Sunday, October 30, 2005

some funerals

Recently, I attended the funeral of my next door neighbor. He was 82 and was living in a nursing home since January. He was always in good spirits whenever I spoke with him. I would stop by for a talk after work. He was often outside, tending to his yard. He passed away October 18, 2005.

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About two weeks prior to that, on Wednesday, October 5, 2005, my aunt from Marabella, Trinidad, passed away. I hadn't seen her in a few years, when she was up here visiting. She is the first sibling on my mother's side to pass away. There's two brothers and six sisters left.

Two weeks before that, on September 21, the husband of one of my dad's cousins, passed away. They are in the farming business and have done very well for themselves over the last 30 years or so. I didn't get to know Uncle Rick all that well, but I do have positive memories of visiting them.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Conjure One - Extraordinary Ways

Conjure One - Extraordinary Ways
Nettwerk Records
August 30, 2005
3.5 / 5

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The most recent in a long line of Rhys Fulber projects, Conjure One is another exercise in rich female vocals mated to state-of-the-art ambient-influenced techno pop. Extraordinary Ways, the second Conjure One recording, would baffle most people based on its artwork, both on the cover and on the inside. The graphics belie the sonic beauty found in songs like "Endless Dream," "Face The Music," among the several tracks that would not sound out of place on a Chimera, the most recent Delerium album (another Rhys Fulber group.) The soaring, vocals of ecstasy in the piano driven third track "Pilgrimage," an instrumental, makes this one of my favorite tracks.

The sound is a less tribal, Arabic and techno sounding than the debut self-titled first Conjure One album and more pop-oriented.

Tablas open the cover of the Buzzcocks'"I Believe", featuring Rhys Fulber on vocals, a rare appearance. It works with for me, with Fulber's heavily processed voice. This is a potential single.

The acoustic guitar opening to "Beyond Being" is reminiscent of "Stairway To Heaven."

Vocals credited to "Jane" are actually the work of the artist Poe, a singer from the first Conjure One album. Other singers who contributed include Tiff Lacey, Chemda, Joanna Stevens and Leah Randi. Sarah McLaughlin's Ashwin Sood, drums on a few tracks , as well.

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Rhys Fulber

Extraordinary Ways has its moments of excellent, particularly in the first five tracks, but there's not enough of them. The album lacks a consistency of songwriting that would make it a must-fan purchase for fans of this musical genre. The songs "Dying Light" pretty much sums up this album for me. It's a gorgeous sounding, slow-moving piece that builds and builds but doesn't seem to end on a satisfying note. You can't help but listen to it but in the end, you want a more succint song structure. Something more memorable rather than just exquisite sounding, dreamy pop music.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

film - Elizabethtown


1 / 5

An abject failure from acclaimed director Cameron Crowe.

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There's a far superior film about a young man who travels to be at his father's funeral - Garden State. Where that film was rich in subtlties and heart and featured a superbly understated performance by Zach Braff, Elizabethtown forces profound emotions but failed to connect with me emotionaly.

Orlando Bloom doesn't have the depth to carry off the character of Drew, a designer at a Nike-esque global corporation held unrealistically responsible for costing the company $1 billion in losses due to a poorly received new sneaker. The CEO was played by a pudgy Alec Baldwin. So far, he's proven himself to be strictly supporting-actor talent and nothing Oscar-worthy. Kirsten Dunst is pixie cute as the bubbly flight attendent who does everything possible that would label a man a stalker, but coming from a woman, we're supposed to buy her character's lavishing of attention on Drew as being flirtatious and romantic. There are women out there who are insanely dynamic and very quickly trusting of complete strangers, but they are so rare that Claire, Dunst's character, sets the tone early on that this film will tell its story without feeling obligated to do so with credibility. And that is its biggest downfall.

Shortly after hearing of her husband's death, Hollie (Susan Sarandon)reacts by taking up organic cooking, car repair and tap dancing, all at once. Sure. But wait until Claire shows up at the memorial service and references her neighbor consolling her while his member sprouts, and tap dancing to her deceased husband's favorite song. Happens all the time, right? There are so many unbelievable moments like these that they smother any real warmth that was supposed to emerge.

