Tag Archives: politics

Alberta Politics: Does the Wild Rose Have Bigger Thorns

I grew up in Alberta in a dyed true blue Conservative family. We voted Conservative, we thought Conservative. Like religion, we followed our parents. My brother, the eldest, was a young Conservative and became a member of parliament and minister under Peter Lougheed. He was considered a red Tory, a more liberal thinking Conservative. Alberta was so Conservative that Albertans could barely even recognize that other parties existed. I like to refer to Alberta politics and the way people vote as the lemmings of Alberta; they’ll follow their leader unthinkingly into water or the abyss.

politics, Wid Rose party, Progressive Conservative party, Alberta, Alison Redford

Alison Redford, leader of the Progressive Conservatives. Image from vollman.blogspot.com

After high school I went to art college and I guess you can say that artists are rarely conservative thinkers. Art is often about challenging boundaries, whether one’s own or society’s. Nice and pretty art has its place but it doesn’t say much. Art is often political. Just ask those who have been incarcerated over time for their writing or paintings or performances. But that’s another post.

Alberta’s politics run to the Conservative party both provincially and federally. They’re predictable. BC is not. We’re known as a swing province. If we’re not happy, we’ll vote the other way but for a long time we’ve been a more liberal or left wing province. That’s why the Liberals under Gordon Campbell came into power, because they pretended to be Liberals when they were as conservative as Alberta’s Klein government or more. In fact, I always suspected that Klein and Campbell were political bed buddies. Campbell certainly looked at what Klein did, then streamlined it and ignored the people. Christy Clark, who has not yet been voted in by the populace, is more of a Liberal but who knows by how much. BC might be a Liberal province but it’s been a combination on the federal level. And there is no guarantee we will stay that way and hardly likely. We’ve been NDP, Social Credit and Liberal. We’re more link monkeys on the vine, swinging this way and that.

Wild Rose party, politics, Alberta. right wing parties, Conservatives, Danielle Smith

But back to the lemmings next door. In my family, as disillusionment grew and politics shifted my family all moved away from being Conservative. Like the province I live in I have voted Conservative, Liberal and NDP. My other family members vote different ways and even my once fully entrenched Tory brother had to finally declare he was becoming Liberal. Why? Because Prime Minister Harper’s Conservative party has become dictatorial and so far right wing that homophobia and religious ideals are coloring the politics, and unlike the US, Canadians don’t like to mix church and state. Harper barely hides it but as I’ve said, if you’re not white and not Christian and something happens to you in another country, you’re going to be SOL for government intervention. Harper hails from Alberta, rare in itself for a prime minister.

We call Alberta Little Texas, known for oil, cattle ranching and rednecks. The KKK has a stronghold there. It’s part of the Bible Belt, a strip that runs into the US and known for ultra-conservatism, right wing, religious views. But Alberta does have pockets of other…somewhat. In a way it was surprising to see the rise of the Wildrose Alliance to challenge the Conservative party’s 40-year rule. I didn’t pay a lot of attention but when the media said the Wildrose was right of the Conservatives a friend asked, “What, is it Attila the Hun?” There is something right of this? Wow. But then Alberta was the birthplace of the federal Reform party (or Canadian Conservative Reform Alliance party as they were known until it was pointed out it spelled CCRAP) which was a right wing answer to the federal Conservatives. The Reform party was absorbed back into the Conservative party and that’s when Harper and his ilk gained power. There have been accusations that the Wildrose party emulates attitudes that were found in the Reform party, such as homophobia, racism and narrow views about the rights of a woman to her own body.

Is it the truth? I suppose at least partially. It’s definitely what the media picked up on in the campaign that saw Alison Redford’s Conservatives back in power. But the Wildrose party did get seats and the polls predicted they’d win. Maybe the lemmings were frightened by change or maybe they feared Attila over Caesar but the Wildrose was definitely a thorn in Redford’s side. I guess from my perspective, (obviously biased and no longer immersed in that province’s politics) the biggest surprise is that such a conservative province actually has two female leaders.

