Tuesday, December 20, 2022

His Dark Materials

Mostly, wanted to share with you this new picture of the hairy grandson sleeping on his dad's leg. He had a blood pressure test at the vet today; the meds are working, his pressure is down. He still has a bad heart but they're doing what they can. "My baby boy," wrote Sam.

I watched two more episodes of His Dark Materials last night, an extraordinary series; like Atwood's Madaddam you should have read the books to really follow what's going on - what the hell is the dust they're all obsessed with, for God's sake? It's the fight of good and evil, the storyline a relentless attack on the Catholic church or any giant authoritarian religion or cult - the Magisterium, joy and life-denying villains in long black robes. But also, as these stories so often are, at its most basic level it's about the quest to make your parents proud of you. I love that in the series, fabulously realized with CGI, the characters all have a daemon, an animal that's a reflection of their soul, an integral part of them. Bandit is Sam's daemon. 

Yesterday Lyra and Will were ferried to the Land of the Dead, which turned out to be a horrible dank place, like a prison camp. A ghostly woman cried, "We sacrificed during our lives because they told us we'd go to a lovely heaven and instead we're here!" One commentator writes,  The Land of the Dead is a place that makes people forget they were ever alive. It divides them from their memories, their senses, and their pleasures. It isolates them, and its monsters – the harpies – whisper their most destructive inner thoughts back to them from the shadows, with no hope of anything ever changing. In short, it’s one of the greatest literary depictions of depression there’s ever been, and this stripped down version, with its desaturated ghosts and teetering cliffs of old possessions, did it total justice. 

But the two heroes find a way to lead the others out, all saved because they begin to tell stories. One of the horrible harpies is pacified by the stories the heroes and the dead tell each other about their lives. "True stories feed us," it hisses.

True stories feed us. I'd ask my kids to carve that on my gravestone except it seems unlikely there'll be one. 

Speaking of true stories, I posted one about Christmas on FB. If you're on FB, maybe you can access it, since it's too long to put here. 


And since I haven't bitched for awhile, here's one. I recently bought theatre tickets for Anna, the boys, and me. On the receipt that was emailed was this so-called "Pledge of Welcome." Sorry the ends are cut off but you get the idea.  

We seek continually to provide a welcoming and comfortable environment for everyone, and pledges to treat all visitors with the utmost respect and dignity. We ask that visitors reciprocate the same in their treatment of our employees, artists, volunteers and other guests, whether in person or online. With this in mind, discrimination or harassment of any kind, whether based on race, colour, national origin, religion, creed, gender identity, age, physical, mental or developmental disability, marital status, sexual orientation, political ideology or any other reason, will not be tolerated. We reserve the right to remove comments and/or any person who demonstrates violent, discriminatory, or harassing language and/or behavior; and to refuse admission or participation to anyone who has violated these conditions during previous activities.


I wrote to them, Really? You think this is necessary? Your audiences, Toronto people who love the theatre, are violent, abusive, insulting, discriminatory harassers? Someone clutching a theatre ticket is going to start screaming at someone else in the lobby because they think they might be developmentally delayed? Divorced? Old? 

This is virtue signalling of the highest order, and it is offensive. 

Cannot help myself. My friend Ruth and I are firing off missives of complaint - and praise - all the time. Not that it helps. But it can't hurt either, no?


  1. My daughter loved those books and I remember we began to read The Golden Compass together but she quickly decided she needed to read ahead on her own. Rich and full of the right kind of mystery, I think. (Have always felt my daemon to be a tree frog...)

    1. I think your daemon is one of the bears you write about - no, a coyote! It's of course funny that the heroes have lovely animals - a snow leopard, a pine martin - and the bad people have snakes and spiders. You'd think that would be an easy way to look at someone and know who they are. Yes, an amazing series. In a recent episode, Lyra met her death, a young woman with a smooth face, who told her that everyone's death is with them always, and when the time comes, will welcome them and take them where they need to go. I found that kind of comforting.