Saturday, July 1, 2017

Ohhhh Canada: Critics At Large Celebrates Canada 150

Celebrating birthdays is complicated enough when you're discussing people, let alone when you start talking about a nation. For a few months, the idea of doing a special series of pieces reflecting the complicated and controversial history of our Confederation was kicked around. But these days there is no one person who is a driving force at Critics at Large to bring consensus and focus to these kinds of ambitious plans. So the notion languished passively and died on the vine. We ended up doing an ad hoc number of random pieces that became part of an informal Canada 150 series. Since my turn to write was coming up today, I had to ask myself if I wanted to do something – anything – about why Canada mattered. But I had too many ideas and none that jumped out as inspired. So while recently culling together some of my own Critics at Large writing for a summer project I've been working on, I began reading a number of other critics who said things in the heat of reviewing that touched on some fascinating aspects of what it meant for them being Canadian. In a matter of moments, I began lifting selections from those reviews dating back to our beginnings in 2010. In those works, Canada was a leitmotif that I had the urge to embroider into a motley quilt of cultural discourse. Not all our writers are included here, as some over the years had little to say about Canada, while others make repeat appearances because some idea of Canada predominated in their work in a way that looms larger than it might have when the piece was once a review. As I was the one to do the writing today, I throw down the first gauntlet with a selection from a book review I did back in 2010.

-- Kevin Courrier, July 1/17.

“There is no music that you can say, ‘Oh, that’s Canadian – know what I mean? It’s North American music – different countries, but you hear the exact same music, from blues to cowboy. So rather than talking about Calgary or Montreal, we talked about places that we played in.” 

-- Robbie Robertson, quoted in Whispering Pines: The Northern Roots of American Music.

It’s been commonly held for years that Canadian musical performers only achieve their due recognition when they go south of the border. While that remains something of a simplification, there are still many examples to choose from – Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Gordon Lightfoot, just to name a few. Fortunately, in his recent book Whispering Pines: The Northern Roots of American Music…From Hank Snow to The Band (ECW Press, 2009), author Jason Schneider develops a more substantial rendering of this phenomenon. By examining the Canadian songwriting tradition as a national narrative, he’s able to illustrate how our musical artists subtly permeate the American experience rather than seek out our neighbour’s validation. In a series of essays that chart the careers of Hank Snow, Wilf Carter, Ian & Sylvia and Leonard Cohen, Schneider (Have Not Been the Same: The CanRock Renaissance) draws a delicate map of our cultural influence in popular music. He doesn’t so much examine how our identity as Canadians is felt in American music, as how American popular music has been enriched by our Canadian sensibilities.

Whispering Pines takes its name from the gorgeous Richard Manuel song on The Band’s second album, but it’s also an apt metaphor for how Canadian culture is often understated in its meaning. Where Americans, over time, developed a frontier mentality that brought forth both the country's riches and its arrogance, Canadians became humbled by the harsh landscape – we endure it and we also envelop ourselves in it. Schneider picks up on our need to explore (rather than conquer) with illustrations that include Hank Snow’s greatest song, “I’m Movin’ On,” Ian & Sylvia’s “Four Strong Winds,” Neil Young’s “Helpless,” Leonard Cohen’s “The Stranger Song” and Joni Mitchell’s “Urge For Going.” He ties the emotional reach of those songs to the mythic American folk and country traditions. All through the book, Schneider tells tales where American artists (like Bob Dylan and Ronnie Hawkins) become recurring figures who help Canadian performers seek homes abroad. Unfortunately Schneider doesn’t fully illuminate the meanings he finds in the songs of these Canadian artists. But he does have a storyteller’s gift for spinning fascinating yarns so that we can glean the deeper significance of their work for ourselves.

-- Kevin Courrier, "Understatement: Jason Schneider's Whispering Pines," February 7/10.


L.M. Montgomery Museum (Photo by David Kidney).

I was captivated by the story [Lucy Maud] Montgomery told in this, her first book. Her writing is strong, and the tale is eternal. Not unlike Mark Twain’s tales of young boys in Mississippi, this story of a young girl in Canada has a charm and depth that can be missed if you see the stories the way they’re told in movies and TV. While the version of Anne, played by Megan Follows, stayed fairly close to the intent of the book, the musical, which has been playing for 50 years, waters the story down and compresses, even loses, some of the best bits in the book. Much like Johnny Whitaker’s Tom Sawyer, the Anne Shirley presented in the stage musical is only a shadow of the fully developed character we see in the book. Montgomery’s character is a living, breathing girl, not quite the loud and abrasive post-adolescent on stage. The nature of a musical, wherein we stop every few minutes for another song, detracts from the reality that Lucy Maud Montgomery was trying to portray. The Anne of her book does make the reader laugh at her outbursts, but one feels the years of hurt behind her outer shell too.

-- David Kidney, "Where Anything is Possible: A Trip to Green Gables," August 27/14.

Winnipeg General Strike 1919

[Daniel] Francis paints a fascinating picture of the rise of political activism on the one hand, and the federal government’s strong actions to suppress it on the other. His book weaves tales of massive demonstrations on the streets of Winnipeg, or Toronto, that were inspired by the Russian Revolution. He also reports on the often-secret methods used by the Federal government to suppress and undermine these protest movements, aided by a paranoid House of Commons and a print media that sold the “Red Scare.” Francis doesn’t pull any punches describing the various spies employed by the North West Mounted Police, the precursor to the RCMP; or the work of Canada’s chief censor, Ernest Chambers, who spied on people who were considered radicals. “Better dead than Red” wouldn’t enter the discourse until the 1950s, but it was alive and well in Canada after 1918.

Francis tells this story with an approachable, slightly non-judgmental style, characterizing the era with great insight. As we read, the author seeks to answer the following questions: What happened during the Red Scare? Who participated? And how can we understand it in the context of its own time and in relation to current events? By carefully selecting details out of his extensive research, Francis seems to have lifted all the important stuff from his research, assessed its value and interpreted the events. He doesn’t burden the reader with a lot of dry facts but tries to add dramatic colour to the historical figures that graced Canadian government, media and political activists. Canadian history, often challenged as being dull and boring, is brought to vivid life as genuinely interesting and as provocative as that of any other country.

-- John Corcelli, "The Prism of History: Daniel Francis's Seeing Reds: The Red Scare of 1918-1919, Canada's First War on Terror," January 23/11.


