Sunday, March 1, 2015

Die Fledermaus and Vancouver Opera

It’s quite possibly me.  I have often found myself at variance with the mainstream.  Die Fledermaus, the VSO opera playing now at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre was performed to perfection. The sets and costumes were outstanding.  The voices of the principal and secondary tenors and sopranos were truly incredible.  This was Straus. I ‘ve always loved Straus and danced endless Venetian Waltzes through my youth to this music that captures the heart as no other music can.
Yet here was this comic operetta that really was little more than a beer commercial except that it celebrated champagne, the "king of wines".  Not only that it portrayed philanderers and immorality all ‘forgiven’ because the ‘wine made me do it’.  And all about me the audience itself seemed to reek of wine, not something I’ve noticed at other operas.  Could it be Die Fleiderhaus brings out the drunks in droves.  Or was it the opera itself, with it’s alcoholic propaganda that had the audience running en mass to the wine bars in intermissions.
Further the premise of the story is a cruel, literally mean and downright psychopathic prank by the lead males apparent best friend.  All ends well as things do in comedy but really it was an awful shallow story which seems a theme in opera. This truly angelic music coupled by the most god awful writing.
Add to this the contemptible bar room humour which appealed to all the drunks in the audience it seemed, a kind of ‘in house’ joking about local Vancouver ‘stuff’ by a fellow who portrayed a drunk and smelt of urine.  This character and the play were by all means sexist as well.  Ugly local bawdy house stuff that went on interminably.  Yet there were those in the audience who loved it.  There are always those in the audience who love this  low brow entertainment. Shakespeare played to them but really, in an opera, ‘pissing oneself’ jokes.  Sad stuff.
Yet the symphony was superb, the singing outstanding, and the costumes and set incredible.  It reminded me of cigarette commercials and I couldn’t help but think that a hundred years from now there will be an opera written next year about the benefits of BC Bud and all the singers will be forgetting their lines and lying about on the couch eating chips and ice cream.  Maybe Hugh Lewis’ “I want a new drug’ will be played superbly by symphony.
I don’t know if I’m up for the German opera.  I was overwhelmed by the wonder and beauty of Bach Choir at Christmas.  I loved Whipping Man last night at the Pacific Theatre. I love BC Ballet and even tolerate the usually pseudo intellectual art critic explanations that go with ballet and contemporary art.   I loved Birdman but my very good friend didn’t. t just wished that I could have listened to Die Fliderhaus without the English translation. It was written before WWI and I suspect contributed to the subsequent  World Wars.  Not the music, not the singing, just the story and the Kardasian type shallowness and meanness.
I know, it was humour.  Just a little sick for me.  I probably would have liked it better if I was drunk, had smoked some BC Bud, maybe  done some crack too, and they’d thrown in a fart joke.  It was just missing something.  But the singing was still as good as it gets.
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Friday, February 27, 2015

Whipping Man

The Whipping Man by Matthew Lopez opened tonight at the Pacific Theatre. (  It plays till March 21. Tonight’s performance, directed by Anthony Ingram, starring Carl Kennedy as John, Giovanni Mocibob as Caleb and Tom Picket as Simon received a standing ovation from a packed audience.   A Jewish family at the end of the Civil War comes to terms with their own persisting imprisonment despite their apparent freedom.  Indeed family and freedom and man’s relationship to one another is metaphorically and literally explored in this profound play which revolves around slavery and the whipping man.  The parallel of the south and Egypt is as strongly drawn as the secrets and lies that persist between brothers and father’s, sons and daughters.  The drama was palpable. A truly remarkable night of threatre.
As Hannah said later, “we love this theatre as our date night because we’ve always so much to talk about after the play.”  Hannah was talking to me but looking at her beloved .  Their wedding is planned for next month.  Tom and Laura, my other friends there that night loved the play equally.
Ron Reed, the Pacific Theatre’s artistic director, mingled with the audience,  cast and crew in the lounge afterward.
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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Love of Books

For me, today has turned out to be a bibliophile’s day of days.

First, William Hay Writer VI, Volume 1 and 2 arrived .These are the hard copies of my blog which I have produced every so often just in case a neutron bomb goes off and destroys the digital record. In the world after the apocalypse I can be assured then that a copy of my blog exists in paper which will be found a million years from now so I can have a writer’s equivalence of  “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Journey"

I’d  also just  received Norman Doidge MD’s book “The Brain’s Way of Healing”.  I thoroughly loved his first book, The Brain that Changes Itself. It’s been so helpful for my patients who suffered head injury so I was very thankful he took the time and trouble to add to that classic.  

