Category Archives: Culture and Art

This Artist Follows the Money

Paul Grignon has struck a popular nerve with his cartoon exposé of a financial system that’s exacerbating our public debt spiral and hastening descent into environmental destruction.

By now most of us have heard about at least a few of the local people who’ve “made it big” in the world of online viral videos. Victoria writer Andrew Struthers’ two-minute spoof based on the Canadian Wildlife Service’s “Hinterland Who’s Who” commercials, “Spiders on Drugs,” is the undisputed champion, currently nearing 30 million views on YouTube. More typically, other area folk have garnered tens or hundreds of thousands of hits for a beautiful folk song, a recording of a police assault downtown, and one of the biggest lip-sync gatherings in the world (I don’t know of any popular videos of local babies or pets doing especially adorable things, but there are likely a few of those, too).

Certainly the most surprising of them all to go viral, though, would have to be 63-year-old Gabriola Island visual artist and animator Paul Grignon’s Money as Debt.

It’s an independently-made 47-minute video lecture on our current system for creating money.

Yet Grignon has now sold over 12,000 copies of it on DVD, while it’s been (mostly illegally) copied and resold, uploaded, and translated so widely that by Grignon’s last estimation it was in 24 languages, appearing or being discussed on thousands of websites, and surpassing two million viewers. It’s been endorsed by the Canadian Action Party and the American Monetary Institute, ex-managers of Wall Street investment firms, and prominent economists like David Korten and Hazel Henderson. It’s also been heavily promoted by Elizabeth Kucinich, along with her more famous husband, congressman and former US Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich, and used at rallies for current Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul.

What accounts for its surprising popularity?

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Making Our Circles Bigger

A plethora of young groups are bringing extremely diverse people together to share knowledge, ideas and perspectives. Can getting us out of our silos lead to new types of collaboration, community building and social solutions?

I arrive at the Victoria Event Centre not knowing exactly what to expect at a “PechaKucha.” I leave a couple hours later having had a great time—but still not knowing exactly what I’ve experienced. However, I’m becoming increasingly sure it’s part of a growing local and international social movement of immense vitality, astonishing creative breadth, and intriguing political possibilities.

PechaKucha nights, I’ve discovered, are just one of a growing number of unusual ways that diverse Victorians are being brought together to share ideas and explore collaborative possibilities through relaxed, open processes. Some are even trying to generate new approaches to tackling serious social problems.

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“They Put Me in this Dark, Little Room”

Métissage creates a stirring view of our shared oppression.


It was a very unusual way of discussing power and discrimination. And it left me thinking we should be doing it more.

After lunch in a lounge for about a hundred people during the University of Victoria’s recent Diversity Conference, we prepared to hear actors recount true experiences of an anonymous UVic female custodian, Aboriginal technical worker, black office worker and student, and female sessional instructor.

During introductory remarks, the co-directors, theatre PhD candidate Will Weigler and educational psychology instructor Catherine Etmanski, explained that the project had hatched out of a growing awareness that UVic’s own challenges in achieving a healthy, diverse workplace for its non-faculty staff are rarely openly discussed.

“Their experiences of what happens is, as they say, where the rubber meets the road,” Weigler observed. “So we thought, how can we create an opportunity for their voices to be heard?”

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On the Road, 2008 — A Meditation

The car’s gas gauge swings from full to empty. In a city, you can at least get a sense you’re accomplishing numerous tangible things on a tank of gas: shopping, commuting, running errands, going to the gym. On this flat interstate thruway, however, hours pass and little changes. I know from signposts I’m advancing towards a destination, but only exhaust-tinted snow and skeletons of trees line this grey march.

My hometown of Victoria, BC is a plane ride behind me, yet what’s happening seems so consummately local. Indeed, every reader everywhere, I imagine, has experienced it. Travelling this way for business or pleasure is a deeply integrated part of the fabric of our communities. It’s one of those routines that’s rarely newsworthy in itself, yet influences our political policies on trade, transit, taxes, the Olympics budget and Middle East wars. Continue reading

The Virtues of Pxhsrrgoylqvazing More

I attended an utterly unhinged show recently. Two women gave an uncategorizable, incomprehensible, yet intriguingly spectacular vocal performance during Open Space’s “Voice++” festival.

It was art at its purest. It has also ended up seeming as important as any political stories which I might have written about this month.

DB Boyko and Christine Duncan’s “sound poetry” couldn’t have been called singing, theatre, nor poetry cantation. Yet it was these and more. It was wild oral dance. At times they sounded like engines coughing, children taunting, tender chicks chirping, brutal beasts battling to death. They conjured images of primitives banging rocks, natives chanting around campfires, and futuristic technofiles mechanically melting down. Meanwhile, their improvised streams of guttural grunts and ethereal notes, constricted breaths and open discharges wove in and out of sync and contrast with each other, and together the women concocted a mad, unstructured musical story of energy embracing energy. Continue reading