The Group of Seven

kc: Your book, Defiant Spirits, puts the Group of Seven in a larger aesthetic context. How would you describe the common view held of the group?

rk: The way that we think of the Group of Seven are as these woodsmen who went out into the Canadian backwoods with their minds as blank as their canvases and let the woods talk to them. They were also responsible for this myth by claiming that the wilderness taught them to paint. But what I wanted to do in Defiant Spirits was look at the truth behind this myth. I wanted to see if Tom Thomson actually was this brute poet for whom the gods put a paintbrush in one hand and a canoe paddle in the other.

kc: Were you aware that there was this different history behind the group?

rk: I always suspected that there was because I knew that a number of them had studied in Europe. Some of them even came from England. But it’s a common fantasy for artists and writers to believe that they have no artistic fathers and are entirely self-generated. The Group of Seven is also far from alone in making that claim about themselves. When I first came to the project I thought that this was a nice myth. It’s a nice Canadian story where we’ve created this national school of painting. While there is some truth to it, there is still another side to the story. And it’s a story that the Group wasn’t that eager to tell.

kc: They’re not eager to tell it, but neither are Canadians willing to believe it. In the title of your book you have words like ‘defiant’ ‘modernist’ and ‘revolution’ which don’t normally get associated with the Group of Seven. What do you think led to our view of perceiving them simply as Canada’s naturalists?

rk: Ironically, that’s not the way they were initially regarded. If we rewind back to the early teens of the 20th century, there’s an interesting parallel between the Group of Seven and the French Impressionists. The paintings that shocked and scandalized the Paris salon in the 1860s are now seen as very tame and stylized. So when you study Impressionism, you have to rediscover what was so shocking and innovative about it. In the same way, these images of Canada by Thomson and the Group of Seven were once perceived as dangerous and shocking. Ultimately, they conquered their critics. But they stayed still and the world turned to meet them. This is why there are elements of the artistic community today that see them as old-fashioned. That is true by our current standards, but what I was trying to do was recover what made them so shocking and earned them such scathing reviews. They had imported a style of painting in Europe, which was then considered shocking, and applied it to the Canadian climate and landscape. They weren’t painting with a knowledge that wasn’t known elsewhere. They were art world sophisticates who knew exactly what was happening in Europe.

-- Kevin Courrier, "Lasting Impressions: Interview with Ross King (Defiant Spirits)," November 8/10.


One of the most fascinating dimensions of Canadian history, at least for those of us who did not grow up in Canada, is the history of Quebec and its relationship to the rest of Canada. While those south of the border are aware of Montreal as a cosmopolitan, French-speaking, “European-style” city that doesn’t require a trans-Atlantic flight and where the legal drinking age is 18, a deeper appreciation of Quebec – and the economic, religious, political, and cultural transformations it has undergone in the last 70 years – is much more rare. One way to cultivate such appreciation is certainly reading some of the numerous and fascinating histories that are available. A difference approach is available in Yves Beauchemin’s multi-novel series, Charles the Bold (Charles le téméraire).

Beauchemin is the premier Quebecois author of our time: his most famous novel, Le Matou (1981: translated into English in 1986 as The Alley Cat and adapted for film in 1985) is also the most widely translated work of French Canadian literature of all time, currently available in more than 16 languages. He has received numerous literary awards in both Quebec and France, and the University of Bordeaux organized a colloquium on his work in 2000. Born in 1941, Beauchemin has a degree in literature and art history from the Université de Montréal, and has worked as an editor, journalist, and a researcher. Charles the Bold is not an autobiography, but Beauchemin’s familiarity with the places and communities present in his work make them richer than they might be otherwise, the streets, cafés, and bars as multi-dimensional as the characters. . . . For non-Québécois readers, this series is more than a remarkable life story: it is a narrative, sideways glimpse into the convulsions that gripped Quebec in the latter half of the 20th century. Charles grows up in the aftermath of Quebec’s Quiet Revolution (Révolution tranquille), the years in the early sixties when the provincial government rather swiftly and efficiently broke the stranglehold that the Catholic Church had exercised over education, family life, and social services. He is filled with awe for René Lévesque, one of the leaders of the revolution, and his move from a Catholic parochial middle school to a secular high school is transformative. Religion is a recurrent trope in Charles’s life, but not as a marker of spiritual evolution; rather (and particularly in the third book) it designates those moments when authorities are most likely to try to take advantage of those around them.

-- Jessica L. Radin, "An Epic Sans Nostalgia: Yves Beauchemin's Charles the Bold," September 12/14.


A Beatles' press conference at Maple Leaf Gardens before they took the stage on Aug. 17, 1965. (Photo: John Rowlands)

dk: Why did [The Beatles] phenomenon take off in Canada first, before anywhere else on the continent?

ph: Pure and simply, Canada was much more of a “British Colony” back then – the 1950s through to 1967 – and there was much cultural influence from the “mother country." Kids in Canada could buy Melody Maker and New Musical Express magazines at W.H. Smith – that was where some early birds like Ricky Patterson of The Esquires heard about them in early 1963.

dk: How did they learn about The Beatles?

ph: The music hit the airwaves via radio stations in Toronto, Ottawa, London and Winnipeg, along with smaller communities like Pembroke, Ontario, which was close to an army base where kids were coming back from England and Europe with Beatles records in the summer of 1963. Our family was an example. In 1963, kids returning from England spread The Word. Radio stations had to play The Beatles, which they did starting in early 1963. Kids had to like what they heard on the radio before they went out to buy a record. Our family had Beatles records from England (the first LP and some 45s) and they were much different from the records we were hearing over the radio waves in August and September of 1963.

-- Deirdre Kelly, "Love Me T.O.: In Conversation with Author Piers Hemmingsen," October 26/16.


Marcel Duchamp and John Cage playing chess at the Ryerson Theatre in Toronto in 1968.

In the beginning, there was chess. It was a great year. Vintage. On Tuesday, March 5, 1968, I was standing outside of the Ryerson Theatre in Toronto on the sidewalk listening to an unearthly cacophony pouring from within its walls. Inside, two of the great modernist sages, John Cage and Marcel Duchamp, were playing an exhibition match of chess on an amplified board before an audience of enraptured worshippers. It was both deafening and enlightening. Sound and vision were shaking hands.

