Tuesday, January 31, 2012


This week's "Onion," a hilarious satirical newspaper, has as lead article:


... Millions have been captivated, and even moved to tears, by Mitt Romney ... "The raw energy and enthusiasm Mitt Romney stirs inside people is like nothing I've ever seen," Youngstown, Ohio auto mechanic Chris Ritenour said Wednesday. "Everything he says resonates with Americans. His moving story of growing up privileged, his inspiring rise from moderate wealth to overwhelming riches, his thrilling work in the highest echelons of corporate finance - he really speaks to the heart and mind of the common man."

As Romneymania has grown, the Republican candidate has crossed over from political figure to cultural phenomenon. Countless reverent portraits of Romney have appeared in storefront windows throughout the country, often accompanied by one of the candidate's signature inspirational phrases, like 'Let Detroit go bankrupt' or 'Corporations are people, my friend.'

It goes on this delicious way. What a fine bunch the Republican candidates are. I would have liked to hear more about Newt's plans for the moon.

Yesterday, a blizzard - beautiful fresh snow on my way home from Ryerson. Today, 10 degrees and sunny, like spring. Very confusing. Where am I?

the Shafia aftermath

We are digesting the verdict, first degree murder and life in prison, of the hideous Shafia trial - a couple accused of murdering three young daughters and the second wife, their son of helping to kill his sisters - a so-called "honour killing." The concern is that this ghastly event will fan more anti-Muslim prejudice. The fantastic Steve Paikin hosted a show last night on this issue with members of the Muslim community, including an imam and a professor from Boston who lived in Afghanistan for many years.

There is nothing about this kind of killing in the Koran, said the imam, which in fact emphasizes an individual's responsibility for his or her own actions. He cited an event in the Koran; when Mohammed's wife is accused of adultery, he takes no revenge, just sends her home to her parents until the issue is resolved - in her favour. A lawyer who grew up in Afghanistan said he had never encountered this kind of "honour killing" until he came to Canada.

The professor said that, rather than a religious issue - in fact, the family were NOT observant Muslims - this is a cultural and geographic issue. He pointed out that the issue of "honour," like the blood feud, still exists strongly in a swath across the Mediterranean. "This could have happened, and does still, in non-Muslim Sicily or Greece," he said. And it's also an immigration issue - parents with the values of the old country, horrified by the behaviour of their children in the new. This is a universal problem; my Russian-Jewish great-grandfather in New York in 1895 hated American values and fought to stop his 11 children, going to school in Brooklyn, from adopting them.

In this particularly dysfunctional family with a violent and viciously patriarchal father, archaic values and extreme fear and hatred of new ways led to murder.

But this case was not about Muslim extremism and is not an excuse for Canadians to judge or fear their Muslim neighbours.

P.S. Friends have been sending me various reports on "honour killings"... including the fact that there are many in Afghanistan. Another sent a link to a wikipedia site on violence against women. What a horrifying list. What an insane world.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Macca does it again

My friend Margaret just sent me a link to Paul McCartney's new CD. She knows me well. You must think I do nothing but moon about and cry - but yes, I just listened, misty-eyed, and at one point, I did cry.

With its iffy title Kisses on the Bottom, this CD gives us Paul singing covers of standard old crooners. It's very moving, at least to someone of my age and my background with this man, to hear that familiar voice doing something so very different, in a whole new register, with a whole new level of humility. On the website below, you can not only hear the whole CD but also read the thoughtful Guardian review and follow the impatient, judgmental critiques of many listeners. Others have done it better, etc.

But you know, Macca at nearly 70 - 70! - is allowing himself to do something he has wanted to do for many years - pay respect to the songs his father used to play for him when he was a boy. Sometimes, it sounds like he is singing, not to his new wife, but to his little girl, his eight year old daughter Beatrice. There is much tenderness and sweetness in this album, and a great deal of naked honesty. It's done so simply. I hear him saying, "I know my voice is not what it was. But I give you my best anyway."

It was the song "Inchworm" that made me cry. My childhood record collection included one by the great Danny Kaye, and my favourite was "Inchworm."
Inchworm, inchworm,
Measuring the marigolds ...
I've hung onto this lovely song all my life, and here it is, sung by my favourite singer with a choir of children. No choice but tears.

The CD is beautiful. I will buy it for my mother for Valentine's Day.


