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Film review: Danton outgrosses Robespierre

Preface: As I've said, oldie writing will be dusted off and plunked blogside (at least at first; new stuff should gradually overtake i...

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

I Don't Know Anything About Art, but I Know What Is Sufficiently Wacko. Ch. 1 - "Striped Socks"

Does the American auto industry need a government bailout, like the financial sector? Is Victoria Beckham's new "poxie" hairdo better of worse than her 2007 platinum brushover?

Push aside all such piddling questions and meditate, instead on our City of Edmonton's decision to erect a 20-foot-high sculpture, a whimsical pair of brick clogs and striped socks, at the new Southgate Light Rail station, scheduled to open in 2010.

The story, with artist's conception (in color) graced (if that is the right word) the cover of today's Edmonton Journal, praised by their culture critic Todd Babiak along with the city's new downtown winter-lights program. Well, hell, Todd is an old classmate of mine whom I owe at least one favor (hi Todd) and God knows I am not averse to whimsy.

Did I not once imagine, in print, in detail (occasionally phallic), a male "Poker Party" to rival Judy Chicago's feminist "Dinner Party"? Would not a sombrero of 100-metre radius be a fine umbrella to place over Churchill Square and all its summerfests?? C'mon people, trip the light fantastical!

All the same, I have the uneasy suspicion that Sandy Public is going to holler this whopper down, as a lump of Clownishness Unparalleled, perhaps unaware that CU is currently the dominant movement in the 3D arts. Acres of forest will be reduced to cheap newsprint in the churning debate, and radio and TV announcers will exhale vast amounts of CO2 doing the same. And part of my schizo self (possibly the section of my genome containing the neoclassical alleles) will sympathize with Sandy Public too.

I dunno. In any case I am enough of a veteran of public debates to predict that they will settle nothing, and enough of an arts critic to disbelieve Todd's optimism that public art is going to transform Edmonton into something unique and wonderful. We homo borealis hereabouts will still be the same mix of stodgy businessmen, sturdy working stiffs and flailing anarchists that we always were. Has our already sizeable scattering of public art (much of it better than decent) changed Redmontonians even one whit? I ask you!

Maybe it is the art racket that needs a bailout. Of the ideology.

In the interests thereof, let me offer City Hall some privatized help, in the form of a quote from Will Cuppy's The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody, on the subject of all that iconic (sorry for the buzzword) Greek art:

...Pericles was able to make Athens the City Beautiful by building the Parthenon and other things on the Acropolis and adorning them with a great deal of art. The average Athenian citizen, if he so desired, could daily contemplate the most magnificent specimens of architecture, painting and sculpture the world has ever seen. The effect of this upon the citizens was the same as the effect of art upon citizens today.

Hahaha ouch! Cuppy particularly cites the Greeks' looting problem (nothing on grafitti, which probably didn't survive; the looting reminds me that someone in Edmonton once stole a huge sculpture containing four giant steel cylinders, and first nobody noticed it missing, and then when it was rediscovered years later with only three cylinders, nobody noticed the fourth, wonderfully horizontally-extended fourth cylinder missing either).

There is a moral there somewhere. Anyway, sic semper civic sophistecture.

Surf's up!!/flotsam #1 -- sight gags!!

Need a cartoon of Mohammed with two bomb-like Mickey Mouse ears? Or an impromptu logo for Canada's "The Sex Party" ? (which lacks a logo, but not a platform, which advocates, among other things, that, "The Sex Party would create a Sex-Positive Press Council that would expose the overt and subtle censorship practiced by BC media.")



Huge scroll of hilariously and painfully literate stuff around these two items, but the blog itself is a year defunct, as the blogger, alas, seems to have decided the effort isn't worth the returns, particularly time lost with family.

Meanwhile, in related news, crap-by-the-kilometre types continue to churn it out...

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Art imitates blogosphere (there's an echo in here!)

If you follow the Doonesbury strip, you know that Rick Redfern has just been fired as political reporter at the Washington Post. Whereupon he falls back upon writing a blog. Same work educating the yokelry, right? Wrong. Now his status has sunk from the eminence of a byline to being just one electronic yap in a million. And wife Joanie pointedly asks him if his latest scoop about Obama's basketball skills is going to pay the mortgage! Ouch!

Any resemblance between Trudeau's satire and my first two posts is, well... judge for yourself.

