Friday, October 31, 2014

mercy for Jian

The whole Jian affair is making me feel a bit sick. Now two women have laid charges and the Toronto police are involved. Are we going to put this guy in jail? He's already a pariah, his life destroyed by his own brutish heedlessness. What's going on - in the media and on Twitter - is a pile-on, a merciless takedown. There's so much glee in his precipitous fall.

I love and respect the Toronto Star, hounder of the hideous Fords, but their enormous headlines and photos : PR firm dumps Ghomeshi over 'lies': are going beyond good journalism. The other article on the front page yesterday was about a political couple in Mexico involved in the narcotics trade who are responsible for the massacre of scores of students.

I know this will be an unpopular sentiment: I feel sorry for Jian. Yes, it's possible to feel compassion for someone without excusing his behaviour. The man is sick, no question. He's not a murderer, not a child molester, but he is a narcissist, a bully, an egotist and a liar.

But let's not conveniently forget, just wipe out the years of pleasure and pride he gave us from his perch at the CBC, as he interviewed every interesting person and A list celebrity who came through and did so with intelligence and grace. We all enjoyed not only the talk but our new sense of Canada at the forefront of meaningful adult discussion. Canada, hip, edgy, out there.

The chase after fresh scandal meat is becoming savage. Perhaps the man is irredeemable; perhaps he will never understand that what he did to women was vile and very wrong. But I still thank him for his years as this country's premier broadcaster.

I'm just saying that we can be appalled by certain aspects of a man's life without turning into a lynch mob. We are all flawed. If you and I suddenly had limitless power and fame and adulation, if every door we approached was flung open to us in admiration, what might we be capable of? How might we lose sense of decency, and our own fallibility, and the rights of others?

Happy Hallowe'en!

from my favourite witch and her big pussycat.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

NTL's Frankenstein

I just heard a CBC "As It Happens" interview with a woman who dated Jian briefly. When they were first alone, she says, he pulled her hair back roughly. But when on a later occasion she came back to his place, she says without warning he began to hit her on the head until she cried, in shock and pain, and got out. Tomorrow morning, apparently, there will be another interview, same story.

We in Canada are reeling - not because it's a salacious sex story, so unusual in this country, but because it's incomprehensible. We all knew the public face of this personable, clever, successful, multi-talented man. And now we discover he has another side, vicious, violent - Jekyl and Hyde. I just heard Jamie Lee Curtis in a video about bullying say, "Hurt people hurt people." But everything we know about Jian's childhood is comfort and happiness - loving middle-class parents, stable, warm - yes, an outsider, a Persian princeling in whitebread Thornhill, as he has so often joked. But what would produce a man so full of anger that he would assault a young woman he hardly knew, risking his entire career? It happened ten years ago, she said. It has taken that long for the stories to come out. If this were happening forty years ago, these stories might never have come to light. My British friend Annie just told me about growing up adoring the comedian Jimmy Savile - her horror and revulsion when it was revealed after his death that he had been abusing children - HUNDREDS of children - for SIX decades. Worse, much much worse than what happened here. Savile was a monster.

I think back on Jian's book, 1982, which is a light-hearted take on an 80's adolescence, but has a dark undercurrent about his obsession with a girl who in the end rejected him. Did rage at his outsider status somehow twist his soul? I used to wonder why such an attractive man in his late forties - though looking many years younger - had never had a longterm relationship.

What will happen to him now? 

Well, on a happier note, my head is once again swimming in theatrical bliss - I did go to the National Theatre Live again, to see an adaptation of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, with Benedict Cumberbatch as Frankenstein and Jonny Miller as the Monster. There is another version with the roles reversed, and I'm considering going again. Once more, a stunning, powerful piece of theatre, as good as it gets. Once more, $22 for a front row seat. Once more, I left knowing that the British are so far ahead of the rest of us in their writers, actors, directors, producers for the theatre. Yes, we in other countries produce a great show every once in a while, but their theatre is consistently, by far, the best in the world. Brilliant in every way. If you possibly can, go.

PS And now the Star has produced more women ready to talk about Jian, more horrible allegations, punching, choking, beating, tales of verbal and physical abuse going back to 2002. How many people knew about this? How is it possible that such vile behaviour could go on for so long?

From Twitter:
I have never seen or heard, anywhere, of a journey from beloved icon to repulsive outcast so swift or so severe.

National Theatre Live: Skylight

Yesterday I walked into my U of T class and told them this was probably the best day of their lives. "Did you notice as you came here, how beautiful it is? The colours of the trees, the sun - and we're all alive and breathing with a brain. Does it get better than this?"

