Komorebi and the Shadow Dance

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Komorebi. I took this one during a walk on my lunch break, last fall.

Komorebi. I took this one during a walk on my lunch break, last fall.

Since I was a child, I have always been enchanted by the sunlight filtering through the leaves. I recently learned, in one of those viral “repost” things–this one being about non-English words that encapsulate an experience that we don’t have a single word for in English–that there is a Japanese word for this. Komorebi. It seems appropriate that the language, culture and aesthetic that has a word like “hanami” (the act of viewing cherry blossoms in the spring, as well as a festival associated with the occasion) and another traditional festival associated with the act of viewing autumn colours, would also have a word that describes this phenomenon.

But, much as I love the sight of sunlight filtering through leaves–and I do love that interplay of light, colour, shadow and movement–the thing that I might love even more is the dance of the shadows of leaves, branches, blossoms or buds. I’m not sure why, particularly given that komorebi itself is so bright, and I so love the way that sunlight and shadows interact with colours, transforming them from one moment to the next. I feel a deep, welling joy when I see that interplay. Continue reading

The Age of the Anti-Hero?: Walter White v. Frank Underwood

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house of cardsWe recently (finally) got around to watching Breaking Bad, a program that features one of the most fully-developed, envisioned and enacted tragic falls that we have yet to see in popular culture, as discussed in a previous post.

We are now in the process of watching the American edition of House of Cards, Season 2–no doubt along with a significant proportion of the rest of the netflix-subscribing population.

The two characters–and series–present a fascinating set of contrasts. Both works feature frequent nods to Macbeth. House of Cards even goes so far as to have these wonderful soliloquies and asides that at least for my part, I find as effective as Elizabethan and Jacobean audiences must have found the asides and soliloquies of Shakespeare and other contemporary works. There is something chilling, thrilling, disturbing and peculiarly disarming about being the confidant of the villain, party to those inner thoughts and observations to which no-one else has access. It draws us in, as we watch his intricate machinations with bated horror. There are other wonderful, resonant references as well, which I touched on in the post I wrote last year–the extinguishing of the candle, for instance, and Frank’s relationship with his wife.

Breaking Bad‘s allusions are more muted, but nonetheless detectable. One of the more elegant ones comes when Walter is holed up in his cabin and walks to the gate, then says “Tomorrow…”. All is lost at that stage, and Walter is weary. It is a powerful moment of temporary capitulation.

Macbeth is itself a play that has always fascinated me. For me, the crux of the work, and the crux of how an actor will play the Scottish anti-hero, derives from the question of whether the witches’ prophecy that he will be king, transforms him from being a genuinely honourable man and war hero into an amoral killer who is slowly eaten from the inside out by his ambition, or whether it simply gives him permission to do what he wanted to do all along, but which the bounds of propriety did not allow. As a student, reading the play in English class, I had believed the former–that Macbeth was once good, and turned bad. Now, as an adult, I’m leaning towards the other reading. He was that way all along, and just needed permission to cast aside his morality. Continue reading

Building Foundations

We live in a society that, for the last few decades, has touted instant gratification and overnight success.

We are enchanted by the story: someone who bursts onto the scene and is brilliant at his or her metier and catapults to untold stardom and riches. Wish-fulfillment video games further bolster this perception–you’re suddenly a golf pro, swinging your wii like a club, or a guitar idol, pressing buttons to “play” an instrument. But all this plays into the deeper fantasy. We love the idea of the “found” genius, who can just pick up an instrument, begin typing on a keyboard, start sketching something in a notepad, and create art. Part of why we love it is because that means that there may just be a tiny chance that if we try the right thing, we might all be found geniuses at something. Opera. Polo. Aquatic ballet.

Writing. Continue reading

Breaking Bad: Upping the Ante on Anti-heroes

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My husband and I have been watching  Breaking Bad for the last little while. No doubt about it: the show is well written, well acted, and in many ways extremely compelling.

I first heard about it while I was in law school.  I was talking to a couple of classmates, and they were discussing Breaking Bad. I just remember the way my classmate’s expression lit up when he talked about the show. There was a deep enthusiasm and respect, there. This particular classmate came from a writing and journalism background, so when he said the writing in it was amazing, that carried some weight.

We attempted it at the time, but then left off after about two episodes. Now we’re back. This time, we kept with it. We are about five episodes into the final season, and I am deeply ambivalent. Breaking Bad is like Macbeth over five seasons. It depicts the tragic fall of a once-virtuous man. Continue reading

The Ethical Lawyer, Part II aka living in the grey

Unreliable Narrators

We all live in the grey to a greater or lesser extent. The moral grey, that is. It’s an everyday reality of being part of our society and part of the human race.

Most of us also tell our stories–amusing anecdotes, explanations of our actions, justifications for problematic behaviours or outright mistakes and transgressions–with a subtle or not-so-subtle spin that builds in the ways in which we justify our actions. We preface our narratives with explanations of our reasoning, our paradigms, our perspectives or contexts, such that any unsympathetic, foolish or otherwise questionable behaviour seems more justified in the re-telling than it might have been to others who witnessed our actions in real time.

It’s part of human nature, and part of our process of becoming socialized.

