Tuesday, June 30, 2015

8th Canadian Challenge - 19th review - Blue Sonoma

As mentioned in this post, Jane Munro's Blue Sonoma has won the Griffin Poetry prize.  In some ways it now becomes more daunting in reviewing something that has such a stamp of critical appreciation on it.  However, that hasn't really stopped me before.  While it's only my opinion, I find Blue Sonoma to be two or even three smaller collections, and it is only the section ("Old Man Vacanas") devoted to her husband and his decline due to Alzheimer's that led to Blue Sonoma taking the prize.  Nothing wrong with that, and the other sections have amusing poems as well, but it is worth noting there are only 11 of these vacanas, so it is only a relatively small portion of the book, and the rest of the collection is in a very different key.

I'll start with the other sections, many of which are clearly inspired by yoga and other "Eastern practices."  I'm not sure whether I would call these representative samples or simply the ones that worked best for me...

In the poem "A small doll nested in hollow dolls," Munro writes "water knows to be water / a spruce grows into a spruce / in a crevice / buckling down, living on less".

The following poem "My mind is my grandchild" features the poet and her grandson on the beach, practicing stillness: "We sit on the beach, / my arms and legs about him. ... We watch light on the waves -- / its quick crowd, / passengers changing trains. / We listen."  The poet recognizes that she still struggles with feelings of anxiety, but still she is hopeful that she can gain inner peace.  While she doesn't presume that her grandson will follow in her path, she still hopes "he will absorb this beach. / I hope it will stay with him."

Towards the end of the collection, the poems seek to embrace the cosmos.  This is particularly true of the poem "In the slow spin of stars, a dancer turns": "In the slow spin of stars, a tree grows. / Its branches curl up and are wrapped / by two vines.  It's a pillar of greenery. // In the slow spin of stars, crystals form. / All the elemental glyphs. / Alphabets."

Whether it is a fair comparison or not, this strikes me as being in tune with Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life.  People who are open to that movie will probably be open to this section of Blue Sonoma, while others may find both the poems and the movie somewhat pretentious and too imbued with mysticism.  I will say that, for me, a little mysticism goes a long way...  Nonetheless, I do appreciate the fact that the humor in some of the poems partly compensates for this borrowing from (and/or leaning on) Indian cultural practices.*

One example of Munro's humor is in the poem "A poet is walking the platform," which appears to be recounting a dream of sorts.  The poet, in the underground station, is "holding / a sign that says 'Germans lessons.' / She's wearing a blue dress. / Later, she's carrying a sign that says / 'Kissing lessons.' // Upstairs, the streets are flooded / and gas leaks bubble through the city's tailings. / Pavement is breaking up / the way sea ice melts..."  (Well, like many dreams it combines the humorous with the terrible.)

I will turn now to "Old Man Vacanas," which really is the heart of the book.  On the Griffin Poetry website, they have some discussion of the origin of a vacana as a kind of prayer-poem from South India.  No question that Munro was hoping that her husband's condition would not worsen, as well as memorializing him in some sense while he was still alive (trying to capture his real essence and not merely the platitudes that one hears after a person dies).  While in this case, the portraits are being drawn by another, I see parallels to the sad decline of William Utermohler, which he captured himself.

William Utermohlen, Blue Skies, 1995

Most of the poems in this series are spare, almost stark.  There are rare flashes of humor, mostly of the black sort, presumably employed as a kind of defense-mechanism.

From the second vacana: "[The old man] asks what day it is. / Hail falls. / ... / His calendar melts, / its pages slipping into soil. / ... / None of this matters to him / any more than greying hair."

From the fourth vacana: "The old man / losing his mind / registers / the weather systems / of intelligence. // Climate change, for all / its extinctions, / won't alter the planet's orbit."  (This might be read as a kind of displacement, moving from intense personal pain to an Olympian perspective on how entire species will be wiped away before too long, so what's one more individual death?)

In the sixth vacana, Munro offers a plea for help, asking others to visit, so that she has some company (particularly company that can remember the thread of a conversation).  She is in desperate straights, feeling as if she is boxed in by "Four windowless walls" and near despair: "Roar up the drive. Spit gravel. Blow your horn. // I am gnawing through myself."  This strikes me as the most painful of the entire bunch.

By the next poem, Munro seems to have reached a kind of acceptance and is simply riding out the string.

