Saturday, October 31, 2015

playing dress up

Unbelievable, the excitement of Halloween. Earlier tonight, I went past Church Street, where all the straight people go in costume to be able to let loose and have a good time - thank you, gay people, for releasing us from ourselves, at least for a night. I saw Long John Silver hand in hand with the Pope, I saw the Joker with Little Red Riding Hood, and I saw many tourists with cameras, come to take in the fun.

Surely Cabbagetown must be one of the most crowded Halloweens on the continent - which is why, exhausted after two decades, I don't give out candy any more. This night was one of the worst as a single mother - getting two kids made up and in costume and filled with at least a little bit of protein before they went out the door safely accompanied by friends or someone, while I manned the door for hundreds of other people's children. I did not enjoy it, though seeing the immigrant children with wonder on their faces was always wonderful. Anyone who has been in the theatre does not appreciate the pleasure of dressing up as someone else - that was how I made a living. So this fest is a bit of a bust for me.

But not for my neighbours. Richard had 700 little candy bars and was nearly out by 7.20.
Susan across the street at the helm of her pirate ship, above, and below, Rob with an entire graveyard behind him and a bottle of Cab Sauv for the grown ups.
And then there's the aftermath - sugar high. Good luck, mama!

gifts

Click to enlarge
HAPPY HALLOWEEN from my little pumpkins to yours.

And while we're showing photos, here are a few from the past few days:
Best friends: Lynn and I, friends since 1967, Ken and Lynn since 1970, Ken and I more recently but it feels like forever. This is on the Danforth after the So True event.
A few nights later, celebrating Eleanor Wachtel chez moi, since Lynn and I missed her triumph at the Writer's Festival, where the 25 years of her brilliant hosting of CBC's Writers & Company was feted; she received a standing ovation, well-deserved. Here, she just received dinner. El and I go back to the mid-70's in Vancouver. Old old friends - the greatest of gifts.

More gifts: notes from students. This is from Curtis Barlow, arts professional extraordinaire, who read a beautiful essay at So True on Sunday. How articulate can you get?
I want to add my belated but sincere voice to the chorus of accolades congratulating and thanking you for a superb So True event yesterday afternoon. These productions require a great deal of work and passion to succeed, and you should take great pride in having produced an outstanding event. It was well-organized, well-attended, energetically and eloquently emceed by Jason, and powerfully concluded with your beautiful, funny and moving presentation. And not to be forgotten, as I listened to the wonderfully-presented stories, I felt very proud to have been included in this outstanding group of committed and gifted writers. Thank you for your leadership, hard work and inspiration. 

And this from Mary diFrancesco, who read a stunning piece about 9/11:
Thank you Beth for helping us to tell the best version of our stories, to speak the truth out loud and with courage and to dig deeply to the place where we see our truest reflections. 
My family was moved to much laughter, tears and gratitude along with great discussion after being privy to your stories, and I was so proud to be connected with you all. Jason, your warmth is such a gift, and I appreciate you representing us so beautifully.

Lynn told me she was extremely dubious about So True - an afternoon of people yammering about their personal woes sounded dreadful to her. But afterwards, the word she used was "perfect." "It was perfect," she said, "the stories themselves, the way they were told, the diversity, the pace - everything." My friend may have been born in Canada, but she has lived in hyper-critical France since 1970 and she's an academic; the word 'perfect' does not often cross her lips. I am honoured.

And finally, from a current student who sent this out to everyone after class last week: 
Hello all -- I'll write this now, while my heart and soul feel filled to overflowing, and not wait till later in the week when crap may possibly happen and the mood will sink lower and lower.

Thank you all for your inspiring stories today! Shit - you are all one wonderful group of strong women! Am so glad to have met all of you and grateful to share all your stories. Your memories, EVERY one of them, moved me in lots of different ways. I left just feeling --- well, inspired. Thank you for that, it's been ages since I've felt so positive and you all helped me feel that way.

And on that note, dear friends, I'm going to hide until Halloween is over. 

Monday, October 26, 2015

recommended books about writing non-fiction

I belong to the Creative Non-Fiction Collective, where there was recently a fascinating discussion on good books about writing and teaching creative non-fiction. Member Julija Sukys compiled the list and posted it on her blog. Of course, there's a list at the back of my book True to Life as well. I'm happy to see that book recommended here. Mind you, I'm the one who recommended it.

Here's the link to Julija's website and the list:
http://julijasukys.com/?p=4301&cpage=1#comment-270212

And here's an article in the Atlantic about the use of the passive voice, about which I harangue students:
http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2014/11/passive-resistance/380787/
One two three read!

Motown, Beckett, Book City, friendship

Busy. Busy busy busy. But I've found a patch of sunshine in my bedroom and have sat down to get caught up, briefly. It's beautiful out there, and my best friend Lynn is here for a few days on a rare visit from France. But today, she has gone to visit an old friend in London, Ontario; I teach tonight and tomorrow, the roof still leaks, my cold is still in my chest tho' fading, and there is just too much to do. But so much pleasure. Incomparable.

Lynn and I have been to two shows: I took her to the musical "Motown," because she has always been a Motown, Marvin Gaye fan. The music is fabulous, the show itself - direction, script - a bit clunky, especially in comparison with "Jersey Boys," Des McAnuff's terrific production. But still, a girl who lives in Montpellier is not going to get to see a musical called "Motown" close to home. Then, from the ridiculous to the sublime or vice versa, we saw the Samuel Beckett trilogy, one hour of a brilliant actress performing 3 dense, extremely challenging and infuriatingly incomprehensible plays. The couple behind us were in the wrong theatre, I'm sure; they had no idea what was going on. Lynn and I, just a bit more. Still - we did it.