Sunday, January 29, 2012

listening and watching

Went to a fine free event at Toronto's airy Reference Library on Friday night - a celebration of this year's Canada Reads contestants. NON-FICTION contestants, hooray. I went with my friend Annie, who works on social justice issues with the Jesuit Forum and who went specifically to hear the powerful Marina Nemat speak on her book Prisoner of Tehran, about being imprisoned and tortured at the age of 16 by the ayatollahs. We are very proud of her in the U of T writing department - she did the first drafts of her book with us.

And speak powerfully she did, about how she put what had happened to her away for years, refusing to face it - because then, she could pretend it would all just go away. "Trauma leaves terrible wounds," she said. "Acknowledging them brings responsibility." Finally, after a psychotic episode, she realized that either she would jump off a bridge or face her past. Through writing the book, she said, she found herself.

And then she spoke about two innocent Canadian citizens in Evin Prison right now, in Tehran, facing execution, and urged us to get involved, sign petitions, do what we can. The men's wives were in the audience. It was a fierce and very moving moment. An admirable woman.

Before that, we heard Dave Bidini on his book about touring Canada with his band, an animal advocate speaking about John Vaillant's suspenseful Siberian tiger book, Carmen Aguirre who has written about returning to Chile as a girl, with her mother, to fight against Pinochet, and Ken Dryden, goalie extraordinaire, about his life with the game of hockey. Nemat was stirring and the others were interesting, but it was Dryden who made me cry, writing with such warmth and detail of the winter ritual of the backyard rink, and how he played his first professional game in the Montreal Forum, in front of his father and against his own older brother, in the opposing net - just as they used to play as boys.

Thrilling stories, true true true. May they all win.

Tonight, Downton again, and again, I am desperate to know what happens. How do they keep all those balls in the air, all those complex plots spinning away up there? It's extraordinary writing and directing, sets, costumes, music - but most of all, those actors, what actors. Professionals like that can do more with a tiny eye movement, a small twist of the mouth, or even a motionless silence, than lesser actors can with an hour of wailing. Stunningly good work. Jean-Marc, Richard and I sat on the sofa, huddled together near the box of Kleenex, which I needed during William's wedding - and if you were watching, I'm sure you did too. Unforgettable.

A thrilling story, completely made up, not true at all - and yet, of course, it is.

Be still, my beating heart

GEORGE CLOONEY! There's hope for us all.

It's on a site called Rare Photographs of Celebrities. Cheer yourself up and take a look.

Monday: It was there yesterday - a shot of a geeky boy with an appalling haircut and bad glasses, and they've taken it down. Ah well - perhaps you can find it yourself.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

it's a jungle out there

Wild animal alert: As if it's not strange enough to hear raccoons fighting and screaming in my backyard at night, and that coyotes are attacking pets in the suburbs, last night my friend Suzette and I saw a white-faced OPOSSUM scurrying across the street in front of my house.

Suzette was driving me home after a wonderful evening of wine, food, nostalgia, gossip and intense talk. Isobel, Jessica, Suzette and I have been friends since our first year at Carleton University in 1967, and we gather twice a year or so, with another great friend Elke, to get caught up. We did spent a bit of time, yes, talking about miracle creams, aging and health, but mostly - books, movies, travel, friends, love, art, sex, how to live with men. And work.

Continuing my dive into boxes of the family past stored in my basement, I had taken hundreds of slides to be made into prints, and brought a few to the dinner - the ones that show my 21st birthday in August 1971, which Suzette attended. What joy to have old friends. Especially such young old friends.

P.S. An article from last year's "New Yorker" quotes Charles Dickens on what he saw during a visit to Washington, D.C., where he watched a congressional budget debate. He speaks with disdain of "coarse and brutal threatenings exchanged between Senators under the very Senate's roof - the intrusion of the most pitiful, mean, malicious, creeping, crawling, sneaking party spirit into all transactions of life."

Little did he know he was describing American political life in 2012, as well as in 1842.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

much better, thanks

Winter gloom, getting over a nasty cold ... not much stirring in these here parts. Here are the highlights: my Friday French conversation group, who are so smart and have so much to teach - last Friday, about the place of China in the world and why the prospect of an all-powerful totalitarian China is frightening for us all - as opposed to the relatively benign democracy flourishing in India;
- "Downton Abbey" - so good on Sunday night, so utterly delicious and exciting, I would have paid a great deal of money to see the next episodes, rather than wait a WHOLE WEEK;
- two wonderful classes on Monday and one tonight;
- and especially, this morning, meeting my friend Ken at the AGO to see the Jack Chambers exhibition.

