Before we do a holiday getaway, I'd like to offer a few newsie reflections. The connections to my book's larger theme of issues might seem a bit more stretched than usual. Consider the following as akin to packing for a roadtrip - not everything thought to make sense at the get go will get used. But it's there for a reason.
- For a needed family mini-vacation, we're renting a house with another family of local friends. That means we're bringing along and seeking out all the usual outdoorsy distractions. I'm rather blissfully unaware of the logistics. In fact, the only contribution I bring to this getaway is the hope to take us down the road a piece further one day to visit the Maryhill Museum of Art. That supremely-isolated, decidedly-odd museum expanded recently. Plus they have their very own Stonehenge replica, along with what appear to be stunning views of the Columbia River. The oddity of being effectively endowed thanks to a wind farm more than keeps the lights on there. Hopefully, I'll report back later on what's also worth seeing in their collection.
- I'd be remiss in my newly amplified Canadian awareness if I didn't acknowledge that yesterday was Canada Day. I've continued to think a great deal about Canada and its history since my recent trip. Museums such as the one in Lachine just outside Montreal and the decidedly thoughtful and complete view of Canada's history seen in Ottawa got me rolling. I even dug Kurt Andersen's "rebranding" effort on last week's episode of "Studio 360". The resulting "Know Canada" campaign is a damn good one - I wonder what the view of it is from the northern side of the border. I even asked a financial planner last week about specific Canada funds - Fidelity has one, and there are certainly others. My newfound embrace I think might go on for a while.
- Our other next door neighbor, Mexico, had a big day yesterday. Or a depressing return to form, depending upon your political persuasion. They elected Enrique Pena Nieto. Barely. And the next closest candidate - Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador - is pulling the same trick as he did last time around by not conceding the result. I tried to observe Mexico's process the last time out in 2006. We lived for a month in a small Mexican city (Cuernavaca, an hour south of Mexico City), just prior to the election of Jose Calderon (think Romney, without being so Mormon-y). I do dig Mexico's term limit rules - one six-year term per President, no chance of another. This time around, Mexico's problems with drugs and constant mayhem - combined with what sounds like a total yet superficial embrace of their President Elect's style and soap opera star wife - drove them back to the party (the PRI) that ran the country for 70+ years. The PRI is totally sketch. And fascinating, from what little I've read. Still, they're back on top. The point being that if we don't know Canada, we really don't know Mexico. Which is sad - you should always get to know your neighbors.
- Speaking of what we Americans don't know, Minitel is gone. Oui, it's true - France's partly beloved old jalopy of a precursor to the internet is no more. If you've ever heard of it, you might also know that Minitel looked like a phone with a stripped down computer screen. I'm talking production value straight out of that seen on the infamous show "Space: 1999". They finally shut 'er down over the weekend. I never got to use it, but it was often discussed in my grad school back in the early 1990s as an pre-"information superhighway" model to understand in operation, not just in theory. Obviously, the worldwide web spun onward and everywhere else. But I was instantly touched by the piece I read last week about French dairy farmers in Brittany being some of the first and then some of the last heavy users who as a subculture seriously hated to see Minitel shut down. Unlike vinyl records, manual typewriters or whatever sort of old-timey standard might enjoy a new utility, there will be no rebranding of these old units. And as of Saturday, the plug has been pulled on Minitel. Au revoir, ancienne et adorables téléphone.