October 25, 2011

You Are What You Eat

The first record of this beaten-to-death phrase appeared in Anthelme Brillat-Savarin's treatise on the Physiology of Taste in 1826, where he wrote (in sexy French), "Dis-moi ce que tu manges, je te dirai ce que tu es." [Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are]."

I've heard various twists. "You are what you read" "Show me your friends and I'll show you who you are." "Don't eat that Matt, that's disgusting." For today's blog, let's broaden the definition of "eat" as far as it will stretch.

"You are what you consume." Which is more or less true. Yes, you can believe you have a soul, that there is a unique bit of you that never changes. But it's pretty undeniable that your upbringing - the combination of what you've seen/heard/experienced - shapes who you are.

Which makes me wonder who I'm becoming. My twitter feed draws from comedians, news sources, friends, family, industry pros, companies; I receive about 40 tweets a minute (and I'm only following 541 feeds). I'm reading newspapers from around the world, watching "tv stations" (that term is so outdated) streamed from nearly every continent (still waiting for PenguinTV... oh no wait, it exists). I played an online game from a company in New Zealand last night. The list goes on.

And I feel anxious that I'm not consuming enough media. In the morning when I wake up, the second thing I reach for (right after whacking my long suffering alarm clock) is my iPod touch, to catch up on the news. The radio is seldom off in my house - silence now makes me twitchy.

It's an anxiety that I think ties back to, "You are what you consume." With individual messages losing any sort of authoritative standing as they get swallowed by the deluge. keeping up-to-speed on what's happening now seems to like the best chance to becoming a complete person. Identity now lies on the Cutting Edge of the Information Age. Which makes me wonder:

  • As we increasingly share the same media streams with the rest of the world, is humanity becoming homogenous?
  • How can I become a complete person when I can't possibly keep up with all the media?
  • Are we losing or gaining by consuming the same information?


Thanks to my classmate Chantal Verrier, who told me that the title to Anthelme's treatise "Meditations de Gastronomie" translates to "Meditations on Transcending Gastronomy." I find that comforting for some reason...

October 20, 2011

A Winnipeg Secret

Winnipeg's larger parks and sites tend to get the glory - Assiniboine Park, The Forks, Kildonan Park - but there's one narrow strip of a park that has won my affection: Stephen Juba Park.

Oh yes, it's just a narrow strip of a thing, squashed between Waterfront Drive and the Red River. But the variety of terrain (open fields, forest, perennial AND annual gardens), the use of native Manitoba plants, the art installations (done by professionals, not fledgling students - looking at YOU Portage Avenue) they all come together to make a great public space.

It's a place that doesn't lose it's appeal during the winter. I jogged through it every weekday last winter to get to work and never found it visually boring. The fact that it's so close to the Exchange, but provides an effective escape from the city (thanks to its treeline combining with its gentle slope down to the river) only makes it that much more precious.

I was biking through last spring and came across one of the city gardeners, deeply tanned with long dreadlocks, working away in one of the garden beds. I called out, "Really love what you've done with this place," or something like that. And got the most enthusiastic thumbs up and "Thanks, man!" I've ever received.

No, no (sideways two-finger point) thank you, man!

October 11, 2011

A Tale of Two Cities

I am going to let two other authors, whose work was printed this past weekend, take the stage for this post. Bartley Kives wrote an article for the Winnipeg Free Press. Kevin Engstrom wrote one for the Winnipeg Sun.

Two very different perspectives, but they agree on one thing: we have to deal with this.

October 4, 2011

Aqua Books: A Winnipeg Institution

Short Version

Right now Aqua Books has a 50% sale going on. All the books. Half off.

Please go and buy armfulls of books. As many as you can carry (you're going to have to race me and everyone else to the Can Lit section).

Long Version

I confess to being an emotional guy. An emotional, artistic guy (let me tell you how I feel THROUGH DANCE!). And weighing heavily on my mind lately is the fate of Aqua Books - Winnipeg's Cultural City Hall.

The bookstore/cultural hub is located at 274 Garry Street - surrounded by seedy hotels, parking lots and corporate buildings whose workers flee to the suburbs at 5pm daily. It's location has been a source of criticism in coverage of the financial trouble prompting it's closure. "Should've chosen a better location." "No one wants to go downtown, it's scary." "Why would anyone put a bookstore there?"

They put a bookstore there because the owners believe in Winnipeg. They have a vision for a thriving, urbane downtown where people live, work and play 24/7. Where the streets are not deserted as soon as the work day ends. Where the rich art scene of the 'Peg is celebrated. Aqua Books was/is willing to be one of the "shock troops" of gentrification in the downtown.

Mayor Sam Katz has gone on air to lament the loss of mom and pop shops in Winnipeg, noting that small business is the economic engine of a city. In the same talk, he lays the burden of action entirely on the owners and the citizens of Winnipeg. As though City Hall had no interest or role to play in supporting small downtown businesses.

If you've never been, please go now. There's a 50% sale on a wider array of books than you can shake a bookmark at. And there's still events going on until at least the end of October.

If you've never been, here's a little sample of the typical atmosphere. Worth having in the downtown, no?