In my day job, it’s all grey. In family law, the law part is generally fairly clear, except around its outlying edges–the marginal, threshold cases. The bulk of the battle in family takes place in the arena of the facts. The “he said, she said”s, and the greys. Some of these distortions are intentional, and some are simply the result of emotions and the ways in which distress, anger, stress, as well as love or affection, distort and haze over the perceiver’s ability to accurately remember what took place. Continue reading

The Ethical Lawyer, Part I

Photo by Ian Britton, under a (cc) attribution, non-commercial, no derivs license

Photo by Ian Britton, under a (cc) attribution, non-commercial, no derivs 3.0 license

True story: a family lawyer in town got a call from his client.

The client said: “I shot the bitch. Right there on the street, like the dog that she was. So anyway, I’m just driving over to your place.”

The client was placed under arrest. That lawyer still practices, though I’ve been told that the wife’s lawyer no longer does. 

As those of you who have been reading my blog a while know, in my day job, I’m a freshly-hatched lawyer (called to the bar in June). Since then, I have been practicing in the area of family law, often to the exclusion of anything else, including blogging and writing fiction. It is a wrenching and exhausting area of law. Clients will often start crying during the course of a meeting while I listen, and feel a deep sadness at all that the client is losing, at so many levels. All our meeting rooms and offices have boxes of tissues.

Family law was near the bottom of my list of practice areas to work in, back when I was in law school (all of a year and a half ago). It ranked just above criminal law, which I still have no desire to work in.

But it turns out I absolutely love family law. This surprises many, including many fellow lawyers. Heck, it surprised me.

But yeah–I really love it, because I feel like what I am doing is making a difference. This week, a client who has not been able to see his kids since this past summer, because his ex and her lawyer were being difficult, finally got to see the kids. This result is a direct consequence of my actions and efforts (with oversight and mentorship from a senior lawyer, of course), and when something like this happens, after months of oft-discouraging effort, it can feel good.

But there’s a potential double edge to it all, and that’s something I’ve been struggling with, though for now that struggle is theoretical, thank goodness.

It’s the issue of conflicting ethics. Continue reading

On Tempests, Teapots and David Gilmour

Over the past week or so, there’s been quite the kerfuffle in the Canadian literary scene over some person named David Gilmour, who has apparently written some books and teaches part time at the University of Toronto.

I read his interview, in which he made some absurd comments about not liking any women authors enough to teach them in his class–with the single exception of Virginia Woolf (the exact quote, “when I was given this job I said I would only teach the people that I truly, truly love. Unfortunately, none of those happen to be Chinese, or women. Except for Virginia Woolf,” has even given rise to an amusing tumblr that yielded me a good few chuckles). Gilmour also hasn’t encountered any Canadian writers he loves enough to teach (I fully expect Margaret Atwood has been crying buckets since she heard the devastating news*).

He evidently teaches books by “serious heterosexual guys”. “Real guy-guys” in fact. All of which sounds amusingly pompous and absurd to me. As in: are we still really taking someone who utters these kinds of throwbacks to some early twentieth century version of literary machismo seriously? Continue reading

The Wise Fool: Russell Brand & Humour as Transgression & Truthtelling


A few months ago, a “Morning Joe” video clip featuring Russell Brand went viral. I have to admit, I kind of loved it.

I had been aware of Brand before, and found him amusing in films like Leaving Sarah Marshall and Get Him to the Greek. But between that onscreen persona, and possibly the marriage to Katy Perry, I just assumed he was the usual attention grabbing comedian type who was perhaps slightly more clever than Tom Green et al., and that his schtick was that of a foppish, English fool.

I first had an inkling that there might be more to him when I read an interview excerpt about his role in Julie Taymor’s The Tempest (which features Helen Mirren as a gender-swapped Prospero/a, but which I didn’t love as much as I expected to) and was surprised at the intelligence that peeped through that constructed persona of foolery. But, I didn’t think more of it.

Until the Morning Joe clip, when suddenly the mask came off, and the clueless fool became the wise, truthtelling fool–a truly Shakespearean figure (I’m thinking Lear, here and the interplay between the Fool, and Edgar in the guise of a mad fool). After a few too many digs (the interview, which is worth watching, begins with one of the anchors making the dig “Joining us now, he’s a really big deal…. [glancing at other two anchors] I know, I’m told this. I’m not very pop cultured, I’m sorry.” Though she’s not sounding particularly sorry at all, truth be told). Continue reading

Dreams of a Life: Joyce Carol Vincent

joyce carol vincent

Joyce Carol Vincent

A few months ago, I posted on one of my social media networks about the haunting story I stumbled upon of this beautiful, popular, seemingly-well-loved woman who died alone in her subsidized apartment in London at the age of 38, tv on, surrounded by Christmas gifts she had just wrapped. For the next three years, the cool, blue-tinged light of the television flickered over the slowly decomposing corpse of Joyce Carol Vincent. It was only when the authorities came to enforce her eviction that the remains were discovered.

By then, and in the absence of any evidence of bone-cracking force, the cause of death was no longer determinable. Indeed, they were only able to identify the remains by comparing the teeth with teeth in photographs of her. Continue reading

Five things I love about Broadchurch

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broadchurchWe recently watched Broadchurch, a stark, haunting, subtly resonant drama about the murder of a young boy in a small coastal town in England. Seasoned with references to Thomas Hardy’s work (the series takes place in Wessex; one of the characters who was himself ostracized by society because of a forbidden relationship talks about reading Jude the Obscure; and of course the last name of one of the main characters is Hardy), there is a thread of weight, of tragedy, and of fatalism that runs through the work. And yet, unlike Hardy’s tragic melodrama, there are also luminous threads of hope, of human connection and of redemption.

Here are five things that I loved about the first series: Continue reading

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