—If you play your sport of choice on grass, or on turf, or indoors, or on asphalt, you can usually handle a little precipitation. If it rains, you soldier on and finish what you started. (Usually, yes, but certainly not always.)
But tennis on wet clay? Not so much. (more…)
RIFT VALLEY—Rift Valley: an apt name, it turns out, for a region that’s become a metaphor not just for Kenya, but for much of this self-conflicted continent. Originally named for the parting of two vast tectonic plates whose divergence left a deep chasm in Africa’s eastern flank, it is now the scene of an equally striking tear in the nation’s social fabric.
The picture above shows the scenery when I went there in early January. Thankfully, when I returned last week, such spectacles were nowhere in sight. The quarter-million or so targets of neighborly hate, most of them Kikuyu, had long been safely herded into refugee camps, their terror supplanted by boredom for the past four months. (more…)