Now the piece de resistance arrived this afternoon. This is The Textbook of Addiction Treatment: International Perspectives, Volume 1-4 by Nady el-Guebaly, Giuseppe Carra, Marc Galanter Editors, Springer Reference, 2015.

I don’t know where I’ll find the time to read these but somehow I’ll endeavour to.  It’s worth it. Right now I’m just so enjoying their smell, presence and feel.   I’m just loving the aesthetic of books and the work of book publishers. Hard cover books are a thing of beauty.  My book is a writer’s journal in print whereas the Doige book and the Textbook of Addiction Treatment are masterpieces.  

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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Psychiatry and Spirituality - In the beginning

"In the beginning there was God. And God created the heavens and the earth and everything and everyone in them," said the student.
"Was there God and building blocks?" asked the master?
"No, just God in the beginning."
"So then everything is made of God, isn't it?" said the master.

Thereoretically there is no need for God as creator. Everything could just be unfolding as it is. However computer programs that measure the time it would take for a monkey to play the violin suggest very simply there isn't enough 'time' since the Big Bang,  That's the moment of creation.  Then it's possible that humans 'evolved' elsewhere.  That posits the 'seeding' of the earth by space travellers.

But then the question begets the question of where this other 'creator' came from.

Evolution tries poorly to suggest 'random' events would lead to 'creation' as we understand and know it. The trouble with this 'random' 'mutation' idea is that an infinitisemally small 'mutations' are 'beneficial'.  The vast majority of 'mutations' which we know of and see are negative and counter creation.  So evolution is a poor 'model' for the BIG PICTURE.  It might well explain little stuff but at the big level it just doesn't compare with the idea of a MYSTERY.

There 'arrogance' in believing "I know".  There's "humility' in saying 'I don't really know."  There's the mystery.

Science is humble.  Religion has a tendency to insist they know but personally as a scientist and a theist I BELIEVE.  I don't know how man 'evolved' from the Big Bang.  I've got an idea that maybe some monkey marriage lead to a proto human by some kind of 'intelligent design'.  Maybe even man was created whole as the Bible says.  Maybe there really was a Charleton Heston kind of guy who was back there in time.  That was yesterday. I don't know.  It's a mystery.  As a scientist, I have 'hypothesis'.  An hypothesis, is an 'educated mystery'.  We may have evolved from monkeys or monkeys may have devolved from us or we may have evolved in parallell.

This discussion doesn't help with my fundamental belief in a Mystery God creator that I can communicate today.


The Orubunga is an image of a snake eating it's tale.

I have a hypothesis of an original creator.  I anthropormised this 'OTHER".  I imagine t hem bored.  The oldest game is "Hide and Seek".  The Creator is one or zero.  The next step is 2.  Black and White. Yin and Yang. Or "Hide and Seek".  Or "You're the biter and I'm the ass that's bit".

Martin Buber,the great Jewish theologian/philosopher wrote a book  "I and Thou".  The real issue of getting beyond the 'Paranoid Position" of "I and IT"  is to accept that sense of anxiety which is a natural experience of humanity to the position of "I and Thou".  Bob Dylan's song "I and I" is a religious folk tradition referring to the Caribean "I and I" god tradition struggling in the same vein.

Kierkegaard referred to the essential state of existence as emitionally "existential angst".  He described existence as "Suffering unto death'.  This sense of 'separation' has been described as "alienation'.

Indeed religious thinkers have defined "Anxiety as a measure of our distance from God".

In the Hindu tradition the Overself is seen as the reality but our present existence is an 'underself'" or 'little self' that cannot appreciate the 'limitless' or 'infinite' because of our arbitrary 'limited' or 'finite' experience in this realm.

Reality is considered a 'Construct' by Owen Barfield.

It is a hypothesis of the 'String Theory' that this experience of a 'UNI-VERSE'  is really a "MULTI VERSE."

I just don't think there's reason to be  'adament' about one thing or another. I certainly wouldn't fight about these distinctions, yet there's a wholeness in the understanding and 'acceptance' of these understandings.  So often people don't realize they are living their lives according to some BIG PICTURE idea of life and the world and everything which is itself causing them their difficulties.

