Friday, June 30
Sunday, June 25
Kids need to teach us about the age they live in, not the other way around. Us semi-adults come from an earlier age that can't comprehend the current age as intimately as those who have lived with it since they were born. The cultural motifs, philosophies and insights are transferred to younger children in their music, televison, film; in short, through all the culture they absorb. In a school, the teachers, who are older, have lived in an earlier era and therefore are necessarily out of date. This is, I believe, why students of all levels often feel what they are absorbing in the classroom is out of date and irrelevant, especially in the subjective fields such as English and other liberal arts.
It should be the children, the smart, wise children who can observe closely what they are experiencing in their world and who can communicate it effectively, who lead the discussion on any contemporary cultural study, including literature and the rest of the arts.
Our times change quickly. At the beginning of the last century, it was not entirely possible to say that each individual had their own perspective of reality, separate from all others, meaning there is no single perspective that was shared by all. The twentieth century saw a generation who died before encountering this idea, a generation who encountered this idea in the middle of life, and a generation who were born as this idea was widespread and to a degree universal. Who is more likely to have the most complete understanding of this postmodern idea, the young person, the student, who has grown up in a postmodern culture, absorbing the ramifications of this idea from advertisements, magazines, movies, books, music, visual art, design, architecture, food, and any other sense object you care to mention, or the middle-aged person, the teacher or the professor, who first encountered this idea through their own observations, through dicussion with other learned people, through reading forward-thinking books, or another one-degree-removed method, and who encountered it with a friendly - or possibly a hostile attitude?
What right do I have to think that down the road I could possibly teach someone twenty years younger something about life? My current postmodern mindset will be long out of date by my fiftieth birthday, to be replaced by a zeitgeist of such complexity it will be extraordinarily difficult for me, or any of my contemporaries to comprehend. If I want to know about the world 25 years from now, I must sit at the feet of a 5 year old or a 15 year old, and listen as they tell me about the music they hear and the movies they watch, listen as they tell me how they are touched and affected by the culture they take in.
Friday, June 16
This is the last weekend of the 2006 Montreal Fringe Festival. Go, go, go! It's hundred's of interesting, beautiful people doing interesting, beautiful things. The best thing I've seen there so far is Black Roses, a show put on by two attractive young girls who sing and play guitar and make you laugh with dirty jokes and deadpan humour. I can also recommend Fresh Meat, You Like It, Evil is the New Good, and Uncalled For. The name of their show is "Uncalled For 4: For Forever" which makes me laugh every time I say it out loud. Also, Joe is in Ben Hur and Laura produced You Like It. The site is www.montrealfringe.ca. If you go, try to make it to the 13th Hour, a fringe "talk show", every night at 1 o'clock at the Academy Club.
Saturday, June 10
The Forbidden Forest
I've been reading on some websites about a new "tree display" project that the City of Boston is working on. It's going to take up about 3 large city blocks, not downtown, but somewhere nearby; I'm not really familiar with the layout of Boston. It's essentially a park, but the interesting thing about it is that no humans will be allowed in. The idea is that the space will start with rich soil with a few native plants and grasses already planted to keep the soil down, and then just let nature take it's course: beginning with grasses, bushes, and eventually trees, plus whatever insects, animals and birds that decide to come along for the ride. In a generation or two, who knows what it could look like? It will be bounded by 8 or 10 feet high fences, so people can look through, and so animals and birds can get in and out, but it will permit almost no human entry.
The only people who are allowed into the park will be a few professional gardeners or tree-keepers, who will make sure any litter that gets blown in by the wind is removed, everything gets enough water, etc. They can promote plant life, but they can do nothing to oppose it, so no weeding, grass cutting, or landscaping, and of course no pesticides.
The majority of the costs are being paid for by the City of Boston and by one of Boston's art organizations, plus a few other groups across the states. It's considered by some to be an "art project", something like Christo's The Gates, in NYC.
I haven't quite made up my mind on whether this is a good idea or not. I can see both sides of it, and I've read some comments from people that are both positive and negative. It boils down to a question of humanity's value: is the presence of a human, or many humans, a good thing or a bad thing? For starters, why have what could be a beautiful place of life and harmony cut off from access? Why assume that human presence will obstruct that life and harmony? Are we inherently harmful to nature? And if we aren't, why do some people think we are, so much to forbid us from entering a pleasant part of a city?
