Archive for September, 2008

08w39:1 The past week's highlights

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Margaret Atwood interviewed on the subject of debt:

In the Red | Deborah Solomon

Margaret Atwood’s old-fashioned approach to debt | Sinclair Stewart

// Atwood will be giving the 2008 Massey Lectures, which will air on CBC Radio 1 November 10-14

Notes on the American Class system:

Wealthy Teen Nearly Experiences Consequence | The Onion

Notes on the Canadian experience:

Original – and aboriginal | Noah Richler

John Ralston Saul’s latest book, A Fair Country has just been published, and I hope to have a review ready by the end of the week. So far it’s achieving ‘must read’ status.

08w38:2 Timely Chomsky

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“What would happen in a functioning democracy is that in the towns, people would get together publicly in public places and they would determine what policies they prefer. The candidate would then show up and they would tell him, ‘here’s the polices that we prefer. if you’re willing to represent these policies we may vote for you but if not go home’. That would be a functioning democracy. Or they would just chose their own candidates. But we’re very far from that. The way the political parties function as candidate producing machines, basically organized by concentrations of private power (which capital comes from) [and] are modes of marginalizing the population.”

08w38:1 Roundup

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I was complemented on Goodreads last night by a long-time reader who I haven’t seen socially in years; he mentioned that it’s been kind of slow, and I responded that I’ve been busy. Etc …

I’ve gotten involved with the Department of Culture, which got a fair representation in the Oakville Beaver (although they spelt Jol Thomson’s name wrong) and earlier this week I got a message from Sheila Heti telling me there would be an hour of silence in Trinity Bellwoods Park on Friday (last night) to remember DFW – a writer who I never really got into, despite trying to read Consider the Lobster, after it got a glowing review on the CBC years ago (a review which stuck in my head to the point that I realized it was poison to be considered hip by the CBC). Of ‘Consider the Lobster’ – that essay didn’t give me anything to think about of which I did not think already (having grown up eating lobsters regularly, I now find them somewhat repellent). My appreciation for Mr Abbreviation & Footnote is reserved to an increased us of abbreviations in my own writing (that, and the experience of working for TD Bank last year, wherein I had to note accnts using abbreviations, as per policy).

I didn’t post Ms. Heti’s notice since I didn’t really think GR readers were numerous enough, nor local enough, to care. I think she has a better network of potential interest on that front. Also, (personally) spending an hour in a cool park in silence to mourn a suicide who I didn’t mourn and whom I’d never met didn’t sound like a valid Friday night activity.

Instead, I went to the Power Plant opening, and had the Weirdest Night in the World. Across town, New Kids on the Block were singing twenty-year old songs to now-30 something one-time teeny-bopers. I remember reading in one of my sister’s magazines during their hay-day, a girl’s letter stating she was certain that she was in love with Jordan Knight, had some understanding that it was irrational, and asking what to do. I’ve always kind of wondered what happened to her, how she must have eventually grown out of it, and perhaps these days is married with children. Which in it’s own way is

Infinitely Sad | Troy Patterson

What’s the Matter with Canada ? | Christopher Flavelle

The growing ideological no man’s land | Michael Valpy
“For more than half a century, Canadians have seen, or read about, a succession of left and right governments that have promised cure-alls for society’s ailments but failed to deliver. Ideological fatigue has set in: Canadians have become tired of the left-right arguments. They have become pragmatic, eclectic, interested only in what works. An increasing number of young Canadians have grown into adulthood not knowing about or having experienced the nanny state in its heyday.”

// Comment: I liked this article but hated the run-down on the Baby Boomer electorate. Valpy states: “Mr. Graves attributes the electoral shift – incrementally to the right, hugely to the non-ideological no-man’s land – to three factors:..” He goes on to list the three factors: the baby boomers are getting old, they’ve had their parents die, and 9/11. In other words, the electorate doesn’t consist of anybody but Baby Boomers? The anger and frustration I feel in reading that rundown is not something I can express in simple sentences herein. I’m not old, my parents aren’t dead, and fuck 9/11 and all the scare-mongering it has wrought. The Baby Boomers lived through the Kennedy assassination, the oil-shock, the hijackings of the 1970s and 1980s, the Munich Olympics – why should 9/11 be a factor now?  Nine-Eleven should be a greater concern to my generation to whom it was something new, coming out of the blue and borrowed from movies made by Baby Boomers for over twenty years. Valpy concludes, “Those circumstances combined have given them a gloomier and more fearful outlook on life, making them more likely to be plums for the picking by Conservative strategists.” If Boomers are gloomy, perhaps they have the right to be, considering all that they’ve lived through. But the neglect of youthful perspectives, of those of us for whom are lives are still largely ahead of us, and who have the right to dream of brighter tomorrows, is another part of their shameful legacy. The Boomers are not the entire electorate, nor I should add, are they a monolithic block of like minded selfish assholes. They are citizens of a country different than the one they were born into, and one that doesn’t have to be the narrow-minded and ignorant hell the Conservative party would be happy to govern.

Protesters greet Harper at rally | Tina Depko
“Although the Department of Culture is largely made up of members of Canada’s arts community, spokespeople say they aren’t just pushing for better funding. They also want a better Canada, according to Toronto artist Danielle Williams. ‘We’re really discontent with the way the current government is being run and we don’t want to see that again,’ said Williams. ‘Arts is an integrated aspect of being Canadian.'”

The House: Saturday September 20 2008
“This week on The House: Guest host Alison Crawford talks political gaffs with Conservative MP Jason Kenney. She asks him how his party decides how to handle political mis-steps during a campaign. Reporter Louise Elliott tests Stephen Harper’s theory that Canadians are becoming more conservative. Alison speaks to two members of Toronto’s multicultural media about how parties are trying to woo the ethnic vote.”

