Monday, June 27, 2011

R.I.P Yacov Yisrael Bak

16 December, 1984 - 27 June, 2011

Today is my birthday and I got the call I have been expecting for a while now. My oldest friend Elijah lost his little brother Yakov sometime earlier today.
I had met Yakov shortly after I had met his brother sometime after December 1988. The kid had energy to burn, always wanting a play fight. He would attack me and I would chuck him into the couch. He always came back for more, a most implacable and inexhaustible adversary. Eventually, Elijah moved out of the house and I didn't see much of Yakov at all after age 8, only briefly to see a film with him, Elijah and his friend Skylar.
Yakov was 14 by the time I had any real contact with him, I went with him, Skylar and Elijah to see the Tragically Hip at the Pacific Colosseum. He was so quiet, introverted almost - it was a big change from the strong-willed ball of energy I knew a few years previously. Life hadn't been particularly easy for him so I assumed it was early teenage lack of self-esteem and figured he'd find himself as time went on. But age 17 rolled up and he seemed he seemed lass certain of himself, more withdrawn and even unable to articulate himself.
Eventually it would become known to his family and to the rest of us that Yakov was an undiagnosed schizophrenic and, as is sadly typical in these cases, in the clutches of a horrible addiction attempting to find a way to make sense of himself and deal with what was going on inside himself.
I'd like to have something happy to reflect upon on this occasion, but I don't. Yakov's life - what became of it - fills me with sadness.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

R.I.P. Auntie Eleanor

My Auntie Eleanor passed away on 14 June, 2011. I see much of her in me. We have similar temperaments - she could be a real bitch, but I am equally capable of being a total bastard. We had similar interests in writing, poetry, politics. We were both dreamers and we both have seen how we failed to capitalize on our potentials. Does that sound harsh? If it does, I assure you no ill will was directed her way.
She was horrible to her own children. She had many problems and was afraid to face them, it would seem. But in all the negative stuff that surrounds her, I remember the aunt who liked embarrassing me with kisses. I remember the aunt who gave me poetry and took me to readings. I remember the aunt who only ever had smile for me and the kindness in her eyes when she did so. I'll miss her and I regret not having been able to spend time with her.

Friday, June 3, 2011

In Praise of Terry Jones

Back in 2006, Terry Jones - of Monty Python fame - and the BBC released a documentary series called Terry Jones' Medieval Lives. Jones, aside from being a culturally significant writer, director and comedian, is also an Oxford educated historian. Jones was interviewed in The Observer and stated his reasons for making the series:

"The main reason I wanted to make Medieval Lives was to get my own back on the Renaissance. It's not that the Renaissance has ever done me any harm personally, you understand. It's just that I'm sick of the way people's eyes light up when they start talking about the Renaissance. I'm sick of the way art critics tend to say: 'Aaaah! The Renaissance!' with that deeply self-satisfied air of someone who is at last getting down to the Real Thing. And I'm sick to death of that ridiculous assumption that that before the Renaissance human beings had no sense of individuality."

As it happens, I agree with the positions that Jones takes throughout the series. Jones tackles common misconceptions and myths that persist about the Medieval age and its peoples even to today. He presents the commonly held belief and then counters it. For instance, he looks at the legacy of the three King Richards, and how one has been unjustly "lionised" (pardon the pun) and the other two unjustly vilified.
I once wrote a paper entitled Perceptions of Satan through the Medieval Ages, (sadly lost along with the discs in a burglary) in which I posited that the Medieval peoples were far less superstitious regarding witchcraft (and Satan) then the people who came after them. Medieval teachings stated that all power comes from God, therefore witches had no power - it was just superstition. Jones reiterates that sentiment in the episode that looks at the status of women in the Medieval Age.
I was never able to see the series when it ran on cable television, but I picked up Netflix when I bought my XBOX and the series is on that service. Well worth checking out. I am looking forward to seeing Terry Jones' Barbarians as well, when it is offered.