And full community inclusion for all


As far as rights for people with disabilities have come, there’s still a long way to go. Full equality and inclusion are becoming closer to reality in 2014; wheelchair-accessibility has become a given, and businesses are starting to embrace this incredibly capable, but formerly un-tapped, workforce.

This wasn’t the case in 1976 when the United Nations (UN) General Assembly recognized the need to assist people with disabilities to enjoy equality and fully participate in society. They proclaimed 1981 The International Year of Disabled Persons, setting a mandate to develop action plans that enable full equality and participation. To allow time for countries to act on this 1981 World Program of Action, the UN Decade of Disabled Persons was proclaimed for 1983-1992. And on December 3, 1992 the UN promoted the first International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

The aim behind the UN’s actions is to promote an understanding of disability issues while mobilizing support for the dignity, rights, and wellbeing of persons with disabilities. Integration issues are also gaining traction as society recognizes the overall benefits of full community inclusion in all realms of political, social, economic, and cultural life.

A different focus on disability rights is set each year. The theme for 2014 is Sustainable Development: The Promise of Technology.

At VIU, the Disability Services Office mission is: “To work collaboratively and innovatively with the campus community to create an accessible, equitable, and supportive learning and living environment that enhances each student’s academic and personal development while attending VIU.” The office provides information, services, equipment, and other types of support to students with documented disabilities—temporary and permanent—so that they have an equal opportunity to be successful in their studies.

Some of their services include providing scribes for students with visual or hearing impairments, as well as interpreters, electronic devices, software, and accommodations like quiet rooms for completing exams.

On VIU Disability Services Office

On December 3, the VIU Disability Services Office hosts 14 community organizations in the Arbutus Room on the Nanaimo campus to celebrate the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. The theme this year is Break Barriers, Open Doors: For an Inclusive Society for All.

This event provides students, faculty, staff, and the public with an opportunity to connect with community resources in Nanaimo. Information will be available from groups including the Nanaimo Brain Injury Society, BC Schizophrenia Society, and Brooks Landing Mental Health and Addiction Services.

“Everyone is invited to come see the community resources and technological advances available to assist persons with disabilities,” says Debra Hagen, Coordinator of Disability Services for VIU. “We feel it’s important to be part of this international day of observance.”

The event is also a good opportunity for students with disabilities to learn about resources that are available to them, for students with friends who have disabilities to learn more about how they can (and can’t) help, and for students who may be interested in a career working with the disability community to speak with frontline workers about their experiences.

For a full list of participants, check out VIU’s disability services online.

You can attend the event and view the displays between 11 am and 2 pm on December 3 in bldg. 300, rm. 401. For more information about VIU’s Disability Services Office, call 250-740-6446 or email

“We’re trying to level the playing field for all students. It’s all about improving access to education,” says Debra Hagen, Coordinator of Disability Services for VIU. 637 students are currently registered with the department.

Recent advancements in technology have opened doors for the disabled community that would have been hard to even imagine a few years ago. Livescribe is a smart pen that assists students with hearing impairments. “It looks like a regular pen but has a built-in recorder,” Hagen says. “The student takes notes in class on special paper, and later uses the pen [with their mobile device] to tap on key words to play back that part of the lecture.” Another device, UbiDuo, uses wireless units with keyboards and screens to help students with hearing impairments communicate with others when an interpreter isn’t available. VIU’s Nanaimo campus has three UbiDuo devices available.

The Disability Services Office also sees students with chronic health issues, physical disabilities, and temporary impairments due to an accident, illness, or injury.

Visible disabilities are often better understood and easily recognized because they’re visible. The needs of a student in a wheelchair, on crutches, walking with a cane, or accompanied by a service animal or an interpreter are often more easily understood by others intuitively.

Goabaone Montsho is just one student who receives assistance from VIU’s Disability Services Office

Three years ago, Montsho left Botswana to study Anthropology at VIU. Rendered blind by a medical condition at the age of 15, he faced many challenges, but he says, “Being legally blind isn’t the worst thing that can happen to a person.”

He’s very grateful for the support he receives from VIU’s Disability Services. The department’s staff can scan and convert textbooks and other materials into PDFs that are accessible via special software. Jaws, a computerized screen reader, transmits emails and allows him to study and write papers. In class an assistant takes notes, and to complete exams he dictates his answers to a scribe.

