Inching Closer to Invariable Totalitarianism

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A week ago, I received the rather unexpected Canada Census slip in the mail, with the all-too-well known, yet still alarming text of “Complete the census – it’s the law,” plastered over the eerie yellow paper. I paid no heed to its intimidating form. I threw it on my desk and placed it outside of my mind until the news feed was overflowing with articles commending the entire nation’s’ apparent enthusiasm with completing it. The form which aims to collect personal information from all households, and the one which promises that if not completed it could lead to a $500 fine or even up to three-months imprisonment.

The imperceptible feeling that I must comply to share is that I am not quite sure what is more terrifying, the actual penalties for not completing the census, or the overzealous joy of complying with the state – the being, and entity which of course necessitates trust, especially in a liberal country such as ours, but surely not with such enthusiasm. I am not sure whether the institutionalization of the collection of data itself seems like a viable bureaucratic necessity. Nor whether, it has led to the normalization of mass compliance, by so many of my co-patriots.

Whether it is both a symbiotic relationship between the submissive masses, or the ever-growing power of the state. Or whether power is exercised from one side towards the other. The answer to these questions necessitate perhaps an entire treatise. The fact remains, that although this doesn’t mean that totalitarianism is just around the corner, it certainly seems to be an aspect of it. Something which is entertained with the utmost eagerness, by what seems to be most facets of Canada – including most forms of media on most of the political spectrum.

The census has been part of Canada since 1871, a few years after Confederation which sought to try and discern the ever present cultural and ethnic mosaic that has made up this nation, as well as the numerous Indigenous nations within it. In 1912, interestingly, the first federal organization was set up – the Dominion Bureau of Statistics – which employed its power to try and find out the makeup of Canada from “mare ad mare.” It was in the post-war years however, coupled with the relative prosperity, that the census became a truly Canadian “tradition” per se. The last census conducted was in 2011.

Yet there is hope, at least an act of symbolic yet also salient rebellion, when some such as Janet Churnin refused to complete the mandatory census and was taken to court for it. She was found guilty with violating Statistics Canada, but showed no remorse. It is such incidences which at times relay some hope. Although she was slapped with a sentence of 50 hours of community service, at the age of 79, she expressed that she was happy “to make a point.” Therein lies the individuality of a person, remained intact, unmoved by the ever-expanding power of the state.

The question that has been hovering in my thoughts however is whether the apparent eagerness of Canadians to complete the census was the result of fear of facing the penalties? Was it perhaps the enthusiasm of aiding future historians that will look at the data we put in the system, and make large claims, perhaps even sweeping generalizations based on some numbers?

Perhaps, there is something scarier than those two options- perhaps it is the ardor to give away information, found interminably in their joy of subservience, in the joy of becoming one with the fold- the utter collectivism of anonymity. Of placing one’s voice in a chorus of sheer imperceptibility- and thus the deviation of individuality. Ultimately what I mean is the happiness that comes with utter subservience, and Foucaultian “docility” that is welcomed. One’s proselytization to the group, yielding to the national form, and thus happily giving into a Kafkaesque reality which most secretly love to be a part of. I assume.

You may think this sounds dramatic – especially over something as simple as a census. Yet I ask, humbly, why must the state impose a penalty if one fails to complete it? Why is that not the detail which causes worry in the hearts of people, who wish to live in a free country, based on liberal ideals? The argument that this is for the ‘common good’ of the nation, has been long exhausted – used so many times before by totalitarian states.

It is not that I am arguing against the importance of the census, for I know it’s dire need – perhaps even in the long-form. But a choice must be given to complete it out of one’s free will. Anything but is antithetical.

The question that needs to be asked: Is totalitarianism inching ever-closer to us, or are we gladly slowly taking steps towards its shadow? Is it democratic for the state to demand information from the citizens of a country?

Opinion by Milad Doroudian

The Face Of A Holocaust Ghetto: Vancover Photography Exhibit

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — It is difficult to imagine, even for a second, what people had to go through when they were taken out of their homes by force and thrown into small confines, with little food, no running water or electricity, for extended periods of time, all under the tyranny of the Nazi SS squadron. Yet this was the norm inside Nazi Germany’s system of ghettos in Eastern Europe.

Although to fathom such circumstances is hard, the Vancouver Holocaust Education Center has made it possible by putting on an exhibit of photographs, drawing from a collection of 12,000 photos that depict what life looked like in one such ghetto: Litzmannstadt.

Litzmannstadt was set up in the city of Lodz after the Nazis invaded Poland, and was used for war factory slave labor to produce armaments for the Eastern Front. Between 1940 and 1944, about 18,000 Jews, as well as 5,000 Roma and Sinti lived and worked in extremely horrifying conditions. Many of them died in the Chelmno death camp.