They laughed. Sometimes maybe my Pollyanna cheer is a little much. But I've decided I never want to be anywhere but Canada in October - it is so gorgeous out there. After class, I went on to an event which I am writing urgently to tell you about, any of you in Toronto, because it's on again tomorrow - a National Theatre Live presentation of a moving, timely David Hare play, "Skylight." I hadn't heard of the play but saw it was going to be shown at the Yonge-Dundas cinemas, Googled it, and couldn't wait to get there.

Just one of the best productions ever - a superb play brilliantly acted by Bill Nighy, Carey Mulligan - both of them, fantastic, and what a team - and Matthew Beard, a young actor I don't know. A torrent of clever, heartfelt words, words, full of passion, pain and truth - afterwards I sighed with pleasure, feeling full to the brim with great art. How fantastic is this new innovation, theatre and opera at the movies, accessible to all. Instead of a flight to London and a theatre ticket, I paid $22 for a great seat which included an interview with David Hare at intermission. Can't beat that.

It's on again tomorrow at 1.10. Don't miss it if you can possibly get there. Today there's another National Theatre Live show - an adaptation of "Frankenstein" starring the heavenly Benedict Cumberpatch as either the doctor or the monster - the casts alternate. I may go. Or maybe it would just be too much great theatre all at once. I might pass out.

One more word re Jian: my friend Margaret was kind enough to write, "Just wanted to say that your blog post about Jian was the first intelligent piece I’ve read on the subject. And exceptionally well-written. I wonder and worry about what long-term impact this all may have on the CBC." 

I do too. Right now, I am thinking about his mother. A few weeks ago she lost her husband, and now her revered son is disgraced, and in such a disturbing and public way. Must be devastating.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

moving right along on all fronts

We awake to a new city. In the words of the inimitable Rosie DiManno, "Crazy Town has finally received its discharge papers."


A writer called Steff, plain-spoken to the point of rudeness, has written a powerful piece that I think says just about all that needs to be said about the Jian Ghomeshi case.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Toronto has a new mayor. Praise be.

Only one thing to say: Yes. Yes yes yes yes yes yes yes.

In my class at Ryerson tonight, students checked on the election at the break - it was declared pretty quickly. Even so, there was a shocking moment just after the polls closed when it was close. Close! To try to figure out who those people are, voting for Doug Ford - well, it's hard. But then there we were in writing class, we should be able to imagine someone who wants a Ford to be mayor. But it was beyond all of us.

John Tory just made a good speech, touching all the bases, including predicting that Olivia Chow will continue to make a big contribution to this city. A lot of great people have been elected and re-elected. A fresh start for this wonderful city I love so very much.

As Tabatha Southey put it on Twitter:
John Tory has won. A slight improvement for Toronto. The end of a golden age for humour columnists.

today's laugh out loud

And they say young people can't spell.
And - the most cheerful thing I've read about the Jian debacle is: "At least Canada isn't boring any more!"

What worries me is that Harper will use this distraction, not to mention his demonization of mentally ill young men, to quickly pass draconian anti-human-rights legislation. Just watch.


And on another exciting front, I just voted. LET'S GET THE BASTARDS OUT! A friend I talked to last night - left-wing, gay, extremely social conscious - said he is very disappointed in Olivia, not just in her wishy-washy campaign but in her vicious attack ads. He was voting for Tory. I told him I was considering it but would find it hard to vote for someone with the name Tory.
"Get over it," he said.

Today I voted John Tory - proudly. Yes, he's a privileged white male who said ambitious women should learn to play golf and that there's no such thing as white privilege. A bit out of touch, a smoothie. But he's a centrist and a very experienced politician who'll be able to steer us with skill through the next while, this poor battered ship that is my city.

Please Lord, make that appalling family go away.

the unicorn report

In other news ... if there is, on any Canadian's mind, any other news:

Friend Pam, whom I've never met but who's been a faithful blog reader for years, just wrote about my Zoomer experience, "Seeing the picture of you in your booth reminded me of a film review I once read, which described Tilda Swinton as 'a unicorn in a feedlot.'"

Now that's an image I can live with. Thanks, Pam. I'm surprised by how deeply the experience affected me. I really hated it.

I came home after the Zoomer Show to good news and bad news. At my door, as I unloaded all the stuff from the show - tables, chairs, all the boxes of books coming back - was a box from Amazon which got lost in the chaos. Later I opened it, to find the most stunning book, a gift from one of my oldest and dearest friends Patsy: "Letters of Note: Correspondence deserving of a wider audience", compiled by Shaun Usher, who has a website It's a big book of letters, famous, fascinating, moving, some reprinted as they were written, some transcribed. Patsy and I have been writing each other long letters since we met in 1970. There could not be a more appropriate gift for me from her, not could it have come at a better time.

