Sunday, December 11, 2016

Bob Dylan: A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall (1964)

Bob Dylan performs “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” at CBC-TV studios in Toronto, Ontario, taped on February 1st, 1964 and broadcast on March 10th, 1964. This is part of a six-song set performed for the show, Quest; the songs in order, all of which can be heard here, are as follows:
  1. The Times They Are A-Changin’
  2. Talking World War III Blues
  3. The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll
  4. Girl From The North Country
  5. A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall
  6. Restless Farewell
You can hear Patti Smith, aged 69, perform her rendition of the song at yesterday’s Nobel Prize ceremony, in Stockhom, Sweden, in tribute to Bob Dylan winning the Nobel in Literature (2016). Dylan, aged 75, was not in attendance.

The song is the sixth and last track on Side 1 of the album,  The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, released on May 27, 1963. Dylan wrote the song in the summer of 1962 and recorded it for Columbia Records on December 6, 1962. The poetic lyrics tell an old and ancient story with a modern retelling, a story of man’s inhumanity to man, which includes poisoning our minds—both figuratively and literally—of the lies and deceptions, of the sins of commission and omission, of the false pieties and disingenuousness, of the strong belittling the weak, and of the failure to take notice and, most important, of the larger failure to love where and when it is most needed.

Is there not a price to pay for all this failure?

A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall
by Bob Dylan

Oh, where have you been, my blue-eyed son? Oh, where have you been, my darling young one? I’ve stumbled on the side of twelve misty mountains I’ve walked and I’ve crawled on six crooked highways I’ve stepped in the middle of seven sad forests I’ve been out in front of a dozen dead oceans I’ve been ten thousand miles in the mouth of a graveyard And it’s a hard, and it’s a hard, it’s a hard, and it’s a hard And it’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall Oh, what did you see, my blue-eyed son? Oh, what did you see, my darling young one? I saw a newborn baby with wild wolves all around it I saw a highway of diamonds with nobody on it I saw a black branch with blood that kept drippin’ I saw a room full of men with their hammers a-bleedin’ I saw a white ladder all covered with water I saw ten thousand talkers whose tongues were all broken I saw guns and sharp swords in the hands of young children And it’s a hard, and it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard And it’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall And what did you hear, my blue-eyed son? And what did you hear, my darling young one? I heard the sound of a thunder, it roared out a warnin’ Heard the roar of a wave that could drown the whole world Heard one hundred drummers whose hands were a-blazin’ Heard ten thousand whisperin’ and nobody listenin’ Heard one person starve, I heard many people laughin’ Heard the song of a poet who died in the gutter Heard the sound of a clown who cried in the alley And it’s a hard, and it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard And it’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall Oh, who did you meet, my blue-eyed son? Who did you meet, my darling young one? I met a young child beside a dead pony I met a white man who walked a black dog I met a young woman whose body was burning I met a young girl, she gave me a rainbow I met one man who was wounded in love I met another man who was wounded with hatred And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall Oh, what’ll you do now, my blue-eyed son? Oh, what’ll you do now, my darling young one? I’m a-goin’ back out ’fore the rain starts a-fallin’ I’ll walk to the depths of the deepest black forest Where the people are many and their hands are all empty Where the pellets of poison are flooding their waters Where the home in the valley meets the damp dirty prison Where the executioner’s face is always well hidden Where hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten Where black is the color, where none is the number And I’ll tell it and think it and speak it and breathe it And reflect it from the mountain so all souls can see it Then I’ll stand on the ocean until I start sinkin’ But I’ll know my song well before I start singin’ And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

Friday, December 9, 2016

The Botanical Garden: An Urban Oasis of Natural Beauty

Montreal Memories & Nostalgia

The Chinese Garden: This is one of the many thematic gardens available to the public to visit. The site writes in “Elements of the Chinese Garden”: “The 2.5 hectares of the Chinese Garden contain more than 200 varieties of perennials, 50 of aquatic plants, 15 varieties of bamboo, 4 of annuals, 160 of shrubs and approximately 100 varieties of trees. In a Chinese garden, look neither for the lawns of the English garden nor the precise lines of the French garden. Chinese gardens favor plants and trees that tradition and history have imbued with symbolism. Designers prefer more natural-looking perennial flowers over annuals.”
Photo Credit & Source: espacepourlavie

The Montreal Botanical Garden (Jardin botanique de Montréal) is large, expansive and impressive, containing, the site says, “22,000 plant species and cultivars, 10 exhibition greenhouses, Frédéric Back Tree Pavilion, and more than 20 thematic gardens spread out over 75 hectares,” adding “ it’s also a perfect place to enjoy fresh air and natural beauty.”

