Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Missy Franklin: Canada's Darling by Default?

Neolithic Rock Carvings.  Gobustan Azerbaijan. On the Web. A Unesco World Heritage Site.

This video is a tour:
Gobustan Neolithic carvings

I'm watching the Olympics, having finally deciphered all the information on the CTV website, swearin' and cursin' all day yesterday, as I missed the stuff I wanted to watch due to my confusion.

Too much information! Too many channels. Their interactive schedule doesn't work in Chrome I discovered.  My husband ended up deleting some redundant TV stations from my Olympic grid.

But I did not want to miss the Tsonga Raonic tennis match this morning. I don't care who wins because Milos Raonic is Canadian (born in Montenegro, living in Monte Carlo) and Tsonga is my favourite player, although I would love for Andy Murray to win the Olympics, for obvious reasons.

The Tsonga/Raonic match tied one set each right now.

Anyway, Canadians are not winning medals. There are so few contenders that the Canadian media is focusing big time on the American swimmer, who has Canadian parents. Pretty sad!

She's a nice girl, but she's American, for Heaven's Sake. Born and Bred. Red, White AND BLUE.

Missy Franklin, who won an impressive gold, because she had swum (swam?) a quarter final (or semi) race 20 minutes before.  In a CTV portrait last night, she claimed Pictou is ONE of her favourite places and now the Canadian Press is buzzing with the line, except they are claiming Pictou is her favourite place.

Did I hear it wrong last night? I don't think so.

Well, if this bonus Canucky press for Miss Franklin makes her a few more bucks, why not? As an American, winning a gold medal is not such a big deal, when it comes to endorsations. She has to win a couple of golds, or three!

But wouldn't it be nicer to focus on one of our own, even if he lives in Monte Carlo? Even if he came to Canada from  an early age, from Montenegro, (for good reasons obviously) which makes him more Montenegrin  than Missy Franklin is Canadian. Alas.

I mean, this Olympic nationalism thing makes little sense anyway with respect to elite athletes.. Most of these players are 'international' people, citizens of the world because they started training for serious and travelling the world early on.

These elites, the Western ones anyway, can move where they wish, and live where they wish (or call 'home' where they wish) find the best coach and train where they wish and even find tax havens where they wish, once they start raking in the big dough.

Eugenie Bouchard, the winner of the Jr. Singles at Wimbledon, was interviewed on a local station after her win and said, "I live in Montreal, for now." (That's how my husband heard it.)

The Tsonga, Raonic game has been suspended due to rain.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Chapels, Porn and Heritage

A clip from a YouTube video of the rock-hewn churches of Ivanovo in Bulgaria, a Unesco World Heritage site.

Here's the linkMedieval Bulgarian Church. This Unesco choice is the perfect blend of man-made and natural heritage. The medieval frescos are the main attraction.

Well, I'm pretty sure I might have missed this spectacle... so this trek through YouTube videos of Unesco World Heritage Sites is proving useful.

I also visited the Blue Mountains of Australia, a wilderness site.  A great place to hike apparently. With its own Grand Canyon.

Then, inspired by these hikers, I took my own hike to a local spot, the river-side park in Hudson Quebec. The newly christened  Jack Layton Park. The town has done a nice job in adding granite park benches for picnicking.

The water was low, the lowest in many decades apparently, and some men were leaving the park with their motor boat after an afternoon fishing expedition and my husband asked them "How was the fishing?"

The the only thing they caught, they answered, was some ugly huge light silver fish with a sucker mouth, species unknown. My husband wonders if it is the dreaded Asian Carp. This fish is not supposed to have made it to the Ottawa River.

As I wrote in an earlier blog, Montreal appears not to have a Unesco World Heritage site. Hmm. I wonder if the Guaranteed Pure Milk Bottle is a candidate.

Here it is before it was restored by Heritage Montreal, whitewashed and with Guaranteed Pure Milk rewritten on the surface. That is significant because English-only signs are not legal in Quebec anymore.

This landmark has significance for me. In University, in a film class, we had to watch a film my Dusan Makaveyev which was pornoish and featured Carole Laure being carried up this structure naked.

I think it was Sweet Movie. This filmmaker caused controversy with his Mystery of the Organism, (Orgasm). I think we had to watch that in class as well.

I suspect that Montreal has nominated sites to be Unesco World Heritage.. probably St. Joseph's Oratory. That place attracts tourists from all over the world.  But I don't think it is anything special, never did.

And I love beautiful churches, big and small, extravagant and simple, even hewn in rock.

One of my favorites: the Wayfarer's Chapel in Los Palos Verdes, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. I visited that place in 1997 with my 'Uncle Peter' who has just passed away at 86.

He showed me and my husband all around LA, and complained only when we asked him to take us to Venice. "Why does everyone want to visit Venice?" he asked.

Wayfarer's Chapel. One with Nature. My cousins lived in the Riviera Section of La, next door to Los Palos Verdes, in a house with a stunning view of LA.

I just watched a rather long video on YouTube about Wright's Johnson's Wax Building. I'd seen it before, probably as a child on a TV doc and most certainly in magazines in adverts for Johnson's products. It all seemed like deja-vu.

I'm a big fan of Lloyd Wright - and if I were wealthy and had the choice, I would own a house in his style.

 Milk and Water is my eplay about Montreal in 1927, when there was a typhoid epidemic due to milk. The name Guaranteed Pure Milk Company is not random.

