Sunday, 27 November 2016

Seeking rest and old fashioned comforts

Today's weather forecast for St. John's, NL was so fierce that it forced the rescheduling of the annual Santa Claus parade.  I didn't mind putting off Christmas-ness, even though I will admit to having put an angel decoration on my door–that had more to do with my version of sympathetic magic in the wake of Trump's election to the presidential office.  I figured I needed to invoke a guardian angel.  Mine, as it turns out, is handmade by my late mother.

I have been working hammer and tongs on a long string of work projects.  A recent trip to my family doctor was only the latest of warnings that I should do a better job on that elusive work-life balance.  It's been four years since I have taken anything resembling a vacation.  I have traveled with work and even though I pad in a day or two thinking of down time, it never seems to equate with leisure.  Instead, I get swept up in one more day of intense interviews, studio visits or last minute fundraising or promotional opportunities.  And that is part of the problem of working on what amounts to passion projects.

This week something pleasant happened that stood out from the fast paced stressful events.  The good souls at the Craft Council of NL passed on to me a handwritten letter that had arrived at their office.  It was addressed to Gloria Hickey, (sometime reviewer) c/o NL Craft Council (Gallery).  It was a letter written by a kind man I had met more than a year ago on my birthday at a chamber music concert here in St. John's.  We went from being strangers to eating lunch together and speaking German.

This new friend is a professional translator and had set himself the improbable goal of living in three countries in three years.  As it turns out, he wrote the letter I received this week while on board a boat bound for Duncan, B.C.  What prompted the letter is that he had come across an article I had published in Studio Magazine.  The magazine had been purchased in the gift shop of a tea plantation no less.  "See how your words travel" he commented.  He also came across a book of mine in, of all things, a legal library.

The handwritten letter and the notion of a lingering boat trip were the most effective appeal for me to slow down.  This Sunday will be a day of genuine rest.

Monday, 14 November 2016

Resisting the Sea of Sameness

Like just about everyone else, I was shocked when Donald Trump won the election for President of the United States.  I expected Hilary Clinton would squeak in with a slight majority and I reassured myself, even if Trump did get elected, the system of checks and balances in the governmental system would hold him in check.  Now, I am not so sure.  How I feel doesn't matter but I do have one insight to offer.

Even the big picture thinkers I admire the most, like Malcolm Gladwell, had gotten it wrong.  The reason I suspect is that we got drowned in a "sea of sameness" (an expression that I am sure comes from some source, which I do not take any credit for).  I know I have a tendency to gravitate to sources I respect, whether it is the Guardian, The New York Times or CBC.  But these are sources of information that are interpreted in ways that confirm what I already believe.  They are sources of validation for my own personal values. I might acquire new ways of defending viewpoints I already held but I wasn't going to get my opinions changed.  I bet I am not alone.
Until the elections results unfolded, I had no appreciation that Obama was so disliked.  It was unimaginable to me that women would "forgive" Trump's behaviour and comments.  Although I was not a Clinton fan either, I could not foresee that Latinos would vote against her.

I heard a commentary on CBC recently that observed there are basically two ways of rationalization.  You could reason like a scientist and follow the evidence ( a version of the empirical system) or you could reason like a lawyer, which still has its basis in emotion.  You decided where you wanted to end up and then came up with the defence.  I am sure this has applications that I could take into my personal and professional life.  A distant memory surfaced from my days studying philosophy at what was then Loyola College in Montreal.  We had a dynamite professor who divided our session into two halves.  For the first half, you might be assigned the role of a Platonist and in the second half a Cartesian.  The subject of discussion, the issue, remained the same but you were forced into taking opposing sides. It was good mental discipline.  I should practice a version of it to gain a better understanding of the world around me.  I might even watch FOX News every once in awhile.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Edward Snowdon Does McGill

Earlier this week Edward Snowdon gave a talk with a jammed packed auditorium on McGill University campus in Montreal.  I say "with" rather than "to" because it was an interactive video-conference.  There was a capacity crowd of 600 with another estimated 2,000 waiting outside.  Thankfully someone decided to break the rules and live streamed it on You Tube.  How Snowdon can you get?

