Want That Happy Feeling? Clean Out a Bookshelf!

One afternoon my husband disappeared. It seemed he had vanished from the face of the earth.

I eventually tracked him down in the Trauma Centre at Montreal General Hospital where he was lying on a board in a neck brace, one eye completely closed, lip swollen, beard caked in blood, face covered in bruises and cuts. The injuries from his fall on the ice led to complications that eventually meant we had to cancel our upcoming trip to the U.K.

My sister, obviously worried that I might become depressed after all the stress and anxiety and cancellations, forwarded me a link to an article about happiness and how to achieve it…positive thinking, controlled breathing, meditation… Yeah, yeah. Sure.

For me, there’s no better way to get back to a happier, airier frame of mind after periods of stress and worry than sorting my overloaded bookshelves.

That 1947 Encyclopedia Britannica is just gathering dust. A lot of dust. Two shelves’ worth of dust. We rarely (never) refer to it but keep it because it belonged to my husband’s parents. We have other things of theirs that we enjoy. Time to bid it farewell.

Encyclopedia Britannica - 1947

But what to do with it?

And with those books I know I’ll never read again?

And all those literary journals? I used to leave them in cafés around Montreal for others to discover, but kind baristas would keep them and return them to me the next time I went in.

There’s the local church bazaar of course, but that doesn’t happen until November. If I’m to find my happy feeling, I have to get them all out now.

So, off I go with the novels to the hospital’s Book Nook that I discovered during a break from the Trauma Unit when searching for a latte. The literary journals make their way to another Book Nook (Take a Book, Leave a Book) – this one in The Hive Café Co-Op in the Hall Building of Concordia University.

And the 1947 Encyclopedia?

Turns out no one wants an old Encyclopedia.

Put it in the recycling, I’m told.

Recycling? Really? Must I?

I hate the thought of any book going into the recycling.

But one volume a week, into the recycling bag it’s going to go.

Encyclopedia 1947


When Giants Visit Montreal

I’d been worried I wouldn’t see Little Girl-Giant and her Dog when they visited Montreal in May for Montreal’s 375th anniversary because the crowds were so huge. But the puppets dwarfed people and buildings.

Little Girl Giant - Montreal, 2017 Continue reading

Montreal’s Compassion Machine is Watching You!

It’s hard to go anywhere in Montreal these days without stumbling into a surprise.

On Friday the surprise was Montreal’s Compassion Machine.

Montreal's Compassion Machine

The music – a spooky hypnotic sound – catches my attention first, then the way people are stopping in their tracks as they stream into and out of St. Laurent Metro station.

One brave person has stepped out of the crowd and is looking into the smiley face on the screen.

The machine tells her (only women stepped forward while I watched) that it is a surveillance system:

“I am a surveillance system equipped with face recognition algorithms and computer vision. I observe your face and your movements to predict your behaviour. I am supposed to identify your suspicious movements and your consumption habits.

But my algorithms have been hijacked.

Instead I detect your smile and your level of empathy […] Look into the camera to discover what I know about you.” Km3 Compassion Machine

The machine then goes on to try to determine whether the person is male/female, their age, whether they are empathetic or not, attentive or not (is that ‘criminal tendencies’ that just clicks onto the screen for a millisecond?), then what their next empathetic act will be.

I go to check out the back of the machine. “I can see you you looking at me,” it tells me.

Montreal's Compassion Machine

Then this ominous message: “I want the best for you.”

Montreal's Compassion Machine


According to the surveillance information given on one side of the machine, the average number of times you’re likely to be caught on video surveillance every day is …. 75!

The Compassion Machine is part of Km3 which has created 22 art installations in the Quartier des Spectacles of Montreal during the fall of 2017.

(P.S., I’m not totally convinced by its age estimations!)


Where’s the Write Spot?

Every second week I gather up my pencils and notebooks after breakfast and set out to find somewhere to write for the day. Preferably somewhere I’ve never been before.

“No one is immune to the impressions that impinge on the senses from the outside.” Creativity, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Could be a park, a café or terrasse, an art gallery or museum, a mall, a greenhouse…

I find working somewhere different helps spark off fresh, unexpected ideas.

The new chairs and benches on the Montreal streets this summer are attractive options too! I love the replacement of sidewalk flowers along McGill College Avenue with parsley and other herbs.

summer chairs along ave McGill College, Montreal

Sometimes I look up places I’ve heard about in advance, but usually I just set out and see what I come across. Montreal is a great place for that!

When I saw Continue reading

Montreal’s Balade pour la Paix/Open Air Museum

What I find fun about sculptures in public places is looking at how they transform or interact with what’s around them, as well as enjoying the artworks themselves.

I’d loved to have been in on the discussions about where to place the thirty sculptures in Montreal’s Balade pour la Paix/Open Air Museum.

First of all, my absolute favourite match-up is ‘Walking Figures’ by Magdalena Abakanowicz (Poland) in front of ManuVie. This is an empty plaza type area set back off the sidewalk, in front of walls of glass and the building’s conventional revolving glass doors.

The area normally feels rather blank and empty. Not any more! For me these massive figures are Continue reading