Most importantly, Lynn was there yesterday when we held the sixth So True reading event at the Black Swan. This one was the best yet, if I say so myself - a packed house of more than 60 people, eight writers, eight fantastic stories read beautifully, moving, powerful, funny - spectacular. I'm so proud to watch these writers who have the courage to take their stories directly out to the world. Bravo to you all. And then I spoke and told a story; I was more at ease than I've been in the past, and it worked. I'm always completely wrung out by the time the event is over, but it's a wonderful experience. Lots of former students were there, family and friends of the readers, and some complete strangers who've heard about it. As I said at the beginning of my talk, looking out at the crowded room, "This is my idea of heaven - a room full of storytellers and people who want to hear stories - and a bar."

A highlight of my life, all round. After, Lynn and I went for souvlaki nearby on the Danforth with Ken, an old friend who knew Lynn from her earliest days at L'Arche, and Lynn had to tell him about the scandal there. At the very beginning, when Jean Vanier founded this benevolent Christian community to provide a home for the handicapped, he aligned himself with Pere Thomas, a beloved priest who became a guru and spiritual counsellor to many; he is on the L'Arche constitution as the co-founder. You know what's coming, don't you? A few months ago - years after Thomas's death - fourteen women came forward with allegations of sexual abuse from their time through the decades as assistants at L'Arche. All apparently were beautiful, came to him for counsel and ended up in a sexual relationship. All were adults if young; that's the only light in this horrifying story. Ken converted to Catholicism at L'Arche; Pere Thomas was his spiritual guide. It should be hard to imagine a priest being so duplicitous, except, of course, that it isn't.

But for some good news, our handsome young Prime Minister has just invited Elizabeth May and all the premiers and Thomas Mulcair to the climate conference in Paris. Love.
 The colours not quite there yet, but soon ...
I was near the terrific Book City on the Danforth so went in because I'd heard they'd ordered my book - and there it is, in the Biography section. It's green and pink and, to its mother at least, very beautiful. Please, my Toronto readers, if you need a gift for a reader - or for a non-reader who might learn to enjoy reading - please consider going to Book City on the Danforth and buying this book. They've ordered two copies of a self-published memoir by an unknown writer; I'm extremely grateful and I want to help them move it out.

Now for my nap.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Reminder: So True

If you want to hear some beautiful true stories, don't miss So True this Sunday:

Thursday, October 22, 2015

retreat

Sick. Woozy after a sleepless night. This is the universe saying, Okay, you had so much joy with Paul McCartney and Justin Trudeau, now let's get real.

So this is real - stuffed nose, sore throat, coughing. But - the sun is shining hot through my bedroom window. I can cancel today's events except for my class tonight, and I'll be fine for that. Being sick always reminds me of the times when I was an actress and had to do a show even with a raging temperature. This is nothing.

The sun is shining, my bed is waiting. Thank you universe, for forcing me, every once in a while - NOT TOO OFTEN PLEASE - to slow down.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

wise stuff


my three seconds of non-fame

Sick with a cold - my time with Macca wore me out. My time with Ringo, last night, did NOT wear me out. Ringo is a tiny little man, like a leprechaun; he has put together a great band of six rock and roll notables, which is good because he himself is not doing much on stage. He sings the same songs as always, and let's face it, Boys or I wanna be your man were not great songs when the Beatles did them, let alone decades later. His voice isn't great, and there's a fabulous drummer to supplement what he does on drums. At one point, he left the stage entirely for a song and returned wearing a sparkly top.

I enjoyed and am glad I went - he is part of the legend, after all, and one moment was worth it all. At the end of the brief show - exactly two hours, which by Macca standards is nothing at all - he of course sang With a little help from my friends. In the back and forth of the song, he sang the answers and the crowd sang the questions.  Every single person in Massey Hall was singing at the top of their lungs. WOULD YOU BELIEVE IN A LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT? WHAT DO YOU SEE WHEN YOU TURN OUT THE LIGHT? It was a beautiful moment. I do have to point out that song is mostly by Paul, with that last line answer - I can't tell you, but it feels like mine - by John.

Speaking of Macca, my new friend, the Macca-mad Anne - much more dedicated than I - sent me a clip of him reading aloud her sign about cookies. As I watched, I could not help but notice my very own self a bit later, standing in front of a sign about being 58 and marrying Paul. It's at about 1:17.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rjQBjMfB6Ag&feature=youtu.be

There she is, the tall woman in blue. The big button on her vest was sent by a friend from Liverpool; it says "I love Paul." There's a very small anti-Harper button there too. Today I threw the Harper buttons away. Anna and I exchanged a long list of all the things Trudeau said he'd do right away. If he even tackles a few of them, he'll be moving non-stop for the next few months, and the heavens will sing.

In my usual excess, I have four books to read right now, not to mention the books about writing I need to get through, articles on the net, the ever-present New Yorkers and the newspaper. Three library books: "Older, Faster, Stronger," by my colleague Margaret Webb, about how women can and should improve their fitness level as they age; the new Etgar Keret book of memoir stories, "Seven Good Years," and a book recommended by my blog friend Kerry Clare, "The Folded Clock," by Heidi Julavits. And a special treat - I was just thinking I must read "Girl Runner" by my other blog friend Carrie Snyder, when someone left it in the shared books pile at the Y. I'm partway through. That woman can run, and that woman can write. My God, can she write.

