2017-07-24 Mon

Pigeons Not so Smart?

On the east side of Bay Street this morning I avoided stepping on a pigeon that was tackling a crust of dead pizza.

Like birds all over the world, the pigeon grabbed at the crust with its beak, shook it, and let the crust fall to the ground.

Obviously it had to lift the mass of the crust through three or four inches each time it did this. Also had to impart angular momentum, arrest, and apply angular momentum several times.

If pigeons are so smart, how come the stupid grey chunk of urban bio-mass didn't just put his/her/its foot on one end of the crust and tear off a piece at a time?

It's what I would have done.

If the pigeon hadn't got there first.


I allowed myself four weeks sitting in on a play-reading group in the Toronto Public Library. I thought that four weeks was enough time to get a feel for the group, accumulate some questions, and so on. My third evening has been and gone; I have one more session to go, and then Iíll probably drop out. All for a good reason.

The crowd of about a dozen people are nice, warm, welcoming, friendly, and enjoy a laugh. This is not A Formal Audition For A Part. We sit and read through a play from the first line to the last line, then we open up a new play and do it all over again. I can ask to play a specific part, but generally the convener assigns parts in rotation, so everybody gets a turn at playing characters. When there are many female parts in a scene and there are many men who have not read, why, the men get the womenís parts and the women may get the menís parts. It is a loose group.

So why am I not continuing?

Because it is, to me, a group with little purpose beyond a social event. It is ďSomething to do of a Tuesday eveningĒ. That in itself is a good thing for me. It gets me out of the apartment and into the Yorkville Public Library where I can quickly catch up on WiFi-email and have two twenty-minute strolls after my early supper. I sit surrounded by people, and thatís a good thing for someone who lives alone.

But ...

We merely read through a play, and thatís it.

We are not preparing to put on a play. There is no discussion of the play, before or after. Not even a ďWhat did you (each) think of that play?Ē. There is no coaching or suggestion about reading a character. It is, in short, ďA pleasant way to spend a Tuesday eveningĒ.

Even in retirement I am goal-driven, as is everybody. I look at the goal of the play-reading group and decide that I do not share that goal.

But I consider that I have had little interest in Reading Plays. I have the Complete Shakespeare and for over fifty years have felt no inclination to read his plays. I detested the play-reading we did in English Classes in my 4th and then my matriculation years in High School. (I failed three of the six exams, giving everybody palpitations)

Why is this?

As the others in the group read their parts, I read ahead to the end of the play, then I read the prefaces, then I read the appendices. In between this I am assigned a part, but as soon as it is over I return to reading other material.

Plays were a big deal before we had books, before reading became a common skill taught in schools. Back in the year 1237 if you wanted to know something, either the Kingís representative read from a scroll, or you attended a play put on by a band of roving actors.

If you wanted to hear a rollicking good story, you went to a play. There were no paperback novels.

Plays were mostly about stories, tales; with a message to be sure, but they were stories.

Today we have novels (and the Toronto Public Library!) and so we all can read a book. And reading a book (eyes and brain) is way faster than attending a play (lips, tongue, mouth, ...)

Itís the old play of skills Ė the natural skills of speaking and hearing versus the un-natural skills of reading and writing. We learn to speak and understand in our native language before we have to go to school to be taught the skills of reading and writing.

I think that that is the core of my reluctance to waste time reading plays. I can gain more entertainment, enjoyment or knowledge by reading a book at high-speed than I can by waiting for someoneís lips to complete that word and get on to the next.