The supporting cast is fine, however. Dunst has genuine charisma. The Kentucky family appeared to be accurately portrayed. Crowe's final chapter with Drew driving home and stopping off along the way, is a loving tribute to heartland America in a travelogue, but the idea behind it the road trip, following a "map" put together by Claire is very cheesy and far-fetched. Again.

In flashbacks, the young Drew Baylor is played by a couple of actors including one who looked at lot like the character William Miller, the 15 year-old writer featured in Crowe's 2000 hit, Almost Famous.

There were no moments when I felt the emotions at anything but a superficial level. This film felt overly long and I couldn't wait for it to be over. I cannot recommend it.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Judas Priest / Anthrax - MTS Centre, Wpg 18 Oct 05

Judas Priest with Anthrax
MTS Centre, October 18, 2005
attendence: 6000

Fifteen years after last playing Winnipeg, Judas Priest returned, with the recently reunited Rob Halford (54) on vocals to play the MTS Centre, ranked 20th in the world for concert ticket sales.

The opening track, "The Hellion", was a taped playback, followed by "Electric Eye", with singer Rob Halford appearing at the centre of a large eye, with a strong crimson light emanating from it. Halford paced around the elevated part of the stage, with his eyes focused on the floor, hidden behind dark sunglasses, rather than singing to the audience. He carried himself this way for most of the show, which wasn't as effective as when he did look out to the fans.

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Rob Halford

"Metal Gods" followed with Halford strutting around like a mechanical robot (an Iron Giant, perhaps?) with the band sounding as tight and as professional as ever. Glenn Tipton (57) distinguished himself as being the dominat guitar player in Priest, by taking most of the lead breaks and seemingly playing more of the solos. Without a doubt, he played flawlessly. Part of what makes Priest's music so memorable are the opening guitar parts that are catchy, powerful and distinguishable from one another.

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Glenn Tipton

Still on the upper level, Halford sang one of the singles from Painkiller, the ballad "A Touch of Evil." The background changed as this song ended and the new backgroud with the Angel Of Retribution album cover appeared, which led to "Judas Rising" and "Revolution." Honestly, I didn't like "Revolution" on the CD but live, it took on a new life for me, with the razor sharp guitars and tumultuous bottom end. It was the first of two low points in the show, but it didn't sound too out of place. I thought Priest took the easy way out by opening with the very well known 23 year-old class combination of "The Hellion/ Electric Eye," when "Judas Rising" made for an extremely powerful live statement. It's as strong a potential opener as I can imagine and would have been a great way to proclaim their support of the new album. Still, they probably went with the old classics simply because they are better known and they know not everyone has heard the new album.

Reaching back to their most famous album, 1980's British Steel, Priest offered up "Breaking The Law" with Halford repeatedly asking the audience, "Breaking the what?" like he always does. During the song, Halford, Tipton and K.K. Downing (54) jammed together to perform the one of their well-known poses. It was a fun moment and the crowd ate it up.

Throughout the show, when Halford wasn't pacing up and down, starring strangely at the stage rather than looking at the crowd, he stood still and bent down forward to emit his most highly pitched vocals in "evil troll" mode. Maybe he does this to get the right sounds out. His vocal performance wasn't perfect, but more often than not, it was fine and at times, it was chillingly exceptional, clean and tightly focused.

The other of the two low points in the show came next with the absolutely lame song "I'm A Rocker," from Ram It Down. I would have preferred to have heard the almost 8-minute long, brilliant atmospheric, "Blood Red Skies" or the power metal glory of "Ram It Down."

Sporting and acoustic guitar and his Flying V, KK opended up the old favorite "Diamonds and Rust" on a quiet note and this signaled the slowing down of things for the next several minutes with "Worth Fighting For" from AOR and the Stained Class track "Beyond The Realms of Death" played next. The friend who I was with wasn't too crazy about the this lull in the concert, but I appreciated the break from the furious pace. While often overlooked, 1981's Point of Entry has some solid tracks in the form of "Desert Plains" and "Solar Angels," to mention a couple that would have fit in with this set of slower numbers. A lot of fans have been clamoring for these two tracks, but they weren't played this evening.

