Thursday, April 27, 2023

The Banshees, and Miep Gies: A Small Light

Today is the yahrzeit - the anniversary of the death - of my beloved Wayson Choy. He is very much with us still, me and my kids. How we loved him. And I'm pretty sure he felt the same. He was family, another crazy kindred spirit to join our crazy tribe. 

My friend the public health nurse says I'm a "bug magnet," and it seems to be true. Great. But there's hope; I'm feeling a bit more human today, actually went out for the first time in nearly a week, to the bank to pay my taxes and for much-needed groceries. The sun was shining - what a difference. I wore a mask everywhere, also tonight to a local meeting about bike lanes they're considering for Cabbagetown. There's a vital Leafs game tonight, and I expected a handful of people at the meeting; no, the room was packed. I started coughing, couldn't stay, told the organizers what I think before leaving - in favour of anything that slows traffic and favours bicycles! I'm afraid my prissy nothing-must-ever-change neighbourhood will kill an idealistic initiative. They've done it before.

The other night, I watched The Banshees of Inisherin months after everyone else. I'd heard it was terrific, just didn't want to watch someone cut off his fingers. And that part is indeed horrific, did my best not to see. But the evocation of Ireland decades ago is truly stunning - the beauty of countryside, water and homes, community and donkeys, the misfortune of vicious gossip and intolerance, an overbearing church, hidden abuse, closed-mindedness ... the film captures it all. The acting is universally wonderful. Literally haunting - I keep thinking about it. A few flaws, but a superb film.

Yesterday, a Zoom interview from the Washington Post about a woman who's been a hero of mine for many years: Miep Gies, Otto Frank's secretary, who kept the Frank family alive in their attic all the months they were there, risking her own life and somehow finding enough food to smuggle in for eight hidden Jews. I've never forgotten her appearance once at the Oscars, when a doc about Anne was featured. An unassuming woman, now the subject of her own dramatic film: A Small Light. She once said, even a secretary can bring a small light to a dark room. And she certainly did, and so much more.

Tonight, Steve Paikin's excellent The Agenda is about Ontario Place. There's so much ghastly stuff coming from the Ontario government these days, it's hard to keep track - moving the Science Centre, carving up Ontario Place for a big Austrian spa, and now, that police officers don't need to be educated. So many terrific ideas, the head spins. As my friend Janet Somerville keeps saying, on Twitter - if you'll pardon the expression - "so many motherfuckers!"

To put things here in perspective, though: a traffic jam on the Delhi-Jaipur expressway. And, friends, been there done that. When Bruce, Chris, and I were in India, we got caught in a jam just like this on our way to Jaipur, only with more camels. It lasted many hours. Luckily I - of course - had snacks in my purse to keep us alive.

Here, however, is someone who frankly does not give a damn.

Just looking at her helps keep the blood pressure in check.

I've got a stack of children's books by my bed; am reading The Wind in the Willows first. Rat, Mole, Badger, Mr. Toad: sweet, funny, kind. Also keeps blood pressure in check. 

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

The wonder of Wonderland: magical children's books

Apparently a lot of people have this horrible cold, which feels like Covid or bronchitis. Phooey. 

Just writing, first, to gloat about Fox firing Tucker Carlson, one of the vilest human beings on the planet. I wonder if it's coincidental that 60 Minutes on Sunday night did a segment about Ray Epps, a Trump supporter who protested peacefully at the Capital on Jan. 6 and for some reason, of all the thousands there, was targeted by Carlson, who made up a theory that Epps was an FBI plant and shrieked about it over and over on his program. Epps received so many death threats that he had to sell his ranch; he and his wife are in hiding, living in a trailer. He said Carlson destroyed his life. The next day, TC was fired. 

Anything for ratings, eh, Tucker? Rile up the beast, the base, plant insane theories, watch the clicks roll in. Best of all, his rants about Canada, the godless authoritarian state, its people under the thumb of socialist tyranny. 

May he rot. 

