Thursday, November 30, 2006

Announcing the release of Judge Prowse Presiding, written and performed by Frank Holden

Now an Audio CD from Rattling Books, Judge Prowse Presiding by Frank Holden brings a vital character and a near-forgotten frontier world of outport Newfoundland in the 1890s back to life.

Daniel Woodley Prowse (1834-1914), police magistrate, journalist, sportsman, historian and champion of the common man, was a "cross between Dr Samuel Johnson and Falstaff." As he rails at both plaintiffs and felons in his jokes and yarns he revives the excitement and the agonies of his time.

Judge Prowse was born in Port de Grave, Newfoundland in 1834. He is best known as the author of A History of Newfoundland, first published in 1895. A History of Newfoundland, is widely hailed as one of the finest histories written about Newfoundland and Labrador.

First performed by Frank Holden in the mid 1980s, Judge Prowse Presiding was adapted from the stage and performed for Rattling Books in 2006 by Frank Holden.

Words and melody of the song "Greedy Harbour, " composed by Jack Maher and Stephen Mullins, 1929, (Greenleaf's Ballads and Sea Songs of Newfoundland, Harvard University Press, 1933, page 256, Library of Congress card catalogue # 68:20767).

Listening time: Roughly 75 minutes ADAPTED FROM THE STAGE © Frank Holden 1987, Rattling Books 2006 $19.95 - An AUDIO CD ISBN 978-0-9737586-6-5

Available online from Rattling Books


Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Kathleen Winter wins 2nd Annual Metcalf-Rooke Award

It was only the other day that Kathleen was saying how her first collection of short stories was going to be published. And now there she is after winning an award before it's even out.

Go Kathleen Go!

2nd Annual Metcalf-Rooke Award Announcement

Judges Comments:
We have awarded the 2006 Metcalf-Rooke Award to the stories of Kathleen Winter. The stories delighted us for various reasons. They have a clarity and lucidity of thought and language which is rare. They offer a portrait of small-town and rural Newfoundland life in a mixture of stories and sketches and in language electric.We enjoyed the gritty detail in which all the stories were grounded; we enjoyed her quirky eye; and we revelled in the humour which lights up even the grimmest of her stories.We are pleased to welcome a new and distinctive voice in Canadian writing.- Leon Rooke & John Metcalf ...

Read the rest at the Bibliosasis site.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Simon Houpt article on Mavis Gallant in recent Globe and Mail

Simon Houpt wrote a long article in the Globe and Mail this past Saturday (November, 26) about Mavis Gallant and the New York tribute to her earlier this month.

Rattling Books attended the same Tribute event in NYC covered by Houpt's article - with Mavis Gallant's latest release: an unabridged audio edition of Montreal Stories (a collection of short fiction by Gallant selected by Russell Banks and known in the US under the title Varieties of Exile). Narrated by Margot Dionne, the audio edition of Montreal Stories is available online from Rattling Books. All eleven hours of it on a single MP3 CD or as an MP3 Digital Download.


Monday, November 27, 2006

Excerpt from the upcoming play, Say Nothing Saw Wood by Joel Thomas Hynes

The following is an excerpt from Say Nothing Saw Wood, the upcoming play by Joel Thomas Hynes set to premiere at the LSPU Hall in St. John's, Newfoundland, May 2007.

Lost Cause – (excerpt)

Fourteen years old I was, first time I got a bit of skin. Whiskey had nothing to do with it either. Teresa Bennett. Me and Harold and another few b’ys were jiggin sea trout down off the breakwater when she come trudging across the beach. Sixteen, I s’pose she was. Heavy too. She used to call me the lost cause.

-- Here comes the little lost cause.

The big manly roars out of her then. It was a couple of years before I figured out she was just pokin fun at me name. And by that time she was dead. Killed. Loaded drunk and fell out the back of a truck near Bay Bulls somewhere. All of a sudden then everyone loved her.

