All Creatures Great and Small: Women & Psychology

The first time I watched All Creatures Great and Small, my mom and I were on soft chairs surrounded by bric-a-brac watching a 6″ B&W TV as dad sat playing solitaire in the next room with Five Star Canadian Rye Whisky. It was a thing to do. They seemed like nice stories, like Walt Disney.

The next time I watch it with future-hubby in an upper story apartment on a huge honking colour tv in a fake woodgrain TV cabinet. Our collective possessions at that point could probably fit into a few boxes. It was homey.

This time hubby and I watch it in our own bed on YouTube on an iPad with the borrowed cat nested nearby. Something shifted in my brain. It seems sharp-witted, fish out of water for the new vet who is remarkably good natured.

It’s 13 Thursday time.

  1. It’s a story where 3 men talk. Women don’t meet one another. So far Bechdel Test fail.
  2. The woman who talks the most is eccentric, old, super rich and mad. She has letter correspondence with dogs, is surrounded by servants who dislike her and actively undermine her, friends who will show up for a party to greet her dog home for the free champagne and expensive foods. It’s sharply satirical.
  3. The poor are rogues. Refuse to give medicine to their animals. Mock the vets at any chance. Are preposterously ignorant and superstitious about remedies and opposed to learning and science and the upper class backs that bring it. It seems pitched to reinforce the basic goodness of middle class (the viewers) as right.
  4. The clients are also good-hearted, perhaps like farmers anywhere, don’t want to attach to animals they’ll eat, but live with them, see them suffer and thrive and can’t help with attach but don’t admit it. The vets see thru the smoke-screen and keep up the macho appearances.
  5. Siegfried seems not just bored and needing to manufacture excitement, not only too proud to admit he is wrong and full of vivacious mood swings. He seems more bipolar with his grandiose turns.
  6. And then there’s his secretary. She was chosen for being matronly, older, thus no risk for Tristan who is an uncontrollable skirt-chaser and wouldn’t be able to help himself. Because men have no capacity to self regulate and women are the evil to tempt men doncha know. Unless the women’re old in which case they’re repulsive. Is that the argument? Gah. I wish that were more dated.
  7. And then there’s Siegfried’s blustering explosion in Episode 3 where he then gets very quiet and turns to the secretary. She winces and pulls back as if she expects to be beaten. He makes a quick intimidating gesture over her seated figure then only rains torn paper on her. We are to take it as humour because he doesn’t and he’s a good guy and it was like the play fear of swinging a child around but meaning no harm. Yes? What life do we imply she has lived?
  8. Then there’s Siegfried’s desire to bully his brother and get vengeance on him for being an alcoholic. All 3 boys are playing tricks on each other as part of their rough-housing amuse themselves life. I suppose that creates the convenience of suspense and small plot arcs for stickiness. If everyone were kind and we waited to see touching surprise parties, would that hook?
  9. The roles of women may reflect what women in rural areas did in the 1940s but it presented as idyllic. It’s not presented in the time. It’s presented later. Much like 300 and a spate of movies about war in ancient Greece came while the U.S. was in high-war-mongering mode. Pump up the enforcement of modelled worlds.
  10. The women cooked, were housekeepers. Mrs. Hall was appreciated but clearly servant not colleague. And there was the housekeeper whose husband died of the food she cooked. Unable to do the one role she was permitted to do and killing her husband of being unable to tell she was serving carbon. That’s the laugh track. Rather dismissive. Or was she aware and wanting to torment them with false innocence? Still, a rather dark tension.
  11. Little sign that women were employed in the cash economy, even though it was the war, and wasn’t that when they worked most in that half of the century?
  12. Then there’s the matter that vets can doff their shirts and it be neutral. A matter of course for a him to go shoulder-deep into an animal. Why is it that female skin should be so obscene when male skin is not deemed provocative? (Why still do men have freedom to wander around in short shorts in a park when women must cover particular bits of skin or be considered causing attention? Or if they bare skin are causing attention? Absurd.) Wish the vet were female and uncensored allowed to do practical things like look after cows or to regulate her body heat in the same way without a fuss. Some guys in the park would fit into a B cup but as reaction to FEMEN Sextremists show, nipples still are horribly frightening if there’s fatty tissue behind them *and* presumption of no penis down below. Whether in the East or West. Old-fashioned social decrees that those are for flirt and secretly feeding babies only. Moving on.
  13. Is it because James was trained in Edinburgh that he isn’t aware of customs in the backwaters that he would plunge after Helen as she walks around at chores, engaging in conversation as if that were a normal thing for two humans to do? Or is that keying him as an ingenue? He has to be prompted to notice the male owners of Helen glowering in the shadows of the wall watching that no un-chaparoned things happen to the sister/daughter. he can come to the whole family breakfast if he likes, but no one-on-one time with females. One-on-one time with menfolk is natural of course.