The Jewish Council — the Judenrat — which was the Jewish leadership that was assigned control over the ghetto — commissioned a few Jewish photographers to capture the hardships of life in the ghetto. A great deal of the photographs were secretly taken right under the noses of the Nazis, and eventually amounted to a collection of magnificent, yet also harrowing, moments between families, as well as photos of children trying to survive under complete terror.

The exhibit is not solely composed of photos, as the Topography of Foundation made it clear that “the presentation, designed as a traveling exhibition, is accompanied by statements from former residents of the ghetto and entries from the ghetto chronicle.”

The main purpose of the exhibit is to put on display the hopeless conditions that people were forced to live in, but also to bring to light that they also maintained their self-respect as human beings, regardless of the circumstances that surrounded them.

The exhibition is supported by the Consulate General of the Federal Republic of Germany, and it is an extension of a larger exhibition from the famous Topography of Terror Foundation in Berlin. The exhibit is scheduled to end this December.

By Milad Doroudian

Photo by Schlif, German Federal Archives.

Canada Gears Up For Most Heated Election In Over A Decade

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Canada is gearing up to vote in what many believe will be the most heated election in over a decade. This will be the longest campaign in Canada since 1872, spanning 11 weeks.

The election date was announced by Prime Minister Steven Harper at the beginning of August, propelling Canadians to engage in political conversations in grocery stores, on neighbors’ porches, at parties, and above all — as is normal in our time — on various online platforms. We saw the four main candidates duke it out in the Maclean’s National Leaders Debate on August 6th, only to see more confounding rhetoric come forth from the mouths of political analysts, or those people who fancy themselves to be political analysts. We need to look beyond the same old political rhetoric, such as the issues of economy, foreign policy, education and so on, and try to understand party policies in their more important details.

The truth is that we have four exceptionally strong candidates, something which has not happened for a long time in Canadian politics. Still this nation is not about electing prime ministers; rather it is about electing MP’s in the house. Although I forget this occasionally, I am sure that many others do as well. The next few months will be paramount to the future of Canada, as many remain adamant in their support of the Conservative party, many are also starting to feel that Harper has been in office far too long. It is obvious that it will be a tight race between the Liberals and Conservatives, but it also seems like the NDP is making headway, according to recent polling.

At the end of the day the main issue comes down to the fact that the economy — in other words to Canada’s almost technical recession during the past five months. While the dollar is falling and the economy is contracting, all fingers are of course pointed at Harper’s government. In the recent debate, Trudeau, Mulcair, and May all used this to levy against Harper, while the prime minister himself attacked the other three on their major platform plans for raising taxes across all sectors of Canada in order to strengthen the social safety net. For a moment it was like watching Friedman, although a not so eloquent or educated version, debating ‘Kenesyan’ economists.

Canada currently finds itself at a multiple crossroad, and whichever way the nation chooses to take the future is somewhat precarious. Whether the people choose another four years of Harper, Mulcair’s potential steady leadership, or Justin’s refreshing ways, I think the real issue here is what do Canadians believe would be a better Canada? One that maintains a Conservative foothold or one that moves towards the left? Rather, a Canada with Harper or without him?

I have not mentioned May, as although she was a strong presence in the debate, she is still the leader of a one-issue-party that has no room in the moderate Canadian landscape that we all envision. The truth is, regardless of whether we like it or not, the thing that is on most people’s minds as of this moment is not the environment, but the economy. More precisely, not the fact that Canada has not met emission standards in years, but why the Canadian dollar is plummeting. 

Canada needs a strong leader that can face issues head on, but it also needs a strong party. As our national safety is being debated amid all governmental institutions down to twitter discussions, Bill C-51 is a big concern in this campaign. Mulcair and May are heavily against the bill. Trudeau believes that the bill is a good idea, yet he still has made it clear that he wants to change some of its amendments and policies. The question is, if Mulcair or May do become PM’s in December, will they be able to do something about it?

All of this is mere politics, and what I mean by “mere” is that we hear the same old rhetoric, and the same old lines on the most prevalent issues of our time, with no real candor. The very fact that the debate was not pugnacious, is only a determiner of the fact that all four candidates were scared to hit the nails on the head. It would be exceptionally interesting to see therefore what the candidates’ opinion on more specific issues such as the recent Iran nuclear deal is. In a recent article by Bob Rae, he has made the case that Canada needs to be wholly clear on its stance over the Iran nuclear deal. We all know that Harper is rightly an important ally of Israel and Benjamin Netanyahu, but the truth is that Canada’s relations with the United States are at an “historic low,” one of the reasons being its unyielding support for Israel.

The issue of Israel is another important point of contention, and one which will probably cost Mulcair. Although they all have expressed support for Israel-some more than others- Mulcair has pushed the idea of supporting Palestine as well which is a position that the current government has not taken and might not be too popular. Last year the Forum Poll posted a small poll that suggests that on average Canadians are split on the Israel-Palestine issue, but a majority of them choose not to “pick sides.” It is obvious that the elections in October will show us how the Canadian public feels.

