Mary Stuart

May 18, 2013

Lucy Peacock and Seana McKenna were absolutely fantastic together as Mary and Elizabeth. Seana, especially, in turns strong and terrifying and isolated and paranoid.

And a great supporting cast. Ben Carlson and Geraint Wyn-Davies as Mary’s prosecutor and her lover; but not all bad and good. We’d take Burleigh’s straightforward nature over Leicester’s two-faced power grab any time. At least neither loses his head.

Brian Dennehy as Shrewsbury says he lacks the necessary “flexibility” to be a part of Elizabeth’s court. But while the threat from Mary herself may not warrant Elizabeth’s actions, the play leaves it an open question: lonely is the head that wears the crown, especially in such a time of turmoil. The acting brought moments of great subtlety to the question. I’m interested to read if the written play is more subtle than, at times, it seemed.


Just a quick post about Mason Currey’s blog-turned-book, Daily Rituals: How Artists Work, since it’s a quick read and a lot of fun.

I’ve been hearing and thinking a lot about my own introversion, recently, thanks to books like Susan Cain’s. I’m not shy, I love meeting and talking to people, etc. etc. so it took a while to realize that my introversion manifests itself in my need of time to myself. That I get my energy from time alone, while extroverts gain energy from time in company.

So I was seeing these patterns in the authors, artists, composers, etc. that Currey profiles in his book. Certainly there are some extroverts among them who would disagree with Twyla Tharp’s assertion that her daily schedule is “actively anti-social…On the other hand, it is pro-creative.”

Reading Lists

April 19, 2013

Have made a decision. It’s time to stop taking things from the library for a month or two while I catch up on things I’ve bought and want to read. 4 books being returned today and added back to my library to-read list, including a novel by Gene Wilder (yes, that one) and GJ Meyer’s book about the Borgias.

To read, at home:

A couple by David Foster Wallace, Pale King and one or two vols. of essays.

Paul Auster/JM Coetzee letters, collected in Here and Now.

Nicholson Baker’s The Anthologist

A Wendell Berry poetry collection (and some others…how is it I never “get to” the poetry?).

Lakeland: Journeys into the Soul of Canada.

And, if I get ambitious, I really should get into the first 2 complete vols. of LM Montgomery’s journals…all my committee-mates who have read all of them always amaze me with their knowledge.

So, there.

Books Read This Year

March 19, 2013

Dave Cullen. Columbine. A well-written, well-researched look at the unfolding of the tragedy.

Ken Jennings. Because I Said So. A fun examination of some long-held myths. Einstein never failed math, and we do use far more than 10% of our brains.

Nate Silver. The Signal and the Noise. Just the right amount of math, just the right amount of pop.

Gavin DeBecker. The Gift of Fear. Much talked about, but don’t bother.

Kenneth Oppel. This Dark Endeavor. Teen book club. Love these books. Gave me some sympathy for Victor Frankenstein that Mary Shelley never could.

Ally Condie. Matched. Teen book club. Dystopian teen romance. Fine, but no Hunger Games.

Caitlin Moran. How to Be A Woman. British, rude version of the Bloggess. Love it or hate it (I loved it.)

John Boyne. The Terrible Thing That Happened to Barnaby Brocket. Fun! Loved the ending.

Dick Wolf. The Intercept. Meh. Overlong. Should have been a L&O episode instead.

Greg Malone. Don’t Tell the Newfoundlanders. Interesting, but also would have been better as a documentary, Ken Burns-style.

John Green. The Fault in Our Stars. Teen book club. Stunning meditation on life, death, and story.

Shirley Jackson. We Have Always Lived in the Castle. Creepy! In a good way.

Kevin Powers. The Yellow Birds. War novel in the mode of Tim O’Brien. Beautiful and sad.

Richard Wagamese. Indian Horse. Also beautiful and sad.

Jan Andrews. When Apples Grew Noses and White Horses Flew. Love folk stories!

Eric Walters. Power Play. He sure knows how to write a gripping teen book. Sex abuse in the junior hockey system.

David Foster Wallace: The Last Interview. Some repetitive, some typically insightful points.

Bram Stoker. Dracula. Hard to know if this would be just as predictable, or would be more suspenseful, without knowing the story. Sadly, agreed with my friend who called it a “slow-moving cheese wheel.”

