UART (in Canada, 2014): Advice for Canadians Thinking of Going to Art School

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My general advice to Canadians thinking of pursuing studies in the fine and applied arts at the postsecondary level is that they should attend a reputable, practical oriented, art college. If they want to obtain a university degree, they should do this separately, at a university that offers a full range of university programs, before or after their art studies. At such institutions, they will have the option of taking courses in a variety of subject areas and, if they are so inclined, of majoring in something other than art.

Apart from possibly taking some individual, practical, courses taught by part-time instructors who work primarily outside of these institutions, I would suggest steering clear of those art schools that offer university degrees. This includes even those venerable old Canadian art schools that, in the past decade, have become accredited niche universities–including, in Vancouver, the Emily Carr University of Art and Design (formerly the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design and, before that, the Vancouver School of Art) and, in Toronto, where I lived for many years, OCAD University (formerly the Ontario College of Art and Design).

I strongly disagree with those institutions having been turned into universities, and I regret not having spoken out about the transition when it was occurring. I hesitated mainly because I then still considered Emily Carr, at least, as a potential employer, and didn’t want to alienate anyone associated with the institution. Also, I then didn’t have a blog in which I could readily express my views. I’m speaking out now in part because I recently applied for an administrative job at a relatively new, very interesting, private art college here in Vancouver, that DOESN’T aspire to be a university, so speaking my mind may now help me more than hurt me professionally. Also, I now have this blog.

Lest anyone reading this blog post suspects that the views I’m expressing here about Canadian art schools being turned into universities are not my legitimate views, and are merely what I think a particular potential, non-university, employer might want to hear, these views are fundamentally consistent with the views I have earlier expressed in this blog about the humanities in Canadian universities today and about the ongoing bid by the local private Christian university, Trinity Western University, to have its own law school. Also, even if I don’t get that job I’m after (I should know within a couple of weeks), I’ll leave this post up. It’s high time I came clean.

I’m not rehashing here everything I’ve said earlier in this blog about the ongoing philosophical transition in Canadian post-secondary education in recent decades, and about the problems experienced by many Canadian university students in recent decades related to philosophical intransigence and inconsistencies in our universities. (If you are interested in learning more about my views in this regard, you may wish to check out some of my earlier posts in the UABCs category of posts.) But I will point out that artists, and those with a good knowledge of the fine arts, seem to be among those who are most sensitive to these issues, and most negatively impacted.

For example, as part of my graduate work in Education, I took a course called “Aesthetics and Education,” in which most of the students were artists and art educators. (In the latter group, several had been employed as primary or secondary school teachers for many years.) Virtually all of the students in that class were very familiar with postmodernism in the Arts, and themselves possessed postmodern perspectives. Unfortunately, the professor for the class (a failed classical pianist, nearing retirement age) was far less familiar, and most of the students balked at what she taught and her requirements for student projects. The one student in the class who, in one candid moment, out of earshot of the professor, admitted he knew nothing about art was, in that class, the “star pupil.”

It’s bizarre that some of our most prominent art schools have made the move to become universities at this critical juncture, when they should have stayed basically the way they were, and set an example for our universities. This move wasn’t made in the interests of Canadian art students–or of industries that hire art school graduates. It seems to have been made mainly because a university degree is likely to lure in certain naive foreign students with little knowledge of Canada and Canadian education, but with ample money that can help sustain these institutions. But sustain what?

What in my view was a very serious mistake does, however, seem to bode  well for other Canadian art schools (like the private art college to which I recently offered my professional services) that stick to a more practical approach, consistent with a contemporary Canadian outlook.

Bluebells Blossoming in 5 Pics: What CAN’T be Done With Twitter’s New Picture Posting Feature

I earlier tried posting the following 4 pictures of bluebells squeezing up along the side of our house using the new Twitter picture posting feature that allows Twitter users to post up to 4 pictures in one Tweet.  Unfortunately, I ran into a problem with, basically speaking, aspect ratio.

Before my experiment, I’d seen some good examples of 4 rectangular pictures displayed in a 2 x 2 grid in my Twitter feed and thought my four matching pictures, taken at intervals over the past two months, would suit that format.  (I took the pictures thinking they could be the basis of some animation. Originally, I wasn’t planning to publicly display just these pictures.) The basic problem was I didn’t realize all rectangular pictures that preview in Twitter feed, whether single pictures or part of multi-picture groups, are displayed in a 2 to 1 aspect ratio.  Only when you click on the pictures do you see pictures that don’t actually have a 2 to 1 aspect ratio in full.  (Squares seem to be an exception. I’ve seen some 4-picture groups in preview mode consisting of square pictures.)  In preview mode, not only were the tops and bottoms of my pictures lopped off, but also they were lopped off unequally.  Pictures on Twitter, whether single pictures or part of multi-picture groups, are shifted upward when they are fit into the new frame(s).

