Actors Making Statements



This meme was floating around the internet in reaction to Meryl Streep’s fantastic acceptance speech at the Golden Golden Globe awards.  It is a great  example of just how out of touch some people actually are.

Recently I had a conversation with someone who was quite upset about Meryl Streep’s acceptance speech at the 2017 Golden Globe Awards. He said that celebrities, artists and actors had no place making political statements. He explained that he was a Trump supporter and that now that Trump was president everybody should fall in line.

I couldn’t help but disagree with him because, as much as he’s entitled to his opinion, his opinion was wrong. His opinion was wrong because Donald Trump is a reality TV star and celebrity, and that places him in the dubious position of being in the same category and subject to the same criticism as Meryl Streep.  Maybe that is what he and his supporters want?  No,  “The Dumpster” is trying to silence the media because it hurts his feelings.  But let’s not go there.

Oh… okay… YES, let’s!

Culture vs Entertainment

The difference between the Dumpster and Meryl Streep is best defined by establishing what an artist is to culture and what an entertainer is to entertainment. We live in a pluralistic society and the Yin and Yang of our lives is best represented by this comparison. I, like many people, live on that edge between the two hoping to find a respectable balance.  Call me “middle class”, even if it is only in the modern definition of the word, which, to me, is someone who is trying to be respectable and happy while working and existing in increasingly shrinking domestic circumstances.

I remember Canada back during the free trade negotiations of the early 80s. At the time I was an artistic director of a small theatre company and I found myself arguing, as many artists of the day did, about what the free trade agreement actually meant to the future of Canada’s cultural fabric.

Up until that point in history, Canada’s cultural infrastructure, like that in many western nations, contained socially responsible objectives. In order to get grants, a project had to enrich the community on some level and provide for better collective understanding. That word “collective” of course, is loaded because it suggests group thinking which is, in America, uncomfortably associated with Socialism.  But, I covered that mine field in my last post.

Proponents of the free trade agreement argued that funding the arts was an unfair barrier to trade. It became apparent to many of us that the American idea of culture had been perverted to become entertainment sometime around the mid 70s when the American government started dismantling it’s arts funding infrastructure.

Whereas culture stimulates debate in the community around socially relevant issues, entertainment acts as a diversion, mostly to sell products, but also to instill a specific consumer ideology through immersive propaganda and isolationism. It is not in the interests of the free market to allow artists to present creations that may question the wisdom of materialism, greed, self aggrandizement and consumerism in general.  The business world argues that government should not stand int he way of commerce because it is through commerce that jobs are created.

The Dubious Shrinkage of Government

The biggest shift to come out of the 80’s  was a change in what government actually represented. I have always believed that government was there to provide a buffer between the general public and unbridled corporate advancement. Protecting the people from unfair business practices while investing in industry that could create more prosperity.  As Reaganomics and Thatcherism took hold, anything that might impede the growth of capitalism was systematically ridiculed.  The role of government was reduced, unionization vilified and education made less accessible.

After 40 years of Neo liberal attitudes and unregulated free market activity, we now live in an age of “symbolic annihilation”, where the issues we should be aware of, we are not aware of because the media chooses not to focus on those issues.

To acknowledge very real and potentially unmanageable problems goes against everything that the entertainment media represents. In order for the media to operate it must sell advertising to anyone who wishes to buy it, no matter how environmentally destructive or socially debilitating the product is.

The era of privatization and the shrinkage of government meant that corporations were given the right to be self regulating. We were told that the responsibility rested in the hands of the businesses creating the product to make certain that it was not detrimental to the physical or psychological welfare of the population at large.

As governments deregulated the marketplace and reduced the amount of oversight by independent organizations to maintain some degree of social responsibility, we discovered,on many occasions, that some of these corporations were simply not capable of making business decisions that were in the public interest. If anything, a good business plan is about making as much money as you can by convincing people that the product they are buying is a good one whether it is or not.

The result of this was an increase in manipulative advertising, additives to foods to make them taste better, and psychological manipulation that seemed to indicate if you didn’t have the latest and the greatest thing you were out of touch.

I was so proud of Meryl Streep for the statement that she made. An actress born in another era who maintained, with grace, dignity and determination, the values that artists stand for. I expect it is why she won that lifetime achievement award.

If I Had A Million Dollars

As to the idea that rich people shouldn’t pass comment, I offer this. As an actor I know that if I had $10 million I would do what I could to make the lives of people better, (except buy you a real green dress, because that’s cruel). Making life  better for everyone around me is something I have always strived to do and, while I do what i can without money, having money would certainly go a long way to realizing some of my long term social ambitions.

Of course, I would make my own life better and provide a larger house to my family and some conveniences that we’ve never had and hope that my friends and fans could see the reason behind this. We are not excessive people and have found happiness in simplicity, mostly because we have been forced into reduction by the business society that functions around us. Business operators have incrementally removed value for labour from the market place so as to increase profits.  The result is that we eat less food, live in extremely small houses, travel less and can’t really plan any further than the next day.

Actors become rich because their fans buy tickets. The fans buy tickets because they like the work. Meryl Streeps performance in “Sophie’s Choice” won her the Best Female Actor Award in 1982.  When it comes to the political content of a film such as this, the artist must be on board to undertake such portrayal.  To suggest an artist should just act and sing and shut up seems to defy the very nature of art itself, which is what artists pursue, by the way.

Unless you are an entertainer,  then I guess staying product neutral is essential to your livelihood. It becomes okay to endorse something with your presence, directly or indirectly, that may have negative implications on society  because, hey, at least YOU are getting paid, and that’s the most important thing, right?  If you don’t want to listen to what the artist has to say, stop buying the tickets, stop watching the shows.

To me, art has always been the expression of the pursuit of the human condition. Life is never easy, even when you have money.  I believe that the artists are here to help us try and make some sense of this mad world that surrounds us.

We are here to put things in perspective so I don’t have any intention of shutting up about what I believe any time soon.

Watch my video “Confusion” to better understand how this issue make me feel.

