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There’s nothing like those rose coloured glasses with which we view yesterday as so much better than today.

Yesterday was just as shitty as today.

That’s fine by me as shit is what fertilizer is made from. We use it to grow new things.

Now is the moment we live in. Always has been. Always will be.

Now is always a moment where there is a hungry predator looking for food.

We don’t have to be that predator ourselves nonetheless some people by choice are.

We have to always be on the watch.

Rochdale College opened its doors in 1968 in Toronto.

It began as an 18 floor student high rise developed by The University of Toronto’s Campus Co-op.

Along the way someone came up with an idea designed to get a tax break. Rochdale would be an experiment in alternate education. Each Rochdalian would be called to be their own teacher. There were no teachers at Rochdale.

What there were was what was called “Resource People.”

Resource People were people who having achieved success in their field were invited to live in Rochdale all expenses covered on condition they make themselves available to speak with any Rochdalian who wanted to speak with them.

I went to Rochdale in September of 1968 shortly after it opened because I had learned Judith Merril, the mother of modern Science/Speculative Fiction was living there.

J. G. Ballard (author of Crash and Empire of the Sun) in 1992:

“Science fiction, I suspect, is now dead, and probably died about the time that Judy closed her anthology and left to found her memorial library to the genre in Toronto. I remember my last sight of her, surrounded by her friends and all the books she loved, shouting me down whenever I tried to argue with her, the strongest woman in a genre for the most part created by timid and weak men.”

I knew Judy from her anthologies of THE YEAR’S BEST SF. The stories she chose were first rate. Judy’s brief intros were even better.

When Judy found out I owned 8mm prints of THE BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN, THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI, Fritz Lang’s METROPOLIS and more she said, “You belong here.”

What made Rochdale Rochdale was none of the above.

Along the way the authorities had been persuaded to allow within the walls of Rochdale the use of hashish, LSD, marijuana, mescaline and peyote.

I like to say Rochdale was 18 floors. The higher up we went the higher we got.

The plain truth about Rochdale however is that almost none of the people there embraced the idea of being their own teacher. While a few talked with Judith Merril and others more wondered why these old farts were getting a free ride.

In 1967 Pierre Trudeau had stated the state has no right in the bedrooms of the nation. Canada’s sex laws were changed on the books.

The change in the minds and hearts of people took a lot longer.

Queers were routinely picked up by cops taken out to Cherry Beach and beaten nearly to death.

Rochdale, despite the seeming fuzzi wuzziness of David Yee’s play ROCHDALE (which I have no seen and base my opinion only on its reviews–which are favourable let me add), as place that was inclusive and where gays were welcome was a hot bed of homophobia. It was no different than the outside world. No better. No worse.

The only attraction for most who went there was the fact that they could get and use drugs there.

To pretend anything more than that is self deception.

Despite the fact that Judith Merril welcomed what I brought to the table and we began an enduring friendship which lasted up to her death there was fierce opposition to my showing THE BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN, THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI, Fritz Lang’s METROPOLIS and others at Rochdale.

There was a pre-existing program run by people who showed movies to get money to buy drugs.

They did their best to keep me out. I was told no one wanted to see THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI.

The people who lived at Rochdale were by and large culturally illiterate (as they are outside Rochdale).

My job was to make them culturally literate, to make them interested in seeing THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI.

It was a great opportunity to seize the idea of being my own teacher.

While others, notably David Evitts in the film on ROCHDALE, DREAMTOWER described the educational process at Rochdale a failure the failure lay with them.

I had discovered the Wilhelm/Baynes edition of THE I CHING in 1968, the year Rochdale opened its doors.

THE I CHING teaches that learning separated from doing and doing separated from learning are dead. I understood that. I knew it is true.

For that reason I wanted to be part of Rochdale but it was to take me two years to discover the value of Rochdale. That discovery came in the wildest possible manner in Los Angeles, California.

Everything that Rochdale was supposed to be about is dealt with wonderfully in John Taylor Gatto’s THE UNDERGROUND HISTORY OF AMERICAN EDUCATION which I can not too highly recommend.

Contrary to the naysayers a great many Rochdalians did want to see THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI (1919). So did a great many people outside of Rochdale.

One of my many Rochdale regulars was Jane Jacobs, author of THE DEATH AND LIFE OF GREAT AMERICAN CITIES. Her last book, DARK AGE AHEAD, is about the mind numbing incompetence of the moment we are now in.

A common complaint I heard and hear from folks is that they would come to my programs if only they did not have to listen to me speak.

In 2002 I took Jane Jacobs to see the movie CHICAGO because it is based on the same story as one of her favourites, ROXIE HART with Ginger Rogers.

When I brought her home from our date she invited me in for tea or coffee. Inside she said, I think you will like this better.”

She hauled out some beer. In front of her was a copy of THE TORONTO STAR which regularly published favourable pieces on her work. She said firmly, “I hate that paper.”

She then regaled me with the back story of Roxie Hart.

By the third beer she was really going. Then she said, “The best part of what you offer is what you have to say.”

I thought of all the folks who have told me to shut up and thought had I listened to them I would never have heard her say that.

I have kept the Rochdale idea of being our own teacher alive.

It is the only part of Rochdale worth keeping.

I have seen that idea take hold in many of the people who come to me.

Jane said, “Old ideas are sometimes found in new buildings. New ideas are found in old run down buildings.”

THE CINEFORUM is located in my home. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more run down old building.

Out of THE CINEFORUM have come a host of new ideas.

Drugs could and can be found in every high rise building in Toronto. They could in 1968. They can now in 2019.

I was never interested in drugs. Still am not.

My life is to full and interesting for that.

The important part of ROCHDALE, the idea of being our own teacher, that was what made Rochdale Rochdale. It is what made the drug use possible.

That idea lives in The Cineforum.

You don’t have to come to The Cineforum to be your own teacher. Start doing that where you now are.

But do come to The Cineforum. I enjoy meeting the people who come here.

–Reg Hartt 2019–08–13.






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