Then I got an email from the family that owns my beloved Paris flat, where I've stayed 4 or 5 times - so inexpensive that it made my trips possible, so wonderfully located, quiet, flooded with sunlight, just the right size for a unicorn from Toronto, there to write in peace and to eat in company. They are selling the place and will not be renting it next year.

It hurt. Later, I watched a wonderful documentary on the artist Manet, and at one point the host walked in the Jardin des Plantes near the flat, where last year I scattered the ashes of my father, where I hoped to return each year to visit him. And I wept. I know - there may actually be another flat or two in Paris. I just mourn this familiar one where I was so very happy every year, on each visit.

And then after the Manet documentary, BBC's "The Choir" came on with Gareth Malone, and I wept again, because my mother loved Gareth and used to call me during the show which we'd watch together. So it was an emotional evening, still sick, exhausted from the Zoomer Show, holding my delicious book from Patsy, missing my parents and Paris.

Yesterday was the third So True reading event, the topic "Working" - eight students reading beautiful pieces and then my 25 minute storytelling about life as an actress. I don't know about my contribution, but I know the others were spectacular. The room was full this time, a warm and appreciative crowd, huge applause for Jason as host and reader and for Ginette. Christopher, Sam, Valerie, Jennie, Maggie and Carol. Bravo to everyone; I am very proud of you, especially those taking your words public for the first time. The next event is Sunday March 1, the topic Epiphany. Writers, start your computers.

This frantic period is over: two books to get out, two book launches to organize with speeches, the day-long summer writing workshop, the trip to Halifax with speeches and another launch, my own forlorn attempts at publicity and then a publicist to find and hire, the @#$# Zoomer Show, three of the reading series events, launching the terms at both universities.

I know that in comparison with the amazing Carrie Snyder, my life is comatose - she the marathon runner, prize-winning best-selling author, mother of 4. But the past months have been a lot for this unicorn, and she's glad it's over. Now just teaching, living - and, soon, starting the next book.

And all I can say to that is: Woo hoo!

One more thing: "Murder comes to Pemberley" was on PBS last night. Mmmm, superb - not just imagining but seeing proud, dignified Mr. Darcy as husband and father. Too bad Colin Firth was not involved, but this guy will do. Loved it. Life is full of pleasure, like this splash of hot sun I'm sitting in right now, and the gardenia plant nearby, brought in from the deck, which has five sweet creamy flowers blooming right now. Thank you, gods.

from Jian Ghomeshi's former neighbour

Lots to tell you, but first - people have been contacting me because they know Jian Ghomeshi lived next door for years, and I'd met him a bunch of times. And now - for those of you in Borneo, who might not know - he is suddenly fired from his job as co-creator and host and superlative radio interviewer of Q, the most popular CBC radio show ever - I have that statistic from him - for alleged sexual violence - non-consensual violent sex alleged by several different women, and workplace sexual harassment. All over Facebook yesterday and the front page of the Star today. The nation is abuzz, and several people have written to ask me, as his former neighbour, what I think about it. (Can you imagine if allegations of sexual impropriety had emerged about Peter Gzowski? Oh please, I don't even want to think about it.)

I had a crush on Jian. Handsome, extremely bright, curious, talented, those liquid eyes, that velvet voice - he was only ever charming and friendly during our encounters, though I was as fluttery as a schoolgirl.  I knew the sound of his little red Mini, knew when he left every morning for the CBC, came back to change and set off again to his endlessly fascinating life, host of this event, seen at that party.

I'd heard years ago that he had weird sexual proclivities, that a woman who'd gone out with him had reported afterwards with disgust about what she was asked to do. That there was something unsavoury. So be it - that's his business.

But now it's everyone's business. His Facebook supporters are up in arms, quoting Trudeau - the nation has no rights in the bedrooms of the nation. And no question, some men have had their lives destroyed by vengeful ex-girlfriends - the bunny boilers, the "Gone Girls".

However, there's not one but several women here who've been interviewed at length, and another accusation of workplace harassment. The CBC must have known the shit storm (in the words of Mr. Lehey from Trailerpark Boys) that would arise from firing such a popular, central and highly visible figure. They must surely have an arsenal of solid facts. His $50 million dollar law suit against them otherwise would bankrupt them - or it's the desperate gesture of an Oscar Wilde, rushing to show his followers that the allegations are lies without thinking that through.

So as Jian's former neighbour, I have nothing but nice things to say about him. As a faithful listener of Q, likewise. As a citizen of this country, I can only assume that the CBC and the Star were very careful to be sure of their facts before acting. That the man's sex life, involving consensual or non-consensual violent acts with young women, finally became too much of a liability for him to continue in the public eye as a media superstar.

