Monday, September 26, 2016

the debate! McKelsey defined.

The debate was fun, and I didn't expect it to be - I ran home (FACT CHECK: she lies - she actually took a taxi!) from my class at Ryerson, got in at 9.25 and turned on the TV. What drama! Impossible to believe, as I tweeted, that we had to waste our time, and even worse, that Hillary had to waste her precious time, listening to that moronic narcissistic imbecile.

Many decades ago, when I was in my early teens, my parents learned about a concept called McKelsey - perhaps the name of the social scientist who developed it, such a powerful concept I never forgot it. You could listen to a person's conversation and check their McKelsey rating - which means, the number of times they said the word "I" or talked about themselves only. A person who responds to any question, any conversation, with talking only about themselves has a very high McKelsey rating.

And Mr. Trump is the quintessential, unparallelled superstar of McKelsey. Everything, every single thing, only about himself. Even at the end - he walked off surrounded by his skinny women and his sons Beavis and Butthead. She dove into the crowd and so did her people - Bill, Chelsea et al.

I know from Twitter that EVERYONE was watching - fun to sit with computer and TV and follow them all. I got to follow a lot of smart people, and now I'm watching the Daily Show while eating peanut butter toast. She may have saved the world. Life is good.

"As soon as he travels to 112 countries and negotiates a peace deal, a cease fire, a release of dissidents, an opening of new opportunities and nations around the world or even spends 11 hours testifying in front of a congressional committee, he can talk to me about stamina." Hillary Clinton.

I understand that many people are hurting and want simple answers to complex questions. But truly, if anyone, anyone, can emerge from this debate and still want to vote for an egotistical moron, I will lose my faith in the planet. Hillary, with 100 million plus people watching, was magnificent. End of story.

my boychik

My Vancouver Chris just sent this, saying it popped up on a site he was reading:
I know that face. I know that face extremely well. He finished his job at The Gaslight on Bloor last night, after two good years there; the local Neighbourhood Watch, most of whom were his regulars at the bar, bought him an $175 bottle of Scotch as a farewell present. Now he's one of the managers at a new-old venture on King St. West - Harry's. Grant Van Gameren, the superstar restauranteur, a school chum of Anna's, has taken over a greasy spoon that's been there for 48 years and has vowed to upgrade slightly but otherwise leave it as the comfortable Parkdale local it has always been. Sounds like the ideal place for a very funny, very tall young man who dislikes pretension and loves to help people be happy and full.

I think his mother, sister and nephews will also enjoy a burger or twelve there. It opens soon.
Bravo, my son. Onward.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

notes on writing

A few work related bits:

This is from a student who's a reader of this blog:
Beth I want to thank you so much for your sharing the other day about the frustration of your friend backing out of being your agent. I can’t convey how helpful and inspiring it has been to read of all your ups and downs in the process of bringing your memoir to birth. I have read—and heard, even from you—descriptions of that slow, forward two steps, back one (or two or five) process, but there has been nothing like reading about your particular experience as it has unfolded to make that all real. So many times I have been surprised, even dismayed, by your experience, but then am always heartened and inspired by your continuing to just push forward. In addition, your insistence on taking the time to make it a great book and not just rush to an OK book has by osmosis helped me to subdue my own impatience and occasional desire to take a short-cut at the cost of mediocrity. Words deserve the best we can give them, and I thank you for being a model of that. 

I don't know about being a model of anything - except perhaps efficiency, dear friend, but thank you for this lovely note

Here's the winner of this year's CBC Non-fiction competition. It's a beautiful story, visceral and strong, written, she says in an interview, in an evening:

And - for those of you dreaming of the wonderful writing life - here's a harsh dose of reality. Okay, so it ain't easy. Well, it's a good thing we don't do it for the money and the fame. Ha ha.

A View from the Bridge, WOTS

I've been thinking more about what my friend Mary said - about my "efficiency" and how do I get such a lot done and get around so much? And there are two very big reasons which might not be self-evident: as opposed to someone with a husband who lives in the Beach, like Mary, I am single, and I live very close to many venues. If I want to do something, I don't have to consult, check calendars, persuade, wait - I just buy a ticket and go. And usually, I set off at the very last minute, because on my bike it's a hop and skip to see a play, film, art show or concert.