My Digital Future

3 computers

We live in a “Paradox of Progress” where the things that were supposed to make our lives easier have actually made them harder.

The Paradox of Progress…

I sit at my desk with three computers in front of me. All Macs, all laptops. The first one, on the right in the picture, is a G4 purchased in 2004 and contains most of the software that I used during those years, about $35,000 worth, all purchased and registered. It was refitted in 2007 with a new hard drive from a cloned computer after a friend of mine sat on it while on a trip to Australia. Don’t ask how that happened. The operating system on that computer can no longer be upgraded so I treat it with kid gloves. I know I have the original discs around somewhere should I ever need to reload it. It lives in the twilight of the computing age and I love that machine mostly because it actually works pretty fast.

My next computer, in the middle, is a MacBook Pro, purchased in 2009 containing some of the software I could afford to upgrade when I decided to upgrade to the new operating system. It contains about $7,000 of software and effects and, big sigh, gets used on the internet.

Somethings will update. Others will not. I expected, based on my last experience, that I would have until 2014 to make the next shift, but I am elated to discover that this machine is still doing it’s work 2 years past it’s predicted lifespan.

My latest MacBook Pro, on the left, was purchased in 2015. It has limited software loaded on it that allows me to do video editing and audio development only. It is a sleek machine, lighter, faster and smooth to the touch, sometimes I take it to bed to watch movies. I love the way she feels in my hands.

But enough of all that. This post is supposed to be a grumpy post, not an erotic one.

I use my middle computer for going online and I leave my newest computer off-line as much as possible so that it can remain in mint condition. I still use the G4 for many creative tasks but only turn it on when I have a major project that needs something done in software that I can’t afford a modern version of. It is a great visual art machine and I use it to manipulate photos, stills, and animation.  I am a manual kind of guy and enjoy using the G4 to create great things because it let’s me do it on my terms. A hammer is really only a hammer, after all.

When sitting in front of the three computers it’s fascinating to see how each one is slowly dropping off of the Internet to become less functional even though they are in perfect working order. The G4 used to play YouTube videos fine, for years, and surfed all the websites but as the Internet changed and delivery methods evolved, the G4 could go to less and less websites until it became impossible to surf the Internet on that perfectly functioning computer without the pinwheel of death forever taunting you while obese file sizes load.  I was trained in Flash and the idea of  cramming everything into a 16kb file for optimum efficiency.  Today’s internet is making us digitally lazy.

My first generation MacBook Pro is now starting to exhibit the signs of the same kind of detachment from the Internet. It is becoming harder to surf the websites, things take longer to load, and, perhaps most troubling, the amount of advertising that is loading cookies into my processor has become almost unmanageable.  I have cleaned those caches soooooo many times. And email trash, gotta dump the trash else wise trojans could run. And do. Ergggggg.

It is because of cookies and online advertising that I keep my state of the art computer off the Internet as much as possible, surfing only to sites that I really trust.  This is the most concrete advice I can give you if you want to keep your machine lean and mean.  Don’t use the internet with it.

I should also point out that I have put tape over the lens of all my laptop cameras owing to the things I hear about cameras being remotely turned on without my knowledge. I’m one of those “I have nothing to hide” people, but know too well how things can be taken out of context and reinvented to create bad press. So I’ll just hang on to my privacy as best as I can, for the time being, thank you very much.

Today it appears that we live in a “paradox of progress”, where the things we have been told should improve our lives, actually makes them harder.  None of this matters if you are 20 years old, living at home and buying your first computer.  But if you have been around awhile (30 years), the amount of work needed to stay up to date can be pretty daunting.

The first Mac in our theatre was a gift from a patron.

The first Mac in our theatre was a gift from a patron in 1987.

In the Beginning

I’ve been involved with computing since the birth of the desktop computer. My first desktop was a Mac Classic that had been gifted to my theatre company in 1987. It sat in the office for months before someone decided we could use it to print a newsletter and mail it to potential audience members by printing a batch of sticky mailing labels, envelopes and paper with our logo on it. Our first Mac was used to create the first versions of snail mail SPAM.  We spent money on postage.  Lots of it.

I followed Apple from its infancy, one of those dedicated hard core artistic Mac heads who was always trying to convert the spreadsheet wielding PC tribe to our platform, because it was, supposedly, computing with a creative approach. Ahhh, naive youth.

I think I invested in a new mac every 3 to 5 years back then.  My devotion was expressed through my pocket book.

Back in 1999, my workstation had 6 computers, also spanning a period of 10 years between the current and the almost obsolete.

By 1999, my workstation had 6 computers, spanning a period of 10 years between the current digital model and the almost obsolete analogue model.  This is a video grab.  There were no digital cameras then with any kind of HD resolution.  Things were too busy to even think about taking a photo with the old film based SLR camera. I’m such an idiot.

In 1999, I cut my first digital films on the inaugural Final Cut Pro, installed on the first digital macs with firewire and shot everything on the newly released digital film cameras. I bought a $35,000 Avid Media Suite Pro, integrated into an Apple Desktop computer with two HUGE VGA monitors, because i wanted to enter the video editing marketplace and needed a state of the art digital cutting desk. My ambition was huge and I spared no expense in hiring “professional consultants” to advise me on how the future of computing was going to unfold.

What a disaster.

I traversed the changing of three buss systems in 18 months. My mega computer was at the front end of that debacle and I was awash with peripheral adapters and upgrades from the get go. But that’s another story.

Eventually I replaced everything with the state of the art, again, and started a multimedia company called Sticky Planet. I started blazing the digital trail, working for clients all over the world. As the internet opened up, my business started to blossom because the public’s mind was on fire and I was helping people to make their appearance on the stage of the world wide web while doing my best to promote my own on line profile. I was still doing a lot of real time theatre back then. standing in front of hundred, sometimes thousands, wondering how many I could get to see my on line stuff. They were mad, busy times.