Perhaps a time-capsule of a time and place. Some art should be artifact of the past. Some should be trying to model what could be if we put a little effort in it.

I was thinking about the designation of family washrooms and both-gender washrooms as a 3rd setup. If people were just indiscriminate about their toilets and decided en masse, that nonsense has had its day, we could just move on.

All that is not to say the show isn’t fascinating. There’s a deft hand for people reading one another and much is left the the image that other writers would write out in dialogue to bang the foam baton over the head of the viewer. The people have acceptance and affection for one another and are rich, complex, developing characters which puts it far ahead of most fare.

Quote: “Women were always considered sufficiently clean to beg, work and give generously for the building and decoration of churches, and the support of the priesthood. They might always serve as inferiors, but never receive as equals.[...]

As usual in our own day the Jewish women were allowed to give generously, work untiringly and beg eloquently to build altars and Tabernacles to the Lord, to embroider slippers and make flowing robes for the priesthood, but they could not enter the holy of holies or take any active part, in the services.” ~ Elizabeth Cady Stanton, commentary on Exodus xxxvi in The Women’s Bible, 1898

  

Unboring and Bored, Games

Sometimes I think there’s a mole in Harper’s advisors who try to harm his chances, such as the whole ignore The Journey of Nishiyuu. The only strategic thing could be to drown out the efforts of many with the silence of one, to derail attention from them to him by glaring omission and state that international relations is more important than domestic dialogue.

At the same time people aren’t that readily trumped. A couple years ago Lakota youth felt categorically dumped into a category of poverty porn with a simplified portrayal of them. They demonstrated their aspirations and their view of the community they make in a video of their diversity.

Mud-slinging season in politics may only be exacerbated by paying attention but I wonder what was the thinking behind an attack ad over someone donating to a popularly valued health charity. It caused more attention and as much donations in 48 hours as a usual month.

But maybe it still got its intended effect?

The games are absurd.

A little attention there is a red herring from what this time? It’s like grocery sales. Such and such item goes on sale while other items go up so unless you want to go buy only the cheap items all around town, it nets the same. Even if it does it nets the same because some people will buy what they buy at any price, others refuse things on sale as defective or old or only buy by the higher price. So why not cut the games from the system?

kitten toes break
Oh look, kittie in a box!

A sense of proportion and a sense of humour is easiest when in extreme pain or relieved pain.

The thunderstorm that unleashed last night with lightning and a nearby thunderclap also made the barometric pressure much more compatible with my joints.

Besides that I went to a chiropractor. That only took me 3 months.

Now I can do stupid human tricks. I can turn my head to the right. Listen, no crackly sounds. Wait, it gets better. *and* the left. I can scratch my left shoulder with my right arm and scratch my own back.

Glad Game: And I can lift my right arm, suddenly even. And I can swing arms backwards. Without a pain jolt. Neat, huh.

I found some good books.

I was one of the winners of the tweet poetry contest at the Ottawa Public Library with Amanda Earl, Adam Thomlison and JC Sulzenko.

I won a book from Coach House with the tweet your favorite CanLit poetry line though Canada Arts Connect.

And I got a poem up with the excellent company at The Week Shall Inherit the Verse!

Phew. Quite a week.

All this and weather that doesn’t need a sweater nor a jacket.

The gardens are cleaned up. Spring onions are planted.

