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As darkness filled the room and people in the audience gossiped, a long line of women streamed on stage in various black outfits.

 Three women stood in a triangle wearing red boas and the women behind them sat in felt red chairs with steel contours, a spotlight directed everybody’s attention at once, the music stopped and so did the banter.

The Vagina Monologues, originally written by Eve Ensler, were presented by Rebecca McLean, who moved the annual event to the Kamloops Convention Center Dinner Theatre for a spectacular opening night Feb. 27, with another show the following night.

Doors opened an hour early for a silent auction where 62 Kamloops artists and businesses donated items to support a non-violent community.

 There was a band called Djembe Django playing while people got drinks and made bids on the silent auction. Ranging from spa certificates, paintings, vagina lollipops and buttons to panties embossed with text that read, “I love my vagina.” Ironically, there were boxers that read, “I love her vagina”.

McLean organized to donate 90% of the proceeds from the show to Kamloops Women’s Resource Centre and the Kamloops Citizens for Respectful Relationships, a non-profit organization that delivers curriculum in the school district to youth in grades 7 to 11 about non-violent relationships. 10% will also go to the VDAY Spotlight Campaign; this year’s theme is the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

“My wife is in the play and she asked me if I wanted to volunteer as an usher tonight,” said Chad Gosselin. “Everybody’s having a few drinks and checking out the silent auction; it all seems so jovial to me.”

Some of the audience’s responses were hysterical and triggered laughing, snorting, gasping, sighing, moaning and interjections from the audience, while other monologues received a solemn response.

“If your vagina could talk what would it say?” the group asked, as Ensler did internationally during the interviews that she conducted from women of all ages. The crowd asked each other the same question. Most women have never been asked such a question and some were dumbfounded by it. Opening night was a huge success and ended with a standing ovation.

 “I wanted to come for the last seven years but I never had anybody to go with,” said Jan Greenwood. “This year I came with my daughter. And I’m so happy to be here because I think that they did exceptionally well, it’s an entirely different kind of acting.”

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Monique

Monique is a former entrepreneur and contemporary hooker, she can often be found on the corner of fourth and Saint Paul Street in downtown Kamloops during the evening. I worked the closing shift as a clerk in the bakery on that same corner, for some Europeans. Monique comes into the shop to chat before she goes “on-shift”. She tells me and Janis, one of my co-workers, about how she left a business that she owned ten years ago because she preferred “hooking”. When I first started working at Erwin’s Fine Bakery in 2007 I thought it was strange to listen to what she had to tell me and Janet each shift. We started working at Erwin’s around the same time and both of us were stuck on the closing shift. The first time Monique came into the shop to talk to us she didn’t try to be discreet about her occupation, instead she told us about how she refused hard drugs but liked to smoke dope from time to time, liked the drink and how if one of her “clients” would offer to buy her a forty pounder of rum she could always take the night off to get drunk and live out this fabulous life she had carved for herself.

By the end of my first week at the bakery these conversations seemed normal to both Janis and I, Monique continued her patronage to the store frequently, often buying cigarettes and gum, regaling us with her latest “business transactions” and buying us Scratch and Win tickets while we cleaned up and served other customers and got ready to close the store. Unlike the staff, the customers did not see these fragments of conversations as a normal part of the routine or of the shopping experience, but Monique never caused any problems for us or for them, she just wanted a friendly ear to be around.

Monique is short and plump, with frizzy bleached blonde hair and the dark brown roots always came through in a thick line amidst her over-sized, medium length fried and dyed hair. She has dark brown eyes, often glassy looking but they always smiled underneath the wrinkles and the big bags below her eyes. You might not notice this kind of thing if you walked by her, because you might not notice a prostitute without an obvious agenda, if you had that agenda my guess is you’d be looking at another part of Monique. She had the gift of the gab, for lack of better words, but she wasn’t interested in talking about things that didn’t involve sex. During one of my shifts she came in and pulled out a bunch of red Durex condoms and put them on the counter looking both me and Janis in the eyes she said, “I get them free from the clinic and I know they’re expensive for young girls like yourselves, so here you go girls—be safe!” I had her description down right to the short faded black skirt she wore. I even had it down to the boots she would be wearing – black, vinyl, thigh highs with lots of kitsch features like chucky buckles and silver hooks, she often paired them with a faded red nylon shirt that had been tie dyed and a bulky dark jacket over top of her clothes, always left unzipped.

