Category Archives: Winnipeg

The Stone Angel

TravelManitoba

I remember being asked to read The Stone Angel by Margaret Laurence back in high school. It was one of the many wonderful books that our English teacher used to try to infuse some humanity into our young minds. I don’t remember the story much, but I do remember the parallels between the old character in the book and the ultimate fate of Margaret Laurence. It’s like she literally became one of the characters she wrote about. I really should look into the Manawaka series again.

Speaking of Manawaka, my works will be displayed in the town it was based on, Neepawa, Manitoba.  When I used to go camping and hiking with my best friend, I remember visiting there once. Here in Asia, when people think of Canada, the first places that come out of people’s mouths are Toronto and Vancouver. But when they describe Canada, they would often imagine a place much closer to towns like Neepawa.

I love big cities like Vancouver and Ottawa, and even smaller ones like Winnipeg, but it is smaller rural towns cradling close to liberated Canadian wilderness that most people here in Asia often imagine. It is in many ways romantic. I guess like me, that image is mostly from the desire to escape from convoluted concrete jungles like Seoul.

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Oh Manitoba!

Manitoba_Arts_Network

Thank you Manitoba Arts Network for having my works for their 2017-2018 touring exhibition. It’s always nice to have people appreciate my work, that the works I make are not just for me personally, that they could mean something else to some people as well.

 

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The Maple House

Maple House

I was ready to do my best Gordon Ramsey and rip the restaurant apart. The fact that the first thing I saw was a promotion for Guinness at the door didn’t do well for first impressions. The last time I checked, Guinness was Irish. I was afraid that the restaurant would be what I often found to be a lazy representation of Canada in food festivals in the Seoul. The last international food festival I went to, the Canadian stall was selling hot dogs, Budweiser, and churros. Pretty disappointing.

In any case, I kept an open mind. At the very least, I was hoping to find Canadian beer, particularly Alley Kat. At the most, I’d be surprised to see if they serve perogies. I’ m sure they will have poutine, as it is basically the go-to food that people here would often answer outside of maple syrup when asked what food comes from Canada.

Vancouver

The entrance was a good touch. Very Vancouver airport. I almost expected to see First Nations bone and soapstone sculptures. Instead of sculptures however, they had frames of Canadian cities and hockey teams.

Winnipeg Jets

The Winnipeg Jets is represented. Unfortunately, it reminded me of the lunacy of having a human rights museum in Downtown Winnipeg. If you want to attract tourists, why would you build a museum with such a depressing theme? “Forget Edmonton Mall! Let’s fly to Winnipeg instead and see the human rights museum!”

Jets losing

Inside on a giant screen, they’re showing a broadcast of the Jets losing to the Senators. This feels very familiar.

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The beer selection is pretty good. They have Alley Kat, which they used to serve in many bars in Seoul but later dropped by everyone. Some of the bars I frequent have been disappointing me lately with the quality of beer they serve. Either the selection of the beer on tap is unimpressive, or it’s not that cold, or they give me a headache. Maybe it’s the cleaning fluid or the nitrogen in the tanks to give it head. I don’t know. So far, from the selection alone, this looks like a good place to have a drink.

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I didn’t know that sriracha was particularly Canadian or that it would work well in a hot dog. Surprisingly, it was pretty good. Impressed.

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They had spinach dip. Again, something you don’t see in many places around Seoul.

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I tried the smoked duck with blueberry. It was pretty good. I would definitely order it again. The duck might be too rare for the locals. Duck in the country is often served on a grill and cooked to a crisp, so I’m not sure if people would like it as much as I did. I was quite surprised at how reasonable the price was considering the part of town we were in.

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They had a fair selection of poutine, but I wasn’t in a poutine mood.

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They had Nanaimo bars which is excellent. The spelling on the ingredients for Beaver Tail might seem like a mistake, but I believe I just found my awesome rap name: Cinammn.

Mail box

The mail box is a nice touch.