But, things were simpler back then, of course they were, it was all new! Things were just getting started. As designers, we were trained to develop new software applications with “elegant degradation” in mind, allowing people who could not afford to upgrade their computers to still participate in the Internet revolution. I always considered myself bleeding edge back then. I wanted to introduce the latest technologies and hope everybody else would jump on board, install the plug-in, upgrade their browser, buy a new modem, upgrade their internet speed and (phew) watch my stuff. Before too long, I had many clients who wanted what I had developed for myself and, for a decade, it was good.

The FS Command

My multi media company in Australia was in its heyday during that point in time before Facebook and YouTube existed. I was working with a small decentralized group of international programmers, via email and file transfer, trying to figure out how to make a flash movie launch an FS command, (full screen command). I wanted people to be able to watch our movies, full screen, IMMEDIATELY and WITHOUT DELAY, in the year 2000 on their 56 K modems and computers, hopefully giving us the advantage in a constantly evolving marketplace. Shortly after we figured it out, mainstream internet corporations released the feature as a standard browser option and I was gutted. 3 years of development for something that had been figured out long ago by some people in a room on a spaceship and would only be released when a bunch of regular folks figured it out at earth level.

I believe we are being guided by alien creatures. From time to time they give us biscuits to chew on.

I, and my company, designed numerous hi end websites for international clients using the highly sought after new Flash engines to create fluid interfaces, programmable frames, translation modules and, the big ticket item, streaming video. I worked closely with the 3ivx (became DivX) team as they helped me make my hand crafted movies deliverable on the internet in countries that introduced respectable speeds from inception, like Japan.

I ended up working alot in Japan because they could see the demo videos of my live shows owing to the fact that they opened the internet at full speed from day one. Not like Australia, which had decided to roll out the speed over several years, if not a decade, for profit purposes, of course.

In 2006 I realized that running my company in a country that was light years behind other countries regarding the roll out of internet speed meant international failure, so I shut it down and left for a country where I could get the speed I needed as standard issue.

That turned out to be Belgium, where the smallest, fastest internet codec was being developed by a small company that had snatched a young Australian programmer called “Captian Stux” to give Belgium the bleeding edge in video codec technology.

Silly Australians. They had they guy, he was a young Australian, fresh out of high school, and they let him, and his revolutionary programming skills, be taken away by another country, fast tracking Belgium’s global superiority in Internet technologies instead of their own.

Bugger me mate!

I continued to study interactive film making and learned how to program the frames of a movie so as to enhance the viewers experience beyond the passivity of television on high speed internet connections using programs like Macromedia Director, Flash and Live Stage Pro.  At one point the Apple player could read over 200 file types, you could put anything on it and it would open. Even a spreadsheet!

Not any more. I and my colleagues had a vision for the Internet that was going to revolutionize the screen experience and turn it into a truly Open Source interactive immersion.  But all good ideas, ideas that service humanity, get sidetracked in the pursuit of profit.

We were so optimistic and energized!  We were helping to make the world a better, easier, less complicated place and our education was all free!  You could learn anything online back then, no cost.

Roadkill on the Information Superhighway

Software development is, undeniably, the most competitive industry in the world. When running a company that specializes in Internet applications, it is important to remember that there is always a new crop of young motivated geniuses who want to join in and get their share of the market. To do this, they will work harder, longer and faster, mostly because they are young, ambitious, single, geniuses and, mostly, irresponsible.

To survive in that milieux is to find a niche to which you can gain the intellectual property. As the Internet has developed we have discovered that proprietary issues find their way into the overall retardation of the development process by refusing to allow different methodologies to merge swiftly.  There has to be a profit motive and two things that belong together will be denied if the price isn’t right. An advancement that could have taken weeks by cooperating, may take years, if at all, when pursued independently.

My generation dreamed of an Open Source internet where we would all work together to make the one greatest thing that everybody would use.  It would probably take the form of a box with some buttons on it and the ability to speak to the whole world just by pressing those buttons.

However, the free market is not about developing the best and we don’t often end up with the best product possible because of “proprietary issues”.  Instead, we end up with a product developed by someone who has the intellectual property rights and is servicing a business model that requires incremental restricted releases, isolationism, protectionism and a lot of anti social behaviours, which is just plain weird when talking about the evolution of social networks.

That person, or group of persons, may not actually be the best minds suited to the realization of such an idea. Planned obsolescence is at the centre of the computing paradigm, the entire business model is driven by upgrades. It was The Henry Ford Motor Company that realized it had to make the Model T with inferior materials back in 1908 when it was discovered that the original car was made of mostly indestructible parts. The only way to make more money was to make it so that parts would break or wear out and the customer would have to come back to get it fixed.

When creating a sound business idea it is always best to pursue projects that provide a solution. It follows that, in order to provide an “integrated solution”, you must first define a problem. If the problem doesn’t exist, then you must create the problem.

This is the very concept that destroyed what the internet could have been through Open Source.  Instead of the best, we got a long, extrapolated, unnecessary pathway through an alternate, dark, haunted digital forest to help prop up an already doomed Capitalism. The back end of the computer revolution has really just been a fire sale before money becomes obsolete and people don’t need to spend money on plastic crap, upgrades and things they don’t need any more.

Planned Obsolescence

In my view, the telecommunications revolution was implemented so that a new industry could be ushered in.  It is a time honoured business model.  Create confusion, provide a solution.  The privatization of the  industry was bent on keeping us in the same place while creating the illusion that we were advancing.

Still operating until the late 80s and early 90s, telephone companies were owned by the government. Our governments rolled out the first fibre optic cables. Telephony was considered to be an essential service similar to electricity, water, heat, schools. It was infrastructure by and for the community to enhance our lives and make the essential things that needed to be done easier and faster.

In order for a society to function effectively communications need to be accessible by everyone. The telephone simplified this, the answering machine made it faster and easier. When looking for revenue, where is the first place to look but where people gather to do the things they need to do, which is, primarily, communicate and be social.

But of course, being social means that people get together to commune, and, through communication, develop better communities.  These three words, central to the health of populations everywhere, sit too close to the next word with the root word “commune” in it, which is, of course, communism. Which all Americans have been programmed to hate, even the liberal ones.

