My Rite to Read

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Sunday, December 20, 2015

One Fine Bond!

One day in the mail came Ruskin Bond's letter, and boy was I unable to control my excitement!
Goes without saying I feel fuzzy each time I see this letter. Smell of paper and all intact... and some feel-good fuel to turn back to.

His latest book Stories Short and Sweet (Red Turtle 2013) would make for some great reading for all ages

Art breaks the biological ceiling, preps you for life again

20 November 2015

I have always been a patron (matron?) of the arts, and a special scout of my city's local theatre scene.
Nothing better than a city's arts and culture diaries to reflect the moods and passions of its citizenry, to feel at one with the community, the moment. Now to be air-locked in a little black box for ninety odd minutes without intermission can seem to be trying without an aisle seat, but theatre is no aeroplane, it's only promise to offer limbs to the imagination.

Recently, I watched Menopause, the musical at The Gladstone theatre on that eponymous quaint lane off Preston, the spine of Ottawa's Little Italy. My ticket came with an invitation to a Happy Hour at the theatre's Mood Swing Lounge that served themed drinks like Estro-Gin & Tonic, Memory Loss- Meno Shots, Mood Swing Martinis and Menosposlitians. I arrived 30 minutes early to a crowd of fifty-nine shades of women in communitas, and realized I might have a lot more in common with those greying ladies than I thought: like "independence" (going alone) or forgetfulness (forgetting to draw cash from the ATM for example).

"We only take cash, not debit!" exclaimed the waitress on seeing my card.

We were quickly interceded by a neighbourly lady who swooped in on our predicament, already stuffing notes into the waitress' hands, "Here let me get this for you," she said, "I remember those days!" with a chuckle, firmly suggesting she had worked her way up to this position of (menopausal?) generosity. I could only accept graciously. 

When everyone was seated, the male producer (also of presumably menopausal age) and emcee asked the audience, "When was the last time you had a hot flash?"

A lot of loud cackling challenged the room's acoustics. 

"Which of you would be brave enough, kind enough, to come up on stage to tell us your favourite hot flash story?" he asked. 


"There's a prize!" he promised, pulling out what resembled a mouse, but was not. "See this nifty device called a MENOPOD? You just have to mouse-over your face and body and feel cool instantly!"

A woman in the first row mounted the stage and grabbed his mike, "I was in a meeting of the board of directors, and suddenly my hot flash crept up. My hair was soaked and I was boiling. I had to bolt out of the room, and the other members looked at me like I was crazy walking out on them without so much as an excuse me. It was so hot, I just had to get out. That's all."

Applause followed, and to her amusement she was handed the Menopod. The emcee thanked her and announced that more menopause merchandise was available for sale after the show. 

The musical kicked off to a cheering audience. 

A corporate woman, a soapstar, an Earth Mother and an Iowa housewife unite over their bewilderment with "the change" in their lives as they battle for the last piece of black-laced lingerie in a shopping mall. Witch catchy songs like "my personal summer is a bummer," and others to reference their flashes, flaring moods, amnesia, sleeplessness, anxiety, depression, pill-dependence, and their life-transforming, life-affirming, halt at menopause, the foursome bond over song and dance at their regular girlie-meets. 

End of the show was an interactive clap-dance with the actors and the only time cameras were allowed
By turns funny, awkward and moving, the play pleasantly weaves together the anecdotes of their changed womanhood, fading self-confidence in their relevance to society, the workplace and loved ones. They emerge stronger, battling their beasts together in this chummy, down-to-earth musical. The play struck a chord with the community, drawing both familiar and estranged laughs from a grateful audience. 

As if in a chain reaction, I booked another show at the Centrepointe Theatre for the next week's show of Next to Normal, a Tony and Pulitzer prize winning drama about mental illness. Trenchant and stark, the play dispenses myths about mental illness through the lens of a middle class suburban family, especially its loving and turbulent couple, reminding us that the mind is the most fragile place, and protecting it (nourishing it) is a life's work. Proceeds from this tragicomic performance went to the Royal Hospital of Ottawa, renowned for its work in the mental health department. This proved to be another successful outing that had acted as temporary deterrent to a freshly acquired vampire cold. 

