Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust…

june-anne-annefrankch-frank.siIt is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than to find a peaceful resolution to what is happening in Gaza today and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict overall. This much we know to be true.

Those who do not know or choose to ignore history, are doomed to repeat it. This much we also know to be true. Dearies, it is with a heavy heart that I write this post. It has taken many sleepless nights to shape the following thoughts.

When Atticus Finch tells daughter Scout, in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird  “you never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb in his skin and walk around in it”, he was talking about racism, persecution and hatred. He also cut to the heart of the matter in the Middle East, and the rest of the World when it really comes down to it.

The emotional rhetoric from all sides inflames the horrific situation in Gaza and Israel and creates chaos, where calm, rational judgement and action are needed now more than ever.

The Balfour Declaration of 1917 was a letter from the UK Foreign Secretary to the Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland. It was later approved at the 1926 Imperial Conference.

His Majesty’s government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.

The Balfour Declaration laid the foundation for the modern State of Israel, which gained its independence from Britain in 1948. The Declaration carved out the State of Israel, bordered by Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon

Imagine being a newly-birthed nation, surrounded by mortal enemies, who only seek your total obliteration from the face of the Earth, every minute of every day.

Imagine being a nation borne of the greatest Holocaust the world has known…the elimination of 6 million Jews in Nazi concentration camps during World War II.

Imagine being an Arab settler in the disputed areas of Palestine, at the time Israel’s birth. You have as much right to be there as the Israeli settlers do.

How is it then, that those who have know the very worst of persecution throughout history, go from being the persecuted, to becoming the persecutors? I believe that living in a virtual state of psychosis all of these years, has polarized the right in Israel.

Prime Minister Begin, President Carter, President Sadat -Camp David Accords

President Menachem Begin was once considered a terrorist by the British, as a member of the notorious Stern Gang, fighting for an independant State of Israel. President Anwar Sadat was part of the coup that overthrew King Farouk and brought Gammel Abdul Nasser to power as Egypt’s first President. Sadat succeeded him. These two polar opposites managed, with the help of President Carter, to negotiate the Camp David Accords and a 1979 Peace Treaty. Both Begin and Sadat were awarded the Nobel Prize.

In his Noble Prize acceptance speech, Sadat stated

 Let us put an end to wars, let us reshape life on the solid basis of equity and truth. And it is this call, which reflected the will of the Egyptian people, of the great majority of the Arab and Israeli peoples, and indeed of millions of men, women, and children around the world that you are today honoring. And these hundreds of millions will judge to what extent every responsible leader in the Middle East has responded to the hopes of mankind.

President Sadat was assassinated by fundamentalist army officers on 6 October 1981.

Prime Minister Rabin, President Clinton, Chairman Arafat – The Oslo Accords

In September 1991, on the lawn of the White House, President Clinton oversaw the signing of another Middle East Peace Accord, with Chairman Yasser Arafat of the PLO and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

Prime Minister Rabin was assassinated by an Israeli ultra-nationalist terrorist on November 4, 1995, at a rally in support of the Oslo Accords.

The great warrior-peacemaker Moshe Dayan once said

If you want to make peace, you don’t talk to your friends, you talk to your enemies… Israel cannot afford to stand against the entire world and be denounced as the aggressor…Jewish villages were built in the place of Arab villages. You do not even know the names of these Arab villages, and I do not blame you because geography books no longer exist.

Mahmoud Abbas inherited the leadership of the Palestinian people upon Yasser Arafat’s death on November 11, 2004. He has had to tap-dance on the head of a pin, as Hamas and its masters have tried to undermine him at every turn, even as he considered making peace with Israel. They have succeeded.

I believe that religious extremist groups like Hamas have polarized the right in the Arab nations. Their message of hatred and destruction resonates strongly with the hopelessness and despair of young Arabs, and that is something that must not be ignored

Saudi Arabia, Dubai and other Middle East Countries abandoned the Palestinian people long ago.Instead of helping them build a socially and economically viable home, they have watched nervously from the sidelines. They pray that the hatred focused on Israel’s total obliteration does not eventually turn back on them.SHAME  ON THESE WEALTHY COWARDS!!

