Browsing articles in "commentary"
May 17, 2016

Collateral damage (2016)


Pauline Pfeiffer, 1934

Collateral damage

You never know what you’re going to find,
where you’re going to end up.
I woke up this morning thinking about Hemingway,
Ernest, his house, the sun, Key West.

I went to his house once while visiting Key West.
I remember the pool, the catwalk connecting his home to his writing studio, the spacious art deco bathroom, the heat.

Hemingway lived in paradise and died in Idaho.
He was born in 1899.
There is now, only one person in the entire world,
one lonely soul that was born before him.

He was married four times.
His second wife,
the American journalist Pauline Pfeiffer,
died on October 1, 1951.
She and Ernest married in 1927,
honeymooned in Le Grau-du-Roi
in the South of France and
divorced on November 4, 1940.

Pauline Pfeiffer died of an acute state of shock.
It was precipitated by the news that her son Gregory,
who had experienced gender identity issues for most of his life,
had been arrested entering a woman’s restroom in a movie theater.

When I woke up this morning,
I didn’t know
that anyone had ever died because of a transgender bathroom issue.

You never know what you’re going to find,
where you’re going to end up.

Daniel H. Dugas
May 14, 2016

Feb 24, 2016

Caution over daring (2016)

Irving Oil has contracted B + H Architects to design their new headquarters. The company had a unique chance to create a bold architectural statement, something that would have stood out in the cosy downtown of Saint John, the first incorporated city in Canada. It’s not every day that a chance like this comes along. Instead, Irving decided to build something that looks like a totalitarian monument reminiscent of the best of Ernst Sagebiel, whose style was described as “Luftwaffe modern”. They could have made an audacious statement, but chose caution over daring.


Irving Oil reveals plans for new headquarters in Saint John

Jan 8, 2016

Merit, Finance and Depth of Field (2016)

image1Keywords: arts, artistic merit, arts boards, money, poverty, fairness

The message to the poor and discontented is that they must not impatiently upset or kill the goose that will assuredly, in due course, lay golden eggs also for them. And the message to the rich is that they must be intelligent enough from time to time to help the poor, because this is the way by which they will become richer still.[1] E. F. Schumacher, Small is Beautiful

My hope this year is that something changes. For example, a change in the system that manages arts grants, specifically the criteria for assessing projects. In all the Arts Councils or Arts Boards across the country, and in many parts of the world, there are two rules for evaluating an application. The most important element for this evaluation is the artistic merit of a candidate. This is how jurors decide if someone will get a grant or not. The second rule is that the financial situation of a candidate should not have any influence on the decision. I have always been opposed to this way of assessing applications. I believe that the financial situation of an artist has a direct influence on the artistic merit of that artist. I have stated this for years while participating in both Canada Council for the Arts and New Brunswick Arts Board juries. Every time I have raised the issue, I got the same terse response; that those are the rules, the foundations of the whole thing, period. I believe that laws or rules are not by themselves proofs of fairness and history is full of such examples.

The straw that broke the camel’s back (forcing me to sit down to state this in writing) came a few weeks ago when I read a press release of grants awarded by the one of the provincial Arts Boards in the country. One of the successful candidates is also a full-time professor at a University and the grant will allow this professor to attend an arts residency during a sabbatical. According to the Faculty Bargaining Services, someone making $100,000. a year will make around $88,000. while on sabbatical. I am outraged that someone on a sabbatical, which is a time paid to do one’s work, can apply and get a grant to help do that work. Aren’t the taxpayers on the hook twice for the same thing?

There are people out there who are applying for grants, getting them and they have no financial need for this funding. There are also people who are applying for grants and not getting them and have an urgent need for funding. Books, paintings, sculptures, musical scores and videos are not created because some people are not receiving grants. Some of the available funding is going out to supplement individuals already receiving generous packages. Perhaps there should be a program that would permit people who receive grants recognizing their work excellence, yet don’t need the funding, to put the money back into the system. Perhaps they could then receive commendations for their contribution. If it is accolades that they need, why not create special recognition prizes?

