1000 Voices Speak For Compassion, Feminism, Guest Blogs and Featured Spotlights, History, IN THE NEWS AND ON MY MIND, Kerry's Causes, Memoir and Reflections, RIP, SoCS

The Heather By The River, #SoCS

Journalists. Photographers. And I use the term loosely.

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As a woman in my thirties, one who writes about things as my oxygen, I wonder what any of us would do for enough money. Would I write about people, even intrusively, for a living if given the chance?

Have I done it now? Already? Before?

How can it make anyone feel good about themselves to hound another human being, with their camera or their pen?

Responsibility: direct or indirect.

A world’s grief. Anger toward someone, needing to direct blame somewhere, the press. The press reports. The papers are printed. People buy the papers and mags.

More. More. More. We always want more.

From birth,
the two boys asked for none of it. That’s mostly where my thoughts return to.

I am not British and barely knew who Princess Diana was when she died. I wasn’t alive for the wedding seen around the world.

A sea of people, rather than water. That is what Diana must have seen when she looked from her vantage point, after saying her vows.

I would rather see a sea of Red or Black, blue or green, but the press fed off of the woman and she fed off of them, in a way, at least at first and for a long time afterward.

She was a fashion icon and a princess, but not only that. She used her position as a bit of an outsider, under the thumb of the monarchy, to become a change maker, by reaching out to those in need, those no one else wanted to associate with.

HIV and AID’s, in the 80s, when the hysteria about both was growing and at its greatest fever pitch. She shook hands, hugged those diagnosed and dying of the feared and misunderstood disease.

She came here, to Toronto, to sit by the beds of dying patients in hospice care. She walked a minefield, literally and figuratively. Danger signs.

Such grief of so many, I would not cry. As a fourteen-year-old child, fresh off of a kidney transplant and a thrilling wedding – I attended, my first of my oldest cousin. That was my wedding of the century.

Of royalty, I knew nothing. A fairytale life gone wrong is more like it.

Fairytales. I was familiar with these…the concept, the ideals, as a young girl. My Disney fairytale movies were my favourite. Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty, with the bright pink dresses and dancing with their handsome princes. I may have had similar dreams at the time, but what did I know? A lack of life experience and my own understandable immaturity.

What do titles represent, really? Sometimes, they bring just the right kind of attention and sometimes the wrong kind.

Now, upon reflection, twenty years later I do feel sad. I know of celebrity of her two sons. They are the British royalty of my generation.

I do perk up when I hear their names on the news. I bought the fake imitation giant ring, modelled after that of the one worn by both Kate and her mother-in-law, still lounging in my drawer. I woke to watch the wedding, once again broadcast live.

Prince William and Kate came to Canada after their marriage, the same date as my big brother’s own marriage took place. I hope one generation learns from the previous one, in certain cases, that sometimes it happens we grow wiser with enough knowledge.

They’ve come again since, since then, and with their two small children, touring parts of the country in which I live, that still sees itself as the child of Britain, past and present.

What is Kate wearing? Where are the couple going next? Are they in love, for real, or is it all just another fairytale?

But I do feel for two boys who, in August of 1997, woke up to the loss of their mother when I clung to mine for dear life, during some of the hardest and scariest times of my own childhood.

Are those boys/men in some ways like their mother, under scrutiny of duty, feeling hunted or like outsiders, wanting to reach out to those in need, perhaps not born with some of the advantages? They grew up with cameras as their mother tried to navigate a life of celebrity and being followed. She was hunted, more even than Prince Charles.

Now that I am more aware, I watch documentaries on the weekend after the anniversary of her death. I listen to stories of a nineteen-year-old who got married much too young, to an older man who shouldn’t have ever proposed to her in the first place, who was likely always in love with another woman. He should have been with this other lady all along and now appears that he is.

People marry the wrong person all the time, every single day and have babies with them. In these cases it is my hardest task not to judge because none of us are perfect. This challenges me as an adult who wants to see everyone happy, no matter whether they’re famous or not.

As a writer, this is my obituary of sorts, no matter how stream of consciousness based it may be, twenty years on.