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Traveling in Europe: Den Haag

Europe 2011: Den Haag

Known as The Hague to us Westerners, I prefer the Dutch version of Den Haag. While staying in Delft, I decided to go to Den Haag, thinking I’d need to catch a train but from my B&B in Delft it was an easy 20-minute tram ride. Very convenient. The weather, for late September, was off and on rainy but overall very nice and warm. I arrived close enough to the Binnenhof, the seat of the Dutch parliament to walk around the central area.

I’m not sure how interested I would have been in the Binnenhof’s interior but as it was there were no tours that day.

Den Haag, The Hague, Holland, Binnenhof, government, fountain, neogothic

The Binnenhof neogothic fountain

There was a lovely and ornately wrought iron and gilt fountain and the details on the buildings, some of the dating to the 15th century. Mauritshuis was close by and I took it in. Here is where you would see Johannes Vermeer’s Girl with the Pearl Earring among others. In fact the building was full of paintings in various rooms. Once the home of Prince John-Maurice, there are four major rooms on two floors and each has a fireplace and paintings on all walls, There are works by Holbein, Potter, Brueghal, Rembrandt, Steen , Hals and many others. Of course in all the best galleries you can’t take pictures so you absorb as much as you can and hope you can retain some of it. The benefit of seeing the actual painting as opposed to a picture in a book is that you can appreciate how the light actually works with the paint, as well as its thickness, the texture and the details. The Dutch were masters of shipping and masters of the painted canvas in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Besides wandering around the Binnenhof’s courtyard, staring at the buildings and going to Mauritshuis, I had time to go to the Prison Gate (just) called Gevangenpoort. This is the jail, which was in use for over 400 years before it became a museum in the 1400s. It was dark and thick-walled, and thick barred. I couldn’t use a flash and the tour was in Dutch so I only gleaned a bit. Though the guide was willing to answer some of my questions in English I didn’t want to ask during his descriptions in case I asked

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The Binnenhof and the Court Pond

for something he had just said. It seems that there were different types of torture and only some of it was actually considered torture. This was done in the lower cells, where as the room depicted in my pictures was for those who were either to be executed or have information extricated from them. There was a gallery of art too so it was a rather full day of paintings.

This took up my day in The Hague and I went back to Delft for dinner and to wander along the pretty canals. So in truth I saw a very small section of Den Haag, which only took up a few blocks. Still, that was rather enough for one day.

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Occupy…What?

Occupy, Occupy Vancouver, politics, anarchy, protests

Focused Capture: Creative Commons

Many cities have seen the Occupy movement taking up residence for the last month or two. When it started I was in Europe and had no clue what was going on. I wasn’t reading news while traveling. One friend posted that, hey while you were gone the Occupy movement started. I asked, Occupy what? I never got an explanation.

In the weeks since I’ve been back I’ve listened to the news and I know kind of what’s on the mind of the Occupy movement, or what was once the goal. It was to show that the voice of the little people should be heard and that we’re tired of letting the 1%, the rich corporations (really, more than individuals) run everything without us having a say and without them having to pay. I came across this site that lists some of the movement’s concerns much more clearly than I’ve heard through the media, which is sometimes out for sensationalism and not out for facts.

But… but, we’re in this era of constant protest, where every large event has the anarchistic element for anarchy’s sake. Or arguing for argument’s sake and playing devil’s advocate. I’m more than a little skeptical when a tent city goes up on the art gallery’s lawn and people light a fire in direct antagonism to the fire marshal’s order of no fires, and then they call it a sacred fire. Oh, if we bring in religion and spirituality they don’t dare interfere with our fire. Haven’t we seen this before? Sacred how? What rites and rituals are going on and for how long?

