Sunday, July 24, 2011

This is really Remarkable

This hits rather close to home, except that I, at the same age, made a decision to stick around, despite how much I felt it was the wrong thing to do, even if my decision to stay was grounded in all the right reasons.

But his overall sense about the fact that you don't need people policing you when the office culture does a remarkable job of policing itself, to its own intellectual and public detriment, was something I spent a lot of time watching and railing against.

It is no small irony that the thing I am probably most proud of, from the perspective of my former career, is the same thing that did me in. People, especially those in a media-like atmosphere, love to talk about change, but when confronted with something that is truly outside their scope, something where they cannot control the middlebrow message that sounds good (to both their bosses as well as the public) but literally means nothing, innovation gets thrown out the window and is replaced with fear.

Getting out of an environment where people change their minds completely because someone above them told them to change it has been, to say the least, very good for me. That being said, years of being in that environment have taken their toll on my own thinking about the world and my own goals and desires.

This isn't to say that I wish that, at 24, I hadn't decided to try my hand at the civil service, but rather that, at 37, I can still accomplish all those things I had wanted to back then, perhaps even more successfully, given the benefit of hindsight and experience. But the attitudes that surrounded me for years have had an insidious way of stifling my own thoughts for a long time now, and maybe beginning to talk about it will be a way to move past that.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Lucian Freud has Died

I wish that I had his drive, or more specifically, his personality, although I so clearly and obviously do not. You can read about him, and read into that as you wish.

There's an excellent documentary on him called unsurprisingly, "Portraits", which is also unsurprisingly (or maybe surprisingly, due to all the painterly nudity?) on Youtube:

Monday, July 18, 2011

Two Things

1. Am I the only person who finds it slightly strange that the movie currently breaking box office records is based on a book that (nearly) everyone has already read and knows the ending? Something something media/brand/etc....but only now is the official Harry Potter saga over!

2. On a completely different note, I found the difficulty rating of "moderately easy" for ehow's page on how to "learn 18th Century Counterpoint" pretty damn optimistic, especially given it recomends you go to college. Also - why a picture of Beethoven on a site about Bach? This used to really piss me off, but now I can only just laugh at this kind of stuff.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

There you Have It

Toronto has a Mayor who believes that labour costs should be about 20 per cent of the budget, and not 80 as it currently stands...

How is that even possible? And can you even begin to ask people who believe in Ford to understand how utterly ridiculous that sounds, especially coming from someone who has been on City council? You know, he just mumbles something about "gravy" despite his own consultants telling him that he is completely out to lunch.

I mean, even the right wing's preferred method of shifting tax dollars from the public sector to private companies by "contracting out" services only shifts labour away - is that what he meant? I'm trying to be charitable because what he said is so moronic, so ridiculous, that you have to believe he misspoke. Except I suspect he didn't.

Seeing Rob Ford in action reminds me of Bob Pullman's character in Ruthless People:

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

This Sounds About Right

About Berlin, from the Morning News in 2009.
It's really true about kids - unike in Toronto, where if I take my son to a bar, people look at me like I must be a drunk and also a bad father, kids are just part of the scene here in Berlin. It's nice, because no one cares. The idea of a bar with a playground would likely spark outrage in Canada - here, it means that all ages can do something they enjoy at the same time! Outrageous!

In Toronto, we spend a lot of time praising our tolerance of other cultures, but it seems forced compared to Berlin, and especially when one has to, uh, tolerate someone complain about all the awful things everyone else does in Toronto to make their lives miserable (Yes, I am aware that this post itself constitutes something in that vein...however).

Here in Berlin, people really do just tolerate. This doesn't imply that they like you, indeed it's probably the opposite, but instead they simply do not care provided you don't either.

This means a lot of things - like restaurant/bar service here can often be, uh, slow by Canadian standards, but then you realise that they aren't being rude, rather they assume that if you need something, you'll ask them. Leaving you alone is part of the game.

Oh, and for those childless people in Toronto who hate kids in restaurants, but who own dogs and treat them like children? Hey, you too are accomodated - you can bring your pet into pretty much any restaurant in the city!

There's very little space for the neurotic whining that I feel is very common in Toronto, and alas, something I have probably done far more than I would care to admit....

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Here We Go

The Conservative government is cutting arts funding as well as funding to the CBC.

I mean, this is year one, right? Five more years? When you have a "Heritage" Minister who says that government can't be the "only source of funding for arts organizations", you have a Minister whose head is completely up his ass.

Since when in Canada did the government pay for anything but a tiny fraction of the arts, unless of course it's to build large arts buildings in downtown Toronto which then go half empty for years because that same government doesn't want to actually fund the institutions themselves? And Flaherty's ridiculous comments about the fact that arts organizations shouldn't count on regular funding is cut from the same cloth - where the hell do these guys think we are, the 1970's?

I know this is just part of the rhetoric, the same rhetoric that got Rob Ford elected mayor to stop the gravy train, and whose half million dollar consultants managed to find a grand 15 million out of a 1 bilion dollar budget to cut, something should be clear - the game is won, the fat is gone, whatever fat there may have been, and yet my fellow Canadians continue to labour under the delusion that it's not they, who refuse to pay taxes, but the government who is somehow wasting money that simply isn't there.

I'm currently in a country that thinks arts and culture is a public good - I bought a yearly pass here that allows me to go to every state museum in Berlin for about $30 Canadian, and kids under 18 are free. And you know what's really crazy about that? It actually turns these "elitist" institutions into places where the public is welcome.

But I live in a country who has embraced, more than the UK ever did, the ridiculous notion that there is no such thing as society - the sad thing is that in Canada, they might actually just succeed in making that happen.

Monday, July 11, 2011

A Footnote to the Royal Tour

The difference, from across the pond, between Canadian and American coverage, one smirks at the fact that the American media basically treats the Canadian tour as though they were in some part of America, which they do not name, until they suddenly arrive in California, and things make sense again.

Americans simply do not appear to know what to do with the fact that they visited Canada the way, my anti-american and anti-british comments in my previous post were tongue in cheek, in case anyone thought otherwise.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Why I Cannot Bring Myself to Wear Flannel

The funny thing about being in Germany is that everyone treats me, a Canadian, as something rather special, even exotic.

As a Canadian, this is a profoundly unsettling experience. Maybe it's the constant taunting of drunken beer-bottle smashing Brits or navel-gazing imperialist Americans, but Canadians are more used to being respected diplomatically (well, at least until the current administration), while being snickered at culturally.

Anyway, it turns out that the Germans really think we're something special. I jokingly suggested that I should have worn a lumberjack shirt and a toque, and people thought that this would actually be a really great thing to see - a real Canadian, wearing real Canadian clothes. Also, I suggested I should have an axe - this they loved even more.

I suppose this is true - although I, like most Canadians, live in the thrall of urbanity, most of us cling to the quaint if not completely ridiculous notion that we, by virtue of being in a country with a lot of land, are somehow tied to the land in some mysterious way, even though we all pretty much are completely useless at looking after it in any meaningful way that might actually allow it to be there in oh say, 100 years. We aren't the least bit tied to the land except as consumers, and to be honest, the mythology itself is completely destructive and fraught with contradictions, but that's where we're at.

Anyway, a propos, this is my long preface to an fantastic essay at N+1 about flannel shirts. Enjoy!