That day on the beach she up and starts tossin rocks and chunks of driftwood out at our lines. Lookin to piss someone off. Askin for it. Harold called her an old slut and fired a rock at her. She slung one back, a big one, caught me right in the corner of the goddamn eye. An inch closer and I’da been the real hard ticket, right out of the movies, with the black eye-patch and the empty socket to show around at dances and shit. I never see it comin of course. I woulda got out of the goddamn way sure. But it knocked me down and the blood started streamin down me face. She laughed first. She did. Clear as day. But when she see the blood she got flustered a bit, started runnin towards me. I picked up a handful of rocks and let drift at her. She took off back up the beach and I took off after her. She was quick on her feet though, considering the size of her. But I s’pose she knew how cracked I was, split open and bleedin. I kept drillin rocks at her while I was runnin. She screamin back at me that she’s sorry, that it was an accident, pleadin with me to fuck off. Blood runnin into me eyes, blindin me, the world coated muddy red. Cracked I was.

Teresa lumbers up the bank at the end of the beach, busts into the Reddy’s old stage. No one’d used it in years, ‘cept for storin nets and gear. That’s all anyone used ‘em for since the plant opened up. Time I gets to the door she has it barred off. She’s all out of breath, I hears her tryna steady her lungs. I keeps heavin me shoulder into the door till I breaks one of the boards. I gives it one last go, exactly the same time she steps out of the way. I lands in on the floor then, and drives a fuck of a nail into me hand. That hurts worse than the rock in the face. She darts off to the other end of the stage but the backdoor’s boarded up. I got her cornered. She knows she’s in for it. Me there with me face all bust open and me hand gushin. She keeps on blubberin about how sorry she is and not to tell no one.

-- C’mon Jude, please…

And I realizes then and there that I’ve no clue what I’m plannin to do with her now that she’s caught. I was just chasin her ‘cause I was cracked. But now, when I sees her there like that with her big jugs heavin up and down and the sweat runnin off her forehead and her hair all plastered to it. And maybe the smell of the place too; fishy and damp and musty. And the dark of the room, little cracks of sunlight through the walls. I don’t know, it’s exciting. I picks up the handle of a gaff, holds it up to her face. She goes right quiet then. Just her breathin there. Dark patch of sweat on her chest. She makes a run, tries to get around me. I just shoves her down on top of the nets. I got a bit of height on her. One of her big jugs flops out of her bra. She looks back and forth from the gaff handle to me bloody head to the fresher blood drippin off me hand. She lies back, and don’t think I’m not quick about it either. I got me lad out and in her before she can say me name. I’ll give ya a lost cause missus.

She never made no fuss, just lay there lookin’ at the wall. I got blood all over the side of her face and neck but she never made a peep. I got up then and I let her go on. I wasn’t so cracked with her no more. Few days after I seen her walkin into her house and I went up and knocked on the door but she wouldn’t come out. I s’pose where she was a bit older she didn’t want no one getting the wrong idea. Fuck her anyhow. Say nothing, saw wood.

‘Bout a year after that I started knockin around with Margie Ryan. She was never with no one before me though. No. And of course I never let on about what Teresa Bennett went and done with me. Far as Margie was concerned, her first time was a first for me too. Still, I felt a bit cheated by the whole Teresa thing. And, to be honest, when she was tossed outta that truck down in Bay Bulls that time and cracked her neck and the whole Shore was getting on about what a lovely girl she was and how she never said boo to no one, well I’d just have a glance in the mirror and I’d see this little scar in the corner of me eye and I remembers thinking to meself, well everything comes back to haunt you. She got hers, just like everyone else.

Yeah, I remembers thinkin that way alright…

This excerpt from Say Nothing Saw Wood also appeared in Lust for Life, an anthology published by VĂ©hicule Press (2006). The photo of Joel Thomas Hynes reading in a Brooklyn Bar was taken by Scott Walden.

Joel Thomas Hynes is the author and principal narrator of Down to the Dirt (Rattling Books, 2006, six hours on an MP3 CD or as Digital Download from
You can listen to an excerpt of Joel's reading of Down to the Dirt HERE.