I was seventeen years old and could not get a ticket to the sold-out event; indeed I was not alone on the sidewalk in the pouring rain, for many other puzzled onlookers were keeping me company. The only difference between us, I quickly surmised, was that I realized I was observing one of the seminal moments in our contemporary culture: the virtual triumph of dissonance within the arts. Though I was not therefore able to be an eyewitness to this incredible event, appreciative as I was of the consequences of its hidden meanings for our shared global culture, that acceptance allowed me to become something perhaps even more intriguing. I was an earwitness to history’s following announcement: anything goes now, so get used to it. After all, we had certainly had a long enough time to acclimatize ourselves to the remarkable presence of disharmony and radical discontinuity in all aspects of artistic pursuit, and not just in music, but in all avenues of creative expression. Yet the challenge remained, and perhaps still remains to this day. How able were we to adapt to the fact that modernism meant that the classical rules of proportion, harmony, even presumed beauty, were being assailed from every side. And this was not new. The urge to introduce noise into the arts really began, albeit in a piecemeal fashion, ages ago, but it did pick up quite a head of collective steam in the twentieth century.

-- Donald Brackett, "Dynasty of Dissonance: Noise and 20th Century Art," November 5/16.


[Stan Rogers' Fogarty's Cove] has now been reissued in a digitally remastered version in a re-designed digipak (Borealis Records, 2011) . . . [a]sepia photo of Stan is laid on top of an old map of the Atlantic region of Canada. This was the land Rogers loved. Right from the first song Rogers lets you know his geographical home. “Watching the Apples Grow” is dedicated to “William Davis, Premier of Ontario [in ‘77] who said, ‘Ontario! Is there any place you’d rather be?’ [to which Stan replied,] ‘You betcha, Bill!’” This song includes the lines, “Your scummy lakes and the city of Toronto don’t do a damn thing for me, / I’d rather live by the sea.” His songs sound like traditional tunes melodically, and with all the violins and guitars, and lyrically too. His concerns are for bigger issues. Sure there’s a love song here and there, but listen to how “Forty-five Years” starts . . .

Where the earth shows its bones of wind-broken stone
And the sea and the sky are one
I'm caught out of time, my blood sings with wine
And I'm running naked in the sun
There's God in the trees, I'm weak in the knees
And the sky is a painful blue
I'd like to look around, but honey, all I see is you.

Not many people were thinking 45 years ahead back in the mid-seventies!

The title song could easily be a traditional song about life on the seashore. It is followed by “The Maid On the Shore,” which is an old Newfoundland song learned from a couple of Annapolis Valley boys. Then comes “Barrett’s Privateers,” an epic of the pirating life, on a par with Gordon Lightfoot’s “Canadian Railroad Trilogy” sung without instruments. The whole album is like that, taking risks in ways that very few '70s songwriters were wont to do. Not content to follow the current trends, Stan Rogers set his own direction.

-- David Kidney, "Opening Your Ears: Stan Rogers' Fogarty's Cove," December 3/11.


Joni Mitchell is fond of describing songwriting and performing in theatrical terms. “Ella Fitzgerald was mostly just a singer; Billie Holiday was more than a singer; Frank Sinatra was more than a singer,” she told Michelle Mercer, author of Will You Take Me As I Am: Joni Mitchell’s Blue Period. “There were a lot that were Method actor singers. Etta James, you can’t beat her read on ‘At Last.’” Will You Take Me as I Am, which was released in paperback last year, looks at the series of magnificent albums Joni Mitchell made between 1971 and 1976 – Blue, For the Roses, Court and Spark, Miles of Aisles, The Hissing of Summer Lawns, and Hejira, all of them masterpieces in the American popular-music canon. The “Blue Period,” as Mercer calls it, brought a new subjectivity to pop music, all in the spirit of avant-garde experimentation that blended the musical, the literary and the visual. (The name “Blue Period” conjures up the synesthesia of the nineteenth-century French poets, composers and artists like Mallarmé, Debussy and Bonnard.)

For an artist who started out in the folk era, Mitchell so far surpassed the emotional complexity you heard in Judy Collins or Joan Baez, whom she says she began her career by imitating. It’s that complexity – that quality her songs have of being Method performances in miniature – that puts her work during the Blue Period in league with the best albums of the seventies by female singer-songwriters: the sweet, stoned delirium of Laura Nyro’s soul music on Eli and the Thirteenth Confession, the irresistible plainspoken candor of Carole King’s Tapestry, Joan Armatrading’s tough vulnerability on Show Some Emotion. She’s not showy: her technique is so fine that, like Brando’s in his best performances, it’s invisible. She enters into her songs the way an actor can slip inside a role, and she sings as though she’s under its spell. Her Blue Period created something like psychological realism for the popular song.

-- Amanda Shubert, "Method Acting: Joni Mitchell's Blue Period," November 9/13.


Canadian chanteuse k.d. lang wonders out loud in Balletlujah!, a new film documenting her 2013 collaboration with the Alberta Ballet, why director Grant Harvey failed to include her way of dancing as part of the on-screen choreography. She asks the question impishly, saying she’s going to have words with him about it, and it’s clear that she’s only joking. Yet she has a point. Her way of dancing is perhaps the only thing missing from a prime-time movie that bravely, and with great sensitivity, excavates almost everything else about her, her lesbianism and Buddhism included. Taking as its title the name Alberta Ballet artistic director and choreographer Jean Grand-Maître gave to the k.d. lang-inspired production he debuted on a Calgary stage two years ago, Balletlujah! is a dance film as biography with an appeal as big as an Albertan sky.

If lang was previously behind-the-scenes in the making of the ballet inspired by her life and music, in Balletlujah! she is front and centre. Frequently addressing the camera, she speaks in a relaxed and direct manner about her journey through art, addressing love and acceptance, themes which loom large in her songs, while also explicating a belief system that looks to quell desire. Lang engages in conversation with the Montreal-born Grand-Maître, sometimes expressing surprise at some of his artistic choices (they didn’t previously know each other) and marvelling that he chose to honour her through dance, an art form of which she previously had little experience. Her conversations about dance extend to members of the Alberta Ballet, Canada’s second largest classical dance company after the Toronto-based National Ballet of Canada, in particular the two female leads, Skye Balfour-Ducharme and Nicole Caron. In the film, they perform the roles of a young cowgirl-like k.d. lang and her live-wire female lover, respectively. They were not the leads in the original stage version. Chosen for the film on the basis of their winsome looks and coltish energy, these highly telegenic dancers add a huge dollop of sex appeal to a story of artistic rebellion. Lang wants to know if they felt awkward playing lesbians and asks them the question during an interview that took place on set. Both assertively say not. Love is love, they repeat in unison, and lang agrees with them. “Love, of course, is wonderful,” she adds. “As long as you really understand it’s unconditional.”

