Sunday, June 3, 2012

Zombies and Graduates- and Sexy Shoes


I looked up what's trending on Google  (US) and saw Elizabeth Warren, Howard Stern, Bath salts, amelia earhart, hatfields and mccoys, belmont stakes, devils, scott walker, college baseball, zombie apocalypse, oklahoma city thunder, full moon.

Hmm. Yesterday I went to my son's convocation and during the drive to the National Arts Center where Ottawa U conducts its convocation ceremonies, my son asked me if I had read about 'that zombie attack.' I knew immediately what he meant, but I, myself,  hadn't thought of this icky unsettling bath salts induced assault as a zombie attack.

Zombies have been a part of popular culture since my kids were young, starting with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a show my husband liked for some reason. (Critics deconstructed the show as being about teenage angst.) I wasn't surprised my son would see this bizarre event, widely published in the media, this way.

No,  I'm not surprised my son and obviously many other probably very young people are seeing this weird Miami news story as about zombies - and not about drugs.

Apocalyptic literature is very popular among young people. The rest of us older folk just follow the stock market (or those doom and gloom accounts on the economy) to get the beegeezus scared out of us, to get that sense that our security (and bank account) is not entirely in our control.

Anyway, the convocation was pleasant enough. I enjoyed seeing young people performing a modern rite of passage, even if getting a degree isn't quite what it used to be.

Daniel Lamarre speaks.

Michaelle Jean speaks at Ottawa U Convocation, Saturday. The Arts Degrees.

 Many of the female graduates were wearing high high heels under their graduation gowns, often shoes in scintillating colours, bright red and especially bright YELLOW.   No one tripped, but not all the women so shod looked comfortable.

Athena in what some might see as hooker attire. They all seemed like vivacious young woman to me. I seem to remember that at my son's high school graduation, the girls wore flip flops under their very fancy designer dresses.

We've come a long way since 1910, when woman scholars were  dull and sexless like Miss Carrie Derick in my book Threshold Girl.  Derick was the first full university professor in Canada - and also President of the Montreal Council of Woman. She was a botanist.

In my book the protagonist, Flora Nicholson, wonders why a woman who studies flowers  doesn't wear any flowers on her hat (as was the fashion in those days).

Biology and Ambition is the story, in epistolary form, about Marion Nicholson, an ambitious and sexy woman who had to choose between career and love - because in those days that was the case. Eventually she got both, but only due to family misfortune, her husband died young in 1927 and she went back to work, and became the best in her field.

1910 was the era when planes first took to the air. (Aeroplanes.) In those days, before WWI there were many many stories in the press about women pilots. In fact, one article in Technical World Magazine claimed women were flocking to flight school. Although most working women were domestics, shopgirls, or teachers, the era media (newspapers and magazines)liked to say women could enter any field, medicine, law, the brand new field of aviation.

There may have been one or two women in each of these fields, but one or two does NOT make a trend. (Even back then the media coloured people's perceptions, by focusing on the exceptional "man bites dog" story -and then making that very rare event seem like an everyday event. Like child kidnappings and zombie attacks today.)

Flying was the ultimate 'new woman' activity. Below, a spread about early flight fashion, from a later 1937 Marie Claire.


Below: Baroness Delaroche and her plane crash. 1910. Before Amelia Earhart


Anyway, as the University of Ottawa Arts Convocation began I thought the first speaker looked like Michaelle Jean, the former Governor General of Canada, and it was! (We were up in the Mezzanine so I couldn't see clearly.) She had just been made Chancellor of the University a few hours before.

Another speaker was Daniel Lamarr of the Cirque de Soleil, a good choice I thought, although my son wasn't so sure.

Lamarre received an honourary doctorate.  Lamarre spoke about the importance of the arts in society.