Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Eclipse-mania

If I had realized what a big deal it would have been, perhaps I should have shifted the entire trip over by 3 or so days.  That way, we would have been in Greensboro on Monday and seen the eclipse at 95% or so.  It actually got quite dark in Greensboro, though apparently not the total darkness that Asheville got.

At any rate, I did have the eclipse glasses with me at work, and I went down at 1:45 and checked it out.  Then again from 2:05-2:08.  A few people from work came down and we all took a quick peek to see a small chunk taken out of the sun.  Unfortunately, we had a meeting scheduled from 2-4, so I had to miss the best part of the eclipse.  Had it been a total eclipse or even 90% or so, I think I would have bailed on the meeting, but it wasn't so impressive that it was worth losing one's job...

My kids were able to see the eclipse fairly well and thought it was neat.  My wife captured the phenomenon of the crescent shadows through the tree leafs.  That was particularly cool, and I didn't see anything like that at Union Station.


The exciting news is that Buffalo is supposed to get a total eclipse in 2024, and it will be 90-95% in Toronto.  (And the eclipse glasses made to the new standards are supposed to last that long; the older glasses only stayed safe for 3 years.)  I suspect getting to Buffalo will be total madness on the day of and maybe even the day before (with huge lines at the border).  However, it may be the case that staying on this side of the border, say at Fort Erie, we could see the total eclipse, though I can imagine that you'd still need to get down the night before to find a place to park (and the hotels will certainly be jacking up the price).  Closer to the time, I'll decide how much effort I want to put into chasing the eclipse.  I may well decide that what we see in Toronto is going to be impressive enough.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Return to the Humber

What a difference a year makes.  Last year the Humber River was incredibly low, and this summer has been fairly wet.  In fact, it rained last Thursday (while we were out of town).  My daughter decided to bail on the canoe trip this year, so in the end we went without her.  The river was quite high, and we didn't have any problem with scraping along the river bed.  In fact, there were a few times where someone went by on a motorboat and rocked the canoe a bit.  (Even motoring by slowly was a bit of an issue, given the water level.)  Nonetheless, it was a fun, if somewhat exhausting, trip.  This time around we went far enough to see the second bridge (technically this is where the place that rents the canoes insists that people turn around) and we had enough time to go into one of the inlets.  We turned in the canoe 20-25 minutes early.  I was soaking with sweat though, and it was a somewhat uncomfortable ride back downtown.

After the canoeing, we grabbed lunch and stopped in at the AGO briefly, then walked over to Nathan Phillips Square to check out India Day celebrations, then went home.  In the evening we saw Shakespeare in the Ruff do A Midsummer's Night's Dream (definitely worth checking out if you live near Withrow Park).  I'll write more about the rest of the day later, but I thought that if Vancouver wants to advertise about being a city where you can go from the beach to the mountains in one day, then Toronto is a city where you can canoe the Humber, go to an art gallery and an ethnic festival and still have time to do Shakespeare in the Park in the evening.  I know which of the two cities I would prefer to live in...

I did all of the steering and much of the paddling.  I only took a few photos here and there (and sadly I stopped taking a video about 30 seconds before a formation of geese passed overhead).  My son took the majority of the photos.



video

The geese




CN Tower peeking through in the distance

Exploring the inlet

Nearing the "finish line"
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All in all, quite a nice trip with great weather, and I expect we'll go again next summer, assuming it isn't as dry as 2016 was.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Murakami's Octopus

As I mentioned in the previous post, the Takashi Murakami exhibit The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg is very strange, but I'm glad I saw it. It stays on at the MCA through Sept. 24. As far as I can tell, Chicago is the only US location for this career retrospective. Here and here are a couple of reviews that give some sense of what is covered in the show.

There are a couple of rooms with Murakami's work before he started dabbling in anime-inspired work. This one, inspired by Anselm Kiefer's work, was quite interesting.

Murakami, Nuclear Power Picture, 1988

From that point on, the exhibit turned towards the Mr. Dob mouse character that Murakami created, and it never really left the anime realm after that.  Still some of them were quite cool.

Murakami, And Then, And Then, And Then and Then, And Then (Red), 1996

Murakami, 727, 1996

I wasn't that interested in his flower paintings or his Kanye Bear material. My very favorite piece was this one with a lion and its cubs playing on a bridge of skulls. There is such a weird contrast between the playfulness of the animals and the grotesque skulls, but then also there are wide variations in the background treatments. It is actually a large piece but it is hard to get a sense of the scale.

