Halloween: Our Past, Present & Future

shutterstock_61882039-92255_238x238Praise be to Halloween!  Our one night only, get-out-of-jail-free card, in which we can senselessly indulge in our own mystery and utter ridiculousness.  Perhaps the most paradoxical time of the calendar year, Halloween is fraught with irony and strange implication.  A break from conventional thought and practice, its customary observances miraculously cross boundaries of faith, race, language, age, gender and culture, embracing the kind of freedom we have always desired: to be who we are not, or to be exactly what we are, in a spectacular display of self-discovery and imagination.  Favourite super heroes, comic book villains, legendary creatures and our most beloved celebrities, help to blur the lines between reality and fantasy.  Stepping outside the comfortable orbit of our lives, Halloween challenges us to rethink the concrete by ways of the abstract, within a framework of mockery and frivolity.  However despite the fun and fancy of Halloween, many parents today view the macabre spectacle with cynicism, believing its traditional practices unfit and ultimately unsafe for our children.  Gone are the days of giving away candied apples and home made treats, pillow-case-costumes and going door-to-door knocking on strangers houses for treats without parental chaperon.

If the question is whether or not Halloween remains relevant in 21st century society, the answer may very well be a resounding, yes.  When taken into the context of reality, (which in itself is obscure, subjective, changing and arguably illusory), Halloween doesn’t seem all that kooky.  Why not dress up in costumes depicting all manner of crazy?  After all, Halloween may be one of the only openly discernible contemplations of mortality in Western society, a reflection of the berserk and unknown that has surrounded us for centuries.  For children, Halloween helps to validate their imagination, giving value to their hopes, dreams and fears.  But to truly understand the relevance of Halloween, particularly in a modern context, we have to take a careful look at its origins, its exercise and its evolution throughout history.

Although the academic world diverges slightly between several different schools of thought when it comes to the origin of Halloween, a culmination of historical observances in several different countries, across diverse cultures over time, may be the most plausible narrative to explain the modern day custom we observe today.  For example, October 31st marks the eve of the Western Christian feast of All Hallows’ Day.  This particular date connotes a special time in the liturgical year.  Dedicated to remembering the dead, including saints (hallows), martyrs, and all those faithful departed believers,  All Hallows’ Day is thematic of using comedy and ridicule to confront the power of death.  Although the name, “Halloween” most certainly derives from a Christian source, as a mutation of the Scottish colloquial, “All Hallows’ Eve,” (which overtime evolved into Halloween), the academic world, however, is divided on the origin of the festival itself.  Some concur that All Hallows’ Day borrowed its influence from Celtic harvest festivals, with possible pagan roots, (particularly as a Christianized version of the Gaelic Samhain).  Others however, argue it originated independently.  Folklorists have even detected its provenance in the Roman feast of Pomona, the goddess of fruits and seeds, and in the festival of dead, called Parentalia.  It is tenable to believe that all of these together formed our familiar, modern day observance of Halloween.  The affects of Roman Britain, followed by the invasion of the Saxons and Normans, produced a kind of cultural alloy in ancient Britain, attributing to a blend of customs, traditions and beliefs.  What is certain however, is that Halloween must be understood within a sacred and non-secular context.  For example, the most recognizable historical custom is the observance of Samhain, held on or around October 31st.  Marking the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter, or the ‘darker half’ of the year, Samhain marked a particular time in the year, when the forces governing the spiritual and tangible conflicted, whereby spirits or fairies could cross more easily into the human realm.  These spirits were both feared and revered.  Offerings of food, drink, and portions of crops were left in appeasement, so to ensure livestock survived the winter.  Likewise, Samhain also marked the time when the souls of the dead were believed to revisit homes.  Places were set at dinner tables and by the fire to welcome them.  In several countries, including Ireland, Scotland and Wales, the festival included “mumming” and “guising” as a way of interacting or indeed safeguarding oneself against such spirits.  Going house-to-house dressed in costume or disguise, typically reciting verses or songs in exchange for food, became a customary observance, while turnips were hollowed out as lanterns, often carved with monstrous faces representing spirits or ghouls.  This practice later spread to the rest of England, known as jack-o’-laterns.   Mass Irish and Scottish immigration to North America during the 19th century imported the holiday’s celebrations, gradually assimilating into mainstream society by the first decade of the 20th century.

Today, Halloween involves an array of festive activities, including trick-or-treating (or the related “guising”), attending costume parties, lighting bonfires, apple bobbing, decorating, carving pumpkins into jack-o’-lanterns, visiting haunted house attractions, playing pranks, and telling scary stories.  Although street safety, safe costume-wearing, costume-handling and treat-collecting may be more prevalent a threat today than it was historically, due to the increase in population, technology, traffic, pop culture, news and media, the ancestral roots of modern day Halloween continues to provide the kind of shock and awe, reverence and mystery that inspires and transcends.  If just for one night, Halloween allows a glimpse into the unknown, exploiting the darkest secrets of our past, present and future by demonstrating our willingness to submit to the absinth of phenomenon in a powerful game of truth or dare.  So before you chalk up Halloween to some childish exploit geared toward marketing candy to small children and horror movies to adults, or an unsafe customary practice that ultimate holds little applicability in the 21st century, take a moment to rethink what Halloween really is about.  The gathering, the get-togethers, the laughter and fun.  The sharing and caring.  In doing so, you  may just discover that its value can be found in both the sinister and the silly.  After all, what is more real?  Reality or imagination?  And who is more naive?  The child or the adult?   Happy Halloween!


Pure movement. Pure energy. Pure Penticton.

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Fitness, nutrition and retreat are altogether the triumvirate of modern day healthy living.  This trinity is not mastered by the glow of our iPhones, the bloop icons in our message box, the anxious roaring of our car engine, nor the noise of pop culture charging from our TV or magazine cover.  Instead, the careful crafting of healthy living is found in the portage of heart, body and mind.  A return to the simplicities of our rustic nature.  When we say goodbye to the corporate machine of consumer culture, and hello to a renewed power of individual, conscious, unfettered living.   Riverside Fitness and Health in Penticton B.C., has always been an advocate for healthy living, encouraging the power of the individual through fitness and nutrition.  Now Riverside endeavors to create something both novel and necessary for the patrons and visitors of the South Okanagan wine country.  In partnership with the Penticton Lakeside Resort, Riverside Fitness and Health will be transforming into Pure – fitness + nutrition + retreats in the summer of 2015.  The larger space offered at the Lakeside Resort will capacitate new classes, while expanding on pre-existing programs and core services with an unique focus on modern day healthy living.

