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Two cyclists were killed in the Toronto area last week. Some ARCers (not me) did a memorial ride yesterday. Sad pictures here, by Tino, of nice people taking flowers to an empty place. The other memorial ride, much more central, is planned for Wednesday. If you are a cyclist you are welcome to attend. Here are the details:
One week following the death of a 29-year-old cyclist, Toronto cyclists will ride to the site of the fatality to pay their respects to a fellow cyclist. Flowers will be left at the site to mark the death.
When: Wednesday, May 19 at 6:00 p.m.
Where: Intersection of Dundas St. W. Service Road and Dupont St.
Meet: Cyclists will gather at the Bloor/Spadina parkette and ride to the site together leaving at 5:30 p.m.
There will be a brief ceremony of solidarity and respect at Dundas and Dupont at 6:00 p.m.
At 6:30 p.m. the cyclists will leave together and ride to the Ferry terminal to catch the 7:15 p.m. ferry to Ward's Island. A ceremony and celebration of the cyclist's life organized by his family and friends will be held on Ward's Island at 7:45 p.m.
Any Canadians feeling smug about our general left-wingedness as compared to USA should read Christie Blatchford's article today in the Globe and Mail, an article about crimes committed by people wearing hoods being more heinous than those by perpetrators who are boldly bare-faced (no outright mention of skin colour...), an article that begins and ends with her $200 trip to the hair salon. Actually, I take that back: nobody should read it, but in case you feel like getting all steamed up, here's the link. I am finding it extremely disturbing that degrading images of Iraqis are still being splattered, now with musical soundtrack and voice-over narration (as on CBC's "The National"), all over the mainstream broadcast news. We have devolved the function of this footage from breaking information to yet more vaguely titillating eye-candy, a transition that opens the door for idle, decadent speculation such as Blatchford's. Reminds me of the now too famous 1968 photograph by Eddie Adams of the execution of a Viet Cong prisoner. It might be my ignorance, but I can't think of any images of white people in extremes of dehumanisation that have been adopted in this fashion, recontextualised, and mutliplied a million times by the western press.
Power Plant brochure with painting by Daniel Richter
|It takes me forever to go to art shows. I recently went down to see the current show at The Power Plant and because I'd already heard everybody else griping about how bad it is, I ended up liking it much more than I thought. In fact, I actually got caught taking pictures of Daniel Richter's work and had to erase them in front of the gallery attendant. D-OH! I'm not easily mortified, but that did it. Later I realised that the shot I wanted is the exact same one they used on the cover of the free brochure. So here's a picture of that instead, as it looks sitting on my window ledge.
Enough anecdote...on with the art review! Daniel Richter's paintings caught me off guard. I spent a full five minutes in battle with myself, saying "these are horrible, and everyone knows it" while at the exact same time digging them quite a bit. They are scratchy and ugly and too big for their britches. They are animistic, apocalyptic doomsday carnivals that remind me of Euorpean science fiction and revolution. The one on the brochure, titled, "Das Missverstandnis" (now that I have the spelling right, I think the translation is "The Misunderstanding" ... any help with this would be appreciated), depicts a motely crew of feathered, costumed folk, come up from town to pay some sort of strange homage or serenade to a big tree full of birds. Yet all the while a predatory, knowing, radioactive cat is stalking the scene and giving us art viewers the nod. An interesting note on Richter is that he used to paint abstraction, and recently, suddenly, took on rendered space, representational form, and content. It's an unusual transition. There is an image of one of his abstract works from 1999 here.
Cloaca, image stolen from artnet.com
|The main event, of course, is Wim Delvoye's "Cloaca", a big machine that has been exhibited all over the world, and takes food (in this case table scraps from a fancy downtown Toronto restaurant) and, through a complicated process that replicates human digestion, produces small, demure portions of poo. One of my friends who saw it early in the run complained that it was too clean and sterile. I believe the exact words were : "much too clinical for an ass-licker like me." But by the time I got down there the damn thing stank badly and I was kind of impressed. I could barely stand in the room for the time it took to tour of the mechanism, and fled before I'd seen quite as much as I wanted. The gallery attendant (a different one) was very generous with information, and shared with me that when she goes home from work, people sitting next to her on the streetcar wrinkle up their noses and go "sniff sniff." Geez, thanks, Wim. I liked the sad cyborg aspect of this work, but I think the digs at both corporate culture (see the Mr. Clean w/bowels icon and "buy feces now" slogan) and art world preciousness are add-ons, making up a shaky, ironic patina that fails to function as subversion, but gives the piece a detrimental sheen of political correctness.|
Last night as I was watching TV my normally restless clicky-thumb stopped on a show called The Fifties, The Fear And The Dream. The imagery that caught my eye was Levittown, a model new community in New York for GIs returning from the war to have their families. Thank you for the f88king ugly suburbs, William Levitt. The show, however, a simple straightforward Canadian-made history, cast these middle-low income burbs in a contextual light that made more sense to me than usual, the extreme social value placed on an affordable patch of lawn a reward for enduring wartime: enough with catastrophic world events, time to look after me and mine. It was an understandable reaction, too bad it's now an internalised, systemic ideology. There's a good website on Levittown here (where I stole the picture above).