Being that Americans are at the centre of the universe of commerce, any words that contain the root word “Commune” are to be extinguished at all costs because, well, Communism, in any form, is bad.  Socialism also gets crapped on because, being social means communing and… well you get the idea.  Guilt by association.

With the privatization of the telephone companies came a whole new set of problems. Problems that could only be solved by a variety of private telephone companies who were, and remain, in direct competition with each other. The best problem to create for this business paradigm is to fracture the communications sphere and create confusion so that people can be manipulated into buying solutions that will, theoretically, return them to a similar efficiency as before the big shift. Customers may have to switch companies numerous times and never get a solution that works, paying dramatically higher costs for  services.  Things will move quickly and lots of money will be spent digging ourselves out of the communications quagmire for decades.

It’s much the same as taking a perfectly functioning wheel, smashing it into bits, rebuilding it into a square and telling people that we have to make the wheel rounder in order for it to function better. It goes through several phases of development from 4 sides to 6 sides to 8 sides to 16 sides to 32 sides and then 64 sides until, finally, the number of sides has been increased exponentially to create a circle. Which is where the whole thing began. A perfect pointless trip right back to where you started to service a profit motive and nothing else! WooHoo I’m having fun now!

We have been told that privatization was going to stimulate job growth, stimulate innovation and, generally, make the lives of people better. My question always remains, what kind of jobs were we creating? Were they good jobs or just jobs people could do to help them find a way into a pine box after drinking some brews and partying hearty for a lifetime. Has this society been so brain washed to be beholden to money that we wasted our lives running in circles? The petroleum industry did that, refusing to acknowledge new sustainable energy sources and doing everything it could to retard the process of conversion so that it could assist the profit margins of the shareholders and not the general well being of all the plant’s inhabitants.  The very people who drive the consumer marketplace from where they draw their fortunes.  Killing their customers.  Hell, human reproduce at a ridiculous rate.  There will always be more to exlpoitn.

“Hey what’s your job” says Bill

“Oh I sit in an office and figure out ways to get people to creatively chase their existential tails and always turn right. They always need to turn right as they do it.”

The majority of jobs that are created today are based inside of the idea that we need to engineer dysfunction so that companies can sell us more solutions for the dysfunction they have engineered. When communicating with my friends and colleagues I have a vast array of tools in my arsenal; Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, SMS, iMessage, FBmessenger, WhatsApp, Skype, YouTube, Snapchat, Bing, zing, ding. The number of telecommunications applications that are available today is staggering. Of course it made sense, in this hamster wheel of a world, that someone created a single device that you can speak into and press one button to get everything you need.  After all that, the word Telephone was replaced by Siri.

EU Regulation Against Planned Obsolesence

Recently the French government criminalized the engineering of planned obsolescence through new legislation that is sweeping Europe. Owing to environmental concerns, the Europeans will start imposing fines on manufacturers should they continue to design their products to fail for profit.  It is my hope and desire that this new legislation will find its way into the computing paradigm for it is surely the biggest violator of this very environmentally unfriendly practice.

Back in the early days we had a singular place where we could undertake all communications, just by picking up the handset and pushing a few buttons..

Back in the early days we had a singular place where we could undertake all communications, just by picking up the handset and pushing a few buttons..

A Box on the Wall

Where as my telephone had 12 buttons, that I could use to blue box my way around touch tone code access, I now have a bevy of preferences panels for upwards of 50 apps on my handheld device. I can spend hours turning things off that arrived turned on. Sometimes one is in conflict with another and I find I am no longer using the app I wanted to use but I am being forced to use the new app which has hijacked my function. iMessage did that. Made it so anybody who wanted to send me a text message via the SMS system had to be on iMessage or I couldn’t get their SMS text messages, further fracturing my ability to integrate and simplify my communicate needs. Some people use this, some people use that, upgrades are always being shoved at us and nobody answers their phone anymore.  We are told we will get a response faster if we send a written message.  If you ask me, things have NOT gotten easier.  20 years old with their heads buried in a handheld phone have no idea how elegant life was back then and the vast expanses of leisure time we had. I wanted my computer to increase my leisure time, not force me to be upgrading all the time.

I don’t know about anyone else but, today, I have never been more isolated in my life.  Sure, I stay in contact with old friends using Facebook. But new developments in the privacy rules department makes this less and less of a desirable option as going on the FB site and sharing my views results in more advertising being shoved in front of me for things I have no intention of buying and an algorithm being built that threatens to deafen me, if not completely crush me, with a feedback loop of self reflexive things in the past I have no interest in seeing in my future.

Recently I was having a private conversation on Facebook and my colleague mentioned an organization he thought I should research. Within a matter of seconds of him typing the message and Ad came up for the website he was speaking of. Some would say ‘cool’ because the information is so readily available to you after it is been recommended, but I just found it creepy. From that point on I’ve had markedly less conversations using Facebook’s messenger system and find myself drifting away from certain internet processes I used to enjoy.

I’m a good netizen. I make and post videos and songs, try to increase my views, get my likes and create buzz around my creations.  I still offer digital services and try not to stay on my computer too long.  By this point in time I was expecting to be spending almost no time on my computer.

I go outside and try to meet people but that has become harder too.  I used to make eye contact with people a lot in the olden days.  I made a lot of friends around the world just by being ole, charming me.  Not any more.  Eyes are fastidiously fixed to glowing screens and a friendly greeting is just met as potentially very weird by anyone 10 years younger than me.

Submissive and Dominate Behaviours

Perhaps the biggest difference between my three computers is that my early G4 allows me to use my computer as a tool that services my needs.  I am the dominant one!

My state-of-the-art MacBook Pro works very hard at telling me how I am supposed to use my computer, forcing me to change the method that I have always used, to make me submit.  My methods, in my opinion, are simpler because they are manual.  I like the way I put my fork in my mouth, i don’t need my computer telling me six new ways to put a fork in my mouth while telling me the way I currently put my fork into my mouth is redundant.