The truth is that politics are distressingly perplexing, but amid all of the rhetoric there is another level that affects the way voters actually vote, one which is far more simple, and that is the case of image. Ben Shapiro, the political commentator, makes the case in his book Project President that in the U.S. the issue of image has always been important to the way voters learn to trust candidates. The same is easily applied to Canadian politics as well. When we look at Justin and his youthful demeanor it is easy to see that there is an ideal energetic outlook to the way he presents himself. On the other hand, Harper although aging, has a different cool, collected, calm to him that shows him off to be a leader that knows what he is doing. Mulcair and May seem to have a more empathetic and approachable vibe to them. Although we hate to admit it, as Ben Shapiro suggests, the truth is that things like how candidates are dressed, how they look, and how they act are crucial to voters simply due to the fact that it is a part of human nature.

Despite the obvious problem of image, as well as vague opinions on national and international issues, we need to place our trust as voters in the ideas of the parties that we feel appeals most to us, and not necessarily in the leadership, however hard that may be. This is a country whose political system has been built on representation, therefore when one votes in their own riding it is essential they choose a party that represents them the most, and not just simply how they feel about the party’s leader. Regardless of whether one is anti-Harper, or anti-Trudeau, the important thing remains that the Canadian populace votes in October.

Analysis by Milad Doroudian

Photo by Saffron Blaze

Greece is heading for the polls: “Yes” or “No”?

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In a few hours Greece will be heading to the polls to answer the question, “Should the plan of agreement, which was submitted by the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund in the Eurogroup of 25.06.2015 and is comprised of two parts that constitute their unified proposal, be accepted?”

The turnout of the referendum will determine Greece’s future position in the Eurozone, but also its own economic stability. Only last Tuesday the country defaulted on its 1.5 billion Euro loan from the IMF, which means that Greece is officially bankrupt.

Over the last few years Greece has been in an economic crisis which has led to two major bailouts by the EU in order to continue the country’s economic prosperity. However, the new government, led by Prime Minister Alex Tsipras, has made it clear that it no longer wants to accept the new bailout proposed by the Eurogroup, as it would come with a package of severe austerity measures which would only further cripple Greece.

A protestor outside the Greek parliament building on 29 June 2015, holding a sign reading. By Jan Wellman.
A protester outside the Greek parliament building June 29, 2015 – Jan Wellman

Yet the issue is not so black and white, as a “No” turnout would possibly lead Greece to exit the Eurozone and return to its old currency — which would lead to further economic contraction. However Greece votes Sunday, it has a pernicious future ahead.

Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis has made a declaration suggesting that the creditors have been “terrorizing” Greece with their proposals and that he would not stand for it. He said that if the final turnout is Yes, he will resign his post.

However, it is obvious that if people want to continue with EU aid, the government which has been in power the past two years will most likely dissolve, sending the country into more political turmoil. This of course amid the bank closures that have had a serious effect on cash flow, as people have been lining up at ATMs only to withdraw limited amounts of cash.

The debt crisis has led to unrest amid the populace, as yesterday two major rallies took over in Athens, the “No” and the “Yes” camps, who all urged the populace to vote for what they believe to be the right choice for Greece and its people.

A “No” vote will undoubtedly lead to a serious economic meltdown, however a “Yes” will lead to a postponement of the same consequence, accompanied by serious economic austerity.

As the country is divided on the issue, the EU is urging people to vote “Yes,” which would mean that a Greek exit from the Eurozone would be less likely. Germany, the de facto leader of the EU, has said that “It is clear that we will not leave the [Greek] people in the lurch.”

Today, Greeks all over the nation stood in soup and bread lines. The national interest of the entire Greek people lay with the result of this vote. Whatever happens tomorrow, it is obvious that the times ahead will definitely be difficult for Greece, and the vote will not yield an immediate solution.

Photo Credit / Stephanie Limage of Limage Media Group in Athens July 4th 2015

Impassive aesthetics: Lou’s frigid vignette of color

Impassive aesthetics Lou’s frigid vignette of color
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It is rare to come across something so aesthetically pleasing that it requires one to stop staring so as not to strain the eyes from the sheer glaring, doleful beauty found in the pulchritude of its aesthetics. Yet this seems to be the case with the work of the B.C. artist who goes by the pseudonym of “Lou.” Imperceptible, yet still stinging with colors and abstractions, Lou manages to establish the most vain formats of photography and materialize allurement.

The essence of the creative is brought out through most of Lou’s work, who while at times dealing with gelastic settings, at others captures the essence of the people that surround her. In every photograph she manages to blend colors with cold forms of emotional detachment while still keeping a sense of warmth in the rhythm of color and, I dare say, even in absurdity.

