Friday, November 18, 2016

Growing Up & Living in Leonard Cohen’s Montreal

Montreal Memories & Nostalgia

Nightly Presence: Saint-Joseph’s Oratory (formally named Oratoire Saint-Joseph du Mont-Royal) situated on the western slope of Mont-Royal, sits proudly on chemin Queen-Mary near chemin de la Côte-des-Neiges as this photo at night shows. The green dome was prominent and visible from many parts of Montréal , including my living-room window while growing up in the central neighbourhood of Cote-des-Neiges in the 1970s and later on as a young adult in the nearby neighbourhood of Snowdon. It was and continues to be a reassuring presence for many, including persons like me who are not Catholic.
Photo Credit: © Alain Carpentier, 2007

An article (“Leonard Cohen’s Montreal”; February 28, 2015), by Bernard Avishal (an ex-Montrealer), in The New Yorker gives a good sense of the Montréal in which Leonard Cohen [September 21, 1934–November 7, 2016] grew up, including the transition and change to a more modern and secular society in Quebec during the 1960s, a period known  as La Révolution tranquille (The Quiet Revolution).

Many of the insights of the writer resonate with me; these describe my experiences. Knowing and understanding the city in which Leonard Cohen resided as a child and young man might give you a better appreciation and apprehension of his music, notably its use of religious symbolism and the tension between the sacred and the secular.

Avishal writes in the article:
Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”—a hymn to souls too carnal to grow old, too secular to give praise, and too baffled to mock faith—recently turned thirty. Cohen himself, now eighty, came of age in Jewish Montreal during the twenty years after the Second World War, and those of us who followed him, a half-generation later, can’t hear the song without also thinking about that time and place, which qualifies as an era. The devotional—and deftly sacrilegious—quality of “Hallelujah” and other songs and poems by Cohen reflects a city of clashing and bonding religious communities, especially first-generation Jews and French Catholics. Montreal’s politics in the early sixties were energized by what came to be called Quebec’s Quiet Revolution, which emancipated the city’s bicultural intelligentsia from Church and Anglostocracy. The pace of transformation could make the place half crazy; that’s why you wanted to be there.
Religious thoughts seemed to be the gravest ones in Montreal then, insinuated, even inculcated, by its architecture, seasonal festivals, and colloquialisms. Cohen grew up in affluent Westmount, the best part of Mount Royal, about a mile from my family home in Snowdon—a neighborhood on a lower Western slope, where “the English” (as my mother called them) had no choice but to make room for Jewish factory owners, lawyers, and doctors. Towering over both our neighborhoods, impressing itself on our senses, was the dome of St. Joseph’s Oratory, Quebec’s great basilica, the dream palace of (the now canonized) Brother André Bessette, who healed the body and spirit of pilgrims—the place we simply called the Shrine. A. M. Klein, the first of the Montreal Jewish poets, wrote, “How rich, how plumped with blessing is that dome! / The gourd of Brother André! His sweet days / rounded! Fulfilled! Honeyed to honeycomb!” Its neon-illuminated cross was visible from my bedroom window, an imposing rival for the whispered Shma Yisroel of bedtime. The city’s ironwork staircases, its streets tangled around Mount Royal, carried the names of uncountable saints (St. Denis, St. Eustache, St. Laurent); the fall air was scented by rotting leaves and, on Rosh Hashana, polished synagogues. Fresh snow sharpened Christmas lights. Our curses, borrowed from Québécois proles, were affectionately sacrilegious mocks of the Mass: “calice,” “tabarnak,” “osti”—chalice, tabernacle, host. 
Leonard Cohen in front of his Montreal home in  the Mile End neighbourhood in 1977.
Photo Credit & Source: Montreal Gazette
Although this could be said of any major city, there is no city like it—Montréal is unique; it certainly stands apart in North America. After a graveside service on November 10th, 2016, Cohen was put to rest at Shaar Hashomayim Cemetery, located on the slopes of Mont-Royal. This is a fitting and poetic end for a man who was not only a Montrealer true and true, but also always a romantic and a mystic, a man who was both an inquirer and a searcher. Cohen was a man who was trying to understand, and in doing so, his music helped us understand. It had such an effect on me.

For more, go to [NewYorker]

Addendum: The best interview of Leonard Cohen was at his Montreal home (across from Parc du Portugal), by Jian Ghomeshi of CBC’s Q show, first broadcast on Thursday April 16th, 2009. You can watch the fascinating and informative broadcast [here].

I am taking a short break; I will return next month. 