The hockey game brought on riots in Vancouver, and why? Because anarchistic yahoos wanted a good time and to give it to “the man.” The riots in England; because government is bad, yeah, real bad and we’re gonna do this because they can’t stop us. That’s what some of the interviewees have said. I feel like it’s more of “here we go again.” A small vocal, possibly violent group of anarchists gather to be a thorn in the foot of government. And–they deflate any real protests that get eaten by the hungry media monster that loves conflict.

But… but, I know there are those idealists, the pure hearts who believe they’re fomenting change, that they’re being effective as they vote at their general assemblies to do this or that. But they have no central voice, no true leader and therefore the message gets lost in the noise. And yes, I agree that we don’t have enough voice in what goes on. And this lead to me being in a hard situation once when I needed welfare and was denied it because of silly rules. So what happens, we have a few people who entrench themselves downtown but theh message of Occupy for 99% gets lost and then these people are the 1% as well; just a different 1%. And I guess I’m just cynical enough to believe that the message won’t get across and won’t change anything.

Yet, maybe some of these people will tr to get into politics and one things is for sure: if you’re American you need to be a millionaire to run in US politics, but that’s not true here. Some of the best ways to foment change is from the inside. But then do you become the beast you’re fighting? Possibly, but I just don’t feel Occupy with actually last long. It’s more like a nasty wart on the ass of the corporations. But soon it will be excised and forgotten about.

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Skimming the Scum of Election Campaigns

Three days into the campaign for our fourth election in seven years, and I find I’m already getting aggravated. What happened to the time when political parties would actually campaign, saying what they would do and give the country? Now it’s not campaigning; it’s haranguing, attacking and generally low brow attitudes that would make the drunks in an alley brawl proud.

The government, run by the Conservative party, has brought Canada to an all-time low in being the first country in the commonwealth to be found in contempt of parliament (that includes England’s lengthy five or six centuries). I guess I shouldn’t expect any ethical attitudes but I’m sad to say I think all the parties have pulled off their gloves and are jumping into the mud. On Friday (the first day of campaigning) Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff said that if you vote for any party other than the Liberals you’ll have more of the same, the contempt the Conservatives were charged with, which has brought around the new round of political campaigning. I find that insulting to paint everyone with the same brush and when it was clearly the Conservative government that did this to say other parties would is just low.


Creative Commons: theresalubowitz.com

Today I hear Harper going on about Ignatieff wanting to form a coalition government, which Ignatieff never said. In fact the ad to the right not only made aspersions that Ignatieff had made such a deal in the past when he wasn’t even party leader. The background picture shows three other people, but Harper is trying hard to convince , a) a coalition government is bad when in fact we’ve never had one and it couldn’t be as bad as the contemptuous Conservative government, b) that Ignatieff ever had anything to do with the first time around way back, and that, c) this is what Ignatieff plans now, when he has expressly said no. After all, to say the Liberals are going for a coalition government is admitting defeat at being a majority before the voting happens.

It’s actually hard to find many images of the attack campaigns because most are verbal harangues or TV spots and I don’t watch TV. Thank the gods; otherwise this might become so irritating I wouldn’t vote. And that’s the point of this. If the politicians would all get of their high horses of arrogance and get back to actually campaigning.

Creative Commons: PointsofInformation.com

I don’t know if all the parties are slinging mud yet but I’m having little faith. The examples of the NDP, Conservative and Liberal images here are not all attack ads. Two are political cartoons. While lampooning is done by various papers the biased rhetoric of the parties disgust me so much that no wonder people aren’t voting. I will, because I believe you can’t complain unless you voted.

I’m beginning to think we should scour all the political parties and put in some new faces and fresh ideas but it doesn’t seem long before they all become jaded and join the giant sandbox. Of course you have to watch out for sandboxes because you never know what animal has used it as a toilet.

 

I’ve been trying to ad the links today but WordPress isn’t accepting them. Will try later.

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The Middle East: Liberation or Fundamentalism?

Daniel Wilson: How to Survive a Robot Army, Doubleday 2011

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” This is an appropriate quote for what is happening in the Middle East right now. With many years of being ruled by dictators, whether benevolent or not (Singapore is described as a benevolent dictatorship) the people of these countries have had the same leader for decades.