Her work, although it could be interpreted by some as astute to the vanity of humans, is in fact just that, but more so an expression of a part of everyone’s character. In other words, we all enjoy “eye candy,” and to deny this truth is to go against the most innate part of human nature. The desire to be exposed to beauty in all its forms is a desire we all hold, which is perhaps one of the reasons why Lou has amassed a decent following around the world, some even as far as Russia.

Lou, who during the day goes by Mary-Jolene Scott, has been heavily immersed in photography for the past three years, where she has been involved in shoots with numerous fashion and clothing designers in the Lower Mainland. Her most recent work with designer Jennifer Williams led to a series of extravagant shots in what seems to be the dead center of some far-off desert. What is most interesting however is that Lou puts a great deal of effort into the design of her sets, with a methodical preciseness in lighting. When one looks at her photographs it is not hard to see that magnetism comes infallibly with exactitude.


In a phone interview with The Speaker, when asked why she creates, she answered: “I just do it because I can,” which prompted this journalist to seek no further truth, and even lead him to realize that the congruence of her character is very much in tune with her work. Although aloof and cold, it is still alluring. One does not need to go even beyond the artist-name she has picked for herself — which was based on Lou Reed — to understand the image she is trying to convey.

Her work, detached, even dispassionate, might give a sense of a lack of emotion, yet that is the very point to which she aspires. Still, the process by which one comes to such impassive aesthetics is not in fact one devoid of emotions but of a work ethic and passion for her art that is required to produce such work. As mentioned before, although a great deal of her photography deals with gaudy character-types and settings, a more refined anecdote is the fact that she takes photos of people in her community, and sometimes they even pose in her shoots. The social aspects that are very much left behind in Lou’s work do play a salient role in its creation.


One of her most alluring works, in my opinion, is the sliced golden apple with transposed lines at the cores. The feeling is that of disunion but not in some sort of “deep” or “metaphorical” manner; rather in the pure character of the apple itself. In other words, lines, forms, and shapes transpire to create a portrait of defined colors captured by a 35mm lens. It is a dichotomy therefore of the reality captured by photography, and the surreal — namely the lines and shadows which seem hypnagogic yet are still very much part of the “photographic” canvass.

In another piece, where the body of what seems to be a female covered with intent by a flaccid mask and decorated with bright flowers, we find again very much an example of the detached, almost Millais-styled “truth to beauty” that Lou tries to portray in her work. The individual body is present, yet its identity is concealed by a material cover. I dare say that behind the mask lies a frigid stare, although that is not for the viewer to experience but only to ponder.

LouAlthough photography is sometimes decried as a medium for the mediocre, Lou shows that creativity is not in fact so bleak of a course when it comes to snapping images that have depth to them and even delicacy. Her work is therefore proof that design, photography, fashion and art are innately linked to each other — in a Dalaunay fashion — and that together they form Lou’s vignette of color.

When asked where she sees herself in five years, she promptly responded: “famous,” giving again an impression of confidence that is parallel with the cheek of her photography.

Critique by Milad Doroudian.
Photographs by Lou
Model: Coco Clark

Vancouver Art Gallery’s exhibition of Herzog & de Meuron’s dazzling projects

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — The new Vancouver exhibition “Material Future” is a great deal more than just haughty architectural designs embellished with simplistic elemental assemblies. It will be, according to the Vancouver Art Gallery, a showcase in “design philosophy.”

The famous architectural firm, Herzog & de Meuron, which has given rise to beautiful works of architecture across the globe, currently have their projects showcased in the VAG in a exhibition that opened on March 27. However, what is most interesting, at least to Vancouver residents, is the fact that a portion of the exhibition will focus on the designs, planning, and building of the future Vancouver Art Gallery. The actual conceptual design of the future building will be unveiled to the public in late spring.

Herzog & de Meuron is the Swiss architectural firm that designed the famous Tate Modern in London, the Young Museum in San Francisco, the National Stadium in Beijing, and the Schaulager in Basel, as well as current projects such as a new museum of visual culture in Hong Kong and the much anticipated M+. What makes the firm so well known is its uniqueness with particular attention to the materials, site and context of all of its buildings. It employs an international team of about 460 collaborators which works on projects across Europe, the Americas and Asia. The firm‘s main office is in Basel, with additional offices in Hamburg, London, Madrid, New York City, and Hong Kong.

“The firm is internationally renowned for their attention to materials, site, and context, which defines a practice that is astonishingly subtle and complex.” said a representative of the gallery in an email.

“Herzog & de Meuron has demonstrated their commitment to the new Vancouver Art Gallery project. Their research of Vancouver and British Columbia includes extensive travel throughout the province and significant time spent with Gallery stakeholders, including many artists in the Vancouver art community.”

Interestingly, the VAG has organized the exhibition in three key steps. First a preliminary introduction to the new VAG building project, which will include plans, introductions to the site architects, and different processes. The second will be a meticulous study space which will focus on the strategies and the process behind Herzog & de Meuron, and which will include monographs, as well as a projection room of the firm’s projects. The final step — and I dare say the most important — will be a lobby that will provide the visitors with the “context, plans and statues of the future gallery.”

