Mark Meer is possibly the most affable fellow in showbiz. He’s a terrific stage actor, voice artist, and improviser, and I’ve known him since we were both cartoonists at university and worked together in the sketch comedy troupe The 11:02 Show. He’s best known as the voice of Commander Shepard from BioWare’s Mass Effect trilogy and has done other video games including Gods of Rome and Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced.
And he’s not just someone whom fans love—he’s a fanboy himself, and attended numerous conventions in costume. He’s literally a pro at cons. He’s also appeared in short films such as Tar Zombies Barbecued and Flight of the Polar Bear; and he’s been a stalwart of the Edmonton theatre community for decades in ongoing longform improv such as Die-Nasty! and Gordon’s Big Bald Head. And if that weren’t enough, many radio listeners in Canada and the US know him as one of the actors in The Irrelevant Show.
In today’s episode of MF GALAXY, Mark Meer and I discuss:
We spoke at Meer’s home in Edmonton’s theatre-arts district on July 4, 2017.
When the New Democratic Party of Alberta formed a majority government in 2015, I quipped that night that Alberta had just become a Western democracy. After all, it was the first time in forty years that the governing Progressive Conservative Party had been voted out.
But my joke depressed me. After all, it’s just not normal or healthy for any jurisdiction, let alone one of two economic engines of a G-7 liberal democracy, to be shackled to any one party for almost half a century. My joke depressed me because it meant we were just a petro-state. But hey, even Alaska under Sarah Palin paid higher oil royalties to its citizens than Conservative Alberta did. What is up with that?
But two years into the NDP’s first provincial government, the devastated PC party and the official opposition Wild Rose party have merged under the slogan “Unite the Right.” Yep, that slogan. Just a coincidence? Sure… and yet as it turns out, if you drew a Venn diagram of the US “Unite the Right” constituency and that of the Wild Rosers, you’d find at the centre many of the same type of toxically racist, sexist, anti-queer, anti-Muslim, anti-Jewish media personalities, shadowy funders, and gun fanatics. In some cases, you’d find the exact same people on both sides of the border.
In Alberta, the Unite the Right merger produced the United Conservative Party, which turns into the great acronym UCP, or as some apparently want it to be “u-kip,” to sound like the United Kingdom Independence Party that created Brexit and emboldened racists across Britain.
There are two front-runners for the leadership of the UCP: former Wild Rose leader Brian Jean, and former PC leader Jason Kenney. Both have enjoyed the attention that ultra-right-wing Canadian media has given them. Days after the racist torchlight rally and terrorist attack in Charlottesville, Brian Jean and Jason Kenney each stated they would no longer appear on one far-right site in particular, but neither explained why they’d appeared on it for years throughout its constant Islamophobic publication.
Another firebrand of the UCP and beneficiary of right wing media, legislator Derek Fildebrandt, is now formerly of the UCP. Just recently he resigned from the brand-new caucus as the result of three scandals: double-dipping on meal reimbursements, profiting from his taxpayer-financed housing by offering it on Air B-n-B, and doing a hit-and-run on a neighbour’s car.
Fildebrandt has always been a fiery figure—if not a lake of fiery figure—in that movement, and his work in the Canadian Taxpayers Federation combined with his recent spending and profiting has rubbed many folks raw. What does his future hold? Will the UCP welcome him back in time for the next election?
Joining me to analyse all the above is David Climenhaga, who is “an award-winning journalist, author, post-secondary teacher, poet, and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions at the Toronto Globe and Mail and Calgary Herald. He holds a Master’s Degree in Journalism from the Carleton University School of Journalism in Ottawa. His 1995 book, A Poke in the Public Eye, explores the relationships among Canadian journalists, public relations people and politicians.” Climenhaga blogs at AlbertaPolitics.ca.
We spoke last week on August 16, 2017 at Climenhaga’s office in downtown Edmonton. Full disclosure: I have volunteered for the provincial and federal New Democratic Party, and have also provided paid public speaking training for some of its members.
Today’s show lets me reach back into the archive for a conversation with a remarkable man who died far, far too young. That man was the Sudanese-Canadian musician, singer, lyricist, music producer, and band leader Tarig Abubakar.
Abubakar came to Canada in 1988 to build his fame and fortune in North America, and despite a rocky start he’ll tell you about in this episode, he formed his pan-African band the Afro-Nubians, toured the country four times, and delighted hundreds of audiences across Canada. He also released three superb albums: 1994’s Tour to Africa, 1995’s The Great Africans, and 1997’s Hobey Laik. His bandmates included guitarist Adam Solomon, Joe Slant, and Mohammed Hagelamin. Together they were named band of the year at the Toronto African Music Awards.
