Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Obama Will Kill Osama

During last night's debate, US presidential candidate, Senator Barack Obama, told America and the world that he will kill Osama Bin Laden. Bin Laden, leader of the Al-Qaeda terrorist network and self-proclaimed perpetrator behind 9/11, among other attacks on the U.S., is thought to be hiding in Pakistan's mountainous range. Republican Candidate, Senator John McCain, likely holds the same position.

Based on Obama's statement, it would appear that he supports capital punishment. As American president, he will seek to kill Bin Laden. There was no discussion around detainment and questioning so much as there were directives made to capture and kill. Although the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights clearly stipulates that "everyone has the right to life”, 24 countries are known to have exercised the death penaly in 2007, with a majority of executions taking place in (in descending order) China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, the US, and Iraq. Amnesty International, the leading interest against capital punishment, contends that "the death penalty violates the right to life. It is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. It has no place in a modern criminal justice system." However, a Declaration, unlike a treaty, is not legally binding. As such, the European Parliament signed the first international treaty banning capital punishment without any exceptions because they consider "capital punishment an inhuman, medieval form of punishment and unworthy of modern societies."

Many might passionately contend that Bin Laden amounts to a rare and grave exception. But then, how many lives and precisely how many attacks amount to an exception? At what point is the principle up for compromise?

This posting does not serve to suggest that capital punishment is necessarily right or wrong, or good or bad. Rather, it questions whether Obama's explicit position to kill translates into an acceptance for capital punishment.

*image courtesy of

Dale Chihuly: My International Love Affair

The inception of my international lover affair with the glass creations of Dale Chihuly (b. 1941) dates back five years and spans across three countries; how sordid!

Chihuly, an American artist native to Washington, received his education at the Rhode Island School of Design and as a Fullbright Fellow on Murano island in Venice, Italy. Murano arguably beholds human history’s richest and finest contributions to glass art. Any trip to the sinking island makes Venice's heritage of glass most evident from the vast array of glass sculptures and jewellery that embellish Venetian storefronts.
Chihuly reinvigorated glass as a medium for artistic expression. The more minimalist movements of contemporary art tended to shy away from materials like glass that were conventionally manipulated most ornately. Chihuly, however, has been instrumental in breaking such preconceptions about glass with the use of a more modern colour palette and the execution of organic designs comprised of simplistic parts that amount to an intricate whole
Chihuly does not seem to follow any preconceptions. Some aspect of nature appears to strike within Chihuly an inspirational chord; setting off countless reinterpretations of a single design with slight architectural distinctions and wild variations in colour. His series of works, including Baskets, Ikebana, Macchia, Persians, and Seaforms, among others, appear to document exercises in experimentation and improvisation with considerably little forethought.

Some critics suggest that Chihuly’s pieces exist within a vacuum. He does not react so much as he simply creates. He takes inspiration but does not necessarily challenge, question, critique, or reflect. As such, Chihuly often faces censure that his pieces are not art because they remain disconnected from any broader movement. Personally, I would suggest that while Chihuly’s work tends to be conceptually superficial, his technique is brilliant and can spark, even for the slightest moment, a sense of awe.

Toronto: Sandra Ainsley Gallery, Distillery District
I first stumbled upon Chihuly around 2003 after brunching at the restored Boiler House restaurant in Toronto’s historic Distillery District; a cluster of Victorian-style factories from the 1800s that once formed the world’s largest whisky distillery. I stepped foot into the Sandra Ainsley Gallery, which, in addition to the Boilder House, is another space of ‘industrial chic’ member to the District. I remember being taken aback by a ten-foot bouquet of marvellous glass flutes; neon green and coral blue, and rimmed with ribbons of fluorescent pink and yellow.

A few years later while living in Ottawa, I learned that a friend (let us call him Señor X) who I had only recently met in the city had formerly worked in Monterrey, Mexico for Vitro. Vitro is one of the world’s le
ading producers of glass. While in Monterrey, Señor X collaborated with Chihuly and his team on a project. Some time later, when I moved back to Toronto, Señor X visited for a weekend away from the capital. At the Sandra Ainsley Gallery and at a temporary exhibition of glass paperweights at the Royal Ontario Museum, Señor X gave me a priceless education on the techniques of glassblowing, how acids and bases can be used to achieve different effects, and how to distinguish glass pieces that are masterfully crafted from those that are less than so.
London: Victoria and Albert Museum
Fast-forward to 2007 when I was living and studying in England. I used to spend my Friday afternoons volunteering at an Oxfam charity bookshop steps away from my c
ollege. I mostly enjoyed perusing political economy, philosophy, religion, history, English literature, fiction, and, of course, the ‘decadent’ collection of books on art. While shelving away bibliographies on museums, I picked up a publication on the Victoria and Albert Museum (a.k.a. the V&A) in London which reported that the V&A held the largest collection of Mughal art outside of India. I was quick to hop on the first coach direct to the Underground.