Milk was often contaminated in the early days of the century, so the name was meant to assure. This also was the era of the Purity Movement, which was, ahem, racist and sexist.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Evil Kenevil, Bounty and Chemistry Sets

Women in 'native costume' in Lijiang Old Town.

After Day 1, China is leading the medal count at the London Olympics, no surprise there.  Yesterday I took a YouTube tour of the Old City of Lijiang, an Unesco World Heritage site.

According to Wikipedia, it's a 800 year old city, at the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains, populated by people of partial Tibetan origin.

Lots of good videos on YouTube and you can see Lijiang Old City is well-preserved (and, yes, as pretty as a picture with a canal and water wheel) and the New City is a bustling tourist destination, like Sundance or something, very prosperous-looking, with that cutesy contrived tourist feel, like, say, Lake Tahoe or Banff.

These are captures off YouTube videos, which come up immediately if you search for Lijiang.

Anyway, Canada isn't doing too well, yet, but expectations are low and that is when good things usually happen.

But yesterday I was struck by a commercial I saw, for Bounty, an Olympic sponsor that doesn't aim to make our children fatter.

Indeed, the advert featured children in houses and apartments imitating their Olympic heroes.(As kids like to do.)  A child jumps on the bed and almost knocks over a fishbowl. Another kid does a cartwheel in the house and almost knocks over a glass of chocolate milk. Bounty, paper towels. Good ad, right? Yes, good ad. Except that at the bottom of the ad they had a disclaimer, "Kids should not try this at home."

Was it a joke, I wondered. I tried to rewind, but for some reason that function wasn't working on the TV.

So I hope I saw it correctly. (If I didn't, never mind.:)

So this is what it has come to. Kids can't goof off at home, it's as dangerous as, say, driving a car 200 miles an hour off a bridge, a la Evil Kenevil or mixing sundry kitchen chemicals and blowing the roof off your house.

I described this ad to my husband and he said, "It's because they don't want to get sued."  I replied, "I KNOW THAT!.. But it's ironic wouldn't you say? Children can't play outside (too dangerous) or inside (too dangerous) but they somehow are going to become Olympic athletes."

Nutty world we live in. Just the other day, an article on the Internet asked, Are we raising risk adverse kids? The article was in the Ottawa Citizen and was by Tom Spears of Postmedia News. In the article, Spears referred specifically to chemistry sets and how,"in these safety conscious and litigious times."  today's sets chemistry sets have no snap, crackle and pop.

Unlike in the 60's and 70's. Consequently, today's kids aren't interested in them, don't 'play around' with them and so have no previous hands-on experience when they first enter the lab in college. 

And what's worse, I think: These modern kids will have no 'tall stories' to tell their own grandchildren. "When I was young I singed the whiskers off the cat..." 

All of their experiences will be second-hand, virtual. Like my virtual travels to Unesco World Heritage sites.

"When I was young I saw this on the TV...I gave myself carpal tunnel clicking on the remote."

This 99% business isn't only about wealth: it's also about experience. It seems that today "free play" inside and outside the home, is discouraged or even forbidden. (Free anything is discouraged.

So, 1% of the population partakes in athletics, because their parents can afford to get them training (in safe places like tennis clubs or at their costly private schools) early in their lives. And the other 99 percent become junk-food garburating spectators of said sports.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Nail-picking Monarchs, Dragon Tattoos

The view from the Willow Inn Terrace. Yesterday.

The view from the New Terrace at the Willow Inn in Hudson was as beautiful as usual, with a touch of "MONET" because the summer drought-conditions have exposed some lake-vegetation and tracts of pebbles.  

The menu was minimalist, a la European. Many restaurants these days are cutting back on their Amerian-style offerings - and having more 'pizzas' of the day  and wrap of the day -over and above the usual fish of the day. (That's because of the rising cost of food. Luckily we've had some rain, lately. Our crops will be OK.  But much of the US's breadbasket is still in drought, which means even higher food prices.)

I ordered fish and chips (ah, I substituted salad for the chips.) The platter wasn't up to the quality of the OLD Willow, the Willow of the 80's, but still improved over what I've had there the last few years. The fish was haddock, nicely done, with a crispy but somewhat tasteless batter.(I guess I could have salted it.) But the salad dressing was lovely.

Look what I saw on the uncapped beam on the Willow Terrace, second storey. A grasshopper! I think I've seen two grasshoppers in the entire 20 years plus I've lived in the area. 

When I was a child, grasshoppers were everywhere, HUGE ones too. We captured them and put them in jars and used nails to make holes in the lid and put leaves at the bottom for the creatures to eat, as if being fried in a glass bottle is a nice way to go. We were children and didn't fully understand what we were doing.

Maybe this little guy is the result of the Pesticide Ban in Hudson.

The new Willow Terrace menu has a Chateau St. Jean from Napa on the menu. I had some  chardonnay. Nice. As it happens, husband and I visited that winery in February, and I was feeling nostalgic 11.00 a glass though. Ouch!

My glass, and my husband. Reminds me of a Mad Magazine joke from years ago. First glass, Alfred E. Newman, second glass, Edwin Newman, 3rd glass, Paul Newman. I can joke because my husband is a fine looking 56 year old.

The label of one of the bottles (special cuvee) I bought at the vinyard. 22 dollars. The sommelier in training was the spitting image of a young Justin Trudeau Drank the wine in the hotel room in San Francisco.

It's getting very expensive to eat out here in Quebec, even a simple meal. (California meals seemed cheaper.) But the view at the Willow somehow makes it worthwhile. It's like a mini-vacation. 

