Friday, October 31, 2008

a fizzle on Friday

After that rant yesterday, I began work on an essay that was half done, and sat for six hours rewriting, shaping, adding, moving a line from here to there.  The deadline for the CBC Literary Competition is tomorrow; I've entered before, though not for a few years, and have been shortlisted three times.  A deadline is a very good thing for a freelance writer.  So I wrote and rewrote till after midnight (taking a break for Jon Stewart), felt good about the work, printed it and went to bed.

Reread it first thing this morning.  It doesn't work.  Way too big, once again - I cannot resist the panoramic sweep, the vast vista, rather than the small, telling moment that, explored in detail, actually means much more.  I am cramming in one of the huge stories of my life; the reader is exhausted by far too big a story to fit into a 2500 word essay.  And other stories I've considered for the competition are too small.  If you're entering a competition, you have to choose a  story that fits the allotted word count.

So is that six hours - plus the many other hours spent getting the piece underway - wasted? Well, for this year's competition, yes.  For my life as a writer, not at all.  I've got the basis of a much bigger piece and have learned yet again to slow down, shrink the scope, focus.  And all that work with words is pure pleasure.  What else would I have done with my evening?  Well, if someone had given me a ticket, I could have seen Prokofiev's War and Peace at the Canadian Opera, that would have been a great use of my time.  I could have gone for a long walk or visited a friend.  Instead I wove words.  The tapestry isn't ready for viewing yet.  But it will be. 

Today is bright and not so cold, so I'll go out and get my face in the sun.  And then I'll sit down with the bloody thing and start again.  Or maybe start another.  Back to the loom.   

Thursday, October 30, 2008

How I Write, by Beth Kaplan

This is what happens to me when I sit down in the morning, after breakfast and coffee, to write: if I’m not in the middle of a project, I cast about for ideas.  I try to relax and think, okay, what matters most right now? What should I tell about?  Some important anecdote?  No, some lesson.  Usually, it’s a lesson – life is about learning to relax; let your children go; diaries are important.  I start to formulate a story about how I used to be in a mess but fixed it, whatever it is. 


Then I realise – sometimes after the story is well underway - no, stories shouldn’t be lessons.  So I rethink.  But by now something has interrupted – for example, right there as I was writing “lessons”, my tenant came into the kitchen practically on top of me and started doing distracting things, so I had to close the computer and walk away till he was gone.  There’s a phone call, there’s email, someone’s at the door – Jean-Marc as he’s walking by stops in to say hello, Dave appears in the garden and needs me to consult with him, the homeless guy wants work – the mail arrives and there’s something to be followed up or a New Yorker to flip through, just flip through to see what’s in it, mind, I won’t stop to read it now because I’m working.  But first there’s laundry to put in, dishes to wash, groceries to get, one of the kids calls, my mother calls and talks for almost an hour, the cat has peed on the carpet, the raccoons have scattered garbage all over the yard, plants need to be watered and pruned, the garden and birdfeeder need tending, some bit of officialdom needs to be seen to, Wayson calls and says let’s have lunch. Not today thanks, I say, I'm working. I eat a bit more, wash, get dressed – while getting dressed, become preoccupied with a skirt – does it need to be hemmed? Let’s pin it and look.  This pair of beads that should be shortened, who does that, let’s look in the Yellow Pages – and mmm, should do more laundry, need underwear, or maybe I should buy some, put it on my list, where’s the list?  These shoes need to be stretched, this sock drawer needs to be organised, that lightbulb is burned out, find the list.  And while we’re at it, let’s take the tweezers to the facial hairs and do a thorough job, fifteen minutes of close inspection.  And as I pass by the kitchen table there are two newspapers waiting to be read, the comics at least.  More coffee.  A snack involving yogurt.  Check TV guide – nothing on tonight, as always.