In psychiatry we see this in examples like, "GOD hates homos".  The people who make such crude and primitive statements may not really be aware of GOD or homos but they certainly are likely authorities on hate.  As hate authorities we might wish to take their comments seriously.

If we posit a GOD then we consider next that GOD

1) Neutral
2)  Active
3) Passive
4) Limitted
 5) Unlimitted
6) Inside
7) Outside
8) Participating
9) Communicating

After we've considered those we might get into whether he hates homos or whether he hates asparagus more.

The idea of Neutrality is to some extent what scientists think in the evolutionary sense. Whether there was a God Creator or not, there is this GAME called LIFE and the universe and everything and it's here and we're (humans) are in it.  It's quite possible that God made it for us to play and left or is merely watching. Thou might well be a sleep.

Some might say that God is limitted and not unlimitted.

Some think of God as outside the universe and us while others believe God is inside.

The question of whether Thou is participating in us, the universe/multiverse and everything is another question.

I personally believe that God is Omipresent, Omniscient, Immanent and Loving.

In the 12 step programs like AA and NA individuals are told to "make their own God'. It is recognised that the person who goes into Recovery is already religious but their God is a material substance immanent in the world, active in their life and soemthing they literally worship.  "The God of Your Understanding" is something that you can imagine as bigger than Whiskey or Heroin.  That's the notion of a Higher Power, something higher than the thing that is enslaving you, keeping you in bondage.

In the Schizophrenic or paranoid there may be an 'idea' that is central to the disability.  Questioning this central idea, that of say, a hateful God or a shameful act or a heaven or hell or a position in and out may be necessary to help a person come to terms with what is causing their particularly anxiety.
The therapy of R. D. Laing was one of unravelling the "Knots' that tied up these people in their own bondage preventing them freedom and joy.

The idea of a God that is active in your life is difficult for people.  Your God is Too Small is one of the great little books of all time in which an Anglican priest challenges people to look at their prayer life and their "idea" of  God.

It's sad that aetheists like Nitzhe and Hichens hadn't read that book. Their "idea" of God which they rail against is a very historic notion of God.  The idea that God evolves is taken up in the book, The Evolution of God.  The author there points to the changing ideas about the nature of God implicit and explicit in the Bible. Aetheists rarely engage our "MODERN GOD"  but rather talk about ancient history.

Communism is the present day social expression of aetheism. Indeed communism can be considered the largest religion to date of the aetheism.  In aetheist criticism of theism they commonly talk about historic 'ideas' of God whereas they get all emotional if one points to actual communists today killing people.

The Theists killing people today are for example ISIS. They whack people all the time. However their God isn't a MODERN GOD or a POST MODERN GOD but rather a 15th century version of God.  ISIS want to time travel to a simpler time when men had sex slaves and swords decided who was ruler.  ISIS God isn't even ALLAH but more like a WAR GOD.

Polytheism has these 'limitted' GOD constructs. The God of Agriculture for Greek Romans was Ceres/Demeter.  Zeus, the God of God was a limitted God too.

But the Modern Postmodern God is a limitless loving God which was glympsed in Hinduism and Buddhism and specifically what Jesus talked to especially naming the God of His Understanding as "ABBA" which means 'Daddy".

Loving God.

Indeed spiritual people today would simply answer the question

What was in the beginning?

"In the Beginning was Love?"

Accepting that, how did we get here from there?

