Friday, 14 June 2019

Ellie Chartier's DIS MON NOM, at Montreal Fringe this weekend

I went to see my friend Ellie Chartier’s wonderful bilingual Fringe show Dis Mon Nom last week. It’s about Paul Bernardo, Karla Homolka, and their crimes. But in this era of #MeToo and MMIW, it’s really about so much more. I thought I would catch up with Ellie and ask her about the origins of her piece. 

Where did the idea for this Bernardo-Homolka piece come from?
From a role that Lucas [Chartier’s son, also featured in this play] got a few years ago, playing Paul Bernardo. I started thinking about what it means to be this terrible person. A psychopath. I wrote a first version, Paper Thin Walls, that really centred on the actor-character relationship, two actors preparing to play Bernardo and Homolka. After getting some feedback, I thought of all the other people affected by the aftermath. Which led me to the Scarborough rapist’s victims, these women who did not get their day in court. All I could find out about them was general descriptions of what he had done to them. Some of these women prepared for months to testify. But because of the nature of the case, he was never confronted by them in court. I was really upset by that.

Does #MeToo come into this?
It’s addressing the choice. The choice to speak openly if YOU choose to.

So you feel the justice system let these women down?
Yes, the system failed those victims in general.

What could be done differently? You understand they charged him with the worst crimes, hoping to put him away for life, and sparing the costs associated with adding and proving "lesser" crimes?
Yeah sparing the cost, as you say. But these women needed that day in court.

Along the lines of those 150 victims of Larry Nasser speaking in court? Confronting their molester?
Something should have been done for them. I don't think plea bargains should be used in this kind of crime.

Would you say you were angry on their behalf?
Yes, I am. And also that she's out.

How important is anger to the creative process? That she and her lawyer played the system? Do you believe she was the real murderer, as he claimed?
It's a mix of anger--and I'll say astonishment, for lack of a better word. I was really amazed when I learned about these other victims. And about her. I was 20 once and had a younger sister and what she did to her sister, I'm sorry but as much you are in love with a guy, this was unforgivable.

The 13 victims he admitted to having raped as the Scarborough rapist? Do you think the police didn't care enough? Or were inept?
I think the police did a really crappy job [on the Scarborough rapes] and also when they searched their house.

Do you buy that she was a victim too?
Her best friend was working in a center for battered wives. She knew exactly how to portray one.

Do you think she hurt herself to pose like a battered wife (like in Gone Girl)? That she is the real murderer, as he alleged?
She knew how to push his buttons. If you read the transcripts of how the murder happened she played an active part in the torturing and murders.

So what is the kernel, here? Why is it important to see your play?
For the victims. To question our justice system. To question our rehabilitation system. To question our reactions when confronted with crime and the mythologizing of criminals like Bundy. Or Charles Mason. To let people know that she played the system. And won.

So what’s next? You mentioned continuing with this piece, taking it further.
In the next version, I want to explore more how she got out.

You’ve to mention the criminals’ names as few times as possible. The title of your piece: to whose name are you referring?
The title is for the victims.

The ones who survived or the ones who were murdered?
The rape survivors. The ones who were murdered, we all know their names.


Dis Mon Nom plays Fri June 14 to Sun June 16. Tickets here.
Mise en scène/Directed by: Ellie Chartier
Paysage sonore et lumineux/Set and light design: Alex Gravenstein

Avec (en ordre alphabétique)/ With (in alphabetical order):

Émmanuelle Caron
Lucas Chartier-Dessert
Lizzie Chuprun
Miguel Doucet
Karine Kerr
Boris Kirimidtchiev
Dominique Noël

Théâtre MainLine (3997 boul St-Laurent)

Thursday, 28 February 2019

Destroying SNC-Lavalin because of corruption is like bombing the village to save it

Millions of pixels have already been spilled on the Jody Wilson-Raybould SNC-Lavalin deferred prosecution brouhaha. Lines are being drawn, flamethrowers are being taken to the place, talking points are being honed to rapier edge, petards are being hoisted…you get the drift.