Culture in Danger
(I had to click on the CC – lower right hand corner – to turn on the subtitles).

08w37:1 The past week's highlights

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The Rise of the Mega Region | Florida, Gulde, Mellander

Naomi Klein at the Department of Culture Town Hall

Buffered and porous selves | Charles Taylor
“Almost everyone can agree that one of the big differences between us and our ancestors of five hundred years ago is that they lived in an ‘enchanted’ world, and we do not; at the very least, we live in a much less ‘enchanted’ world. We might think of this as our having ‘lost’ a number of beliefs and the practices which they made possible. But more, the enchanted world was one in which these forces could cross a porous boundary and shape our lives, psychic and physical. One of the big differences between us and them is that we live with a much firmer sense of the boundary between self and other. We are ‘buffered’ selves. We have changed. Modern Westerners have a clear boundary between mind and world, even mind and body. Moral and other meanings are ‘in the mind.’ They cannot reside outside, and thus the boundary is firm. But formerly it was not so. Let us take a well-known example of influence inhering in an inanimate substance, as this was understood in earlier times. Consider melancholy: black bile was not the cause of melancholy, it embodied, it was melancholy. The emotional life was porous here; it didn’t simply exist in an inner, mental space. Our vulnerability to the evil, the inwardly destructive, extended to more than just spirits that are malevolent. It went beyond them to things that have no wills, but are nevertheless redolent with the evil meanings. See the contrast. A modern is feeling depressed, melancholy. He is told: it’s just your body chemistry, you’re hungry, or there is a hormone malfunction, or whatever. Straightway, he feels relieved. He can take a distance from this feeling, which is ipso facto declared not justified. Things don’t really have this meaning; it just feels this way, which is the result of a causal action utterly unrelated to the meanings of things.”

The renouncers | Robert Bellah
“What has become clear to me in recent years is that the old dream of progress, which used to be assumed, is being replaced in popular culture by visions of disaster, ecological catastrophe in particular. If, as I believe, we human beings are at least to some extent in charge of our own evolution, we are in a highly demanding situation. Never before have calls for criticism of and alternatives to the existing order seemed so urgent. It is in this context that I want to consider whether the heritage of ‘the axial age’ – the period in antiquity that gave rise to such social critique through practices of renunciation—is a resource or a burden in our current human crisis.”

08w36:1 Department of Culture Town Hall

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I attended the town hall regarding the funding cuts at Toronto’s Theatre Centre on Wednesday night (original press release reproduced below from the Dpt of Culture website). I recorded it. Raw mp3 linked to below. – Timothy

Department of Culture

Audio Mp3 (72.5 MB)


Valuing Culture:


Wednesday, September 3, 2008, at 7 p.m.

The Theatre Centre
1087 Queen Street West, (South East Corner of Queen and Dovercourt)

For more details:

Who should come?
Everyone concerned about ensuring the social and cultural health and prosperity of our nation in the face of a Federal Government that is aggressively undermining the values that define Canada.

Who will be speaking?
•    Claire Hopkinson, Toronto Arts Council
•    Susan Swan, Former President, The Writers Union
•    Lisa Fitzgibbons, Executive Director, Documentary Organization of Canada
•    Naomi Klein, Writer and Political Analyst

What will we be doing?
Talking about the issues and proposing a comprehensive strategy for unseating key Conservatives in the imminent election, both in the GTA and across the country.

Why is this important?
Because cuts and policy changes are radically changing Canadian society.

This event is as much about funding cuts to women’s groups, youth training programs, harm reduction programs, food inspection, environmental organizations and health policy, as it is about cuts to arts funding. It should not be too much to expect a decent society to live in, one that prioritizes the welfare of it citizens before the wealth of a few. We are placing the issue of defunding arts and culture in relation to vast cuts to Canada’s social safety net made by a socially irresponsible Conservative government. We are bringing artists together to:

•    Lend our creative and organizational skills to the goal of unseating Conservative MPs from government;

•    Ensure that the electorate is intelligently informed about the policies and issues

•    Hold other parties and candidates to task for their social and cultural agendas;

•    Make alliances with other like-minded communities and organizations.

What’s the Background?
The recent wave of cuts by the Conservative government has sent shockwaves throughout an already resource-strapped arts community. Since taking power in 2006, the Conservative Government has eliminated almost $60 Million from Cultural and Heritage Granting Programs.

The most recent cuts:
•    The PromArt Program, $4.7 million (administered by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade)
•    Trade Routes, $9 million, Department of Canadian Heritage
•    Stabilization Projects and Capacity Building, of the Canadian Arts and Heritage Sustainability Program, $3.4 Million
•    Canadian Independent Film and Video Fund, $1.5 million
•    National Training Program in the Film and Video Sector, $2.5 million
•    $300,000 to the Audio-Visual Preservation Trust of Canada, for programs archiving important film, television and musical recordings.
•    Canadian New Media Fund, $14.5 million

This meeting is intended to articulate the issues and organize a plan of action. If an election is called, we will establish swing teams to unseat Conservatives in every city across the country. If there is no election, the same teams will be organized to criticize, challenge and creatively pressure the government to change their policies

For more information or media inquiries contact:

Franco Boni, Izida Zorde, Heather Haynes, Darren O’Donnell, Gregory Elgstrand, Sara Graham, Graham F. Scott, Roy Mitchell, Naomi Campbell, Anthea Foyer, Michael Wheeler

The DEPARTMENT OF CULTURE wants you as a member. Anyone interested in organizing, doing research, writing, making graphics, videos, blitzing ridings, attending all-candidates meetings, marching in the streets or contributing funds should get in touch with:

Download this press release (PDF)

Téléchargez le communiqué de presse en français (PDF)