The Tragicomic Life of Intinerant Musicians

About two years ago I posted a story, nay, a real life saga in 8 parts, about getting my guitar from Toronto to Brazil on Air Canada.

The following video by David Carroll shows that I’m not alone!


She said, she said

Asked a girl what she wanted to be
She said baby, can’t you see
I wanna be famous,
A star of the screen

This makes me feel
Like I’ve never been born
Like we’re fast-forwarding to the past
Like it’s the 1960’s
Again and already

It was 20 years ago today,
Sgt Pepper taught the band to play

This makes me feel like
We’re back in the 80’s,
And I was a (not so) little girl
Who loved videogames
And she said:

You’re gonna make mistakes
You’re young
Come on, baby, play me something
Like “Here Comes the Sun”

Good morning, good morning
Back to the future
This is the 21st century
And I’m almost 30

I told that girl
That my prospects were good
And she said baby, it’s understood
Working for peanuts is all very fine
But I can show you a better time:

The farther one travels
The less one knows
Working for peanuts is all very fine
But here comes the sun

Life is very short and there’s no time
For fussing and fighting, my friend
You say yes, I say no,
But we can work it out

So come on, baby, play me something
While my guitar gently weeps
You’re gonna make mistakes, you’re young
But don’t you know it’s gonna be all right?

Obama: Lula the most popular politician on earth

Going back to the topic of building bridges, here’s a 49-second video with Obama, Lula and Rudd chatting in-between meetings in London, where Obama calls Lula the most politician of earth:

What amazes me about this is that without speaking English, Lula manages to create an atmosphere of incredible playfulness and intimacy. I wish I were so talented!

Building Bridges, Burning Bridges

A few months ago I wrote a short post contrasting two yahoo news headlines for the same day, one about the amazing popularity of the Brazilian president, and another on the amazing lack of popularity of the Canadian Prime Minister.

Today is another one of those days where these two characters get symmetrically opposed headlines:  while the one meets Obama today and builds bridges, the other in a private meeting attacks Obama and burns bridges.

In this morning’s version of the article on Lula’s meeting with Obama, which was written prior to the meeting, the author actually praised the Brazilian president on his power to “build bridges” across the political spectrum: even to the point of being asked to “put a good word in” for Colombian conservatives on the one end as well as for “prickly” Venezuela and Cuba on the other. 

Unbelievable, you say. I think so too. It is thus very unfortunate that in the post-meeting update of the article this paragraph went missing, because it is such a good testimony of one of the qualities that make me really admire Lula.

Oh, well. You’ll just have to take my word for it.

On the other hand, the article remarking on Harper’s ability to do exactly the opposite is still there if you wanna read it. Though there is nothing there to admire (or even to be surprised about).

See No Evil (part 2)

It was late November when I saw both “Blindness” and “Triage.” I had been meaning to write a post about the two even since, but December got in the way.

I had a homebound ticket to Brazil with December 10th printed on it. I had also promised myself and half the world to have a first draft of my dissertation by the time I went home — an unrealistic promise as it turned out, but which I tried to fulfill to the very last moment as best as I could. Add to all this the fact that this flight to Brazil would also mark my sixth move in two years, one could say I had quite a bit on my plate in early December. Little time left for blogging or for anything else.

The morning of December 10th found me sleep-deprived, mostly packed, high on caffeine and adrenaline, and pretty proud of myself. I hadn´t been sleeping for more than 4 or 5 hours a night in weeks — a feat that I had never ever in my life accomplished, especially not with the winter solstice approaching.

But after 7 years thinking that a doctoral programme was a black hole where my time and energy disappeared into the void, all of a sudden I saw my work coming together, and that felt wonderful. Add to this 1) the fact that in those three weeks I had performed three times with my two bands (and thought we sounded awesome) and 2) that I had got closer with friends who had been far away geographically or otherwise, the morning of December 10th made me believe I could do the impossible.

By noon, I had proofread, printed and handed-in to my supervisor the most up-to-date version of my thesis, which, though far for complete, was as close to completion as it had ever been, and that made me really proud.

