The Brock Review is seeking scholarly essays and creative works for a special issue dedicated to the theme, “The Garden in the City.” In order to be considered for this issue, manuscripts and creative pieces must be submitted by the 15th of November, 2007. Submission procedures and guidelines for contributors can be found on the journal website. The Brock Review is a peer-reviewed, interdisciplinary journal published by the Humanities Research Institute at Brock University.
One of the neatest things I saw this summer was the Vegetable Lamb at the Museum of Garden History in London. At first I didn’t know what I was looking at , as I’d not heard the story of the vegetable lamb before. The legend of the Vegetable Lamb goes back as far as the year 436, and it tells the tale of a plant that grew living lambs as if they were flowers. According to the legend, the lambs were able to bend down and eat the plants surrounding it and were thus able to feed themselves for a while. Once all the surrounding plants had been munched away, the poor little lambs shrivelled up and died, that is if they didn’t get devoured by a wolf first. Below is an image taken from Henry Lee’s 1887 book entitled The Vegetable Lamb of Tartary: a Curious Fable of the Cotton Plant, to Which Is Added a Sketch of the History of Cotton and the Cotton Trade.
The plant that prompted this legend is a type of fern, the Cibotium barometz. The root of the fern was often collected as “evidence” of the existence of the so-called vegetable lamb. The Museum of Garden history has one of these vegetable lamb roots, their particular specimen preserved under glass around the middle of the 19th century (see postcard photo below).
On Friday afternoon our Department hosted “back-to-class” event for students, staff and faculty. It took place at Rodman Hall, a beautiful 19th century mansion which has been turned into an art gallery. In addition to the beer and the barbeque, we also were treated to a presentation by and about Mark Adair. An exhibition of Adair’s works entitled, “Death is in Trouble Now,” had been on display at Rodman Hall all summer (the exhibition closed on September 16th). Many of the works in the show explored themes of environmental destruction and the sense of rupture that often exists between humans and the rest of the planet in our current society. These are works that are intended to make the viewer somewhat uncomfortable, as one critic noted, Adair’s work is “not for for faint of heart!” For instance, his sculpture entitled “Chicken Choker” is of a man who accidentally killed himself during an act of autoerotic asphyxiation. Adair cleverly links this extreme act with Western society’s ongoing consumption of goods and resources in the face of environmental degradation. What this piece references, then, is the absurdity of pursuing pleasure to the point where it becomes fatal; we are killing our planet and, ultimately, ourselves because of our continual and wasteful pursuit of goods and resources.
Much of Adair’s sculptural work references gothic carvings. Although it was probably not the intention of the artist, I also could not help but draw parallels between the bodies on display in this exhibit and the bodies on display in the Science and Art of Medicine exhibit I saw this summer in London. My favourite pieces in Adair’s show, however, were the small charcoal drawings featuring “Death” as the central character. Titles such as “Death Goes Sailing” or “Death Dreams a Martini” convey Adair’s wit and dark sense of humour. These pictures have a narrative quality to them, we can follow along as Death encounters a series of misfortunes. The central premise, according to the artist, is that Death has become redundant; the “grim reaper” is no longer needed as men and women are doing a pretty fantastic job of killing one another through wars and environmental destruction.
(Image Credit: Mark Adair, Death Dreams a Martini (detail), 1999 – 2005)
Once again I must credit bioephemera for alerting me to something fantastic! Over at Curious Expeditions you will find the most amazing post (including a series of stunningly beautiful photos) in honour of libraries. A good library is a wonderful, wonderful place!
(Image Credits: Wren Library, Trinity College, Cambridge, England and Old British Reading Room, British Museum, London, England. Taken from Curious Expeditions)
From the Alternatives Journal e-newsletter:
Work Less 10,000 Times
Educators might be inspired by Professor Charles Dobson of the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design and his students. Dobson asked first year students to create a 30-second Public Service Announcement with the message: If you consume less, you can work less.
Students had to upload their video to YouTube and any video that attracted over 10,000 hits by the end of the summer would garner its creator an A in the course. Dobson chose the message because it directly appeals to self interest – no one seems to want to work full time, but just about everyone ends up working full time and then some.
As it turns out, Dobson will be handing out a truck load of As, since about half of the videos made the grade. And the rest averaged over 5000 hits. Most importantly, a message that seldom gets mainstream airplay has reached about 150,000 people, mainly youths.
Fall term started this week, and the campus has sprung back to life. I love the renewed sense of energy that accompanies the start of the fall term, but after a relatively quiet summer it can take a day or so to adjust to the hustle and bustle that September brings. There are a few spots on campus, however, where it is possible to slip away for a quiet moment of tranquillity. Yesterday I stopped by for a quick visit to a lovely little pond nestled in among the campus buildings. I sat for a moment and watched a frog hopping around along the edge of the water.
As I was sitting at the edge of the pond I recalled a faculty event held in a room overlooking the pond last spring. A number of us (including the president of the university) were fascinated to discover a beaver swimming around in the pond. The event concluded with faculty members from all disciplines and departments pressed up against the glass, straining to get a better look at the beaver. I didn’t see the beaver yesterday, but I did see a structure that looks like it could have that Castor canadensis touch. (The zoom on my camera isn’t great, but you can sort of see it in the middle area of the second photo).
We had planned to go camping this long weekend, but those plans ended up falling through. Probably just as well as I feel I could use a quiet weekend at home before the fall semester kicks into high gear.
We did, however, take a little day trip yesterday. We picked up Nikki in Hamilton and headed for Port Dover to spend a day at the beach. Yes, there is a beautiful beach just down the street from us in Port Dalhousie, but we wanted to do something a little different to mark the last day of August and, as fans of road trips know, sometimes it is more about the journey than the destination.
We stopped at Denninger’s on the way out of Hamilton for some delicious treats, and then hopped on highway 6 down to “the heart of Ontario’s south coast.” As the highway wound through the countryside, I was struck by how much this part of Ontario looks like Alberta. We were driving through farmland, so there were crops, cattle and horses along both sides of the highway.
Port Dover was a lot of fun! It is the type of place where you instantly feel like you are on holidays even if you are only there for a few hours. As we explored, we were surrounded by shops selling beach toys, beach clothing and sun hats. The whole place smelled like french fries and summer cook-outs, and everyone was dressed in bathing suits and flip flops. The sand on the beach was so hot that it burned our feet as we walked along looking for that perfect spot to stretch out our towels. This was my first visit to Lake Erie and I wasn’t disappointed! The lake is fairly shallow along this particular beach, so we could walk out quite far. The bottom of the lake is sandy and rippled, and the water is clear. We splashed around for a while and then spent some time enjoying the sun’s rays on the beach. It was so wonderfully relaxing and made me think of all those lazy summer days we used to spend at Lakelse Lake in B.C. when we were kids.