So, a perfect day to lie in bed croaking and snuffling and reading. And praising be, once more, for this brave new land.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Try to see it my way

Tonight, incredible as it seems, I'm off to see Ringo. He's playing at Massey Hall, and I have the cheapest seat I could get, with obstructed view. But still - two Beatles, 3 days apart. 
These are the songs we heard on Saturday night:
The full set list as reported by the Paul McCartney press office: “Eight Days A Week,” “Save Us,” “Got To Get You Into My Life,” “One After 909,” “Temporary Secretary,” “Let Me Roll It,” “Paperback Writer,” “My Valentine,” “Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five,” “Maybe I’m Amazed,” “I’ve Just Seen A Face,” “FourFiveSeconds,” “We Can Work It Out,” “Another Day,” “And I Love Her,” “Blackbird,” “Here Today,” “NEW,” “Queenie Eye,” “Lady Madonna,” “All Together Now,” “Lovely Rita,” “Eleanor Rigby,” “Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite,” “Something,” “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,” “Band On The Run,” “Back In The U.S.S.R.,” “Let It Be,” “Live & Let Die,” “Hey Jude.”

liking his face

I think of those movies where a subjugated people are freed from tyranny and emerge, dazed and disbelieving - are we actually free? And then - were we actually prisoners that long? That's how Canada feels to me today. I think of Narnia under the spell of the ice queen, and how, when she was finally vanquished, spring returned. I know, Justin Trudeau as Aslan is a stretch ... but you get the idea. We live in a different Canada today.

It was not just any victory - it was a monumental victory by a party that had been completely undone. But more importantly, the victorious leader is someone we have known all his life - at least, those of us old enough to remember his birth on Christmas Day 1971. We remember the love affair of his parents and its painful dissolution; we remember his father's canoe trips and overseas junkets with Justin and his brothers. We remember, with great pain, the tragic death of his brother Michel and the subsequent death of his devastated father. If I ever want to conjure up a portrait of grief, I need only think of Pierre Trudeau's drawn and haunted face the day of Michel's funeral, and I weep.

We Canadians have watched this man grow up, and now I feel a maternal pride at what a fine upstanding man he has turned out to be. And - to tell you the truth - I feel something more than maternal, because he's a treat to look at. But so are his gorgeous wife and their children. It's like the early days of Barack Obama's administration, when we felt liberated from the ugly shroud of the Bush years and rejoiced to look at idealism and beauty, intelligence and accomplishment.

I wrote once here about seeing a photo of Harper with his mother - he was trying to hug her, but he couldn't actually touch her, his arms were sort of hanging nearby uselessly. There's something seriously wrong with that man's heart. But not with this man's.
Justin and his mother last night.

I know there are tough days ahead, and that a certain disillusionment - as with Obama - is inevitable. But right now, we Canadians have our version of Camelot. And as the days grow cold and dark, that sunny face is a most welcome sight.

Monday, October 19, 2015

He's gone

It's 10.25. Got in 50 minutes ago from Ryerson, and the victory of the Liberals was declared not long after.  It's unbelievable!

I am very sorry for the NDP, who had such high hopes at the beginning of this marathon, and now are faced with an undeserved disaster. It's tragic that many great NDP candidates have gone down to defeat. Poor Mulcair. Makes me sad. But that's politics. The overall result is spectacular, amazing.

I wonder if Michael Ignatieff is watching this, he who led the Liberals last time to a spectacular and amazing defeat. Oh well. And I wonder what Harper is thinking. A neighbour and I had a big argument - he said he lived in South America during the time of dictatorships, and he was unhappy at the way Harper was being demonized. "He's not a murderer, not a dictator," he said. "He steered us through bad economic times." Yes yes yes. But he's a horrible man who has damaged this country enormously, and most of us are very very glad he has no power any more.

Reality - a young man with not that much political experience is now Prime Minister, not only of the country, but of a majority government. Quite a shock and a huge change, and - let's be frank - scary. But let's not think of that now. Let's just celebrate that the big bad wolf has been squashed.

As someone wrote on Twitter: When Harper wakes up tomorrow, Nenshi will be his mayor, Notley will be his Premier, and Trudeau will be his Prime Minister.

John Oliver for Prime Minister!

This is hilarious.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=0V5ckcTSYu8

tension mounts

You don't have to take my word for it - here's a rave about Macca in the Toronto Star. I hadn't counted -  he played 41 songs! Plus the hour-long soundcheck concert. The man is superhuman. It truly was one of the highlights of my life - pure, raw, unadulterated bliss. (Except that my boots were a little tight and my feet hurt. There's always a snake in paradise.)
Paul McCartney delivers marathon concert at the Air Canada Centre

My very cool friend Jenny, who has been part of the Toronto music and theatre scene for decades, wrote me on FB: 
Jenny Dean Beth, I was there too! How awesome was that show?! So thrilled you got right in there...I wept much of the time, nostalgia, lost friends, lost Beatles, childhood memories.
LikeReply15 hrs
Beth Kaplan That's what the music does for all us older folk, Jenny - as someone said to me, "I know it's a cliche, but he sings the soundtrack of my life." The amazing thing to me is the young kids who really love him too.
LikeReply15 hrs
Jenny Dean It's no wonder he is so freaking talented, charming and has unwavering energy. What a showman.
LikeReply15 hrs
Beth Kaplan And that incredibly handsome and talented man was my husband for much of 1964. Imagine that

Yesterday was a write-off, but today brain and body are returning. It's cold out there - time to seal the windows, cover all the garden furniture, shut 'er down. Sad. But this is Canada. 

Oh yes - this is Canada and it's voting day. Luckily I teach tonight so won't be able to start watching and obsessing until 9.30 or so. There's a political scientist in the class who says he may have to go into the hall and check periodically, even though there's nothing to know, really, until the polls close. LET US PRAY! At least there has been more activity and concern about this election than most, which has brought like-minded people together. I'll miss the outpouring of anti-Harper sentiment from my friends and fellows. Though of course, depending on the outcome tonight, we may just keep right on going. Shudder. 

In the middle of all this excitement, there has been some great television - on TVO, of course, which I'm proud to say I support with a monthly donation, a documentary on the Group of Seven, brave artists who camped in the northern wilderness to capture the essence of Canada's natural beauty. And last night, the return of "Borgen," the superb drama about - yes - a coalition government in Denmark, run by a principled woman fighting for survival politically and personally. 

Now to try to rein in this ridiculous mind, shut down FB, blogging and email, and do some work. 