And let’s not forget Google and Safari, things to look up – flights to price and book, names to check on, information to seek, the New York Times always interesting and informative. Students emailing work that needs to be read and often edited.  Then back to creative work.  Where was I?  Oh yes, what’s meaningful now?  What stories do I love to tell friends?  A story about my past – being in the theatre.  What it was like to be in the theatre, that’s a good story.  I pick up the pen to start.  But – I have diaries, tons of diaries. Shouldn’t I check in the diaries first?  There will be such valuable research material in there, authentic, vibrant.  I’ll just check in the diaries.  Where are they, the ones for my acting life?  Let’s look.  Hmm, here are ones about the kids, that’s another important story.  Oh my God, I’d forgotten how lonely those days were.  Divorce, the worst thing … No, theatre, we’re looking for …


It’s noon, time to go to the Y.  Quick, jump on the bike, get to the Y, do the class, shower, on the way home drop into Doubletake, the secondhand store around the corner, right on the way.  Get home, if I’ve bought something at Doubletake try it on, make and eat lunch.  Listen to messages.  My mother, definitely now if not before.  The kids.  A good friend needs a hand, needs advice, has an idea about tonight. 


Sit down again.  Just do it.  An idea comes, and a line.  Two lines – a paragraph.  Two paragraphs, and it’s time to go back and fiddle with them, make them better.  Half an hour writing the two paragraphs, and half an hour to rewrite them until they flow well.  I will only realise later that they’re dull – that when I sit to write I lose my natural, energetic, lively voice and turn into someone pedantic and stiff.  I suck the juice out of my own material.  I read other writers endlessly, admire their natural voices and flow, but when I sit to write, I turn into someone boring.  


And now it’s five sharp – time for the first glass of wine.

P.S. I'm exaggerating, of course.  But you get the general idea.      

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

words are now

It's 7.50 p.m. and I'm waiting to hear what Obama has to say at 8 o'clock.  While I wait, the computer's on my lap like a purring cat, and I am reading blogs, including the always interesting Andrew Sullivan's.  He wrote a column about why he writes a blog, and finishes like this:

"In fact, for all the intense gloom surrounding the news-paper and magazine business, this is actually a golden era for journalism. The blogosphere has added a whole new idiom to the act of writing and has introduced an entirely new generation to nonfiction. It has enabled writers to write out loud in ways never seen or understood before. And yet it has exposed a hunger and need for traditional writing that, in the age of television’s dominance, had seemed on the wane.

Words, of all sorts, have never seemed so now."

putting the champagne on ice

Only a few more days until the world changes, my friends.  Let us pray that Al Qaeda does not decide to get involved in the American election.  A neighbour suggested we gather on November 4th and drink a lot of champagne.  That's the best idea I've heard in ages.  

It's winter already, not even November - white pellets of hail or snow tumbling down as I write.  It feels colder when you're not ready for it - I hadn't even taken my winter coats out of storage yesterday, but there was such a bitter wind, I went back home and got out one of my warmest, with a giant hood.  Strange to be dressed like an Inuit at the end of October.  Time to take special care to fill the bird feeder.

We had an extraordinary class at Ryerson this week - midway through the term I give an assignment to push writers to be brave with their stories, and they all came through.  One after another, powerful, beautiful stories.  I marvel, as I always do, at the painful secrets we all carry.  

Many of the stories, as usual, were about fathers - absent, neglectful, distant, judgemental, abusive fathers, and one wonderful father tragically dead too young.  I tell classes that if I want to make people cry, I ask them to write about their fathers.  Because in general, so much is unresolved with Dad - Mum is there, for better or worse, and believe me, I've heard about plenty of terrible mothers, bad parenting is not the exclusive territory of men.  But at least she and her flaws are familiar.   So many of us didn't know our fathers well, had never really talked to them, had no way of telling them or asking for any kind of truth.  And sometimes that void haunts us forever. 

This financial meltdown is quite something to watch - articles in the paper about living frugally, buying second hand clothes, not using your car - well, some of us have been living that way for a long time, so we barely notice that there's anything different now except that food prices have gone up.  I've been an actress, a wife and mother, a single mother and a writer - so there was only one period, briefly, when I had a husband with a real job and we were actually solvent. Even then I often bought second-hand clothes, though in a designer resale store, not Goodwill which I frequented after my divorce.  Now the nearby Goodwill and Doubletake stores are more crowded than usual.  People are discovering the joy of poking through other people's castoffs for something that more or less fits, doesn't smell or have noticeable holes.  And of course, for the occasional treasure - "I can't believe someone gave this away!"  Like my Chanel purse ($3.00) and Balenciaga ballgown ($18.00), which I am longing for a place to wear.