Behrens and Anansi (Rattling Books' Distributor) win Governor General's Literary Award for Fiction

Rattling Books would like to congratulate our Canadian distributor House of Anansi Press and Peter Behrens for their recent win of the 2006 Governor General's Literary Award for Fiction.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Dictionary of Newfoundland English : Merrybegot

The following entry is from the Dictionary of Newfoundland English and includes reference to "merrybegot":

merry a OED ~ a B adv b ~ begot (1785, 1890), EDD (2) (a); OED dancer n 5, EDD ~ a 1 (6) ~ dancers, DC (1946). Comb merry-begot, ~ me-got: bastard; MOSS CHILD. 1924 ENGLAND 183 'The merry-me-got!' exclaimed the Cap'n, wrathfully. To call a man a merry-me-got seriously reflects on the legitimacy of his entrance into this sorry world. T 222-66 This child is not simply an illegitimate child, but a 'moss child' or a 'moonlight child' or a child that is 'merry begot.' 1968 Nfld Qtly Christmas, pp. 5-6 They often lived together without benefit of clergy and children born out of wedlock were called by the delightful name of 'merrybegots.'

merry dancers, dancers: northern lights, aurora borealis (1937 DEVINE 33). C 65-2 The northern dancers or merry dancers are really going it tonight. We're going to have a nice day tomorrow. C 66-18 Extra brilliant light of the northern lights is a sign of good weather. They are called dancers in Bonavista. 1981 HUSSEY 62 The merry dancers were northern lights but they looked a bit different and were a bit more lively ... always in motion and continually dancing,

Another use of the word Merrybegot: a collection of poems by Mary Dalton, the audio edition of which was narrated by Anita Best with Patrick Boyle on trumpet and flugelhorn; published by Rattling Books in 2005.

A Brief History of CODCO (Background for an appreciation of Uncle Val)

The following text is quoted from The Papers of CODCO (Theatre Company) COLL-121 Arranged and Described by Gail Weir, Archives and Manuscripts Division, Memorial University of NewfoundlandDecember 1998

A Brief History of CODCO

David Weiser and Dudley Cox, co-founders of the Newfoundland Travelling Theatre Company (NTTC), played a significant role in the history of CODCO in that they hired all of the performers who would later form the CODCO troupe in the early 1970s to tour small communities on the island portion of Newfoundland. Taking part in NTTC's first production, the British farce "See How They Run," June 27 - July 26, 1972, were Tommy Sexton, Mary Walsh, Andy Jones, Diane Olsen and Bob Joy, among others. NTTC's second tour in August 1972 was with the play "Pools Paradise," and featured Greg Malone, Mary, Diane, and Tommy. Cathy Jones, Tommy and Diane toured with "Starrigan" in 1973. They travelled the back roads of the island in two Volkswagen vans and slept most nights on school gymnasium floors. They were paid $40 a week plus meals. This experience not only exposed the group of "townies" to outport life first hand, providing them with grist for their creative mills, but gave them a taste of the precarious life of acting, and prepared them for the provincial tour of their own show "Cod On A Stick" in the summer of 1974.

In a very real sense, the life of CODCO as a working theatre troupe began and ended with Tommy Sexton. His influence on the group was summed up by Sandy Morris: "Tommy was one of those great personalities who dictates so much of how you lead your life. He had so much energy that you just got sucked along with whatever he wanted to do." He had quit school after Grade 10 and, against his parents' wishes, went to Toronto in late summer 1973 with Diane Olsen to pursue a career in acting. He and Diane tried out for a show with Paul Thompson, director of Theatre Passe Muraille. They did not get the parts because of their accents, but Paul was impressed with them and gave them $300 to write their own play. They recruited their roommates, Cathy Jones and Paul Sametz. The plan was to do the "Punch and Judy" show they had worked on at NTTC along with some other pieces they had written, but they needed direction, which they sought from Greg Malone. He agreed and ended up writing himself into the show. White helped with the writing but did not want to be on stage, so she talked Mary Walsh into joining. Thus CODCO was born. The name CODCO was not used until they had to design a program, at which time Greg came up with CODCO (Cod Company), which referred to the fact that they were codding people. The space in which they were to perform was the annex of a small church, a tiny area with steps to sit on and a main door which opened right onto the little stage. Their first show, "Cod On A Stick," debuted in October and, although a brief 30 minutes, it was a hit. In it, they made fun of the way mainlanders see Newfoundlanders. They expanded it to 45 minutes and ran it again during November and December and again in January 1974. CBC Radio paid their way home in February so that they could record it live in front of a Newfoundland audience. It was an even bigger hit in St. John's. 1974 was the 25th anniversary of Newfoundland's confederation with Canada and grant money was made available to bring outside performers into the province. CODCO lobbied for a share and received $8000 with which they bought a van to tour the show around the province. Christian Decker was hired as driver and manager for this tour. Mary returned to Ryerson and was replaced on the tour by Maisie Rillie. Cathy was working with NTTC for the first few weeks of the tour, so White filled in for her. Bob Joy returned from Oxford to join the tour. Andy Jones joined in time for the August 1974 filming of the show which was staged at Memorial University's Little Theatre. For the next nine productions, the troupe consisted of Andy Jones, Cathy Jones, Bob Joy, Greg Malone, Diane Olsen, Tommy Sexton and Mary Walsh, collectively referred to here as "all seven members," with Maisie Rillie as business manager and White performing technical duties. When Bob and Diane left the troupe in 1976, the remaining five members decided to retain CODCO as a limited liability company, under the aegis of which they worked individually and in various forms of togetherness over the next 10 years. In 1986, the CODCO television series brought these five back to work together on a stable basis for the next five years and, when the show went national in 1988, they began renting office space in St. John's, first above the Ship Inn bar on Duckworth Street, and from May 1989 at 177 Water Street on the third floor of the London, New York and Paris building. Andy Jones left the television series in October 1990 after a dispute with CBC about some of his material being censored, but the remaining four members stayed together for another two seasons.

