Archive for the ‘Leonard Cohen’ Tag

Object 7: Notebook Journal, 2007 – Present   2 comments

One a a few hundred notebooks/journals kicking around my apartment.

One a a few hundred notebooks/journals kicking around my apartment.

As you may know, I am an inveterate diarist. Each and every day, give or take a few lapses, I write down my thoughts of the day in a journal.

Why do I do this? Dunno. Just do, that’s all.

In telling the story of my life (thus far) through ten objects that can be found in my apartment, it would be impossible to ignore my completed journals. There are so many of them, sometimes I feel quite overwhelmed.

If we would think of my journals as one lengthy oeuvre, it would fill up over 100 notebooks going back to a notebook that I filled up with musings while still in high school, circa 1974. This work is simply the story of my life and how I lived it, filled with reflections not so much about the things that went right as on the things that went wrong.

I often tell my writing students that we don’t tend to sit down and write because our favourite baseball team won a close game. But a phone call that never came, well, that’s another matter entirely, probably good for at least a couple hundred (or thousand) words.

Doing a rough calculation – which I am absolutely useless at, given that I was not blessed with any mathematical skills whatsoever – this great document must be between two and three million words long, and growing a little longer each and every day.

That’s a lot of words. That’s a lot of anything!

Obviously, there are a lot of journals to choose from for an exercise of this nature, many different ways to go. For true stationery nerds like myself, I know that examining my shift from lined to graph paper that happened twenty years ago or so would be fascinating reading. But perhaps it’s best to say that it happened for reasons I don’t really understand, and move on.

I did find one journal that is quite unlike all the others in a few ways, and that’s the one you see pictured above. It’s quite an unusual size: 6” x 4” and 1” thick. I bought it at a Borders store in New York in 2007. (I wish now I’d bought ten of them because they are hard to find in this size, especially with graph paper.)

Two things in particular make this journal unique.

The first is that the entries aren’t dated, and so unlike every other journal I have ever written, the entries aren’t chronologically organized. I write quite randomly in it, so it is impossible to tell when exactly the entries were made.

For example, here’s a happy little poem I wrote one day. I’m not sure when. I’m not sure what great emotional blow I had sustained that prompted me to write it, nor do I know whom that blow was delivered by, but obviously my heart had taken another pounding, prompting this:

the heart bleeds out

connections tenuous anyway

are broken

unspoken desires die

on bruised lips

little wind eddies

scraps of paper scattering

setting a new order

of random.

don’t you ever

fold your hand

and walk away

from the table?


Happy happy! You can see why most things that one writes in a journal never see the light of day.  (Until now, it would seem.) In this sense, I guess one could say that the journal is used for practice. (Check out Franz Kafka’s Diaries some time for a great example of this, published by Schocken. He’ll write the same sentence over and over, just to try to make it as clear and economical as possible.)

Most of the time, the writing is not all that good, and not even meant to be shared. But every now and then, something works, and can become the basis for a poem or a play or even a novel.

They say in photography you’re doing well to get one good shot in a hundred. I’d say in writing that ratio is even greater.

The other unique aspect of this little journal is that it contains twenty or so self-portraits. I know, I know, you’re thinking is there no end to this giant ego? But it’s not like that, honest, it was part of an exercise to begin each writing session with a quick self-portrait, just a quick line drawing by way of preparation. I heard that Leonard Cohen did this for a while and I thought that’s good enough for me.

I can’t really describe these properly in words so here are a few examples. I don’t normally share them so don’t be too critical, I have no illusions about my drawing skills.  I’m posting them as thumbnails so they can be enlarged:

"because I forgot my glasses, I look perhaps like this . . ."

“because I forgot my glasses, I look perhaps like this . . .”

The halo is slipping . . .

The halo is slipping . . .





Well, you can see for yourself, they are good fun and not meant to be taken all that seriously. I’m not sure that going through the exercise of drawing the self-portrait changed the quality of my writing or not. It perhaps led to a little more abstraction and freedom, I suppose, from the tyranny of the written word.

