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Leonard Cohen

I'm (still) too young to remember early Leonard Cohen, I found him when I was 15 and that record was already 8 years old or so; but as a Montrealer for 20 years, I claim him entirely 'cause he grew up here (well, in Westmount which is completely encircled by Montreal) and this is still his home. When I was at my most bleak and suicidal, his songs both helped me to cry and helped me to heal; you can't get more powerful than that as a songwriter.

He died today at age 82, but his work - his poetry, because that is what his songs always were, as his true identity was as a poet and he just figured out in the 1960s that if he set it to music, he could actually make a living of it - will live on forever. Leave aside the way-too-covered "Hallelujah" (great as it is as a poem and a song) and just think of the depth of meaning of my favourite line in all his work:

"There is a crack in everything/That's how the light gets in."

Addendum: Today, November 11, is my birthday and fortuitously my husband bought me Leonard's latest/last record, "You Want It Darker," and after a lovely dinner at a favourite restaurant, I sat alone downstairs to listen to it. And well, just wow. Wow. If you're an older person (or know an older person) reflecting on life and faith and love and God, you should hear this. His voice is pretty much shot, not that it was ever up to very much, but I expect that, and his poetry is sublime. Beyond description really.

Just listen.

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Today

I am horrified and terrified;  thank the Goddess that my mother is dead and that I live in Canada now.

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Books in August

August begins hot and humid; perfect reading weather!

Playing with Fire, by Peter Robinson.Collapse )

The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Thirty-Third Annual Collection, edited by Gardner Dozois.Collapse )

A Pinch of Snuff, by Reginald Hill.Collapse )

Strange Affair, by Peter Robinson.Collapse )

The Man in the Brown Suit, by Agatha Christie.Collapse )

Snapped in Cornwall, by Janie Bolitho.Collapse )

Death and the Maiden, by Frank Tallis.Collapse )

Well, August began sanguine, in the middle went horribly wrong and before the month was over, I became an orphan, after the sudden, massive stroke felled my mother and killed her a week later. I hope I never have a month this bad again. And yet I continue to read.

Catastrophe

I had a call yesterday late afternoon from my brother in California, telling me that our mother suffered a severe stroke overnight, sometime between 10 PM Saturday and 11 AM Sunday (when she was found). She's in the ICU of the County Trauma Centre, because at first they thought she'd had a head injury, but if she stabilizes there, they may send her to the hospital closer to her home in Richmond. Rich saw her later and said she could open her eyes and squeeze his hand with her left hand, but her right side is completely paralyzed, and she can't talk.

Of course, we always knew this day would come - that I'd get a call summoning me to California quickly because she'd become severely ill or died, but of course it's highly traumatic nevertheless. My stomach hasn't stopped hurting since the first call, and sleep last night was pretty non-existent.

I'm waiting right now for Rich to call with an update, given that the first 24 hours or so after a stroke are the most dangerous. If she's stabilizing, I'm going to try to get a flight to CA on Wednesday - a one-way ticket as I don't know how long I'll have to be there. If she's died, I can take a little more time and Chris and I can arrange to fly together for the funeral, again me on a one-way as I'll likely stay longer, Chris on a round trip. I don't know which to hope for more, honestly; Mom's 85, in poor health and if she survives, there's no way she'd be able to live at home anymore. She'd have to go into care, something I know she would hate very much. I have a feeling, though, that she's going to try to hold on at least until I can get there to see her; she's stubborn that way.

