Monday, February 28, 2005

'Greed is Good' and other Rationalizations for the Seven Deadly Sins.

I've never fully trusted Economics for the simple reason that it leaves so much unanswered. Being nothing more than a mere collection of theories, I never could bring myself to endorse it with the Heyzoos-inspired belief of a little child.

My largest gripe is the fact that envy is dismissed by a large segment of the field as a non-rational economic behaviour and thus is outlawed from evaluation. I suppose if one person feels unhappy whenever another feels better off, there is no possible way to rank situations - whatever the role it may play in the larger picture. How to deal with that gaping hole? Ignore it with much the same vigour as many promoters ignore the fact that economics is a social science... perhaps the most frightening thing of all. Nonetheless, after more than a century, it still reeks of the oldest trick in the academic book...

If it doesn't fit into your vested model, simply ignore it.

Here's an interesting thought on the rationality of envy in economics.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Va te Faire Enculer!

Rather than use a slew of 'Kentisms' to make a point, here's an offer of yet another reason to love la belle Province. After shutting down the only unionized store on the continent and threatening a soon-to-be one, the government finally makes goliath pay. Unlike most jurisdictions where the regulatory bodies roll over and the unions whine, Quebec shows its distinctiveness yet again.

I love it.

Monday, February 21, 2005

God is in the details.

Ever wanted your own Mies Van der Rohe? Check out this end-unit steal at $90,000. There's only one catch...

Lafayette Park is in many ways the pinnacle of urban redevelopment that characterized the Detroit and western world of the '50s and '60s. Leveling 46 acres of downtown urban fabric to foster its creation, the place arguably remains one of the most successful urban redevelopments of the period. It ironically survived the 'white flight' of Detroit over the past half century due to its inward looking street pattern and semi-private feel - characteristics which spelt doom for so many modernist projects in so many other cities. While tenancy has been maintained and residential stability ensured, the edges have been fraying.

Things are finally looking up however...

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Why is This Even an Issue?

I love Canada. Witness the 2005 East Coast Music Awards. While we beat our chest and ballyhoo quite regularly over our virtuous original culture, we simultaneously abscond our distinct regional roots. To this I ask... what other country would partake in such double-speak?

Canada is an amalgam of distinct regions and to those of us who concern ourselves with such things, the East Coast perhaps maintains the last bastion of original culture in the entire country. While the west has embraced the creed of Texas and central Canada the virtues of middle America, the east coast has remained distinct and I love it. Newfoundland still pisses about its confederation deal and Cape Breton maintains its devout love for fiddle music. Let the fringes complain, but in my opinion we are all the better for it. While others may consider this nonconformity a travesty, I consider it a badge of cultural honour. As far as I'm concerned, piss and moan all you want over the fact that we haven't been homogenized with the rest of North American society. See if I care.

So here's a big 'Fuck You' to all those whiny 'critics'. I've got a hell of a lot better things to worry about than whether you've being 'adequately' represented at the East Coast Music Awards.


And while I'm on this rampage... fuck Forbes magazine too.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005


Diarmaid MacCulloch - Reformation: Europe's House Divided, p.600

In 1598 the Kirk of Edinburgh publicly disciplined and witnessed the repentance of Francis, Earl of Bothwell for the crimes of murder and treason. It followed the ceremony with a spirited sermon on the sins of the nobility from Robert Bruce, one of Edinburgh's chief ministers, in front of both Bothwell and the rest of the Scottish noblemen present. Bothwell did rather take the shine of the day's proceedings by raping the daughter of the late Earl of Gowrie after he had left St Giles Kirk, but the very fact that one of Europe's most wayward and dangerous noblemen, one of Scotland's most powerful magnates, had submitted himself to such a public shaming was a remarkable tribute to the range and ambitions of Reformed discipline.

Monday, February 14, 2005

A Post for our Montreal Correspondent.

Looks like Montreal is on the cusp of following in Toronto's footsteps. Let's hope they don't follow the example too closely...

We started our Waterfront regeneration program in 1972.

Mackin' Maki

When the El Mocambo moved up to College and Spadina, I swore I'd never return. Thank god I've broken that vow, as every time I now take the eastbound 506, adventure ensues. This past Saturday was no exception. Kate Maki was in town in what was the grand finale of her month long cross-country Mid Winter's Night Dream tour. I've had a penchant for her ever since NXNE which has recently been rekindled through my favourite Crown Corporation.

The new El Mocambo is trying hard to capture that lived-in artsy roots venue that comes so naturally to such old standards as the Silver Dollar and the Horseshoe. If that was indeed the intent, I can't say the owners didn't choose wisely. The beatnik arthouse obstructionist pillars and exposed walls of the space have been accentuated with campy Kensington lighting and well-worn Zellers folding chairs. While at first a bit kitschy, with each passing concert one does settle in. The Vespa off stage left could be done without however.

That said, it is a place which fits Maki's sensibilities like a glove. This fresh face from Sudbury (via Halifax and Ottawa) is a former grade school teacher who gave it all up for a life on the road. While I'm sure she had her reasons, more than anything I respect her guts. Her country sound influenced by the likes of Patsy Cline, the Everly Brothers and Hank Williams ain't exactly in vogue these days. But rather than reek of avant-guard arthouse chic, her sound rings somehow real. My suspicions were confirmed as I walked through the front door - what other artist would spend their time working the gate collecting admissions at the tail-end of a five week whirlwind tour? I suppose she gets it honestly... her Mom uses an authentic Stompin' Tom plank she scooped from her roadie days to prop up the Christmas tree. That should tell us all something.

