Saturday, August 29, 2015

Be careful what you write, what you sing

Acclaimed prize-winning author Margaret Atwood's satirical column lambasting Canada's conservative prime minister Stephen Harper's hair was removed within hours of publication on The National Post's website.  [Source]
And an environmental scientist working for Environment Canada has been suspended and will be investigated for recording a protest song about the prime minister.

Turner was being accused of having “violated the departmental code of values and ethics in that the writing and performing of this song somehow impeded his ability to impartially study migratory birds”.

“We will stand up for its members who face the prospect of being disciplined for exercising their democratic rights as citizens. The supreme court of Canada has confirmed that public service workers, like all Canadian citizens, benefit from freedom of expression,” Debi Daviau, the president of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC), the union which represents Turner.

“Can’t we make jokes or say anything? Are we all muzzled? This is the politics of fear. I am an activist and singer but mostly I am a citizen and I care about democracy and freedom of speech,” Diane McIntyre, who sang a solo in the song, told the Ottawa Citizen. [Source]

It is getting so that if you work for the government, you cannot publicly sing out your opinion of its leaders. And if you're a writer, you will be censored for calling attention to the actions or non-actions of those in government - and don't even think about daring to make fun of them.

So . . . Orwellian.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

One reminds me of the other

and it's not the lyrics.

Just a few bars, some similar-sounding notes, that when I was humming the melody to "Elle" the other day, trying to remember the singer's name, my mate thought I was humming a BeeGees tune.

Kind of like the time I went to a family picnic here a few years back and heard what I immediately recognized as "City of New Orleans", except it was a French song sung to the same melody. I wrote about it here.
It's less clear with the two songs presented below, but whenever I hear one, it reminds me of the other. Anyway, for anyone interested - Enjoy.

"It's only words," they say.
They're different notes, I'm told.
Both songs speak of love -
a universal language, understood
even if you don't know the words
or remember what notes,
or hum it imperfectly.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Bark Art

In its natural state - a piece of bark
blown off a tree out back
during a hail-spitting thunderstorm today

Same piece of bark -
reverse side, watercolored

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Terms of Endearment

The first line of this poem is true.
The rest is made up.


He called her chou

which in French means cabbage.
A term of endearment, mon petit chou
my little cabbage -
only she wasn't little
and she wasn't his.

He darlinged and sweetied his wife
the way one says "It's raining" or
"Pour me a coffee."
His wife was not darlingable
and the sweetness in her heart
had long soured.

He wondered how it had come to this -
how strange is life, how
"Darling, turn out the light please,"
he said, inviting sleep
so he could be,
      at least in dreams,
with Chou.


I once knew a couple named Jim and Jinx. Nelda was Jinx's birth name but everybody called her Jinx.
The first time I'd met them, at the dinner table, Jim addressed, or referred to Jinx alternately as "Ace", "Meister", and "Fred".
               "Remember that time we went there, Ace?"
               "You'd better go check on the chicken, Meister."
               "Fred here, was a sociology major."
It was a bit confusing, because Jinx also called Jim "Ace".  So they were both, somehow, "Ace.".

Names we call one another. "Il m'appelle mon ange.   He calls me "my angel", someone wrote once, overwhelmed, because she was anything but.  But repeat a thing long enough and the person will come to believe it. In essence he was just saying "You are loved. You are loved. You are loved." And that is enough to drive away any lingering demons of disbelief.  Google Translate translates mon ange as "Sweetie". I prefer the literal translation.  Sweetie seems so . . . common. Nothing nearly as lofty or endearing as "angel". (As if we could really become angels, but it's the thought that counts, right?)

My mate just informed me that chou can mean more than just cabbage. It could refer to a sort of cream cake.  (Another type of 'sweetie').  Which answered my initial question as to why would someone refer endearingly to a loved one as a cabbage.  Then I remembered George.  George was a dear family friend and elderly suitor of my widowed mother and he used to call her "Peanut"--probably because she was so much shorter than him.   Tall people and short people, big people and little people. In Greece, I once heard a child being addressed as πουλάκι μου, "my little bird".  In French Canada, puppies are sometimes named 'ti-loup (a contraction of petit loup, meaning "little wolf").  Someone I know here refers to his cat as ma petite fille  (lit.: my little girl/daughter). Terms of endearment. 

The adjective "little" applied to another may have nothing to do with age or size.  It could signify an acknowledged innocence, fragility, or specialness.  Something precious that one recognizes the value of, that one wishes to watch out for and protect.   The "my" prefacing it, while it could indicate a perceived claim to ownership, also could merely be acknowledgment of one's involvement on a slightly higher level, than if, for example, one were to phrase it merely "you little" whatever.  (MY little cabbage, MY little wolf, MY little bird.) Not that Honey, Sweetie, Darling, even Babe, because of their commonness, don't signify endearment.    But it's interesting to hear creative alternatives and wonder as to their origins.