Wednesday, March 31, 2010

There is no RIGHT or WRONG: Art, Nature, Religion

I was thinking a lot about the issues raised in last weeks presentation on art and photography.
I have included a photograph of the Versailles Garden and some Graffiti Art Work that can be found in an Ally Way on Cordova and Richards (Near The Harbour Centre SFU Campus).

Arguements can be made that the garden is not considered nature, and that this mural is not art.


Similar to the on going debate of religion vs. science, there is no right or wrong definition of art and nature. So I think its very problematic when scholars, authors, or what have you... try and define what art and what nature is in their work. It's problematic because these types of things are opinion based. While we know that 1 + 1 = 2, there is no right or wrong definition of art or nature.

The Titanic

I watched an interesting documentary last night about the preservation of the Titanic. Apparently in the years since the ship's discovery, multiple thrill seekers have been exploring the wreckage. Some people pilot submarines which collect Titanic artifacts which in turn can be sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars on the art market and some people just want to visit the site. But it seems that the Titanic wreckage is also turning into a novelty destination site as well. Some people try to get married as close to the bow as possible, and apparently swarms of ships hover over the wreckage at one time. All of this activity is causing a premature decay of the ship itself, and some of the submarines actually crash into the ship tearing holes into it. Robert Ballard, the original finder of the site, believes that the Titanic should be preserved. Already the U.S. and U.K. have signed a treaty attempting to preserve the wreckage. Now, I realize that the Titanic carries enormous cultural weight, but I am not sure if this justifies protecting the wreckage. Is this not illogical as well as an oxymoron? The Titanic is decaying and will eventually disappear. But some people, Ballard included, want to salvage the experience by installing cameras throughout the Titanic so people can explore it virtually for years to come. At a certain point in the documentary, my girlfriend and I turned to each and both expressed our disgust at a certain level of disrespect for the grave site of 1500 people. I think this brings to light the issue in Peter's article of appropriate forms of memorializing. Should the Titanic be a tourist site? Should we be attempting to preserve the Titanic? If we preserve the Titanic, how many other ship wrecks must we protect because they carry a cultural stigma? How much does Leo DiCaprio have to do with this generation's obsession with Titanic (I'm not a fan of Leo by the way)?

Monday, March 29, 2010

Pamela Masik

Like Suzanne, I was also going to write about Pamela Masik's work on the missing women of the DTES. There was an interview with her last night on CTV's "First Story" and I was enthralled by the amount of effort she put into painting 8' X 9' portraits of each of the 69 missing women. From what I could perceive, each portrait appeared to bring the women to life; very much in contrast to the mug-shot-like pictures we see on the evening news. In my opinion, Masik didn't take away from their facial appearance, those remained intact; however, she added elements that made the women appear spirited and energetic, for example, by adding writing, blooming flowers, and/or greenery to the portrait.

During the program, many people, like me, were astounded by her work; however, there was an individual who openly admitted that he was disgusted by her work because he thought that Masik was making money off the women's suffering. Masik responded in kind stating that the money was not for herself but for the building of a social rehabilitation centre in the DTES. If this is the case, then all the power to her.

According to "First Story," all of the portraits will be up for display in February 2011 at the UBC Museum of Anthropology. To give everyone an idea of the entire process, I posted the website address to a video link of Masik painting the portraits. The power emanating from the video, I think speaks volumes. Her passion and enthusiasm were obvious especially since she had an emotional and physcial breakdown while completing her work.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Memorials Post II: I really dislike Pamela Masik

So, I checked out Pamela Masik's "The Forgotten," www.the (I had remembered painfully reading about her in the Vancouver Sun...maybe last year). She is astoundingly self-indulgent: On the homepage Masik appears sorrowful and contemplative beside a painting of, I believe, Mona Wilson; her artist statement is a vapid cliche of privileged perspective; and frankly, she looks as about as authentic as a furrow-browed Angelina Jolie listening to the plight of Sudanese children. Masik claims her inclusion by way of self-portrait #70 in "The Forgotten" is to communicate a sense of solidarity - "[w]hen one woman is violated, all women are. It could have been me." (Really? You could have left your swank Yaletown studio one day and joined the survival sex trade only to have your desperate life ripped from you?) It is really just a continuation of the tortured-artist-entering-a-really-dark-place schtick she has been peddling since starting this project. The audacity of her narcissism is second only to that of Lincoln Clarkes.