Good luck with that.

Headline in the Guardian: Man Booker winner's debut novel rejected nearly 80 times.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

upside down video

video
My friend Chris just told me about the video link on blogger.com - who knew? So here it is, a lousy very short video that's upside down. Sorry about that. But it gives you the idea, especially of everybody singing along on all sides - and how amazingly his band of four other musicians replicates every single thing George Martin did in the studio.

And incidentally, to sing Blackbird with his acoustic guitar, he came to the very front of the stage. He was only a few yards away. Be still my beating etc.

If I had a cook, I try to be a vegetarian. It's work to figure out what to do with only veggies and tofu. But I respect and admire Paul's lifestyle and his causes, pro animal, pro the Arctic, pro children. Not to mention his own pretty spectacular children.

I went to the Y to sit in the hot tub for my aching limbs. Better now. Still in a stupor - a Macca hangover. (Well, him, plus the open bar ...)

For Beatle fans in Toronto, my friend Piers Hemmingsen, author of the newly released "The Beatles in Canada," is giving a walking tour and talk on Oct. 31, free. Piers knows everything Beatle. Highly recommended.
https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/the-great-beatles-walking-tour-of-toronto-following-the-beatles-in-1964-tickets-19081541404

Paul McCartney at the ACC - the concert of a lifetime

This morning my legs ache after nearly five hours of standing, my throat is sore, my body hurts as if I'd run miles. But yesterday I wasn't running, I was on my feet at the Air Canada Centre - waiting, watching, dancing. Macca was in town.

As perhaps I've mentioned, after sitting in the gods to see him the last two times, I bought myself a VIP ticket this time, partly as a way to perhaps get my book to him. Had no idea what VIP meant except a seat close to the stage and being at his soundcheck, so I wrote to Anne, a Macca maniac who has done this lots. There seems to be lots of time between the soundcheck and the show - should I bring a sandwich? I asked. Oh no, they'll feed us and there's usually an open bar, she wrote back.

Now if there are two words that bring light to my heart, beside "McCartney concert," it's "open bar."

Got to the ACC a little after 4, already a long line up of my peeps. Much chatting. A woman called Annie was checking us in, and I found out she works for Paul and asked if she'd take him my book. She said she would, and a bit later I gave a second one to another of his staffers, and I also gave out some flyers about the book - so my ticket is a tax write off! We were taken to a lounge in the bowels of the building, where the bar was indeed open and delicious vegetarian snacks were circulating - polenta, gnocchi, spring rolls. It was beautifully organized and sophisticated. But I can tell you, despite the cost of these special tickets, this was no crowd of wealthy tycoons; these were genuine music fans from all over, some of whom had brought their children. I immediately made friends with a few - Brennan, from Georgetown, friends Wendy and Sue, from Ottawa, and mother and daughter Sharon and Emma, from Port Hope. We drank and nibbled and talked about our lifelong love. Serious fans, who knew all kinds of arcane information. My tribe. I can state categorically that Macca fans are all really, really nice people. I now know this for a fact. 

We were summoned into the vast empty hall and waited a long time for the sound check, which was an hour later than predicted.
Apparently Paul's plane was delayed and he came directly from the airport to the stage. We stood and waited, singing, talking with our new best friends. I made friends with Cole who's South-Asian, there with his dad as a gift for his 13th birthday. I told him I was there as a gift for my 65th birthday. There were a few kids even younger, a boy of about 8 with earphones protecting his ears once the music started, and plenty of people much older than I, and every age in between.

The band finally appeared and then he strolled on, to our roars and cries and clapping, dressed very casually in dark jeans and little blue jacket. He looked pale and exhausted, I have to say, and his voice was rough - he was carrying a mug of tea and drank it throughout - whereas during the concert, he sang for 3 hours without a break and without a sip of anything. He called to us, was friendly and funny, sang an amazing variety of songs, many that he doesn't do in concert - San Francisco Bay, Blue Suede Shoes, It's So Easy, Leaning on a Lamppost, Twenty Flight Rock which he said was the song he played for John when they first met ... his range is phenomenal. He sang his own Bluebird but instead sang Blue Jays, which was a popular move. The soundcheck was our own personal concert - an hour, 16 songs or so, just for us. I hardly took pictures; his staffer who was keeping an eye on us begged us to just watch and listen instead of waving a phone in his face, and I thought she was right.

He went off for dinner and so did we, back to our lounge where we were given hefty Macca backpacks and a sumptuous vegetarian feast, stirfry, salads, pad thai ... and more open bar. I sat with my new bffs, where I found out that young Emma is studying journalism at Carleton, so much talk about writing. Sharon bought t-shirts as gifts for the others and is going to buy my book.

And then back into the hall, now overflowing - 19,000 people maybe -
I was in the fourth row, dead centre. A fantastic seat, even better than the one I had in Paris in 1965, when I was in the 8th row centre. Of course, that ticket cost $6 and this one a tiny bit more. The horrible Kevin O'Leary, the blowhard capitalist, was there, one row ahead but way on the side. By some miracle, I was right in front of Paul's mike.

At 8.30, there they were - the greatest cover band in history, as someone once said, and their leader. The transformation was amazing - he might have been tired, this has been a long tour and he's 73 bloody years old! But he was indefatigable, chatting, reading the signs people held up, funny, charming, moving from one guitar to another, to one of the two pianos, to the ukelele. There's no question that his voice, in some songs in particular, is cracked and wavering, but most of the time, it's still powerful and rich, and the other times don't matter. The minute the opening chords of any song are played, the crowd roars and starts to sing. 19 thousand people singing in unison is a heartening sound. Those of us at the front stood, dancing and singing, for the entire concert. I regretted the little boots with heels that I was wearing, not unlike Paul's Beatle boots. When I put on this impractical footwear, I had thought I'd be sitting.