I would never complain about living outside of the mainstream.  Here I am on a bitterly cold morning, on the sofa under a blanket with the crabby cat at my feet, writing to you.  There is no money from this activity, not one penny.  I cannot even really afford to live in my house.  But I have managed for years, somehow, and so have most of my friends.  

Though it's harder to be outside the mainstream, or outside at all, when it's so cold.  


Sunday, October 19, 2008

My Own Private Editor

A new calm settles into our Canadian lives, or at least into mine - I heard our Prime Minister on the radio this afternoon and didn't rush to turn him off.   The next excitement: the U.S. election, which looks as if it will have an extremely happy ending.  Someone sent me pictures of Obama with his children, bending to listen gravely to one daughter, grinning that spectacular grin while driving a bumper car with the other ... 

If Hollywood had invented him, we wouldn't believe him.  In fact, Hollywood did, or New York - remember when "The West Wing" depicted a brilliant, accomplished, hard-working, plainspoken, left-wing outsider, a Latino, running to replace the heavenly Jed Bartlett as president?  "If only," we all sighed, or at least I did.  And only a few years later, here he is, and he's almost too good to be true.

He will inherit such a phenomenal mess - why does such a fine man want that job?  

Well, no more obsessing about politics: back to work.  I regularly check out the periodicals for writers at my local magazine store (while also pawing furtively through the fashion mags and today through Brad Pitt's pictures of the mother of his children in "W" - how close to those plump lips can the camera go?  Find out in "W" but here's a clue: pretty damn close.) The new issue of "the Writer" magazine was titled "MEMOIR - FIND THE RIGHT APPROACH" so I bought it and am reading an article about structuring your memoir.  The problem with writer's magazines, and with all the great books about writing too, is that those of us in permanent avoidance mode can spend lots of time reading about writing instead of actually writing, and still feel as if we're working.  As I am right now.

Only joking.  It's Sunday, my reading day - I actually take a day of rest, at least from writing, in order to read.  Last week I also took a break from my own memoir - for which I am trying to find the structure - to work on a shorter essay I pulled from my files.  It's about my life as an actor, and I did a first draft five or six years ago.  I'm not sure if it's harder to take the bones of an old piece and pull it apart, or to start fresh, but this time I did the former.  

After a few drafts, I did what I often do when a new piece reaches a certain stage - I emailed it to my friend Margaret Davidson, an editor who lives in Vancouver.  What a valuable gift she gives me each time she reads.  Just mailing it off helps - as soon as I've sent it, I read it again, trying to see it through her eyes.  And then a response comes, often within the hour, with her thoughtful analysis of what I'm trying to do and where I'm going wrong (and, once in a while, where I'm doing something that works.)  This time she sent it back with giant chunks highlighted in orange which she suggested I cut, and other parts underlined in blue which needed fixing.  And I agreed with every cut and fix.  

Many drafts to go, but I've had a great boost.  A student told me last week that she'd always thought you should just get on with your writing and not need an editor's help.  But at last, she said, she realised that there was nothing wrong with needing an outside viewpoint.  Not only is there nothing wrong with it, but it's essential.  We often have no idea how much good editors have helped cut, shape and refashion famous manuscripts, propelling them to success.  

Here's to the unsung heroes of the writing trade: the editors.  Thanks to you all, and thanks particularly to Margaret, my very own set of intelligent eyeballs attached to a precise and invaluable brain.  

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Wow, that election was so like really worth it!

That was fun, wasn't it kids? 

Or not.  I could hardly bear to watch the first election returns, afraid of a Harper majority - but soon calmed down.  How crazy is it that after that colossal expenditure of time, money and effort, we have almost exactly the same government we had before?  And then Harper tells us he always knew he wouldn't get a majority government.  So this whole exercise was really just his idea of a jolly way to spend the end of summer.