On the other hand, last night's huge treat: Wonderland, on TVO, a series about the "golden age" of children's literature, delving into the work and lives of British authors from that time, starting with Lewis Carroll, A.A. Milne, and Arthur Ransome of Swallows and Amazons. In subsequent weeks, my own favourite Frances Hodgson Burnett, Beatrix Potter, E. Nesbit, J.M. Barrie, Tolkein, Kenneth Graham of The Wind in the Willows, and more. 

The premise of the show is that almost all the famous books were written for a specific child or children, with the authors exploring or expiating their own often unhappy childhoods by inventing an idealized world of escape, a Wonderland, a Neverland. The saddest story is A.A. Milne's, whose son Christopher Robin was infuriated by what he felt was his father's expropriation of his childhood and his toys and refused to see him for years.

Made me rush upstairs to the section of my bookshelf for the books from my childhood.

So much deliciousness. There's a whole section for Anne Frank. 
A 1954 edition given by my British grandparents when I was seven
"Ootook, Eskimo Girl" was sent by my father in 1958 from Halifax (Hillavax Novascocha) to England, where my mother, brother, and I were living. I guess he was preparing me for my return to the cold of Canada. I was seven. At the bottom, my homemade library card. 
My mother's book from 1935, awarded as a prize. Beautiful Joe is a dog who's treated cruelly; my mother couldn't even mention this book without crying.
Mum was thirteen.
This one makes me laugh - what my father thought a nine-year-old would enjoy for her birthday. I've never read it. 

Judy Blume is having a moment. I'm sorry I was too old for her books, as I would have benefitted from learning what she was telling. 

The magical books of childhood stay with us forever. I hope the children of today, including my own grandsons who are not big readers, have their own wonderlands, their own private worlds, to have and to hold.

Sunday, April 23, 2023

Proof that Paul McCartney is rock's greatest vocalist - as if we needed proof

It's my cat's 7th birthday today. She came into my life in early January, so not even four months ago, but she's already so entwined with my days, I can't imagine life without her. Easy to understand why women living alone are always shown with cats. They're independent and dignified and lovely, without the desperate neediness of dogs. I love dogs too, but there's no way I want that level of responsibility. Tiggy lets me know in no uncertain terms what she thinks of her daily food offering. She's wonderful company, almost always nearby, sleeping or washing or contemplating, wherever I am in the house - a very precise and tidy cat. She spends a lot of time sitting at the back door watching squirrels and birds and does want to go out and hunt, but also knows I do not want her to do that. 

She is the loveliest cat I've ever had, except for my very first cat Wuzoo when I was nine, who looked exactly like her. Thanks to the gods of Facebook for bringing her to my attention when her owner died.

Still sick, achey, runny nose, sore throat — boring, but there you go. I'm working, though - edited a long manuscript yesterday, and then had the treat of watching All the President's Men again. What a superb film, thrilling, watching great journalists do their vital work for democracy. 

Even better, through the Substack of Ian Leslie, a fine British writer who's also a major Beatles fan, I watched a glorious 40 minute video by another superfan on why Macca is the greatest pop/rock vocalist ever. No question for me, but if you have any doubts, watch this and be gobsmacked. I watched it in bed. My Macca singing to me and my cat nearby, a cup of coffee, a few newspapers and a nice warm computer = it doesn't get better than that.

Friday, April 21, 2023

In the Same Breath: Covid incompetence and mendacity exposed — devastating

Sick. It crept over me yesterday and hit hard last night in bed - aches, runny noise, sore throat. I just tested for the big C but no, luckily, just a miscellaneous flu. Ben has been sick all week, and his teacher says most of his class is out. 

On Thursday, by chance, I watched a superb HBO documentary about the onset of Covid in China and the US: In the Same Breath, by Nanfu Wang, a Chinese-American who was visiting her mother in Wuhan and just got out before the city locked down. But she was prescient enough to ask people there to film what was going on, despite the danger of doing so; people were forbidden to talk about the virus and certainly to film. Doctors in Wuhan at the start of the pandemic who spoke about it were arrested and lost their jobs!