Every time that I am told that the financial situation of an artist has no bearing on an application, I am puzzled. How could money not be a consideration when money is at the core of the whole thing? This is why artists are asking for grants: to get money, to do things. If money doesn’t matter, the federal government would not make equalization payments to less wealthy Canadian provinces to equalize the provinces’ “fiscal capacity”. If money is not important, George Murray, St-John’s poet laureate would not have resigned after budget cuts to the arts and culture sector in Newfoundland [2]. If money is not an issue, why are arts boards paying Hill Strategies to research key statistics about artists and their personal situations as well as their financial impact on the economy? [3] We are all outraged when we hear of CEOs salaries and how many lifetimes it would take for a regular Joe to make that kind of dough. And what the hell happened to the We are the 99% movement?

Every time that I am told that the financial situation of an artist has no bearing on the artistic merit, a shiver runs down my spine. If wealth is not an indicator of well-being, then what is? It is difficult to deny the link between poverty and poor health; it is also difficult to say that the economic well-being of an individual does not affect that person’s life. Who is going to have the better depth of field, the artist with the Canon EOS 1D Mark III priced at $12,000. or the artist with the Kodak FZ41 Digital Point & Shoot Camera at $88.? I agree, the better camera might not yield the better artwork but it allows the artist to have a bigger range of possibilities.

A few countries in the world have established what is called a Day-Fine, a “structured fine payment plan calculated according to a convicted individual’s financial status and the severity of the crime”.[4] The idea is that “if both high-income and low-income population are punished with the same jail time, they should also be punished with a proportionally similar income loss.” [5] If this works for fines, can’t it work for grants?

I am an artist and a writer and I am writing this to say that our model is broken and that it could be fixed but only if we really wanted to do it. I am aware, that this post will not change the world, but I need to say it, I need to feel that I am trying to let some light in.

Daniel H. Dugas, January 6, 2016



During the last few years, Daniel H. Dugas has written a few posts about the arts and the arts management. For more information about Daniel’s writing please visit:

[1] E F Schumacher, Small Is Beautiful: A Study of Economics as if People Mattered, Vintage Books, London, 1993, p.11

[2] St. John’s poet laureate quits over cuts to arts funding

[3] Hill Strategies Research

[4] Day Fine Law & Legal Definition

[5] Day-fine


Related links:
Do You Have to Be Rich to Make It as an Artist? (ARTNET)

Oct 7, 2015

Liaisons and The Last Man on Earth (2015)

I was shocked to see the Season 2 Premiere of The Last Man on Earth (Is There Anybody Out There?). In one of the scenes at the White House we see two statues, one of Benjamin Franklin the other of Abraham Lincoln, banging their heads together as if they were kissing.

I did a video entitled LIAISONS (2011) about a love triangle between Dante, Marie-Antoinette and Sirène. To say the truth the The Last Man on Earth scene looks very similar to my video.

Liaisons (2011)
Clip The Last Man on Earth (Is There Anybody Out There?) (2015)
The Last Man of Earth review


Apr 28, 2015

Text(e) Image Beat – talks (2015)


On April 28, Valerie LeBlanc and I each gave a talk at the Galerie Sans Nom during the Frye Festival.


pdf Text(e) Image Beat talks given through the Galerie Sans Nom and the Frye Festival, (pdf 2mb)

Nov 28, 2014

Spem reduxit / Hope restored (2014)

Key Words: New Brunswick, debt, marijuana, traffic code, zombies, marketing

“Time to rebound is running out”, it’s a “financial disaster”[1], it’s “very concerning”[2], “our regional economy is flat-lining and we are depopulating… it’s a death spiral”[3], it’s a “perfect fiscal storm”[4] and so on. We’ve all heard the song. It’s terrible and it seems that there isn’t much we can do. We are doomed, but are we really?

