CHASING THE DRAGON
I read with dismay your recent article on Richard Stursberg (“Dragon Done,” November), late of CBC. It was an interesting read, but it failed to capture what Stursberg represents—and it is absolutely necessary for the future of serious culture in this country that we understand that.
Stursberg has many admirable characteristics: he is energetic, forceful, courageous, even honest. His weakness is that he knows what people want, and he provides it by imitating other networks’ successes. Had he worked at Global or CTV, there would be no reason to criticize his commercial philosophy. But he took it to the only institution in Canadian broadcasting charged specifically with fostering Canadian culture, which, like any, relies to some extent on the originality, relevance, and seriousness of purpose of its media.
In addition to disseminating culture, CBC is charged in part with finding and developing the creators who can advance it. But at Stursberg’s CBC, corporate programming execs act as delegates, exploiting artists’ skills while scorning their insights. Their directions have brought us shows like Little Mosque on the Prairie, Being Erica, and The Republic of Doyle—imitations of the British and American programs against which they compete.
Stursberg did not create this system, but he has been a part of it in one way or another since the early ’80s. At CBC, he was simply the wrong person in the wrong place. It remains to be seen whether those he left behind can lead cbc back to its nobler aspirations.
Stursberg was a true menefreghista, and in many ways that is exactly what CBC needs. I’ve seen him stand in front of hordes of employees, explain why and how hundreds of jobs were going to be cut, then take questions for an hour from a couple of dozen hostile staffers. He had the balls to put himself out there when he could have hidden behind corporate communications; and the fortitude to stick to his vision, which, while undoubtedly contentious, left CBC in a much better financial situation than when he arrived.
His downfall, perhaps, was that he thought results would be enough to carry the day.
On behalf of Being Erica, I’m offended RT@walrusmagazine: Dragon Done, Richard Stursberg’s controversial tenure at cbc
Byng Inlet (“What Tom Thomson Saw,” November) is anything but obscure to the many folks who travel Highway 69, a familiar cottage country route and the northern gateway to Sudbury and Sault Ste. Marie. As I type this, I can see a version of Thomson’s iconic landscape out of the corner of my eye; it hangs in my office, as the central image of a poster from the inaugural Parry Sound Festival of the Sound in 1980.
It may seem odd that Thomson, having grown up near Owen Sound, was little compelled to paint a Georgian Bay landscape. But the Owen Sound area and the western shore of Georgian Bay are vastly different from the Parry Sound area and the eastern shore. Limestone versus granite, open water versus thousands of tiny islands: these differences separate them by more than just a massive body of water.
David Newland (online)
House of Cards
I am the marketing and communications director of the YM–YWHA Montreal Jewish Community Centres, which Mireille Silcoff describes in “The Sophisticate and the Simple Ones” (November). Before taking this position, I was a journalist and editor. I first heard of your magazine while teaching copy editing and layout at Concordia; my students considered it a magazine of record, with high standards.
Which brings me to Ms. Silcoff’s article.
I did not read past the first column. The beginning was so slanted that I lost interest in Silcoff’s adventures. She portrayed the Y—a warm, welcoming place for Jews and non-Jews alike—as a cold, elitist establishment.
First, I highly doubt that Silcoff and the Na Nach were “kicked out of every room”; they were probably asked to leave because they were being disruptive. Second, the women—and men—who play bridge in the “banquet room” (Grover Auditorium) on Thursdays are not a nasty old group in sequined sweaters and bouffants. They range in age from forty-five to seventy, and sport a range of hair and clothing styles. Most important, they deserve to play bridge in a quiet environment, and don’t have to take kindly to an intrusive band of music makers.
The Na Nach are entitled to their tactics, but that doesn’t mean everyone has to be polite to them.
The Legion needs “new” veterans, and its survival hangs in the balance (“Lest We Forget,” November). But most soldiers coming home from Afghanistan wonder, “Why do I want to belong to that archaic organization? What is it going to do for me? ”
The Legion will have to build bridges to them by leading the charge for veterans’ benefits, as it did in the past with the World War II Veterans Charter, and the Veterans Rehabilitation Act of 1945. If it doesn’t, it will either fade out when the last Korea vet passes away, or, worse, become a social club with no contemporary links to its raison d’être.
Robert Peel (online)
Anyone tried Forty Creek whisky? Looking for an affordable blend for mixing, and inspired to try Canadian by @walrusmagazine article.
The photograph accompanying “The Forgotten Empire” (November) features artifacts provided by the City of Waterloo Heritage Collection, for which no credit was given.
“The Sophisticate and the Simple Ones” (November) contains a mathematical error. Close to one percent of Israel’s population backpacked abroad in 2001.
The Walrus regrets these errors.
This appeared in the January/February 2011 issue.