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Simon & Garfunkel: Homeward Bound (1981)

Paul Simon & Art Garfunkel perform their 1966-written song “Homeward Bound” at the 1981 (September 19th) free reunion concert at New York City’s Central Park. Although home is a physical place, it can also be a place of the past, of memory, of a state of the mind—I need someone to comfort me—the comforting thought wrapped in the not-forgotten past, of former memories of hope and possibilities—this is my reason for posting this song in this present time.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Poetry, Poets & Tea

Poetic Thoughts

“and she feeds you tea and oranges
that come all the way from China”
Leonard Cohen,
Suzanne (1967)

“When the tea is brought at five o’clock
And all the neat curtains are drawn with care,
The little black cat with bright green eyes
Is suddenly purring there.” 
Harold Monro
The Collected Poems of Harold Monro (1933)

Tea Time: One of the few items that I inherited from my mother was her collection of bone china tea cups; this is one of my favourites. Whether or not tea tastes better in such delicate cups is up for debate, but such cups are obviously beautiful and the artwork something to admire. There is something poetic about tea, which coffee lacks (and I do enjoy coffee, but not when writing poetry). While both are stimulants, coffee speaks of immediate action whereas tea speaks of thoughtful contemplation. Is there a coffee equivalent of the Japanese tea ceremony?
Photo Credit & Source: ©Perry J. Greenbaum, 2016

An article, by A.E. Stallings, in The Times Literary Supplement, not so much defends poetry as gives it a reason to exist. First off, poetry is not everyone’s cup of tea; just as not everyone enjoys watching or participating in sports, so it is with poetry (I happen to enjoy both.) Stallings argues that poetry has always been around and it is more than likely that it will out-survive other forms of written work, including journalism, which has seen better days.

So there is poetry and there is the poet, who suffers far worse indignities than “the writer.” In “Why bother with poetry” (November 7, 2016), Stallings writes:
Is it something one owns up to, at, say, a cocktail party? Isn’t it easier just to say one is a writer, and move on? If you want to shut the conversation down, you can always say you are a poet. And then if your interlocutor is persistent, and follows up with “What kind of poetry do you write?” You can always answer, “Good”. That usually does the trick. Or sometimes, if it is more of a literary crowd, I might mix things up with “the kind that rhymes”.
The pleasures of poetry are subversive, and perhaps always have been. Bards and vagabonds have been linked since Homer and Hesiod (“beggar hates beggar, and bard hates bard”). Poetry, being beyond commercial concerns, mostly because there is no money in it, and irrelevant to power, unacknowledged legislators aside, should at least have the prerogative of not being entirely respectable. I tend to write it when I am playing hooky from another project – prose like this, say, or translation. Poetry is where I go to play, but also where I seek solace. As William Carlos Williams famously has it, in his meditation “Asphodel, that Greeny Flower”: “It is difficult / to get the news from poems / yet men die miserably every day / for lack / of what is found there”.
Poetry does not reap great financial reward it will not bring great economic benefit, and it resists mass-market appeal common to other creative efforts. But the attempt to write some free verse will give you a greater understanding of being human, which includes an understanding of yourself; and, if you expend greater effort, if you dig deep enough, the endeavor might prove successful in some form and you might eventually write something that you would be willing to share with the public. Maybe? Perhaps? Who knows? This about sums it up; nothing further to add, then to say I must get back to the poem I have been working on and to my hot cup of tea.

For more, go to [TLS]

Monday, November 14, 2016

Carol Bove: First Blue Column (2016)

Photograph of the Week

Carol Bove’s “Polka Dots”: This piece, named “First Blue Column” (2016), is made of stainless steel and painted with blue urethane, measures 105 x 18 x 16 inches (266.7 x 45.7 x 40.6 cm).  It is currently on display at David Zwirner. The New York City gallery says the following about this collection named Polka Dots: “Despite their heavy materiality, the sculptures appear lightweight, flexible, and improvisational. Their alternating surfaces create a play of textures—while the painted steel resembles clay or fabric, the overall forms evoke complex references that go beyond their stylistic appearances. The contorted shapes vaguely recall Anthony Caro’s bolted and welded forms, John Chamberlain’s crushed sculptures, Mark di Suvero’s abstract expressionist configurations, and Louise Nevelson’s accumulated assemblages, just as they can be seen to incorporate the collagist aesthetic of the Chicago Imagists of the 1960s, who combined disparate art historical styles and techniques. In Daphne and Apollo—a tight arrangement of solid red steel tubing wrapped around large pieces of found steel from a scrapyard—one material seems to morph into another with an allusion of movement similar to the Baroque sculpture of the same title by Bernini.” Carol Bove [born to American parents, in 1971, in Geneva, Switzerland] was raised in  Berkeley, California, attended New York University in the mid-1990s, and now resides in the Red Hook neighborhood of New York City’s borough of Brooklyn. This exhibition is on display until December 17th, 2016. For more, go to [DavidZwirner]
Photo Credit:Carol Bove, 2016
Source: David Zwirner