While I have reservations about most of 1986's album Turbo, I have always like the guitar playing in "Turbo Lover," which was also met with terrific response from the audience. There was a distinct lack of teens and twenty-somethings in the crowd and a lot more people in their thirties and older - many of whom, with their short hair and overall conservative looks, wouldn't be out of place at a John Cougar Mellencamp concert or in a corporate board room. Back to AOR for one of the best tracks in the Priest cannon, the fresh sounding "Hellrider." Despite my earlier reservations about the lyrics, this songs absolutely smokes live!

The longest and oldest song was up next, Sad Wings of Destiny's "Victim of Changes" from 1976. This is a song that polarizes Priest fans. You either care for it or you don't. I happen to like it and expect to see it live. I appreciate the subtleties in this song and the vocal performance needed to carry it off.

On the album, I always loved the opening to arguably Priest's heaviest track, Painkiller, but live, Scott Travis (44) scrimped on the drums. Still, it was a juggernaut of relentless, pummeling, pure metal bliss. Quite simply, I can't really imagine any band in metal topping Judas Priest's twin guitar attack. Never hailed as virtuosos, KK Downing and Glenn Tipton know the right notes to play, and how not to get carried away. And that's always been more important to me and most fans, I would bet, than pure speed or noodling ability. Watching and hearing these guys unleash melodic, tastefully controlled power cords and colossal riffs has been a metal lover's delight. These talented, influential,legendary musicians are two of the reasons why metal gives a bigger thrill than most ordinary rock music.

Bassist Ian Hill(54) did his thing, standing anchored in place, bass guitar pumping up and down. Never flashy, Hill knows how to contribute and does so without grabbing the spotlight.

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KK Downing

We weren't sure when Priest ended the main set and when the encore really began, but it appears that "Painkiller" was the final song before the three-song encore consisting of "Hell Bent For Leather," "Living After Midnight" and "You've Got Another Thing Coming." The audience sang the opening lines to "Living After Midnight," which is surely now considered to be classic rock. At the end, I felt pretty exhausted and believed that I received more than my money's worth. I spent a fair bit of time dodging this headbanger in front of me who kept on snapping his head back and coming close to nailing me on the chin. I did pony up $40 for a t-shirt with the AOR metallian on the front and the toured countries on the back. They should have printed actual tour dates on the back, like they used to, but so many bands are neglecting their concert t-shirts these days in favour of more generic shirts.

My friend and I were surprised that they didn't play anything from 1984's Defenders of the Faith, one of their best-selling albums or Point of Entry.

While one of my favorite early thrash metal bands, Anthrax's set was in contrast to Priest's in the sense that 'Thrax don't have a lot of excellent but distinctive songs that the crowd recognized. Many of the songs have a narrow appeal, save for Medusa. Still, the band, reunited with long-time singer Joey Belladonna, were tight and very heavy. Dan Spitz mostly stood in one place while Scott Ian did his traditional stomping while bassist Frank Bello ran back and forth and exhibited the most energy. While they didn't have anywhere near as clean a sound as Judas Priest, Anthrax came across like a gigantic metal-spiked canon ball, racing down a hill and shredding everying in its path. Emphasis on the word shred. Ian and Spitz play some of the meanest, fastest guitar in all of metaldom and they certainly didn't let us down in that department. Drummer Charlie Benante didn't have as good a sound as he deserved but thrashed away at those drums like nobody's business. From where I was sitting, Anthrax didn't look or sound any different from when I last saw them 15 year ago. Joey Belladonna sang fairly well and did not disappoint me. While some people prefer the rougher sounding John Bush, Belladonna clearly proved that he is still a fine vocalist after all these years. Tracks that I recognized that didn't really do a lot for me were "Anti-Social," "NFL," "Indians," "Madhouse" and "Judge Dredd." I used to like these songs a lot more when I was younger but they haven't aged as well as I had hoped. Ever loyal to the crowd, after taking their group bow, the band threw generous handfulls of guitar picks out to the audience.

Overall, I would rate this show 4.5 / 5.

Metal lords worthy of worship

From the Winnipeg Free Press.