Masik's work, in its carelessness, does raise the issue of how Vancouver's Downtown Eastside (DTES) and its various narratives are used for so called artful memorializing. While some work based on this part of Vancouver is very important and thoughtful, an equal amount, if not more has is just completely advantageous, a glorification of misery. (I can't even imagine how many Emily Carr photography freshman trundle along DTES alleys on first street-photography assignments.)

Poetics: a ballet brut - PuSh Fest vs. mixed repertoire (Black Grace) - VIDF

The title is slightly misleading as the following is not a comparison meant to judge either works (because I enjoyed both performances), but rather compare the two within the context of their respective festivals. I am by no means a dancer, but I think I've watched enough So You Think You Can Dance Canada to at least comment on a dance performance. I enjoy multimedia, so make sure you check out the videos below as well!

I saw Poetics during the PuSh Festival and was immediately intrigued with its usage of "non-dancers" within the performance. I had never really seen anything like it (except for some flash mob-esque performances in public spaces), and I thought it was a rather clever piece, questioning what can qualify as "real" or "non" dancing. Brought to us by Nature Theatre of Oklahoma, Poetics was an awkward and sometimes disconcerting show with incredibly committed "non-dancers" and a satisfying end.

NB: Pavol's mustache is awesome.

More recently, I attended a mixed repertoire performance by Black Grace, a dance company from New Zeland, during the Vancouver International Dance Festival. Headed by artistic director Neil Ieremia, this pretty awesome company combines Pacific Island dance and contemporary dance into one wonderful piece of moving art. Incorporating some heavily rhythmic elements, Black Grace wows and awes as I continue to rave about the show in the next following weeks.

Black Grace – Gathering Clouds – “Keep Honour Bright” from Black Grace on Vimeo.

NB: Black Grace ended their VIDF performance with this number. The last minute is particularly thrilling. For reals.

NB: This is another great highlight from the performance. This number is particularly strong on the rhythmic elements.

While both performances were clearly different approaches, I think they both ask similar questions. What is the difference between art and non-art? Traditional and non-traditional? How can we bring the non-art, non-traditional world into the art traditional world? Both performances are proof that the boundaries in art are and should constantly be pushed.

Hogan's Alley

Just the other day, I received an invitation on Facebook, inviting me to join the "Include a Hogan's Alley Memorial at the Georgia and Dunsmuir Viaduct Site" group. While I read the information regarding the group and browsed through the pictures, I had been under the assumption that the area that was named Hogan's Alley already had an historical marker indicating that Vancouver's Black community had lived and thrived in the area. After further investigation, I found out I was wrong. To give everyone a bit of history, Hogan's Alley was located between Union St. and Prior St.. After much debate and controversy, Hogan's Alley was almost completely destroyed due to the building of the Georgia Viaduct that we all know of today. There is not much left of it today except for what appears to be a few homes. Interestingly, now there is talk about tearing down or closing the Georgia Viaduct in order to build a pedestrian park and retail stores. If this were to take place, then the City of Vancouver or Vancouver Parks Board and Recreation should place a memorial alongside the new establishments to honour the Black community that used to live in that area. Actually, I think that the memorial should be built regardless. There are many memorials around Vancouver honouring the Veterans, victims of AIDS, Air India bombing, etc., so why not Vancouver's Black community who contributed to the city as much as anyone else?! Here are a couple of pictures of the green space next to the Viaduct and a place I would consider suitable for a plaque, a sign, or a memorial. The space is vast and very empty with only trees and three park benches. A marker would certainly not take away from the area. I don't consider myself an expert on heritage buildings but I did go by "Hogan's Alley" and I took a couple of pictures of the homes that appear to have been from that time in the early 1900s. It was great to see that even a little bit of Vancouver's history still remains.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Memorials part 2

Actually it is really interesting that Kylie bring up the Ironworkers' Memorial Bridge. Until recently, I hadn't really thought about why the Ironworkers' Memorial Bridge was called just that. I knew what had happened but not in great detail. Someone finally told me the story in detail and I have to admit it freaked me out a bit. Having crossed that bridge twice a day for 3 years while attending Capilano College, it never really hit me the gravity of the situation. Now everytime I cross the bridge I can't help but think of men who died during the collapse. They died in order for us to have that bridge. That makes them heros to me. For me this is the best type of remembering. Something in a common place that is utilized by millions.