From birth to death: Diana, 1961-1997

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1000 Voices Speak For Compassion, Blogging, Feminism, Guest Blogs and Featured Spotlights, History, IN THE NEWS AND ON MY MIND, Kerry's Causes

In The News and On My Mind: Supermegafragilisticexpialidocious

It’s a funny thing, but the prime minister of my country of Canada was featured on the US news magazine program 60 Minutes, before being honoured with a state dinner at the White House last week. This week he’s in New York at the UN (trying to secure Canada a seat on the Security Counsel), speaking at an event about why he is proud to call himself a feminist, and he hasn’t once mentioned anything about the size of his genitals.

GO FIGURE!

***

“Watching the news in the evening is a bit like being on an emotional Tilt-aWhirl. “Isis now sets people on fire.” “Harper Lee has a new book out!” “Some oddballs are bringing measles back because they’re scared of autism, which is a bit like saying I’m worried about birthday candles, so let’s start a forest fire.” “It’s going to be gorgeous this weekend!” “Look, a politician being deliberately rude.” “And also, look at these adorable puppies!” My limbic system does not work that fast.
–JEG

***

Super Tuesday…Mega Tuesday…what?

Comparisons are being made between Adolf Hitler and Donald Trump: Louis C.K. said it. Now I’m saying it.

But so many aren’t about to go there. Oh no! Perish the thought!

I am saying it and I am not going to back down from it. I am afraid.

America is full of beautiful places and kind and compassionate people. I know many citizens, writers and bloggers and friends, who don’t want the US to feed off of violence and divisiveness.

At the same time, North American culture thrives on celebrity. Media matters, has influence, seeks headlines and hype.

Is it any surprise then, (not to me), that a reality star, part of the reality TV craze, is so close to securing the GOP nomination?

With celebrities fighting over Twitter about naked Instagram shots, roses and marriage proposals that hardly ever last, and a show about a religious family with 19 kids…dismissed when sexual abuse comes to light and still a network brings such a mess back for ratings.

Is it any wonder? Yes, I wonder.

Donald Trump is a white, privileged male, who has likely had to fight for very little in life, mostly unaware of the struggles many minorities face. He has been a reality star for years, now the ultimate challenge, nomination of the highest office in the land, modern North American king, royalty, this is just much too much of a challenge to pass up, to see if he can take that title for himself.

Of course he can’t back down from this. He’s already practically hijacked the whole entire world into watching him/listening to him talk. It’s the ultimate reality show, on a world stage.

But what happens if he actually gets there?

Hitler. Trump. Of course I don’t think they are the same men, with the exact same plans or intentions. I don’t know what Trump has in mind for the kingdom he wants to rule. I do know that Trump is only the symptom of a larger problem in the world.

I’ve studied pre-World War II history, the great depression, and the uprising of anti-semitism somewhat. Now I watch the news and often I wonder if I am witnessing the sorts of things that those in the 20s and 30s witnessed. I have this yucky feeling inside that I might just be.

Demagog. Xenophobic. These are terms I didn’t even know five years ago.

People see things, with their own eyes, hear things with their own two years, but choose to dismiss them. They are in denial, don’t want to believe it, if it is not happening to them in that moment.

“That couldn’t possibly happen again, oh no. Not on my watch, on ours. Not with what we know, in the world today. That would never happen in 2016, in America.”

But they forget the past, or never fully acknowledged it, and are then on the way to repeating the mistakes of history, at break-neck speed.

Horrible things do happen again, are happening right now, and they are just as cruel and unfair as ever before. My father taught me, as difficult as it is and as negative, to love and appreciate history and the hard lessons it can teach us, if we pay attention.

I wish I could have all the positivity of my mother, but I sometimes think she is counting on the rest of the world being as logical, rational, and genuinely good as she is.

I wish I had all that faith in humanity that my prime minister who, amidst endless questions from reporters about his thoughts on Trump, repeatedly takes the high road over.

He says very little, only that he has faith in the better judgment of the American people to make the right choice when the time comes. He doesn’t resort to insults and petty name calling, like Trump is caught doing in so many sound bites, some I will never be able to un-hear.

Trudeau stays dignified, as us Canadians are famous for, but what does he truly think? Is he worried, like me? Perhaps I can’t figure out how to remain quite so tactful any longer.