Filled with satisfaction, I proceeded to my carrell at the library, where I left some of the left-over belongings which I could not take with me to Brazil. Realizing by this point that 1) I needed caffeine and 2) that I did not have a single penny in my pocket, I stopped at Massey College for a cup of coffee. I had no idea what time of day it was.

It turned out, however, that it was 1.35pm. Lunch had officially stopped being served five minutes before, but there were still left overs if one was willing to go for them, which I was. I got myself a tray and set down by myself in the almost empty dining hall.

There were only three other people finishing their lunch at this point. They sat as a group at the opposite end of the hall, diagonally from where I was. What with being hungry, sleep-deprived, on an adrenaline-high, in severe need of caffeine, and in a hurry to go and finish doing everything I needed to do before boarding the plane in the evening, I was almost done with my lunch before I realized that one of those three gentlemen was James Orbiski, sitting with his back to me.

But so it was. And in the state of mind that I was at that particular moment, there was no space, time or energy left for self-censorship.

I was unstoppable.

See No Evil (part 1)

A few weeks ago I went to the movies to see “Blindness.” I´d been planning that for a long time, and was super excited: first, because I had heard many good things about the book and second, because I was in Brazil when they shot the movie (most of the movie, if not all, was shot in Brazil).

My feelings as I left the theatre are a bit harder to describe. Part of me thought it was a good story taken too far. It wasn´t just that some scenes were extremely unpleasant, but that they seemed unnecessarily so. In my judgement, therefore, the lack of verisimilitude was a big check minus for “Blindness.”  Thus I finally reached a verdict:  too unplesant to be true. Period. Which shows how little I know. 

A couple of days later, I went to the movies again, this time to watch “Triage:  Dr. Orbinski´s Humanitarian Dilemma.” As I entered the theatre, the film had already began, and the feeling of “I know this place, I know this person” gave me a tingly sensation of contentment as I searched in the darkness for a seat.  

When I first moved to Toronto in 2002, Massey College, a scholarly community at the University of Toronto, was my first home (and it still is my permanent address in Canada). I lived there for more than two years, during which time Dr. James Orbiski and his wife Rolie Srivastava were also living there.

They were both very active in the community, and always very willing to talk to the less famous members of the College such as myself. But I, in my immense timidity, had never in these almost seven years had the courage to do more than exchange nods and smiles whenever I passed them.

I knew he was famous. I knew he was busy. I knew he had been in Rwanda during the genocide in 1994. I even suspected that he had won a Nobel prize, thought I wasn´t really sure about that, because in my mind it was simply too unlikely that I´d be sharing  the same address as a Nobel prize winner. 

More than six years later, here I am in a cinema complex watching a documentary about my former neighbour Dr. James Orbinski. The familiar face and the familiar scenery gave me a sense of proximity that I had never experience in a movie theatre.

As the movie progressed the sense of “deja-vu” got more and more intense, but in a bizarre way: all of a sudden, I felt like I was watching “Blindness” all over again. Again, the punch in the stomach as I think of the awful things human beings are capable of when they know that “no one is looking.” Again, the sense of awe at the almost involuntary heroism of people who see themselves providing care to others in the most inhumane circumstances — not knowing whether they themselves would come out of the situation alive. I was trembling.

In a way, I was overwhelmed by the some of the same intense feelings that “Blindness” had provoked in me. But this time I couldn´t put them in a box, seal it and label it: “caused by a work of fiction taken too far.”  Rwanda was no fiction. It happened. And I know someone who was there and survived to tell the tale.  

I was in shock for days at end.

Unprecedented political ups-and-downs

In Canada: Prime minister suspended parliament from yesterday until January to avoid a vote that would most probably have removed him from government. This is less than two months after his government was re-elected.

In Brazil: President Lula’s approval rates reach a new record: 70%, surpassing the previous record of 64%, which was also his. This is after he lost three presidential elections in 12 years.

Curious, no?