Iran of course, has set the cat amongst the pigeons in unleashing Hamas and other groups, not just in Gaza but Syria and elsewhere. It is quietly licking its chops in anticipation of further chaos.

Anne Frank

Yet who are we to cynically reject the optimism of the extraordinary young Anne Frank, who died in a Nazi concentration camp. She wrote in her famous diary

” It’s difficult in times like these: ideals, dreams and cherished hopes rise within us, only to be crushed by grim reality. It’s a wonder I haven’t abandoned all my ideals, they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart. I simply can’t build my hopes on a foundation of confusion, misery, and death. I hear the approaching thunder that, one day, will destroy us too, I feel the suffering of millions. And yet, when I look up at the sky, I somehow feel that this cruelty too shall end, and that peace & tranquility will return once again.  “.

Ms. Frank  eloquently puts the situation in Gaza in perspective. Every dead child in Gaza and Israel adds to that perspective.

The many Arab and Israeli peacemakers such as those featured in Bridges Across An Impossible Divide: The Inner Lives of Arab and Jewish Peacemakersrefuse to be drawn into this continuous cycle of death, destruction and chaos. The book is by Rabbi Marc Gopin, a peacemaker in his own right. Seeking Peace does not demonstrate weakness. Just the opposite, it shows a courage,strength and wisdom beyond the use of guns, missiles and other weapons of mass destruction.

There is path to Peace – there must be. But it needs the willingness of Mr. Netanyahu, Mr. Abbas, the leaders of Hamas and all involved, to understand history and NOT REPEAT IT…

A Great Day in Harlem…

Was visiting the twitter page of the Jazz Gospel recently and their header photo was one of my all-time favourites, the Art Kane classic “A Great Day in Harlem”…

The memories that this important and iconic photo brings back, are almost too numerous to describe, Dearies.

On a summer afternoon in Harlem, in 1958, the Esquire magazine photographer Art Kane assembled a group of the greatest living Jazz musicians on a brownstone stoop on East 126th Street …

There are so many wondrous elements in this picture, not the least of which is the sense of hope and infinite possibilities for Jazz and this special Jazz family.

Wikipedia tells us “that “as of June 2014, only 2 of the 57 musicians featured in the photo, only Benny Golson and Sonny Rollins are still alive. That fact prompts a certain wistful sadness, realizing that the majority of these great men and women are no longer here with us.. Their music lives on and their legacy is carried forward by an entire new generation of Jazz musicians

Jean Bach made an outstanding Oscar-nominated documentary about the shooting of this photo in 1994. The New Yorker’s jazz critic Whitney Bailett called the film “a brilliant, funny, moving, altogether miraculous documentary.” . It contained clips from Milt Hinton’s wife Mona’s 8 mm. movie and other stills. 

This is what Wikipedia tells us about who is in the photo and how it was actually shot…Great_Day_in_Harlem        

“Children in the picture

Count Basie, having grown tired of standing, sat down on the curb, and gradually a dozen children followed. Most of the children were neighborhood residents, although the second child from the right, Taft Jordan, Jr., had accompanied his father, Taft Jordan, to the photo session. The photography crew was already having trouble directing the adults, and the presence of the children added to the chaos: one of the children appearing in the window kept yelling at a sibling on the curb; another kept playing with Basie’s hat; Taft Jordan, Jr. had been scuffling with the older child seated to his left. Ultimately, Art Kane realized that any further attempt to organize the proceedings would be futile, and he decided to incorporate the subjects’ actions.” – Wikipedia

Dearies, am raising a glass of champers to each and every one of these extraordinary musicians and hope that you will join me … Cheers!

“Jazz is smooth and cool. Jazz is rage. Jazz flows like water. Jazz never seems to begin or end. Jazz isn’t methodical, but jazz isn’t messy either. Jazz is a conversation, a give and take. Jazz is the connection and communication between musicians. Jazz is abandon.”

