and I quote

september 2011

click for permalink September 18, 2011

Metanoia: "In Carl Jung's psychology, metanoia indicates a spontaneous attempt of the psyche to heal itself of unbearable conflict by melting down and then being reborn in a more adaptive form."

I spent Sunday morning watching a new documentary from Metanoia (aka British Columbian writer and filmmaker Scott Noble), whose previous productions Psywar and Human Resources are similarly sweeping, ambitious and fascinating documentaries on the history of politics, propaganda and what Adbusters calls "the mental environment." If I had to give an elevator pitch, I might describe his style as Adam Curtis without the Adam Curtis.

In fact, Noble addresses the similarity in an interview on V-Radio, in which he goes on to criticize Curtis for his superficial analysis of the subject of public relations as mass mind control in "The Power of Nightmares," stating, "it is impossible to understand modern propaganda without understanding the theory of democratic elitism. Indeed, the idea that modern governments (whether labeled Republic or parliamentary democracy) are or were in any way 'democratic' is perhaps the greatest psyop of them all."

Lifting the Veil from S DN on Vimeo.

Between Scott Noble, Naomi Klein, Chris Turner, Adbusters and Mark Achbar, the director of Manufacturing Consent and The Corporation, and the countless clever Canadian writers, comedians and satirists lending their voices and viewpoints to SNL, The Daily Show and the like, there must be something about that border, porous though it may be, that makes those to the north of it better equipped not just to criticize American culture, but even just to see it clearly for what it is.

Adbusters FordOn the face of it, this sounds like common sense — why wouldn't we have a greater perspective than our American brethren, who are after all the intended targets of the world's greatest propaganda machine — but that fails to take into account the extreme level of media saturation the US has attained in Canada, which has grown even more extreme over the past decade, as Canadian Content laws have loosened in response to a combination of conservative government and market forces, including increasing pressure on cable companies to offer packages that can compete against US satellite TV. Back in the 80s and 90s, Canadians who lived close enough to the border with a south-facing balcony or backyard would buy satellite dishes in the US and subscribe through a post office box disguised as a US address. So avoiding American propaganda is nearly impossible for Canadians, by which I mean the ones who are inclined to avoid it at all.

It's funny, when I first moved to Vancouver (from Seattle) in 1996 and people would ask me where I was from, I would always say something like, "I was born here [which made me a rarity] but I spent most of my life in the U.S." I still say that because it's the truth, but my reasons have changed. Originally, I think, I meant it like, "I was born in Canada but, really, I'm American." But that changed about 10 or 11 years ago (okay, it might have been exactly 11 years ago). At that point, what I meant was, "I was born in Canada so I'm not technically American— but I used to be, back when it was cool."

Now of course I know that it was never really cool. Certainly not in my lifetime, and the times when it seemed like it used to be cool, it was really uncool. It was just good propaganda that hadn't been exposed as such yet. Just ask Malcolm X or the Rosenbergs or Hurricane Carter or the Weathermen. Now when I tell people that I spent most of my life in the US before moving here, I think what I'm really trying to say is, "I'm Canadian by choice."

In other local news, MSN Travel and GQ recently joined forces to list the top ten worst-dressed cities in the world. Thanks to "our" penchant for wearing yoga apparel outdoors and all year-round, Vancouver was ranked #3, three spots above Seattle, the Graceland of grunge (but below Orlando and Maui). Yes, you got that right... a travel blog is telling us that tourists are tacky. The rationale for our ranking goes like this:

There is one reason, and one reason only, why we've decided to include Vancouver on this list of the sartorially damned: yoga pants. We blame you, Vancouver... for spawning a street trend dreaded by all women with wobbly bits and fat deposits in the wrong places... On behalf of women with hips and thighs everywhere, who like their pants to have buttons and zippers thank you very much, and who are of the opinion that yoga pants are a ruse worn by lazy pseudo-fashionistas, we beseech you: unless you plan to do a downward dog within the hour, spare us the yoga pants and put on some real trousers."

Although I'm inclined to agree with anyone who rails against the ubiquity of workout attire, I couldn't help but notice this is basically an admission that Vancouver is #3 on the worst-dressed list because, on average, we have nicer asses.


click for permalink September 06, 2011

Frances BeanA random smattering of things I've been watching, reading, doing... not exactly the dreaded "defaulting to lists," but pretty darn close.

This first thing will either resonate with you or it won't — there is no middle ground. Frances Bean Cobain (pictured at right, click to see the full gallery) turned 19 last month. I know she's a regular person and that this is perhaps, to put it mildly, unfair, but if we're being honest, we must admit that a certain subset of the population will probably be inclined to take this news personally.

Moving on to something everyone can relate to... TED Talks. I can't believe it's taken me this long to think of listing the top ten talks of the year, but as soon as I had the thought, I couldn't wait until December. So here's the, ahem, first eight (and yes, as a matter of fact, I do believe I would have waited to eat the marshmallow... or used the time to lecture the doctor about how I wasn't allowed to eat marshmallows and what kind of a doctor gives marshmallows to children anyway? Does he know what those things are made of? And don't even get me started on Jell-O).

Best TED Talks of 2011 so far:

  1. Paul Nicklen: Tales of ice-bound wonderlands
  2. Eli Pariser: Beware online "filter bubbles"
  3. Kevin Slavin: How algorithms shape our world
  4. John Hunter on the World Peace Game
  5. Deb Roy: The birth of a word
  6. Geoffrey West: The surprising math of cities and corporations
  7. R's TED Prize wish: Use art to turn the world inside out
  8. Tie (both under 5 minutes so they count as one):
    1. Mark Bezos: A life lesson from a volunteer firefighter and
    2. Ric Elias: 3 things I learned while my plane crashed
"Blind" is a short film from Japan, courtesy of Partial Objects, that puts a face to the collective fears of the nation, mid- (as emphatically opposed to "post") Fukushima. Ouch.

from YUKIHIRO SHODA on Vimeo.xkcd - radiation

Damn, Japan... I don't know what to say.

Randall Munroe has one idea, which I'm inclined to interpret more as a coping mechanism than an answer. But it's a fascinating dive into the science and scale of radiation, a sphere of knowledge that most of us don't really want to know about, and pray we'll never need to, brought to us by the (former NASA robotics) guy behind xkcd. So this is probably as accessible as it's going to get — hell, it's practically wallet-sized — and besides, it's undeniably and (depending on where you live and which way the wind is blowing) increasingly relevant, if you can wrap your head around it. For me, this will probably be accomplished (assuming it is) over many small, repeated exposures broken up by intervals of — well, since it is September — trying not to catch a cold over the same two-week period that I always do.

And finally, to end on a lighter note, In Defense of Weird.