L’shanah Tovah

To my friends and those I think of as family who begin the New Year at sunset I wish that the blessings of the New Year be as numerous as the seeds of the pomegranate.


And as in years past to all my family, friends, and loved ones regardless of faith or practice I extend the traditional Sephardic greeting:

Tizku Leshanim Rabbot
May you merit many years

To which the answer is:

Ne’imot VeTovot
Pleasant and good ones

On this day in 1939: World War II: The Battle of Hel begins, the longest-defended pocket of Polish Army resistance during the German invasion of Poland.

A Word of Goodbye

March 29, 1940 – August 8, 2018

I am flying to Toronto very early this morning to say a formal goodbye to my Gary. Though not family by birth he was a close to me as only family by choice could be. And like family he was loving, aggravating, giving, caring, selfish, argumentative, comforting, a whole mess of contradictions, and I loved him with all my heart.

One thing that most people did not know about him was that he was a Christian believer with a strong faith. In that spirit in his memory I’m posting the comforting assurances of the Kontakion of the Departed.

Give rest, O Christ, to thy servant with thy saints:
where sorrow and pain are no more;
neither sighing but life everlasting.
Thou only art immortal, the creator and maker of man:
and we are mortal formed from the dust of the earth,
and unto earth shall we return:
for so thou didst ordain,
when thou created me saying:
“Dust thou art und unto dust shalt thou return.”
All we go down to the dust;
and weeping o’er the grave we make our song:
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.

Give him rest where sorrow and pain are no more, and there is neither sighing but life everlasting. Alleluia.

On this day in 1642: England’s Parliament bans public stage-plays.

Hounds From Hell Again

Fripperies for the discerning dachshund owner*

For some reason – well actually for two reasons – every day or two I get an advert popping up on my FaceBook page telling me about a new delight for daschund owners.  Normally it is a t-shirt or something of the sort which allow me to publicize to the world that my life is controlled by four (eight in my case) legged, elongated, demanding Hounds from Hell.  I have been collecting them to no known purpose – sorry the adverts not the dogs – they, so I’m told, do have a purpose.  What that purpose may be I will leave to you, my faithful reader, to decided.

This would be our Nora.
Nora once again! With Nicky adding the descant.
That would be Nikcy – here let me just lay my head on your crotch.  Oh and don’t move lest you hurt yourself.
Okay this one is just creepy!
Self-explanatory I believe?

I will leave the last word to the remarkable wordsmithing of E. B. White and his observation on his beloved Fred.

Being the owner of dachshunds, to me a book on dog discipline becomes a volume of inspired humor. Every sentence is a riot. Some day, if I ever get a chance, I shall write a book, or warning, on the character and temperament of the dachshund and why he can’t be trained and shouldn’t be. I would rather train a striped zebra to balance an Indian club than induce a dachshund to heed my slightest command. When I address Fred I never have to raise either my voice or my hopes. He even disobeys me when I instruct him in something he wants to do.

E. B. White

Oh wait a minute I stand corrected the last word – or a least image will go to the Hounds from Hell.

You want me to do what?  Is there a biscuit in the equation? If not just forget it foolish human.
The reason that I finished this post using only my right hand.

*As if anyone can actually own a dachshund!!!!!

On this day in 1898: Caleb Bradham‘s beverage “Brad’s Drink” is renamed “Pepsi-Cola”

Lunedi Lunacy

Last Sunday at Indian River we had the pleasure of hearing the Cheng² duo of Sylvie and Bryan Cheng in an all Russian programme for cello and piano.   It was a glorious afternoon of Shostakovitch, Prokofiev, and Arensky – all well-known names.  But there are so many Russian composers we don’t know and here’s Danny Kaye to give us a list of fifty of them:

There are several “trick” names in Ira Gershwin’s little list –  Moniuszko, Maliszewski and Godowsky were Polish but were born in what was then part of the Russian Empire. And for one you’d have to have seen the composer’s birth certificate.

Gershwin wrote the lyric as a nonsense poem for his college newspaper under a pseudonym.  According to Wikipedia he always wanted someone to accuse him of plagiarism so he could reveal the joke.

I was familiar with 19 of the 50 and two of those were Polish; and if he hadn’t played around with that one name it would have been 20!!!  I bet my friend David will do much better than that!  But I wonder if he’ll be fooled by that little trick?