The Nanaimo campus did present a unique obstacle. “At first, the stairs were challenging, but I’m used to them now,” he says. The Canadian National Institute for the Blind provides Orientation Mobility Training that helped Montsho become comfortable moving between classes with a walking stick.

At a very young age, Montsho learned that bravery, courage, and a willingness to take on new challenges would help him succeed in life. “Now I hope to inspire others. Anyone can overcome life’s obstacles,” he says.

Montsho likes to give back to his community by volunteering with VIU’s student ambassador program as a Peer Success Coach. “I enjoy helping students with academic challenges find ways to improve their grades,” he says. “I love giving to others. It gives me great satisfaction.”

In the 30 years since the UN turned its attention to persons with disabilities, the face of disability—of the conditions that are recognized as significantly restricting daily living—has changed. Today, so-called “invisible disabilities” are more widely diagnosed, and the life-changing benefits of providing appropriate supports are being recognized. With the right accommodations and modifications, diagnoses such as Learning Disabled, Attention Deficit Disorder, and Autism Spectrum Disorder no longer mean exclusion from university life.

15 percent

There are alternative terms to “disabled,” like “differently abled,” and from Glee’s Sue Sylvester, “handycapable.” It’s all very politically correct. But political correctness grows from a grain of truth: words have power, and words weave our reality. “I’m having a bad day,” cements as fact that you are and will continue to have a bad day. “It has been a bad day,” on the other hand, acknowledges what has been going on, but allows for the possibility of change, allows for the rest of it to be a different kind of day. So it is with “disabled,” it presumes lack: lack of ability, lack of intelligence, even lack of hope. With the bar set so low, you wouldn’t hold out for a person to soar above it. But in presuming intelligence, we unlock a door and ready it for opening.

It is estimated that 15 percent of the world’s population has some form of disability, yet there are still many stigmas that people face. Widespread use of the R-word, a hurtful and degrading term, persists in 2014. Unflattering labels and stereotypes compel many people to remain silent in their struggles. “For that simple reason, we know we have many students across Canadian campuses who do not disclose that they have a disability” says Hagen. “They are afraid of being stigmatized or discriminated against. This is especially true for students with ‘invisible’ disabilities such as mental health issues, learning disabilities, and others.”

Events like the International Day of Persons with Disabilities are one way to shed light on disability issues and the realities faced by people with disabilities every day. By increasing awareness and promoting understanding of the issues, society can make meaningful progress towards creating a world that is truly inclusive, offering full acceptance to all.

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WW1 love story from CLIP Project memorialized in symphony


By contributor by Shari Bishop Bowes


Among the letters exchanged between Pte. W. Murray Dennis and Margaret Munro was this last one, a final love letter to Dennis that was returned to Munro upon his death on the battlefield in France in 1918. Picture courtesy The Canadian Letters and Images Project

Yellowed with age and hidden in the bottom of a drawer for more than 50 years, a bundle of 43 let- ters, tied with a ribbon, depicts a World War I love story that began in Stratford, Ontario. The story of Private W. Murray Dennis and his young love, Margaret Munro, was memorialized in a choral commission that premiered at the World War One Remembrance in Strat- ford on November 15.

Creating a new choral work to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the beginning of WWI was a goal for Toronto composer Chris Meyer, who has been working with the Stratford Symphony for four years.

lettersMeyer enlisted the help of his wife, a historian at the University of Toronto. In her online search for a WWI story with a Stratford connection, she discovered the story of Private Dennis in the Canadian Letters and Images Project (CLIP), a rich online archive of the Canadian war experience held and maintained by students and faculty at Vancouver Island University (VIU). Since it was launched by History professor Dr. Stephen Davies in 2000, the project has grown to include more than 18 thousand digitized letters, thou- sands of photos, and an array of other related correspondence and printed material from various wars in Canadian history.


