British Columbia is a very weird place, something known by all other Canadians. Our politics are flat-out bizarre, our city erupts into flames when our hockey team comes in second-place for hockey’s most coveted prize, our citizenry forgets how to drive when a snowflake hits the ground (and also forgets that there’s a reason Canada is called “The Great White North”), and our liquor laws are horribly antiquated.
We pay substantial taxes on our liquor, even stuff produced here. Exporting it is a hassle, and if you decide to visit any of our excellent, globally-recognized, award-winning wineries, taking stuff out of the province is a huge hassle. We have strict drinking-and-driving laws, which is fair (well, except for the whole making police judge, jury, and executioner bit, but that’s another article, I guess), but we also have horrible transit which shuts down across the Lower Mainland at like 1:30 AM, and even earlier in other parts of town.
I was driving to the States awhile ago, and on the way down popped into the Duty Free Store. There, I picked up a 24-pack of Kokanee Beer — a BC beer — for about $24. That same pack of beer would run closer to $44 in Canada ($42.49, according to the BC Liquor Distribution branch’s website, which has a near-monopoly on liquor bought and sold in BC). It’s all taxes, and it’s all going to the government. It’s actually pretty insane. Add in prohibition-era rules, and what you have is an incredibly backwards province in the first-world. I mean, we’ve set up a place for heroin addicts to inject drugs into their body in a government-funded establishment, but can’t bring ourselves to charge reasonable rates for booze. I used to be a huge politico in the BC politics circuit, and there’s an expression I once heard that’s stuck with me: government never met a tax it didn’t like. And it’s true; you can take the most fiscally-conservative, most libertarian political party in the world that promises to cut and slash everywhere. They’ll cut expenditures, definitely, but they’ll be a lot less likely to cut profits. Of course, an easy argument against slashing liquor taxes is that it’ll encourage alcoholism, but that’s as lazy an argument as it is a disingenuous one.
Enter the Rio Theatre in Vancouver. The Rio is a single-screen theatre that tends towards the artsier-side. It’s got a huge fan-base, likely due to the fact that it’s a refreshing break from the twenty-screen cinemas that pander to the mainstream. The owner, Corrine Lea, applied for a liquor license. Recently, she was granted one, but informed that she could no longer show movies and was now restricted to just live shows. And that’s bullshit. The Rio is an awesome theatre, and a reminder of what the cinema used to be about: it’s quaint as hell. And, well, we should be allowed to drink in theatres.
I mean, it’s seems clear that some employee of what is essentially a taxpayer-funded organization handed Lea a liquor license without clearly stipulating what the terms are. And while maybe Lea can be criticised for not reading the terms more clearly or having a better consultant, it isn’t hard to see she’s been screwed by BC’s antiquated drinking laws. We’re talking about laws and organizations that were set up in the 1910s and 1920s and have barely been changed since — we are literally talking about prohibition-era stuff here. You can drink at a bowling alley, you can drink at Boston Pizza (which closes later than most BC bars, actually), and you can drink at Rogers Arena. Proponents of BC’s outdated liquor control laws would probably argue that the Stanley Cup riots — both of which were partially fuelled by booze — is proof that we can’t handle our liquor, but then permitting drinking at the arena but not outside of it is hardly a compelling argument.
There are cinemas across the world that permit drinking in theatres, not to mention all the jurisdictions across the world where drinking in public is permitted. The time-old argument is that public drinking encourages public intoxication; that somehow, legalising drinking in public would unleash a Dionysian armageddon, despite all the evidence to the contrary. It’s absurd, and, if you ask me, pretty insulting. It is nanny-state stuff, and it is the government basically saying, “you can’t handle your drinking.”
BC is having talks about legalising prostitution and even a place for alcoholics to drink fine vodka and sherry on the public dime. While I disagree with a place like Insite, where heroin addicts can inject themselves in a clean and safe environment, I have to admit that I think it’s better to the alternative — I’m not so jaded as to think that we should just let drug addicts kill themselves. I think BC is a somewhat enlightened place — but when it comes to certain things, we’re definitely backward.
There’s a petition going around to get the laws changed. I encourage you to sign it and write your City Councillor and your MLA. At the very least, we can probably save the Rio. At the most, we can probably get these laws changed.