Pure’s ethos derives from the belief that the migration of healthy living does not need to reinvent the wheel.  We all remember fad diets, the two week work out programs and those terrifying self-help books with bright yellow jacket covers that looked strikingly similar to a safety vest or floatation device.  They all promised impossible results with the magic blue pill of delusional utopia.  Yes, many of us, at some point, (by the rouge of our checks) recall the glutton intoxication of a whole lot of crazy.  But we’re smarter now, and we’re all grown up.  We know the miracle pill is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and the trappings of those absurd quick fixes, buttress the same mechanism that got us here in the first place: the culture of instant gratification.  This is where Pure comes in.

Pure – fitness + nutrition + retreats will be ushering a new era of health and wellness to Penticton.  They assure us the journey does not begin with backbreaking ritual, fad diets or impossible promises, rather with a gentle nod.  This is the power of retreat.  The proof is in the pudding, and in this case, in the name.  Pure offers a return to the authentic.  An unrefined, unrestrained transparency that works in tandem with all faculties.  Nothing more but a small, quiet acknowledgement of the intrinsic core.  This is the Pure foundation where the brand takes its vocation, offering group classes, health and wellness coaching and nutrition counseling, with a “Golden” age series and brand new style of spin classes, all promising to keep you motivated, balanced and energized.  The re-branding of Riverside Fitness and Health encompasses not just the idea of health, but the reality of its constitution, reminding us of our quality and the value we hold in simply being.  It’s leadership in the exodus of everyday humdrum, assures a renewal of self-love by the gradual glory of our own shape.  Pure – fitness + nutrition + retreats offers up this trinity not as a daily chore or activity, but as a magnificent way of life in movement and beauty.

Wellness retreats, aimed at kick starting a healthy lifestyle by assisting in recharging and unplugging, will endeavor to recognize emotional and mental pressure points.  Renewing the intimate relationship with ourselves that we loose in the brouhaha of prosaic living, these wellness retreats will get you off the grid and in-tune with your essentials. In partnership with the Penticton Lakeside Resort, 3,5 and 7 night stays will include chef-inspired meals, lake view suites with access to lakeside walking and biking trails, on-site resort venues and facilities, spa treatments, daily group fitness, cooking classes and workshops.  Designed to massage the internal reality that gives rise to the external, Pure’s wellness retreats offers transformation and renewal by the glow of gentle and intensive detoxification and cleansing.  With an emphasis on healthy living and eating, Pure’s raw juice and smoothie bar will also offer patrons the immeasurable benefits of live foods, chalked full of enzymes that provide incredible energy, improved sleep and increased mental clarity, while promoting regularity and encouraging environmentalism via less packaging, lower carbon-foot print and a great connection to the earth.  In addition to the raw juice bar, Pure will also offer organic house-made snacks to fuel the quiet unfettered mind or your high performance lifestyle; a surefire way to cultivate and nourish.

With Pure, the journey goes hand-in-hand.  We can ditch the quick fixes and that little blue pill, watching with quiet smugness, the days of fad diets and impossible work-outs fade like a wisp by the blandishing wind, eventually whisked away back into the meringue of air.  And we smile, because above us, the blue endless dome of possibilities.  Looking skyward, our attention turns from mundane concerns, to the still small voice inside us.  With peaceful whispers it praises.  Pure movement.  Pure energy.  Pure Penticton.

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Salmon: Our Survival

Screen Shot 2014-09-10 at 2.32.53 PMYou probably wouldn’t think it, but sockeye salmon are an integral force to the well being and survival of our western interior and Pacific coastal communities and ecosystems.  I know, I know.  You’re probably thinking – what, fish?  Really?   Yes really.  This is not some dubious fear-mongering conspiracy theory brewed up by a few red nosed quacks in lab coats.  But don’t take our word for it.  Just lend an open ear to the voice of countless dedicated men and women who have studied the fundamental structure, health and importance of salmon in our Pacific coastal and interior ecosystems for the past several decades.  Their committed, decisive science labors to root out determining factors, variables and contingencies of the environment’s ultimate survival; the survival of which symbiotically effects the continuance of our own species, the illustrious homo sapien sapien.  In nature, we know everything is interconnected.  We know this because the term, interconnected has become a bit of a semantic cliche.  Something we are slightly weary of hearing.  Especially in this post-Al Gore era (too bad David Suzuki).
During the last decade, the environment has catapulted from a, “who cares” vacuum of social consciousness, into ultra celebrity status quo.  It’s trendy now to recycle.  Hybrids and electrics are all the rage.  Vintage is vogue and what’s hip is hemp.  But the environment is not a new thing.   Neither is conservation. (Remember those crafty cartoonish diagrams depicting water cloud and rain you so eagerly wanted to draw all over with your cherry-smelling marker in grade school?)  In fact, the conservation movement goes far beyond your early education years, traced back to John Evelyn’s Sylva in 1662.  It may also come as a bit of a shock to learn that salmon and their environment have been around for nearly 6 million years, (that’s only roughly 5.8 million years on us).  So maybe there’s some stock in this whole interconnection thing that warrants a deeper look.  If our lungs depend on trees to breath, our stomachs on the working of bees, our brains, the ocean and our skin and organs on bacteria, it’s reasonable to assume a sneeze or a wiggle of the feet would intrinsically affect the entire organism.  And that works both ways.  So what about the salmon?  Screen Shot 2014-09-10 at 2.33.12 PM
Coastal watersheds and estuaries where salmon migrate and spawn, are among the most productive biological communities on earth.  Home to marine mammals such as seals, terrestrial fauna and resident and migratory birds, these watersheds produce food and fiber for the people of the Pacific Rim with large runs of salmon, trout and char, and plumes of commercially profitable shellfish and fish.  Coastal watersheds are also responsible for sustaining the temperate rain forests of the Pacific Northwest, which produce more standing biomass than any terrestrial ecosystem on the planet.  (Brings a whole new appreciation to those boardwalks under the canopy of cedar that float over a blanket of skunk cabbage and fern, doesn’t it?)  Salmon alone are one of the best species indicators of coastal and estuary ecosystem health.  Salmon runs function as giant pumps, injecting vast amounts of marine nutrients upstream to the headwaters of rivers that maintain relatively low productivity.  Salmon carcasses are the primary food for aquatic invertebrates and fish, as well as terrestrial fauna, (from marine mammals to birds to terrestrial mammals, particularly bears and humans).  Historically, few animals have been as integral to the human experience as salmon. But this exciting, integrating outlook and back story on salmon may be somewhat overshadowed by the inconvenient truth of present day salmon decline.