The subsequent Friday, to distract myself from the fate of a job interview, I treated myself to Adventures of a Black Girl in search of God at the National Arts Centre. The title was inspired by what director Djanet Sears calls "a disappointing George Bernard Shaw play" about an Irishman who saves a black girl in search of god. Sears' musical is rooted in West African art as she deploys a 14-piece a capella ancestor chorus to recast God (as female). Rainey Baldwin Johnson, a single independent black woman is still haunted by her daughter's death in infancy and shaped by her dead ancestors (chorus) of Negro Creek, African soldiers and veterans of the 1812 war in Upper Canada. Her omnipresent ancestors are a reminder that the past is always an inheritance and blessing. Fueled by the gender and racial inequalities of the Civil War era, the story is a dazzling and soulful ode to Rainney's perseverance for justice as she come to terms with her love and genesis.

To round off my November, in the wake of all the bombings and crises continents away, I watched The December Man inspired by the real tragedy of the 1989 Montreal Massacre, about a serial shooter who broke into a school's classroom and separating the men and women, in his attempt to "fight feminism" killed 14 men and shot 28 people before committing suicide. The play is a haunted recollection of a lone survivor's tortured memories and his family's attempts to fight his guilt and trauma from the tragedy in retrospect.  

There were talk-tables at the end of the play to help members who did not want to leave immediately to talk through their uneasiness or even revisit key moments from the play in discussion with fellow members. It was an interesting opportunity to discover levels of interest and engagement among audience members in terms of how they perceived history or art in the current moment, not in a manner of judgment but simply as an observed consequence of the warring lives within so many of us every single day. 

All four pre-winter musicals reaffirmed my faith in the theatre as a celebration of life and a collective imagination again. I am ever thankful for Ottawa's vibrant theatre scene for these soul and community binding experiences. Each play was timely and enriching, especially as I knew soon I would not have the time or appetite for such grand and grandmotherly exploits as I was fast becoming embroiled in the theatre of Life. 

If you're wondering what's a good winter production to get to, please don't miss FREEZING! I won't be watching it, but I hope others interested in some strong local theatre will. 

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Advocacy on proposed policy amendments impacting foreign graduates in Canada

On Friday, 20 November 2015, I sent off a letter by e-mail and regular (postal) mail to  Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship John McCallum, regarding proposed amendments to their Express Entry Immigration Program outlining some key concerns as an international graduate of a Canadian institution. I detailed my migrant trajectory, work experience and settlement patterns to offer closer context to some recommendations.

The letter first congratulated the Prime Minister on his new portfolio and visionary cabinet. It also lauded the government's expediency with citizen feedback most recently reflected in the announcement of the return of the long form mandatory questionnaire in time for the 2016 national census, and went on to outline the reasons for my approaching the cabinet with proposed amendments to their Express Entry immigration program.  

Prime Minister Trudeau's campaign had already made broad announcements to ease hurdles and eliminate barriers to citizenship through the various streams (federal and provincial) for foreign students and graduates among other cohorts. Once implemented, these policies would strengthen Canada's position as an exporter of education and continue to attract talented immigrants to fill labour shortages to support an ongoing and historic symbiosis as birth rates plummet and baby boomers retire in large numbers in the host nation. The letter referenced Canada's unique success with multiculturalism--foreign students and graduates constituting a significant portion of this mix every year. Among the most challenging periods for foreign graduates from Canadian institutes are the gaps between program completion, graduation notification and the actual arrival of their open work permits. These challenges were outlined and recommendations offered. 