You can't tell from this shot, but they've put out many more chairs on the lawn, a sign to meet that anyone can visit and just buy a drink and take in the view. This has long been the case, but all the chairs (about 30) makes it seem as if they are actually inviting people to do this.

Anyway, I watched the Olympic Opening Ceremonies - and because I like all things Brit, especially their movie culture (a clip from Gregory's Girl!) I enjoyed myself. The James Bond bit had me rewinding in the middle. I thought it was a commercial break, you see, and then was surprised that the old lady in pink was the REAL Queen. 

I'm not a James Bond fan, but I just saw Girl with the Dragon Tattoo on the satellite and I've become a Daniel Craig fan. Now, even more. I've long been a Kenneth Branagh fan, since Fortunes of War or A Month in the Country.

I liked Mr. Bean best of course. My husband does not understand the appeal of Rowan Atkinson, though, Mr. Bean or Blackadder. We differ in this regard.

It's lucky the Queen could be persuaded to do this bizarro, playful James Bond bit, because she was caught daydreaming while the British Olympic team paraded in and some newspapers are criticizing her for this - especially for distractedly picking her nails - on camera. First slip up ever?

I'm willing to give a break to an aging Monarch. 

Friday, July 27, 2012

Life of the Mind and Let them eat Cheetos.

A statue at Versailles,I think. As a little girl I would have liked to have this one, or even just a picture. The idea of a flying horse is kinda dumb. Kind of counter-intuitive. Really,they weigh a tonne. But I wanted to ride one as a child. Still do.

Pegasus was sired by Poseidon, out of the Gorgon Medusa.  A God-Horse. Half-brother of Venus. Snakes are a symbol of female sexuality. That seems counter-intuitive too.

Anyway, Versailles is a Unesco World Heritage site.  But I couldn't find any excellent YouTube video  of that place yesterday. Not one with the characteristics I am looking for. Many lengthy shots, no narration. I had found some good ones the day before of the Loire Chateaux. I especially liked the castle Chenanceau, the second most visited castle in France after Versailles.. No wonder over the centuries so many spoiled ladies of the aristocracy have fought over the place.

And looking at Versailles, or Catherine the Great's Palace at St. Petersburg, it's easy to see, with gilded gold clarity, why France and Russia had Revolutions. "Let them eat cake," indeed. (Today it would , "Let them eat Cheetos") Did they film the movie Marie Antoinette at Versailles. I bet they did.

 I did eventually find a good video of Versailles, but one that broke all my rules. It has a song-over (Rufus Wainwright) super-quick edits and the people have put themselves into most of the shots.

The video is terrific though. So I looked at more videos this couple has made and I found  one of the Rodin Musuem and Monet's garden. Even prettier.

This Rodin, the Burghers of Callais, also can be found in Montreal.

Here is the link to Monet film which leads to Versailles.Monet Garden Video

Anyway, I noticed yesterday that there are many new Olympic channels on the grid of my satellite provider, one at least is pay extra. My husband and I won't mind paying extra for coverage of events we like. I just hope these pay channels have no advertising. That will bug me, that's double-dipping.(Are Cheetos an advertiser at the Olympics.. Frito-Lay is it? I checked. Maybe. And they are promoting bio-plastics for their packaging as a diversion from the fact they sell empty salt-laden calories to sedentary children. )

I mentioned my pay-channel concerns to my husband and he replied. "What about your beloved tennis? We pay for TSN and yet there's commercials."

Yes, I fear the long-term plan of these communications companies is to have nothing but PAY channels with commercials. Indeed, it is most obviously the case: these companies have to continue upping their profits, not for the next quarter, but until the end of time. Indeed, let me peek into the future:  All the preliminaries are available for free, but to see the finals in real time you will have to pay extra.

Just like Facebook yesterday. That company's earnings report wasn't terrible, it beat Wall Street Projections,but Facebook's  shares took a dump merely because there's no proof that Facebook will make a lot more money in the future. "Revenue growth skids" is how one headline put it.

This is as decadent as in the time of Versailles, if you think about it. Except corporations are Faceless Entities. Facebook being an exception. No over-dressed upper class twits to aim your fury at.

I mean the reason I can't afford to travel to Versailles and France in person, as I had planned to just a couple of yeas ago, is because of the last economic downturn, as they call it. I call it the Great Brain Robbery.. (I just thought of that. Does it work? They are always saying these 'banksters' are the world's top brains.)

Anyway, just as predicted, I veered from my intended Virtual Travel course, which is looking up YouTube videos of Unesco World Heritage sites, one site at at time. But when it comes to YouTube it's hard not to be like a dog hearing the word "Squirrel."

This Monet video led me to a video of a film of Monet the artist painting in the same place, 1910 or so, which led to me a series of old films about famous artists, mostly ballerinas like Anna Pavlova. But also of Renoir and Rodin. The film of Rodin was very clear.

Which led me to a Smart History snippet on Rodin's unfinished Dante Doors in the Orsay Museum, which led me to a bit on Corbusier which led me a long documentary on Corbusier's design for a Monastery. Very Interesting. Which led me to another long documentary by the same people on Villa Mila in Barcelona.

So I took a snippet of one of that place's luxury apartments for my collection of rich people's homes.

Even the emergency stairwell in Villa Mila is a hoot.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

World Heritage Sites and Technology

An eerie 'capture' from a YouTube travel video of Ouro Preto. It's a gate leading out of an old gold mine shaft (horizontal). I captured it because it seemed a metaphor for something mystical. (I've been looking at a lot of Renaissance Art on YouTube too.)