Murakami, Of Chinese Lions, Peonies, Skulls and Fountains, 2011







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However, this was completely dwarfed by the pieces in the next room -- 100 Arhats and Dragon in Clouds. Both were wall sized and it was pretty much impossible to really take them in due to the scale.

Murakami, Dragon in Clouds--Indigo Blue, 2010



The last room was a new installation:
The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg.  I did my best to take a selfie in front of a small piece of the exhibit, but there was just too much going on.


It was a very odd show, but I'm glad I stopped in to check it out.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Back to Toronto

I am back from a week-long trip to the States, where I retrieved the family in Chicago.  I spent 3 and a half very packed days in Chicago, then we travelled to Greensboro, NC to visit my family.  What a contrast!  We pretty much hung out and enjoyed the country lifestyle for 2 and a half days, then flew home yesterday.

I'll just give a brief outline of the activities I got up to in Chicago, but will go into more detail in a couple of follow-up posts.  I was perhaps halfway done with Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury on Friday and decided it would be best to bring it along and finish it up on the trip, rather than leaving it for a whole week.  Between waiting for my flight at Billy Bishop, the flight to Chicago and then the ride downtown on the Orange Line, I was down to the last 25 pages, so I finished it in the hotel and then went to bed.

I read The Radiance of the King by Camara Laye on my various CTA trips on Saturday.  It's a curious book, essentially Kafka's The Castle transplanted to Africa (and indeed Laye did seem to be aware of Kafka).  It even has two dancer/acrobats who take the place of the two bumbling assistants!  In general, my experience on the CTA this trip was very poor (almost always having to wait over 10 minutes for the subway) and it added to my general impression that Chicago (aside from its art scene) is in a slow, terminal decline.  On the other hand, I ended up with a lot of time reading on the train...

I went first to the MCA and checked out the Takashi Murakami exhibit The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg.

 

It is basically like wandering around inside a Gorillaz video.  It was cool though.  It runs through the end of September.  I took a lot of photos, and I'll post more tonight or tomorrow.  Because I am an AGO member, I always get in for free.

There was an installation going into the major exhibits of the past 50 years, since this is the MCA's 50th anniversary.  I still remember when it was sort of a scrappy, small gallery a few blocks south of its current location.  I'll try to write a bit more about my thoughts on the MCA shortly.  I did like the Amanda Williams exhibit, which was very much centered around gold.

Amanda Williams, Tuxes Next to the Precedent, I'm Present, 2011-12

Then I went over to LUMA (the Loyola Art Museum).  All summer and early fall, the museum is free, so that was nice.  There is an exhibit on Joan of Arc and a very interesting (but quite depressing) exhibit of photos by Jeffrey Wolin of a housing project known as Pigeon Hill in Indiana.  In this case, the subjects' stories are written onto the photos, much like outsider artist Howard Finster (the guy that did the Talking Heads Little Creatures LP cover)


After that, I walked south.  I stumbled across the new American Writers' Museum, but didn't feel like paying the cover.  I then picked up a ticket for School for Lies at Artistic House (for Sunday) and dropped in at the Chicago Cultural Center, though there was basically nothing on display.  Had I know how the rest of the weekend would unfold, I probably should have just continued on to MOCP at Columbia.

In any event, I went down to my mother-in-law's for a reunion and barbecue.  It took quite a while for people to turn up, and I actually left a bit early.  As it happened there was music at Millennium Park (though it wasn't as interesting as the following week when they were going to be doing Beethoven's Symphony 9 -- drat), but Benny Golson was playing at the Jazz Showcase.  Since the hotel was fairly close, I walked over and managed to get a seat towards the back.  It was a fun show, though Benny's embouchure seems to be slipping.  He actually sounded better on the one up-tempo piece they played (Coltrane's Mr. P.C.), but generally he wanted to tell stories about his own standards.  I'd say he talked at least 60% of the set and they only played 3 classic Golson tunes: "Horizon Ahead," "Whisper Not" and "I Remember Clifford."  It was still worth seeing one of the last living jazz masters (especially as Sonny Rollins seems to have completely retired).