My friend J. reminded me today that the USA is based on single heros doing big things, while Canada is based on groups of individuals doing small things. My reiteration here is oversimplified, but this idea somehow oddly helped me in my current anxiety about the USA. The grand symbolic gesture of the nuclear bomb...too much power...is a singular icon. Nuclear physics also employed powerful, charismatic, and icnonic personalities. In some lights Oppenheimer is the most romantic, tragic anti-hero I can imagine: responsible for the A-bomb and the deaths of cities of people, remorseful and politicised, arguing passionately against Teller's (who, I just found out, is the inspiration for the Dr. Strangelove character...makes perfect sense, duh) plans for the H-bomb and the potential deaths of countries, continents, even planets. There is footage of Oppenheimer in the documentary, a man in pain in an impossible position, speaking, imploring his country to see people in other lands (ie: potential victims of hydrogen bombs) as "men like ourselves". I've been looking for the quote and can't find it. But I did find this (below), I think from the same interview with Edward R. Murrow in 1954.
Oppenheimer on secrecy: "The trouble with secrecy is that it denies to the government itself the wisdom and the resources of the whole community, of the whole country, and the only way you can do this is to let almost anyone say what he thinks - to try to give the best synopses, the best popularizations, the best mediations of technical things that you can, and to let men deny what they think is false - argue what they think is false, you have to have a free and uncorrupted communication.
"And this is - this is so the heart of living in a complicated technological world - it is so the heart of freedom that that is why we are all the time saying, `Does this really have to be secret?' `Couldn't you say more about that?' `Are we really acting in a wise way?' Not because we enjoy chattering - not because we are not aware of the dangers of the world we live in, but because these dangers cannot be met in any other way.
"The fact is, our government cannot do without us - all of us."
Common Dreams has an excellent, cheering (in a hell-in-a-handbasket kind of way) essay by 81-year-old Kurt Vonnegut.
"By saying that our leaders are power-drunk chimpanzees, am I in danger of wrecking the morale of our soldiers fighting and dying in the Middle East? Their morale, like so many bodies, is already shot to pieces. They are being treated, as I never was, like toys a rich kid got for Christmas."
My neighbourhood has Nighthawks. In the summer I sleep with my head next to a window, and I can hear them going peent peent* as they dart around up above the rowhouses, conducting their nocturnal flycatching activities.
*according to Roger Tory Peterson (actually the cry really does sound like that, which is part of the reason I like them)
* Krazy Kat was supposedly genderless, but I guess the guy is entitled to his opinion.
Excerpts from Naomi Klein at rabble.ca, Mutiny Is The Only Way Out
"The last month of U.S. aggression in Iraq has inspired what can only be described as a mutiny: waves of soldiers, workers and politicians under the command of the U.S. occupation authority suddenly refusing to follow orders and abandoning their posts. First Spain announced that it would withdraw its troops, then Honduras, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and Kazakhstan. South Korean and Bulgarian troops were pulled back to their bases, while New Zealand is withdrawing its engineers. El Salvador, Norway, the Netherlands and Thailand will likely be next."
"And then there's the U.S.-controlled Iraqi army. Since the latest wave of fighting, its soldiers have been donating their weapons to resistance fighters in the south and refusing to fight in Falluja. By late April, Major General Martin Dempsey, commander of the 1st Armoured Division, was reporting that “about 40 per cent walked off the job because of intimidation. And about 10 per cent actually worked against us.”
"And it's not just Iraq's soldiers who have been deserting the occupation. Four ministers of the Iraqi governing council have resigned in protest; and half the Iraqis with jobs in the secured “green zone” — as translators, drivers, cleaners — are not showing up for work. Minor mutinous signs are emerging even within the ranks of the U.S. military: privates Jeremy Hinzman and Brandon Hughey have applied for refugee status in Canada as conscientious objectors, and Staff Sergeant Camilo Mejia is facing court martial after he refused to return to Iraq on the grounds that he no longer knew what the war was about."
"There is a way that the UN can redeem itself in Iraq: it could choose to join the mutiny, further isolating the United States. This would help to force Washington to hand over real power — ultimately to Iraqis, but first to a multilateral coalition that did not participate in the invasion and occupation and would have the credibility to oversee direct elections. This could work, but only through a process that fiercely protects Iraq's sovereignty." [details follow: ditch the interim constitution, put the money in trust, de-Chalabify Iraq, demand the withdrawal of US troops]
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