First Tunisia, then Egypt, now Libya. We didn’t hear much about Tunisia because the media doesn’t consider them important on the world stage, but Egypt, land of the pyramids, sheiks and oil is important and we heard about that. But more importantly, social media and the internet means everyone is hearing about the protests and uprisings, including those people living under such regimes. Egypt tried to shut them up, seizing cell phone companies and shutting them down and to no avail. Al-Gadaffi has tried to shut up the media by banning them from the country but pictures taken on cell phones and other devices have been uploaded to the internet. Whereas we live in an age when Big Brother seems to watch our every move and keep us under constant surveillance (not that far a step from a dictatorship) we also have the freedom of getting information out no matter how hard tyrants and dictators try to tamp it down.

It’s interesting that even the poorest people, living in cardboard or corrugated metal shacks, will have a TV or a cellphone. Suppression of the news is getting harder and harder to do for your local despot. However, suppression of the masses still continues, often with a heavy hand, cased in metal and wielding a big metal stick, which holds ammo. It is one reason the Egyptian revolt was successful, Mubarak refrained from plowing down his citizens. That and the army didn’t stick behind him. I can’t say how Tunisia played out because we didn’t hear much about that. Al-Gaddafi on the other hand, is clearly mad and willing to go down, taking as many people with him as possible. Hooray for maniacs.

But perhaps these dynastic rulers (such as Gaddafi’s over-forty years and the possible succession by a son) have striven in some way to keep their countries from falling into religious fervor and fundamentalism as bad and as crazed as other dictators. There are many who would argue for al-Gaddafi, as those against him but the problem with one permanent ruler is that people never get to voice their opinions or see their votes really matter. And yeah, absolute power corrupts absolutely. Gaddafi may suppress his people until they are nothing but corpses and that will not liberate Libya. It all depends on who controls the army in the end. I sometimes wonder what would happen here if we had a similar dictator, and Harper has been accused of a heavy hand here, and what our forces would do. Just as the Tienanmen Square uprising in China did not succeed because the government rolled tanks over the protesters and shot them dead. Perhaps these protests will only bring about change if the governments don’t massacre their people. Perhaps those who revolt will have to gain their own weapons.

So which will it be, as rebellions, their like not seen in centuries, sweeps through the Middle East? Will the people be liberated, have safer lives and see democracy (not by any means a perfect system) in their governments? Or will the despots of decades be replaced by religious fundamentalism that will have people cower in their homes and subjugate some groups? You can bet the first group to be subjugated will be women, if that happens. And if Gaddafi stays in power, well, he hates the West, Berbers and who knows what else. But he certainly loves virginal women as that is what his bodyguards are purported to be. Supposedly martyrs to the faith in Islam will be greeted by a host of virgins in heaven (What do the women get and who wants a virgin anyways?). It looks like Gaddafi’s getting his now.

We are living through a crux of change, but then there is usually change. How the protests in the Middle East play out remains to be seen, but I’m not yet sure we’ll see a society more balanced in some of the countries. And in others the bloodshed will be high and the dictatorships will continue.

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The Work Less Party Works Less

In BC, the Work Less Party was a group of slightly organized people who wanted to move the work week to 32 hours. They began in 2003 and actually had a few candidates in 2005, but after that the Party dwindled. Part of the party’s mandate was to have more fun. And like our Rhino party of yesteryear they were never taken that seriously, even by themselves. They were de-registered this summer and no longer exist as a political party, but the party goes on.

It is now a big party. If you check out the site with the lofty ideals, it hasn’t been updated since 2008. http://www.worklessparty.org/ And if you find the party site, it hasn’t been updated since March. Considering they just had a party this weekend you can see how working less doesn’t always work. http://www.worklessparty.org/party/party.htm I imagine there is a Facebook page, with most of the details but I try to avoid too much FB as being a great resource suck when it comes to parties.