I work swiftly. I like having my folders on my desk top with all the things in them that I need just like when I had a paper desk. New applications take my documents and often put them into folders that are hidden inside of application bundles with out giving me the choice i=of where I want to store them. Yes of course there are probably options in the preferences panel that I can switch so I can change where my data goes.  But when I get a commuter, I just want to access it on MY terms.  The amount of time that it takes to set these preferences to my desired behaviours becomes a task that is daunting, my day is long enough already. It is as if, almost by design, I am being forced to change from dominant to submissive behaviour through bombardment and shear exhaustion.  Some would call it torture.  20 years later, I have less leisure time, not more.

Of course, for all of my quibbling, yes, there have been undisputed great advantages and parts of our lives has been improved with the evolution of computing technology. Duh.  I just wish I didn’t have to sacrifice a lifetime to get those conveniences so that the free market could benefit.  I wanted Open Source, I wanted an early end to the pursuit of money.

Moore’s law of computing tells us that the processing speed of computers increases two fold every 18 months whilst the chips becomes exponentially smaller . This law suggests that the first computers will be smarter than humans in about ten years. It will be about that time, I predict, that we will have returned to a small box on the wall with a speaker and a transmitter into which we communicate by simply requesting  a phone book, looking up a number and making a call.

I hope I get to see it in my lifetime, because the phone on the wall was a great thing when I was a kid and I was a lot more socially connected then, in real time, than I am now.

Paying to get a job so you can pay off the debt of getting the job.

I saw an article in the Globe and Mail today.

Mulcair poised for clear shot at becoming prime minister as NDP surges in polls

In the article it states, “the NDP Leader will pitch himself Thursday as a salesman-in-chief, willing to travel overseas to personally nail down major contracts that promote jobs in manufacturing.”

Now that property is up and wages are down, the NDP can use this leverage to create jobs in a global market place where labour is willing to compete using the lowest cost for service.

I call it the WLCD equation and I think it may look something like;


W minus L, the sum of which is divided by C, which equals D.

…wherein W is wages, L is rent, C is the cost of living and D is the debt accrued in order to stay alive.

Essentially, the more a person is willing to pay to have a job, the more likely that they will get a job. This is the leverage that a working class person has.
I know people who spend 75% of their earnings on rent or mortgage. The remaining 25% of their wages is applied to the other standard non luxury stuff, which actually costs more than they earn. No boats, holidays or new shoes. No lattes, or frivolous Sunday sandwiches. No American Netflix, pirated via VPN.
My current job leaves me 30% short every month. Even if I work 16 hours a day, I need a loan to pay for health, transport, power, and my daughters future. We live in the lowest priced 1 bedroom apartment in our city. It happens to be central, and on top of a hill, so hooray for us!

Working harder means getting sick more and sick days mean less money, so working while sick is the result.

Working while sick means generating a risk of spreading infection and making others sick. The current government embarks on a war against terror, telling it is protecting us. But by dismantling national health care, the government defies it words. It is not interested in really protecting us. Consider this;

When a country has 1 billion workers, the labour pool is expendable, when you have a work force of 30 million it is not.

So the NDP need to address the long term effects of sub standard wages in a property driven marketplace that will, most definitely, result in a lower, non competitive form of mental and physical health.

Happy workers produce better products and are more likely to innovate and increase productivity when their lives have value. When lives don’t have value and people are pushed to their breaking point, they get angry, behave irrationally and do something that immediately classifies them as a terrorist.

And then the police state restores order, and private prisons get more slave labour. And everybody works on computers because that is the best place to keep an eye on you and make sure you aren’t complaining.

Something a major cola company calls “Open Happiness”.

Repeal bill C51, #‎rejectfear
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Shrink Wrapping Street Performers in Key West

Will Soto

Will Soto is a legendary tight rope performer and comedian who has been playing Mallory Dock since 1976.  Recently, he announced that  “the city of Key West, known as an island of the Arts, has just signed a lease with the CULTURAL PRESERVATION SOCIETY (how ironic) to charge the Sunset Street Performers a fee of $20 per night for the privilege of accepting tips.”

Crazy.  Installed performers will now be required to pay $6000 a year, each, to play.  That becomes an income stream for the city of $66,000 a year given that there are 11 performers listed on the “Sunset Celebration” website .  With that fact, the public space contracts even more than usual under the pressure of a newly evolved absurdist form of über – capitalism that seems bent on shrink wrapping street performers and placing them on a metaphorical shelf of discounted over stock items.

Artist or Vendor

As a street performer I spent much of the early part of my career negotiating with city councils who felt compelled to reclassify cultural activities into commercial ones. The argument has always boiled down to whether or not the performer is an “artist” providing much needed social dynamics in public spaces, thereby increasing the quality of community life, or a “vendor” who is dispensing goods and services and profiting from exposure in public areas. The primary difference being that the former receives a fee from the city to provide a cultural service, the later pays the city to conduct trade.

Over time, the word “culture” has been quantified by placing the word “consumer” in front of it thereby justifying the change in the direction of the interpretation of culture, from one focusing on arts and social engagement, to one focusing on consumption and social isolation, which are ideal to the long term success of a consumer based system.

The shrinkage of arts culture is, unfortunately, the result of the Chicago School Economics, which became the de-facto financial system of the USA under Reagan and was enthusiastically embraced by Americans in their pursuit of the profit motive. Public money is not to be spent on social programming in America because it is too closely associated with the word “social” and brings the society (another word that finds its roots in the word social) closer to “socialism”, which is continuously being discredited in America because of its proximity, in the past, to communism. And it creates an unfair barrier to trade…

Socially responsible government policies and behaviour takes power out of the hands of corporations and puts it in the hands of the people, which does not serve the profit motive. While it has taken over 30 years, the situation in Key West is representational of the final closing of traditionally recognized social constructs in favour of commercial ones. I personally think that commercial constructs defy nature and anything that defies nature is destined to fail.