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Memoir - grandad

I don’t remember grand dad dying.  I remember visiting my mother’s father and mother in their Toronto home.  I was born in the Toronto General Hospital. I don’t remember that at all.  From what I was told I didn’t want to come into this world.  I’ve always felt that others that my life could be explained by that defining moment.  Others escape their mother’s intolerable interiors.  I was content to die with her.  Apparently I showed no desire whatsoever to come into this world and would thereafter maintain that I was meant for a different kind of place.  Armed masked men ripped open the side of my first home with knives.  They dragged me out of a perfectly good place with all that I needed into a cold harsh world brightly lit by incandescent bulbs, with loud noises and garish big people with little sensitivity for tiny awkward different sorts of things. I was that oddness.
I loved my mother. I remember never wanting to be apart from her. Even now I cry remembering her. And I do remembering her dying.  Valliantly. Sadly. Quietly.
We had lived with my mother’s parents in that house in Toronto.  I had an older brother I adored.  He was the biggest brightest best and kindest of all the children in the whole world to me back then.  My whole world was so very few people.  Mostly it was family.  Individuality and independence didn’t mean as much as family and interdependence did back then.  Mom and dad lived with grandma and grandad. After grandad died, grandma came to live with us. It was years later then.  Mom and dad had had their own house in Toronto and even moved to Winnipeg by the time Grandma joined us.  I was 7 or 8 or 10 back then but I do remember her dying.
She lived in our sun room and I visited here each day.  She had arthritis. Her hands were more like birds claws in the end.  She was bony and frail.  She smiled and her eyes grew bright when she saw me. Mom and her talked for hours alone together. I didn’t spend that much time talking to adults.  I’d sit with her usually holding some toy in my hand letting her touch me while I answered her question, turning the dinky toy model car or plane over and over in my hand.  Adults always wanted to know how I was doing and what I was doing.  In my family they mostly liked to hear about what I was doing at school, what I was learning.  Sometimes I’d talk a whole lot about what my friends Kirk and Garth were doing. I’d talk and talk and talk and she’d laugh touching my arm with her little claw hand. Then she might start to cough. Mom would come then and say that your grandmother needed her rest. I’d go out to play.
Then one day she was dead.  I found her that way. Silent. Still. Cold.  She just died in her sleep in the next room, only ten feet from my bed.  I cried more than anyone would have thought I would. More than I’d ever cried.  In some ways I didn’t know how much I’d miss her till then.
I never knew my mom and grandmother to argue.  They always talked but I never knew them to fight.  My mother loved her mother something fierce.  And Dad loved her too.  I loved her but we didn’t talk about those things back then.  People didn’t talk so much in my home and church and community.  Not like they do today.  In our day people ‘showed’ their love.  I think today people talk and talk about love because they fancy themselves so much.  When I was growing up people really did care for each other.  My grandparents had cared for my mom and dad in their home after mom had her babies and dad and mom cared for grandmother when she needed help and came to grow old and die in our home.
I just don’t remember grand dad dying.  I guess he died in Toronto when we were living in Winnipeg.  We’d visited grandmother and grandfather travelling on the train and travelling by car but only grandma ever came out west to stay with us.  And that was only because she was old and needed some place to die.  Family were close back then.  A whole lot closer than we are today.
But really I can’t speak for anyone but myself and what I see.  I see new families coming from other countries close like ours was and then moving apart as we did.  So many transformations occur because of wars and weather,  economics and migrations.  Mom’s dad who I don’t remember dying had come from Northern Ireland.  My grandmother came from Glasgow Scotland.  My mother had two sisters.  My so very much loved favourite Aunt Sally and my cousin Ruth Anne’s Mom, Hannah.
A story goes in the family how Hannah being oldest had married a Dentist and when Mom married Dad who was working as a millwright despite having an Engineering Degree. Hannah had put on airs about her husband being superior to my father.  Mother never spoke to Hannah for years after.  Nothing close.  I think they’d talk on occasion as needed but only formally.  I only remember them being close again after the Dentist died.  I guess knowing my mother and Irish pride I felt she forgave her sister in her misery thinking as she did that a live husband was superior to a dead one by anyone’s counting.  I’ve always thought since that a live Engineer trumps a dead Dentist and how foolish the little things we say unthinkingly keep us apart.  Because really that one conversation between two loving sisters separated them for decades.   My mother and Aunt Hannah were close thereafter till Hannah died.  We all loved Ruth Anne.  How could anyone not love Ruth Anne.  She was my brother’s age and beautiful like the movie star hippies of the 60’s but she was a very refined and proper Baptist young lady so not at all like that Hollywood trash.  She look like her own movie the way she shined from within when I met her as a boy.  She was delicate to my clumsy.  The older girls were all very beautiful when I was growing up as a boy.  Only girls my own age played jokes on me and made fun of me.