By the eighth vacana, Munro almost seems to be experiencing a split-mind phenomenon, appreciating the small things in the present that she finds endearing about her husband, but obviously acutely aware of how much has been lost.  At least this is how I interpret this poem.  The subsequent poems all seem to ride this line.  "My old man / oh, my old man, oh my / old man."  While it doesn't actually rhyme (though there do seem to be some internal rhymes), the last stanza of the eighth vacana reminds me of a nursery rhyme:
He sleeps on his back,
straight as a broom.
He sleeps on his side,
curled like a cat.
He sleeps with the heater going
and a T-shirt on.
My old man likes
to catch some zzzzzzzs.

In the tenth vacana, Munro suggests that her husband's regression is actually taking him closer to his prehistoric ancestors, or at least a pre-verbal era: "The old man / feeding the fire / keeps up primitive."  Or at least this is our view of our genetic ancestors -- that human evolution was somehow tied to the mastery of tools and perhaps even moreso the harnessing of fire.  This article goes into some detail about how there is relatively solid evidence that humans have been using fire to cook food for 800,000 years, and there is more speculative evidence that this goes back as early as 1.5 million years.  Intriguingly, in effect this earlier date for the intentional use of fire would push it much further back than the era when Neanderthals and the ancestors of modern humans diverged, so there might well have been a different reason for that particular split.

This linkage to pre-history is made more direct in the final vacana: "DNA from fossil bones / tells us we're siblings to Neanderthals -- // and the small arrangements / we make? Language, travel, art? Props // in a little, local, theatre of light."  If taken too literally (rather than simply being the reaction of a person in deep anguish), this is in fact anti-humanist.  Munro is saying that the greatest human achievements from the Renaissance onwards are all just window dressing and probably nothing more than diversions to keep us from thinking too deeply about the fact that someday we will die. I certainly can't go that far, particularly when thinking of the many advances that science has made over the past 400 or so years, though I understand where she is coming from, having gone through the loss of my mother.  (Fortunately for the entire family, it was not such a drawn out process.)  However, I do think it is an odd and particularly bleak note on which to end the series.

After some further reflection, it seems that Munro is probably drawing on Macbeth's tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow speech, where an individual's life is dismissed as "signifying nothing."  It is difficult to completely refute that viewpoint, particularly when it is expressed by someone in deep mourning, and yet society as we know it would not function if people were not able to put aside their grief, to say nothing of ignoring the abyss that lays before each and every one of us.  I am surprised that she ended on this one, which strikes me as a poem empty of hope and empty even of celebration of the spirit of her husband.  I would have probably swapped vacana 10 and 11 -- or added another poem that had slightly more closure than this particularly raw poem.  I suppose I do tend to follow convention when it comes to these kind of deep losses.  Now it is worth noting that the collection as a whole does end there.  Quite a few of the yoga-inspired poems (discussed above) follow.

I don't really have anything else profound to say about the collection.  I thought the Old Man Vacanas section was strong though extremely raw in places.  I wasn't as moved by most of the other poems, but I enjoyed a few of them a fair bit.  I'll keep my eyes out to see if she publishes another collection and what she writes about this time, particularly as she has relocated to the mainland after 20+ years on Vancouver Island.

* Cultural appropriation is always a touchy subject.  I'm definitely less doctrinaire about this than I used to be.  In my twenties I was always against Western artists borrowing from other cultures (including Paul Simon's Graceland), as it always seemed a one-way street.  I now think the dynamics are far more complicated than that, and that putting too many barriers in the way of inspiration is a terrible idea.  Nonetheless, there can certainly be situations that rub me the wrong way, such as the other day at the Toronto Jazz Fest at the concert by Ikebe Shakedown, which is a Brooklyn-based Afrobeat band composed entirely of white hipster types.  While I am sure they are quite respectful and sincere in their love of this music, they played a note-for-note cover of Ebo Taylor's Heaven, and I didn't hear them credit him, though I may have just missed that.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Move - one week on

We've actually made pretty good progress.  I guess it helped that the weather was so terrible that we skipped the work picnic, and instead went down to get our addresses changed on the driver's licenses.  Since this is a booth inside of Canadian Tire of all things, we went ahead and bought a replacement wardrobe.  So that will be my Canada Day -- taking apart the old one and building a new one.  If there is still time, and it isn't raining I'll put the outdoor table up as well.  We never actually used that though we owned it for a year!

It kind of looks like the rain may finally be over for the weekend.  That would be nice.  I had the idea of stapling up a tarp on the underside of the deck so that there was some outdoor storage space for the chairs, the movers, the bikes, etc.  During the winter it can come in, but it would be nice to leave it outside the rest of the time.  In general, it seems to be working, but there are a few places where the water pooled and I wasn't able to channel the water out (so far).  So the execution needs a bit more work.  It would have been a lot better to test this on a day with a gentle rain, and not the near deluge we just had.