Screen Shot 2014-09-10 at 2.33.49 PMUnited States sockeye salmon populations are currently listed under both the US Endangered Species Act and threatened species lists by the National Marine Fisheries Service in Idaho, Oregon and Washington areas.  Canada is also not immune.  In the past, we have experienced similar decline of sockeye salmon in the Fraser and Okanagan Rivers.  Due to the impact of environmental changes, marine ecology, (ocean acidifcation), aquaculture, predators, diseases and parasites, (including farmed salmon hatchery diseases), contaminants, water temperature and governmental management of the productivity of salmon runs, the ability of the sockeye salmon to reach traditional spawning grounds or the ocean has been inhibited.  Proposed legislative efforts, such as the Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act however, attempt at establishing protective measures in the headwaters of the sockeye salmon by preventing industrial development in road-less areas.  Now, as of June 2012, record numbers of a once-waning population of sockeye salmon have been returning to the Northwest’s Columbia Basin, proving that these kinds of legislation actually work.  And this is where interconnection comes into play.  The causal affect.  This year’s fishing season saw the largest return of sustainable sockeye salmon in British Columbia in almost 80 years.  That’s right.  Since 1938, when the salmon count first began.  The bountiful return beset Osoyoos Lake, (a gem of a water basin, abutting the Osoyoos Desert and buffeting the borders of Canada and the United States).  This is truly a miraculous feat, especially when considering the ominous waning of salmon numbers in the mid 1990s.  A true testament to the hard work and dedication of the Okanagan Nation Alliance Fisheries Department, who labored tirelessly on restoration projects, information was collected based on tagging studies and  the number of salmon that went over Wells Damn.  Estimates ran into the 300,000 range.  Consequently, The Department of Fisheries and Oceans opened the season for the sport fishing community to angle these wild pink fish from August 19th until Sept 2nd, requiring naught but a fishing license and the purchasing of salmon tags.  This new stock supply proved great momentum for tourism too.  Attracting anglers and sport fishermen from all across the Pacific North West, to fill resorts and hotels, cheer up cafes and restaurants and communicate an economic insurgence throughout the localities.  Roadside stands selling the catch of the day were also setup by Nk’mip Resort, catering to an eagerly revolving door of wine visitors, campers, recreational tourists, locals and passers-through, all of whom are spreading the word.  Although salmon fishing still remains small-scale, it may one day serve to compliment the vivacious wine tourism industry.  With salmon making its way into Skaha and eventually Okanagan lakes, the future appears bright.

However, before you go off hop, skipping into the sunset, let’s be clear about one thing: just because we’ve seen a return of salmon to the Okanagan Valley, doesn’t mean all our troubles are over, (or at the very least, prolonged).  The wound runs deep, the likes of which will not heal or medicate with just a band-aid.  What we need is more awareness and involvement in environmental conservation and protection.  To educate our children and cultivate greater insight into the interconnected workings of the natural world, so that they will in turn be at the vanguard of saving our planet.  Salmon conservation is not just a good start, it is an excellent start.  But it is only the start.  Just like the salmon run – the perilous struggle, hardship and determination – the onus of the rest of the journey is on all of us.

North America’s Number One Wine Destination

Screen Shot 2014-08-29 at 1.58.42 PMCanada’s wine country is the embodiment of subtle beauty.  The poignant landscapes of the Okanagan Valley, found cradled the heart of British Columbia’s southern interior are nothing short of majestic.  It’s not difficult to see why people from all around the world are flocking to partake in the Okanagan experience.  It has, up until quite recently, been the great north’s well kept secret.
    A mix of sand, gravel and clay form the foundation of the Okanagan’s extending vineyards, where vintners work a gentle hand upon the landscape, refurnishing with accents of Pinot, Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Gewürztraminer.  10,000 acres of planted grapes, cultivated by a slew of international and local award winning wineries, bedeck the internal and external landscapes with insight and sophistication.  Many wineries such as Tinhorn Creek, Quail’s Gate and Mission Hill contribute to the cultural pulse of the Okanagan, bringing in world renowned musicians, artists, and performances to entertain the summer twilight.  Paired with world class cuisine and wine, the experience transcends perfection, moving into the unforgettable.  But it’s not just the majesty of wine country that captivates and inspires.  The Okanagan is also home to world class restaurants, resorts and retreats, catering to a host of seasonal agendas encouraged by a surplus of recreation activities and attractions. 
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Despite this incredible scene, the region remains small-scale and rather underdeveloped by international standards.  After all, when compared to the big whigs of France, Australia, Spain and Italy, Canada is nothing but a blip on the radar.  However, when USA Today named the Okanagan Valley as the world’s second best wine region to visit amongst a list of ten worldwide wine destinations, heads began to turn.  The ranking, compiled by votes from its readers as part of the newspaper’s Reader’s Choice 2014 Awards, saw the Okanagan bested only by Alentejo in south-central area of Portugal, making it the number one destination in North America.  No dScreen Shot 2014-08-29 at 1.58.55 PMoubt the Okanagan wine region deserves all the global accolades.  In fact, it’s a miracle the recognition hasn’t come sooner.  Vantage points are found anywhere and everywhere in the Okanagan: along the water, at the boundary of a tumbling bluff or from a roosting mountaintop.  Essence of bolsom root, and sage bloom, while the call of the osprey and loon offers up a song of creation, keeping this little piece of heaven in orbit.  And it truly is a piece of heaven.  It’s resplendent beauty appears frozen in time, kept pristine by the careful hands of its keeper.  The Okanagan Valley truly is in a league of its own.  And forget the juggernaut’s of the wine industry. Exchanging overpopulated, overworked, exhausting landscapes of commercial virility, for intimate, rustic, homespun charm is nothing short of common sense.   And while we can’t help but think that the region is just about to be launched into the fog of fame and exploit, much like the trending Croatian Adriatic coast as the new French Riveria, the region remains, for the time being, self-effacing and small-scale: all the reasons we love to love it.  After all, it’s not just our Okanagan.  It’s the world’s Okanagan.  To experience, what anyone who has been there will recognize as, its subtle beauty.


