Monthly Archives: August 2012

It’s a Guest Post!

As a shallow person I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to know there are other people like me out there. Of course it warms my heart to realize there is a growing movement (two is greater than one) of shallow people in this world but more importantly, when that shallow person actually offers to write a guest blog post it means I’m off the hook for the week.  And what could be wrong with that?

Having accepted this post I suppose I should add the requisite disclaimers, as one does when one posts the opinions of others. Just so you know, the ideas expressed below are those of the author and while I sympathize with the sentiments expressed I take no responsibility for them. At any rate, shallow as they may be, there is way too much feeling here for it to have come from me.

So without further ado I give you Louisa’s (yes the same one that won the folk fest prize but the fact that she was the only one to enter that contest in no way influenced my decision to invite her to be my first guest blogger) take on “love on the bus”.


Hark, gentle readers. It happened again. On the commute home last night, two twentysomethings boarded the train and took the only available seats: one next to me, the other across the aisle. For a few minutes they chatted quietly, which is fine, and then they kissed noisily, which is not. Now maybe I’m turning into a grumpy old lady before my time, but most likely my aggravation stems from my big fat shallow secret:

I am opposed to public transit displays of affection.

Buses and trains are designed to fit as many people as possible into as small a space as possible. We’re sardines. We’re in each other’s spaces and each other’s faces. The person sitting behind you on the bus is only a few inches away from that tongue you’re sticking in someone else’s mouth. And if the person sitting behind you is me then I will go batpoop crazy on your a…actually I’ll just sit there quietly fuming and feeling disgusted because I have manners.

One time there was a thirtysomething couple in front of me. After enduring a couple minutes of their sloppy session, I stood up in a huff and moved seats. I glanced back at the couple, and they had the decency to look embarrassed and stop making out. So there: passive aggressiveness works.

Most of the time, though, it’s youngsters. Madly infatuated youngsters. Kissing and slurping and groping and groaning and licking and panting youngsters. Maybe they think the world is going to end and the only way to save it is to lick someone’s tonsils in public. We grownups don’t understand these things but youngsters do and they’re saving us all, one giant snog at a time.

But hey, I’m crabby and shallow and ok with the fact that the world might end for lack of saliva shared in public. So hormonal bus riders of the world, take note: I don’t give a damn about your happiness. I don’t care about your crushes or puppy love or nascent sexuality or even your lifelong devotion to a beloved partner who saved your life at an army hospital in the Franco-Prussian War. Take. That. Mess. Home. Do it in your living room. Do it in your bedroom. Do in your parents’ bed for all I care, but don’t do it in front of me.

Oh, and while I’m at it, get your dog off my lawn.

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Folk Fest Revisited (and a little “something for you” to boot)

I know, I know! There’s been a lull. You’re wondering where I have been. Last you knew I was making my yearly pilgrimage to the Folk Fest and next thing you know I have all but disappeared. Perhaps you’re thinking that after all those days and nights sitting on the hill under the stars, dancing and singing along to sometimes meaningful songs, eating primarily healthy food for four days and communing with my new “not on Facebook” friends, that I had abandoned my shallow ways.  Maybe while sitting in the shadow of downtown Edmonton, which from this very unique vantage point has buildings that appear almost doll-like, carefully placed one by one in an effort to create the quintessential city sky-scape, I might have turned over a new leaf and started to think about writing something a tad more profound. Nope, nothing of the sort. I will admit to feeling a small lump in my throat listening to Nathan Roger’s rendition of his Father’s immortal “North West Passage” but that’s the only concession I’m prepared to make. Last time I looked, I’m as shallow as ever. So why the delay?

To tell the truth the Folk Fest wears me out. Four days of rising early to get a prime tarp placement, standing in line for just about everything and trekking around a site that in colder climes is a ski hill, makes me tired. So as much as I wanted to get this “wrap-up” wrapped up, I just couldn’t do it primarily because each time I sat down in my favourite chair to write, I fell asleep. Oh yeah, and I had to get the pictures developed. (Just kidding…I know you don’t have to develop digital pictures). You see, while at the “fest” it occurred to me that there may have been some doubt as to the accuracy of my previously posted “Shallow Guide”, some question as to my use of literary exaggeration to make a point, and that it would serve me well to obtain enough evidence to convince my readers that there are no fictional accounts on this blog. Unfortunately I didn’t think about this until the third day so I did the best I could, with a little help from my friends (thanks to Marsha, Wade, Nicole and “the Kev”), in the limited time that remained. And rather than bore you with thousands of words, I thought for this post I would let the pics do most of the talking.