I had gone to two parties before and they were definitely an excuse to dress in wild costumes or work on your Hallowe’en outfit before the big weekend. But what do you get? They take place in a giant auditorium–you know the style, from your school days–with a stage and a big empty hall. There are no chairs so don’t dream on sitting down. There are usually a few completely lame booths that nobody seems to attend. I’ve seen the hugging booth, the spanking booth, the chillout booth, etc. You must buy tickets to get your booze and then get in the lineup and hope there is any.

There is usually a costume and body painting contest, and  while this is on the stage, if you’re not six-feet tall you’ll probably only see the back of someone’s head or glimpse the outfits. What I have seen of the body painting is quite stunning and may involve dancing, skits or acrobatics. There is also an upstairs area that is smaller and more festive in look, with a DJ.

I found after two of these parties with 500 plus people that it was just a crush of incredibly rude and self-serving party-goers. There are  stairs to the other floor and people stop and chat or just get stuck in the jam. I said excuse me as I tried to squeeze past the people coming down. I mean, it’s what people do, right? Try to be polite? But no, I was dissed for doing so and someone said nasty things that I won’t repeat.

As for the alcohol, if you drink only beer, you’re okay. But last time they ran out of wine and cider by 11:00 pm. The lineups are long and everyone is out for themselves, suspiciously eying the person behind them who is pushing forward. Most of all you can expect a crush of costumed humanity at this party. After two of them I left feeling quite bored. I swore off of going to the giant cattle pen.

However, a friend was having a birthday and she really wanted to go with a group of people. There were probably about 15 of us and I finally buckled and went. I made the mistake of wearing a dress that had a train, and even though I had that pinned up it began to drag through the night. The floor was a morass of slimy mud from the rain. Slippery and treacherous, so one had to be careful moving through the crowds. And crowds. There is this narrow hallway that you must enter through and as we first arrived, we stood off to the side as many people do. But that did not stop people from bulldozing us down. I had to fix the pin on my dress and someone pushed me. I said hey, and the guy told me I was taking up too much space. Really, I can only take up the space that my body requires. Not even five minutes into the place and the attitudes began. I called him an asshole and pushed him out of the way telling him that he was too tall and taking up too much space.Yeah, I gave it back but I’d already been pushed five times.

That’s one reason I hate the Work Less party, because any thin excuse for manners goes out the door. To complicate matters, the disorganizers chose to put the ticket sales on one side of the entry door and the tables for getting your alcohol on the other, causing long lines that people must push through. When I got to the alcohol , I stood there for almost ten minutes with a whole bunch of people as every server was juggling getting drinks. Granted those poor folks are volunteers but some foreplanning would have helped, like a couple of people pouring and others serving. And when I asked what else there was besides beer there was only rum or vodka, with no mix, served in giant cups. Very mickey mouse.

The dancing was fun with pretty good DJ action, and we planted ourselves in one spot to help avoid the giant crush of people. But some doofus must have thought it funny to pull the fire alarm. Try to get over 500 drinking people out of a hall where at first we couldn’t hear the alarm. But we had to exit, with no place to put your drink. The bouncers said, you have to exit but you can’t take your drink so chug it. Pure rum or vodka? No thanks. Then the alarm went off and everyone went back in but the firemen had not been through, so then we got to exit again. Good fun, that.

I can’t say that the lack of adequate alcohol, the more and more disorganization, the giant crowd (and I hate crowds) and the uber rudeness encouraged me to ever go again. The Work Less party could do with a bit of working better.

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Monarchy: A Body That Should Be Put to Rest

You might gather from that title that I’m anti-monarchist, and you’d be right. Today, Canada swore in its new Governor-General. What is the governor-general? It is the person who stands in for the queen of England for Canada. The person with that title wields a vast amount of power. He/she is the commander-in-chief of the armed forces and also convenes parliament, or in the case of proroguing parliament (something that Prime Minister Harper is fond of using to evade the tough questions) must agree to it. In practice, it is a symbolic figurehead position where the governor-general dances to the tune of the prime minister.