Sunday I went and saw The School of Lies, which is a reworking of Moliere's The Misanthrope.  I thought I had seen this before, but I must have seen a different play previously, as the plot sort of starts out similarly but goes in a completely different direction.  In any case, it was a lot of fun, and it makes me more likely to go see his adaptation of Corneille's The Liar in early 2018, even though I have not been terribly impressed by the Village Players.

I came back to the hotel (where the family was resting) and we went and got dinner (pizza -- naturally).  Sunday was a bit of a low-key day.  I did a bit of writing, but can't recall too much else I got up to.

Monday, I had to get up quite early to meet a former colleague for coffee before work (8 am!).  I had enough time to stop in at another office where I had worked while in Chicago, then met the kids on the steps of the Art Institute.  We spent a bit over 2 hours inside, then came south to the hotel where we had lunch.  We then set off for the Adler Planetarium.  It was a relatively short visit, though it was neat that they were giving away eclipse glasses.  We won't be able to see too much in Toronto (maybe 50%), but perhaps the kids will give it a go.  When I was 9 or so, Michigan had a complete eclipse, and I saw it through one of those cardboard box viewers.  I just wish the Adler wasn't quite so far from everything.  We got back to the hotel at 4:30.  If we had even another 15 minutes, I would have tried to make it to MOCP, but it just would have been cutting it too close. 

Tuesday we set off for Midway.  I finished another book on the trip (Akiyuki Nosaka's The Pornographers, mostly known because it inspired Imamura's film of the same name).  We didn't have too much trouble getting to Greensboro, though the ride to my father's house seemed to take forever.  In general, it takes a very long time to get anywhere from their house, and we did cut a few trips just to avoid going too many places by car (as my daughter generally gets car sick easily).  We did go into Greensboro proper once and saw the Woolworth's that was the setting of one of the first sit-ins, though we didn't actually go in.

Basically, we kind of lazed around in the heat and just chatted about life.  I was reunited with a bunch of packages I had shipped to the States (some things simply cannot be bought in Canada or not without absurd shipping charges).  However, none of our laptops had CD drives, so I ended up waiting until today to actually listen to any of the music.  I guess a few more days of deferred gratification didn't really matter.

I almost forgot that my dad had an entire box of my old things from storage.  This wasn't exactly welcome news.  The box was largely filled with old notebooks from my undergrad years, but also things like the program from my high school graduation and some other missing theatre programs from 1987-89!  I managed to get it all down to about two inches of paper, but this was one more thing that I had to bring back to Toronto.

We were able to pack everything into the carry-on bags, but mine was very heavy due to several books I picked up (even after shedding a couple of books along the way).  Interestingly, Delta warned me that there was a major rain storm about to hit NYC (we were transferring through LaGuardia).  The on-line alternative options were ridiculous, so I stayed on hold for close to 45 minutes but finally talked to an agent who very helpfully switched our connection to Detroit.  We actually ended up getting in an hour earlier than our original flight (and who knows if we would have made it at all that evening, as several flights were being delayed and cancelled).  Best of all, when we got into Detroit, we only had to walk a few gates down to our connecting flight (as opposed to Tuesday when we were on opposite sides of the airport).

Getting through Pearson was a drag as always, but the UP Express was smooth and then the cab ride home was short.  I did a bit of unpacking and then later in the evening I got back to the quilt.  I am down to the last 2+ rows to stitch together (and all the pieces cut out!) and then the whole thing needs to be stitched length-wise plus a border added.  I should be done by mid September or even earlier. 


Overall, we are more or less back to normal, and in fact, I now have to run off to get groceries.  I am certainly glad I have a couple of days off before I have to go back to work.  Thus, it was wise to cut things a bit short, even though the kids wanted another day or two in North Carolina.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Household maintenance & chores

Last summer while the rest of the family was away in Chicago, I managed to get quite a bit done on the deck, though I remember by the time I actually stained it, I had the kids help a bit (so they had come back by then).  This summer, I probably should have tried to strip the bottom deck and stained it again, but there have been so few weeks with 4 or 5 days in a row that were dry and hot enough.  And to be honest I felt pretty lazy.  I think it will have to wait for next summer.

I gave myself slightly fewer discrete tasks this time around.  I wanted to put up a porch light, partly for those times I do want to be out back after dark, but also to get one with a motion detector to see if I can deter the raccoons at all.  I also tentatively agreed to put up a shelf in my daughter's room, partly because she is short-changed on storage space.  Though I didn't feel as obligated on this task.