“It has been a remarkable journey since last April when we started working closely with Herzog & de Meuron on the conceptual design of the new Vancouver Art Gallery building. This exhibition charts the history and the trajectory of the Gallery’s future growth, and it is an exciting prelude to the unveiling of the conceptual design of the new building,” said Kathleen S. Bartels, Director of the Gallery.

“Every step of the way, Herzog & de Meuron have demonstrated their commitment to this landmark project that will act as a catalyst for the city of Vancouver and beyond. Their research on Vancouver and British Columbia has been impressive, including extensive travel throughout the province.”

This whole process began in 2013, when the gallery launched an international RFQ-Request for Qualification — which means a call to firms around the world to step up and show their work so that the gallery could make a final decision on which they saw the best fit for what they wanted. Seventy-five companies from 16 different countries around the world responded to the call, until finally Herzog & de Meuron was given the job, which will work along with the Vancouver firm Perkins+Will.

Material Future Vancouver Art Gallery at 1145 West Georgia Street after refit, 1958 Vancouver Art Gallery Archives

When it comes to architecture the human mind is usually dazzled by the new and the thrilling, yet there is something rather interesting in the fact that the future gallery will no longer be the in the old provincial courts so fashionably renovated by architect Arthur Erikson in the early 1980’s. The art gallery has made it clear that they need more space for the ever-increasing collections. In fact it has reiterated that it needs a space of about 320,000 square feet, and the new location at West Georgia and Cambie is more than adequate.

Now the question remains: What are we to expect when the full design of the new building will be unveiled in late spring? Modern debauchery with cold glass and mystical complexities? Herzog & de Meuron has managed to astound people every time it first unveiled anything new, and even more so once the buildings actually came to life. This has been the case with the Allianz Arena in Munich Germany, and the Tate Modern in London which was one of the buildings that led the firm to win the prestigious Pritzker Prize in 2001.

We have been assured that the gallery is in competent hands, and, I dare say, Herzon & de Meuron are indeed a collection of the best talent in the world of architecture. Yet, as the romantic and classicist that I am, I feel remorse at the knowledge that the art gallery will move away from the old provincial courthouse which I think is much more providential, in the sense that it is more of an appropriate structure to house high works of art.

One thing which must be said is that perhaps what is more important to the Vancouver Art Gallery is the procuring of more works of art, that allude to greater artistic tendencies, rather than the formal and costly construction of a new building — one which will still undoubtedly be beautiful and worthy to be called an art gallery. Still the question remains: What will the art gallery fill it with? Even the recent Cezanne exhibition has proven in my view to be rather tediously discouraging.

It might be just my travels within the European landscape, in fact it might simply be my half-European lineage speaking out, but I assure you the collections which have graced the Vancouver Art Gallery throughout its existence, at least in my own opinion, are not much when compared the halls of art that fill Europe’s museums, and palaces.

Although I welcome the relocation with great delight, undoubtedly at the pleasure which will be procured from seeing a beautiful Herzog & de Meuron building in Vancouver, I will still feel almost as if the more important purpose of an art gallery is to grace its viewers with more alluring pieces before superb buildings. Infallibly, perhaps even in the context of art galleries what is on the inside is far more important than the outside, as the old bromide goes.

Preferably both, yet the reality of the situation is that this is not Europe, and its halls are very far away. We must satisfy our visual needs with what we have. This will not be the the first physical move of the VAG as we all know, and although we might have mixed feelings in regards to it, we must support the gallery’s decisions, for it is the most important source of the promotion of visual arts in Vancouver.

The exhibition is scheduled to run until October.

By Milad Doroudian

Feature Image Source: Installation view of Material Future: The Architecture of Herzog & de Meuron and the Vancouver Art Gallery, exhibit at the Vancouver Art Gallery, March 27 to October 4, 2015 Photo: Rachel Topham, Vancouver Art Gallery

Second Image Source: Vancouver Art Gallery Archives

Museum of Vancouver’s upcoming exhibition asks the question: What is happiness?

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — We usually ask ourselves, “How can we be more happy?” Rarely do we find the answer to this challenging question. Yet, Stefan Sagmeister’s “The Happy Show” will try to solve some of the most onerous dilemmas of happiness.

How can one be more happy? I for one have not one perceptible clue. Do we find it in things, people, or something as simple as a good cup of coffee?

The exhibition will be featured over two floors at the MOV, making it one of the largest to ever be put on in the museum’s history. It will be constructed of video screens, info-graphics, interactive machines, and even a bike that powers a neon sign. All of which have been designed to discuss issues such as mindfulness, well-being, and even sex, and according to the MOV, ” transcend the boundary between art and design.” Visitors will also be able to enjoy an extended preview of Sagmeister’s soon-to-be-released documentary “The Happy Film.”