It is sad that most memorials have to do with death and how the deaths occured. Death is often tragic and always painfull. Therefore in this aspect static memorials are a good thing. The people that grieve often need something to hold on to. Whether it be a grave site or just a stone plaque, it is important. So we come to the conclusion that some memorials are effective and others are not. Therefore it is hard to say that we shouldn't have static memorials, we should just be more selective.


My ideas on memorials have definately changed in the last couple weeks of discussion. I was indifferent to the idea of a static memorial. After years of visiting places in Europe that are just full of memorials and so much history, it is quite faire to say I was becoming immune to what memorials can do. In most cases they bring out an emotion, a remembering. But what are you remembering? In my case along with many other people, we are too young to remember anything about many of the happenings that prompted the memorials. Therefore it is hard to categorize memorials as a whole. There are certain types of memorials that seem effective; such as the marker of change memorial. It is a memorial marking an event yet it represents the constant problem of violence against women. It is an ongoing issue and a person can relate to that when they view it. Just like you can relate to memorials of event that occured after you were born. For example, I can only imagine what I would feel visiting Ground Zero; the terrible loss, pain etc.. but overall I think I would be remembering where I was when it happened. What was I doing? Those are the moments that stay with you for the rest of you life. Rememberence is within us.

Olympics Part 2

So for this blog, I chose to post one of my favorite moments of my olympic experience. I have a longtime fascination with cops, and am literally in awe of them every time I see them. So my cousin decides she's just going to ask them to take a picture with me. They of course oblige with great big smiles.
The point I'm trying to make is: due to the Olympics it seemed that everyone was in a better mood, even the cops. I would see them talking to people on the streets, smiling and helping others out. The olympics helped create repetoire between all types of different people. It was a coming together of people who just wanted to have a good time and it didn't matter where you were from or what team you cheered for. The Olympics were golden for that and that I feel is the legacy they will leave our city. I can say 20 or 30 years from now, I'll always be able to look back and remember those great two weeks in 2010. Peter in class brought up his fear of "what if nobody shows up?" well Peter they showed up all right and it was great.

Olympics Part 1

So I realise I'm a bit late with this contribution on the topic of the olympics, however what must be done, must be done. For this blog I'm going to discuss my view of the Olympics and the way they changed my life.. quite literally. I had some family friends from Montreal stay with us for the duration of the games as they were selling merchandise for the Olympics. This changed the whole perspective of the household as they changed the type of experience I would have in relation to the games. All of a sudden I was downtown all the time, meeting up with them and feeling like a tour guide all in one. They weren't the greatest houseguests either, and let's just say after almost 3 weeks I was ready for them to leave.

Aside from being inconvenienced with my guests, the rest of the olympic break was pretty great. Trying to see the different sites was painful because of the lineups but we did it anyway as it's a once in a lifetime opportunity. I found most of the houses quite boring as we went during the day. I'm sure they turned into quite the party at night. Overall the best part was the random walks through the city downtown and at night. It helped me strengthen my connection with the city of Vancouver and I would love to experience that again.

Friday, March 26, 2010

"Collective Memory"

In class lately, we have been discussing the notion of the "collective memory" of a community. We have acknowledged that this exists in reference to memorials, but I recently read an article which discusses how a collective memory can affect major public policy decisions. I don't know if anyone is aware, but Greece and the eurozone are mired in a sovereign debt crisis. The Germans don't want to help the Greeks out by loaning them money to cover their maturing debts. German citizens cite the fact that they have been responsible and should not have to pay taxes in order to bail out the irresponsible Greek government. I was reading a story about this debt crisis written by Gavin Hewitt of the BBC. He quotes a professor stating that Germans will not loosen their policies on bailing out the Greeks because "it is part of the collective memory. Germans are for stability and austerity and not for deficit spending." Of course this professor is referring to the incredible inflation experienced by the deutsche mark in the interwar period, which can be linked to the rise of Nazi fascism in Germany. I thought this was a particularly interesting use of the phrase "collective memory," because it displays how a collective memory can be performative and can influence public opinion and public policy.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

