Tuesday, 5 June 2018

May: plants, pollen, and politics---in brief.

Nature never disappoints.

Unless it tree pollen season and you've gone through 10 boxes of tissues and several thousand milligrammes of antihistamines.  Having spent most of Spring incapacitated by plague, it is good to see mid-June on the horizon.  

Life's little stressors:  pollen, squirrels digging up the garden, and politicians knocking on your door.


Blink and you miss Spring in this country.  How many pairs of shoes, jackets, and dresses go unworn because we jump from 6C to 38C in a matter of a week?


Candy Tuft


Albion Falls

The trails were in good shape despite the rain and it's good to stretch the legs on the noon hour. Just learned that the chipmunk is not a herbivore.


Albion side trail
Hikers are still ignoring all the signs--the eyesores--and can be found at the bottom of the falls in need of a high-angle rescue.  Let them go over, if they insist, but charge them for the rescue. Hit them where it counts--the pocket book.


In between all the sniffles, a book was begun. It has been a long time since a novel drew me in so quickly. Perry has written a Gothic murk of a book.

Mark the calendar; the young lad and I broke bread together.  Korean BBQ can be overwhelming as plates of food come at you like Fantasia and it's a juggling act to eat everything while it's still hot and perfectly grill your food. This BBQ is not for the slow eater as there is simply too much, too soon.  Allow three hours to do it justice. Pro-tip--cook the short ribs, first.

Korean BBQ


And with the news this past weekend that Wynne has conceded the election--one week before the vote--this leaves me in a tough position.  I am opposed to strategic voting but, for the first time, may have to go against the conscience. The Greens should have better representation in the house and it was a mistake not to have included them in the debates. And the Liberals are adrift. Like Harper, it is unfathomable to have Ford in the high seat. Minority government it must be.

Until Thursday, then.


Monday, 14 May 2018

April. Glad to see the back of it

And the rest is silence.

Day 45 of squawking seagulls.  If I’d wanted to experience the seaside, I would have taken a hike along the local pier. Nine relentless hours of gulls crying over food spoils; clearly Winter wasn’t keen enough to kill off their numbers.

The crocuses came and went without a full bloom however the bloody dandelions were out by week one. 

April was a bleak month as we saw 16 dead in Humboldt, Saskatchewan. And this was followed by an investigation that seemed to take an extraordinary amount of time to determine cause and effect. One of the more profound images was that of a billet family’s memorial of three simple candles; unfortunately, one death was misidentified. The crash made international front pages and generated a multi-event support campaign. Token gestures of financial support? No, just over 15 million at last count.  Freelancer, Nora Lareto, questioned whether this support only came because the dead were white, male hockey players.  Quite frankly, I think she has a point.  We’d never see this kind of monetary support for other groups. Canada believes it is operating in a realm different to that of the US but we should not be so smug. Remember, too, the Paris terrorist attacks, the attack on Belgium.  Where were these people when Africa was under siege? Nowhere. I was pleased to see a surge in organ donation registration.  I only signed my card this past Winter and of course now I, will all due smugness, go around lecturing people on why they should sign their cards.

Further to Loreto's comments was a statement from Macleans which clearly illustrated that people were tip-toeing around the subject of both the crash victims and Indigenous issues.

We’d like to clarify that, contrary to misinformation being spread on social media, Nora Loreto has never been an employee of Maclean’s. She is a freelance writer who published one article on our website a few months ago. We had nothing to do with her extraordinarily inappropriate tweet regarding the Humboldt tragedy. We will have nothing else to say on this matter at the current time because we do not wish to distract from the tributes and grief being expressed on behalf of the victims of the accident, nor do we wish to feed into the torrent of abuse that Ms. Loreto has been subjected to since publishing her tweet.

Followed by a call for freedom of speech.  Murky depths.


Gale-force winds and the threat of 30mm of rain marked the first part of the month . It is Spring only on paper. Hunkering down with hot drinks and a movie was the order of the day.  Started with AbFab, Season 3—with Idris Elba, of all people.  Elba meant nothing to me back in 1995 but put him in contention as the next Bond and it’s ‘remember when?’ time. And Season 3 marked another chance for a Will Self reference.