“’The Happy Show’ arrives as the wellbeing of Metro Vancouver residents is at the forefront of attention. The Vancouver Foundation has recently reported that Lower Mainland residents feel lonely and isolated. Our local and provincial governments are now recognizing that social connection is crucial for personal happiness and for a thriving city,” says Gregory Dreicer, MOV Director of Curatorial and Engagement.TheHappyShow-SagmeisterWalsh4

Stefan Sagmeister, born in Austria in 1962, has been studying the meaning of happiness for the past 10 years as he struggled with alcohol, drugs, weight gain, and even depression. He has called this exhibition an amalgamation of all his beliefs and experiences that he gathered in those 10 years. In fact, his upcoming documentary will chronicle his various attempts at bettering his own state of joy, through different techniques, including cognitive therapy, meditation, and mood-altering drugs.

Sagmeister published numerous popular books, and is the winner of two Grammy Awards, the Lucky Strike Designer award, among a great deal more. He is also the co-founder of the New York-based design firm Sagmeister & Walsh.

The question of happiness, rather forcibly, make us think of what it might mean to us personally. Surely it cannot be something fully objective, as happiness is an individual thing that is different for each one of us. Yet, at the root of it all we might be surprised that there is a lot of common ground in what makes humans happy, regardless of gender, and background. I guess we have to wait for Sagmeister’s exhibition, and we might just find out.

In case that you do not have the patience to wait you can take a sneak peak at Sagmeister’s blog, that features some of the works and ideas that will be presented in the show.

The Museum of Vancouver is an award-winning authority on Vancouver’s history, sharing the region’s stories from its Aboriginal beginnings to contemporary topics. “The Happy Show” is set to open on April 23, and will run until September.

Images by Museum of Vancouver.

By Milad Doroudian.

The confounding nature of Canadian politics

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The trees might be blooming now, but it wont be long until leaves will begin to turn yellow and red. The next federal election shall soon be upon us, whether we like it or not. Yet, I find myself baffled, foolhardy, and even, I dare say, perplexed. A great deal of people in their juvenile nature might point their finger at me and pronounce outright that I am neglecting my duties as a citizen. The only thing I can say to that is: what are my options?

In an age when politics has become even more about personalities rather than the ideals and principles upon which governing our nation could best be decided — namely democratic deliberation — what is someone who does not follow celebrity culture do? Yes it had to be brought to light. It seems that in the last few years, Canadian politics does not seem so different from your standard celebrity news spectacle.

It seems to have shifted from the “ideas” part of the rhetoric — not that it was only about that — to a complete personality-based silliness. Ask yourself: Is Trudeau really up for it as a leader, or is he using his legacy, looks, and personality as Rex Murphy argued two years ago in one of his CBC rants? Although at first I saw this as another facile Conservative-styled argument, it seems that it might turn out to be more true than one would think.

Yet, I ask, and I say that I have to ask, what are your other two feasible options? Muclair, whose lack of certainty and poise in his demeanor only makes for an infallibly weak leader, for what otherwise could be a decent left-wing party. Then there is Harper, who has become hated by some, and increasingly loved by others — especially now amid the controversial Bill C-51 which recently led to nation-wide protests. There are the independents who are there for no perceptible reasons whatsoever, but only to bring about the sensations that come with democracy.

I find myself sifting through different politically motivated articles through different newspapers, and I can only find the same answers to my ever-growing questions. Infallibly answered by characters and personalities. I fear, immeasurably so, that Trudeau might end up “pulling,” excuse the candor, an “Obama” on Canada. Specifically, if he gets elected he will promise many things, and will put up an image of transcendental “hope” and ride the wave of change until it becomes clear that he wont be able to do much, and in fact won’t. This, however, is the case with any candidate, regardless of what party she or he is from.

Perhaps my obstacle is that I am rather cynical, or perhaps better said, a realist. Especially when it comes to politics. They say that politics is the “art of the possible,” but I rather think it is the “art of the improbable.” Improbable in the sense that a great deal of the things that voters expect every year wont actually materialize.

The truth of the matter is simply that people are guided by the parties in their simple demonstrations of things such as their colors: orange, red, blue, green and so on. Each, led by personalities that we can appeal to depending on what we prefer, and our political inclinations. It seems rather simple, yet my mind cannot follow such collective bromides.

I can reasonably infer that I distrust myself enough to never completely ally myself with one party and one leader, precisely because I find there are some policies from each party that I can agree on, and others that I cannot. I find some Liberal policies to be bogus, while others completely valid, the same goes for the Conservatives and NDP. This leaves me, sadly, in a rather tremendous dilemma.

At times I can agree with all candidates, yet also disagree with all of them as well, only due to the fact that I follow a politics of issues, not that of men. Sometimes I wish, despite the obvious difficulties, that Canada would run along the lines of Switzerland’s political structure, where every issue has its own referendum. Yet, would we subject ourselves as Mill said to the “tyranny of the majority?”