Through out history people have always assembled on the street to debate the issues. That trend has been suppressed in the 21st century, mostly through the privatization of public space and the use of police forces and private security firms who have been empowered to protect corporate interests by what ever means necessary.

The defunding and devaluing of the arts has been central to American economic policy. To maintain the status quo, the removal and/or restriction of the arts is synonymous with the suppression of the only real voice of public opposition towards unpopular government economic policy.

American Street Theatre History

America has always been a trend setter. In the 1970’s, America reached a zenith of socially active theatre companies, many funded by the state, who performed outdoors in search of social change often questioning governmental policy and stimulating debate. Their shows were often huge spectacles involving all sorts of tricks and music, as we see today, but there was also the subject or theme of the show. Street shows had stories and sought to enliven debate about social issues. The San Francisco Mime Troupe was one of the greatest trend setters in this regard, but there were many others as detailed in “The Radical Theatre Notebook” by Arthur Sainer.

In a society where everybody is told that they must pay for everything, it was only a matter of time before this sort of thing happened. With the implementation of user fees for street performers at Key West, it may very well be that the thirty year process of extinguishing the urban social campfire in America is complete.

Perhaps the only way to find out if there is a public that will help to reverse the tide, is to use social media channels to generate a street show crowd that is willing to stand up publicly, in real time, until the desired change is manifested.

I’m Coming into your Living Room

Busking the Internet

In 1993 I made this video and put it on the internet hoping to get work as a street performer at international festivals.

There used to be a short clip at the very beginning, now located on some 20 year old hard drive that is buried in storage, where I came at the camera doing this strange dance and saying “I’m coming into you living room”.

It ended with the kiss that this video starts with.

Back in 1994, a 3.4 MB video took several hours to download, so I took the 5 second arty bit at the front off to reduce the file size and get to the montage so I could sell my show. It was my first internet video, made out of VHS and Hi8 formats shot on tourist grade cameras and crunchy as hell. It took weeks to edit on my 9 GB Avid Media Suite Pro. The computer was so big I had to build a room for it. I paid for it by doing street shows, busking and getting gigs. I figured I should always have a back up career and multimedia was it. I did a lot of digital work for my own projects and continue to do stuff for clients who have been with me for years, designing their packaging, building their websites and producing their videos.

That first on line video of mine worked a treat, so 10 years later I produced another video designed to do the same thing, and it did. The internet was just opening up and I was one of the first to benefit from the exposure that this new medium provided.

Lo Res Version originally posted in 2005:

Hi Res Version Reposted 2010:

As the years have unfolded, the market has changed dramatically and the availability of new and younger talent doing weirder and more wonderful things, usually on poles and requiring a chainsaw or some kind of piercing, has reduced my street level opportunities. Over the past few years I have been concentrating on indoor shows, film, television and cartoons. It is the natural order of things. I still do really fun shows but no where near the number I used to do when I was 35.

This video is my latest offering on the internet for a show that got it’s start 20 years ago. I think I look pretty good! I’ve lost a few kilos since this was shot back in the spring and the video is getting me gigs!

The Need for Speed

I am a performance junkie. I need to create and perform, it is my raison d’être. My mind is awash with an unrelenting arsenal of live performance ideas and, after I weed out the dreck, I need to produce and present them. But as the stability of live opportunities remains an eternal question (think Billy Crystal, Mister Saturday Night), I have needed to find a replacement, so I’ve taken to busking on the internet. It is actually very lucrative and something I never thought would gel, but it has and the results are more satisfying than I could ever have imagined.

A lot of people have said they have tried busking the internet, but this usually involves putting some content or video on a website and then asking for donations. I don’t consider that an approach to busking, just ineffective marketing.

On the street you can do a show and ask people to pay afterwards because they are in front of you and there is a personal connection. I wrote a book about it:

On line, particularly in music, there is an ethos that many follow; “I want it, but I won’t pay for it.” This might be sounding alarm bells for the music industry and can be soul crushing for a performer, so I came up with a way to reverse that trend and make my music and performances pay on line.


For over a year I have been selling a custom song service on Fiverr is a controversial place because there is a lot offered there and the range of quality is hugely dramatic. It is also hugely competitive. If a Fiverr artist isn’t careful, they can end up exhausted after months of giving their stuff away for next to nothing, hoping for the payers to come and spend real money. To present a gig on Fiverr means holding fast to your sense of self worth while still providing excellent customer service. It is a delicate balance made more challenging by the fact that you never speak to your client except by message system and sometimes they can just disappear.

Since joining Fiverr, I have generated a customer base of over 300 reliable people and created over 200 songs, ballads, jingles, cartoons , animations and videos for a very diverse selection of clients. I’ve made love songs for guys and girls who want to impress somebody, jingles for podcasts, radio shows, travel companies and product manufacturers to use on their websites and video greeting cards for birthdays, holidays and some unusual project launches. I’ve worked for ad agencies doing voiceovers and in one instance managed to land a $10,000 animation contract for a major industrial player that allowed me to pay talent, rent a pro studio and hire technical assistants for a one day shoot with pro cameras.

All the projects start out as $5 “samples”. The secret here is to have something you can offer that takes only a few minutes (or seconds) to generate. As clients get to know me they start booking the extras that include song writing, additional instruments, extended songs, video, animations and, most importantly, the “express delivery” extra which is where the real money is.

A lot of these projects have mushroomed into full scale productions with professional budgets that get delivered all over the wold. I now have clients in Switzerland, Singapore, Korea, The USA, Holland, Spain, Germany, Sri Lanka Australia and New Zealand, just to name a few and I never have to leave my studio. I have modified my garage to be a mini green screen studio with lighting and an HD camera. I have a costume rack and all kinds of ideas for creating digital magic in a confined space.

This is a song commissioned by a comedy group in New York about Pirate Penguins. They just said, “write a song about penguin pirates”, so I did. Five minutes later I had this. Got a great tip!

This song was created for a guy who wanted to put together an album of children’s songs to be used in his pre school classes. He paid for the first video I ever did in my garage.

This is the video we ended up with.