Hibernation featured a long list of movies including Bridget Jones’s Baby where we ask ourselves, has she had work done? Yes and we’ve fortunately forgotten about it. Zellweger once stated she would never have work done but has every right to change her mind. Imagine achieving the kind of recognition where the likes of People magazine book an interview and all they want to do is talk about plastic surgery.  Couldn’t remember if this was the third installment as the last time I watched a Bridget Jones, I nodded off thanks to a full day in the sun.  I was in company at the time and remember it being a complete bore.  Time has been kinder and as far as sequels go, this one worked.   And the next day, the latest Walrus arrived—Childless by Choice.  Ha!

Also opted for Alien IV with Fassbender and I was pleasantly surprised.  Good creep-out and ‘Oh. My. God.’ factors.  Avoid the dvd commentary. Ridley Scott offers plot points and not much else.

One of the better movie podcasts is Someone Else’s Movies hosted by Norm Wilner.  This month, I revisited Truly, Madly, Deeply—which Wilner could not bring himself to watch after the death of Alan Rickman—and Terry Gilliam’s Brazil.  I sat through Brazil looking for the bellows.  Pro-tip, they’re found in Ida’s funeral scene. From the podcast I learned that Gilliam released a “happily ever after” edit whereby Sam and his girlfriend live in perfect bliss which sounds like an abomination.



Re: the rest is silence.  Stratford actor, Rodrigo Beilfus recently had a lightning-bolt moment over Hamlet when he realized that rest means death and not everything else.
That is terribly profound and reminded me of the ending in Truly, Madly, Deeply where Rickman’s character says, “I think so”, in response to the ghosts. It took years to figure out that he was talking about Nina moving on.

Finally,The Piano was unearthed which lead straight into An Angel At My Table. Jane Campion is a genius.  Much attention paid during the podcast that Campion is back on her game.  Was she ever really off it? Harvey Keitel didn’t seem as over the top which was probably a sign of my aging and not having seen the film for ages.

It was a truncated GritLit festival, this year—thanks to Mother N and a two-day ice storm.  GritLit 2018 was mired in controversy as it had originally scheduled a panel entitled, “Is CanLit a Raging Dumpster Fire?”, which was essentially the white, privileged person’s take on “Can Lit is a Raging Dumpster Fire” by Alicia Elliott; the piece based in part on the Steven Galloway controversy at UBC where –if I can encapsulate the fiasco—white, privileged writers came to Galloway’s defense—even in light of sexual harassment and assault allegations. Thus leading to a series of articles from Jonathan Kay, Christie Blatchford, and Elliot on cultural appropriation, white priviledge, rape culture, and so on. A sample of the articles from Elliot, Kay, and others, below.




WRITERS UNION--STATEMENT--Winning the Appropriation Prize


It is indeed a murky pit.

The GritLit faux pas arose when two white authors were invited to discuss whether the Dumpster Fire was actually a thing—a most egregious error—in the words of artistic director, Jennifer Gilles, who appeared nervous--and I would say intimidated--by this formidable panel of Jael Richardson—artistic director of The FOLD—the Festival of Literary Diversity, Carrianne Leung—author and former Writer’s Union of Canada member, and Alicia Elliot herself—who looked like a 15 year old that had been dragged, kicking and screaming, to the event by an overzealous parent; who afterwards said she had not wanted to participate and would not participate in a panel of this kind for some time.  She blamed her depression and I would argue that if one is depressed, one should not be on a literary panel attempting to explain white privilege to a room full of white people.

Scan of my previous book purchased show 100% white authors; 2018 selection shows 43% white.

I headed out to catch Tanya Talaga speak about her book, Seven Fallen Feathers, which won the RBC Taylor Prize for Non-Fiction and tells the stories of seven indigenous high schoolers who died from misadventure.  Apart from supporting the book, fifty-percent of the session’s proceeds were going to charitable causes.  Talaga has donated a portion of her prize money--$1000 to each of the seven families for giving her their story and $4000 to Dennis Franklin Cromarty High School in Thunder Bay which goes to support students coming in from remote regions of Ontario—because the only high school is in Thunder Bay—and to help them survive the transition to high school in what seems to be yet another racist community.  I missed Thunder Bay—twice—on my cross-country run and caught only a gas station and Wendy’s heading West and the downtown-by-twilight on my return trip. The evening was an opportunity to learn more about the Treaty nations of northern Ontario and hear some perspectives of the lives of those living in remote regions. Looking forward to the read.