Anyway, I managed to get the materials from Home Depot on Monday, but it was raining, so I couldn't work outdoors, and then it quickly got too late to put up the shelf.  (Since all the houses are so close together, even working on one's home tends to disturb the neighbours.)  So Tuesday, I tackled the porch light.  It ended up becoming an epic job.  First, one of the screws was rusted in place.  Even WD40 didn't do any good.  In the end, I actually tore off the cover plate (I guess the frustration gave me Hulk-like powers) and then finally was able to get enough leverage with the needle-nose pliers to get the screw out.  This took about 45 minutes altogether!

The culprit

Then it turned out that the new screws that they included with the light were just too long and wouldn't support the faceplate.  Since I had torn the cover plate off, I really had no choice but to finish the job, so I ran off to Home Depot and crossed my fingers that the new screws I bought would do the trick.  They seemed to work.  It was getting dark by this point, so I really rushed through the wiring and did that in about five minutes.  Then I struggled to mount the light, though I finally got it up.  What an ordeal!  It does look fairly nice though, and the motion detector appears to work.


That was definitely enough for one evening, and I crashed after that.  The following night I was at Factory Theatre for Summer Works, and I didn't get home in time to do any more construction.

Today I left work a bit late and then had to run to the library.  That didn't leave me a lot of time to put up the shelf.  However, I was fairly efficient in my drilling.  I'd say the whole thing went up in about 30 minutes.  The level is there to show that indeed the shelf is level, though the wood is very slightly warped.


That is definitely it for the home improvement this week.  I actually don't have a whole lot left to do, since garbage day was this morning and I've just finished the laundry, though I do need to make sure I get through the dishes and wash the pots tonight.  That's not so bad...

If I have any energy left I will either read another chunk of The Sound and the Fury or work on the quilt.  It is coming together nicely, and in fact, tonight I cut out the very last pieces (aside from the border), so it is just a matter of piecing it all together.  I think it will end up looking quite nice.

11th Canadian Challenge - 4th review - Cloud Physics

I only just learned that Karen Enns has published two poetry collections since That Other Beauty.  Ordinary Hours came out in 2014 and Cloud Physics has just been published (2017).  I actually own That Other Beauty but for some reason haven't reviewed it.  I'll try to reread it relatively soon and decide if I do want to review it, and at that point I'll borrow Ordinary Hours from the library and read it as well.


Only a few poems in Cloud Physics have much of anything to do with science, but the majority are about things ending in one way or another (and I suppose when compared to the timescale of the universe, all human endeavors are as transitory as clouds seem to us).  The first grouping are about the world, or indeed the universe, ending.  One or two seem kind of cocky, while some of the others are a bit more thoughtful.  Incidentally, I just missed the CBC special on Don McKellar's Last Night, but it looks like his interview can be viewed here, and I think the movie itself can be seen on CBC, though I am not sure for how much longer.  I'll come back to this first batch later.

Other poems are about the death of a man who worked at the local mall, who Enns saw frequently, and there is an entire 12 poem sequence where Enns is responding to the death of her father.  (It's not the same feel at all, but I was somewhat reminded of the poetic exercises that Bowering captured in My Darling Nellie Grey.)  A few poems are less fraught, such as "Empty Nest," which could be taken as the death of the nuclear family, but is generally viewed as a natural and largely desirable outcome after one has prepared one's offspring for the world.  That doesn't mean that there are flashes of desolation.  Enns (or her narrator) does feel bereft and perhaps a bit adrift without anyone in the house (either a partner is absent or doesn't count): "I need cut and paste collage, / bedlam in the basement, geraniums gone wild. / I need a bottle washed up on the beach / with a message from a clown."

The collection isn't actually quite as melancholy as it sounds but isn't particularly humorous or joyful either.  I'll just focus on a few of the poems that grabbed me.

"The Planets are Moving In" is from the first grouping about the end of the world.  In this case, it appears to be brought about by some change in gravity that is leading to a collision between the planets (though I would have to assume tidal forces would tear the Earth apart first).  As in the movie Last Night, knowledge of impending doom is widespread, and humans are dealing/coping with it in a variety of ways.  "The planets are moving in with their cold, elegant sheens. / ... / A fog hangs over the surface of the earth / as we wait ... / Some of us drive inland. Some of us / take to deep river valleys and prayer. / Some of us seek out the warmth of barns, / the smell of hay and tools, old wood."  While indeed many would turn to religion (and this desperate longing for life beyond this existence is of course the main motivator for religion), I can also imagine many trying to reconnect and commune with nature as a kind of solace.