Well, the results could have been so much worse.  Sensible, cautious Canadians come through again.  They too took note of those cold blue eyes; no one was taken in by the photo op of Stephen in a cuddly blue sweater, hugging an Oriental child.  Next time, the Liberals will have a stronger leader and platform, and let's hope the landscape looks much different when it's over. The good news is the gains made by the NDP, the sad news the complete shut-out of the Greens.  So frustrating to have three parties battling each other on the left, while the Big Blue Machine marches along alone on the right. Marches along without Newfoundland, Quebec or a single city.  How I love the mottled maps of Canada's electoral patterns - all fascinatingly unpredictable, except Alberta. How grateful I am to the Quebecois, who objected so strongly to Harper's arts cuts and proposal to sentence minors to adult prison, and shut him out.  How I love this crazy country.

As opposed to the one to the south, which is truly, terrifyingly crazy.  It's surreal to watch a highly intelligent man like Ari Fleischer, once George Bush's press secretary, telling Jon Stewart how much he likes and admires Sarah Palin.  Or last night, watching the last debate between Obama and McCain - why are these men even on the same stage? - and then hearing the pundits declaim that this was McCain's finest hour, he came on strong, he was aggressive and on target ... He was at times barely coherent, is what he was, with Obama making point after point with extraordinary intelligence and clarity.  Is there any choice here? 

At the workshop on Tuesday night on memoir writing, I was introduced by "On the far left is Beth Kaplan, our first speaker."  That's where I was sitting, but it made me laugh.  I spoke about the importance of craft, technique, honesty and courage in memoir writing; Sarah Moore from "More" magazine about the "Memoir" section which accepts personal essays; Lindsay Michael, a young woman from the CBC, introduced us to "Out Front," a fifteen minute documentary segment produced for radio by ordinary Canadians.  And Dr. Ross Pennie spoke about his memoir of being a doctor in Kuala Lumpur.  A full spectrum of memoir activities.  

Speaking of the "far left," a few days ago a response was posted to my previous piece here, calling me "one scary lady" for my highly negative views of Mike Harris and Harper.  It was the first time I had a real sense of what it means to be present in the blogosphere.  It has always seemed that friendly people, if not only actual friends, were reading, but that is not always the case, and I have to be prepared for that.  I do think the guy was right to challenge me for using the word "loathe."  I tend to overstate, and the world does not need more hatred.   

But if you don't like my beliefs, please don't read them.  As Albert Einstein said: "I am not only a pacifist but a militant pacifist.  I am willing to fight for peace." 

Monday, October 13, 2008

nightmares of Stephen Harper

10.45  a.m. on Thanksgiving Monday.  O glorious day.

I slept badly, tossing and turning with nightmare images of Harper's smug face.  There's an article in the "Star" today about what strong dislike he provokes, like his  Conservative predecessor Mulroney, and I can certainly agree; I have rarely had such profoundly visceral negative feelings about a politician. I can't bear to look at him, he makes me so angry.  Perhaps he evokes something very deep, very far back - a playground bully or a nasty, heedless teacher. Even former Ontario premier Mike Harris whom I loathe as much as any human alive, even George Bush and Sarah Palin do not provoke me to a dislike as strong as that I have for cold, glib Stephen Harper, who will soon be ruling my world once again, sending young war resisters back to prison in the U.S. and sentencing 14-year olds to life in prison here.

I think the wily Conservatives called the election for the day after Thanksgiving so the sleepy electorate will be full of turkey and sweet potato on voting day, all those soothing chemicals, and will opt for the status quo.    

But I have to keep things in perspective: this is Canada.  Even if Harper wins a majority, Canada will not invent a pretext to invade another country.   To the planet, that other election matters far more.  

And on this Thanksgiving Monday, the weather is stunning, warm, sunny, peaceful.  I give thanks for the bounty of this life.  Thanks for this country even if sometimes it disagrees with me; thanks for this city which Mike Harris tried to destroy; thanks for this garden in which I'm sitting at this moment, despite the trampling and scavenging of the raccoons.  