While the music was superb, it was the crowd that made the show... in fact it had this refreshing feel of a throw-back to those pre-hipster Horseshoe days. I counted only four suits and three trucker caps out of a crowd of at least a hundred. About half were friends and family who travelled from the 'Sud' down old 69 to see their favourite daughter play. While at first timid, the clan quickly turned the El into a true Sudbury Saturday Night. The place felt more like a country stag and doe than a club show. Everyone got stinko as the domestic beer flowed and the numbers on the dance floor rose correspondingly with consumption of said beer. I even heard a lout refer to someone as 'drunk as a fiddler's woman'. No one batted an eye. Things did get a little heated however when a request was shouted out again and again for 'All things Passed' which recounts the death of an old friend. After numerous rebuffs, Kate finally acknowledged the persistent character with a muffled 'Fuck Off'. Wasn't going to happen that close to Valentine's day I suppose. Good on her.

It could have been one of those rolickin 'Joan Spalding and the Foggy Mountain Band' shows at the Legion my grandparents repeatedly dragged me to at the tender age of six... thankfully in this case the music was tremendous and the lead singer stunning.

Thanks Kate. I needed a constructive - while inadvertant - Fuck Pretentious Toronto event like that.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

I'm too Busy to be Coherent.

"The most damning word in the lexicon of the modern child is "boring". If excitement is the primary goal of human existence, drug abuse is inevitable, no matter what sanctions we employ against it." Agreed... although the supporting rationale needs a little work.

In other words Nick, despite your best efforts 'Pusher Street can't be stopped'. It's time to nix that so-called 'sanction' of yours and throw caution to the wind. It's inevitable.

Also: Yet another example of blogging gone awry.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Further Musings on the Nature of Rurality

One beauty of living a rural existence is the quality of the characters you meet. Urban dwellers on the other hand - stuck between commuting and hockey practice - rarely encounter their cul-de-sac compatriots and thus miss the opportunity to indulge in their peculiar conformist quirks. Personally, I feel somewhat blessed in this regard.

In contrast to urbanity, the space factors of rural life force one to combine neighbourhood and friendship. Unlike urban areas, rural kids grow up together. You have to attend the same school, play on the same hockey team and are forced to more or less get along and compromise - there is only one social circle after all. There is no room for labels like the 'goth', 'nerd' or 'jock' crowd so often emblematic of high school existence. I am convinced that this great social compromise of growing up rural - combined with the excessive drunkenness and drug abuse - is exactly what leads to the proliferation of odd loveable characters so famously portrayed in the Wingfield series of plays.

On my concession alone live a cast of characters fit for any drama. My favourite is my buddy Lyle, who is basically a hermit and lives by choice in a condemned house without electricity with his mother who makes incessant fun of him because of his lisp. He refuses to drive and thus has to bike to town. When passing him on the road, this 65 year old man promptly throws his bike in the ditch and races for cover. He's not afraid of getting hit, rather he's afraid that someone he knows might stop and offer him a lift. Occasionally though, he does show up at our house unannounced for dinner and a bath - as he does with everyone up and down the road - and nobody particularly minds. From bearded mountain men to Steam Thresher enthusiasts, he's merely one of a multitude of interesting sort that make up the eastern townships of the County.

Of all the characters of the townships, the most interesting to a wider audience - as the only one with a web presence - has to be Larry Towell. He lives in an unassuming ramshackle farm house dating from the 1830s on the banks of the Sydenham River and travels only as necessary, yet is a full member of the world's most prestigious guild of photographers founded by such notables as Robert Capa, Henri Cartier-Bresson and Chim. A resident of the Sydenham valley since birth, Towell's work - which includes the Townships, West Bank, Mexican Mennonites, and El Salvador - has led to being published in the New York Times and Life. In true township form, he remains as doggedly unconventional as they come, choosing to wear his legendary straw hat and suspenders wherever he goes - including board meetings.

My first encounter with him was as a 12 year old when I stayed for a weekend at his house visiting his son Moses. The Persian Gulf war was on and he proceeded to grill me on the illegitimacy of it all:

"War is wrong. You can't justify it."

Those words remain imprinted on my brain. Can't say he's not right, it's just that it was indeed heavy stuff for a youngin'.

The crux of Towell's work is based on 'landlessness'. He's lived with and documented the Sandistas in Nicaragua and the rebels in El Salvador.

'Assignment editors tend to think of Towell when a story fits into what he calls "the culture of resistance." Experiences in Latin America, photographing Sandanistan resistance to the Contras in Nicaragua, then working with the relatives of the disappeared in Honduras, established Towell as a photographer who could express not just the violence, but the resilience of people and their struggle to maintain personal identity and home.'

“The Land makes people into who they are, and when they lose it, they lose their identity.”

The same could be said for all of us... whether in El Salvador or the Townships. The land is indeed what makes people into who they are, and as Towell suggests, forms their identity. It is the experiences of our physical world that sculpt our reality in terms of how we live and interact and subsequently the realities of urbanites and a ruralites are dichotomous because of it. However, economic pressures coupled with urbanization is quickly eroding the unique culture of Rural Canada. With urbanization comes standardization and conformity. It also brings about the elimination of the hallmarks of the true rural identity - tight-knit communities and the embracing of unconventional characters like my buddy Lyle.

Public Park... Private Art?

An excellent post from an excellent blog.

More urbania here and here.