I'm ashamed that I knew very little about this unique Canadian artist, who so loved light, and whose style changed extraordinarily throughout his career. We kept bending to read his writings about art, intense and thoughtful. Here's what the gallery says about him:

There were many sides to artist Jack Chambers. He was a passionate defender of artists’ rights, an experimental filmmaker with an international reputation, and a painter who continually reinvented his language of expression. Chambers initially created dreamlike surrealist paintings during an eight-year stay in Spain. Back home in London, Ontario, he developed a strikingly realistic style he called Perceptual Realism. He would focus his camera on his family, his home or on favourite places around the city, and then painstakingly recreate the photographs in paint.

Four recurring themes in Chambers’s work – light, place, spirit and time – are reflected in the layout of this exhibition. Collectively they open our eyes to new ways of seeing both his world and ours.

What a pleasure, to discover an artist in the company of a dear, dear friend. We then went to the Member's Lounge for lunch and chat. I adore Ken, a man in his seventies with the bright open face of a small boy. He was wearing snazzy jeans and pea jacket, the provenance of which he explained thus: he received a notice on his computer saying there was a 30% off sale at Banana Republic, lasting three hours. He rushed down on his bike, picked out the jeans and coat, and was asked, at the cash, to produce the bar code of the ad on his computer. "I'm sorry but I don't have a printer," he explained to the kid.
"No problem - just download it to your phone," he was told.
"Young man," said Ken, "I'm a senior citizen without a printer - do you think I comprehend the technology of a cell phone?!" The manager was happy to give him the discount. And man, he looked good.

And on the way home, I saw Toronto and its light in a new way.

I have been reading a lot, as befits January. Two excellent books about writing: "Tell it Slant: Writing and Shaping Creative Non-Fiction," by Brenda Miller and Suzanne Paolo, and "Keep it real: everything you need to know about researching and writing creative non-fiction" edited by Lee Gutkind. Inspiring, and, believe it or not, quite different. A quirky and highly entertaining book called "The Chairs are where the People go," by Misha Glouberman interviewed by Sheila Heti, an interesting thoughtful man expounding on his views of the world, of group interaction and this city - and I promise, he looks at things in ways you won't have thought of before. One chapter is entitled, "Making the City More Fun for You and Your Privileged Friends Isn't a Super-Noble Political Goal."

And "Making Toast," by Roger Rosenblatt, an article in the "New Yorker" turned into a book - a masterpiece of heartbreaking restraint, about a grandfather who moves in to help look after his grandchildren after his daughter dies.

In only 3 weeks, my life will be turned upside down, with my house rented out to strangers. Right now, I'm finding unbearable the thought of Newt Gingrich winning a coin toss, let alone a state. I marvel that here is a man who actually, I think, is worse than Mike Harris and Stephen Harper. In my life, so far, I do not think that a more loathsome human has run for public office. Truly, he draws on the absolute worst of human nature. If he wins -

No, it's bleak and January. That's enough to cope with today.

P.S. Sudden thoughts of Richard Nixon, George Wallace, others. Newt does have competition. But not much.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Merrijoy's hip

I'm proud to say that my longtime writing student Merrijoy Kelner has an essay in the "Globe" today. She's an extraordinary woman, accomplished, hard-working, strikingly beautiful and brave at 84. Her piece was cut, but you can't miss her fierce resolve and backbone. It was hard for her to move from impersonal academic writing to personal essay, but as you see, she now manages both with ease.


Thursday, January 19, 2012

tapes of treasure

Still in bed, today with a head like a bag of thistles. The cold I've been fighting arrived and planted itself inside my head. I worship at the altar of the great god Benadryl.

Last evening found me sitting beside my music machine, sobbing aloud. I'd put on the recently-acquired CD's of the old family tapes, actually listened all the way through, and discovered there's far more there than I'd realized. What made me cry was, first, my realization that, on the first CD, the annoying fooling around that goes on and on by some Americans I don't know - reading poetry, saying and singing funny things in weird accents - was in fact a group of my father's best friends in New York, sending him a tape to cheer him up while he recovered from polio in 1951. "This is for you, Gordie, and you too Sylvia and little Beth. You'd better not get sick any more, Gordin," says one. "Speedy recovery."