Walking in the dappling rain there were two little girls in their summer dressed on their doorstep. The littler one bent over to examine a rain drop splotch on the walkway and sang “rain, rain, little rain, won’t you come everyday”.

The picnic table and bench are back outside. The barbecue is out and ready to cook something.

Quote: “Any sportiveness in cattle is unexpected. I saw one day a herd of a dozen bullocks and cows running about and frisking in unwieldy sport, like huge rats, even like kittens. They shook their heads, raised their tails, and rushed up and down a hill [...] a sudden loud WHOA! would have damped their ardor at once, reduced them from venison to beef, and stiffened their sides and sinews like the locomotive. Who but the Evil One has cried the “Whoa!” to mankind? ~ Henry David Thoreau

  

Blooming Ideas: Books and Second Looks

It’s Sunday morning. Apparently in the second half of April. That seems improbable, that the year has rushed so deep into itself already, but the land, despite the chance of snow, is opening green, baby leaves opening their palms for coins of rain.

mushroom on a stump
Mushrooms are often a happiness bump for me.

Besides that the serviceberry bushes are blooming and all kinds of short plants are rioting yellows, oranges, purples, pinks and reds. Happy Earth Day! Watch our government cut back on money for environmental disaster cleanups. Such a difference between the immediate and the big picture. Money rerouted to war and oil pipelines nationally and immediately, earth rebounds.

Magnolia blossoms are everywhere. I wonder if their pollen isn’t so big that when they burst open, they could take out an eye. Probably not, eh?

I think I’ve seen more this year than my whole lifetime before. Each time I see them I hear in my head the song “Magnolia blossom in my hair. Lying on a blanket, right beside you…” and I’m stumped. No idea who sang it or what comes next, but never having seen a blossom the word transfer to idealized romance when I do chance on the real thing. Gives a bounce to the step anyway. That, and the time out walks and talks and long supper out catching up with hubbykins. I’m sure that had something to do with the bounce too.

Stopping to point at a garden in the neighbourhood we saw a curious form of lily already in bloom. The home owner stuck her head out the door and called “it’s called a Fritillaria“. She gave a mnemonic aid for remembering the name too and described some of her garden. What a friendly human neighbourhood. I’ve never lived in one of these before.

Holler_Cover_Page_1 InThisThinRain_Cover_Page_1
A few new book toys came home with me this week. Some I don’t have pics of. These two I do.

Love the language, the play in the first, (now I have 2 out of her 3 Burdick’s books). Love the paying attention with nothing extraneous of the second of Nelson Ball. Like Stuart’s description that it may be a short book but it takes as long to read as any collection because you want to reread it a few times. I have a couple books of Ball’s and for years one of his poems hung over my desk. (Temporarily mislaid it in the last move, it and an Ammonite fossil are on the lam together.)

Last night was a poetry slideshow with Dan Waber who gave out his sestinas on each seat, from a series of 9.103 x 10131 he made. Love that project. It opens up the idea of form as fixed as poem as fixed and the processing of machine shuffle working on words generates sparking ideas. I’ve handed those out at small press fairs and at workshop groups as poem prompts and reading fun.

Speaking of love, bpNichol’s blues he made a 3-D rotating animation of the poem at the Light & Dust Anthology. Very cool to see.

He had boxes of this is visual poetry series of chapbooks. Interesting to see all that in person, compare one poet to another back to back. I still don’t get visual poetry. I look at it. But I still can’t say I get it anymore than I get visual art or film. Perhaps as I study photography more, it will all start clicking into focus. He played this piece from Drunken Boat Magazine, anomie [autoloads sound] meaning inability to remember a name, where the two voices are spliced together, overlaid so one voice spells out the name trying to be remembered.

lost lines
I got a cube of poems of the lost lines project. Very cool idea. Look forward to seeing what comes out of that. I also got a kite tail press chapbook. There are more pics at pesbo.

Have you seen this time-lapse of vispo installation? Pages was commissioned by Pages Books on Kensington for permanent exhibition on their second-story window. This dynamic stop-motion film documents beaulieu’s visual improvisation in art and writing. Fun to see it open its letters, rather like buds.

tree skilled at being a tree
A tree particularly skilled at being a tree: white pines often seem particularly gifted in that regard.