You know the movie Julie and Julia? (Terrific movie, I think.)

Well, in that movie (based on a blog) a modern New Yorker called Julie decides to cook up every recipe in Julia Child's classic, the Art of French Cooking. (Is that the title?)

I've decided to do something similar. I've decided to find great YouTube videos of Unesco World Heritage Sites.

I won't do it in order, because I'm not that kind of gal. Indeed, I'll probably give up after a while. But, still, it should be a great way to filter through all those travel videos on YouTube.

Now, I once read up on the selection process for choosing Unesco World Heritage Sites. I don't remember much, however. But I do remember that being so designated is a bit of a double-edged sword.

A locale becomes valued and therefore preserved, but it also attracts tourists, who, in turn, can trash the place. This is especially true of World Heritage Sites that are conservation areas.

Anyway, years ago I worked for a TV station that had a travel show. We would be jealous of the crew of said show as they got to visit all over the world.

But for them it was just hard work. They yearned for the old days, before budget cuts, when they had some off time, and could lay down their cameras, and therefore could enjoy the pleasures of these charming destinations themselves.

Just the other day I came across a stunning video of a game reserve in South Africa. A group were on a camera safari. An elephant was coming up the road towards the group who were in an open bus, and I could hear someone in the background say, "I'm NOT going to take  a picture. Sometimes you just want to enjoy the moment."

So true. Technology serves to separate us from the experience much in the same way stethoscopes, when invented, separated doctors from their patients.

I am very grateful for these people who post travel videos, especially the HD videos with no narration, just background noise. Some travelers have become adept at filming just the right amount of footage for each place, understanding that YouTube is not a TV Show. We don't want sharply edited clips, dve's (digital video effects) or fancy transitions. We want to feel as if we are walking the city streets, or staring off the lookout or visiting a cathedral with the camera person, his or her camera being our eyes. But we also want the time-frame sped up a fair bit, as we have short attention spans and get bored easily.

I especially like the videos where the creator puts in some captions, with pithy information about said Cathedral or said memorial statue, or where a real tour guide is heard speaking because they know their subject.

The other day I saw a long 2 hour video of St. Petersburg which was perfect. Part of St. Petersburg is a World Heritage Site, the canals, the tour guide said so.  Like Nevsky Prospect below. Blue skies and Venetian charm. Apparently St. Petersburg is a very sunny place, generally.  (But, it's almost always sunny on YouTube videos :)

St Petersburg HD tour

OK. So this morning, I looked on Wikipedia for a list of World Heritage Sites. There are tonnes of them, although none in Montreal. Hmm.

Have I seen some in person? Well, yes. The Canadian Rockies and even Roskilde Cathedral. My brother lived in Roskilde, Denmark, right on the fjord, across from the Viking Museum. Roskilde is a beautiful old city, perfect for biking.  And Old Quebec. It's three hours away and I've only been there three times in my entire life. And Lunenberg, Nova Scotia is on the list, but not Peggy's Cove. (Hmm.) Peggy's Cove is amazing.I've been there numerous times.

I randomly chose Ouro Preto in Brazil, because I had never heard of the town. After a few wrong turns, aged low definition videos,  I found a series of clear Scandinavian videos, with a voice over narration, but in Swedish, I assume, so I didn't care. Beautiful destination, Ouro Preto (Gold Nearby?) no doubt about it. GORGEOUS. Both the natural beauty and the man-made beauty.  The pic above is taken on a train ride outside the city.

And then after that I  chose Dubrovnik. I've heard of that city of course. And right away I found a video of someone walking the battlements on the harbour, the city wall.  Breathtaking, as well. A great video,too.

So, I'm stealing or 'capturing' pictures off YouTube. Some people burn their name onto their videos..

But here's the links to the ones I visited.City Wall Walk Dubrovnik. I give it 9.00 out of 10.00
 And Swedish Ouro Preto video. Ouro Preto Five parter.. 8 out of 10.00.
St. Petersberg video..HD almost two hours. 9.7 out of 10. I think it sets the standard.

Anyway, hopefully these generous YouTube citizen-travellers will help the people of the world come to understand how beautiful and precious the planet is and why it must be preserved.

I Found Bunga!

I took yet another YouTube expedition yesterday and I found a childhood friend, deep in the Malay jungle. Bunga!  He's in a video of the Pre-War Orang Asli or aboriginals of the Malay Peninsula.

You can see the video  here.  Malay Aboriginals

And here's a YouTube video I made as I flipped through the book

It looks obvious to me that this is the video that inspired the Bunga of Malaya story in Visits in Other Lands, the social studies or geography text used across North America from the 40's to the 70's.

The video has the Orang Asli men on a hunting expedition with blow-darts, the women pounding something, children fishing, girls weaving baskets.  It's Bunga all right! (A Malay woman told me Bunga means flower in Malay.) Here's a clip from the book.

I've written about Bunga before, in an essay I have since put on my website.  It's called YouTube and Yams. At least once a week someone looks up BUNGA Geography Book, etc. and lands on my essay.

The first story you ever read in the first geography book you ever had sticks in your head. And "Bunga" and the "yams" he ate were funny-sounding words for Canadian children in the 1960's.

Indeed, a Canadian Poet, Carl Leggo, has written a poem called Grade 4 Geography. It's a brilliant thing. Leggo describes the 'characters' in the text book Visits in Other Lands, including Bunga and his yams, and Nanook and all the other colourful children living far away and he wonders why he, himself,  isn't in the book: Carl, the kid from Newfoundland, who eats cod tongues.