A similar impulse but on an individual scale comes up in "A Son's Story," where the narrator is driving his dying father around. "I want to hear the meadowlark one more time, he said. / And so my father put his cane against the rotting fence / and sat down heavy on a stone. / A meadowlark landed on another one / and sang. ..."  With the wish granted, they "drove back to the city" with the father more or less ready to die.

In "People of the Suburbs, Sleep" the narrator is awake while the suburbanites sleep.  While not overly proud of her wakefulness, she still sees a gulf between herself and the others: "Wrapped in blankets and duvets, you're surrounded / by a mesh of dream and incredulity ... / ... / Roll over on your other sides. / ... / There's at least an hour before your coffee makers, / programmed for a better life, bleep green, / your dogs bark hopefully."  If the poem were a bit longer, Enns would have to be more clear about the narrator's view of life.  Is it foolish to be hopeful along with the suburban dwellers?  Does she have some burning secret that keeps her up at night?  The reader does not know.

Enns includes a 12-part suite called Twelve Months, which is dedicated to her father Peter Enns who died in 2015.  It seems Peter was a farmer from the Niagara Region, which could explain Enns' metaphoric use of the earth and soil as a shelter or comforting home.  It isn't entirely clear to me whether Enns is reflecting on her father's death in the 12 months following his death (somewhat akin to Bowering's poetic sequences) or if she is putting the poems into his voice for the year preceding his death.  I would lean towards the latter interpretation.  Leaving aside whether there was a specific diagnosis, this awareness of the advancing stages of death generally fits better into the overall scheme of the book, and the narrator does seem to be particularly aware of the natural world, as if each view of a bird or even snow melting off of boots might be the last opportunity for such a sight.  In a way, it is unbearable -- how could one truly live as if every moment would be one's last.  This knowledge has to be pushed aside to allow the average person (like the slumbering suburbanites) to get through the day.

Here are some of the moments that have been captured in these poems.  In "July": "But here the crickets are making such a din, / reminding me of what is blasting through the present, driving us ... / ... / What is lovely with burden."  In "August": "I am built of dust. You will see how this can be. / ... / My eyelids are flaked with goldenrod and ragweed chaff, / and the shimmer off the bales is something I can almost taste. / ... / But you remain. You haven't moved. You're standing in the light / of small things: ricochets of dandelion seeds."  In "November": "You wouldn't believe it if you saw it yourself. / A blast of starlings, hundreds of them, / going hell for leather towards the inarticulate light. / ... / Leaves on the vines have darkened and curled. / The ruts made by the tractor have hardened so we know / where we've been."  And finally death comes for the farmer in "April": "I can hear the birds this day that I am dying, / Voices in the distance carry wild cravings and wind away from me. / There is silence in the walls and along the floorboards. / So this is how it ends."  This last poem in particular reminds me of T.S. Eliot's "The Hollow Men" though Enns's narrator (presumably her father) is not as "pinched" and has a less crabbed vision than Eliot has here or in "Journey of the Magi").

This is definitely a collection that requires a second or third reading, and I've already found more of interest on the second time through.  I hope I've conveyed enough of the preoccupation with death and other endings to allow you to decide if you want to take it on.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

11th Canadian Challenge - 3rd review - Seth's Dominion

This is a curious artifact put out by Drawn and Quarterly.  It is primarily a fancy slipcase for a DVD of the film Seth's Dominion by Luc Chamberland (from the National Film Board).  The movie is sort of a documentary about the Canadian cartoonist Seth, but it also includes animations of some of his work, as well as shots of the model town of Dominion that Seth has constructed over the years.  The DVD also includes as a bonus feature two short animations of Seth's work -- The Death of Kao-Kuk and The Great Machine -- and an hour-long talk Seth gave in Montreal at a Drawn and Quarterly store.  The copy I borrowed from the library had scratches on the DVD, so I could only watch the short features (and bits of the longer features before the DVD went on the fritz).  I'll have to see if I can borrow another copy, though I don't think I'll update this review, which is more about the book aspects of Seth's Dominion.  The front of the slipcase has several pages of photos of Seth, his family and his cartooning buddies.  I was not aware that he worked with Dean Motter on Mr. X (I have nearly a complete set of this comic book series), but I am not clear on what Seth actually did (perhaps the lettering), since the style seems quite different from his normal style, which draws a bit from Peanuts as well as Chris Ware's work.

