Saturday, December 27, 2014

Google Streetview Memories

My mother grew up in Toronto, but by the time I came along we lived in Syracuse, NY, and visited Mom's mother (only on rare occasions) in the town where she spent her final years, Rockton, Ontario.

Rockton doesn't really exist anymore, having been absorbed by the city of Hamilton, but there was hardly any "there" there, even in the 1970's, when we would make the long drive to see Grandma.

Grandma was born in Fores, Scotland, and I loved the way she rolled the R at the start of my name, Robbie. She was kind, in her way, but seemed alien to me, and not just because of her accent and her "party line" phone and antique toaster (she also had an ashtray shaped like a coiled snake that scared me, and a ceramic boy's head on the wall near the bathroom that dispensed string from his mouth, ditto).

We called her house The Farm, since that's how my mother referred to it: when Mom was growing up, it was the place they stayed in the summers, when they weren't in Toronto. When I visited, there was a ramshackle barn with an old Studebaker, idle for years. And an outbuilding with stacks of old sheet music written by my mother's great uncle, Andrew Kernighan--correction: it was Robert Kirkland Kernighan--who was known as The Khan. He was a poet of some dubious renown, who had once lived in a cabin on the property. Actually, the sheet music said "Words by The Khan, Music by His Sister" under the title. Anyway, my father and I used to walk the property on visits, in search of the ruins of The Khan's cabin (which in fact we did find more than once).

This is Grandma's house today, courtesy of Google Streetview (the stone wall was uncrowded by shrubs when I was a boy):

Rockton may be part of Hamilton now, but this is hardly a cityscape.

Grandma Mason died when I was in college Out West, and due to a mixup with a funeral home in Hamilton, there was no place to bury her. As I understand it, my cousins (and perhaps my Uncle Bob) improvised a solution that required hand-digging a grave for her in the churchyard down the road. Then they carried her coffin on their shoulders--a half mile down the way, past the site of the rinkydink "Rockton World's Fair"--and buried her themselves outside of this little stone church (again, this image is from Google Streetview).

 I learned just now that The Rockton World's Fair was named as such because (according to the fair's website)

In 1878, Mrs. Andrew Kernighan commented that the fair should be called The World’s Fair because all of the world comes to it. The next day, local newspapers carried an article about the fair with the headline "The World’s Fair at Rockton."

"Mrs. Andrew Kernighan" was The Khan's mother, apparently. Nomenclature aside, it's a pretty small fair.

 Grandma Mason was my last living grandmother (my Father's mother had died--suddenly, I think--when I was a young boy), and I swooned, in a way, when I heard that Grandma Mason had died, and that her grandchildren had carried her, on foot, down the road to a grave they had dug by hand. But I was in college in Washington state at the time, and my parents didn't tell me Grandma had died until several weeks after she was buried. They said they didn't want to interfere with my studies. I'm not sure I ever forgave them for that.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Thirty Years Ago Today in Someone Else's Life:


Monday, October 10, 2011

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The State of things

At a New Yorker event, Lorrie Moore tries to explain, off the cuff, why "reading is vital." A video gets posted to Youtube. And fuckheads respond. should I be surprised? No. Should I avoid anything in this universe labelled "Comments"? Yes. Still.

    Someone get this woman a ballcap STAT!

    i disagree. i read a plethoric amount of a wide variety of information for free on the internet...current events, things i'm interested in, articles and essays on a range of topics...and then i can not only loan that information out to one person at a time, like a book, but with my entire social network. print media is becoming obsolete, and i have no qualms about it.

    Why read a book? Because she is a writer. Herp Derp.

    she is totally right reading is vital. i almost wanted my kids to grow up illiterate but now i changed my mind thanks to her. math sucks. also she is a bit ugly. just saying. reading is good. bad books suck why read, i understand. i don't know. how is this intellectually stimulating?? what?

    For sm1 who's trying to promote reading, she sure isn't engaging.
    Speed up woman!

    Im sorry, but somebody who previously doesn't like to read is supposed to after watching this boring monotone woman talk about how awesome it is? I think Lorrie Moore gives people more of a reason not to, and I personally think reading is great but it certainly hasn't helped this woman become a vibrant literary role model...

    math is more important than reading!!!

    As if an author is NOT going to promote the reading of books.

    There is a great deal of difference between an eager man who wants to read a book and a tired man who wants a book to read.
    --JinxOz  2

    thats brilliant

    @dudesonman4200 :)!

    That's the most painful headache I've ever seen.

    The 12 people who disliked this video can't read
    --TheTruth006  3

    Lorrie Moore is probably the most effective argument AGAINST reading I've ever seen...

    Books are great and will always be of importance in society. But to disregard the other forms of media is shortsighted.