Most of all, thanks for the family and friends who will soon be here, who are not perfect, who are so much loved despite, or maybe because of, their flaws.  As am I, I hope.  Can I try to love Stephen Harper for his flaws?


There is no point losing sleep over something I can do nothing to stop.  This is a down cycle for my beloved country.  That will change.  In the meantime, it's time to stuff the turkey.  

I beg you, those of you voting tomorrow - don't let the nice fat turkey lull you to passivity and sleep.  Look into Harper's icy blue eyes, please, and consider the heart that's attached.   

Saturday, October 11, 2008

upcoming seminar on memoir writing

I'm blogging at my kitchen counter.  I'll get used to this.  Now I can receive junk mail from everywhere in my house!  Yay!

This is a reminder about the seminar workshop on Tuesday October 14th : "Telling Individual Tales: How to craft compelling memoirs and personal essays" presented by PWAC and Ryerson.  There will be four speakers: moi, Sarah Moore, editor-in-chief of the excellent "More" magazine (no relation), Lindsay Michael, producer of Outfront on CBC Radio One, and Dr. Ross Pennie, author of the memoir "The Unforgiving Tides," about his time as a young doctor in Papua, New Guinea.  

So all facets of memoir writing, editing and selling will be covered.  

It's on Tuesday October 14th at the World's Biggest Bookstore at 20 Edward Street, one block north of Yonge and Dundas.  Registration 6.30 to 7, seminar 7 to 9 then a Q and A and light refreshments.

I know it's election night.  This is for those of you who vote early then can't stand the suspense and would rather spend the evening discussing something important. Hope to see you there.  

giving thanks for health and technology

My technical genius friend Bruce has just set up wireless internet here - so I'm sitting in the backyard as I type.  Earlier he Skyped our mutual friend Chris in Vancouver; they both have webcams so Bruce was walking around the house carrying his computer and gossiping with Chris on the screen.  Recently I decided to look for a Belgian friend I last saw in 1964 and found her instantly on Google and Facebook, though she hasn't written back yet.  I can't get over these extraordinary innovations, which bring the whole world to our kitchen table.  Though I still don't know how they cram all those tunes into that tiny iPod thingy.  With a special funnel?

I am heartsick that Stephane Dion's misunderstanding of several badly-phrased questions has renewed doubts about his leadership abilities.  Can one tiny mistake decide the future of a country?  The thought makes me ill.

However, on a cheerier note, Bruce took me to a preview of "The Sound of Music" last night, starring the lovely young woman who won the televised competition.  There are some casting oddities - Captain von Trapp is old enough to be Maria's father and the eldest Trapp daughter is too old and tall for the role - but the fresh and pretty Maria is lively, honest, open - in a word, adorable.  I'd forgotten how gorgeous the music is and how important the story - not only the importance of standing up to Nazis, but about the necessity for joy and song and play and loving your children.  I enjoyed it thoroughly.  

But I am enjoying even more sitting in my garden writing to you, my unknown readers, while the sparrows chatter nearby in the ivy and at the feeder, and the sun shines on my face.  In the midst of two ghastly, terrifying election campaigns, let us take time for these moments of sheer pleasure, especially when the weather is so helpful.  And many thanks, many thanks, many thanks, for the health of my family and friends, and your health, and my own.  

And thanks to Bruce for this magic.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Anybody But Harper

My friend Margaret emailed from Vancouver today that she was going away for Thanksgiving weekend but would be back "to vote ABH."  I asked what that meant.  
"Anybody But Harper," she wrote back, and sent me the following link to a superlative short piece made by the daughter of a friend, about some of the things the Conservatives have done since elected.  I urge you to watch and if you agree with it, send it on to your friends.  More importantly, send it to any undecided voters you know.

I pray that momentum is building on the other side, as the media is saying, but I fear it's a myth.  Let's make it real.

A heavenly day.  I woke at 7 to the dawn chorus, the dozens of sparrows and finches who nest in the ivy near my bedroom window all squawking at once - the sound of life.  I read recently the explanation for it, something to do with testosterone - but anyway, I lay in bed waiting for the magic moment, which came about 20 minutes later - suddenly, silence.  I imagine the head sparrow bringing down his wing, meaning "cut!"  How do they all know to shut up instantly, at once?  