Three key recommendations were made to: 

  1. Repeal the Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) test, especially for professions where skills are transferable for foreign graduates of Canadian institutions
  2. Inform employers that international students who have applied for their post graduation work permit (PGWP) deserve to be employed like domestic students
  3. Remove the Express Entry criteria for international students OR award points for years spent studying in Canada (for eg. 300 for 1 year, 600 for 2 years, etc.) with additional points for co-ops and volunteer work completed in Canada at the Express Entry assessment

As an Express Entry candidate on the verge of the desired points for immigration to Canada, my recommendations came couched with the hope of being invited for permanent residency before my 30th birthday, three days after Christmas this year.  The letter concluded on a high note, with the hope to soon witness the impact of amendments to immigration that would enable smoother settlement experiences for skilled international graduates who have sacrificed their time, money, and simple pleasures to join the Canadian labour force and give back collectively to their new homeland.

To read the entire letter, feel free to get in touch at 


Citizenship and Immigration Canada (2014, February 12). Retrieved November 7, 2015, from

Economic Impact of International Education in Canada - An Update. (2013, December 31). Retrieved November 20, 2015, from

Mckenna, B. (2015, November 7). As the baby boomers retire, the threat of intergenerational inequality looms. Retrieved November 7, 2015, from

Smith, B. (2015, October 28). Canada: New PM pledges to ease citizenship path, stakeholders optimistic. Retrieved November 7, 2015, from

Thursday, November 19, 2015

OTTAWA IS ON FIRE! Rebranding Canada’s favourite city in 2017

Extolled for being great communicators, former winner of the IABC (International Association of Business Communicators) Award, Mayor Jim Watson along with veteran businessman Guy Laflamme, an MBA professor at the University of Ottawa for over 25 years, engaged a full audience at the Lowertown Brewery in Ottawa’s Byward Market on Tuesday night, the 27th of October, by their fireside chat on “Ottawa 2017”.

What is Ottawa 2017?

APEX CELEBRATIONS: Ottawa 2017 is gaining high currency nationwide!

In 2017, Canada turns 150 years as a nation, and the city’s mayor was in full form as he introduced the idea of a joyeux anniversaire as the country unites in the opinion that Ottawa should lead the country’s sesquicentennial celebrations. Guy Laflamme, Executive Director for this project, has scripted a 300-page blueprint/business plan of 2017 that details the year-long festivities and logistics planned for this city. Every day of the year will be celebrated as Canada Day.  The yearlong event is pegged to be not just a “flash in the pan”, but a mega celebration with sustainable long-term benefits for the city, province and neighbouring provinces.  Moreover, it’s not just Canada but the province of Ontario that’s also turning 150 years old and they are hoping to align Ontario's celebrations with the city of Montreal’s 375th anniversary in 2017.  


Guy Laflamme’s team conducted a series of consultations and sought over 600 recommendations from a number of stakeholders from which around 60% of the ideas were implemented. Research revealed that Ottawa should lead the celebrations as the country’s capital. They conducted numerous focus groups and considered the results of national surveys. 

Findings and proposed festivities

In 2017, it is estimated that over 11 million visitors will be coming to Ottawa,  the epicenter of all celebrations. It will be a unique program and rebranding exercise for the city, that plans to engage all of Canada with most events being offered FREE of charge. Guy explained some specifics of his blueprint, and how the project aimed to bring Ottawa to the forefront of all celebrations in his multimedia presentation that included fancy building projections, the new glass structure at the National Arts Centre, big interactive GIS powered experiences, a salute to the video games industry, sound and light shows, National Museum exhibits, and so much more! The plan is to distribute the celebrations equally across all regions of the city. Ottawa the Old will become Ottawa the Bold, spoke Guy, the mutltimedia magician.

The idea would be to partner with existing local events (like Bluesfest, Jazz Fest), festivals and local businesses to magnify the offering for 2017. Their efforts have received close to 6 million dollars in municipal funding and is slated to bring in almost $230 million in GDP impact and provincial economic benefits. While New Canadians and the Canadian Youth (in accordance with the Canadian Tourism Commission 2017 Strategy) are the key target markets for this festival others include:  National Capital Region (NCR) Residents, Leisure tourists, Travel trade associations in Canada and the US.  All activities would be aimed at social cohesion and acculturation of diverse new cohorts of new Canadians by involving embassies and sub-communities as much as possible.   
How do organizations and small businesses get involved?