I ended up visiting the V&A three times before I finally managed to reach the Mughals because the museum’s collections are so extensive. The unbeatable admission price of £0.00 placed at my viewing disposal some of the most phenomenal collections of Chinese, Islamic, Italian, Japanese, and Korean art; hats off to the Monarchy! For those readers who plan on visiting the V&A, I highly recommend spending some time with the ethereal Raphael Cartoons; you will be as utterly speechless. Among other works is Chihuly’s dazzling chandelier which dominates the V&A’s front lobby. While the fixture borders on garishness, it pays a most respectful tribute to a centuries-old artistic form. The design fuses contemporary lines into a classic silhouette.

San Francisco: de Young Museum
My most recent brush with Chihuly was in 2008 at San Francisco’s de Young Museum ( The
exhibition chronicled Chihuly’s landmark collections as featured in the photographs posted here. For the series of caramel bowls, Chihuly took inspiration from Native hand-woven baskets. The series of wavy sunbursts, entitled Seaforms (third picture from top), was actually more of an accident than directly inspired by seashells. The glass balls were showcased in a gondola to, presumably, pay homage to Venice.

*image of Dale Chihuly courtesy of
*all other images have been captured by myself

Monday, October 6, 2008

Nuit Blanche 2008 in Toronto

Nuit Blanche 2008 in Toronto, 'a free all-night contemporary art thing', was a hit. Nearly 800,000 people took to the streets; strolling around the downtown core, the Front Street area, and the fashion and art districts on and around Queen Street West. It felt so unique and special to feel a warm buzz in the city from sunset until sunrise at 7:00 a.m.!

Regretfully, the installations were rather disappointing. With some exceptions, most pieces were amateur in execution. Many young and emerging artists had pieces on display; which was fantastic to see. But too
few of the attractions were worthy of international accolade.
Overall, though, Nuit Blanche was a success because it gave the city back to Torontonians; artists, lovers of art, and lovers of artists alike. Hopefully, the number of patrons and the quality of the installations will improve with each coming year.
Exciting Moments
Leaf Gardens, the historic home to Toronto’s hockey team, the Toronto Maple Leafs, was space to giant screens that depicted a ‘milky’ illustration of sound. The voices in the videos were terribly inaudible but the opportunity to step into a space of such grand hockey history was unmatched!!
The face of Toronto’s uber sexy and ‘modernesque’ city hall was transformed into a television screen. With controllers in hand, visitors played video games with city hall depicting characters, weapons, and the score. Lamps were placed behind each office window to depict images in an LED-style layout. More details on this piece by Berlin artists Tim Pritlove and Thomas Fiedler:
Amanta Scott invited visitors into a very warm and private space for 15 Minutes of Fame. A volunteer from the crowd was invited to arrange items that were placed atop a prison bed from a local penitentiary. Afterwards, the volunteer was invited to speak about their arrangement. The absolutely CRAZY detail of the installation which everyone but myself failed to ask was ‘who did the bed belong to?’ Are you ready for the answer? The bed belonged to Karla Homolka (Canada’s most famous serial killer who, along with her husband Paul Bernardo, were responsible for the rape and murder of three teenage girls, including Homolka’s sister, Tammy):
Into the Blue was an enormous, blue, ‘turd’-shaped balloon hanging and spinning from the roof of Toronto’s Eaton Centre. The piece was installed by Fujiwara Takahiro of Tokyo. From a distance, it looked pretty cheap and ridiculous. From directly below, however, staring up until the acrylic well, it was marvellous.
More details about the 18+ cities that celebrate Nuit Blanche:

*images have been captured by myself

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Blindness (2008) – Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo

An infectious disease that causes blindness spreads most rapidly. The infected are quarantined inside a withered and grimy institution located on the outskirts of town. Among them, is Julianne Moore who is mysteriously immune to the disease, or at least immune to the symptom of blindness. Initially, s
he accompanies her husband to the institution; presumably thinking that they will soon be met with some higher health authority. As the days lag on, Moore realizes that they are likely to be quarantined for the long haul. Despite this knowledge, Moore remains by her husband’s side, conceals her visual ableness to the rest, and is selflessly compelled to care for her husband and all those in the institution.

