Friday, August 1, 2014

A Brief Tour Of The Commonwealth City

On Friday night  we took a brief tour on foot of my home town. And very proud I was too. The friendly city for the friendly games. This is Glasgow, with its best pants on!

The train on the way in, sunshine over the Clyde

A deserted street, no traffic!

Outdoor eating!

Buchanan Precinct, busy with street theatre

Bring it on. Indeed!

He sat very carefully, knees together

These are the beautiful but effective anti terrorism barricades 
over entrances to stations etc.

And if you get lost, just follow the lines

In George Sq now, a disrespectful pigeon 

James Watt,  the steam engine man

paramedics on bikes, a Glasgow cop

We are here, in the big G

George Sq ticket centre

The queue for this bus was round the block

Robert Peel ( we are fond of our statues!)

George Sq looking at the City Chambers

The Hotel where I do all my interviews! 
It's right next to Queen St station where the Edinburgh train comes in.

Just to remind you! It's an offence in public.

George Sq looking NE, this was where they filmed World War Z.
This building was American for a fortnight.

A bottle of Buckie..... an empty bottle of Buckie
(an alcoholic delicacy....) 

The Cenotaph

There were loads of these....

And these


The big G

The shop had loads of these left

But few of these

The slightly 'faster than the bike' response squad

Clyde the mascot

Street Theatre

interested spectator

uninterested spectator

Glasgow Central, bedecked in the Commonwealth colours

Going home

Caro Ramsay 1st August 2014

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Nadine Gordimer

Nadine Gordimer, South Africa’s first Nobel laureate for literature, died on the 13th July at the age of 90.  She was a political activist all her life, but her protests were directed where she felt things were wrong, not by any political agenda.  She was a friend of Nelson Mandela and greatly admired him, and she supported his successor, President Thabo Mbeki, but she was strongly outspoken about his AIDS denialist policy.  She organized writers in South Africa to oppose the recent law here which restricts newspaper reporting under the 1984esque titled Protection of Information Bill.  (I wrote about it at the time in No News is Good News.)  She refused to compromise on her principles.  Ever.  She demanded that her name be removed from the short list for the Orange Prize for literature because it is only open to woman writers.

The day after she died, I heard an interview about her with one of the younger literary fiction writers in South Africa who knew her and whom she helped.  One of the questions he was asked was whether her writing would last, given that it was so much set in the political era of Apartheid and the struggle against it.  Of course he said that her writing would transcend its context, but I thought it was a fair question.  Motivated by that question as well as her death, I reread July’s People. I chose that particular book because its backstory is an apocalyptic collapse of Apartheid through a black revolution with support from Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and the communist states.  It was published in 1981 and such a scenario seemed anything but farfetched at the time.  When the book was published in the US, a review in the New York Times said: “Since Nadine Gordimer writes more knowingly about South Africa than anyone else, this may be history in the making we are reading.”  The book was immediately banned in South Africa as subversive.  After the new government it was accorded the status it deserved, but in 2001 one of the provincial education departments removed it from the school reading list describing it as “deeply racist, superior and patronizing.”  If you’re making everyone unhappy, you must be doing something right!

The July of the title is a gardener for a reasonably well-off liberal white family living in Johannesburg.  Of course that’s not his real name, but we don’t learn that until three quarters of the way into the book.  He has worked for them for many years, initially illegally because of the abominable pass system.  He is regarded as 'one of the family'.  That is, from the perspective of his employers, the Smales – husband, wife and three young children.  The adults toy with emigrating, but just don’t get around to it.  When the rioting and fighting approaches their neighborhood, they know they have to leave, but have nowhere to go.  July says they can come to his home where his family lives in the country.  When the story opens, the five Smales find themselves in a round hut with nothing but the few things they managed to grab as they fled and a single bed.

This much I remember from the first time I read the book many years ago.  What I didn’t recall as clearly was the relationships that developed between the participants in the village – July, Maureen and Bam Smale, the children – differently depending on their ages – and their counterparts in the village.  Bam comes with a yellow ‘bakkie’ – a small van – and a shotgun.  These are status.  All the rest is based on the historical relationship between servant and employer and between cultures that think and behave very differently.  How much do the Smales know about the man who works for them – this ‘member of the family’ - about his background, his real family? How much do they really want to know?  How much does anyone from one culture and social group want to know about others beyond polite friendliness and mild curiosity?

Many novels have been written about this ranging from amusing to tragic.  I can’t think of any one where the relationship is exposed in this way through enforced integration into the poor rural culture.  Now I can’t think of any other way you could do it as well.  (Of course it takes a genius to see that in the first place.)  The relationships are laced with the racial background, of course, but that is almost secondary to the cultural one.  I think of the people who work at my townhouse complex and how little I really know about them.  This writing is as true today as it was thirty years ago.  So I have my answer.

Hamba Khale, Nadine.  You will not be forgotten.

Michael - Thursday

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

These are the voyages...

I've traveled to places that many people would consider exotic. All over China, including Inner Mongolia and Xinjiang. I just went to Russia for the first time this year. But I'm finding that my home town of San Diego is as exotic as anyplace I've ever visited.

Submitted as evidence: Comic-Con International.

Comic-Con started as a small gathering of comic book creators and fans, science fiction and fantasy writers and readers, and, well, Trekkies. Hey, I can say "Trekkie." I was an early adopter. 

"This is our Superbowl," Captain Kirk Shoe Shine explained earnestly to a customer

My sister and I attended one of the early Cons, back when it was held at the El Cortez Hotel, in a seedy part of downtown San Diego (actually, nearly all of downtown San Diego was seedy then, as I recall. How times have changed). I was somewhere in my early teens, my sister three years younger. "I'll pick you up in three hours," my dad told us, on his way to a three-martini lunch.

My sister and I ran around like wild things for those three hours. What I remember the most vividly are two things: We were in the company of strangers who liked the same weird stuff that we did. And it was the first time I saw the original "Star Trek" bloopers.

Now, as Geek culture has become mainstream culture, Comic-Con is an international phenomena, attended by 130,000 people a year, the place where Hollywood reveals teasers for the upcoming next big things. It's grown way too large for the San Diego Convention Center, so it's taken over parts of downtown San Diego as well, including Petco Park for a zombie run:

 -- and entire sections of the Gaslamp and the Embarcadero:

The whole experience is pretty overwhelming. The crowds are huge, lines are long, events are impossible to get into. People argue that Comic-Con has grown too big, that it's no longer as relevant, that smaller, more intimate conventions are taking its place. And I think there's some truth to all of those assertions.

But still. 130K people with a love of comics and science fiction and fantasy and popular arts descend on my city, once a year. A lot of them cosplay--create really elaborate and beautiful costumes to express themselves. It's sort of like Geek Mardi Gras.

And there's just something pretty awesome about that.

Submitted as evidence, the following photos…

There are more and more of these "Christian" protestors every year. But they are greatly outnumbered

Lisa…every other Wednesday...