On this day in 1927: Five Canadian women file a petition to the Supreme Court of Canada, asking, “Does the word ‘Persons’ in Section 24 of the British North America Act, 1867, include female persons?”

Telling a Story

Is it theatre?

I very seldom go into rants – at least here on the blog though I have been known to go into the odd fit of overwritten vitriol on FaceBook. One favourite FB subject is the current theatrical reviews and reviewers in the Toronto Star.

I started reading reviews in that newspaper when Nathan Cohen was their critic (1959-1971). Cohen was passionate and uncompromising in his dedication to Canadian theatre. He could often be brutal in his assessment of performers and productions but always with a concern for the experience being offered the audience. At the same time the Globe and Mail had Herbert Whittaker: Uncle Herbie could be critical but always with a soft edge born of an almost obsessive love of the theatre and actors. Gina Mallet, during her years at the Star (1976-1991), was an intriguing mixture of the two.  She could be “the hatchet lady” but always out of a passion for theatre and a love of its history.  I could go on naming other reviewers who over the years have covered the theatrical scene in Toronto and across Canada in the old Toronto Telegram, the Star and the Globe. The take away from most of them was always the quality of the acting, the directing, the production, and the writing.

The Star now has two freelance critics working the busy theatre scene in and around what, grandly, calls itself the GTA.  I find myself often shaking my head in disbelief when trying to find out what is happening in a theatrical world I, admittedly, often pine for. Most of the “reviews” seem to centre on what Karen Fricker and Carly Maga find politically correct or incorrect about a production or how it fits with their view politic of the world. On more than one occasion I have remarked that they are the only people I know who demand gender equality and diversity in a one person show.

Of a recent production of Jet Butterworth’s Jerusalem we were told that Kim Coats  playing the central – and marathon – role of Rooster made “a remarkable return to the Toronto stage” .  That’s all we learn of his performance of one of the most challenging roles in modern English theatre.  However we do learn that Maga found the central monologue being delivered by a white, straight male “unappealing”.  In a recent Soulpepper production of David Hirson’s verse comedy La Bête the role of the leader of the traditional theatre company – originally written for a man – was played by Sarah Wilson.  However Maga was not pleased that this meant her opponent  “… the man — and a buffoon of a man — is still the one with the 30-minute monologue. He is still the one who laps up the stage, who wraps the audience around his finger, who comes out on top — both in the play, and in the audience’s experience of it.”  Apparently nothing would do but that the play be rewritten to Maga’s standards. At least she did find time to write about Gregory Prest’s performance as that buffoon and found it a brilliant piece of acting.

stephen-fryEarlier this season polymath and quintessential luvvie Stephen Fry appeared at the Shaw Festival in Mythos, a trilogy based on his retelling of Greek mythology.  In her reviews of the three evenings Ms Fricker variously expressed her and her theatre-going companions reservations about: Greek myths being Eurocentric; no acknowledgement of Indigenous mythology; a known gay rights activist telling “all these deeply heterosexual stories about gods”; Fry doing work detached from his “social causes”; the myths being largely male dominated; and how he condones the later by not editorializing on them.  Throughout the three reviews she constantly, and rather puzzlingly, questions if this sort of presentation is really theatre and what exactly is Fry’s purpose in doing this.

Charles-LaughtonSadly I have not had the privilege of seeing Fry’s performance nor can I speak to his reason for presenting it, however it brought to mind one of the most remarkable evenings I recall from my childhood.  My father took me to Massey Hall in Toronto to see Charles Laughton, one of the theatrical giants of the 20th century.  It was a stage bare of anything other than an armchair, a side table, a scattering of rather large books and the larger presence of Laughton in jacket and tie. And all he did was tell stories.  He told stories from the Bible (King James); he told stories from Shaw and Shakespeare; he told stories in rhyme; he told stories in prose; he told personal stories; he told stories.  And it was one of the most theatrical nights I can recall to this day.

I came across a recording of one of his appearances and he begins with a few words that should help answer the question as to whither this sort of thing is theatre:

Laughton often performed excerpts from his story telling show on radio and television.  Perhaps the most frequently seen was his reading from Chapter 3 – Laughton mistakenly says Chapter 4 – of the Old Testament book of Daniel.

And should there by any doubt left that this is theatre here’s another audio excerpt from his performance which says, for me at least, that story telling is theatre.

On this day in 394: The Graffito of Esmet-Akhom, the latest known inscription in Egyptian hieroglyphs, was written.