"Don't count on Bill Gates for innovation," and more from Douglas Coupland: live blog
Douglas Coupland, the internationally acclaimed writer, artist and thought leader (author of Generation X) is giving his keynote speech. He's introduced as a "satirist of consumerism, leader in pop culture, transition of culture and Vancouver resident". Here are some notes from the speech (disclaimer: not a transcript, just some notable quotes):
1:40 -- Coupland welcomes everyone. Talks about Google. "They're going to be talking about one of their radical new projects, "city without people.'" We also have with us here Mayor of Kansas City, Sly James.
Jokes with mayor of Kansas City, Mayor Nenshi. Introduces Gregor Robertson: Gregor was recently profiled in the up coming spring edition of "sizzlingly hot mayors."
You will also hopefully be meeting Bob Rennie who has a wonderful private art collection, is also an artist in his own right in the way he creates building. Less well known about Bob is that it was his elbow that went through a Picasso in L.A. a few years ago, lowering the value of it by $40 million or as Vancouverites think about it as a 3 bedroom with a flex space. Mentions Mayor Diane Watts.
Welcome to Vancouver, welcome to the mountains, ocean, forests. I grew up here. All of you need to know Vancouver is deeply locked in an ugly battle with Melbourne, et. Auckland, over who gets to be the most livable city.
Vancouver missed the post world war II frenzy of highway building. City of neighbourhoods. We are multi-cultural here. English, Cantonese-Mandarin, Punjabi, Tagalog, and Hindi are all spoken here. Vancouver is a very Chinese city.
There's Kits where the people with all the good bodies live, English Bay, remarkable public gardens, Stanley park and quite a few bachelors, there's Yaletown…my old studio is now a cigar smoking room in a Zagat rated restaurant. There's Chinatown, Strathcona and our airport which is the city's largest single employer. When you're headed out to the airport, take out the Canada Line. If you're a foodie, Vancouver is a restaurant heaven. You can go to a different restaurant every night for a month and not be disappointed.
You can also buy sushi at gas stations here, he jokes. You may have heard it rains a lot in Vancouver. We love it because it's actually a warm, gentle rain, not an Eastern rain. Most Vancouverites know that sensation of disembarking from an airplane and you get that first whiff of ocean air in your nostrils and you know you're home.
Mentions Stanley Park, and says Lord Stanley never even came to Vancouver. Cites Wikipedia and then asks if Wikipedia is here today (IBM is). Talks about details of Stanley Park, mentions the Hollow Tree, a beloved Vancouver photo op.
Vancouver is the one city on earth where criminals might steal your car, strap antlers on its hood and then park it incised a 100 year old hollow tree and then pass out.
Being a young city, we've been able to stay relatively clean here. Fewer toxic legacies. Has worked hard to become a leader in environmental…
Refers to digital orca, his piece that was installed a couple of years ago.
What struck me about the whale, you had all these people who had been at work, and heard about a beached whale and dropped everything to see it. Men were dressed in ties and women in office clothes, they were climbing over tracks. One woman snagged her hose on a rock and one man stepped in a tidal pool and soaked his shoes but I doubt any of them cared about it.
I grew up on one side of a chain link fence and on the other side was this primeval forest that went for miles. During the Olympics, I escorted a lot of visitors around and went on Grouse Mountain gondola. Says if you call Grouse Mountain and say you're making dinner reservations, you can ride Gondola for free. Oh, God that's probably going to end up on twitter.
Vancouver is probably the only city in North America with no freeway system running downtown. Talks about history of freeway being killed by civic movement.
Let's talk a little bit about cities here. Fortunate I get to travel a lot and see a lot of cities.
I was in Columbus, Ohio and my publicist told me to do a joke, tell them Lord Douglas Coupland was coming. The lady behind the counter looked up at me and gasped and then did this little curtsy. I've felt terrible for years about that. Looked out the window, it was snowing…called his agent and he said, Eric, have I been here before, and he said twice.
He says he'll get back to that. Talks about his iPhone. If you look at an iPhone. There's nothing that predicted in science fiction this little thing most of you have on your table now.
Bill Gates, who is one of the riches guys on earth, and they have these guys who are richer than anyone, smarter than anyone, and they have all these birch whipping parties and they don't invent Google, they don't event twitter, they miss the boat on iPhones which is all to say the moral for that is coming later…
It is very interesting they astonishingly missed the download revolution. Ideas only seem genius in hindsight. If 20 years ago I had told you that 30 second clips of kittens and puppies would suck millions of dollars out of the economy.
The download revolution affects everyone. You're competition for citizens and tourists is World of Warcraft, it is Shakespeare, season long binging on (TV shows), we do have a world where people are addicted to novelty. They're addicted to difference. The places that people re going to want to visit are places that spark their imagination, places that took a long hard look at ourselves and said what makes us difference. People want experiences that can't be downloaded. They want to see physical things and to do things with their bodies. Take your fringe and make it into a Fringe Festival.
I've been to a few cities in my time where they said what makes us different and then they amplified it.
Everybody says if we don't play our cards right, we're going to be another Detroit.
Let me ask you, what makes your city different? How different is your city from the nearest competitor. If people were going to choose between your city and another competitor why did they choose it. Do you have a large Ukranian community ,muscle builders, apricots, difference, difference, difference. Define your difference, throw money at it. Art is a crystallization of difference. I do believe that a city without strong consistent arts funding is basically a p asking lot. A psychic hole.
It's what makes people look at a map and go, nah….
Difference is what defines humans as humans, it's what novelist Michael Cunningham has called the source of art.
I would never be able to do the Lord Douglas Coupland stunt now cause of Google and if I were to go back to Columbus, I'd want to stay at a really good hotel in the morning and then rent a bike and then go to the Hostess factory and see a giant twinkie in a coffin, lying in state and sitting there but there'd be no twinkie cam so you couldn't watch it at home, you'd have to go to Columbus.
The thing is, you just can't assume anymore that Bill Gates or corporations are going to do your innovating for you. Those people are as future blind as anyone else. In this new world of better cities and better people, the innovation is going to come from you. I can't believe all the changes in Vancouver.
I went to Emily Carr. 3 out of 5 Oscar nominated shorts are from Emily Carr Grads.
A large part of that is due to the guidance of Ron Burnett. Thank you, you are doing a wonderful job.
Vancouverites , we tend to find our lack of historical baggate liberating. The mountains to the North and to the east of the city, they make people who aren't from here feel closed in. They insulate us from the past, those of us who come from here. WE are at our worse when we ape the conventions of other cities. Welcome welcome welcome have lots of new ideas and don't forget that tomorrow is Groundhog day so get all your Sonny and Cher records out.
Thanks for coming to Vancouver.