Dr. Stephen Davies and Paige Fehr

The story of W. Murray Dennis memorialized in Meyer’s oratorio—Our Murray—is made up of scores taken entirely from the let- ters exchanged by Murray and his fiancée, Margaret Munro, as well as letters of condolence from Munro’s family after his death during the Battle of Amiens in August 1918. “The Canadian Letters and Imag- es Project is a treasure trove of war- time stories,” Meyer said. “I got in touch with Dr. Davies, and he was very happy with how these letters were to be used in this project.” Dr. Davies recalled Dennis’ story in particular. “The letters came to us in 2001 from Margaret’s son. She married about 1930 and when she died the family was cleaning out her place, and in her dresser, tied up with ribbon, were the let- ters from Murray,” Davies said. “Her later family knew nothing about him—she had never spo- ken about him—but they were the letters of what was very likely her first love. Her family was so moved by that, that they have preserved them, even though they have no connection to him.” Unfortunately the CLIP project was unable to track down family on Dennis’ side. Meyer was excited about the premiere of Our Murray, the first major choral work in his music career. “I really love writing vocal music, and some of my favour- ites are the great orchestral choral masterworks.”
The premier of Our Murray, an oratorio for baritone solo and male chorus, was performed by the Stratford Symphony Orchestra and the Canadian Men’s Chorus.

VIU’s Canadian Letters and Images Project continues to build a free, open resource through its acceptance of new materials for its collections. Letters submitted are digitized and archived, then returned to their owners.
To learn more, visit

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VIU’s Business Plan Competition takes local business to new heights


newsBy contributor Drew McLachlan

1011230_251405015030502_1321257942_nVIU will be hosting its first-ever Business Plan Competition, culminating in a “Dragon’s Den-style” competition which coordinator Ken Hammer hopes will light the flame for Nanaimo’s entrepreneur community.

The final event will see 10 teams of student entrepreneurs pitch their ideas to a panel of five judges, competing for the grand prize of $2k to help kick-start their businesses, with runner-up prizes ranging from $500 to $1250, donated by community organizations. The entrepreneurs will be divided into two categories: one for students taking an entrepreneurship class in the business, tourism, and hospitality programs, and an “open” category for all VIU students. The event takes place November 28 at 3 pm, in bldg. 250, rm. 125, and is free and open to the public.

Hammer, an MBA and Management instructor, said that despite seeing plenty of creative entrepreneurs go through VIU, the small business platform in Nanaimo sends many en route to bigger centres like Vancouver. He hopes that the competition can help shine the spotlight on growing support organizations like the Nanaimo Economic Development Corporation (NEDC) and Innovation Island (two sponsors of the event).

“I see it really bringing to the forefront what already exists—bright, motivated, and energetic students,” Hammer said. “It’s just a way to recognize, encourage, and promote student creativity and innovation. So I feel as if it’s a part of something bigger that’s happening, and that’s helping us to develop a culture and some support systems for students who want to create their own future.”

Hammer said he hopes the competition will become an annual affair, and despite getting off to a quick start, he hopes this year’s event will pique the interest of students with ideas but little business knowledge and build momentum for next year’s competition.

“This year we’re appealing most to people who have thought about these things and are down the path,” Ham- mer said. “Next year it might be different. We hope that students might start putting their ideas together in spring, and we can run workshops for those who aren’t taking an [entrepreneurship] class.”

For more details on the VIU Business Plan Competition, visit the Startup Nanaimo website.

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Profs to talk on the cultural consequences of war in modern Poland


By contributor Dr. Gordon Hak

ARTS6_Profs-to-talk-1colorIdentity, art, war, history, memorials, memory, and migration are at the heart of a forthcoming Arts and Humanities Colloquium presentation by English professor Terri Doughty and Dr. Justin McGrail.

The VIU professors began taking groups of students to Wrocław, Poland, in 2012. By teaching credit courses in Poland, their goal was to enrich the educational experience of  VIU students. “It is a wonderful opportunity for students to learn through hands-on study how literature, art, history, and politics shape identity,” says Doughty. “It’s also a chance for participants to experience European life and culture in one of central Europe’s most interesting border zones.” The instructors continued to learn about Poland, and they will share some of their thoughts in a talk entitled “Cultural Contact Zones: Wrocław, Poland” on November 28 at 10 am in the Malaspina Theatre.

Wrocław is an interesting place to locate a Faculty of Arts and Humanities field school. While the city was founded by the Polish Piast Dynasty, beginning in the 14th century, it was ruled successively by Bohemians, Austrians, and Prussians. At the outbreak of World War II, it was a city with a majority German population, the largest German city east of Berlin. After the war, this changed. The city, which was then known as Breslau by the Germans, became part of a reconstituted Poland and the city took back its Polish name.