The garden was founded in 1931 during the Great Depression. Two names are prominent in the Garden’s history: Brother Marie-Victorin (born in 1885, in Kingsey Falls, Quebec, as Joseph-Louis-Conrad Kirouac) and Henry Teuscher (born in 1891 in Berlin, Germany), whose persistence and vision brought it into fruition, making it one of the great public gardens in the world. Its size and the diversity of its plants are indeed remarkable and inspirational. You could spend days roaming around the large urban garden.

I have visited this place numerous times, and each time was enjoyable. My first memory of coming to this place is during the 1960s with my family as a young boy of no more than 10. It took us more than a hour to get here, to the corner of rue Sherbrooke E. and boul. Pie-IX, by bus from our home in the Mile End neighbourhood, situated on avenue du Parc not far from avenue du Mont-Royal, where another prominent green space existed. A place where I spent many happy moments during childhood and afterward. I credit Montreal with having many tree-lined streets and large planters everywhere. It makes for a more pleasant environment.

Leslie Hancock/Ericaceae Garden: One of the many gardens that are found on the grounds of the main Garden. This particular garden contains a multicoloured array of azaleas, rhododendrons, and wintergreen tea plants. 
Photo Credit & Source: espacepourlavie

For some, Nature requires destroying and dominating; while for others, Nature needs be cultivated and preserved. The differences are seen in the language each group uses to describe the future. One thinks that man-made and artificial products are equal to (or better than) what can be found in Nature, while the other appreciates the beauty and life-affirming value of what was there before us. Truly, I shudder to think of a world devoid of any flowers, shrubs, trees and of natural beauty.

There are hints of this in all major cities—some stronger than others; such places are lifeless and soulless valleys of grey concrete, of steel and glass structures, both inside and outside. Modernity at its worst; the buildings are designed with efficiency in mind, but disregard the need of humans. (Yet, people are forced to work in such places to “earn a paycheque.”) No doubt, working in such structures can only make one sick, where Man is alienated from his natural surroundings.

Small wonder, then, that some have natural green plants on their desk, if only to alleviate the symptoms of working in an artificial place and remind us of what is naturally beautiful.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Explaining the 4 Stages of Pericardial Mesothelioma


There are many wonderful people doing good work, often without much fanfare or great recognition; occasionally, a few decide to get in contact with me after they have viewed this blog. Such is the case with Ashley Stafford, who volunteers as a writer for, a cancer advocacy organization based in the United States. Stafford offered an article on pericardial mesothelioma, a form of cancer that affects the lining of the heart and, like most forms of mesothelioma, is a result of being near or in contact with asbestos—or, simply put, by exposure to asbestos. This article provides necessary information on pericardial mesothelioma, which is one major reason that I agreed to publish it on my blog.

Mesothelioma Stages: Here is a quick video to learn more about mesothelioma.
Video Credit & Source: Mesothelioma Treatment Community

by Ashley Stafford 

Currently, there is no established pericardial mesothelioma staging system. However, pericardial mesothelioma stages can be established using the TNM staging system. The American Joint Committee on Cancer developed this system and it is the most common system for staging various types of cancer including pericardial mesothelioma. Determining the stage of pericardial mesothelioma when it is diagnosed enables health care providers and researchers to exchange information about their patients. It also enables them to communicate in a common language when it comes to treatment, clinical trials and comparison of the outcomes of the different treatments and trials. .

