What this blog is about

It's an art blog.
Mostly about theatre... but also a healthy dose of pop culture, politics and shameless self-promotion.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Equity weighs in on BC

Arden R. Ryshpan

Ms. Ryshpan penned a letter

CAEA Executive Director Arden R. Ryshpan wrote a letter to BC's Premier Gordon Campbell about those stinking cuts to Arts & Culture. She writes:
"The budget update delivered by Minister Colin Hansenearlier this month makes no particular reference to arts and culture and certainly doesn’t explain why you see the need to cut funding by over 90%. This is a completely disproportionate share of the burden. When times are tough, we all recognize the need for restraint, but the cuts you propose are far more severe than mere fiscal prudence. Furthermore, Minister Hansen suggests that while it is expected that the B.C. economy will shrink by 2.9% in 2009, he is anticipating 1.9% growth in the next year (...) so it is unclear to us why such draconian cuts are necessary in our sector."
Indeed. Although I didn't realize that the government had acutally forcast growth in 2010. Brutal.

Now, even if the government's economic prediction pans out (which is not certain), it doesn't necessarily follow that the government's revenues will increase along with the economy. This is because corporations can wait up to five years to write off losses in their tax returns. This is why governments still must budget deficits even after the economy grows after a recession.

Nevertheless, the point is moot because these cuts were not about the money. The relatively small amount of money the government saves by virtually eliminating its Arts & Culture budget barely makes a dent in its projected deficits. It's just too little money to make a difference.

And, Ms. Ryshpan recognizes this:
"Every other government in Canada is looking at the Creative Economy as a way to revive dying industrial and resource-based economies, and the arts are a driving force in that new landscape. At a time when your government is investing tens of millions of dollars in other industries, the cuts in arts funding represents a tiny percentage of your overall expenditures and yet means so very much to our industry. (emphasis mine) I would ask that your government explain to the thousands and thousands of artists in the province why their jobs are not important but other people’s are."
More to the point: how can the BC government justify gutting an entire industry for the sake of political image?

You can read Ms. Ryshpan's letter in full here.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Impact and Change

What's the best way to get the public on your side?

Kim Catrall
Over at the Next Stage, there's a video link to a news item on Global BC about the recent cuts to funding for Arts & Culture in BC's provincial budget. Check it out.

Three questions should immediately pop up for all artists concerned about BC after viewing this item:
  1. Why did this story air?
  2. How effective was it?
  3. How do we get more stories like this on air?
After watching the story, you realize that the reason why Global took an interest is because Kim Catrall got on board and criticized the BC government for its excessive cuts to Arts & Culture.

Some would be annoyed that the only reason that this issue has made it to air on a major network was because a celebrity mentioned it. Not me. I think this is great news.

If you recall during the last Federal election, Arts & Culture became an issue (and made it to the national debates for the first time in history) only after prominient Québec artists criticized the PM for $45M in funding cuts, made months earlier. The PM responded, and the rest is history.

What local arts groups need to do now is try to figure out how to get more celebrities on board. With the 2010 Olympics only months away, and Vancouver (and BC) becoming increasingly in the spotlight, this may be just the opportunity we've been waiting for... I'll get back to this in a minute.

The other detail about the story that I noticed is that Global also spent extra time, energy and money to profile how local groups (like Carousel Theatre) will be impacted by the funding cuts. This is significant when you consider how much easier it would have been to broadcast a 15-second bit featuring Catrall's comments and then move on. The question is: why did they bother? Was it just good reporting? Does Global have a proclivity for focusing on the "human" angle? Or, is it something else entirely...

Well, maybe. Global TV (along with fellow broadcasters CBC, CTV and A-Channel) is embroiled in a major public relations battle with cable providers Rogers, Bell and Telus. At issue is whether the broadcasters should be able to charge the cable providers for access to their programming. You may have seen 'Save Local TV' commercials or clicked on their website. What's important to note about this conflict is that the broadcasters (especially Global, which needs the extra income most desperately) are furiously branding themselves as the champions of local television, and by extension, local communities.