And then it came to me. Why not take this opportunity to engage my readership (that’s you) in a little interactivity, as we like to call it in the education biz. So here’s what we’re going to do. I’m going to fill you in on the first few pictures and then you can do the rest of the work. In the final collage of pictures you will find evidence of all that I spoke about in the “guides” and all you have to do is figure out what’s what.

I’m not going to call this a “contest” lest there be some government regulation legally preventing me from doing so but there are prizes to be had, probably from the dollar store and likely made in China. In fact, there are two prizes; one for the first, most accurate answers and one for the funniest answers, the latter being subject to my own judgmental self. You can post your answers in the comments or send them to me privately, if you know my email address. Whatever you decide, at some point, if I don’t already know who you are, you’re going to have to come clean so I can send you your prize. If you are not already a follower on this blog, seems to me this might be a good time to start.

So let’s get to it.

As I suspected, the guys and gals were sporting their “Toms“.

Lots of "Toms"

And their funky Tees:

Funky Tees

They were hoppin’, boppin’ , glowin’  and holding candles to the wind:

Folk Fest crowd scenes

And fortunately for all of us, these guys weren’t sitting in this chair:

 Here’s where the fun begins! Now it’s your turn. Just match the pic to that valuable information contained in the “Guides” (one, two and three) and you’re in.

Various Folk Fest pics

How about we make Friday, August 24th the deadline just so this thing doesn’t go on for too long.  That will also give me time to figure out what to write about next.  Did I mention there is no fiction on this blog?

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A Shallow Person’s Guide to the Folk Fest (Part 3 of 3)

What to Wear

It appears that I am not the only one who understands that thought must be put into acquiring an appropriate couture for this event. On my usual Saturday stop at the local Starbucks, I happened to pick up the most recent issue of “Avenue” magazine only to discover a full-page spread on what to wear to the Folk Fest. My first thought was what a lovely coincidence and a wonderful way for me to save some time writing the blog. Unfortunately, a quick tally of their suggested duds clocks in at around $1450.00 for the gals and just over a “C” note for you fellas. I’m pretty sure this mission can be accomplished for less, so here are some more frugal ways to make your fashion statement.

The “Zip-Off pant”: Time to forage to the back of your closet to find those zip-off pants you bought for your impending trip to Machu Picchu…you know, the one you have on your bucket list. This is the perfect event for those and no one will ever know you haven’t made the trip. Couple of things here. Make sure you remove all of the tags (sometimes they hide them in the oddest places) and, if you can, go for a trail walk before the big day just to make them look a little less pristine. After all, you don’t want anyone to think you went out and bought something special for the fest. But the real benefit you will accrue from wearing this undeniably fashionable garb is that you won’t have to use the bathroom (honestly, that’s what they call those things) to change from shorts to long pants in the cool of the evening. Trust me, that is worth more than you know.

The Skinny Jean: Please note: The above suggestion is for folks of my era. Here to help my younger readers avoid a fashion faux-pas, is guest blogger Wader (you’ve seen his comments on the blog.) This year coloured skinny denim is in, in a very big way for both men and women. As this is folk fest you’ll need to jazz up the off the shelf pair in one or more ways. Try getting a jiffy marker (washable if you intend on wearing these in the outside world) and writing political messages on the thighs (note: you’re preaching to the choir, but it’ll still feel good). Roll or cuff the pants until your calves are so constricted they begin to turn light blue. If this doesn’t happen then your pants aren’t skinny enough! Wear a belt if you must but ensure it has been made by a local artisan out of ethically obtained vegan leather (even that confuses me, but go with it). Finally, you can preserve the integrity – structural or otherwise – of your pants for future use by adorning them with buttons. Recommended causes include the pro-choice movement, the NDP, bands/artists that aren’t performing, bands that are terribly obscure (eg. Brady Bunch Lawnmower Massacre, Freud Chicken, Pope John Paul Quartet with Friends, etc.), a particularly unique “pride” symbol (the rainbow Star of David works here), ironic sayings (eg. “I’m only here for the hotdogs” or “I heart hula”), the CKUA logo (CBC will work if you don’t live in Alberta), or pretty much anything that would annoy someone like Sarah Palin.