When Hey Jude began, people produced the lighter app - yes - on their cellphones, and the room was filled with lights. The man on my right was the most ordinary little middle-aged man, looked like an accountant or civil servant, not interested in talking. But when the music started, his face was suffused with joy and he sang at the top of his lungs with the others. A beautiful transformation, thanks to the music which means so much to us all.

The concert was three hours long, one fabulous song after another, old Beatles, Wings, some of his new stuff including his song with Kanye West and Queenie Eye. He is warm and intimate with a crowd of that size, and grew younger as the night wore on, his body lithe in black pants and white shirt, his hair a soft brown thatch. He so obviously loves what he does, and when he tells us he loves us, we believe him. His pleasure in our adulation is the drug that fuels him. He's a consummate performer who's a brilliant musician - to think that he wrote or co-wrote every one of those songs in all their incredible variety and played a different instrument on each one, when many of today's stars just stand and sing. He has a genuine rapport with the audience - smiled and waved at one point to Anne, who has been to his concerts around the world - and apparently has oversight over the menu for the VIP lounge too.

Oh, and incidentally, the cameras panned the audience at regular intervals, and several times, I was startled to see my own face going by on the giant screens. A Macca maniac friend of my daughter's was in the audience and when I ran into her, at the exit, she said she'd texted Anna, "Just saw your mother on the big screen!" The camera lingered on young Cole's blissful face.
Sorry - it's a video and it's upside down and won't play. I'll try to find out how to get it to play right side up.

There were of course the flash pots during Live and Let Die, so close this time that I felt their heat. Anyway, you get the picture: the show was sublime. It ended with the entire Paris/ Port Credit pipe band onstage playing Mull of Kintyre, and Golden Slumbers. And in the end, the love you take ...

On the way out, I talked to a security guard. "I've worked here seven years," he said, "and this is the best concert we've ever had." It was even better than the other Macca concerts I've been to, though perhaps this had to do with being so close - he looks at the front rows of the audience often, and I was sure he could see me, the tall woman in the fourth row centre, beaming and singing. This time, I had a gift for him, a book about how much he meant to one small girl, and to the world.

Thank you, thank you for last night from 19,000 happy people, including Brennan, Wendy, Sue, Shannon, Emma, Cole, and me, Beth Kaplan, 65 going on 14. My heart is like a wheel, Paul. Let me roll it, let me roll it to you.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Elmo meets a very serious boy

Okay be still my beating heart. It's cold, maybe we'll even see a bit of snow, which is too bad, I'd have liked Macca to enjoy good weather in our fine city. I wonder where he's staying? I wonder if he's strolling about right now and if so, if he's bundled up? I have some spare scarves and gloves, Paul!

In a few hours, I go down for the pre show, my 65th birthday present to myself - we see a soundcheck and then apparently we eat and drink. Yay! And then wait for the music. Oh the music.

In the meantime, others near and dear to me are enjoying another show. I'd bought tickets for Eli and me to attend a Sesame Street show, but couldn't take him because the Macca preshow is so early. A friend of his mama's is looking after Ben so Eli and Mummy can have a date. He is dressed in his best superman jacket, with cape. But he is definitely going through a non-smiling phase. His mother does assure me, though, that he is enjoying himself.
One of the greatest joys of all this entertainment is that the election is, briefly, forgotten. Forgotten, that the Globe came out with a preposterous editorial endorsing the Conservative party but slamming its leader, and others, in the Post and elsewhere, which basically say, he's a jerk and bad for the country but the economy is in good shape so hold your nose and vote for him. PHOOEY! But today, I will try not think about any of that, at all.

Tomorrow, yes.

Friday, October 16, 2015

kissing Justin

OMYGOD I'll be glad when this @#$# election is over. Enough - the tension is excruciating. I had the strangest dream last night, pleasant yet odd - Justin Trudeau and I were kissing. Yes we were. I truly am not attracted in that way to this bright young politico - on whose father, yes, I had a huge crush. But there it was in the dream, to my great surprise on waking - a sweet, lovely kiss or two. Maybe it means I send him my blessing. Which I do.

I'm feeling swamped. Trying to keep my email inbox at less than 30, and within the blink of an eye, it's over 70, all kinds of things clamouring to be read and dealt with and responded to, let alone the rest of life. Entire days go by without any creative work at all, just keeping the plant running - there's a leak in the roof and the roofer is a week late in coming, spent much of yesterday getting the deck plants cleaned, pruned and hauled inside - ETC.

Oh shut up. First world problems. I spent part of today reading my diary from 1977 as background for my work on the 1979 memoir - I was in a musical on a cross-country tour with a wild and crazy bunch of alcoholics, and reading about it was upsetting; I hadn't realized how vulnerable and needy I was, how lost and foolish, adoring the wrong men hopelessly, allowing myself to be mistreated and hurt over and over. Oh so grateful to be far away from all that! I've forgotten so much about that year, that tour, that 27-year old woman. Diaries are a mixed blessing - perhaps it's better, sometimes, to forget. But for better or worse, I can re-discover my entire life in detail, day by day, thanks to the stacks of scribblers under my bed.

Tomorrow is a most exciting day - my beloved Macca is in town, and I'm going to his soundcheck and then to his concert. Apparently it might snow. Well, let it, as they say - I'll be singing, dancing and weeping, in a three hour bath of my favourite music. Hey Jude! And then I'll go off for a hot date with Justin Trudeau. My guys.

No, here are my guys.

And though I don't really care - Go Blue Jays.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Sigh indeed.