What unfolds is the disastrous, indeed criminal reaction of an arrogant, authoritarian regime that wouldn't admit the problem and then over-reacted to it. They knew about a new virus in December 2019! Simply ignored it for months. And what followed is almost beyond bearing, as the doc shows hundreds of desperate people lining up at overcrowded hospitals with no beds. She tells us the official death count in Wuhan was just over 3000, whereas it was certainly ten times that or more. The heartbreak for survivors is not only that so many loved ones died, but that they died alone. 

And yet we see family members devastated by death wholeheartedly praising their government. The power of indoctrination and propaganda - and fear - is horrifying. 

And then she shows the US, crowds of angry anti-vaxxers screaming about freedom. Insane. Even Fauci, at the start, downplaying the danger. And then exhausted healthcare workers weeping about the lack of preparedness and equipment, the number of deaths. 

The most moving moment comes at the very end, when she posits what could and should have happened: by January 1 2020, the Chinese government could have issued a world-wide press release; there's a new virus that is very transmissible, exercise extreme caution. Travel would have beed curtailed; governments would have begun urgently to prepare. The virus would have been contained, and the few who contracted it would have received proper care. 

Instead - Xi and Trump - heads in the sand, and over six million people died. 

Six million dead, a number that resonates violently with me. 

The power of documentary. Please try to see this extraordinary film. 

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

The sublime Vermeer, and my beloved penpal Barbara

Cold but sunny: your roller-coaster weather report for today. Some crazy Canuck guys are still stubbornly wearing shorts, but I'm pretty sure they regret it. 

Yesterday's treat: a documentary about the blockbuster Vermeer exhibition in Amsterdam. As you may recall, the minute I heard about it, I determined to go see my favourite painter in this once-in-a-lifetime exhibition, but when I tried to buy a ticket they were sold out, and other circumstances were against the trip. So rather than flying to Europe, I was grateful to walk to my local Cineplex, to see close-ups of the paintings and hear Vermeer experts speak with passion about this sublime artist, his life and work. 

So many of his tranquil women are playing musical instruments, reading, or writing, by the light of that ubiquitous casement window on the left side. In a couple of instances, she's drinking wine. We can relate. 

Here are some of the notes I took during this spectacular show: He was a storyteller, a filmmaker before his time, showing us in intimate moments what it is to be human. He paints human still lifes, depicting the mystical in the mundane, showing an intriguing but incomplete story. A magician obsessed with light, a master of light, who made the everyday important by painting it. 

I thought again of him when reading a moving email from my friend Penny in England, whose sister Barbara was my penpal from 1962 to 1966, when she died, at the age of sixteen, after an operation at the Mayo Clinic to repair her damaged heart. It took me decades to write about her; the essay, Correspondence, was published in Queen's Quarterly last year. The magazine did a beautiful job. 

Penny wrote that today was Barbara's birthday and she wanted to find her sister, wondering where she was - not in the souvenirs she has kept, nor in the gravesite. She Googled the Mayo Clinic and Barbara's name, thinking there might be some record there, and And do you know? There she was. In black & white, in that lemon yellow bridesmaid dress, and in all your beautiful words Beth. Immortalized in Correspondence. 

Thank you for giving me my sister back.

I replied: 
I saw a doc about Vermeer yesterday - he died in poverty at 43. And I thought, if I had 3 wishes, after world peace and a cure for disease, I’d ask to be able to go back in time to speak to people who died without knowing their vast worth and importance: Vermeer, Anne Frank, Mozart, Van Gogh, Jane Austen, so many more. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to tell Barbara how very much she is still with us, how much she has mattered through all the years? 

That is one of the great things about human beings. We know elephants grieve, and maybe whales and other creatures, but definitely, human beings know how to keep each other alive in memory. 


Here's Correspondence. I'm proud of it. Love you always, Babs.

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

In which I rant about Republicans, Carlson, PP, RBC, and the weather, to no avail

Bewildering — after a week of heat, it's now 6 degrees with a possibility of flurries. On Saturday, I walked the packed Woodbine beach with Anne-Marie; 29 degrees, men in shorts, women in bikinis playing volleyball, sunbathing. Now windows are shut, sandals put away — for now. But it'll be 16 on Friday. 

