Monthly Archives: July 2015

…dee dee deedle deedle dee dee dee dee…

So Huffington Post has decided to put Donald Trump’s campaign coverage in their entertainment section as a way of indicating their refusal to take his parody of political discourse seriously.clown trump

Mother Jones is countering that the problem is that Trump is a serious contender. I agree. He has a frightening level of supportive.

They’re both right.

I understand what Huffington Post is doing. I one hundred per cent support refusing to give this …

trump ruprict

…a seat at the grown-up table. His ideas, beliefs and commentary are laughable. No intelligent, informed, mature person could possibly take his views seriously. America shouldn’t take him seriously. He has no place in serious political discourse. He shouldn’t be given any serious thought as a potential leader. Energy spent portraying him as a serious voice for the average American or as an advocate for the American way of life is energy wasted. While there is (sadly) a market for his kind of chicanery, that market demographic isn’t the intelligent thoughtful voter looking to cast an informed ballot.  He should be ignored for the same reason you don’t give in to your screaming toddler in the toy store.

I also understand what Mother Jones is saying. The right wing created the environment in which Donald Trump became a ‘credible’ right wing voice, and now the joke is on them. He and his ilk have turned the American political and social system against the best interest of America by cranking up the volume on the least rational parts of American society. The right wing is feeding on itself, eating its own tail in an ever more desperate bid to achieve conservative political immortality and defeat progressive liberalism. Trump represents the monster that the right wing allowed to grow out of the childish desire to never admit the legitimate, demonstrable constructive progress America is making in the absence of conservative rule.

No, the joke is on the whole society. Donald Trump could be the undoing of the GOP, or worse, the undoing of the US as a respected world power. Really.

Trump sets the bar dangerously low for the GOP. Pretty well any looney they choose to lead them into the next election is going look like a right minded competent human being compared to the alternative – if the alternative is Donald Trump. Sadly this just sets the race up to elect someone who sits just a smidgen to the left of complete asshattery who will appeal to the rabble but inevitably damage the GOP and, if elected, do real damage to the country. Let’s be honest; politics isn’t about finding the best person for the job, it’s about finding the least bad person. Often, and I am tempted to say always in the American 2 party system, casting a ballot is like deciding to settle on a rock or in a hard place.

Ignoring Donald Trump could have dire consequences. America is in a tough spot right now.cob over trump

On a local note, I personally think this is where Alberta and Canada was/is heading but for our inherent tendency to be skeptical of the kind of tomfoolery and corruption that gives fodder to extreme thinking or behavior. We are a nation of moderates that can be roused from our political apathy when our moderation is threatened.

Unfortunately in the US moderation has never caught on so they take everything they do to the extreme, often to the point of defying logic. Donald Trump for President is the result. As much as it hurts our heads, the world would be wise to listen to this man talk so we keep tabs on the crazy before it gets any more out of control because clearly the US hasn’t got a handle on the situation.

 

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Are you a pedant pretender?

This article cracks me up. And it plays right into my blog theme, lucky me.
“Ditching Dan Brown, pretending to like opera and sharing intellectual articles on Facebook: The lengths people go to in an attempt to appear clever”

I’m curious, how many of us do these things for real, and how many to create an impression? Are you an faux intellectual? (Taken from the list at the bottom of the article.)

1. Repeating someone else’s joke as your own?
We ALL steal jokes. We tell them a bit different, and we tweak them for our own use. That’s like implying that everyone who painted a sunflower after Van Gogh is an imposter.

2. Going to an art gallery and posting about it.
Better than posting about getting drunk or that tea party propaganda crap that forces me to unfriend people on Facebook. Maybe I just like to share. Maybe it serves a greater purpose. Check out my twitter feed in the next couple weeks for proof of attendance at the AGA Baroque exhibit. Then I can cross off number 23 for #31daysofyeg

3. Listening to classical music in front of others
In public; like at the symphony? I listen to classical music all the time, not just when other people could find out about it. But not exclusively. I also openly like ABBA. And one song by Nickelback (but the just one)

4. Reading a ‘serious’ tome on the beach
I don’t do beaches. Beaches are for people who read Dan Brown.

5. Re-tweeting a clever tweet
Isn’t that half the point of twitter?

6. Talking loudly about politics in front of others
I talk ad nauseam about politics to anyone who will listen. At any volume.

7. Reading an intellectual magazine on public transport
I can’t read in a moving vehicle. Makes me dizzy. How about listening to a ‘Learn to Speak Russian’ podcast? I do that. But not loud enough that anyone would know.