Here are a few ideas, of what we might be able to do.

P as in POT
The first idea is a simple one: New Brunswick could legalize marijuana (medical and recreational). Our province has vast fields of uncultivated land, which always makes me wonder where have the farmers gone? In addition, our climate is mainly humid continental with warm summers, which is excellent for growing stuff. By decriminalizing marijuana, our province would be the first in the country, and this alone would be an incredible business opportunity.This prospect that has already created waves: in the aim of defining target markets and customers, market research professionals have begun asking Canadians what they think of marijuana. When the questions start flying, you can assume that the product is on its way. Even the Globe and Mail is writing about the future of cannabis in Canada.[5]

I like this idea because it has a two-fold potential: to generate tax revenues, and to become a fountain of youth. Legalize it and they will come. They, the young people from all over the country might consider New Brunswick as a place to live and to settle. This could be the true golden age of New Brunswick. For those who might say that marijuana falls into federal legislation (Controlled Drugs and Substances Act), I would point out that it is the provinces that control the “administration of justice.”[6] Moreover I would invoke the right to economic dignity. I believe that every province has a right to create an environment where its citizens can flourish and to deny New Brunswick the possibility of improved economic revenue would be criminal.

The second idea concerns the drivers and the police departments of all towns and cities in New Brunswick. As a pedestrian I can attest to the danger of walking on our streets. There are many factors that make walking a dangerous activity: car culture, changing weather, darkness in winter, cultural misunderstanding on the meaning of yellow lights, etc. The fact is that there is a potential gold mine at every corner and maybe we should be exploiting these open pit deposits. A officer could monitor a crosswalk and give as many fines as necessary to drivers who see the flashing lights, see the pedestrians but don’t think they should slow down.

They are currently hot on TV with; Z Nation, The Returned, The Walking Dead, and of course, there are zombie walks all over the world. We are fascinated by their relentless stamina and as Angela Becerra Vidergar pointed out in a recent article “Zombies are important as a reflection of ourselves.”[7]

The question here is what can these tireless workers do for us? The motto for the city of Moncton is Resurgo, Latin for “To rise up again.” That is zombie speak and is awesome. The province should quickly seize Moncton’s motto, make it its own and market itself as a global hub for anything zombies. Here again, two birds with one stone, during the zombie walks, police could dispense tickets to zombie drivers.

Daniel Dugas
November 27 2014

[1] Richard Saillant, director general of the Canadian Institute for Research on Public Policy and Public Administration in “New Brunswick barrelling toward bankruptcy, analyst warns”, CBC News, April 29, 2014.

[2] Auditor General Kim MacPherson in “Auditor General troubled by debt growth”, CBC NEWS, Dec 05, 2013.

[3] Frank McKenna in, ‘Good governments do not allow mob rule”, The Chronicle Herald, November 4, 2014.

[4] Donald Savoie in “Paying the piper”, Atlantic Business Magazine, February 23, 2012

[5] Jeffrey Simpson, ‘Should Canada do a Uruguay on pot?’ Dec 3 2014.

See also, Jeffrey Simpson, ‘A marijuana measure worth watching‘. Dec 5, 2014.

[6] Sensible BC, Canada’s largest marijuana reform group in Frequently Asked Questions.

[7] Angela Becerra Vidergar in “Stanford scholar explains why zombie fascination is very much alive“, Stanford Report, February 20, 2013.

Zombie Silhouettes by SymbiopticStudios

Spem reduxit / Hope restored is New Brunswick ‘s motto

Click here to read part 1: Home of the New Balance: Nota bene published on August 26 2014.