The Shoes: Take off those Birks ‘cause while they might look great with your “zip-offs” you’re going to have to stop and ask yourself what good they are doing for the third world. No my friends, without a doubt, the one and only choice to cover your feet at this year’s fest are “Toms”. For those of you who still think this is simply a short form of a guys name, it’s time to get yourself down to your local shoe boutique for an update. The “buy one, give one” mantra has taken the world by storm and if you don’t know it yet, you will by the end of the first day. “Toms” are funny though, not really comfortable, not really well-made and relatively expensive for what you get. Doesn’t matter, you’re helping to provide shoes for a child in Africa (although not very comfortable or well-made) so on they go. (I know this all sounds a little irreverent so I should disclose here that I am currently rockin’ my fourth pair of “Toms” and you have some serious catching up to do.) Your immediate problem is that you have to buy “Toms” a size too small because they stretch out so much over time. Given we are now so close to the start line and you won’t have time to break them in, your feet are going to hurt for the first day or two. Better get over it because form really is more important than function and looking cool and benevolent at the same time should be all the motivation you need to tough this one out.

Something on Top: Tie-dye works. So does anything “flowy”, madras, or that looks like you made it from fabric you picked up at the market on your last trip to India. Tees that have been reconstructed in some unusual way. Denim shirts and jackets, but the latter really ought to be vintage Levi or you’re not fooling anyone. Tees from concerts you (or someone you know) have attended, preferably before 1980. Could be time for a trip to Value Village, or your parents’ closet. Tees with sayings (lean to the left on this one, see the “skinny jeans” segment). If you’re really adventurous you may want to join the “Free Hugs” t-shirt gang. Just remember that it gets hot, people get sweaty and they will take you up on your offer. I’ll leave that decision to you. Avoid anything with a logo, collar or “polo” as a descriptor. I’m not sure this is explicitly stated in the rule book but the peer pressure alone will make you want to go home and change.

The Hair: Put away all those hair products and appliances you use. These are the four days of the year when your hair gets a chance to breathe and make an appearance in its natural state. This one is particularly hard for me but, from what I can see, not for many other people. Bonus: You get a chance to remember what your hair really looks like and you will no longer regret all of the time and money you spend making it not look that way. Guys, if there is a way you can coax whatever hair you have left into a ponytail, do it. This advice may have come too late for this year’s fest but you’ll want to keep it in mind for next summer. I’d go out on a limb (I do that sometimes) and say make-up is optional but given the aging demographic of the “party-goers” it might not be. Something tasteful in face-painting might be a good compromise here.

Rain Gear: I’m not as familiar as I should be with this category but for those of you who decide that a little water falling from the sky only makes the day more fun, you’re going to want some protection. We’re not talking little umbrellas and trench coats here but rather industrial style, head to toe cover-ups in various shades of yellow. Fortunately there are many “made in Canada” options in this category and I strongly suggest this as a first choice. They are a little expensive but you’ll be able to put them to good use the next time you go out to sea. That’s about all of the advice I can give on this one because, well I just go home at the first hint of inclement weather.

That’s about it. I know this has been much longer and more involved than usual but these type of get togethers are so just so compelling for a shallow person. And while this advice may seem to be rather specific to our locale I am pretty sure that much of it is transferable to other events of this ilk. And now I must take some of my own advice and get ready to go. If only I could remember where I put my zip-offs.