I've managed to put up 3 posters (and one other one is out of harm's way being framed professionally up the street).  I got all the art books back up on their respective shelves, and things are much less chaotic.  However, I need to get twine to tie down all the empty boxes, as at the moment, it does look like an episode of hoarders down in the basement.  (That was my wife's contribution.  On the other hand, she somewhat grudgingly admitted that if we had moved on the 27th, which was her original preferred date, then we would have been up a creek without a paddle.)

I actually did find La Dolce Vita in a box this morning, though Do the Right Thing is still proving elusive.  I'd definitely like to get the majority of the fiction/drama/poetry up on the shelves tonight, but I may have just a bit too many other obligations.  And then I need to work on the basement.  I guess we'll see how it all goes.

Update (6/29): I spent about 3 hours at the old place and think I have gotten it in pretty good shape.  Everything to be moved is on one floor (the main floor).  It looks like about one last car trip to move over here.  Everything has been swept up, though it probably wouldn't hurt to have a professional team go through the place.  Far too much work for us to do that, however.  My allergies have been acting up like crazy and I don't feel all that well.  I wonder if it is a combination of really high levels of pollen plus inhaling dust while doing the cleaning/sorting at the old place.  I didn't get quite as far as I wanted unpacking books here, but I got through two boxes.  Nonetheless, all the main furniture is finally in place, and we have a pretty good sense of how things will look.  It's very snug, but I think it will work out ok.  I do need to find a place to sell off the CDs and DVDs that I have decided to part with.

Overall, the move is already starting to feel like it paid off, though I think I need my bike back to get back into the commuting groove to see how I feel about the new bike route. (There's quite a steep hill, and unfortunately it is downhill in the morning and uphill in the evening, when it would be far better if that were reversed.)  I guess you can't have everything...

On a more serious note, I probably will be glad down the road that we are at a higher elevation, not that I am really expecting Lake Ontario to rise by several feet.  What is of more interest is whether they actually do build a subway or GO Rail station right around Gerrard Square.  While this might come to pass, it won't be soon enough to actually improve my work commute, as I will probably have retired by the time any such station opens.

Update 2 (6/30): After a somewhat frustrating evening (boo to Staples.ca and their incompetent employees with a special shout-out to my incredibly selfish, former neighbour), I have officially emptied out the old house, leaving only one broom.  My wife will do one last pass tomorrow to ensure I didn't miss anything and bring the broom back.  We'll drop off the keys in the evening.  Hard to believe we are finally done...

Saturday, June 27, 2015

The Move - Day 6

Work hasn't really let up (not that I expected it to) and I have found that I don't have much energy to unpack in the evenings.  In fact, I came pretty close to collapsing from exhaustion on Thurs., and ultimately I slept in (just a bit) and worked from home.  However, I really was working, not lazing around.  I've been in almost non-stop phone calls over the past two days, all related to technical matters, which means that I couldn't zone out.

I have done a fair bit of straightening out of the old house, and today I think I will rent a bigger car and get the last of the stuff over here (the bikes, the paintings and a few last random boxes).  I'll probably take the opportunity to drive over to Canadian Tire and get a replacement wardrobe (unless my wife decides she can live with one without doors!).

I really ought to see if I can staple up this tarp before it starts raining, but I think that window has passed, and I'll just have to work in the rain (after I return the car).

Anyway, I did take advantage of the fact that the books aren't up on the shelves to arrange the CDs and DVDs that lie behind them on the shelves.  This is probably the most organized they have ever been.  I actually took the time to generate a spreadsheet-based key to locating where certain things were.  This may not actually inspire me to watch the silly things (rather than just hoard them), but it will probably help a bit.  It looks like I have turned up all the key DVDs, aside from Fellini's La Dolce Vita (which I pulled after hearing of the death of Anita Ekberg back in January, but then never got around to watching!) and Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing.

I will need to figure out what to do with the overflow CDs.  I'm planning on putting up one more shelf in the back room, and anything that can't fit on that will have to be sold off (ideally) or go into deep storage in the basement (the more likely outcome).