I see the possibility for a mutually beneficial relationship...

What's happening in BC right now is an underground movement to build momentum and help get the public on the side of artists and cultural workers. As more events are planned and executed in support of culture -- like last week's Art Strike -- two publicity objectives need to pursued and met.

First, there needs to be celebrity voices, or the voices of prominent members of the community, on side and (if possible) on sight. This makes the event sexy to the broadcasters.

Second, any and all press releases, backgrounders, etc., need to start angling the story so that it's not just about the government cutting funding.
Our story needs to be about protecting local culture and local communities. Our story needs to mirror the messaging and the language that the broadcasters themselves are using to demonize the cable providers. Our story needs to give the broadcasters a reason to move the story up to near the top of the news, or a reason to do an "in-depth" feature.

See... whether we artists realize this or not, this issue is more important than just the state of culture in BC. This is about how important culture is to Canadian politicians. If this issue gets legs -- if national outrage can start to mimic the same momentum that was seen in the 2007 Federal election -- then maybe we can stop this brutal political habit of unfair cuts to the Arts to sustain an image of fiscal responsibility. I've written before that the only reason why Arts & Culture suffer the deepest budget cuts is because it appeals to a certain constituency. It only serves to create an image of "toughness" and "hard choices" but it really doesn't affect the bottom line.

The situation in BC is dire, but there is real opportunity to get some traction and support for this issue. There are the Olympics in only a few short months, and the eyes of the world will be upon us. There are major broadcasters that could could be sympathetic to our cause. There are prominent (read: famous) voices that could sing out on our behalf.

If politicians lose more capital by cutting the arts instead of defending them, then there's no further reason to see those cuts happen in the future. Simple as that.

Now go make some noise.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The War on Culture


Artists must find a way to avoid being collateral damage of deficit budgets

Praxis Theatre's recent post concerning the insane funding cuts to BC's Arts Sector got me thinking about the newest fad in Canadian politics: the war on culture.

Was it only last year that arts funding actually became an issue in a national election? And didn't the artists all rally together (under the lead of Québec) to make enough noise so that the Conservatives were once again hamstrung with another minority government? Did we not see the birth of the Department of Culture and the phoenix-like resurgence of The Wrecking Ball onto the national scene?

And yet, here we are again, not even a year later and arts funding has become a major casualty in a political marketing campaign.

Er... you mean "casualty due to a recession budget," don't you Aaron?

No, I don't. Look at the numbers. At the very worst (and there always are, and will continue to be, many different and contradictory numbers tossed around where arts funding is concerned), there will $17.25 million cut in core arts funding this year. In the face of $2.8 billion projected deficit, what's $17M?

It's nothing. It's a drop in the bucket. It doesn't make any financial sense. In other words, it's political.

Where other industries in BC are looking at an average of 7% cuts in funding, the arts sector is looking at reductions of 80-90%. And this is an industry that continually makes the most with the least in terms of dollars. Why are we always the punching bag?

Charles Campbell, of The Tyee, makes a compelling argument for fighting back. But, other than a couple of posts, all is quiet on the Western (blog) Front. Why are we content to continue to be the punching bag?

... Mind you, I don't follow a lot of BC based theatre blogs, so please point me in the right direction if you know of some hot-headed responses to BC's September Budget update. Thx.

The point is, however, until we can figure out why politicians find it more expedient to obliterate arts funding rather than defend it, we're going to continue to be casualties on this new war on culture.

Answering my own question, the Alliance for Arts and Culture seems pretty righteous to me.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Oh, office FWD'd email... you make my day

Some lighter fare for the Labour Day long weekend

This email, subject name "Brilliant" is pretty self-explanatory. I hope this makes your long weekend folks. Happy BBQ'ing!
I was going to share this with a line like, "It's crazy how many of these thoughts I've had." But after doing a Google search to find out who wrote it, it's evident that hundreds of bloggers have already shared it and said the exact same thing and that perhaps it's universality is what makes it brilliant.