And finally, I can only say, as we've all said when these stories reach the press - Dominique Strauss Kahn or Anthony Weiner texting pictures of the bulge in his underpants come to mind - WHAT WAS HE THINKING? Even if the extreme violence alleged is not true, how could he not know, he of all people, the king of Twitter, that word of his kinky habits would leak out and damage, even destroy him?

Saturday, October 25, 2014

remembering what's important

Please forgive the self-pity in the last post. Boo hoo, the writer actually had to sit at a table and try to sell her wares. After posting, I went for a walk at the end of this beautiful fall day and passed a memorial outside Riverdale Farm honouring Stella, a 3-year old Cabbagetowner who died of cancer a few years ago and who has a bench and a tree in the park in her name. She must have died at this time of year. The stone at the foot of the tree is inscribed, "Mummy misses her girl." My heart broke.

Click to enlarge.

And now I'm listening to Randy Bachman, who led off his show with two of the best songs in the universe, Teenage Wasteland and I'll Follow the Sun. Bliss.

post Zoomer mortem

Okay, let's get this over with: I learned a valuable lesson today. One I should have known, since I'm 64 @#$# years old and surely know myself by now. Where in God's name did I get the idea that sitting at a booth at a consumer show aimed at elderly people would be worth a considerable investment of time and money? Well, both of my books are just right for this demographic, people 55 and up who remember Beatlemania or might want to write about their lives. So setting up at the Zoomer Show seemed to make sense.

It'll take me a while to recover. I'm afraid I found it humiliating and unpleasant. Streams of people came by, poked at the book while Michelle and I told them what it was, moved on. They were indeed there for free stuff, and there wasn't even much of that. People told me how much they loved the Beatles and moved on. One guy harangued me because he had partied with Pink Floyd who were much more fun to party with than the Beatles. When I suggested he might like to write about his fun with Pink Floyd, he replied, "I'm not that hard up for something to do." And moved on.

I understand now that what's needed at a vast event like this are huge clear banners explaining exactly what you offer and why people should be interested. I was the only solo person among hundreds of companies. ShelfGenie. The Toronto Symphony. The Canadian Wellness Alliance. ComfyComfy Canada. Low Carb Canada. New Millennium Living Ltd. Vitarock. And ... Basic Funerals, the Canadian Transplant Society, Affordable Cremation Options ... And Beth Kaplan, Author.

I'm sure it's a good idea to bring all these offerings together, but I have to tell you, it's depressing. It seemed to be mostly people wandering around looking for something free to eat. Oh, also getting a free flu shot which I would have done too but the lineup was too long. The highlight of the day was a visit from Anna, Eli and Anna's friend Matt. I left Michelle in charge and walked around with them, and of course, Eli found fun - some doggies, a big blue car, a fascinating lawn bowling demonstration. And then they left, and after the Beatles tribute band, the Abba tribute band and the BeeGees tribute band, the Fleetwood Mac tribute band had just started when I said to Michelle, Let's go home. And we packed up.

In six hours we sold eleven books to seven people at a discount price, and at the end, a woman rushed up and said the book she'd bought had been stolen, so I gave her another. I will remember with the greatest pleasure Mari-Ann, who is a huge reader and was thrilled with both books, and the two women roaming together in power wheelchairs, one who wants to write and one who's a mad Paul Girl, so they each bought a book. It gave me pleasure to meet them, and I thank them for their interest. And I am glad to know I will never do that kind of thing again.
The spider in her lair. My basic decor - card tables, blow ups of the covers, my Beatles t-shirt collection. People tried to buy the t-shirts.
The Beatles tribute band. When the crowd streamed away after the concert, Michelle and I madly handed out flyers about the memoir. Not one of these hundreds bought a book.
The competition selling plaid long johns next door.  And below - my joy, and a big blue car.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Russell Brand gets Harper

I'm just reading that there's been a new shooting in the U.S. - and I'm thinking of what Russell Brand says in this brilliant, infuriating diatribe - that when white people are the mad shooters, it's not "useful" violence and so arouses less frantic media and political attention, unlike when men who are connected to Islam wreak havoc, which serves a different agenda.

He can be difficult to take, but he is speaking the truth. Watching Stephen Harper through his eyes is unforgettable, and what he says about Obama - on the nail, it is to weep.

Russell Brand · Trending
Russell Brand The Trews (E174). Reaction to the violence in Ottawa involving the killings of two officers. Canada's prime minister has called the most recent...

A. L. Kennedy writes for us

I'm just about to take "On Writing" by A. L. Kennedy back to the library, wanted to share a couple of quotes with you. She writes about seeing one of her published books for the first time:

Although I've seen a number of my own books by now, I always experience the same little shock when I unwrap them and they look so ... well, like a book - a book that anyone might have written - a proper book, by someone else.

