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Tuesday, January 31, 2006

LIMNING THE DROSS

Having recently come across an interview with the intriguing architectural critic Deyan Sudjic in the most recent issue of Dwell magazine, I have become curious about his book, The Edifice Complex, which is an examination of the way in which the wealthy and powerful manifest their wealth and power through architectural pursuits. In the interview (not available online), Sudjic makes an interesting albeit obvious statement about the essential drive and need of the architect to build; it is even more interesting to consider that they will do so as the willing servant of the ├╝ber-being that can facilitate the process, whether they happen to possess more money than scruples or not. I can only imagine that the architect's integrity is compromised as a result, though at what point will the architect step away and decline further involvement, if at all? Is it possible that the vision of the architect becomes inconsequential and thwarted by the vision of the financier? I shudder to think of the outcomes that arise from this presumably common dynamic.

So the rich and powerful build monuments to showcase their financial girth and to bolster their already hefty egos? Michiko Kakutani doesn't seem to think this is such a groundbreaking idea, or that Sudjic has done an effective job in elucidating the phenomenon concisely, but rather calls the book "a fat, overstuffed jumble of the obvious and the fascinating, the tired and the intriguing". She also characterizes the book as being rife with dross, so much so that she, in effect, had to sift through the mess "surrounding its nuggets of insight". I daresay that 'limning' may have been a more appropriate word there. At any rate, I'm not going to let Michiko's review scare me away. Sudjic's credentials tell the tale, while Michiko's are less than stellar. As soon as I can, I'm going to get myself down to DM Books, where the book in question is on sale for $5.99! Sad that it's already being remaindered, but glad that it works to my advantage!

READING V. WRITING

A short while back, I began a new blog, a fictional blog that was to revolve around the life of a new resident at a European sanatorium. I promptly deleted 'At The Sanatorium' after realizing that it felt all too contrived, not to mention unoriginal. I had been playing with the idea for quite some time before acting upon it, only to immediately notice that I was effectively stealing an idea, and doing so in a most unpersuasive manner. The innovator of the idea, one Thomas Mann, could be heard turning in his Swiss grave as I unsuccessfully attempted to describe the impressions made upon the new resident as (s)he acclimatized to the new and strange surroundings. After the second post, I could not bring myself to continue with the pretense that I was creating something unique.

As a person that surrounds myself with any and all fashion of the written word on a daily basis, it is very difficult not to be influenced by what I read. As a person that also aspires to contribute to the creation of the written word, this influence does not bode well for the cultivation of original thought. I have always had great difficulty in trying to keeping the two separate, so much so that I would deliberately attempt to not read anything prior to and during a planned spell of writing. It was always one or the other of the two in the past, but now I am aware that a lack of the ability to read essentially renders me an empty vessel. Despite my middle age, constant reading is vital to my ongoing development. Pair this with a predisposition to impression, and the result is a distinct lack of innovative thought as it relates to the seed of an 'idea' that should ingrain itself in one's mind as a random and solitary process. The outcome does not amount to much: very little writing ensues. I would like the opposite to be true, but I would rather be able to read than to write and not read. I am not sure if the situation can be altered; I suspect that my essential make-up precludes the possibility.

Friday, January 27, 2006

LOGAN MOUNTSTUART IS MY DAD

By virtue of the fact that Oprah Winfrey orchestrated a public hanging on her most banal of shows, I am now a huge James Frey fan, despite never having read a single word that he's written. I have been half following the whole sordid affair, and am fully aware that Frey embellished details of his not-so-sordid life. Frankly, the fictional memoir is really not such a scandalous genre. Admittedly, he mislead his audience, but let's not forget that there is a certain type of individual that is predisposed to this sort of behaviour: the conventional term for such an individual is 'fiction writer'. To be honest, up until The Smoking Gun website reported on Frey's outing, I was under the impression that the book was a novel, only because I am accustomed to Winfrey choosing such works for her worthless book-of-the-month club. This latest incident seems to have given Winfrey the opportunity to show her subjects that she has the power to make a writer, or to break a writer. I only hope that being tarred and feathered by the evil Ms. Winfrey will inspire Frey to retaliate by penning a new memoir relating to his most recent adventures; the horrors recounted therein will vary from those found in 'A Million Little Pieces': they will be true. On second thought, he better market it as fiction so he doesn't get his ass sued by the mighty O.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

THINK TWICE

The polls tell us that we are about to do as our neighbours to the south have done: that is to say, we are about to vote in the wrong man for the job. I can only conjecture that prospective voters are rejecting their own ideologies in exchange for some hollow and vapid promises made by someone who "always believes he is the smartest person in the room" (Source: The Globe and Mail). What's not so smart is Harper's intent to renege on Canada's involvement in the Kyoto Protocol. Not only is it not smart, it's completely stupid and ignorant. Has he not heard that the ice road in the northern environs of his home province won't freeze properly because of warmer than normal temperatures? After reading Bill McKibben's piece in NYRB, I am convinced that this is not an isolated incident. This is the shape of things to come, and it seems like it's being ignored even more than before. What will it take to push environmental policy-making to the top of political agendas, in Canada and the U.S. both? Probably not even another record-breaking hurricane season.

A last-ditch effort to sidestep the impending doom is being spearheaded by the Think Twice Coalition, which is "a newly formed coalition of social advocacy and citizens' organizations wanting to express their concern about the implications for Canadian social programs and equality rights of a potential Conservative victory in the upcoming federal election".

Follow the 'Spread the Word' and 'Show Your Support' links from the Think Twice homepage.

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