Ahmed Knowmadicis an award-winning performance poetwho—unlike most writers and performers—has been earning his living through his craft for the last three years by entertaining and enlightening people around the planet.
He’s performed for audiences in the thousands, and in March 2015 the British Council and the Norwich Writer Centre invited him to represent Canada during the International Literature Network conference.
Born in Mogadishu, Somali, in 1984, Ahmed migrated with his three older brothers and his mother to Italy during the collapse of the Somali state. Finding Italy inhospitable to his culture and religion, Ahmed and his family moved again—this time, to Canada.
After a troubled stint in Ontario and an even more troubling trip back to Somalia, he returned to Canada to study theatre and comedy writing, and even performed for Second Cityand various open mic nights in Toronto.
Finally settling in the Big Ein 2008, Ahmed integrated himself into the city’s poetry scene and brought all his life and artistic experience—including comedy—to his writing and performances. Joining with a group of like-minded young performance poets, together they founded the Breath in Poetry Collectivewhich not only performs poetry, but provides artistic and even business mentorship.
In 2011, Ahmed became the spoken word champion at the nation-wide Canadian Festival of Spoken Word, and won the RISE awardfor community involvement in arts and culture. In 2013 he was Artist in Residence at the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute in Seattle. He continues to excite and magnify E-Town’s poetry scene including by working with young people at conferences, in schools, and through various community organizations.
I recorded this episode’s conversation with Ahmed Knowmadic in October 2014 at Authorpalooza, a live talk-show author series I ran while I was writer in residence for the Department of English and Film Studies at the University of Alberta.
You’ll hear Ahmed perform his poem “Ignorance Infomercial,”and explain how other people’s rudeness forced him to make his text and performances as dynamic and engaging as possible. He’ll also discuss his experiences engaging the people of the Somali diaspora, including traditional elders and the delegates to a massive conference in the Somali capitol of North America.Finally, he’ll present his own advice for new poets, tell what drives him crazy about slam poetry, and reveal the danger of trying to please the audience. He begins by performing one of his most famous poems, “I Am Africa.”
To get all the bonus content, download the special EXTENDED EDITION of MF GALAXY, including a performance of one of Ahmed Knowmadic’s most powerful poems and an additional, never-before-aired interview, and the video of that interview! To download this extended edition of MF GALAXY, simply become a sponsor of the show for a dollar or more per episode.
The Canadian feature The Corporationis one of the most acclaimed and electrifying documentaries in recent memory, which examines corporations as one of the most dangerous institutions on the planet.
Beginning with the legal principle in the United States and Canada that corporations are “persons,” the documentary then asks the question, “If they are persons, what kind of persons are they?”
According to the fourth Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders published by the American Psychiatric Association, corporations as persons meet the definition of psychopaths, that is, people unable to experience remorse.
Such a psychological defect turns such individuals into parasites and predators. A smaller number of them become killers. While the word psychopath and its one-time synonym sociopath have been replaced by the wordy phrase “Anti-Social Personality Disorder,”the meaning remains the same, and as the documentary explores, a potent and revealing way to explain and predict corporate behaviour, and perhaps to curtail and punish it.
In March 2004, Jennifer Abbott, one of The Corporation documentary’s directors, came to Edmonton to unveil her film which features interviews with major figures such as political analyst Noam Chomsky, documentarian Michael Moore, economist Milton Friedman, CEO Ray Anderson, journalist Naomi Klein, labour crusader Charlie Kernaghan, and commodities trader Carlton Brown, each of whom defends or attacks corporations.
During our conversation, we spoke of many of the film’s most dramatic moments, including the sequence depicting the attempt by the transnational corporation Bechtel to privatize the water supply of an entire country—including by making illegal the collection of rain water—and the inspiring revolt against that attack on national sovereignty and natural rights.
One aspect of the conversation you may find jarring is our eleven-year-old perspective on some events such as the illegal US invasion of Iraq, or political figures such as then-Prime Minister of Britain Tony Blair, then-President of the United States George W. Bush, and then-Prime Minister of Canada Paul Martin.
Throughout the show, you’ll hear clips from the documentary. Go to MFGalaxy.org to see some clips. Visit The Corporation.com to purchase a DVD of the film, and to contribute to the film-makers’ crowdfunding effort to give the film for free to one thousand schools.
To hear the special extended edition of this episode of MF GALAXY with 20 extra minutes of my conversation with Jennifer Abbott, become a patron of MF GALAXY. The more you pledge, the larger your rewards, but as little as 25 cents per week gets you access to all the extended editions of the show. Remember: You can power this podcast. So do it.
