28.9.08

The bitter and the sweet

Yesterday I attended a symposium at my prep school and stayed for a few other events. I left feeling bittersweet about the day...

One of the people I saw was the wife of a man who was arguably the most important influence on my life. Seeing her again (she was my counselor senior year), talking with her about "back then" and about Jack... It's still difficult for me to imagine my world without him in it.

There was a toast to another teacher, another huge influence on my life; he's retired after 43 years at the school. I used to babysit for his daughters, and both are now distinguished teacher/scholars in their own right. Now there are only three people left that were there when I was there (including "my" school librarian), and one person that started the year after I left. As when I first became a great-aunt (just became one again for the fourth time), it's odd feeling that I've moved up a generation at this school.

Twice during the day, women who had been firstyear students my senior year came up to me - from behind - having recognized me by my hair. A friend, someone I'd work with at MPOW, said that she'd seen my yearbook photo and thought I looked pretty much the same. Hmmm.... it's been almost 30 years. Perhaps time for a new look?

The symposium was about "Women, Power and Possibility" and featured a panel of 20- and 30-something women who had started nonprofits that had some sort of global reach/impact. They were varying degrees of eloquent and poised, presenting themselves and their "passion" as an easy fait accompli. I'll be blogging about the symposium later, but my feelings about the women, about the opportunity and being back at the school made me feel odd.

While I was there I felt that I had unlimited possibility and potential. I've always felt that I haven't lived up to either - that I'm not as intentional as I would want to be, that I haven't achieved the things I could have achieved (and those that I have have come too easily or by happenstance rather than any great skill or accomplishment of my own), and that I'm not the person that my 14-, 15-, 16- and 17-year-old self could have been.

As I said, bittersweet.

22.9.08

Where would you like to live?

Going through some of the backlog in my "to be blogged" file, I came across this article talking about imaginary worlds that have captured our imagination. Not mentioned are the worlds Rick Riordan and Scott Mebus have created, those of the "almost real" places and people.

So, where would you want to live? Narnia? Middle Earth? The Londons of Un Lun Dun or Neverwhere? Heidi's Alp? Somewhere, sometime else?

Notable Quotes

I forget sometimes that I'm kinda old. Maybe because I'm kinda old. A friend of mine - maybe she's in her early fifties - asked me recently what I though middle-aged was. I answered, without giving it a moment's thought, "However old my parents are." That's great news for everyone but Social Security, since it means we'll all be living to 130.
Judybat, She Said, She Said

15.9.08

Blurred lines

I've just finished a book, The Acadians: A people's story of exile and triumph. It's an account of la grande derangement, aka the 1755 expulsion of the Acadians from Canada by the British.

Part of the problem I had with the book is that it purports to be unbiased non-fiction. Yet in so many little ways, it is biased. Words like "tragically" and "unfortunate" fill the text, and let's not discuss how the author describes the British governors. Since there's nothing in the author's biography (in the book) to indicate his Acadian roots, it seems that he's choosing sides in this story, one that is horrific enough without his help. If you're intimately involved with the story/events, I expect a little bias, but here? Could have been done without. To be honest, a blank statement of fact would have been far worse than how the sensationalisation.

The other blurred line is the one between genocide (which Jobb calls the expulsion) and diaspora. Where does one become the other?

Years ago a friend and I argued over the slave trade. He claimed it was a genocide, I said it wasn't. The definition of genocide is "the destruction of a nation or of an ethnic group' and implies the existence of a coordinated plan, aimed at total extermination, to be put into effect against individuals chosen as victims purely, simply and exclusively because they are members of the target group." Ugly as this sounds, it was bad economics for the slave traders to lose cargo during the Middle Passage.

However, in this case, the two terms do apply. The British did try to exterminate the group, to eradicate their culture, because of their refusal to swear a loyalty oath to the King that included the bearing of arms against the French or local Indians. It started as a diaspora, but the decision to burn down the houses, split up families and leave survivors to starve turns it into a genocide. The blur is between intent and extent. Even the most charitable reader knows that the deaths of the exiles weren't planned, but weren't mourned either.

I've been working with our 9th grade history classes as they start their research careers, talking to them about identifying the bias in books, articles and websites. I wonder if they'd pick up on the subtlties here.

Notable Quotes

What happened in your childhood or another life informs patterns in your current reality. It is essential to whole living that you source the cause of your pain, your hang ups, your neurosis. But sooner or later, you’ve simply got to get over using yesterday to explain today’s behavior.

8.9.08

Notable Quotes

'It's like a good filing system always has a Miscellaneous section,' Alban said. 'It's not a failure to have some things that can't be filed in exactly the right file, it's just acknowledging something about how things work in the real world. That's what Miscellaneous is for and the alternative isn't more accuracy, it's less, because you end up overstretching definitions or creating a fresh file for every single thing, each unit, and that's not filing, that's naming. Miscellaneous is the definition that makes sense of all the others. In the same way, a litter bin is the heart of tidiness.'

4.9.08

Overheard at MPOW

  • What's the opposite of backhanded compliment? Forehanded insult?
  • I wasn't sitting with intent to socialize.

2.9.08

Movie Madness

In addition to reading all those books, I've been on a real "clear out the Netflix queue" kick. Since Memorial Day, I've seen the following, loosely organized into recommendations:

Run:
2 Days in Paris
A Dance to the Music of Time
Hellboy II
Into Great Silence
La Vie en Rose
My Best Friend
Paris, Je T'aime
Songcatcher
The Way We Live Now

Walk:
Big Love: Season 2
Dark Knight
Fierce People
Neverwhere
Pierrepoint
Shoot 'Em Up
Snow Cake
This Is England
The Valet

Saunter:
Atonement
The Hottest State
Jindabyne
Miss Potter
Starting Out in the Evening
True Colors

Stay put:
Bed of Roses
Before the Devil Knows You're Dead
Georgia Rule
Grand Prix
L'iceberg
In the Land of Women
Private Property
Show Business: The Road to Broadway
Stardust
The Tracey Fragments