Leggo is making an important point here, I think.

Why was the Visits in Other Lands Geography book focusing on aboriginals of another country, Malaya? I mean we were 10 years old and we got the impression Malaya was a jungle with stone-age tribes and not a bustling multi-cultural country, ruled by Colonial Brits, or sort of ruled, providing rubber for our every day needs.

As Canadians (and Americans) post war, the rest of the world was infantilized for our information. The argument would be that children learn by reading about other children, but why couldn't we have learned about the other more modern Malay children?  Clearly this Bunga story had impact, or so many Canadians wouldn't be looking his name up today on the Internet.

Another thing the Bunga story did was "nuclearize" Bunga's family. Had we children seen the video, we would not have seen a nuclear family, but a tribe. Children very unlike Dick and Jane. We would have noticed, as well, how beautiful the tribes people were. The drawings in the book did not do them justice, I can now see.

Above: Kuala Lumpur in 1964, when I was learning about Bunga in my fourth grade classroom. Not quite a jungle.

What made things weirder for me, my grandmother was living in that city back then. My father had been born there at the European Hospital in 1922. My grandmother visited us in 1967 (for the first and only time) and I wrote about it in a play Looking for Mrs. Peel,

My grandmother had been a spy during the war, but that didn't impress me as a child of TV. She was an old woman and I admired beautiful young female spies like Emma Peel or Honey West!

I must have been quite mixed up about Bunga, when I first read the story. Possibly I asked my Dad about Bunga and he replied that this was an aboriginal. But I don't recall it.

Possibly he pulled out the copy of Time with the portrait of Tenku Abdul Rahman, the Supreme Head of State of the new country of Malaysia. Perhaps he knew that my grandmother took tea with this man, on her birthday, or his birthday, can't recall which and told me about it. (My Aunt told me (again?) just a few years ago.)

The end of Bunga's story has him looking up seeing War Planes, at least in a version I bought off eBay. I wonder if they expunged that part in the editions used in the 60s.

Anyway, my story Looking for Mrs. Peel is about my grandmother's life in Malaya and her internment at the hands of the Japanese in WWII. I used her diary for info.

Our Reading Text, Wide Open Windows, I think, also portrayed Canada as a kind of Father figure Country.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Thinking Outside the Box in a Super Competitive World

I like to dance in the living room. My son thinks this is quirky. (But I`ve never been ashamed of being a bit different, as least since adulthood.)

 I have saved 60 or so episodes of the Barefoot Dancer and sometimes use them for my daily dancing. Or sometimes I just pop on the Galaxy channel, Big Band or Latino, depending on my mood. Needless to say, dancing is good for the old bones and the old arthritis, although it is on occasion very bad for the body, as when I hurt myself. But I keep on truckin`.

I didn't dance as a child. I was very tall - so no one pegged me as a dancer. And it wasn`t de rigeur to give little (or freakishly tall) girls ballet lessons.  I rode horses and sometimes played baseball with my brothers. I had better eye hand coordination than either of them. And my neighbourhood school, that had pretty good teaching standards, had no gym program to speak of.

Anyway, today, deciding I should get up off my ass, I turned on the TV for a short dance session. The TV was on the CBC where a child's program was airing. Something called Pirates, Adventures in Art.

There was a little song being performed THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX.. as in Do not be afraid to...

I found this educational video somewhat ironic, well, VERY ironic.  I stopped and re-round the show.  It featured a Pirate and he was discussing Da Vinci. Da Vinci was a genius, you see,  because he thought outside the box.

Now, I think this is ironic because if you are going to think outside the box, you are going to FAIL more often than succeed. But failure, in today`s schools is not an option ...not for  the ambitious or anyone who hopes to get a good job in today`s competitive market. That`s why middle class parents are spending a fortune sending their kids to expensive private schools, joining churches just to access the church school, moving to `good educational districts` and using tutors when the teachers seem to fail them, in either the public or private sectors. (Yesterday, I read a Guardian piece where an education writer is apologizing for having chosen a public school for her children (which is private in our North American terms.) Many thought her a hypocrite.

I didn`t say it first. This guy did and BRILLIANTLY, on a TED Talk. This lecture by Ken Robinson has, you can see, 11 million hits.

Even Da Vinci`s Last Supper is full of mistakes, some say. (Or it`s full of coded messages that the great man put there to defy the authorities. Even he had restraints on what he could create.)

Any college kid will tell you, if you want to get good marks, repeat what the professor tells you. Don`t  dare to argue, unless you have superb rhetorical skills.  A young woman was just the other day giving me an example from her Master's Course.

(And this must be especially true in Business Schools, that are underwritten by Big Business Concerns.Why would they want to train people to put them out of business?

My son has a science degree, but he started out in Business School, a very prestigious course that he had worked hard to win the marks for.   He went into business because he was good a math, and a teacher he admired suggested he should. Not because it is what he wanted to do in his heart.

But also that year he became a `radical`vegetarian (after seeing a video of a slaughterhouse in a course in Jr. College) and he became interested in issues around industrialized food production. In a paper on the subject he dared to defy the teacher`s point of view (which was, of course, pro business)and he got a failing grade on paper.

I didn`t see the paper, but I saw an earlier paper (I sneaked a peek) from the year before in Jr. College where the teacher suggested he submit his paper to The Guardian, so he could write I guess. 

So we have this very sad Catch 22 for modern students (even pre-schoolers!) : everyone is saying they must be creative, entrepreneurial, to survive in the world of work,  and yet the skills needed to become this way are discouraged by the education system. 

