10.1.09

Also, Stampede Wrestling.

This weekend, I relaxed with an iced coffee inside one of my favourite cafés in Medicine Hat, while reading a translation of Eugene Onegin, Alexander Pushkin's early 19th century epic. One of my friends from work was also there, and after a brief chat, I left her to continue her reading: Doctor Zhivago.

You can say that Medicine Hat is culturally bereft, and in the standard understanding of the term you'd be correct. We're famous for Kalan Porter, not Cole Porter, after all. But somewhere in Paris, underneath some wrought-iron arches, there are two people drinking Slurpees and arguing over whose car is most impressive with the ladies. I feel safe in declaring a victory of some sort here.

It did get me thinking, though. Culture (once again, in the ill-defined standard definition) is not something that can be consumed -- it can only be produced. The only way to increase it around you is to increase it in yourself. And yes, it can exist anywhere. It's just that it's easier to nurture in some places more than others. Still, if your city's not cultural enough, the solution starts with you.

Perhaps the reason I'm dwelling on such matters is that Eugene Onegin is surprisingly delightful, and I've been moved to speak in praise of the Arts. I was especially touched by the last stanza of Chapter One, which portrays the courage of an author willing to let go of his writing:

About its structure I've been brooding --
Its hero, how he'll be yclept;
But meanwhile, look -- I'm just concluding
My novel's Chapter One. I've kept
My eye alert to weak depictions,
And noticed scores of contradictions;
I'll leave them, though, with no regret.
To censorship I'll pay my debt.
I'll hand reviewers, who'll devour,
Fresh-fallen fruits of pen and ink.
Fly bravely now to Neva's brink,
My newborn opus, fly and flower,
And earn me glory's just deserts:
Hot air, vain noise, faint praise that hurts.


And since those last two lines apply equally well to anyone who talks too much about a city's culture, perhaps I'll be quiet and go play some video games now.

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About The Author

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Canadian explorer. Chemist by training, biologist by nature. Long-time supporter and participant in National Novel Writing Month. Known as "Aquadeo" in most Internet circles. Also known as "that guy with the pants" to people who have seen me in certain pants.