Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Political Monday

Previously in the Adventures of Citizen Justice:
In 2006, Citizen Justice applied to be a part of the Mountain Standard Times Performative Arts Festival. In 2007, the Festival was postponed till 2008. All the planning in the world, wouldn't prepare Citizen Justice for the unexpected CULTURE WARS!!!!!!!!!!

Today I am writing about Monday October 8th! What a day that was.
The financial crisis had hit a few weeks earlier. A Canadian Election was in full swing. And Prime-Minister Stephen Harper makes some wild comments about Canadian Culture.

Through my online grass-roots connections (aka Facebook (aka the CIA)) I was invited to three events that day.
1) A Canada-wide wear black for the arts Day.
2) Artist Dead-In - a protest in front of City hall.
3) Calgary's "Wrecking Ball" a "political theater Cabaret" thingy.
black costume
ONE - Wear Black for the Arts Day! You'll notice I converted an old black Leotard into a sweet alternative Black Citizen Justice Costume. Unlike Spiderman's black costume, that makes him a sexy aggressive bad-ass. This one just ups the sexiness and ambiguous gentrification thing I have going on.

You could have done this event too, its an easy way to raise awareness. Assuming someone notices that you are wearing alot of black, they might say, "What's with all the black clothes?" and you would reply "I'm attending a funeral. Yes a Funeral for Arts and Culture in Canada, and the worst part of it all is that it was MURDERED!!!!!" and at this point you should be yelling "MURDERED!!!!! MURDERED!!!! MURDERED!!!!! by the Conservative Government and Stephen Harper.... HARPER!!!!" and you should be thrashing around on the ground, like there is crazy mournful bee in your brain, and if you can vomit on command you should do that, all day!

Two: Artist Dead-In - a protest in front of City hall.
Send in the CLOWNS!
Stephen Harper's Cultural Vision
Stephen Harper's Cultural Vision

Below is a short video I edited about the event. Enjoy.

If this "Art is a Niche Issue" Issue doesn't sound familiar to you, below is a nice video I found on Youtube, kinda highlighting the pre-election culture clash.

SCARIER STILL, Here is a clip from "the Hour" highlighting Harper's Republican Style handling of the media.

Near the end of the Rally at City Hall, I ran into a good friend, Noel Bégin. He not only talked me into coming to see a talk by John Ralston Saul that evening. He also had me proof read a document he had been working on. He read this statement on October 9th's edition of Soap Box Derby" on CJSW. With Noel
s permission I share this article with you....
a message from Noel Bégin
In response to arts cuts, and to Stephen Harper's divisive statements; Let's Cut Our Loses: Harper's minority government has cost Canadians in money, country, and culture. It's in our power to stop him.

To our fellow citizens of Canada,

Don't let Stephen Harper sell you short. While we appreciate that Harper sees artists as extraordinary, we are ordinary Canadians too, but we find that the term "ordinary Canadians" was slyly used by Harper to divide Canada's citizens. Many of Harper's recent statements attempt to pit you against us, but WE ARE YOU. Harper says ordinary Canadians don't want the kinds of creations that artists make with your tax dollars, but we think you're proud of what we make, proud of how carefully this small fraction of your tax dollars are spent, and that you're impressed by how difficult it is to receive those dollars.

The arts are a dynamic yet ordinary sector of the Canadian economy like all of the other sectors. The difference is that art is something we invest in as a nation because it is less about your bank account and more about your heart and mind, less about making a living and more about understanding the nuances of existence.

The Canadian system of arts funding is envied the world over for how it ensures that monies are distributed only to artists and arts groups who maintain a high standard of professional excellence. If the cultural industries are to maintain their integrity and continued innovation our system needs to remain free of the censorial influence that Harper is attempting to assert

Some art is created for children, and some art is created only for adults, some art functions as art regardless of age. Harper's attempt to seduce voters with a plan that will ultimately under-fund children's classes also serves to reduce the Canadian public's perception of art as an activity for children, and distract voters from the fact that this should be an essential part of a properly funded education system.