The quote coming below, may seem out of step of tone with what’s already come, but a good firm, not on your life, no way, no how, nuh-huh, lol, of calling limits is a route to freedom of mind. The truth of it made me laugh. How much of feeling bent and contained is trying to please unreasonable demands, stretching self just a little too far. Going out of your comfort zone for curiosity or demands is good, but responding to blackmailing, begging, short-sighted bravado or arm twisting impositions can lead to no where optimal for either party, whether on a personal, professional or political level.

Quote: “You put me in this spot where my only option is to acquiesce to your demands or be the bad guy. That, my friend, is the very definition of a dick move.” ~ Josh Olson in I Will Not Read Your Fucking Script

  

Rob MacInnis: Questioning the Narrative Given

Rob McInnisRob MacInnis gave an artist talk at SPAO at the end of the year. He was just in town briefly as he’s doing his Master of Fine Arts in Photography in Rhode Island. Amid the shuffle of moving, the hopes of writing that up while the exhibit was still up disappeared. But this Thursday his family portrait of the farm animals will be auctioned as a fundraiser.

During the evening of Feb 9th at School of Photographic Arts Ottawa one image from each of these photographers will also be on offer to the highest bidder: David Barbour, Jim des Rivieres, Tony Fouhse, Leslie Hossack, Pedro Isztin, Michael Schreier and Michelle Wilson. (Links to images here.)

MacInnis is an interesting fellows, one of those rare souls who are truly curious about the world, an explorer. He used to be at NSCAD, a design school in Nova Scotia. For class project they were to do portraits and he kept drawing object, like a toy donkey for every style of assignment. His teacher was frustrated with his choice and insisted that he do a life portrait, no more toys. Ok, he complied. And went off and found a donkey in person. This independent-mindedness led him to a farm. Having been city-raised he’d never really seen animals outside a petting zoo. Eventually his path to the Donkey Sanctuary of Canada. The Donkey Sanctuary has, since 1992 provided 100 acres to rescued animals. 61 equines (donkeys, mules and hinnies belong to the equine family, for those who may not know) are there, and 40 more are out at foster homes.

But before he came to that place he went off to tour South America and took around 6000 photos in the process. He became conscious of the tourist photographer as a detached outsider and exploitive viewer. He became troubled by this sense that photograph consumes subjects, He said.

“I began photographing farm animals because I was interested in using them as a metaphor for the fashion model. I wanted to draw parallels between literally consuming them, which we do everyday, and the way the photograph ‘consumes’ its subject.”

He did some sculpting instead. He considered. He looked at the history of panaramas and how they are the photography of the blue color history. They were the working class access to being immortalized. People could only afford a portrait if a whole factory chipped in for a group photo. Eugene Goldbeck a panorama photographer from Texas started photographing large groups about a century ago. It seemed clear to MacInnis, and to me, that animals are our working class. They are our labourers without rights, unions or health protections. They’re the lowest tier of our society.

At My Modern Met he says,

“Over the last five years, the project has evolved into more of a critique of photography’s role in our society. I’ve experimented with different genres of photography; fashion, family portraits, documentary, narrative, and panorama, always using farm animals as the subject matter. I wanted to explore more how the camera manipulates its subject and constructs a reality, more than learn anything directly specific about the animals.”

He wants his Hasselblad photos to wobble on the line of plausible and implausible. Some images look staged and yet are real due to the perspective of presenting a donkey on a school stage, with curtains and formal lighting, yet from behind the scenes showing the staging. It plays with the sense of what is real.

One thing I liked about his presentation was that he presented things he’d seen, not as if this is the Way Things Are. He said he’s unsure if he is a photographer, and although a couple people in audience chuckled at if it were false modesty, or as if to assure him, it seems to me not a soliciting assurance but a plain truth from a seeker.

He took about 30,000 hours to do portraits of 80 animals from around PEI to try to match time of day and angle so they could be assembled into a digital composite photo. It took him about 2 years as a labour of love. His farm animal portraits are a send up to Annie Leibovitz style of fashion photography, recreating some of her poses, except with sheep or a family group of dog, chicken and other farm animals.

