How Facebook Has Destroyed My Blog

Almost a year has passed since my last blog entry.  Why?  Because, in addition to recording things in my visual journal or sketchbook, I now post almost everything on Facebook.  And I have my Pinterest boards.  So, how to reinvigorate a blog when my activities are splintered and occupy different rooms in the digital house?

Isabel Greenberg’s Graphic Novel The Encyclopedia of Early Earth

I highly recommend this magical graphic novel and its charming images and celebration of the importance of storytelling to humanity.

What Happened to Quality and Durability?

The solar-powered garden lantern I bought recently has tarnished metal after experiencing ONE day of rain.  The microwave we purchased a few months ago has bubbling plastic over the control buttons.  What do these two objects have in common?  They were both Made in China.  How long are we going to put up with shoddy production and low standards?  Are we just supposed to accept that things will last 5 minutes when they should really last 5 years or more?  Do you know how hard it is to find ANY kitchen appliance made in Canada, the U.S., or the U.K.?  It’s almost impossible.  This is what North America has done to itself by moving manufacturing to other countries (basically by being cheap, greedy, union-busting, shortsighted, and stupid).  

I’m going to return these items without their boxes and without receipts as a matter of principle and because I’m irritated.  And maybe I really don’t need solar lanterns and microwaves anyway.  I’ll light the yard with candles and adopt a raw food diet.

I love Sketchbook Skool!

truckandmodelIt keeps me drawing, and even when I’m not drawing, I’m looking at everything as a potential subject to draw.  Getting back into this visual way of thinking, this way of slowing yourself down, concentrating, looking carefully (really observing), experimenting, finding the joy in simplicity.  I needed this!  Sketchbook Skool is an online six week course.  Semester one “Beginnings” is almost finished and I’ve already signed up for the Semester two “Seeing.”  It is affordable, inspiring, has great instructors (semester one included Danny Gregory, Roz Stendahl, and Tommy Kane).  All the teachers are well known in the sketchbook/journaling world, and they all have different approaches to share.  Comments shared by fellow students keep you going and testing new tools and methods.

Roz Stendahl

This powerhouse art instructor and journal keeper is an endless well of useful information about how to be creative 24/7.  

Link

Our Digital Footprint

Okay, I finally joined the Facebook legion.  Or maybe it should be called, like a flock of flamingoes, a “Flamboyance.”  And it got me thinking about how we leave digital traces of ourselves, that seem – if there is any kind of catastrophic event that wipes out electricity – quite ephemeral (even though people say your Facebook page lingers on indefinitely after you yourself are dead).  I’ve heard that kids buy new cell phones and don’t always download all their photos from their old phones.  Poof, there goes that evidence and documentation of a life.  And of course, technology will change.  Imagine if all your photos and friends were housed on an old 8-track tape?  There are no assurances that these platforms are stable or eternal!  Wait until everything is stored in your computer-augmented brain tissue.  

Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Twitter…your whole life can disappear, not only the digital traces of it, but the sheer amount of time spent sitting…we’ll all be highly evolved blobs one day.  Oozing our information in droplets as we move from one technologized event to another.  (No, I am not a Luddite, just a nihilist and skeptic.)

Meanwhile, let’s all communicate via the ether and hope that in some future world, we have left a shred of evidence that we were here (echoes of Horton Hears a Who).

Perhaps I’m worrying needlessly.  Online awareness of global warming, petitions to save endangered species…all this is good.  Information is more democratically shared and all that…but the traces we leave, will they really remain in the same way that books and artifacts and printed photos do?  Materiality – the object world – is it too becoming extinct?

The Decimation of Academia

Post-secondary institutions in B.C. are no longer “government funded.”  They are “government supported.”  What does this really mean?  It means revenue generation is more important than education for our province’s leaders.  The economy is more important than democratic principles.  International students paying higher fees are encouraged to attend, while subsidies for those who have limited access, those who face obstacles and personal challenges, are no longer a priority.  The official rhetoric of job creation, eradication of fiscal inefficiencies and redundancies in the system (thus growing the economy, or so the argument goes) hides an underlying assumption.  Learning for its own sake, particularly a liberal education rich in arts and sciences courses, is being systematically dismantled as the budget wars escalate.  I ask you – what is at the root of democracy if not an assertion of ethical principles, an environment that encourages intellectual debate, an educational system that values alternatives, voices that question the status quo?

We are supposed to be working for the good of the students, to be learner-centred.  To me, by the way, this is a not-for-profit enterprise.  The government of B.C.’s elected representatives are not only turning their backs on academic education and the creative arts, they are shooting a hole through their hearts. Even sadder than that, however, and of greater consequence (since governments rise and topple after all), is how faculty across the province are being forced into buying into this model, trying to identify where to cut their operating budgets or which courses to eliminate; cutting off their noses to spite their faces.  It’s like choosing the most suitable way to die a noble death.  Shall we drink the poison and get it over with quickly?  Or do we sharpen our pencils and hone our arguments, ready to put up the fight of our lives?

That administrators bend to the government’s persuasion is unsurprising, being ultimately accountable to these new draconian policies (no union protection makes them very vulnerable). But if instructors – who hold those democratic principles dear and have spent their lives discussing them with students every single day, who have academic freedom to disagree – are willing to get on board the profit train by embracing the corporate new world order, then the future of this species is in big trouble indeed.  History demonstrates (though we probably won’t have history as a subject much longer) that intellectuals are the first to go, as one of the biggest threats to domineering and oppressive regimes.  “Those pesky critical thinkers, all they ever do is disagree with us and make our job more difficult.  Here they come again with their talk of fairness, their ranting against injustice, their defense of art and culture.  Isn’t there a way to argue that they are no longer necessary?  Let’s make them prove that their students get jobs.  Let’s make them account for their spending.  Let’s turn them into us.  That should shut them up.”

Guess what?  Even if you soon might not be able to learn about it in school, power is everywhere, it is insidious, and it takes a very special skill set to critique it, to remain vigilant against its abuses, and to push against its overwhelming force. While you can, it’s best that you learn this.

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