Nat Wolff


The Wall Street Journal vs. Miss Myrtle

Well Dearies, even a potted plant can learn something every day…

Imagine my great surprise upon opening an email from Moderator at the Wall Street Journal.

Had been reading and enjoying on-line articles in the WSJ, and occasionally adding my comments along with those of others.

I tried to post a comment on the recent article about the newest gazillion dollar Ferrari, and a pop-up suggested that I contact .Here is the resulting conversation:

MM – Hello Dearies,

Just tried to post a comment, and the contact you info came up.
Please explain.
Many Thanks,
Miss Myrtle

WSJ – Dear Miss Myrtle,

Thank you for contacting The Wall Street Journal. Your current inability to comment is due to a suspected violation of ourreal-name policy. We believe that the use of real names encourages thoughtful dialogue and meaningful connections between real people. We believe the quality of conversations can deteriorate when real identities are not provided. Please be advised that WSJ requires the use of your full first and last names in order to participate in commenting. Please reply to this email with your full name and permission to change your name, and we will restore your participation status. If the name you are currently using IS your real name, we require proof via supporting documentation. Please scan a government-issued ID, email it back to this address, and we will restore your participation status.



MM – Dearies,

Thank you so much for responding to my inquiry.
I deeply believe that thoughtful and meaningful conversation between people, whatever their names, is indeed the sign of a great democracy. Richard Saunders, Mark Twain, Dear Abby, Alan Smithee, Stan Lee, and Dr.Seuss may agree with me. The  quality of the conversation with these great commentators never, as you so elegantly inferred ” deteriorated”.
Adhere to the principle that I would never join a club that would have me as a member.
With that in mind, would like to cancel my subscription to the WSJ.
By the way, is Moderator your real name?
Miss Myrtle

So Dearies, the folks at Mr. Murdoch’s WSJ have no sense of humour, let alone an understanding of the meaning of free speech. Is it just my understanding, or wasn’t the celebration of the 4th of July all about that very thing, in a broader perspective?

The quality of comments on WSJ articles is only slightly higher than those on CNN, which is a sad state of affairs. Nevertheless, these reflect freedom of speech as we know it.

My previously posted inflammatory comment on the WSJ started with Wishing All of my American friends a wonderful 4th of July, and listing the 10 Things I Like About America (from a Canadian perspective), as outlined in my prior blog post.

The Wall Street Journal may consider me just a potted plant, but Dearies, I resemble that remark!










10 Things I Like About America

Dearies, it is America’s 238th Birthday…


The United States of America has come a long way since that day in 1776 when The Declaration of Independence, authored by Thomas Jefferson and the Party of Five, was approved by Congress.

Canadians like to look down their noses at the their southern cousins, and I for one find that extremely disingenuous. After all Dearies, we seem to forget that Canada came into being, in part through the energy of a group of Americans who refused to fight in the American Revolution. These Loyalists made their way up to eastern Canada.

In honour of the 4th, here is  My List of 10 Things I Like About America (in no particular order). I for one, could easily have made this My List of 100 Things… but let’s just start with 10

4th of July

1. Yankee Doodle – Dearies, what a great song. It just about sums it all up. Love the sheer exuberance of it, the sheer joy of a young boy sharing his experience at the birth of his Nation. True, there are way too many references to guns in this song, for my liking, but that was then…

Yankee Doodle went to town
A-riding on a pony,
Stuck a feather in his cap
And called it macaroni’.Chorus:
Yankee Doodle keep it up,
Yankee Doodle dandy,
Mind the music and the step,
And with the girls be handy.Fath’r and I went down to camp,
Along with Captain Gooding,
And there we saw the men and boys
As thick as hasty pudding.ChorusAnd there we saw a thousand men
As rich as Squire David,
And what they wasted every day,
I wish it could be saved.ChorusThe ‘lasses they eat it every day,
Would keep a house a winter;
They have so much, that I’ll be bound,
They eat it when they’ve mind ter.

ChorusAnd there I see a swamping gun
Large as a log of maple,
Upon a deuced little cart,
A load for father’s cattle.

ChorusAnd every time they shoot it off,
It takes a horn of powder,
and makes a noise like father’s gun,
Only a nation louder.

