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.