April 30, 2008

Famous (or not) Quotes:

Writers are a little below clowns and a little above trained seals.
~John Steinbeck

Substitute "damn" every time you're inclined to write "very;" your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.
~Mark Twain

You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.
~Jack London

I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.
~Douglas Adams

Sometimes you just have to pee in the sink.
~Charles Bukowski

Writing and travel broaden your ass if not your mind and I like to write standing up.
~Ernest Hemingway

I feel the same way about disco as I do about herpes.
~Hunter S. Thompson

Boy, those French, they have a different word for everything!
~Steve Martin

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April 21, 2008

Bill C-10 Redux: Michael Coren Cries Out

An interesting article, bearing a somewhat contrary opinion to mine, was forwarded to my email this past week. In it Michael Coren suggests with great flourish that the celebrity uproar over Bill C-10 is more about self-preservation than free-speech. We don't see the film and television industry wearing sandwich boards and crying bloody murder when socially conservative political opinion is under fire. He has a point: in this instance the hubbub (yes, that's a word) around the tax credit is not really motivated by a passionate defense of free-speech. It's more a hostile reaction to having someone else dictate what is and is not "good". Coren's point is that while he's not about to censor another person's television, he also doesn't want to fund it.

Coren is of course politically conservative. He writes for Catholic Insight and co-hosts a radio show on CFRB called Two Bald Guys With Strong Opinions. One does not have to stretch too far to see the man makes his money by pushing people's buttons. His article is funny in one sense, but sadly benign in another. Just read the opening paragraphs and you'll notice the paradox. He makes blanket statements about shows he claims to have either never seen or only watched once. Not exactly a ringing endorsement for researched opinion. The type of language Coren uses to describe these shows is also of interest. Terms like, pornographic, cheap-trash, tendentious perversion. Are these objective definitions that denote a careful analysis? Of course not. Botched rhetoric, nothing more. The man has not done his homework but still knows how to throw around inflammatory language.

I don't want to denounce Coren completely. I too find some of these shows innately stupid in that passive, oh-look-I'm-making-funded-art sort of way. Kink has such moments--and I've seen about six episodes (five more than Mr. Coren apparently). But what about the cheerful, smiling boredom of Corner Gas? Is that okay because no one prances around in leather--at least not on screen? And I would love to see 100 Huntley Street and its host of watered-down, bumper-sticker, Happy-Jesus sentiment disappear from the face of the earth, though I'm not sure if it's accredited under Bill C-10, so this may be a non-issue. Both of us agree that some television shows are crap. The difference is I'm not offended or put-out when some of them get a piece of my money.

Perhaps the government should send an additional form out around tax-time. One that allows a rebate of thirteen cents (or whatever the remedial tax-grant works out to per-person) to those who check the appropriate box. Would this help people who share Coren's strangely invasive sense of morality? Probably not. But it may give them the quiet satisfaction of placing the loose change in the milk-container-now-change-jar atop their refrigerator. At the end of the day, this is really a battle of opposing opinion on what is good television or film; subjective tastes are on the table, not morality.

The philosopher David Hume talks of determining "good art" via judiciary. This group would be comprised of artists and scholars, those people knowledgeable in various crafts. The art objects and opinions would have to stand the test of time and conform to certain criteria. Hume's argument ultimately fails because one cannot establish an objective, universal application of aesthetics (what is beautiful, or sublime, or neither). And this same flaw will exist in any existing judiciary over funding for media projects--whether they are run by the government or not.

The problem with Bill C-10 is that it allows for hasty, unfounded judgments, like Coren's, with their mere ascription of mediocre, religious vernacular, to bring forth the gallows. I'd rather we err on the side of protecting the arts at all cost, even if some of it is weak, or lousy, or demented, or perverted or religious. And yes I think there is art in television and film. It may not be easy to find, but it's there. The arts: what better way exists to understand our world?

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April 11, 2008

Bill C-10: Censorship of the Arts?

Been a lot of press about this lately. Bill C-10, among other things, provides the federal government with the means to refuse tax breaks to films and television shows deemed too violent or sexually explicit for the greater good of the republic...err, I mean the public. It appears that the bill was passed with little or no opposition--mostly because very few politicians actually read the bills in their entirety before voting (you learn this in Poli-Sci 101, in case you're wondering).

The Conservative government suggests this is a way to prevent child pornographers or extremely violent (that's not vague, is it?) content from being funded with federal funds. Click here for the article. But we can't place the blame on their shoulders this time. The bill was authored in 2003 by the Liberal party, on the cusp of elections, and was swiftly struck down.
However, most people in the film and television industry are scratching their heads. Since when has the government ever funded child pornography or excessively violent material? Now the arts have yet another loophole to jump through for public funding (if Tolstoy were still alive, he'd be a happy man). Banks will balk at funding a project deemed offensive. And who decides what constitutes "excessive" anything? Article here.

To me, this reeks of bullshit religious agenda. Where else do you find people trying to prevent problems that don't actually occur? So I snoop around a little and wouldn't you know it, the imbecilic Charles McVety--and people this man is as brainless as they get--claims his evangelical group of cronies have been lobbying for this for months. This guy is the Canadian link to Benny Hinn, Jerry Falwell and all those snake-oil sellers south of the border. Strike another blow for American influence I guess.

Sadly, this time the arts take a hit. Nothing new. History has shown us that the majority of destroyed art has come at the hand of religious ideology. You'd think we would have figured it out by now.

April 9, 2008

Kwantlen Writers' Guild Publication

Here you have it. A semester of hard work by many. I had the privilege of being president of the guild this year and editor in chief of Touch Me, the guild publication. I must say I was genuinely impressed with the quality of writing this semester, in particular the poetry. Outstanding.

Kwantlen's creative writing program is outstanding. I can't say enough about how accomplished the faculty are, and how dedicated they are to their students. They instill passion into their classes, a desire to be great, to love the written word.

Those of you who live in the area, we're doing a reading at the Surrey Arts Center located at Bear Creek Park on Thursday, April 10th from 6-9 pm. Wine and food will be available. Swing by and check out what all the fuss is about.