In November 1992, The Plays of CODCO, edited by Helen Peters with the co-operation of all seven original members, was published by Peter Lang. This is the definitive version of their five major stage shows and, for the members of CODCO, represented the pinnacle of their careers. It legitimized them as writers and guaranteed their work would survive for posterity. The launch of the publication was the only time after 1976 they all appeared together in public, this time to sign copies of "their" book. Then, in December 1993, Tommy Sexton died and the troupe disbanded. With the culmination of the television show and the publication of The Plays of CODCO, the individual members of the troupe no longer felt the need to maintain an office. The office had served as a resource centre for the troupe, a place of their own where they could consult old scripts for reworking into new material and where the notes and working papers of their early stage shows could be housed during the editing process leading up to publication. In April 1994, the contents of the office were transferred to the Archives and Manuscripts Division at Memorial University and the lease was cancelled. The remaining members of CODCO went their separate ways once again: Mary Walsh and Cathy Jones began work on a new CBC national television comedy series, This Hour Has 22 Minutes, which is still (in 1999) one of the highest-rated shows in the country; Andy Jones continues to write, perform and direct for stage and television, locally and nationally; Greg Malone has branched out into more dramatic roles and social activism, writing, performing and directing stage shows locally and nationally, doing a video using his comedy to teach medical students about AIDS and, most recently, a docu-drama on the women's suffrage movement in Newfoundland.

Source of the above: The Papers of CODCO (Theatre Company) COLL-121 Arranged and Described by Gail Weir, Archives and Manuscripts Division, Memorial University of NewfoundlandDecember 1998

Andy Jones, the member of CODCO responsible for depositing the above papers with the Archives, is currently appearing on stage in St. John's, Newfoundland in An Evening with Uncle Val in which he threads some of his asides through the history of CODCO.

Letters from Uncle Val is a Rattling Books Audio CD written and performed by Andy Jones. It was released this past week with the stage show. Available online from Rattling Books, the best places to find it in St. John's are Fred's Records and the Travel Bug.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Who was CODCO? Background for an appreciation of Andy Jones and Uncle Val

Andy Jones is well known to many through his association with the Newfoundland comedy troupe CODCO and later more so for his one man shows and the character Uncle Val who is the core of Andy's current show at the LSPU Hall.

For those who don't know who CODCO is we will start by simply naming the names.

The following is quoted from the Memorial University of Newfoundland Archives:

Who was CODCO?

CODCO (1973-1993) was made up of the following writers / performers:

Tommy Sexton (1973-93) Mary Walsh (1973-93) Diane Olsen (1973-76) Bob Joy (1974-76)Cathy Jones (1973-93) Andy Jones (1974-90) Greg Malone (1973-93)

Paul Sametz played "the neighbour" for the original Toronto run of "Cod On A Stick." When the show was brought to St. John's, Scott Strong replaced Sametz, but he also left before the show toured Newfoundland. Maisie Rillie and Mary White, known simply as White, performed with the troupe on occasion and both also served as manager, White for the Toronto run of "Cod On A Stick" and the television series in the 1980s and 90s, Rillie for the other stage shows in the 1970s. Greg Thomey occasionally worked with the troupe on the television series as both a performer and writer. Guitarist Sandy Morris composed the theme music for the television series and became musical director when it went national.