-- Deirdre Kelly, "Essence and Process: Jean Grand-Maître's Balletlujah!," June 17/15. 


Expo '67

From my adult vantage point, Expo strikes me as uniquely non-political, especially since so many international events taking place in Canada afterwards, from the 1976 Olympics to the recent G20 nations meeting in Toronto, were tainted by politics, violence, excess or all three. There were a few minor political incidents, itemized in [John] Lownsbrough’s book [The Best Place to Be: Expo 67 and its Time], which I didn’t know about, such as the pulling of a specific photo from an exhibit before Expo opened -- the program book listing the picture was even destroyed, because it offended the Greeks -- and the arguments among those who questioned whether Expo was tilting too much towards the French or English side of Quebec. In Canada itself, that debate would soon come to define the coming political crisis revolving around the wish of some French Canadians in Quebec to pull the province out of Canada, something that, in fact, nearly came to pass in 1995. Lownsbrough observes in his book that, depending whom you spoke to at the time, Expo 67 was boasted of as either a proud Canadian achievement or a successful Quebec initiative. I'd say it was both. The fair was officially bilingual but not enough to satisfy many, on both sides of the linguistic divide. (Man and His World / Terre des hommes actually continued in reduced form until 1981, with some pavilions, such as the U.S. and French ones, donated to the city after Expo 67 closed. Most of them are gone now but some, such as the French and Quebec exhibits have morphed into new configurations; the Montreal casino was built on their sites. La Ronde, now run by the American Six Flags Entertainment Corp. is still around, though I haven't gone in at least 20 years.)

And there were some major political incidents, to be sure, from Kuwait’s pulling out of the fair after the Six Day War, in protest of Israel’s being part of the exhibit – notably the front-line Arab foes of Israel, Egypt and Syria, then briefly untied as the UAR, didn’t leave Expo – to the infamous declaration from French President Charles De Gaulle in Montreal supporting Quebec independence (Vive le Québec libre!). I’m not a diplomat, but I would have disinvited De Gaulle from his Expo visit as the rightfully angry Federal government demanded – Dupuy, apolitical to the end, said no. (I disagree with that stance, but De Gaulle’s visit to Expo did allow him to be rebuked by Mayor Drapeau, who rightfully pointed out that France had never displayed the slightest interest in Quebec’s affairs until his visit, and in any case Quebec could take care of its own affairs within a united Canada.) But mostly Expo proceeded as smoothly as one could have wished.

-- Shlomo Schwartzberg, "When Canada Outdid Herself: Memories of Expo '67," July 1/12.


Who can not help but smile watching Jon Montgomery – the irrepressible 'goofy kid' who not only likes to hurdle face first down an icy track at speeds upwards of 140 kilometres per hour in men's skeleton, but also has a full-time day job as a very fast-talking auctioneer – celebrate his gold medal-win in Whistler? The moment when a spectator ran up and gave him a pitcher of beer as he walked through the celebratory Whistler crowds was an absolutely 'beauty, eh' all-Canadian moment. CTV knows a star when they see one, so he not only figures prominently in the footage of his competition but he also appears in brief new material – in his full "auctioneer mode" – to set it up, and he is also featured in the intro documentary. He's so likable that even when he is being a complete showoff (jumping onto the gold medal podium), he does it with such complete joyous enthusiasm we don't get self-conscious.

The presentation of the men's hockey final – most of the game's here, but strangely not all (weird and unfortunate) – is a pleasure to revisit, especially since Sid the Kid scored so fast that I was barely able to register it (not unlike Patrick Kane's Stanley Cup-winning goal the other night where I had no idea it was actually all over for about 5-6 seconds). What's also fascinating is, as media sources claimed, you really can hear Crosby screaming, 'IGGY!" to Jarome Iginla as he charges wide open to the net before Iginla feeds him the puck to win the Gold Medal.

It is also a pleasure to watch American (yes, an American) Shaun White masterfully win the men's half-pike snowboard competition. He is gravity-defying and, from all reports, he's a gracious, kind-hearted guy who is humble about his outstanding abilities (heck, are we sure he's not Canadian?).

And I don't have time to go into the wonderful sheer insanity of short-track speed skating. For many years my favourite sport in the Winter Olympics.

-- David Churchill, "Canadian Swagger: CTV Vancouver 2010 Olympics DVD," June 12/10.


Margaret Atwood.
kc: Speaking of Canada, one of the things you address in Second Words, this collection of literary reviews, is the exploration of the Canadian character in our writing. This concept has always been open to debate as to whether we have a character, or even a culture capable of defining.

ma: You're right. And it has been debated for years and years. This idea of no Canadian culture has been around for years and years. But surely by now it must be out of date. Anyone who believes that surely hasn't caught up. To me, it has been proven just like the Earth has been proven round. I think that the dissemination of knowledge hasn't taken place altogether, but there are also a lot of people around who don't know anything about the Second World War, but that doesn't mean it didn't happen.

kc: I was in high school when you wrote Survival and I remember – before even reading it – looking at the title and thinking: Is something at stake here?

ma: (Laughing) Something may not be! Especially in the eye of the universe. Sitting on the planet Pluto, it probably doesn't make much difference whether Canada continues to exist or not. But for people who actually live here, it does. This is one of the leitmotifs of not only our literature, but our politics as well. When you go to India and you come back, you might wonder what the fuss is about because compared to other people's problems ours are not that large. But they're ours. Survival aroused a great deal of controversy when it got published. There were people violently for and violently against it. I remember some folks writing in and saying that they were so glad to have read this book because they were told in school that there was no Canadian literature except Stephen Leacock. I think the popularity of the book meant that readers were interested in their own literature. If they could get somebody to talk about it in an understandable language that wasn't just abstract footnote-making. So it was a fairly direct and to-the-point book. And, for that reason, the academics didn't like it.

-- Kevin Courrier, "Talking Out of Turn #8: Interview with Margaret Atwood (1984)," December 26/10.


If I had to write the mandate of The Walrus magazine, it would be: to make readers question assumptions, reconsider prejudices and stretch perspectives. The magazine’s actual mandate is much more straightforward: “to be a national general interest magazine about Canada and its place in the world.” Here’s where I quibble over semantics. General interest seems to imply that any Canadian adult could pick up the magazine, read it and find it interesting. While the subject matter would interest a wide cross-section of Canadians, it’s clearly written for an educated and engaged audience. Since most local newspapers are written at a junior-high reading level, The Walrus would likely not appeal to these same readers.