“Wrocław also experienced a massive population shift,” says McGrail. “Most of the city’s German Jews had been killed during the war, and after 1945, most of its German inhabitants were forcibly expelled. Poles expelled from eastern territories awarded to the Soviet Union were encouraged to settle to the west, and they were joined by migrants from central Poland seeking a fresh start after the war.”

“The Polish Communist government,” adds Doughty, “embarked on an aggressive erasure of Wrocław’s  German past. Public discussion of Wrocław’s German did not emerge until after the fall of the Communist government in 1989. Since then, Polish writers and artists have been recuperating the region’s multi-ethnic history and exploring the questions of identity that are raised by migration and the erasure of memory.” 

ARTS6-profs-to-talk-colorThe presenters are an impressive team. Doughty has long worked in the fields of Victorian Literature, Children’s Literature, and Literature of the Fantastic. Actively connected to the Polish academic world, she has taught Polish Literature and will teach a new course on Central European Literature in January 2015. McGrail, from the Department of Art and Design, has written about and taught Architectural History and Art History. He is also a spoken word poet with over 20 years of performance experience in Canada and the US.

According to Doughty, “Globalization works to erase borders. However, for a country like Poland, borders and transgressions of borders have defined its identity.” On November 28 they will investigate this theme by looking at the architecture of Wrocław, as well as two prominent Polish artists, Magdalena Abakanowicz and Olga Tokarczuk. Abakanowicz is an 84-year-old sculptor and fibre artist whose work reflects the volatility of Poland’s past and present. Tokarczuk is a fiction writer who investigates cultural, political, and sexual border zones. Born in 1962, she is one of Poland’s most successful authors of her generation.

The talk is the third installment in the Faculty of Arts and Humanities’  very popular Colloquium series of the year. The theme this term is war and its consequences, a fitting subject for 2014, the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War.

The free, illustrated talk is open to faculty, employees, and the general public. Students are especially welcome and there will be refreshments. 

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Movie review: Interstellar


Five seconds is all it takes to recognize a Hans Zimmer score. You hear the droning bass and the strings section all playing one note. The score is just as boring as his last one, albeit with a little more colour than usual. Coincidentally, this is exactly what you could say about Interstellar.

By now, everyone should recognize Christopher Nolan. After sling-shotting himself to fame with the reverse-plot thriller, Memento (2000), Nolan went on to direct the Christian Bale Batman trilogy and the excellent mind-bender, Inception (2010). Nolan is rigorously technical with his approach to filmmaking and writing; this can work to his advantage in the case of Inception, but not so much with the poorly structured The Dark Knight Rises (2012) and the dull Man of Steel (2013). Although Interstellar suffers greatly at the hands of Nolan’s writing, it does achieve some stand-out technical moments.

It is the near future, and humanity is slowly dying out due to lack of food and a continuous dust bowl effect. Blights have been continuously wiping out certain crops, leaving corn as the only crop left untouched. Caught in the middle of this is Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), a widowed, former NASA pilot and engineer who now helps run his family’s farm. Cooper hates being a farmer, but has no choice since the demand for engineers has diminished in the reversion to an agrarian society. This gets further exemplified when Cooper’s son, Tom (Timothée Chalamet), gets fast-tracked to agriculture by the school system, even though Cooper wants his kids to be engineers. The school itself is comically anti-science, with textbooks proclaiming that the moon landing was all government propaganda and that NASA spending was a waste of money.

Things start to get weird when Cooper’s daughter, Murph (Mackenzie Foy), blames a ghost for knocking books off her shelves. Later, a pattern of dust begins forming on Murph’s floor after a dust storm, which Cooper discovers is binary coordinates to somewhere in the middle of the desert. After investigating, it turns out to be a secret NASA base run by one of Cooper’s old university professors, Professor Brand (Michael Caine). NASA is days away from sending a search team into space to investigate a wormhole, which may lead to a habitable planet for the surviving members of the human race. Conveniently, NASA happens to need a pilot with experience, so Cooper takes the job.