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A Shallow Person’s Guide to the Folk Fest (Part 2 of 3)

What to Bring

Don’t minimize the importance of getting this right. There’s nothing worse than finding yourself at a great spot at the bottom of the hill only to realize that you left your favourite recycled plastic yoga mat you were going to carry to all of the side stages, at home. Along with the requisite sunscreen, bug spray, hat, sunglasses, and reusable water bottle I suggest the following:

The Chair: Veteran or newbie this year everyone is going to need to get new chairs. Remember those rules I talked about yesterday? Well there are new ones for chairs this year and I’m afraid that means trading in your Costco “Rio”, which only about ⅔ of the festival goers have used without incident over the past 5 years, for something a little shorter. On a recent trip to our local camping store I discovered a tie-dyed number that meets all of the official requirements and, at first blush seemed to me to be the perfect folk fest accessory. But in retrospect I’m a little worried that some people will exercise both this and the tie-dye t-shirt option (you’ll read about that tomorrow) and, as a result, have the unfortunate experience of finding a complete stranger sitting on top of them because they were indistinguishable from their surroundings. So just to be safe I would go with something in a solid colour.

The Tarp: You’re going to need a tarp and you better make sure it is 8×10 (yes, it’s a rule) or you’ll find yourself on the wrong side of this fence. I’m going to say you go with blue on this one. Yes it’s true that’s the colour of 95% of the tarps at the festival so yours will become just one more fish in a rather large sea. But here’s the thing. At some point in the week-end someone you know is going to want to meet you at your tarp. The only way to get them there is to figure out how many rows you are up from the bottom of the hill and in from the side and to pass on that information. Of course there are no real “rows” at this fest which leaves your directions open to some rather significant interpretation. The thing is, if your tarp was let’s say orange, you would be making things all too easy for your friends and what’s life without a challenge or two?

The iPhone: I know, you’re wondering why on earth you’re going to need this technology from your “other life”. Well there’s more than one reason. First, when your friends can’t find your tarp (that tarp counting never works) they’re going to call you so you can talk them through the crowd. Of course this will be of minimal use since there is so much noise they’ll only pick up every few words. Never mind, they’ll find you, eventually. Next, I think it’s a good alternative to the “candle” thing that goes on every night on the hill. There’s nothing more disconcerting than watching free spirited children run around with lit candles while their free spirited parents pay little or no attention to them. So to get around this rather dubious practice I think we should all download a candle app which will make swaying to the music, light in hand, all that much safer. The effect will be the same and the fire chief can breathe a sigh of relief. Finally, download the Folk Fest app. It will come in handy as you move from one stage to the next and perhaps more importantly, you’ll save the five bucks you would have spent on the program.

The Food: You’re going to have to eat while at this shindig and unless you plan on spending a good portion of your time standing in the food lines, you will want to bring some of your own. Please remember that there are people on all sides in close proximity watching, so what you do here will have a major impact on your folk fest persona, especially if there are children involved. Trust me on this, if it says “Hostess” on the package, leave it at home. For this event you’ll want to buy in bulk, but if that’s not possible, at least make sure it looks like you did. No plastic bags please, only reusable containers made of BPA free recyclable plastic. I’d suggest glass but that won’t get through the security check (have I mentioned the rules?). Adding something “ethnic” to the menu will add significantly to your currency. Organic juices can be refreshing although this year I’ll be toting flavoured Perrier as I think it’s just retro enough to be cool. If what you really crave is a bologna sandwich, remember that Yves veggie slices are almost indistinguishable from the real thing and I dare say you will be safe as long as you don’t offer a bite to your vegan neighbour.

The Other Stuff: You’ll need a bag to carry all of this stuff in and I’d like to suggest something colourful and woven if at all possible. If you insist on leather just make sure it is well-worn and handcrafted by a local artisan from cows that have been raised for this purpose. Perhaps something that matches your belt (more about that tomorrow) would work. For some evening fun bring an inflatable beach ball and if you can find one with a “world” imprint, all the better. Unfortunately since this will be used to create hours of fun being tossed from one tarp to another as the night goes on, you won’t be getting it back so a trip to the dollar store may be your best bet. While you are there, pick up a couple dozen glow sticks as without them, no one will be able to see you dancing in the dark. A note of caution: While at the dollar store you will want to avoid anything that’s made in China.

Tomorrow: Stay tuned ‘cause you’re going to want to know what to wear.