I could have dealt with the distortion of the pictures in preview mode if, when the 4 pictures were opened up, they all appeared together.  But this doesn’t happen with the new feature.  The pictures appear only individually–so my intended effect of plants maturing over time was essentially lost.

I’m posting those pictures again here–and have added one final closeup picture at the end.  This still isn’t exactly what I wanted.  (I’m still trying to figure out side-by-side pictures in WordPress, to achieve my 2 x 2 grid. It’s not as easy as one would think. But many things aren’t . . . )  However, it is, I think, an improvement over the Twitter version–even without the closeup, that turned out well, if I do say so myself.

As I’ve learned from my experiment, if you want complete pictures to appear in the preview mode in Twitter feed, whether you are posting a single picture or multiple pictures, use a 2 to 1 aspect ratio for the original pictures (or maybe stick with squares). However, the distortion that occurs when pictures that don’t have that aspect ratio are fit into those rectangles in preview mode can sometimes work to good effect, to achieve surprise when you click on the pictures and open them up, or intrigue that compels people to click–if you know what you’re doing.

 

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January 19

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February 2

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March 4

March 29

March 29

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Help Wanted: I Need Help Finding a Job in Vancouver or the Surrounding Area

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One of the reasons I started this blog was to help me find a decent job here in Vancouver related to my skills in communications and, possibly, my interest in postsecondary education.  In the past two years, since I was laid off from the advertising sales job (the advertising was for educational publications) I’d held for five years, I’ve referred some potential employers to this blog who might want to see samples of my writing and/or who might want to find out where I stood on certain educational issues.  So far, no luck.  (I’ve also been employed during this period, but in an uninteresting sales job that barely pays the bills.)

I originally had planned to write a post this weekend about my recent misfortunes trying to obtain employment as a mid-career candidate in a city where unions have such strong clout and, during these tight economic times, when they do hire tend to hire only at the most junior level.  (As a prime example, even a university at which I which I worked part-time in a unionized administrative job when I was doing my MA in Education there, albeit some time ago, would not now consider me for a mid-level administrative job because I’m no longer a member of the union.  Nor would they consider me for junior jobs, because I’m too experienced.)  The issue of how Canadian unions are now blocking many mid-career candidates is an interesting one, that warrants my further attention in this blog–but not now.  At present, I’m more concerned about just finding a job than in changing Canadian labour law.

So, instead of just referring potential employers to this blog who may wish to see samples of my work, I’m using this particular blog post to aid in my quest for employment, but with a more direct approach.  Do any of you reading this post need an employee like me, or do you know anyone who does?  I’m versatile, a quick learner, and I play well with others.  Besides my more obvious skills and interests, I have a strong arts background. (I studied dance for about twenty years, have done mask work and puppetry, and have made short films–including a film that won an award in the Canadian Student Film Festival.) I also type like the blazes.

Also, Vancouver is my home.  I was born and raised here–although I haven’t lived here for my entire life.  (I’ve also lived in Toronto and Montreal.) Moving back to my home town, about 10 year ago, was much more difficult in terms of employment than I had ever anticipated.

If you want to know more about me, you may wish to have a look at some of my other blog posts.  Also, if you’d like an actual résumé, I’d be pleased to email one to you.

The Real Vancouver Bicycle Wars?: Urban Bicycles v. Two-Wheeled Toys for Big Boys

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How about mandatory bicycle registration–including mandatory liability insurance–just for the more powerful, faster, bikes that are becoming increasingly prevalent, and increasingly problematic, in Vancouver? 

A targeted bicycle registration program aimed at only faster, racing-style, bikes could serve as an indirect incentive for purchasing slower urban bicycles, that are much safer in the city. This also could minimize, if not entirely eliminate, the problem that occurred when Toronto tried bicycle registration a few years ago of children being found guilty of breaking the law when they forgot to, or were unable to, pay registration fees: kids generally ride less powerful bikes, so at least most of them wouldn’t have to register their bikes.

The administrative costs for such a program would be offset by safer streets and probably, ultimately, many more people, from many more demographic groups than is now the case, cycling in our city.

Just an idea.

(I created this picture using the ArtStudio app on my iPad, starting with just two photos of bikes from on-line catalogues. I think it turned out pretty well, if I do say so myself.)

Update: Pedestrians First for Vancouver, Including Point Grey Road

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Since publishing a post here last week about the repurposing of Vancouver’s Point Grey Road to create bike lanes, in which I suggested pedestrians should be Vancouver’s number one priority, I’ve learned that pedestrians already are officially the number one priority at Vancouver City Hall.