Gene Ambaum and Bill Barnes. Unshelved: Too Much Information. Library comics, nothing but the best.

Franny Moyle. Constance: The Tragic and Scandalous Life of Mrs. Oscar Wilde. A sympathetic and well-rounded portrait of Constance and Oscar. Might be overlong for people less intrigued than I.

Stephen Hunter. The Third Bullet. Growing up on Tom Clancy and Michael Crichton always makes me think I should read thrillers, and this one’s about the JFK assassination, another former interest. I keep finding out it’s not my cup of tea.

Terry Graff. Masterpieces of the Beaverbrook Art Gallery.

Sarah Dessen. What Happened to Goodbye. Teen book club. Fun. Nice to get away from vampires, cancer girls, dystopian societies.

Up Next: Paula Byrne. The Real Jane Austen. And the 9 other library books I have at home. 24 books in 3 months ain’t bad.

Angry Librarians

March 8, 2013

Doesn’t happen too often, but I LOVE my fellow librarians when they’re angry 😉

Just reading the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions’ Principles for the Licensing, Purchase and Use of Ebooks in Libraries, and came to this:

“5. When publishers and/or authors and/or resellers withhold library access to eBooks, national legislation should require such access under reasonable terms and conditions.”

Take that, Penguin, etc. etc.

Science and Politics

January 24, 2013

From Nate Silver’s The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail–But Some Don’t:

“What I do know is that there is a fundamental difference between science and politics. In fact, I’ve come to view them more and more as opposites.

“In science, progress is possible…The march towards scientific progress is not always straightforward, and some well-regarded (even “consensus”) theories are later proved wrong–but either way science tends to move toward the truth.

“In politics, by contrast, we seem to be growing ever further away from consensus…one is expected to give no quarter to his opponents. It is seen as a gaffe when one says something inconvenient–and true…

“The dysfunctional state of the American political system is the best reason to be pessimistic about our country’s future. Our scientific and technological prowess is the best reason to be optimistic…If I had a choice between a tournament of ideas and a political cage match, I know which fight I’d rather be engaging in–especially if I thought I had the right forecast.”


December 9, 2012

From David Foster Wallace’s essay “Fictional Futures and the Conspicuously Young”, in the collection Both Flesh and Not.

“And if Marx…derided the intellectuals of his day for merely interpreting the world when the real imperative was to change it, the derision seems even more apt today when we notice that many of our best-known [Conspicuously Young] writers seem content merely to have reduced interpretation to whining. And what’s frustrating for me about the whiners is that precisely the state of general affairs that explains a nihilistic artistic outlook makes it imperative that art not be nihilistic.

…Serious, real, conscientious, aware, ambitious art is not a grey thing. It has never been a grey thing and it is not a grey thing now. This is why fiction in a grey time may not be grey.

…If fashion, flux, and academy make for thin milk, at least that means the good stuff can’t help but rise. I’d get ready.”


A Real Story

November 30, 2012

Been reading quite a bit of biography/memoir lately, and, as with biographical films (Man in the Moon, Capote, Iron Lady, My Week with Marilyn), it often seems to be quite hard to capture the essence of a person’s life and make an engaging story. Most have flashes of brilliance (in the movies, the performances are all excellent), but to find one that’s a gem all the way through is unusual.

I didn’t know a lot about Gordon Pinsent. Hap on Red Green, voiceover work, CBC cameos, and the stunning Away from Her (will be making the husband watch it with me, soon, I think). But what I knew, I liked, and the great Newfie grin on the cover sealed the deal, so I took the book home.

One thing I hadn’t known was how much Pinsent is a writer, and it comes across loud and clear, here. It’s not stream-of-consciousness, but it’s very much a personal voice, and at first it takes some getting used to. But once you’re into it, it’s musical and engaging. There are a lot of small moments, but unlike some memoirs, there’s a feeling of the overarching narrative that puts everything in the right place.

A few passages are asides–I shouldn’t say that, they’re really some of the meat of the story–to his wife, actress Charmion King, who died in 2007 (Josephine Barry in the Sullivan Anne of Green Gables, as well as years and years treading the boards). It’s a real love story, and Pinsent’s insight gets richer and richer as he gets closer to the present day.

