Thursday, February 28, 2008

< Historical Platitude > < /Historical Platitude >

Marbles and rocks
Itz treshure, i swearz

So the province has released a new heritage strategy, with the intoxicating slogan of "A Treasured Past - A Precious Future." If Ian McKay is still paying any attention to tourism in Nova Scotia, he's rolling his eyes heavenward and praying to Pete (Seeger, that is). Is the province aware just how historic their "new" slogan is? As McKay would point out, this kind of treasure and buried gold language was bandied about incessantly during our anti-modernist heyday. It's old - 80 years old, in fact. It's been done. And they're still selling the same old make-believe.

In the 1930s, the Liberal government told Nova Scotians tourism was our future, but we shouldn't count on the province to help us develop the industry (we were supposed to use some of that old liberal get-up-and-go). Today, it's the Tory government telling us there is no new money to invest in uncovering this rich history, but that "people need to explore the art of the possible." Local museums and heritage groups? You're on your own.

I will save you the cliches and platitudes. I cannot spare you the head-meets-desk thwack.


I guess you can't expect any better when your premier represents the very essence of McKay's folk motif gone sour - a Thoroughly Modern Millie playing dress-up in "heritage" garb.

Friday, February 22, 2008

History on the birdbrain

Today there was a boreal chickadee being very resourceful at our suet feeders. A new one to mark of in the bird book!

Boreal Chickadee

I also learned that Thomas McCulloch, first principal of Dalhousie College and Nova Scotian intellectual of the first half of the nineteenth century (his old house is a museum in Pictou) is mentioned a number of times by name in John James Audubon's Birds of America. McCulloch ("M'Culloch" in Audubon's book) was not merely a collector of dead stuffed birds (he apparently started Nova Scotia's first Audubon mounted bird collection), but he was also Audubon's Nova Scotia informant and "young friend"! Along with some juicy tidbits about the foraging habits of the Black Cap Titmouse (our black capped chickadees), McCulloch's ornithological observations also made their way into the sections on pine grosbeaks, the "little night owl" (which based on the coloured plate, I would guess is a barred owl), cedar waxwings, and the Least Peewee Flycatcher.

Did their common interests bring them into a friendship of letters, or did they meet on one of Audubon's expeditions to Atlantic Canada? That is a question I would love to answer.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

In the lecture hall

Killam lecture

I went to a lecture Tuesday night on "ecological democracy," given by Randolph Hester from UC Berkley. Much of what he said really struck a chord with me, largely because, like Hester, I am drawn to the idea that individually and as a society, we need to realize that we can hold seemingly conflicting ideas in a creative tension that brings more good to more people (and environments). The concept of "ecological democracy," then, is about finding a middle ground between ecological interests and social justice interests. Contrary to what Hester calls "virtual capital," ecological democracy is place-specific, focusing on grass-roots sources of power (even peaceful civil disobedience) with local solutions. Any planning decision, any design work, is inherently a political act.

Hester talked about a concept that was necessary in order to develop an appropriate plan and design for a community, called "sacredness," or "sacred structures." In a town or community, these are the places that act as centers of community meaning and activity. It is important that designers and planners identify and respect (read: don't fiddle with) these places. I often think of this concept as shared memory. "This is where we go for pancakes." "This is where our town started." "This is how we know we are from here and not there." "This is where the town ends." I like this kind of thinking. I study this sort of thinking, and write about it, too.

I love lectures. Of course, lectures are great chances to learn and expand horizons, to spend time with potentially like-minded people, to look at attractive folk in the audience. But I think I could sacrifice my comfort (thought I would probably just sit on my coat) to attend a lecture in a hall like this:

lecture hall

The lecture hall in the administration building at Acadia University in Wolfville. Doesn't it just ooze "hallowed halls of learning" and Anne of the Island to you???? Can't you picture Anne convocating here, Royal Gardner's violets shunned on the table back at Patty's Place, and Gilbert's lilies-of-the-valley in her hands instead?

Yes, this is one of my weaknesses. Around this time of year, when every snow is followed by a blustery night of rain and sleet, when my mind is preoccupied with temperance campaigns or Ataturk or road construction, it invariably also turns to L.M. Montgomery novels as well - The Blue Castle or Emily Climbs or Anne of Windy Poplars. I can't even look at a birch tree without thinking of the (spoiler!) house fire in Mistress Pat! I swear, though, it's the time of year. LMM, get out of my head!. I need that brain for thesis writing. Come back in June and we'll read some poetry together.

Saturday, February 09, 2008



Of the two-and-half foot tall variety...

Thursday, February 07, 2008

New Lost Names (pondering)

I know this will be more accurate, with better information and better guesses, on the Lost message boards tomorrow, but tonight's episode? With the new sort-of Others? Awesome. And it gave me some more names to add to my first post speculating on the appearance of philosophers names on Lost.

UPDATE: Those Losties are fast - the Lostipedia has bios up for the new characters already. The episode synopsis (with links to the character bios) is here.

(oh, avast spoilers)

First of all, his name was given last week: Michael Abaddon - the guy who has arranged this mission to the island. Abaddon is a place of destruction (it shows up in Proverbs 15:11, for one). Wikipedia suggests "Abaddon" can be used as a name - eg., for Satan or the (an) antichrist. It's possible the Lost writers are using it in this pretty darn literal sense, but I will stick to the word as a noun for now.

Then, "Myles Straum," the ghost-talker - kind of obvious, maybe, maelstrom - not a philosopher, but dude is creepy and seems violent/destructive. It's likely very fitting.

"Charlotte Staples Lewis," the anthropologist (who, curiously enough, is interested in polar bear skeletons? Don't they mean archaeologist?) - also obvious, Clive Staples Lewis. I wish I could remember Ben's little biographical sketch of her.

Frank Lapidis (the pilot) - not so sure. Lapidis means stone, right? Literally translated, is it supposed to be an ironic name for a pilot? I don't want to speculate on his first name, because that seems like taking it a bit too far, but I do have a somewhat lame, Golden Compass-like explanation in mind.

Daniel Faraday - the softy physicist - well there was a Michael Faraday who was a physicist, and something to do with electro-magnetic fields and cages, could that mean something (especially considering the island's peculiar electro-magnetic, earth-regulating qualities)?

And then there is also "Minkowski," back on the ship, who was too busy to take a call today. Does that have anything to do with this Minkowski, and something to do with the theory of relativity? Apparently Minkowski was notable for working time into the picture - I like to think this has something to do with a Dharma polar bear skeleton showing up in a Tunisian desert. And time travel. The Entertainment Weekly Lost columnist was speculating today about time travel.

I don't know that any of these names actually have anything to do with the plot of Lost, but I like compiling these little tidbits. At the very least, they will probably show up in an edition of "Scene It!" some day, so I can count it all for the team.

Monday, February 04, 2008

I'll book no dissent - procrastinate with me! (Quizzes)

There is a post about women sailors sloshing through my head right now, but the thesis is my highest priority, so it may take a while for it to filter out. I do have time, however, for taking 6-question quizzes and sharing the results with you (lucky, lucky blog readers). What book am I?

You're Watership Down!

by Richard Adams

Though many think of you as a bit young, even childish, you're actually incredibly deep and complex. You show people the need to rethink their assumptions, and confront them on everything from how they think to where they build their houses. You might be one of the greatest people of all time. You'd be recognized as such if you weren't always talking about talking rabbits.

Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

A little uncanny that they managed to pull one of my favourite books out of my head based on six questions. The results for my mother, however, weren't quite so canny, so I remain a bit skeptical. Let me know if you get any interesting (accurate or inaccurate) results.