Metal lords worthy of worship
Judas Priest delivers for frenzied fanatics

Wed Oct 19 2005

Judas Priest
Oct. 18

MTS Centre

Attendance: 6,000

4 out of 5 stars

By Melissa Martin

JUDGING by their rowdy antics, most of the thousands of metal fans at the MTS Centre last night have probably never seen the inside of a confessional.
But hey, at least they got to see the Priest.

It's not blasphemy to say that for many fans, the opportunity to see '70s metal pioneers Judas Priest reunited with legendary singer Rob Halford (who had left the band in 1992 to pursue other projects) was an almost holy experience.

To further sweeten the pot, Halford wasn't the only long-lost star onstage last night. The concert also featured an opening set by the original lineup of '80s metal innovators Anthrax. The group reunited this year for the first time since booting rascal frontman Joey Belladonna back in 1992.

As fans streamed into the MTS Centre for the double bill, an impromptu game of "spot the double-X chromosome pair" was virtually fruitless. Turns out the ladies just don't like living after midnight like they used to.

No matter: most of the rowdy and raucous fans in attendance were too busy following the catechisms of metal to be too distracted by the opposite sex.

Shortly after 7:30 p.m., the lights went down and the metal horns went up as Anthrax marched onto the stage, launching into a surprisingly affable hour-long set that celebrated the release of live album Alive II.
With a comfortable demeanor and uncluttered stage show, the quintet of Belladonna, Scott Ian, Dan Spitz, Frank Bello, and Charlie Benante basked in the glow of audience approval as they shredded their way through classics like Madhouse, Antisocial, and Indians.

Even though zealous attendees lavished praise on Anthrax during the intermission (a number of well-lubricated fans were heard to be yelling "awesome" to nobody in particular), the instant that the lights shut off in the arena it became clear who really wore the studded leather pants in this touring family.

Moments after 9:00 p.m., as a sudden explosion of light announced the arrival of Halford and crew, fans erupted into a deafening array of frenzied hollering and "Priest rules" chants.

Opening with Electric Eye, the black-clad legends took instant control of the room. Stalking the stage with a deadly (if theatrical) earnestness, the band launched into a ferocious set of tunes that generations of metal fans were weaned on.

Though the concert was scheduled to last longer than two hours, the band didn't skimp on the tricks. During Solar Angels, the 54-year old Halford rattled dust from the rafters with a shocking falsetto wail; for Judas Rising (off of the band's new album, Angel of Retribution), he rose on a cross over a jet of fire.

As if that wasn't enough to prove he was the star of the show, the singer arrived in a studded leather trenchcoat that dripped spiked fringes. After that proved too tasteful, Halford traded the trench for a progressively more garish series of outerwear, including a blinding silver duster. Can't say the man doesn't take pride in his appearance.

Looking none the worse for their 36 years together, Priest marched through their set with a grim brand of grace. They threw fans a mid-set bone with a gritty rendition of their classic hit Breaking the Law before delving into other tunes from Retribution, including the ponderous Worth Fighting For.

At press time, the band was slamming into the opening riffs of 1986's Turbo Lover.

Regrettably, Retribution's epically-cheesey 13-minute opus about the Loch Ness monster was not expected to be on the set list.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Precious metal

Judas Priest reconciliation, tour and album like striking gold for fans of powerhouse British quintet

Sat Oct 15 2005


Rob Halford is back in front of Judas Priest.
JUDAS Priest singer Rob Halford was always the toughest guy in heavy metal, a fact that had nothing to do with all his leather, studs and Harley Davidsons.

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Rob Halford is back in front of Judas Priest

Well, maybe a little. As a gay man leading one of the biggest bands in the history of an extremely macho genre, Halford had to contend with incredibly loyal but often homophobic Priest fans who were oblivious to his sexuality, despite the "nudge-nudge, wink-wink" subversiveness of album titles like Hell Bent for Leather and British Steel.

Halford stayed in the closet during his original stint with Judas Priest, which began in 1971 and ended in '92 when he suddenly quit to pursue a solo career.

