Friday, July 29, 2005

Art Exhibit Raises a Red Flag.

American artist Glenn Ligon -- he of the famous clown-like Malcolm X -- is the new artist-in-residence at Toronto's trendy Drake Hotel. His first project there is called Thoughts on the Flag: A Coloring Project. He describes it thusly:
There is a passage in Rhoda Kellogg’s book Analyzing Children's Art where in response to a question about what his drawing “means,” a child responds “It’s not a story to be told. It’s a picture to be looked at.” A flag is an image with a story to tell--a tale of history and national identity--but it is a story that can be told in many different ways. Kids coloring, scribbling and writing graffiti in the ideologically cramped space of the flag suggest new uses for the flag, new stories to be told.

For a project sponsored by The Drake Hotel and The Power Plant, I gave images of Canadian and American flags to local children to color. I then made a selection of their drawings and have installed them here and at the Power Plant. In addition, I have provided blank American and Canadian flag images for patrons of The Drake to color. These will be collected and added to the kids drawings already installed. As the title of the project suggest, to draw is to express ideas and as the kid’s images show, they have a lot on their minds.
Fine, sounds interesting enough. Cute anyway.

But I was irritated to read Ligon's answer to the question "Why mess with a revered symbol [the Canadian flag]?" in today's Dose: "I think flags are often seen as the territory of the right. People on the right wing of society get to own the flag and the left doesn't. So, I think that it's important to take up these symbols and redirect them in different ways."

What we've got here is another American artist coming to Canada and assuming that the politics south of the border automatically transfer up here. What arrogance and, perhaps, cultural imperialism...

As anyone who knows the history of our flag could tell you, the "right" in Canada viewed the establishment of the Maple Leaf flag as a radical move by the Liberals, while the "left" saw it as progressive step away from our colonial past. Many on the Canadian right still hold up the old Red Ensign as the true flag of Canada -- see the Red Ensign bloggers for instance. (Or, more ominously, the racist far-right Red Ensign defenders.)

A little history lesson for Ligon, from Wikipedia:
In 1965, after the Great Flag Debate in Parliament and throughout the country, the Maple Leaf flag was adopted. Groups such as the Royal Canadian Legion and others who had sympathies with maintaining Canada's links to Britain opposed the new flag as they saw it as a means of loosening that connection. The leader of the Progressive Conservative party, John George Diefenbaker, was especially passionate in his defence of the Red Ensign. In protest of the federal governments decision, Tory governments in Manitoba and Ontario adopted red ensigns as their provincial flags.

The Canadian Red Ensign continued to be flown by some Canadians, particularly monarchists, other traditionalists and those who cherish Canada's British heritage. Conservative commentator Mark Steyn has derided the Maple Leaf flag, remarking that 'unhappy nations change their flags', and 'at least the Red Ensign had the guts to be a boring flag, not a propaganda symbol'.
So, in Canada, it's the left (outside of Quebec, of course) that has embraced our flag most fully.

Ligon also might be interested to know that people in Canada don't really care if you mess around with the flag, unlike in the United States where they keep trying to pass those flag-desecration laws. Ligon's "Thoughts on the Flag" actually seems like something that would be part of many provinces' elementary school curriculum, rather than eye-opening political art. ("The Maple Leaf flag is the symbol of our country. If you were in charge of the flag, what would you choose to put on it? Design your own Canadian flag to reflect your family's history and heritage.")

If Ligon's going to come up to Toronto and create an art project out of the Canadian flag, he could at learn a thing or two about our history and culture. This is the kind of superficial political art that gives a bad name to the whole genre.

Not that the Canadian art community isn't guilty of importing American-style dissent and pretending it is edgy and controversial up here. It always gets me when Canadians put on exhibitions and plays and concerts to oppose the War in Iraq and call themselves protestors or dissenters or radicals. They're not -- they're the mainstream in Canada. We stayed out of the war; the majority of Canadians disapprove of it. Put on a play that supports the American-led action and then you'll have some actual controversial and political art...

