October 14, 2015

If you are considering voting Liberal on October 19th...

Polling suggests our federal election could be close, very close, and many Canadians are now giving consideration to voting Liberal as a way of unseating Stephen Harper and the Conservatives.


Consider for a moment the following:

  • Justin Trudeau and the Liberals support Bill C-51. Just like Stephen Harper.
  • The Liberals support Keystone XL and expansion of pipelines in Canada. Just like the Conservatives.
  • Justin Trudeau supports the Trans Pacific Partnership. Again, just like the Conservatives.

Ever since Confederation our country has elected only Conservative or Liberal governments. Often they've worked together to maintain the status quo as in the case of Bill C-51. If we keep repeating the past, when will we ever see real, progressive change in this country?

This election is still up for grabs and indicators are that BC could decide the next government. Change will happen. Real change will happen if we elect New Democrats.

Copyright 2015 by Jim Murray.

October 09, 2015

Bob Zimmer, Conservative MP, should withdraw. Now.

The incumbent MP for the Northern B.C. Prince George-Peace River-Northern Rockies riding, Bob Zimmer, made these comments at an all-candidates meeting in Fort St. John earlier this week.

"One of the major drivers of missing and murdered aboriginal women is the lack of economic activity, or simply put, the lack of a job. … Ultimately, when people have a job, they're not in despair. They can stay on reserve, and that's where we want them to be." 
And that's where we want them to be?

The Grand Chief and president of The Union of BC Indian Chiefs, Stewart Phillip, responded;
"Aboriginal women and communities were shocked, outraged and deeply offended by Mr. Zimmer's derogatory remarks towards women, Astonishingly, Mr. Zimmer's simplistic solution to one of Canada's most disgraceful and profound abuse of human rights issues, concerning missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls, is that aboriginal women should stay home, stay on the rez, and get a job."
Bob Zimmer should withdraw from his re-election campaign.

Tell Mr Zimmer what you think by calling his office at 250-787-2160 or by email to Bob.Zimmer@parl.gc.ca

Copyright 2015 by Jim Murray.

Tom Mulcair in Surrey

It was an early morning rally for Thomas Mulcair in Surrey on Wednesday, October 7. People were walking the oval at the Surrey Arts Centre and the trees were beautiful in the morning sun.

When I arrived at 7:30 some people had been standing in line for an hour, and with all the media, handlers and candidates, there was no way we were all going to get into this building. Not that that's a bad thing... the optics are better if it's standing room only.

The media bus

Many of us did make it into the building and were herded into a room slightly removed from the main action. This wasn't going to work so I manoeuvred myself back into the auditorium to be with my people: the journos and camera guys.

Finally, much after the designated start time of 8:00, former premier of British Columbia, Mike Harcourt, provided a spirited introduction to Tom Mulcair.

It then became a scripted affair. Tom was excellent of course, in both official languages, but at this stage of a campaign these things tend to be message tracked. In many ways, the crowd is a backdrop for the media coverage. We know this, yet so many of us want to be a part of it, even if it means arriving at 6:30 in the morning.

Security agent at far left.

One thing that stood out was the security presence. When I first met Tom Mulcair at an event at Kwantlen University in Richmond in February 2014, there might have been one staff person with him, and no evidence of security.

I counted at least eight agents, and while they can be identified by their green lapel badges, they tend to stand out anyway. During the event, an agent stood at each of four doors; if  someone left the building they weren't allowed back in. Inside, three agents watched the crowd. Another agent spent the entire time watching Tom. If he moved, her eyes followed, and when he left the building she followed close by, and again nearly always watching the candidate.

Security agent with lapel badge, and another at extreme right.

Watching. Always watching.

Somewhat later than expected, Tom Mulcair left the building, shaking hands, hugging friends, and taking time for all the photos that have become a big part of this campaign. His security detail seemed to be used to it, though not entirely comfortable either.

People, of all ages and all stages in life, want to have their photos taken with the Leader, and Tom, though obviously tired from the long campaign, and his handlers, had patience and time enough for everyone.

Even Mike Harcourt got into the photo action. No security agents needed.

Tom Mulcair's final campaign rally in MetroVancouver will be on Saturday, October 17, 12:30 pm at the Vancouver Convention Centre (West Building). 

We're all in this together.

Photos by Jeem. Copyright 2015 by Jim Murray.

October 06, 2015

Sherry tells a story at The Moth StorySlam in Seattle

On October 1, Jeem and Sherry drove down to Seattle. Jeem was hoping to meet some comrades in the struggle, and to avoid interaction with the police of course, and Sherry was hoping to tell a story.

Along the way, near Pike Place, we discovered that Tommy Douglas, one of our country's greatest Canadians, had developed a chain of restaurants in Seattle, all based on the fresh, local, sustainable model. We even had a nice lunch at Seatown, which was next to Tom Douglas' Rub with Love Shack. Who would have known?

The storytelling is really our story and it took place in a former abbey now known as the Fremont Abbey Arts Center.

This is The Moth, or more correctly The Moth StorySLAM Seattle, and it's a big deal in storytelling circles. Founded in 1997, and based in New York City, The Moth, on all its platforms (live events, radio, podcasts, books), celebrates the art of first person storytelling.

We arrived early, as the sun was setting and the crowd was gathering. The Moth StorySLAM is relatively new to Seattle, and these monthly events have become full houses with many ticket holders standing for the entire evening.

For the StorySLAM, would-be storytellers sign in at the beginning of the evening. Only ten are chosen, at random. The first storyteller is chosen by the "host" for the evening, while the next nine storytellers are picked, in sequence, from a big cloth bag, by the storyteller-just-finishing. In tonight's case, thirteen storytellers put their names in the bag.