"The Forgotten"

Vancouver artist Pamela Masik has created an exhibition in memorial to the downtown east sides forgotten missing women. She has 69 portraits of women who have been missing from the downtown east side for over a decade. Twenty six of her featured women have been confirmed as victims of Pickton. Each of these paintings created on a large canvas which she sometimes physically slashes to re-create the brutality these women endured. Recently she has stated that she is releasing a 70th portrait of herself. Her reasoning is as follows: "When one woman is violated, all women are. It could have been me.”

Her goal is to expose the fact that society has forgotten these marginalized women she also states she feels obliged as an artist to shed light on social injustices. Pamela Masik states on her website her reasoning for undertaking this work as: "The intent of this work - not just creating the paintings, but the exhibition of the collection with performance and video/photography of the process - is to raise awareness of the social problem inherent within our society."

This body of work has taken four years to complete and has been featured in the Vancouver library square (seven pieces) as well as the full collection on display during the Vancouver olympics in a gallery behind the olympic village. Feel free to check out here work or find out more info at her website:

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Memorials Post I: Alternative Memorials

Anne Stone's Delible, Sachiko Murakami's The Invisibility Exhibit, and West Coast Line Issue 53: Representations of Murdered and Missing Women, for me, serve as far more appropriate 'memorials' to violence against women than either the Marker of Change (Thornton Park) or the Missing Women Memorial (CRAB Park). The ultimate problem I have with public memorials is that they are usually little more than mineral slabs of fixed cultural capital that (1) give a false sense of 'past' to miseries still very present today and (2) allow a feeling of self-satisfied complacency. The forementioned literary works do not have the same fixity: While Murakami's poetry collection does at times specifically discuss the "missing women" of Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, it also broadly contemplates the all too familiar and consistent narrative of violence against women and its sadly apathetic address in society; Stone's novel is a fictional engagement with violence, memory, and forgetting; and the West Coast Line anthology offers a mixed form - poetry, short fiction, and essay - consideration of the subject. Each work in some way deals with the very difficulty of memorializing in any medium what is 'missing,' 'lost,' or 'absent.' As well, each involves a certain degree of critical participation -- something memorials blatantly counter.

Friday, March 19, 2010

vacouverisms- memorials

I have been thinking about memorials and how that works with Vancouver's image. As I was doing research it seems like most of the findable memorials in Vancouver are either War memorials, pet memorials or annual events instead of a dedicated monument. I then started thinking about Vancouver as a tourist destination and researched what one visiting here with no prior knowledge would find. It all came down to Stanley Park.

Stanley Park is central to Vancouver's image but it is also a home to many memorials, monuments and tributes to Vancouver's history. Stanley Park holds memorials for Air India, Japanese soldiers in WWI and Queen Vicotria. Yet it also holds plaques, busts, Sculptures, gardens and more to celebrate things that created Vancouver today. Including a bust of Lord Stanley, a tribute to the Beaver Cairn, Shakespeare Garden and Lumbermen's arch to name a few. Individuals are honored - both nation figures and local heroes- such as Queen Victoria, Lord Stanley, Harry Jerome a local runner, Pauline Johnson a local poet and more. The park also holds space for the recognition of industry central to Vancouver life such as the Lumbermen's Arch and its recognition of BC's lumber industry and Edward Stamp memorial which acknowledges the lumber operations began within the park. We see a variety of events and people presented in different mediums within Stanley Park. Perhaps it is the diverse nature of celebration seen here in the Park that define Vancouver and its various back grounds.

