tuque /tūk/ n Canadian English, var. toque [19th c. Canadian French, from the French toque, from the Basque tauka] 1 A close-fitting knitted cap, often with a long tapering end or tassel or pompom. 2 fig Something quintessentially Canadian.
souq /sūk/ n from the Arabic سوق var. souk 1 An open-air marketplace. 2 fig A central meeting place for the circulation of news and ideas.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

'Off the Page' interview series launches on the Magazine Awards blog

A special note from the Department of Blogger Self Reference (Non-Egregious Division): The Magazine Awards blog (the official blog of the National Magazine Awards Foundation) earlier this month debuted a weekly interview series called "Off the Page."
Off the Page is an exclusive new series produced by the NMAF that reaches out to former National Magazine Award winners to find out what their awards have meant to them and what they’re up to now. Off the Page will appear regularly on the NMA blog during the winter and spring of 2012.

The interview series is underway, with profiles of National Magazine Award-winning writers Carol Shaben, Jeremy Klaszus and Alex Leslie, plus illustrator Roxanna Bikadoroff. I happen to know that in the coming weeks they'll be catching up with an intrepid Canadian photojournalist, a young Toronto writer with a "hot" new book, plus a fantastic Quebec journalist in a special interview to be presented en forme bilingue.

Your humble Tuque Souq blogger is the author of said Magazine Awards blog, in my capacity as contract Special Projects Manager of the NMAF. Thus I whole-heartedly endorse your clicking over immediately and introducing yourself to "Off the Page" and the Magazine Awards blog.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Explorations in the Apocryphal Spelling of Tuque

Friends, nothing is dearer to this blog than the sanctity of its allonym. So consider us being true to our own self if we stick to our tuque and pan its increasingly common yet wholly unaccredited, malapropistic alternate spelling: touque.

It hit a little close to home this past Christmas.

Christmas gift to the Tuque Souq: Love the mug; loathe the spelling

Alas, alas. It's one thing to be some blogger with an innocent orthographic handicap (like this tumblr blog devoted to the "touque") or this guy with a bug up his arse about "toques."[1]

But if you're going to plant copy on a mug[2], please call us before going to press. At no extra charge, we'll tell you: It's a tuque.

Notwithstanding the Urban Dictionary's sparkling third definition of touque -- "an uncircumcised penis" -- the only legitimate use of the "touque" spelling concerns any reference to the Touque family, a noble Kentish lineage of merry old England with an ancestry stretching to the Norman Conquest.

Touques can wear touques -- that's their English business. And if they're chefs they might don toques. But we wear tuques, especially when drinking our coffee on a cold winter's morn.

[1] Bug or no bug, it's still our second-most read blog post of all time, after this one
[2] Support local artists, like the woman who made this mug, who does some lovely work, all kidding aside

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Adventures in Advenience: The Return of a Photographic Moment

Nine years ago this month I dropped anchor in Tunisia for a six-month contract teaching English at a school in the seaside city of Sousse, packing along with me little besides my old Canon single lens reflex, an 18mm wide-angle lens and a few dozen rolls of Ilford FP4.

I worked six days a week, so when that seventh day came round I was on a bus or a train somewhere into countryside as far as I could get. But it wasn't till shortly before my departure that I was able to devote an entire week to a voyage into the Sahara, at least to its border towns and not-too-distant oases.

It was a hermetic experience: late May in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains, the Chott el-Djerid salt flats, and beyond them the Sahara -- with their mirages, siestas, scorpions and utter lack of tourists -- is conducive to isolation and meditation, and I found myself subsisting on a diet of bread, water, the kindness of strangers and contemplations of photography.

Two years later, after a fleeting photo exhibition, I was commissioned by my alumni magazine to write a reflection of my own alongside some of those photographs of Tunisia. At that time I happened to be reading a gifted copy of  Camera Lucida, a reflection on photography by the French philosopher Roland Barthes.

For the magazine I penned a brief, recollected imagining of my experience behind the lens in the Tunisian desert, and in it I recalled my introduction to Barthes' concept of advenience, a term he employed to summarize his personal experience -- physical and emotional -- of encountering certain moving photographs.

In my reflection on reading Barthes and photographing Tunisia as a foreigner in a studious, contemplative mood, I was inspired in a moment to define advenience as "the adventuresome adding of a new perspective to the whole" and thereby tie the experience of the photographer to that of the hypothetical viewer in a loose continuum of photographic intimacy.

The magazine published the piece, I dutifully added it to my CV, and that seemed to wrap up tidily the Tunisia chapter of my life (aside from my lasting support for the country's and Sousse's soccer teams).

