Monday, July 27, 2009

This past Easter, I accompanied Wesley to the Ontario Science Centre (we could say that I took him, but we all know that he really took me). We wandered down to the lowest level to the building, where some of the older exhibits had been stored. Some of them had the orange and brown panelling that betrayed a heritage older than my own.

Their age didn't mean, however, that they were any less fun. One bank of consoles, looking like relics from the mid-90s, tested your reaction time; you sat in front of a steering wheel and you watched the computer accelerate until a STOP sign flashed, and you hit the brake (which you weren't supposed to hover above with your foot ... but I don't think that stopped many people). A line of LEDs showed how you did; if you stayed in the first few green lights, you were excellent; if you strayed into yellow, average; red, deadly.

Lots of people stopped by to try it, and grown-up, even more than kids, were engrossed in getting the best time they could. It was interesting to see how people could driven to new degrees of competition against themselves, egged on only by a machine.

One of my favourite moments during this visit was the sight of an enormous Ultra-Orthodox family walking through. The patriarch of the clan sat himself in front of one of those driving consoles, and proceeded to spend several moments staring at the lights and every so often, banging down on the brake with his polished shoe. His sombre suit and formal hat, which had separated him from many of the other visitors, seemed to be heightened as he set himself to a simple challenge.

A little girl, presumably one of his own, sat on his knee, held in place with the crook of his arm. As her father played Red Light/Green Light with the determination of a much younger man, even a boy, she spent her time alternatively fiddling with her curls and examining her fingers with a thoroughness that could only be described as scientific.

posted at 1:40:50 pm

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Glo'ri'a'na, noun:
1. An alternative form of "Gloria."
2. As "Americana" defines itself as artefacts of American culture, "Gloriana" consists of the artefacts of my culture.


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