Suggestion is a powerful form of influence. Stephen Harper suggests that artists are elitist and exist in ivory towers, but each aspect of the arts is a specialized field, with specialized and technical language no different from the specialization of any professional industry. When Harper suggests that ordinary Canadians don't want to support the arts, he acts to divide us from you, but again, we are you. One must ask why a Prime Minister would seek to drive a wedge into the Canadian economy, or between groups of citizens. As artists and as ordinary citizens of Canada we are sure that Stephen Harper is not an acceptable choice for Prime Minister of the great country of Canada.

We are stronger together as a nation, and we want as a nation to be proud of our accomplishments in business, in science, in the arts, etc. We as artists are ordinary Canadians - we are you. We invite you to become engaged in the arts, to discover where and why a small fraction of your tax dollars are put to use, and to participate in the dialogue of art on a daily basis, consuming a byproduct of our combined strength.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Sunday @ Broken City.


Sunday was pretty quiet at the Epcor Center. It was the second morning I woke up in my new apartment in the Plus 15, and I had a good sleep. I got moving slowly but made my way down to an Apartment Block Yard Sale. Where I found some good deals, including a sweet matching green vest, to help me tackle the chilly streets. I also lucked out and used Anthea Black's shower. What a sweet heart.

I stopped by the mall on the way back and found the looney store. I forgot that Dollar Store's in Calgary are mostly filled with Items above the price of a dollar. They will hear from my lawyers.... (empty threat). I also stopped in at a costume store and tried out a few disguises.

Who's that guy? Yep. It's me. These frames are doing nothing for me, but the card board tagge hides a good amount of my face. "Final Grade: F+"

I spent the afternoon, crafting and getting aggrivated as I attempt to update my last few days on the blog. My original plan was to update my blog every day so that people could read up fast on what i was doing. But my MacBook is nearing the expirary date so it really wasn't working out managing my files. Urrg... Any way, I'm updating my blog now (incase you were wondering what you are reading, its the memoirs of Citizen Justice. More specifically Justice in Calgary, attempting to do good.)

I crafted together a "bat-signal" for my living space.

Its getting late, I head out.
Destination: Broken City.
Reason: Karaoke.
Community Research.

"With the direction I'm going, I can walk about three blocks indoors using the Plus 15"

Walking the streets of downtown Calgary on a Sunday night, I notice the absolute lack of people. With the exception of Friday and Saturday nights, Downtown Calgary pretty much shuts down after six. The lack of night life Downtown seems to be a problem with location.

I read on the City of Calgary website that 30 people live downtown. Strangely most of the pedestrians I see, unfortunately live on the streets. But they are huddled in small sections of downtown. The C-Train runs on 7th Avenue and dumps people off ever 3 blocks, but they don't have many places to go.

Stephen Avenue (8th Ave) has some restaurants, bars and some theaters and two artsy cinemas. But there I feel an elitism as these places seem to market to the business people who densely populate the area in the afternoon. But by now they are watching tv in Suburbia, and they sure don't want to get in their cars after spending an hour or more in traffic to get home.

17th Ave seems like an ok place, if your looking for a pub or restaurant any night of the week, but the ten block stretch between there and the c-train is a graveyard with 30 story tombstones.

Luckily, small pocket communities exist. One for example is the tight crowd of Karaoke Enthusiasts for come out weekly to the Broken City. I'm sure there must be communities like this huddled in corners all over Calgary, but you might never know about them, this Karaoke scene however has some good word of mouth.

The tedious selection process has ended.The Tedious task of flipping through the song book, trying to find a song that both fits my frame of mind and my vocal range. Luckily a beer will help me delude myself into believing I have a vocal range. I think society needs more chance takers.

I look through the book three times before I finally decide to take on the Boss, Bruce Springsteen.

I am about to fire the Boss.
Thanks to Sarah Adams-Bacon for posting this Photograph.

Here is a montage of some of the hits of the night, notice my performance is strategically cut short. But don't worry, it was awesome.