The essential question, though, is whether SNC-Lavalin deserves to be forced out of business (or out of Canada) for the actions of a corrupt few related to contracts in Libya between 2001 & 2011? 

That's 54,000 jobs, 9,000 of them in Canada. The vast, overwhelming majority of these employees (not to mention shareholders) are totally innocent. Given the above, Jody Wilson-Raybould is wrong and Justin Trudeau is right.

Ministers either toe the party line or quit. That's not what she did. She didn't quit when she was being subjected to "pressure," and she still hasn't quit after trying to incinerate her government. 

Loyalty is everything in politics. The PMO was only asking her to do what was in her rights to do, by virtue of her position. For the good of the country, she should have.

Spirited conversations are taking place on my Facebook page, and other places. I understand those holding the opposite position. The thing is, this is politics, “the art of the possible,” not abstract morality class. 

Don't get me wrong, I agree that the individuals who committed wrongs should be punished, just not the entire economy. The PM would be derelict in his duty to let it go under. It's a jewel in Canada's economic life, one of the largest engineering and construction companies in the world.

I'm actually more concerned that the penalties being handed down to the guilty are too lax.

But what did JWR think she was getting into, in becoming a politician? She should stick to the PTA if she can't handle the big leagues. Why didn't she quit when she was being pressured, if she thought it was so wrong?

Basically, this scorched earth/woman scorned campaign of hers proves (to me, at least) she is not cut out for government.

JRW herself has said “that while she believes she was inappropriately pressured, she doesn’t think any law was broken,” according to Chantal Hebert in the Feb. 28th Toronto Star ("Trudeau’s waist deep in the big muddy," p.4). 

Politics is serious business and no doubt has a steep learning curve. Of course having a deferred prosecution law on the books means the government would want to use it. That is what laws are: tools to goose the art of the possible.

Monday, 4 February 2019

Women deserve better from the CBC than to be told their “bad attitude” can give them cancer

I rarely catch White Coat, Black Art, but I was intrigued by the subject of the January 19th program “After breast cancer and failed reconstruction, this mom found beauty by going flat”, which I listened to recently. 

Like most middle-aged people, I'm no stranger to cancer: in November, I accompanied a close relative to her second lumpectomy (and associated follow-up treatment), my aunt died of breast cancer nearly a decade ago, my mother-in-law died of breast cancer in 1980 (~12 years post-mastectomy, no reconstruction), and a friend who had reconstructive surgery post-mastectomy is experiencing post-surgical infection and necrosis. And that’s just the breast cancer stories.

What surprised me was the program’s attempt to balance the terrible experience of Joanna Rankin, who describes being bullied into reconstructive surgery in Toronto (frankly, needing a double mastectomy at 32 means reconstruction was not her greatest worry) with the pro-reconstruction attitude of the “expert” interviewed by Dr. Brian Goldman on the program, Dr. Angel Arnaout, breast cancer surgeon and Ottawa region director of breast surgical oncology.

Basically, Arnaout said being happy and well-adjusted after breast cancer surgery reduces the chances of cancer recurrence. Which is misinformation, coming from a layman, but flat out shocking when delivered by a breast cancer specialist. 

Between approximately 21:23 and 22:25 of the recording. Dr. Arnaout says:

The reason [for encouraging immediate breast reconstruction] is because there is a lot of evidence now, especially in breast cancer, that your psychological emotions and your outlook on life is a very strong predictor of how well you will do from cancer, prognosis-wise. And that linkage of how you feel about yourself and therefore how confident you are and how well you present yourself and integrate yourself back into a normal life, and breast reconstruction is supposed to help with easing you back into a normal life and getting out there and doing exercise and being happy. All of it is linked in a lot of studies to your survivorship and your prognosis from a cancer point of view. There is a lot of evidence to show that if you are happier and you’re exercising, because you’re happier you’re taking care of your body and you’re eating well, all those things reduce your chances of recurrence. And so having the option of breast cancer reconstruction is actually now considered part of cancer treatment.