There’s no doubt that there are people who find The Walrus intensely readable. And unlike other periodicals of biblical proportions, one can easily read the entire magazine in one sitting. Without an Audi or DKNY ad on every second page, it’s a size you can actually put in your satchel and tote around. The articles are not current in the time-sensitive meaning of the word, but they’re definitely relevant. For a magazine presumably on the left of political centre, the contributors provide an objective, non-pejorative and eye-opening commentary.

The cover story purports to explain “why immigration means less crime.” I confess I was expecting a sophisticated argument about how immigrants require government social programs which also serve would-be criminals as an unexpected byproduct. The connection is more intuitive: first and second generation immigrants are less likely to commit a crime because of the tight-knit communities they build for themselves and the strong work ethic that brought them to this country. This is an important point. Despite the fact that Canada is increasingly multicultural, I’m embarrassed to say that anti-minority sentiment still penetrates wine-infused gatherings with my extended family. Obviously they need to start reading more than local papers. 

-- Mari-Beth Slade, "General Interest/Generally Interesting: June 2011 Issue of The Walrus Magazine," May 23/11.


Robin Phillips, who died on July 25 at the age of seventy-three, trained at the Bristol Old Vic and spent a decade as a young actor (he played the title role in the 1969 film of David Copperfield) before turning to directing. I own a copy of a TV movie of Strindberg’s Miss Julie that he directed in 1972 with a stunningly beautiful, sexually daring Helen Mirren playing opposite Donal McCann (a decade and a half before he played Gabriel in John Huston’s The Dead). After two years at the helm of the Greenwich Theatre in England, Phillips took the post of artistic director at Canada’s Stratford Festival and held it for six seasons, 1975 through 1980. I was in my twenties then, living in Montreal, and except for 1976, when I was traveling in Europe, I made sure to visit Stratford once or twice every summer, so I saw roughly a dozen and a half of the shows Phillips directed (or co-directed). I thought at the time that he was the most brilliant stage director I’d encountered in my young, fervent theatergoing life. It was an exciting time to be at Stratford: Phillips brought Maggie Smith, Brian Bedford, Peter Ustinov, Jessica Tandy and Margaret Tyzack to act alongside such Stratford stalwarts as Martha Henry, William Hutt, Douglas Rain, Alan Scarfe, Jack Wetherall and Domini Blythe. (Bedford ended up becoming one of those stalwarts.) Phillips claimed exhaustion when he left Stratford, and no wonder: during two or three of those seasons he staged five plays. His subsequent directing career was halting, though he worked in London and New York and around Canada; nothing evidently nothing he did after 1980 matched up to his achievements at Stratford. But those were glorious years, and I count myself fortunate to have attended so many of his dazzling shows.

-- Steve Vineberg, "Robin Phillips: The Stratford Years," July 29/15.


One warm evening in the spring of 2008, I filed into the Sony Centre in downtown Toronto where you could feel in this company of strangers a communal certainty that what we were about to witness was something captivating. Moments later, garbed in a grey suit and fedora, a Canadian legend took the stage. The applause only ceased when the opening chords of “Dance Me To The End of Love” wafted over us. So began our intimate three-hour encounter with the Canadian icon Leonard Cohen. Like many of his recordings, the performance was simple but urbane; humble but iconic; mournful but beautiful; thus making each detail unforgettable.

Several years after that epic world tour, in his 77th year, Cohen returned to the studio. The result is Old Ideas (Sony Music Canada., 2012), the twelfth studio album in his 44-year career and the first since Dear Heather in 2004. Living off the vivid memory of that evening almost four years ago, the announcement of Old Ideas was a warm welcome. The album itself is proof that Cohen’s artistic crux is still aglow in his twilight years. A Montreal native, Cohen was a published poet before his twentieth birthday. His poetic and literary accomplishments, which also include two novels that capture the quintessential melancholy of CanLit, might have established his foundation, but it is through song, however, that he became immortalized.

One of Cohen's greatest strengths has been his ability to articulate the most indescribable micro-emotions, those fleeting feelings that can only be diagnosed during our most intimate contemplations of spiritualism, mortality, and sex. In Old Ideas, these motifs are still present, but they have further matured and been reshaped. The essence of his familiar themes of religion, loss, failure, and life, however, remain.

-- Laura Warner, "Still Alive and Well: Leonard Cohen's Old Ideas," February 1/12.


If fashion is about reinvention then Toronto is right on trend. Over the past few months several new initiatives – five and counting – have risen from the ashes of Toronto Fashion Week, which died a sudden death when its New York owner, sports and entertainment marketing conglomerate IMG, abruptly pulled the plug last July, citing a loss of local sponsorship necessary for keeping the biennial event alive. One door closes and another one opens.

Enter Re\Set Fashion, an installation-style fashion event which unfolded in the recently renovated Great Hall on Queen Street West in Toronto in early February. A designer-focused alternative to the frenetic runway show, the concept was developed by Dwayne Kennedy, co-founder and fashion director of The Collections among other local fashion events, in collaboration with Toronto Fashion Week founder Robin Kay. Taking place on Feb. 6 and 7, the two-day experiential fashion event took the form of Instagram-friendly static presentations which, besides being a more flexible and intimate model than the traditional catwalk show, is also more cost-effective to produce. Models looking like human mannequins simply walked out onto a dais and posed under strategically placed lights, a refreshing and dynamic alternative to the usual hype and freneticism. Tapping into the see-now-buy-now, Re\Set also offered up a pop-up retail component aimed at encouraging members of the paying public to get up close and personal with the latest in Canadian style. The strategy worked. Re\Set packed them in, leaving everyone feeling they were part of something new. Designer participants ranged from newcomers like Elle AyoubZadeh, creator of fledgling Toronto-based fashion footwear brand, Zvelle, to rising stars like the award-winning Alberta-born womenswear designer Sid Neigum, who soon after showed his monochromatic 3-D silhouettes at London Fashion Week, garnering a rave review in Vogue and a multi-million dollar deal with the international luxury online retailer, Net-a-Porter. Canadian fashion lives!

-- Deirdre Kelly, "Reset, Reborn, Renewed: Toronto Fashion 2017," March 31/17.


