Craig Taylor is the author of two books, Return to Akenfield and One Million Tiny Plays About Britain, and he is the editor of the literary magazine, Five Dials. For years, he has been cataloguing the habits and behaviours of Londoners in his notebooks, and interviewing as many of them as possible. These notes are the basis of his new book, Londoners: The Days and Nights of London as Told by Those Who Love it, Hate it, Live it, Long for it, Have Left it and Everything In-between, to be published Fall 2011 by Granta in the UK and HarperCollins in the US.
Steven Dixon’s work in this series documents the decay of industry, in this case the coal mine surface buildings around Nordegg, and the Crowsnest Pass in southern Alberta. The archaeological record of how man influences his environment reveals a legacy of abandoned industrial structures such as mines, mills and factories, and their related town sites.
“Ride’s closed down!” the carnie shouted. He was wearing a purple windbreaker that, along with all the carnival signs and rides—the Tilt-a-Whirl, the Gravitron, the salt-and-pepper shakers—looked like it was transported directly from 1982. Eye of the Tiger blasted from speakers.
In February, the video-streaming website Hulu, once best known as a place to waste time catching up on old episodes of Heroes, made a major announcement: they had struck an exclusive deal with the Criterion DVD label to eventually make more than 800 titles from their back catalogue available online, free of commercial interruptions, through their premium subscription service Hulu Plus. The first batch of films to appear included The 400 Blows, Rashomon, Seven Samurai, M, and L’Avventura.
In 2002, when I started working in the breast cancer screening department of what was then the Alberta Cancer Board, one of the recurring agenda items in staff meetings was what to do with the world’s longest pink ribbon. Stapled with intense resolve by Calgary staff and volunteers, many of the 24,000 ribbons inscribed with names of loved ones, it was carefully laid out on the hill behind CFRN TV in Calgary, jubilantly measured at 6,765 feet, certified by the Guinness World Records people and, shortly after, stuffed into large cardboard boxes.
Intimacy and connection are at the heart of musical performance, no matter how large or small the act or venue. Some big names, such as The White Stripes, who announced their breakup this past February, knew how to get at it or were at least willing to try. In 2007, the band staged an ambitious Canadian tour with shows in every province and territory, but odder than The White Stripes playing in Iqaluit was what they did between gigs.
Ever since he had settled in Manila, Cedric Ramanathan’s greatest pleasure had been golf. There was nothing he liked better than to whack a ball down the fairway and then stroll after it with no thought in his head except whether to use a seven-iron or a six for the next shot—the occasional plonk in the pond or hook into the rough his only tribulation. He had been given free membership at an exclusive Greenhills club as part of a deal he had done on Japanese sprinklers—his speciality.
This is the house of the very rich. You can tell because it’s taken all The colors and left only the spaces Between colors where the absence Of rage and hunger survives. If you could Get close you could touch the embers Of red, the tiny beaks of yellow, That jab back, the sacred blue that mimics The color of heaven. Behind the house The children digging in the flower beds Have been out there since dawn waiting To be called in for hot chocolate or tea Or the remnants of meals. No one can see
Will I be happy. How long will I live. How will I live.
Will I always be able to pay eight dollars to spend two hours walking through rooms of photographs. Sorry when they call for donations, not this time.
A string of children ambles past, followed by a teen with hula hoops. Later through the glass door onto the courtyard, vivid spins. They spent the morning drawing. When their parents come, they’ll go home.
In the nineteen-eighties I started having recurring nightmares. The nightmare part wasn’t so unusual: like many people, I’d had my fair share of dreams about being swept away by rogue waves, or driving cars that couldn’t make it up steep hills, or flying in airplanes that couldn’t seem to climb any higher than the treetops. Standard anxiety dreams, especially for a freelancer with more cheques in the mail than in the bank and a desk piled high with unfinished assignments.
On a frigid January afternoon, I sat in the foyer of Shadified Salon & Spa, waiting for my sister to arrive. Across the lobby, I could see mirrors and barber chairs, but most of the customers were hidden by a corner wall. I could still hear their conversations, and when the stylists, many of whom were Lebanese, were done, their customers weren’t just gorgeous, they were, “Gorgeous, wallah!” — a word many in this north Edmonton neighbourhood near Little Lebanon would recognize as, “I swear to God.”
One spent nights on the junior high school roof. My mother had kicked him out when the police told her he was selling drugs, and before that, selling tires he stole from gas stations. One stole a teacher’s car from the senior high school parking lot at lunch time, got a case of beer, and drove around drunk all afternoon, then smashed the car’s front fender when he re-parked it. One threw a Molotov cocktail into a teacher’s home when the teacher accused him of copying an essay. The same one beat up his P.E. teacher. One beat up
On the late January morning I went to meet Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the former Archbishop of Quebec and Primate of Canada, and, since last fall, the Prefect for the Congregation of Bishops at the Vatican, I first paid a visit to the Vatican Museum. The two frescoes I found myself returning to over and over are well known but difficult to contemplate because they are high up on the palace’s ceiling.
In 1982, at the fervent age of eighteen, hippy-skirted, long-hair everywhere, I bussed to New York City to be one of the million who rallied in Central Park during the UN Second Special Session on Disarmament. My heroes were Helen Caldicott, Mahatma Gandhi and the Berrigan Brothers, two priests who snuck into a nuclear missile silo and tried to hammer a nose cone into a plowshare. After New York I spent the summer at the Movement for a New Society Life Center, a Philadelphia commune, before returning to Canada to start university in the fall at the University of British Columbia.