Blog

Moira Farr explores a variety of subjects in her work, including nature, literature, music, art and design, mental health, post-secondary education and women's issues. She lives in eastern Ontario, Canada.

 

Wednesday
Apr062016

"Everybody Knows"

"Everybody knows the boat is leaking/everybody knows the captain lied." Any time a story of mass corruption and greed comes up, such as the "Panama Papers" have revealed, I start hearing Leonard Cohen's genius song "Everybody Knows" - that helpless feeling, that simmering rage, thinking of the good all that hidden lucre might do in the world if used to improve lives of more than a few ... yep. Everybody knows, creeps. Not sure what more we can do about it, but - thanks Mr. Cohen for helping soothe the weary hearts of the rest of us...

http://www.azquotes.com/picture-quotes/quote-the-poor-stay-poor-the-rich-get-rich-thats-how-it-goes-everybody-knows-leonard-cohen-104-65-47.jpg

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lin-a2lTelg

Friday
May172013

Keep Calm and Carry On (Laughing at Yourself)

Keep Calm and Carry On: That sound advice, made famous in bomb-ravaged Britain during World War Two, is enjoying renewed popularity, with spin-offs on mugs, t-shirts and caps (Keep Calm and Drink Tea; Keep Calm and Kill Zombies …) It fits the rattled times – but as someone who’s lived with social anxiety since childhood, I have been cultivating the suggested sangfroid for a long time.
 
At age nine, I chose to attend the YWCA Halloween party as a cat. Simple costume  - I would wear a black unitard under my knee-length spring coat for the solo bus trip to the Y (it was the late 60s – nine-year-old girls could take buses alone). When I got to the party, I would affix my ears and draw whiskers on my face with my mother’s eyebrow pencil.
 
I forgot, however, that my tail would be showing. As I sat on the bus, I noticed the adults around me smiling. One elderly man turned in his seat and said, “That’s a nice tail you’ve got – are you a cat?”
 
A more gregarious child might have happily chirped back in the affirmative, and offered details of the exciting party to come.  I, on the other hand, was mortified. There was only one choice: Freeze them out (the froid part of sangfroid). This, of course, only led the man to tease me further, delighting all on the bus. Dying inside, I stepped off at my stop, haughty cat head high, tail swaying, the laughter of the passengers dogging me until the doors closed and the bus lumbered away.
 
In high school, I played flute in the concert band. Our teacher was a strict Texan, and he could be mean. He also disciplined both concert and jazz bands to national-champion status. I was terrified of the man. He couldn’t have been more than 25 at the time, but he was an authority figure to us. Also cool. Girls had crushes on him; boys wanted his approval. I just didn’t want him to shout at me for not knowing my part.
 
In physics class one day, a girl who often stayed after practice with the group that so fervently sought the teacher’s attention, turned to me and said, “He likes you.” Whaaa? “He said, ‘That Farr’s a cool chick. She doesn’t bug me, like y’all, she just comes in and plays her flute and leaves.’”
 
A cool chick? No one who heard him say it would have believed it either.
 
At university, I spent my share of time at the musty nearby drinking establishment favored by undergrads. Its upper floor was reserved for blues performers, and had a rough edge that made us feel hipper than we were. One night, leaving after many pitchers of beer, my group made its way down the bordello-like wide staircase and waited on the main floor while another girl and I went to the ladies’ room. I was the last to exit the swinging doors, and managed to trip, then tumbled down the stairs, in a stuntwoman roll (so I was told). When I got to the bottom, and before my friends could react, I leapt up and walked toward them as though nothing had happened.
 
Apparently the spectacle suggested I’d been ignominiously booted out of the saloon – presumably with the grizzled owner shouting “And don’t ever come back, y’hear?” Mild-mannered, glasses-wearing me. While some in the group asked if I was all right, one boy could not stop laughing. Doubled-over, snorting, weeping, hyperventilating sort of laughter. Every time he saw me thereafter, in residence or class, he laughed. I’m sure if I met him now, decades later, he’d still burst out laughing.
 
Travelling alone through Ireland after university, I spent a day on a rugged North Sea island known for its birds. Because I didn’t understand the thick accent of the ferry captain, I missed the last boat of the day back to the mainland.  The only transport was aboard a Zodiac, manned by a manly group of scuba divers. They were amused by my predicament, even more amused when, for reasons I don’t understand myself, I opted to keep my glasses on for the bumpy voyage. When I hopped onto the shore and gave them my grave but sincere thank-yous, it was through specs completely obscured by fog and dripping salt water. I could barely see as I wobbled back to my hotel room – but I could hear the hearty laughter of the divers behind me.
 
Keep calm and carry on – when you are catapulted through the saloon doors of life, or trying to see your way forward through mist-drenched glasses – it does the trick in the trickiest situations. Even – especially – when your tail is showing.
 
Saturday
Dec292012

How do I read thee? Let me count the ways...