If you want to see pictures of any of these monuments in Stanley Park you can find them here:

Ironworkers Memorial Bridge

I was thinking about our class topic of memorials and realized that I know very little about memorials in Vancouver. I googled "memorials in vancouver" and oddly enough pet memorial sites came up the most. The Ironworkers bridge only came up because it has memorial in its name. What I read was actually quite interesting. The bridge was first named the Second Narrows Bridge and its original intention was to access to the Dawson gold fields, but construction was delayed because of WWI. Several years after the bridge was finally built, it collapsed killing 18 workers and one diver who was searching for bodies. This happened in 1958 (and apparently there were several songs written about it) but the bridge wasn't renamed the Ironworkers Memorial until 1994. I couldn't actually find discussion on the renaming - does anyone know why they decided to rename it 40 years later rather than right after the accident? Just as an FYI a vigil is held every June 17th to honour the victims.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010 did we look? (Olympics pt. II)

Although the paralympics are still happening, it's safe to say that the official Olympics hangover has lifted and I'm able to look back on those two weeks analytically and with the hindsight I need to form an opinion on how 'our city' came across. Years ago, when I was a cynical teen (rather than the cynical adult I am now), I was convinced that when 2010 came, something unspecified and dramatic would happpen, it just seemed impossible that an event of this magnitude could go perfectly without incident, whether it be a terrorist attack or protests or riots. When February 2010 came, I realized with the wisdom that comes between age 19 and 24 that chances are, nothing too horrific will happen. Despite a few sad stories like the death of the luger and a few over-the-top protests (did smashing up the Bay do any good for anyone?), the events as a whole seemed to be a success. Although I didn't make it into Vancouver during the Olympics, I did have a chance to visit this week and I agree with Alex's comments about the great hospitality and the 'buzz' in the air as everyone is getting along. What I wonder is that when the Paralympics are over, will the hospitality fade? I've never run into any major problems downtown but in my experiences the Vancouver I've seen isn't an overly friendly city, and it'll be interesting to see if our 'best behaviour' from the Olympics will last and the city's attitude will change shape because of it.

As far as the word-of-mouth and media coverage that I experienced, I found the comments about the opening and closing ceremonies to be the most intriguing. For the most part, it seemed like those that I've spoken to were watching the ceremonies with a pad and pen next to them, ready to write down any blunder or mis-cue or criticism. Sure, there were problems with the ceremonies and maybe it's a testament to my lacking Canadian pride that I didn't really care about them either way, but some people seemed to take these events so seriously. Could it be that since the Olympics didn't have any 'major' controversies (not to undermind the tragedies that did occur), people were nitpicking? Sure, the musical choices for the closing events were terrible and in some cases unfitting, but nobody seemed to stop and ask themselves why it matters so much. Whether or not people around the world think Canada is lame or not doesn't really affect my day-to-day life and while it's always nice to be liked, I sure didn't take these ceremonies as personally as some. And as it came up in the class discussion, lots of people had a problem with how Canada was portrayed as beaver-loving syrup-sucking hockey fanatics, saying that this doesn't truly display who Canada is. But what I haven't heard is an alternative, and it begs the question: how DO we truly display who Canada is? Until we can figure that out then we have to embrace these stereotypes and allow that to be what we're known for, our sense of humor.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Comparing Opening Ceremonies

As I was watching the opening ceremonies of the Para-Olympic Games I was struck by the difference in tone. Not only did this opening have less flash, it had more heart. Gone were the international pop music acts and the overt spectacle. This ceremony was about the athletes and people that overcome adversity in general. Instead of a reworking of the Canadian anthem this version was sung without art by a para-olympian with a visible disability. This theme of foregoing celebrities in favor of real participants carried through the whole show. Two para-olympians formally welcomed the live and televised audience and many of the musical acts were disabled. One notable instance was a high energy rock performance with flames and fireworks performed by a Montreal artist with one leg and arms that were not fully formed. A break dance performance was lead by a Canadian dancer using only his upper body while his legs hung lifeless beneath him. Not only are these artists truly Canadian, they seem to represent the spirit of determination and drive that the games are supposed to be promoting.
All the dancers were local youth from dance companies all over the lower mainland. Much of the presentations were announced by young bilingual children, who were amazingly composed by the way. Special tributes to Rick Hanson and Terry Fox highlighted these famous Vancouverites that overcame disability and made a great impact on Canadian consciousness. The whole tone of the event was (in my opinion) extremely Canadian. With the Hollywood gone, we were left with a low key, heartfelt ceremony emphasizing fair play and peaceful interaction between nations. Many speakers reiterated the goal of the Olympics and Para-Olympics as a peaceful coming together of nations to showcase athletic excellence as well as good sportsmanship. If the opening ceremonies for the Olympics was for non-Canadians, I think this opening was it's antithesis. Rather than being entertained, I was proud to be Canadian and moved by the heart of the athletes.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Paralympic atmosphere