ChorusI went as nigh to one myself
As ‘Siah’s inderpinning;
And father went as nigh again,
I thought the deuce was in him.

ChorusCousin Simon grew so bold,
I thought he would have cocked it;
It scared me so I shrinked it off
And hung by father’s pocket.

ChorusAnd Cap’n Davis had a gun,
He kind of clapt his hand on’t
And stuck a crooked stabbing iron
Upon the little end on’t

ChorusAnd there I see a pumpkin shell
As big as mother’s bason,
And every time they touched it off
They scampered like the nation.

ChorusI see a little barrel too,
The heads were made of leather;
They knocked on it with little clubs
And called the folks together.

ChorusAnd there was Cap’n Washington,
And gentle folks about him;
They say he’s grown so ‘tarnal proud
He will not ride without em’.

ChorusHe got him on his meeting clothes,
Upon a slapping stallion;
He sat the world along in rows,
In hundreds and in millions.

ChorusThe flaming ribbons in his hat,
They looked so tearing fine, ah,
I wanted dreadfully to get
To give to my Jemima.

ChorusI see another snarl of men
A digging graves they told me,
So ‘tarnal long, so ‘tarnal deep,
They ‘tended they should hold me.

ChorusIt scared me so, I hooked it off,
Nor stopped, as I remember,
Nor turned about till I got home,
Locked up in mother’s chamber.”

Studs Terkel

2Studs Terkel – The late writer, humanitarian, broadcaster and historian loved America as much as Yankee Doodle, perhaps more. His compassion and wisdom informed every broadcast, book and article. They taught me more about America than five years of American history in school.


3. Maya Angelou – I remember reading ” I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” as a youngster, and being unable to put the book down. It made me sad, it made me happy – all at once. It forever changed the way I looked at and thought about America. The activist, poet, writer, actress, dancer, singer was a voice bigger than a nation.

yogi berra

4Yogi Berra – There are times when I think that William Shakespeare would have loved the witticisms and observations of this great man. Baseball and life, he represents them both well. The incomparable Red Smith once wrote, “The Yankees have had many great ones, but no other quite like this one..”


5. Bugs Bunny – There are also times when I think that Mr. Bunny not only channels Mr. Berra, but also Mr. Shakespeare. Yet he remains a wonderful, adorable, curmudgeonly American original. Hope he won’t mind my appropriating his immortal “What a maroon! What an ignoranamous!” for my own writing.

Shelby Foote

6Shelby Foote – The great Civil War historian re-educated the world about that tragic chapter in American history. The eloquence and compassion in his writings transformed Ken Burns’ definitive TV documentary series into a breathtaking action drama, minus any special effects, save the extraordinary narrative and photographs.


7. Joan Baez – Her hauntingly beautiful voice empowered a generation. It comforted and revealed the plight of America’s downtrodden. Ms. Baez brought to us through song, the themes of Steinbeck, Twain and Terkel.


8. Secretariat – This gorgeous thoroughbred did what no other horse had done since the great Citation in 1948, he won the coveted Triple Crown. He won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes with ease. But in the final leg, the Belmont Stakes, he annihilated the field by over 31 lengths. Secretariat won in 1973, and champions Seattle Slew and Affirmed followed him into the history books that same decade. No horse has won the Crown since then…until American Pharoah.

Rachel Carson

9. Rachel Carson – Reading Ms.Carson’s  earth-shatteringly prescient “Silent Spring” at age 15, forever changed the way I looked at how humans affect the environment. Ms. Carson’s heroic work is as important now as it was then, perhaps even more so. Miss Carson’s untimely death from breast cancer, shortly after “Silent Spring” was published in 1964 underscored the urgency of her work.

Apple Pan

10. The Burgers and Pies at the Apple Pan Restaurant in Los Angeles – Dearies, this is as close to a religious experience as I can come. The wonderful simplicity of the limited menu and its well-executed delivery, not to mention the reasonable prices ,have me salivating as this is being written.