    @DollfieFace, very true that all forms of media are valuable but merely being capable of "consuming" multiple forms of media isn't enough, individuals should be versed in the art and the mechanics of "producing" various forms of media, reading without the ability to write is impotent, being taught while not being able to teach another is impotent, etc... Just as the proliferation/mainstreaming of porn has simply led to an increase in solitary masturbation, mere access to books...

    @DollfieFace... won't spark innovation, progress, etc... unless it inspires new authors, new ideas and solutions to problems, print is dead otherwise.

    shes a stage noob learn to dig the pain of the cooking of ur retinas by asshole light techs
capotes, 'other voices, other rooms,' .........thats why reading is vital!

    what?? i think she was stoned out of her mind
    --diablossmirk  2

    Someone should tell her that she doesn't have to salute the whole time; just when the officer walks into the room.
    --imager777  44

    @imager777 It looks like she's talking to somebody in the audience. She's probably just trying to keep the stage light out of her eyes.

    @imager777 she's not saluting..she's covering a zit! 
    @imager777 She doesn't mean to. Some ass hole put glue on her forehead.

    @imager777 ...hehe

    replace books with podcasts or video lecture.
    how do podcasts not meet her criteria but have the additional feature of high information bandwidth and zero intonation loss.
    texts place is in the comments section.

    @vincenmt reading a book requires a focus and spurs imagination in a complex way that vegetating on audio or video lack, that's part of the "intimacy" she was talking about. i understand that most people have a problem with the effort it takes to read a good sized book, but the payoff is worth it.
    --desirefirst  11

    Well said.

    @desirefirst I advise picking up the Culture series, if the individual is mature enough to handle the content; I think the smallest book in the series is eight hundred pages.
    Then there's the Legend of Drizzt the complete collection, by R.A. Salvatore; that entire collection is golden. Book one looks to be around 1600 pages.
    Just a quick glance at some of the books I have. Can you imagine how much you'd miss, if such literature were on video format? It'd be like watching Lord of the Rings. ^_^

Thursday, September 8, 2011

A Ten Years' September Rambling Aside

It's a chill day in Vermont after a week of tropical storms, wash-outs, rain fronts and blah. Have the hummingbirds gone, or are they just laying low?

We're coming up on the tenth anniversary of "9/11," and this week has been full of hubbub about that day in 2001.

I care little for the "where I was then" stories, or even the "what has happened to us since" stories. I know where I was; I can re-feel the tilting of the world when the second plane hit the towers. And no one needs to be reminded of the mess that has been made of the aftermath.

But today I listened to a 9/11/2001 audio assemblage courtesy of the New York Times--radio dispatches from air traffic control, the military, etc., recorded as the events unfolded--and I found it chilling. When she saw the the audio link, Lauren announced, "I don't want to listen to any radio recordings."

I get what she is saying. But I think I am looking for something I'm not getting elsewhere. I don't want the  commentary, parsing, and wistful nostalgia. I want actual reportage. Or not even reportage. I just want to understand--or really just experience--the unfolding of events, the artifacts of that day. I want the radio chatter, always a half a step behind, or the intimate cell phone dialogs laid out on a timeline. Even, yes, the images of the jumpers.

I half-remember them from live TV that day, the jumpers and fallers. They haunt me, maybe, more than anything else from that day.  I'm not the only one, of course. But from time to time I've even searched the web for images of their falling, never finding significant results. It's as if those images have been blocked somehow, unsearchable--out of consideration for the families or for the nation as a whole.

There is this one, now easily found, of the one so-called Falling Man. But the images I see in my mind are blurrier than this, almost incidental--ghostly monochromatic figures, suspended high in the air where people shouldn't be. These blurry pictures could just be my imagination, or a false memory. But for me, to see them would represent something concrete and necessary, something that cannot be provided by thoughtful commentary or ground-zero waterfalls. Maybe the events of 2001 can only be analyzed and rediscovered, not really understood. It's in the memory-images, and a few of the photographs. And in the mumbled words of Mohammed Atta saying "We have some planes," or the flat affect of all the flight controllers and other workers trying to understand the scope of the problem (and in the brief moments when you can tell they do).

Maybe we as a country still don't understand the scope of the problem--or, really, what the true problem ever was, or is.

Monday, August 22, 2011

One Year Ago Today...

...over on Facebook I posted these words from the road to Syracuse:

"Driving back to Syracuse to hopefully be with my Dad for some moments before his moments run out. And listening to the "Words" episode of Radiolab. Acquisition of language, words as brickwork for abstract thought. This also makes me think of my Mom, her memory going, the symbology of words starting to leave her, and what it means to be human, and alive, and connected to the named things of this world. Phewf."

Five days later, my Father died while I slept on the floor next to his bed.