The food was impressive and the price was very reasonable. I would come here for the beer, but the food and the price of the food are just icing on the cake. The owner took great lengths to make it feel very Canadian. The hockey on screen is good. It’s just too bad that Canada’s been having a pretty terrible season. I’d definitely come here again to try some of the other items on the menu, I just hope that it doesn’t get too crowded once more people learn about the place.

In a scale of 1 to 5 Body Breaks in terms of Canadianness, I give it four.

Body Break Rating

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Bad Winnipeg Politics

Tim_Hortons

A friend alerted me to news regarding Jamie Hall, someone we went to high school with. I don’t remember much about him, but I knew enough to be surprised that he tried to be a politician. It takes a certain amount of courage as well as an almost wide-eyed zeal to serve one’s community, and these positive virtues are quite commendable, regardless of the cynicism that comes hand in hand with the profession. So it is a shame that Jamie Hall’s political career barely lasted twenty-four hours when tweets degrading women resurfaced and put a stop to his campaign. (http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/busby-on-hall-tweets-1.3476086)

What’s even more unfortunate is that somehow, the Liberal party’s vetting process didn’t catch what seems to be glaring red flags: He worked as a bar promoter. He penned a novel titled 7 Deadly Women. He has an active Twitter and Youtube accounts. They’re not sins of themselves, but they could be mined for anything that could be useful for rival candidates. And lastly, he dresses like a magician. He looks more like a pick-up artist at the Manitoba Legislature than a person trying to run for political office.

First off, let’s look at the comment themselves. He refers to his girlfriend as a “skank.” This could be excused as a personal term on a personal message not meant for public consumption. But then again, this is politics, and regardless of how his girlfriend feels about the term, it is still quite offensive. I could call my wife the n-word and she might think it’s the sweetest, most endearing moniker in the world, but that doesn’t make it acceptable especially if I’m running for public office.

This also isn’t the first time he’s used such demeaning terms. One of his offensive tweets (and there are quite a few) says, “If a whore screams in the bedroom and no one is around to hear it, is she really a whore?” Now, the tweet doesn’t really make much sense since I’m sure there are “whores” that could be quiet and “proper women” that could be noisy in bed, but his rather casual use of the term suggests comfort with the idea of certain women being “whores” and “skanks.” Now, he tries to explain his actions by saying that as a liberal, he’s always been against the idea of censorship, but there’s nothing offensive in the tweet “if a whore screams…” that mere censorship could cure. It is the idea within the tweet that is offensive. You could replace the term “whore” with “loose woman” and still come off as a misogynist.

He also uses such terms from a position of power and I don’t think he fully realizes how it looks from a political perspective when a white male refers to women as “whores” and “skanks.” Again, from a political and social perspective, it looks like he is punching down. I realize that there are some men, especially those in the men’s rights movement, who think that certain women deserve the label “whore” and that in many mays minimizing and/or objectifying women is a means of punching up, but that’s not how many women see it. That’s not how people in politics see it. Doesn’t this guy have a political consultant or at least someone with common sense who reads the paper? He explains that a lot of people talk like him, that he is not perfect and no one is. And it’s true, crude language doesn’t disqualify someone’s abilities nor does it negate their willingness to do good for the community. But it’s not one comment that shows a callous and rather immature attitude towards women, it’s several. And also, as political creatures, one has to look at such comments pragmatically whether they’re on his side or running against him. They are bad politically.

His explanation wasn’t much help either. I find that his CBC interview was more explanation than an apology, which is really the only thing that could’ve saved him. If anything, some of his explanations were more of an insult to the people who were offended. “My girlfriend is a strong, independent woman. She would not be sitting here in the studio next to me if I called her a skank.” First off, he did refer to his girlfriend as a “skank.” Perhaps it was in jest, but it did happen. He’s asking people to believe him instead of their own lying eyes. Also, to say that his girlfriend is “strong and independent” implies that those who were offended are not. Again, I don’t fully subscribe to this logic, but politically, this is a pretty bad explanation which could be easily exploited should he have decided to move forward. I dislike professional politicians as much as the next person, but that comment was amateur hour.