Boonstock Deconstructed

Screen Shot 2014-08-11 at 10.29.10 AMBoonstock Penticton.  A summertime zenith of hipsters, pop fans, instagram addicts and exhibitionists.  An assessment of trail-and-error.  A disruption of social harmony.  When it comes to music festival culture, controversy is always the principal headliner.  A clash of generations, emblematic of pop culture and diverging philosophies, the social experiment of Boonstock raises questions about law, politics, community, public relations and economy.  Figuratively, the Boonstock anecdote reflects youth culture – contingent upon neoteric channels of modern day communication to feed its frenzy and promote its message.  Stories scandalously appear in all facets of social media, littering Twitter and Facebook and other online commentary feeds and threads where the wildfire of “likes” and “dislikes” reposts, hashtags and tweets spread with reckless abandon.  Amidst the haze of personal interpretation and opinion, a collective synthesis emerges.  Most agree, Boonstock Penticton was, in its own way, a kind of revolution.  Its maiden voyage set out to do and be what appeared at first, quite the impossible. Going up against well-established music festivals across North America, such as Coachella, Arise, Lollapalooza, Sasquatch, Electric Daisy,  Squamish, Shambhala, and Pemberton, Boonstock’s David and Goliath narrative proved early on, it had a lot to live up to.  The proceedings were not without their fair share of melodrama.  Struggling verily against the boomerang of local political rhetoric, issues concerning public safety and security, the potential consequences of an influx of a large external population, and the breakdown of conventionalism in the form of wild heathenism, (i.e. reaching for the lasers, dancing until the crescent sunrise, and existing in a dust bowl of empty beverage containers pursuing an army of squatting tents), Boonstock organizers and sponsors remained, (until the very last minute) locked in an uphill battle. The decision to host the event in Penticton British Columbia, was by far, one of the festival’s greatest attainments. A renowned summer mecca for wine-lovers, outdoor enthusiasts, sports fans, snowbirds and holiday makers, the town boasts of some of the world’s most breathtaking scenery.

Located in the heart of the South Okanagan Valley, the semi-arid climate situated at the tip of the Osoyoos Desert, makes sunshine a constant companion.  Refuge can be taken in the mountains, along the waterfront or anywhere in between, with an array of activities, attractions and amenities that cater to all.  The site for Boonstock was a calculated arrangement.  Access to water was a necessity, (adjacent to Skaha Lake via a private path through a sanguine sandy beach) as well as tree’d and shaded retreats for overheated and zealous festivalgoers.  Check.  But then came the issue of security.  Weeks before the event was scheduled to kick off, organizers of the festival announced they were seeking a new security company for the event following a termination of their agreement with International Crowd Management, who cited health and safety concerns with the Boonstock safety plan.  However proponents were confident that the new company, 24/7 Security Ltd.. were ready to work with local event and security professionals, and were confident that Penticton, renowned as a festival city, boasts some of the finest water safety, event security and medical experts in B.C.  This may be true.  Penticton plays host to an array of highly-anticipated festivals and sporting events throughout the year which sees hundreds of thousands of visitors from around the world.  If there ever was an ideal place to present a high profile outdoor summer music festival, it would be Penticton B.C..  Check.  Two for two.  But local politicians and townsfolk were quick to incite hysteria.  Look at what happened in Gibbons, Alberta, the former home of Boonstock for the past nine years.  A home invasion, an arrest involving a drug trade and a handgun, traffic troubles and safety deficiencies all contributed to the stockpile of Boonstock degeneration, prompting its move from Gibbons to Penticton.  Drawing crowds in upwards of 8,000 spectators and festivalgoers a day, it seems likely that some anarchistic discrepancies would be observed.  But surely it is a splinter group.  For most of us in the 8,000-strong fold heralding from across B.C. and Alberta, we enjoy the delights of this transient, abbreviated community strung together by a collective of music, movement and the kind of visceral euphoria one gets from being apart of something. Screen Shot 2014-08-11 at 10.34.13 AM

In truth, music festival culture is in high-demand worldwide and has helped to create some of the most iconic events and places in modern history, putting more obscure towns like Nelson, Pemberton and Squamish on the global map.  In doing so, music festival culture has labored to create its own kind of economy, injecting capital into tourism, hospitality, food and beverage and retail that reap the benefit of both short and long term returns.  A well-established tourist destination, Penticton has the infrastructure to support and contribute to prolific events such as Boonstock, providing festivalgoers the full gambit of summertime activities and amentities outside the festival grounds, which will in turn, see them as repeating customers in the future.  An opportunity to create something prototypical for the small gem-of-a-town in the heart of B.C.’s southern interior, Boonstock may just be the golden ticket.  But then the dark cloud.  Drug overdoses.  80 hospitalized and 1 unfortunate and terrible loss.  A serious stain on the Boonstock image and a sobering admonition into the inherent dangers of drugs and alcohol.  The backlash floods.  Fingers point to deficiencies in security and police presence.  Others blame the heat and the lack of free or cheap bottled water.  But the real concern lies within the nature of the attendees themselves.  How far are they willing to go?  Just last month, the death of a 21-year old engineering student at Pemberton Music Festival sent a shiver through music festival enthusiasts, while two more deaths at the Veld Music Festival in Toronto over August long typified arguments against the entire culture.  Penticton Council member, Katie Robinson was one of the first to speak out against the festival quoted saying, “I’m not a head-banging druggie, so I wasn’t interested in it whatsoever,” only later to revoke her remark in an open letter apology.   But we all can’t help but wonder, are these individual mistakes representative?  Is the music festival scene synonymous with drug and alcohol abuse?  While it may be easy to point fingers in way of the organizers and the town itself, the truth is, no amount of security could reasonably stop young people from doing drugs or abusing alcohol.  In fact, it may be argued that while Boonstock was denied its liquor license due to “unaddressed safety concerns” this subsequently lead festivalgoers to use more drugs than usual.  The loss of alcohol revenue, may have also set a higher price on bottled water, contributing to possible dehydration in the 35+degree Celsius heat.

The truth is, most of us in that 8000-strong crowd believe in the community of Boonstock and in the carol of festival culture that takes root in a deep love for connection in music and people.  And it’s here where our stories emerge.  Most of them teetering on the unforgettable.  A marked experience. A prodigious time.  And we can’t wait until next year to do it all over again, bonded by an impartial boundless experience that will shape who and what we are tomorrow.  The Mayor of Penticton, Gary Litke is now calling for provincial guidelines to be set for large-scale summer festivals, others insist in a direct liaison between festival organizers and city council members.  Most agree that changes will have to be made.  A liquor license should be reconsidered for next year’s event in the face of efficiently planned security that is adequately communicated, and while profit margins are a driving force, essential services such a water and first aid tents should be provided.  In light of recent events, organizers at this past weekend’s Squamish Music Festival prepared a detailed security plan with free water provided at misting stations and bottled water at medical tents. However despite all these precautionary measures, the real responsibility lies within the attendees.  Taking care to stay hydrated, to not over-indulge or abuse certain substances, and remain healthy, will only help to contribute to an overall positive music festival scene.  In the end, the real message is of love and community – to share the passion we all feel for music and movement.  That, above all, should be the real driving force behind such events.  Why do we do it?  To bring people together and propagate ideas for change.  What is it good for?  To create unrivaled experiences with positive impacts that mold the social, political landscapes of our time.  So let’s be smart and do it right.