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A Shallow Person’s Guide to the Folk Fest (Part 1 of 3)

Thanks to haloocyn’s that time again. I don’t know about you but I sure find that each year seems to go by faster than the last. Everyone has a marker by which they measure the passing of time. For some people it’s New Year’s Eve, for others perhaps an anniversary or birthday. For me, it’s the Edmonton Folk Festival. My year runs from one folk fest to the next. And now, in these few moments before the big day, or should I say four days, I am filled with both excitement and dread because, as you may already have guessed, it’s not always easy to be a shallow person attending what for many people is their “kumbaya” event of the year. But I’ve been attending now for more than 30 years and have come to learn the ways of the devotees so, for those who may be embarking on this journey (or some facsimile) for the first time, I thought it would be good of me to share with you some of the wisdom I have acquired over what appears to be a very long time.

Getting Ready

The Rules: For such a free n’ easy music loving crowd there are a lot of rules that you are going to have to follow. There’s rules about when to come, where to line up, who to line up with, when and how to enter the park, where to put your tarp, how large your tarp can be, how tall your chairs can be, what you can drink…well you get the picture. My advice is to start following rules, yes any rules, for a couple of weeks before the event, just to get into practice. A good long game of “Simon Says” might help you get into the spirit of things while, at the same time, strengthening your listening skills.

Warning! This is a particularly difficult aspect of the show for us “shallows” as we typically like to do things our own way. There are ways around most, if not all of the rules but since I don’t want to jeopardize my ability to attend this festival, (and not following the rules will do just that) you will have to contact me privately for more information.

The Line-Ups: There’s no getting around this one. You’re going to line-up to buy your tickets, line-up to get into the entry line-up, line-up for food, line-up for the plates you need to put the food on, line-up for bathrooms (a bit of a stretch to call them that), line-up for CDs, and line-up to leave. At the end of each night you will find yourself in the “mother of all line-ups” traffic jam. Here’s where that ability to make small talk will come in handy as you try to alleviate the boredom by engaging those on either side of you in some sort of meaningless banter. See the “conversation starters” below for some tips on how to get things started. You may not like it but it’s either that or one of those “little white pills” I have spoken so fondly of in the past.

The Dance: Back to the mirror for this one, although for the purpose of this exercise I recommend a full length one. There’s gonna be dancin’ and you’re gonna be boppin’ if only to continue to see the band while everyone else is groovin’ to the music. Here’s what I suggest. Practice your moves to some Celtic and then some African sounds. They’ll be entirely different (one you’ll have to focus on your feet, the other primarily on the upper body). Once you have those down some combination of each should get you through the North American stuff. (The rather colloquial language here is my attempt to get into the spirit of the event.)

Starting a Folk Fest Conversation

Like it or not at various points during the week-end you’re going to have to start a conversation. Whether it’s in one of the multitude of line-ups, the beer tent or while you’re “chillaxing” on the hill, it’s going to happen. I’ve said it before, I’m nothing if not the queen of chit chat, so here are some conversation starters for communing with your new folkie friends. They tend to be friendly, engaged and committed people so once you get them going you’ll likely be able to sit back and let them do most of the work.

“Love the shirt! Did you pick up the fabric on your last trip to India?”
“These are delicious! Are they local, vegan hotdogs?” (thanks Wader)
“I can’t wait for the Sunday morning gospel workshop!”
(Watch carefully for the look on their face before continuing with this thread.)
“I really wanted to see
[insert your favourite artist here] but there was no way I could miss my hot yoga class this morning.”
“Oh, you’re an accountant. That must be interesting work.”

Warning: At some point during the week-end you’re going to be approached by a long-time attendee who will start complaining about the crowds; let you know that side stage concerts are not really “workshops” anymore; and that they used to be able to arrive at anytime and still sit a stone’s throw away from the main stage. It’s time for them to face the harsh reality that, despite their appearance, this is no longer the ‘80s and this conversation is getting really old. I’m afraid you’re going to have to be the one to tell them to “let it go”, for all of our sakes.

There’s just too much to cover and so as not to overwhelm (and keeping my Gen Y readers in mind) I have broken this posting into 3 parts. Tomorrow…What to bring.

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