Dearies, Democracy is a wonderfully, frustratingly beautiful thing. People fight and die for it. They always have, and as we sadly see these days, they always will.

On this July 4, 2014 that is My List of 10 Things I Like About America…Let me know what’s on yours

What a Maroon!

Be afraid! Be very afraid! Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water Dearies, disgraced Toronto Mayor Rob Ford returns from 8 weeks in rehab-rehab Rob Ford-style of course.

As anyone who has ever dealt with addictions knows, either personally or through family or friends, 8 weeks is not the end of treatment…it is just the beginning of a lifelong struggle. The hubris of jumping back into the mayoral race of North America’s 4th largest city,  as if nothing has happened, is beyond gobsmacking.

For those of you who have been living under a rock, The Mayor of the beleaguered City of Toronto, who has made it the butt of many global jokes, is baaaack. Jimmy Kimmel must be doing cartwheels!

The Ford Dynasty is propelled by Brother Doug. Together, Tweedle Dumb and Tweedle Dumber are so hungry for power, that they are happily willing to sacrifice the needs of a major city and the country, for their own insatiable egos. Rob is the drug-addled doofus, manipuated by the machiavellian Doug. Even the Conservative Party of Canada, that bastion of upright behaviour and morals, is starting to distance itself from the duo.

Toronto is in full throttle election mode. Voters go to the polls on October 27. The Fords think they can win, despite: 1. Rob taking drugs throughout his term of office, finally admitting he smokes crack. Why, because a video surfaces showing him smoking crack cocaine 2. Rob’s drug/alcohol-induced crazed behaviour being filmed in Council, at civic events, in other public places, in other cities and countries, at all hours of the day and night 3. The Ford’s unabashed association with drug dealers and other disreputable types 4. Rob’s drinking and drug addiction interfering with most business being conducted throughout his term in office 5. More of the same, ad nauseum.

A group of far more able councillors are running to replace an addict with a sense of entitlement that is truly gobsmacking. ANY ONE of these candidates would do a better job than this navel-gazing, narcissistic hologram.

The Rob Ford “mea culpa” moment comes in carefully crafted and tirelessly coached performances. It is still all about Rob. It never mentions the irrepairable damage done to the City of Toronto in the past 3 years. It is still all about Rob. Mr. Ford is out amongst ‘his people’, with dozens of bodyguards of course. Should any non-well-wishers vocalize their disapproval, these same bodyguards suggest the deviant ‘go to anger management classes’. Hypocracy is the Ford credo.

Please don’t get me wrong Dearies. While I grew up in Toronto, it has always seemed to be a legend in its own mind, to me.  You could not pay me to move back there, with the never-ending winters that zoom straight into the most humid of summers. However, I would not wish the Ford brothers on my worst enemies, ranking them No. 1 on the Top Ten list of biblical plagues.

Dearies, all of this would be absolutely, hysterically funny, if it werent so depressingly pathetic. That great wit, philosopher and raconteur, Bugs Bunny pretty much described Rob Ford best, when he stated : “What a Maroon! What an ignoranomous!”

The Beginning of the Beginning…

Dearies, after much dithering am committing pen to paper, metaphorically speaking.

After watching the sumptuous John Oliver interview the equally yummy Dr. Stephen Hawking on the brilliant new “Last Week Tonight”, have been inspired to write my first blog post. Have also had a few glasses of champers…so here goes

It has been quite the week. Honour killings in Pakistan,  Iraq descending into hell once again, cannibalism at FIFA World Cup Brazil, Mayor Rob Ford’s return from rehab, all counter-balanced by the sublime sounds of Sachal Music, Dragon Boat Races in Vancouver, the joyful documentary about Roger Ebert “Life Itself”, and the knock-out performance by Emil and Dariel on America’s Got Talent.

And then there was the Scrabble Nazi. Lately, have been winding down a tough day in the trenches, by playing a few games of online Scrabble. Have always loved the game, and find that there is generally a global community of like-minded folks out there on the net. It helps keep the old brain cells active. Since the game is being played in the ether, there are often tech and even human-beings-behaving-badly issues. So, one is required to “Ask a helper”…

Although my life pretty much revolves around sarcasm (from the British side of my family), have been startled and somewhat dismayed by the ongoing sarcastic non-help offered by ISC’s so-called helpers. Granted, it’s a tough job just waiting by the screen for some inane question, comment or winge to appear, but hey…you volunteered.