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Boule Noire: Aimer D’Amour (1978)

Boule Noire [born George Thurston in Bedford, Quebec; 1951–2007] sings “Aimer D’Amour” in this music video. It is the title track of the 1978 album of the same name, Aimer D’Amour; Nanette Wokman sings background vocals here. The song is the French adaptation of Leo Sayer’s “Easy to Love,” the third track on Sayer’s 1977 album, Thunder in My Heart. You can listen to British-born Leo Sayer’s English version [here].

The Details
Bass [Basse]: Jimmy Oliver
Drums [Batterie]: Terry Martel
Guitar [Guitare Rythmique]:  Georges Thurston
Guitar [Guitare]: Walter Ross
Lyrics By [Paroles]: Georges Thurston
Music By [Musique]: Albert Hammond, Leo Sayer
Percussion [Percussions]: Georges Thurston, Terry Martel
Piano, Keyboards [Claviers]: John McDormid, Tony Roman
Producer [Production]: Tony Roman
Background Vocals [Voix]: Nanette Workman


Aimer D’Amour
By Albert Louis Hammond & Leo Sayer
French adaptation by Georges Thurston

Depuis que tu es là, je ne pense qu’à toi
Tu prends tout mon temps, tu es tout ce que j’attends
J’ai besoin de t’aimer
De te comprendre et d’être aimé
De te prendre dans mes bras
Et là tu sais bien pourquoi... oh bab’...
Aimer d'amour, c'est aimer comme moi je t’aime...
Il faut marcher ensemble, pour mieux se comprendre
Surtout bien oublier, ce qui vient du passé

Encore une fois
C’est peut-être la dernière fois
C’est facile pour toi
C’est facile pour moi... oh... oui
Aimer d'amour, c'est aimer comme moi je t’aime...
L’amour ne vient pas souvent
Frapper au bon moment
Quand il vient te voir
Faut savoir le recevoir
Nous on a une chance
Depuis que l’on est ensemble
Sans se demander quoi faire
Faut laisser le temps faire... oh...
Aimer d’amour, c’est aimer comme moi je t'aime...

Easy to Love
Albert Louis Hammond & Leo Sayer

It’s easy to love when I love someone like you
It’s easy to feel when you feel the way I do
You know love don't come easy and love don’t come fast
But when loves come to you, you gotta make it last
On the day that I met you I knew it could be
So easy for you and so easy for me
It’s easy to love when I love someone like you, babe
It’s easy to feel when you feel the way I do, babe
Like the stars in the night seem to shine from above
That’s the way that you shine when you give me your love
And your love satisfies me like a natural high
From the soles of my feet to the top of the sky
It’s easy to love when I love someone like you
It’s easy to feel when you feel the way I do


You know love don't come easy, and love don’t come fast
But when love comes to you, you gotta make it last
On the day that I met you I knew it would be
So easy for you and so easy for me
It’s easy to love when I love someone like you, babe
It’s easy to feel when you feel the way I do, babe
It’s easy to love when I love someone like you, babe
It’s easy to love
So easy to love
Easy to love
You’re so easy to love

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Harmonium: Un musicien parmi tant d’autres (1974)

Montreal Memories & Nostalgia

Harmonium, a Québec folk-progressive rock band, performs “Un musicien parmi tant d’autres” (loosely translated as “A musician among many others”), the last track on Side B on their self-titled debut album, Harmonium. The band, formed in Montréal in 1972, consists of  Serge Fiori (lead vocals, backing vocals, acoustic guitar); Michel Normandeau (backing vocals, acoustic guitar) and Louis Valois (bass guitar).

This song was hugely popular in Québec, even among anglophones (English-speakers) in Montreal, giving expression to the emotions of unknowningness, of naivité and of simplicity common at the time. Like pilgrims searching and inquiring, it’s all found within the lines and notes of the song.

The song speaks about the vagaries of life in general and in particular of being a musician, and how the fate or fortunes, broadly speaking, of a musician rises and falls quite independent of his will or designs or schemes, if you will. Are we the sole authors of our fortunes? our misfortunes? Comme le rideau sur une corde/Le musicien monte et descend. And the last line is essential: On devrait peut-être l'écouter.