Since childhood, my generation has been told how special we are. How we all have unique talents and that we’re all perfect in our own way. Sarah calls it the “special little snowflake” methodology, or something like that. This, we’ve both concluded, is part of why so many of my generation — and a few of the preceding ones — feel so entitled. Kids — and adults — these days are under the impression that there are things in life they deserve, like brand new iPhones or eating out every night or the newest video game or whatever. They rack up tens of thousands of dollars in credit card debt, and shrug. They pay the interest and by the next shiny gadget, sinking further in debt. I know too many of my friends who have terrible credit card problems. And it’s awfully sickening that one of the worst things to plague North American society is spending too much money.
The fact is, though, that very few people are special. An insignificant proportion of the population is genuinely good at something. Most people, I think, are competent enough at their jobs, whether it’s in middle management or at the drive-thru window. Some people are slightly talented and go further; they might be management (again), or they might be musicians, comedians, performers, whatever. The problem is that, from a young age, we’re told we can achieve anything. And sure, you can, if you have enough money, inclination, time, interest, and talent, but very few people have it. The fact is that the majority of people on this planet will achieve next-to-nothing in their lifetimes: they’ll live, they’ll have some snot-nosed brats, and they’ll die. That’s that.
All this, I guess, is what pisses me off the most about the Lana Del Rey / Whitney Cummings saga that’s been playing out. For those of you who don’t watch SNL (let’s face it: most people), Lana Del Rey bombed. If you haven’t heard of her, she is a hipster from New York who put a few songs on Youtube that tons of people liked — I’ll admit that, while I don’t like the songs myself, she clearly has some talent (even if that talent is warbling mournfully into a microphone, out-of-rhythm about hipsterystuff).
When I say she bombed, I mean she bombed hard. The interwebs were aflame with hatred about her and her performance. Many people then felt she was being let off too easy. The consensus was that certain media sites were giving her a bit of a pass because, let’s face it, she’s new and young. Well, this continued for awhile; Brian Williams of NBC went as far as to send an e-mail to his buddies at Gawker, who then promptly published the thing (which resulted in a hilarious, mini-scandal which basically involved Williams swinging his dick around). He called it — as many others have — “one of the worst outings in SNL history”. Here’s the clip: be warned, it really is bad.
Shortly thereafter though, out of nowhere, like a superhero, in swung noted comedian superstar Whitney Cummings. Cummings, for those of you who don’t know, is the extremely talented star of the NBC show Whitney (Whitney you may remember became the whipping-boy after the non-cancellation of Community). She, like the hero that she is, wrote a blog post about how the internet community was ruining this young woman, how we were taking out our anger and aggression on someone who didn’t deserve it, and essentially how ladies can’t get ahead with men criticizing them.
Now, I’ll be honest: half of what I just wrote is a complete lie. Whitney Cummings is single-handedly one of the least funny human beings
current alive to have lived. She is Godawful. Her jokes consist of either banal observations, her claiming what a nerd she is, or gross-out humour. It’s just not that funny. Maybe she’s funny, I guess, if you’re ten or your favourite show is The Big Bang Theory, but I’m not. Anyway, Cummings big thing seems to be, performing is hard work ok guys!?
I have many random thoughts. First, everybody calm down. It’s a little troubling that when a young girl fails at something that we keep kicking her why she is down. I get very protective of girls, especially young performers, because they live a hard, emotionally challenging, often physically challenging life where you are constantly given reasons to be insecure and have panic attacks. I totally get the stuff about her not deserving to be there and I don’t mean to insult musicians in any way if that’s how they feel obviously, but this is an opportunity to show us how hard being a performer is so maybe they can all be cut some slack. Flack? I think we take our performers for granted. It’s super fucking hard to entertain people and it takes a lot of work.
I can’t really judge her performance. I am not qualified to do that since I’m very forgiving of performers because performing is FUCKING HARD. It takes a long time to get good, and even when you are good, you can be challenged by new venues and being televised, and cameras, and the uh…fear and terror of being slammed by critics and bloggers, plus if you are a woman you also get fashion criticism and if you’re a pretty woman you’re accused of having plastic surgery and if you’re not you’re “busted” and people blog about how they don’t want to fuck you…it’s not ideal. On top of that you have to deal with the self-hate and self-criticism that most performers and artists have. So even when things go great for artists and performers, it’s still hard. So when it goes bad, it’s just the worst vortex of misery. If she fell on her face, she was there, she felt it, and her having lived it is punishment enough. We don’t need to keep bashing her unless it makes us feel better about ourselves which….isn’t an ideal reason to hate someone.