Tragically in 1998 while visiting his home country, Abubakar died in a car accident. He was only 34. In 2005, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation released a CD of two Afro-Nubians’ concerts. Thanks to streaming services, you can access some of the albums any time you want.
In the summer of 1995, I met Abubakar at Edmonton’s Mayfair Hotel the afternoon before his gig at the now-long-gone Sidetrack Café. We discussed:
On a personal note, twenty-two years ago when I recorded this interview, I was a young man who’d lost little in my life. I had no idea that Abubakar had only a few more years on this planet. In the decades since I’ve lost far more than I ever expected, including some of the most important people in my life. I’ve been producing today’s show over the last two days and hearing Abubakar’s voice and his stunning music from back before I lost all those people. And as it’s August 14, 2017, I’ve also been reacting to all the horrible news about the terrorist attack in Charlottesville and wondering about how we’re all going to defend ourselves, because it’s going to get worse, I’m sorry to say.
So hearing Abubakar and his ideas and his songs has been especially powerful. We lost him when he was too young and he had so much more to give, especially with his message of unity and his undying love of African peoples. I hope wherever he is, he knows we still remember his music and we still remember him.
This show is mostly about creators in various fields showing and proving what they know about how to make what they make and how to make money from what they make.
Today we get to combine two fields: making movies and making novels. Jeff Carroll is an amazing creator. He's worked as a booker at comedy clubs and also managed comedians, which gave him access to plenty of working comics whom he could cast the movies he wrote and produced, including his Blaxploitation/ B-Movie/ Grindhouse films such as Holla If I Kill You and the award-winning Gold Digger Killer.
When his distributor went belly-up and took his money beyond the grave, Carroll leveraged his existing intellectual property by turning one of his features into a novel. He's also a speaker and known online as Yo Jeff the Hip Hop Dating Coach. So the man definitely knows how to hustle to keep on reaching audiences through multiple venues.
In today's episode of MF GALAXY, Jeff Carroll discusses:
We spoke by Skype on June 23, 2017.
Hip hop at its finest is a poetical, political voice for those whose voices have been silenced; it speaks to the anger, the dignity, and the triumphant joy of the oppressed. If hip hop is the music of the dispossessed, then no one in North America should have a greater claim on it than the First Nations. Combine that revolutionary rage and cultural crucible with artistic passion and power, and you have what was Canada’s finest hip hop band—WAR PARTY.
Formed in 1995 under the leadership of Maskwacis Cree artist, lead vocalist, and executive producer Rex Smallboy, and co-vocalists Cynthia Smallboy, and Thane Saddleback, War Party won the Canadian Aboriginal Music Award for Best Rap Album in 2001, and were the first Indigenous crew featured on Canada’s Much Music channel. The video for “Feeling Reserved” exploded across Canadian television in 2001 with a powerful set of voices and images that was thankfully bling-bling- and booty-shaking-free. Instead, the video showed everyday people with extraordinary voices and lyrical intelligence, denouncing settler-colonial genocide.
War Party performed with Ice-T, Wu-Tang Clan, Guru, Maestro Fresh Wes and K-OS among many others, and recently Chuck D. recorded an introduction for the new album “The Resistance.” The band got global attention by representing Canada at the World Expo in Nagoya, Japan and for performing for the First Americans Festival at the Smithsonian Museum.
Fiercely proud of their Cree heritage specifically and their First Nations heritage generally, the band refused to fall into the trap of not wanting to be known as “Native rappers.” Their embrace of their heritage made them universal, in the same way that Miriam Makeba, Public Enemy, or Nusrat Khan are emblems of their people, and emblems of human culture, struggle, and aspiration generally.
While the group has since splintered into factions, one of which is named RezOfficial, their original ground-breaking work lives on. Rex Smallboy continues to make albums and also works as a motivational speaker.
In the summer of 2004, I spoke with band members Rex Smallboy and his then-wife Cynthia at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. You can hear Cynthia Smallboy in the bonus content for today’s show. Rex and I discussed:
Note that our conversation includes reference to the Cree Nation’s reserve that was once called Hobbema, about 90 minutes south of Edmonton. The reserve finally discarded that German name and is now called Maskwacis.