I do think this evening I can make significant progress in unpacking the art books, but then I will need to spend at least some time Sunday catching up with work-related tasks.  I think my biggest headache right now is that the people who said they would take the shed and the spare file cabinet are starting to flake out on me.  Truly, I never had this much trouble giving things away (or just charging a nominal fee in the case of the shed) when I was in Chicago.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Medium-to-long term events: 2015-16 season and beyond

I've sort of let this slip, though most of the events are slated for the fall or after.  While I could simply list the upcoming seasons of the various companies, as I already intimated I don't really think there is a single company where I feel so in tune with their season's offerings that I will be subscribing, compared to this past season where I subscribed to both Soulpepper and Tarragon.  If I was going to subscribe at all, it would probably be to Remy Bummpo, which is a Chicago-based company!  I actually came close to subscribing to Tafelmusik, but their exchange policy was stupid and unworkable for someone like me who sometimes has to travel for work on short notice.  I will say the Amici Chamber Ensemble season looks good, though I am torn between seeing three shows where it might be worth subscribing or just two where it wouldn't.  Given the shows are all Sunday matinees, I shouldn't be forced to have to skip one due to work.  I think for now, I'll just list the two shows I am most likely to make.

Anyway, this is very much a work in progress, and I expect to add -- and occasionally subtract -- concerts and shows, as I get more information.  It's more to keep this straight in my own head, though anyone else is welcome to join me on one of these outings.

June - Sept The Comedy of Errors Bard on the Beach (Vancouver)  Apparently, this steampunk flavoured production has already opened, but it should still be running when I make a work trip out to Vancouver in September.  I should be able to adjust the dates of my trip to make sure I see it.  Now the bigger question is whether I really want to see it again, as I will have just seen it in High Park in July or August.  I'm not sure of that, but I am leaning towards going again, since the concept seems intriguing.  Still, I will scan the reviews a bit closer to the time I have to decide.  Bard on the Beach is also doing Love's Labour's Lost, which I will see at Stratford this summer, but that one I will probably skip.

July-early August The Creation of the World by Arthur Miller 9th Hour Theatre (Ottawa)  Now this is interesting, and might merit a trip to Ottawa, though I have to say the summer is already looking kind of booked up.

July-August A Perfect Ganesh by Terrence McNally Eclipse (Chicago) I had actually kind of forgotten about this play running in the late summer, but I may make an effort to go see it.  Of course, now if I add that and Lookingglass's Moby Dick, I probably can't make all the shows during my very short stay in Chicago.  This is a show that had a relatively long run in Manhattan while I was just starting to explore the city and Greenwich Village in particular.  I sometimes regret skipping the show at that time, though it's a relatively minor regret, as these things go.

Sept. Yours Forever Marie-Lou by Michel Tremblay Soulpepper (Toronto) I already have my tickets for this, though I may try to switch dates as it overlaps with Nuit Blanche.  No idea what Soulpepper is thinking about doing in 2016, but I'll probably check out at least a show or two.

Sept. Antigone (adapted by Jean Anouilh) Alumnae Theatre (Toronto) I've been reading a bit of Anouilh recently and I might see about making this production.  (Someone just pitched it at the SFYS and made it sound worth checking out.)

Sept-Oct We the Family by George F. Walker Hart House (Toronto)  Somehow I missed that this was a brand new play by Walker.  I'm definitely going.  It turns out that Walker is going to be giving a talk at UT, though I suspect I won't be able to go -- it would require leaving work at 3:15 or so.

early Oct. Musik Mania concert by Tafelmusik

Oct Love and Information by Caryl Churchill Remy Bummpo (Chicago) (We came close to making this trip, but it just seemed too much money, particularly for a play that is more clever/cerebral than truly earth-shattering.  There are hints that Canadian Stage will tackle it in the 2016-17 season.  Fingers crossed.)

late Oct Beckett Trilogy at Canadian Stage (This replaces something that wasn't nearly as interesting to me.  I'm sure I've seen these 3 all performed in various combinations, but I'll go again anyway.  Tickets are getting scarce though, so I'll probably book tomorrow.)

late Oct-early Nov Wonder of the World by David Lindsay-Abaire East Side Players (Toronto)

Nov Hamlet by Shakespeare Hart House (Toronto) I will probably pass on this, expecting to be Hamletted-out by the fall.  (I'll almost certainly see two productions this summer!)

Nov. Lady Windermere's Fan by Oscar Wilde George Brown (@ Soulpepper's theatre).  I've actually never seen this, and it's probably time I did.

Nov 25 Shostakovich Symphony 10 The Orchestre symphonique de Montréal takes over Roy Thompson Hall from the TSO and puts on perhaps the most rewarding show of the season.  While I really do like Toronto and its art scene, I often wish we could swap symphonies with Montreal...

late Nov-Dec. The Castle by Howard Barker RedOne (Toronto) While RedOne has an extremely ambitious line-up for the fall, this is the first one that I am likely to go to, though perhaps if I get a bit more integrated back into their community through Sing-for-Your-Supper, I might go to a few more of the shows.