Another treasure: my second birthday party, in Halifax in August, 1952, my father healthy, my mother buzzing around with presents - "Ooo look, a lovely dolly!" she says, and I say, "Dolly," and much else, in a firm voice. Also there are Berna and Unkie, our landlords who lived downstairs. I became their surrogate grandchild, and they became for me a forcefield of love that I feel to this day. Listening, I thought, "No wonder I became an actress - to replicate the pleasure of four big people focussing on me, applauding my every word and move." Halcyon days for the first-born.

A fake, funny interview my mother did with "the famous ballerina Beth Kaplan" in 1960 when I was ten. I tell her, "Ballet dancing is not permanent, it's temporary until I can gather enough money - $5000 - to start a publishing company. I am hoping to be a writer, to start a good business in writing and publishing my own books for a good price. I'll call it the Sylvia's Publishing Company. As a ballerina I'll go to Czechoslovakia and Poland and then I'll be in England, studying English and writing."

She seems quite focussed on making money, that girl. Wonder what happened with that.

Also in 1960, a speech my dad made in Vancouver about the deadly effects of nuclear radiation and what the reality of nuclear war would mean. He was far ahead of his time, speaking with humour, authority and passion about ecological damage, making fun of politicians who were advising citizens to build fallout shelters. Hearing his eloquent speech, often interrupted for applause, made me very proud. As I listened to his hour-long talk, I was sorting out a jumbled box of our old family slides, which I'll have made into a DVD or whatever they do with slides nowadays. That's 3 old boxes of memories dealt with, these past weeks. I'm building a solid portrait of our past. My past. Treasure.

If you have boxes like these in your basement, why don't you get them out now, before it's too late?

Today I give thanks, as I snuffle in bed with snow swirling outside the window, that I'm no longer an actress. I don't have to get up and do a show. I'll teach a class tonight with no problem, and in the meantime, I'll eat the Daniel and Daniel butternut squash soup I picked up on my way home from the Y yesterday. Yes, I went to Carol's class though I didn't do much - but you know, it was Wednesday, I had no choice.

And I give thanks that you are out there, reading. You may not be my parents and Berna and Unkie, delighting in everything I say, but for me, you're close.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Take THAT, Fat Fords # 1 and 2!

HOORAY! Nasty cuts defeated at City Hall, including the library ones! Take that, Tweedledum and Tweedledee, twin bully boys from Etobicoke. Fords, Fords, go away, and don't ever come back.

And ... while I'm raiding the "New Yorker" website, here's a beautiful poem/song from this week's issue.



by JANUARY 23, 2012

I love to speak with Leonard

He’s a sportsman and a shepherd

He’s a lazy bastard

Living in a suit

But he does say what I tell him

Even though it isn’t welcome

He will never have the freedom

To refuse

He will speak these words of wisdom

Like a sage, a man of vision

Though he knows he’s really nothing

But the brief elaboration of a tube

Going home

Without my sorrow

Going home

Sometime tomorrow

To where it’s better

Than before

Going home

Without my burden

Going home

Behind the curtain

Going home

Without the costume

That I wore

He wants to write a love song

An anthem of forgiving

A manual for living with defeat

A cry above the suffering

A sacrifice recovering

But that isn’t what I want him to complete

I want to make him certain

That he doesn’t have a burden

That he doesn’t need a vision

That he only has permission

To do my instant bidding

That is to SAY what I have told him

To repeat

Going home

Without my sorrow

Going home

Sometime tomorrow

Going home

To where it’s better

Than before

Going home

Without my burden

Going home

Behind the curtain

Going home

Without the costume

That I wore

I love to speak with Leonard

He’s a sportsman and a shepherd

He’s a lazy bastard

Living in a suit

Audio: Leonard Cohen sings “Going Home.”

Read more http://www.newyorker.com/fiction/poetry/2012/01/23/120123po_poem_cohen#ixzz1jqhqrrGW




by JUNE 2, 2008

I’m up. Are you up?

I’m trying to go back to sleep. But I’m awake. Awake awake awake.

That’s what Buddha said. Buddha said, “I am awake.” Buddha got that idea, that whole concept, from a middle-aged woman, I’m sure.

Not that this sleepless business ends after a certain age. I think you have to die first.

If you added up all the hours I’ve been awake in the middle of the night, it would come to years by now. Fifty may be the new forty, but, for the sleepless woman, fifty is the new eighty.