That is, until about a month ago, when I received a phone call in the middle of a busy Friday afternoon from a certain Sarah in Kansas City. She was excited. There was something about a college, an exhibit and some students, but before I knew exactly what was hurtling through the receiver, I heard her reciting back to me my long tucked-away definition of advenience.

As it happened, the photography students at the Kansas City Art Institute were about to debut that very evening an exhibition called advenience (or, an adventursome adding of a new perspective to the whole).

Photograph courtesy Sarah Taylor, Kansas City Art Institute
The phone call was equal parts courtesy, flattery and (possibly) last-minute due diligence for my acknowledgement.

Its effect, however, was to re-awaken me to the ecology of inspiration: if a handful of photography students can unite a particular collective photographic experience behind a google search result of an obscure academicky term that years ago I employed to interpret the momentary euphoria of clicking the shutter in a certain place and time, then perhaps we can interpret inspiration as a kind of aperture that opens up between an individual and his or her world; the sudden entrance of light onto dark, a new perspective on the whole.

The adventure continues.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Life Magazine Ads: Year in Pictures 1988

Chanced upon a copy of Life magazine's "Year in Pictures 1988" (published January 1989). Aside from all the coverage of some guy named Dukakis were these spectacular advertisements from the days of yore:

See the full gallery of thirty ads from Life's "Year in Pictures 1988"

Thursday, January 5, 2012

BBC investigates the politics of NGOs in India

What do non-governmental organizations (NGOs) really do to improve the lives of people in developing countries and work for sustainable development of impoverished and oppressed societies?

Plenty, as I learned in India over the course of a year with an exceptionally dedicated and scrupulous NGO called PREM. But the world of NGOs and so-called development, like many a human endeavor, is rife with contradiction, corruption and power politics.

Part 2 of a new three-part radio documentary by Allan Little called "The Truth about NGOs" examines the complex and ever-changing world NGOs inhabit in India. Though the focus is mainly on Mumbai, not on the rural jungles of Odisha, many of the issues are the same: credibility, transparency, efficacy, relevance and corruption (both ethical and fiduciary). Further, it explores in basic detail the complicated relationship between NGOs and government, and the role of the wealthy, powerful and often out-of-touch international NGOs (e.g. Oxfam, Save the Children, others).

Part 1 of Allan Little's NGO reportage examined NGO involvement in influencing government and policy in Malawi, and in foisting Western cultural values onto local society via the power vested in them by the money these NGOs receive from foreign donors. What is a human rights struggle in the West (gay marriage, e.g., or economic equality) becomes a form of neo-colonialism in Africa. And by making local NGOs dependent on this stream of funding, the foreign donors and the agendas they represent and can wield wide-ranging, undemocratic power in the developing world. It's no stretch to imagine that local government and those opposed to NGOs can paint them as agents of a new imperialism.

Part 3, on Haiti, is airing this week.

[Tip of the hat to Dean Bradley for alerting us to these documentaries.]

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Jenin's Freedom Theatre Embraces 2012

2011 was a year of tough perseverance for the Freedom Theatre in Jenin Refugee Camp, Palestine. The joint Palestinian-Israeli project -- a collective community rehabilitation endeavor, art school and theatre troupe -- suffered an enormous tragedy with the April 4 murder (still unsolved) of its founder and leader, Juliano Mer Khamis.

Israeli military raids into Jenin Refugee Camp have intensified lately, with the targets including Freedom Theatre volunteers. Co-founder Zakaria Zubeidi, a former leader of the camp's armed resistance to Israeli occupation who renounced violence in 2006, recently had his amnesty revoked by Israel and faces possible re-arrest.

To welcome a new and hopefully more peaceful year, the Freedom Theatre is engaging supporters in a fundraising campaign to sustain its various programs, including the acting school, photography school, community art projects and stage productions. From its latest press release:

The accomplishments of The Freedom Theatre over the past six years are many and we are confident that we will continue implementing creative projects that change the lives of children and youth in the local community – but we need your assistance. You can best help us by signing up for a monthly donation program, becoming a long-term partner of The Freedom Theatre. We hope to get 1000 people from around the world to donate at least 10 USD/EUR or equivalent per month.

If you're so inclined, please support the Freedom Theatre. For more information [shameless plug alert] check out this 2007 article from This Magazine, written by Tuque Souq author Richard A. Johnson.

Related posts: 

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year

Happy 2012 from the Tuque Souq. We're undergoing a wee redesign in both the visual and conceptual senses. Please bear with us; we'll have the souq all cleaned up and ready for the new year soon.