Dec. 4 Lowest of the Low - Horseshoe Tavern (Toronto).  I guess this is one of those occasional reunion shows.  I never saw them live in the 90s when they were reasonably big here in Toronto, so I might go.  I work fairly close to the Horseshoe Tavern, which is also a positive factor.

Dec Incident at Vichy Redtwist (Chicago)  I'm sure I won't make it, but I am keeping my eye out for future productions of this and A View from the Bridge, which will complete my goal of seeing all the major Arthur Miller plays live at least once.  But as it turns out Soulpepper will do this.

Dec The Chasse Galerie RedOne (Toronto). Inspired by the legend of a flying canoe paddled by men who had made a deal with the devil, this is supposed to be a bit of an anti-holiday show to close out the year.  Sounds intriguing.

mid Jan. Remount of 3 Men in a Boat Factory Theatre (Toronto).  This is part of WinterFringe.  I might see one or two others, since I work fairly close to Factory Theatre.

Jan. 24 2016 Ludwig concert by Amici (Toronto)

Feb 2016 Mustard by Kat Sandler Tarragon (Toronto) This actually sounds inspired by/lifted from Noah Haidle's  Mr. Marmalade, so I am not entirely sure I will go, but I might if reviews are good.

Feb 2016 Les Belles Soeurs by Tremblay (Peterborough)  I just found out about this show (which is the last major Tremblay play I am really itching to see), and it is more or less in my backyard, and there is not that much going on in February.  So fingers crossed that the weather is cooperative and I can rent a car and drive out or worst case take the bus (there is apparently no commuter rail service from Toronto to Peterborough).  Ideally, I will be able to go to a Sat. matinee (Feb. 7 or 13) and also check out the Art Gallery of Peterborough, which has apparently just returned to its main space after they made extensive repairs/renovations.

Feb 28 2016 Jazz concert by Amici (Toronto)
It turns out there is a conflict with Goodnight Desdemona playing at the same time.  While I suspect that the production in Calgary is going to be more polished, it is just far more likely that I can get to this one (only takes a $20 Megabus return ticket to St. Catherine's).  And while I am just trying to justify a decision I have basically already made, the main feature of this Amici concert is Darius Milhaud's La Création du Monde is a reduced version for piano and string quartet, and I think it would sound better with full orchestra.  As it happens, however, there is an excellent opportunity to hear both versions, if you turn to March 31.

early March Boeing Boeing by Marc Camoletti Hart House (Toronto) A bit of a trifle, but I'd much rather see this at student production rates than the quite pricey tickets for the Vancouver production last year.

mid March-April The Crowd by George F. Walker (Studio 58 at Langara College, Vancouver).  When does George Walker ever rest.  He's had something like 4 new plays produced in the last 2 years.  I've managed to catch 3 of them (and am now kicking myself for not going to see more of the Suburban Motel series when I had the chance).  This is the 4th -- a world premiere at Langara College, just down the street from where we used to live.  I suspect it will make it over to Toronto fairly soon, but I should be doing some work in Vancouver in 2016, and if there is travel involved, I'll see if I can arrange it so I fly out towards the end of March.

March 31, 2016 Esprit Orchestra, Koerner Hall (Toronto) Milhaud La Création du Monde.  I just learned about this, and think I will go to it rather than the Amici version, though both will surely be interesting.  I've probably heard Milhaud's piece live before, but it would take a lot of searching to confirm.

March-April 2016 The Life of Galileo by Brecht Remy Bummpo (Chicago) -- I've wanted to see this for a long time, and I'm sure I would find this a solid production, but is it really worth the time/cost of traveling to Chicago?

April 14, 2016 Steve Reich at 80 concert (Soundstreams @ Massey Hall, Toronto)  This is one show I probably ought to book soon, as I do think it will sell out.

April The Beaux Stratagem by George Farquhar George Brown (@ Soulpepper's theatre).  I did consider checking this out at Stratford in 2014, though that year I went to Lear and Lear only.  It will be good to see a second time, particularly at the slightly lower rates of a student production.  Though what I am really hoping to see (and George Brown is probably the most likely to put it on) is Ben Jonson's Bartholomew Fair.  The most recent time this has been fully staged in Toronto is 2009.  I'm also hoping they do some of the Thomas Middleton plays I've not seen produced.