I don’t think it’s entirely necessary to point out the irony in Cummings talks about being “good” at performing when she is clearly not, so I really won’t. What I will do, though, is point out this: when you perform, whether it’s in front of five people or five million, you are setting yourself up to be judged. Being judged is one of the only reasons to perform. If you enjoy performing but aren’t good at it, you shouldn’t be performing. It’s like the opening episodes of American Idol: those shitty performers are on there purely for our amusement. They just aren’t good. They like performing, but that’s not enough. But I’ve yet to see someone, earnestly, come to the defense of those clowns with a good reason beyond Cummings’s claim of “performing is hard”. There are lots of things that are hard, and when you fuck up, you fuck up. That’s it. Trying
isn’t always is never good enough. It’s like when Luke is bitching during The Empire Strikes Back to Yoda about how tough life is: do or do not, there is no try.
But what aggravates me the most about her entire post begins in the first paragraph: Cummings’s defense of her because she’s a young woman. First of all, she’s like what, twenty-five? That’s hardly young. In fact, it isn’t. Secondly, Cummings’s patronizing defense of Del Rey because of her gender (and their shared gender, obviously), makes me choke. Is Cummings saying we should give Del Rey a break because she is a lady? Really? I get that the performing industry still remains a bit of an old boy’s club (hell, most of the world is), but come on — let’s be real and drop the bullshit sexism.
I am intrigued by Lana Del Rey. She seems very odd and self-made and scrappy which I like. Her style is bonkers. She always looks so fresh and original. I think she’s from either Brooklyn or the future. Her stylist must be Baz Luhrmann. Her nails are fresh for life. Zoe Lister Jones showed me the video games video a long time ago and we were very smitten with her face and mystery and the cool video for it and legitimately good lyrics and song. We were for sure annoyed by how pretty she was but we checked that nasty competitive shit right away because the song was cool. She earned for us to not objectify her and get petty. Because something about this girl brings out the petty in us. Her quick rise? Her pretty face? Something is pissing people off about this girl and I just think it’s an opportunity for us to learn from ourselves and grow. (LOOK AT HOW MUCH OF AN ADULT I AM NOW!)
I just watched the SNL performance and I think her rhythms are weird an odd and bizarre. She seemed nervous obviously. She moves in a very drunk-at-a-wedding-and-gonna-regret-it-in-the-morning-type way which is all I really need to be entertained. I’m not saying support bad music or that she deserved to be there or anything-not my call-I’m just saying lets make the punishment at least fit the crime. Let’s not blame her, let’s blame her managers for not making her wait until they knew she would not get nervous or kick it out of the park or not do whatever happened.
I’ll just offer a cursory glance at this crap above me here: I don’t find Del Rey particularly attractive or interesting, so whatever. I don’t think I am — or that most other people are, for that matter — hating on Del Rey because she’s pretty. I think it’s slightly ridiculous to claim that pretty girls have trouble getting ahead, and that’s what Cummings is suggesting.
The second paragraph is hilarious, because Cummings is saying we should take it easy on Del Rey because she’s a pretty young girl, but we should grill the shit out of her manager for booking the performance. First of all, if you’re a rising young star and SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE phones your manager and says, “hey, we have an open spot, does Lana want to perform?”, what is the manager going to say? “No, call back in like a few years when she’s a bit better, ok?”. No, of course not, don’t be a moron.
But it’s this attitude — Cummings’s attitude — of passing the buck and blaming other people for our own fuck-ups which is bugging me. My generation is an entitled bunch of sissies who don’t like working hard and love passing the blame, and Cummings’s post typifies that. Everyone acts like they deserve something, like the world itself owes them something.
Here’s the rub: no one deserves anything. No one pops out of the womb deserving this or that. You need to earn your way in the world: when someone hands you the gig of a lifetime and you fuck it up, you fuck it up, that’s it. Accept it and move on, that’s all you can do. Maybe things will work out, maybe they won’t, whatever. The fact is that very few people on this planet are special, very few are unique, very few are special little snowflakes.
Coddling kids (and performers, by the looks of it) by telling them they can achieve anything is a bold(/bald)-faced lie and, in the long run, doesn’t do much.
January 14th’s Vancouver Sun raised an important question: When will it finally be okay to openly hate the Lower Mainland’s rapidly expanding Chinese population?
To be fair, the question was couched and carefully sugar-coated as a debate on whether there should be a restriction on the number of “Chinese”-only signs in Richmond, but let’s face it: white British Columbians love being able to complain about the Chinese whenever they can smoke-screen it behind a debate on common decency or civic responsibility.