Today, an article in the Star about Tucker Carlson, one of the most reprehensible liars on earth, who has a new documentary ranting about how the US should march in to liberate Canada from its tyrannical socialist authoritarian government. And another on Poilievre's rabid campaign against the CBC. 

Fellow liberals, we have a gigantic, terrifying problem. The right — Fox, the Repugs, the violent fringe — has moved so far into looney-land, lies, calumny, libellous absurdities, that the centre has shifted far to the right. How do we counter lies spouted with absolute confidence that many millions swallow? 

A terrifying piece today quoted by Heather Cox Richardson, written by Sarah Longwell in Bulwark, about how Trump's victory in 2016 signalled not a temporary shift but a permanent change in American politics; the majority of Republican voters are far-right and will never go back to the relatively moderate conservatism of someone like Mike Pence, whom they despise as weak, not extreme enough.

Can you imagine one of their far-right guys in charge now, in this volatile world, dealing with Putin, China, North Korea, et al? Miraculous that we got through four years of the orange blowhole without a world war, but the whole planetary mess is far worse now. Can you imagine snapping, snarling Pierre Poilievre, who only knows how to attack and rip apart, in charge of this country?

And yet people on my side of the spectrum speak with hatred of Trudeau, a flawed politician and man but definitely, totally, on the right side, with a conscience, a soul, a heart. You don't know what you've got till it's gone. Look what happened in this province when snooty lefties turned on and ousted Premier Kathleen Wynn. Look who we have now, smashing health care, education, the Green Belt, Ontario Place, and much more. As with Mike Harris, most of the damage will be permanent. 

The vile Poilievre, imitating the Repugs, seems to be succeeding in dragging this country to the right. It's nauseating and frightening. How did the world get so ugly? I watched a doc last night on Michelle Obama, her generous open warmth, idealism, courage in tackling race and poverty. Hard to believe such a fine person and her fine husband were in power in the United States so recently. No question that tragically, Obama's success provoked the reactionary white right to mobilize.

Another travesty, that they call themselves Christian.  

RBC, my bank, is more heavily invested in fossil fuels than any other bank. Have written my disgust to my bank manager; should I take out my money? Twitter is increasingly unhinged; I do read the site though never tweet myself; should I drop out? I should get rid of my furnace and get a heat pump, replace my gas stove with an induction stove. 

On the list. The world is too much with me. 

Tonight, something to take my mind off all this: a film at Cineplex about the Vermeer exhibition in Amsterdam. Take me away, Johannes.


In four months:

Some consolation. Can't wait.

Friday, April 14, 2023

On Writing and Failure and ChatGPT's inventions

I just finished an interesting memoir: Free, by Lea Ypi, about life in Albania during Communism and after; we're inside the mind of a clever but brainwashed child who's forced to wake up. Fascinating. And now I'm reading Stephen Marche's On Writing and Failure: Or, On the peculiar perseverance required to endure the life of a writer. It's a book all creative writing students should read, a bucket of ice water over the head, about how writers journey constantly into failure. And yet, against all odds, against common sense, we persevere. 

Speaking of persevering against all odds, great news: I just sent the latest draft of my essay book to the publisher. It hit some glitches a few months back and the future looked uncertain, but now I hope it's on track again. Fellow writer and friend Rosalind Gill read some of the essays and sent me this: I have been reading your essays. They are perfect pieces, each one with its unity and atmosphere. They are full of insight, honesty. The characters are really well depicted - your son, your gardening neighbour, I can see and feel them. Your prose is crisp and lean - with a lovely rumble of irony and human warmth running underneath. And the sum total of all that is a poignant, touching experience for the reader.

Yes, she's a friend. And yes, I know the life of a writer is about embracing failure. But Jesus God it's a boost when someone says something like that. Though it will undoubtedly end in failure, I say as the writer of four books which have not sold many copies, perhaps it will give some pleasure along the way. 

Current title: Midlife, Solo: adventures in coping. 

