Saturday, June 25, 2016

Another View on Brexit

I wasn't eligible to vote on Britain's exit from the European Union, and I'm not sure how I would have voted. My head said Remain but my heart said Leave - and I find myself quite pleased that England and Wales found the strength to free themselves from the EU.

During the campaign, every article I read made the assumption that the Leave camp were all skin heads, xenophobes, illiterate farmers, or doddering old fools. ("Doddering old fool" was defined as anyone over 54.) They said that people who supported Brexit were doing it out of fear and loathing. The only rational reason for Leave that I saw was that Brexit would lower the value of the pound, thus boosting British manufacturing and blue collar jobs.

In fact, there are lots of good reasons for England and Wales to leave the EU. The EU is a mess. Eight years on, Europe hasn't recovered from the 2008 financial crisis. The central bank situation leaves Europe unable to fix its economy. (How did they think they could share a currency but not have a strong central bank?) European countries are having to resort to negative interest rates as unemployment soars.

I'm not even scratching the surface of the problems with the EU. The upshot is that this incompetent organization dictates a huge array of things that should be up to the people: Britain is unable to regulate everything from the size of trucks to how foods are packaged to, yes, immigration. Trade has superseded democracy.

Since the Brexit vote, everyone's going on about market turbulence as if markets have fallen into the sinkhole of hell. In fact, markets have been turbulent since January, mostly because of fears that China won't grow as fast as it used to. Market turbulence is a serious problem but is nothing new. In general, the market goes down and then it goes up again.

I'm not ordinarily a fan of direct democracy. Voters in my town were conned by anti-vaxxer types into voting to take fluoride out of our water. Californians have damaged their public schools by their crazy and conflicting propositions, resulting in some schools being forced to offer after-school dance classes while cutting core subjects.

But this is different. Free trade agreements and common markets restrict our democratic rights. We, the people, should have a say in that. David Cameron called this vote for all the wrong reasons, but still, history will show that he did an important and progressive thing in allowing Britons to decide to Brexit.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

LRT in Waterloo Park

This used to be a line of mature trees alongside a pretty railway line. Now there is a hideous raised rail bed of gravel, structures every 50 feet that look like power pylons, and a long impassable chain link fence dividing our once-lovely park in two. Why oh why have our elected officials allowed this to happen?

It didn't have to be like that. LRTs don't have to be godawful ugly eyesores.

Monday, June 06, 2016

The pros and cons of getting drunk at the theater

Ten years ago I wrote a post about a performance of Ibsen's Ghosts at Stratford (link). The production was powerful, tragic and grim - but the seemingly-drunken audience tittered and laughed all the way through it.

Last week I had the opposite experience - a production of As You Like It that was so amped up on audience participation - being on stage during Pee-Wee's Playhouse would have been more sedate - that I suspected the only way to enjoy it was to be drunk.

At least, looking around at the third-full Festival Theater at the mostly blank faces of people being yelled at to wave pine boughs, hold up stars, proffer carrots, hold out lights, clap and sing, and even get on stage to dance - it seemed that the only person truly enjoying himself was the man seated directly behind me, who had obviously imbibed heartily from the theater bar.

(The production, when it was allowed to continue, was quite good. Petrina Bromley played Rosalind - and Petrina Bromley is a great, great talent. This is her first year at Stratford and if we're lucky she'll stick around for a long time. She brought a whimsical incandescence to Rosalind that I haven't seen since Maggie Smith was at Stratford in the 70s. Bromley is a naturalistic actor but has all the gravitas of a great Shakespearian. From now on, if she's in something, I'm going.)

For a couple of years now, Stratford has been aiming to involve the audience more in the play, and to make the play a more immersive experience. Actors talk to the audience before the play, people sit on the stage, actors talk directly to the audience at times during the play, and so on. This year's As You Like It takes this idea to an absurd degree and it distracted from the play... but I like the sentiment behind blurring the separation between fluffy musicals and Shakespeare. I like the idea of making the play a raucous experience, as it might have been in Shakespeare's day. I thought the setting really worked (Newfoundland in the 70s). It's just that I drive 30 minutes to get to Stratford so I can't get drunk enough to enjoy waving a pine bough over my head every 10 minutes.