He’s a fellow who makes choices that follow his own bliss. He’s also part of the 19-member cheer brigade punk marching band that has been making joyful noises for 6 years and was part of the video that went viral to millions of hits and onto CNN: Joey Quits. It become part of the campaign for hotel service worker rights. More here.

Monty Reid did a Call and Response set of poems on MacInnis’ photos called So is the Madness of Humans. The poetry end of the project is curated by rob mclennan.

Today is the last day to see the current exhibit of Pedro Isztin. The Call and Response is Shadow Lines by Sandra Ridley. In a couple weeks the new show will go up with Christine McNair responding with words to the images of Solo Series No. 1: By Hand by Caroline Tallmadge.

refracted light
Beauty and doors have a way of suddenly being there.

Quote: “Where there is no belief, there is no blasphemy.” ~ Salman Rushdie

  

Low Lands and Water

Conundrum: A quenched thirst and glass half full. The water came thru a filtration plant and yet I feel that I waste it to let a restaurant pour the remainder down the drain. What the opposite be? For water to have purpose, to be a lack of waste, it would have to have my own mark of uric acid placed in it? Once it was used by a human it is redeemed? Something messed up about that.

bog
It’s a lovely day for going past the swamps. It’s odd to pass one of the side roads where there is a gravel driveway into swamp water with a Lot for Sale sign planted in the muck, pulled at by wind on the water.

Who has the nerve to try to sell swamp land? Who buys swamp land as building lots?

For that matter, how did a highway project get approved that ended up getting the go ahead thru wetlands? Why do cars supersede the need for the lungs and liver of the land?

Some time ago, with mute distress, I was told of the proud success of a valley farmer who had his land undeclared wetlands. It had some rare species on it that needed protection. The land, being reclassified could not be farmed (not that it was anyway, being low scrub land). It could also not be sold as farmland or for development. There goes the farmer’s retirement fund of cashing out to some tract home development. The farmer found a solution and leveled area with bulldozers, and called the government pleading innocently that some paperwork mistake must have been made. Could they come and look again for those species. Sure enough, none to be found. The day was “saved”.

I was gobsmacked at the selfishness and short-sightedness and how this was portrayed as the Little Guy winning one against the faceless mindless grind of the Big Buys of the Evil Government.

There’s no spot on the planet that counts as disposable but the wetlands seem less tolerant of pollution with indicator species in and near that mutate or die off first, such as lichens and frogs. The ground itself being digested by some species that live in the earth can be contaminated as well no doubt but that’s less visible to us crust-dwellers who can’t even flight without our machine-toys.


I haven’t seen the full-length documentary Water on the Table that this trailer is for but it’s premise asks the question whether water is just another commodity or if it is something in the common trust. Clearly my bias lies on the side of common trust not bottle it and build pipelines.

Sonnet L’Abbé As Sonnet L’Abbé was saying last night (pictured left) in an introduction to a poem from her first collection, A Strange Relief, for irrigation of cotton for export, Uzbekistan has largely drained what was the 4th largest inland sea.

654px-Aral_Sea_1989-2008
It is hundreds of miles of salt flats and desert where there was the Aral Sea and fishing villages 50 years or about 2 generations ago. The last 20 years of rerouting feeding rivers has started to be restored with a dam project that allowed according to wikipedia, “the water level in this lake had risen by 12 metres (39 ft) from its lowest level in 2003.”

Funnily enough that makes three times this week that I’ve run across a reference to Uzbekistan and cotton issues. The Human Trafficking watch says

Uzbekistan is the world’s second largest exporter of cotton. Up to one third of the country’s workforce labors on cotton farms.[...] Thousands of children as young as seven work in the cotton fields instead of attending school in order to meet government-imposed cotton production quotas.[...] Children who do not meet their production quotas can be expelled from school and running away results in strict punishment.

Meanwhile in India the act to institute Mandatory Free Education without even so much as screening interviews took effect April 1st. Environmental movements have been moving in India for 30 years as their economy as well becomes more knowledge-based and less physical-industry based.

There is no where that is not circumspect.

