To celebrate my second semester being completed, I left Edinburgh for the first time since I went up to Loch Tay in January.
I didn’t travel too far, only to Linlithgow, a town about 20 minutes outside of Edinburgh by train. The main attraction? Breaking in my shiny new Historic Scotland pass. I’d heard good things about Linlithgow Palace, birthplace of Mary, Queen of Scots.
I didn’t know what to expect. I did no research on the palace, only finding out that it was there and I could get in for free with my pass.
I certainly wasn’t expecting a ruined palace. No roof, and slick stone–thank goodness it was a sunny day!
One thing that I try to do every week (or at the very least, every month) is attend events at Inspace, the University of Edinburgh Informatics Forum’s art space. The events I try to attend “blind.” I get the event emails from New Media Scotland, and sign up for the various events. I’ve attended lectures on memory and music (which resulted in my showing my inability to use a turntable in front of 75 people), a Pecha Kucha night (in which I stood up in front of a separate group of 75 and told stories of falling off of Arthur’s Seat), and a presentation by the Information Delivery Service (which resulted in no ridiculous stories from me).
IDS is a student cooperative fascinated with information, its readiness, their desire to have it all. The lecture, which I found interesting, was filled with information overload (and rather disjointed, lacking any coherent narrative flow, from which it would have benefited greatly). It did, however, leave me to contemplate how what we consume and create develops our identities.
I’ve recently started using Pinterest, that incredibly popular photo/lifestyle/dream-sharing website that’s been critiqued for everything from creating desires for unattainable lifestyles to dubious copyright infringement. What’s struck me as fascinating is, apart from its addictive qualities, Pinterest is able to give a ‘look’ to how we identify and how we wish to identify. It’s a means, like the Facebook info page, to divulge bits and pieces about ourselves to the world.
We are what we consume. We’re made up of the books that we read, the music that we listen to, the clothing that we wear. We identify through media, with ourselves and with each other. When getting to know one another, we ask about what sort of books we read, movies we watch, music we listen to. We find common ground and relate to it, often through what we enjoy.
If one were to look at my bookshelf, one would find a few books of critical theory (Guattari, Ranciere, Postman and McLuhan), philosophy (Hume and Marcus Aurelius), novels (John LeCarre and Margaret Atwood coexist, Raymond Chandler recently moved to the bedside table), my DVD collection of The Prisoner, a small CD collection (The Smiths and The Jam), and a few art books (exhibition guide to The Queen Art & Image, the exhibit I saw on my first day in Edinburgh). One can start to suss things out about me, just from what I choose to share about my intellectual consumption. I’m interested in media and environments, spies, and music made before I was born.
I see the world filtered through what I consume. Far too much of what I experience or think about is influenced by The Prisoner, even my potential dissertation topic for this degree. The thought of being without my DVDs in a foreign country was too much to bear. I even started reading books like Le Carre’s for research before realising how much I love them (okay, I’ve always enjoyed these stories, far more than I have the books that I’m “supposed to like”).
And I hate for the pretension that comes with saying, “I am an artist” but it’s true. I am an amateur painter, perhaps someday a professional digital artist (my dissertation, with hope, will kickstart that). But I read books on art, I examine it, I enjoy it, I consume it.
Sometimes, I feel as though my life ought to be a movie. There are moments that are so improbable, so scripted, that if I didn’t partake or witness them myself, I would scarcely believe that they had happened.
One of those days happened Monday. My swing dance group was tapped to perform in a flashmob (we do this a lot) to advertise for an upcoming jazz club night. It was only supposed to be a few minutes, to get some photographs for our society and for the club night. My friends and I grinned and danced, wearing t shirts and cardigans despite the cold. We had the soft sounds of an iPod to dance to, only enough to catch the rhythm and make up the rest from there.
My friend and I started dancing, rock-step-triple-stepping, lindy-turn, rock-step-triple-step-step-step-triple-step. We laughed at the ridiculousness of dancing to the music we could hear (sort of), but the rest of the world could not.
We were ready to stop after a few minutes. Our silly group attracted a few bystanders.
The sound of a solo saxophone cut through the chilly night.
Our little group looked up, surprised. What was this sound? Were we to continue?
“Great!” said one. “Music!”
All we could do was continue dancing. We couldn’t resist live music, even if it were just one saxophonist.
I switched dance partners. As I spun, I noticed someone wheeling a double bass case. I thought nothing of it as I continued to dance, focusing on not twisting my ankle on the concrete. The thump-thump of the bass strings joined the saxophone.
An entire jazz band sprouted from the pavement. A trumpeter materialized, another saxophonist joined the throng. Finishing off this spontaneous band was a percussionist on cymbals.
Through it all, as we twirled around the main university square, more and more people stopped to watch, intrigued by the musicians and the dancers, two crazy groups out on a cold, early March night.
If it were to be filmed or presented in a novel, it would be considered a contrivance, a plot device, something to initiate the ‘meet cute’ between the hero and heroine, or the climax of the (undeniably cheesy happy) story. No one would believe something like that could really happen.
Edinburgh is a beautiful, vibrant city. There’s such variety in the landscape and architecture. With regards to landscape, we’ve hills and valleys, parks and inactive volcanoes and buildings. For architecture, the modern Informatics building at the University coexists with the older, Georgian buildings, and buildings older than that.
But enough for words. I’ll let Edinburgh speak for itself.