Speaking of which, you can listen to an earlier live version [here]¸when Harmonium performed the song on rock station CHOM-FM in November 1973, before their album was released. This is the first time that I heard the song. This group has often been compared to Genesis, the British progressive rock band. Harmonium last performed in 1979 and disbanded in 1980having accomplished all they wanted to as a band.

Un musicien parmi tant d’autres
par Serge Fiori

Une main sur une épaule
Chacun a bien joué son rôle
Le rideau monte et descend
Le musicien se serre les dents
Il est si bien pour une fois

À la porte d'un café
Son nom vient de s'effacer
On a trouvé quelqu'un de mieux
Le musicien se faisait vieux
Comme un enfant, il était une fois

Comme le rideau sur une corde
Le musicien monte et descend

Une nuit pour oublier
Y a des problèmes qu'on veut soûler
Une bouteille monte et descend
Le musicien se serre les dents
Il est si loin, une autre fois

À la porte d’un café
Les noms ne font que changer
Il a enfin compris pourquoi
Le sien ne sera plus là
Comme un enfant, on ne vit qu’une fois

Comme le fond d’une bouteille
Le musicien a fait son temps

Où est allé tout ce monde
Qui avait quelque chose à raconter
On a mis quelqu’un au monde
On devrait peut-être l’écouter

The Puzzling Physics of Falling Cats


Falling Cat: Karin Brulliard writes for The Washington Post that the question of falling cats made it into a journal article in 1969: “A year later, Kane and a colleague published what remains the definitive examination of the topic: A paper titled A Dynamical Explanation of the Falling Cat Phenomenon” — which probably brought the first and only cat photos to the pages of the International Journal of Solids and Structures.”
Photo Credit: Ralph Crane; International Journal of Solids and Structures, 1969, Vol. 5

An article, by Karin Brulliard, in The Washington Post examines a scientific question that on first glance seems of no scientific importance, and yet it does, as this post shall soon elucidate. The question is simply this: how is it that falling cats tend to always land on their feet when dropped from a particular range of heights—typically between two and six feet? Many of us have seen cats do this; and it happens so quickly that we view this feline feat with awe.

Yet, it is not only cat lovers who wonder about this, but also those with more particular scientific bents of mind. How cats turn themselves right has long interested and baffled the best scientific minds, including those of  George Gabriel Stokes, the University of Cambridge’s Lucasian Professor of Mathematics; and James Clerk Maxwell, whose equations on electromagnetism are widely used today.

Serious scientists have taken up the mantle, including Greg Gbur, a physics professor at the University of North Carolina Charlotte, writes Bruillard, “who has blogged about what is now known as the cat-righting reflex.” In “Scientists just can’t stop studying falling cats” (November 4th, 2016), Brulliard sheds light on the continuing scientific fascination with falling cats:
That’s because while this feat of kitty gymnastics is a useful instinct for animals that climb trees, it’s also a physics conundrum — one that has occupied photographers, scientists and even NASA over the many decades since Stokes and Maxwell dropped felines. (Yes: Cats are even more mystifying than we knew.)

The issue is that the cat flip appears to violate the law of conservation of angular momentum, which says that when one thing rotates, something else rotates with equal and opposite angular momentum in another direction. Put more simply, Gbur said, when you push on the pedals of your bike and make its wheels rotate, the wheels push the surface of the Earth below with an equal force in the opposite direction (though the planet is way too heavy to actually move). But the cat is dropped with nothing to push off of — with no angular momentum to start with — and rotates all the same.
Scientists still haven’t reached a consensus on the math and physics behind the twisting and turning, which allows these mysterious felines to land on their feet. Brulliard writes in the same article:
“Probably the cat uses multiple different strategies to turn over,” Gbur said. “Physics prefers and tends to look for the simplest possible explanation for a phenomenon, whereas evolution — if I anthropomorphize it — is always looking for the most efficient. Living creatures are doing whatever works best, which may not be the simplest option.”
No one told the cat of its lack of scientific understanding, and yet it is successful. There is something to be learned here. As for curiosity, scientific or otherwise, I admit that when a cat resided with me, and I was a single guy working as an engineer, I did the test myself, dropping my cat from a height of three or four feet; he always, without failure, landed feet first on my living room carpet. Periodically, I would revisit this experiment, always impressed by his athletic abilities.

The last time, however,  he was slightly upset (I could tell by “his look”) , so I discontinued the experiment. I have not dared to drop a cat since then. My scientific curiosity was satisfied, but more important was that I maintained a good relationship with my grey Persian cat and with all other felines.

