Gary and I gathered with 2,000+ others today at L’Esplanade de la Place des Arts, Montréal to support the worldwide Women’s March. It was a “moderate” winter’s day here in Quebec at 1° celsius. The crowd’s was energized.

The battle for women’s rights continues. It is unbelievable and maddening that even now in the 21st century we are still fighting for basic human rights. Today’s amazing display by millions of people everywhere was encouraging. It tells me we are all so not interested in going backwards.

Onward, Pussy Cats!

Early estimates:
Washington D.C. over 500,000
Los Angeles over 500,000
Denver over 100,000
New York over 200,000
Chicago over 200,000
Boston over 100,000
Paris over 5,000
Sydney over 5,000

We had a nice, big snowfall yesterday — close to 8 inches.

Gary usually walks to meet me after I finish exercise class. It’s a 4k (2.50 mile) round-trip walk. For this “Montreal Minute” I followed him through our “arrondissement” as we headed home through the snow.

It is a pleasure to walk when it’s snowing as long as you have the right clothes and shoes!

The music is a synth piece I wrote for a Mixed Company show. The show was “Mixed Reviews”. The tune title is “Star Material”.

Other MTL Minutes:
MTL Minute: le Métro
Les Tams Tams at Parc Mont-Royal
First Snowfall of the Season
A Steel Forge in Montreal

I have very few photos of my mother when she was young and even fewer of my father.

This photo dates from Christmas time 1947.

In the photo, I see a good-looking couple dressed in holiday best. He is tall in a double-breasted navy blue suit with a snappy geometric patterned tie, highly polished black shows. His hair is parted and in place with hair creme. He sports a tidy moustache. He is relaxed and has his arm wrapped around his wife, his wedding ring just visible. She is wearing a brown, possibly silk dress, camellia corsage near her left shoulder, fancy drop earrings, peep-toe sling back pumps. Her hair is medium length. Her make-up is understated, a touch of red lipstick. They are definitely styling. Both are looking at someone or something away from the camera.

Cal Leonard Martin had just turned 22 that October. Penny née Jean Marie Swanson was 21 and would turn 22 a few weeks later in January.

They seem so young but, in post-war, mid-20th century America, they were adults, parents starting a family. They had just had their first child, my older sister Mary in November. (Three years later I would be born, in five years my younger sister Nanci and in seven my youngest sister Kate.)

They were grown-ups on their own and on their way. Neither of them would have considered living with their parents as an option. Advanced education wasn’t on my mom’s radar. Back-packing around the world or taking a few years off to find himself would not have crossed my dad’s mind. He was a Marines Corp veteran having served in Korean War. Now he was a father and breadwinner.

I don’t know where this photo was taken. Certainly California, but was it near Salinas where my sister Mary was born? Or were they already in San Francisco where my dad would start his Radio & TV repair business (Day & Night Television) using the skills he had acquired in the Marines?

They look happy. I hope they were in love. I am sure they had plans for the future.

Neither of them knew at that moment that in 5 years Penny would contract polio in the 1952 epidemic and would spend weeks in an iron lung while she was pregnant. They didn’t know that she’d ultimately undergo an experimental surgery which transplanted muscles from her abdomen into her left leg so she could walk again, leaving her with a permanent 99 stitch scar and four artificial trusses criss-crossing her belly.

Neither of them knew that 7 years later in October 1954, only a month after their youngest daughter was born, Cal would be dead from a blow to the head incurred in a fight at Compton’s Café in the Tenderloin in San Francisco after hours. He and another drunk man would exchange verbal insults. Cal would be knocked down, hitting his head and be taken to SF General Hospital unconscious. There he’d fight for his life for three days, receiving three separate craniectomies (small holes drilled in skull) to try and stop the swelling in his cranium.

Neither of them knew that every holiday season after Cal’s death, Penny would sink into a dark alcohol-soaked state of mind, full of unspeakable sadness. They didn’t know that at Christmas time in 1959, after weeks of traveling with her daughters and mother in tow searching for some kind of better life, she’d try to commit suicide in Nice, France.

And neither of them knew that, finally, around Thanksgiving in November 1981 on Maui Hawaii, Penny’s liver would fail.

None of that future is visible in this photo of a young couple at Christmas time.


Get in fighting shape! Seriously. Get fit. Stay informed. Put your affairs in order. Make sure your passport is up to date.

This is going to be a long, long struggle to save the planet and reclaim fairness, equality, kindness and truth. The forces unleashed by the 2016 presidential election/political coup in the US are spectacularly dangerous.