And so, I will keep on writing in my various journals. When cellist Pablo Casals was in his ’90’s and still practicing for four hours a day, someone asked him why he bothered. “I think it’s started to help,” he said. And I guess I feel the same way.

Here’s a cool little number I found on YouTube to leave you with.

Thanks for reading!

Posted July 8, 2013 by Eugene Stickland in Uncategorized

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Democracy is Coming to Calgary Centre   7 comments

A really bad photo of Harvey and me. I’m the good looking one.

I live in the federal riding of Calgary Centre. We are having a by-election on Monday November 26. Though I’m hardly a political commentator I do have a few thoughts on this election that I hope will be of interest, particularly to my fellow Calgarians living in this riding.

What is perhaps most interesting about this election is that this particular seat is even up for grabs in the first place. I have lived in Calgary for almost twenty years, having grown up in Saskatchewan and lived in Ontario before I came to Calgary. My first impression politically here was that it wouldn’t matter who ran in an election, as long as they had a blue sign with their name on it, they would win. (Which is still true to a certain extent – how else to explain the election of someone like Rob Anders in the riding north of here?)

If it was true elsewhere in Alberta, it was certainly true in this riding which includes the neighbourhood of Mount Royal, one of the wealthiest and most Conservative ridings in the country. One doesn’t expect to see any radical change up there on the mountain. I once wrote a play called Sitting on Paradise that actually takes place in a mythical house on one of those streets. The matron of that house, Dotty Beauchamps, says at one point in the play: “Change is never good. Nothing good ever comes of it.” No one who saw the play thought that line didn’t ring true coming out of her mouth.

And so wasn’t I surprised one day this summer when an acquaintance of mine who has been closely associated with the Conservative Party for decades came charging down the hill, mad as hell about the way the Conservative nomination was going? I don’t know all the details but it sounded to me like she thought their process of electing a candidate had been put off course by a decision from the Prime Minister’s Office to inject a candidate into the riding. The candidate who was chosen and is subsequently running was not acceptable to my friend and so she and many of her friends and family have jumped over to the Liberal Party, backing candidate Harvey Locke.

For a number of reasons, much of it going back to the days of Peter Lougheed and Pierre Trudeau and the battle for Alberta oil revenues, it is not easy for these folks to vote Liberal. Yet in their minds it was the only choice they had.  In the telling of the story to me, my friend made me understand one critical issue. The old Progressive Conservative Party, the one she had always supported, the party of Peter Lougheed and Joe Clark, to name but a few, is no more. The current Conservative Party is nothing more than the old Reform Party thinly disguised, and to put it mildly, there is nothing progressive about the Reform Party.

What was wanted was a fiscally conservative candidate who was nonetheless progressive in his attitudes towards the environment, the arts, education etc etc, and so enter Harvey Locke.

I first met Harvey in the Auburn Saloon which is the official clubhouse of the theatre and broader artistic community of Calgary. He had with him a book of naturalist art which he himself edited, which is really a lovely published version of the art from a show he curated at a gallery in Banff. Harvey has been deeply involved in the establishment of a wildlife and nature preserve stretching from Yellowstone Park in the south to as far as the Yukon in the north. Not just the preserve, but artistic depictions of it.

To I say I was impressed would be an understatement. An other thing that I find impressive and just a bit surprising about Harvey Locke is that his undergraduate degree from U of C is in French (whoever heard of such a thing!). He is married to a francophone woman from Quebec, with French being the language of their household, so he is a rare example of a fluently bilingual Calgarian.  Let me just say, the guy is for real. If you want to check out his resume, Google him. I hope I have made my point that he is a worthy candidate.

With the rejuvenation of the Liberal Party and the emergence of Justin Trudeau, it would seem that Harvey Locke and the Liberals could go far, so far as to form the next government. In the future, with Harvey Locke as our MP, this riding could actually have a strong voice in Ottawa.

For me, I guess because I have met the man and like him and what he stands for, it’s a clear decision whom I will vote for. For a change, I feel that the person I am voting for actually has a chance to win the election.

Had my story ended here, you might expect a big shakeup in Calgary Centre come Monday, but for one thing – the unexpected emergence of Chris Turner, the Green Party candidate.