For more, go to [WaPo]

Friday, November 11, 2016

‘Bombs Away’ in the Back Alleys

Montreal Memories & Nostalgia

Not all memories of my childhood or of Montreal are happy. This is one that is not, yet later on this memory would help me form my views on war, on veterans of war and on the “sickness” of war in general and what it does to people’s souls. The only good that can come out of war is its end, and this never comes soon enough.

Mile End: This photo of a lane-way (ruelle) in the Mile End neighborhood bears a remarkable similarity to the one behind our house on av du Parc, during the time I resided in this area (1963–1970).
Photo Credit & Source: Christopher DeWolf; Flickr

The city is marked by many lane-ways and alleyways (totaling approx 450 km), what the city calls ruelles in French. These narrow passageways have been part of Montreal since the end of the 19th century; some even have designated names. The one at the back of our house, the back alley running north-south alongside av du Parc and rue Jeanne Mance was nameless, as far I can remember.

We played in these lane-ways. One day in the mid-1960s, as my brothers and I were playing, we heard an “old man” from the distance shouting “bombs away” and saw him making throwing motions with his arms. We ignored him, chiefly because it was not an unusual sight. As he got closer, he kept shouting, and threw a small board full of long rusty nails in our direction; we scattered but it hit my older brother on the top of the head. Needless to say, blood came pouring out.

I had the presence of mind to take off my shirt and apply it to my older brother's head wound.  We were not far from home, since the lane-way was behind our house,My mother screamed, recovered and then rushed him to the doctor a few doors down, who took care of my brother’s wound. She then called the police and made a report. We found out he was an “an old army veteran from the Second World War” who was diagnosed with shell shock. Today he would be diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), another person who took the war home with him.

I don’t know what happened to him, but we never saw him again when we played behind the house. Our young minds didn’t give this much thought, but deep down we were probably relieved.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Mortimer J Adler: Pursuing Happiness (1963)

Mortimer J. Adler [1902–2001; born in New York City] gives as good a thoughtful lecture on the pursuit of happiness as one could imagine possible in a 30-minute video; this is produced by Encyclopaedia Britannica Films.

Adler, a professor of the philosophy of law at University of Chicago and a well-known American educator, elucidates Aristotle’s theory of happiness with the view that doing so will give us insight as to what happiness entails and as to what are the necessary components, if you will, to a life of happiness. This includes health, wealth, knowledge, virtue and friendship, which the combined assiduous and sincere pursuit of leads to happiness.

Happiness does not come easy; it is not for the weak of heart. We can allow our vanities to take command of our virtues, and thus fail in our ultimate pursuit. The longer we fail to recognize this, and fail to correct our course, the further we remain from happiness.

Happiness (eudaimonia) is not a momentary fleeting feeling but a lifetime devotion. “We cannot be happy by living for the pleasures of the moment,” Adler says, giving one example of a mistake people make too often, thinking that the singular pursuit of pleasure in all of its forms will by itself lead to happiness.

Moreover, Adler, by way of Aristotle, argues that the way to achieve happiness is universal and is the same for all persons; and that those who desire and seek power to rule over others do not understand the basis of happiness. “The pursuit of happiness is cooperative and not competitive, ”Adler says at the conclusion. Such is an argument with which I agree. The lust for power can corrupt happiness. Great literature speaks similarly, and it gives a lot of clues of the ways and means of pursuing happiness.

For more, go to [here] & [here]; see also Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics: Book 1; “The Theory of Happiness.”

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

The Black Shoes of Second Chances

Very Short Story

Black Shoes: “The shoes always fit the right person.”
Photo Credit & Source: ©Perry J. Greenbaum, 2016

He didn’t immediately realize it, but he was dead, no longer alive. He had stopped living a few minutes ago. He was still wearing the black shoes he had recently purchased. They were beautiful shoes, highly polished and very expensive—the kind that wealthy people wear. They were made of “Italian leather” but not made in that country. He had bought them at the mall, at a fancy shoe store only a week ago. It cost him almost a week’s wages, but it was well worth it. He tried them on and they fit perfectly. These were the most comfortable shoes he had ever tried on; that he had ever worn.

And now he was no longer alive. Just an ordinary man living in an ordinary house in an ordinary town in America. This is his story, as much as is known.

Here was a man who had never achieved success, at least not in the way it was measured mathematically by the standards of accounting. Although he was not wealthy, he was by no means poor. He was not frugal, either, and liked to spend lavishly on himself. He enjoyed the finer things in life and thought he deserved them. He was after all not married, not attached and had no children. He was most devoted to himself and his needs, which occupied most of his time outside of work.