Also, found the related item below while doing an unsuccessful Google-search for my own "Gerard Kennedy -how Utopian?" post:

February 20, 2006 (andrewcoyne.com)
What Would Orwell Blog? (II)
#showlink {display:none}
#ellipsis {display:none}
Handcaper points me to this article from the Financial Times on why blogging is an obsolete medium. It's a bit long and makes some predictable points, but there is some great stuff at the end:

Which brings us to the spectre haunting the blogosphere - tedium. If the pornography of opinion doesn’t leave you longing for an eroticism of fact, the vast wasteland of verbiage produced by the relentless nature of blogging is the single greatest impediment to its seriousness as a medium. To illustrate the point, I asked a number of bloggers whether they thought Karl Marx or George Orwell, two enormously potent political writers who were also journalists, would have blogged if the medium had been available to them. And almost always, the answer was, why of course, it would have given them the widest possible audience and the greatest possible impact. …. And that, in the end, is the dismal fate of blogging: it renders the word even more evanescent than journalism; yoked, as bloggers are, to the unending cycle of news and the need to post four or five times a day, five days a week, 50 weeks of the year, blogging is the closest literary culture has come to instant obsolescence. No Modern Library edition of the great polemicists of the blogosphere to yellow on the shelf; nothing but a virtual tomb for a billion posts - a choric song of the word-weary bloggers, forlorn mariners forever posting on the slumberless seas of news.

"A choric song" my harmonic ass! More like a self-cancelling cacophony of endless yowling! Occasionally something semi-organized does roar out of the blogosphere, to sink its teeth into reality, but not often, and not without profile-raising help by other media (send me a contrary example, dear reader, if you can find one). Even here, the world-shaking event will be found to be more fitful craze than co-ordinated campaign, succeeding (if it does) more by luck than any shrewd strategy and tactics.

And (and!) do bloggers REALLY post, necessarily, four or five times a day????

I'm lucky to have posted three days in a row now (the housework is suffering severely, believe me). Obviously I'll never make the grade as a blogger.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Balloon Farm and Shakespeare

Just for the hell of it I did a maiden search for a tune on the Google-thing to the right (fine political position, eh?) (2012: Wait--is it left now?)

"Give it a hard one," I thought -- Balloon Farm's "A Question Of Temperature" (a truly great, nitty-gritty 60s rocker).


The great, vast Internet is still a bit blinkered, it seems. Just as it remains blinkered on the possibility that Shakespeare's Hamlet is a satire. Tsk.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

So, how "utopian" is Gerard Kennedy anyway?

Just a "quick and dirty" note on Gerard Kennedy, since he survived the Liberal slump and wrested back a formerly Liberal Toronto seat from the NDP in the federal election.

Haven't seen Gerard in decades, but I met him a few times back in the early 80s when he was editorial cartoonist at the University of Alberta student newspaper the Gateway. We had other cartoonists, but there was no doubt in anybody's mind that Kennedy was our BEST, even if he was a bit Aislin-derivative (hey, borrow from the topmost). He drew under the pen-name of Pasken, which years later I finally grokked as being a combination of three letters from his name and three from his hometown of The Pas in Manitoba.

In 1983 a group of us newspaper clowns (NOT including Gerard) ran a "joke slate" in the Student Union election, under the rubric of the "Utopian Pragmatists" and in a masterstroke of publicity we decided to let Gerard draw our caricatures for the campaign poster. He did a fine job, and evry one of us six quasi-politicians saved ten or twenty of the posters as collector items. We knew he was going to amount to something.

A curious memory-fragment of the campaign survives in my Alzheimered brain: the bunch of us going to Gerard's apartment, clutching personal photos for him to operate upon. We had previously offered what we considered a sufficient bribe for the task, a case of beer (which he had accepted), but upon arriving at the Bel Air apartments -- then owned by Peter Pocklington, I think; all weasel journalists should therefore feel free to say that Kennedy "helped line" Peter Huckster-Puckster's pockets with money -- we discovered that Gerard had done some homework, thereby discerning we were funded (as all SU candidates were) by the Student Union, whereupon he matter-of-factly suggested some cash was also required.

We readily agreed to a top-up of $30 or $40 (if memory serves; hell, he was worth at least double) and then left, myself feeling a few twinges of guilt at Gerard's seriousness throughout. We WERE trying to raise issues in our goofy way (one plank in our platform stated that the SU should build a nuclear-missile dense-pack in Quad, so we could negotiate with the provincial government from a position of strength). But somehow Kennedy's steadily sober attitude triggered feelings of unease at our frivolity, at least in my mind.

Shortly after this (or perhaps shortly before, the sequence always eludes me) Gerard walked into the Gateway newsroom one day and approached each staffer to make a contribution to a charity-run (or something of the sort) for "the Hunger Project." Being a charity-doubter on all fronts, and seeing hunger itself as a hideous Hydra beyond solving by mere handouts, I was instantly doubtful about the whole thing. But I contributed a measly amount, mostly on the basis of Kennedy himself. Then I did a bit of research into the Hunger Project's particulars and, finding them somewhat dubious and cult-y wrote about them in my regular column.