A friend on FB posted what ChatGPT said about him, with 21 facts wrong. So I asked it, again, about me. Beth Kaplan is a Canadian writer, teacher, and performer. She was born in Toronto in 1948 and has written several books, including "Finding the Jewish Shakespeare: The Life and Legacy of Jacob Gordin" and "Loose Woman: My Odyssey from Lost to Found".

Kaplan has also worked extensively in theatre, both as an actor and a writer. She has performed in various productions across Canada and has written several plays, including "Belle Reprieve" and "A Song in Prague".

In addition to her creative work, Kaplan has also taught at several universities, including the University of Toronto and the University of Western Ontario. She has received numerous awards and honors for her writing, including the Canadian Jewish Book Award and the Harold U. Ribalow Prize. 

Amazing. Belle Reprieve and A Song in Prague! They sound wonderful; I wonder who actually wrote them. How I wish I'd won those awards; maybe I did in another life. Also, born in New York in 1950, but hey, what the hell. It states falsities with such blithe confidence. Does it just pull stuff out of its algorhythmic hat?! 

It's still hot hot hot. Plants, trees, and people are bewildered. Opened my summer clothes and shoes box today to get out sandals and shorts, though they'll be put away again before long. Rode to deliver my taxes to my friend John who does them; his new office turned out to be near McAlpine Street, in the heart of downtown, where I lived in a communal hippy house for some months in 1972 and '73 after theatre school, with Larry, Barry, and Fred, who were Homemade Theatre. It was a street of wonderful crumbling old houses full of creative people. This is what is there now: 

I try never to talk about the "good old days," which are a myth. But sometimes it's hard not to. 

Thursday, April 13, 2023

Coming round to Succession

Record-breaking heat: 26 yesterday, 29 today, and 27 on Friday. 29 on April 13! Absurd and bewildering. But 18 on Sunday, 8 on Monday, 6 on Tuesday. Welcome to spring in Ontario! Poor trees and plants. Luckily everyone is planting pansies which are indestructible.

It's 8 a.m. I go to bed as usual at 11.30, but for some reason, I'm now waking at 6 and getting up at 7, therefore exhausted by mid-afternoon. But I teach tonight so will definitely need a nap. Being taken for lunch by a writer friend at the Art Gallery - how's that for a treat? 

I tried to watch the series Succession - well, I watched one episode early on and decided they were all vile people and of no interest, as I've decided about a bunch of shows, White Lotus et al. Tried again when this season started; fifteen minutes in, I turned it off, they were all just as vile. But the latest episode was getting such buzz that I watched a rerun last night, and they're right, it was extraordinary. Spoiler alert: the alpha male patriarch, brought to life by the magnificent Brian Cox, dies suddenly on an airplane, and his children and colleagues have to deal with it. The dialogue is a confused jumble of bits and pieces, half phrases, stunned, confused people with no idea what to do or how to react — at least his kids, the businesspeople simply move into crisis mode with no emotion whatsoever.

How you'd learn those disjointed lines and rehearse them — or perhaps they improvise? In any case, it was a powerful piece of television, fantastic acting, script, production. 

A friend who lives in Copenhagen just wrote, "Thanks for sharing so much on your blog, I feel part of your family." How wonderful — welcome! You're a bit far to join us for the feasts, but thank you for joining in as I recount. Let's hope for an actual visit one day. 

Tuesday, April 11, 2023

it's summer in Toronto, for now at least

We're stumbling around in bewilderment here in Trawna: it was 20 degrees today, 23 or 24 tomorrow. Glorious. Mind you, I had a long bike ride today and the wind nearly blew me over, but the sun was heaven. It's concerning, though - people are planting, buds are budding, and I'm sure winter will return at some point, at least for a bit. But for now, thanks to the gods. I think winter is like childbirth - once it's over, you forget how gruelling it was because the next bit is so lovely. 

I rode out to have lunch with dear friend Rosemary Shipton, who was the chief editor of the huge Mass Casualty Report on the RCMP's handling of the shooter in Nova Scotia. The report details the close links between domestic violence, intimate partner violence especially, as they call it now, whereas it used to be called wife battering, and mass murder. It shows how through the years the police and the RCMP barely responded to women's calls for help. I told Rosemary, because the report is so hard-hitting, and thanks to her so well-written, it will make a huge difference in the lives of Canadian women.