He was scrupulous in his habits, but he never voted or volunteered. He was a man of refined tastes, yet he had no friends. His favorite colors were black, white, gray and beige. He at times wore blue. Once, during his first year of work, it was said, he wore a yellow shirt and a red tie to an office Christmas party. His colleagues were surprised, but said nothing. He put the tie and shirt in a bag at the back of the closet.

He wore the new highly polished shoes every day to work; five days a week he wore them to the office at the financial firm that he worked for. He was a numbers guy with a finance degree from a good university. He had been there 10 years and was recently promoted to some supervisory position, where he decided small loan applications. His secret pleasure was saying “no” when he could have easily said “yes.”

After a week, he noticed that the shoes were no longer comfortable; they pinched. they squeezed his size 8 feet. On the last day of his existence on Earth, he couldn’t remove the shoes. His last words, which no one heard, were, “They don’t fit right.” They were on his feet when the doctor said that he was “dead.”

The doctor added, “It seems like he suffered a massive coronary; his heart gave out. So young.” As he quickly signed the death certificate, and before walking out the door, he said to no one in particular, “Those are a beautiful pair of shoes, though. Looks like Italian leather.”

Poor guy; he only wore the shoes for precisely seven days, one week, and he had really liked them. Now that he was no longer alive, five minutes later, the shoes came off easily, and floated down to Earth, back to the fancy shoe store in that mall in America. Into the store came another man; he tried on the shoes. He liked them and immediately bought them. His life would change forever; such was his destiny, one that he had helped shape. 

It has been stated that everyone deserves a second chance, to make things right. Often, though, it seems that some people escape the right and proper judgment due to them the first time, or even many first times. This is undeniably true. But one can take comfort in believing that the second time always makes it right. The shoes always fit the right person.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Chicago Cubs: World Series Victory After a Century’s Wait

Photograph of the Week

The Wait is Over: Players celebrate as they typically do in baseball by congregating on and around the pitcher’s mound. There is always some ritual of piling on at some preferred location, be it baseball, hockey or football—it is the sign of victory after a hard fight. In this photo, the Chicago Cubs have just won the World Series baseball championship (on November 2nd), which they have not done since 1908—more than a century ago during baseball’s early years as a professional sport. In “Cubs End 108-Year Wait for World Series Title, After a Little More Torment;” November 3rd 2016), Billy Witz writes for The New York Times: “The Chicago Cubs did just that, shattering their 108-year championship drought in epic fashion: with an 8-7, 10-inning victory over the Cleveland Indians in Game 7, which began on Wednesday night, carried into Thursday morning and seemed to end all too soon.” Sure, they are millionaire-dollar athletes, but this shows that money alone is not as important a motivator for humans as a long-awaited victory (after so many years of defeat and heartbreak) in a fair and tough contest. One could add, perhaps with a touch of irony, that money does not act as a barrier, that even the rich like to celebrate a long-awaited victory. Well done, boys of summer. For more, go to [Sports Illustrated].
Photo Credit: Matt Slocum; AP
Source: NYT

Sunday, November 6, 2016

April Wine: Sign of the Gypsy Queen (1981)

April Wine performs “Sign of the Gypsy Queen” in this 1981 performance; the song was written by Lorence Hud, a Canadian songwriter. It is the third track on The Nature of the Beast, the band's ninth studio album, which was released on January 12, 1981. The Canadian band was originally formed in Halifax, Nova Scotia, in 1969 and moved to Montreal in early 1970.

The four original members are David Henman (guitar), Ritchie Henman (drums), Jim Henman (bass guitar), and Myles Goodwyn (lead vocals and guitar). They have undergone a number of line-up changes in the last four decades and have a long history in rock music, some of which you can read [here]. The band performed together until 1986, and after a hiatus of more than five years they returned in 1992. The current members are Myles Goodwyn, Brian Greenway, Richard Lanthier and Roy Nichol.

Sign of the Gypsy Queen
by Lorence Hud

Lightning smokes on the hill arise
Brought the man with the warning light
Shouting loud, “You had better fly!”
While the darkness can help you hide
Trouble’s comin’ without control
No-one’s stayin’ that’s got a hope
Hurricane at the very least
In the words of the gypsy queen

Sign of the gypsy queen
Pack your things and leave
Word of a woman who knows
Take all your gold and you go

Get my saddle and tie it on
Western wind, who is fast and strong
Jump on back, he's good and long
We'll resist 'til we reach the dawn
Runnin' seems like the best defense
Stayin' just don't make any sense
No-one could ever stop it now
Show the cards of the gypsy town