Kennedy didn't take this lying down. He promptly wrote a rebuttal, which we also printed. His arguments didn't persuade me --there existed a clear liberal-conservative philosophical split between us, not to mention a differing assessment of the Hunger Project, but I was impressed by the coolness and humor of his reply. Polemic goads were my specialty, and many previous readers of them had responded by popping a cork, so Kennedy's unflappable response was noteworthy.

Moreover, it was shortly after we crossed swords that he founded the Edmonton Food Bank, Canada's first. All in all, I think the sophistication and realism of my ideas flew acrobatic rings around his (that's an unbiased assessment, isn't it?) but the Food Bank, alas, was his clincher. Whatever you might think of the Food Bank's accomplishments (I think they are severely limited) they still comprise some sort of ultimate argument. Doing something always trumps mere talk.

Since then I've followed Kennedy's career with interest, and I note that others who knew him from the early days do so too. I suspect they are impressed by the unflashy solidity of his character (it didn't surprise me at all that he "jumped on the grenade" for Stephane Dion at the leadership convention) and get carried along by his can-do attitude. I also note that most media coverage is favorable and that he seems to inspire fierce loyalty among the people he works with. See for instance:


Note however, that even the Star's columnist, while obviously charmed by Kennedy, still hedges that his presented ideas are "a bit woolly." A more negative judgement (from the Liberal leadership race? --man, gotta get these clippings in order) was a National Post editorial calling his ideas "utopian" (now THERE was an adjective to make my eyes pop!)

Well, maybe Kennedy is somewhat left-idealist, with his views on making the Liberal Party more democratic, and making government more helpful to us common folks and the downtrodden. But he doesn't seem either dreamy or doctrinaire, qualities that very often go in tandem. His father, I hear, was mayor of The Pas and, if I can believe a taxi passenger of mine, the operator of a bulk-fuel depot in town. Neither influence seems conducive to rose-colored glasses.

I suspect if he ever does get into a position of influence/power (a real possibility) his specific proposals for government action would be very criticizable, and I would be among those to howl at them. But that is secondary. Intellect and ideas are only one-tenth as important as "people skills" for a political leader (and I am screwball enough to think that Chretien was a far better Prime Minister than Trudeau for precisely that reason).

On that ground too I would venture that Kennedy has a promising future. All he needs (maybe) is a little more "tempering in the fire." The devilish details of policy can be left to his gang of wonks.

PS: And why is Kennedy suing the National Post?? Can any Facebooker provide the story?


I assume it isn't because the Post tarred him as a utopian...

PPS: Okay, I guess this is a start:


...but I assume that if the lawsuit still awaits a court date (does it?) everyone will be tight-lipped to avoid prejudicing the case...

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

"Till next Tuesday"?? -- hahahahahaha

Election day! For myself, time to think about something else to avoid depression (although I did cast my "Perverse Conservative" vote for the NDP... don't ask. Okay, ask, but you are going to be sorry. Very, very sorry).

So, anyhow, my excuse for plummeting into this "Blogger" spot is that AOL is currently scrapping their blog-site "Journals" (where the first post appeared three years ago as a hesitant experiment) due to declining interest. Big surprise, that, eh? A gazillion morons with computers, thrilling themselves and nobody else by seeing their inane "thoughts" IN PRINT!! In cyberspace!!! Woo hoo!!!!

Then (then!) they ultimately see (if they aren't blinded by ego and wishful thinking) that, hell, I am but one pitiful voice crying in the e-wilderness...
Ignored. Totally. Damn! Didn't those Internet people promise to CONNECT us all together in wonderful togetherness?? Hey, who voted these Internet people into power anyway?

The original RCMP* plan (click here for Zen exercise in futility) was to provide a dumping ground for stray thoughts, unsuccessful pieces that no publication in their right minds would want to buy,** pitch the projected culture magazine, and maybe educate my clueless, dilapidated self about a thing or two in the electronic media. All while regularly exercising those scribbling muscles between my ears!

Well, three years later I still feel clueless. The magazine is nowhere. And four gazillion other chores scream to be done. So, um, another "week" or so to the next post? =]
Possible topic: Margaret Atwood's politics, if the subject isn't, like, totally YESTERDAY.

* Cute acronym, eh? Okay, maybe it WAS, when the title of the blog was Rudimentary Culture Monitor Precursor.
** Anybody want to see posted the "Three for Thought" essay I wrote on the subject of war (title: "Choose Sides! Choose Sides!") and sent to the "Books" department at the Globe and Mail during the 2003 Iraq invasion (response: dead silence). Anybody? Nobody?