In this rambling, slightly incoherent paragraph, Dr. Arnaout is actually saying that how a patient/survivor feels about herself will directly influence cancer recurrence and "survivorship". Now, this is a wonderful thing to believe (especially if you’re a cancer patient/survivor or surgeon) but unfortunately, it’s not true. Which makes it gobsmacking to have been uttered on CBC, and by an oncology specialist to boot. That Goldman has no problem accepting this proposition is equally staggering.

Because the corollary is: if you don’t feel good about yourself or you don’t have "a good attitude", you’re bringing the cancer (or recurrence) on yourself.

This is known as blaming the victim.

This isn’t just my opinion. The American Cancer Society website goes to great lengths to dispel these antiquated notions, on their page on “Attitude and Cancer”:

Treatment that deals with our emotions and relationships (sometimes called psychosocial interventions) can help people with cancer feel more upbeat and have a better quality of life. But there’s no good evidence to support the idea that these interventions can reduce the risk of cancer, keep cancer from coming back, or help the person with cancer live longer.

Further down that page, in a section on “Personality Traits and Cancer”, they go on:

For many years there have been those who were convinced that people with certain personality types were more likely to get cancer. The common thought was that neurotic people and introverts were at the highest risk of cancer. Along with that, some believed that personality affected the outcome of cancer – the likelihood that a person with cancer might die….In 2010, the largest and best-designed scientific study to date [on the question] was published. It looked at nearly 60,000 people, who were followed over time for a minimum of 30 years. This careful study controlled for smoking, alcohol use, and other known cancer risk factors. The study showed no link between personality and overall cancer risk. There was also no link between personality traits and cancer survival.

Finally, in a section titled “Does a positive attitude affect cancer?”, they write:

…many people want to believe that the power of the mind can control serious diseases. This is a comforting belief that can make a person feel safer from the risk of serious illness. If it were true, you could use your mind to stop the cancer from growing. But the down side of such beliefs is that when people with cancer don’t do well, they may blame themselves. To learn more about attitude and survival, researchers looked at the emotional well-being of more than 1,000 patients with head and neck cancer to find out whether it affected survival. Over time, those who scored high on emotional well-being showed no differences in cancer growth or length of life when compared with those with low scores. Based on what we know now about how cancer starts and grows, there’s no reason to believe that emotions can cause cancer or help it grow.

At Mayo, one finds, in a section on cancer myth-busting, the following:

Myth: A positive attitude is all you need to beat cancer

Truth: There’s no scientific proof that a positive attitude gives you an advantage in cancer treatment or improves your chance of being cured. 

Huge sums are no doubt being spent in the public system to provide reconstruction to mastectomy patients. Joanna Rankin’s story is that some women are bullied into accepting it. Maybe CBC journalists should be investigating that, and whether many/most oncology specialists have confused quality of life issues with the science of recurrence.

CBC Journalistic Practices related to Science and Health read, in part, “In matters of human health we will take particular care to avoid arousing unfounded hopes or fears in persons living with or close to those living with serious illnesses.”

Given the above, I would like Drs. Goldman and/or Arnaout to provide evidence for the notion they are putting forward: that breast reconstruction (and “a good attitude”) results in lower breast cancer recurrence rates.

And, if they cannot, I would expect the program to be corrected or pulled, and an apology to be prominently published on the White Coat, Black Art website.

Because people with cancer, and those who love them, deserve better from the CBC than to be told that their sadness, anger, or other “bad attitude” can give them cancer.

Tuesday, 2 October 2018

Paintings for sale 1

I've been working on my abstract acrylics the past year or so and have been meaning to feature the collections on my blog, for the my own edification as well as that of interested collectors (I will post those already sold separately). So after some well-meaning prodding from hubby, here's the first set.

I will organize an online store at some point. Meantime, if anything interests you, please contact me by leaving a comment here or via Facebook Messenger. Or email me:

If you'd like to commission a specific size and colour set, I would be thrilled to work with you!

Hope you enjoy!

