Thursday, October 9, 2008

October 9, 2008 Setlist - Art for Canada's Sake

This photo (copyright la culture s'enflamme) sums up a lot of what the soapbox was all about today - "No Culture, No Identity / No Identity, No People / No People, No Country" Art has value for it's own sake - but it also has value for the sake of bettering humanity.

Thanks for tuning in today. Before I get to more serious matters, here is a list of the tunes that were played. In case you forgot, "*" means this record is on the CJSW playlist right now - so if you call 403.220.3991 and request it, the DJ has one less excuse not to play it!

rentstrike - groove collective
beans for breakfast - blktop project
moon bump - greyboy
funky manifesto - mossman
shepherd's bush - o'luge*
pepper rock - prince jazzbo
champagne & reefer - muddy waters
compacto - curumin*
night shift - dennis rollins
baaki - emmanuel jal*
we shall not be moved - mavis staples
decadencia de civilizacion - saint alvia*
sing their souls back home - billy bragg
waiting (live) - greg brown
muscle energy - alexander ferguson school*
living in the future - john prine
humdinger - old crow medicine show*
the drinking song - loudon wainwright iii*
the mine is closed - rae spoon
built for comfort - howlin' wolf
in the news - kris kristofferson
donnybrook - d.o.a.* (in honour of the beginning of hockey season!)

Okay, that's that - now on to the serious business:

1. VOTE! - It's the very least you can do to participate in a democracy. Vote for the candidate that best represents your values, or vote strategically to make sure that the candidate that affronts your values doesn't get in. In either case - VOTE! And if (in my case, when) the person you vote for is not elected, write to your MP and let her or him know that you didn't vote for them, but they are obliged to represent your values and your views in parliament anyway!

2. LOCALIZE! - There's a lot of scary shit going on right now in the global economy, and a lot of it is the direct result of a bunch of corporate fatcats getting ruthlessly greedy and taking some serious liberties with our (yup, all of our) money. Shit is totally unstable right now, and all the beancounters are recommending that you invest in gold - I've got a better idea - invest in your community and local economy. There are a number of great advantages to this approach: first, you get to participate in building something better where you live. Second, you don't have to rely on politicians or big business to make sure that value and jobs stay in your community. And third, you generally deal directly with the people with whom you are exchanging goods and services, which greatly reduces the chances that they'll try to pull an "AIG shimmy" on ya. If you live in Calgary, check out calgary dollars; if you don't, look for a local currency project in your area, or build one yourself!

3. MY CANADA EMBRACES THE ARTS! My good pal Noel Begin came by today to share some of his thoughts and concerns around the treatment of the arts by the conservative government, and particularly by Mr. Harper. Noel has written an open letter/manifesto on the subject, which he read on the air today - it is included below for your consideration, and Noel encourages you all to get back to him with your thoughts, suggestions, criticism, edification, etc.

The current discussion around the arts and government funding for them begins from the premise that artists somehow exist outside of the rest of Canadian culture - that artists are some elite and eccentric group of tuxedo-and-gown-wearing, canape-and-champagne-fuelled, fancy-gala-attending yuppity folk that the rest of us "ordinary Canadians" can't expect to relate to. This "us-and-them" cultural view is not just divisive, it undermines the necessity of arts to a functional, inclusive, productive and enlightened culture. It encourages us to think of arts as cultural experiences that happen only at prescribed times and in prescribed environs, rather than as a spontaneous, organic, essential part of our daily lives. Good art encourages you not only to think critically about art, but to think critically about everything - to live a culturally active existence, to seek opportunities to grow as a person, and to engage your community in thoughtful discussion. These are not lofty ideals to be aspired to exclusively by the elite of society - there are things that matter to everyone, and good art serves to remind people of the things that matter, and of the need to work towards the strengthening of those things.

Here are some examples of opportunities to engage in good art in Calgary, going on right now:

M:ST4 Festival:
Springboard/FLUID Festival:
PCC Calgary:

And here is a website that Noel said provided some inspiration for his letter, and here is one that that website reminded me of. Here's a link to the rockridge institute - a US outfit who is working to reclaim the ideas and reframe the discussion around "american values".

Finally, here is Noel's letter - please send him an email (weareletter[at]gmail[dot]com) if you have some thoughts or impressions that you would like to share on the matter.

Thanks for listening - talk to you next week!
Don't forget to VOTE,


Tuesday, October 7, 2008

In response to arts cuts and Stephen Harper's divisive statements.

Let's cut our losses. Harper's minority government is costing Canadians money, country, and culture. It's in our power to stop him.

To our fellow citizens of Canada

Don't let Stephen Harper sell you short. While we appreciate that Harper sees artists as extraordinary, we are ordinary Canadians too, but we find that the term "ordinary Canadians" was slyly used by Harper to divide Canada's citizens. Many of Harper's recent statements attempt to pit you against us, but WE ARE YOU. Harper says ordinary Canadians don't want the kinds of creations that cultural producers make with your tax dollars, but we think you're proud of what we make, proud of how carefully this small fraction of your tax dollars are spent, and that you're impressed by how difficult it is to receive public support.

The arts are a dynamic yet ordinary sector of the Canadian economy like any other sector. The difference is that art is something we invest in as a nation because it is less about your bank account and more about your heart and mind, less about making a living and more about understanding the nuances of existence.

The Canadian system of arts funding is envied the world over for how it ensures that monies are distributed only to artists and arts groups who maintain a high standard of professional excellence. Our system exists to expose the myriad ideas of a living culture. If the cultural industries are to maintain their integrity and continued innovation, then our system needs to remain free of the censorship Harper seeks to assert.

Some art is created for children, and some art is created only for adults, some art functions as art regardless of age. Harper's attempt to seduce voters with a plan that will ultimately under-fund children's classes also serves to reduce the Canadian public's perception of art as an activity for children, and distract voters from the fact that this should be an essential part of a properly funded education system.

Suggestion is a powerful form of influence. Stephen Harper suggests that artists are elitist and exist in ivory towers, but each aspect of the arts is a specialized field, with specialized and technical language no different from the specialization of any professional industry. When Harper suggests that ordinary Canadians don't want to support the arts, he acts to divide us from you, but again, we are you. One must ask why a Prime Minister would seek to drive a wedge into the Canadian economy, or between groups of citizens. As artists and ordinary citizens of Canada we are sure that Stephen Harper is not an acceptable choice for Prime Minister of the great country of Canada.

We are stronger together as a nation, and we want as a nation to be proud of our accomplishments in business, in science, in the arts, etc. We as artists are ordinary Canadians - we are you. We invite you to become engaged in the arts, to discover where and why a small fraction of your tax dollars are put to use, and to participate in the dialogue of art on a daily basis, consuming a byproduct of our combined strength.

A letter initiated by Noel B├ęgin, with input from Calgary artists, festival directors and programmers, curators, and others.

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