April 2016 August: Osage County by Tracy Letts Alumnae Theatre (Toronto) This is a production I will encourage others to see, but I will be skipping myself, as I saw the original Steppenwolf production and just don't want to get the two blurred, which occasionally happens to me.

April 2016 Gruesome Playground Injuries by Rajiv Joseph Pacific Theatre (Vancouver) This is actually a remount of the production that was playing last summer, and I just could not make it due to packing woes (and the fact that my movers turned up a day late!).  Unlikely that I will make it, but if it works out, then I'll try to go.

April 2016 Disgraced by Ayad Akhtar (Toronto) This is just about the only thing I am likely to see at Mirvish this next season.  I'm just not a fan of the type of show they bring in to town.  What is also somewhat interesting is that the same top tier of relatively new shows are playing in Chicago and Toronto and occasionally Vancouver.  It happened with Vanya, Sonia, Masha and Spike and The Other Place, and now it is happening with Disgraced.  I guess it's a good thing for audiences in each city, but it lends to the impression that the theatre world is a bit insular and always focused on the same authors and hot plays.

May 1-4 {Denver} I hope to be in Denver a few days at a TRB conference.  I'll try to sneak back over to the Clyfford Still Museum and see if there are any plays or concerts going on at that time.

mid May Tales of Two Cities concert by Tafelmusik

May Instructions to any Future Socialist Government Proposing to Abolish Christmas, Coal Mine (Toronto)  I'll have to see exactly what this is about, but it sounds at first glance like something I would like.

May The Summoned by Fabrizio Filippo Tarragon (Toronto) I will probably pass on this one, which is a SF fable about a man who puts his brain into a computer, unless the reviews are truly outstanding.  This strikes me as something one could explore in a 10-15 minute skit and a full length play is just overkill.

May 2016 Good Night Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet) by Ann-Marie MacDonald The Shakespeare Company (Calgary).  I probably won't be able to make this performance, just as I just missed a strong production at Hart House in 2014 and a staged reading or something in New Westminster, but we do have an office in Calgary, so never say never.  I'm sure I will eventually get to see this play.  If it was a summer production, I would probably make 2016 the year that we visit Calgary and Drumheller and perhaps Banff, but I can't fit that much into the one or two days the kids are likely to have off from school next May.

late Spring 2016 Video Cabaret -- they have not totally settled on the show for next season but were leaning towards a remount of The Great War, which seems like it might have just a bit in common with the last season of Blackadder.  The following season, they were hoping to have a blow-out bash of 5 to 7 shows, since 2017 is the sesquicentennial anniversary of Canada's Confederation in 1867.  Expect lots of history shows on tv and so forth.  Anyway, this will be quite an exciting opportunity to catch several of the shows in Hollingsworth's History of the Village of the Small Huts history cycle.

May-June Wasserstein - The Heidi Chronicles Soulpepper (Toronto)

May-June Arthur Miller Incident at Vichy Soulpepper (Toronto) -- finally!

July-August Lori-Parks Father Comes Home From the Wars Soulpepper (Toronto)

Update (8/7) It now looks as though the turmoil at TransLink is terminal, and I won't be going to Vancouver in September after all.  Too bad, though I enjoyed the production of Comedy of Errors in High Park quite a bit (almost but not quite enough to go a second time).

I did make it to the Arthur Miller play in Ottawa.  It was interesting, though not as good as Thornton Wilder's The Skin of Our Teeth, which is sort of the same thing -- a revisiting of Genesis with a particular focus on Cain and Abel.  It also was not as professional a production as I expected.  I don't regret going up to Ottawa, but it didn't quite match my expectations.

All of the Halcyon shows this season look at least a bit interesting, though I doubt I will be in Chicago to catch any of them.  If I could only make one, it would probably be Dreams of the Penny Gods by Callie Kimball, which will be showing next March-April.  (Well, that does line up with the Galileo play.  Hmmm.)

Update (11/8) They have confirmed that Video Cabaret will be doing The Great War, but more exciting is that Soulpepper is doing Arthur Miller's Incident at Vichy.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Move -- Day plus 1.5

We're heading into Day 2, but not quite there yet.  We survived and that is the important thing.  The crankiness levels are beginning to subside.

The movers actually showed up on time, and it never rained.  It's hard to ask for more than that.  It started to get hot towards the end of the move, and I really felt for them, as they had another move scheduled.  We managed to get the move done in only 15 minutes over what they had originally quoted us, which is fantastic.  Normally, these moves go long, as people are frantically scrambling to pack up things and forgetting this or that.  Actually, I did run out of boxes for the art books, though my wife brought a few back mid-move.  We did end up scrambling a bit, mostly so that I could try to have them get as many of the basement boxes as possible.  On the other hand, I had already moved the kids' beds over.