Another sound of life, last night - I was the guest of my friend Eleanor at the opera, to hear Mozart's  "Don Giovanni."  I kept thinking of the word "elitist" which is used sneeringly now as a weapon, and how glad I am to be invited to join the elite every once in a while - Margaret Atwood and her husband were there and many media types, in the elegant new Toronto opera house with its walls of windows and clean, simple lines.  The production wasn't so good, actually, but it didn't matter because the singing was heavenly and the music - well, what to say?  One masterpiece after another.  To think that this sublime, incandescent genius died in poverty.  With an arts grant or two, he might ... no.  Let's keep Mozart out of the election campaign, shall we?

May you hear your own sounds of life today, and get your share of sun.   

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Ordinary Canadian artists unite!

What a great way to spend lunch hour - standing happily in the spitting rain with hundreds of my fellow artists.  There was a rally in support of the arts today in front of the CBC, and I went praying that it wouldn't be just a pathetic handful of starving types.  Instead, I was swallowed by a huge crowd waving signs and placards.  I held one aloft: "Ordinary Canadian Artist Against Arts Cuts." C'est moi and proud of it.  

I saw actors, dancers, writers, filmmakers, musicians, visual artists - what a funky, lively, engaged bunch.  The atmosphere was sombre and joyful at the same time.  The obligatory earnest woman was handing out flyers in support of the Communist party.  Mark McKinney of The Kids in the Hall spoke wonderfully, and so did Eric Peterson - he donned the hat of his character in "Corner Gas," turned into the curmudgeonly Oscar, and read a letter to Stephen Harper "from one jackass to another." 

It seems utterly impossible to me that anyone could support that man and his policies. Did you read the list in the paper yesterday of all the people who've been denied entry into Canada recently?  The issue came up again because a master musician from Kenya, a married man with a university job in Africa, was denied a visa to enter Canada, to which he'd been invited for a series of music workshops, on the grounds that he would probably want to stay.  A complete embarrassment.   A Canada I don't recognise.

Last night on Jon Stewart, a young American writer called Sarah Vowell told Jon that she couldn't bear to read the newspapers any more, it was all too negative and depressing.  Instead, she said, she went on-line to listen to Franklin D. Roosevelt's fireside chats during the Depression.  He was helping Americans survive a dark time, she said, and is just as relevant today.  

I know how she feels.  I tried to watch the American debate last night, but McCain literally turns my stomach.  Seeing Harper's cold, bland face does the same.  This is the most important election I can remember, and as far as I can see, millions of people are going to be making this decision for me for the flimsiest reasons - Sarah Palin's hairdo or Harper's scaremonger ads. 

Oh well.  Thanksgiving is coming, and I will give thanks for all that's good in the world, including that wonderful motley crew outside the CBC today, standing in the rain to support each other and the wise magic they must continue to make.   

Monday, October 6, 2008

out of the blump

I hit a blogger slump last week, which I've named a "blump."  Couldn't get up the focus to write here.  Perhaps it was the scary and/or absurd political and financial landscape, or being home after the high of Washington and New York, or the onset of autumn. The cold is a shock - turning on the furnace, getting out the coats, hats and gloves, beginning to put away the garden. But as I look out of my office window right now, the sun is shining on masses of green. We have many days to go and a lot of raking to do before it all shuts down out there.

On the good news front: I am thrilled to have replaced my stolen Bluebird with a beautiful bicycle from Craigslist.  I was lucky enough to contact an honest young man, a bicycle mechanic who'd fixed up a thirty-year old but almost never used family bike. A brand new Kryptonite lock cost $85 and the bicycle only $40 more.  Her name is - that is, everyone knows her as - Nancy.