One minute they're a buzzing pain behind your eyes, then they're a screen full of gibberish and rewrites, then they're mangled papers in coffee- and red-stained heaps and then suddenly they've scrubbed up nicely and are off to meet the readers. Or the pulpers. Either way, that first moment you meet what is effectively a neatly bound section of your own mind is certainly an excuse for a short pause, maybe a cup of tea and perhaps a bit of hefting, before you slot it into the shelf with all its brothers and sisters.

I love that - "a neatly bound section of your own mind." May you all have that experience. And here's a beautiful diatribe about art:

When we make art, art to which we commit ourselves, art which isn't simply a commercial artefact, a pose, a gesture toward a concept, when we go all out and really create, we do a number of remarkable things. We take on a little of what we usually set aside for the divine - the troubles and delights which spring from overturning entropy and bringing something out of nothing. We excel. We offer something of ourselves, or from ourselves, to others. We allow and encourage a miracle - one human being can enter the thoughts and life of another ...

What we make can reveal us to ourselves as greater than we were and help us practise addressing the world with courage and - because it is practical to involve such a thing - with love. As the listener, the viewer, the reader, the recipient of art, once again we are, of course, encouraged to be greater.

Booth 1033

The ZOOMER SHOW - Booth 1033. That's where I'll be on display tomorrow, under the sign that reads "BETH KAPLAN, AUTHOR." I'm right opposite the Rose Theatre from Brampton, whose impressive display features videos of their performances, and I am very close to the Main Stage where the Beatles tribute band will be playing tomorrow at noon.

During my childhood, when we were travelling and strangers asked my scientist father what he did, he used to reply, "I'm in the soft-shell crab business." I understood - he just didn't want to get into an explanation about cell biology and experiments with yeasts. Well, today is as close to a purveyor of soft-shell crabs as I have ever felt. The Zoomer Show is for businesses, heavy-duty businesses with giant displays of cars, storm windows, sliding shelves and drawers for clutter management, at least one funeral home, various spas and the Reliable Living Centre - what a great name. Nothing like a little reliable living.

And tucked in a corner is Beth Kaplan, author, with two card tables and folding chairs provided by her handyman John, blow ups of her book covers scotch-taped to the curtains, her collection of Beatle t-shirts on hangers, a framed picture of Paul McCartney that she has cherished since 1964, and some books. I am author, hear me roar.

After. That's the blur of Michelle, my trusty assistant, who's guiding me through all this. Tomorrow, the books themselves will be out of the boxes and on display. Woo hoo.

My student Carol told me yesterday that she had a booth at the Zoomer Show once to sell her memory game LifeTimes. "People are mostly there to pick up free stuff and don't want to buy. But it'll be great exposure!" she beamed. We already met the guy unloading stuff for the Rose Theatre, Brampton, who wanted to talk all about his love for the Beatles and who certainly did not want to buy a book. So. It'll be an experience, in all likelihood a never-to-be-repeated one. Beth Kaplan and her soft-shell crabs. Buy one today!

Day Tripper, ABBAMania, yoga, food&more. Zoomer Show TO Oct 25-26. Free tickets: $12 @door
I'm feeling awful, so am thrilled that our set-up took an hour and now I have the day to finish editing Sunday's pieces while sitting in the sun. I will move as little as possible. It will be a busy weekend - soft-shell crabs all day Saturday and possibly part of Sunday (though secretly I hope not), then Sunday afternoon, So True, at which I'm doing a 20 or 25 minute spiel.

Go lie down, girl.

However, they're ripping up the street right outside the house with pneumatic drills today, who knows why, and the noise is terrible. Yesterday I got out of bed to go the the Metro Central YMCA's 30th anniversary celebration - I've been a member there for 29 years. Think I'll go to my beloved Y and sit in the steam.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

So True stories, Sunday

We just had a rehearsal for our reading event on Sunday, and at the end, Jason said, This is our strongest group of stories yet. Well, I'm not sure, because the last two groups of stories were pretty damn strong. But there are wonderful tales to be heard on Sunday. Eight students reading powerful and beautiful true stories, and then little old me.

That is, if I have a voice. I'm a bit better but still croaking and snuffling. Phooey. Come anyway. I'm very proud of these writers. God knows what I'll come up with.

The best $10 show you'll ever see.