I just spent the weekend downtown and I witnessed a lot of the same Olympic spectacles set up for the Paralympics. I saw the Olympic flame, saw the logo lit up in Coal Harbour and walked along the streets with some of the spectators and teams. I thought the atmosphere, since it was such a smaller event, was very relaxed, and everyone was very polite. I got asked many times if I was from out of town or where I was from. I realized that all the politeness and inquiry was probably a result of people being on their absolute best behavior. Every store I entered and restaurant I ate at was super positive. Absolutely everyone was smiling all the time. While the atmosphere was very positive and cheerful, after a while it seemed a little bit contrived. I probably came to this conclusion because as someone who lives here, I got sick of people constantly asking me if I was from out of town. I feel like going downtown during the Paralympic Games is a great way to experience the Olympic atmosphere dialed down a few notches. I was also very impressed by the enthusiasm everyone had to be hosting the Paralympics. No one seemed to scale down their hospitality just because the Paralympics are a smaller event.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

TV ratings=success?

I saw recently on a CBC broadcast that the Vancouver Olympics were considered a success because of the TV ratings. The Vancouver Olympics did not receive any more viewers than the Turin Olympics overall, but apparently they were much more successful with a younger demographic. Many more young people 15-24 watched the Vancouver Olympics than the Turin games. But after watching this, I started to question how much this would have to do with the successful organization or marketing of the Vancouver Olympics. After all, we are just now supposedly recovering from a global recession. Unemployment numbers have skyrocketed in the past few years, and this generally means that unemployment is especially high in the 15-24 age bracket. Without jobs or excess income, significantly more 15-24 year olds are probably spending time at home right now, not being able to afford the usual trips to the bars or cinemas. In countries like the U.S. and Canada where the Olympics are broadcast on network TV, watching the Olympics would be a free way to spend your afternoon or evening. So how much of this success in the 15-24 year old age bracket really can be attributed to VANOC or the marketing campaigns? Did the Vancouver Games really reach out to a younger audience, or was the younger audience more bored with more excess time than in 2006?

Monday, March 8, 2010

Lingering Post-Olympics Thoughts

For those interested, I finally located the LA Times op-ed piece we were discussing in class today (I believe this is the one Jennifer was talking about). It's saccharine and schmaltzy.

Also, here is the "thank you letter" from Brian Williams (of the NBC Nightly News). Apparently all of us Canadians were really on our best behaviour.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

RE: Olympic Fever

We talked about the sea of red and white and the hyper patriotism that the city experienced during the olympics this past week in class. However, we didn't really touch base on the other countries that were visiting. While it was awsome that we showed as much pride and patriotism as we did, there were others here doing just the same thing we were. We need only look at the number of different "houses" and pavillions to find evidence of this. Like us, the tourists that came to vancouver were putting on a performance for the world to see. I looked forward to greeting customers decked out in their own version of olympic clothing each day at work.. I was fortunate enough to meet tourists rock'n their Team Russia, Finland, and Czech colors.. and sparked some really interesting conversations with them. I wanted to know what they thought about the olympics and the kind of emotions they were experiencing. Heres a few more pictures I took during my own olympic experience.

ps: the little blue bugger is the mascot for Sochi 2014

Just a Note on Riots and Protesting..

These picture were taken just a few hours before the opening ceremonies. I took them on my way to work, and thought it was interesting that these protestors were still at it moments before the opening ceremonies.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Gong Xi Fa Cai!

3/5 of my family just came back from a vacation in Southeast Asia (Malaysia, Hong Kong, Brunei) and my sister got some video of the Chinese New Year Lion Dance. The video was taken in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia. Wouldn't this have been awesome to see during the Opening Ceremony? Enjoy!

What is the purpose?

