On steroids

by Yule Heibel on December 24, 2004

I haven’t blogged anything for a few days because I felt a real obligation, first, to follow up on my last entry about Sharia law in Ontario, and yet hadn’t the stomach for doing it. For now, you can find out all sorts of stuff yourselves by googling “sharia ontario.” I’ll follow up eventually, if not just yet. The Winter Solstice Open House Party kept me busy, but it was one of those really great big small things to do. We had 50 guests (about half of the number we would have had if everyone who was invited had shown up), many of whom were neighbours. No, let me start again: I made lists of people to invite by creating a sort of Venn-diagram with different areas of “contact,” and somehow the “synergy” between the guests (and how the circles overlapped), for the most part, worked. The circle that really worked in terms of giving me instant gratification was the “neighbours” group: we had folks who’d been living practically next door to each other for years and years, but didn’t know each other’s names, who were thrilled at the chance to meet. Did I find this weird? You bet — it’s incredible to me that a person can be so un-nosy as to not know their neighbour! But there you have it: folks who didn’t know each other, but who were positively giggly at meeting at last. Go figure. Boy, it doesn’t take much to start a social network. It’s a corny phrase, but the “spirit of giving” felt very much alive, insofar as this party-giving was something I wasn’t “getting much out of” (you don’t get to relax all that much when you’re the host/ess), and I didn’t have much of a sense of what was going on while it was going on, and yet it felt good to do. The next day the “thank you” emails and notes and cookies on the doorstep started coming in, and I thought, “Gee, I guess people did have a good time…,” and that felt great. I also felt that xmas was over and done with, as far as I was concerned — we had just given ours, and whatever was still coming down the pike on the calendar didn’t really matter. We didn’t exactly have a potlatch, but it was really fun. And there’s enough unopened food left over to donate to the Open Door. Overall, the party made me feel relaxed, as though a river of abundance flowed right over my front stoop. (Eeww, that sounds so corny, doesn’t it? But…) And there are so many interesting people out there. For example, I made a new set of friends because of the party; they came late — after it ended, actually — to drop off a gift and say their regrets at coming so late. They were detained at a writer-friend’s house, whom I’ve heard of but who I don’t know. I googled her, and found a wonderful speech she gave in Vancouver this past year — On Poetry, by P. K. Page:

Poetry is a vitally important literary form. It’s too often overlooked in this age of fast food, fast ideas, fast acts, fast living. And who has time for it? Nobody. Or few. And yet if my fast facts are correct, there are respectable psychologists who claim that, in order to develop the full powers of the mind—now listen to this, this is important—early exposure to metered verse is essential. Some go even further, suggesting the reading of poetry develops pattern recognition, a sophisticated sense of time and timing, and more importantly, such positive emotions as peace and love. Now if they are correct, you need me. And you need all the other poets who are here… including Patrick [Friesen], who has just crept in. If they are correct, I have not spent a lifetime goofing off… although it may look like it. Being a poet requires the acquisition of a considerable armoury. No no, not weapons of mass destruction—subversive though poets are apt to be. Definition ‘B’ in Webster. Armoury: A collection of available resources. A treasury. Homer and all the poets since who have told us about ourselves, told us, what’s more, in curious rhythms that may have been shaping our brains. I mean this is really serious stuff! Who knows what Shakespeare did to us, with his iambic pentameter. Let me end by paraphrasing an article by Frederick Turner—he’s a poet, he’s a polymath—and Ernest Popul, a German brain researcher. They deplore the rise of what they call ‘Utilitarian Education’, and the loss of traditional folk poetry, and claim this trend may have led to the success of political and economic tyranny. They conclude that, starved of the beautiful and complex rhythms of poetry, we become susceptible to the brutal and simplistic rhythms of the totalitarian slogan—or advertising jingle. I told you I was going to be serious, and I’m being serious. But we live in serious times, and I think it’s perfectly legitimate to take this tact. We need all the help we can get. I’m especially delighted, for all these reasons, that poetry has been honoured, in this tenth year of the Terasen [Award]. And every time I light my gas fire, I will think of this evening, and all of you, and thank you from the bottom of my heart.