You’d never know it, though–unless you were corrected by a Vancouver City Councillor, as was I after publishing that post.

Subsequent to being informed of my error, I came across an interesting blog post published a couple of years ago that addresses the skewed priorities of Vancouver’s Mayor Robertson and his Vision party: “Pedestrians are an afterthought for Vancouver politicos.” Its author is Daniel Fontaine, the former Chief of Staff to Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan, our current Mayor’s immediate predecessor.  (In that post, Fontaine provides links to official policy information, including the excerpt I’ve pasted above.)

Pedestrians First for Vancouver–Including Point Grey Road

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Although I don’t own a car, I’m against the recent closure of a large section of Vancouver’s Point Grey Road (in the Kitsilano area, near the waterfront) to all but local traffic, to make way for bike lanes that will run between Jericho Beach and Burrard Bridge.  In the design of our streets, it seems the needs of pedestrians should come first, and I don’t think the interests of pedestrians–particularly those who don’t own cars, who walk and use public transportation as their primary means of transportation–were adequately taken into consideration when decisions were made regarding the repurposing of the road.

In an article published last summer in the Globe & Mail newspaper, it was mentioned that the city of Chicago had recently formally adopted a “Pedestrians First” policy with respect to urban planning, and that Toronto was then closely watching related developments in Chicago to see if Toronto should follow suit.  In Chicago’s system of prioritization, pedestrians come first; public transit comes second; bicycles come third; and cars come last.  In the system of priorities of Vancouver’s current mayor, Gregor Robertson, and his Vision Vancouver party, it seems bicycles trump everything else, and this seems very wrongheaded–especially given some of the unique characteristics of this city.

I have some sympathy for Vancouver cyclists, since I used to regularly ride a bike in Vancouver, including in the Kitsilano and Point Grey areas–but that was quite some ago.  Because this city is extremely hilly, even mountainous in some areas, and because it rains so much here, sometimes day after day for months on end, cycling on a regular basis in Vancouver is mainly for athletic kids (of both sexes) and athletic young men who have jobs in which they are able to arrive at work drenched and discheveled.  (Very few women with jobs would choose to arrive at work in such a state even if their jobs permitted it.) In Vancouver, the supposed shortage of safe bicycle routes is not nearly as much of an obstacle to cycling as are the arduous uphill climbs and the rain. 

From my Vancouver bike riding days, I remember choosing routes that were optimally safe, where there wasn’t heavy traffic, and I never had a collision, or near-collision, with a car. Yet, today, there seems to be an unrealistic sense of entitlement among Vancouver cyclists, that is likely to get many of them–and sometimes also innocent bystanders–into serious trouble. For example, last week I had a verbal altercation with a young woman (a gender exception) who was riding her bike on the sidewalk on Granville Street near King Edward Boulevard while I was walking along that stretch of sidewalk, heading to my bus stop.  She rebutted my suggestion that she not ride on the sidewalk by screaming at me that she was riding on the sidewalk because she got knocked down by a car riding her bike in one of the traffic lanes of Granville.  Why oh why had she been riding a bike in a traffic lane on a busy thoroughfare like Granville?!  Furthermore, that accident was no justification for her riding her bike along the sidewalk. (There was no indication the incident had occurred immediately prior.) Riding a bicycle along Point Grey Road (before the road closure, of course) was an equally bad choice–yet ensuing accidents involving bikes and cars along that stretch of road has been used as one of the justifications for the repurposing of the road.

Prior to my visit last week to the section of Point Grey Road that has been closed (which was when I took the above photo), it had been several years since I had been along that stretch of the road. Although I hadn’t personally observed the high traffic volumes about which residents had complained, I concede that there probably was too much traffic for that road.  This section of Point Grey Road is narrow, with only two lanes, and was never meant to become the major artery that it is reported to have become.  But greater motor vehicle access is required than is currently permitted. Paradoxically, this is required largely to address the needs of those who don’t own cars, who walk and use public transportation as their primary means of transportation. These include both those who live along this stretch of Point Grey Road and those who live in other areas, who may need to, or just want to, visit this area.

As for the former group, there are hundreds of houses along this section of Point Grey Road–and they are by no means all lavish, waterfront, homes.  (In much of the recent commentary voicing opposition to the closure, it has been suggested that everyone living along Point Grey Road is fabulously rich. Not so.)  Along the south, non-waterfront, side of the road are densely-packed, mainly older, relatively modest houses (similar to the relatively modest house in which I now live in Dunbar).  Also on Point Grey Road, near Bayswater Street, there is a large apartment building with about sixty units.  Undoubtedly, living in many of these abodes–and quite likely also in some of the ritzier abodes on the north side–are seniors and others who don’t own cars and who, therefore, are likely to regularly require the services of those who do.  For example, I sometimes take cabs, and regularly have groceries delivered. How are these sorts of services to be handled for the residents of this area? And what about the seniors without cars who may require someone with a car to assist them to get to a medical appointment?  Or to provide assistance in a medical emergency?