The second part of the slipcase has about 40 pages of Seth's cartoon work, including a few pages from his books It's a Good Life if You Don't Weaken, George Sprott, Wimbledon Green and The Great Northern Brotherhood of Canadian Cartoonists. It's effectively a sampler of his work.

Like many modern cartoonists who are producing graphic novels, Seth's work has strong autobiographical components, although Seth also seems to be someone who isn't much interested in modern culture much past 1955, so sometimes he seems to be projecting himself back into an imagined past.  I have to be honest that his style is a bit too simple to really keep my attention, but based on the sampler, I'll probably read The Great Northern Brotherhood of Canadian Cartoonists* and possibly Wimbledon Green.  One interesting feature of Wimbledon Green is that Seth can make up comics and then have his collector (W. Green) go on about them without really having to create more than a short excerpt.  Stanislaw Lem went ahead and reviewed dozens of imaginary books (in A Perfect Vacuum and One Human Minute), and of course Borges played similar games.  I'm not sure what else Seth gets up to in this portrait of a committed comic book collector, but it's probably worth reading once.

As promised, I'll add a few of my own shots of Seth's town of Dominion (currently on display at the AGO):
 







It's definitely a strange and interesting world.   I'm still not sure if this city makes its way into any of his major works, though most likely Palookaville, so I'll probably check out one or two of those volumes (fortunately the library has a fairly complete set of Seth's works). This book/DVD combo is a fairly good introduction to Seth and his work, so it is worth checking out if you are at all curious about him.

* Kao-Kuk is an Inuit astronaut, apparently introduced in The Great Northern Brotherhood of Canadian Cartoonists.  It is fairly amusing seeing most of the space crew as First Nations in the short film.  I'd have to read the rest of the book to see what Seth does with this concept.  I'm not sure if cartoonists fly sufficiently under the radar to avoid the appropriation debate, but Seth may be attempting to sidestep the issue by claiming that the Kao-Kuk story was actually written by Bartley Munn, a mythical Canadian cartoonist.  Here is a solid review that unpacks what is real and what is imaginary in this collection. 

Monday, August 7, 2017

Resurrection buffet

I pushed it just a bit and went to an Indian buffet yesterday.  I should have held off another day at least. The food was excellent.  I did go back for seconds, though I didn't fill the entire plate and I basically skipped dessert (only one gulab jamun!).  But it was too much for my stomach, still dealing with the red meat from Friday.  I was kind of knocked out the rest of the afternoon and skipped dinner altogether.  I'd still go back, but probably not for another few weeks.

Anyway, I was seated next to two middle aged women who started off by talking about how Trump supporters viewed him as a kind of god, who would do for them what they couldn't do for themselves, but this was all a lie of course.  While I didn't really want to think about Trump over lunch, I was completely astonished where the conversation went next.  They started talking about the gnostic beliefs including how hell was just basically another purgatory (i.e. not truly eternal damnation) where one's sins were burned away.  They weren't sure about the gnostics, but they were both convinced that the soul was indeed immortal and that one returned to earth many times to take on an earthly body (in between times when one cavorted in the extra-dimensional ether) and chip away at the ego.  It was a bit strange to say the least, since they had just finished talking about Trump supporters as such dupes.

Coincidentally, I recently wrote a piece (the last that will be going up in my staged reading) about two members of a Scientology-like cult (the Sisterhood of Cosmic Understanding, Last Testament) and what happens when they try to find converts at the Last Chance Saloon.  (This was partly based on my temptation many, many years ago to try to corrupt a very cute Jehovah's Witness who came to the door (alone!) in Ann Arbor.  I decided that it wasn't really worth it, no matter how cute she was.)  Also, outside Union Station, there are Seventh Day Adventists or something, and I cross paths with them most days and wonder what might happen if their beliefs were truly challenged.  Hence this piece.

While my piece is probably already long enough, perhaps I should give the Sisters just a bit more time to explain their theology, perhaps inspired by what I heard over lunch yesterday.  That might balance the piece a bit more.  After I make the tweaks, I'll post a link.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Long Weekend (& July updates)

Due to my unfortunate lunch experience yesterday, I kind of crashed when I got home.  My stomach is a little better, but I don't think I should try anything too complex for the next few days.  It's most unfortunate, since I had wanted to head off to an Indian place for the buffet, but that is definitely out.  Maybe next week.