More good news: my son's battered face has healed except for a red bump still on his forehead.
My cheerful friend Bruce is visiting from Vancouver - my own personal techie, who will show me how to work my DVD player properly, help renovate my computer, and just generally do complex manly things about the house.  What a treat.  
Friend Margaret was also here last week, also visiting from Vancouver - she and I were pregnant at the same time, gave birth to our first and second children only months apart, and so as you can imagine, have lots to talk about, lots of mutual worrying and reassuring.  Margaret also works as my editor - hmm, is there a pattern here, of me putting my friends to work?  Yes.  While we ate lunch, we edited a personal essay of mine that will appear in More magazine in February.  Well, I can't help it if I have skilful friends, can I?

I won't even think about Stephen Harper, the timber wolf in sheep's clothing - oh, the fake friendliness of that soft blue sweater, reflecting the ice in those eyes - or mention the appallingly shallow and inept Sarah Palin.  Because then all my good feelings would vanish and the blump might pull me down again.  

I'm embarrassed to say that I missed "Nuit Blanche."  I intended to go out and explore my arts-ravaged city, but it was cold and dark and I was sitting at the computer working and suddenly it was 1 a.m. and I just went to bed like the fogey I am.  Next year, without fail, I will be out there to see what my artist colleagues have done to transform our concrete home for a night. 

But Nancy and I did go for a long ride on the Don Valley Trail on sunny Sunday morning - Michaelmas daisies and scarlet sumach in the sharp, diminishing light of fall.  Just happy to get my face in the sun.  Happy to get past the blump.  Happy New Year to my Jewish friends, and happy sunny day to everyone.  

Thursday, October 2, 2008

nixing the debates

The debates are on right now, both Canadian and American.  I watched a bit of both, and now I can't watch either.  Unfortunately, Sarah Palin has been well enough coached that she isn't hilariously inarticulate, like she was with Katie Couric; she's just mean and small-minded with a giant sparkly smile.  What kind of moron voter is warming to that fake folksy manner, I don't even want to imagine.

And up here, I think Dion is doing a good job of overcoming his accent, trying to connect with the public and get vital points across, which is hard when your English is barely comprehensible and you are small and nerdy.  Elizabeth May is a breath of fresh air, Jack Layton is a pit bull, Harper is a timber wolf in sheep's clothing, pretending to be just a nice aw shucks guy with the coldest blue eyes on the planet.  And  what the other guy is doing there, I have no idea.  Unbearable.

On Vision at the same time, there's a program on the Kindertransport - Jewish children shipped out of Germany before the war, to save their lives.  I watched a bit of that to give me perspective, and found it beyond unbearable.  The thought of putting my children on a train to God knows where ... what selfless courage.  What agony.

So much for tonight's television.  I'll have to wait for Jon Stewart to be able to watch something that doesn't hurt. 

Sunday's Write in the Garden workshop has been cancelled.  My writing friends have more sense than I - today was, in fact, freezing, so a day in the garden in October was not one of my best ideas.  I do, however, have four people working on their memoirs one on one with me - indoors.  Where it's warm.  If you have something you'd like to work on in my toasty office, let me know.

Today I had a call from my dear friend Lynn in the south of France.  She has had such bad laryngitis that she's been unable to speak for a week.  Today her voice was so growly and low, she sounded like a man.  But then she'd laugh and I'd get the hint that it was indeed my friend, not a manly baritone-voiced guy pretending to be her.

The same laryngitis hit an actress at the Shaw Festival today.  I know, because I was in the audience of "The President" at midday when someone came on stage to tell us that one of the actresses couldn't speak.  Instead of cancelling the show, they went ahead - the actress did her role, that of a very efficient secretary, with another actress who plays a second secretary standing behind her, saying her lines for her. It worked perfectly. 

Sarah Palin as a ventriloquist is not that good.  It's impossible to forget that a month ago she knew absolutely nothing about the wide world; that she couldn't tell Katie Couric a single newspaper or magazine that she reads; that her lines have all been fed to her by someone else. Impossible to forget that somehow, in this new surreal world, we are meant to take her seriously as a politician.
The comic Bill Maher, in a rant against religion, said that "praying is talking to your imaginary friend."  I am asking my imaginary friend, fervently, to make sure American and Canadian voters listen carefully to the voices jabbering at them tonight.  Listen closely.  Choose wisely.