Monday, August 31, 2015

the McCartney tulip

To mark Paul’s trip to Amsterdam and to honour his “positive contribution to the Netherlands and the world”, the flower growers association Remarkable Tulips is launching an official Paul McCartney tulip - a completely new form of the flower. It is red - a reference to the colour of Liverpool FC – and white, which is said to symbolise “infinite possibilities” (Paul also points out that it stands for peace). He helps to christen the new breed just minutes before taking to the stage at the Ziggo Dome on the first of two nights in Amsterdam. Pouring champagne over the new flower, he declares: “Well, this doesn’t happen every day.”
As Paul leaves the little ceremony to walk to the stage, he asks that all the crew get a tulip each. 
“Paul McCartney electrified the Stade de France. He was irresistible as he took us through his treasures.” Le Parisien, Paris
“An amazing show! Legendary songs, high emotions and an over-excited audience were proof McCartney was in his best form ever.” L’Express
"McCartney and his four fellow musicians played brilliantly. As he constantly shifted around between his iconic Höfner bass, electric and acoustic guitars and keys, there could be no doubt about his great musical talent and his legendary status." Berlingske Tidende, Denmark
"I do not think in the history of Roskilde I’ve seen so many good songs together performed in one set. It was overwhelming to stand in the middle of the audience and be part of such a communal moment.
"Paul McCartney with his insanely tight band gave a historic end to a great concert and festival." Politiken


Life often hands out gifts, and I received a few today. I was forwarded an article in a scholarly journal; a few notable Canadians were asked to write about a university professor who inspired them and changed their life. Dr. Alex MacKenzie, a notable genetics researcher and doctor, winner of the 2013 Champion of Genetics Award, wrote about my dad.

I first encountered the late J. Gordin Kaplan teaching his third-year molecular biology course at the U of O in 1973. An indifferent student meandering indifferently through the undergraduate curriculum with no particular destination in mind, I came late to his second class (having missed the first) to encounter Dr. Kaplan beautifully outlining Jacob and Monod’s then fairly recent work on the bacterial lactose operon – work that established many of the key principles of gene operation.
         An elegant man, Dr. Kaplan had the delivery of a Shakespearean actor, albeit one with a distinctly New York accent, a fierce gaze and a wonderful sense of timing. A lover of all things Gallic and frequently bedecked in a cravat and beret, he gave lectures that were performances. I remember him pausing to stare at the floor mid-sentence for emphasis before delivering the intellectual coup de grace concerning a particular aspect of the operon theory, describing how the genes that make up all forms of life are controlled. Through his eloquent mastery, the elegance and simplicity of the then-nascent world of molecular biology shone forth. He had me from negative repressor.
         I did an honours project with Dr. Kaplan the following year, then shipped off under his guidance to his friend Lou Siminovitch in the U of T medical genetic department, where I completed a doctorate. To this day, I have been, more or less, tilling the same DNA furrow that Dr. Kaplan laid out so beautifully on that September afternoon.

This made me very, very proud - and also laugh, not just the beret and cravat - I never once saw Dad in a cravat and I'd dispute that memory, but the beret was a staple - but because MacKenzie describes the theatrical gene I inherited from him and he from his grandfather the Jewish Shakespeare. One of the things I was most proud of as an actor was my timing. Genes! Bravo, beloved father. Dr. MacKenzie has made a huge difference to the world with his research, and so did you.

Received this from #1 daughter: her older son with his best friend Finn at the Ex, two cool guys in their Jeep. They don't look three, do they? Pre-school Easy Riders. 
Wish his great-grandfather could have met Eli, and vice versa. 

My woodpecker is still at work. When I wake up, he's pecking away at the dead wood of the ivy, and late in the day, he's still there. Alone, working, intent - inspiring, that little guy. I am working too - over 60,000 words on the new memoir; the peaceful month of August has been a huge gift. Chris wrote to ask what my hopes are for this one, and I wrote back, Incredible success, obviously - publishers fighting for it, bestseller lists, becoming rich and famous and buying houses for both my children.