NASA has already received some data from another team (referred to as the Lazarus Mission) that was sent through the wormhole. Contact with the Lazarus Mission has been sparse, but their intel has helped ascertain what planets are worth visiting. The team makes it through the wormhole in one piece, but are met with a dilemma when one of the planets they are to visit is close to a black hole (translating to one hour on this planet equaling seven years on Earth). During the space team’s mission, we see Cooper’s kids on Earth grow up, with Tom (now played by Casey Affleck) taking over the family farm, and Murph (now played by Jessica Chastain) working for NASA under the direction of Professor Brand. Past this point, the film quickly falls apart.


Courtesy Warner Bros.

The majority of the film is primarily concerned with being as scientifically accurate as possible, to the point of being robotic. During production, physicist Kip Thorne leaned over Nolan’s shoulder and laid down strict guidelines to secure his help: “nothing would violate established physical laws, and that all the wild speculations would spring from science and not from the creative mind of a screenwriter.” Co-written by Nolan and his brother, Jonathon, it is clear that their primary concern was the hows, whys, and whats of everything that is happening. Not a moment goes by on that spaceship where somebody is not stating the obvious, just to let you know how smart they are. By the time the final act is reached (and you’re supposed to buy into the idea that if time can be a quantifiable energy, then so could love) the amount of disbelief it asks you to suspend is insane.

This would not be such a problem if the film actually spent some time being a bit quieter and  more whimsical. So much energy is spent on giving a thorough physics lesson that the film loses some of its mystery and room for emotional development. Visuals that should be awe-inspiring and left to wash over you are undercut by endless banter. This is why Inception works so well: it left a degree of mystery that Interstellar is missing. Originally, the film was meant to be directed by Steven Spielberg, and I can see where Spielberg would have danced circles around these issues. It would have been a less scientific film, but it would certainly be a better film overall.

Despite this, McConaughey and Chastain gave fantastic performances. McConaughey has been on a roll with Mud (2012) and Dallas Buyers’ Club (2013), and he continues to be a great all-American leading man. On the other hand, Anne Hathaway, who plays one of the main members of the space team (also Professor Brand’s daughter), does not present much beyond her usual annoying, emotional affectations. Caine is back for his sixth Christopher Nolan film, and fills in his stereotypical role of being the guy who says, “I’m asking you to trust me,” and, “I give you my word.”

What the film does have going for it is some of the technical qualities. When the film isn’t suffering from J.J.-Abrams-lens-flair syndrome, there are some stunning shots using both props and CGI. Nolan took a lot of inspiration from 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), which inspired him to use prop spaceships rather than CGed ones, for the space shots. It looks great for most of the film, except for a couple moments where it gets sloppy and ends up looking like a home movie made by 12-year-olds. At least there was flawless detail to the sound editing; when the camera sits in space, everything is ominously quiet, no matter how loud you think the moments should be. Overall, the CGI, the planetary shots, and the sound editing are what saves the film from being a complete sham.

Interstellar suffers from a lot of things, but what remains the most bothersome is how derivative it is of 2001. When you set out to make a sci-fi film like this, there is obviously going to be some influence (Nolan himself believing that art is not made in a vacuum), but there is a fine line between being inspired and copying. This theme of copying is shown when McConaughey’s facial expressions during a space travel scene perfectly mirror Keri Dullea’s when Dullea is travelling through the colourful vortex in 2001. When a film goes to that extent to copy another one, you’re much better off just watching the original.

This film is going to divide a lot of people. Depending on how many sci-fi films you’ve seen, and what you take away from the film’s final act, Interstellar will either amaze you or annoy you. Interstellar is not a terrible film, but it is derivative. Not even its technical achievements can save it from pacing issues and prop mishaps. Those of you who are expecting great things of this film will be disappointed. Go see Big Hero 6 instead.     

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Dancing on the stars with the massless

1012639_684759234874107_1547009440_nForget about what you think you know about experimental music. Imagine layered saxophone melodies and unexpected bass licks entangled in pre-recorded loops and minimalistic synthesizers—all influenced by  Frank Zappa, free jazz, gnawa and african music, Miles Davis, saxophonist Joe Henderson among many others.  Add inconspicuous presence on stage, a wall of baffling ironic humour behind the scenes, and unique visual taste in music videos and album covers. That’s it. Do you see the massless?