Citizen Justice, Ben Jacques, Ryan McLure
This is a picture of me hanging out with Karaoke wizards Ben Jacques and Ryan McLure.

After the fun was had, I went outside and caught some air while simultaneously conducting a verbal interview with Bo, who works at Broken City. Eventually it turned into an interview with Clay, the head-door-man and karaoke host at Broken City... here's what they said....

So... Bo, what's the deal with Calgary? What do you think needs to be fixed?
Calgary? Definitely start with the fucking infrastructure. Driving in this goddamn place is a hell hole.

You drive a car?

Do you ever ride a bicycle?

Any problems with that?
No, not at all?
Infrastructure? Can you elaborate.
Sunday! Just the way the city was designed. It unfortunately wasn't geographically intended to grow up, which it should have, instead it grew out... like a Cancer on the ass end of Alberta.
Red Deer? (says Clay who aproached our conversation midsentence)
No Calgary? how it grew out instead of up...
We are still alot prettier than Edmonton.
I don't know if you've ever seen the Edmonton River Valley in Bloom... it's Fucking Beautiful.
I have to say, this time of Year in Calgary is pretty nice with all the leaves changing colors.
It is, it is, it is nice.
Thank you, we have alot more greenery downtown than most major cities in this Country.
That's true. I'll support you on that.
Hey man I'm in love with the Praries, I don't want to be in a metropolis that looses edge of where it came from.
I grew up in Red Deer, Parkland... It gorgeous. I wouldn't go to the bars, but...
Well Red Deer is still small town Roots.
Is there anything you would like to see changed for the Better in this city?
Our downtown needs to be more Vibrant.
I appreciate what they are trying to do by building condos and office buildings, but it doesn't bring people down town. If you wanna bring people downtown you let restaurants and nightclubs be successful, and maintained. And you encourage people to come shop, and eat and drink and hang out downtown and try and vacate your homeless. Instead of scaring people out of downtown, encourage them to come down town.
Which is what happened here on 11th and on 1st, its why all the bars are closing and they are building condos. Sure people want to live downtown, but give them a reason to stay down town, they shouldn't have to go to the boonies to find something to eat and hang out and feel comfortable.
What do you think about the current anti-homeless ad campaign downtown?
I think it works perfectly, I lived in Las Vegas for a long time, and their down town core is beautiful, their surrounding core is beautiful and I don't know what they did to get rid of the homeless? But you would think in all places, Las Vegas would have a vibrant homeless population. But they don't, you really have to look for homeless people in Las Vegas. Here they will find you. It's sad because this is a beautiful city and we don't need to be overrun by that. I don't know what they did to fix it in Vegas, I don't know what there plan is to fix it here. It would be nice to walk down the streets downtown and know that I'm ok, with out getting asked for change or smokes every fifteen feet.
But beyond getting harassed by the homeless... what could else could be improved in the downtown core?
I wouldn't say its harassed. It just make you uncomfortable...
But in the downtown core, if you got rid of the sketchy people, by any means necessary, the other problems will follow. You could set up programs for homeless people, and down on their luck people and their are several programs in the city that deal with that very nicely, its just a matter of reaching out to them and getting them to do it.
Aside from that we have a beautiful down town, two major rivers very close by, there's a lot of park space, its a beautiful town.

Also.. what are you recording this for?
Uh... I'm gonna use it, to write on my blog...
Cool. Well I love this town I think people give it a bad rap. I grew up here and its still a small town, Everybody knows what the score is in the flames game. Everybody knows its stampede and they are happy to help you out. Their are a lot of good things about this town.
Well thank you, Clay. Have a good night.

Well... that interview took a surprising twist. Being in somewhat of a non-confrontational mood I thought I would save my opinions for my blog.
For the record, I would like to see Homeless people given the help they need. I'm gonna suggest that when Clay said to Vacate the homeless... he really meant House the homeless... but I don't wanna put words in his mouth.

Examples of Ads produced by the Calgary Downtown Association.