There are many Canadians who love the monarchy and many who don’t or don’t even know the queen of England is still sovereign over our nation. I think England is called a constitutional monarchy, and Canada is a sovereign nation, independent…yet…kinda not. I’ve been told that having this figurehead protects our democracy, that it limits the power of the prime minister, which is not as all sweeping as a president’s but I don’t know. I get rankled that someone from some other country, who is called the “Queen of England and the commonwealth, defender of the faith,” etc. is really the true ruler of our country.

Should she, or  her commander on Canadian soil, ever exercise true power over Canada we would see people suddenly not that for the monarchy. There would be wholesale rebellion if England told us what to do. So, why do we have a queen or king? I don’t like paying lip service to this ruler (even nominal) of another nation.

On top of that, monarchies are really a thing of the past, of the feudal era, and in most cases we’re past that style of culture. Sure, there are various cultures that still have kings and queens, some of them like Britain’s queen (the king of Thailand for example), but to what purpose? A democratic (or communist country) has other ways of governing.Go ahead and call yourself king, grand potentate, god or emperor if you rule a tyranny or dictatorship because there, the will of the people is definitely suppressed.

People were made king or queen in past eras because they killed everyone else, had the strongest arm or the biggest army. Then their descendants, who raked in the tithes and taxes and gifts, got to rule, or someone overthrew them. So who is royal? Anyone who gets to the top. There isn’t different blood that runs through their veins, they are not dropped onto the planet by some god, and they are not born more perfect, intelligent and wise than you or me. It is only by dint of their privileged status and money that they get to be humanitarians, travel in style, hobnob with the creme de la creme and get the best of everything. With that upbringing I too could be a goodwill ambassador for whatever I chose.

I do not object to being rich and I do not object to people rising to the top but I think they should earn it or inherit from their family. Sure that’s happened to the monarchs of various kingdoms but right of inheritance doesn’t really give you the means to be a good ruler. And gosh, everyone gets to vote in their rulers in the commonwealth countries.

So, although I think Canada should stop knuckling under to an outmoded form of government where the queen and god get to rule, I guess it’s up to each country to decide if they want to keep their monarchs. Canada should stand on its own two feet. We should vote on it and hey, maybe I can be governor-general sometime and stage a coup against the prime minister. I wonder what would happen then. Would the armed forces (as they’re sworn to do) follow such a coup, and would the Queen step in? It would make it interesting and probably get our constitution re-evaluated. Ah, for the colonial days. Time to get rid of monarchies the world over.

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HST: One Week In & How It Affects the Little Guy

The provincial government’s disregard for the overwhelming dissent over the HST is no surprise. After all, Campbell has disregard the public in many ways since he took office, arrogantly being above the law even in his drunk driving charge. Let’s not get into all the politics but his minions…I mean ministers, have touted the HST and are now trying to tell us how good it will be, how it will create jobs, how it won’t affect the common person very much at all. So, let’s take a look at how it has affected me in one week.

  • I bought a bottle of wine at the liquor store. The liquor tax is gone and that was 10% but the HST is on there with 12%
  • I went out for dinner with friends. Whereas that used to have the liquor tax of 10% on the alcohol and the GST of 5% on the food, there is now 12% tax overall. I’m not sure I can figure out all the math but that means there is now 7% more tax on food and 2% more tax on alcohol.
  • I worked out at the gym. Whereas that just had GST before, it now has HST, an increase of 7% in taxes.
  • I bought a chocolate bar. This used to have 5% on it but now has HST of 12%. I am firmly opposed to any tax on food, whether it’s a luxury item or junk food because it says only the rich get to eat cake. I guess we could call Harper’s government the Marie Antoinette of era. I just wonder when we can lop off the head.
  • I pay for parking at my job. Now this one is the killer. TransLink, an arm of the provincial government upped all parking taxes (whether monthly parking, part of your apartment, on the street or at your job) from 7% to 21%. They said they weren’t raising the PST because that didn’t stand for provincial sales tax; it stood for parking sales tax, but still an increase of 14% on January 1st. Well, guess what, there are other hidden taxes, plus HST and someone I know who works in the business says that taxes on parking anywhere are now 35.5%! How’s that for a hefty hidden extra tax. If you pay $5 for an hour of parking it will cost you $6.78. Now multiply that by your monthly rate. If you pay $100, with taxes you pay $135.50.