All this hype about the Olympics along with all the ridiculous schemes to get money out of the Olympics-goers got me thinking about what the purpose to all of this is. What is the point? So...I looked it up. The original Olympics evolved out of a religious holiday, a day on which the Greeks honoured Zeus. Eventually it evolved into a festival where the citizens of Greece could showcase their athletic prowess and the Greek people could all come together in a friendly, dipolomatic setting. Thinking about the Olympics, it seems that althleticism and getting together have their part to be sure, but I feel that the real driving force behind the Olympics and the real purpose is to make money. I have no qualms with making money, because after all, a person's got to live. It just seems like that's always the main purpose though. I feel like all of the real meaning is being sucked out of events...mascots aren't good luck charms anymore, they're cash cows targeted a little kids whose parents can't say no. I apologize for the rant but it just seems like everything always comes down to money, one of the least valuable things in the end.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Won't You Let Your Red Heart Show?

This CTV video montage (from Stephen Brunt of The Globe and Mail) has been praised by by people who are as musically nerdy as I am for including good music . It features "Red Heart" by Hey Rosetta! (a band from Newfoundland and who are pretty much awesome). Besides the song, the narrative is interesting and awaiting your interpretation/criticisms/other comments. Enjoy and I hope to discuss this (and CTV's other cheesy montage videos) with you all next week!

EDIT: Below is a clip of the actually broadcast of the mentioned video essay by Stephen Brunt. I think Brian William's (and the network's) framing of the video is also interesting. And watch as the camera zooms in closer and closer as Williams is talking. How lovely.

'And oh, it's like cleaning up after an orgy when it's over...'

(a lyric by Them Crooked Vultures that I think is fitting for the way Vancouver probably looks today)

I made a conscious decision to hold back posting about the Olympics until the break was over and I could think about the 17 days that the 'world' was here as a whole. I also made a conscious decision that I would avoid Vancouver entirely (though I did attempt to catch the Colin James show last Monday, but that didn't work out) for the span of the Olympics, based on a couple reasons. The main reason being that the only crowds I can ever handle comfortably are usually concert crowds, and the last time I went to the closing night of the fireworks I enjoyed the event but felt so trapped in that sea of (drunk) people. This may come off as antisocial and that's probably fair, but I thought I'd enjoy the Olympics from a distance, using word of mouth and media coverage to connect me to the event without having to throw elbows to get down Granville Street. I do regret not experiencing the 'buzz' and mingling with people from all over the place, but I'm in an interesting position to comment on the Olympics, having experienced it through the eyes and opinions of others. Also, I'm a lot more interested in what Vancouver may look like today in contrast to a week ago and I plan to do a bit of a walk-a-bout sometime this week to survey the aftermath of the 'world' having it's way with our city.

The analogy that I used in the months going into the Olympics was that, at least from my point of view, it seemed like the Olympic committee was a nervous mother running around preparing for a dinner party and making everything look perfect even though the house is a mess on a day to day basis, and we, the kids, are just rolling our eyes waiting for it to be over. This isn't to discount the fact that lots of people were really excited about the events, the analogy is more to highlight the fact that the Vancouver that all our visitors witnessed doesn't really exist and even those coming to the dinner party know that the house is never this clean (we can put away the fancy dishes now and go back to paper plates, everyone) What amuses me is that those that experienced Vancouver for the first time in the past two weeks will possibly come back and may not even recognize it as the same city, but it's a case of 'only time will tell' to see where Vancouver goes from here and how this historical event will effect us in the years to come.

More to come in my second Olympic post about the coverage I experienced from a distance, from friends and the media...

Olympics - Czech Republic vs. Latvia

“Not the Canada game, I'm going to see Czech Republic versus La-Lativa... or something.”
“That's the one.”

How do you decide which team to support if you have no stake in either? The team with the most fans? The underdog?

The Thunderbird Stadium screens proudly announce Canada's 8-2 victory. It must be embarrassing, I thought, to lose so badly to another team. There is a greater number of Czech than Latvia supporters in the crowd, judging from the number of flags, jerseys, and overall noise as the teams enter the rink for their warmup. The majority of the spectators are Canadians, and are probably a bit disappointed that their tickets had not been for the other game. After the first period, the score is 2-0 for the Czechs.

Early in the second period, Latvia scores a goal which is reviewed, but ultimately disallowed. Eager to see a comeback, some people in the crowd start rooting for Latvia, cheering when their goalie makes a save, and groaning when they miss a shot. By the end of the second period, it seems all the Canadians, myself included, are cheering for Latvia. The crowd is going full tilt at the beginning of the third period, and Latvia rallies and scores, putting themselves within striking range of the Czechs.