Thank you, that’s a very good idea, but I already took a sleeping pill. I fell asleep right away—it’s bliss, that drugged drifting off—but now I’m awake again. That always happens! I fall asleep, boom, and then, four or five hours later, I wake up—like it’s my turn on watch, like I’ve just had a full night’s sleep. But if I act as if I’ve had a full night’s sleep, if I get up and do things, I will be pitiful tomorrow. I will confuse the TV remote with the cordless phone and try to answer it. I will not notice any of my typos—I will type “pubic school” this and “pubic school” that in e-mails to people whose public schools I am looking at for my daughter. I will say, “I saw store at the Shelly,” and then I will have to make one of those dumb Alzheimer’s jokes.

I could take another sleeping pill, but I worry about that. I worry about liking sleeping pills too much. Sleeping pills always make me think of Judy Garland. Poor Judy.

It’s funny about the name Judy, isn’t it? No one names anyone Judy anymore—do you ever see five-year-old Judys?—but half the women I know are named Judy. You would probably be safe, when meeting any woman over fifty, just to say, “Nice to meet you, Judy.” Most of the time you would be right.

I am going to lie here and fall asleep counting all the Judys I know.

Thirteen Judys. Including my husband’s ex-wife. Who’s very nice, by the way.

I’m still awake.

Read more http://www.newyorker.com/humor/2008/06/02/080602sh_shouts_allen#ixzz1jqcMmytD

in bed with the sun

I'm in bed with my face angled to receive the rays of sun sizzling over the roofs of the condos to the south, into my bedroom window. Last night, my most extreme insomnia yet, spectacular - woke up at 1.30 a.m. and fell asleep again from 6 to 8.30. And after I'd spent hours that morning with my face planted in front of a little light box, designed to combat Seasonal Affective Disorder. I'm also fighting a cold and my throat hurts, plus dizzy eyeballs and achey body - welcome to January! There have been perkier times, let's put it that way. Please don't invite me out dancing tonight.

My friend Anne-Marie and I went dancing on Saturday night, however. Our friend Nancy White's daughter Suzie was part of a Spice Girls tribute called Wannabe at El Mocambo, and what fun it was. They had the hair, the makeup, the outfits and extreme platform shoes - all the girls good singers, and a great back-up band, everyone, stars and most of the audience, under the age of 30. Suzie in a dark angular wig looked just like Scary Spice, only prettier and friendlier. "Do you remember the 90's?" asked the MC, and everyone roared. "What do you remember from the 90's?" he asked and people shouted out answers. "Tupac!" said one.

Forget the 90's, I thought. My husband and I separated in 1990, and I, without a single practical skill, became the unemployed single mother of a 6 and a 9 year old living in a disintegrating old house. And then, just for kicks, I began psychoanalysis four days a week. There went the 90's. Not my favourite decade, not one I conjure back for joy, though all that pain was vitally important in my life's journey. Obviously a good time was had by all those kids, who were in their teens then - as was my daughter and her best friend Holly, who were there, dancing, too.

I've been doing some excavating these days - getting all the family 16 millimetre film and home videos transferred to DVD, and, last week, taking a box of messy reel to reel tapes to a sound studio called Number 9 - how can you tell the owner is a Beatles' fan? (Another clue - his son is named Jude. We had a long heart to heart, as you can imagine.) The box had been sitting in Mum's basement and then mine for decades, the tapes marked tantalizingly - one that indicated a recording of the family in the early Fifties, and another that I hoped was my father talking about his life. $500 later, yesterday, I brought home seven CD's.

Much disappointment. The family had been taped over with Beatles music - aaagh, my brother! Nothing of my father, just scientific conferences he'd taped, and programs of CBC's Rawhide, who was my parent's friend in Halifax in the Fifties. I was heartsick. But then, two treasures. There's an excerpt from a musical I was in in 1977 called "The Club" - we taped a few songs for the CBC, including my (untrained but enthusiastic) solo. And then, my mother's terribly British voice saying, "Beth, New York, at two and a half months," and some brilliant cooing and gurgles. Later, a meal in Halifax in 1951 with my parents and American grandparents, me at 10 months banging on a child's piano. It's almost worth $500 for that alone. "That's it, play the piano, sweetheart," says my Jewish grandmother anxiously, my grandfather in the background complimenting my mother, perhaps insincerely, on her hamburgers. (She never got the hang of hamburgers.) Nettie and Mike had driven from New York to Halifax to see their first grandchild again. Moi. A much-loved baby, playing the piano.