In the other group (those who don’t own cars, who walk and use public transportation as their primary means of transportation, yet who may require vehicular access to this section of Point Grey Road from time to time), are people like me.  I mentioned earlier that, prior to my visit last week, it had been several years since I’d been on this stretch of Point Grey Road.  A key reason is that there is no public transportation along here–although there should be.  As I discovered in my walk last week, there are a couple of lovely little public parks along this stretch of the road, to which all Vancouverites, including those who don’t live in the immediate area, or who don’t ride bikes, or who aren’t up to walking long distances, should have access.  Both some access for cars, as well as, perhaps, some form of public transportation along this stretch (perhaps one of those small, local, buses, that accommodates about thirty people), would be required for this purpose–as well as just for visiting folks who live in the area.

Surely there are ways of reducing traffic along this section of Point Grey Road without cutting out all vehicles except cars owned by people living along the road.  As outlined in a 2012 blog post by the Vancouver Sun columnist, Frances Bula, attempts had been made several years prior to the closure to rectify the problem by reducing the speed limit along Point Grey Road to 30 KPH (which is only 18.64 MPH).  I would have thought that slowing traffic to that snail’s pace would have worked; however, as suggested at the end of Bula’s post, there seems not to have been adequate enforcement of the speed reduction initiative, and traffic density (and, presumably, average speed of cars travelling along Point Grey Road) did not decrease.

Before closing off all but local traffic to this part of Point Grey Road and turning it into bike lanes–that are likely to go virtually unused doing much of the year in Vancouver, and that will almost certainly be used only by a small proportion of the population during even our dry spells–I believe a more serious effort should have been made to reduce the traffic along Point Grey Road, without cutting it out entirely.  

Stronger enforcement of a lowered speed limit along Point Grey Road; the introduction of public transportation along this stretch of a road; and making Vancouver, in general, more hospitable to pedestrians, so that more Vancouverites will feel they don’t need to use cars in the city, are among the things that should have been tried before turning this stretch of Point Grey Road into the fiasco it’s sure to become.

URAD: You Are a Dunce . . . or Maybe Not

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The way I usually look at things, nobody in this world deserves to be called a ‘dunce’, or a ‘dummy’, or a ‘moron’, or an ‘idiot’.  But when somebody is intellectually, and ethically, stuck in a position in which they see humankind divided into two groups, smart folks and dunces, and has been stuck there for many years (if not decades), and when they behave as if they are members of the former and you are a member of the latter, it’s time to shift perspectives–at least for rhetorical purposes.  There seems to be no way to get through to such a person–to have even the mildest impact on their egomaniacal, destructive, behavior–except to firmly place the dunce cap on their head.

I didn’t actually do it; but I sure was tempted.  Let’s just say I didn’t have the greatest Christmas this year.

After having had a couple of weeks to calm down, rather than resorting to petty tit for tat, without naming any names or getting into any other particulars, I’m going to try to present my position clearly in this blog post–or at least as clearly as a short blog post will allow.  All of this seemed to have a great deal to do with education, and with university education in particular, so I’m including this post in the “UABCs” (or “University ABCs”) series of posts in this blog.

People who have experienced academic success through the years–a group in which I include myself–tend not to be pretentious.  This is especially true of those who have gone through the education system in recent decades, since the hierarchies formerly associated with Western education began to crumble.  I definitely encountered a few pretentious university professors over the years, trying to defend old academic values during a period of great change within academe; but very few of their students chose to emulate them.  Not behaving in a way that used to be considered “high status” or “smart” is no longer necessarily an indication that one is “low status” or “dumb”—unless one truly is … I won’t say it, although I’m extremely tempted.

It’s one thing to be knowledgeable in particular areas and to employ that knowledge wisely, and with sensitivity to the social setting in which one finds oneself. To me, in our postmodern age, these are the hallmarks of intelligence and having had a good education. It’s quite another to impose a shaky knowledge–including things one must surely know are untrue, in other words fabrications and lies–on others in order to gain social status, within a hierarchy that no longer exists.

To those who never did well in our education system (I said I wouldn’t name any names), I would say I’m very sorry about your lack of success.  But keep in mind, I wasn’t the one who was putting you down.  (I did all I could over the years to provide you with encouragement in areas in which you had real talent.)  It’s you who’ve been putting yourself down.  If you can’t see that–if you can’t fathom the basic philosophical perspective from which I and so many others who have been academically successful now view the world–you may truly be a DUNCE. 

But maybe, now, you can see …