TNM staging system

TNM system for staging different types of mesothelioma cancer can be described as follows:
  • T: This describes the primary tumor’s size and whether the disease has invaded the nearby tissues.
  • N: This describes the extent to which mesothelioma has spread to the lymphatic system.
  • M: This describes whether the metastasis cancer has spread past the point where it originated.
Staging pericardial mesothelioma

Pericardial mesothelioma affects the lining of the heart or the pericardium. Although less is known about pericardial mesothelioma’s pathology, researchers believe that it is caused by the inhalation or ingestion of asbestos fibers. Once inhaled or ingested, asbestos fibers move to the bloodstream and travel to the heart. Eventually, they lodge themselves in the pericardium where they aggravate the local tissues for many years and eventually cause mesothelioma cancer. Pericardial mesothelioma can be diagnosed any time during this period and staged using the TNM system.

Staging pericardial mesothelioma cancer

Stage 1: At this stage, the disease is characterized by small tumors that are localized without having spread to other organs or lymph nodes.

Stage 2: Stage 2 pericardial mesothelioma has a local tumor that has progressed into the tissue or organs further.

Stage 3: At this stage, pericardial mesothelioma has spread deeply into the local tissue and/or close lymph nodes.

Stage 4: This is the most serious stage of pericardial mesothelioma. At this stage, the disease has already invaded the local tissues and organs and has usually already started its progress on moving to distant organs and tissues.

What follows staging?

After being diagnosed with pericardial mesothelioma at any stage, a patient should undergo further tests. This helps in determining the extent to which cancer has spread and affected the body of the patient. Staging is based on the original tumor’s metastasis to the other organs and tissues in the body. Basically, pericardial mesothelioma staging enables doctors to come up with the most appropriate treatment program for each patient. This is very important because it improves prognosis.

Nevertheless, it is important to get a second opinion after the first diagnosis and staging of pericardial mesothelioma. A mesothelioma specialist may provide innovative treatment options that will extend prognosis and quality of the patient’s life.

Pericardial mesothelioma treatment

Pericardial mesothelioma has limited treatment options since it is located close to the patient’s heart. Surgical and radiation interventions can damage the heart tissues. Nevertheless, pericardiectomy, radiation therapy, chemotherapy and other forms of advanced treatments can be used to treat pericardial mesothelioma. That’s why you should consult the best mesothelioma specialist if you or a loved one has been diagnosed with pericardial mesothelioma at any stage.


Ashley Stafford is a writer and online blogger with special interest in rare diseases and the conspiracies of curing cancer. Her newest and self-proclaimed challenge is to provide every detail on every type of mesothelioma, in each of the four stages. You can find a lot of her latest work at where she is dedicating her time and talents as a volunteer writer. With a strong passion for helping veterans, raising mesothelioma awareness is her calling. 

Copyright ©2016. Ashley Stafford. All Rights Reserved. It is republished here with the permission of the author.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Luba: Everytime I See Your Picture (1983)

Montreal Memories & Nostalgia

Luba (born in 1958 as Lubomyra Kowalchyk in Montréal, Québec) sings “Everytime I See Your Picture,” a song she wrote after her father’s death in 1979. (My father died a year later, in 1980, so the song’s sentiments became mine as well, during a period in my life when I still acutely felt the loss of a guiding voice in my young life, at a time when I was still mourning, still grieving.) Moreover and perhaps more important, the song and the voice resonated with the public so it saturated the Montreal airwaves in 1983, becoming a major hit. Sure, the song is sappy, but if you can’t enjoy such music when young, when can you?

Luba is one of the most successful Canadian singers, Wikipedia notes “[being] a three-time winner of the Canadian music industry Juno Award for Female Vocalist of the Year (1985–1987).” She achieved success in Canada without charting across the border in the U.S., which is rare for a creative performer from Canada. Although no longer in the public spotlight, Luba continues to sing and record for her own independent label.

For more, go to [Luba Fanpage].

