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Joni Mitchell Plays The Circle Game

Now that we have established where Canadian music came from, and we have a rough idea of what it is and what it isn’t, it is now time to consider each of the three great Canadian solo artists of the mid and late twentieth century in turn. All three are still living. All three are massively influential inside and outside Canada. All three are deeply flawed in addition to being brilliant, and all three set a standard that seemed impossible to overcome. This is well covered ground, and entire bookshelves couldn’t contain the endless biographies and the analyses of their art, but hopefully I can give some sense of how they shaped Canadian culture and music.

Oscar Peterson Sticks To The Classics

As far as I know, Oscar Peterson never attributed his lack of name recognition in Canada to racism. Even when a CBC interviewer claimed she understood his nickname “Osc The Gorilla” a lot better than his other nickname, “The Maharaja Of The Keyboard”, Peterson kept his cool.

Oh, sure, there are jazz festivals in his name up here, and scholarships too. But the main concert hall and recording studio at the CBC is named after Glenn Gould, not him. Peterson’s statue stands in Ottawa, not in Montreal where he was born. He doesn’t have a “historical society” like Guy Lombardo, who is mostly known for playing New Year’s Eve ditties and the version of “Auld Lang Syne” you usually hear when watching the ball drop in Times Square.

Let’s Talk About What Can Kill You in Australia

Kevin hates spiders.

At least he says he does. Normally I wouldn’t question a phobia like this, but on a regular basis I open my inbox in the morning to find he’s sent me pictures or videos like this.

If I hated spiders as much as Kevin says he does, I think I’d spend a little less time watching giant ones crawl across a woman’s face.

Canadian Music’s American Roots

When I say Canadian music originated in the American South, I don’t mean that Canadian musicians were influenced by Elvis Presley, Nat King Cole, and Johnny Cash like everyone else. I mean that Americans had to midwife Canadian music into existence.

What’s it Like to Drive on the Other Side of the Road?

Not long ago, Kevin asked me what the weirdest thing was about living in Australia.

”The brands at the supermarket are all different,” was my first thought. “But, driving is probably the weirdest thing. It took me a long time to get used to being on the other side of the road.”

”They drive on the wrong side of the road down there?”

”Yes, Kevin.”

”Why?”

What is a Democracy Sausage?

The last time I spoke to my friend Kevin, all he wanted to talk about was the Australian election last week, which was surprising because normally the only news stories that interest him involve things like great white sharks attacking fishing boats.

Kevin told me the election was all over the news because the polls got it all wrong. It was a miracle and an incredible shock like Brexit and the election of Donald Trump. Kevin didn’t have a clue it was happening until it was all over, but now wouldn’t rest until he had the inside scoop.

“What the hell is happening down there?” He asked.

Where Is Australia on the Map?

Part 5 in an Ongoing Series on Australia, Its People, and Culture

Kevin’s next question isn’t as silly as it might sound. Growing up in the Northern Hemisphere, he and I were conditioned by every map we ever saw to look for Australia at the bottom right of the world. He wondered if the opposite was true in Australia.

“We’re at the top of all our maps because they’re made here,” he said. “It’s the same reason North is at the top. The opposite should be true down there, right? Don’t maps in Australia have South at the top?”

I didn’t want to admit it, but he had me stumped. I hadn’t thought at all about the question.

Mike Myers and Jim Carrey: The Grotesque In Canadian Comedy

Deconstructing Canadian Culture, Part 29: Cautionary Tales

Writing this one is going to be difficult, because Mike Myers and Jim Carrey were larger than life heroes to me growing up as a proud ’90s Kid.

What is Macca’s and Why Does Everyone Go There?

Part 4 in an Ongoing Series on Australia, Its People, and Culture

Kevin called me on the phone a while back and the first thing I said when I answered was, “How ya going?”

I instantly regretted my choice of words.

“Where am I going?” He asked quizzically.

“No, I mean how are you?”

“I’m good. Why didn’t you just ask me that?”

I didn’t because I’ve been in Australia too long and nobody here says “How are you doing?” A few months ago I was on the wrong end of a long, one-sided conversation with another American expat who was exasperated that a young person working the checkout at ALDI had asked her “How are you doing?” instead of “How ya going?”

A Quick Guide To The Culture of Newfoundland and Labrador

Deconstructing Canadian Culture, Part 28: Long May Your Big Jib Draw!

The Simpsons hasn’t been relevant, much less controversial, for decades. But hey: there’s always trolling Canada for laughs. That always works!

And so we got “D’Oh Canada,” an episode that really didn’t need to be made, or talked about, except for the fact that it features a “joke” where Ralph Wiggum decides he’s a “Newfie”, and then knocks the head off a stuffed baby seal and proceeds to kick it around. The Canadian media, which is as awful and transparently fake as yours (except your media reports on issues of consequence sometimes, and mine reports on…..this), duly investigated whether The Simpsons went TOO FAR.

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