Archive for the ‘Art’ Category

European Travel Blog Carnival April 7, 2008

April 7, 2008

The new European Travel Blog Carnival, including one of my posts, is out at:

http://www.europealacarte.co.uk/blog/2008/04/07/europe-travel-blog-carnival-7-april-2008/

If you like Europe, you’ll enjoy it.  Great job, Karen.

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Beijing-Style Censorship in Canada

March 1, 2008

Yesterday, there was a story in the news about changes to the Income Tax Act that will allow the government to deny tax credits to Canadian films it decides it doesn’t like, after the fact.  The bill, C-10, is now in the Senate, having been passed by the Commons unnoticed.  Now that it’s become public knowledge, some opposition MPs who voted it through the minority government first house are suddenly protesting.  It makes you wonder if they even read the legislation they vote on.  It also makes you wonder why the media didn’t pick up the story before it was passed.

This bill is a form of censorship.  There aren’t any criteria to determine which films will be rejected.  It will be entirely at the discretion of a panel set up by the government.  David Cronenberg says it’s the kind of thing you’d expect from Beijing.  This is clearly open to abuse to further political or social agendas.  For evidence you don’t have to look any further than who takes credit for making it happen.

Charles McVety is a clergyman and the president of the Canada Family Action Coalition, a fundamentalist evangelical group that seeks to restore “Judeo-Christian moral principles” in Canada.  He seems to be as interested in American social politics as Canadian, if not more, because on his Word.ca website you will find an ad for his new book, rather grandly entitled ‘Earthism’, which appears to claim that the disgrace of fellow clergyman turned gay crackhead Ted Haggard fits nicely into the ‘great falling away’ prophesied in the bible.  It doesn’t seem to matter how hypocritical and wrong these people are shown to be, they’ll still find a way to claim it proves they’re right.

His group lobbied for years to get these changes.  His contacts included people in the PM’s office, fellow fundamentalist Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day, and like minded backbench MPs.  Although he didn’t meet with Stephen Harper or Heritage Minister Josee Verner personally, the government finally agreed with the group.  Verner replied to his written materials by saying said she didn’t want to fund movies like ‘Young People Fucking’, for instance.

Conservative MP Dave Batters also cites ‘Young People Fucking’ as an example, despite not having seen it.  In a committee meeting with Michel Roy of Telefilm Canada, he said the purpose of Telefilm is to “facilitate the making of films for mainstream Canadian society, films that Canadians can sit down and watch with their families…”  He doesn’t seem to understand what a mainstream movie is.  A commercially successful movie is mainstream, because it appeals to a wide audience.  A film can be mainstream and be unsuitable for a seven year old.  Many mainstream movies have ‘mature’ content.  Although I agree the decision makers at Telefilm annoyingly seem to have their own preferences, and I’ve heard the evidence myself at trade forum seminars, this kind of censorship is not the answer.

I haven’t seen ‘Young People Fucking’ yet, but I will.  What I have read about it indicates that the title is probably the most shocking part.  It might just be shocking enough to get it noticed and help it break through to the mainstream – an achievement for a little Canadian movie in a Hollywood dominated marketplace.  Good marketing.  The easily offended moralists may unintentionally help that cause.

If McVety and the government want to talk about ending offensive tax credits or breaks, let’s talk about ending the free ride for religious organizations.  Churches and their affiliates don’t pay taxes even though they profit from investments.  Not all the money they receive is used for charity, and their idea of charity is often actually tied to recruiting new members and spreading the word.  They have also been havens for paedophiles.  Talk about offensive.

The long feared appearance of the moral right wing of the Conservative government may have come.

Why Are Women So Bitchy?

February 25, 2008

The Oscars have come and gone again.  Another red carpet parade of fabulously dressed stars, directors, producers, and other creative people running the gauntlet of media whores who jostle and compete to call them over for the privilege of asking, “Who are you wearing?”

As if that’s not bad enough, after the show the women do the obligatory ‘get the claws out’ thing and name the worst dressed women who failed to meet the required standard of perfection for such a spectacular event, as defined by a handful of European designers.  Who cares if you think she didn’t pull it off?  She got an invite to the Oscars.  Did you?  Who are you, anyway?