[Stompin' Tom] Connors had a unique ability to write songs about ordinary people and make them extraordinary. He wrote about miners, bus drivers, tobacco pickers and hockey Moms. He wrote about small-town Canada as if he had been born in the very city or town he sang about ("Sudbury Saturday Night"), or he could express in no uncertain terms the pain of picking tobacco ("Tillsonburg"), a job he actually held for a couple of weeks when he was a teenager.

Connors was also a proud Canadian and he wrote dozens of songs about his love for his country, such as "Unity" ("Unity for you means unity for me / Unity for all means all for unity"). It was a simple message but all of his songs were simple. That's not only what made them charming, but also what made them accessible for young and old. I discovered him when I was around 12 years of age and immediately liked him. His music was catchy and his look was cool, but that piece of plywood under his cowboy boots was the best thing about his unique act. Oddly, his studio recordings don't have that patented stomp.

In fact, he had little tolerance for people who weren't loyal to Canada. On the liner notes to Believe In Your Country (Capitol, 1992) he boldly states: "If you don't believe your country should come before yourself, you can better serve your country by living somewhere else." As mean as that sounds, Connors wore his patriotism as a badge of honour on everything he did, particularly in his later work. I'm not entirely convinced that it alienated some of his fans, but I do think his fans forgave such indulgences because of his sincerity.

-- John Corcelli, "Stompin' Tom Connors: An Appreciation," March 12/13.


In January 1967, four days before he was to be inducted into the U.S. Army, [Jesse] Winchester flew with a one-way ticket from his Tennessee hometown, Memphis, to Montreal. When immigration officials asked him about the length of his stay, aware that this was a life-altering choice, he told them, “Forever.” With only $200 to his name and an electric guitar, the recent college dropout began playing Canada’s coffeehouse circuit. One of those venues was in Abercorn, Quebec – the closest he could come to the U.S. That’s where I first interviewed him, in late 1976. By then, Winchester had been discovered by Robbie Robertson of The Band, which led to a recording career. From Jesse Winchester, his first album, produced by Robertson, the tune “Yankee Lady” was particularly meaningful to those romantics among us in this corner of New England: “I lived with the decent folks / In the hills of old Vermont....” It harked back to the days when he was a student at Williams College in western Massachusetts but spent most of his time with a girlfriend in the neighboring Green Mountain State, near Bennington.

One of Winchester’s greatest strengths as a composer is a keen sense of place. His affections are evident in “L’Aire de Louisianne,” “Biloxi,” “The Brand New Tennessee Waltz” and “Mississippi, You’re on My Mind” – which contains lyrics that form a poignant word-picture: “I think I see a wagon-rutted road / With weeds growing tall between the tracks / And along that road, a rusty barbed wire fence / And beyond that sits an old tar-paper shack . . . " These melodies seem to indicate homesickness during the decade up north, though he once told me: “The piquancy of my being a draft dodger added something to those songs they ordinarily wouldn’t have had. But I was not standing on the border, beating my breast, dying to go home.” The commitment to his country of choice (he changed citizenship in 1973) had to be wholehearted. “To me, the idea was to become a good Canadian. The idea was you came up here and you could never go back. I never thought in a million years they would let us come back.”

-- Susan Green, "Jesse Winchester, You're On My Mind," July 15/10.


I'd like to think that Canadians have a sense of humor – after all, we poke fun at ourselves as if it's second nature. No doubt this is due to our undefined national identity toppled by a vast amount of strikingly absurd stereotypes, ones that are ripe for comedy. Canadians know this; just watch an old rerun of SCTV or even try to catch an episode of Degrassi Junior High. Americans definitely find the joke funny; the academy of voters even went so far as to nominate a song called "Blame Canada" for an Oscar. The Canadian film industry doesn't mind tossing out grants to have our culture mocked so long as our cultural diversity shines through. The problem inherent through Cooking with Stella is that we're not in on the joke. Canadians are presented as little more than friendly idiots with deep pockets.

-- Andrew Dupuis, "Greasy Pan: Cooking With Stella,"April 1/10.


kc: In one of the stories in Digging Up the Mountains, a man comes to Canada, makes a lot of money, and then goes back to enlighten his homeland – but he can't. They have different interests and desires than him now.

nb: It's not possible to go back is what it comes down to. One of the things that happens often in Canada is that people will come here and establish themselves always with the thought of returning to the homeland. They try to preserve their ways of being and their ways of thought, and all of their attitudes. They think they are actually doing it, but then they return for either a holiday or for good, and they find out that despite themselves, they've changed. Trinidad became very rich in 1973 since it has oil. So people here uprooted themselves, sold everything, and returned to Trinidad. A lot of it was because there was money floating around. It was easy to enrich yourself and folks talked about encouraging growth. Yet people ended up leaving Trinidad because they had been changed by immigration to this country. I know more people who have gone back and returned than those who have actually stayed. It is simply impossible. You change. Therefore you can't go back.

kc: Why do you think Canada has become such a haven for immigrants?

nb: The major reason that Canada is a centre for refugees is that it's a fairly harmless country. It's a society at ease with itself, at least on a day-to-day level. There is no violence here with people hunting you down. It also makes room for the newcomer. So it's like going to a place that will welcome you. It's an easy place to fit into, therefore it's an easy place to run to.

kc: If Thomas Wolfe was right in saying that you can never go home again, where, then, do you go?

nb: You go exactly where you are going and you establish yourself there. I'm very wary of fantasies. When people talk of the places that they left, often they fantasize about leaving paradise. I think, well, if it was so wonderful, and everybody was so nice and kind, why did you ever leave? It's frightening when you see the tricks that the mind will play on people's visions of themselves, on the places from which they've come, and the places in which they live.


Although Jiang Kai never again plays the piano in the West, Marie remembers her father was enraptured whenever he heard a recording by Glenn Gould. In China, Ai-Ming hears her father humming selections from his own unfinished works when he thinks no one is noticing. The music of Bach, especially Gould’s 1956 recording, Goldberg Variations, not only serves not only as a motif of the novel but Gould’s second 1981 re-recording of the Variations becomes a bookend for Sparrow’s later musical life. Perhaps of greater import are the Soviet masters who suffered under Stalin, Prokofiev and particularly Shostakovich, on whom I think Thien models the character and music of Sparrow. For example, they both put symphonic compositions in the proverbial desk drawer, recognizing that their music will not be performed in the political climate of their respective times. As one character later remarks, whereas Mao gave the Chinese people “one way at looking at the world,” Bach and Shostakovich provided for Sparrow “another way of listening.” For him, to listen simultaneously to Mao’s heavy-handed obtrusiveness and his own musical inspirations was like “hearing broken music.” No wonder Sparrow keeps his feelings to himself, always remaining, and urging his daughter to be, cautious.

