Friday, May 30, 2008
Nothing says weekend like a Saturday matinee at the theatre. Last week it was Susan Kent's Nan Loves Jerry - tomorrow it will be Willow Kean in
The Shape of A Girl. This play covers some dark material - author Joan MacLeod based it on the Reena Virk case, where a fourteen-year-old girl was bullied and murdered by a group of kids. Awful stuff - but, regrettably, highly relevant and widespread, as any junior high school teacher knows. (Is there a patron saint for Grade Seven teachers? If not, there should be.)
Thursday, May 29, 2008
A new affinity group has started up in St. John's, exploring the links between art and health. The N.Q. is along for the ride, for a couple of reasons, including our interest in NL's medical history. We published an issue dedicated to that theme last summer, which was very successful, and hope to do a second one within a year.
Art and health is a fascinating topic within itself. What is the relationship? Is art primarily useful as therapy? As an enhancement for hospital space, making it more comforting and inviting? We make a practice of distributing back issues of the magazine in hospital foyers and clinics and doctor's offices. We are just thinking of helping people pass the wait more pleasantly while becoming culturally informed at the same time - but perhaps we are playing a bigger role? Depends perhaps on what influence you see art having over health. And for that matter, what we mean by 'health'? Do we actually mean sickness? Or medicine?
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
We often leave the cover design until late in the production process - something will jump out at us, like
Arnold Zageris' astonishing landscape photography for the last issue, or Michele Stamp's gorgeous Blue Irises painting in the fall. The imagery must be linked to the issue's theme and it must look different from anything we've published before - that's the only rule. For our upcoming magazine, I keep returning to our "What If" ideas, especially the one about the Second World War (which I've mentioned below). Wouldn't it be fun to mock up a fake propaganda poster for the cover - something bright and bold and graphic?
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
We've started this week off with a bit of N. Q. housekeeping - contacting recently lapsed subscribers to see if they'd like to renew their subscription. People usually do. The problem is, of course, they just forget to do that. My memory's no better than anyone else's (I once called my daughter by the wrong name. Can you imagine? My daughter!) so I like to try and remind people in a gentle, don't-mind-us kind of way, with letters or e-mails.
Monday, May 26, 2008
Saturday afternoon I was lucky enough to catch a matinee of Susan Kent's one-woman show Nan Loves Jerry. Kent is a multi-talented performer and dead-on believable as both the slightly addled grandmother and her wastrel track-suited grandson. You should definitely make a point of catching this - and anything else Kent does, for that matter.
(Image: IDS Services)
Friday, May 23, 2008
da da da da, da da da, da da da da, da da da da da...that sound, my friends, means one thing and one thing only: Indiana Jones. And, OK, maybe the second movie was completely tepid, and maybe the third wasn't that great either, and maybe Harrison Ford is 65 which is 900 in action-hero years - I'm going, and I'm going today, before anybody else can see it and spoil it for me.
Anyone with more elevated tastes might like to shift from Indy to independent with
The Savages, which is so true to life the central characters (played by Laura Linney and Phillip Seymour Hoffman) could walk off the screen and sit next to you; so fun and honest and smart and fearless it pierces, and heals, the heart.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
As I attempt to fulfill the Managing Editor's responsibilities with the N. Q. I am of course inspired by the Amanda Priestly character from
The Devil Wears Prada (played by the limitlessly talented Meryl Streep and inspired, in turn, it is rumoured, by legendary Vogue editor Anna Wintour, known to her staff as 'Nuclear' Wintour). This means throwing fur coats around with alacrity, throwing exquisite and expensive food away untouched, throwing tantrums at the drop of an Armani cloche. It's great fun and essential to the editing process.
Something else I learned from the movie was the necessity of creating and keeping 'A Book', a version of the magazine constantly updated as it moves through the production process. Ours isn't quite the fancy-pants gear of film fame (we use a couple of my daughter's old school binders) but it does mean that, at this stage in our schedule - three weeks or so until copy deadline - we've got the issue fairly blocked out and there are no gaps in the page content. One less reason to bolt awake at three in the morning.
(Photo: La Streep in Prada, via blogwaybaby.)
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Don Wright (1931 - 1988) was a visual artist and educator, very generous and influential in both fields. A new retrospective - Don Wright: Of The Moment - is now open at The Rooms. There will be a review of the exhibit in the next N. Q., but in the meantime, why not check the show out yourself? Remember Wednesday nights from 6pm - 9 pm admission is free! Also of note, new to the permanent collection is Kym Greeley's Sure Looks That Way (acrylic, 2004) a simple wallop of imagery that places the spare and elegant form of an evergreen tree against a cool yellow field (kinda like this piece by her, above).
