Sunday saw the first installment of "We Believe--In Winnipeg", a joint campaign by the Winnipeg Free Press and the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce "to get the city to feel good about itself."
Well, if this is the best that the city's business community and biggest newspaper can come up with, then it's time for the medical examiner to call the time of death. We believe---Winnipeg has flatlined.
We Believe/The Arts, Sunday's campaign kickoff, was the worst dreck in modern memory. The amount of time put into Part One can be measure in milliseconds. The so-called stories were nothing more than quick cut-and-paste jobs from city promo brochures. They looked under Art Galleries and Theatres in the phone book and reprinted the results.
In hyping the campaign, the FP wrote "(Chamber president Dave Angus) and Silver said Winnipeg needs to get over its inferiority complex and do a better job of trumpeting its success stories."
And so we were told:
* The world knows us for ballet
"If you took a worldwide poll, what one thing would most people associate with the city of Winnipeg?" asked writer Alison Mayes.
"Chances are, it would be either the 1919 General Strike or the Royal Winnipeg Ballet." she answered herself.
Or it would be fantastic if this was 1919 when ballet was a current art form and you had to show an interest in ballet to be considered cultured.
But then came the horseless carriage, electric lights, telephones, talking pictures, rock and roll, television, men in space, women in space, breakdancing, rock videos, Michael Jackson (when he still had a nose), and computers in every home. They know us for ballet?
Who the hell cares?
Oh, Alison...the correct answer to your question is Murder Capital of Canada, Car Theft Capital of Canada, and perennial contender for Gang Capital of Canada.
* Film Critics, box office agree on us
Randall King told us a made-in-Manitoba movie, The Haunting in Connecticut, has earned $37 million US and been in the top three box office draws for the past two weeks. And another locally-shot movie The Stone Angel won Genies for best actress and best score.
He didn't say that nobody knows what a Genie is, and fewer care.
And that The Haunting in Connecticut owes more to the public's love for a good scary movie than for where it was shot. Or maybe its the drawing power of star Virginia Madsen. The Horsemen, the Dennis Quaid movie shot in Winnipeg in 2007 with China's most beautiful woman Zhang Ziyi, limped into a limited release in March, 2009, and hasn't been heard from since.
* Call us the CanLit capital said Morley Walker.
We prefer the Slurpee Capital. People have actually heard of Slurpees.
* Forever the bedrock of rock
Omigod. Could it get any worse? John Kendle dragged out every chestnut in the forest in his first three paragraphs. Neil Young, Burton Cummings, The Guess Who. None of them has had a hit in 30 years. They're your grandpa's music.
And so it went.
According to the Winnipeg Free Press and the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce,
- we write books no one reads,
- produce movies nobody watches,
- make music nobody listens to, but
- we cling with a death grip to art forms of the past century (or two) like the ballet, the opera and symphony.
Doesn't that make you feel better about the city already?
They couldn't even hype the mythology of Winnipeg. Where's Guy Maddin when you really need him? Oh, yeah. He moved to Toronto.
"The cold statistics...contradict our own self-mythology. The most recent study, published in 2006 by the Hamilton-based arts consultant Hill Strategies Research, showed that Winnipeg's arts community, size-wise, conforms to the per capita national average," confessed Morley Walker.
Elsewhere, a grabbag story on Winnipeg's artists community referenced a recent issue of the "Winnipeg-based art magazine Border Crossings".
"In it, editor Meeka Walsh wrote that in this place of flat terrain, geographic isolation, harsh climate and lack of wealth, "it is necessary to dream a city."
Well if that doesn't shake you out of your inferiority complex, then nothing will. Except, if we were dreaming up a city, this wouldn't be it.
We shudder to think there's apparently months of this badly done, small-town boosterism still to come, with special sections devoted to everything from the aircraft industry to agriculture. Eek.
For the record, when this campaign was announced last month, we held our fire. We feared the worst (although even we couldn't imagine how bad the worst would turn out to be), but we were prepared to see what the C of C came up with. We even began to brainstorm our own We Believe stories.
We now see we may have to come to the rescue of the campaign.