Aug 26, 2014

Home of the New Balance: Nota bene (2014)


Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.
John F. Kennedy, Inaugural speech, January 20, 1961

Everyone knows it; the province of New Brunswick is in dire straits. The Auditor General, Kim MacPherson, describes the debt problem as “very concerning” and is calling for “significant changes to improve the financial health” of the province.[1] Every four years, the election cycle kicks in; electoral signs pop up everywhere and talking heads reveal their latest strategies to resolve the ever-growing debt problem. The best plan of action for many is to encourage gas exploration by means of hydraulic fracturing. Many are opposed. We know details of the proposed scenario, but never the whole story. What I would like to propose here is another way of resolving this lingering problem.

Sao Paulo, the 4th largest urban area in the world, believes that prohibiting advertising such as outdoor posters will free its citizens, the province of New Brunswick, the 8th smallest province in Canada, could certainly take example from this South American city and do exactly the opposite.[2] Let’s give advertisers what they are denied in Brazil: a world of total advertisement! We need to surrender, to abandon not only the sides of our roads and of our buildings but our very own nomenclature! We need to become somebody else! We need to BECOME THE SPONSORS! The idea is not new; other places have traded their souls before. In 1999, the village of Halfway, Oregon, changed its name to for a one-year period in accordance to a contract with the eBay subsidiary. In 2005, the town of Clark, Texas changed its name to DISH. In return the company DISH Network awarded DISH residents free cable service and programming for a period of 10 years. This lease is expiring very soon and if logic prevails, that little town’s name could switch to Netflix in the future.

What has never been done is what New Brunswick could try now, a systemic change of names. The names of all villages and towns, all roads, all monuments, all public buildings, even the name of the province would be on the shopping block. There are many ‘naturals’, names of company that could fit with existing communities. Through a sponsorship agreement with the communications and media company, the well known Rogersville could become Rogers. By adding an S to the town of Bailey in Sunbury County, they could probably make a deal with Gilbeys of Ireland, makers of the famous Baileys Irish Cream. Bay du Vin, on the south shore of Miramichi Bay, would certainly attract the interests of any number of wine makers. The little rural community of Burton could stay the same as long as Burton Snowboards get on board, so to speak. Add Tyres to Dunlop in Gloucester County and you get Dunlop Tyres. Popelogan Depot, an unincorporated community in Restigouche County could drop the Popelogan for Home and become Home Depot, and so on. As far as the name ‘New Brunswick’ goes, the footwear manufacturer New Balance seems to have the ideal credentials to take the big prize, in exchange for lots of royalties for NBers. Their logo is already a match with the current abbreviation of our province. On the other hand, settlements like Big Hole in Northumberland County and Baghdad near Grand Lake might have to be rebranded altogether. But imagine if there was a town called Sony, Irving or IBM. For one, the locals would have interesting demonyms. The IBMminions could even sing songs from their parent benefactor. The collection: Songs of The I.B.M. published in 1931 includes Painting the clouds with sunshine by J. P. Saxton:

We don’t pretend we’re gay.
We always feel that way,
Because we’re filling the world with sunshine.
With I.B.M. machines,
We’ve got the finest means,
For brightly painting the clouds with sunshine.
Records we make only to break,
Teaching the whole world we know
I.B.M.’s line, will all the time,
Help it to grow.
When things do not look right,
Our products make them right,
And keep on painting the clouds with sunshine.[3]

This grand project would not only redefine our onomastic landscape, it would also create a boom on employment: the lawyers, of course; the signage industry; the mapmakers and souvenir shops, would all be working overtime. But that’s not all; an underground network of hard-core genealogists unhappy with all of the changes could rise in every corner of the province of New Balance. Members of these cells would try to keep the old ways alive. It would be foolish to try to crush them. Au contraire, they should be encouraged, even if we have to create historical parks of taxonomy. Le Pays de la Sagouine and King’s Landing are two obvious models for this new world of ours. As for the sets of names to be sold, they would be auctioned to the highest bidder and would be legally binding according to the agreements drawn up by the province’s lawyers. With this plan, I truly believe that we could be out of debt in no time. If the DISH people, with the weight of all of their 201 citizens, got free cable for ten years, imagine what we could negotiate right here!