Ancient, unplugged wisdom, and my old classics professor, who died before Texting, Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, Flickr, YouTube and Angry Birds were born, I humbly salute thee: "SOPHROSYNE was the goddess or spirit (daimona) of moderation, self-control, temperance, restraint, and discretion. She was one of the good spirits who escaped Pandora's box when the woman first lifted the lid and fled back to Olympos, abandoning mankind."

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Friday
Jun222012

Stigma, what stigma?

How many slang phrases related to mental illness have humans invented over the centuries? Bedlam (a literal place, at one time), loony bin, funny farm…cuckoo, nuts, mental, psycho, crazy, doo lally, and my favourite, bats in the belfry. Artist: Kristine Bredehoft, Northwordbound, Anchorage, AlaskaDozens, if not hundreds, more. Some are laughably antiquated – who has belfries, let alone bats in them, anymore? – others are more newly minted, but they all describe a state of mind, and behaviour, that most of us regard with horror.

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Friday
Jan272012

Happy light

Friday
Mar042011

Robarts Mansion

Quiet, please, girls...In 1980, as an undergrad at the University of Toronto, I managed to get a part-time job at the famed Robarts Library on Harbord Street. I instantly took to the work – the summer before, I had been a waitress at Ontario Place. Let’s just say the atmosphere at the library was a little different from Kelly’s Keg & Jester. I loved the hush, and being surrounded by vast troves of books and scholarly people seriously reading them. I also enjoyed no longer having to wear a shamrock-green serving-wench uniform.

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Monday
Apr052010

Save the Cephalopods

I'll be watching youLike SPINE blogger Dana Carman, I have qualms about eating members of the animal kingdom; while I still eat some meat, I'm more or less down to consuming only creatures who have had spa vacations, massages and steady diets of their favourite food before going to their instantaneous deaths gently tranquilized, as sweet harps play, holding hooves or trotters with their favourite bovine or porcine friend.

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Sunday
Mar282010

Cat Cafes: Big in Japan

The Japanese have long understood the aesthetic appeal of cats, and also their function as bringers of peace and calm (perhaps not while pouncing on mice and birds, but let's focus on the cat at rest). It was a revelation, but not really a surprise, to read news of Japan's "cat cafes," places people go to take time from stressful lives, sip a soothing beverage and contemplate cats.

 

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Sunday
Mar212010

Throw Down Your Heart with Bela Fleck

I didn't expect to be sitting in an oaken pew at Dominion Chalmers United Church in downtown Ottawa on a cold Monday night in March, enjoying the best concert I've seen in years. My friend Nancy had suggested, spur of the moment, that she'd try to get tickets for Bela Fleck's performance. I had a vague idea of who Bela Fleck was. Something about a banjo. And a band, the Flecktones. But it was all very hazy.

Bela Fleck is indeed a banjo player, but don't be thinking hillbillies on broken-down porches. Fleck is a Grammy-winning virtuoso, who happens also to possess a great curiosity, and generosity, of spirit, which took him on a tour of Africa to discover the roots of the instrument he has so supremely mastered.

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Sunday
Mar212010

Sky news: The Lyrids are coming

Also, the Eta Aquarids, the Delta Aquarids, the Perseids, the Draconids, the Orionids, the South Taurids, the North Taurids, the Leonids and the Geminids.

These are not bands, and you don't have to pay a cover charge to see them. All you need is a dark sky and your eyes.

Watching meteor showers is one of those cosmic experiences that is every human being's birthright. You're scanning a night sky full of stars, when one of them moves, leaving a glittery trail. A true meteor shower leaves you dazzled by all the action.

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Sunday
Mar212010

Dude, where's my car? Right by the curb, baby, right by the curb

Some people are born to run. Others are natural trombonists. I, on the other hand, am very good at parallel parking.

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Monday
Mar012010

Eagles and Turkeys and Deer, Oh My

They looked like rocks to me, just dark shapes against the escarpment in the distance, on an overcast, black-and-white kind of day in Quebec's Gatineau hills. But my companion's sharp eyes had it right: These were no rocks.

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Wednesday
Feb172010

Into the Blue

On a freezing winter day in Ontario, Canada, the Niagara Butterfly Conservatory is an oasis of warmth, scent and colour. Step inside and feel your dulled senses awaken and unfurl. Wander along palm-lined pathways, admire red, yellow and white tropical blooms, listen to the roaring waterfall, feel the skin-plumping humidity you forgot could exist. Be dazzled by a flutter of blue morpho (Morpho menelaus) butterflies.

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Monday
Feb082010

Unplugging, now and then

It's supposed to work, but it doesn't: your computer, your printer, your iPhone, your microwave, your toaster, your debit card. Time slips away as you attempt to remedy the problem, perhaps on your own, perhaps with help from a techno expert who is supposed to know better than you, but often doesn't. Automated voices surround you, deflecting any contact you want with a real one.

Sometimes, the stress of being constantly wired in, as individuals, as a society, isn't good for us. People space out in the middle of conversations. They walk in front of buses while listening to their iPods. They crash their cars while talking on cell phones. They get lost, despite using a GPS. They have meltdowns when something doesn't happen instantly. We want it NOW.

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