It's Wednesday - will I drag myself to Carol's class? We'll see. In the meantime, don't move, little sunbeam, there are two enjoyable books to finish: "The chairs are where the people go," a series of thought-provoking chats with Misha Glouberman, and "Pulphead," a superb book of essays by John Jeremiah Sullivan. More coffee.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Take heed.

Bobby and Peggy and Heather ...

It's winter! At last. Lots and lots of snow out there, deep footsteps leading to the birdfeeder. The city is, briefly, lovely and muffled. As someone said at the Y yesterday, "Great, we get it, now that's enough."

Some fun for you today, wordsmiths - there's controversy brewing. Margaret Atwood published a story in a recent "New Yorker" called "Stone Mattress," in which a conniving murderess meets her high school tormentor on a cruise ship. I didn't like it much, finding it, like so much of her work, mouth-puckeringly snide, with clever, fluid writing but nary a believable character. I hugely admire Atwood's activism, her humour and passion and commitment to the arts in this country, but most often, strangely, not her writing.

Robert Fulford, august critic, didn't like the story either and attacked it in his "National Post" column, accusing it of being man-hating, clich├ęd, simplistic and unworthy of her. Though I rarely agree with Fulford these days, in this instance, I do, except that it's not so much man-hating as homo sapiens hating. Now Heather Mallick, esteemed firebrand columnist at the "Star," has come out today with a furious piece showing that Atwood once skewered Fulford in a short story, so accusing him of delivering, not objective literary criticism, but petty revenge.

You too can follow this trail of literati hijinks! Read the story in the "New Yorker" on-line, find the Fulford review, read the Mallick critique of the review. I just wrote her a note on why I didn't like the story myself - why don't you make up your own mind? A perfect way to pass a snowy Saturday afternoon.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

here and now

Unfortunately, I learned last night that foregoing an afternoon nap does not necessarily help with January insomnia. As I lay thrashing about at 4.30 a.m., I thought about the blog post I'd just written, burbling (that word again) happily about seeing a movie with my friend, going on and on, as I do, about my ordinary days. People who read this blog must think I'm a Pollyanna, I thought, always beaming with cheer.

And I thought about my emphatically non-Pollyanna times. In my 25 1/2 years in this house, I have lived through the worst experiences of my life, right here, in this kitchen - the too-early death of my father in 1988; the agonizing end of my marriage not long after that; the even worse early days, early months and years, of the divorce - my sheer terror and endless guilt. The years of my childrens' adolescence, which were so difficult and exhausting, I don't even want to begin to recall them. The fire in 2005 - the house a smouldering charred wreck, me imagining us wandering and homeless. No wonder I marvel all the time at the tranquillity of a settled woman with grown children and a fine, solid house.

And I thought, who knows what's coming down the pike? All I can do, all we can do, is remain open to right now. Right now, a dark, dreary day which started with sleet and will lead to snow - it's almost night out there at 4 p.m. A quiet day; a dear student came this afternoon, a friend is coming for dinner, at Doubletake, I bought a funny sweater with Scottie dogs all over it. Right now, the paperwhite bulbs a friend gave me for Christmas are growing up straight and green; the cat is crunching her food, the furnace rumbles, and in the middle of it all, right now, I am alive. Not only alive, but well.

Not sleeping well, but otherwise, this minute, pretty damn well. I, Pollyanna Kaplan, celebrate that.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

here goes # 1013

This is my one thousand and thirteenth post. FYI. I'm amazed. What have I found to tell you more than a thousand times? God knows.

Stuff like this - My Wonderful Wednesday, by Beth Kaplan. A beautiful day for January, mild and sunny, then getting colder. How long can this idyll last? Working in the morning, then rode my bike to Doubletake where I found a beautiful part-silk Vietnamese jacket with red embroidery, and new socks for my son; on to the Y for - it's Wednesday so you know - Carol's class, inspiring and hard, as ever. My legs hurt. Swung into the library on my way home - three of my "holds" waiting for me, plus two books on writing creative non-fiction that were on display. Just what I need - five more books to read!

Mr. Choy came over for supper, and while he was here, Sam called. He'd just seen "The Descendants" and was very impressed. W*yson and I had been meaning to see it. "Let's go right now," he said, so we jumped in his car and there we were, in Hawaii with George Clooney. A marvellous film, subtle, moving - we both loved it. The script is exemplary, acting, direction - and the set - Hawaii itself - a treat. W*yson especially liked the film's steady pace, and I especially liked the film's gorgeous star. What an extremely handsome man and a fine, brave actor. In fact, that's my main criticism - Clooney is so utterly divine that, despite a great performance, it's hard to believe him as an ordinary Joe. But we'll live with that. And maybe it's a tiny bit tear-jerky.

