Queen Maggie


One of the odd anglo traditions that is still very popular in Canada, is to listen to the Queen’s Christmas speech. Often this is done with fair sincerity by youngsters, and then increasingly for comedic or ironic value over time (even my most ardent anti-monarchist communist friends will often watch, to laugh).

A few years ago, we had a mayor who didn’t like to read – and so had no idea that our first-rate public library system had become a crucial support and refuge for the homeless. This thanks in part to the rapid closing of far too many mental-hospital beds (a careful what you ask for overcorrection, after the psychiatrized movement won it’s demand for far less incarceration – without securing the alternative community investment needed – thanks to mean-spirited austerity-finks) and also in part simply to increasingly hard times for all.

He saw the city budget for library security (generally very compassionate and even-handed – not throwing folks out, but just keeping the peace between the many different kinds of library users), as a ridiculous wasteful expenditure, and for that matter, considered libraries themselves to be expendable.

An unexpected spokesperson stood up to defend the libraries of this (ridiculously book-and-movie-obsessed) city – one of our best-known writers, Margaret Atwood – who is currently undergoing a huge boost, thanks to her dystopian masterpiece (A Handmaid’s Tale) looking more and more like the evening news, though it was of course intended to be cautionary and allegorical. (And this is the sort of notoriety which I am quite sure she’d trade, for peaceful egalitarian obscurity, if she could).

Since then, she’s popped up a lot more often in the media – and in particular, she recorded a fundraising spot for the first-rate public broadcaster TVO, which in camera-movement, lighting and even her own timing and attitude toward the camera, made Catherine and I double-over laughing every time – because it was so like the Queen’s venerable and pleasant form of gentle entreaty to moral goodness and decency for the year ahead.

This charming photo of her is of course from quite a few years ago – and the crop-marks reveal it as part of the newly acquired trove of newspaper photography about Canada, recently shown at the Ryerson image centre. Still all-free – still super-great. And you’re still missing-out if you don’t catch every show (seriously, the best culture-keeners you’ll encounter in the city!)
– reopening Jan 24 with three very cool new shows. Go once, and you’ll be back for more!

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