Navigator: The first time I ever saw you play was  Valentine’s Day at the Vault. What do you remember from that night?

Patrick Simpson (sax): Did we have a drummer that night? Or was it just the two of us?

Blaise Zhiam (bass): Yeah, we played all night long. Every single one of our songs, plus one we played twice, but no one noticed.


Do you remember the moment you realized you wanted to be musicians?

Blaise: No I don’t. I’ve just always played music. Actually, yes. When I was 15 years old I was either going to be a professional soccer player or a musician. I quit soccer and went with music. I’ve regretted that decision ever since. I could have made something of myself. I could have been a soccer player playing in small cafes in small towns.

Patrick: As long as I remember.


I’ve heard the story of you getting together is worth mentioning…

Blaise: Do you mean getting together as a band or the other thing? Because we also teach aerobics on the side as a duo. But as the massless, I was playing with a drummer and looking for a sax player that we wouldn’t frighten. So we posted an ad on Craigslist saying we were experimentally dub-section rhythm. Pat showed up and then the drummer left, so now there’s the two of us. The first gig we played was the Noise Festival. We started with live looping and sax, and gradually progressed into what we are now.


What are you now?

Patrick: I don’t know how to answer that question. I can tell you what it isn’t. It isn’t jazz, it isn’t funk. There are pre-written loops and melodies,  so it’s not pure improvising. Our music might have elements of different genres but—

Blaise: —the massless is little bits of everything we like.


Is it possible to be genreless? Is that what makes your music unique?

Blaise: I don’t think there are any electric bass players in town. To speak for myself, the one thing I like to do is playing whatever style or sound I want. Whatever makes me happy. I don’t worry about genres.


What inspired you to do the concert series “the massless and Friends?”

Patrick: It’s about returning the favours to bands who invited us to play with them and introduced us to different venues in town. And it’s an opportunity to play with the bands we really enjoy.

Blaise: I find we get more into composition. The more we write, and our songs are getting quite worked out, the more I like doing the jam at the end of each show, because it brings back free vibes of anything-can-happen.

Patrick: When you play with other people, you play differently. It expands your musical knowledge.

Blaise: And you get to rip their good licks.


Aside from ripping other musicians’ licks, what makes for an ideal jam session?

Patrick: They’re all ideal. Any chance to play something fresh is good.

Blaise: I’d like Phil Collins on drums, Valery June singing, and perhaps get somebody else to play the bass and sax…

Patrick: I’d rather watch music than play it.

Blaise: You literally have to pay him to play.


How do you prevent yourself from being starving artists?

Both: We freeload a lot.

Blaise: I’m not starving. I make money. Last thing I was working on was a video for a fitness company in Vancouver, and I’ll be doing an instructional video for a yoga instructor. Lots of fitness videos as well. And Pat is a gigolo.


ARTS6_DancingOnTheStars-colorWhy do you digitally manipulate your photos and music videos?

Blaise: I can’t speak for myself, but Pat’s really ugly. (Laughter). I just do that. I really enjoy it.

Patrick: Just like a lot of our music is digitally manipulated. The sax lines are processed.

Blaise: I went to film school for classical and drawn animation when I was younger. I like cartoons. The digital manipulations and weird videos on YouTube are an example of what you can do with a free program. I don’t have the technology to produce work on the level I want to yet. Just a couple more gigs maybe. (Laughter).


What about the other part of your enterprise? What is the aerobic duo called?

Blaise: The massless aerobic. It’s revolutionary. We use a lot of shake weights. It’s a trade mark tool which I’m not going to describe.

Patrick: And I’m not allowed to talk about it.

Blaise: But really, as a band, we were really inspired by what Top Men do with the movie tribute shows [Trip to the Moon, Metropolis, Aliens], and we consider doing our own version. Weekend at Bernie’s. These two dudes drag around a dead guy for a weekend. It’s a comedy, as you can tell.


If you were to play at a dance, what kind of dance would it be?

Patrick: I don’t think we’d get out of a square dance alive…

Blaise: We had to turn down an offer because of conflicting schedules, but we were going to be the house band in Dancing With The Stars show. It was supposed to be called Dancing on the Stars with the massless. I think our style of music could push those stars some really wicked dancing.