This is just one week’s worth of taxes going up. I’m really really waiting for the provincial government to convince me on how it won’t affect me much and actually bring in jobs. They say it but they don’t say how or where. I’d love to hear how other average people are being affected by this.

Update September: You’ll pay more for postage in BC because of the HST. That’s Canadian postage, which should be the same price across Canada but it isn’t. Candy and other food that hits some esoteric guideline; it’s now double taxed. Keys…need one cut, you’ll now pay more in GST. Did I mention that parking in Greater Vancouver is taxed with 35% taxes? Can’t figure it out; ask your government how PST and GST equals that rate.

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Writing: Even Tyra Banks

It’s not unusual for a celebrity to dabble in other arts fields. Sting and John Mann (of Spirit of the West) have not just done music but acted. Ronald Reagan, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Clint Eastwood went from acting to politics (one would argue that it’s all acting). Others start as actors and move into singing or modeling, or start as models and become actors. There is always some crossover. And some actors, singers and models try writing. Look at William Shatner with his Tekwar series, though in fact he didn’t write them but had a ghostwriter. Shatner may have come up with the ideas but he didn’t flesh those ideas into a written story. An unsung writer did that but Shatner’s name sold them.

Princess Sarah Ferguson (Fergie) has written children’s books to some success.Of course there are many kiss-and-tells or autobiographical memoirs that the rich and/or famous indulge in, whether they write them or have someone do it for them. But those celebs who write fiction are rarer and there is quite a range of quality, more than you would get with a straight fiction author. The reason is that publishers look at saleability. If you’re John Doe, you will have to convince the publisher that your story is so good that they can make money on it. If you’re George Clooney, on the other hand, the publisher will look at your popularity and sex appeal in general and then see if the demographic looks promising for selling a book.

You may not even have to write it and they may go to the trouble to get a tried and true ghostwriter. But even if you should insist you write your fiction and be dumb as a piece of toast they may publish based on your popularity and have a couple of good editors go through to clean up the worst parts. After all, poorly written books do not necessarily mean they’ll bomb. Many mediocre books have sold well, due to the topic and the marketing campaigns.

from Banks' site

So, Tyra Banks with her Bankable line (including Bankable Books), and who started as a model, then moved into TV shows such as the Tyra Banks Show and America’s Top Model reality show, has decided she’s going to write a fantasy trilogy called “Modelland” (and as she puts it, pronounced Model Land). My writers’ list has already had a lot of eye-rolling and scoffing over this. I mean, it doesn’t sound that crazily wonderful with some young girls transported unwillingly to a land where “drop-dead beautiful, kick-butt fierce” intoxibellas rule with their powers.

Now I don’t watch these shows so I have no idea if Banks comes across as powerfull and intelligent or as just some ditzy petty model. But…uh…Modelland. It sounds pretty teen-set-princess-girly-dreamworld. There is not much about the story so far except that Tyra plans to write three books published by Random House. Will Banks write the books or will there be a very well paid, very secret ghostwriter?

Now there is an attitude in our world to heartily roll our eyes when a model (or actor) tries something more serious like politics or writing. But not every model is just a beautiful bimbo. People are often judged by their covers, like books.

Tyra Banks might write the next book as popular as Harry Potter. Except, we don’t know. No one knew that Harry Potter would make Rowling one of the richest women in the world. It’s pretty much hit and miss and even writing in the style of, or copying the stories will not guarantee a hit. In fact, the factors that allowed Harry Potter to skyrocket have changed now.