What to do in the event you wake up Tuesday morning and Stephen Harper is still Prime Minister

[sigh...]
[sigh…]
1. Remain calm.
2. Check for structural damage.
3. Be prepared for aftershocks and gloating.
4. Deal with any minor injuries, including cuts, sprains and ideological collapse.
5. Take two minutes to weep in silence behind closed doors so as not to alarm the children.
6. Eat a healthy, nutritious breakfast, because breakfast is the most important meal of the next four years of fear-driven dogma and social alienation.
7. Listen to the radio for further instructions. If it’s CBC Radio, you better make it quick.
8. Stay away from downed power lines, washouts, Twitter and Facebook.
9. If you begin to hyperventilate, take a plain paper bag, open it, fill it with large sums of 50-dollar bills and mail it to the member of the Senate representing your region.
10. Try to find out who is the member of the Senate representing your region.
11. Stock up on beef jerky for reasons that will become clear in six to seven weeks.
12. Assess your own status. Are you a Canadian citizen? Are you sure? Better check again.
13. If you are female, First Nations, Muslim, an environmentalist, Syrian refugee, social advocate or government scientist, go to an open area and await further instructions. No, just stay there. That’s fine. We’ll get back to you.
14. If you are a white, middle-aged, middle-class male, thanks a lot.
15. Inspect your property for stray voters and take the following action if necessary:
a) While it may be difficult to differentiate Liberals from Conservatives, note that Liberals will have glazed, stunned expressions on their faces and be walking in a daze, completely susceptible to others’ commands – in other words acting completely normal. Gently take any lost Liberals by the hand and settle them under the nearest tree and tell them everything will be okay. If you’re charming and good looking, they’ll believe you.
b) Take a broom handle and rattle it around under your front porch to flush out any NDP voters that may have nested there.
c) If you encounter a Conservative, do not make any sudden movements. Stand your ground, identify yourself as a “hard-working Canadian” and use calm, soothing phrases like “mandatory minimum sentences” and “oil sands, oil sands, oil sands.” Avoid direct eye contact. If the Conservative charges at you, quickly pretend to be a journalist, and the Conservative will run the other way. Do not by any means cover your face.
16. Reach out to someone. Call a friend, preferably one overseas, and assure him or her that, despite our fading reputation in foreign-policy circles, Canadians are good people. Most of us anyway. Just not quite enough.
17. Distract yourself and your loved ones from the tragic events by turning to more upbeat examples of Canadian culture, i.e. “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” the films of Atom Egoyan, the collected works of Margaret Atwood, etc.
18. Bear in mind that, unless you are a terrorist or suspected terrorist, you have almost nothing to fear, probably.
19. If you have young children, gather them around and explain that sometimes bad prime ministers happen to good countries and that, in the coming days, they may see some disturbing images of unjustifiably smug politicians. Remind them that governments come and governments go, that we still live in a country where it’s safe to walk outside, neighbours are generous, opportunities are infinite and overblown rhetoric is taken with a grain of salt, and that at least it’s not Jason Kenney.
20. At least not yet.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Can't wait!

Apparently a few others feel just the way I do!
CAN'T WAIT

My daughter has given me a beautiful soft grey Stop Harper! t-shirt, which, like my buttons, I will hardly take off until Oct. 20. There's something exciting about this upsurge of political feeling, so many hundreds of thousands, no, millions, united to slay the monster. Except, of course, for all those out there who have been persuaded that hoards of murderous women in niqabs are plotting to take over the world.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

oust the bum!

I received a powerful piece of writing in my email inbox this morning; someone called Charles Young sent a succinct, even-handed précis of exactly why Stephen Harper needs to be ousted. Mr. Young is so fair that he insists his screed is not anti-Conservative, just anti-Harper. I wrote back to congratulate and thank him, assuming he'd had my email address from some left-wing website, and he wrote back to tell me he was my writing student years ago.

Reaping what you sow! I'm proud to have had a hand in helping shape this superb piece of rhetoric.  I don't know how to condense it so am including it all here. I urge you, if you agree, to copy and send to anyone who might be considering a Conservative vote. This is crisis time, folks. As I said to my U of T class this afternoon, I hope next time we meet, next Tuesday, we'll be living in another country.

Before that, in case Charles's article is too long for you, here's one from the Guardian that makes the same point: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/oct/12/stephen-harper-last-remnant-george-w-bush-north-america

Dear Friend / Colleague. With less than a week to go before we choose our national leader, I thought it was crucially important to put forward counter-argument (below and attached) to the misrepresentations of Stephen Harper. If you agree, please share with others. If you disagree, go ahead and share your views with others too. When so much is at stake it is better that we be knowingly committed than blindly following.
Charles Young
416 436-5851

VOTE FOR CANADA ON OCTOBER 19


Stephen Harper claims to be the best choice for Canada going forward. I strongly disagree, and outline my reasons below.
In large measure this is a non-partisan argument. I lay out the facts as I see them and the blame squarely on Stephen Harper. I have not targeted the Conservative party or conservative principles. I do mention in the context of the 2013 Fair Elections Act that the party pleaded guilty to violations in the 2006 election and paid a fine. The focus is on Stephen Harper. By all means vote Conservative in 2019 when he is gone.

