Embarassing moment on an airplane

In a few weeks I am performing Extreme’s More than Words, and The Beatles All You Need is Love at a friend’s wedding in France. I’ve been working on the Extreme song, but I haven’t so much on the other, so on the airplane I thought I would get out my laptop and listen to the song a few times, to get it running around in my head. I only had the earphones supplied by the airline, and no matter how carefully I pushed them into my ears, even turned up all the way I just couldn’t hear the song very well. I thought perhaps they were very low impedance. Then I realized they weren’t plugged in, and my laptop speakers were screaming out “All You Need is Love” at full volume. Unfortunately, that wasn’t until the song had ended.

I was very embarrassed, but surprisingly, I didn’t get any disapproving looks. The flight attendant actually smiled at me while it was playing, only later did I realize she could hear the song as well.

I wonder how much of a faux-pas this mistake actually was. Perhaps people were happy to hear some Beatles blaring through the middle of a very boring flight. Maybe they thought I was making some kind of political statement (the politics of “All you need is love”?). Either way, a funny incident – one that reminds me that anyone (especially me) can do very socially awkward things without realizing they are happening.


On Leaving

Toronto’s Pearson Airport is an ideal place from which to leave on a journey. Terminal 1 is shaped like a wing, and if you are flying international, you can enjoy Richard Serra’s Tilted Spheres. At the moment I’m sitting inside Tilted Spheres, enjoying my time before boarding a flight to England. The work is about air travel – the curved flanks of metal suggest the tubular frame of a jet, or its wing. It is wonderful, and at the same time terrifying.

This journey is the longest I have ever embarked on – I will be gone more than 2 months. Most of that time will be spent in the historic region of Palestine in a city which is claimed as capital by Israel and the State of Palestine (neither claim is internationally recognized). But before I arrive in that contested region I will spend time in the Republic of Ireland, the province of Northern Ireland, and France. I will attend a week long summer school, visit friends, and perform at a wedding. There is a lot to anticipate, to prepare for, and to write about.

I think the beginning of a trip is a good time to reflect on the goal and purpose of writing about such a trip. On the one hand, it is to convey to friends and family what I’m up to. It’s also a kind of journaling – an exercise in self-clarification where one is forced by the act of writing to impose narrative structures on felt experience. One worry I do have, however, is my tendency to put too much effort into public writing, such as this blog, and less into academic and private writing. Different forms of writing, for different audiences, play a different role in experience. I can write things in a private journal that I would not write here, for instance. And if I write up philosophical ideas here, they do not seem to develop into formal academic work (although, this may be simply a problem of follow-up on my part). So, while I will still try to provide frequent updates, if are not be as long or extensive as on previous trips it is because I’m concentrating on other forms of writing alongside blogging.

Also, this is not simply a writing trip – it is a photography trip as well. And perhaps more so than any trip I have been on before. On this trip I will try to move beyond “taking nice pictures”, to using photographs to convey meaning. In that vein, I will be changing the colours and header photo relatively often to reflect where I am, and what has been happening.

Transit fares and Inflation

Transit fares seem to go up all the time, especially if you live in Vancouver or Toronto. But, doesn’t everything get more expensive? I thought I’d do some preliminary checking on how transit fares have gone up compared to other products.

In 1983 BC transit (precursor to Translink) did not have zones – you could travel throughout the whole system with a simple ticket, similar to Toronto’s system today. A ticket cost 75 cents, which according to this American Consumer Price Index inflation Calculator , is equivalent to 1.68$ today. But if you live in Vancouver you know that the current cost to transverse the entire translink system is not 1.68 or 1.75, but 5$. Moreover, even a single zone ticket costs 2.50.

In Toronto, an adult ticket to ride the TTC in 1981 cost 65 cents. According to that same inflation calculator, a ticket should cost 1.60$ today. But it doesn’t – it costs 3$. Nearly double the rate of inflation!

I wonder if similar increases in fares since the 80s have plagued other North American cities. If anyone knows of a comprehensive study on this topic, or even just other examples that interest them, please comment below.

