Archive for culture

Larry King

Back in 1988 I appeared on CNN’s Larry King Live! to debate the topic of Near Death Experiences (NDE’s). I was given the role of the skeptic. To me that meant I was there to offer explanations for this very real-feeling sensation that were neither paranormal nor religious. My goal was to “save” the experience rather than “debunk” it, offering a more scientifically sound way of describing the NDE.

The woman sharing the split-screen with me here is Barbara Harris-Whitfield. Considering how pointed my remarks were on that show, she was very forbearing and generous with me. Indeed, after our appearance on Larry King she asked producers of other shows to ask me on to be her debating foil. (We even travelled to Cincinnati to be on an early version of The Jerry Springer Show, which was not the gong-show it would become but which nonetheless sure did encourage ill manners.) Barbara showed me how to be somewhat kinder to others when I argued with them, and she taught me that lesson without embarrassing me. I think of her often, with gratitude.

A word about Larry King. Back in the eighties, the discussion on Larry King’s show could be a good deal more elevated than what people saw in his later years at CNN; there were fewer commercial interruptions as well. To me, though, King’s finest years as an interviewer came when he was on the radio at night in the seventies. He knew everything and everyone and the conversations could really spread out. His curiosity was unquenchable, and he alleviated the isolations of insomnia among his listeners. It seemed he never failed at that. RIP, Mr. King.

David Cooper

Congratulations to David Cooper for being named a member of the Order of Canada, for “his innovative contributions to Canadian performance photography and for his dedicated mentorship of emerging artists.”

David is an astonishing talent and spirit. I love that the announcement focused on David’s mentorship of others. I cannot think of a better thing to have said about you.

The above photograph, of dancer Alex Kolarcik, is from Cooper’s work on The Performance Research Project. What a great photograph! The portrait below is by Emily Cooper.

To the south

After I moved back to Canada in 1996, I spent many years trying to determine what made Canadians and Americans different. I came to two conclusions: (1) Americans are ruled by zeal, (2) Canadians by a sense of the commonweal.

About a month ago I decided to go with a third conclusion as well: Americans hate one another.

Considerable simplifications, I know, but with high explanatory value.

The Greeks and Us

Lately I’ve been beginning my mornings reading the Greek Tragedies. It has been a joy! Perhaps the biggest theme in the Aeschylus and Sophocles I’ve read so far: the pressure of justice upon children. I’ve been reminded of something I wrote on that topic awhile ago about more modern times:

Compared to how often parents denounce and disown their children, it is remarkably rare to see them do so in print. Why? Perhaps because, to anyone outside the writer’s particular family orbit, slagging one’s offspring utterly undermines one’s standing as a parent, and hence one’s authorial credibility, too. (The father of cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer, Lionel Dahmer, saves his harsh judgments for himself.)

I can think of only one example in the genre: Famous atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair’s rejection of her first son, William Murray, after he became a born-again Christian. (This son was the “Murray” in the Supreme Court Case Murray v. Curlett in which the court banned prayer in United States schools.) O’Hair wrote: “One could call this a postnatal abortion on the part of a mother, I guess; I repudiate him entirely and completely for now and all times. He is beyond human forgiveness.”

Books by adult children attacking their parents, on the other hand, are everywhere.  Parents, even if they are not dead, can’t fight back without bringing upon themselves righteous fury and dishonour. This genre, then, allows justice for those children among us who could never defend themselves before, but for the rest it provides a template for cowardice and disgrace that is tempting for a time. [4 June ’04]

KDocs

KDo

Kwantlen Polytechnic University‘s Social Justice Film festival gets better every year. I’m very lucky the films will be shown just down the street from my home.