Harper’s economic claims are bogus

·      Harper’s balanced budget boast is for votes, not the economy. The two best-performing economies in the world, USA and Germany, continue to run budget deficits to promote economic growth and development. Their debt-to-GDP ratios (2014) of 103% and 75% respectively puts Canada’s ratio of 87% in range, as is the UK’s at 87%. Harper’s ideology of a balanced budget ignores the continuing decline in Canada’s productivity, competitiveness, and innovation.
·      Harper has neither plan nor direction. In an interview with the Globe and Mail, Dr. Mariana Mazzucato, author of The Entrepreneurial State, describes the institutions“…that have allowed Germany, China, and the United States to build globally competitive companies,” and notes that Canada “… despite having earned a fortune in petroleum revenues in the past 15 years that could have created a similar major institution, has nothing substantial of the sort, nor any proposal to create one.” “… if they [GermanyUSAChina] want to do something, they do it. They directly finance a sector or the most innovative companies, and they create grants or guaranteed loans to do it, not an indirect tax credit.”
·      Harper’s luck is running out. China and the commodity super-cycle have been keeping Canada afloat. Not any more. Quietly, mega oil-consumer China has become a world leader in green technologies. President Xi Jinping has committed to establishing the world’s largest cap-and-trade system aimed at reducing carbon emissions. Charles P. Pierce, writing in Esquire magazine, describes the Oct. 19 election this way: “It’s very much a referendum on aspiring oil sheikh Stephen Harper ... Apparently, Harper loves the way, say, the Qataris do their oil business, but doesn’t think that much of their religion. A Christian oil sheikh, just as Jesus intended.”
·      Harper’s narrow-minded support for the oil sands could be a deadend. New research outlined in The Guardian (UK) is “the first to identify which reserves must not be burned to keep global temperature rise under 2°C”, the safety limit agreed by the world’s nations. These reserves include “almost all Canadian tar sands”. Currently, the world is heading for a catastrophic 5C of warming. “The study’s conclusion on the exploitation of Canada’s oil sands is blunt, finding production must fall to ‘negligible’ levels after 2020 if the 2°C scenario is to be fulfilled.” “These numbers show that unconventional and ‘extreme’ fossil fuel – Canada’s tar sands, for instance – simply have to stay in the ground.” The Bank of England, Goldman Sachs, and other financial experts have begun to study the consequences of expensive fossil fuel projects becoming worthless.

Harper is using a racist strategy to court votes

We may prefer that women not wear a niqab, the tradition of a tiny number of Muslim women in Canada. We may prefer that women not wear a niqab during a Citizenship ceremony. One woman, having agreed to show her face to the presiding judge, went to court for the right to then cover her face for the public ceremony. Both a federal court and a 3-judge Federal Court of Appeal rejected the government’s argument. Harper plans to take his case to the Supreme Court. Of the 2 million reports of criminal activity to the police last year not one mentioned a niqab. So why does Harper target niqabs? To quote again Charles P. Pierce, writing in Esquire magazine: “Harper, of course, having learned all the wrong lessons from the Bush-Cheney-Halliburton years, has been going to Trump University this time around, making a national issue of any Canadian civil servant who wants to wear a niqab.” Apparently he hasn’t been able to actually find a single employee who does, but he’s desperate for every vote he can scare up.

Harper’s views and actions (or inaction) mirror the right-wing of the Republican Party

·      He sees climate change as a low priority. He withdrew Canada from the Kyoto Accord for curbing greenhouse-gas emissions. He gutted the Ministry of The Environment and curtailed environmental assessments. Harper rejects both a free-market cap-and-trade system (53 countries) to reduce emissions and a rebated carbon tax (14 countries) to reduce consumption, as in BC where the provincial income tax for the middleclass is the lowest in Canada. With Harper we can expect little for Canadians at the next global climate change conference in Paris starting next month.
·      He pursues a law-and-order agenda that is costly and counter-productive. Harper has spent $ millions to build super prisons, despite the long-term decline in crime rates and the failure of the American experience. Judges are refusing to impose mandatory sentencing in specific cases, citing cruel and unusual punishment contrary to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Supreme Court of Canada has struck down or softened several of Harper’s crime laws. In the USA harsh sentencing including the death penalty has produced no evidence whatsoever of reducing crime. Harper’s Canada would emulate the United States, which has 2.4 million people locked up, the highest rate of incarceration in the world, including China, Russia, Mexico, across the Middle East, Europe, South America. Almost 25 % of the American population has a criminal record and a lifetime of obstacles. Even as right-wing Republican presidential candidates acknowledge the failure of the “tough on crime” agenda; even as the Auditor-General of Canada provides data that low-risk offenders are better rehabilitated under supervision in the community at one-third the cost of imprisonment, Harper stands his ground. It still gets votes.
·      He has radically expanded the government’s policing powers under the guise of security against terrorism. All the while that the United States has been providing such security it is Americans, not “terrorists”, who are regularly shooting children, students, movie-goers, and other Americans. You are far, far more likely to be injured in a car accident, bitten by a shark, struck by lightening, or felled by chronic disease than from an act of terror. Harper’s Anti-Terrorism Act 2015 Bill C-51 gives more power and wider discretion for surveillance and arrest to government agencies over the utterances, material, and activities of citizens and organizations. The Act does not define terrorism. In other words, if you oppose the government too vigorously, you may be at risk. Harper’s attempt to pressure York University and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council to cancel programs exploring Arab-Israeli peace caused the 65,000 member Canadian Association of University Teachers to comment, that Ottawa’s political interference was something rivalling the infamous McCarthy communist witchhunt in the US in the 1950s.
·      Harper is drawn to war. He was eager for Canada to join the war in Iraq. As Leader of the Opposition in 2003 he blasted leader Jean Chretien for refusing to do so, saying: “We support the war effort and believe we should be supporting our troops and our allies and be there with them doing everything necessary to win.” The official Congressional report: Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction and nothing to do with 9/11. That war cost the United States hugely in treasure, lives, and disabilities. The Harper government took 7 years to reluctantly ratify the 2008 International Treaty on the use of cluster bombs, regarded as particularly inhumane. Like landmines, cluster bombs continue for years to kill civilians, especially children attracted by the brightly-coloured baseball-size unexploded sub-munitions.Canada insisted on a loophole that it could cooperate with armies that use cluster bombs. In like fashion, Canada’s funding for land-mine clearance, in which it was a global leader, has dropped from $49 million in 2007-8 to just $8 million in 2013-14. In Cambodia alone there are still 6-8 million landmines, and someone gets blown up every 3 days. Our funding went from $3 million to zero in 2013-14. Three hundred de-miners have been laid off. Clearly, every little bit helps to balance the budget.
·      Harper aspires to military power. Shunning Canada’s legacy as peacekeepers and conciliators, Harper tried hard to spend $ billions on F-35 fighters, the most delayed and problematic warplane in history. Harper insisted the cost was $16-18 billion. Parliamentary Budget Officer, Kevin Page, analyzed the cost to be S29 billion. Winslow Wheeler of the Center for Defense Information in Washington, who worked for both Republican and Democratic senators and the US General Accounting Office for 30 years, said that Page’s numbers were “far and away” more accurate than government estimates. The Pentagon’s own information indicated operatingcosts to be higher than even the Parliamentary Budget Officer’s forecast, totalling more than C$24B over 30 years for 65 aircraft. That was in 2011 with the C$ at par with the US$. Kevin Page, in his just released book Unaccountable: Truth, Lies and Numbers on Parliament Hill describes “… a moment in which they (the government) collectively could have said, ‘Hold it, we got this wrong. We need to make this right.’ Instead, some civil servants and politicians chose to hide, confuse, obfuscate, and try to deceive the entire country.” The F-35 is still on the Harper agenda, despite the fighter jet being considered by experts as too special-purpose and ill-suited forCanada’s vast northern geography and multi-faceted needs. During the F-35 debacle Canada, for the first time since WWII, lost the vote for a seat on the United Nations Security Council, awarded to Portugal.
·      Harper uses lower taxes to win votes. Taxes underpin the Canadian single-payer medical system that distinguishes us and every other developed country from theUnited States. Taxes make possible individual, family and community services at every level of government. It is these shared services that bind the fabric of Canadian society. To declare that “… all taxes are bad.” as he did a month before the 2006 election is to denigrate the value of community in Canada and to favour the rise of inequality. The Republican refrain is that lowering taxes will grow the economy. Yes it will – for the richest. “All of the economic gains since the Great Recession have gone to the top 1%.” (Joseph Stiglitz, former chief economist of the World Bank and Nobel Prize-winner). As for lowering corporate taxes … In 2009 Canada’s largest bank, RBC Financial, had 80,000 full and part-time employees and net profit of $3.9 billion. In 2014 RBC Financial had 78,000 employees and net profit of $9 billion. Does RBC need lower taxes?

