Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Palace of the End... at The Roxy

event>Last night my husband and I went to see Palace of the End, which is playing at Edmonton's Roxy theatre until November 16. The production stars Nadien Chu, John Wright, and Natascha Girgis, who were all phenomenal. From start to finish, this is a gripping tale that was often uncomfortable to watch, and yet, I didn't want it to end. Marianne Copithorne did a terrific job in directing these three actors, and I walked away wanting to know more about them and the individuals they portrayed.

But my husband and I did have just one beef about the script: There was far too much anti-American soldier rhetoric!


In my opinion, world leaders such as George W. Bush and Tony Blair are fair game (to an extent) because they're the decision makers. But the soldiers? Not so much.

Yes, some of them committed heinous, unthinkable acts -- which were described in excruciating detail at various moments in this production -- but to label all American soldiers in this manner is unfair and, quite simply, misleading. If my husband were a less reasonable man, he would have walked out during the first monologue.

To put things in perspective, is it fair or accurate to say that all Iraqis are terrorists? Of course not.

And nor is it fair or accurate to paint all American soldiers as arrogant bigots who are keen on abusing their power via unspeakable acts.

But as  mentioned to us this morning, we're to expect this sort of portrayal everywhere in the world except for in the U.S., and that's truly unfortunate.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Courtesy of the Arlington National Cemetery website...

In Flanders Fields
By: Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918)
Canadian Army

IN FLANDERS FIELDS the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

McCrae's "In Flanders Fields" remains to this day one of the most memorable war poems ever written. It is a lasting legacy of the terrible battle in the Ypres salient in the spring of 1915. Here is the story of the making of that poem:

Although he had been a doctor for years and had served in the South African War, it was impossible to get used to the suffering, the screams, and the blood here, and Major John McCrae had seen and heard enough in his dressing station to last him a lifetime.

As a surgeon attached to the 1st Field Artillery Brigade, Major McCrae, who had joined the McGill faculty in 1900 after graduating from the University of Toronto, had spent seventeen days treating injured men -- Canadians, British, Indians, French, and Germans -- in the Ypres salient.

It had been an ordeal that he had hardly thought possible. McCrae later wrote of it:

"I wish I could embody on paper some of the varied sensations of that seventeen days... Seventeen days of Hades! At the end of the first day if anyone had told us we had to spend seventeen days there, we would have folded our hands and said it could not have been done."

One death particularly affected McCrae. A young friend and former student, Lieut. Alexis Helmer of Ottawa, had been killed by a shell burst on 2 May 1915. Lieutenant Helmer was buried later that day in the little cemetery outside McCrae's dressing station, and McCrae had performed the funeral ceremony in the absence of the chaplain.

The next day, sitting on the back of an ambulance parked near the dressing station beside the Canal de l'Yser, just a few hundred yards north of Ypres, McCrae vented his anguish by composing a poem. The major was no stranger to writing, having authored several medical texts besides dabbling in poetry.

In the nearby cemetery, McCrae could see the wild poppies that sprang up in the ditches in that part of Europe, and he spent twenty minutes of precious rest time scribbling fifteen lines of verse in a notebook.

A young soldier watched him write it. Cyril Allinson, a twenty-two year old sergeant-major, was delivering mail that day when he spotted McCrae. The major looked up as Allinson approached, then went on writing while the sergeant-major stood there quietly. "His face was very tired but calm as we wrote," Allinson recalled. "He looked around from time to time, his eyes straying to Helmer's grave."

When McCrae finished five minutes later, he took his mail from Allinson and, without saying a word, handed his pad to the young NCO. Allinson was moved by what he read:

"The poem was exactly an exact description of the scene in front of us both. He used the word blow in that line because the poppies actually were being blown that morning by a gentle east wind. It never occurred to me at that time that it would ever be published. It seemed to me just an exact description of the scene."

In fact, it was very nearly not published. Dissatisfied with it, McCrae tossed the poem away, but a fellow officer retrieved it and sent it to newspapers in England. The Spectator, in London, rejected it, but Punch published it on 8 December 1915.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Greedy business, not good business


Some One local business woman would do well to remember the golden rule of customer service: For every satisfied customer you have, they'll tell one -- maybe two -- people about their experience. But for every unhappy customer you have, they'll tell an average of 10 other people about their experience with you.

And this woman should also remember that I know more than 10 people. Many, many more.

And I'm more than happy to talk.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

You should have that looked at...

Those were essentially the final words said to my friend Angie by her then-GP last month. Stunned, all Angie could think was: That's why I'm HERE.

Given that her regular doctor of four years was basically refusing to treat her -- she never even physically examined her during her most recent visits -- and given that this supposed care-giver would now be concentrating on corporate medicine (whatever that means), Angie had no choice but to seek additional help. In total, she saw six doctors in the span of a month before "an overworked ER doc [looked] beyond the obvious" and diagnosed her cancer. Stage 4 cervical cancer that has metastasized to her lungs.

Rewind the clock to two months ago, and everything appeared fine. Angie is only 38. She's incredibly fit and eats all the right foods.

"I lost 50 lbs and quit smoking... and 
NOW I have cancer."

Seriously, if someone like Angie can get sick, what hope is there for the rest of us mere mortals? I told my husband this morning that, starting tomorrow, we're going to be eating nothing but fresh berries and spinach.

[insert awkward silence and a look of fear on his part]

And then for good measure I threw in a, "Your life will be miserable, but at least it will be long!"  Because, you know, that's what every man wants: a long, miserable life.

But Angie's illness has really put things into perspective for me -- and it's also made my blog about an injured ankle seem incredibly petty. Things can always get much, much worse.

I've heard that approximately 33% of all cancers are preventable, but obviously -- even if you do everything right -- anyone at any time at any age in any country can still get sick. And for no obvious or explainable reason.

Despite all this, I'm still semi-serious about my nothing-but-berries-and-spinach diet... you know, just in case.
~ I love you Angie! ~