So that's all - sitting in the sun, gardening, visiting with friends, starting taxes, still working on the ms. Here are a few miscellaneous things to share with you. 

Bought a $20 clock recently, made in China, that has a button you push to illuminate it at night. Sometimes as I lie awake, I like to know if it's 3 a.m. or 6 a.m. Here are the instructions: This alarm clock parts precise, don’t strong hit, shake, don’t put it under high temperature, wet, dusk or erodent air.

As Ned Flanders says on the Simpsons, okeley dokeley! No erodent air for my new clock, I promise. 

My friend Danny Kushner, whose scientist/writer father Donn was a great friend of my dad's, sent me a picture today. My dad could be a joyful guy with a wonderful sense of humour, though his jokes were often so smutty as to be unrepeatable. 

And here are some faves:

Love. Agree 100%. Let's appreciate being alive. Happy spring!

Sunday, April 9, 2023

Happy Easter to you all

One of those perfect days that feel like the greatest blessing ... hot sun though still a chill wind, but we'll take it. Went across town to Anna's, the boys playing basketball in the yard while their mother cooked; the inventor of basketball should win a Nobel Peace Prize, that sport has done so much good for the planet. Eli's dad Thomas arrived, and Sam, T and I put together the trampoline I bought them when the pandemic hit in 2020 and that has been in use ever since. Ben is a constant bouncer. 

And then we went for a walk by the lake, two small boys in non-stop movement, one lively doggo eager to join in, Anna, Sam, and Holly, my daughter by another mother. Back at the apartment, Ben's dad Matt arrived, an early dinner materialized, and we all ate at the picnic table outside for the first time this year. And then, while Matt kept the boys busy playing catch in the alley, the Easter Bunny arrived and hid eggs all over the yard. The boys had already received big baskets of chocolate and stuffed bunnies, but now, great excitement as the competitive hunt for more began. 

Three of my great loves
The tall man on the boardwalk. Le tout Toronto was out strolling today, though not at that moment.
Throwing stuff into the lake - the best game ever
A new set of steps/seats by the lake - sometimes, rarely, this city gets things right. 

My daughter and her boys live in a small two-bedroom apartment in an old building that was once a Parkdale mansion. But she's on the ground floor, opening out to a yard filled with bicycles, scooters, basketball net, baseballs - every kind of ball, and more, plus an alleyway outside the gate. They're right on a busy street, but ten minutes away is the lake, and twenty minutes away is High Park. And five minutes away lives their uncle. 

Those lucky lucky boys. And lucky me, to celebrate with them, so much laughter, teasing, fun. It has not always been like this. Anna's life is complicated, Sam's has had its tragedies, mine has been fraught. But yesterday, for once, was peaceful for us all. 

My face is burning, a bit, from sun. My heart is glowing, a lot, from love.

Thursday, April 6, 2023

Happy Passover!

Yesterday's joy: Passover with Ruth and her family, not a regular Pesach with long readings from the Haggadah but a secular celebration with all the traditional foods: bitter herbs (celery dipped in salt water), gefilte fish, hard-boiled eggs, matzoh ball soup, charoset with matzoh, and then, after all that, the actual meal: melt-in-your-mouth brisket, roast chicken, sweet potato, and of course KUGEL. Raspberry shortcake for dessert. So much food! As we say, all Jewish holidays are about: They tried to kill us, they failed, let's eat.

Two of Ruth's sons and families were with us; her third son Daniel telephoned. A professor of religious studies, he told us there's absolutely no proof that the Israelites escaped en masse from slavery in Egypt, which is what we were celebrating. We celebrated anyway, with much animated talk, and gave thanks for the liberal judge just elected in Wisconsin and the kids demonstrating for gun control all over the States. 