8. Sharing an academic article on Facebook
Have I done that? Probably.

9. Pretending to know about wine
I know nothing about wine except which wine I think tastes good and how to order a glass of it in 4 languages, not in Russian though (yet). I do have a brother-in-law who does know wine. Pity he lives in Ottawa or I’d never accidentally buy a mediocre bottle of wine again.

10. Wearing glasses with clear lenses
I don’t even wear the glasses I actually need to correct my vision. Next…

11. Mentioning an opera you’d seen
Speaking of which, I just filled out a survey for Edmonton Opera. They want me to buy season tickets and I don’t. Since they asked, I told them why. I love opera, but Edmonton Opera needs a reboot. Magic Flute last year was a big, big disappointment. They did it about 15 years ago (?) and I enjoyed it. This time it fell flat.  While waiting in a buffet line for an eggs benedict re-fresh at the Freewill Shakespeare fundraiser this spring, I spoke to a woman who totally agreed with me.  I think they’re catering too much to a crowd that thinks no true opera was written past (insert random date pre-1900 here). Opera, like any art, lives or dies. What live has evolved to survive in its circumstances. The first night I was in New York last year I saw Book of Mormon. The second night I saw Prince Igor. Those two things are not mutually exclusive. Long story short, I filled out your survey Edmonton Opera, but I still got yer back and I’ve never seen Maria Stuarda so I’ll be there for sure.

12. Pretending to like jazz
I fricken love jazz. At 21 I used to hang out with my girlfriend, drink a litre of hungarian red wine, order fried cheese and listen to live jazz and a now defunct restaurant called Cafe Budapest (in the spot that the fabulous Blue Plate Diner now occupies). I was kinda like a beatnik.

13. Tagging yourself at an exhibition
If I’m in the photo sure. If I’m not that is pretty weird.

12. Referencing a Booker Prizewinning novel
I don’t know about the booker prize, but I do talk about what I read. Anyone who knows me knows I loathed Dan Brown’s novels. And that I defend Atlas Shrugged on the quality of wiring and story, not the themes though. And that I don’t like Jane Austen, but am probably due to give her another try (every 5 years)

There you go. I think it’s clear that I am both authentically pretentious and plebeian.

 

(link to article in case the hyperlink fails)
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2352306/Ditching-Dan-Brown-pretending-like-opera-sharing-intellectual-articles-Facebook-The-lengths-people-attempt-appear-clever.html#ixzz3g6j1J4k6
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Public Purse & Purpose Predicaments

busker hat

I watched the recent public relations mini-crisis concerning the spurned Edmonton Fringe volunteer unfold with some interest. Now that it seems to have settled down I thought I could weigh in without interfering with the Fringe’s ability to manage their brand. I really, really hope that this doesn’t spark uproar again; unless that spark ignites a conversation about how we as a society are going to help organisations that promote the arts to survive and grow.

Understand, I love the arts. I love theatre. I love this festival. I raised my son at this festival and am watching with a mixture of pride and envy as he is pursuing his theatre dreams nurtured by Edmonton’s theatre community. This involvement and passion informed how I felt about this issue when it hit the media.

As I have gleaned it from the media coverage, this is what happened:

At least two individuals were sent letters telling them that the Fringe Festival would not be able to accept them in volunteer positions this season. The volunteer positions had certain requirements that aligned them with the Fringe’s goals. Both of the individuals had disabilities that limit how effectively they would be able to function in these volunteer positions.

It really is that simple.

It is important that we not confuse the Fringe’s not-for-profit, publicly supported status with a mandate to provide a social service. They provide a social good absolutely, which is why they receive public funding. However they don’t receive their public funding to serve the broader needs of society, but to fulfill their specific  mission, vision and mandate.

To be successful as an organisation, whether you are for or not-for profit, an organisation must have a clear mandate. In the case of the Fringe this is clear. The Fringe is about and for theatre. It is about and for actors and directors and playwrights and designers and stage techs – about and for the people who make their living and make their lives through theatre. The Fringe provides a home and fertile ground for new artists and artistic expression. The Fringe offers a less intimidating and more incidental way for citizens, who may never in any other part of their daily lives encounter theatre, to discover the unique joy of live theatre.

Having in place expectations for each volunteer position to guarantee that each volunteer most efficiently and effectively contributes to the growth of theatre in our community is how the Fringe will meet its mandate.

I understand that a people, including the people who did not get the volunteer positions they wanted, may feel as passionately about being part of this great festival. It makes complete sense to me. However, to maintain control over direction and messaging and branding, the Fringe must be able to choose how they present themselves to the community and that includes having the ability to put in place guidelines regarding suitability for volunteer positions.