Now, I don’t want to be the word police. I think people should be free to say anything they want. The right to offend, to add controversial ideas and rhetoric in the marketplace of ideas is one of the greatest rights in Canada. However, people are not free from the consequences of their words. Hall is free to use the word “whores” and “skanks,” he is free to demean women if he wants to. Heck, I’ve been accused of misogyny a couple of times before myself. But as a political creature, Hall is not free from the consequences of his words. He should’ve known better, perhaps cleaned up his history or done a better job apologizing for it. The Liberal party should’ve known better as well.

The use of the word “whore” and “skank,” as well as his history of tweets don’t offend me. I really couldn’t care less about them. I’m not sure if I can outright label him as a misogynist based on a small sample of his language. What annoyed me is the lack of political savviness exhibited in the whole episode.

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Fear of the Same Thing

Vishnu

Last week was a good week for Canada. It’s been a decade since we had Harper and the conservatives, and it’s been decade of Canada becoming more and more like its southern neighbor. Canada’s become more polluted and more reliant on dirty energy exploration. Many of our protected lakes are no longer protected and Aboriginal communities continue to be marginalized. There were even talks about abolishing our healthcare system to something more similar to the one in the United States.

And while I didn’t vote this election (I was not allowed.) and would’ve been very happy should NDP have taken control of the government, I’m glad that Justin Trudeau won. It’s still very early and he has not done anything yet, but at least Harper is out of office. This is the same elated feeling back when Barrack Obama won in 2008. We didn’t know what Obama was about back then, but at least he was not George Bush. The anti-Bush sentiment was so overwhelming that Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize just for not being bush (A senseless gesture in my opinion, since Obama is just as pro-military as his predecessor.). I just hope that our new Prime Minister lives up to his promises and not be as empty and as pro-corporation as Barrack Obama.

Canadians woke up from their conservative slumber and decided to get their voices heard and try to affect some change in the country. It was a good week to feel hopeful, to be optimistic about our future. I’m very optimistic as well. But looking down south, it is a cautious optimism.

I notice Vice has been doing a lot of stories related to Winnipeg lately. I tend to get very suspicious when news aggregators keep on pushing people and stories to their viewers when they really don’t belong in the headlines (I’m looking at you, Huffington Post! Stop trying to get me to like Trevor Noah!). I don’t mind agenda in journalism, but it gets tiring and disheartening when the agenda is marketing. Anyway, the Winnipeg-related stories, while unusually frequent, seem to tell a common theme of the government marginalizing certain segments of the population. In Winnipeg’s case, it’s the Aboriginal population.

At least that’s what I previously thought. It’s the government that didn’t care. It’s the government that continues to ignore these poor communities. Then I send the videos to a few people. These people immediately got bored. These people weren’t that affected. It’s not the government; it’s a lot of Canadians, even the “progressive” ones.

This brings me back to the elections. And while Trudeau promises to make positive changes to conservative policies that have harmed the country, I wonder if that promise for a better future extends to all of Canada. A few weeks ago, Harper claimed that most cases of murdered and missing Aboriginal women are solved. This is typical of many people’s attitudes regarding Aboriginal issues, not just conservatives. “It has already been taken care of.”

Here’s hoping that the government, and most people who claim to be progressive, will be more concerned about Aboriginal issues.

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Art for the People

diesel engine

There’s a law in the city that mandates the erection of public of art with the construction of major buildings in the city. It’s meant to add culture and prevent the city from looking like a jungle of right angles. Of course, not everyone is pleased with every choice of art that is erected in public, but I guess that is true with most artwork. It won’t please everyone. The statue of a proposing man below for example doesn’t really do it for me. Instead of inspiring thought, it is about as shallow as Ronald Macdonald sitting on a bench. It is kitsch kneeling for all eternity.