A degree with C's is fairly useless these days, unless you have connections and/or are wealthy.. The kid with straight A's and a Post Graduate degree (and good connections from his Private School) is going to get the job over you, even if he has to take 5 internships to get it.  Even if the kids with All A's (and it happened in my day) chose courses that would guarantee him an A - and you chose courses that were challenging and creatively stimulating and where the prof on the very first day warned his students, "No one gets an A in this course unless you are freakin' Da Vinci."

I feel sorry for today's graduates, I have empathy. I too graduated in a BUST period. No one but engineers got good jobs out of college in my  graduating Class. Well, a business graduate I know got a good job. She got a job in PR for a tobacco company. And, sadly, one of the engineers I knew of died in the Ocean Ranger disaster.

Of course when Leonardo was an apprentice and thinking to leave Florence, he wrote a famous letter to the Duke of Milan, which included his resume.

He could make any kind of bridge, he said. And machines for offence and defence. He could design chariots of any kind, safe and attackable.

He could create machines for agriculture.

Oh, and by the way, he could render statues in marble bronze and clay and he could paint a bit.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Antinous, Foo Foo and the London Olympics

Foo Foo the cat, happy this morning, but miserable and wet yesterday around 8 pm after enduring the second storm outside.

It rained yesterday! It rained a little bit, then a lot and then a whole lot more, all night long. A violent storm, really. With lots of thunder and lightening that made my old Boston Terrier, Bullwinkle, quake  for about 6 hours, his tongue hanging six inches out of his silly looking head. His eyes bulging in fear.

But I didn't care, because it rained!

As much as I have been enjoying our Mediterranean-style  weather, I also understand we are not Greece and Olives are not our main export.

I was dreading having to spend 18 dollars for a cucumber in the fall at Atwater market. The Harvest is my favorite time of year and I expect to be carrying home bags and bags of Mother Nature's bounty for about 30 cents.

But we've had no rain at all. The lawns are brown and the riverbeds are exposed and dry. It's all landed in the UK and Denmark, where my brother lives.

Raindrops on my Magnolia. Yea!

Now, I must admit, I've been watching the UK Forecasts, hoping that their miserable weather is going to clear up for the Olympics. Not that I have a great niece in the high jump or anything, just because it seems a shame to spend a hundred billion on an event and have it wash out.

This week it did, indeed look promising. London has had its first taste of sunny summer days, but today I checked and it looks like the rain will return just in time for the opening ceremonies.

This is actually one of the only times I am happy not to be in the UK! I've already experienced an Olympics, in Montreal in 1976.

I was 21, a nice age to watch very fit men row, and run and jump. I especially liked the rowers, the best of which were Romanian I think. Everyone expected them to want to defect!

Wet leaf-strewn porch. Double Yea!

Fleeting memories: Bruce Jenner. I got tickets to preliminaries of the decathalon and I remember thinking the American Guy was a bit too buff. Too Popeye-like. The second place guy, a Russian named, I think, Asimov, was more to my taste, slim and super-broad shouldered.

Juan Turino (I'm not sure of the spelling.) I had a close up seat of the 440  I think. Very close up. That's a beautiful race. The runners I mean. Like exquisite carved animals with gaits like, well, wild animals.

The only other person I saw who had a smooth gait like these guys was a friend of mine. who said he had never played a sport in his life. Never even thrown a ball. He was very tall. He wore glasses. He was also academically-inclined and gay. But one day on campus, this friend  realized he was late for class and he sprinted across the field toward his lecture hall like a gazelle. A real thing of beauty. I turned to a mutual friend and said, "So and So" runs so gracefully, so powerfully! He's actually athletic!"  She just nodded, as surprised as I was.

Oh, and I remember seeing a group of tall tall women coming up the escalator at a department store, and for the first time in my life, feeling average. I'm five foot 11, you see. These gals were speaking a Slavic language and I figured they were the Russian Basketball team, or something like that.

(Of course Nadia Comaneci, the Perfect 10, was the star of the Montreal Games. I did see a preliminary gymnastics event, but I had a far away seat and I don't even remember which gender I saw.)

In honour of the upcoming Olympics I've been taking tours of  Ruins, some Roman, some Greek, on YouTube. And then reading up on what I've seen. It's been a while since I studied Art History, many decades.

I visited Hadrian's Villa, first in a virtual re-construction, then with some tourists in the ruins. He has a lot of statues erected to his dead lover, Antinous, I think he was called. Then I decided to check out his wall, in Northern England and watched a very long HD BBC program on the wall, which was very very interesting.

(When I was young, I remember asking my father, who lived in Carlisle as a child, "Did you REALLY live near Hadrian's Wall?? Did you take a piece as a souvenir?" I guess we learned about Hadrian's wall at elementary school. My husband even remembers, and he doesn't remember hardly anything he learned at school:)

And then I found another YouTube video where a pair of goofy guys were attempting to walk the length of the wall...a good way to see the countryside of Northern England.


Monday, July 23, 2012

Technology Changes Us

A still of British Colonials playing cricket in Kuala Lumpur at the Selangor Club, 1952, from a Youtube Video.

Yesterday, I found what I've been looking for. A video of the 1953 March of Time about Malaya and the Communist Emergency that shows my grandmother, Dorothy Nixon, scoring a cricket game at the  Selangor Club.

The video has three shots of her and a voice over that says, "Mrs. Nixon, Club Scorer, is a fixture at the club."

