Romeo and Juliet

I understand that – just as one can live through something that seems traumatic and later see it was not a big deal – one can look back on an experience that seemed benign at the time and realize it was quite the opposite and that it had long-lasting and negative effects. (I have had both epiphanies about past experiences.) I wondered about this when I read of the lawsuit filed by Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting against Paramount Pictures in regards their Romeo and Juliet nude scene. The movie was made over 50 years ago, but California temporarily lifted the statute of limitations for some child sex abuse cases. Hussey, as recently as 2019, said the scene was no big deal and she also worked with Franco Zeffirelli again, in his television mini-series Jesus of Nazareth (a thoroughly gorgeous production). The actors are asking for $500 million to make up for emotional damage and lost revenue – they say they were duped and coerced into the scene. I imagine whatever outcome there is will depend on what contracts were signed and whether their parents agreed to what was seen on screen, as Hussey and Whiting were under-aged. (Zeffirelli’s son has responded.) But if indeed their concern is protecting young people from exploitation (a noble goal), one might think the suit wouldn’t be about such a huge sum of money, but rather a chance to discuss their experiences as teenagers in the movie industry. One might think a lawsuit would not be necessary at all – a speaking tour might suffice, or a book. For what it is worth, I adore the film in question and remember seeing it for the first time as a teen and then again in a university English class. There was nothing titillating about it.

Paul Johnson

Paul Johnson died and I wanted to pay tribute to him and his work, in particular this book, Modern Times: The World from the Twenties to the Eighties. I read it as a young woman and really felt I had found a response – or maybe a counterbalance – to so much of the complacency and received wisdom I was seeing around me. He was a species that we need and lack – a self-taught popular historian, and also an object lesson in an intellectual who understood that intellectuals are bad. Perhaps Andrew Roberts is the closest person we have to that now.

David Crosby

David Crosby died. Now, I’m of the belief that the 1960s have a lot for which to answer, and I do so tire of Boomers and their incessant romanticizing of anti-war protests and dancing naked in the rain at Woodstock and blah blah blah. Seriously, who cares? So I was pleasantly surprised when I watched this documentary about Crosby a couple of years ago and saw what an interesting, honest and oddly delightful – though by all accounts difficult – person he seemed to be. I quite liked his ageing hippie wife, too. And I’ve always loved so much of his music, in particular when performed by Crosby, Stills and Nash. Those harmonies! I get goosebumps from the following two songs. (I’ve long thought people like Bob Dylan and Crosby ought to stick to love songs. The political stuff is annoying.) Thank you for the music.

“Don’t Let The Past Remind us of What we Are Not Now”
“We Never Failed to Fail, it Was The Easiest Thing to do”

Noteworthy Items: Early 2023 Edition

Why are the aqueducts still standing while our roads are full of potholes? The secret to Roman concrete.

Ontario mum designs helmets for Sikh kids – impressive and useful.

This article about Malak Karsh is from a few years ago, but I just found it – a photo of my mum is featured!

Rescuers in Wales find a sheep by bleating. (Of course – when you are looking for a kitty, you meow, right?)

A film I want to see: two brothers in India trying to save Delhi’s Black Kites.

Terrific piece about Woody Allen.

Ian Tyson died. So much talent. I think Four Strong Winds is one of the great Canadian songs.

Not Sleeping Well: A Silver Lining

Sometimes, when I can’t sleep through the night (which is often), I do what you are not supposed to do in that situation and scroll on my phone or tablet. Recently, in the wee small hours one night/morning, I discovered this interview (I think it is more than one interview edited together) with journalist Togo Tanaka. Fascinating. I learned a lot and also enjoyed Tanaka’s calming voice.

The Three Kings

“Who knocks tonight so late?”
the weary porter said.
Three kings stood at the gate,
each with a crown on head.

The serving man bowed down,
the Inn was full, he knew.
Said he, “In all this town
is no fit place for you.”

A light in the manger lit;
there lay the Mother meek.
This place is fit.
Here is the rest we seek.

Come, come. They loosed their latchet strings,
so stood they all unshod
“Come in, come in, ye kings,
and kiss the feet of God.”

  • Laurence Housman