Questions were taken; the usual suspect was there—who comes to support only indigenous writers—even the pre-festival events—and he asked how it was possible to raise over 10 million dollars for the Humboldt bus-crash victims yet we still don’t have drinking water in Treaty territories.  The same gentleman appeared at the next CanLit event—the Dumpster panel—and asked the same question of the guests who refused to answer him.  In fact, the audience had been instructed to only ask questions.  Comments were not welcome and when one white woman did speak up to say she was seeing change and “Wasn’t this panel going to be called something else?” she was crucified on the spot.  However, Kerri Sakamoto (fellow presenter) had a few things to say—that were not in the form of a question—and the panel did not interject to ask, “What is your question?” as they had done previously and as I was tempted to do.

I never saw the lighter side of GritLit as an ice storm brewed late Saturday afternoon and by dinner hour the car was encased in ice. Andrea Bain was presenting Single Girl Problems, arguing being single is not something women have to defend.  At least we seem to be moving past 1958. I was hoping the book was going to be a comic take on a serious subject with plenty of clinical, evidence-based backup.  It is not. Turns out Bain is a day-time talk show host and seeing that she was on the same panel as Judy Rebick, I had an entirely other idea about Bain.

And I missed Jamie Tennant interviewing Ron Sexsmith and Tom Wilson.  I was relieved that Tennant was conducting the interview as he has the maturity and humour to do it justice.  Grit Lit is led by volunteers and previous hosts have been far too quiet and lacking in confidence to conduct a panel. All very nice people but when authors are doing international book promotion, I think they’d like to feel justified in taking time out to drive into Hamilton—and that there’s more than a tote-bag and a mug waiting for them at the other end. See Elyse Friedman and Heather O’Neil and that unfortunate, sparsely attended evening.

Not thrilled with Hamilton Plaza--the new permanent festival site. Compared with the Art Gallery of Hamilton, it is a sterile, beige, cubicle-like environment.

The ice-storm raged and we were left with a nightmare cleanup just in time for the morning commute.  Ploughs and graders—absent during the peak of the storm—appeared in tandem to fill driveways with two feet of wet, dense slush which froze solid in moments. I left mine so my neighbour wouldn’t be tempted to leave.  I don’t think anyone was psychologically prepared to once more don winter gear and drag ice picks and shovels to the curb.

Various people lamented the lack of spring-like weather but this is precisely what spring weather is: four seasons in one day.

To soothe the soul, I perused THE FRENCH LIFE, a French cooling blog who posted a photo of the most bizarre-looking Madelaines I’ve ever seen. Also recommending SO GOOD MAGAZINE for fabulous French pastry images.

Cheers to all independent bookshops. April 28 marked independent bookstore day and a reminder to think outside the Indigo box. Sadly, Nicholas Hoare and Bryan Prince bookshops are no longer with us.

Overdue for a return visit to both Parry Sound and Orillia.

Presently reading, Curry, by Nathan Rubnum.  

Marketing:  biggest god of all.

Spring Tide brought to Hamilton the one and only, Dougie Ford. Ford insists on channeling his late brother, Rob. Ford bowed out of various early debates and guest spots, insisting that Ford Nation loves him (and his brother) and that he has “nothing to worry about”. One less candidate to have to consider, but the frightening thing is, it could happen. Municipally, candidates are announcing their intention to run and I have only one thing to say:  term limits.

Coal Mine theatre concluded its fourth season with Category E, the blackest of comedies.  Coal Mine is once again proving it can do no wrong.  The play is at once deeply disturbing and funny with a fabulous cast that includes Robert Persichini who has a lovely speaking voice and strikes just the right tone when delivering his lines--whether in moments of joy or rage. I’m told I missed a hell of a Christmas concert with the note for note performance of Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours. And for the first time, I ventured to the back of the theatre to use the one wc.  I was pleasantly surprised.