Our country is recovering from its horrible shock of yesterday, and coming to terms with the fact that the shooting was not a revolution, not an armed group of vicious terrorists - it was one crazy man living in a homeless shelter. The shooting a few days ago - one very disturbed young man. Yet the tragic disasters perpetrated by these lunatics will cost our country billions in new security precautions, and perhaps result also in a loss of civil rights. Yes, there was the heart-warming spectacle of politicians praising our great country in unison. But tomorrow, they'll be whipping up hysteria and paranoia, which win elections.

We are at war. We have just sent planes to drop bombs on people somewhere far away. How hypocritical to be surprised when violence erupts on our front door, even if it's not a jihadist plot, it's just a crazy man with a very big gun.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

jihad in Ottawa?

It's 1.30 on Wednesday afternoon in a horrible new world in Canada. Nobody knows anything except there was shooting on Parliament Hill and people are dead and the CBC is going nuts.

Canada has thrown its lot in with the United States in bombing small angry nations in the Middle East, and angry, disaffected young men, even in our once-peaceful nation, have an angry new cause. We will all suffer as a result, and Stephen Harper will triumph. That's all I can think as I hear of this hideous tragedy - that it plays right into the paranoid, evil hands of Stephen Harper.

I had a cab driver yesterday, a grey-haired man from the Caribbean who said another driver, a Muslim, told him that he agreed with ISIS because it is only following the Koran. The driver said, "I said to him, that book tells you to kill and maim in the name of your god and you READ that book? You believe in that book? What kind of human being are you?"

He looked at me in the mirror. "I hate religion now, all of them," he said wearily. "Destroying lives all over the world with false promises to stupid people."

They say that the definition of stupidity is doing the same thing over and over expecting different results. So let's take a hard look at the success rate of bombing and invading Islamic nations.

Sad. Seriously depressing.

Luckily, for the first time in days, there's a bit of sun in the sky. I have found a patch shining into my bedroom and pulled a chair over to sit in it. No matter how bad things get, there's delight in a patch of sun.

PS Great op-ed in support of John Tory in the Star today - by Zanana Akande, "past president of the Urban Alliance on Race Relations and a former NDP MPP and cabinet minister." If Zanana Akande likes him, then I can too. My mind is finally made up.

A French Ph.D. in Beatles

A dreadful night, the cold moved into my face, couldn't breathe, couldn't sleep. Feeling 100 years old today. But - there's coffee, there's a delicious dinner in the fridge made for me by my son, there are all kinds of interesting things on the internet and in the newspaper and there's a library book of essays by A. L. Kennedy, a wonderful Scottish writer. I will go back to bed and moon about. Life goes on.

Just received this from dear friend Lynn in France, the program of an extremely serious academic conference on the Beatles: the Beatles and the British Left, the birth of youth culture in England, the recording studio, progressive rock - those are the only ones among these abstruse topics that I understand. How I'd love to be there, surrounded by those rare creatures, stern French academics and Beatlemaniacs in one.

Lynn writes, "How wonderful that The Beatles are the topic for the concours national of the Grandes Ecoles prep schools ( the most prestigious post-baccalaureat schools in France)."


Programme de la journée
9h15 : accueil
9h30 : présentation de la journée d'études / concert
9h45 : Bertrand Lemonnier (Lycée Louis-le-Grand, Paris), Les Beatles : un objet d’histoire ?
10h25 : Jeremy Tranmer (Université de Lorraine), Beatles for Sale ? Les Beatles et la gauche britannique
11h05 : Pause
11h20 : Sarah Pickard (Université Sorbonne Nouvelle), Les Beatles et la naissance de la culture des jeunes en Grande-Bretagne
12h00 : Moreno Andreatta (IRCAM-CNRS-UPMC), Hey Maths ! Modèles formels et computationnels au service des Beatles
12h40 : Discussion et pause déjeuner ; première session de concert
11h45-14h45, dans la cour du bâtiment 1ers cycles : 944, paysage sonore de Michel Bertier autour de Revolution 9
14h00 : Guillaume Gilles (Université Paris VIII), Les reprises des Beatles et la naissance d’un style
14h40 : Matthieu Thibault (Université d’Évry-Val-d’Essonne), L’utilisation du studio d’enregistrement dans Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
15h20 : Pause
15h35 : Christophe Pirenne (Université de Liège), Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band comme pierre angulaire du rock progressif
16h15 : Olivier Julien (Université Paris-Sorbonne), The Long and Winding Road : entre musique produite et « simples chansons de rock ’n’ roll », la période studio des Beatles
17h15 : Conclusion de la journée
17h30 : seconde session de concert
Be there or be square. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

NYT: Toronto on a bender

A very good NYT op-ed piece by Stephen Marche about our upcoming election and the spectacle of Tory and Ford, who "have indulged in the uniquely charmless rhetoric of rich white men calling each other privileged." 