I then woke up after a few hours and finished my playlet for the 3Fest.  I was about to send it off when I realized they wanted it in a different format, which stretched the length from 4 to 6 pages!  (The limit was 4 pages.)  So I cut and cut, even some material I thought should have stayed in.  I guess it is good experience, given that I need to tighten some other scripts, but boy, it was annoying.  I sent it off to beat the deadline and went to bed, then woke up a bit late this morning.  I'm still sort of sluggish, but I think I'll head off to the Toronto Reference Library (it just stopped raining, so I can probably bike it) and probably catch Baby Driver after that.  I was thinking of seeing the Valerian movie, but the leads just seem so wooden that maybe I would be better off watching it on video whenever it does come out.

I don't have anything that I absolutely have to do, but I would like to get to the grocery store before it closes and probably get to the gym (I have been very bad about that this week), though if I bike downtown there is slightly less urgency to getting to the gym.  I recently found out that the cardio is paying off and my heart rate is in pretty good shape.  (I didn't check blood pressure, but it's probably normal.)  I'm still having trouble climbing lots of stairs and jogging is a problem, so maybe I will try to work that into the gym routine, but one thing at a time.

Before the family all took off for Chicago I was able to finish up the pajamas.  Even after I took in the waist more, they are still a bit baggy.


I should have cut out even more and shortened the elastic, but I didn't know.  Also, the length is just ridiculous, with probably six inches hemmed up inside each leg.  I guess maybe I'll be able to adjust and they'll fit my son in a couple of years.  It's probably not all that terrible for a first attempt, but I don't think I'll really get into the clothing line.  It's just too much work overall.

The quilt, on the other hand, is coming along fairly well.  I've actually cut out nearly all the pieces I need for the entire thing, and I have 11 rows pieced together, and then 6 of those stitched together lengthwise.  There's a reasonable chance I'll have all the rows (17 total) pieced by the end of August, and then the whole quilt top plus border by Sept.  So I'm definitely on track.  More pictures later when there is more progress.

I did get back to the AGO and took a few photos of the contemporary art exhibit on the 4th floor.  I was glad to see that the room was fairly packed, granted it was the free day at the AGO.

Camal Pirbhai and Camille Turner, Bell, 2017


The first photo was inspired by advertisements in Canadian newspapers looking for runaway slaves, in this case for a "Mulatto wench" named Bell.  The next exhibit was quite popular.  The first part was a ballroom gown/basketball jersey, which speaks to Esmaa's desire not to be forced into a particular gender category.  In the background, you can see the concrete basketballs of her installation Heavy Heavy (Hoop Dreams), which comments on the fact that so many Black youth spend their time chasing unrealistic dreams of making it in the NBA, when the odds are so heavily stacked against them.

Esmaa Mohamoud, One of the Boys, 2017

Seth, Dominion

The last part of the exhibit was a huge model city built by the cartoonist Seth.  I actually just missed out on seeing this in Regina, so it was cool to see it in Toronto.  He built this set to inspire him to work on a graphic novel, but the set sort of took on a life of its own.  I'm not even sure he finished the other project.  I'll be reviewing a book/DVD about the Dominion project shortly, and I'll include more photos in that post.

As promised, I did take a picture of the Rita Letendre paintings not in the catalogue.  Unfortunately, this picture is still quite off-centre, so I'll try again on the next visit.

Rita Letendre, Hurl into Space, 1998

There was another large painting (November Night Rain) outside the exhibit proper.  I'm not 100% sure it was there on my last trip.  Unfortunately, while I took three pictures, absolutely none of them turned out!  So again, next time.

I tried to take a few close-ups of Victoire, my favourite of the bunch, to show the way the paint does not lie flat on the canvas.

Rita Letendre, Victoire, 1968

Those are the main updates.  I'm still reading a fair number of classics this summer (Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Voyage in the Dark, The Sound and the Fury, The Vatican Cellars, The Good Soldier, A Month in the Country) and never getting quite enough other writing* done, though I expect I'll be more productive Monday when nearly everything is closed.  At any rate, I should run now.