Anyway, it's funny. Enjoy.

Random thoughts from 25-35 year olds:

- I wish Google Maps had an "Avoid Ghetto" routing option.

-More often than not, when someone is telling me a story all I can think about is that I can't wait for them to finish so that I can tell my own story that's not only better, but also more directly involves me.

-Nothing sucks more than that moment during an argument when you realize you're wrong.

-I don't understand the purpose of the line, "I don't need to drink to have fun." Great, no one does. But why start a fire with flint and sticks when they've invented the lighter?

-Have you ever been walking down the street and realized that you're going in the complete opposite direction of where you are supposed to be going? But instead of just turning a 180 and walking back in the direction from which you came, you have to first do something like check your watch or phone or make a grand arm gesture and mutter to yourself to ensure that no one in the surrounding area thinks you're crazy by randomly switching directions on the sidewalk.

-That's enough, Nickelback.

-I totally take back all those times I didn't want to nap when I was younger.

-Is it just me, or are 80% of the people in the "people you may know"
feature on Facebook people that I do know, but I deliberately choose not to be friends with?

-Do you remember when you were a kid, playing Nintendo and it wouldn't work? You take the cartridge out, blow in it and that would magically fix the problem. Every kid in America did that, but how did we all know how to fix the problem? There was no internet or message boards or FAQ's. We just figured it out. Today's kids are soft.

-There is a great need for sarcasm font.

-Sometimes, I'll watch a movie that I watched when I was younger and suddenly realize I had no idea what the f was going on when I first saw it.

-I think everyone has a movie that they love so much, it actually becomes stressful to watch it with other people. I'll end up wasting 90 minutes shiftily glancing around to confirm that everyone's laughing at the right parts, then making sure I laugh just a little bit harder (and a millisecond earlier) to prove that I'm still the only one who really, really gets it.

-How the hell are you supposed to fold a fitted sheet?

-I would rather try to carry 10 plastic grocery bags in each hand than take 2 trips to bring my groceries in.

- I think part of a best friend's job should be to immediately clear your computer history if you die.

-The only time I look forward to a red light is when I’m trying to finish a text.

- A recent study has shown that playing beer pong contributes to the spread of mono and the flu. Yeah, if you suck at it.

- LOL has gone from meaning, "laugh out loud" to "I have nothing else to say".

- I have a hard time deciphering the fine line between boredom and hunger.

- Answering the same letter three times or more in a row on a Scantron test is absolutely petrifying.

- Whenever someone says "I'm not book smart, but I'm street smart", all I hear is "I'm not real smart, but I'm imaginary smart".

- How many times is it appropriate to say "What?" before you just nod and smile because you still didn't hear what they said?

- I love the sense of camaraderie when an entire line of cars teams up to prevent a dick from cutting in at the front. Stay strong, brothers!

- Every time I have to spell a word over the phone using 'as in'
examples, I will undoubtedly draw a blank and sound like a complete idiot. Today I had to spell my boss's last name to an attorney and said "Yes that's G as in...(10 second lapse)..ummm...Goonies"

-What would happen if I hired two private investigators to follow each other?

- While driving yesterday I saw a banana peel in the road and i instinctively swerved to avoid it...thanks Mario Kart.

- MapQuest really needs to start their directions on #5. Pretty sure I know how to get out of my neighborhood.

- Obituaries would be a lot more interesting if they told you how the person died.

- I find it hard to believe there are actually people who get in the shower first and THEN turn on the water.

-Shirts get dirty. Underwear gets dirty. Pants? Pants never get dirty, and you can wear them forever.

-I can't remember the last time I wasn't at least kind of tired.

- Bad decisions make good stories

-Whenever I'm Facebook stalking someone and I find out that their profile is public I feel like a kid on Christmas morning who just got the Red Ryder BB gun that I always wanted. 546 pictures? Don't mind if I do!

- Is it just me or do high school girls get sluttier & sluttier every year?