Thursday, July 28, 2005


In my last post, I erroneously referred to a "War on Terror." The West is, in fact, currently engaged in a "global struggle against violent extremism."

Yes, the Bush administration, having apparently received the CBC memo on this subject, has rebranded the notorious W.O.T.:
In recent speeches and news conferences, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and the nation's senior military officer have spoken of "a global struggle against violent extremism" rather than "the global war on terror," which had been the catchphrase of choice. Administration officials say that phrase may have outlived its usefulness, because it focused attention solely, and incorrectly, on the military campaign.

Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the National Press Club on Monday that he had "objected to the use of the term 'war on terrorism' before, because if you call it a war, then you think of people in uniform as being the solution." He said the threat instead should be defined as violent extremists, with the recognition that "terror is the method they use."
I'm not holding my breath for any apologies to the Ceeb from the "Call a spade a spade!" chorus...
Hans, Hans, Fingers, Thumbs.

Canadian Press is stretching it a little by claiming that a Google war has erupted between Canada and Denmark over little "occupied" Hans Island. Nevertheless, I appreciate their enthusiasm and encourage nations everywhere to fight their wars over the Internet.

The War on Terror, for instance, could be settled with a Warcraft tournament. And instead of targeting the world's subway systems, terrorists could Google bomb innocent civilians… ("John Q. Public, you are now the number one search result for 'Infidel Swine'. Ha!")

But back to the issue at Hans: I suppose I should side with my fellow countrymen on the issue. But, really, the island is called Hans Island. Seriously, can you get any more Danish than that? H-A-N-S, dudes and dudettes…

I feel so traitorous!

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

The Final Nail in the World Film Festival's coffin.

Serge Losique has lost it. The beleaguered film-fest director announced yesterday that Karla -- the B-movie about Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka starring Laura Prepon that once went by the title Deadly -- will have its world premiere at Montreal's World Film Festival.

Does anyone truly believe Losique when he says Deadly Karla was chosen for its artistic merit, not for its sensational subject matter? M. Directeur appears to be clueless as to what the big deal is. In fact, I heard on CBC Radio this morning that he was actually unaware that the recently-released Karla Homolka was living in Montreal...

I love how snotty Losique is in this La Presse article: "Vous savez, des plaintes, il y en aura toujours pour n'importe quoi. La justice a fait son chemin, nous sommes ici en présence d'un film de fiction, avec des acteurs." Oh yeah, people complain about everything And what's the big deal, since justice has been served...

Particularly annoying was Losique's requisite dig at Ontario, where Premier McGuinty has called for a boycott of Karla: "La censure est plus forte en Ontario... Au Québec, on est plus libéral qu'ailleurs." I guess Losique can't grasp the subtle difference between censorship and a consumer boycott. Really, Losique just loves throwin' a few punches Toronto's way every year, because he's jealous of the top-notch film festival there.

That's it. Last straw. Vive le New Montreal FilmFest.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Subliminal messages.

Well, Liberal Party of Canada web page designers, I'll give you this: Those throbbing red phalluses behind Paul Martin do make me totally forget about the Sponsorship Scandal. [Flash required.]

Caught in the act!

More goat feeding
Originally uploaded by uncascrooge.
The rumours are true. I am Feed the Goat.
Here's more proof. And more.
Yes, as part of the summer BBQ circuit, I stopped by Happy Rolph's Petting Farm in St. Catherine's, Ont., on Saturday. (Tom Flanagan told me that fake glasses make you look smarter.) Here's a picture of a rooster before and after he realised I was a journalist.
And here's one of the 1,000 new lawyers called to the bar in Ontario on Friday.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

The Go! Team = British indie-pop version of the Black-Eyed Peas.

So true, Kelefa Sanneh. It cannot be denied.