Sign of the gypsy queen
Pack your things and leave
Word of a woman who knows
Take all your gold and you go

Shadows movin’ without a sound
From the hold of the sleepless town
Evil seems to be everywhere
Heed the spirit that brought despair
Trouble's comin' without control
No-one’s stayin’ that’s got a hope
Hurricane at the very least
In the words of the gypsy queen

Sign of the gypsy queen
Pack your things and leave
Word of a woman who knows
Take all your gold and you go

Sign of the gypsy queen
Pack your things and leave
Word of a woman who knows
Take all your gold and you go

Sign of the gypsy queen
Pack your things and leave
Word of a woman who knows
Take all your gold and you go

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Robert Charlebois: Je reviendrai à Montréal (1976)

Montreal Memories & Nostalgia

Robert Charlebois [born June 25, 1944 in Montréal, Québec], Québec’s poet of song, sings “Je reviendrai à Montréal,” a song that captures the sentiment of many expats living outside their native city. It is the third track of Side B from his 1976 album, Longue distance, his 11th. Charlbois is, as it is said in French, “un géant de la chanson québécoise.” It takes leaving and residing outside the city for some time to realize that even the snow falls like poetry in Montreal.

One can leave Montreal, but Montreal never leaves you. As an example, you can read an article (“Leonard Cohen’s Montreal; February 28, 2015), in The New Yorker, by Bernard Avishal. Both were born in Montreal. Cohen still maintains a house in Montreal, which is across the street from Parc du Portugal and is part of Le Plateau neighbourhood.

Je reviendrai à Montréal
par Daniel Thibon et Robert Charlebois

Je reviendrai à Montréal
Dans un grand Boeing bleu de mer
J’ai besoin de revoir l’hiver
Et ses aurores boréales

J’ai besoin de cette lumière
Descendue droit du Labrador
Et qui fait neiger sur l'hiver
Des roses bleues, des roses d’or

Dans le silence de l'hiver
Je veux revoir ce lac étrange
Entre le crystal et le verre
Où viennent se poser des anges

Je reviendrai à Montréal
Ecouter le vent de la mer
Se briser comme un grand cheval
Sur les remparts blancs de l’hiver

Je veux revoir le long désert
Des rues qui n'en finissent pas
Qui vont jusqu'au bout de l’hiver
Sans qu’il y ait trace de pas

J’ai besoin de sentir le froid
Mourir au fond de chaque pierre
Et rejaillir au bord des toits
Comme des glaçons de bonbons clairs

Je reviendrai à Montréal
Dans un grand Bœing bleu de mer
Je reviendrai à Montréal
Me marier avec l'hiver
Me marier avec l'hiver

I will return to Montreal
by Daniel Thibon & Robert Charlebois

I will return to Montreal
In a big sea-blue Boeing
I need to see the winter again
And its northern lights

I need this light
Descending straight from Labrador
And that makes blue roses, gold roses
Snow on the winter

In the silence of the winter
I want to see this strange lake again
Between the crystal and the glass
Where angels come to land

I will return to Montreal
To listen to the wind of the sea
Breaking like a big horse
Against the white ramparts of the winter

I want to see the long desert
Of streets that don't end
That go to the edge of the winter
With no trace of footsteps

I need to feel the cold
Dying at the bottom of every stone
And springing back again on the edges of roofs
Like icicles of clear candy

I will return to Montreal
In a big sea-blue Boeing
I will return to Montreal
To marry the winter
To marry the winter

Man at the Centre

Human Consciousness

Self Awareness: We humans have long thought that we are the centre of things. Such is the way our brains have developed; it is part of our survival mechanism; and it is how we were created and designed. It is no surprise, then, that humans in general have developed thoughts and narratives that places us in the centre of such stories. The more we develop in a technological fashion, the more we search the cosmos, the more we delve into the mysteries of new sub-atomic particles, the greater our yearning to return to our central narratives, which is essentially about us. Even when we search the Heavens, in our desire for transcendence, it is to understand us and our place in the Universe. In “The Rise of Neo-Geocentrism” (November 2nd, 2016), John Horgan, in a blog for Scientific American, elucidates some of the current research in this area and on the ideas that influence it: “As far as we know, consciousness is a property of only one weird type of matter that evolved relatively recently here on Earth: brains. Neo-geocentrists nonetheless suggest that consciousness pervades the entire cosmos, and it might even have been the spark that ignited the big bang. These ideas are repackaged versions of ancient, Earth-centered cosmologies, such as the one depicted in this 16th-century map.”
Image Credit: Bartolomeu Velho ca.1568 Bibilotèque Nationale de France,
Source: Scientific American