One of the points against it is the potential that it will be the first of many tree museums. This argument suggests that we've reached a point where untended nature is so far away that in order to remind or educate people what Mother Nature is like when left alone, we have to put it behind glass, like in a museum. If these museums pop up all over the place, then it will lessen the value of the "real" nature that's left: the untouched rainforets, the arctic, the miles of boring trees in northern New Brunswick, etc.
But of course, there are benefits. The park will become a habitat for all kinds of living things, and without people feeding them, cutting down their homes, or otherwise meddling with their existence, a real ecosystem will develop, right within a busy city, the last place where one would expect to find an ecosystem beyond cockroaches and rats. The secondary benefits to humans would certainly be noticeable: the improved air quality as a result of the trees doing their thing, the spiritual value that a true forest can bring, and of course it will serve an educational purpose: a child born and raised around a few scattered city blocks, connected by underground transportation, may not get to see a thriving forest for many years, even if just from the outside. Because of it's unique position inside a loud and polluted city, the park/forest will likely develop in unexpected, never-seen-before ways.
It's a wierd and fascinating idea, but I'm still on the fence. If I promise not to hurt anything, can I go inside? Maybe they could do weekly tours or something. But still, I know that any human presence will have an impact. We're big animals, much bigger than the rodents that will occupy the park, and so our size and weight alone will damage and possibly kill certain organisms. If supporters say that certain things won't have a chance to grow and live if I go in, they're right. In the end I wish the forests and other untouched natural spaces that we have access to already were more respected and valued than they are now.
Friday, June 9
Friday, June 2
So my email address crapped out yesterday. It keeps giving me a login/password error. I think it has something to do with PCHG switching around their servers somehow, and perhaps my account got lost in the mix. If I don't get it back, I'm gonna lose years of communications, plus important things I've sent to myself, such as all of the data I collected and compiled for my survey project, which represents dozens of hours of work.
Until I get a more permanent account, I can be reached here through a comment, or at email@example.com. In the meantime, enjoy your email while you can.
Thursday, June 1
How amiable are Thy tabernacles
This Saturday at the beautiful Eglise St. Jean-Baptiste on Rachel and Drolet there will be a performance of Brahms' Ein Deutsches Requiem, or A German Requiem. Brooke Dufton is the soprano solo and will appear in the fifth movement. She is one of two soloists, and will be backed by a full choir and orchestra. The concert starts at 8pm; fifteen dollars; get there early.
Right now I'm looking at a book: "Tremor: Selected Poems" by Adam Zagajewski. It contains short poems with titles like "Victory", "Betrayal", and "It Comes to a Standstill". But the poems are not what interests me. If I look at the cover at just the right angle to the light, I can see that someone had used this book as a surface on which to write a note, leaving the images of the letters impressed into the paper cover. Remember when Lebowski rubs a pencil over a notepad in the pornographer's apartment and comes up with cock? I can almost make out the complete message:
ME MY YYYYY
I puzzled over the last word on the fourth line for a while, thinking it would tie the whole message together. As best as I can make out, it looks like it might be "WAMAN" or "WYNAN". It actually looks like that word might have been scratched out.
But after a certain amount of observation and deduction, I've come to the conclusion that that word doesn't say anything and was never intended to. The clue is the spacing of each line: except for the fourth, all the lines are spaced consistently. The fourth line, however, looks like it has been written in between the ones above and below, suggesting it was written after the rest of the message, but was jammed in for some reason. That line is even written differently from the rest: the impression is not as deep. So, this is how I see the note in its original form, the first draft, as it were:
I envision Jen as a young woman, lying in bed, frustrated by insomnia. It's late at night and Jeremy is asleep beside her. Jen loves Jeremy, but mostly out of habit, and she knows that if he stays in her life much longer part of her will die. Perhaps she has met someone else, perhaps he has started drinking; something irreparable has come between them. In the weak light she grabs a piece of paper and a pen, and writes a note on the first book that comes to hand. She is rigid with emotion and fear, and her pen pushes deep into the paper. She wants him to leave, and the note she writes is plain and to the point, but betrays none of the anxiety she feels. In fact, the note is very like the countless other domestic messages she has left him and received from him in turn. This one, however, could end the years of pleasant romance she and Jeremy have spent together.
Moments later she recants. She is not prepared to break up with him this way. She does not rip up the note, worrying that he will wake. She can't throw it out the way it is in case he sees it. So she alters the note. But how? Calmer, she adds a line, turning the destructive into the domestic. It is now a simple request that Jeremy will see before he leaves for work. She scratches out a word and throws the note away, confident that even if Jeremy sees it, its original message would be disguised. She returns the books to the bedside table, shifts further under the covers, and tries again to sleep.