Highly, highly recommended - a film for grown-ups, quirky, sad, tender, and wise.

And now - writing to you for the 1013th time and then some reading while waiting to spend half an hour with Jon Stewart, another smart, handsome man, like Mr. Choy and Mr. Clooney. Three in one day - what a lucky woman.

My first Ryerson class of the term on Monday night and my new home class again last night - a fresh crop of eager writers, delicious. My daughter over for a visit on Monday (getting her 2009 income taxes done on Parliament Street...). She's starting to walk like a pregnant lady now, belly thrust out in front and a bit of a waddle. Beautiful. The cat has almost been affectionate. And my friend Alannah had some advice for me today at the Y - I told her about my chronic January insomnia and she told me I must NOT NAP. That'll do it, she said. So I did not, and we'll see.

Also listened to CBC news and read newspapers. Unfortunately.

Monday, January 9, 2012

A winter walk

The Don Valley trail, Sunday.
Hot sun, bare trees. Amazing
that all this is barely a fifteen minute walk from my front door, in downtown Toronto.

I sat here, in a bed of dead stinging
nettles, watching the river flow, and especially listening. 'Burbling' is a good word.

A beaver was swimming here
once. And another time a deer,
wading. Not in winter, though.


Just heard the end of a terrific interview on CBC with P. J. O'Rourke, funny American conservative columnist. He said that watching the Republican candidates, it's like the varsity team got food poisoning in the high school cafeteria, and so the equipment manager and the water boy and the drum major are all out in the field. That left-wing parties field better political candidates because their people believe in the efficacy of government and so run for office, whereas intelligent right-wingers don't and so don't. And that he is a Republican because right-wingers tend to have fewer "Big Ideas" than left-wingers. Big Ideas are almost always a expensive and sometimes dangerous, he said. I vote Republican due to their lack of ideas. Romney is very satisfying in that regard.

Mind you, he went on, George Bush had the big idea to invade Iraq, so - so much for that notion.

Santorum, he said, would make a good president of the student council or maybe mayor of a medium-sized city, but not a president. With you on that one, P. J.

Heaven - the new season of "Downton Abbey" last night. Just the best cast, gorgeous costumes, wonderful rich story on so many levels - TV drama at its best. Maggie Smith is having the time of her life. When her granddaughter announces that she wants to help the war effort by driving a tractor, Grandmamma drawls, in horror, "Drive a tractor? My dear girl, you're not Toad of Toad Hall!" My neighbours Jean-Marc and Richard came over to watch it with me, and for two hours, we shrieked with laughter, moaned with delight - the costumes! the sets! that glorious library! - and gasped with anticipation at plot twists. They are sorry that Thomas, the conniving butler, is gay. But even the villains, such as they are, are completely fleshed-out, understandable, delightful.

Humor is emotional chaos remembered in tranquility. -James Thurber, writer and cartoonist (1894-1961)

Save Our Libraries!

URGENT! City budget meetings are next week, and our libraries are under the gun. Please go to this website and sign the petition.


Thank you. I can't imagine life without my local library. As you know, every time I hear of a book I want to read, I log in on-line and order it. There are ten books on hold there at the moment. Especially looking forward to the book about willpower, and the one by Adam Gopnik about eating in France, which is waiting for me today.

The boys of my youth4 of 7Parliament Street15/8/2013Active
Getting things done : the art of stress-free productivity97 of 99Parliament Street7/1/2014Active
I feel great about my hands : and other unexpected joys of aging27 of 30Parliament Street17/12/2013Active
Making toast : a family story6 of 7Parliament Street7/1/2014Active
Mothers and others : the evolutionary origins of mutual understanding2 of 19Parliament Street30/12/2013Active
Paris revealed : the secret life of a city51 of 96Parliament Street26/12/2013Active
Slice Me Some Truth. ; An Anthology of Canadian Creative Non-fictionParliament Street24/9/2013Active
Tell me why : a Beatles commentary4 of 5Parliament Street19/11/2013Active
Why be happy when you could be normal?54 of 83Parliament Street1/1/2014Active
Willpower : rediscovering the greatest human strength