I wanted to break this point out from the last post, because it doesn’t really have anything to do with my own personal history. Well, it sort of does, in the sense that my mother worked for the CPR for a lot of years and I grew up as a railway kid, and the railway looms large in the minds of a lot of people on the prairies. So I feel a kind of ownership of the CPR, and its various assets, including those that have been divested — Fairmont, I’m looking at you and your hotel properties — but this isn’t about that odd sensation.
The Glenbow Museum is currently hosting an exhibition called “Vistas: Artists on the Canadian Pacific Railway.” I’ll let them describe it, since they’re better at this sort of thing than I am:
In 1871, with a vision of a new nation spanning the continent, Sir John A. Macdonald promised a railway link to the Pacific Ocean if British Columbia joined Confederation.
Glenbow’s Vistas: Artists on the Canadian Pacific Railway features works by 20 artists who travelled west, courtesy of the CPR and William Van Horne. These remarkable artists captured images of the prairie and the mountains, incorporating them into Canada’s emerging national identity.
It is a spectacularly good exhibit. The CPR encouraged and paid for artists to travel with them as the railway was being built, and although a lot of it is quintessentially Canadian frontier stuff, it’s really really well done Canadian frontier stuff. We forget how important rail links were in bringing this country together, and this is the visual story of an age that we’ll probably never see again in our lifetimes.
I was particularly taken with the work of William McFarlane Notman, who was one of the only photographers who showed up in the entire exhibit. The quality is breathtaking. The fact that he was working with 30×40 view cameras probably didn’t hurt matters much. (The above link goes to his collected works, not the work in the exhibit.)
We need big change to provoke consideration in our lives. My grandmother, my mom’s mom, died 5 July, and the other week I was in Calgary for the funeral, to deliver the eulogy and, though I didn’t know it, take some kind of stock of my life.
The whole thing had a very strange Grosse Point Blank-ish feel to it. I arrived on the coast, more or less fully formed, and that was that; the majority of my friends went years before they ever met anyone else from my family, and my day-to-day life is made up more or less entirely of people that I have chosen; no one is in it simply because they “need” to be, or because they “should” be. Coupland once said that families were God’s way of making you hang out with people you hated, but felt guilty about hating; this is a good approximation of how I feel about them in general, and it would seem that I managed my life so as to minimize the guilt.
I’d been back to Calgary before, of course. But this was the first time things felt manifestly different. I was acutely aware, for the first time, that I don’t live there anymore – “well, doy,” you say, “of course you don’t live there.” That’s not what I mean. I mean that it’s very clearly not my city anymore. It’s not my parents’ house anymore, either – sure, they still live there and stuff, but the landscaping has been redone, the windows have changed, and I spent three nights sleeping on a couch in the same room where S. first told me she loved me. And all around this house were things that I knew, fragments of my childhood, and it was all I could do to remind myself that these were a part of my past – because they didn’t feel like they were a part of it. It’s not a past I conceptually think of on a day-to-day basis.
My inner editor’s soul loves this. So much color!
Do not, if you value your sanity, time, or generosity, read the comments attached to this blog entry. Especially if you know anything about Richard Stallman. The short version is that the original poster, David Schlesinger, makes a lot of good points and asks a lot of good questions, and then legions of RMS fanboys rush to defend their hero against what is, frankly, rather indefensible behavior.
It’s 2009! This isn’t cool!
On some level it’s a little bit like reading comments on YouTube videos — the stupidity is so bad that it burns your psyche, and a small part of you dies inside each time you do it. But this is worse, because it’s coming from people who should clearly know better and don’t, and moreover aren’t interested in getting to understand the issues better, either.
It’s really disheartening. Microsoft has many faults, but I don’t recall them insulting approximately 50% of the human population by virtue of their gender.
(See also part I.)
It turns out there was a prequel to Protect and Survive. Much to my joy, they’re available on YouTube (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7), and they’re even creepier than Protect and Survive was.
Also in related British apocalypse news:
- BBC Radio 4 did a truly excellent program back in December about Britain’s nuclear deterrent and the mechanisms of command and control. You can’t listen to the program on their Web site anymore, and I can’t seem to find any of their supporting documents, but some kind soul has preserved the MP3 of the program off-site; I can’t recommend it highly enough.
- This guy’s YouTube channel is a fantastic collection of British cold war films, and includes all of Protect and Survive, the Civil Defence Information Bulletins referenced above, and a few other things, including this semi-satirical look at PIFs featuring none other than Jeremy Clarkson (and a very bad laugh track).
Some days I truly love the Internet.