Pave the Earth

This weekend, while channel-surfing in a vain attempt to pretend I’m doing something instead of procrastinating, I came across a program on Stephen Ibbot, a visual artist from Toronto. Wow. What a load of crappy crap crap.

Stephen puts together abstract images on his computer using a simple paint program and transforms the drawing into a painting. Whoopee. The drawings, while interesting for a four year old, can hardly be described as art. Then again, maybe I just don’t “get it”. The works have been described as “visually stimulating”. Oh, they’re stimulating alright. I can feel the back of my throat prepping to be stimulated at the tops of my lungs.

The art reminds me of the book Son of Interflux in which one of the characters, a failure of an art student, decides that his total lack of artistic ability shouldn’t prevent him from being an artist. He finally finds his niche in a branch of art that involves dipping bananas in paint and running them through a fan onto a canvas, or passing high-voltage electricity through pumpkins. Yah! Art!

Even worse is listening to art critics as they attempt to describe this visual drivel in intellectual terms. Are they really buying this stuff, or are they just trying to sound smart? It reminds me of Steve Martin’s comments in LA Story:

Steve Martin: And look at the way he’s holding her, it’s almost…pornographic!

(Camera cuts to a large abstract painting, predominantly red)

When I see this kind of pompous self-indulgence, I can’t help but get mad. Somewhere, someone is dying of malnutrition, of going without, and here we are, lavishing praise on some “artist” who’s managing to sell us some cock-and-bull story. Let’s be honest: this is a con.

While I’d like to protect people against this, the worst kind of hucksterism, I sometimes wonder: why bother? In my mind, this con-artistry (the only kind of art involved here) is no different from that employed by Enron, the tobacco industry, or anyone else that exploits other people’s ignorance. Why don’t I just join the party? Take advantage of the suckers out there and get rich in the process? Pave the Earth for a profit while I’m at it!

But I can’t.

Will this inability to rape and pillage the weak spell doom for my hopes of creating a successful company?

Canada Day

It’s July 1st, which means it’s time for everyone in Canada to reflect a little on what it means to be Canadian. Though this introspection is a year-round event for Canadians, Canada Day is a special day where we take the job a little more seriously and decide to dedicate 99% of our cultural brainpower instead of the usual 50%.

Coupland's latest CanadianaAnd who better to examine what makes us Canadian than Douglas Coupland? Though many have tried to capture the essence Canadien, from Farley Mowat to Spirit Of The West, none is as qualified as Coupland, a writer whose depressive characters mirror the outlook of most Canadians when examining their own culture, to document our collective malady. With his latest release, Souvenir Of Canada, Coupland examines the imagery that we all grew up with, imagery that takes us back to the romper rooms of our friend’s basements. The images might baffle outsiders, but most Canadians will find them comforting, like little treasures found in the bottom of a junk drawer.

Most Canadians I know (or at least the ones on the news I pretend I know) always complain that Canada has no identity of our own. This attitude permeates Canadian society, so much so that at one time the Government of Canada spent $10 million giving away flags to make Canadians feel more patriotic. Though the 15-watt stereo of Canadian culture is often drowned out by the leaf blower of American media in our back yard, I would argue there are a multitude of cultural gems that Canadians overlook far too easily.

There are the urban myths of Canadian vs. American beer, the flag patch we’ve all worn while traveling overseas, and, of course, the CBC. There’s pretty money, The Goal, and, when all else fails, Joe Canadian. We may not have a lot of people or power but, as Coupland’s book reminds us, we have beautiful memories of times that were ours, and ours alone.

Happy Birthday Canada. We may not always give you the credit you’re due, but there isn’t anywhere else that we’d want to live out our lives.