The Boycott and the NDP surge

In the past I’ve supported voting for the Liberal party, and the election boycott. In what could be described a flip-flop, I’m now supporting the NDP due to their surge, and the possibility of them becoming the new left governing party of Canada.

I continue to hold my view that elections within a situation where parties rely heavily on elite support are not likely to be political events, and that we should work through electoral to minimize the disaster rather than believe that this system of elections can get us a governing system which actually takes the interests of humans as a whole into account. However, if the NDP were to win the election, this might be something like semi-politics. The NDP are less bankrupt than the other parties precisely because they have in the past been considered unelectable. However, certain changes in their stances, such as Layton’s new tough-on-crime initiative, indicate that they are fully willing to play the PR game with the best of them.

On a whole, I don’t really have time for this election. I’m leaving on Saturday, and I was out of town for the advance polls. I will try to find out tomorrow how to fill out a mail-in ballot, on which I will vote for Olivia Chow.

When I arrive in Northern Ireland a few weeks from now I will be in aftermath of election there – may 5th is their next voting day. I don’t know what values and other forces are in play there, but I will surely give you some perspectives once I find out.

Rush – live in Montreal

Last week I had the good fortune of seeing Rush play live in Montreal. They have been around for about as long as any band, and they played music from each of their 4 decades of existence. In many ways the show was great – good song selection (except, any songs from the 90s and 2000s is too many), good musicianship, and they appeared to be having a great time. Geddy’s voice can still hit the high notes, although he can’t really hit them with the raspy power he had in the 1970s.  Alex Lifeson’s playing was mostly right-on, but as a huge guitar nerd, I was able to notice most times he deviated from the record, or made a mistake.

My brother pointed out something which I think is pretty true of Rush – since the end of their “keyboard period” they are no longer really a prog band, but a rock band. Not a normal rock band, something like “jazz rock”, but not jazz rock exactly.

The sound in the Bell Centre wasn’t great; the bass was very muddy and there was interference between the bass and drums, such that you could only really hear the bass when the drums were not playing.

Rush is a great band, but for people who are not already into them, I would recommend you watch the documentary “Beyond the Lighted Stage” rather than see a live show.

Donate your Nikon gear for Palestine

As some of you know, this may I’m travelling to Palestine for 7 weeks to meet with various organizations and volunteer at the Kalandia Youth media centre. I picked up an inexpensive D70 which I would like to leave with the kids there. However, I don’t have a lens for it. So, if anyone has an old nikon lens lying around unused because it has been replaced by something fancier, it would be much appreciated. Comment here, or send me an email at tristan.laing@gmail.com

More reflections on “Enjoy Poverty”, and a Screening at Toad Lane

I recently saw and commented on the film “Enjoy Poverty”. My general reaction was being-underwhelmed, given how many of my friends had emphasized how affective the film was, and how they felt awful after seeing it. The collective experience seems to have been this: while they knew the critiques of charity work and of the representations of poverty, the film took these intellectual critiques and made them available emotionally, affectively.

Continue reading “More reflections on “Enjoy Poverty”, and a Screening at Toad Lane”

Blogging from Palestine?

I’m torn about how I should blog while I’m volunteering in the holy land. Should I continue to update this blog? Should I create a separate blog specific for this trip?

I’m leaning towards creating a blog specifically concerning volunteering and meeting with groups in Palestine, and updating that blog more often while I maintain sporadic updates on this blog. The upside of that a trip blog can have a narrow focus, and potentially be useful to and reach a larger group of people.

Also, if I’m going to create a new blog, I need a new blog title.

Off to Montreal

Tomorrow morning I’m off to Montreal to see Rush, and then on Friday I’m headed with my family to Quebec City for a mini-holiday at the Chateau Frontenac. If any of my Montreal friends are missing me, I’ll have some time on Thursday to meet up.

If anyone has ideas of what to do in Quebec City beyond the normal tourist itinerary, I’d appreciate the suggestions.

Don’t worry Toronto, I’ll be back on Monday for the week, till I head out on the 30th to Ireland, France, and Palestine until July 7th.