Source of the above:

The Papers of CODCO (Theatre Company) COLL-121 Arranged and Described by Gail Weir Archives and Manuscripts Division, Memorial University of NewfoundlandDecember 1998

Friday, November 24, 2006

Listen to a Letter from Uncle Val from his new Audio CD

Andy Jones has just released Uncle Val's first Audio CD entitled Letters from Uncle Val (Rattling Books 2006).

Listen to the first letter in this collection of nineteen letters.

Letters from Uncle Val is available online from Rattling Books. If you're lucky enough to live in or around St. John's, Newfoundland you can grab it from Fred's Records or the Travel Bug (who also have it in their new Corner Brook store).

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Anita Best: one of many tangents in "An Evening with Uncle Val"

Anita Best as a tangential story in "An Evening with Uncle Val" by Andy Jones

In An Evening with Uncle Val currently playing at the LSPU Hall in St. John's, Newfoundland, Andy Jones is regaling audiences with a labyrinthic tour through the letters of Uncle Val. Uncle Val is a well loved old slipper of a character that anyone who has followed Andy Jones in the theatre over the years has come to cherish. Modeled on the story teller Francis Colbert, Uncle Val is a subtle commentator on the shifting sands of tradition - a chuckle machine that warms your heart while stretching your brains reflection muscles.

Several of the asides in the evening pertain to Anita Best and in fact in several ways and places Andy Jones pays homage to Anita Best. The Internet being what it is - you can read an interview with Anita Best that covers some of the same ground alluded to in An Evening with Uncle Val - a 2001 conversation that Elinor Benjamin' had with Anita Best that was published in the Canadian Folk Music Bulletin is available for the reading, if not the telling, online. In this conversation Anita recalls the story telling talents of Pius Power and a version of Cinderella he told her young daughter Kate wherein oversized feet are shaved down with pocket knives and Cinderella herself opts out of the race.

Anita Best is the voice of Mary Dalton's poems on Rattling Books audio edition of Merrybegot. Along with poet Agnes Walsh she recently represented Rattling Books in Iceland.

Listen to the voice of Anita Best reading a poem from Merrybegot.

Gordon Jones reviews "An Evening with Uncle Val" (The Telegram)

Move fast to see Uncle Val

Theatre reviewBy Gordon Jones

... An Evening with Uncle Val" is a double narrative. The letters of Uncle Valentine Reardigan to his friend back home around the bay are intertwined with the metatheatrical Andy Jones narrative, in which the author-performer comments on the Uncle Val component and also provides a good-humoured, anecdotal account of becoming a performing artist in Newfoundland, while paying tribute to the traditional story tellers in whose footsteps he is walking.

... Tales and yarns are generally extremely funny, as Jones and Uncle Val philosophise and fabulise, and as the narrative is extended to include the denizens of Jones's imagination - dead parents, Queen Elizabeth, the Beatles, President John F. Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe.

Performance feats include mimicry of Kennedy and Smallwood, miming a codfish and a whirling dervish of a dance performed in the persona of a werewolf. Quips and comic trouvailles include a throw-away line about zen driving licences for the legally blind and a running joke about Danes.Sometimes impishly mischievous, sometimes earnestly intent; now straight-faced, now wild-eyed, Jones's performance is versatile, but always open and candid...

(For the full review click here)

Memorial University of Newfoundland Convocation address by Dr. Andrew Jones in 2000

This week Andy Jones' current stage show An Evening with Uncle Val plays in St. John's. With Andy Jones on the stage as Uncle Val and remembering thirty years of theatre it's not a bad time to reflect on the contribution to our culture and society that artists like Andy Jones make.

Like many artists and professional funny people through time Andy Jones is one of our society's most serious assets. Memorial University of Newfoundland recognized that by bestowing Andy and three of his comedic colleagues with Honourary Doctorates in 2000. The previous post on this Blog was the Public Orator's speech concerning Andy. Now here's what Andy said.