Daniel Dugas
Aug 23, 2014

P.S. Speaking words and marketing, we all recall the heated debate surrounding the slogan on New Brunswick’s licence plates: Be… In this place – Être… ici on le peut. As we know the slogan was discarded. The funny thing is that the province of New Brunswick was standing right in front of it’s very own slogan, a phrase that spells it’s own name, and on top of it all: a phrase that could be read in both official languages. This silver bullet is the Latin expression Nota bene, a phrase that means, “note well” and is often abbreviated as N.B. in English and N. B. in French. Sometimes ideas are sitting in front of us and only need only be picked up.


Part 2:
Spem reduxit / Hope restored (2014)


[1] Auditor General troubled by debt growth,

[2] The city of Sao Paulo promulgated in 2006 the Cidada Limpa (Clean City Law) banning all outdoor advertising. The text stipulates that every citizen has a right to live in a city that respects the urban space, heritage and architectural integrity of the buildings.

[3] Songs of The I.B.M. Fellowship Songs of International Business Machines Corporation, 270 Broadway, New York, N. Y. 1937. Painting the clouds with sunshine, p.14.

May 5, 2014

Videopoetry (2014)

For me, the poetic experience has always been a visual experience. Although videopoetry is often a collaborative process between a poet and a filmmaker, it is for me, most of the time, one continuous action. When I started to write poetry I also started to experiment with super 8 and creating live soundtracks for the reels. The blend of text, image and music seemed a natural transaction between mediums. But it is not only a back and forth movement between words, images and sounds, the action quickly becomes a passage to discover something new, to unearth a unique presence. We know now that the lines between mediums are fragile, that the walls are now porous and we are thankful for this evolution. We can travel from one genre into another to try to make sense of the whole world. Video poetry sits at the juncture of oral tradition, typography and vibrations: a fork in the road. It sometimes tells a story through words (narrative-poetry) and at other times, through moving images (non-linear abstraction). In spite of the fact that videopoetry always shows with a red wavy underlines in Microsoft Word, it is not an error. It is a form a comprehension. It is a good road to travel.


Still from What We Take With Us at The New Gallery (2012) Video installation with Valerie LeBlanc

Nov 15, 2012

Alas! Atlas! (2012)

version française ici

Fog and reality! Cloud and mappemonde!
Victor HUGO

KEYWORDS: visualisation, cartography, cartogram, Facebook, US presidential election 2012, Purple America

Recently, I opened my Facebook account to see the juxtaposed images of two maps of the United States. The first map illustrated the results of the 2012 American presidential election: blue states for the Democrats and red states for the Republicans. The second map, dated 1846, was a representation of abolitionist and slave states before the start of the American Civil War.[1]

What struck me at first glance was the apparent similarity between the two maps. It seemed that the distribution of political forces was the same. The abolitionist states and territories of 1846 were, more or less, the Democratic states of 2012. The slave states and territories were clearly in the camp of Republicans. The effectively demonstrated parallels were so compelling that I immediately shared the image. This commentary by Michelle Lawrence was accompanied by two short sentences: “Sometimes change is really hard especially when people don’t want to change. Just something to ponder.” Indeed, looking at the two images gave the impression that nothing has changed in the one hundred and sixty-six years that we have travelled. In short, as the saying goes, ‘the more things change, the more they stay the same.’

The concept of mapmaking inspires respect; there is an air of truth and authenticity about the practice. It is difficult to doubt the reality of map, maybe because of an innate trust we carry for them. In any case, I was there at my computer, confronted with this terrifying image of an unchanging world. And I was disappointed to think that we, as a society, have made such a long journey to be staring back at that very sad starting point. After a few minutes, my enthusiasm to share this with other Facebook users quickly turned into interrogation. What was the reality mapped out before me? Is the world of today really the same as the world yesterday?