I'm so glad now that we took the longish trip to Victoria, B.C., last month in order to celebrate her 85th birthday with her. At least if that turns out to be my last time seeing her, it was recent and we had a good time.
Shuzo, a recent retiree, likes to spend his time smoking and drinking and hanging out at his favourite bar; Tomiko, his wife of 45 years, has been taking creative writing courses at the local cultural center. When Shuzo get home from his bar late one night, which happens to be Tomiko’s birthday, he (having forgotten her birthday) promises to get her what she wants, as long as it’s not too expensive. Tomiko reassures him that what she really wants only costs 450 yen - it’s a divorce. Her proclamation throws the entire house into a tizzy - the household including their oldest son, his wife and two children, along with their youngest son; their daughter and his husband, constantly fighting and threatening divorce, are also frequent visitors. How this family will resolve their problems is a matter of time, fighting, family meetings and, well, hilarity too…. I enjoyed this light, witty and sometimes touching tale, with its characters who are quirky but not annoyingly (or overly) so. There is a constant stream of physical humour too, with various people falling over things, tripping down stairs and so on - again, done to a certain degree, but not so much that one starts rolling one’s eyes at it. This is a fun glimpse into modern Japanese family life, particularly with respect to the differences between the generations, and it also serves as a comedy of manners, Japanese style!

And this ends my FantAsia reviewing for this year - only 11 films rather than the more usual 15 because we were away in late June and early July and needed a bit of down time, but this was a lovely ending to another wonderful festival! A little marred by two middle-aged women who, at one point in the line-up outside, came out of the line to sit right beside us (because the bench was momentarily empty, the woman who'd arrived *two hours early, like us* having gone to get some food or something), as if entirely jumping the line. Well, we said nothing but others complained to the appropriate people, and they were soon given the bum's rush. Though Chris took the opportunity to read them the riot act too - it is *entirely* un-FantAsia to try to jump the line, it's just not done! This is the 20th year of the festival and this was the first time I've ever seen such a thing - and so also said Daniel, who is the heart and soul of the festival at that one cinema, who came out and got rid of them, then chatted with us for a while (which was lovely because he's Francophone and has little English but really wanted to speak to us about it). Shocking, I say, just shocking (the women, not Daniel)! Only sour note in an otherwise exemplary fest. Until next year, then!

Books in July

July began for us in Victoria, British Columbia, a beautiful small city on an island off the west coast of Canada; what with travelling for the 10 days following the start of the month, I suspect I’ll have fewer books than usual for the month proper, but that’s okay!

Aftermath, by Peter Robinson.Collapse )

Vienna Twilight, by Frank Tallis.Collapse )

Wycliffe and the Beales, by W.J. Burley.Collapse )

Reality by Other Means: The Best Short Fiction of James Morrow, by James Morrow.Collapse )

Act of Evil, by Ron Chudley.Collapse )

Well, my prediction about fewer books read than usual this month has come true - however, considering that I was travelling over the first 10 days of July and then spent the last two weeks attending the FantAsia Festival here at home, I don't think that's too bad! And I plan to devote all of August to reading, reading, reading....
Enzo (Claudio Santamaria) is a small-town crook in Rome, stealing purses and taking on small jobs with other crooks just to get by; after one such incident, he finds himself being chased by the cops and the only way to escape them is to jump into the Tiber River. Unfortunately for him, the place where he jumps conceals a number of barrels containing toxic waste, and one of them has been leaking. He suddenly finds himself with superpowers, and uses them to steal for himself until one day he meets Alessia (Ilenia Pastorelli), a young woman lost in a fantasy world featuring the Japanese anime Steel Jeeg. She convinces him to use his powers for good, but she doesn’t know that a super-villain, Fabio (Luca Marinelli), wants to subvert Enzo for his own ends…. This film is a hoot, a shout-out to Italy’s 1970s love affair with the (real) “Steel Jeeg” anime from Japan, and a gritty tale from the dark belly of the big city all at the same time, and all done with exquisite Italian flare. (Fabio, for example, has a fabulous dress sense and has a small-time claim to fame as a one-time contestant on a TV talent show, which everyone mistakes for the Italian version of “Big Brother.”) There’s lots of action, of course, but also a quieter story of how Enzo gains superpowers which then lead to him gaining his soul. This movie won a bunch of Italian film awards, and it’s easy to see why - it’s by turns charming, brutal, thrilling and tender. Anyone familiar with the genre will know from the beginning how it will end, but the journey itself is a terrific ride, and lots of fun!