In the past, a vote for the Greens in this riding, and in many others around the country, would register as little more than a protest vote.  I know this, I have done it myself. And yet in this election, Chris Turner has clearly gathered critical momentum making this suddenly a three way race.

Looking at my Facebook, I see that most of my friends in the arts community are supporting Turner. It reminds me of the momentum Naheed Nenshi gathered in the last civic election. In fact, many of the same people who are behind Turner helped get Calgary the best mayor in Canada.

I would never suggest that anyone, even the Conservative Reformers, vote against their own conscience. That said, in my mind there are two very good candidates in this election. (There is also Dan Meades from the NDP who ventured into Caffe Beano one morning while I was there, brave soul, you have to give him credit for running in a riding where he has a snowball’s chance in hell.)  Of the two viable candidates from the left, I think that Harvey and the Liberals have the best chance of creating an alternative to the present regime and so that in part is why he has my vote.

My fear is that the third candidate, the Reformer/Conservative, who isn’t so good, who can hardly be bothered to campaign, of whom I have never heard a good word spoken, and who will only be a semi-warm body taking up space on a back bench, will go to Ottawa.  The opposing vote will once again be split, and for all the excitement, nothing will have changed after all.

Whatever happens, it’s been an interesting ride. Whatever the outcome, you can’t help but feel that things are changing in Canadian politics.

At his recent concert in Calgary, Leonard Cohen sang his song “Democracy is Coming to the USA.” Could it be coming to Calgary, as well? Let’s hope.

Sometimes change is a good thing, after all.

Thanks for reading.

I’ve taken 20 photos of Harvey, all of them bad. So I just poached this one. Sorry!

Seeing Leonard Cohen in Calgary   8 comments

You get a good view from the front row!

Those of us lucky enough to have been at Calgary’s Saddledome on Friday evening were treated to an amazing concert given by Leonard Cohen and his remarkable ensemble of musicians. Thanks to my friend Zenon West, I witnessed this event from front row centre. Maybe it had to do with my close proximity to the stage, or maybe it was just THAT GOOD, but I really believe last night’s concert was one of the high points of my life.

It was interesting, hearing those songs once again, this time sung by the man who wrote them. So many of them I know, word for word. And yet this familiarity comes not so much from over exposure through the mass media, as it might, say, in the case of Bob Dylan; rather it comes from my own listening to his music, first on vinyl then on cassettes and then on CD’s and now on iTunes or YouTube.

Plus, I’ve read the books.

I tell this story, my friends, and it’s true, and there’s something in it about how far we have come as a nation in the last thirty years or so.

When I was studying English Lit at the University of Regina in the mid 1970’s, I took the required CanLit class. For one of those COMPARE AND CONTRAST essays, I planned to write a paper comparing and contrasting (what else??) Dylan Thomas’s In My Craft or Sullen Art with Leonard Cohen’s You Have the Lovers.

But I wasn’t allowed to write that paper. Why? Because I was told that Leonard Cohen was not a major artist. But that was then and this is now. He was major to me, even then, and it would seem he is to the world now.

Listening last night, lulled into a kind of transcendental bliss by the overwhelming artistry of the show, I had a flash that the music and the poetry of Leonard Cohen hit us and move us so deeply because of the two major themes he has constantly and honestly and passionately explored throughout his career: our spiritual quest, and our physical, sensual yearnings, and how we reconcile both within one being. His music hits you in the head and in the guts and everywhere in between, especially the heart.

Leonard Cohen is 78 years old now. Last night’s performance began just after 8:00 PM and went almost to midnight. (Note to self: start doing yoga!!) When he gave over the stage to his fellow musicians for a solo or for a song, he never left to get a drink of water or to towel down – he stood right there, hat doffed, in deepest reverence of the amazing artists he has surrounded himself with on this tour.

Elegant, intelligent, inspirational.

That’s about all I have to say about it.

I leave you with Alexandra Leaving, that was sung last night by Sharon Robinson, who wrote the song with LC. Her performance last night was one of the greatest things I have ever had the good fortune to experience.

Thanks for reading!

Posted November 17, 2012 by Eugene Stickland in Uncategorized

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