This Saturday, I left on my bike at noon for a film at 12.30, and I left that early only because it was sold out. And rightly so - Arthur Miller's "A view from the bridge" in a brilliant National Theatre production, directed by Ivo von Hove, at National Theatre Live. Once again, how grateful I am for this initiative - fantastic theatre at the cinema. This is one I would have liked, like my friends Jean-Marc and Richard, to have seen live, because even on the screen, this Greek tragedy set in Brooklyn  packed an enormous punch. Superb, extremely moving, beautifully acted and directed, just the best. I could have done without the "theatre of mess" shower of blood at the end. Sorry, spoiler alert. But otherwise, great.

And then, hop on the bike and home in ten minutes. That's how I get so much done. Well, and also because I am a multi-tasker by birth. I never leave a room without carrying something from A to B, never go on an excursion or an errand without figuring out if I can kill two birds etc. Friends make fun of me because I am always plotting the most efficient route and time of day to get around. Cannot help myself. I've always blamed that peccadillo on my New York genes. New Yorkers are insane like that.

And anyway - who says I've accomplished a lot in my 66 years? Some people my age have written 20 or more books by now! I'm a sloth, a total slug in comparison.

Speaking of which - Word on the Street today. I was there first with Eli who had a sleepover here last night - lots of fun. But he was not feeling well at the book event so we took it easy - watched TVO Kids events and went to some kids' book readings, where he lay down in my lap and fell asleep. I hope he's okay - his mama came to meet us and take him home. I stayed to go to the grown-up side where, I confess - though I always set out full of joy for this grand event celebrating writers and books - I got extremely depressed. So many books! So many writers! And yet not one of my books there, anywhere. And around this corner, a publisher who said no, and over there a former student I don't want to talk to, and over there ANOTHER publisher who said no. I bought "Alexander and the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day" and "Horton Hears a Who" and went home.

At breakfast, Eli asked me, "Glamma, can you make your arm fart?" How come no one has ever asked this efficient woman that vital question before?

From my editor friend Chris: Beautiful Yiddish saying I just found: To the unlearned, old age is winter; to the learned, it’s harvest time.

Especially cucumbers.

Friday, September 23, 2016

autumn begins

Yesterday, the autumn equinox, was still summer - hot and beautiful. But today it's fall, dank and cool. The authorities say this summer was the hottest on record for Toronto; my tomatoes are proof. Now there's a final flourish - everything is back to blooming, roses, camellias, the bank of late-blooming clematis covering everything, the rose of Sharon never lovelier - just heaven.

However. Life goes on, and the nightmares of the planet persist - Syria, Trump, Putin, the brutal deaths of unarmed black Americans, the hottest summer on record. Hard not to be sad and afraid, even while the smell of the camellias wafts in. But I refuse to take on the world's problems right now, I'm too busy.

At 66, I've never been busier; I need more time per day. There's teaching and assembling the readers for the next So True event on Oct.30 - four gorgeous essays almost ready so far. I spent time yesterday morning with my daughter and her squirmy younger boy -
and on Tuesday night, my own fine boy came to cook me dinner - trout and asparagus poached in white wine with a confit of smoked bacon and apricots accompanied by grilled mushrooms, leeks and baked potato - am I lucky or what?
But most of all - there's my own work. The transformation of my bedroom into my office and vice versa has been an unqualified success; I now see that a lot of my problems getting down to work were because I did not have the right office. I know, excuses, right? But in fact, now I'm happy to go up after breakfast and get down to it, in a bright space that's organized and comfortable. And the memoir is getting there, it's nearly there, and I love love love it, my little creation, my life in words. I've sent a query to two agents, have heard back from neither - obviously so inflamed with passion for my project, they're speechless for the moment.


Never mind, I still have lots to do. Last night at my home class, dear friend and student Mary exclaimed that she reads my blog and does not know how I fit everything into my day. "You're so efficient and organized!" she said. And though I do not usually accept compliments, I will with pleasure accept that one.

P.S. An hour later, I realize I just wrote something silly. Of course I'm not busier now than I have ever been - remembering when I was a young actress rehearsing by day, performing at night, and managing my frantic love life, or, even more exhausting, when I was the single mother of two young children living in a house that was disintegrating around us (and with a garden that was a jungle of weeds.) I was much busier then. But still I feel, these days, as if I can't keep up with it all.