The most relentless of these “helpers” calls himself CariBOUman, and he brooks no nonsense from players. He is smarter than they are, and he can dish it out, but Dearies, he can’t take it. One of the joys of playing is that you have to see conversations between the helpers and members of ISC whether you wish to or not, while you are involved in a game. It can be distracting and downright annoying.

Recently, after a particularly long stream of sarcastic remarks to players in various states of confusion, added my own comment, between firing up the tiles, that “sometimes your sarcasm drips too much”. The response was immediate and vicious. Which is interesting, considering they either ignore your query or respond with totally unhelpful info. As a paid member (to help kep this enterprise afloat), I find this offensive.

My point is this, Dearies. If I wanted to pay to be abused, would find a good S&M parlour. Sarcasm/humour has a place,  i.e in this blog. It really should not interfere with the Not-Quite-Beautiful-Game. And if you don’t like hyphenated words, then you shouldn’t be reading this. Ohoh, CariBOUman is rubbing off on me!

The Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand Leads to WW1

Cannot end this inaugural blog post on a sour note. For something far more uplifting will close with a few thoughts about the 100th Anniversary of WW1. “The Shot Heard Around the World” reverberates yet today.

But it was a simpler time. My grandfather uprooted himself to join the British Army, and survived to tell the tale. He never talked of the unspeakable horrors of trench warfare. He transplanted himself from Russia and England, to  Canada, where he started a family. My grandfather published ” The Daily Ragweed” and doted on my grandmother.

He would often drag me to Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto, built by that titan of Canadian Industry, E.P.Taylor (who also bred the great Northern Dancer, Dearies). We both loved the horses. We were buddies when I was little. The one and only time he ever spanked me, was when he found the 5 year-old Miss M smoking his cigars (and loving every moment of it).

That world was complicated to my grandfather, but he engaged it on his own terms. Am glad that he is not here now to see how truly complicated the world has become. He fled the pogroms of Russia. Now it seems, the world has become one big pogrom, from Africa and South Asia to Bosnia and beyond.

Grandpa never lost his thick Russian accent through it all. This embarrassed his children, I think, but never concerned me. He was a short, wiry man who could type-set a column while puffing on his cigar. He helped in his small way, to set the stage for the world as we know it. He was brave, he was hopeful, he was pragmatic, he was kind.

These are all traits that I hope somehow have been passed down.

All three of his sons followed in his footsteps and enlisted to fight during WW2. My father lied about his age and joined the Royal Canadian Navy. North Atlantic convoys were treacherous. German U-boats were everywhere. But the danger was momentarily forgotten in ports of call like Glasgow, Scotland.

In that very port on the River Clyde, one Sunday afternoon, he and several of his friends accepted an invitation to “come home for lunch” from a dapper man (with a decidedly Hitler-like moustache, of all things). Little could my father guess, that 3 lovely daughters would also be sharing lunch.

My grandmother had created a magical feast from limited rations. She welcomed the three Canucks with open arms. One particular daughter caught my father’s eye, and he hers. It was love at first sight. My grandfather regretted making that lunch invitation until the day he died.

Promising to reunite after the War, as many did, my parents married in Glasgow.  They faced a brave new world together. It seemed so much simpler then, evil had been vanquished and the future was bright and unknown…

The point of all of this Dearies,  before I get too misty-eyed and tedious, is that we are all part of History, however unwilling we maybe. The world is a dangerous, volatile place. Of course, it always has been.

We continue to bear witness to the worst and the best of human nature. Evil will always be present, in forms and ways that are familiar and unimagined. It is how we confront it that matters. Each in their own way. Our grandfathers and grandmothers shared a strength and grace that the world so desperately needs at this moment.

To them and those who followed, I raise a glass of champers. Cheers Dearies, Cheers!