I often studied her body language on these visits and our conversations stopped when my hours stopped but I’m not sure if Monique ever stopped working.

Stu Mead

Stu Mead is an artist in Minnesota who can trigger an emotional response to his work.

 Mead’s paintings are making social comments about sex, pornography and degradation in our culture and this is damaging his funding opportunities, which is essential for the survival of any professional artist.

Pornography is designed to enhance sexual experiences but it is not intended to be used as an educational tool.

Mead’s paintings directly approach unacceptable sexual norms like defecation or underage sex. At first glance it can appear vulgar but that’s why his work is good. Mead admitted to Steven Cerio, in an interview done in 1997, that he’s a pervert and that his paintings are intended to put typical males with real control freaks, like a women, into sexual scenarios.

People need to realize that what Mead’s art work says about sexual degradation is often a subject that is typically ignored or discussed privately, he’s not actually performing  the vulgar acts that his art work depicts. He’s just getting a lot of issues that society is too embaressed to discuss out and into the open, let’s talk about these problems.

http://www.stumead.com/index.php/cerio.html

My face, her canvas

My face is so sensitive and I can feel it tingling on my cheeks, forehead, and nose.

The stench of plastic ensnares my nostrils as I watch a fat, black, round make-up brush clog my pores with something she says is skin primer. Who knew my face would become a canvas for somebody other than me?

“Shut your eyes,” she snapped quickly.

A line is being carved from the folds of the skin around my eye, near the bridge of my nose. I’m excited she chose a bright color and I know that she is talented. Aren’t these chemicals and compounds from these tins of make-up reserved and directed for people who are in the circus? And why aren’t they being applied evenly over to the other half of my eyes, towards my temples?

“Open,” she said. I could see my friend clearly now, a petite figure with very attractive facial features –the alternative fashion she has elected suits her perfectly. An intense purple spits out of her black hair and I realize that she is Velma Kelly in the twentieth century.

I watch as she puts all of her weight to her left side while she inspects my eye. Now she is bobbing back and fourth from left to right and back again simply to inspect the work that she had just completed. What have I agreed to?

I feel a new brush against my face. It is tiny and sharp and I can feel its triangular shape as she carves another line on my closed eye. My tear-glands begin I can feel as it crosses the top of my eye-lid when I feel the pressure begin to drag and then she lifts her hands off of my face and removes her weapon.

An image of Edie Sedgewick enters my mind and panic encompasses my heart. She was beautiful as a pre-drug user, but I’m not sure I could handle looking like her.
In this day and age it might look strange to the red-necks and old folks I see in this town, and what’s more is my concern to look like an emo-kid. Should I buy a collar and give my friend the leash so that we can go trolling?

I open my eyes and she is holding a mirror in front of my face for me to inspect her work. My eyes dart towards her and I feel like she is anxious for some kind of critic, knowing full well that my concern isn’t what she is after, I encourage her to finish the job and I take a brief moment to admire the beautiful contour that she has created to enhance the inner halves of my eyes.

I close my eyes again and she rests one of her palms on my cheek and one of her palms on my forehead as I feel the brushes prodding my face again.

“I want something really intense,” she paused for a moment before quickly saying, “not so intense it looks like Breanne in drag, I just want it to look intense.”

This is my entrance to the modeling world, the new and politically correct world of scholars and activists. A gay thespian and a Political-Science major and student union activist are her dynamic roommates so how does my friend, a gamer and make-up artist, fit in?

“I changed the tires on my car today, who said gays aren’t handy?”

I drown for a moment in a sea of laughter coming from the vultures in the living room that live in this quiet backdrop of her world of possessions. A small brush is pushed roughly into the small ledge of my lower lashes and I am reminded that I am being objectified for the night.

As her friend I am her promotional whore so why is the feminist inside of me screaming, what the fuck are we doing here? Clearly these headshots for her new company are setting women back by at least one decade.

I would like to point fingers at the Greeks and the gays for trend setting and creating an ideal image of beauty, through the use of sculpture and other visual art that has led to the mayhem currently being displayed in the tabloids on a regular basis.