Jokes are made all the time now, as a Trump win for the presidency starts to look more and more possible – Americans saying they want to move to Canada if Trump is elected:

Cape Breton: The Canadian island for Americans who want to escape Donald Trump

The fighting spirit going on during these tense times has those in favour of Trump, his own family included saying they will help them pack. I hate to hear all the ugliness, all a bunch of bickering children on the school’s playground.

Some Canadians would say no to this escape plan anyway, turning away our neighbours, immigrants (refugees is a stretch, but who knows). Some Canadians go on to say that Americans must clean up their own messes, but where do we draw that line? For those Americans who don’t vote for Trump, depending on what were to happen after he took office, wouldn’t they have a right, a reason to get away?

In the media, Canadian islands like Cape Breton talk of inviting Americans. If Trump becomes president, not even a US/Canadian border feels like enough space and separation to me. Our world may have borders and oceans between continents, but we can’t remain separate from our fellow countries. Our globe has become much too global in the nearly 100 years now since the World Wars.

I know Hitler used the dissatisfaction that a lot of Germans felt at that time. Then it was the Jews, Communists, us against them. There had to be someone to place the focus, to lay blame, to be afraid of, as fear has always evolved into a lot worse things.

Now Trump is using the dissatisfied state of America to win, something he loves to do, and he’s doing it at the expense of Muslims or Mexicans. I don’t know his true intentions, but he is egotistical and narcissistic.

He has slogans like, “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN”. Of course, politicians use slogans, but his sounds ominously like something Hitler shouted to crowds at his rallies in the thirties.

The world has always been ruled by white men. We know the history, but some places, the US and Canada, we don’t like to think about the bloody, greedy details so often white washed over in the history books.

Canada and the world at large aren’t perfect either. The North American continent was inhabited by Natives and it was the white Europeans who came over and took all that we have today. Most of us, since then, our ancestors were immigrants at one time or another, but we choose to forget that fact. We must not forget that part.

George and Amal Clooney on 5 years of conflict in Syria

People who know me know I tend to get easily upset, and so I am told not to read Facebook comments, but I sometimes do. I can’t always help myself and I sometimes think it helps me remain compassionate.

I hear from Canadians all the time that they don’t want refugees over here, taking our resources away from us. It can be a chilling reality to hear what some people are really thinking.

It’s the individual stories that frighten: One Florida woman spoke of her family being of a different kind of immigrant. They weren’t like the lazy, bottom feeder immigrants of today. This was her rationale for her feelings. This is a scary position to take, if she really does believe what she says. No empathy, no compassion, not even from most of us who’ve had our ancestors come from other countries in the past. This baffles me most of all.

Hitler believed his success couldn’t be attributed to anything other than divine providence.

Trump said his success, even after the riots and violence at rallies in recent weeks, not even he can explain that one.

All the conflict in Chicago for example only serves Trump’s purpose. No violence is acceptable, but things shouldn’t have gotten out of hand. I wish it hadn’t. Will this continue? Will it escalate?

I am not American and won’t be able to vote against Donald Trump for President. I am Canadian and glad of it, but I have a stake in what happens in the world. I may be in a separate country, but no “wall” (real or metaphorical) could ever possibly keep me secluded and unaware of the scary rhetoric that many are spouting.

Where does it end? I am not fleeing my home right now. I live in Canada, a peaceful place, but I can empathize. Where is the empathy? It’s clouded by fear, misinformation, and stereotypes.

It helps my own ability for empathy to listen to the personal stories: like the young Syrian refugee who now lives in Montreal and studies psychology, all the while keeping an eye on what’s going on back in her home country, all the while remembering the painful and cruel interrogations she underwent when she was arrested for protesting, five years ago back when the conflict in Syria began.

All of Europe are dealing with the fleeing people up close, on the front lines. This can’t be easy. Countries who were accepting at first now experiencing push-back from some citizens, bigotry increasing, stereotypes free flowing.

Hillary and Bernie both made their mistakes, said the wrong thing at the wrong moment and offended someone, but Hillary apologized. Trump has never done this. Anyone who has never apologized or recognized the mistakes they’ve made, because we’ve all made them, is nobody I want running anything. This equates him with someone as dangerous as Hitler was proven to be and I am saying it without hesitation.