The event was blighted with glitches:  technical troubles and a strike by McGill support staff that delayed the evening.  Snowdon said it was 4 a.m. in Moscow but that he appreciated people's patience.  Ultimately, he waved aside the formal part of his presentation with a refreshingly frank, "nobody likes lectures so let's get down to the Q&A portion". 

The timing for the talk could not have been more opportune.  He addressed the instance of the Quebec reporter whose phone was allegedly hacked by the Securit√© du Quebec.  He urged the audience to read the materials handed out by McGill strikers.  And, when asked about the American elections for his opinion Snowdon responded that the important thing to remember was that it was a voter's obligation to be informed and make a private choice.

Privacy is of course the cornerstone of Snowdon's experience and opinions.  He maintains that privacy is what is central to our democratic rights.  So, this is what we've come to expect from him.  However, I found it interesting how deftly he sidestepped the whole Clinton versus Trump issue and did not get bogged down in personalities.  I was also intrigued to hear him say that compared to the U.S.A., the U.K. and Australia, Canada had the weakest oversight of its intelligence gathering.  That's pretty frightening.

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

“Come Play With Me” Piano Coming to Avalon Mall

By Business and Arts NL on Nov 01, 2016 08:00 am
Music has a truly magical and transformative quality. The right tune can change your mood and get your toes tapping even when it’s the last thing you feel like doing, while hearing the first few notes of a familiar song can bring back long-forgotten memories.
Soon, visitors to the Avalon Mall in St. John’s will get to experience the magic of community music making with the unveiling of Business & Arts NL’s newest “Come Play With Me” public piano. The piano will be revealed at 11am this Friday, November 4 by the Scotiabank Theatre, with live entertainment provided by Evan Smith and Dana Parsons.
The piano will give locals and visitors alike the opportunity to share their musical talents with shoppers as they pass through the mall, helping to bring people together while adding to the lively atmosphere. This particular piano was painted by West Coast artist Susy Randell and features contrasting black and white stripes punctuated by bold Newfoundland wildflowers – a reflection of Randell’s bright, fun and whimsical style.
Public pianos are part of an increasingly popular international movement, with over 1,300 pianos on public display worldwide. This will be the fourth piano that Business & Arts NL has installed in the province, following others at the St. John’s International Airport (sponsored by JAG (Steele Hotels)); Deer Lake Regional Airport (sponsored by Humber Motors); and the University Centre at Memorial University(sponsored by Penney Group).
As with previous pianos, Templeton’s (paint, flooring and supply store in downtown St. John’s) generously donated supplies and space within the store for the artist to work. In addition to the Avalon Mall, Coast 101.1 FM (Bell Group) has also come on board as business sponsor.
Marcel Elliott, Regional Leasing & Property Manager (NL) with Crombie REIT, says the Avalon Mall is happy to host the newest “Come Play With Me” piano.
“We consider ourselves lucky to have the support of our market area and thus think it is important to pay the support forward to a variety of groups, service providers, etc.” he says.
“Newfoundland is obviously rich in a variety of arts and hopefully the placement of this piano in the Avalon Mall will help showcase the initiatives and talents within Business & Arts NL.”
Andrew Bell, President of Coast 101.1, says it is this business-arts support that helps make communities better and brighter.
“Coast 101.1 is delighted to be an official sponsor of the ‘Come Play With Me’ piano located at the Avalon Mall. Continuous support of the arts is vital. An artist’s ability to tell the unique story of Newfoundlanders and Labradoreans is an unmeasurable asset to our province,” he says.
“The partnership that exists amongst business and arts engages and strengthens our communities, creativity and culture. Coast undoubtedly plays a role in promoting our budding and seasoned artists, and we couldn’t be more proud to be supporting this very important initiative!”