Coda: I did make it to the library and managed to get done 3 of 4 things I wanted to accomplish, but one of the books was not on the shelf.  Supposedly a copy is coming to me off the hold shelf, but I don't know how long that will take.  I didn't plan on it, but I picked up a few books at the used book store, including Ali Smith's Public Library and Other Stories (how appropriate!) and Engel's Lunatic Villas, which has been added to my to-read list.  I got to the movie theatre and ended up one person away from the cashier, when I realized that I wasn't happy that they had added a few extra dollars for a "prime" movie experience.  It's weird how that was the tipping point, and I decided I would just be better off at home either reading, writing or going to the gym.  So I split, and now I am home again.


* Big news.  It looks like I have landed a date in mid September for the staged reading, but until a contract is signed I don't want to get too excited or actually put out the date, but hopefully early next week all the details will be worked out.

Bad lunch

I was totally at my wit's end for lunch.  I just did not want the stuff in the food court, and I'd already had Thai a couple of times this week.  I really wish that 1) the Chinese place closest to me was better and 2) the Chinese place in Metro Hall didn't keep getting busted for health code violations.  That place was probably the best food court Chinese I've ever had.  Ultimately, I decided that I wanted something like mac and cheese, but the place I thought would have it didn't, and I was pretty far from work at that point.

I kept on and came to a Rabba's that I used to frequent before I changed jobs.  The falafel looked pretty good and they had vegetable samosas.  All I can really say is I wish I had looked over some reviews.  The falafel was truly foul, quite dry.  Then I realized after a couple of bites that the vegetable samosa had ground beef in it, so I had to throw it away.  (This same switcheroo happened to me at Robarts Library, and it still pisses me off.)  Not only did it taste disgusting, but I can't digest red meat any longer, and I will spend most of the evening not far from the toilet.  I stuck it out for another hour or so at work, but ended up leaving early.

What an unpleasant start to the long weekend.  All I can say is never again to Rabba's.  And I should really think more seriously about bringing my lunch to work, since I am so generally unhappy about the options near me.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Baker's Aliens and other fleeting visits

It snuck up on me, but Coal Mine has finally announced their season.  To be honest, it doesn't hold much attraction for me, aside from the lead-off play -- Annie Baker's The Aliens.  I'll likely end up going to the preview night in Sept., though I need some flexibility in terms of scheduling my own night of theatre.  In terms of the rest of their season, it's starting to look like Soulpepper East with a concert show where they recreate Fleetwood Mac's Rumours.  Not exactly cutting edge...

I'm a bit torn about Hart House's new season.  I don't really care for Miller's The Crucible, but I probably should take my son.  I'm not all that interested in Hedwig and the Angry Inch either, but it might be interesting to see what Hart House does with it.  I can pass on the rest, particularly Titus Andronicus, which I've never rated very highly (just too bloody and kind of shapeless).

George Brown has just announced its season.  I'm sure I'll see the shows in rep (Brecht's Fear and Misery of the Third Reich and Vanburgh's The Provoked Wife).  I haven't seen either of them.*  I would say it is an odd pairing.  In the past season, they paired a comedy (A Flea in Her Ear) with a dramatic piece (The Penelopiad), but there are moments of humour in Atwood's piece.  My understanding is that the Brecht is pretty grim.  I'm likely to go see the updated version of Candide by Mark Ravenhill, particularly because getting 3 tickets means it's a subscription, and then you can switch tickets if necessary.  That reminds me that while there isn't a lot going on in Chicago on my upcoming trip, I'll probably go see Ives's The School for Lies, which is an update of Moliere's Misanthrope.  I don't know that I've ever seen the original Candide.  I'm fairly sure that I saw The Misanthrope in Chicago a few years ago.

Somewhat unfortunate for me, the late fall looks very good for theatre in Chicago with the most interesting plays being Gina Gionfriddo's Becky Shaw, Ayad Akhtar's The Invisible Hand and Wallace Shawn's Evening at the Talk House all playing.  While it is unlikely I would travel just to see these plays, if I have to be in Chicago for some other reason...  Actually, I poked around, and The Invisible Hand is playing in Hamilton next March, so I'll try to go (and perhaps even round up a few actors/friends to see if they want to go down on the bus).

I still have a long running list of plays I want to see, and I am sad to say that there still are no productions of American Hero or Yankee Tavern on the horizon anywhere near me.  I'll just have to keep my eyes peeled.

* Actually I saw half of Erin Shields's The Millennial Malcontent, which was based off of The Provoked Wife, but I hated what the author had done and left at intermission.  I expect that I'll enjoy the original more.