Banned from exit or escap
e by armed military, the number of those infected in the city grows and as the institution fills up, resources quickly run dry. Of course, because everyone is blind, communication and coordination, let alone negotiation and compromise, are troublesome. Bathing facilities do not exist and sleeping quarters are overcrowded. Subsequently, living conditions become unsanitary. Fecal matter and urine litter the main corridors. Conflict breaks out. A rebellious bunch, armed with weapons, greed, and aggression, take forcible stronghold of the food supply, demand valuables in exchange for meals, and once valuables are scarce, they demand sex from the female patrons. Mothers, daughters, and wives become martyrs. The women compromise their pride, health, and safety to bring subsistence to the lot.

Revolt. Murder. Fire.
Escape. The quarantined, now free, are still blind and helpless. The city is a ghost town and the infected wander aimlessly, both figuratively and literally, in search for food, shelter, peace, and hope.
Points of Interest
The narratives at play, some more obvious than others, make for a subtle complexity.
i) Mark Ruffalo’s character, a young, handsome, and well-qualified doctor, becomes blind and falls to the mercy of his wife, Moore. Of course, all those who are infected fall to the mercy of Moore, but only Ruffalo has a history with Moore as a lover and partner. As Ruffalo’s virility disintegrates, a parallel character who is far less able, far less attractive, and much older than Ruffalo, feels his confidence rise as a romance transpires between himself and a young woman who, though blind to his image, is not blind to his heart.
ii) A sex-trade worker sacrifices her seemingly less than existent worth for the welfare of others. The film portrays how the use of sex as currency need not come at the cost of one’s integrity. The notion that prostitution compromises morality is but a construction; not an axiom.
iii) In the conclusion of the film, the noblest characters band together and secure shelter. They awaken the next day with the ability to see and yet, Moore is now blind. Did she really become blind or was her ‘blindness’ symbolic? Perhaps, after her tireless efforts of selflessness in a circumstance of unrelenting selfishness, Moore unconsciously blinded herself. Recall that the infected described their blindness as being white and not black and in the introductory scenes of the film, when Moore’s husband diagnosed such white blindness with a medical term, Moore identified the linguistic root of said medical term as meaning voluntarily ignorant. Just a thought.
Points of Criticism
i) Blindness is worth watching, but some scenes can be difficult to stomach.
ii) The trailer and the opening scene suggest the film is far more Orwellian than it actually is. The first few shots allude to the power and influence of traffic lights; installations of state that regulate citizenry. However, once the infected are quarantined, their activities are not so much controlled by government as much as they are left to self-govern. The film makes more suggestions about anarchy than about totalitarianism.
iii) The title, Blindness, does not do justice to the film. The story journeys far beyond the mere incidence and experience of blindness. The human instinct of survival and the pride, greed, and selflessness which temper that instinct are far more central. If not blindness, the characters could have been inflicted with some other infectious and disabling disease; perhaps the whooping cough (I kid). And the compulsions to share or to steal or to submit or to defend, would still feature prominently in the narrative. Alternative titles? How about Blind Instinct or Survival Instinct? Or, in reference to iii) under 'points of interest' (above), how about White Blindness? Okay. Let us conclude.
*image courtesy of

Friday, October 3, 2008

poetry: [untitled]

Worthless. Useless. Penniless. Invisible and negligible.
See the world and come back with no story to tell; with no audience to tell it to.
Emptiness. Numbness. Anxiousness.
Keep telling yourself to keep trying and keep trying to tell yourself to keep trying and try but you can’t tell yourself to keep trying if you can’t try anymore. Why should you keep trying? Why? Remind yourself, rediscover for yourself, reacquaint yourself, possibly introduce yourself for the first time to a reason why.
Why reflect on your past and project your future to decide the present?
You are honest in your convictions. And you keep failing. Doors keep shutting. Why fucking why.
You have no one. You feel estranged from your family. You are separated from your friend. You are divorced from your past, looking towards the unknown, within the confines of an empty present.
Breathe. Inhale. Inhale. Inhale. Exhale.

*images have been captured by myself

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Follow Thine Brain or Thine Heart? Debates in the Canadian and American Elections

Elections are upon North America (to the exclusion of Mexico) and Canadians are at a crossroads tonight! A choice must be made and it appears that one of these debates will be subject to TiVo while the other debate will be greeted live with great 'hilarity'.