We as individuals have to take ownership of our part of leaving the place as good as when we found it. Common sense sees when we put junk in the air, land or water, it concentrates in lungs of species and goes up the food chain.

If nothing else appeals, surely selfish self-protection interests of not inviting more cancers can do the trick. More inert substances, less plastics, less petrol, wean ourselves off of the phosphates. See if we can use those noggins for more than neck exercise weights.

Yet it’s a resistant-to-solution, troubling problem, with more people playing outside the sandbox with real-life dozers and dump trucks doing terraforming. In a way the very act assumes the myth of unending wilderness. It assumes that Canada is for all intents and purposes utterly resilient and has a slush fund of space that is waiting to be made “useful” by people. It is an egocentric act of a species that displaces others.

When you plot a grid of homes on a plain, there’s an ecological displacement, especially when blasting thru rock to make foundations. The vibration must have literally fallout and health repercussions on those living underground. Blasting even fireworks disturbs birds. For animals with senses of hearing and direction not as dull as humans, it must be worse, mustn’t it?

When buildings goes on wetland, any sludge dripped washes into water which is filtered by gills. Maybe the pollution has just as much impact landing thru air. Sometimes intuition misleads but gut instinct says no good can come of building on low land.

One can invest in dykes like Netherlands, or in piers as in some bits of India, but to deny that one is dealing with water worlds and just carrying on in blithe ignorance of the species and impacts is remarkable. One doesn’t contaminate water, which is our life source, with our chemical effluents, without it biting our butt.

This town and Boston were both drained or in-filled lowlands. But still, is that not in conflict with principles of letting flourishing happen?

Why are people permitted to sell swamp as building lots? The area where I saw some lots is an area that 20 years ago had signs up whenever it was turtle breeding season. Where are those stewards now?

I’ve watched years of dry low lands with high water table as the trees drown young, get moss and rot up them. It can’t be good for respiratory health to live in such wetness and spores. And when water table does rise and in flood years, is there allowance made in the architecture to keep the living space dry? We’re like dung beetles, insistent on terraforming. Don’t we have to make allowances for our desire to be beside water and safety of the water and of the shore-line people? What happens in flood years?

In the current Dandelion, p. 77, Catherine Owen says

We have finally learned to own absence
– its dark, Old Testament stamp –
Multiply and fill the Earth
Bequeath it Chernobyl, Exxon Valdez,

the desert of the Ural Sea

Blame and guilt are painful but easy courses. It’s shooting fish in the oil-slicked barrel. The problems are easy to cue up and be overwhelmed by. If we end at identifying there is a problem here without offering solutions that’s hardly better than denying a problem exists. In blithe blissful even willful or unconsidered ignorance we can function. In lining up too many ducks in a row, there’s too much to take on and no clear handle of how to seize the action.

In the same issue (36:2, p. 57) in the footnotes to his own thoughts, Roger Farr asks about the effectiveness of “classical avant-garde tactics of “focussing attention”, “making strange”, and “changing perception” [which] many contemporary poets seem to view formal innovation as part of an activist campaign aimed at “raising consciousness”.

It’s perhaps better than writing about how a vase evokes a melancholic memory of a dead parent, or cheery mandate of immediate, personal, local without every extending to that middle distance that isn’t eternal, timeless world but the middle actionable distance of.

Does the speaking to drum up awareness presume cooperation or resistance in itself? Is any audience presumed ignorant and willfully ignorant? Does it as he says, overlook the “erasure of the agency of the reader”? If the audience cared, they wouldn’t be reading but would already be doing. There’s something wrong about that argument.

Is poetry acting as incitement of a ready and agreed pre-converted audience, or as excitement to hook a person towards curiosity to learn and change self and world?

Thoughts about water is about cycles of water and implications of what happens to water supply from our actions. We used to water down the paint thinner after cleaning the paint brushes and pour them over the stones of the flower garden. But then, what else to do with toxic things? The problem starts earlier with materials and paint choices.

And the day rains an endless amount of water. Lightning and thunder. And more water everywhere. And not a rain barrel in sight.

Quotes: “You create your opportunities by asking for them.” ~ Patty Hansen or “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” ~ R. Buckminster Fuller, Critical Path

  
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