In retrospect, you can't blame the guy. Back in the '80s, when nobody could have envisioned Will & Grace or Queer Eye on TV, the only gay men in pop culture were Boy George, Paul Lynde and Liberace.

Halford didn't come out until 1998, when he was fronting the industrial duo Two, while Judas Priest was led by former fan and Halford impersonator Ripper Owens, the real-life inspiration for the Mark Wahlberg movie Rockstar.

In total, Halford and his Judas Priest bandmates -- guitarists K.K. Downing and Glenn Tipton, bassist Ian Hill and drummer Scott Travis -- were estranged for 13 years before pressure from fans led to a reunion.
Suddenly, Judas Priest is playing arenas like Winnipeg's MTS Centre (Tuesday, $59.50 to $34.50) instead of theatres and small clubs. The British quintet's image has been upgraded from aging has-beens to classic metalheads who deserve the same respect afforded to Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath.

And there isn't a Priest fan on Earth who isn't overjoyed to have Rob Halford back shrieking out Screaming for Vengeance and Diamonds and Rust, machismo or no machismo.

"When a guy like Rob Halford comes along and announces to the world he's gay, it's a step in the right direction," says Downing, 53, a guitarist who helped define the sound of heavy metal through the dual-lead harmonic style he developed with Tipton in the early '70s.

"Today, you'd be a totally uncool dude if you don't accept the modern society we live in. Things like (sexuality) don't matter. It makes no difference how we sing, perform, play or write songs.

"Whatever we do in our life, it makes absolutely no difference in Judas Priest -- whereas before, people thought there was something weird. I'm glad we're moving forward as a world."

Some fans admire Rob Halford as a role model. But most just love his voice -- the combination of his unusually powerful pipes and the Downing-Tipton guitar attack is a sound many other bands tried and failed to imitate for decades.
During Halford's absence, fans never accepted replacement Owens and kept clamouring for the original lineup.

"It didn't matter how well we played at the concerts. Obviously, Ripper was a great singer and a great guy and he has a great future. But I think people wanted the voice of the band," Downing says.

"And that voice was Rob Halford, just like Freddie Mercury was with Queen, Mick Jagger is with the Stones and Bruce Dickinson is with Iron Maiden.

"These fans came to the concerts, wore the T-shirts, bought the records and followed the band for two decades or more. A lot of them felt let down, and I think quite rightly. I understand that."

The reunited Judas Priest has released a passable new album, Angel of Retribution. But the band's classic '70s and '80s material remains the chief live draw.

Tuesday's show with veteran thrash-metal purveyors Anthrax is set to last more than two hours and feature all the kitschy visual gimmicks that made Priest a top concert draw 20 years ago: Expect Halford to be elevated from the stage at some point, and charge in on a Harley at the beginning of the first encore.

"We're bringing as much as we can pack into the trucks," says Downing. "We're going to play as long as we can and won't stop rocking from the beginning to the end.

"People will enjoy it, but we know when they drive home they'll say, 'Hang on, they didn't play The Sinner.' They'll start talking about the songs we didn't play, which is hundreds of them."

Back in the '80s, Canada was the best market in the world for Judas Priest. Downing says he has more gold records from Canada than any other country and is psyched to return to our chilly soil -- but even more excited to be back in arenas.
"To be honest, I love it. I think we all do. Without pushing (it) too far, I'd say that's where we belong. We have a lot of fans every where we go.

"We wouldn't be here now doing this, I can promise you, if we didn't feel we were as good or better as we ever were. We better be, because our fans are as good or better: The reaction and support has been fantastic."

Sunday, October 09, 2005

film - A History of Violence

3.5 / 5

Some minor with caution.

Based on a graphic novel, David Cronenberg's latest film isn't a weird marvel like some of his previous work. In fact, this is the most mainstream Cronenberg film that I've seen.

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Small town cafe owner Tom Stall (Viggo Mortensen) puts on some surprisingly deft fighting moves to thwart and kill a couple of armed, sadistically violent, robbers. News spreads about this publicity shy hero. A mysterious mobster and his thugs show up to harass the hero, whi they identify as "Joey." He swears to his wife, family and local sherrif that he is not this Joey character. The mobster shows up again at the hero's home, with his recently run-away son, willing to trade the son for "Joey" and much violence ensues...