I'll admit to baiting him into admitting he liked the Calgary Downtown Association's terrible ad campaign that I personally find offensive. It basically dehumanizes homeless people into a stereotype to raise public apathy towards the problem. "I got mine, Jack." It asks you to give to agencies not panhandlers so that the can help. That's a good premise, and early on many groups were involved with the CDA, helping the homeless, but since this ad campaign began using grossly offensive imagery and stupid slogan "you're sympathy is killing me", most organizations that programs that help have been alienated and asked to be removed from their website.

Further more, Calgary is a big city... so its going to have to get used to weird stuff going on. That's the nature of high population living. I assume also getting asked for smokes is more annoying if you smoke, but really is that going to stop you from going to where you want? Show some courage, Dammit.

These public art sculptures are rumored to affect wind speeds on Stephen Ave.
On my way home to the Epcor Center, I stopped on Stephen Ave to take a picture by these public art things... I was slowly approached by a young man who asked me for some spare change to buy some food. I wan't carrying any money on me, but I offered to buy him something. I was a little tipsy and feeling self righteous after mentally disagreeing with Clay, so we walked about four blocks in the opposite direction to "the Sketchy Mac's." A convenience store located right off the C-train, often populated by "sketchy folks" and one might assume you could buy all sorts of drugs there too... but I wouldn't know for sure. Anyway, on the walk over he explained that he was from Saskatoon and had been traveling with some friends who ditched him in the city, now he was waiting for his Auntie to get paid to buy him a bus ticket home. Being from Saskatoon myself I connected with this story, so I asked him what the City of Saskatoon was like these days? He said "it was getting crazier. There's a native gas station (Creeway gas) that started selling cheap cigarettes on 20th, and now the gang activity is getting out of hand." I asked him if he knew about the Drop-In center where he could probably sleep for the night and he said he already tried going there and got beat up, and the same at the Mustard Seed. He said he didn't realize at first people were using the codeword food for drugs, so when people asked him if he had any food and he had a sandwich he was in trouble. Regardless, I bought him some legit food at the Mac's, some chips and pop and bananas, and gave him ten bucks to hopefully be spent wisely... On my way home, I patted myself on the back and thought, "man... I can't afford to keep doing that every day..."

Citizen Justice exorcising the drunk demons.

Cities in Review - Lethridge: Tap Water and Fire Spinners

On Saturday the 4th, I was invited to join the "the magical mystery tour" to Lethbridge Alberta. My hope was to get some perspective on alternative style of Albertan living, low cost living, and decent cultural outlets.

One way I judge a city is on how walk-able it is, When we got their it was sun was down, so it was hard to tell the size of the community and what the suburban sprawl is like. The three art galleries that had openings and performances where pretty much all in a three blocks, so with limited information I'd say "yeah thats an easy walk."

City is pretty, lots of nice building that remind me the short stout shops lining Saskatchewan summers. (ha alliteration.) It was too bad the thrift shops I saw were closed. I like cheap shwag.

Their is a park beside the Southern Alberta Art Gallery that had a vigil set up for abused Aboriginal Women and afterwords djs set up and started a kind of dance party. I was told that the park was kind of a hangout for the homeless, but rather than running a fear-monger campaign against "sketchy people" like some cities might do... Lethbridge has made an effort to host cultural events to liven up the space and get people comfortable with the idea that, yes we can co-inhabit. And the best way to co-inhabit is with fire spinning! I think I should learn how to do this, their were alot of teen-twenty somethings taking turns to practice this really wicked art form. Here's a little video and some pictures and such. Also, if these pictures are of you and you want a link some where... message me.

On to another element of the city I liked. Water!

zing. I found this water bottle at the SAAG opening, just an empty plastic bottle the city or someone distributed. The back side has instructions on how to fill the bottle and a few sentences clarifying the fact that tap water should be good for you. Personally I think if your town has bad water... you should take to the streets and demand money is put into fixing it! Instead of handing your money over to Coca-cola for basically the same damn thing.

In conclusion, I would give the 5 blocks of Lethbridge I saw an B+, which is pretty good. With acknowledgment that I should really see more of the city and live their for a bit before I could give it a final or even just a mid-term grade.