January 20, 2009


Something important I learned recently: if you put it out there, it will get heard. My on-line comments about an Albright-Knox Art Gallery event last September (one piano being dropped onto another piano with musical accompaniment) were recently cited in the Buffalo News “Arts Beat” blog. Naturally, I was impressed that my little entry was noticed, let alone publicized.

So here’s another…

In the summer of 2007, I watched a CBC news documentary on the “coming financial crash.” It seemed the media had got tired of promoting the coming “bird-flu pandemic” and the coming “Taliban take-over” and latched onto something juicier: money—a topic we can all relate to. Citing a stagnant market in the US, the item gloomily predicted an imminent and drastic drop in Canadian real estate prices.

Over the next few days, as I fretted about this impending loss to my property value, I began to notice a disproportionate number of properties coming onto the market. The media, it seemed, had sparked its own little “crash” as people tried desperately to unload their properties before they deflated.

Flash forward a year and a bit: everywhere you looked was news about the worldwide financial crisis. While it’s true that lost jobs and struggling economies are not simply a media fabrication, here’s the odd thing: I, who years ago vowed to dedicate myself to writing rather than hording money or working for corporations (my own little vow of poverty), suddenly found myself panicked over the crisis. I, who have not had a “real job” in years and have no investments or savings, suddenly found myself consumed by fear of “loss”. Why? Because the media told me I should.

What goes down will come back up. It’s the way of the world. Has an economy ever foundered so badly it never recovered so long as the country still existed? Has a market ever fallen so drastically that prices never got back to their level again? I doubt it.

As an artist, I see myself as a creator and a contributor rather than a consumer. (I have a sneaking suspicion God thinks the same thing, but maybe I’m wrong there.) I put things like happiness and personal relationships ahead of jobs and money (and therefore ahead of worries about getting ahead or starting wars to protect my property.)

Admittedly, my understanding of finances is very, very basic: if you have money, you can spend it. If you don’t, then you can’t. Simple me, but it’s true. And that’s how I live.

It seems to me many people put “having” ahead of “being” or “doing.” Where does this drive come from? I don’t know, but I’m sure the media have a lot of say in it if we’re at the point where we sell our properties and run because they say we should. A house that’s devalued is still a house. An acre of land that’s worth less on today’s market than yesterday’s still doesn’t get smaller. When do we start worrying about the real things we’re in danger of losing: the freedom to think, peace (of mind and country), tolerance and respect for others? These are the only things we should fear losing, if fear we must.

January 2, 2008

I’ve never been a Tom Cruise fan. Nor have I understood the popularity of director Bryan Singer. To me, psychological truth of character is of an extremely high regard, and Singer has always skirted this maxim with a wide-girth, putting spectacle before verisimilitude. So VALKYRIE was a highly unlikely choice for my New Year’s Day movie, but something compelled me to see it. Perhaps I’ve come to have a slightly higher regard for Cruise the person because of the personal bashings he’s taken recently, particularly his being fired by his studio after being a money-maker for decades. How do you fire a legend? Isn’t that what 20th Century Fox did to Marilyn? Money, apparently, is no respecter of anything. And Tom Cruise’s response was to say, “F**k You,” thereby gaining a modicum of my respect.

In fact, I was surprised I liked VALKYRIE as much as I did. It builds on the strength of the characters propelling the story. Never mind that it’s a Disney-Does-World War II take on certain events. Never mind that it often feels like Steven Spielberg crossed with Phantom of the Opera. The events, as overblown as they occasionally are, hold an important truth: not all Germans are evil. After decades of Hollywood telling us they are, that might be a revelation to some. In another instance, it might be that not all Palestinians are terrorists. Or not all whites are racist. Or not all Americans believe might makes right. Extrapolate as you wish. Look closely enough and you will find yourself on the list, wishing for someone to speak the truth about you, too.

Between the two poles of CASABLANCA and CABARET, it seemed for years that Germany’s reputation as the epitome of all-consuming evil might never change. With the recent film THE GOOD GERMAN and now VALKYRIE, it’s possible that our understanding of the events of the past might deepen, and something might be redeemed that was deserving of not just our respect, but our admiration as well.


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