I showed it to my husband the minute he got up yesterday. He said, "Nice" and went outside to drink his coffee in our garden.

Later, more awake, he came in and said,"That bit about your grandmother seems out of place in the video."

What do you mean? I asked.

It seems a non-sequitor, it comes out of nowhere, he replied. "Dorothy Nixon, the club scorer, is a fixture at the club."

I hadn't thought of that because as someone who has spent years researching my grandmother's life for my playLooking for Mrs. Peel I know all the background and then some.

But I looked at the bit again and agreed. My husband was right and why shouldn't he be: he is a news editor.

Yes, I said, It looks as if they had more to say about her, but left it out. Maybe "Dorothy Nixon, club scorer, is a fixture at the Club. She came to Malaya to marry a rubber planter, was interned during the war, and remained in Malaya. Her full time job is that of librarian at the Kuala Lumpur Book Club."

Dorothy keeping score. I know where I got my little wrists and hands.

Do you agree? Or is this all shot random? Maybe they shot her and the editor said, "People will wonder who that woman is, with all the men."

It's not shot random, replied my husband. It would have been  all story-boarded out. The camera man told exactly what to shoot. Film was expensive in those days.

My husband started working in TV when they were still using film. He was a telecine operator. He played the films in the machine, mostly for news.

When he became a new editor, they had switched to video tape.The experienced editors complained about how much footage camera men were now shooting compared to before.

Today it is digital. Indeed, my husband's company has switched systems. With the old system the cameramen shot the footage for one story on one file. If editing time was too short (and it usually was) my husband only had time to look through a portion of the footage. The new system has each shot on a separate file, like my Canon Camera. Now there's even more to do in less time.

Cameramen may deliver 20 minutes of footage for, say, a short 30 second piece. (Too much!) The average length of each shot is say 5 to 8 seconds. So figure it out, ten shots a minute, 200 shots to go through and pick, all for a short 30 second Voice Over piece.  And like with my Cannon camera, the files are not labeled, just numbered. They have to be opened, one by one. Then they can be labelled.

The lesson being, where camera men in the past had to be thoughtful and choosy when shooting for a piece (and it is likely the reporter told him just what to shoot) today, with cheap digital, they can shoot everything and hope they got the shots that are needed. Except the editor doesn't have the time to look at the shots.

Dorothy in 1947 or so. Also from a cricket picture. She is posing with the team.

Technology changes us. 24 hour news has changed the way we see the world (and I predicted it way back when it all got started, telling a relation of mine who worked for the new CNN that 24 hour news was going to change the world and she said, "OH, someone else told me that," It seems, the workers on the ground don't have time to think about such things, except on TV as with the characters in the preachy new TV program the NEWSROOM written by Alan Sorkin.(Really?) and technology changes the world too, in unpredictable ways.

Anyway, these March of Times' came out once a week, I think. (Must check.) Lots of time to edit them, I'm guessing, but then again the film had to be shipped to New York or wherever.  So a huge production.

This particular clip ends by saying the Selangor Club has opened up to other races, with the shot of my grandmother beside a Sikh in a turban. Oddly, I know that that section of the club was open only to men, but that my grandmother got special dispensation to sit there, as club scorer. Actually she was official scorer for Selangor State, so I read.

A clip off my TV of my grandmother using my Canon Camera :) The entire clip is here:

Mr. Sorkin appears to be yearning for the Good Ole Days of News when people had integrity and pride of profession. But what about these propaganda pieces, the March of Times?

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Seek and Ye Shall Find

Dorothy Nixon scores Cricket at the Royal Selangor Club in 1952, captured in a March of Time TV program about the Malayan Emergency and posted on YouTube. Dorothy is my grandmother and the subject of my eplay Looking for mrs. Peel.  She was also the Librarian at the Kuala Lumpur Book Club.

(We have the same name, which is the reason I started researching her life, but that's another story.)

Well, what do you know?

I knew there was a 1953 March of Time about the Malayan Emergency kicking around in archives, but I didn't know that it was on YouTube. (Posted recently.)

Even though I entered 1953 March of Time into YouTube just the other day. But the title of this video is Kuala Lumpur 1952...Cricket whilst fighting goes on.

It's been put there by the same person who has uploaded that superb video of Malaya in 1964, that I often talk about.

Malaya Cricket Video  on YouTube. So see for yourself. The bit with Dorothy is in the last minute of the 7 minute video.

The voice over says "Dorothy Nixon is a fixture at the Club." There's an irony, as the bit talks about how the Club has opened up allowing non-europeans, yet I know that she was the ONLY woman allowed in that section of the club.

I knew my grandmother was the "Grand Dame of Cricket" in Malaya. For a while they were giving out the Dorothy Nixon trophy.

I read this in the Malaya Straits Times...in their archives.

My Aunt Denise had visited the Royal Selangor Club and seen her score books, meticulously rendered, she told me.

I have this still of Dorothy and the team from 1947 or so, before this March of Time.

This was in 1953. I would be born at the end of 1954. I wonder if my Dad saw this March of |Time on the Television? He never mentioned it. It would have shocked him. I don't think he saw his Mother since childhood, even after the war.

He told a story of her wanting to come to Oxford to see him after the war but he declined giving the excuse that there was no place for her to stay. 

I do believe that the first time he saw his mother since the 30's, (when she visited him at School in Durham) was in 1967, the era my eplay opens.(After the war she returned to England briefly. Suspicious as I know that her boyfriend was in Oxford after the war.)

But I'm not 100 percent sure and there's no one alive to tell me.