Note to all patrons:  please reconsider that hair bun. Ask yourself if piling hair on top of your head—thus making  you a foot taller—is really appropriate in a theatre setting. Consider those around you, please. I think my seat could have been classified obstructed seating. 

Critical these days is where to get coffee now that we are supposed to be boycotting both Horton’s and Starbucks.  Reasons can be found here STARBUCKS BOYCOTT and here FAIR WAGES + TIM HORTONS.

Two minutes! That’s the amount of time the two gentlemen were in Starbuck’s before the clerk called the cops. I opted for Balzac’s and people-watched for half an hour.  It is challenging getting a table in Balzac’s as there is usually one person to a table feverishly keying a laptop, nursing that one cup of coffee, cell phone firmly grasped in the other hand.

Carnage again with ten pedestrians mowed down in Toronto while out for a stroll on a brilliant afternoon.  This time the coroner took their time identifying everyone so as not to repeat the Humboldt mis-identification. People were only too relieved to find out that the murderer was a white, Christian male.  Various right-wing media outlets dispatched their reporters to add fuel to the fire by speculating on political and religious views. Katie Hopkins—dubbed by the UK as the ‘biggest bitch in Britain’--and now with Rebel Media—could be found on the streets spewing racist venom. Go away, please.

Admin Day passed unobserved. I take two approaches. 


One colleague sent around a cheery, albeit late 'Celebrate!' at 16:30 but otherwise it was heads down.  Same reaction on Women's Day--zero response from any female. Well that's that.

April concluded with some good news:  Polish women made progress marching again for their human rights. And when the Polish RALLY, they rally. And FORCILLO was heading back to jail. Next time look to the bus driver, who calmly got everyone off the bus, calmly spoke with Yatim, and then got himself off the bus. Next time, try de-escalation tactics.

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Adieu, March--Eleven Days Later

And the ending just kept getting further away...

So I went from a New Year blog, to Midwinter, to Spring Equinox, to month-end—only with words this time. Critically, length has been my downfall and the more I read, the more striking the brevity of any given blog.  I always strive to achieve something more than the, I woke up, worked out, ate a salad, and bought lipstick and here are the photos to prove it (not that there’s anything wrong with that) kind of blog. The only problem is that I turn into Professor Tripp and Crabtree loses his job.

A lot has been written about how we’ve forgotten to read deeply as a result of social media and the very thing we’re doing here.  Forgetting how to read deeply because, in an age of instant gratification, if we can’t get what we want in the first few lines, we abandon a piece in favour of something new. (How do all these on line long-form pieces survive?) See Michael Harris’s I HAVE FORGOTTEN HOW TO READ.

Side note on the ’s. My latest guru and soon-to-be-author, BC Dreyer, advocates for the following construction:

Harris’s I Have Forgotten How To Read versus the more conventional Harris’ I Have Forgotten How To Read.

Dreyer is also a proponent of only one space between sentences. That will take some getting used to.

I recently discovered Call Me Scotty by Andrea Scott, playwright and producer-extraordinaire emphasizing brevity, topicality, and frequency of posts.  Scott is presently located in Stratford, Ontario and her writing can be found at CALL ME SCOTTY.

Seven degree weather and confirmed sighting of the following

1.    daffodil and tulips shoots
2.    cardinal and partner foraging
3.    doves canoodling
4.    sparrows nest building
5.    red-wing call
6.    crocuses in bloom—thanks to a roving squirrel
7.    neighbour raking a frozen, frost covered front garden
8.    Desi’s Aluminum & Siding—for on-street parking began this weekend!

Yes, folks, there’s nothing like having a commercial pick-up truck parked on your front for the weekend. This is the man who emptied a weeks’ worth of recycling into my blue box—my empty blue box—and the remainder of his garbage into my—also empty—green bin.

Quick tour of the backyard to assess the degree of damage control, come May.  The doves had been at the old robin’s nest—had in fact savaged the nest—so they seem intent on squatting, again.  Doves, by nature are not an interesting species. I’d much rather have a dynamic robin tending its eggs and young.  Doves don’t move—at all.

We wait patiently for the daffodils.