(Terasen is our local British Columbia gas utility, hence the closing pun. There’s more about P.K. Page here.) So, that’s an invigorating quote for all my poet friends out there. I love her “I have not spent a lifetime goofing off” comment, which is so important to keep in mind in our Nazi age of “work makes you free.” Before the show closes on January 3/05, I want to go to the Vancouver Art Gallery to see Massive Change: The Future of Global Design. It hit me this morning, talking with the offspring about the future, about careers, and about wanting to design stuff, that this might be an important show to see. Just for ideas, inspiration, and such. There’s an associated website, Massive Change, which could take the place of seeing the exhibition, but perhaps it’s time to hit the ferries and cross the Straight to see the real thing. Reading about Massive Change reminded me of this television show I loved to watch back in the early 70s: it was on CTV, and was called Here come the seventies. This show was great — total fluff in most ways, but inspiring in an inappropriate McLuhanesque way (i.e., I don’t think McLuhan was ever that optimistic). The future was going to be cool, and stylish. When, years later, I heard Zaphod Beeblebrox talk about “style,” I knew he had watched Here come the seventies or its close clone. (Verbatim: “hey, this is the most stylish heap I’ve ever been in!”, with Ford Prefect, ever practical, answering, “It looks like a fish, but steers like a cow,” etc. etc.) Here come the seventies was stylish — a fish in its sleek appearance, a cow in terms of handling its subject matter. It had this really groovy theme song: “Tillicum,” by a band called Syrinx. And of course yours truly has the record — I have a knack for keeping kooky paraphernalia — as well as for throwing out some really good stuff: all my David Bowie albums are gone, alas. Every week the show opened to the strains of Syrinx‘s Tillicum, and the view of a naked woman walking away from the camera, into a lake, disappearing in its gentle waves. The future was going to be great, at least it looked that way in Canada in 1971. And so I put the record on the turntable. It sounds like caterwauling, but it’s catchy caterwauling. My husband screws up his face — “do we have to listen to this?” It sounds like klezmer on steroids, I say. My son says, “I like it.” My daughter wisely keeps out of it. But in the end we agree that it has an undeniably puerile quality: it lacks depth, it’s eclectic in the way it plays with “orientalist” and modern strains, and it “jazzes” things up with syncopated rhythms that don’t seem to go anywhere to suggest deeper geometries of space or patterns of perception. It’s pretty bad stuff. It’s exactly right for the seventies. I’ll reserve judgement on Massive Change until after I’ve seen it, but I hope it’s not like the cobbled together version of techno-optimism that Here Come the Seventies was.


maria December 25, 2004 at 2:49 pm

The party sounded like so much fun!

By the way, I have often used that line myself (well not exactly like that) that goes something like this: “even though it looks like I am doing nothing, I am hard at work… Seems like I have the poet’s knack for excuses…. but the lines, well, that’s something else.

Merry Christmas!

Doug Alder December 25, 2004 at 3:12 pm

Wissen macht frei would be more appropriate 🙂

Nothing corny about your sentiments regarding the party. Call it karma or the threefold law or whatever you want, but what you put out freely from your heart will multiply and come back to you. Sounds like you got a lot back 🙂

Doug Alder December 25, 2004 at 9:09 pm

Forgot to wish you a Happy Hatching Day 🙂

Yule Heibel December 26, 2004 at 12:19 am

Ah, thanks for the “hatching day” wishes, Doug — it’s in two days (same as Marlene Dietrich‘s). I think you’re right about the karmic-return thing, although I always distrust the whole schlamassel, thinking that there’s some guy running the show who’s going to call in the bets in a weird way… It’s a run-of-the-mill case of paranoia, I suppose, haha!

Yule Heibel December 26, 2004 at 12:20 am

Maria, thanks for the wishes — I’m glad to say that I escaped xmas unscathed! Not being Christian (and not having been raised as one, either), this is a bit of a brain-dead holiday for me, even though I cry every time at the idea of it: a child born to bring hope and light to the world, to our often too-benighted world. It kills me to have a holiday like this — one that celebrates a child, who is made so powerless in our social order, as the saviour who will bring us to our senses. Basically, I believe it: that the powerless ones (the children) will have to bring us to our senses, but overall, we’ve made the child into a fetish in our society, thereby disabling the transformative power s/he has.

Doug, I was at your blog commenting and saw Elaine‘s comment, surfed to her site to see her entry on Blogsisters that Betsy Devine had posted, regarding the list of x-number of things all 3rd graders should know that some other guy posted, and …well, I just wanted to get a bazooka and throw some shit at people. Sheesh. Little baby jesus would just love that list, eh?

Yule Heibel December 26, 2004 at 12:21 am

Very odd, I had to break my response into two — every time I tried posting it as one, I got the response “access denied.” Chopped in two, and twas accepted. Ah, technology!

Kate S. December 27, 2004 at 12:28 pm

Happy Birthday, Yule! And many happy returns.
I loved that speech. What a great reinforcment for all the goof-offs of the world. I am so glad to realize I had been read rhyming, metered poetry since I was a baby, in the form of nursery rhymes and children’s stories. No wonder I’m a goof. 🙂

Your party sounds like it was a lot of fun and I miss giving them, always, always a source of creativity, life rejuventating, the mingling of souls and minds, in their best frame, relaxed and enjoying themselves, it ripples out, contagious and I have no doubt your front stoop was overflowing in gratitude for presenting the haven.

Spoil yourself today!

Yule Heibel January 1, 2005 at 2:52 pm

Thanks, Kate! That was a great little speech, wasn’t it? It’s the sort of thing that sounds so good coming laconically from an elder crone (Page turned 88 this past November) — she must know what she’s talking about!

Anonymous December 17, 2005 at 8:51 pm

Hi Yule, I’m glad someone remembers “Here come the 70’s”. The image of the nude woman was beautiful, erotic and daring to say the least. E.H.

Anonymous December 17, 2005 at 8:51 pm

Hi Yule, I’m glad someone remembers “Here come the 70’s”. The image of the nude woman was beautiful, erotic and daring to say the least. E.H.

Anonymous December 17, 2005 at 8:51 pm

Hi Yule, I’m glad someone remembers “Here come the 70’s”. The image of the nude woman was beautiful, erotic and daring to say the least. E.H.

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