Wednesday, November 02, 2005

The unreasonable effectiveness of birds

It is enjoyable to see what some birds can do to Grant McCracken (maybe less enjoyable for Grant). Now, admittedly, it is starlings, and their vocal skills are stunning, and they tend to flock at this time of year (for reasons he documents well), and in many ways they provide a lovely model with their limited form of dynamism. Group decisions are almost surely a form of strangely emergent behaviour.

I especially enjoyed (as I suspect the southbound starlings might as well)
Personally, I blame the likes of Margaret Atwood. You could get everything Ms. Atwood knows about the well springs of contemporary culture into a phone booth and still have room left over for roughly a dozen college students. The lit crit crowd has an embargo on certain kinds of thinking and Toronto appears to be engaged in a building frenzy, as if a dynamic culture could be imposed in the form of daring new architecture.
Too much there for me to handle, and safer just to let him speak.

But if he is in town this weekend (as he suggests) I would ask him to go see Opera Atelier's Armide. So far as I know this opera company has no need for a new highly visible building, and while anyone will know I am no fan of their (sadly Canadian conventional) politics, I am a great fan of their (delightfully unconventional) aesthetics. Making 18th century (and worse) opera work today is a dynamist challenge and they are up to it.

Sad thing though, he is right about so much. I love this snippet:
The city that needs encouragement (or approval)
as who among us here has not had to hear the years of claims of Toronto's being "world-class".

He has a reference I do not get, to a Roy Lanham (what is that? - I already know, unfortunately, an Andy Barrie - is this a competitor?), but includes this small phrase
triumph of Canadian content
a wonderful oxymoron, as this concern is the clearest sign of static culture, and the attempts to wrap the ropes around anything not locally approved (by those who know).

I hope Grant's presentation goes well and his audience heads out to make things change. I love his final image, as I am bird enthusiast, and think the model of the emergent behaviour that comes out of their chatter and signalling is a great model - to quote Grant again:
the selves within these groups, all are fluid, multiple, changeable and a lot like those Starlings debating their departure time, in constant, noisy contact.
Excellent things to think about, and a respite from the Canadian "lit crit crowd".


At 8:00 AM, Blogger rondi said...

I quite like his description of what the starlings were saying to each other.


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