That’s Rick Green, the legendary sketch comedy writer and actor and literary TV journalist. He co-founded the comedy troupe The Frantics with Dan Redican, Paul Chato, and Peter Wildman, and co-wrote and co-starred in their short-lived but superb TV show Four on the Floor. He also worked on The Red Green Show, The No Name Show, and All in Good Taste.
WhileGreen may be best known as the host of the science fiction and fantasy literary show Prisoners of Gravity and the history-media-satire History Bites, he’s received widespread acclaim for ADD & Loving It, a comedic-scientific look at Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder that The Globe & Mail called “brilliant.”
In today’s episode, I speak with Rick Green about:
This episode’s conversation is from sublevel 19 in the archives of the Grand Lodge of Imhotep. It’s never been aired before now. I spoke with Rick Green during the Pure Spec con at the Edmonton Convention Centre on October 04, 2009.
We began by discussing the deeper purpose of History Bites. And now on MF Galaxy, my conversation with comedy legend Rick Green.
To purchase Frantics CDs and other merchandise, visit TheFrantics.com
Vandana Shiva is a world-renowned environmentalist and physicist who earned her Ph.D. on “Hidden Variables and Non-locality in Quantum Theory” at the University of Western Ontario. She’s also a featured interviewee in the acclaimed Canadian documentary The Corporation and the author of over three hundred papers and dozens of books. She founded the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology, which according to her website vshiva.net, “works on biodiversity conservation and protecting people's rights from threats to their livelihoods and environment.” She also founded Navdanya, an Indian movement to protect bio-diversity and life-form integrity, especially for native seeds.
Way back in 2004, Shiva spoke in Edmonton for the Revolutionary Speakers Series curated by the University of Alberta Students Union. We met outside an organic chain store in Edmonton’s historic Old Strathcona district to discuss—what else—saving the planet. She explained many things, including:
Along the way, Shiva referenced Percy Schmeiser, the Saskatchewan farmer who battled agribusiness megacorp Monsanto all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada and lost.
We began by discussing the how differences between North American and European cultures affect the relationship between politics and science.
Lyricist, singer, and multi-instrumentalist Maria Dunn is the Edmontonian folk music creator of the acclaimed albums From Where I Stand, For a Song, We Were Good People, The Peddler, and the brilliant Piece by Piece. Those records have won her nominations for the Prairie Music Awards, Canadian Folk Music Award, and the Juno Award, Canada’s equivalent to the Grammys.
Dunn has become famous for her creation of “social art” and historically-themed music. We Were Good People examines the lives of Canadian working folk, including the history of the African-Americans who settled in Alberta and the other prairie provinces more than a hundred years ago to create the first African-Canadian towns in the West.
But of all her socially-engaged work, the most praised has been Piece by Piece. Lyrically, it’s the life stories and labour victories of immigrant women from early 20th Century Ukraine and Italy and mid-20th Century Vietnam, India, and Pakistan, and many other places and times, and how those lives the coalesce inside the GWG jeans factory in Edmonton. Musically, the factory floor of Piece by Piece is North American folk running machines assembled from Celtic strings, Indian sitar, and Ukrainian dance. The album embodies Mark Twain’s sage advice: for art to be timeless, it must never overtly teach or overtly preach, but it must covertly teach and covertly preach. The beautiful voice and music, and the tender and powerful stories of Piece by Piece make it one of the finest achievements in Canadian and indeed North American contemporary art.
Maria Dunn spoke with me in October 2014 onstage at Authorpalooza #1, part of a series of live talk-show writer events I created and hosted while I was the Writer in Residence at the University of Alberta’s Department of English and Film Studies.
She explored many topics, including:
How her artist residency with the Edmonton District Labour Council led her to create Piece by Piece as a live performance including with video accompaniment
The interviews with the women who had made the GWG plant profitable before the bosses shut it down, and how their lives created the stories of the album
The international musical influences in her own life and from the lives of the GWG workers that shaped Piece By Piece musically, including for Dunn the work of the Indo-British experimentalist Sheila Chandra
Her lyrical craft—how she sifted through a biographical garage packed with many lifetimes of keepsakes and treasures, to produce a single mailbox of unforgettable and timeless letters to convey those lives… and the advice she gives to young songwriters who need to move past endless songs of love, love loss, and lust
I began by asking her how she got involved with the project that eventually became her live performance and the album called Piece by Piece. Throughout the show, you’ll hear excerpts from several of its songs.