There were three half-Jews at the table, including Ruth's grandson and her friend Leslie, who had a Jewish father and shiksa mother, like me, but was raised Jewish, unlike me. There have been few seders in my life, but I cherish the memories, especially one on Long Island in about 1962 with many of Dad's family. Despite my father's fierce atheism, I felt his love for the familiar essence of Judaism — the humour and arguments, and especially the food, his mother's food. That was, of course, before the state of Israel tragically became the aggressive pariah it is today. 

Ruth's Tony has prepared a special short version of the Haggadah for use next year. 

More good times — the great pleasure of the Y is the diversity of the members. On Wednesday, after struggling through a biblical downpour and thunderstorm to get there, I warmed up in the sauna with a group of naked women listening to a woman from Mongolia tell us her mother is old at seventy-four, that her culture disapproves of women exercising. In the gym I talked to Art, a classmate for decades, and found out for the first time his father was a coal miner in Cape Breton, and because the mines extended miles under the Atlantic Ocean, deaths and injuries were common. 

The banquet of life. 

On a sad note, this headline in the Star: Drinking has no health benefits. Sigh. 

My "Things I Accomplished Today" list is pretty sparse. Rode to the Eaton's Centre today to get a spring jacket for Ben, as requested by his mother, and to see if I could find Abigail Thomas's new memoir at Indigo, a former bookstore where now you search for books among throw pillows and saucepans. Not there. I did see another huge tome about my guy. Will not be buying it. This is only Volume 1.

The weather is brisk but nice. We're getting there. Hang in, Canadians. Here are the new arrivals at Riverdale Farm. Those ears! 

Monday, April 3, 2023

"Write down your accomplishments every day," it said. Ha.

Today's the day I was supposed to come back from my two weeks in Paris. Ah well. I loved being home, too. 

April is the cruelest month, said the famous poet, and I agree. It has only just started, but I want it to be over. The weather is lovely when you're in the sun, still surprisingly cold when not. Did a big garden cleanup today, but there are only a few snowdrops and croci out, everything else is asleep, hiding from the chill. And it'll be like that all month, the infuriatingly slow arrival of warmth. 

A book I read recently suggested we keep an account of all the things we accomplish in a day, even the small things, to cheer ourselves up. I've started to do it — an ambitious whole page at first, then half a page, and now a third of a page for each day, because - what the @#$# have I accomplished? Not much. Rewriting, cooking, cleaning, dancing, reading, the Y, computer time. "Lassitude," I wrote on Wednesday. Napping every day, napping. 

Pleasure, though: on Saturday morning, my first bike ride to the market in months, coming home loaded down with fresh produce. Last night, a record four-and-a-half hours of television: 60 Minutes, starring Marjorie Taylor Greene, appalling in her blind, self-assured thick-headedness; Call the Midwife, Sanditon, Marie-Antoinette, and John Oliver. All first rate. The day before, I watched a doc about the four Warner Brothers, Jews — some born in Poland, Jack in London, Ontario — who pushed silent movies to become talkies and made some of the most important pictures of all time. The doc focused especially on the oldest, Harry — original name Hirsz Wonsal —, a mensch, generous and idealistic, and the youngest, Jack, the opposite, a sonofabitch. Fascinating. Who knew? 

Son Sam came to visit with Bandit. We're alike in many ways, he and I, analytical, introspective, striving to understand and be better. I told him I don't know another mother who has such intense, honest talks with her son. A gift. 

Today was house cleaning and a drink with dear friend Jason. We talked about how the world feels more screwed up than ever right now, on all sides. Depressing. An article I just read about AI posits that it will wipe out human beings before long. It may not set out to do so — although it may — but the writer gave as an example that a more advanced version of AI could be set the task of eradicating cancer cells, and its algorithms would figure out the most efficient way to do that would be to wipe out the hosts of cancer cells, i.e. us. 

Terrifying, what we have unleashed and are unleashing. My father used to be concerned about dementia because his mother had been afflicted with it. When he was diagnosed with stomach cancer, he said cheerfully, "Well, the good news is, now I don't have to worry about Alzheimer's." The good news about AI is that maybe we don't need to worry any more about climate change; we won't be here anyway.

Okay, a bit apocalyptic. But that's what I accomplished today. Quick, write it down.

To end, a memoir joke: