Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Do you know "why?"

A husband of many years walked into the kitchen and noticed that his wife was making corn bread in a frying pan. He asked her why did she make corn bread that way. She responded because her mother did it that way. Curious he went to his mother-in-law and asked why did she make corn bread in a frying pan. She responded because here mother did it that way. Even more curious he went in search of the grandmother and asked her why she made corn bread in a frying pan and she responded, "Because we didn't have an oven."

Isn't kind of amusing that we can watch others do things and without even fully understanding why, we may repeat those same habits, beliefs or ideas in our own lives. We simply do it, because that's how it was always done. We don't question the "why" or even if it makes good sense in some cases. If it was good enough for them, then... But, was it really good enough for them, or did they also fall into the mindset of, "Repeated Generational Behavior."

In the above anecdote, the "why" belonged to the grandmother. She had a good reason for doing what she did and a clear understanding of why she did it. Through observation, the daughter and the mother repeated the behavior without questioning the validity of the behavior. From one watching the other, over time that behavior became one that was repeated from one generation to the next.

Now it would be great if all repeated behavioral patterns were as simple and tasty as corn bread. However in most cases it's not. Many of us go through life repeating behavior that we don't truly understand. You too may be making corn bread in a frying pan. Not that it's anything wrong with doing so, however would it be a bad thing to take the time to find out "why?" Not all behavioral patterns were meant to be nor should they be repeated.

Doesn't it make sense to know why you take the time and energy to do something other than to simply go through life doing things just because someone else did it that way?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


I apologize that the excerpt placed on this site came out with errors. In reviewing the post those symbols were not visible until after I published the piece. In my haste to share, I obviously made a mistake.

Excerpt from recently released debut novel: Choices

The following is an excerpt from my recently released debut novel, "Choices" available at fine bookstores and on my website, www.wgranvillebrown.com

The meeting took place in an out-of-the-way nondescript motel so deep in no-man’s land, the ancient woman who checked them in quickly forgot doing so.
“Are you kidding me? Why are we meeting in a dump like this?”
“A place is more than its appearance.”
“Well this place appears to be a dump.”
“You have always failed to appreciate the beauty of what I’ve created.”
“Ha ha. Let’s not forget you also created the flip side where I prosper.”
“There once was a man who threw a gold coin into the air with the intention of allowing the side it landed on determine his fate.”
“What in the…”
“Patience my son.”
Immediately a sense of peace and light filled the dim, dingy lit room.
“My fault, please continue.”
“Momentarily he was distracted and took his eyes off the descending gold coin. It bounced off his outstretched palm and rolled through a crack in the floor, lost forever.”
“So what happened?”
“I don’t know. Someone changed the channel.”
“Oh so you got jokes. And people think you don’t have a sense of humor.”
“Laughter is medicine for the soul, my son.”
“Yes it is. Where I reside we laugh often at how easy our job has become. In days gone by it was a little more difficult to get someone to denounce you; now let them miss the last digit on a lottery ticket after they prayed for a winner and bam. I have a new convert.”
“You have always underestimated the faith of my children.”
“With all due respect, I think you overestimate the faith of your children.”
“An argument for another time. I see you have been quite busy lately.”
“We all have our cross to bear. No pun intended.”
“No offense taken, my son. Now have you considered my faithful servants?”
“Ah, yes the young married couple in Philadelphia. I’ve been keeping track of them for some time, especially since the husband has stopped attending church regularly. I feel that they are ripe for the picking though you have blessed them greatly. However, as I am notorious for saying, remove your hedge of protection from them and they will surely curse you.”
“Behold all they have in is your power. Only do not touch them.”
“Including their relationship?”
“Why am I dealing with them as one?”
“Because what I have put together let no man divide.”
“Consider it done. I will prove to you that the faith you have in your people is far greater than the faith they have in you.”

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Future of Publicbroadcasting.ca

Publicbroadcasting.ca has been quiet for awhile now as I have been busy with other projects, but it's going to come back soon - hopefully in a big, big way.

About 7 weeks ago (2 months as of May 20) I launched NxEW.ca because I knew there was an underserved audience out there for Canadian music. It has taken off as a community - which now includes 75+ writers from 25 Canadian cities, 10 provinces and 1 territory. The writers include journalists and journalism students, bloggers and podcasters (who have their own blogs and podcasts), photographers, videographers, promoters, managers and, of course, musicians.

It has worked so well that I'm getting ready to re-launch publicbroadcasting.ca as the site for 'everything else' - the hope is to cover Canadian arts, culture and politics again with contributors from all over Canada. So if you're a Canadian and would like to write about progressive politics, current events, film, television, art, literature, or anything else within the broad umbrella of 'arts and culture' give me a shout at beach.justin@gmail.com.

I hope to have it up and going within the next few weeks.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Paying what you can?

Just the other day I read an article that the Seattle Art Museum advertised one of its exhibits as the following:

SAM's admission is suggested, which means you pay what you can.

The author of the article tested the theory and the sales clerk collecting the money never gave him a look for putting in a dollar. Now, I'm always weary about going to pay-what-you-can shows because there's always that suggestion of a certain amount - usually $10 or $15. I mean, how is it pay-what-you-can, if it has that stipulation? I'm a student holding three jobs so pay-what-you-can shows are really what I can afford. So when I put in less than the suggested amount I always feel bad and it also doesn't help when the person selling you the ticket gives you a judgmental look. What gives?

Now back to the gallery scenario...wouldn't it be great if the ROM or the AGO toiled with the same idea that SAM did? I think it would attract more people to go to those institutions, who normally wouldn't be able to go. Although I hear there are some nights that free...

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

On the Dangers of Walled Gardens and Locked Gates

Steve Pratt of CBC Radio 3 has an excellent post on 'walled gardens' vs Setting your content free (which is an old topic/rule but still totally relevant.) Canadian media companies, from my point of view anyway, still haven't fully grasped the concept, or they are still very resistant to it. You should definitely read Steve's post but this one is about something related, but slightly different.

Canada's media juggernauts have done such a terrible job of covering Canadian arts and artists that, in the free and open media environment that we currently live in, more and more of the artists are losing interest in the media Juggernauts. Over at NxEW I talk to musicians, promoters etc., daily that don't really care about the old rules, or even the old media much anymore. They are more than willing to ignore SoCan policies, and the advise of others who 'represent' them in Ottawa and elsewhere. They give their music away freely (to me and others) without restrictions or conditions. They don't care about or want a Canadian DMCA and, while most of them would be more than happy to get coverage from 'old media' they no longer count on or rely on it. Instead they (we) are building their own press, their own audience, their own contacts and this shadow media is growing by the day in terms of size and popularity while traditional media debates how it is going to survive. I've seen evidence of similar things happening in Canadian literature, film, and other areas of the arts.

By paying so little attention to Canadian art and artists, and by fighting so hard to protect their entrenched status, much of Canadian media has essentially alienated themselves. As I said in the comments on Steve's blog, rather than lock the barbarian hordes out, they have locked themselves in. Essentially they have decided to wall themselves away and take all of the 'gold shekels' with them with the assumption that without any shekels the 'hordes' would have to come back to them.

What they don't seem to understand is that media is organic and like Michael Crichton said in Jurassic Park 'life will find a way.' You cannot legislate how people consume media any more than you can legislate how people breathe, it's something people just do, not something they think about (except for a few odd ones like me). If you take away all their media people won't die, they won't even be particularly upset by it, they'll just create their own - which is exactly what is happening. Without any of those 'shekels' people have just created their own currency, their own 'economic system' and life is moving on just as it was before. Meanwhile the old kings behind their well fortified walls are starting to discover that they can't eat shekels and are getting hungry.

As I said above they have locked themselves in and rather than, as they expected, having the upper hand in any negotiations may well have to negotiate their re-entry into the culture, a culture that no longer cares about shekels.

Friday, May 01, 2009

The Inseparable Relationship Between Politics, Art and Culture

At the Betty Burke show at This Ain't the Rosedale Library on Wednesday and met co-proprietor Charlie Huisken for the first time. He's been following many of my online projects and comlimented me on my mix of arts, culture and politics. The thing is I don't really know how you separate them.

I know the whole chicken v. egg argument - does life imitate art or vice versa. As far as I can tell though it works like this: art generally emerges from subcultures of various sizes. If it is engaging and based on ideas that resonate the sub-culture around it grows and begins to have an influence on the broader culture. In the 20th century you can see examples of this in jazz, blues, rock and roll and punk. Each started in a subculture, grew that subculture and then was adopted by and had an influence on the larger culture.

With the art comes social and political ideas (certainly all of the musical schools I listed above had a broad influence on culture and politics.) By the time they become popular in the broad culture the new art and the ideas that come with it have been watered down to an extent, but the influence is still there. This is not only the case with music. Film, literature, television and even comedy (Will Rogers, Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor, George Carlin, Jon Stewart ...) all had profound effects on culture in the 20th century and most new schools in each of these went through the same process: sub-culture to mass culture (with appropriate watering down.)

As with anything in the arts it's effect on culture, society and politics cannot be quantified, but 100 years ago we lived in a culture where racism was acceptable - now we live in a culture where it is not, but before there was a Martin Luther King, a Malcolm X or a Barack Obama there was blues and jazz which re-introduced people of European descent to people of african descent through the arts and made it increasingly more difficult to stereotype or hate.

If you go through the progress made in the 20th century a similar pattern emerges on almost every issue. It is hard to imagine the social reforms of the 1930s, or women's rights, or gay rights (we're not there yet but things are getting better), or environmentalism, or the peace movement, or the anti-cuclear movement or any one of a score of progressive victories happening without the ideas emerging from, and the support offered by the arts.

I should also note that by 'progressive' I do not mean any particular group or party. To me 'progressive' is that which makes the world a better place for everyone. One thing I think the 'me generation' got wrong is this: I believe that a person who seeks to make the world a better place for everyone makes the world a better place for him/herself. A person who seeks to make the world a better place only for him/herself makes the world a better place for no-one.

So this explains not only my view on the relationship between art, culture and politics but also the reason for my particular political point of view.

A political leader or party's support for the arts is directly related to their openness to new ideas. Conservatism is, by definition, the opposite of creativity. Creativity explores, it seeks progress, it challenges conventions and institutions - Conservatism is opposed to and in many cases offended by all of these things.

So, when Conservatives claim to support the "arts", to "like music" etc., they are invariably talking about entertainment more than art. When asked for examples they will give the names of musicians, authors, filmmakers and others whose work brings with it a minimum of creativity, or that is old enough so as to not be threatening (or challenging) any longer. If you look at 'artists' who support the Republicans in the U.S. it's a collection of bad actors and derivative musicians. It is also recently acceptable for conservatives to claim that they like 'jazz' now that it is no longer acceptable for them to be openly racist.

If you are a creative artists, you are a progressive and therefore not a conservative. If you are a political progressive you must support the arts because that is the medium by which progressive ideas are introduced to the larger culture, as far as I know this has been the case since we lived in caves.