-If Carmen San Diego and Waldo ever got together, their offspring would probably just be completely invisible.

-Why is it that during an ice-breaker, when the whole room has to go around and say their name and where they are from, I get so incredibly nervous? Like I know my name, I know where I'm from, this shouldn't be a problem....

-You never know when it will strike, but there comes a moment at work when you've made up your mind that you just aren't doing anything productive for the rest of the day.

-Can we all just agree to ignore whatever comes after DVDs? I don't want to have to restart my collection.

-There's no worse feeling than that millisecond you're sure you are going to die after leaning your chair back a little too far.

-I'm always slightly terrified when I exit out of Word and it asks me if I want to save any changes to my ten page research paper that I swear I did not make any changes to.

- "Do not machine wash or tumble dry" means I will never wash this ever.

-I hate being the one with the remote in a room full of people watching TV. There's so much pressure. 'I love this show, but will they judge me if I keep it on? I bet everyone is wishing we weren't watching this. It's only a matter of time before they all get up and leave the room. Will we still be friends after this?'

-I hate when I just miss a call by the last ring (Hello? Hello?
Dammit!), but when I immediately call back, it rings nine times and goes to voicemail. What'd you do after I didn't answer? Drop the phone and run away?

- I hate leaving my house confident and looking good and then not seeing anyone of importance the entire day. What a waste.

-When I meet a new girl, I'm terrified of mentioning something she hasn't already told me but that I have learned from some light internet stalking.

-I like all of the music in my iTunes, except when it's on shuffle, then I like about one in every fifteen songs in my iTunes.

-Why is a school zone 20 mph? That seems like the optimal cruising speed for pedophiles...

- As a driver I hate pedestrians, and as a pedestrian I hate drivers, but no matter what the mode of transportation, I always hate cyclists.

-Sometimes I'll look down at my watch 3 consecutive times and still not know what time it is.

-It should probably be called Unplanned Parenthood.

-I keep some people's phone numbers in my phone just so I know not to answer when they call.

-Even if I knew your social security number, I wouldn't know what do to with it.

-Even under ideal conditions people have trouble locating their car keys in a pocket, hitting the G-spot, and Pinning the Tail on the Donkey - but I’d bet my ass everyone can find and push the Snooze button from 3 feet away, in about 1.7 seconds, eyes closed, first time every time...

-My 4-year old son asked me in the car the other day "Dad what would happen if you ran over a ninja?" How the hell do I respond to that?

-It really pisses me off when I want to read a story on CNN.com and the link takes me to a video instead of text.

-I wonder if cops ever get pissed off at the fact that everyone they drive behind obeys the speed limit.

-I think the freezer deserves a light as well.

-I disagree with Kay Jewelers. I would bet on any given Friday or Saturday night more kisses begin with Miller Lites than Kay

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Did I call it?... Maybe not

Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark

Spider-Man musical to resume production

According to MTV's Splash Page, Spider-Man will be hitting the Great White Way after all. From the report:
According to Variety, production on "Turn Off The Dark" could resume as early as this week or as late as next week.

No official comments have been made by the show's producers, who suspended the musical due to "a cash-flow problem" in August, but Variety's report cites rumors around the theater industry that "Spider-Man" will swing back into action shortly.
However, despite what I predicted in Monday's post, MTV goes on to say:
As for who saved "Spider-Man," the obvious guess is the Walt Disney Company, who recently acquired Marvel Entertainment in a $4 billion deal. But the musically-minded entity is apparently not responsible for "Turn off the Dark's" salvation, according to the report.
Then... who is responsible? According to a snarky report from the NY Post's Michael Reidl:
Bono's too smart to put his own money in the show, but word on the street is that he's tapped into his vast network of rich friends and business associates to restart production.

On the lighter side, here's some video from the musical's open casting auditions (courtesy MTV):

And here's G4 Tech TV's analysis of what Disney ownership might mean for Marvel:

More responses can be found on Hero Complex.