What would you consider your biggest musical success?

Blaise: I don’t spend time thinking about that. But for me, when we played as part of the Cymatics Research Institute with Damo Suzuki in that church, it was a magical night.

Patrick: I wouldn’t say I’ve been successful. I’ve enjoyed playing every single time, so you could consider that a success.


If you could define success for yourself…

Patrick: From that point of view, I am completely content where I am as a musician. I don’t need a recording contract or to play on big stages.


Could you define what separates an artist from a good musician?

Patrick: If you do something on the instrument that is completely new and original, that makes you a master, like Jimmy Hendrix. He played the guitar like no one else before or after him. If you can digest what other real artists do and then bring your own angle to it, that makes you an artist. But I think real mastery is the ability to express emotions through music and make it connect with the listeners. Somebody goes up on the stage, plays a bunch of notes that are technically perfect, but it doesn’t hit you in any way. Then another guy plays something and those notes hit you right in your soul—that’s a master. And that’s in all art. You look at a painting and it speaks to you and sheds a different light on an aspect of life, or whatever, blah blah blah…  (laughs).
Blaise: I think an artist is someone who really pushes and strives to express themselves in their own way. I don’t want to be too judgmental because I don’t know whether that person’s own way doesn’t sound like someone else’s. I think everyone’s an artist, but the true ones want to be more expressive, unique, do things differently. And any musician who thinks they’ve mastered their instrument has failed. If you ever get to the point you think you know everything, you’ve closed your mind.


You can never reach the top?

Patrick: It would be no fun if the quest was ever over. When you feel you’ve accomplished something you couldn’t do before, when you always aim towards something more, it must feel better than getting to the end of the journey.

Blaise: Knowing everything doesn’t really exist. I bet there’s a 14-year-old kid that’s doing stuff you’ve never even dreamed of. That’s what makes it so awesome: exploring and trying new things. There’s always more.


What would you do if music never existed?

Patrick: I would kill myself. Seriously.

Blaise: I would invent music.


The massless’ first album “the massless,” released on November 7, will be available digitally and in hard copies at the next show, “The Festivus Bash” at the Cambie on December 20.

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Cafe Review: The Buzz Coffee House


featuresBy contributor Shaleeta Harper

Features_Cafereview1With cracked and polished concrete floors, and live-edge honey maple slabs for tables, The Buzz Coffee House is a unique space with warm industrial design. Exposed pipes hang local art- work and act as room dividers. Tucked away in the back, an elevated section with a bookshelf, fireplace, piano, and grandfather clock creates the feeling of a tiny rustic home for anyone looking to curl up and read. Rust and honey orange walls are hung with decorative wool rugs in reds and creams while burlap coffee sacks hang sparingly, their blue and green hues picked up by the potted trees dotting the room. The music is gentle indie-pop rock and jazz, and the air smells of warm cedar and cinnamon.

The atmosphere at The Buzz is different from other cafés I’ve visited recently, catering a little more to professionals, with a boardroom available for meetings. Many students also fill the room, immersed in notebooks and laptops, lost in the end-of-semester crunch. This is a place for relaxed study and light conversation rather than a raucous gathering with friends.

The food and drink isn’t expensive, and there’s free unlimited WiFi. Large windows framing Mount Benson let the sun stream in, which makes deadlines feel a little less ominous and helps keep the homework blues at bay.

The Buzz serves local coffee companies like Moja Coffee (North Vancouver) and Galileo Coffee Roasters (Britannia Beach). The mocha is affordable and offers a different flavour, bordering on the bitter side with hints of ginger- bread spices. The latté art transcends the simple leaf design and becomes a work of art. But I’m not up to the caffeine. My leg is dancing and my heart is racing, and I’ve barely made a dent in the drink.

The food prices are also reasonable: a tall open-faced tuna melt with thick slices of tomato on a bed of spinach is $5, and a large piece of home-made carrot cake is only $3.85. Gluten-free options are also available.

The Buzz moved to this location in the hospital area just off Bowen Rd. on Dufferin Cres. under two years ago and the reception has

been excellent. Every table is filled and the baristas move quickly, steaming cups flying in every direction. Between the homey décor, warm atmosphere, and affordable prices, The Buzz is one of central Nanaimo’s perfect study spots.

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