Tag Archives: drama

Politicians & Voters: The Good, the Bad and the Stupid

Less than 50% of people voted in BC’s provincial election. Less than half, which means that everything could have changed had more people voted. I’ve always said, if you don’t vote, you can’t complain. And really, an apathetic acceptance of whatever is thrown at you is no way to foment change. There are countries where not everyone has the vote or where they’re even losing the right to vote. People should not treat the liberties we have so lightly.

Granted some people are disenfranchised because these days one politician is like another, just in a different suit. What matter be it Liberals or Conservatives or NDP, they will all make the same promises? I’m not saying I believe that completely but it’s obvious some people do. And on top of that, there is the aspect of political campaigning that has got down to name-calling and trying to take down another’s character to change votes, even if it’s obfuscating the truth or the facts.

People are becoming tired of politicians denigrating each other, and it is a very important element in negating voter turnout. This week the federal Conservatives have taken out ads to discredit Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff. Not ads on what they’re doing, nor on concerns for our country but just another smear campaign against the enemy. That’s money well spent. Politics has gotten down to this. Don’t talk about what you can do but talk about what the other guy is not doing. I’m very tired of that.

Voters also see a lack of charisma in our potential leaders. Where is our Barack Obama? The truth is that there are few completely charismatic leaders. It takes a special blend of hubris and confidence, intelligence and eloquence, theatrics and honesty. I’ve mentioned this before but some notable orators (the one element a charismatic leader must have) have been Martin Luther King Jr., John F. Kennedy, Pierre Trudeau, Barack Obama, Brian Mulroney.

Brian Mulroney, you say? Yes. I don’t like him, never liked him as a PM and I believe he took the Conservatives to overwhelming defeat (and stuck Kim Campbell in as the fall guy/girl). But in recent years as Mulroney has been investigated for the airbus scandal and the Hans Schreiber affair (receiving envelopes of cash and storing them in safety deposit boxes, making them untraceable, which somehow the lawyer side of him just didn’t think looked suspicious), I’ve heard his voice on the radio. The man has a deep and well modulated tone.

I’m sure he was/is a very good lawyer because it is obvious in the way he speaks that he understands the drama of words and how to stress particular words and concepts. Were his tears real or alligator tears this week when he broke down in giving testimony, I don’t know. And I must be careful of what I accuse or Mulroney will make a pre-emptive strike on me too and sue as he did in the airbus scandal. No person is without a range of emotions, nor are they completely good or evil. I’m sure he does care deeply for his family but I also believe he would pull on anything to manipulate a situation, being a good lawyer and all. And his spokesman (publicist for a retired prime minister) was there at the inquiry to jump up and accuse two big bad journalists for making him cry. Poor Brian. Sounds like he’s getting his money’s worth from his publicist.

Without knowing the end of this inquiry I can predict accurately that Mulroney will get off scott-free, whether he is innocent or not. And why, because he is a great speaker and actor. He’s a master manipulator and will use that to his advantage. Besides, it’s his word against Schreiber’s, a guy trying to avoid extradition to Germany (for fraud and bribery) by any means possible, and it’s two men forgetting a lot of things so in the end, conclusions will be…inconclusive even if Mulroney hid his money in safes, didn’t record receiving it and didn’t consult his accountant, even though he claims everything was on the up and up, in receiving those fat cash envelopes. Can I conduct affairs like this and what about tagging him for income tax evasion?

Were voters swayed by his voice to vote for Mulroney when he ran? Yes, just as each of those other men I have mentioned gained popularity at one point because they could put thoughts together well, speak them with conviction and relate to the crowd (and they had great speech writers). So, voters want charisma and drama and maybe not so much honesty.

But voters, as I’ve said before, are fickle and have short memories. They believe the promises too easily, yet also cynically believe nothing at all. Here are two comments I heard in regards to our recent provinicial election. One person said, “They gave me a hip, I have no complaints.” Although it’s been many years since this person received a hip and the government (and the issues) have changed a great deal since then. It was naive to think everything is the same and that even the government is the same so that this person didn’t have to vote. Someone else called into CBC and said they didn’t vote because they were dissatisfied and until every vote counted there was no point in voting. So, why didn’t that guy get out and vote for the single transferable vote, which would have made every vote count?

I can begin to understand why there are dictators. I did put the good into the title but I’m not sure why. What’s good with a situation where people don’t care enough to vote or try to bring about change. Everyone should writer their MLA and MP if they have a concern. Change is never all-sweeping at first but incremental, by very small steps. But voters will continue to be disenfranchised and moreso if they continue not to vote and have no say or concern in what happens. So, what are you going to do about it?

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Writing: Poetry Slams

Poetry slams began some twenty years ago or so and so this site says: http://www.slampapi.com/new_site/background/what_is_poetry_slam.htm they were intended to increase the public’s awareness of poetry and involve the audience.

In Vancouver, I was doing poetry slams in the late 80s I guess. However, now reading what the slams were supposed to be like I can say I probably only did one. The one slam was called something like Poetry Faceoff, and was, I think put on by one of the writers organizations. It was in a bar with a dance floor area that they had roped off like a boxing ring with balloons in the corner. This was some publicity thing and two poets would be given a subject and five minutes to write a poem, then perform it.

The judges were some well-known jock and a writer. They scored a winner from each round and then those two would face off. In the end I won the poetry slam and still have the wall plaque. The judging aspect is supposed to be what a poetry slam should be like.

However those early days here had a bit more of a biased and ruthless variety. Most of my friends ran screaming from the word poetry, believing it to be moribund and incomprehensible. When a few of my friends did come with me to a few readings they found my poetry as well as the other poet’s much more accessible and lively. Of course we were doing performance poetry or spoken word.

The slams, though, were another thing. They’d be held in different bars and I would go with my written poems, like everyone else. Then each poet, or maybe two against each other, would read a poem and the audience would boo or cheer for the one they liked the best. This is different than what traditional slams are, where a few select members would be judges, scoring the pieces and making it somewhat fairer, one poet to the other.

The problem with just the audience cheering to decide the winner was that usually the poet with the most friends present won. It had nothing to do with good or bad poetry or performance. On top of that there was a predilection for certain poets to read every poem in the same impassioned way. Every line would end on an upward inflection, as if you were asking a question. Therefore someone loud using this cadence would outweigh a truly good poem read well but without the dramatics.

I saw good poets get torn down because they didn’t have a large crowd of friends and didn’t read their poems in the popular cadence. After a few of these, I decided they were too brutal. Poetry is hard enough to write and if a person has the guts to stand in front of a crowd and read or perform their work, they should be encouraged, not lambasted. So I stopped going.

The one thing to remember if doing any sort of slam or a spoken word reading, is to put life into a poem. Don’t read it as if you’ve come from the grave, unless the poem is about you coming from the grave. Then it will need to be wry. If there is delicate imagery, read it delicately; if it is harsh and bold, read it that way. The aspects of good acting apply to performing poetry: vary your cadence, don’t speak at the same volume all the way through and emphasize some elements to draw attention. I took a voice and speech class at one point, more for acting but it works equally as well when used with any spoken performance.

Maybe the slams have evolved, if there are any these days. I haven’t heard of many but then it seems I also fell out of doing readings a few years back. It might be time to pick up that thread and do some readings or spoken word again. Other cities have a much more active slam circuit: Toronto, Chicago, New York. Maybe we’re just too West Coast here. I just know that going to a slam the way they used to be here, is not for me. Maybe just maybe I can drag a friend or two with me the next time I read.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poetry_slam

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