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I believe it’s not a private commission, but Borofsky’s Hammering Man, which I see almost every day, is borne out of the same desire to bring culture out in the streets. Now this, I like.

Hammering Man

I understand not everyone likes it, but I do hope that more public art will be like this. Not necessarily as grand as Borofsky’s works, but less kitschy. Granted, there is value in cutesy and lighthearted works, but the jokes wear thin after a while… really thin if you see the same joke every working day.

It reminds me of what my old art instructor did a few years ago, when he had his students erect colorful sculptures to “liven up” downtown. Some of the works were fun, but after a while, it makes one wonder why muddy and honestly what looked like amateurish works were littered downtown. It’s like a giant dropped his old, unused toys on his way to the flea market.

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Winnipeg and Awesome Art Communities

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One of the things I really miss about Canada is the art community. In Canada, I believe the art community is democratized, where many galleries primarily make money through selling artists’ work. There are pros and cons to this approach. It might limit what the galleries show, only exhibiting what is currently trendy or commercially viable (like Hong Kong galleries, in my opinion). But it also puts all artists in an even playing field, where making and exhibiting art is not a rich man’s hobby.

In the second day of my trip, I visited quite a few galleries in Winnipeg. Many of them were open to new artists looking to exhibit. Reading through some of the bios, I see a lot of people who were self-taught and many who were exhibiting for the first time after (or in the midst of) careers in other fields. The galleries, like many I apply to in North America, will screen works, review proposals, then work with artists. I’m not sure to what degree sales fit in the equation, but as an artist, I don’t see a big financial investment on my part outside of the money spent framing and shipping works to galleries.

Now maybe it’s just my limited experience as a foreigner, or perhaps my lack of Korean language skills, but from what I see in Korea, galleries tend to make their money off the artist first. Selling the artists’ works is just a secondary thought. With real estate prices skyrocketing, galleries in Korea would cover their expenses first by billing artists exorbitant gallery rental fees. The fees don’t cover promotion. Like many galleries in North America, it is usually up to the artist to drum up audiences for their shows. (I don’t think many gallery owners cared about my CV.) Now, the advantage of such an approach is that as long as the gallery fees are covered, the artist is free to explore new ideas. This makes the scene rife for Dadaist approaches like Marcel Duchamp’s fountain. If anything in the gallery space is considered art (as long as the gallery fees are paid), does that not make any object a possible art piece and any person a possible artist? Rent a gallery, challenge the system, and go crazy. Explore!

I would like to think that that is what’s happening in Korea, but sadly, it doesn’t work that way. From what I’ve seen, art here is a rich man’s game. Many people don’t live off of their art. They’re often independently wealthy and art is a hobby they can afford to pursue. I remember a friend of mine who met an artist whose works were currently being exhibited in the Seoul Museum of Contemporary Art. They became friendly and he bought one of the artist’s works. It was a small and affordable painting, not like the ones he had in the gallery. To his surprise, the artist got a bit teary-eyed and was touched by the gesture. He said that he was the first person to ever buy one of his works. He was the first person to buy the artist’s works.

Now how could a living person be in the Seoul Museum of Contemporary Art and not even sell one piece?

Our guess is you go through the art school/scene in Korea, rent galleries for a few shows, know a few people, then hopefully build enough of a reputation to get yourself in a major gallery. Building up a CV would require a lot of money in this country, something that most artists cannot do.

In Canada, or in North America, it’s much different. Sure, a person can throw money at galleries and have their works shown, but there’s also a more honest, albeit harder and more humbling approach: apply to galleries, listen to their recommendations, apply again, and keep on applying until someone finally pays attention. I’m not saying the Korean system does not exist in Canada. I’m sure it does, and I’m sure that’s how many galleries work, but what I don’t see in Korea too often are galleries willing to take a chance on artists and not have a massive pay wall to have their works shown.

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I found this in my sister’s basement. A bit of a blast from the past. I miss art school. I miss lugging around a tackle box full of art supplies and being surrounded by artists. To my surprise, some of the paint is still good! The whole thing is now donated for other artists to use. Supplies are expensive. Recycle or donate your art supplies, folks.