These women – and don’t forget our Canadian gay guy who has managed to establish himself as some kind of authoritative commentator who should be listened to, for some reason – don’t actually do anything themselves.  They aren’t designers.  But, they trash other women for wearing dresses they liked without worrying about whether the world at large would like them or even – gasp – approve!  I wonder if these ‘style commentators’ aren’t actually sounding offended at not being consulted.  After all, it’s what they do, and if people don’t think they need to consult the experts – in their magazines and style columns – they’ll have to find something real to do.

Women complain that guys don’t respect them enough or objectify them, but they should listen to themselves.  We don’t do that.  I would never dream of trashing a woman for what she wears, no matter how bad I thought she looked.  The only instance when I might have, that comes to mind at the moment, involved an obese older woman in a skirt with celullite spilling over her knee high nylons.  I couldn’t even be bothered to tell anyone about that until now, about twenty years later.

Last night the women on CTV even dug out some file photos and picked some of the worst disasters of all time.  Of course, they included Bjork and her swan dress, commenting, “What was she thinking?”  Have they ever listened to Bjork’s music?  I doubt it.  They only know of Bjork the somewhat famous person.  They don’t know or care what she sings about.  If they had listened to Bjork’s music they might have had an idea what she was thinking.

I don’t claim to be an expert on Bjork.  I haven’t heard all of her music, by any means.  But what I have heard, going way back to The Sugar Cubes, I like.  She is a true original.  She expresses what is inside her. She is an artist, not just a media personality – and certainly not a poser.  I totally got the swan.  How can you hear her pain and not get it?  If you don’t get it you haven’t heard her music, or haven’t really listened.  So, it seems women also accuse men of not listening to them, but don’t listen themselves.

I’m a guy, with a dangling thing between my legs.  I want to use it to penetrate women for carnal pleasure.  Should I really have to tell them this stuff?

Beware the Ever Present Bogeyman

February 3, 2008

A couple nights ago I watched another movie on TV that I’d avoided on its release because I’d expected religious propaganda – with good reason.  M. Night Shyamalan’s previous film ‘Signs’ was a very bad, blatant attempt to say that keeping faith in god will save you.

But ‘The Village’ is a much more intelligent, thought provoking, and honest movie.  The story is set in what appears to be a nineteenth century Mennonite type village.  Life is simple, people are innocent and respectful, and old world values are adhered to.  A council of elders are in charge and their edicts are abided by.

This may seem idyllic but the village is in an isolated valley, surrounded by woods inhabited by hostile creatures.  Only the elders seem to have been around before the current truce.  The rest of the community takes their word that there was trouble in the past.  To keep the creatures away, the colour red is banned because it supposedly attracts them.

There is a metaphor here for religion and politics.  There is a clearly defined boundary at the edge of the woods which must not be crossed.  When Lucius Hunt wants to visit the outside world for medicine that would benefit the community, he is forbidden because he would have to pass through the woods.  Medicine?  Science?

One day, Lucius ventures into the woods and is seen by one of “those of whom we do not speak”, as they are referred to.  The red-robed creatures invade the village that night and leave red warning symbols on doors.  This provides the elders an opportunity to reinforce the rules and the consequences of breaking them.

Later, the village idiot stabs Lucius out of jealousy over the legally blind woman they both love.  She volunteers to go to ‘the towns’ to get the medicine Lucius needs to survive.  The elders allow it and, when she asks what she should do if she encounters the creatures, one of them reveals an astonishing truth.  There are no creatures!  It is the elders in costumes who terrorize the village.

We later discover that the elders, all traumatized in the past, had established the village as a shelter from the outside world.  They invented the creatures as a way to control the people and prevent them from leaving or seeking the outside world.  In the end, the elders decide to continue the lie.

A hierarchy creates a bogeyman to instill fear, control people, and preserve a way of life that suits them.  The colour of passion is banned, innocence is emphasized.  Science cannot be pursued if it challenges the rules.  Sound familiar?

Oil and God at the Movies

January 24, 2008

The makers of ‘There Will Be Blood’ know how to end a movie.  There’s no mistaking it, the preacher was a charlatan and, unlike other movies I’ve mentioned before, the ending makes it clear what to do about it.  It doesn’t allude to or broadly hint at, it says and follows through.