What to vote what to vote? I said I'd vote Tory, largely to defeat the swinish Ford but also because Olivia has been such a disappointment. She simply does not have what it takes. And yet she still speaks to where my heart is. Confusion.

What I want to do when I grow up

Monday, October 20, 2014

Macca is live tweeting today

Beth Kaplan,
Your Tweet got favorited!
 Beth Kaplan
Beth Kaplan
Paul, my new memoir's about fantasies of you during a lonely year in Paris in 1964. Would love to send it.
12:26 PM - 20 Oct 14

goes without saying

As always, an artist says it all at a recent rally.

And - a very important piece by Paul Krugman about the excessive power of Amazon. Scary. Incidentally, because I'm pretty sure you don't know either ... monopsony |məˈnäpsənē|
noun (pl. monopsoniesEconomicsa market situation in which there is only one buyer.ORIGIN 1930sfrom mono-one + Greek opsōnein buyprovisions + -y3.
Amazon’s Monopsony Is Not O.K.

gifts come through the machine

A dreadful night - my bedside table is a disaster zone, covered with lozenges, water glasses and a pot of honey. Every time a coughing fit came on, I gargled with salt water and sucked down a spoon of delicious honey, which came from my friend John who keeps bees on his roof. Got through. My boy has promised to come make me dinner before I go to teach. May be communicating to the class by scrawling on pieces of paper. But I'll be there.

But to make me feel much better, two lovely notes in my email this morning. One from a former student, who continued working with me privately on a beautiful memoir of her Quebecois family whose roots she has traced back to the 1700's:

I ordered True to Life on line and have read it twice. Since I started my project, I have read quite a few books on the subject of writing, but I found yours the most useful and inspirational. I devoured it on my first reading, then went back a second time, and marked passages I know I will want to refer to often. The book will remain on my work table, and I know I will visit those colorful arrows often. 

And this note too. Went back and looked, and I got the name of the famous violinist wrong. But I'm glad the post meant something to someone. Thanks to the world. And now, back to bed.

Listening to CBC radio last weekend I was reminded about a violinist playing Bach at the corner of Carlton and Parliament in July. Michael Enright on The Sunday Edition spoke about violinist Joshua Bell playing the violin in a Washington subway station in 2007. He mentioned a children's book called The Man with the Violin which I have since purchased for my nine-year-old grandson.
On that Saturday afternoon in July, I too was entranced by the violinist and stood in tears as I listened. I wanted to know his story and was thrilled a few days later to find your "Brilliance on the Street" blog dated July 19th. I was glad to know that I wasn’t the only person affected by this ‘surreal moment’ as you call it. 

I just wanted to thank you for sharing this amazing experience.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

"Party of One": how Harper is destroying Canada

An essential book has just been published: "Party of One" by Michael Harris, about the hideous abuses of power by Stephen Harper - in the words of reviewer Jim Coyle in today's Star, the book outlines "the Harper government's bullying, abuse, duplicity, betrayal, affinity for crooks, public shaming of intellectuals, diminishment of democratic institutions." Imagine - not Sierra Leone but Canada.

As Farley Mowat says in the book, "Stephen Harper is probably the most dangerous human being ever elevated to power in Canada." I would take out the 'probably' - can you think of another who has done such damage, nationally and internationally, to this country?

Bravo, Michael Harris. And while we're at it, brava to Naomi Klein for her new "This changes everything: capitalism versus the climate" which has just won the Hilary Weston Non-fiction Prize. Writers to be proud of, changing the world.

On a happier note, friend Bruce was just staying with a friend in Stony Stratford, England, a stony stone's throw from my mother's natal village of Potterspury. He went to visit Bletchley Park, where she worked during the war - where she was working when she met my dad, an American army volunteer, in Oxford in 1944. I wonder what she told him she did; even to allies, Bletchley staff were not allowed to talk about their work.

Bruce sent me a link, and I tried her name to see if she was there. And there she is: Sylvia Mary Leadbeater, FO Civilian, TA. Hut 8, which Bruce said was near Alan Turing's hut 6. She knew him by sight but not personally, she told me. And she did receive the Bletchley medal of service, just a few months before she died.

Proud of you too, Mum.

Miss S M Leadbeater 

FO Civilian, TA
Summary of service
Bletchley Park. Hut 8 and Block D.

cheering the marathoners

Last night's pleasure: "The Last Waltz" on TV - the last concert of the partly-Canadian Band, featuring special guests Bob Dylan (in a ridiculous pink hat - even he could not pull it off), Eric Clapton, and Canadians Neil Young and Joni Mitchell - yay CanCon! Infectious rocky folky rootsy music, the stunning Robbie Robertson trading riffs with Clapton, the whole concert just beautiful. Joy.