At the age of twenty, I was just beginning to realize that my high school metabolism had slowed, my acne was still a serious concern, and that my exercise habits were no longer an option. Back in those days my tummy and tits were like the flatlands — despite my impulsive need to eat like a cow. A lot, and often. Now that I’m in university I enjoy a few glasses of Shiraz and a bit of Brie after dinner. I feel like I did when I was in the study abroad program in Europe — pleasant but now just plump.

It’s scary when reality T.V. no longer looks funny and entertaining instead it resembles a niche that should be examined seriously. Now it has become a guide for me when I am getting dressed to go to my classes. “The Biggest Loser” and “What Not to Wear” are programs that have now become viable for diet and fashion advice. The tabloids are littered with pictures of some tweenage-turned-popstar named Lady Gaga who walks around with guns protruding out of outrageously colored nipple tassels and a blue-lightning rod painted on her cheek. This girl looks like a Barbie doll on acid but I still couldn’t help but lust for her shoes.

I conversed with my mother’s newest boyfriend’s teenage daughter, at Christmas time, who had a nicer complexion than me but she had no sense of luck. She showed me one of her gifts, an album from her dad, that shows Rihanna lying in a sea of naked Barbie dolls with too much make-up on everybody’s faces and I started to wonder what was happening to good old-fashioned popular culture. And my biggest concern was still, why don’t I have this girl’s perfect hour glass figure?

Are these images normal for teenagers to see? I looked at her body jealously. I felt like his daughter was too young to see these ideas let alone try to interpret their intended concepts. Is our society so desensitized that we can overlook these issues or am I simply forgetting about who had been my Rihanna? Would it have been Britney Spears or Gwen Stefani? The sweaty blonde girl with sexual dance moves or the girl who wore a tut-too with hooker boots instead of trousers?

His daughter explained that it was okay for this celebrity, in particular, to have these saucy pictures because she had gone crazy after her boyfriend Chris Brown beat her up. His daughter seemed upset but when I asked her about it she said she had thought that the music on the album would’ve been better than Rihanna’s health or safety.

Exercise has become mandatory for my health. Each night I try to find a sport to do that would benefit from the grazing process that writers and photographers at fashion magazines push in my direction along with a million other girls just like me.

Last week I tried a Pilates DVD but the slender actresses were bending in unnatural ways and my body could not oblige. Yesterday I rode my bicycle throughout the whole of my community at least four times but that hurt the non-existent muscles in my ass and legs. And tonight I went for a run and now I will never walk again, or at least not until these stupid health crazes come to an end and I can scarf back lasagna without feelings of guilt and anger.

Now I must accept that a little bit of extra weight means a little bit more to love, that teenagers can have nicer complexions than a 20-year-old, and that rice and veggies are a more viable option than pizza as the primary staple for my spectacularly unhealthy diet.

The newest exhibition at the TRU art gallery has been curetted by three students Ben Eastabrook, Dani Kohorst and Melaina Todd.

There are 17 artists in their collaborative exhibition with a total of 22 pieces of art work on display, all with a focus on the art of falling. The art work on display is both 2D and 3D and it immediately stimulates our senses upon exposure to the work.

“The response has been great,” said Ben Eastabrook. “Both the artist’s response to the theme and the viewer’s responses that I’ve been getting all week have been excellent. We have received a very wide variety of interpretations of our theme. There is everything from falling in love to the fall of sanity and nuclear fall out to a falling tree.”

The art work was created primarily by students in the Bachelor of Fine Arts, but students from other disciplines and some professors have also contributed to the exhibition.

There are images being suspended from the ceiling, along with sculptures, paintings, photography and even some art work based on appropriation. The lighting casts shadows and creates a very atmospheric ambiance about the errie feeling of falling in every way imaginable.

“I more or less just go out and collect junk and go and see where that leads you,” said Charlotte Overvold, one of the artists featured in the exhibition. “There are a lot of different meanings in my piece.”

Overvold talked excitedly about the creation process and the materials that she used. Her work is a mixed media piece and she followed a lot of superstitious values and folklore while she was creating the piece.

“Even the ribs were made out of my psychology textbook, I wanted to base [my work] on pure falling and not some ideal of a women’s body, more for the warrior within.”