More and more are beginning to call him out, but is he a joke (like so many late night comedians would like to think), a harmless nuisance, a guy who will do anything necessary to win, or something worse? I try to give him the benefit of the doubt, as I have never met him in person. How can we really judge another person if we’ve never met them? I don’t want to believe I am living in another 1930s, but we don’t tend to learn all that much from our past mistakes. I hate to say it.

I am scared. If refugees, immigrants, Muslims can be targeted, where does it stop? Women are still suffering in many places around the world. People with disabilities and LGBT face prejudice in both big and small ways. We can’t continue to support white supremacy. If you can’t bring yourself to mention Donald Trump in the same breath as Adolf Hitler, at least call his talk what it is. He may not be in the KKK, but his statements, the things he’s said to get where he’s gotten, they can only be said by someone living in his extremely privileged position. As chaotic as things are in his country these days, such a situation is something so much of the world would kill for. Terms like that are worded that way for a reason.

I know what’s happening around the world is awful – in the five years since the war in Syria began, when I hear word coming out of the atrocities happening in South Sudan for example, and the problems feel far too huge for any solutions to be found.

But there are those looking for compassionate solutions.

I feel optimism when I listen to this expert from Oxford or Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. I am uplifted when I realize there are still those using common sense, compassion, and intelligence to figure out this complicated world we live in.

I keep up on what’s happening in the US, not only from the news, but from one writer/blogger in particular who writes thoughtfully about politics and in a way I can begin to understand about a system that I often find highly confusing and complex:

Little Pitchers Have Big Ears

We all have an opinion, but so much of it is backed by anger. A lot of what can be found underneath that anger is fear. What are we teaching our children? What is being modelled for them?

What Our Children Are Learning

It’s really hard to let kindness, understanding, and empathy show through all that, but we need to make the effort for the hope of the future generations.

Like I so often think: I wonder what the state of things in my country of Canada, in the US, in North America, and all around the world will look like, one year from now?

One year from now? Fifty? One hundred?

I wish I could turn off the news for good, as I can’t really stand to hear Trump’s smug, ranting voice much longer, but I may not have much of a choice by this time next year, no matter what anyone says, what my prime minister says or does not say out loud.

Does Trudeau have a duty, as the person running Canada, to speak up and stand up to Trump, especially if he’s saying such inflammatory things about all manner of types of people? Or is he showing tact by keeping quiet?

When is it important to speak up? I think none of us, even Trudeau, would hate to think Trump could be compared to Hitler in any way whatsoever.

Trust me, I don’t want to think it (don’t even like using these two men’s names if I can help it), but am following a gut feeling.

Or perhaps I am just using the comparison to prove something through my writing.

Who knows which one it truly is. Not even I’m certain at this point. Some of both I’d say.

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Guest Blogs and Featured Spotlights, RIP, Spotlight Saturday

RIP, Alan Rickman – Always!

What a week!

It’s the sort of week that only a Harry Potter movie can sooth.

First it was David Bowie, then Alan Rickman, and finally it was the death of Celine Dion’s long-time manager and husband Rene Angelil. This cancer is a real jerk.

I am a fan of some Bowie songs and I am glad Dion was discovered, but it was the news of Alan Rickman’s death, on Thursday morning that threw me for a loop. All these men were no longer young, but still it was the dreaded cancer that took them from their families and from fans around the world too soon.

Of course I did not need this sad occasion, or any occasion at all, to get me to watch a Harry Potter movie marathon. As it is fifteen years since he first played the role of Severus Snape in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, this time I am watching and paying particular attention to the brilliant Alan Rickman’s portrayal of one of the favourite literary characters ever created in my opinion.

This is a beautiful overview of Snape’s story.

Tributes have been pouring in, from fellow actors and fans alike, since the news broke suddenly of Alan Rickman’s passing from cancer, at age sixty-nine, on Thursday, January 14th.

Of course this isn’t really him,

in this fake guest voice spot on Family Guy,

but his voice was always so well-known. I’d like to think he wouldn’t have been offended by it.