We all long for those dreamy, care-free days when “those damn UBC condo owners” were blocking the progress of a hospice because of their culture’s phobias and superstitions regarding the dead and dying taking up residence in their backyard. But we weren’t attacking them because of their race or culture, we were attacking them for being bad, selfish, nasty, rude and insensitive human beings who just so happened to be Chinese.
But when the Sun’s Douglas Todd brought us the story of a Richmond woman who was getting the “bureaucratic brush-off in her efforts to restrict the predominance of Chinese-language signs in her hometown,” I knew that the glory days of uninhibited Chinese-bashing might just have returned to us again.
First, allow me to pick apart that opening sentence: a “Richmond woman,” who we can only assume is not of Asian descent is getting the “bureaucratic brush-off” for trying to restrict Chinese-language signs in her hometown. Unlike those immigrants who aren’t really “from here.”
The Richmond woman in question is Kerry Starchuk, whose linkedin profile states that she works as a Personal Home Manager at Kerry, the Social Butterfly which does not appear to be a business, but rather a personal statement about her winning personality. If it is a business, however, you can bet your ass its sign is in English — as God intended. But not French, that would be a little gay.
Todd argues that there are many reasons to support Starchuk’s campaign, which has since been “stonewalled” despite her many letters to the editor and “buttonholing” of politicians. Todd argues that Starchuk is not alone in her feeling that the many Chinese-only restaurant and retail signs around the city need to be reduced, or at least offer an English translation, but fails to mention anyone that has taken up under Starchuk’s banner (other than himself, of course). He goes on in the article to outline how British Columbians need a common language to flourish, taking his talking points from studies released in the Fall by Immigration Minister Jason Kenney:
1) Learning English may be good for immigrants’ health.
2) Everything that encourages new-comers to learn English, including having to understand signs, contributes to their financial well-being.
3) An emphasis on English-language signs will help reduce the segregating effects caused by the rise of Canadian ethnic enclaves, which have expanded from just six in 1976 to more than 260.
Then there’s this doozy: “Although these dominant foreign-language signs are permitted under provincial legislation, presumably in the name of freedom of expression, they constitute a misguided approach to multiculturalism.”
I’m the first person to say that “legal” and “moral” aren’t exactly synonyms, but come on. First, it is currently legal. They are not breaking any laws. But second – and this is probably the most important element of all – if a store does not have any English signage, what are the chances that its owners speak a great deal of English? What are the chances that the menus are in English or that anyone will be able to assist you? In short: for many of these retail or restaurant locations, wouldn’t English signage effectively amount to false advertising?
Then there’s the second issue, which is that no one thinks that calling an Italian restaurant “Luigi’s Ristorante” is terribly exclusionary and a misguided approach to multiculturalism. It’s expected because even someone with no exposure to Italian can probably figure out that Luigi’s Ristorante isn’t a sporting goods store. But that’s because English and Italian and French and Spanish and a whole pile of other languages share the same basic alphabet. Chinese – or, more accurately Mandarin and/or Cantonese – do not.
You can absolutely make the argument that if someone is going to immigrate to a new country they ought to learn the language first. And it’s a fine argument, but the trouble is that current Canadian immigration laws might require one person in a family to learn English, but then once that family member becomes a citizen, they are able to bring over their mothers, fathers, siblings and grandparents without the same language requirements being applied to them. If you have a problem with the predominance of Chinese-only signs (but really Chinese-only people, let’s be real), then your issue should be with immigration, not a provincial law on signage.
Ultimately, signs are a reflection of the behavior and attitudes of a society, not its cause. A town with a population of great drivers doesn’t need to have a thousand traffic lights, stop signs and crossing guards. And a city – or a province, or a country – with a firm immigration policy on English or French language requirements for its residents and citizens wouldn’t need to restrict its number of Chinese-only signs.
I’m not saying that Todd and Starchuk are wrong, but I am saying that they’ve aimed their fight at the very tail end of the actual issue.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This piece previously referred to Douglas Todd and Kerry Starchuk as “racists.” Todd, although he did not directly request we remove the reference to him as a racist, tacitly threatened legal action were we to not remove it. While as editor I take a different stance, Arboleda has requested this line be removed.
So The Pletteau is no longer directly alleging that Douglas Todd is a racist, although About does refer to Todd as an “anti-atheist bigot,” so take it with a grain of salt. We have been wrong before.
Sarah Arboleda contributed this article to The Daily Pletteau. Read about her here.