The format at all The Moth StorySLAMS is the same. There is a theme to which all storytellers must speak. For the October 1 event, stories were to be on the theme of coincidence.The story has to be true and told without notes of any kind, and it has to be told within four to six minutes. Storytellers are scored by three teams of judges, selected from the audience by a Moth producer, on a scale of one to ten. Scores are announced after each storyteller's performance. The figure-skating judging system has its detractors, but it does create a certain amount of excitement as night proceeds.

Second up was a first-time storyteller named Jack. His was a story of high school romance, and it did involve the theme of coincidence.

Katy followed Jack and then Quincy told a story about dating in Mozambique which led, coincidentally, to a new job.

Jess introduced herself as a Jewish lesbian from the mid-west, who, while studying philosophy in college, suddenly decided to join the United States Navy.

Nikita was the eighth storyteller and we were beginning to wonder if Sherry's name would be drawn. However, when Nikita finished her story, she pulled Sherry's name from the bag and ...

At the end of her story, Sherry received the highest marks of the evening through nine storytellers. In fact, her story, and the marks from the judges, created a noticeable buzz in the crowd of about 250.

Then, under the watchful eye of the host, Sherry drew the name of the tenth and last final storyteller for the evening: Ryan.

And in the end, perhaps given the figure-skating model of judging, Ryan's story won the day, narrowly displacing Sherry's marks.

The audience was warm and supportive of all storytellers. It was a fun evening and while The Moth StorySLAMS don't provide cash prizes, it was rewarding in its own way. The host (above with Sherry, and below) was fantastic!

There are at two well known storytelling groups in Vancouver: The Vancouver Story Slam, at which both Jeem and Sherry have appeared, and The Flame, where Sherry told her first story earlier this year. Both groups showcase storytelling at the Cottage Bistro on Main. Vancouver Story Slam is on the second Tuesdays of each month and The Flame presents its storytellers on the first Wednesday of each month. Cash prizes are awarded at the Vancouver Story Slam as determined by audience votes, which adds a bit to the fun of the evening. Tuesday, October 13, Sherry is scheduled to tell a new story at the Vancouver Story Slam.

Photos by Jeem. Copyright 2015 by Jim Murray.

October 04, 2015

Donald Trump, reality TV and a broken democracy

Donald Trump, in his latest ramble of idiocy, says that if he's elected president he will sand back Syrian refugees because they might be terrorists in disguise.

"They could be ISIS, I don't know," said Trump. "his could be one of the great tactical ploys of all time. A 200,000-man army, maybe," he later added. "That could be possible."

John Doyle, the often brilliant and always entertaining columnist for the Globe and Mail, wrote about Trump and reality television in a column published September 23.

In it he asked the question: Are the issues and the candidates of the presidential campaign gripping the American public. His answer was no, Donald Trump is. "It's all about reality TV."

In his column Doyle reminds us of the day American politics changed forever. It was August 29, 2008, when John McCain announced his running mate on the Republican presidential ticket would be Sarah Palin.
In choosing Palin and pushing her family and life into prime time, the Republican Party was driven by marketing impulses learned from the success of the reality-TV genre. Ordinary people with attitude but without sophistication appeal to viewers as more authentically American than the fictional doctors, lawyers and detectives being portrayed on network dramas.

Reality television, according to Doyle, is about authenticity. There is much phoniness in the world and people respond intuitively to realness.
They might not analyze why they are drawn to inarticulate public figures with messy lives, but they like what they see.
There was a realness to reality television, at least in its beginnings and we went along for the ride.
In the case of Trump, we have moved beyond the “authenticity” explanation. We’re at the level of hyper-authenticity that isn’t real at all, but is a construct. We’ve had 15 years of competitive reality-TV series – if the arrival of Survivor on CBS in 2000 is the marker – and the genre has become more complex.
Where once the attraction was ordinariness on a messy scale, the attraction is now watching "contestants" who understand, as we in the audience do, that hyper-egotism is now essential.
 When Trump declares, “I’m gonna make our country rich and I’m gonna make our country great,” without bothering to explain a plan, he’s in hyper-reality mode. In the same way that a contestant on a competitive reality show declares, “I’m gonna win this thing!” over and over again. Even if they don’t win, they’re compelling and famous for their brashness.
In the language of media and literary studies, Trump is extra-textual. He is outside the text, outside the narrative that has been written, preordained. Not only does he create conflict with other participants in the Republican race, just as the most famous reality-TV contestants are there to create conflict inside a carefully chosen group, he transcends the entire group and its dynamic by blustering, by saying the unsayable, by never expressing regret or apology. He exposes the tame game that is the race for the Republican nomination. And for that he is attractive and admired.
Trump is no scholar of reality TV. He just knows. Years of being part of The Apprentice gave him canniness about it. The most famous figure on The Apprentice, apart from Trump himself, was Omarosa Onee Manigault, better known as just Omarosa. The woman is a reality-TV legend. Fact is, she never came close to winning The Apprentice. But she made a decision to be controversial, caustic, blunt and always acrimonious.
She didn’t play to win the game, she played to transcend it. After The Apprentice, she appeared on 20 reality-TV shows and today has a thriving career teaching branding and marketing classes. Omarosa was one of the first to grasp how second-wave reality TV really works. Now, Trump does, too. Don’t play the game, create a hyper-version of it in which you are the only figure who matters. Works on TV and it’s working in politics.

Donald Trump is leading the Republican presidential campaign. Rob Ford, through his brother, captured almost a third of Toronto's mayoralty vote count. Are we living at the beginning of a time where reality television, celebrity and outlandishness on a grand scale, trump thoughtful discussion, debate and policies?

Do we have a crisis of democracy, or do we have a failing of our citizenry? And how in the world do we fix this thing?

Copyright 2015 by Jim Murray.