Big Box Business Takedown & The Consumer Revolution


The North American ethic takes root in a noble spur of personal freedom and liberty.  Entrenched in an ambitious history that chronicles the break from Old World mentalities, the maple leaf encompasses within it, all the social, political and intellectual transformations of our past.  Ideally, Canada is observed worldwide as a place of refuge for the individual thinker – a retreat of hope and equanimity, whereby ideas of liberalism and classlessness herald wide-open spaces that can afford the kind of lebensraum Europeans could only dream of.  Yet this palatial outreach of New World thinking that once forged our nation’s Charter and the United States Declaration of Independence has since become a house of cards.  So what happened to the great idea that was North America?  Perhaps it was simply a case of: too fast too soon.

The hegemony of America’s 21st century corporate capitalism, (birthed from the ashes of the Second World War), gave rise to a new kind of social movement that now threatens the very necessity of Westernmost culture.  Landscaping the hearts and minds of its citizens with empty billboards, ad campaigns, parking lots and shopping malls, the Western Hemisphere has since entered the age of multinational conglomerates and big box businesses.  In the name of all things Americana, these commercial giants have displaced the true spirit of liberalism.  Indoctrinated by the multibillion-dollar crusades that now run our daily lives, (from the cars that we drive, to the clothes we wear, to the food we eat), we, the individual, are no longer our own, rather an extension of the omnipresent brain of corporate commercialism.  In a twisted turn of events, our strife for liberty has seen laissez-fair economics mutate into Frankenstein politics.  In hindsight, it’s hard not to yearn for the simplicity of a life long since passed, a life that curated Old World austerities.

Ironically, it was the very interconnectedness and fundamental community ethics that made European and pilgrim society so successful.  Farmers, shopkeepers and tradesmen, were in direct contact with customers, (often as friends and neighbors), while communal streets lined with small cafes and independent businesses supported complex social structures, reinforced by a collective belief in the value and worth of a commonwealth.  This traditional school of thought promoted the notion that existing with less meant the enjoyment of more.  With priority centered on family, friends, community, philosophy and nature, (the vanguard voices of our humanity), people therefore lived much more deeply, mindfully and joyfully.  Despite the recent dislodgment of the European model by way of modern globalization, there yet remains an Old World sensibility in Europe that Canadians could greatly benefit from.  Having abandoned holistic priorities for a consumer-based precedence of plastics and disposable goods, we, the North American consumer, no longer thinks of what we can do, rather, what can we get – appreciating and understanding the world only by what the world can offer us.

The reality of big box business does not concern the consumer.  The consumer cares little for community and is unaware and apathetic to the impact individual choice and opinion has on the internal and external landscapes of our cities and towns, (which, unbeknownst to the consumer, directly reflects the inner quality of our lives).  Lower pricing, convenience, greater variety, and larger quantities, is what drives the consumer, armed with the conviction that, more is more and bigger is better.  However this misplaced confidence is one of the greatest oversights of the modern age.  In fact, subservience to the big box business model has done nothing but create a deep kind of suffering in the lack of true substance and human connection.   Mistakably, we the consumer, believe that because corporate chains like Target, Walmart and Superstore offer consistency when it comes to experience and environment, as well as more competitive price points and variety, we are in better control of our own lives, able to ascertain the best (perceived) deals.  However in reality, when we adhere to big box businesses, we perpetuate our own cycle of internal, (communal) suffering, giving more power over to the oligarchy of corporate commercialism that ultimately destroys our communities, runs our governments, influences legislation and dictates our lives to the benefit of their own personal bank accounts.  In Truth, there is nothing more enslaving than a self-serving corporate agenda that cares little for democracy and even less for the people.   On the other hand, real empowerment comes from true ownership of our own lives by way of our communities and ourselves.

Consciously choosing to shop local and support smaller, independent business, sees a renewed sense of personal freedom.  Communal integration, customer service and knowledge, reflect our most basic intuitions.  While big box businesses work hard to convince us of their job-creation, economic stimulus and community investment, by lifting the lid to expose the underbelly of the true reality, we immediately observe how the corporate agenda transforms our parks into parking lots, drives wages downward (perpetuating family poverty), marginalizes local shops out of business by displaced sales and places encumbering municipal costs on local government.  All the while culture gives way to endless suburban sprawl where the pulse of the community is ultimately lost.   Conversely, key studies conducted in August 2012 by Civic Economics in Salt Lake City Utah, found that locally owned stores create a wider range of benefits for the local economy and that small businesses donate roughly twice as much per employee to charitable organizations than their large business counterparts.  Furthermore the studies also revealed that big box business reduces a community’s level of social capital, (as measured by voter turnout and the amount of active community organizations). Not to mention the plethora of ethical issues concerning outsourcing overseas, whose big box business factories see underpaid workers laboring for long hours in poor conditions, handling hazardous chemicals without appropriate protection, many of whom are children, twelve years and younger.  But that’s a whole other ball of wax.

In conclusion, the need to sustain and support our communities as a life source for our ultimate peace and happiness is absolutely vital.  In doing so, we are spurred into action – championing a new kind of social movement that calls for the return of our food, our clothes, our bodies and mind.  Amidst the fray, we realign ourselves with fresh priorities and ethics that support social welfare by endorsing the rights and freedoms of the individual rather than the rights and freedoms of the multinationals.  So let’s bring back the culture of the depanneur that celebrates social interaction, empathy and compassion within the orbit of a thriving community.  Let’s opt for quality over quantity and spend a little bit more time and money to cultivate our wellbeing.  Already we are seeing the effects of this impetus.  The rising demand for natural, organic, fair-trade and local products demonstrates a shift in our collective thinking that will in turn, shape the social and political landscapes of tomorrow.    Although big-box stores have their unfortunate place in consumerism, we are reminded of the reality of their presence, and the worth and value in small retailers and local shops.  It is up to us, not just as consumers, but as providers and champions of freedom, to provide our communities with the kind of support they need to survive.  Sometimes we just have to look a little more deeply, to find where the real bargain truly is.

– Elizabeth Cucnik

BC General Election, Tuesday, May 14th!!


In case you haven’t heard, a BC general election is right around the corner, and it’s begging your immediate attention.  Every election by nature is a social and political call to action – a grassroots movement that manifests the democratic process to resonate our very own rights and freedoms.  By casting our voting ballot this Tuesday, May 14th we Canadians and British Columbians will be exercising autonomy in the changing, affecting and casting of our present and future.  Understanding the true power of the people within a democratic culture is about a deep understanding of collective consciousness and the realization of individual choice and personal freedom.  The 40th British Columbia general election will welcome 85 elected members to the BC Legislative Assembly, with potential for profound political and social change depending on the election outcome.  The tightening race for provincial leadership sees two major parties battling it out in a last ditch effort to convince voters of their respective platform and as people begin parking their votes, we see NDP Party currently leading with a 43% rating in the polls, with the Liberals narrowing the gap at 37%.  So just who are the Liberals and NDP anyway and what exactly do they want from us?