And I am not exaggerating for effect. Oh, how I wish I were.

Sure, all is in flux all of the time. Human existence is one big changing adventure. Yet some earthquakes are more devastating than others.

Copious Russian meddling, a con man as the “leader of the free world”, zealous populist zombies roaming freely no longer chained by common decency, disinformation as the new reality and no plans for protecting the environment or the nation’s infrastructure are just a handful of the woes we face now.

Democracies fail when people lose faith in them and elites abandon their norms for pure political advantage.

“Democracy in Decline” by Larry Diamond in the Atlantic

I do not want to see the end of democracy. I admire the ideals of the American experiment born of the Enlightenment. I do not want to slip backwards to a world governed by tyrants, kings and religious potentates. I won’t despair. I will fight.

the Battle of Grunwald of 1410 by Polish painter Jan Matejko (1838-1893)


Some reading from different perspectives:
The Myth of America’s Decline: Politics, Economics, and a Half Century of False Prophecies by Josef Joffe

The Decline of American Power: The U.S. in a Chaotic World by Immanuel Wallerstein

5 Places World War III Could Start by Robert Farley in the National Interest

Snow fell on Monday, November 21, 2016 here in Montreal — the first snowfall of the season. For this Montreal minute, I take you along on my walk, in that snow, through the streets of our arrondissement (district) “Rosemont-La Petite Patrie” to my exercise class at the local “Energie-Cardio”.

I love walking in the snowy weather. The trick is to dress right. As the old Scandinavian saying goes: There’s no bad weather, only bad clothes.

A quick search on the web and I found this fun bit of language info.

In Swedish/Norwegian the word for “weather” rhymes with the word for “clothes”.

Swedish: Det finns inget dåligt väder, bara dåliga kläder
Norwegian: Det finnes ikke dårlig vær, bare dårlige klær

On dit en français, «Il n’y a pas de mauvais temps, juste des mauvais vêtements. »

I have been learning Irish for several years now. I don’t have as much time as I’d like to devote to it but I don’t let that stop me from persisting. Little by little, a word here and there, and now this crazy language doesn’t look quite as strange as when I first started to tackle it.

My longtime tutor and fellow learner sent me this one panel today. It gave me a much needed giggle. Of course, I had to work out the grammar and vocabulary.


Déanta na fírinne = Actually / In fact

is lú an bhuairt a chuireann = is less concerning

hionróirí seo ón spás = these invaders from space

ná = than

an ceannaire = the leader

a bhfuilimid á dtabhairt chuige. = to whom we are taking them.

Actually, these invaders from space are less troubling than the leader we’re taking them to.

If: Trompe l’œil = painting/drawing intended to create the illusion of a 3-dimensional object.
Then: Trump l’œil = the art of making a racist, sexist, self-serving, demagogue, asshole appear normal.*

I suggest paying attention to how quickly folks are going to try and normalize the grotesque con artist now heading toward the White House.


* So many pejoratives to choose from …

In the summer of 1972, I went to Hawaii to help my youngest sister who had just lost her boyfriend in a car accident. She was 17 1/2 years old and several months pregnant.

She and Michael had been living in Tracy, California. Now she was suddenly alone, grieving and expecting. Rough times, to say the least. She wanted to go back to Maui where she had lived before and where she felt safer and more comfortable.

I picked up what little I owned in Sausalito, California and moved with her to Kihei, Maui to be her support. We rented a small one room unit on a property across from the beach. It was made of concrete blocks like many buildings on the islands were. It had space for two single beds on either side of the room. The bathroom was tiny. The kitchenette was just big enough. The geckos were easily seen on the white painted walls. We had a small table with two chairs and a record player.

I rented LPs from the library. We listened to music, drew, played cards, swam, walked, dealt with our crazy mother who lived “up country” and waited for “Tiny” to arrive.

I took the time to learn the words to some of my favourite songs. I would play a song over and over again on the record player, lifting the needle up and setting it down again on the groove just before the cut, and transcribe the lyrics by hand.

Here is my transcription from then of the Leonard Cohen song that I especially loved. You can click it to see it larger.

"One Of Us Cannot Be Wrong" by Leonard Cohen

“One Of Us Cannot Be Wrong” by Leonard Cohen

And now, 44 years later I live a few kilometres from the Jewish cemetery in Montréal where Leonard Cohen is freshly buried.

I was glad to hear he passed peacefully.

Leonard Cohen – One Of Us Cannot Be Wrong