Memorial Univeristy of Newfoundland Convocation address by Dr. Andrew Jones in 2000
"It's hard to be the last person in a series of CODCO people because usually they say before what you meant to say. We used to have a thing one time in CODCO where we all had to vomit onstage. And I was the last vomiter. And of course I had to do the best one. It was very dangerous because Tommy Sexton used to go before me and sometimes if the crowd really loved him a lot, he couldn't help, he would do my vomit too. And then I had nowhere to go.
I'd like to tell you a little story. Once upon a time not so very long ago, in fact on the 31st of March of this year, I performed in a children's show in Buchans at Lakeside Academy — we dramatized two Newfoundland folktales: Jack and the Three Giants and Little Jack The Little Fisherman.

The eight members of the company all agreed that day in Buchans, that that particular performance had been very, very, very special. It had been a magic 45 minutes. Those moments do happen occasionally in the theatre and do happen occasionally in life, and the 100 or so adults who were in the audience and 200 children seemed to agree by their obvious surrender to the seductive charms of story telling.

I should point out that this show that we were doing was not part of the curriculum, was not a profit making venture and was not designed for tourists. It was a magic moment totally without agenda ... and without Walt Disney. Just a bunch of Newfoundlanders listening to our own stories and enjoying our own particular take on what it is to be human.
It takes a lot of work to produce 45 minutes of magic. Two years of planning, writing, rewriting, rehearsing, designing and building — but more important are the cultural threads that led to this human connection in Buchans on March 31.

I'll just list some of them, and they're probably the same threads that run through your lives: the stories themselves were originally told by Mr. Freeman Bennett from St. Pauls on the west coast of the island, part of the rich oral tradition of Newfoundland; they were collected by Herbert Halpert and John Widdowson, whose life's work was supported by the people of Newfoundland through Memorial University; the actors themselves were from all over the province — Stephenville, Corner Brook, Badgers Quay, Kelligrews, Merasheen Island, Mount Pearl, St. John's and Clark's Beach; two of the actors were graduates of the Grenfell College, one was an alumnus of Figgy Duff, one from CODCO — where we stole stories, phrases, characters, and even lines from our parents who were from Conception Bay, St. Mary's Bay, Notre Dame Bay, Bay of Islands, Carters Hill and Gower Street; another of our actor's beginnings in the theatre go directly back to the Jack tales as told by Mr. Pius Power of South East Bight in Placentia Bay and heard on the school broadcasts as collected by Anita Best, our wonderful singer/storyteller — an alumnus and bright light of Memorial's Folklore Department; another actor started his career because his community was doing a project based on Bernice Morgan's novel Random Passage — which is probably the best story of how we all got here in the first place; another career in our group started because of a high school teacher in Kelligrews who loved the theatre.

I've only just scratched the surface of all these threads — cultural threads that were there at that moment in that magical 45 minutes in Buchans. We do really have something very, very special here and we all know that. But we must tell our fearless leaders that it didn't come about because it made a profit or because it was for tourists. It was generated by human beings — together in our complex, evolved, and still very dynamic Newfoundland culture nurtured by the people of Newfoundland in institutions such as the university and the school system. And the art that comes from that culture should be available to our own people first and later on for the tourists.

And that's just a story and I'll end it the way Mr. Pius Power ends all his stories, by telling you that when we finished the show in Buchans we all sat down to a meal at a tin table, but the tin table bended so my story's ended. If the table had been stronger my story would have been longer, and if the people in the story don't have good luck then may all of ye. "

N.B. Letters from Uncle Val, a Rattling Books audio CD written and performed by Andy Jones is now available from

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Oration honouring Andrew Jordan Jones (Creator of Uncle Val) by Shane O'Dea in 2000

Shane O'Dea has been the public orator for Memorial University since 1995. In this capacity he delivers public orations on Honour Roll recipients during the annual convocation ceremony.

In 2000, Memorial University of Newfoundland bestowed Honourary Degrees on a quartet of Newfoundland actors and Codco members: Andy Jones, Mary Walsh, Greg Malone and Cathy Jones.