The month began in storm-watch mode which turned out to be a non-starter and very disappointingly resulted in no day off.  The Peel District School Board must be loving it—immediate school closures;  Peel and parts of Halton Catholic who also seem to take no chances.  In my day—and no exaggeration—we walked on a sidewalk-free highway through several feet of snow, crossing five live lanes of traffic.

Key was the need to prove a certain boss wrong as he was convinced we were to see no storm. His Doppler works different to everyone else’s.We did have a corker of a thunderstorm, though.

Side not for said boss:  Employee Appreciation Day went unobserved, again. Having said that, I dislike having one day set aside for any acknowledgement of this kind—be it annual reviews or the approaching Admin Day; there cannot be just one day set aside to provide feedback.  Like the dreaded annual review, why wait a year to let people know how things are going.  Reviews are reviled; cheap and dreaded so that must be why corporations continue to conduct them.

Spring cleaning began in earnest; more to the point, pre-spring cleaning. As we know, I missed Winter ’16 and Spring ’17 deep cleaning due to pneumonia which was followed by flu this past Winter so things got a bit out of hand. We are fooling no one but ourselves if we think a 16-pocket purse will help keep us organized. It is merely 15 more pockets in which to lose stuff.

In between sneezes and lethargy, I finally caught up on the original Wallander series.  Loved the A-line skirts and dresses; the Swedes are obviously a sensible bunch. See also low ceilings.

After thirteen episodes of crime, I switched to Jarmusch’s Paterson which is entirely the wrong thing as, after Wallander, Ripper Street, and Homeland, the brain is conditioned to anticipate the next thing to go sideways and of course nothing does “happen” in Paterson—it’s a character study, not plot driven.  Appreciated the tv-free space of the Paterson bar.

Bracing for Season 4 of Ripper Street.  

Also revisited Trainspotting I and II.  Sadly, the original was the North American cut as the accent had been cleaned up for those across the pond.  I think the cult status could be maintained by leaving the scene as intended. Very happy with the second film as the characters are exactly where they should be: addiction, remorse, on the take, and jail.

Then, it was foreign film bonanza including Pawel Pavlikowski’s Ida. I’d quite forgotten about the nun by the time we got to the open window.  

Butter and sugared bread.

Out the open window.

Time to get back to books, in earnest.  First on the list is Roxane Gay’s collection of essays, Bad Feminist. This is a no BS approach to life and Gay can be counted on to tell it like it is.  

Sadly this book was purchased from Indigo—because I got a good deal—and last week we learned that Bryan Prince Booksellers closed its doors. They shall be missed at GritLit, this year. If you can’t make it when you’re a stone’s throw from a University, have incorporated author readings, open workspace, and are supported by and support an annual literary festival, what hope is there for other shops?  Epic Books on Locke seem to be in the black and may have taken some of the business off Prince. Several years ago, I bought two cookbooks from Epic but have never returned. Unfortunately, the last books I tried to order through Prince are all out print. (There are, however, used editions floating around on Indigo’s site.)  But books are bloody expensive; there are very few who can afford $35 for a hardback.

Controversy still swirling around Soulpepper and Animal Farm quickly divided the full house, beginning with the cast introducing themselves—not as their character but as the costumed actor.  The play was a commissioned piece and tossed aside the Russian influence in favour of Trump, Syria, and a lotto-playing horse, amongst other diversions. A 50/50 split and I find myself in full agreement with The Globe and THE STAR.

On the brighter side, Canadian Stage is offering a fabulous line up for Jocelyn's final year as Artistic Director. Looking forward to Lepage's Corialanus at Stratford, this year.

Sook-Yin Lee is back.

Easter--the next great exercise in food. Something for next year's treat table---The Stigmata Cookie. Too bad there's no consistency in a date for Easter holidays. And too bad we don't all get the Monday as statutory.

Easter presents yet another opportunity for cake and brunch. And why not indulge in a sausage or two followed by lashings of icing.  Cake was a tad boggy, this time around.

Further, to confirm that Spring is indeed upon us, despite the hail, sleet, and hanging gale, three groundkeepers fired up their leaf blowers in what can only be decribed as a great middle-finger to the rest of us.  A rake works wonders.

Looking forward to what the neighbours will do with the garden, this year.  Elements of Pet Cemetery at the moment.

Better get started on April, now. Brevity, brevity, brevity.