Great Canadian actors don’t retire, as Pinsent points out (with Chris Plummer and Donald Sutherland as additional evidence). I’m so glad he keeps saying, “Yes, of course.”

Pete Townshend to himself

November 23, 2012

Just finished Pete Townshend’s memoir,Who I Am. While sometimes episodic, and demonstrative of how people sometimes have difficulty separating the wheat from the chaff in their own lives, it’s an absolutely fascinating look into his creative, political, and personal journeys. This passage at the end, a letter from Townshend to himself as an 8-year-old, is an affirmation that I think would speak to many.

“Remember that the bad feelings you sometimes have today are helping to make you strong and talented and empathetic to the pain that other people feel. But you have a good heart and you will be okay at the end. Life can be hard, and what you will find hard is accepting how wonderful the life you are going to have actually is. This is because for some reason you don’t feel you deserve all this.

“You have a brilliant mind. Unfortunately you are not going to exercise it quite as much as you should. Your self-esteem is too low and you will lapse into laziness that will slow you up.

“…Respect yourself. Try to remember that not everything in life can be perfect. You will make mistakes. That’s inevitable. But you are not ugly. You will only be ugly when you behave in an ugly way.

“Enjoy life. And be careful what you pray for–remember, you will get it all.”

Bring Back The Sun

October 21, 2012

Kirk and I started dating when we were in high school…next year we’ll have been together for half of my life (married for seven years!), and Chantal Kreviazuk and Our Lady Peace were a major part of the soundtrack of our lives from the beginning. I thought we knew everything we could about their work. But last night we went to an absolutely amazing concert, with Chantal headlining and Raine in a (very strong…stronger even than the last time) supporting role, and we learned even more about them and some of our favourite songs. Some things were major  and some things were silly and we should have known before.

The concert was one of the keystones of an IMAGINE Festival for the Ontario Shores mental health organization, although we didn’t know it at the time. So the musicians’ work was informed by that theme, and we learned stories about many of the songs that were influenced by experiences with mental health issues.

Some of the things we learned were major: I’ll never listen to her “Surrounded” or our wedding song, “In This Life” in the same way again, now that I know something about the experiences to which they refer.

Some of the things were minor, and I felt silly for not realizing them before. She does a song called “Feels Like Home” that I knew was a cover, as one’s heard other women sing it, often. But I didn’t realize till she said it that the songwriter was Randy Newman. Now that I know it, the Newmanisms all come out. It sounds SO much like the rest of his work. In a good way.

Kirk and I both always thought the phrase in the chorus of Maida’s “Yellow Brick Road” was “Rise Up”…turns out it’s “Wise Up”. Not too silly, as some of our misheard lyrics go.

And I’d never thought before about the pun on his name, when, in “Before You”, she sings, “Ever since I met you on a cloudy Monday, I can’t believe how much I love the rain.” I feel like such a dullard for missing it before.

The last time we saw them together was a few years ago at Massey Hall. Raine was a straight opener for his wife, which is beautiful to me. So often, historically, with talented couples, the woman’s talent is downplayed through her support for the man’s career (something I think I’ve pondered on this blog before). It was even better last night to see him more often, still as an opener, but then again throughout the night. He did acoustic versions of “Innocence” and “In Repair”, and as an encore, acquiesced to an audience request for “4 am”, which was incredible, and I’d never thought we’d hear it.

I think we were probably somewhat unusual among the audience, which tended older and I think more Chantal-focused (which makes sense), in that Kirk and I shared as our absolute favourite from the entire night a STUNNING duet on the OLP song “Bring Back the Sun”. They shared the verses, and came together on the choruses, and it’s a beautiful, beautiful song. Thinking of it now brings back tears. Maybe my favourite live performance of any song, ever.

Both shared new songs that, we hope, will be on their next albums (well, one of three by Chantal was on her live album “In This Life”). Maida said he’d likely go home and record “Not Done Yet” today, and we should hold him to that!

Watching the two of them together is good for the heart. They were joking about being cranky, but they’re both amazingly gorgeous and talented and clearly in love. It’s so perfectly Canadian, that people with so many gifts are still so self-deprecating. A very, very warm fall evening, with times of darkness brought into the light.