Here is what Shane O'Dea wrote in his Oration honouring Andrew Jordan Jones:

"To speak of fools is to step into a world of paradox, a world of distorting mirrors. And for those of us who hold seriousness and wisdom in high esteem, to take such a step is to hold ourselves open to reproach. Chancellor, on this stage we commonly, or uncommonly if that would be your preference, honour philanthropists and those who have served their communities, scholars and those who have accomplished great things. To be a fool is to be none of these, yet all. However, if we do not honour fools we are but fools ourselves for we fail in our fooling to recognize the folly of our foolishness. Thus needs we be careful and move only at a snail's pace, to use an old analogy, or picosecond by picosecond to use a new — a new analogy that is precisely of the precision we would achieve in uniting our wisdom with the candidate's accomplishment.

And so, these words disported, we proceed to the dissection of merit. This man was last in and first out of this quartet. Entering late, he left early because of a dispute on a matter of principle with the CBC. He felt that the CBC was censoring him while he savagely censured an institution that had cultivated him. But he had done this earlier with the vehement madness of Father Dinn, who preached to little children on the sinfulness of little children. And here lies the paradox, for Andrew Jones was born on the feast-day of St. Ita, that holy woman of Limerick, foundress of a school for little boys where was taught “Purity of heart [and] simplicity of life with religion”; where was taught St. Brendan who brought Christ and European civilization to these our shores. And what have we here — a man who exposes the wickedness of the priests and sets in train the attitudes that bring down the Roman Church. This is merit? It is — in this world of distorting mirrors — for it involves the candidate's pure and simple notions of religion; an expectation which, when violated, made him as the saviour amid the money changers in the temple: riotous with rage turned wisdom in ridicule.

Mr. Chancellor, these contradictions evaporate when we accept that Andy Jones is at heart a traditionalist. How else could he pen those subtly moving, remarkably deft “Letters from Uncle Val” which we used to hear every Saturday morning, and which were so affecting that many listeners wrote to Val as if he were a real person. Why else does he render our folktales into children's theatre in Jack-Five-Oh? This is the man who, squirrel-like, maintained the CODCO office and ensured that, when it closed down, all the records were deposited at the Centre for Newfoundland Studies. This is the man who, ejected from the St. Bon's choir for lack of voice, found vocation as an altar boy and so became enamoured of ritual because he knew, with Yeats, that “in custom and in ceremony/ Are innocence and beauty born.” This is a man who, watching the LSPU Hall become a place of discord, helped remake it as the community-based Resource Centre for the Arts. He was one of those who shaped our national consciousness by humour; who made the comedy of our lives, our pride, and so turned back the vectors of ridicule. And this service was recognized when he was made a member of the Arts Council Hall of Honour in 1993. I present to you, Mr. Chancellor, for the degree of doctor of letters (honoris causa), a man with a sense of posterity and place, a man with a deep sense of his own country, his Newfoundland, Andrew Jordan Jones."

Monday, November 20, 2006

Nov 21 Opening Night and CD Launch Reception for Uncle Val at the LSPU Hall

An Evening with Uncle Val opens at the LSPU Hall (Resource Centre for the Arts) November 21 in St. John's, Newfoundland. To celebrate the opening of this run of performances by Andy Jones and the launch of his new Rattling Books CD Letters from Uncle Val please join us following the opening night show for a Reception downstairs in the Gallery. Show starts at 8 pm.  CDs will be on sale during the show's run during Intermission and following the show each night.
November 21st – 25th, 2006
Written and performed by Andy Jones
Directed by Lois Brown

“One of Canada’s greatest comedic actors, Jones is not to be missed”
- Ron Foley MacDonald, Halifax Daily News

“There’s no humorist in Canada I would rather spend time with”
- Robert Crew, Toronto Star

“There are precious few actors who can charm and bind an audience so completely as Andy Jones” - Gordon Jones, The Telegram

‘An Evening with Uncle Val’ shares, among other things, the comic anecdotes of an indignant 70-year-old retired fisherman, displaced from his outport home and trapped in the ‘burbs of St. John’s, playing live-in babysitter for his daughter’s rhyming youngsters, Jimmy and Kimmy.