The hair off of her canvas was created from the reels of film from the movie Cleopatra and it pours over the body of the girl in the image and creates a puddle of flowing brown hair. There are a lot of interpretations about why an apple and its’ seeds are more relevant to this particular piece of her art work rather than a water melon but only folklore can reveal these grueling details.

“Our posters say the 30th but we have to start taking it down that day I think,” said Eastabrook. “I’m not sure what time the gallery is open regularly, but I think it’s like 9am to about 9pm.”

“The Art of Falling” is the newest exhibition in the Thompson Rivers University Art Gallery and will be on display until January 29th.

Journalism’s purpose is to inform. I can’t say that it educates, but it informs. It has many positive influences. It informs and irritates the public to the point of taking action. However, journalism can also be petty and cheap.

There is a lot of bullshit contrived of popular culture and it is important to sift for the gems. Tiger Woods received publicity for triumphant gains in the sports world, but not nearly as much publicity as when his infidelity was exposed. If Barack Obama severed international relationships with Saudi Arabia or chose a path of infidelity or polyamory what would we read about fist? There are a lot of challenges to be considered when evaluating what journalism is for. Who responds to it? What is expected from it?

Carving a world of growing trees and running water in a pristine valley with a literary scalpel is purely self indulgence and is reserved for only the most hedonistic writers who put pen to paper, or in my case, fingers to keyboard. Journalism differs from writing fiction because society expects the media to portray current events in a truthful, unbiased, and interesting way. I constantly find myself becoming frustrated when writing facts with no personal opinions or hypothetical solutions. Words come easily to me in differing mediums where the tool becomes more expressive, interpretive, and entertaining. When the medium can be smudged and ingrained in its’ environment, like charcoal rubbed hard into paper, the image creates a set of words and ideas that tests our opinions and knowledge. In journalism, the viewer expects that the writing will be boring and unbiased so that the words don’t offend Holly the house wife but simply deliver the content to her in the quickest and driest medium available so she can live out events that she wouldn’t have experienced if not for text, photographs or videos.

The simple truth of the matter is that the viewer will never understand or appreciate what has happened to the girl who has been raped, the mother who found her children murdered or the family who lost their loved ones in a terrorist attack or at war. There is power in being aware and informed about what is happening in the world but this information is only powerful to the activist, the scholar, the mother or the grandfather who is willing to initiate social and political changes and fight for what they believe in. Journalists fight to get information and verify facts, but how are the masses responding? It’s easy to turn the page of a newspaper when cacophony fills our ears and disgust builds in our stomach. Waking up to somebody molesting you isn’t something that one has the ability to repress in the long term; eventually emotional turmoil will force itself outward. There have been 617 journalists murdered for their work in the last six years and that number is rapidly growing. But is their death provoking change?

After Veronica Guerin died in 1997 the Republic of Ireland issued new laws that allowed the police to arrest criminal suspects with money that cannot be explained, but when Bush declared war with Afghanistan nobody in North America flinched. I saw school children on the news tonight protesting to keep their primary school open. That gave me a splinter of hope that could be guarded or kept but quickly the idea was cynically disregarded. Should journalists risk their lives to get information? Or if we grow tired, numb, and exhausted from writing with no hope remaining within ourselves for society, should we look at more examples like Dennis Edney, who has been representing a Canadian citizen who has been tortured and imprisoned abroad with little help from the Canadian government?

There are a small group of individuals who remain dedicated and annoyed with current affairs and who want to better political unrest where there are people who are setting car bombs off in far and most often foreign land. The people who are healthy and compassionate will always show up to fight for what they believe in, but is anybody else truly listening to the series of problems being portrayed on the media on a regular basis.

It seems a lot easier to change the channel when we see something that disturbs us and speak with friends about rainbows and butterflies, or draw our attention to writing fluffy books on orangutans or spinach, or any other obscure hobby or interest that allows society to filter out the unnatural things that people find disturbing and don’t want to experience on a regular basis. Journalists have the power to decide the angle of a news story but it’s entirely up to the viewer to filter out the crap. Some of my peers seek entertainment and enlightenment, but they appear desensitized and detached while I remain a girl who is not the typical prototype of a conformist 20-year-old female who has grown obsessed with marriage and procreation, but one whose interest in international affairs, politics, and education in a simple attempt to make a difference in the world.