Today's pleasure: going a few blocks down to River Street to be part of the Cabbagetown contingent cheering on the marathoners - at this juncture they were halfway, about 22 kilometres into their trek, and turning around to run back. There was a rock band and a group of us cheering, waving cabbage flags, blowing whistles, as the river of sweaty humanity poured past. My neighbour Gerry had been there since 8 a.m. "The first runners were phenomenal," she said, "Africans, like a well-oiled machine running in step, in a pack." Those we were cheering at 10.30 were definitely not a well-oiled machine, but there they were, moving forward. Crazy people. Admirable.

Here, however, the well-oiled machine has broken down. It's 1.30 p.m. and I'm supposed to be at CentreStage watching a matinee of "Helen Lawrence," a well-reviewed show from Vancouver which mixes film and stage. There's a $30 ticket sitting on my desk. And I am sitting under a blanket, nursing a raw throat. Was dressed to go to the theatre, when I decided I owe it to my students to take it easy today - I have to teach 3 times this week, cannot get sicker and do not want to infect those around me.

So - I'll sit here and drink more lemon tea and read books and cough. Fun!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Mountaintop and Carole

You do know, don't you, that I focus on all things good in this blog, and that sometimes things are not all that good? There's a reason I'm still seeing my beloved shrink - because of the stuff I don't write about. Nasty difficulties with certain people, for example, which can turn me blind with hatred and rage in a nanosecond; my worries and sleepless nights.

Right now a bug is sitting in my sore throat and trying to get into the rest of my aching body, and I'm fighting to keep it at bay.

But even when things are going wrong, my cheer is not fake. I feel blessed and can't help but tell you so. The glass is almost always half-full - of red red wine. Or, right now, honey and lemon tea.

I had to say that because I'm about to go into raptures again, and I thought, maybe they're sick of raptures. Maybe they want some good old-fashioned misery. I'm sure life will comply, my friends, but right now, only good things to tell.

So - "The Mountaintop," a production I wanted very much to see at the Shaw Festival this summer, that has ended up two blocks away at the end of my street, what kind of gift is that? The great arts centre Daniels Spectrum on Dundas East is a huge local resource - who knew it could also host world-class theatre? But there it was, a stunning production of a very fine play - about Martin Luther King the night before he was murdered in Memphis, a fantasy that an angel came to his seedy motel room to comfort and accompany him. But the angel is a sassy and savvy black woman - as, in this universe, is God Herself. King does not want to die - he has too much work to do. But by the end, he is more or less resigned. There's a montage of what's to come for Americans of colour, ending with the miracle of Barack Obama. But we in the audience know what became of that particular dream. Of all that fine HOPE.

Well, fabulous theatre can just fill you with it, all over again. And then we walked the two blocks home.

This morning I went to the Y, not to a class, but to their Volunteer Recognition event - each year they celebrate members who contribute to the Y, and one of them, today, was our very own Carole of the Wednesday Runfit class, which she has been teaching, and I have been taking, since 1990. The other recipients were just as admirable, people who donate their skills, energy and time. As I left the Y, tiny kids were pouring in with their parents for the Saturday morning classes - swimming, gymnastics, judo, as my kids used to. How I cherish the Y, which has been in my life since I was nearly that small - 8 or 9, anyway - in Halifax, Ottawa, Vancouver and now Metro Central on Grosvenor Street.

And this afternoon, I had a long talk, for the first time since 1966 except for a brief encounter in the 80's, with the man who is named Al in the memoir. It has been quite an experience for him to read about himself and our mutual friends, to encounter the force of my feelings for him back then, even to regret a few of the things he said and did. When the conversation began we both started to laugh - how wonderful that connections endure over decades and thousands of miles - he has lived almost all his adult life in the States and lives now in L.A. We had a great talk - his work and mine, his kids and happy third marriage. He told me his second marriage was a terrible mistake and I said, "Paul McCartney knows all about that." And his third wife, like Paul's, is named Nancy. I think in all other ways, however, he and Macca are not similar. He asked how long I'd been divorced. "Since 1990?" he exclaimed. "And you haven't married again?" Married again?! Except for a few mostly blessedly short relationships, I've barely had a DATE since then. Woo hoo!

Great article in the Globe today by the razor-sharp Elizabeth Renzetti about how hard it is to make a living as an artist. The Writer's Union of Canada estimates that writers make an average of $12, 000 a year from their work. That sounds high to me.

For example, this cheery blog, which I have kept 2135 times, it tells me when I log in. 2136, soon, for zero renumeration. Why? God - that wise black woman - knows. For you, yes. And also, very much for me. Once I write an experience or thought down, once I tell you about it, it's out there in the universe. It lives forever.