Box Office: 753-4531 LSPU Hall, 3 Victoria Street St. John’s, Newfoundland

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Excerpt: Letter from Uncle Val dated November 25, 1986 (by Andy Jones)

The Following is the text of a Letter from Uncle Val by Andy Jones. This letter aired on Newfoundland and Labrador's CBC Radio Weekend Arts Magazine this morning. Uncle Val is one of the best loved of Andy Jones' characters. If you don't know who Uncle Val or Andy Jones are, stay tuned to this Blog and all will be revealed. Like the upcoming release by Rattling Books of a collectionf of Letters from Uncle Val and the upcoming stage show, An Evening with Uncle Val at the Resource Centre for the Arts (LSPU Hall) in St. John's, Newfoundland.
November 25 1986 (Tuesday)

Dear Jack,

Thank you for your letter of the thirteenth. Well, I’m still here in St. John’s. Sometimes I feel like writing to you and saying "help I am a prisoner in St. John’s". But I know you’d think there goes that melodramatic old fool again. But I’m quite serious. People in St. John’s are very strange. They keep saying things like: ”There’s nothing like a cup of tea in the woods”’. I mean, they say that quite often. I keep picturing a cup of tea all by itself in the woods. And I agree there would be nothing quite like that.

I have now moved in with my daughter Margaret.

Of course she had to marry a man from St. John’s. As you know I tried to stop her from marrying Bernard but I could not at that time present a coherent case. It was more instinctual, I guess. I instinctually hated Bernard. Bernard is in Insurance ... insurance is in Bernard ... In fact I believe Insurance is Up Bernard. He walks kinda funny.

My only comfort these days is a friend of mine across the road who’s from Bonavista Bay. Occasionally we sit in front of the TV and cry our way through "Land and Sea". Bernard thinks "Land and Sea” is beamed in from another planet.

And their youngsters. Oh my oh my. Jimmy and Kimmy. Rhyming youngsters. Children are funny in St. John’s. Here they learn by "asking questions"... Now in our day, Jack, you did not ask questions --I mean you had questions inside you but you had to sit around the kitchen until someone accidentally expelled an answer which you then joined to a question jigsaw style. Sometimes in the old days there’d be three or four youngsters sitting on the daybed and someone would let fly with a piece of information --you could almost hear the wheels turning and their little eyes would glow with sudden enlightenment . "So”, they’d think, "that’s how Elizabeth come to be livin’ at the Pottles!" Often that was how Elizabeth herself found out. And in those days children ran messages. That was their job. And in return they were allowed to sleep indoors.

But nowadays it’s all Spiderman and Dukes of Hazzard and Chef Boyardee Scarios. I’d give 'em a scario. I’d like to run into their bedroom on Christmas morning and say "Jimmy, Kimmy wake up! Spider man is dead!...Yes, they finally got en. Yes he’s lyin out now in some cheap second rate funeral home just like you will be some day; your little white bodies laid out in little white coffins and the flesh that was once your face will slither off your skulls and be eaten by worms!

Then they’d take notice of their grandfather.

But of course I never say nothing. Not in “Sin. John’s”.

Trusting that you and Madonna are well,

I remain, your friend


PS: They also got two dogs, poodles-Tiffy and Tuffy. ….Oh and I presume everyone out home knows that Margaret is expecting.
Her third.

Oh my.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Photograph of Joel Thomas Hynes by Scott Walden

Well we’re back from the eastern seaboard and Agnes and Anita are back from Iceland and we’ll gradually fill you in on it all through this Blog. To start with, the first photo from NYC just arrived in the email from Scott Walden.

Never mind that his core training is in the philosophy of mind and language, with special emphasis on mental causation and mentalistic causal explanation – or perhaps because of that - Scott Walden agreed to be the official photographer for Rattling Books recent foray into New York City with author Joel Thomas Hynes (Down to the Dirt, unabridged MP3 CD, 6.5 hours, Rattling Books 2006) and narrator Margot Dionne (Montreal Stories by Mavis Gallant, unabridged MP3 CD, 11 hours, Rattling Books 2006).

Using his so-not-digital medium format camera Scott captured this shot of Joel Thomas Hynes through the window of Brooklyn’s Pour House enchanting a group of ironworkers and their families, many of them with direct or indirect roots in Newfoundland.

As he develops them we’ll be bringing you more from the lens of Scott’s camera but in the meantime if you want to check him out his homepage is here and his work is represented in Newfoundland by the Christina Parker Gallery.

Scott Walden was most hospitable to us while we were in NYC and we love him mentalistically for it.