If you look carefully at the two frontrunners, you will notice some distinct differences between the 2013 campaign platforms, reflecting the internal dialogue and inner philosophy of the respective parties.  At the forefront we have our current premier, Christy Clark, whose leadership vanguards the BC Liberal campaign under the slogan, “Strong Economy, Secure Tomorrow.”  A basic continuation of the administration’s current strategy, (with the main emphasis focused on debt reduction via taxes), the Liberals have been quick to take aim at the “socialist” NDP opposition, peppering the public with reminders of past NDP failings from decades ago.  If nothing else, it has made for a more exciting campaign, reminding us of Stephen Harper’s 2011 federal campaign platform that focused much of its efforts taking aim against Liberal Michael Ignatieff.  And then, out of left field, came Jack Layton and the NDP.  So what can we expect this time?  Heralding the triumvirate of Liberal catchphrases: Families First, B.C. Jobs Plan, and the professed Balanced Budget, the Liberal’s 90-page plan dangles a glowing forecast for BC’s Liquefied Natural Gas, while dedicating certain strategies in effort to reduce provincial debt and deficit spending.   Orbiting the debt reduction centrepiece are proposals, (which critics have coined as “gimmicks,”) that include a five year freeze on personal income tax, children and teacher tax credits, reduction in corporate and small business tax rates, a promise to train more doctors and increase hospice space, as well as a proposed referendum on transit funding, film incentive policies, and annual forest industry missions to Asia.  However opponents criticize the plan’s lack of content as a reservoir of fatigued ideas buffered by an inexhaustible amount of publicity photos conveying a smiling Clark amidst the blooms of spring.   However many argue that the most entertaining and perhaps revealing publicity stunt came last Friday, when the Liberals took out a full-page ad in a local newspaper, advocating the clear environmental views of Green Party Leader Jane Sterk.  This tactic in apportioning the vote, and diluting the polls, characteristically brings to mind a divide and conquer mentality, which some critics have deemed as, the Liberal’s Trojan horse.

On the other side of the court we have the New Democratic Leader, Adrian Dix, who, despite scrutiny over his past political shortcomings, has revealed a seemingly fresh platform that appears to bring energy to BC’s tired political landscape.  Focusing on the environment, women equality and child poverty, the NDP platform also advocates three consecutive deficit budgets that promise to help BC climb out of the red.  Additionally, the NDP plan guarantees reviews or audits of Community Living B.C., BC Ferries, fracking, B.C.’s liquor laws and independent power projects.  With discussions over the possible sale of BC Place and the Vancouver Trade and Convention Centre, (which would release the province of a debt-plagued BC Pavilion Corporation), it seems the Liberal’s bid to paint the NDP as an oppressive “socialist” force may prove to be fundamentally misleading.  However, dissimilar to the Liberals, it seems unlikely an NDP government would support the expansion of the Kinder Morgan pipeline, following recent statements made my Dix insisting the party will never support Vancouver as a major oil export port.

In brief, during the next few days proceeding Tuesday’s election, its important that we, the voters, really take the time to review exactly who these people are and what they stand for – asking the more difficult introspective questions: what do they want from us, and more importantly, what we want from them?  In dedicating time to understanding our democratic process, we in turn, dedicate time to understanding ourselves – respecting the culture and community in which we live and thrive.   Whether Liberal, NDP, Green or Conservative, the only real change comes from your hands alone.

-Elizabeth Cucnik

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What Should We Do About Kim-Jong-un?

Youth often times proves a torrent of wind and wild fire.  Like a geyser spouting unpredictable fits of brilliance, its strength and weakness no doubt lies in its reckless abandon.  Without mindfulness or fear of consequence, youth can manifest like a runaway freight train, consuming everything in its path.  If history is anything to go by, we know that youthful fervour has the potential to destroy as much as it does to inspire.  Caligula and Nero taught us that, paving the way for the likes of Alexander III of Macedon and King Henry VIII, who are just a few among a long list of despotic youths that blot the human saga.  Without want of another cliché, we reluctantly usher a new era of youth by the ascension of Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s Supreme Leader and the world’s youngest head of state.  Since assuming leadership, the 29-year son of the late Kim Jong-il has already threatened to attack Washington with nuclear weapons, declared a state of war with neighbouring South Korea and warned diplomats to evacuate the peninsula.  We ask, why? We say how?  After all, this isn’t Rome 40 AD.  Yet notwithstanding all 21st conveniences, technologies and rhetoric, our instincts seem to be the same as they were 2000 years ago – only now they are charged by nuclear power.

The belligerence of North Korea induces a clear take-home message: nuclear war remains a serious threat.  Despite decades of extensive humanitarianism, counterinsurgency and counterterrorism efforts on both sides of the hemisphere, it seems the Cold War never really thawed.  While North Korea’s antagonisms continue, a feverish Asian arms race has begun, which collectively, (for the first time), exceeds military spending in Europe.  However amidst all this jostling for power, a pageant of east-meets-west sees an unlikely alliance between the United States and China.  In tandem with the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, the two superpowers have come together on strategy and deliberation, recognizing North Korea’s lack of experience with certain technologies, lack of nuclear and missile capacity, UN sanctions, and strained global diplomatic relations.  However, despite this, Kim Jong-un remains, an unshakable youth.

So who is this Kim Jong-un anyway?  Of all the political and military positions young Kim has assumed over the years, (which altogether seem quasi comedic), the latest title of Supreme Leader of North Korea is by far, the most disconcerting.  After all, the title assumes power over an ultra-nationalistic government that not only occupies a hot seat with Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, but also seeks to join the nuclear power club via fear and exhibition. The lack of biographical information available on Kim Jong-un however, provokes a greater unease within the international community.  What little we do know about the mysterious youth is a silhouetted profile that casts a much bigger shadow than the man himself.

Having attended a western education in Switzerland under the alias, Un Pak, Kim Jong-un went on to complete two degrees from both Kim Il-sung University and Kim Il-sung Military University, (albeit with reportedly poor attendance and grades).  Coveting a love for Yves Saint Laurent cigarettes, Johnnie Walker whiskey, and Eric Clapton’s music, the Mercedes-Benz-driving, twenty-something has been described by former classmates as being, “obsessed with basketball and computer games.” Recent reports testify to a rise in luxury goods creeping into North Korea, which reveal an expensive taste in French couture.  Of course, it is no secret that Kim Jong-un favors a luxurious lifestyle of heavy drinking and partying, attested by former personal chef, Kenji Fujimoto.  Having disclosed certain details about their relationship, Fujimoto has been quoted saying, “he has superb physical gifts, is a big drinker and never admits defeat.”