And we now have the luxury of another week to clean up and move smaller things that weren't worth boxing up.*  For instance, I went over tonight and picked up the computer and a bag of clothes and some kitchen stuff.  I had planned to pick up posters and paintings (not that I know where any of them are going to go, but they still have to be moved), but it started to rain.  Now I will have to aim for Thursday or Friday.

In addition to my wife straining herself, I was putting the bed together in the new place, and the headboard fell down right on my leg.  It felt almost as if it had been broken, though it was just badly bruised.  I actually hardly feel it only a day later, but I was pretty steamed at the time, as my leg really hurt, but I couldn't take a real break, if I wanted to assist the movers by taking boxes downstairs for instance, so that they could basically dump almost everything in the living room.

The biggest problem is that things are just a bit too small.  We couldn't get the overstuffed chair upstairs, which is a huge problem, since I think it looks ridiculous in the dining area.  I agreed not to do anything radical like give it away until we have all the books on shelves and the boxes out of the way, but I think we'll have to donate either that chair or the love seat.  There is another chair that was too big to go upstairs, but that one may squeeze through after I take the bottom part off.  (Another task that I didn't really want to take on.)  On the other hand, I am extremely relieved that the bookcase did fit in the basement, as that will make it much easier to clear out a bunch of boxes (and I don't need to try to construct 2 or 3 smaller bookcases).

We thought that we came through the move with nothing broken, but actually the door on the wardrobe fell off, narrowly missing my wife's foot.  I can't really blame the movers, as this had always been a bit of a dodgy piece of work, held together with a lot of glue.  I tried to fix it just a while ago, but honestly, I think we'll have to toss this out and build a new one.

The biggest issue was that the desk just wouldn't go where I wanted.  It was about an inch too long.  I was starting to measure and to break out a handsaw, when I decided to be more like the bending willow and to see if there was another way (that didn't involve tearing up the molding).  I decided that I could reorient the desk, so that it faces the sliding glass door.  It's starting to grow on me and actually I will almost certainly like the view more, at least when the sun isn't staring right into my eyes.  I suspect if I ever have the luxury of working on my own writing on the weekend, it might be quite nice indeed.

So that solves the last major problem (aside from the chairs), and I just have a bunch of books to unpack over the next week or so (or sooner if my wife has her way).  And figuring out where paintings and posters might go.

Now unfortunately, the contractors that I contacted took a long time to get back to me, and the quote was a bit higher than I was expecting.  So I am going to break the job in two, as well as do a bit more myself.  So we won't have absolutely everything done all at once (and obviously not before we move in), but I guess as we do expect to be here for quite some time it is reasonable to do this work in smaller pieces over time.

On the plus side, the cable/internet folks turned up and were able to get the internet working within a day, so we didn't go all that long without it.  A few snags aside, this has been one of the better moves we have gone through.  But I'm still glad that it is essentially over, and I may well not be moving for another 15 or more years.  Now that is really something to celebrate!

* We're somewhat relieved that the landlord has found somebody to rent, though they aren't starting their lease until mid-July.  I suppose if we absolutely must take a day or two in July to finish cleaning we can, though that should not be necessary nor is it at all desirable.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Moving Day - Day 0

Moving day is here (at least for the furniture)!

Almost all the other stuff is moved, but then you say that and realize you still have boxes and boxes of random crap left behind. I have a confirmation from the movers, but it is from a week or so ago. I've written down their number, so that after the computer goes down (in about 15 minutes) I can call if they are late.

I still have about 3 hours to pack up the last of the art books, and to empty out or to clean off the top off anything that is going. I also need to unplug all the modems and TV boxes and such. So we'll be going dark for the day. (Now that I think about it, I probably should see if I can book the car one more time in the late evening to grab things that are too loose for the movers to move, but after a bit more reflection I decided we would be spending almost all night unpacking, so I booked it for Monday evening.)

I feel quite badly as my wife overdid it yesterday and has pulled a muscle. I am certainly weary from the move, but haven't hurt myself (so far anyway). I think in general it will be ok, though we were originally supposed to have thunderstorms in the afternoon. If it is late afternoon, we should be done, so there is a bit of beat the clock going on. Though I just checked the weather again, and it suggests the danger has passed. I guess I'll find out soon enough.