These are acrylic paintings, 12 x 12 inch canvases, $125 each:

Sea Ice
Crimson 1

Crimson 2

Untitled 1

Untitled 2

Blue and White

Organized Chaos

Untitled 12

Untitled 13

Untitled 14

Untitled 15

These are 20 x 20 inch canvases, and look wonderful as a triptych, $250 each:

Crimson 3

Crimson 4

Crimson 5

These are 16 x 20 inch canvases, $200 each (without frame):

Untitled 3

Neutral Beauty

Coral Haven

You Can't Take It With You

Untitled 4

Blue Harbour

Untitled 5

Wisterian Wit
Black is Beautiful

Untitled 9

Untitled 10



This one is 18 x 24 inches, $270:

Untitled 6

These are 24 x 30 inch canvases, $450:

Untitled 7

Untitled 8

Untitled 11


This is a 30 x 30 inch canvas, $500 :

Sea Curl

This is a 36 x 48 inch canvas: SOLD!! (to come)

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Help Sue via GoFundMe / Aidez Sue avec GoFundMe

My husband, Russell Copeman, has started a GoFundMe campaign for our local dry cleaner, Young Sook Suh, who has had her shop broken into twice within a week recently. Please consider helping meet the $1500 goal to finance the repairs. Neighbours helping neighbours keep NDG great. The details:

[My NDG dry cleaner needs help. A series of unfortunate events happened to her, putting her 15 year business in jeopardy.
Young Sook Suh, or “Sue” as her customers know her, has operated the Sherbrooke West Dry Cleaner and Tailors in western NDG since 2002. Sue is the sole owner and employee and she personally staffs the store for more than 57 hours a week.
She was recently broken into two times in less than a week. There is no money in the store overnight but she had to replace her glass door - twice. She’s insured, but there is a deductible of $500. Sue also needs to install door bars to keep it from happening again. The $1,500 of unexpected expenses is too much for Sue and she needs help.
Sue’s family was from North Korea. They succeeded in crossing into the South during the Korean conflict sometime in the early 1950s. Sue was born and lived in South Korea and eventually had an administrative job with the Hyundai Motor Company. She and her husband wanted a better life for their children - particularly a better education - so Sue, her husband and their two sons immigrated to Montreal from Inchon, South Korea in 1994.
Sue became a single Mom shortly after arriving here. She learned English and some basic French and worked hard at a variety of jobs before opening the dry cleaning store in 2002. Although not trained as a tailor, her mother was a seamstress in North Korea and she learned fast. She has been providing great service with a smile ever since.
Sue’s experience is typical of hard working immigrants who sacrifice a great deal for their children. Her business survives and supports her but the profit margins on dry cleaning are very small and expenses continue to mount.
Some may say that if her dry cleaning operation is so precarious that she can’t absorb unexpected expenses of $1,500 perhaps she should go out of business. I don’t agree. Small local businesses are one of the key elements in a healthy neighbourhood.
Please consider helping us help Sue by making a contribution towards our $1,500 goal. Let’s demonstrate once again how wonderful a place NDG is. Thank you.

Russell Copeman

N.B. Unfortunately no charitable tax receipts can be issued.