Friday, November 4, 2016

Jolly Jellybean at the Dairy Queen

Montreal Memories & Nostalgia

The Dairy Queen at 4604 Av du Parc, which is across the steeet from where I used to live and from where my brothers and I were each served a soft ice-cream cone by Jolly Jellybean. This is in the heart of the Mile End neighbourhood. 
Photo Credit: Kate McDonnell
Source: Urban Photo

We, my two brothers and I, met Jolly Jellybean (Ted Zeigler [1926–1999; born Chicago, Illinois] ) at the Dairy Queen on av du Parc; it was right across from our home. It was during the early 1960s, and I couldn't have been older than eight. I was thrilled at the prospect of meeting a real-life TV star up front and close. He wore the zany candy-striped suit that he became famous for and served me a soft ice cream cone.

It sounds sentimental, but it was a high and happy moment in our childhood, not only for us but for a generation of children who watched TV. It was a shared experience. (There wasn’t 500 channels; we had only four local channels: two in English and two in French.) It wasn’t that everything was wonderful—it wasn’t—but we had a sense of hope, a greater sense of humility and a view that with hard work and the right application of knowledge we were progressing toward something good. There was also good old-fashion outrageous comedy without the angry edge of resentment.

An article in the Montreal Gazette captures the appeal of the show to persons of my generation. In “A CFCF-12 memory” (January 22, 2011), the writer says:
My fondest childhood memory of CFCF-12 is of scurrying home for lunch from my nearby downtown elementary school to watch Lunchtime Little Theatre starring zany Ted Ziegler as Johnny Jellybean. Like a living Looney Tunes character, Ziegler entertained children as if they were grownups. Kids love that. He called it “kidadult” entertainment.
Ziegler’s wackiness has had a life-long effect on many Montrealers who swear by his hilarity and fondly remember him as their free-spirited childhood hero. From 1962 to 1967, the card dressed in an outrageous candy-striped suit, clashing polka-dot bow-tie and a beanie, of all things, flung convoluted faces and other-worldly voices at off-camera inventions with names like Toomie the Duck and Enzio Pesta.
For kids who raced home from school at lunchtime to watch the show, the The Squawk Box routine was as funny as could be. The only known footage of the show can be seen [here].

The Squawk Box: Jolly Jellybean played by Ted Zeigler.
Source: Youtube

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Thomas Merton: A Life of Contemplative Writing

Monastic Life

“Ask me not where I live or what I like to eat . . .
Ask me what I am living for and what I think is keeping me from living fully that.” 
Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude (1958)

Thomas Merton [1915-1968]: On the grounds of the Abbey of Gethsemani in New Haven, Kentucky, in the early 1960s. Merton, who was known as Fr. Louis, joined the monastic order in 1941 and remained there until his death in 1968.
Photo Credit: Merton Legacy Trust and the Thomas Merton Center at Bellarmine University

An excellent and thoughtful article, by Emily Esfahani Smith, in The New Criterion brings to light the life of Thomas Merton, a Trappist monk who spent his adult years at Our Lady of Gethsemani, part of the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance, a Catholic community in the rolling hills of Kentucky.

In “Fetters & Freedom” (Oct 2016), Esfahani Smith writes:
In 1941, a man much like today’s pilgrims traveled to Gethsemani for a silent retreat. He was twenty-six years old and was working as an English teacher at the time. Several months after his retreat, he quit his job, returned to Gethsemani, and spent most of the remainder of his life there as a monk. When he first arrived at Gethsemani as a young man in 1941, he was an unknown seeker. He planned to remain anonymous, cloistered in the monastery for the duration of his life. But by the time he died in 1968, Thomas Merton had become one of the most influential Christian apologists and spiritual writers of the twentieth century.
Like most people, Merton led a life stretched between the competing demands of the sacred and the profane. In his autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain, Merton tells the story of his path to monasticism. True freedom, he realized during that journey, paradoxically requires restraint and discipline; the monastic life, rather than the dispersions of modern life, was his avenue to this goal.
It does sound appealing, or at least initially, does it not? The noise and distractions around us, surrounding us, assaulting us and engulfing us can suffocate our soul. The desire for solitude is strong in some, a few, if you will. As does residing within the bounds of the sacred in the service of God or Heavenly Father.

This conflicts with the desire for social engagement and, of course, recognition as to who we are, which might give answer to why Merton wrote as he did. It is not that we require unfettered freedom to do good, but a mind and a heart directed toward a meaningful goal. Counter-intuitively, this might require less life planning and more letting go.

For more, go to [NewCriterion]