I did not think of him as a joke. I saw only dedication in the roles he played. I just needed to smile from something since I heard he’d passed away and the clip from Family Guy came back to me.

The tributes, as I say, have been coming fast since news broke, on Twitter, Facebook, and in the media and online:

From J.K. Rowling, Daniel Radcliffe, and other British stars.

to

Evanna Lynch

and her heartfelt post.

Then there came a statement from The Late Show’s

Stephen Colbert.

Rickman’s close colleague and friend Emma Thompson wrote a moving tribute of her own

Here.

I don’t remember Ricman from the role that made him famous in Die Hard or the next role, where he played the villain in Robin Hood.

I do know he came to embody the character audiences always loved to hate on screen, but who was he, as a man, in his off screen life?

I knew him in such roles, perhaps a little lesser known, such as when he starred alongside Johnny Depp and his Harry Potter co-star Helena Bonham Carter in “Sweeney Todd: The Demon barber of Fleet Street”. He was positively evil in that,

but Rickman and Depp sing beautifully in that together.

It was in Harry Potter that I first heard his voice. I don’t forget a voice like that. It was infused with intensity and control over the words he was saying, whatever they just so happened to be. His slow speech grabbed hold and kept hold of my attention, anytime he spoke lines on screen.

I can honestly say that not everything about the movie versions pleased me, as big of a fan of the books as I’ve been since I first read them, but Rickman’s performance as Snape was never a part of my disappointment. He nailed that character, as one of the best cast parts from the entire story.

He was absolutely, terribly mean and you couldn’t help but hate him, as cruel to Harry and everyone else as he always was, but that’s what made him so great as an actor.

He could go from the world of Harry Potter to Shakespeare and almost everything in between. His start with the British Royal Shakespeare Company must have been something to see.

But whether he was playing a Shakespeare character on stage, the Blue Caterpillar from a tale like Alice in Wonderland, a modern literary villain in Harry Potter, or the bad judge in a musical, he was magnificent in whatever he was doing.

It’s strange how the death of someone you’ve never met can get to you, but from a closer source than I ever thought I would have when I first saw him take on the role of Severus Snape, I heard it confirmed what a warm and amazing person he was in real life, not just a fact made known through the celebrity reports and tributes.

His portrayal of Snape brought something important to life for me, as in he jumped off the screen in an extension of the character I loved to hate in the books.

It was Rowling who came up with the sad tale of a life that Snape lived, but it was Alan Rickman who made it real for me. He made that sadness real and I feel that same sadness now.

Rest in peace Allan Rickman.

It will always be Alan, for me, the man who was meant to play Snape. Always and forever he will be it.

Always!

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Love and Despair

Canada has lost two icons, in the last two weeks. This is my tribute to them both: Lois and Jonathan.

Lois Lilienstein, dies at age 78

Sharon, Lois, and Bram were a part of my childhood.

Sure, I wasn’t a huge fan of the giant, silent elephant, but I did watch the three performers and I liked their songs.

Somewhere in between Polka Dot Door and Today’s Special.

The Elephant Show was full of skits and songs and it was always there, seemingly just there, in the background of my early years.

It was comforting like home.

The theme song is unforgettable for anyone who has ever heard it.

“Love you in the morning and in the afternoon. Love you in the evening and underneath the moon.”

The folky sounding music they sang together made them some of the best children’s performers around. They volunteered for certain children’s events, such as appearing where I saw them, met them, and had my photo taken with them.

I was a teenager by this time, but my brother and I had both received kidney transplants at Sick Children’s Hospital in downtown Toronto.

We were at a celebratory event, one afternoon, in the hospital’s main atrium. We posed with Sharon, Lois, and Bram by the cake.

Then, as I grew, I’d long since outgrown kid’s shows and soon what became important to me was what made me proud to be Canadian, with the development of my love for my country’s literary history.

I was shocked, last week, when I first read, in my news feed for Facebook…
Jonathan Crombie, dies at age 48

This was the last thing I was expecting.

There’s always a certain obvious morbidity in my mind, as one celebrity dies and I already start thinking, I wonder who the next one will be to pass away.

Jonathan Crombie was only forty-eight and died, a few days before the official announcement, from a brain hemorrhage.

Right away I felt a sickening feeling inside.