To put it all in a historical context and to see if the American electorate had evolved over the years, I began to think of other presidential elections. I thought right away of the Ronald Reagan tidal wave of 1984. The winds of conservatism swept across America leaving only Minnesota and Washington, DC to the Democrats. At the other end of the spectrum, there was the decisive victory of Franklin D. Roosevelt (1936) who was re-elected triumphantly leaving the Republicans with the two small states of Maine and Vermont. On the other hand, and in an almost negative image of the 2012 election, we find the Jimmy Carter election results of 1976. It firmly placed in the Democratic camp all of the southern states often associated with the Republicans.[2]

On this closer examination, I had difficulty in reconciling the three maps above to the political immutability underpinned by the ‘2012 – 1846’ image. Were there changes or not? Looking at a wider scope of images mapping the results of previous presidential elections, it is clear that there have been many changes over the years. The problem with a comment like the one that Michelle Lawrence made, is that it is simplistic and sensationalist. The difficulty of reconciling what is seen and what is said resides in the fact that these particular maps are not speaking about the same thing. The context is warped.

Presenting pictures that look alike offers a simplified view of the past and of the present. It is a truncated, veritably ‘fake’ reality. There has been a lot of talk about polarized American viewpoints and this dual image suddenly offers proof of legendary division. If we are truly interested in evaluating voter diversity in the United States, we should look farther. Perhaps we should begin with the maps of Purple America[3], and migrate to the cartograms of election results complied by Mark Newman of the University of Michigan.[4]

But, the deed was done. I had, in a burst of thoughtless enthusiasm (as is often the case on the Internet), joined the ranks of 45,000 other Facebook users who had also shared the maps and the comment. At first, the juxtaposition of the NOW and THEN image, seemed to offer an eloquent synthesis of the situation, but ultimately it is clear that all who clicked to share were duped. If the shortcut was not a trap, it was certainly a cul-de-sac.

Daniel Dugas
November 12, 2012


[1] Michelle Lawrence, Facebook Account, November 10, 2012
[2] The website 270 to win offers interactive maps of every presidential election since 1789. To put the maps in context the site also lists the major issues of the day. November 10, 2012
[3] Robert J. Vanderbei, Election 2004 Results: November 10, 2012
[4] Mark Newman, Department of Physics and Center for the Study of Complex Systems, Maps of the 2012 US presidential election results :
See also: 2012 U.S. Election Visualizations, Christopher G. Healey, Department of Computer Science, North Carolina State University
November 10, 2012


Daniel H. Dugas

Artiste numérique, poète et musicien, Daniel H. Dugas a participé à des expositions individuelles et de groupe ainsi qu’à plusieurs festivals et événements de poésie en Amérique du Nord, en Europe, au Mexique et en Australie. Everglades, coécrit avec Valerie LeBlanc, vient de paraître aux Éditions Prise de parole.

Daniel H. Dugas is a poet, musician, and videographer. He has participated in solo and group exhibitions as well as festivals and literary events in North America, Europe, Mexico and Australia. His tenth book of poetry, co-written with Valerie LeBlanc, Everglades has just been published by Les Éditions Prise de parole.

À partir de leur exploration du parc national des Everglades, Daniel H. Dugas et Valerie LeBlanc cartographient dans cet essai poétique les effets de la présence humaine sur le milieu naturel, les traces qu’elle y dépose. Everglades est une ode à la beauté, à la fragilité et à la résilience d’une nature aux prises avec une espèce envahissante, la nôtre.

Through their exploration of the Everglades National Park, Daniel H. Dugas and Valerie LeBlanc document, in this poetic collection, the effects of human presence in the natural world and the traces left behind. Everglades is an ode to the beauty, the fragility and the resilience of nature faced with the invasiveness of a particular species, ours.

Date : Mars 2018
Genre : Poésie
Collection : Poésie
ISBN : 9782897441029

Éditions Prise de parole




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