Peripatetic Postcards

Go Ask the Globe

One of the reasons that I came to Paris this time was to attend professional meetings. These meetings were held at the UNESCO headquarters, within sight of Invalides to the north and the Eiffel Tower to the west.

It is an education being at UNESCO (which makes perfect sense, since it is an educational institution -- well, duh!). The first thing one learns is that there is no smoking on its premises -- which can be eye-opening, since it turns out that so many people in the world (not to mention, France!) smoke. As a result, there are a lot of doors propped open, leading out to verandas where UNESCO employees and visitors are furtively sneaking cigarettes.

The next thing that is eye-opening at UNESCO is the food. Since every meal we were served there would, by any objective standard, have had to be placed under the heading of hors d'oeuvres, what we really were offered didn't qualify so much as "food" as it did "whimsy" or "suggestion" or "a hint of culinary expression".

Without opening one's eyes really w i d e, one would surely have missed it. Those little fluffs of taste. Mighty delicious - that handful of rarified UNESCO air -- just now being spirited away on that empty silver platter.


Well, one doesn't come to UNESCO for the food -- even if it is in France. One comes for progressive policy, peace and social action. And so was it that after the security checkpoint, through heavy metal gates and buildings of stolid stone, there was a corridor of this:

On display, the art from a UNESCO-sponsored campaign involving 64,000 students from 25 countries on 5 continents. The (progressive, policy-oriented) aim was to send adults a message through kids' eyes. And, as you will soon see, it was another one of those P-o-V things. A chance for us to view an object, an idea, a phenomenon from another perspective, through a different set of eyes. As only the metaphysical French could.

Since this was an educational experience, there was also study involved. According to promotional literature, children were exposed to the "magnificent works" housed in the Musée du Quai Branly (in Paris) -- works invoking the natural elements of earth, air, fire, water and weather, and involving the legends, myths, rituals and customs characterizing the peoples of the five non-European continents. Following this quick education, students were asked to write a short story and design a mask that expressed the importance of the links between people and nature.

Through these works, the earth was allowed to talk back. You see -- an exercise in P-o-V. Thus, the earth might be asked to provide an answer to a question like: "what are your feelings about the extinction of species?" And that answer would be captured in this display piece of a turtle crying human tears:

Or the globe might be asked: "what do you think about the depletion of natural resources? And the answer would be depicted through this overlay of nature on a mask, itself masking a barren, charcoal-grey, denuded natural world:

The globe might also be interrogated thus: "how do you feel about the fate of indigenous peoples? And the answer would be rendered in this mask of a native population's clash with "advanced", advancing civilzations:


There were more globes to consider along this well-lit corridor. But these few provide enough of UNcompromising flavor.

Looking at the collection one cannot help but be awed. Kids -- no matter where they are -- have that remarkable gift -- that uncanny ability -- to see both with guileless candor and refreshing naivete -- often at one and the same time. Kids may see less, but they often also see best.

Looking at this collection of children's disquisitions on earthly experience, it was wise - one can see - not only to ask them, but to also ask them to ask the globe.

The answers that result are certainly more filling that the fingerful of UNESCO hors d'oevres and even more refreshing than that handful of rarified UNESCO smoke-free air.


In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

This week on our games podcast, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

This week, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

Keep reading... Show less

Which is the draw, the art or the artist? Critic Rachel Corbett examines the intertwined lives of two artists of two different generations and nationalities who worked in two starkly different media.

Artist biographies written for a popular audience necessarily involve compromise. On the one hand, we are only interested in the lives of artists because we are intrigued, engaged, and moved by their work. The confrontation with a work of art is an uncanny experience. We are drawn to, enraptured and entranced by, absorbed in the contemplation of an object. Even the performative arts (music, theater, dance) have an objective quality to them. In watching a play, we are not simply watching people do things; we are attending to the play as a thing that is more than the collection of actions performed. The play seems to have an existence beyond the human endeavor that instantiates it. It is simultaneously more and less than human: more because it's superordinate to human action and less because it's a mere object, lacking the evident subjectivity we prize in the human being.

Keep reading... Show less
3

Gabin's Maigret lets everyone else emote, sometimes hysterically, until he vents his own anger in the final revelations.

France's most celebrated home-grown detective character is Georges Simenon's Inspector Jules Maigret, an aging Paris homicide detective who, phlegmatically and unflappably, tracks down murderers to their lairs at the center of the human heart. He's invariably icon-ified as a shadowy figure smoking an eternal pipe, less fancy than Sherlock Holmes' curvy calabash but getting the job done in its laconic, unpretentious, middle-class manner.

Keep reading... Show less
5
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image