He was Gilbert Blythe. He “was” the role. He WAS that character.

I knew the PBS mini series before I really read the books. It all came to life for me, on screen, with the descriptive video I received in the mail in the late nineties.

Most girls had their prince charming, Disney prince of their choice. I had Gil. He was what an ideal male would be. He became the ideal for me.

Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe always reminded me of my grandparents, right from the first time I became truly aware of their love story.

I never thought I would be writing about why this character means to me what he does, not for this reason. I had assumed it would come up eventually, here or somewhere else, but that I would talk about the significance of Anne and Gilbert or Gil himself, as an upbeat writing on my favourite literature.

I didn’t think, couldn’t predict I would be writing about what Jonathan’s role as Gil meant to me, not as a tribute to the life lived by the man behind the beloved Canadian literary character, at the time of his premature death.

But here we are.

I don’t know exactly what Jonathan felt about his time playing Gilbert. I would assume he realized what that role meant to people like me. I read he would often answer to “Gil”, but whether or not this is true I can not say.

I do know he played the role of Gilbert for all three movies. He started as a fairly young guy in the eighties.

He was the son of David Crombie, Mayor of Toronto, long before Ford would make the position famous for so many other things.

Jonathan performed on the stage, Shakespearean roles, at the Stratford Festival Theatre.

I wish I could have seen him in that role, as a bit of a variation from Montgomery’s character. Just a small variation of course.

Jonathan would return, years after his original debut as Gil, when the third Anne film was made, at the start of this new century.

It was a bit of a shock, to me in that moment, when I first saw him again. He was older, obviously, his voice having changed a fair bit from what I’d known it to sound like.

He pulled off a whole new, more serious role this time, going off to perform medical officer duty in a retelling, of sorts, of a story from World War I and I was newly impressed by where he would take that character.

It was a bit of a stretch from Montgomery’s original writing, but I wouldn’t read more of the books until several years later.

Of course, none of this would have happened if it weren’t for L.M.’s brilliant creation of the great love story of Gilbert and Anne, but Jonathan brought the character to life in ways I will never forget.

It was the way Crombie pulled off the deep and unwavering devotion and dedication to Anne and his pure love for her. I envied it. I only dreamt that anyone, in my real life, could or would ever love me like that.

Even as an old-fashioned story, theirs is a fictional love story that didn’t have lots of drama and back-and-forth, at least not for him. He played always his part, Gilbert Blythe, the cool, calm, and collected gentleman. The chivalrous doctor that once was a love-sick schoolboy.

Nothing, betrayed in that character, seemed to react. They took a sombre period in Canada’s history, now one hundred years ago, and they portrayed it, both Jonathan and Megan, and the rest of the cast, with grace and dignity, feeling and heart.

The tragic romance of doing the hard thing, the spectre of having to be separated, all coming alive from the pages of any history book I’ve ever read. A fictional story that I could, so easily, picture in real life.

Of course, I knew it to be a work of fiction, but Jonathan made me feel it in every line he spoke as Gilbert.

I wanted to include my favourite moment from his performance in Anne: The Continuing Story.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cr20pRzTiTc

I will return to this story, again and again, to always see him in this greatest of great roles.

Watching the above clip of their reunion always did bring tears to my eyes, caused the all-too familiar butterflies in my stomach when I immediately went to watch on hearing the sad news, caused my heart to race like always, and will forevermore stir a deep feeling of nostalgia that can hardly be explained through words.

It is why I believe in the art of a fictional performance, when in spite of all the silliness of what acting often is, sometimes an actor gets it right. Sometimes it isn’t silly or frivolous. It means something.

And so I dare to be so bold as to use a line from Montgomery’s books and from the films themselves, not in an attempt to be over-dramatic for the sake of it.

Anne Shirley said it first. I say it now.

I didn’t know him. I never had the chance to meet him in person, but I would have liked to tell him all this, if I had.

“In the depths of despair.”

His passing has caused a strange empty feeling in me since I heard he was gone for real.

From what I read, his organs were donated. This only makes me love him even more.

How many people get to mean the things he’s meant to people like me and to give others a second chance at life through the sudden end of his own?

RIP Jonathan, Gil.

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