Now you may think Johnnie Walker, Eric Clapton and Michael Jordan have little to do with nuclear threat, but in fact, they tell us a lot about the kind of person the world might be dealing with.  The excessive dualistic depiction of Kim Jong-un evokes a cruel irony. Much like a nymphomaniac sworn to celibacy, Kim Jong-un appears to be of two minds – a split personality, riven by his commitment to North Korea’s internal juche ideology and his love for external superfluities.  This hypocrisy sheds light on North Korea’s latest provocations.  They appear as Kim Jong-un – without substance, without mindfulness and without truth.  So the world should take care.  While Washington and Beijing attempt to engage Pyongyang in diplomatic talks, (engaging in critical thinking to get to the root of the problem), critics argue that it may not be enough.  The tricky thing about an eye for an eye is that both parties end up losing their eye and when it comes to nuclear power, that’s one big eye.

Despite the downplay of North Korea’s military grandiloquence in recent weeks, the country continues to stand strong on preconditions for resuming talks with the West, and has publicly refused to abandon its nuclear program.  Indeed if any diplomatic resolution is to be met, it appears it will have a great deal to do with the resolve of one such fiery and albeit unpredictable youth.  North Korea’s internal state structure allows for little upward flow when it comes to information and options, making a myopic gamut of Kim Jong-un’s decision-making process.  So while hope lingers for a nuclear-free world, it may very well be the Kim’s of today, concealed in all their western finery, who will determine what future we share tomorrow.  Whiskey, World of War Craft and a whole lot of Basketball.  Doesn’t sound too bad… Oh yeah and did we mention nuclear power?  Long range missiles?   We shouldn’t get too cozy while youth has its finger on the trigger.  After all, superior physical gifts, heavy drinking and an unwillingness to ever admit defeat might just the perfect formula for a global nuclear meltdown.


Is It Wise To Bring Back Extinct Species?

Last month, National Geographic sponsored a TEDx conference in Washington DC centered on the possibility and implications of reviving extinct species.  The platform transcended principle and theory, submerging its panel into the murky waters of morality.  Capable of resurrecting something that no longer exists back into existence seems like a charlatan parlor trick, and yet it is far from quackery.  Plucked straight from realm of the incredible, new age technologies now make it possible to pursue ideas of “de-extinction.”  In light of this recent development in genetic science, appositions and contradictions emerge.  Rethinking the covenants between God and man, the relevance of nature and evolution, and the rights, responsibilities and considerations of humanity, a worthy idiom comes to mind – if you play with fire, you get burned.

Of course, human hubris has been the principle cause for many species extinctions since the Neolithic conception of civilization.  Some such species include the Carolina parakeet, the moa, the quagga, the dodo, the thylacine, the passenger pigeon, the Pyrenean ibex, the baiji river dolphin and the huia.  Annihilated by over hunting and disruption of natural habitats, with the latest extinction on the list, (the baiji river dolphin) having occurred as recently as 2006.  However, some of the other species on the hot seat, up for de-extinction consideration are the wooly mammoth, the wooly rhinoceros, the saber-toothed cat, the ground sloth and the Irish elk.  Unlike their short-term extinct counterparts, these prehistoric animals vanished 4 -11,000 years ago during the Quaternary extinction event of the Mesolithic epoch.  It was at this time, that the eradication of many ice age megafauna across Eurasia and North America took place.

Naturally, the practical criteria for “de-extinction” directly depends on access to tissue with good quality DNA samples and/or germ cells in order to reproduce the species.  However, other deliberations over species reintegration focus on speculation over successful therapy and rehabilitation programs, as well as considerations over ecological function.  From this, certain fundamental questions arise.  What are the ramifications of reviving an extinct species?  Are we testing fate by playing God’s hand with the state of nature?  Is it our responsibility to revive and restore a certain species regardless if we had a hand in their demise?  Proponents argue that while extinct species and those endangered are both a part of the same continuum, studying them will therefore help preservation efforts in biodiversity, restoring diminished ecosystems and advancing the science of preventing further extinctions.  Moreover, by reintroducing the wooly mammoth and rhinoceros, the European auroch, and the passenger pigeon for example, carbon-fixing grass, as well as reducing greenhouse-gas-releasing tundra and bio-diverse meadows may be reintroduced.  Others argue that reviving extinct species has the potential to create a less complacent and more compassionate outlook on the global ecosystem, inspiring the protection of whole regions.
However, as noble as these intentions may appear, intuitively something just doesn’t feel right.  Maybe it’s the uncanny images conjured by Stephen King’s Pet Sematary, or the provocative Jurassic Park franchise, or the metaphorical understandings of Mary Shelly’s, Frankenstein that evoke a visceral apprehension.  After all, they connote a common principal: actions have consequences.   Firstly, one must consider the long list of endangered species that are currently occupying our rapidly disappearing natural habitats – habitats that are in desperate need of vast monetary contribution and support for conservation and sustainability.  Why bring back the wooly mammoth when we can’t even support the dwindling demographic of our African elephants?  Furthermore, it may very well be that de-extinction serves to create more complacency rather compassion for the critical state of our global ecosystem by trivializing the impact of extinction.  Why should we care if the polar bear goes extinct when we can simply revive the species in the future?  While resurrecting those species that have only recently become extinct may, in some ways, prove to be beneficial to our current global ecosystem, bringing back prehistoric extinctions however would not be so practical or advantageous.  The cyclic nature of our planet has bore whiteness to the rise and fall of millions of species throughout the ages as the world has shifted, shuddered and shed its skin again and again and again.  Reviving a species that no longer has a place or meaning in the world today would only create confusion, distortion and misplacement, disrupting that natural cycle upon which all things depend.