Follow Thine Brain?
In the picturesque capital of Ottawa, the five leaders of Canada's major political parties will face off as they vie for Prime Ministerialship of the nation. Leader of the Green party, Elizabeth May, with roughly 10% of national support, managed to secure herself a seat at the very last moment in response to a public outcry. Subsequently, May is being identified by the press as the wild card of this year's federal election. She will be the first leader to speak and the first to pose questions opposite current Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative Party, Stephen Harper, leader of the Liberal Party, Stéphane Dion, leader of the Bloc Québécois, Gilles Duceppe, and leader of the New Democratic Party, Jack Layton. Topics are likely to include the economy, young offenders, and culture and the arts. The debate will be moderated by the witty and astute host of TVOntario's The Agenda, Steve Paikin.

Will the left unite and successfully usher in a progressive government for 2009, or will Harper remain fortunate with Liberals, Bloc, New Democrats, and Greens divided enough to preserve a Conservative office into the new year? Will non-Anglophone Dion maintain the momentum he managed to generate for himself during last night's French-language debate? Will May pull any more rabbits out of her biodegradable hat?

As a proud and politically-inclined Canadian with a longstanding commitment to the welfare of Canada and its peoples, it seems obvious that tonight's debate cannot be missed. However, a second most sensational and possibly more amusing debate promises to reach us from down south.

Or Follow Thine Heart?
Candidates for the vice-presidency of the Democratic and Republican parties, Joe Biden and Sarah Palin, respectively speaking, meet in St. Louis, Missouri, to debate the economy, health care, social security, and war, as their leaders vie for the White House. At first, Palin reached celebrity overnight. Suburbanites, hockey moms, and Republicans responded to her candidacy with great alacrity. Replicas of Palin's famously photographed eyeglasses were soon sold out across the country.

However, Palin's disastrous interviews with news anchor Katie Couric on CBS and satirical depictions of her on Saturday Night Live quickly transported Palin from the shallow to the deep end. She exhibited grave difficulty keeping herself afloat on topics of foreign policy and the economy. Since Biden has remained fairly unobserved by the media, it might be safe to assume that most of the viewers tuning in to tonight's debate are waiting anxiously for Palin's next step (be it backward or forward).

**images courtesy of

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Palin and McCain; Pinky and the Brain?

They're Palin and McCain;
Yes, Palin and McCain.
He might be a terrorist. She's definitely insane.
Vote red not twice, but thrice;
And we'll surely pay the price.
They're Palin...They're Palin and McCain, 'Cain, 'Cain, 'Cain.

In McCain's quest to take over America, Palin most faithfully continues goofing up. McCain endeavours to rescue both Palin and the Republican candidacy and, quite possibly, slaps Palin upside the head off-camera. For the past week, these two elephants have been up to so many adorable antics. I make reference to Palin's interviews with news anchor, Katie Couric, on the CBS Evening News. Judge for yourself:
Interview #1
Couric asks Palin which newspapers and magazines she reads.
Couric: "What newspapers and magazines did you regularly read before you were tapped for [Vice-Presidency] to stay informed and to understand the world?"
Palin: "I've read most of them; again, with a great appreciation for the press for the media for--"
Couric: "But like, what ones specifically. I'm curious--"
Palin: "Umm. All of them. Any of them that, umm, have been in front of me over all these years--"
Couric: "Can you name a few?"
Palin: "I have a vast variety of sources where we get our news."
Interview #2
After Palin states that McCain has a track record of regulating Wall Street, Couric asks Palin to provide specific examples of McCain's past efforts to regulate.
Couric: "I'm just going to ask you one more time; not to belabor the point: specific examples in his [McCain's] 26 years of pushing for more regulation." Palin: "Uhhh-I'll try to find you some and I'll bring them to ya'."
Interview #3
Couric: "You've cited Alaska's proximity to Russia as part of your foreign policy experience. What did you mean by that?"
Palin: "That Alaska has a very narrow maritime border between a foreign country, Russia, and on our other side the land boundary that we have with, uh, Canada-- It's funny that a comment like that was kinda' made to charact-- I don't know..."
Couric: "Mocked?"
Palin: "Yeah, mocked. I guess that's the word, yeah. Umm--"
Couric: "Well explain to me why that enhances your foreign policy credentials."
Palin: "Well it certainly does because our next-door neighbours are foreign countries. They're in the state that I am the executive of. And, there in Russia--"
Couric: "Have you ever been involved with any negotiations, for example, with the Russians?"
Palin: "We have trade missions back and forth. We, we-- It's very important when you consider even national security with Russia as, Putin [President of Russia] 'where's his head?' and...and comes into the airspace of the United States of America. Where do they go? It's Alaska. It's just right over the border. It is from Alaska that we send those out to make sure that an eye is being kept on this very powerful nation, Russia, because they are right there. They are right next to, umm, to our state."

**images courtesy of