Viggo Mortensen is credible as the all-American Dad. Beautiful Maria Bello is also very convincing as wife and mother, although she does seem to be quite a catch for her seemingly lower-middle class husband. Her occupation as a lawyer really doesn't play much of a role in the film. Ed Harris and William Hurt are suitably creepy as big time mobsters.

There are aspects of the story that we don't learn much about, and this only adds to the mystery of Tom Stall and his alleged past. Tom's high school son is picked on by a bully and his pal, but one day these jerks are taught a lesson in violence that they won't soon forget (thank you, Exodus.) Why are we shown this scene? Is it to show that we are all capable of acting violently? In reality, the scene is completely unrealistic. Anyone picked on by a few hot tempered, bigger kids wouldn't fight them because the bigger kids would always look for ways to extract revenge.

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Some of the dialogue is very corny. Listen to the son spouting off mobster lingo after watching Daddy dispatch some bad guys with lighting reflexes and slick moves usually associated with Steve Seagall characters and his heir apparent, Jason Statham (The Transporter.) I did not realize that goodfellas knew hand-to-hand combat like Green Berets. It's hilarious. Maybe the dialogue seelcted to contrast the happy, simple family with the shady, violent mob charcters and their lifestyle. There's one unintentionally funny scene in which our hero Tom runs down the street after the same black car that one of the mobsters travels in, parks menacingly outside the cafe and then drives down the street. With one injured foot, our hero scrambles down the sidewalk while calling his wife that he is on his way home and that she should load the shotgun as the bad buys are heading for the house. Did he think he would arrive there before them? The action is sparse but powerful, when Viggo's character cuts loose to defend himself. This film has a feel similar to Collateral but not as powerful. Still, it feels like a quality drama as opposed to being your typical cookie-cutter Hollywood film and is one of the better post-summer offerings.

A History of Violence is based on a graphic novel by John Wagner and Vince Locke.

Monday, October 03, 2005

film - On The Objection Front

On The Objection Front (2005)
(Documentary — Hebrew w/English subtitles)

5 / 5

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In 2002, the world was shaken by news that some members of the IDF - the Israeli Defence Forces, were refusing to serve in the expanded, post-1967 borders of Israel, in the so-called "occupied territories" where the Palestinians live. Their famous written announcement, the "Combatants' Letter," explained their rationale for not wanting to participate in the "War of the Settlements" which, in their words, was found to control the Palestinian people using methods to "dominate, expel, starve and humiliate an entire people."

In this riveting 63 minute documentary, introduced by a member of Jews For A Just Peace Winnipeg, six refuseniks from(Courage to Refuse, one of a handful of refusenik suppprt groups, is featured. The footage shows them telling their stories but also going about daily life. Some of the stories about "missions" easily contained elements of human rights abuse, yet we only hear about allegations from the Palestinians, which often fall on skeptical ears of folks, many of whom paint them as all being terrorists. Here, you actually see military members, some senior officers, recounting the stories themselves and expressing incredible grief for it. They also show you footage of a class of young officers being told by a LCol about how IDF military officers are supposed to be humane to both the enemy and their own troops. They are supposed to act with a conscience and question options in situations, but must follow orders. The six soldiers, Maj Tomer (28), an F-16 pilot; Dr. Itai Berger (42);David Zonshein (33), a lieutenant in a Special Paratrooper Unit of the Reserve Army; Chen Alon (35), a major in the Reserve Army Armored Corps; Yair Meyuchas (25), Staff-Sergeant in the Special Commando Unit, Reserve Army and Guy Grosman (32), a lieutenant in a Special Paratrooper Unit of the Reserve Army.

There's footage of a refusenik support group meeting on a hill, and letting loose balloons, as they watch refusenik prisoners. The groups wave to each other and the balloons float away, one at a time. Even more interesting are the rallies that the refusenik support networks and their opposition hold. One man repeatedly heckled a refusenik, telling him to go to Arafat.