Help Sue here!
* * *

Mon nettoyeur à sec dans NDG a besoin d'aide. Une série d'événements malheureux lui est arrivé, avec pour conséquence que ce commerce, qui a pignon sur rue depuis 15 ans, est en difficulté.
Young Sook Suh, ou Sue comme ses clients la connaissent, exploite le « Nettoyeur et tailleur Sherbrooke West » dans l'ouest de NDG depuis 2002. Sue est la seule propriétaire et employée et elle s'occupe personnellement du magasin pendant plus de 57 heures par semaine.
La porte de son magasin a été défoncée deux fois en moins d'une semaine. Malgré le fait que Sue ne dispose pas de liquidités suffisantes, elle a dû remplacer sa porte en verre - deux fois. Elle est assurée, mais il y a une franchise de 500 $. Sue doit également installer des barres de porte pour empêcher que cela ne se reproduise. Les 1 500 $ de dépenses imprévues sont trop pour Sue et elle a besoin d'aide.
La famille de Sue était originaire de Corée du Nord. Ils ont réussi à traverser dans le Sud pendant le conflit coréen au début des années 1950. Sue est née et a vécu en Corée du Sud et a finalement eu un travail administratif avec la Hyundai Motor Company. Elle et son mari voulaient une vie meilleure pour leurs enfants - en particulier une meilleure éducation - alors Sue, son mari et leurs deux fils ont immigré à Montréal d'Inchon, en Corée du Sud en 1994.
Sue est devenue une mère célibataire peu après son arrivée à Montréal. Elle a appris l'anglais et quelques notions de français de base et a travaillé dur à divers emplois avant d'ouvrir le magasin de nettoyage à sec en 2002. Bien qu'elle n'ait pas été formée pour ce métier, sa mère était couturière en Corée du Nord et elle a appris vite. Elle fournit un excellent service depuis, et le sourire est toujours au rendez-vous.
L'expérience de Sue est typique des immigrants qui travaillent dur et qui sacrifient beaucoup pour leurs enfants. Son entreprise lui survit et la soutient, mais les marges bénéficiaires sur le nettoyage à sec sont très faibles et les dépenses continuent d'augmenter.
Certains peuvent dire que si son opération de nettoyage à sec est si précaire qu'elle ne peut pas absorber des dépenses imprévues de 1500 $ peut-être qu'elle devrait faire faillite. Je ne suis pas d'accord. Les petites entreprises locales sont l'un des éléments clés d'un quartier en santé.
Je fais appel à vous, à votre générosité et à votre sens de la communauté, afin d’aider Sue en faisant une contribution vers notre objectif de 1500 $. Montrons encore une fois à quel point NDG est merveilleux.
Je vous remercie.

Russell Copeman

N.B. Malheureusement aucun reçu d'impôt de bienfaisance ne peut être émis.]

Aidez Sue ici!

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Vernissage November 15th, Atelier d'art METEQUE

Pleased to announce some of my paintings included


Atelier d'art METEQUE's upcoming Marché D'Art NDG.

Vernissage November 15th, 5pm to 8pm.

Exhibition runs till Dec. 5th.

Atelier d'art METEQUE address: 5442 Côte Saint Luc Rd, Montreal.

This will be my first professional exhibition!

Would love to see you there!

Thursday, 8 June 2017

The Father of Reinvention

I haven't been the most faithful blogger the past year or so. It's been a year of "arts other than literary"... a year with many ups and downs.

For one thing, my father, Max Akerman, died April 6th. He'd had Parkinson's Disease for seven years or so, but his final illness was sudden.

We were shocked...just now coming out of it, I think, the initial part, at least. But so glad he didn't suffer a long, drawn out ordeal.

For another, I've taken up drawing and painting in a pretty big way. I found an amazing portrait teacher, artist Donna Shvil (her website), at Cummings Centre (for people 50 and older).

And, to combine the two, may I present my portrait of my Dad?

The original is pencil on 9 x 12 inch toned paper, which I then laser-jet printed, transferred to watercolour paper, and painted with acrylics...

This isn't my first portrait (I will post more anon), but it is definitely the most meaningful one so far. The expression in his eyes...I feel the love and the slight bemusement. I had him remove his glasses as I was taking the photos, so he's a bit unfocused, but also clearly thinking, "What is she up to now? Well, I love her, I have nothing better to do, it doesn't hurt me to just sit here, so let her do her thing. And we'll see what comes out of it..."

He loved his family in the best possible ways. We miss him...the last of his slew of brothers and sisters.

A few weeks after he died, I helped my Mom empty the apartment of Dad's clothes. Seven large bags...she looked at them, out on the sidewalk as I was about to put them in the car, and said, "A man's life in seven bags."

I said, "No, Mom. Not his life. Just his clothes."

Go in peace, Dad. I'm so glad I followed the urge to draw your portrait. It's been a year of lost and found that will resonate for a long, long time.

Next time, I hope to show you what else I've been doing in the drawing, painting, and abstracting department. But here's a taste of my other portrait work, and my abstracts.