Apart from the fact that reviving extinct species will be a costly, difficult enterprise that will take decades to complete, questions of ethics and morality dominate the think tank.  An extension of our expedient culture, de-extinction should, in all realness, be perceived as a manifestation of our social conscience.  As we play the Modern Prometheus, de-extinction sees humankind flexing the muscles of our relentless curiosity in an audacious display of, look-what-I-can-do-simply-because-I-can.  In this sense, we, the human, assume autocracy and god-like superiority over all things, living and dead, without a care for the inevitable consequences. Considering humankind’s nature, it seems likely some of these extinct species might soon be seeing the glowing effervescence of a stark, impassive 21st century medical laboratory.  However there is some sense to be found amidst all this senselessness.  At the end of the day, human beings are simply animals ourselves – the homo sapien sapien, struggling within our own orbit of existence that is apart of a greater whole.  Regardless of how disruptive and albeit, unnatural our thoughts and actions may appear at times, the truth holds: collectively, everything that defines us is an expression of naturalism itself.  Paper or plastic. Buildings or mountains.  Mammoth or elephant.  So we ask ourselves, why?  And the answer may very well be, why the heck not?  Does it really truly matter, when in the course of time, we all end up in the same place anyway.

-Elizabeth Cucnik





Reality Through A Different Lens

As we make our morning coffee, pay our bills, greet our co-workers, send emails and texts, pick our kids up from school, and catch the tail end of a late night movie, it’s easy to forget such humdrum is not the totality of existence nor the sum of reality.  Just beyond our blue borders, an ostensible infinite of planets, galaxies, stars, matter and energy disturbs and distorts, prompting our own insignificance.  At the edge of the abyss our beloved earth, home and heart, remains nothing more but a spectrum of trifling consciousness, entertaining a momentary outburst of cosmic expression… In truth, reality here on earth and in the infinite space beyond, exists by immeasurable forms.  Successions of interpretive information, reality is therefore incumbent upon perception – that is, how its intelligence is received and processed.  And while there are a vast number of receptors able to receive reality beyond our own consciousness, (be it a virus, a simple or complex biotic organism, or matter and energy) totality of existence by way of reality is therefore extremely volatile, subjective and indefinite.  There is no better way of deconstructing reality than the study of astronomy, astrophysics and quantum mechanics.  Journeys into the universe via science and technology have revealed time and space to be relative and superfluous, reality, indistinguishable, and the tangible, mere abstractions.   So what do we make of this overwhelming infinite impossibility?

For millennia, fascination of the starlit unknown has driven the appetite of humanity.  Studying the cosmos by analyzing light emitted from stars, gas clouds and galaxies, human beings have thrived for thousands of years within budding interpretations, contradicting philosophies and juxtaposing realities that have since propelled our own social and technological evolutions.  However, the most prominent developments in our understanding of the universe have only truly been realized within the last two decades.  New complex and advanced technologies now deliver the kind of support needed to interpret forms of electromagnetic radiation. These radio waves, X-rays, infrared radiation and gamma rays, provide information on imperceptible areas of the universe, thus shedding light on what was once darkness.   One of the most prominent places for studying such marvels is the Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory at White Lake.  Just a short distance from Penticton, British Columbia, the observatory was first established in 1959 to advance the field of astrophysics in Canada by exploring the universe using radio techniques. The radio astronomy observatory, under the National Research Council of Canada’s Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics, is Canada’s largest and most prominent, situated within a carefully secluded and federally protected area, free from interference of man-made radio signals.  To date, much of the research conducted at the observatory has corresponded to the study of hydrogen, the most abundant chemical element found in the universe.  By studying the distribution of this cosmic building block in the Milky Way, astronomers have since been able to partly reveal the structure of our galaxy and universe.  Other studies conducted at the observatory have also observed solar activity and charted other radio sources, (such as quasars and distant galaxies) as well as a large portion of the Milky Way itself.  However the most remarkable innovation to take place at DRAO is essentially, a time-travel machine.  Of course it won’t be humans travelling through time and space, rather a cutting-edge, highly advanced radio telescope, which will receive information emitted billions of years ago from our early universe in order to better understand its history and future.

The $11-million Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Experiment, (CHIME) will be the first telescope built in the country in over 30 years, and will be Canada’s largest radio telescope to date.  Funded in part by a $4.6 million investment from the Canadian Foundation for Innovation, renowned astrophysicists from University of British Columbia, McGill University, the University of Toronto as well as the DRAO will all be collaborating on the project.  Dr. Mark Halpern, UBC astrophysicist and projected leader said, “Canada has been very, very effective in astronomical research but this is a standalone, entirely important Canadian experiment and we’re proud of that.”  While a mystified scientific community continues to grapple with the fact that our universe is expanding at an accelerating rate, accosting preconceived notions of gravity and cosmic composition, newfound hopes have been placed on the success of this innovative telescope in order to provide greater insight and answers into the why’s, what’s, where’s and how’s.  The radio telescope will listen for cosmic sound waves and analyze electromagnetic radiation, using components from the cellphone industry to digitally collect and interpret signals nearly one billion times per second in order to map the distribution of hydrogen and synthesize a three-dimensional image of one quarter of the observable universe.  Radiation coming from the most far-off galaxies will allow researchers to observe billions of years into the past to deduce how the universe first expanded.  While scientists believe the thrust of this expansion is derived from an energy density known as ‘dark energy’, (that is, an unperceivable object that does not give off light), information from the new telescope will potentially reveal more about its composition, (which is said to make up nearly 70 per cent of the known universe).  “It’s almost like time travel,” said Kris Sigurdson, an astrophysicist from UBC and co-investigator on the project. “It’s looking back into the past and how the universe was at that time and it’s just amazing.”

The CHIME telescope is set to be the most sensitive instrument in the world for this kind of research.  With no moving parts, the full size telescope will feature a 100 meter by 100 meter mesh that will entertain 10,000 square meters of ‘collecting area’, (larger than six NHL hockey rinks) filled with 2,560 low-noise receivers.  Collectively, these receivers will scan half of the sky every day, gathering the electromagnetic radiation in the form of radio waves.  The data will then be submitted and analyzed in partner labs at UBC, McGill University and the University of Toronto.  However, as a measure of trial and error, work is only now underway to build a smaller “pathfinder” test telescope, about one tenth of the size of the real-deal, scheduled to be operational in April.  This smaller version will enable scientists to confirm the success of all components in the environment before the equipment for the larger telescope is ordered.  If the smaller version works as planned, construction on the full-scale model will proceed in late 2014.

So as we make our way about this little planet, day in and day out, to perceive reality and light and time and space in our own way, it is important to remind ourselves of the greater picture: the superior home and heart to which we belong and the infinite totality of existence in which we are an expression.  Innovations such as CHIME are beacons in that darkness, a chance for us to reach out and grasp at our beginnings and our ends, to make sense of a senseless place that might only be understood by a fleeting illumination born in the innermost seed of being – the fundamental of existence and non-existence.  So what do we make of the universe knocking at our door?  We embrace it with arms wide open.  We surrender and bloom.  We thrive in our own unknowing, and we love all that is and all that is not.   This is only the beginning.

-Elizabeth Cucnik