With only four minutes remaining in the third period, Latvia ties the game, and the crowd goes berserk. I reach for my camera to take a picture of the crowd... and the battery dies.

Five minutes into overtime, Czech scores the winning goal. The Latvian team is devastated to have lost despite their comeback. I do not cheer when the Czech team scores the goal, but I applaud once the game is over. I'd like to think that what I've seen tonight was far more exciting than Canada's 8-2 victory over Germany.

Best Before: It's a videogame! Fantastic?!

Best Before is an interactive performance where the audience creates the story of a country by manipulating digital characters or “avatars”. The evening progresses as binary individual and group choices are offered to the players. After an incredibly slow, methodical tutorial of the controls, some members of the audience couldn't fully grasp what they were supposed to do. There are so many avatars onscreen that taking your eyes off your blob would mean losing track of it in a sea of other, less important blobs. When the camera zoomed in on any character, I maneuvered my blob into the shot as quickly as I could. “You don't know who I am but pay attention to me!”, I thought, acting like a spoiled teenager. “Me me me!”

Some of your choices give your avatar an item. Over the course of the evening, I acquired a joystick, marijuana haze, a gun, and somehow managed to get a job as a game tester, lose it, and mysteriously re-acquire it. I wanted to be a politician, but because I had no ambition I was unqualified. I was smiling most of the way through the game, with the exception of some questionable group decisions: For some reason, the audience decided not to create an army, even after we had been bombed... twice. The in-game choices and real-life experience blurred at times, when the presenters offered some insight into their own lives regarding the choice that had just been offered to the players. Female characters pregnant at the age of fifteen were offered the decision to keep or abort their baby; One of the presenters was conceived when his mother was fifteen.

I clung on for dear life at the end of the night, when the magnetic wall of death pulled all the remaining characters to their doom. I died like all the other avatars: with a THUD, as a little blob-sized sack fell from the ceiling onto the stage. I left the event feeling a bit melancholy, reflecting on the decisions I made that evening, and how much they mattered in the end. As I made my way to the bus stop, I wondered if my own decisions would carry any real significance. I shook my head and smiled.

We'll see.

White Cabin

As you enter the dimly lit room, you see a woman sitting at a table at the far-left hand side of the stage, legs crossed. A reel-to-reel projects silent films onto a white shirt as the woman takes notes, her black dress bleeding into the shadows. The eerily gentle music in the background is gradually overwhelmed as people take their seats. Smoke pours in bursts onto the stage from above. The film cuts out, and starts over again. The smell of incense slowly wafts into the crowd. A wooden chair sits in the foreground, its shadows projected threefold by spotlights. A light focuses on the woman and the audience grows quiet. You can now hear some sound from the recording, like a distorted wind-up music-box. As the reel ends, the woman turns to look at us, shadows concealing her face. A chill runs down your spine: she is staring directly at you. She stands up and walks over to the chair in the foreground. The silence is deafening. She sits on the chair facing the open stage, and becomes part of the audience.

A man wearing an incense hat flips between coloured pages. A hobo plays with gum and bottles and performs a few magic tricks before shuffling offstage. A masked man performs a Shamanistic ritual on the woman, using nails, wine, and cement blocks. He throws wine onto the woman's arms and legs and hastily rubs it into her skin. Moments later, she leaves the chair and transitions from observer to player, interacting with the other cast members. Brief moments of levity interrupt the downward spiral into insanity, as what starts as a series of comical shorts becomes something far more sinister. The woman is now smoking at a table, clearly troubled. The cigarette blows bubbles instead of smoke. A wine bottle on the far side of the table inches toward the other side. The woman stares at it, picks it up, and puts it back. It moves again. If you could not laugh, you would burst into tears. What the hell is going on? Knives and switchblades present the possibility of violence, but the dream-state of the act prevents it. Images projected onto multi-layered screens show Russian dolls and old woman's hands. The bizarrely melodic music adds to the experience, creating a sense-overwhelming performance which leaves you dazed, disoriented, and thirsting for more.