Watch out for in the middle of May 2016 to find out exactly how. In the meantime, if you’d like to brainstorm, feel free to contact Guy or Jim. They extend an invite to align all your marketing efforts across all your platforms in ingenious ways to encourage a 150 years alliance. The board is also ready to sit down with your unique organizations and chat about other ways you could become "Sesquicentennial Ambassadors".

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Where is, what about, Ottawa?

Sorry for the long sabbatical!

I was sidetracked by the World Book Reviews blog. But largely, I was adjusting to Arctic/Atlantic climates, because, you know, minus 44 degrees Centigrade is teeshirt weather.

Since My RitetoRead is the more city-portrait-calendar-of-events-in-town kind of blog, I return with posts about present cities and future ones too.

Most non-Canadians assume I must be living in Toronto when I tell them where I am in Canada. Even when I slowly enunciate "Ott-awa", the city still doesn't ring many bells. In Canada of course, everyone knows Ottawa. The house of big government.  Parliament Street. The Parliament. The Government. And until not too long ago, Stephen Harper. 

But, one rad mayor and his 2017 Team are about to change all of that. Watch out for some major rebranding ops underway for Ottawa in 2017 as the nation turns 150 years and its "old" sleepy capital gets a facelift and image makeover with the numerous activities planned for that year. I was glad when Ottawa's IABC event came along and explained all that was in store for this city in 2017. Read my next post to find out what's in store for Ottawa 2017. 

Photo credit:

Tuesday, December 2, 2014


[This post first appeared on the MRIA website today, here:]

Big data is how retail behemoth Amazon disrupted book publishing. Did publishers need to become the contact point for retail and aggregate data in order to keep their margins too?  Authors and publishers were discombobulated by the rise of digital, shattering old hierarchies and book distribution channels, reaching different demographics, epitomized by the game changing and controversial novel Fifty Shades of Grey accessible on discrete e-readers. The p-book apocalypse became the top business concern for first world publishers. Short stories and novellas made a digital comeback: fewer pages did not mean lesser business! Portability was a blessing for gadget-fed millennials and other urban commuters.

Disruptive innovation happened in the nineties for some and noughties for others. For many, it is happening right now. Nielsen BookScan, BookNet Canada, the Book Industry Study Group and Bowker Marketing Research among others, compile book sales figures that make it possible to track real time sales data and consumer profiles. Authors are held accountable to marketing research and sales benchmarks that are dubious. Part of the threat is the self-publishing revolution—where one in five books purchased in Britain in 2013, and a quarter of the books that got ISBNs in the US in 2012, were self-published!   

Will the future of books be unravelled by data intelligence techniques alone? Or will the success of e-books ride on the cheapest prices to break inroads with the mass market? The monopsony that is Amazon scares publishers who have turned multimedia, attracting mergers and acquisitions as bailouts for consumer starved, segregated marketplaces. Big data will extract customer insights and link publishers to retail outlets. It will identify and solve research problems (eg: closet readerships) and address the book industry’s demands locally, nationally, and internationally.


Frank, Adam. (2012). “Big data and its problems.” National Public Radio.  Retrieved September 26, 2014, from

Fromen, Allan. (2014). “Why Big Data Will Never Replace Market Research.” Green Book Blog. Retrieved 

Krugman, Paul (2014). “Amazon’s Monopsony Is Not O.K.” Retrieved October 19, 2014, from
Wunker, Stephen. (2011)“Long Tail Business Models: Amazon on offense and defense.” Retrieved September 26, 2014, from

Webb, Jenn. (2012).“Publisher: a new role in data herding.” Retrieved September 26, 2014, from

Saturday, May 25, 2013

World Book Reviews: my journey in books

Here's plugging to you, my world book reviews blog. Follow my journey in books by clicking below!