Friday, July 3, 2015


Perfect, just perfect, today, yesterday - mild and sunny. I'm grateful for my very pregnant daughter that it's not too hot. The breeze is a lifesaver.

Last night, the last class of term for my Thursday group, our potluck readathon - a delicious dinner on the deck with a glass or two of Prosecco - is there any better drink for a summer night? - and then they read one gorgeous moving beautifully written story after another. Very proud, I am. One more class to go, Ryerson next week, and then I'm done teaching till September, except for my garden workshop in August. I love my job, but it's also good to get a break. As Jon Stewart knows.

Speaking of Jon - once more, may I mention my love and respect for him? As his days count down, he is more and more frank and open about the appalling Republicans, more openly furious about various idiocies. It's a joy to watch, particularly because we know that soon, he'll have a well-deserved rest. Except - I hope before long he's back in some way. Because I can't imagine life without his wisdom, his humour, his counsel. That a man with such a goofy, sometimes sophomoric sense of humour should have such gravitas - wondrous.

My summer playground and writer's retreat:
Today's crop.
I know, for those from warmer climes, this ain't much - but we haven't had much hot weather here yet. My raspberry bush is a miracle - I took a cutting from my mother's enormous raspberry patch (oh her jam! how I miss her jam!) in Edmonton in about 1993 and planted it here, but it never did much. Last year, moved it to another spot - and whammo! I go down twice a day to pick and eat.

Finally - in the boring old person department - I'm dealing with something odd. I'm my usual bouncy self during the day, but at night, I've developed back pain so severe that it keeps me awake and at times gasping out loud, as jolts of electricity course through my back. Very weird - because I have no other symptoms and am fine during the day, it's just at night it hits. Since Monday. I'm having a massage tomorrow and will see my doctor next week if it doesn't get better. Believe me, I immediately thought - heart attack! Lung cancer! Please let me live long enough to see my grandsons grow up!

Probably just the disintegration that comes with turning 65. Or I need a new mattress. In any case: phooey.

I see in today's Star that there's a not-to-be-missed concert at the aptly-named Hard Luck Bar this weekend: a band called Goatwhore, celebrating the release of their latest album, "Constricting Rage of the Merciless." Gosh, that sounds like fun. Can't wait.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Inside Out, Carol Goar, Michael Coren - Joy

Wow. I've just seen a very fine film that features a talking pink elephant made of cotton candy, an imaginary friend who cries sweeties and is named Bingbong. I've just seen Pixar's "Inside Out." With Eli - only the second movie he has ever seen. It was a bit long for him, but it was riveting for me - and I look forward to seeing it again. Not many films I say that about.

Truly spectacular - about the emotions roiling inside the mind of Riley, an 11-year old girl facing an upheaval in her hitherto tranquil life. The creator, Pete Docter, who brought us the magnificent "Up," must have spent a great deal of time with psychologists, figuring out the workings of the brain, memory and the emotions, to come up with such clever concepts - the "train of thought" that circles randomly, memories as glowing balls, a few of them destined to be stored forever as core memories, others stacked on the giant bookshelves of longterm memory, and some sinking to the bottom in a smouldering ash heap of forgetting. That the personality has key "stations" that definite it - Riley's are Family, Honesty, Friendship, Hockey, Goofball - and as she goes through a difficult time and both Joy and Sadness are lost and Anger, Fear and Disgust take over, her stations disintegrate. We watch her come close to disaster before things are righted, and the hilarious closing credits take us inside the mind of a dog, a cat, a punk hipster and many more. Loved the last line, as Joy expresses her satisfaction that all is fine: "Now Riley is twelve. What could possibly go wrong?"

Extremely clever - brilliant, I'd say, beautifully done, highly recommended. Though a bit long if you're 3. One of the messages - sadness is as important as any other emotion. This I have always known. I'd like to see the sequel incorporate frustration, envy, insecurity, curiosity, and many more.

And what about the combination of anger and disgust that is loathing? Which I felt, once more, reading Carol Goar's superb article in the Star yesterday about what Stephen Harper has done to this country:

And to end on a happy note, what admiration and pleasure in reading, once again, about the miraculous transformation of Michael Coren, once one of the most mean-spirited right-wing pundits in the country, who has had an incredible change of heart. All the nasty emotions inside Mr. Coren were somehow transformed into this newly loving, open man. Joy took over.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Luminato's Apocalypsis

Surely this weekend must break some kind of record for rain and chill, for June. However, as I tried to get around the paralyzed city today, it was clear that the Pride festivities were undampened.

What a way I spent the afternoon - seeing Luminato's vast million dollar production of Canadian composer R. Murray Schafer's Apocalypsis, with a cast of one thousand dancers, actors and singers, an orchestra, a ton of atonal music and novel stage effects and Brent Carver as the anti-Christ - can you ask for more? Yes - a bit less self-important oddness, a bit more comprehensibility - but despite its flaws, and there were many, the event was unforgettable just for volume of sound, sonic magnificence - like a hundred heavenly choirs (though there were in fact only ten or so. Still, a lot, really a lot, of singers.)

I call bull@#$# on a lot of it - people wandering around extreeeeemely slowly, a symbolic body of water, some people imported from New Zealand where the director's from, as if we don't have such performers here. But musically, it was stunning. And there was one incredible revelation - Tanya Tagaq, the Inuit throat singer, who made unearthly sounds that sent chills down my spine and, I'm sure, everyone else's. Other great talents were wasted - Denise Fujiwara the dancer, sitting in a box centre stage weaving around as if she was floating in a womb - and Brent, dear Brent, in a suit making an odd speech in which he mentioned the addiction to computers, something that matters to me - but what did it mean? Who knows? Why did it all have to be so obscure?

But in the end, sheer size won out. A thousand people were singing to me, music that sounded like Arvo Part and Gregorian chant and plainsong and hymns ... everything. And I liked it a lot.

Last night, two things I liked a lot on lowly television: PBS and Masterpiece Theatre's "Poldark," a swashbuckling British romance, full of cliches - handsome misunderstood hero, noble and tormented in love - and yet beautifully done and I'm hooked; and a documentary about the Hermitage that made me want to jump on a plane to St. Petersburg. Because my friend Bruce has trained me so effectively in Italy, I was able to shout out the name of the painter as certain paintings appeared: "Caravaggio! Rembrandt! Raphael!" What a place. Must get there. Bruce says he won't go while Putin the homophobe is President, so I may have to find another art-hungry travelling friend.

Please may there be sun tomorrow, before we all turn into rusty frogs.