-- Bob Douglas, "The Power of Music and Remembering in Madeleine Thien's Do Not Say We Have Nothing," November 13/16.


The Terry Fox statue in Ottawa
kc: Considering the heroic stature of Terry Fox in Canada now, are you surprised that more people hadn't turned out in the theatres to see The Terry Fox Story?

rt: The problem was that it opened in about 100 theatres and only three or four hundred thousand Canadians went to see it. This isn't bad, or even a sign that people rejected the film, but the distributor was expecting over a million Canadians to see it. Now the reason this didn't happen was that the film came out too soon after the event.

kc: How so?

rt: To a certain extent, I knew we were in trouble with the film when we were promoting it. I kept having members of the press coming up to me after screenings and saying things like they were glad they saw it, but it was a film they really didn't want to see right now. I said to the producer that there was a built-in resistance to the film, which wasn't what we expected. Even friends of mine who'd seen everything I'd ever done came up to me and said that they weren't going to see my movie. When I asked them why not, they told me that they'd already seen it, they had lived through it, right up to the time when Terry Fox died. So what happened in this country was that people became very personally involved with Terry Fox in ways that they don't with even their own family members. To them, that experience was special and they were afraid my film might ruin that relationship for them.

kc: The reaction must have been different when you released the picture in the United States.

rt: Of course. In the United States, you didn't have that personal connection with Terry Fox. For them, it was a whole new story. As a matter of fact, when we were auditioning actors for the film in Los Angeles, I kept asking people if they'd heard of Terry Fox. They said they had, but only in a vague sense. The person they knew more about, however, was this guy who was apparently dragging a cross across Canada. I've never heard of him! But it seems there was some guy who set out from Vancouver about the same time as Terry Fox hauling this cross. That apparently got more attention in the U.S. than Terry Fox. (ed. An Internet search I conducted for this man's identity came up empty. He doesn't seem to be remembered anymore.)

-- Kevin Courrier, "Talking Out of Turn #26: Interview with Ralph Thomas (1984)," December 22/11.


Michael Cera and Scott Pilgrim.

When I first heard that a Hollywood film adaptation [of Scott Pilgrim] was in the works, I knew there were two directions the film could have gone in: translate Toronto into a comparable American Midwest town, turning the American allure of Ramona into a New York City girl in Cleveland kind of thing, or jump into Toronto with both feet. I’m thrilled they went the second route, and I have no doubt that the Canada-chic thing will play very nicely for the key US demographic. The film was shot across Toronto last summer, and many of the books’ signature Toronto sites even made their way onto the screen – including Casa Loma, Lee’s Palace, the Sonic Boom Record Store, and an array of Canadian brands probably unknown to Americans, like the CBC, Pizza Pizza, and Second Cup. As I was watching the film, I couldn’t help but see these elements as small remunerations for the hundred of times that Toronto has been forced to pass as New York, San Francisco or Chicago on TV and film. (Despite all that, I do confess I did miss the apocalyptic duel at Honest Ed’s, but I think that was perhaps rightly understood to be a wholly untranslatable Torontoism.)

Bryan Lee O’Malley penned the first of the Scott Pilgrim books in 2004 while still working at a comic-book store in Toronto. The sixth and final volume was published just this past July. The black-and-white graphic novels are drawn with a clean, stark drawing style inspired by Japanese manga, and play host to a wide cast of slackers, amateur musicians, and video-game obsessed 20-somethings. Though the stories themselves are profoundly embedded in the urban and social geography of Toronto, by Volume 3 (Scott Pilgrim & the Infinite Sadness, 2006) the series had gained an international audience. Detailing the rich inner lives of a generation raised on a steady diet of video games and indie rock, the books are clever beyond measure, laugh-out-loud funny, often poignant and even philosophical.

-- Mark Clamen, "'Scott Pilgrim' Levels Up," August 13/10.


Sandra Oh in Don McKellar's Last Night (1998).

[Don] McKellar obviously loves his city and captures it with an accuracy I’ve rarely seen in any Canadian movie, where the streets usually seem underpopulated and the geographical connections seldom make sense. (Last Night’s streets are supposed to be mostly deserted so it’s not a flaw here and the city's rhythm as depicted in the film seems very real to me.) Toronto isn’t immune to the destruction and violence that we know most of the planet is undergoing in Last Night, of course – the film’s depiction of violence is judicious and upsetting – but it’s comparatively subdued and minimal, which strikes me as quite believable and true to type. (We’re not awash in guns like our American neighbours, which would help ameliorate this type of dire situation.) When President George H.W. Bush proclaimed his desire for America to become “a kinder, gentler nation,” we joked that he meant Canada. And my city happens to be the one that doesn’t indulge in mayhem when our sports teams, such as the Toronto Blue Jays, win championships, something that can’t be said for other Canadian cities like Edmonton, Vancouver and, especially my hometown of Montreal.

-- Shlomo Schwartzberg, "A Kinder, Gentler Apocalypse: Don McKellar's Last Night (1998)," April 19/17.


kc: Most of the stories in Stones concern themselves with Toronto, a city I grew up in. And one of the fascinating aspects of your book is the way you illustrate how the architecture of this city – what some are now calling a "world-class city" – hides some things that aren't so perfect or world-class.

tf: Yeah. I grew up here, too. I was born in 1930 so my memory of the city extends back to a time when none of what we now have was evidently in the future. I don't think people saw Toronto becoming the city it has become, so it has been extraordinary as a witness to watch it grow – and grow in more ways than merely physically. It is, I think, a magical city in many ways, but I have great concerns for its future.

kc: What kinds of concerns?

tf: Toronto reminds me now so vividly – almost like flashing double images – of the New York I first encountered in the late 1940s and early 1950s when New York had this look and was still a magical city. And now, less than forty years later, it has become a nightmare city. And I think that's what maybe causes some of the stories in Stones to have a sense of nightmare, a nightmare lying in wait for the people who inhabit the book.

kc: The overwhelming impression I got from Stones is that the architecture of the city dwarfs the individuals that live there. It intimidates them. In one story ("The Sky"), which takes place mostly at a concert in Roy Thomson Hall, one character is waiting for the sky to fall – metaphorically and literally! The architecture you describe in these stories reduce people to such a size that they feel helpless. They feel that there is no way to be human.

tf: Well, I that's a good point...because the other way that size and architecture are dominating our lives and making it impossible to make human contact in the city, or any large city, is the domination of the financial aspect of all of this. It becomes way beyond anyone's reach. Most of us who live here have nothing to do with that world of money.

kc: You're speaking of the human price we pay?

tf: Sure. We're now required – supposedly – to live in them at the most expensive levels. If we don't drive the Mercedes and patronize all the people who are bringing in all this money, then it's all going to fail. So everybody's struggling for absolutely meaningless things. In one story in Stones, I write about somebody having a walk along Bloor Street looking at all the glitzy stores and seeing the faces. It's something I've done when I've been walking there. And one of the things you immediately see is that all of these people are avoiding going home. I don't want to be with my wife, or husband, or to be with my children. I don't want to be with other known people. I need this hiding place out here in the street with all these other strangers because going home is horrible. It's the last thing I want. And, do you know what, it's increasingly becoming a way of life.