Everytime I See Your Picture
by Luba & Pierre Marchand

In my mind
I've got it all figured out
But the head
Does not always rule the heart

And I try to place him
Out of body and soul
Just when I thought I'd made it
His images start taking their toll on me

I feel his memory haunting me
Time and again
I feel weak because

Every time I see your picture, I cry
And I try to get over you
One more time because
Every time I see your picture, I cry
Oh, I cry

There you rest inside
The walls of a flame
Hurts so bad
I can almost feel your eyes

Calling out my name and so
Out of body and soul
You're everywhere I go
Illusion or reality, I don't know

I feel your memory haunting me
Time and again
I feel weak because

Every time I see your picture, I cry
And I try to get over you
One more time because
Every time I see your picture, I cry
Oh, I cry

Friday, November 18, 2016

Growing Up & Living in Leonard Cohen’s Montreal

Montreal Memories & Nostalgia

Nightly Presence: Saint-Joseph’s Oratory (formally named Oratoire Saint-Joseph du Mont-Royal) situated on the western slope of Mont-Royal, sits proudly on chemin Queen-Mary near chemin de la Côte-des-Neiges as this photo at night shows. The green dome was prominent and visible from many parts of Montréal , including my living-room window while growing up in the central neighbourhood of Cote-des-Neiges in the 1970s and later on as a young adult in the nearby neighbourhood of Snowdon. It was and continues to be a reassuring presence for many, including persons like me who are not Catholic.
Photo Credit: © Alain Carpentier, 2007

An article (“Leonard Cohen’s Montreal”; February 28, 2015), by Bernard Avishal (an ex-Montrealer), in The New Yorker gives a good sense of the Montréal in which Leonard Cohen [September 21, 1934–November 7, 2016] grew up, including the transition and change to a more modern and secular society in Quebec during the 1960s, a period known  as La Révolution tranquille (The Quiet Revolution).

Many of the insights of the writer resonate with me; these describe my experiences. Knowing and understanding the city in which Leonard Cohen resided as a child and young man might give you a better appreciation and apprehension of his music, notably its use of religious symbolism and the tension between the sacred and the secular.

Avishal writes in the article:
Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”—a hymn to souls too carnal to grow old, too secular to give praise, and too baffled to mock faith—recently turned thirty. Cohen himself, now eighty, came of age in Jewish Montreal during the twenty years after the Second World War, and those of us who followed him, a half-generation later, can’t hear the song without also thinking about that time and place, which qualifies as an era. The devotional—and deftly sacrilegious—quality of “Hallelujah” and other songs and poems by Cohen reflects a city of clashing and bonding religious communities, especially first-generation Jews and French Catholics. Montreal’s politics in the early sixties were energized by what came to be called Quebec’s Quiet Revolution, which emancipated the city’s bicultural intelligentsia from Church and Anglostocracy. The pace of transformation could make the place half crazy; that’s why you wanted to be there.
Religious thoughts seemed to be the gravest ones in Montreal then, insinuated, even inculcated, by its architecture, seasonal festivals, and colloquialisms. Cohen grew up in affluent Westmount, the best part of Mount Royal, about a mile from my family home in Snowdon—a neighborhood on a lower Western slope, where “the English” (as my mother called them) had no choice but to make room for Jewish factory owners, lawyers, and doctors. Towering over both our neighborhoods, impressing itself on our senses, was the dome of St. Joseph’s Oratory, Quebec’s great basilica, the dream palace of (the now canonized) Brother André Bessette, who healed the body and spirit of pilgrims—the place we simply called the Shrine. A. M. Klein, the first of the Montreal Jewish poets, wrote, “How rich, how plumped with blessing is that dome! / The gourd of Brother André! His sweet days / rounded! Fulfilled! Honeyed to honeycomb!” Its neon-illuminated cross was visible from my bedroom window, an imposing rival for the whispered Shma Yisroel of bedtime. The city’s ironwork staircases, its streets tangled around Mount Royal, carried the names of uncountable saints (St. Denis, St. Eustache, St. Laurent); the fall air was scented by rotting leaves and, on Rosh Hashana, polished synagogues. Fresh snow sharpened Christmas lights. Our curses, borrowed from Québécois proles, were affectionately sacrilegious mocks of the Mass: “calice,” “tabarnak,” “osti”—chalice, tabernacle, host. 
Leonard Cohen in front of his Montreal home in  the Mile End neighbourhood in 1977.
Photo Credit & Source: Montreal Gazette
Although this could be said of any major city, there is no city like it—Montréal is unique; it certainly stands apart in North America. After a graveside service on November 10th, 2016, Cohen was put to rest at Shaar Hashomayim Cemetery, located on the slopes of Mont-Royal. This is a fitting and poetic end for a man who was not only a Montrealer true and true, but also always a romantic and a mystic, a man who was both an inquirer and a searcher. Cohen was a man who was trying to understand, and in doing so, his music helped us understand. It had such an effect on me.

