And Come What May (Variations on a Diary, Continued…)!

[Summer 1994]

by Robert Legendre

May 6, 1994

I seem to recall a short piece published a few weeks back in the Montreal newspaper La Presse. It alleged that certain members of the board of directors of the Université de Montréal were discreetly reaping fringe benefits, over and above their considerable emoluments.

May 7, 1994

Today, the paper informs us that Mr. André Brisson, the venerable university’s chancellor, has refused to publically debate the pecuniary advantages granted to the directorate of his institution. Such administrative firmness! Such authority! Were I to be somewhat…, I’d even admire the man. His firm reaction, I must stress, leads me to believe that his brain factory generates profits and that, just as the medieval Jus Primae Noctis (Right to the First Night), he disposes of them as he wishes. The Université de Montréal is not an uncommon case. Were we to meticulously investigate the accounting of certain para- and peri governmental organizations and institutions, we would undoubtedly discover bills for dentist visits, others for poodle shearing or for long term car rentals. Expenses which, at least in theory, are supposed to contribute to the performance and productivity of such organizations and institutions. More specifically, they are expected, so it seems, to increase the overall performance of the State’s capital by preventing chronic brain drain.

May 8,1994

“What business is it of yours?”, you might ask. I remember now what it was about the existential drama of the Université de Montreal’s chancellor that got my goat. Once again, as each April ends, I forwarded sums of money to two of our numerous governments, in addition to what had already been deducted up until then. I am quite convinced that a percentage, however minute, of my modest contribution will find its way into the University’s treasury. I don’t even own a car. Enough already!

May 9,1994

Chafing at the bit!

May 10, 1994

The board of directors of Productions Ciel Variable did not deem it necessary to offer me similar fringe benefits. Is this to say that I should shop around come the time for a new board of directors?

May 11, 1994

…Am I being provoked? “Culture is too expensive,” writes Marie-Agnès Thellier in an article published in the magazine L’Actualité on May 15, 1994. The author was commenting a public opinion poll conducted by CROP. The poll revealed that 67% of Québecers would be in favour of budgetary cuts in the field of arts and culture. Were we to extrapolate to include all of Canada, the percentage would undoubtedly remain the same. Sixty-seven percent of these “polled” visionaries display true administrative rigor.

Naturally, CROP’s president adds that his probed representatives prefer to maintain life’s essentials, such as health insurance, old age pensions, education, etc. Rightly so. The Minister of Culture Liza Frulla was outraged by the manner in which the results of this exercise in logic carried out by CROP were interpreted. All of this is expensive, very costly my Dear Minister. One must remember, however, that polls often tend to reveal points of views that are blatantly logical, with neither nuance nor perspective. In order to truly grasp the ridicule of this affair, we have but to compare the numbers published in Ms. Thellier’s article with the billions of dollars granted by our governments to high technology and manufacturing industries for what are usually very short periods of activity (Quebec’s Port-What Cartier, Matane, Bromont, etc.). A job in this type of industry represents hundreds of thousands of dollars, even for a period of productivity of, at best, a few years, and in certain cases, a few months.

May 13,1994

Recently, our magazine received its annual grant from the Canada Council. It was about time. And it wasn’t even cut back… phew! Thinking back to Ms. Thellier’s article, I should perhaps feel guilty for having received this modest sum. I’m undoubtedly jeopardizing my health insurance, my old age pension or the education system… Wth this grant, we are able to generate a modest, very modest turnover. A mere brick in the wall. May I suggest that, to appreciate our madness, you head for any one of the country’s downtown areas, find one of its numerous news stands and leaf through its magazines and newspapers… I’d be interested to know if you truly recognize your cultural selves.

May 14,1994

A few thousand dollars ($ 2 500 to $ 10 000, depending on the case) creates a job in the field of arts and culture. Although less lavish, an investment such as this has a much longer and more profitable life span. Does the precarious job cycle imposed by the government on many of its artistic and cultural workers since the beginning of the 1980s not make a profit from this capital outlay? Does it not ensure the ongoing availability of this highly specialized labour…, at a ridiculously low cost? It’s practical, it’s economical, and all in all it helps maintain social peace.

May 15, 1994

In one day, we work close to eight hours, we sleep for just about as many, and we savour what’s left in leisure and relaxation. Arts and culture are an important component of this latter part of the day. If we add on weekends and paid or unpaid holidays, it amounts to more than a third of our time. Art may not be all there is to life, but many things in our lives are cultural, including hockey. Any given civilization may be interested in the culture of another, but another’s culture can never replace one’s own, unless, of course, one refers to a deeply colonized civilization. I must say that I feel no affinity whatsoever with the loathsome J.R. from the Dallas series which is imposed upon us.

May 16, 1994

I’m dreaming of a modified Airbus with an exercise room. However unavailing for the purpose of public opinion polls, CVphoto‘s number 27 is looking good. And photography in all of this? I’ll try to get around to it…

The sun was shining this weekend!

Point of View
Robert Legendre, Co-Director

Translated by Jennifer Couëlle