I can’t really judge Tyra Banks’ book until I’ve read it, and I would read it to review. However many people will read it because she’s writing it (and she’s got a marketing empire going already), others for curiosity, others because they are kids and it sounds fun. Will it be good? Who knows? I’m just skeptical with the title but then I’m not a teenager and seriously, as a teenager I was reading science fiction by Herbert, Heinlein, Clarke, Norton, McCaffery. Very little of it was dubbed teen or young adult fiction except for Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. So chances are I might not like it. But the proof of the pudding, as they say, will depend on the reading.

And Tyra Banks… Well, if she is only a beautiful Barbie, then she is still a very rich one and is doing several shows and lines of merchandise and might be Businesswoman Barbie. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

http://www.tyra.com/view/BANKABLE_BOOKS

http://www.escapistmagazine.com/news/view/100637-Tyra-Banks-Fancies-Herself-the-Next-J-R-R-Tolkien

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The Importance of Art

There has been some brutal slashing of arts funding in BC, not to mention Canada. However, the BC government slashed funding quietly, in the background and almost to nil for most things. Magazines and performance groups that have continued for many years have suddenly found themselves out of business. We already know that Prime Minister Stephen Harper believes artists stand around at elite galas sipping champagne and hobnobbing.

Well let me put into perspective why art is important, and to do that for our local governments I’ll talk about it in a way they can recognize.

First, why does Canada subsidize the arts and have arts grants that other countries scoff at or are jealous of (let’s just say the US)? Because it costs the same to produce a movie (renting equipment, paying actors and crew), or produce an album (studio and recording fees, paying musicians), or publish a book (printing and layout costs, staff, distribution), etc. For every form of art there are costs and they are similar no matter which country one is in. However, Canada’s population base is much much smaller than the US’s. To make any profit from the expenses that go into producing anything from a stage play to a picture book requires a certain number of sales/patrons attending or buying. Canada’s population tops out around 33 million to the US’s 304 million. Even ten percent attendance/sales is a big difference between these two countries.

Of course, if we want to just dismiss Canadian culture and say we are a cheap facsimile of the United States, well then it won’t really matter and Canadian art be damned. Yet that is only part of the picture, Mr. Premier and Prime Minister. There is far more that makes art than sales.

Without art you would not have those campaign speeches, nor the speeches you give throughout your term in office. Speechwriters learn their craft and writing is an art. Without art you would not have campaign posters or brochures or pamphlets without which it would be harder to influence the voting public. Graphic designers go to school to learn the elements of design, composition, color, effectiveness, etc. and that is an art. Without art you would not have those televised moments of your promises or the carefully crafted ads to make you look good and to make your opponent look bad. TV ads are done by camera men, directors, writers, and a host of people. Putting together a good ad is an art.

Without art you would not look so good in your suits. Clothing is designed by people who go through school to perfect their craft. You’d be wearing handcrafted burlap of a similar design to everyone around you. Clothing design is an art. Without art you might not have a national anthem. Musicians and songwriters go to school and work to hone their skills, and music is an art.

Without art you would have a world of unhappy people with no entertainment except for the elite rich who could pay the high prices. There would be no music to listen to, no books to read, no shows to watch, no beautiful pictures or dances to see. Without art you would enter a dull policelike state where unfortunately even the signs would have to be done by some artist but where the voice of knowledge would be silenced. Yes, knowledge comes with education. Knowledge of the history and depth of a discipline whether it be music, dance, writing, drawing, painting, sculpting, designing. Without these skills we will enter back into the simplistic drawings and songs of children. Without art challenging boundaries and perspectives, we cannot grow as a society or reflect on our deeds.

Next on the chopping block will probably be literacy. I’d think that the ministers of culture in the respective levels of government might be doing a nervous dance right now. After all, without art and culture that the BC government has almost wiped out, we won’t have very much and those ministers won’t have a job. So, Gordon Campbell and Stephen Harper, have you yet figured out which part of art is part of every day life and keeps you in your jobs?

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