This jingle video was created for Beemo, who manufacture tablet screens in Malaysia:

And this video, well, this was epic. I made it before I updated the green screen and lights, so there are chromo flaws, but the client wanted to help me upgrade my equipment so he offered this project and paid full price for it. There are 7 characters in it. First, he wrote the words and then he paid for me to compose the music. Then he said, “Do what ever you want, creatively”, so I did. We had a ball…

Live Shows Via Skype

Back in May I was hired as a guest to appear live via Skype at a Theatre in Switzerland singing a custom made song for which I was given the topic 15 minutes before going live. It was such a hit the first time that I got invited back to be on other shows in the series. I put on a tux and a bow tie, set up a theatrical backdrop, got to speak german and play comedy ukulele for a theatre full of people on the other side of the world without getting on a plane. Because the audience could only see me from the waist up, I didn’t have to wear pants, there was something liberating about that.

The Boston Living Room Show

A couple of nights ago I sent an email out to some of my clients on Fiverr on my quarterly push for new customers. Almost immediately I got a message back and an order for $5 song from a lady in Boston who runs a web management firm.

I have an online gig where I invite “clients” to send me their words or poems and then I spontaneously turn them into a 30 second or 1 minute ukulele song. Last night my client ended up ordering about 10 songs and started paying really hefty tips while she and a bunch of her friends sat around writing songs. It became an exercise in “how fast can I turn this around”. Each of my gigs comes with a “Quick Delivery” extra. This is where the money is. It seemed the faster I was, the more orders, quick delivery extras and tips would pour in. It was a very lucrative night. The kind of night where you start thinking, “how can I do this all the time?”

This song took about as long as it is to make it.

By the end of a couple of hours I had managed to generate about $300 from this one client and her collection of friends…something I call my “virtual edge”. In street performer language an “Edge” refers to the front line of people who gather at a street show. An edge can be turned into a paying audience in about 45 to 60 minutes.

Whenever I get a good tip ($10 or more), I send the client a digital download of my album. My back catalogue is extensive, so I have a lot of “tip resources”.

The cool thing about this client was that she was writing poems about all of her friends and family. This started a knock on effect whereby each of them started placing orders and now I am flat out “busking the internet” for the next few days. I am always home for my wife and child and my little one loves to dance around as I do my job as a Tunesmith.

This song was created for a power company called GeoSolar that books songs from me regularly, this was their third gig!

Connectivty, Isolation and The Internet

I got into performance because of the human connectivity attached to it. I really enjoy performing to a live public and nothing will ever be able to replace that experience. As the age of smart phones and digital services evolves, human connectivity seems to be shrinking along with the outdoor public spaces that I used to rely on to make my living and many of the gigs I used to get as a young man. While the virtual version of this experience is more anonymous and isolating, I was pleasantly surprised at the relationship that developed between the lady in Boston and myself. Her words were bold and her subjects engaging. I became inspired and thought to myself how this on line “show” had fulfilled my deeply personal need for audience connection and engagement.

Of course the biggest dream of all is that I get booked to do this live, with people in front of me so that I can hear them breathing, but until that happens, this is an exciting way to earn money from home!

And so I would like to extend an invitation to you all. Come join me for an evening of collaboration by booking one of my custom song gigs over a Bring your friends, sit around and have drinks, make it a social occasion, buy some extras. If you are a Producer, put it in a theatre, I’d love to virtually fill your stage!. At the end of the night you will have an album of songs and I may have an order for that big animation or video that you always wanted to produce.

This is my Ad on Fiverr! Go and book something today!

The Palestinian Israeli Conflict – When Killing Kids Becomes Okay

The Palestinian Israeli conflict.

First. A short video

If there is one thing that strikes me about this conflict more than anything else, it is the foundations upon which this conflict are built.

I have a daughter who just turned two. I know I have some time before I will have to answer any questions of hers about war and killing and why humans do it. I think I will probably ruminate for some time to come about my response because the questions she will ask I have been asking myself most of my life.

I always wanted to believe that we lived in enlightened times, but there is one question I don’t think we as parents can ever reconcile. How can we teach our children not to steal property or hurt others when North America, the continent I live in, was founded on the precepts of theft and murder?

When the colonists showed up in North America they simply annexed what they wanted. It was not an action that was to be questioned, the powers that be cited “manifest destiny” under the terms of their religion as the justification and proceeded with a program of relocation and genocide as a solution. Of course, those who led the charge did not see themselves as anything other than “righteous ” and proceeded, guilt free, until there was almost nothing left of the people or the culture they chose to annihilate. After the job was done, government proceeded to tell us that killing and theft were bad and established “laws” to deter further incursions.

How convenient.

We try to teach our children to be good. We tell them that lying, stealing, fighting and being pushy are bad things. Some of us try to change the world through our off spring, but as I look at how the works operates around me I begin to ask myself, “am I training my child to be a lamb, ready to be led to slaughter?”

It would seem that goodness has no real effect on stopping monsters and mobsters from controlling everything around us. While those who pursue peace do what they can through non violent means, the sharks and wolves of our society simply snigger and then let loose another volley of missiles so that they can destroy something that belongs to someone else and then make a fortune rebuilding it according to their own vision.

Property ownership has been, from the outset, a loaded gun. The idea that we want our children to grow up respecting property rights while simultaneously being honest and caring seems a bit hypocritical. Maybe, in the pursuit of truth and honesty, we should start teaching about the inequality that has become central to how our society operates and show our children how to protect themselves from potentially dangerous situations and people. Tell them the the truth about how, when you want something, the example should be taken from the historical origins of America, or, more currently, Israel and Palestine.

And, before I go any further, I would like to point out that I am on neither side of this fight. In my opinion, both parties to this conflict think that killing children is okay. In my book, the whole region should just magically disappear so that those who love peace and understanding can just get on with the business of loving and living.

