The revolution is nigh

Wall Street is presently being occupied by activists of all stripes who would like to see our economies wrestled from the grip of the FIRE industries (Finance, Insurance, Real Estate) and the whimsy of speculators, traders, brokers, hedge funds and all other forms of revenue making realms that use the structure of a casino to run our world. Major media organizations are not covering the story at all, including our own national paper the Globe and Mail. There was a small story in the Toronto Star however, I switched allegiances a year ago, if you haven’t yet, do it. The occupation has been covered extensively by the Guardian in the UK, not the most left of papers. That country however saw what a hot summer and anger can do to a population, so perhaps their awareness of that slim thread which holds society together is far more keen.

Only Keith Olberman (Jon Stewart, Colbert and Maher have all mentioned it as well) has done any television coverage wondering aloud that if it were a right wing protest it would be everywhere. I think however that it doesn’t have anything to do with politics. I think it’s just money this time. All those major media outlets are traded daily on the stock exchange and their managers and owners know that ruffling the investors feathers would just create even more instability than there already is. Or perhaps the media itself has become its own power and that coverage is like elections, it doesn’t matter how hard you work, how well you do, only that you win or in this case get covered. Yes, perhaps what this represents is the casualty of a crucial institution that once helped keep our country and the US democratic. Now it seems the media is used to anethestatize and/or brain wash and thats about it. Some would argue that it was the point in the first place.

As I age I realize how tremendously fragile this whole society idea is. In fact, it seems now that most people never really believed it to begin with. Why would we have allowed our food prices to be speculated on creating the poorest people in our culture more hardship. Why aren’t we making things easier? Why are things getting harder? I believe it is a choice and not inevitable. Forty years of conservative politics and economic policies have rendered us incapable of being the compassionate people I was taught to be.

I refuse to believe however things are lost. In fact I am beginning to get more hopeful than less. This occupation of Wall Street is just a beginning. The Arab world; the people who gave us math, astronomy, farming and many other gifts have now given us something else – hope. Civil unrest is the answer and I for one can’t wait to join up: I will perform my “a little red, a manifesto in fairy tale form” this October 1st at Nuit Blanche in Toronto.

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Carravagio and the art of death

On a recent tumultuous trip to Ottawa (root canal and truck drama et al), we visited the National Gallery’s exhibition Carravagio and His Followers in Rome. Here is an extensive exhibition of the many great and not so great painters who followed Caravaggio at the height of his fame and power while painting in Rome. Michaelangelo Merisi da Carravagio lived from 1570 – 1610. He was a celebrated painter whose portraits of saints, Christ and other dramatic stories from Christianity sparked a radical movement in art. His work is considered the ‘ground zero’ of modern painting. Carravagio set himself apart by his use of stark black backgrounds, highlighting facial expressions, and gestures that seemed to glow from behind. He used light like no other and was considered daring and radical in his day. After his death his star fell and it has taken over four hundred years for scholars, critics and artists to appreciate his maverick genius.

His work in this particular exhibition is startling. There are a few pieces that I had never seen before and one in particular we had just seen in the National Gallery in London. For the most part however his work is bold, violent, compassionate and highly erotic. I love his work, it is truly the most visually exciting depictions of Christ and the saints that there is. He blends Christian belief and sensuality without any hesitation; he portrays his subjects in mid ecstasy/horror fundamentally illustrating the physical of which Christianity is based. It is a flesh based religion. And the flesh dies or transfigures or transmutes or transcends but it is always a fleshly world from which it begins and ends. Death is truly his subject matter and death is what all devoted Christians are stumbling toward both rapturously and hesitantly. Through death a Christian finds true meaning to his life. No one explores this with more vigour than Carravagio.

His life, now known widely was notorious to say the least. In and out of jail and favour with the Pope, Carravagio loved dueling, drinking and gambling best when he wasn’t painting. Beggars, prostitutes and rent boys dot his world as sparkling and fading stars rescue the darkness every night. He died somewhat suspiciously too young and with a long list of not-so-Christian deeds behind him. His flawed life and his great art are what romantics have mooned over for centuries. In our age of political correctness, the thinking is that it is hard to justify talent although there are no Caravaggios today, so our social media discussions are mute. Which brings me to Amy Winehouse: while not a profound talent that will travel centuries as Mr. C, Amy was a sad flame that flickered love and emotion. Her gorgeous voice, from the depths of a trampled heart, begged for love throughout her two great records. But, it wasn’t to be, and dead she is after years of brawling, drinking and general bad behaviour. A tragedy and also a poetic respite through death of a life lead without acknowledgement of convention or politeness, Amy died without love, M. M. da Carravagio would understand.

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