(Note to self: - need to add description.  The red brick exterior walls of those old Toronto homes with ivy growing on them need to be mentioned.  The elms and oaks need description. The flowers and dogs and cats need inclusion too. Also it might be an idea to record the ‘conversation’ of the events, maybe the sister falling out.  I remember it as history but it might well be remembered best as ‘dialogue’ in the writing tradition of ’show me’ , ‘don’t tell me’.  I’m sure there’s pictures of the house, Marchmount and such.  I took some the last visit.  Ron always has and can find the best old pictures. There should be a black and white one of the grandparents. I remember seeing one with Ron and me as a baby.  You’d only need one or two. Each of the people needs a picture.  I love the one I remember of Grandad in his Orange sash.  I never think of grand ma when she was younger and larger but she’s always in my mind withered like a rare bird in the front room of the house where she enjoyed the sunshine and warmth watching the children come and go to school.  As a writer I guess it’s okay to use a picture but really it would be better to describe her. I would include here the poem I wrote about her and her dying.  “Gnarled”.  Arthritis runs in the family and I’ve had my share of the agony for decades.  My nephew Allan’s joints became inflamed as a teen ager.  Now I’m in my 60’s and I worry for my fingers.  As a child I remember so vividly her swollen twisted reformed hands and her great loving welcoming warming smile.  In my minds eyes she’s an homunculus, all hands and eyes and smile.  She was a wheelchair when she lived with us, that or the little sunroom bed.
I think I’ll have to rewrite the sister thing because reading that paragraph it sort of captures the irony but doesn’t hold the love the two girls felt towards each other even though they probably didn’t hug as fiercely as they had as little girls and as fiercely as they did as older women, when their husbands were alive and young
I can see that memoirs will need to rewritten and rewritten like they are in our memories.  Glancing over another paragraph there’s just words and words and words without any of the colour and charm and hope that was so much apart of that time.  I ‘ll have to write about the church. I especially want to write about Aunt Sally’s red coat and babe’s driving.  So much will have to be cut away. The anecdotes are what are important. This forms a kind of background or cradle for holding growing things.  It woke me in the night. Now maybe I can get back to sleep for another hour.  Too many people are dying this week.  Too much talk of death.  I guess I felt a cold wind on my own shoulder.  This memoir project was something I’d thought I’d do in my old age.  But I’m turning 63 in a week or so but though it doesn’t feel old it seems old as people I’ve known who were my age or younger are dying.  I’ll likely live to a hundred as more of a curse than a blessing.  )

Saturday, February 21, 2015


The alien looked down at the milky water globe she held loosely.
“The human killed the other humans”, she said to her colleague.
“They do that."
“But what are these other people doing. The ones searching the woods."
“They’re justice."
“What’s justice.'
“It’s a game they play.  Very self important."
“They don’t know, do they."
“No they don’t. They’re quite primitive really’.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Story - cops and forensics

“Recognise him?” the grey haired uniform asked.
“How could I not? “ said June.  June was the homicide detective assigned the case.
 Do we know who the girl is yet?”
“Doesn’t look like the pictures I’ve seen of his wife?”
“No, it doesn ‘t, does it?”

“Who found him?” she asked.
“A jogger. Said he likes to combine his visiting the cross with running.  Jogs up here every Sunday.  This morning said he saw the car in passing, happened to look in the busted window.. Got quite a fright.   Used his cell phone to call 911.”
“You the first here?” June asked
“Yea, I was just ending up my shift.  Rain pretty much washed everything away.  We’ll still waiting for forensics. Maybe we’ll get lucky.”
“Otherwise it’s just a shot through the window,” said June.
“That’s about it.”
“We’ll have to talk to the wife. Would be nice to know who the girl is.”

Forensics arrived then. June went back to her car to wait while photographs were being taken.  A couple of ambulances pulled up beside her.  In addition to the victims car,  three patrol cars, forensics, the ambulances and herself there wasn’t any more room on the hill.  Looking up, she saw the cross.

“Lieutenant Hallbrick, we’re ready to examine the body,” the tech told her through the crack in the car window.  She put her note pad back in her pocket, climbing out of the car to follow him.

“Time of death, Doc?”  June asked?
“Somewhere around midnight.
“Looks like shot to skull then shot to face.  That how you see it.”
“Looks that way. I’ll be more certain after I’ve examined all the evidence.”
“You’re right, Doc, just considering preliminaries.”
“Shooter may have been trying to get both with one shot actually. Trajectory just off by a little.”
“That might be important. Thanks Doc.”
“You know I’m not saying anything, just speculating.”
“I know, but thanks anyway.”

June poked her head in the door and glanced around some more before letting the ambulance attendants take the bodies.

Wayne arrived then parking his red mustang behind the last ambulance. 

“Glad you could join us,” said June
“Yea, yea,” said Wayne “What have we got?”