The film shows criticism of the refuseniks, even within their own families. In a couple of scenes, family members sit around the living room and peacefully explain their support or disappointment in the rufusenik family member. The documentary clearly allows the viewer to draw his or her own conclusion without trying to preach its own perspective.

Courage to Refuse was formed in 2002 by the initiators of the Combatant's Letter, Captain David Zonshein and Lieutenant Yaniv Itzkovits.

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David Zonshein

David Zonshein, 33, a lieutenant in a Special Paratrooper Unit of the Reserve Army, presently works in the high-tech field. David Zonshein (together with Yaniv Itzkovich) wrote the Combatants' Letter which appeared as an announcement in Ha'aretz newspaper in January 2002. He defines himself as belonging to the mainstream of Israeli society, and describes his life as a perfect example of Zionist upbringing at its best. David was sent to prison for his refusal to serve in the occupied territories. He is no longer called up for reserve military service, in spite of his desire to contine doing his duty.

Today, there are approximately 663 Israeli soldier refuseniks, with thousands of non-military supporters and hundreds of Israeli academics, also lending their support. And the movement is growing. The Refusers Solidarity Network cites over 1660 refusers.

Other refuser groups include: The Shministim, a group of 300 high school seniors.
Yesh Gvul - Israeli peace group campaigning against the occupation by backing soldiers who refuse duties of a repressive or aggressive nature.
Air Force Pilots - 27 reserve pilots have now signed the letter declaring their refusal to take part in aerial attacks on populated Palestinian areas in the territories. The website is in Hebrew only at this time.
New Profile - Movement for the civil-ization of Israeli society providing a wide range of support services and education to those who refuse military service.
Refusers Parents’ Forum - Network of parents and family members supporting working together to support current and future high school senior conscientious objectors (Shministim) – including those in, or released, from prison.

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Courage to Refuse

Combatant's Letter.
* We, reserve combat officers and soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces, who were raised upon the principles of Zionism, self-sacrifice and giving to the people of Israel and to the State of Israel, who have always served in the front lines, and who were the first to carry out any mission in order to protect the State of Israel and strengthen it.

* We, combat officers and soldiers who have served the State of Israel for long weeks every year, in spite of the dear cost to our personal lives, have been on reserve duty in the Occupied Territories, and were issued commands and directives that had nothing to do with the security of our country, and that had the sole purpose of perpetuating our control over the Palestinian people.

* We, whose eyes have seen the bloody toll this Occupation exacts from both sides,

* We, who sensed how the commands issued to us in the Occupied Territories destroy all the values that we were raised upon,

* We, who understand now that the price of Occupation is the loss of IDF's human character and the corruption of the entire Israeli society,

* We, who know that the Territories are not a part of Israel, and that all settlements are bound to be evacuated,

* We hereby declare that we shall not continue to fight this War of the Settlements.

* We shall not continue to fight beyond the 1967 borders in order to dominate, expel, starve and humiliate an entire people.

* We hereby declare that we shall continue serving the Israel Defense Force in any mission that serves Israel's defense.

The missions of occupation and oppression do not serve this purpose -- and we shall take no part in them.

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Director Shiri Tsur

On The Objection Front has won the Ecumenical Award at the 2005 Berlin Film Festival and it played as part of the 2nd Annual Canada-Palestine Film Festival, in Winnipeg, Canada.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

film - The Olive Harvest

The Olive Harvest (2003)
3 /5

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In a sparse Palestinian village, the olive orchard is like a symbol of life for the community. One day, Mazen is released from jail and is brought home by his younger brother, Tazer. Mazen's action, disrupting the construction of Israeli settlements, has saved the community from having it's orchard bulldozed. He is greeted like a hero upon his return. While visiting one of the neighbors, he is introduced to Raeda, one his daughters. She's beautiful and has been the apple of Taher's eye for a while now. Taher, a government employee tasked with watching out for new Israeli settlements, has been preoccupied with work and hasn't fullfilled his promise to make his engagement to her formal by asking for her hand in marriage.

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Mazen Saade as Mazen

Taher has the idea of hooking up Mazen with Raeda's sister who works in the city. Mazen isn't interested in getting hitched since he is freshly released from jail and not working.