For more, go to [NewYorker]

Addendum: The best interview of Leonard Cohen was at his Montreal home (across from Parc du Portugal), by Jian Ghomeshi of CBC’s Q show, first broadcast on Thursday April 16th, 2009. You can watch the fascinating and informative broadcast [here].

I am taking a short break; I will return next month. 

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Simon & Garfunkel: Homeward Bound (1981)

Paul Simon & Art Garfunkel perform their 1966-written song “Homeward Bound” at the 1981 (September 19th) free reunion concert at New York City’s Central Park. Although home is a physical place, it can also be a place of the past, of memory, of a state of the mind—I need someone to comfort me—the comforting thought wrapped in the not-forgotten past, of former memories of hope and possibilities—this is my reason for posting this song in this present time.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Poetry, Poets & Tea

Poetic Thoughts

“and she feeds you tea and oranges
that come all the way from China”
Leonard Cohen,
Suzanne (1967)

“When the tea is brought at five o’clock
And all the neat curtains are drawn with care,
The little black cat with bright green eyes
Is suddenly purring there.” 
Harold Monro
The Collected Poems of Harold Monro (1933)

Tea Time: One of the few items that I inherited from my mother was her collection of bone china tea cups; this is one of my favourites. Whether or not tea tastes better in such delicate cups is up for debate, but such cups are obviously beautiful and the artwork something to admire. There is something poetic about tea, which coffee lacks (and I do enjoy coffee, but not when writing poetry). While both are stimulants, coffee speaks of immediate action whereas tea speaks of thoughtful contemplation. Is there a coffee equivalent of the Japanese tea ceremony?
Photo Credit & Source: ©Perry J. Greenbaum, 2016

An article, by A.E. Stallings, in The Times Literary Supplement, not so much defends poetry as gives it a reason to exist. First off, poetry is not everyone’s cup of tea; just as not everyone enjoys watching or participating in sports, so it is with poetry (I happen to enjoy both.) Stallings argues that poetry has always been around and it is more than likely that it will out-survive other forms of written work, including journalism, which has seen better days.

So there is poetry and there is the poet, who suffers far worse indignities than “the writer.” In “Why bother with poetry” (November 7, 2016), Stallings writes:
Is it something one owns up to, at, say, a cocktail party? Isn’t it easier just to say one is a writer, and move on? If you want to shut the conversation down, you can always say you are a poet. And then if your interlocutor is persistent, and follows up with “What kind of poetry do you write?” You can always answer, “Good”. That usually does the trick. Or sometimes, if it is more of a literary crowd, I might mix things up with “the kind that rhymes”.
The pleasures of poetry are subversive, and perhaps always have been. Bards and vagabonds have been linked since Homer and Hesiod (“beggar hates beggar, and bard hates bard”). Poetry, being beyond commercial concerns, mostly because there is no money in it, and irrelevant to power, unacknowledged legislators aside, should at least have the prerogative of not being entirely respectable. I tend to write it when I am playing hooky from another project – prose like this, say, or translation. Poetry is where I go to play, but also where I seek solace. As William Carlos Williams famously has it, in his meditation “Asphodel, that Greeny Flower”: “It is difficult / to get the news from poems / yet men die miserably every day / for lack / of what is found there”.
Poetry does not reap great financial reward it will not bring great economic benefit, and it resists mass-market appeal common to other creative efforts. But the attempt to write some free verse will give you a greater understanding of being human, which includes an understanding of yourself; and, if you expend greater effort, if you dig deep enough, the endeavor might prove successful in some form and you might eventually write something that you would be willing to share with the public. Maybe? Perhaps? Who knows? This about sums it up; nothing further to add, then to say I must get back to the poem I have been working on and to my hot cup of tea.

For more, go to [TLS]