Or - the same as before, 132 discerning readers, most of them my friends and family. I will be sad and disappointed if it doesn't fly out of the nest. And then I'll start to write the next.

As perhaps the last of today's gifts - which included a visit with excellent #1 son, a lot of dark chocolate and rosé, and the smell of gardenia and jasmine - I have become a follower, on Twitter, of the Dalai Lama. How amazing is that? The Dalai Lama has a Twitter feed! What a world.
It's a rough life.

PS And one mixed blessing gift - someone returned my book, Finding the Jewish Shakespeare, to the Little Free Library, obviously untouched, unopened. Well, thank you for giving it back. I didn't leave it there, though. It's now stacked up with all the others - the many others - waiting for eager readers. One day. 

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Oliver Sacks, RIP

My friend Chris just sent this. What a loss to the world of this brilliant, compassionate doctor, writer and man.
Famed British neurologist and author Oliver Sacks died on Sunday at the age of 82, his assistant told The New York Times. 
The cause of death was cancer. 
In February, Sacks wrote an op-ed revealing that he was in the late stages of terminal cancer, after earlier melanoma in his eye spread to his liver. 
"It is up to me now to choose how to live out the months that remain to me," he wrote. "I cannot pretend I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved; I have been given much and I have given something in return; I have read and traveled and thought and written. I have had an intercourse with the world, the special intercourse of writers and readers."His last book, a memoir, was published in April. On The Move details Sack's childhood, his move to the United States, his sexuality, his professional achievements and his challenges. 
"In this book he studies himself as he has studied others: compassionately, unblinkingly, intelligently, acceptingly and honestly," wrote Colin McGinn at The Wall Street Journal. "There will not be another like him."

Saturday, August 29, 2015

The Wolfpack

Being a mother never ends. Hard to believe, but yesterday, both my children lost their phones simultaneously, so there's been no way to get through to either of them, and Sam was very sick. Anna let me know through Facebook IM that her phone was found and she's going to pick it up today. I've just received a call telling me that Sam's also has been found and where it is, but I have no way to let him know because he's at home sick with no phone and his sister doesn't have one either.

Okay Mama, they're grown ups. Back off.


Met Ken yesterday for a fabulous burger with sweet potato fries at Pauper's Pub - I rarely eat like that but God, a burger once in a while is good! Don't listen, Paul - and then across the street to Hot Docs to see "The Wolfpack," the story of six brothers (and their handicapped sister) who are kept prisoner in a small Lower East Side apartment throughout their childhood by their paranoid father. They find freedom by watching countless movies, typing out the scripts for themselves and enacting them, with costumes and lines, in meticulous detail. A tribute to the saving power of fantasy in a child's life, which was partially the point of my memoir.

They are remarkable, haunting young men, sensitive, candid, beautiful with their waist-length black hair. Once the eldest takes his first rebellious steps outside the apartment at the age of 15 (terrified of being seen, he wears a homemade mask, which leads him to be arrested), followed eventually by the others, it's profoundly moving to watch this band of six tall, slender, exotic brothers begin to move into the world, discovering beaches and water and trees - and even going to their first real movie theatre.
This was taken after some of them cut their hair. The thought of all that hair and all that testosterone trapped in a small apartment - it's incredible they're still sane, particularly their mother.

Of course, the filming of the documentary itself was part of their liberation, and I wish the filmmaker had explored that fact with more honesty. The story I've read is that she saw them on the street, was fascinated, made friends and was invited to their home and realized here was a movie. It's amazing they all let her so completely into their lives - even their sweet, befuddled mother and their crazy, sad dad.

It's a very good documentary, and yes, uplifting. Highly recommended.

Now back to worrying about my own little wolfpack across town.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Macca then and now

There will be a certain amount of Macca madness in the days leading up to October 17 ...

Here's a video of the young man and the older man and his song. And a beautiful song it is too. via LittleThings 

Incidentally, it says he wrote it with John Lennon, but as we all know, he wrote it and recorded it completely on his own except for George Martin, thank you very much, and Lennon was quite put out by that too.