Here's a Wikipedia cricket score book. (I think I will TRY to find a copy of hers.) Scoring cricket is complicated, or so a Mrs. Hague of Montreal (also a Child of the Raj) told me. She had learned to score cricket at her school and then became a scorer for Singapore. My grandmother must have learned it at her Quaker Co-Educational School in North Yorkshire.

My brother taught me how to score baseball. That is not hard at all.

So 15 years later this tiny  'girlish-looking' woman (who had survived the Changi torture chambers during the War in the Pacific) comes to visit us on our ordinary Maple lined street in Montreal and I see only a wizened Old Crone, always with a cigarette in her hand and often with a tumbler of gin in the other, and always frowning. (A friend of made fun of her.)It's all written in my story Looking for Mrs. Peel

No pictures remain of her at our house on her visit in 1967, but these images are emblazoned on my brain. She did not enjoy herself cooped in our duplex,  in a strange city,  unruly teens all around her. (Typically, She hadn't raised her own children.)

My grandmother went from here: (Teesdale Durham) to here Kuala Lumpur in the 60's

No wonder so many people were contemptuous of Colonial Women. Giles Playfair (who seemed to admire my grandmother in his book Singapore Goes off the Air) says that these women lorded it over servants and attended illustrious parties when -if they had stayed at home- they would have been "sweeping out a four bedroom cottage."

Below: a page from my grandmother's 'memoirs' I used to write Looking for Mrs. Peel.

and on a related note: a picture I took of Plomari Greece, on a hot hot HOT Sunday, a special holiday, all the church bells were peeling and this young woman was leading this old woman up the steep road to church. A granddaughter and grandmother. The way it should be?

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Snake Charmers, Fall Colours and Burning Battleships

A snake handler from Kuala Lumpur in the 30's. It's off a YouTube Video.

When I was 15, I was in our garden in the burbs of Montreal with my father, and I found a rather rare garden snake and picked it up and waved it in front of my father's face.

He recoiled a few steps saying, "Take it away."

I laughed at him I seem to recall. My 6 foot three dad being afraid of little snakes. How weird. But it was only later that I put it together.

He had been born in Kuala Lumpur, the son of Rubber Planters in Selangor State, and from the minute he could walk he had been warned of the dangers of snakes. He was told by his Mother or maybe his Nurse to always  carry a stick and to brush the path in front of him at all times.

Anyway, like most Children of the Raj in his day, he was sent away at 5 to school in England.  I write about it in Looking for Mrs. Peel. It's about my grandmother's life in Colonial Malaya and her experiences during the Second War War, as Women's Camp Leader at Changi Internment Camp.

When I started researching her life, back in 2003, there wasn't a whole lot of stuff on YouTube. Today there is.

There are a couple of home-made travel videos that show Merdaka Park, where the Royal Selanger Club still is situated. There are even a couple of videos from Old KL, one from 1939 and one from 1961.

And there's a great deal about the Malayan Emergency, the Cold War Story that for the most part has been neglected. So no wonder when my Grandmother visited Canada for the first and only time in 1967, I wasn't impressed. Malaya was just some crazy far away country that didn't even have a pavilion at Expo67.

The Royal Selangor Club today. Somewhere in some video archive there's a copy of a 1951 March of Time about the Malayan Emergency where my grandmother, also Dorothy Nixon, is seen scoring cricket in front of the Club (I assume) for Selangor. I read about it on the web, but I can't locate the specific episode. And somewhere in the Selangor Club, today, are cricket books with my grandmother's neat and meticulous score-keeping. (My aunt saw them.)

KL in the 60's, when my grandmother was living there and working as the Librarian at the Kuala Lumpur Book Club. Montreal must have seemed so 'ordinary' to her. The city had been fixed up for Expo, but it was still rather dull. I think anyway. (Even with the famous Underground City under Place Ville Marie, covered in both the National Geographic Magazine and on Walter Cronkite's show The 20th Century.)

My grandmother certainly wasn't impressed with Montreal.. read my play. But she did think the fall colours in the Laurentians were very beautiful.

Above: A shot of hills near KL. Recent. When I researched the play I had to rely on descriptions from books about Malaya. I mention "Misty Blue Mountain Tops" in my play.. so I got it right!

 Smoke from the hit of the Repulse or Prince of Wales ships in Singapore Harbour. I guess it is Japanese footage. Dec 10, 1939, a date that will live in infamy for some, even over December 7.  (I recently met a woman who worked as a volunteer in Singapore, taking care of the wounded survivors of the boats. She told me all the cots were coated in a sticky goo, as they had been intended for the deep jungle.)

It wasn't until Boxing Day that Kuala Lumpur gets bombed, or more precisely the Pedang, where the Selangor Club is. At the book club building, near the Royal Selangor Club, my grandmother hides under a desk. Later she helps drag the 4 dead out of the rubble. She wrote this in her memoirs and I included it in Looking for Mrs. Peel.

Thailand had a beautiful pavillion at Expo67, Malaysia did not. But I sleuthed out the reason. Malaysia was actually the 24th country to sign up for Expo, with the Prime Minster Tenku Abdul Rahman coming to the Expo site in 1964 and standing on the plot of earth where the Malaysian Pavilion was to be built, which would have been beside China's I think, right at the entrance of Expo, if my memory serves.

 But then there were 'race' riots and Singapore separated from the country. I'm guessing that upset all the plans for a pavilion.

Although perhaps this is the reason why: their pavilion at the New York Fair in 64 had cost overruns I see.