You must realize that politics in this country has always been driven by personality,  candor in speech, and presence. We love/loved our prime ministers, for their characters, and even their flaws. Yet, there is something very hollow, and I dare say, trivial going on. There seems to be a great lack of character and temperament, and to be honest charm, and a great deal of promises won’t fill that void. That goes for all candidates.

Now that we are left with men or women of no perceptible clout, what I am asking is that we look beyond political personalities although they are innate to the the political process and turn our attention to the issues as well, the ones which play such an important role to the future of Canada. A future mind you which is in the thoughts of all Canadians.

Despite the truth that it will be difficult to dissociate ourselves from personalities, as to do so is to go against an axiom of politics- a good smile on camera is perhaps more valuable, sadly, than any rhetoric that might come from any of the candidates, yet even that does not always prove to be of any value.

Where are the characters that are worth the rhetoric? Those such as Wilfred Laurier and Lester B. Pearson, whom have shaped this nation that holds the values which make us proud today?

Opinion by Milad Doroudian

Image by National Film Board of Canada, Library and Archives Canada.

Leonard Nimoy, known as Mr. Spock to all, dies at 83

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Leonard Nimoy, known as Mr. Spock to all who are fans of the original Star Trek series, passed away Friday morning at his home in Bel Air, Los Angeles. He was 83.

Last year the actor announced that he was suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease as a result of years of smoking — a habit which he quit more than three decades ago. He was hospitalized earlier in the week as a result of complications, but was released a few days ago.

Nimoy, who became famous for his role as Spock in the original Star Trek series as well as in the recent Star Trek movie franchise, has been a role model in a diffusion of culture, having been the author of books, poetry, music, and even photography.

His real break in the industry came as result of having made a good impression on Gene Roddenberry, the famous creator of Star Trek, who had Nimoy appear in every single episode of the three-season series.

Star Trek is perhaps one of the most famous sci-fi TV shows throughout television history, where together with William Shatner, who played the handsome and dashing Captain Kirk, Nimoy challenged many cultural norms prevalent in the 60’s by fighting xenophobia and misogyny and by featuring a multicultural cast.

Initially, the show did not gain popularity among a wide audience, and did not go beyond a third season, but its enduring legacy, embodied in Star Trek’s famous fan base, led to the equally famous Star Trek: The Next Generation and other spin-offs.

Nimoy also starred in numerous films since Star Trek. He played Vincent Van Gogh in the famous “Vincent” “and even Golda Meir’s husband in “A Woman Called Golda.” He has also directed numerous movies, and has appeared in plays such as “A Street Car Name Desire.”

The most interesting aspect of Nimoy’s career, perhaps, was his difficulty with being type-casted as Spock as a result of his enduring legacy perpetuated by “Trekkies.” In 1975 he wrote an autobiography entitled “I Am Not Spock,” but nearly 20 years later, in 1995, he embraced his role as Spock and wrote his second autobiography called “I am Spock.” Since then he has appeared in numerous TV shows, from The Simpsons to Futurama, flaunting but also making fun of the Vulcan character that had made him famous.

Nimoy has had a profound effect on sci-fi culture by bringing the famous split-fingered salute — that many of us have struggled to do — into the public view, as well as the ubiquitous words: “Live long and prosper.”

By Milad Doroudian

Image by NBC Television

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair opposes “dangerous, vague, and ineffective” anti-terror bill

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NDP Leader Tom Mulcair has adamantly restated his opposition to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s anti-terror bill, which is set to be reviewed this Wednesday in the House of Commons. He is hoping the Liberals will do the same.

Mulcair has called Bill C-51, which has been proposed as a tool in the fight against terrorism at home and abroad, “dangerous, vague, and ineffective.” In fact, he reiterated Wednesday that, “The truth is we cannot protect our freedoms by combating them.”

If the bill passes it will give the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) greater powers to combat terrorism by disrupting and intercepting information flow in regards to terrorism through the entire country and from external sources.

However, it will also give more powers to other law enforcement agencies across Canada. It will give the RCMP more leeway in obtaining peace bonds, thus being able to hold suspects if they are suspected of being involved in terrorist-related activities.

“Experts warn that broad measures in this bill could lump legal dissent together with terrorism,” Mulcair said. “And the bill would give significant new powers to CSIS without addressing serious deficiencies in oversight.” said Mulcair.

The main fear behind the bill, as expressed by Mulclair, is that it will interfere with the freedoms of Canadians, and possibly make the situation worse.

“We cannot protect our freedoms by sacrificing. New Democrats have a different vision. Freedom and public safety have to go hand-in-hand. We will hold true to our principles and oppose this dangerous, over-reaching legislation.” he said.

Mulclair is not alone in opposing the bill, as Elizabeth May, Leader of the Green Party has also disproved of the content and aims of the bill.