Harper is unworthy to be Canada’s leader

·      Harper is a ruler, not a leader. In his biography Stephen Harper, released in August, author John Ibbitson describes Harper’s desire to control information:“Bureaucrats are prohibited from speaking to reporters. Scientists are prohibited from releasing the results of their research. Access to information requests are routinely held up for so long that by the time the information is released, it’s no longer of any use, and the pages are mostly blacked out in any case.” Ibbitson goes on to say: “The Conservatives’ autocracy, secretiveness, and cruelty, critics accuse, debase politics to a level that threatens the very foundation of Canadian democracy.Columnist Ralph Surette of the Halifax Chronicle Herald: “Hardly anything in his world hints of Putinism more than Harperism.”
·      Harper rules with his inner circle. Conservative MPs have no voice to represent their constituencies. Cabinet Ministers are tightly scripted by the PMO (Prime Minister’s Office). For 2015 more than a quarter of sitting Conservative MPs, 46 by last count, have chosen not to run Oct 19, including 4 cabinet ministers. Harper is the first Prime Minister since Louis St. Laurent (1948-1957) to have a dropout rate > 25% and still lead the party into an election. If Conservative MPs want to serve a ruler, what does that say about them, and why are they running for office?
·      Harper believes we do NOT have the right to know. Conservative candidates have been instructed to boycott community debates, just as he has boycotted the nationally-televised debates of previous elections. The strategy is simple: constantly run personal attack ads (starting well before the elections), answer the fewest questions, repeat sound bites on the major issues, rely on falsehoods and fear-mongering to bring in the votes.
·      Harper is the only Prime Minister to be critical of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Like right-wing Republicans, he is also critical of the Supreme Court. As leader of the opposition in 2003 he argued in Parliament that the Equality clause in the Charter was not meant to protect gay people. When criticized in 2007 for manipulating the process of appointing judges, Harper as Prime Minister declared his preference for judges who saw things his way. He would rather they defer to the government than rely on the Charter or their own consciences. Such political intrusion into the judiciary that protects the rights and freedoms of citizens in a democracy would be unacceptable in most developed countries.
·      Harper designed the 2013 Fair Elections Act to his advantage. After the Conservative Party pleaded guilty to violations in the 2006 elections and paying a $230,000 fine, Harper’s response was the 2013 Fair Elections Act. Among other things it limits the power of Elections Canada to investigate election fraud and to encourage voter turnout. Assembly of First Nations National Chief, Perry Bellegarde, points out that the new requirement for 2 personal IDs will mean many in First Nations communities will be unable to vote. Ditto for students and seniors since the Voter Registration card mailed to you by Elections Canada can no longer be used to verify your address. How prevalent was individual voter fraud to have required a “fair elections” act? Among the 28 million votes cast in the last 2 elections: 18 incidents reported to Elections Canada.

Not this time

Please note that I have said nothing negative about the Conservative party or Conservative principles. This is about Stephen Harper. By all means vote Conservative in the next election when Harper is gone. The Canada that welcomed many of us as immigrants was a kinder and gentler nation for Canadians and for the rest of the world. That the world is different today is all the more reason that we put Canada back on the path of a sustainable peace and prosperity.
Our children and grandchildren will be greatly affected by those who govern. Short term gains can cost us greatly in the longer term. ideology must give way to consultation and collaboration among all levels of government, industries, civic society, and global partners. In the last election Harper became Prime Minister despite winning only 39% of the votes cast, meaning a substantial majority did not want him.
Our first-past-the-post system meant that many Conservative candidates were elected because the majority of votes were divided among Liberal, NDP, and Green candidates. In this close election one way to prevent a repeat of 2011 is to ensure more votes in favour of the most qualified progressive candidate. Please go towww.votetogether.ca or www.strategicvoting.ca if you wish to participate.
Charles Young