Take the example of the non-verbal man who was not accepted for a position as a greeter at the gate.

That front gate is where that person who has never ever been to a play will enter the festival grounds. It is where the Fringe can provide that potential theatre fan with an introduction to the festival, and to drama and the arts in general. I am always shocked to find how many people think they have attended the Fringe, but have never attended a play. It is essential that the greeters at the gate be able to tell people that this festival is more that a few street performers and line-ups for churros. That obviously requires verbal communication. It is a necessary requirement.

This is not a value judgement with regard to the volunteer, this is a needs assessment with regard to the position and organisation.

I completely agree that as a culture we should be as inclusive as possible. I do not agree that being inclusive is antithetical to having in place standards and requirements for participation in specific aspects of our society. As I understand it, the one man is now advising the festival on their inclusiveness policy but not volunteering. I’d encourage the festival and the man to consider having him in a volunteer position for which communicating is not the position lynch-pin. He should participate if theatre is his passion, and the Fringe should be open to encouraging the participation in theatre arts by everyone in our community.

All of this, however, must align with the Fringe’s mandate first and foremost. I personally think the festival handled this very well.

theater_masks_silhouette

Precaution & Providence or Parsimony & Peril

(Preface: sometimes I think I started this blog as an homage to the letter ‘p’)

Every time that a story about Greece’s debt crisis comes up on the news I rant a little. My family is used to it.

Many people are, in my opinion, dead wrong on this. Even my husband seems to lean toward the idea that Greece is just a bunch of deadbeats that want to have 16 weeks vacation, retire at 50 and not repay their debts. That’s a fairly common perception. But it doesn’t take account of the root cause of the global (not Greek) financial crisis that precipitated Greece’s current woes. Which is not to say that Greece will not have to scale back their lives and roll up their sleeves, they will. What I am saying is that what the Greeks are being asked to sacrifice is extreme, and they are being asked to make do with considerably less than they could sustained had financial markets been better regulated.

It was not Greek excesses that created these messes.

No good can come of forcing Greece, and Greeks, to suffer more. Pushing people to the edge of an economic precipice has never yielded good results. People on the edge will grab and hold onto anything to keep themselves form falling. Pushing the post WWI Germans and the German economy to the limit of economic endurance and devastating the German economy was a significant contributing factor to the development of the political climate and social conditions under which Hitler’s Nazi ideology gained credibility.

What made John Maynard Keyes mutter under his breath as he stormed out of the Paris Peace Conference is eerily similar to economists are saying about Greek Austerity today. The potential for it to not end well is real. Economics and politics cannot be separated. Greece has some unstable neighbours and aside from potential internal civil unrest, they could be unstable enough to become a gateway into Europe for some unsavory groups.

greece marked

It will also not come anywhere near resolving the root problem or preventing similar crises in the future. The global financial problems were made possible by a few irresponsible/unfettered wealthy corporations, largely banks. It was not dissimilar behavior that contributed to the great depression; bad borrowing and lending, lack of oversight for banks, markets expanding beyond their ability to sustain the  growth. It was capitalism unchecked, unbalanced.

We, globally, must recognize that capitalism has no soul and no remorse and no conscience. For these reasons economic activity must be guided by regulations to prevent them from wealth accumulation at the expense of economic stability. No austerity or ideological doctrine of market efficiency will prevent unhappy history from repeating itself until we admit capitalism has limitations.

cap quote

Not that you need a degree in economics to see where this could be headed but to drive the point home, I will point out that some noted economists are saying this exact thing about the Greek debt crisis. Economics is one of those fields that people claim is subjective, almost more an art than science. This is true to an extent. What you see as the economic solution depends entirely on what you believe is the acceptable economic and social outcome. If you believe that the acceptable outcome is long term stability for the majority at the expense of short term wealth for the few, then you will agree with what I have said. If you believe that unfettered pursuit of wealth is a right and that the accumulation of wealth is in and of itself the goal, you will disagree.

However, there is also some science to economics, and it’s science worth noting.

Read this article by Joseph E. Stiglitz. He is a Nobel laureate in economics. He won for modelling how asymmetric info begs a larger role for government intervention in markets, and how regulation leads to pareto efficiency – the market alone is not efficient. There is no invisible hand guiding capitalism.

And read this articleMaybe you’ll recognize the name Thomas Piketty, Professor of Economics at the Paris School of Economics and author of ‘Capital in the Twenty-First Century’ and current left-wing darling. The other signatories are Jeffrey D. Sachs, Heiner Flassbeck, Dani Rodrik, and Simon Wren-Lewis. Looking them up is your homework.