Monday, June 30, 2008

totem figures

Yesterday afternoon, I managed to catch a show by Fringe Festival regular, TJ Dawe. Dawe is a bit of a legend, having done the Canadian Fringe circuit for 10 years now, with a new one-man show each year, but this is the first time that I actually made it see him. His style is more creative monologue than play – part seminar, and part story-telling.

This year’s show is “Totem Figures” – an exploration of, as Dawe puts it “the Mount Rushmore, or Sergeant Pepper’s Album Cover of my life.” For Dawe, his totem figures included his father, Jesus, Robertson Davies, and Luke Skywalker, among others.

But the larger message, of course, is that we all have a personal mythology – we all have historical or fictional characters that speak to us, or that we identify with more than others in an ensemble work. What are mine?

When Dawe was talking about authors, the one that came to mind for me was Margaret Atwood. I have been reading her for over 15 years now. I think I’ve read every novel she’s written, and most of her poetry. I read “the Edible Woman” when I was too young to get it, and again when it made perfect sense.

Other figures that have resonated with me include U2 (from songs like With or Without You that are as haunting now as they were when I first heard them as a teenager to the electronic era and back again), Trudeau (who made Canada believe in itself, and kinda made me go to law school), and my Grandma (who has always been a curmudgeon, but has always been there, grumpily proud of what I’ve achieved).

What are yours?

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

eco-rant of the week

I was biking home last night, enjoying the fact that it actually hadn’t rained all day and I’d had a two-way goretex-free commute for the first time in several days, while also noting how green and jungly all the paths were as a result of all the rainfall. And then, when I cut off the path system to head home, I passed a house with the SPRINKLER ON! That’s right, folks, after an exceptionally rainy June, these people were watering their emerald green lawn (and a good portion of the road and sidewalk). Sometimes I don’t think that people in this country deserve the resources we’ve been blessed with, if we’re going to waste them so blatantly.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

south of the border

I am always surprised when I go to the United States, because I expect it to be just like home, but it’s not quite. Little things (like advertising for prescription medication) and big things (like the shrine-like monuments to presidents past on the National Mall) jar my senses, when I am expecting business as normal. When I was in DC last week, I was struck by the use of military language in advertising – when I was riding the subway, I saw a variety of ads for things like investment banks and software products that used language about “knowing the enemy” and being “ever vigilant.” It was weird – it wasn’t necessarily that fear was being used as an advertising tactic (à la “buy our insurance or your family will end up on the street when your house burns down and it will be all your fault”), but just that this was a metaphor that the advertisers were using to speak to their audience – as in “everyone knows how we have to be ever vigilant in war, so clearly this translates to business too . . .”. This highly militarized discourse was particularly interesting in light of another thing that I have noticed about Americans – they’re generally quite friendly. From my experience, on the one hand, it’s a nation that can be convinced to buy through mention of “the enemy”, but on the other, it’s a society full of people who are quite happy to start up a pleasant conversation with a stranger in the elevator. Weird.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

the appearance of action

Yesterday, I had the great pleasure of going through airport security (pre-clearance for flights bound for the United States) twice in about as many hours. I was on a flight that was cancelled, so they took us out through security - and by the time we had collected our bags, my colleague had called the travel agent and booked us on another flight, so we basically looped through the line and went back through security. On the second pass, the airline said they wouldn't book us in if we had to check our luggage (I am not sure if that was a time constraint issue . . . though as it turned out the plane didn't arrive in Ottawa for another 4 hours, so that doesn't seem quite accurate.) In any regard, on my second pass, I had my suitcase with me, whereas I had checked it on the way through before . . . and I had carefully put my liquids in a ziploc for clearance, but they TOOK MY HAIR STUFF because it was 150ml instead of the requisite 100. I was really annoyed (remember, this is after doing the thing involving taking my shoes off and my laptop out and filling out a customs card twice in as many hours . . . ) because, seriously, my extra 50ml of texturizing spray is not going to make our plane any less safe. Even if I was planning to make a bomb out of hair products and toothpaste, it would probably not be that extra inch of product that would make my devious plan a success. Obviously, we need airport security, and I can accept that I can't carry on my swiss army knife (which I got busted for the other week because I am an idiot and put it in the wrong make-up bag), but the shoe thing and the liquid thing are way more about the appearance of security - by the time those modes of security were implemented, the plots involving shoes and liquids had been foiled, and it is unlikely that anyone intent on doing damage is going to replicate these methods . . . but the general public must endure the arbitrary restrictions on their luggage (along with my personal favourite, the Heathrow one carry-on rule . . . which is awesome when you're transiting through on an airline that doesn't have that rule and are between two other airports that don't have that rule . . .). Ok, I am ranting, but I was supposed to arrive at Regan at 8pm last night, and got to Dulles at 2am, having walked barefoot through the metal detector twice, and stripped of my "trying to look more like a lawyer and less like a 22-year-old-kid" pre-meeting hair routine.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

sexGod review

I just finished reading SexGod by Rob Bell. Bell explores (from a Christian perspective) the links between sexuality and spirituality, his main thesis being that the unity of sex and marriage are the most potent earthly example of the unity that we are supposed to be in with God.

Reading this book is part of a recent foray I’ve been making into reading Christian books once again – now that I am becoming more comfortable with my unorthodox faith, I can appreciate more orthodox scholars, and consider them in the framework within which they are operating.

Generally, I appreciate what Bell is doing with his book – he is honest and compassionate and pays a lot of attention to the cultural context of the Biblical passages he’s talking about. He also makes a valiant effort of examining the passage about husbands being the head of a marriage and wives submitting to their husbands, and situating it in the context of the passage as a whole, saying that really everyone is supposed to submit to everyone, and the husband is supposed to be willing to die for the wife, so really it’s about equality.

I still came out of the book feeling like women are getting the raw end of the stick, though. Despite Bell’s assertions that Paul is talking about equal submission, the overall message in the book is that a marriage is like the church’s relationship to God. God is always the groom and the church is always the bride in these situations. . . . and, well, God is God and the church is people, so I don’t see how that is supposed to be an equal relationship. Therefore, if the analogy is reversed (instead of saying that our relationship with God is like a marriage, but saying that marriage is like our relationship with God) – women are somewhat infantilized (God is, after all, also understood as being the benevolent parent). And that doesn’t match up with my understanding of what or who God is. Which leads me back to my mistrust of the Bible as the Word of God . . .