Another blogger who loves Winnipeg. http://straightondetour.com/how-i-fell-in-love-with-winnipeg/

 

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Like Ghosts

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So the Winnipeg Jets are out. We barely made it in the playoffs. I was hoping one win would at least legitimize our team being included the playoffs, but being swept by the Ducks kinda says it all. We weren’t ready for the playoffs at all. I’m a little bit disappointed, but following the Jets, I kinda expected something like this going in.

Looks like Keith Olbermann is also in the camp against Mayweather. I hear ya, Keith. But before you generously label Pacquiao as the better man, let me remind you that he is part of what keeps his home country poor, a “governor” who doesn’t know a thing about politics, someone who was used by former president Arroyo, another president whose years were plagued with corruption and fraud.  He’s one of the most absent congressman in the country. But when he’s not training or promoting fights, he’s voting against women’s rights and contraception. There’s no good man in that ring on Sunday.

An old episode of This American Life introduced me to the wonderful musical stylings of Jo Carol Pierce. In an episode titled “Teenaged Girls,” she talks about suicide and her relationships with men and Jesus. Rennie Sparks also tells the story about a girl growing up and dealing with peer pressure. She’s one half of The Handsome Family band which many people would know from the opening theme of True Detective. It’s great radio if you could find it, an enlightening look at the fairer sex, some awkward tales of growing up, all without getting too unsophisticatedly feminist about it.

Now I’m off to get my period.

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Suddenly Sports

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NHL playoffs.

Five Canadian teams have made it to the playoffs. To pairs have been set against each other, so regardless of the outcome, two Canadian teams will make it to the next round. Surprisingly, the Winnipeg Jets made it to the playoffs as well. They made it despite the Evander Kane controversy, and how many fans were predicting doom and gloom after they star was traded to the Sabres. Unfortunately, despite making it to the playoffs, the Jets have so far lost the first two games, all due to dumb shenanigans on the ice. The games have been quite physical, but the Ducks have been playing it smarter, keeping their defense tight and taking advantage of power plays.

A good friend of mine said that the Jets goalie, Pavelec, reminded her of their goalie from almost twenty years ago, Khabibulin. Both are stars, and the team hung on to them as their key to doing well in the playoffs. Unfortunately, goalies only keep the other team from scoring, and they can only block so many shots. The Jets have dragged behind the Ducks in shots taken. And if they don’t step up their game, and maybe keep the shenanigans to a minimum, then maybe we won’t be repeating the last time the Jets underperformed at the playoffs.

Here’s hoping we learn from our mistakes and score a win next game.

I don’t talk much about sports, but there’s only hockey, which I’ve grown to love the longer I’m away from Canada, and boxing.

The problem with the boxing is that as impressive as Wladimir Klitschko is, there just isn’t much media hype over heavy weight fights despite him being the undisputed heavyweight champion.  And as for the Mayweather vs Pacquiao match, I can’t  push myself to root for either fighter for reasons outside of the ring. Mayweather just comes off as a scumbag. There’s the domestic violence stuff, but there’s  also the obnoxious way he talks and flaunts his money around.

As for Pacquaio, I would argue he is worse than Mayweather despite maintaining a rather clean image. This is a man who doesn’t appear to be able to say no to anything. Who made him a congressman? No wonder the country is where it is at the moment. The man dropped out of high school (albeit due to poverty) and has no legislative background.  I realize the Philippines has a habit of electing celebrities to politics, but at some point a person has to say no and not take everything he’s offered. Also, his politics is dumb and disgusting. He is against same-sex marriage. He is also against the use of condoms, and abortion. That just won’t work in a country that’s over-populated and with high unemployment rate. I realize the country is mostly Catholic, but governments should be run by learned leaders, not by close-minded athletes and religious zealots.

Excellent fighters, horrible human beings.

Oh well. Back to hockey!

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