Friday, May 16, 2008
And the radio is reporting we have surpassed the predicted high temperature of 5 and reached 8 degrees. To all those planning to spend May 24th in the Great Outdoors, Godspeed. I myself plan to catch a few flicks at the cinema, and would like to recommend the excellent film
The Visitor to anyone else so inclined. This movie is from the same crowd who made
The Station Agent , another good piece featuring a railway sidecar wonderfully and serendipitously named Newfoundland. I will return on Wednesday with news of the new Don Wright retrospective now open at The Rooms.
Thursday, May 15, 2008
My to-do list is piling up, copy deadline for 101.1 is only a month away, the only real way to get through this vile patch of weather is to be super-productive - but, how have I spent the day so far? I'll tell you how I've spent the day so far. Watching CODCO videos on YouTube, that's how I've spent the day so far. I can't help it, I just went there to check one thing, well, I didn't really have to check anything per se but, well, whatever, I went to the site and started watching Prison Visit and The Byrds in Therapy, and the writing is so sharp and fresh and acting is so spot-on good and the cast is so funny and how can you not watch Nanny Hynes? What if the Elderly Control Unit catches up to her, what then?
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
A centrepiece of our What Ifs is: What if Operation Sealion had succeeded? Newfoundland would have been the new front line of the Allied Forces. Britain, not America, would then have had the substantial military presence here. Would Gander exist? Would any of the American bases? What about the estimated 30,000 Newfoundland women who married American soldiers and left for the States?
Monday, May 12, 2008
Many authors like to play with counterfactual history - and not just science fiction writers. Three pieces that come to mind are the novel Rerun, by Neil Crichton; the collections Consider Her Ways and Seeds of Time by John Wyndham; and the novella The Long Walk by Stephen King. In Crichton's novel, a man experiences a temporal loop within his own life. He finds himself in a position of knowing the future - so he can, for example, bet heavily on the outcome of the upcoming World Series, and come off a winner. At the same time, he tries to influence such seminal events as the assassination of President Jack Kennedy, with intriguing results. Wyndham's stories play with all manner of time travel and paradox; critics who dismiss him as an author of "cozy catastrophes" do disservice to his foresight and flair. In King's story, the Second World War has continued just long enough to secure a fascist government in America, and the young are sacrificed on the altar of Might. Like the best of King's writing (The Stand, Hearts in Atlantis), this piece can be read and reread. (King also writes very well about writing - but that's a topic for another day.)
Friday, May 9, 2008
'What If' History is more formally called counterfactual history. I first heard the term on an excellent series broadcast on CBC Radio's Ideas. The one I most strongly remember was about the Black Plague: what if it had only killed 25 per cent of the people that actually died from it? The implications - for trade, economics, exploration, international diplomacy, religious architecture and funeral rites - are enormous. And unprovable. History students are discouraged from treating the subject with such futuristic frivolity, but it is hard to resist. It's fun. We'll be exploring some "What Ifs" of our own history this summer. Stay tuned.
Thursday, May 8, 2008
Wednesday, May 7, 2008
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
The next issue of the Newfoundland Quarterly will be dedicated to What Ifs of Newfoundland and Labrador History. Before I start teasing some of the intriguing questions we're exploring, I wanted to recommend a novel that posits a unique and compelling What If of its own: Michael Chabon's The Yiddish Policemen's Union. (I keep wanting to call it
The Secret Policeman's Other Ball , but that, of course, is something completely different). And Chabon's novel has (maybe) an NL connection - I wonder, in his research, if he ever came across Frank Banikhin's 1936 proposal to allow skilled German Jewish workers into the Labrador interior?
Monday, May 5, 2008
Ruth Lawrence has a new play in progress - it is about bulimia, and it is a musical. Sunday afternoon there was a public reading at Rabbittown Theatre, with principal actors Susan Kent and Amy House. Play readings are wonderful events, both low-key and engaging. There's no pretence at staging and yet it is a theatre production of its own kind. This was a particular treat, as the language of the piece was so well handled, deft and whimsical at the same time, and both underscoring and counterposing the writing's serious theme. Lawrence asked for feedback and got some articulate responses from the audience. What's the best way to present such material to high schoolers? (Don't lie). How to reinforce the danger of eating disorders? (Don't tell them they're going to die. High school students are always being told they're going to die! And - see above - be honest.) All hands agreed Lawrence has a great project well underway.
Last evening the Holocaust Memorial service was held at the INCO Centre, Memorial Campus. This ceremony traditionally comes the Sunday after Passover. The theme of the event was Children of the Holocaust, and, along with the poems, candle lighting, music, and Kaddish, three members of the local community told stories of family members who, as children, had been engulfed in the Holocaust. Barbara Grandy spoke of her step-father-in-law, Felyx Cohen, who was a teenager in Poland when he endured two labour camps before escaping in a coal cart to wander without clothing, food or shoes throughout the countryside. It was heartbreaking, immediate and riveting testimony. And then Ms. Grandy asked, "And would you like to know where Felyx Cohen is now?" She had us in the palm of her hand. And then she said, "He is right here." And a man in the front row stood up. What an honour to be in the same room.