The Atlantic Monthly has a very interesting article America in Foreign Eyes by Bernard-Henry Levy. As this year marks the bicentennial of Alexis de Tocquerville’s birth, the magazine has asked a French philosopher/writer to retrace the route and comment.
He has some wonderful insights into the American culture.
On the “living” museums –
The whole idea is not to preserve but to reconsitute a false truth and celebrate it as such. Defeat of the archive. Triumph of kitsch.
The self-generation of culture that wants to be descended from its own handiwork and, accordingly, rewrites its great and small genealogies. An American neurosis?
There are some remarkable statements in the article, that as a Canadian, bring to light a newly defined perspective. When you live by a country such as the US your own perception of American culture gets clouded by the huge amount of American influence. This European challenges these old ideas.
There are to be a number of articles by this individual in the next months. The article is worth the price of the magazine.
Today it was actually hot out in the Fraser Valley. The fragrance of the blooming flowers was fantastic. It looks like all week will be like this. A nice time to take a weeks holiday.
My oldest son is garnering pledges for this weekend’s 8 hour skateboard-a-thon. He is one of the leaders of a local church skateboard club and the money goes to getting all the kids to a week long camp this summer. He was going over his pledges (now over $500) and it was remarkable the number of people who have donated. I am pleasantly surprised by their generousity. The youngest son was interviewed and published in a local grafitti magazine. He’s happy. What did I get today? The MasterCard bill with the payment due on April 30th. I guess it just depends on who you are as to what you get.
I am reading Kurt Eichenwald’s book on what happened at Enron. After 169 pages it is pretty clear what happened, some people got very greedy and lied. Pretty simple plot but complicated storylines. As you read the book you can Google the names and get images of these people. They don’t look like crooks. It is amazing that there were a number of people that understood something was wrong but the chain of command or the normal business practice stopped their concern from being brought to a larger majorities view. So where does that put the school of thought that businesses can be ethical? How can an entity with no moral compass be ethical? Its like a virtual Ten Commandments that is there but really isn’t.
Reading the list of people that will be speaking at Gnomedex (where did that word come from anyway?) in Seattle this June is impressive. When I first learned about it being in Seattle it sounded interesting so I signed up. As the weeks have past, the speakers list keeps growing and it looks like an event that is going to be remembered.
Energy usage in Iraq
The recent edition of The Atlantic (May 2005) has an interesting article on the U. S. military. Seems that everyday 2,000 trucks involving 20,000 Amercian soldiers and private contractors are leaving Kuwait everyday carrying fuel to Iraq. The M1 Abrams tank get less than one mile per gallon! This must be getting to be a problem and it seems to spell “inefficiency”. But the article concludes that the prevailing wisdom in the Pentagon is that “fuel efficiency is for sissies.” I must have missed something here.
Jan mentioned pocketwatches in his blog.
which brings up an interesting story, since it involves Denmark.
My first job required a suit, everyday. Having the bodyshape that a suit off the rack would never fit I needed to get them tailor made. Of course the tailor talked me into always buying a vest with every new suit. Always wanting a pocket watch, when the time came I bought an 18K gold Waltham with chain. It was a beautiful timepiece. You can’t find them anymore. This was the watch that you pass onto your kids. Excellent watch and you begin to see there are always rituals with getting the time and popping the case open to view the face, winding the large dial at the same time everyday, making sure the chain is fastened correctly, etc. It was like have something to do that you enjoyed, all the time. With all these new vests it was a perfect fit. An old friend even gave me a small ivory elephant to attach to the chain. Then I met my wife who was here visiting from Denmark. To make a long story short I ended up marrying this wonderful lady 11 months later in Denmark. I got there by selling the watch.
I am just waiting for a call from my mechanic to pick up my vehicle. It is in for brakes and a tune-up which hopefully won’t prove costly. It is the first time anything has been done to it after the warranty period. The people we got the vehicle from wanted to get the brakes done 6 months ago and they kept bugging me, but everyone (and you know everyone is a “mechanic” when you ask them for advice) said to wait. Rob, the mechanic we used to go to, said the same thing. When the warranty was over that was it for those dealership guys, back to Rob who has always been good.
CBC Radio had some audio clips on Terry Fox, on the eve of the start of his Canadian marathon, it being 25 years old. On one of the audios he mentions how cancer has touched to lives of people we know. Now 25 years later my mind reels at the number of people who have had cancer, some making it, others not. Even now there are friends fighting it. I would have to say it is the disease that has affected our family the most. There is a Danish saying that people abhor when they hear it, as it is a curse. It translates “May cancer eat you”. It has to be the most disgusting phrase I have ever heard and no one has to be told why.
Terry Fox is a true hero. He made sure we would have and keep hope in our hearts. That is what cancer can never take away.
I was listening to a series of podcasts while on my way to and from work today. What seems to be happening regularly now is that I download a massive number of podcasts and then burn the MP3s onto a CD that is playable on the car stereo. It seems to work quite well as the player controls are easier to use and the titles appear on the LCD. It gets to be a little difficult reading iPod screens when driving.
There are some interesting podcasts and the list is ever growing. So were do these verbal files fit into the whole scheme of things? First and foremost is that my listening of radio or TV rarely includes any commercials. IF someone wants to pay me to listen to this then ok. There is very little worth listening to in these 30 or 60 second attacks on my senses that try to sell me something rarely needed. That leaves CBC as a prime listening station and let’s face it not everything said on that network is everyone’s cup of tea. One can listen to music but one needs a change and this is where podcasts fit in. They are usually specialized, which makes choosing various casts in the chosen genre very easy. Listening to a series of speakers with some interesting and unique insights is interesting. I have a 40-minute commute to and from work each day and being able to have choices to listen to, as well as a cell phone to communicate with the world, makes the time spent in the vehicle not totally wasted. Most of my drive is going against traffic on the freeway. With cruise control set at just below 100 kmh, most mornings are pretty easy. Listening to something that you want makes it that much easier, almost close to enjoyable.
I had a call from a business colleague back in Toronto this week. She described the Saturday they had in Toronto with about 6 inches of wet snow and the problem her husband had removing it as the snowblower was useless. I listened intently, waited for the pause and then stated that it was also difficult out here with the daffodils just about finished and 3 beautiful tulips just opening up in our container by the garage. There was silence on the other end and we both started laughing. Where else but in Canada?
Darren Barefoot has some interesting points about podcasting. The whole area is new and just beginning and will probably evolve in aspects that we don’t realize at this point. Podcasting points to becoming aural content on demand. Until now this was the domain of spoken books and taped radio shows. The podcaster is a layman’s attempt to create some aural context. Some of it works and some of it doesn’t. But a good story will always have willing ears to listen. Bad stories…well you usually find something else to do. The nice thing right now is that there are more sources of choices to hear.