Exploring the ravages of life and taking in the complexities and handicaps experienced by female characters in particular, All My Fallen Angelas juxtaposes the masculine and the feminine to expose social and cultural forces shaping individual lives at a given time and place.The writing might be less consistently sharp than in her poetry, but Patriarca's Felliniesque knack for combining the poignant with the absurd shines through, making a story like the titular "All My Fallen Angelas" – a first-person narrative of a murder victim wrapped in plastic and hidden behind drywall in a Caledon Hills reno – a memorably artistic experience. Another strong story from the collection is the evocative "My Father, My Mother, My Sins," a chilling examination of the bittersweet Italian immigrant experience and its effect on the daughter of a disillusioned family. It's a theme common to much of her writing.

Patriarca views immigration less as a new beginning and more as a brutal uprooting from ancestral lands, an identity disconnect. Italians who immigrated to Toronto en masse in the 1950s and 1960s found jobs as factory workers and brick layers, ditch diggers and fruit cart pushers. They were paid decent wages. They enabled the Italian diaspora greatly. Yet Patriarca focuses more on the underbelly of alienation and loss, likely because her memories are rooted in a time, more than 50 years ago, when her people were "the wops" in a WASP enclave.

"The Neighbourhood is Changing," a poem from her 2005 collection, What My Arms Can Carry, describes immigration as a journey into disenchantment:

the old men

have nowhere to go

banished, corroded barges

in some abandoned port

they sit

cooled by the winds of

passing streetcars

at the corner of Grace Street

and College

Despite more than five decades of living in Canada, Patriarca still sees her adopted home as a foreign country, a place where she rarely feels at ease. Her saving grace is being able to mitigate the misery with dark humour. In "Maggie/Peggie," Patriarca mischievously imagines herself transformed into homegrown poet Margaret Atwood, and finally gaining acceptance:

no more Neapolitan songs

weeping and tragic

no more De Sica and Magnani

this small immigrant life

this woman unknown

gone is my life in black and white

the black of death

mourning ancestors through

reminiscence and longing

the white of an unfamiliar landscape

indifferent and cold


Don Cherry and Rob Ford

The night Rob Ford was elected Mayor of Toronto, almost four years ago, he had just won a bitterly fought battle to lead the city, and he did it by marshalling and manipulating a populist rage towards city government. Ford had warned us of a "gravy train" of bureaucratic waste depriving us of our hard-earned taxed dollars. While he positioned himself as city saviour, he also began targeting those he described as 'liberal elites,' a pampered, educated and entitled bunch, whom he saw as the true enemy of the hard-working individual. If Margaret Thatcher had once casually dismissed the notion that society actually existed, Ford went a step further. He talked about the city of Toronto only in terms of the taxpayer rather than in terms of its citizens. Since we all pay taxes – even when we're homeless and buy a cup of coffee – "taxpayer" was merely a code word for property owner. To Ford, Toronto wasn't a diverse and multiculturally vibrant urban community, made up of those who are privileged and those who aren't; it was instead a dysfunctional corporation he was about to restore to efficiency. His message to the city, where he alone could determine those he'd serve and those he wouldn't, was communicated with obscene clarity on the day of his coronation. CBC Television broadcaster and former NHL coach Don Cherry had arrived in his flamingo pink suit to drape the chain of office around Ford's neck. It was Cherry who helped set the new tone for the city in his opening remarks. "Well, actually I'm wearing pink for all the pinkos out there that ride bicycles and everything," Cherry began, with cheers from the crowd in the upper rotunda while city counsellors sat in shock. "I say he's going to be the greatest mayor this city has ever, ever seen, as far as I'm concerned – and put that in your pipe, you left-wing kooks." One thing certain in those tone-setting remarks: contempt was now public policy.


Kelly Jay & Roly Greenway (composers of “Oh What a Feeling”)
As memorable as “Shoo-doot-n shooby-doo” or “Awopbopaloobopalopbamboom” and every bit as meaningful, “Ba-bada-baaa ba-bada-baaa!” is the war cry of Canadian rock ’n ’roll. Or, it was for a generation of us, and recent events have shown just how important that simple chorus was. Roly Greenway and Kelly Jay Fordham were inducted into the 2011 Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame for their classic one-chord tune “Oh, What a Feeling.” And this weekend, their band Crowbar received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Hamilton Music Awards. The award was presented at a long ceremony on Sunday night, but on Saturday night, Crowbar rocked the joint at Mohawk College’s McIntyre Performing Arts Centre. 

Crowbar was the first band to benefit from Pierre Juneau’s new Canadian Content legislation (a law designating the implementation of 30% mandatory Canadian content by all radio stations) in 1970. Because of this legislation, everyone in Canada could finally hear on the radio just how great our own music was. Their success, mixed with the fact that Margaret Trudeau was a fan, led to photo ops with Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. They achieved huge success in Canada, but because people south of the border thought “Oh, What a Feeling” was about some illicit substance or other, they received little airplay in the USA. On Saturday night, they made enough noise to wake our neighbours from their slumber, and keep the rest of us dancing for another 40 years.

 Kevin Courrier is a freelance writer/broadcaster, film critic and author (Dangerous Kitchen: The Subversive World of Zappa, Randy Newman's American Dreams33 1/3 Captain Beefheart's Trout Mask ReplicaArtificial Paradise: The Dark Side of The Beatles Utopian Dream). Courrier teaches part-time film courses to seniors through the LIFE Institute at Ryerson University in Toronto and other venues. His forthcoming book is Talking Out of Turn: A Collection of Reviews, Interviews and Remembrances currently being assembled on Blogger.

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