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Taher Najeeb as Taher

While at work, Raeda and Mazen end up spending some time together. She has a fight with Taher as she confronts him for not being able to commit since he had not yet asked for her hand in marriage. She gravitates toward Mazen and two form an obvious bond. One day, Taher catches the two of them together and a fight ensues...

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Raeda Adon as Raeda

Raeda doesn't want to break ties between the brothers and she doesn't know who she will marry. Much crying ensues.

Taher is also quite a hothead. He seems to lose his temper a lot and has to be told not to investigate a new settlement since it is really just meant to egg on the Palestinians into inciting more violence, which will result in more military responses from the IDF. Mazen, on the other hand, is wiser and doesn't see violence as providing a viable solution.

To make matters worse, Raeda's father is dying and he demands that Raeda marry Mazen, since Mazen has pledged to stay and look after the olive orchards. He also feels that Taher's work in monitoring new, encroaching settlements, is too important to give up for the olive business.

The problem with this film is the ending in which we don't know how the characters resolve their issues. The acting is fine all the way through. There are a few comments on the settlements but the Israeli government is not the focus of the film at all. One of the complaints was about how one settle was built but no one has occupied any of the housing in the last five years.

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Director Hanna Elias

This was a filmed with an Israeli crew, directed by an Israeli and starring a Palestinian cast. Produced by Kamran Elahian, an Iranian-American.

The Olive Harvest played as part of the 2nd Annual Canada-Palestine Film Festival, in Winnipeg, Canada.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

review - Stratovarius, Sept. 30, West End Cultural Centre, Winnipeg, Canada

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Finnish power metal band Stratovarius are an unlikely offering for the maximum capacity 311 West End Cultural Centre. The venue, often hailed as the best sounding room in Western Canada, is usually the home to folk, blues, jazz, punk and indie music. Top notch European metal bands are a rareity, indeed.

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guitarist Timo Kolkki and bassist Lauri Porra

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Timo Tolkki

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Ron Sexsmith, on the right

Like their albums, Stratovarius, for me, are best enjoyed when they are playing their fast and heavy tunes, as opposed to their ballads and more pop-oriented sounds. Singer Timo Kotipelto engaged the crowd in the ususal audience participation games. It was cool to a fair number of the kids moshing during the faster numbers. They played two encores, with two ballads and one of my favorite tracks, Black Diamond, as the final tune.

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Jens Johansson

Drummer Jörg Michael, he joined Saxon last September, was a machine with his relentless, double bass drum sound. His face resembles Timo Tolkki was superb on both electric and acoustic guitars. He is a virtuoso player and served on backup vocal, as well. He also bears a bit of resemblance to Canadian folk balladeer Ron Sexsmith. New bassist Lauri Porra wowed the audience with his solo early on. He replaced Jari Kainulainen, who left in July. Beared Jens Johansson is well known as someone who has played with Yngwie Malmsteen, and Dio, among others. He played a teasing introduction into Black Diamond at the end. Also, the band managed to work in the old Jewish wedding party standard, Hava Nagila. During some of the solos, Johansson manned a handheld camera, which displayed on a large video screen above the drum kit.

It was interesting to see the band display the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on the video screen, as well as messages of peace and love. Clearly, Stratovarious are a positive band who are not afraid to share their beliefs of the unity of mankind. Read the band's tour diary to hear them more about what life is like on the road, etc.

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Jörg Michael

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Andre the Giant

Father Time, Will The Sun Rise ?, Destiny, Black Diamond, Against The Wind, Twilight Symphony, Forever, Hunting High And Low.

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Into Eternity

Dream Quest, a Canadian power metal band, opened the show. Obviously influenced by European power metal, they were actually enjoyable. Their guitarist sounds like he's listended by a lot of Helloween. I purchased their 2004 CD "The Release." Regina, Saskatchewan's Into Eternity were up next, and this five piece band have a lot going for them. Their lead singer is augmented by two singing guitarists. At point in their set, they encouraged the crowd to sing by doing their best "Cookie Monster" impression. These guys don't take themselves too seriously, but have their the power and finese to go places and a charasmatic lead singer.

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Into Eternity's Stu Block

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