Wordfest 2014: Naomi Klein at Knox United Church

There’s a line around the block outside the Knox United Church to see somebody talk about how the world is coming to an end unless we repent of our sinful ways and enter a glorious new world of love and brotherhood. The preacher is Naomi Klein, a small and unassuming woman with an uncanny knack for finding the hottest-button topic of any age and writing the books that future history professors will assign to students looking to understand the anti-globalization movement of the ’90s (No Logo) and the recent financial crash (The Shock Doctrine). That is, if there are colleges in the future, and if there are humans. It’s looking increasingly unlikely that we’ll survive this century, and although we’re always one mutated virus away from the next pandemic, one inattentive astronomer away from an asteroid cracking Earth open, our extinction will likely come about as a result of climate change.

Klein addressed a congregation that is mostly old enough to have been old when No Logo was released – there are no aged Battle of Seattle veterans here. Despite moderator and oil-sands activist Andrew Nikiforuk’s promise that she’d be “rabble rousing,” there’s not much fire here, and very little brimstone unless you count the sulfur dioxide that geo-engineers would like to use to cool the Earth (Klein is emphatically against this proposal, and paints a picture of a geo-engineering conference she attended as a fraternity of tech dudebros congratulating each other).


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Station Eleven Cover

Wordfest 2014: Future Imperfect at Theatre Junction GRAND

There’s a lot going on at Wordfest this year – literary deathmatches and clothing swaps and drawing classes – but the meat of any literary festival is always going to be one or more writers reading from and talking about their work.

One of the earliest readings in the lineup features two Canadian writers – now transplanted to Brooklyn, because everybody in literature is in Brooklyn – with two roughly similar novels out now. In Adam Sternbergh‘s Shovel Ready, a dirty bomb in Times Square causes the collapse of the city’s tourist economy, then everything else. Across the George Washington Bridge in New Jersey, a garbage man whose wife died in the attack embraces nihilism, then a career as a hitman in the newly dystopian Big Apple. British Columbian-born Emily St. John Mandel‘s Station Eleven proceeds from the onstage death of a Shakespearean actor to a pandemic that wipes out 99 per cent of the human population and follows the members of the remaining one per cent who form a travelling theatre company.

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Witch Mountain

Classic doom mongers Witch Mountain walk in the hallowed halls of Lord Iommi

Doom metal was a total accident, an accident involving blood and steel and grey northern skies, but still the result of one guy fucking up. Anthony ‘Tony’ Iommi, working at a sheet metal factory in Birmingham, England, cut the tips off his ring and middle finger on his right hand. His guitar playing days were over. He wasn’t willing to start over with his left hand. However, he learned that Django Reinhardt, jazz legend, had suffered a similar injury and developed a way of playing with only two fingers. Still, playing hurt. Thin-gauge strings were still a ways off. He tried banjo strings and crude homemade thimbles, but the real difference came when he down tuned three semitones below standard guitar tuning. Iommi’s band, Black Sabbath, subsequently became the thickest and heaviest band around, spawning the metal genre we hold dear.

More than 40 years later, metal has differentiated into unthinkably divergent realms. However, that guitar sound – along with a few other Sabbathian standards – define doom metal. The lyrical themes of despair, dejection and the occult continue to this day.

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Wordfest: All things literature

A literary culture is one of those really basic elements that make a city livable rather than simply habitable. Good coffee, a thriving gay scene, dog walking parks and the ability for a man to get a close shave with a straight razor from somebody who only speaks Italian are also important, but we’re here to talk about books.

Wordfest has been bringing literature and the people who write it to Calgary, Banff and the Bow Valley for the past 19 years, curating a series of talks and workshops by international writers at venues across the area. Think of it as a quieter Sled Island, and, like a music festival, it’s a mix of essential headline acts and smaller artists who you and a handful of other people will discover buried deep in the event’s program who nonetheless will be life-changingly brilliant.


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False Flag does everything but suffer in silence

The cover of False Flag’s 2013 debut EP Orobas sums these four Calgarians up nicely: there are skulls, horns, guns and an occult design that readers who spell magic as ‘Magick’ might recognize as the seal with which King Solomon allegedly bound the demon Orabas. Orabas, as False Flag’s vocalist and guitarist Russ Gauthier notes, is something of a anomaly for one of Satan’s minions: he is incapable of telling lies or betraying whoever summons him and can tell you whatever you want to know about the past and future.

“He seemed like a more positive demon, and I really liked that because demons are seen as bad things, but there are different kinds of demons with different traits.”

Occultism has been with metal since the beginning, but so has politics. False Flag’s name refers to the act of fabricating an attack on your own country in order to justify an attack on one’s enemies. There are real examples of false flag operations in history, but Google the term and, as Gauthier says, “you’re going to find a lot of weird shit,” mostly from the fringes of the American right, who use it to describe every terrorist attack, school shooting and dangerous weather condition that happens; literally, every single one.


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Floatation Therapy

Float Life in Kensington offers aquatic respites for the mind

Let’s start by dispelling a myth: you’re not going to hallucinate while floating. In the pitch dark, naked and immersed in warm water, there’s just your thoughts exposed like a disassembled watch. No spinning mandalas or sage wisdom from your spirit guide, just the absolute absence of anything. It’s pretty great, actually.

Isaac Neubert and Dustin Ryan are two Victoria, B.C., transplants who have opened Float Life in Kensington, outfitting an austere-looking concrete space with two imported top-of-the-line “Iso-pod” floatation therapy tanks (also used by the New England Patriots and the Navy SEALs), each the size of a family sedan, with three more to come soon. For 90 minutes at a time, you can be cut off from everything, receiving relief from anything from back pain to PTSD – though the majority of customers will just want a brief respite from the modern world.


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Stoner metal denizens Red Fang drink beer, rock hard, enjoy life hardest

Take a 13-hour drive southeast to Portland and there are rivers of Kombucha, an actual functioning public transportation system, weather marginally less hostile to human life, excellent craft beers and stoner metal quartet Red Fang.

The four-piece band formed in the city in 2005 and return there when their busy touring schedule permits. Combining the better parts of mid-career Mastodon at the cusp of their turn to prog, the heavier and faster parts of Queens of the Stone Age, and High On Fire with the fat trimmed, their songs max out at five minutes. In the nine years since their inception, they’ve played dream-come-true gigs with their spiritual forefathers in Orange Goblin and Kyuss Lives!, and after they touch down in Calgary for a two nights of sold out gigs at the Palomino, they start a tour with Swedish death-metal institutions In Flames and Opeth. Times are undeniably good.


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