It is hard for me to be critical of Israel because some of my family, which has Jewish roots, was exterminated in Hitler’s Germany. Yet I find myself repulsed by what the Israelis have become and what they do in the name of protecting their religion. I don’t care what the origin of the attitude was, but if that attitude leads to the killing of children, then I have a hard time rallying behind the cause. The killing of children is something a monster does and nullifies any credibility. I may have listened to you once, but now I cannot. You killed children. I cannot forgive you for that. Ever.

I don’t expect the Palestinian Israeli conflict to end in my lifetime. It has been there since before I was born, and, sadly, after generations, it is all they know. The region has become a multigenerational breeding ground of hate and stupidity born of a misplaced belief in a spirituality that seems to mean nothing and does nothing to make the world a better place. They should be ashamed of themselves. They have cheapened their religion.

The Middle East wouldn’t be the Middle East if Palestine and Israel weren’t duking it out all the time. But as a parent, I have to call a spade a spade and point out that The Jews (remember that I have Jewish roots) arrived in Palestine after the United Nations decided they could move in with the Palestinians. I don’t recall if the Palestinians were asked what they thought, but regardless of that, one would think that, if Jewish mothers and fathers were trying to be good families and raise good children, they would have taught them how to be better neighbours to their hosts. One cannot forget that Palestine was made a country back in 1917 at the urging of the British.

Instead, we are reminded that this is how the world operates. If you want something, be nice at first, lie a little bit about your good intentions and then, later, just take it and be ready to fight. And if given the chance to fight, make it a bloody one. It doesn’t matter if you kill children or obliterate anything that was there before, there are countless historical examples from which justification can be drawn, the most recent being in Israel.

I think it a strange paradox that a people who have historically been oppressed eventually evolved to be oppressors. Being that they are people of faith I will never figure out how they could not become the world’s shining example of forgiveness and hope. I also can’t work out how they can practice their religion every day while children are killed and maimed in the name of their god. I know that there are Jews in Israel who just as horrified as I by what their countrymen are doing, but it always seems to be the animals that get their way.

It would have been so great if Israel could have coexisted with their new neighbours, but, instead, we have a confirmation that things can never change and that theft, murder and oppression are what creates successful communities. Why shouldn’t the Jews jump on the band wagon.

If the Palestinians and the Israelis can’t sort themselves out before my daughter asks me ‘that question’, i’m going to have to enroll her in some kung fu classes so that she can protect herself from the monsters that may one day come to take her home.

That is if she can ever afford one.

James and Jamesy – Incredibly Special and Deliciously Rare.


I haven’t been posting blogs lately as I have not been inspired to write about anything.  Everything that has been going on around me has only made me grumpy and want to complain.  Everything that I was writing about was becoming hard to live with so I just decided to stop.  I decided to live inside of that platitude that if I couldn’t say anything nice I wouldn’t say anything at all.

I figured I just needed exposure to some talent, so I decided to go out and see stuff.  However, I haven’t been having a lot of luck watching shows lately.  I have been disappointed almost all of the time.  Two nights ago I went to a show and was left so drained for the experience, I was ready to leave town.  I was looking at my watch, making mental notes about how bad the script was and yawning at the plethora of tired old gimmicks being employed to make the audience feel as though the had not wasted their money.  I left the theatre depressed and started to believe that innovation was truly dead, at least here in this town.  After being here for almost a year I had yet to see anything that filled me with the euphoria I have only known when something truly original and inspiring comes my way. It seemed as though Vancouver was devoid of any real talent.

As a performer and artist I am always looking out for that special something, a show like no other that ignites the imagination and keeps you transfixed for how ever long it is.  I give really bad audience.  I have seen too much.

Last night I went to the In Jest Clown Festival at Russian Hall in Vancouver expecting more of the same.  The evening started with a red nose clown doing some pretty rudimentary stuff that the kids who were in attendance seemed to be indifferent about. Some of what he was doing in terms of technique I had seen the previous night but in a slightly different form.  It was unclear if what he was doing was for adults or kids.  After about 10 minutes, I started looking at my watch and trying to figure out how to gracefully exit the premises. I simply couldn’t do this to myself two nights in a row.

However, the clown then did something that took me by surprise.  During the course of his camping excursion show, he had befriended a puppet squirrel.  The kids who were at the show came to like the squirrel and found his antics amusing.  My heart had been won and I was actually enjoying myself.  Then, owing to a complication in his script, the clown got hungry and without much warning, broke the neck of the puppet squirrel, skinned it, cooked it and ate it, all in a cartoon fashion but graphically enough to make everyones heart stop.

I looked to the kids sitting beside me to see their jaws drop and their eyes bulge out of their head.  Although the clown technique and the story were under developed, the artist had succeeded in grabbing my attention.  His show ended and I decided to stay for the next show to see what else might happen here.


After a short break, The comedy duo James and Jamesy took the stage with their new show “High Tea”.  From the moment the lights went up and the first character took the stage I felt a familiar electricity in the room and found myself sitting on the edge of my seat.  It only took about 30 seconds to realise that I had a huge smile pasted on my face and felt I was about to witness something astounding.


The physicality and eccentricity of the short lean and lanky character Jamesy juxtaposed against his foil the practical, pragmatic and rather imposing James, while the former serves the later tea, was an absolute joy from start to finish.  The attention to detail, the choreography, the unexpected twists and turns of the script, the audience participation and the over abundance of fabulous ideas left me with a serious lack of superlatives with which to describe this show.  Conventional accolades simply will not do.  All I can do here is to tell you to go and see them when they come to your town, if you are looking to be a part of something incredibly special and deliciously rare.

I left that show filled with a renewed lease on life, a jump in my step and an inspiration I had not know for quite some time.  I owe a big thank you to the people who produced the inaugural “In Jest Festival of Clown and Play” for showing me some compelling stuff.  You can find out more about the festival here:  Creativity is not dead, it is alive and well and living in Vancouver.


If you are in Vancouver, you can see James and Jamesy at the Revolver Festival May 13 through 18 at The Cultch, 1895 Venables St, Vancouver.   Check the website for show times:  If you are not in Vancouver, they will be touring across Canada, if you are not in Canada, call them, invite them over and pay them to do their show for you.