Justin Trudeau, Leader of the Liberal Party made it clear that his party will vote for the bill, although he expressed concern about the powers it will give CSIS.

Bill C-51 was reviewed for the second time in the House of Commons today.

By Milad Doroudian

Image by Jonathan Allard

Child of Holocaust survivors, Jeanne Beker, to lead book launch

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Jeanne Beker, a child of holocaust survivors, will lead the Azrieli Foundation Book Launch, with a reading of her parents’ memoir, “Joy Runs Deeper,” at the Museum of Vancouver on Thursday, Feb. 19.

“Joy Runs Deeper,” by Bronia and Joseph Beker, is an important literary view of the way life was in Poland, precisely in Kozowa, a small town in the east, after the 1939 invasion by Nazi Germany. The memoir is a rich tale of luck, kindness, but most importantly, it is filled with the narratives of two people that survived hell.

The Bekers, who were both born in a small shtetl in Eastern Poland, managed to survive the war, through horrible circumstances, yet the most important moral of the story is that they did it together.

In a statement released by the Museum of Vancouver, Jeanne Beker said, “As a child of [Holocaust] survivors, I’m keenly aware that I have been left with a legacy that’s as powerfully daunting as it is inspiring.

“Now I realize it was [my parents’] storytelling [about their experiences during the Holocaust] that made me who I am, colouring my personal philosophies, imparting a sense of resilience and instilling in me a precious instinct for survival,” said Beker.

This will be the first time the book will be launched on the West Coast. The entire experience will be enriched by the Museum of Vancouver, who will put on an exhibition that features rare examples of haute couture and Vancouver-made clothing and accessories that reflect how WWII changed society as a whole.

In a CBC interview last year, Jeanne Beker expressed,”Most Holocaust survivors do not want to tell their stories. They do not want to openly talk about it because it is so painful.”

The reading will be an important experience for those who are interested in learning more about the Shoah, as well as the Second World War.

The reading has been organized by the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre in partnership with the Azrieli Foundation and the Museum of Vancouver.

The Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre is the leading institution in British Columbia that is dedicated to teaching Holocaust education, with a particular focus on Canada.

The Museum of Vancouver holds numerous exhibitions on Vancouver’s past, but also aims to connect Vancouver to the world.

The Azrieli Foundation pledged $5 million to to the Birthright Israel Foundation of Canada at the beginning of February.

By Milad Doroudian

Image by Daniele Dalledonne

The undeniable truth about Vancouver’s housing market

The undeniable truth about Vancouver's housing market
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Prices keep getting steeper, and people’s tempers are rising almost at the same rate. That is the best manner in which the current situation of the Vancouver housing market, which has stirred debate in the last few years, can be described.

Yet, there is an underlying issue which most are not willing to discuss. Every time we hear of individuals complaining of the money which has been pouring in from Hong Kong over the last decade, we start to feel that in a way they are right, and perhaps something should be done about it, i.e. government intervention. However, to go down that path is to go against a right that Canadians enjoy with totality, one which has defined the freedoms that have given shape to this country: property rights. In this case the right to sell our property to whomever we wish.

Consider you want to sell your car for the best price possible. Your neighbor will give you $600 for your beater, yet the man two streets down is willing to buy it for $800. Who are you going to sell it to? You know very well that like any normal human being that you want to get the most you can for it. That in essence is the Vancouver housing market. If individuals or large real estate firms can get the best prices overseas, they will, and to deny that from them is a gross infringement of their rights, regardless of how it affects the housing market.

Although the situation is far more complicated than mere wealthy individuals from overseas buying these properties, we also have to consider the lack of livable space in Vancouver, as well as speculation on the part of a great deal of Vancouverites themselves. We do need to understand that the housing market needs to be let alone and to run its course. If the government steps in in any manner, it would constitute as a violation of the Constitution. More precisely, coercion — the kind that you see in despotic states.

A common problem that people voice is that having so much Vancouver real estate in foreign hands is not a good thing, especially when many of the lots and houses remain unoccupied. My question is: Why? They will answer that it destroys communities and relationships with people. Yes, something which is true, however you cannot expect property owners to sell their property for less to locals, just so you can say “Hi” to a neighbor over your fence once in a while. Individual property is a cornerstone of Western civilization and a reason why we live in prosperity.

However, there is another austere problem in the backstage of the whole situation: xenophobia. Many have resorted to a prime collective racism, believing that allowing Hong Kong money — in other words Asian investors — to come to Vancouver and take over real estate is somehow wrong. What these ignorant individuals forget, however, is that the irrelevance of where people come from is so minuscule that it is sincerely ridiculous. This is not about ethnicity, rather about money, which never discriminates in any situation. The money pouring into Vancouver might as well have been from Bulgaria, it does not matter. In fact no one cares, which is the beauty of the entire situation in the first place — what matters is profit.

Analysis by Milad Doroudian

Image By Graham King