Saturday, November 13, 2010

Circumnavigating Coupland

I know I've been a bit snippy toward Douglas Coupland lately. I've been a bit snippy toward nearly everyone and everything lately, so, World: I apologize. I'll try to do better.

Getting back to Coupland: he was tapped on the shoulder to do this year's CBC Massey Lecture series — here is the official link. Did you see that bit about being "widely regarded as the most important public lectures in Canada"? Kinda says more than the flack who wrote those words probably intended, doesn't it? But first time listeners should be forewarned: it's usually only a matter of time before the stuffed shirt delivering the lectures gets your back up.

Last year's lectures by Wade Davis (A) certainly accomplished that with me. A well-traveled, studied, accomplished anthropologist, Davis is appropriately horrified at the precipice our species teeters on thanks to its heedless submission to the tenets of modernity and materialism. His five lectures tucked into a feast of delicious detail culled from the just-barely-surviving wisdom traditions from a few tenacious tribal cultures in extreme climates. While I appreciated much, if not most, of his appeal, his lush praise for the ancient also struck me as a tad naive, if not conveniently two-faced. In the early 70s my grandfather pastored a Mennonite colony in Paraguay, and was frequently amused by the meddling of ardent anthropology students from el Norte. He told of a meeting he encountered between a tribe and a student. The erstwhile anthropologist was lecturing the chief, beseeching him to pull his people back into the jungle where life was good. The chief listened patiently. When he finally was given a chance to respond, he basically hiked a thumb over his shoulder and said, "The bush is that way, kid. If you like our ancient way of life so much, you're welcome to live it."

So, yeah: Coupland should feel right at home with this format. And you may find yourself, as I frequently do, tried by the tone of voice. But if you don't mind the provocation — if, indeed, you actively seek it out — "the most important public lectures in Canada" might just be your cup of tea.

They are, for the moment, available as a downloadable podcast here (scroll down to 2010 CBC Massey Lectures and right-click on the links). Or, if you prefer a more flingable format, the book can be had at Amazon.

Wiki: Massey Lectures.


Cowtown Pattie said...

I have a different word for your present state of mind: pissy.

As in, "Now, don't go and get all pissy with me, missy"...(or mister if the gender demands).

You might get the admonishment of "Put your Big Boy tighty whiteys on and deal with it".

Though that doesn't quite have the zing of "Put your Big Girl panties on and deal with it".

Or as one astute teen-angsted young lady once snapped at me: "Yeah, well life sucks and then you die".

I think I responded that her own young life would be condensed right smartly if she used that phrase to me one more time.

Whisky Prajer said...

"Pissy" and tighty-whiteys are a bad combo. Since I'm in charge of laundrey I may not take you up on your advice CP.

Cowtown Pattie said...