Although the story is about a flawed man, a loner whose driven pursuit of his life work of developing oil fields and independent wealth causes him to miss opportunities to make a real difference to a few rather than a modest difference to many, he can still claim the moral high ground over the preacher Eli, the self-proclaimed Third Prophet.

Eli’s goal is, quite simply, self-agrandizement and power over the people.  He wants oil money to build his church.  Oil and god – where have I heard that before?  In his church, he is quite the performer and clearly loves an audience.  The world of the theatre would benefit from his presence.  He demands to be introduced by name and allowed to bless the oil well when it is about to be started up, thus presenting himself to his community as the bringer of wealth.

Unfortunately for Eli, our flawed hero doesn’t like demands or being told what to do.  He’s fiercely independent, remember.  So, he pointedly doesn’t call Eli forward at the gathering of the people and blesses the well himself.  This sets off a see-saw series of humiliations based on who is in the position of power.

Although they detest each other, they do business or cooperate when it’s expedient.  Eli doesn’t seem to have a problem with doing deals with the devil.  In fact, it’s quite profitable.  Following a $5000 donation to the church, Eli leaves on a ‘mission’ to other oilfield communities.  We later find him better dressed and with a large, bejewelled cross around his neck.

A Brahms violin soundtrack creates a constant air of menace and uneasiness.  It sustains you through a long build up.  You’re expecting something big to happen, and when it finally does… it is somehow satisfying, despite the hero’s continued imperfection.  Well worth the wait.

Amsterdam In the Afternoon

January 11, 2008

I received my first comment the other day.  It came from someone in Amsterdam, who wins a free subscription to this blog.  To claim your prize, just click ‘subscribe to this blog’ in the drop down menu at the top on the right when you read this.  It made me think about Amsterdam, and when I think of Amsterdam I think of Vondel Park.

Vondel Park is a great little oasis of calm off of Leidsplein where you can escape the open drug market that is Amsterdam.  There are more spectacular or beautiful parks in other cities, but Vondel Park does the trick and left an impression on me.  After passing under an overpass, there is an open air stage and stands where you can sit and while away the time letting your thoughts take you where they will.

When you enter the green area of the park, there is a nice pond in the middle where people have picnic lunches, read, or just relax.  The path, which takes you through trees for a pleasant walk, goes in a loop so the stoned tourists won’t get lost.  That doesn’t mean you won’t see signs of bizarre behaviour on their part.  I came across a couple of American girls hiding in a bush, rolling a spliff.  They giggled as I approached.  Apparently, they were the only two people in the city who didn’t know…

If you’re lucky you might find some interesting arts and performances nearby, aside from the usual and ubiquitous street performers and buskers.  Turning right onto Leidsplein after leaving the park, I walked a short distance and heard a crowd behind a small warehouse.  I decided to take a look and found a wonderful theatrical performamce involving mechanical dragons, birds, and other creatures, as well as what appeared to be a Japanese warrior, and other humans.

All in all, it made for a very nice afternoon and evening in a city full of tourists shouting about the availability of hash.  My sympathies to the people of Amsterdam who have to live there day in day out.  It must get to them.  So, it’s no wonder the locals like Vondel Park.

Introduction

January 3, 2008

So I’ve decided to partake in this cultural phenomenon known as blogging.  For anyone who’s interested in following this, I’m challenging myself to write something every day for a year.  Why?  Because the world needs my voice, I tell myself.  Because I want to discipline myself to write more.  Because I have to get things off my chest, blow off steam, impart knowledge, enlighten, express, and create.  Because Mavis Beacon says I need the practice.  Because, regardless of what anyone thinks of it, I’m now a ‘published’ author, and no one can take that away from me.  Along the way I’ll share my thoughts, observations, and insights on people, culture, society, art, politics, the world.  You know – life, the universe, and everything.  Inevitably, subjective opinions will be expressed which means some people may have their own opinions and beliefs challenged and possibly feel offended.  Oh well.  I’ll try to keep it civil. 

I don’t get paid for creative or intellectual pursuits and I don’t make enough money from my recently launched business to live on, yet, so I’ll also have to keep another job.  The end result could be either a total meltdown or greater self-awareness by the end of the year.  Whatever the case may be, it should be interesting.