Well, okay, it can be denied and is being denied over at Carl Wilson's online home, a place I enjoy frequenting for the latest dispatches from the war between "indie righteousness" and "anti-art-for-art's-sake showbiz blather."

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Sober second thinking...

"Huh, what's interesting? Sorry, I was too absorbed in the deliciousness of this rather cheap king can of Löwenbrau to take heed of your prohibitionist prattling." Tart Cider.

Okay, so the Ontario Liberals spent over $500,000 on a panel that recommended auctioning off licences for the province's LCBO outlets. And then Finance Minister Greg Sorbara rejects any thought of privatization an hour later. Was that even enough time to read the report? It's like Sorbara got drunk one night, commissioned a panel at the bar, and then ignored all its phone calls.

Why, oh why is any provincial government in charge of selling spirits? Electricity? Okay... Health? Absolutely. Transportation? Well, sure. Selecting wine? Um... I don't recall electing a sommelier in the last election.

Look, I can deal with the LCBO, even though its huge profits are largely illusory and our addiction to funding public programs with booze sales (and lotteries) is more than a little distasteful. If only the Ontario government ran health care as well as it runs my local brightly-lit LCBO. But the Beer Store is a crime, a near monopoly that is mostly foreign-owned and hurts small brewers and inconveniences the consumer and is ugly and is stupid.

Me want beer at corner store! Like home!
Dead Man Walking?

Coyne's such a blogtease.
This Week in Nestruck History.
Danovitch Saxophone Quartet
Just stumbled upon this scanned clipping my father e-mailed to me a few months ago... The caption is wrong. Shane Nestruck -- the aforementioned pater familias -- is the second from left and playing the baritone sax in the Gerald Danovitch Saxophone Quartet. This must have been taken sometime between 1968 and 1976 when Donald Hughes was still in the band and Canada was still full of optimism. Looks early 70s to me...

Some of you who studied music at McGill might recognize a youthful Abe Kestenberg, now woodwind area chair in the Department of Performance. I think he is actually playing tenor, though it's hard to tell in this photo.

Nancy Newman, the bari player who replaced my father when he moved the family to Winnipeg in 1978, played with the quartet until Danovitch died in 1997. At the time, she was teaching stage band at Royal West Academy in Montreal and a young fellow named Kelly Nestruck was in the trumpet section*...

This has been this week in Nestruck history.

(*Haven't picked it up in years.)

Sunday, July 17, 2005

To Whoever Keeps Trying to Break Into my Gmail Account:

Get a life.

To Everyone Else:

The Fringe is over. Let the blogging recommence.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005


Well, the 2005 edition of the Toronto Fringe Theatre Festival kicks off tomorrow and, since I missed out on the Montreal one this year, I am going to go on a real Fringe binge.

I'll also be blogging it like Beckham over at Yes, indeedy, I'm joining the ranks of the corporate blogosphere -- for the 12-day period of the Fringe fest anyway. Check it out -- my inaugural post is up.
Always Fresh. Always There When You Are Released From Prison.

I had my first Tim Hortons iced cappucino of the summer yesterday. Reading the papers this morning, I was a little disturbed to find out I had something in common with you-know-who...

I'm curious as to how Canada's best-managed brand will respond to this unexpected endorsement.

UPDATE: Verstehen points me to Yves Boisvert's article in La Presse today way over-analysing Karla Homolka's iced-cap craving: "Karla Homolka doesn't just dream of drinking an iced cappuccino. She dreams of being an iced cappuccino." (!)

Sigh. I'm starting to wish she had been granted that media ban...

Monday, July 04, 2005

"Well, I just beg to differ with every figure you've got."

How great to see the President of the United States asked tough questions. Of course, he had to go to Britain to find a journalist willing to ask them.

I'm always impressed by how well Bush handles himself when he is forced to account for his policies... I continue to think that the Democrats' biggest mistake in the last two elections was believing that Bush was a dummy. A great many of them still believe it.