Anyway, it may be a day or two before I really feel like posting about how moving day actually went. Wish us well!


The movers showed up 10 minutes early and were quite pleasant to work with (important on such a stressful day).  I think we had done a pretty good job of getting everything ready, though I was still boxing up stuff in the basement while they were getting the furniture out.  Everything (just) fit in the 20 foot truck, though that would not have been the case had I not moved all the boxes of books out over the previous couple of weeks.  I'm sure it also helped that I had moved the kids' beds over on Friday evening.

Stratford vs. Shaw

Very recently I drove down to Niagara-on-the-Lake to see this season's production of Top Girls.  While the production was very good (with maybe one misstep in that the girl Angie just seems like a typical "prole" or "pleb" and not especially developmentally challenged) and I had a very good (2nd row) seat, I found myself really not enjoying the whole Shaw Festival experience.  I was really unhappy that there wasn't a transit option and no generic festival bus.  (Obviously I wasn't going to charter a bus for the weekend.)  It ended up costing me quite a bit to have to rent a ZipCar for the day, and traffic was pretty bad, though generally better coming back until I got to the outskirts of Toronto.

I really don't like Niagara-on-the-Lake -- a gross tourist trap with almost nothing but ice cream shops and bakeries.  Because of the extra traffic and missing an exit, I had very little time to eat before the play and I didn't see anywhere I could just grab a pre-made sandwich or anything fast and relatively cheap.  Only a few blocks out of the core, they don't even have sidewalks, and I can't abide that.  This is the first time that I've ever walked down to the main Festival Stage building, and I couldn't believe that they had this huge intersection as an unmarked 4-way stop.  In five minutes I saw two near-collisions.  Talk about horrible planning, sacrificing safety in the name of charm or maintaining on old-time feel.

In general, I don't like the plays the Shaw Festival selects relative to Stratford, particularly this season.  I will have to go back for the Kushner, and I suppose there may be something in the future I feel I have to see, but on the whole, I am going to be avoiding the Shaw.  It just isn't remotely what I want in a summer theatre festival.  In particular, I shouldn't come back feeling stressed about the driving to and fro.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Emily Carr in Toronto

While it hasn't had the rapturous praise of the Emily Carr show in London, there are certainly good reasons to go see the Carr show at the AGO (which runs through early August, so there are roughly six weeks left to go see this).  The main reason is that it is an opportunity to see Carr paintings that are not from collections in Vancouver or Victoria.  While those institutions (the Vancouver Art Gallery and the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria) have the deepest collections, it gets to the point where if there is a Carr painting reproduced in a catalog, it inevitably is from out west.  It is nice to mix it up a bit.

That said, I was a little disappointed that my favourite Carr painting from the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria ("Blue Sky") didn't actually make it into the exhibit.  Here it is below.

Emily Carr, Blue Sky, 1936

The catalog of the exhibit is nice, and again, one of the first books to include paintings from collections in Ontario and Quebec.  I did manage to take the kids, and in general, they seemed to enjoy it.  It did help that there weren't huge crowds, as there were for much of the Basquiat show's run.

One of the odder things about the catalog is that, apparently, the painting of totem poles owned by Hart House (at U of T) was included in the London leg of the exhibit but not the AGO.  I went back twice to try to find it, and it just was not there.  I cannot remember now whether I ever saw the Carr painting at Hart House while I was going to UT.  I suspect they kept it somewhat out of the way, which is just as well, as a few paintings from Hart House were recently stolen.

The painting not on view at Hart House is one of her better totem pole paintings, but I must admit that generally I don't find these all that interesting.

Emily Carr, Kitwancool Totems, 1928

At any rate, as I was searching for this painting, I found out that the reason it was not available is that there is a touring exhibit of paintings from the Hart House collection (details here).  Apparently back in Feb. and March, there was an expanded show at Hart House that I missed completely.  I suspect it wasn't that well advertised in the papers, as I generally do keep on top of the listings.  At the moment, the paintings are in Kelowna, BC through mid July, and then September through November they are in Kingston at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre.  I will try to remember to make a trip out that way (perhaps another train trip) to see the show.  Perhaps I'd show the family the Queen's University campus, which I remember was pretty nice.  Not sure it would be an overnight stay or just a day trip.  That would depend a lot on the train schedule and what else was going on in and around Kingston that weekend.

The Move (t-minus 3 days and counting)

On the one hand, we have made very significant progress.  On the other, moving day is stressful no matter what.  I am torn between trying to box up a few more things and have the movers deal with them versus just taking them over in the week after the move.  And no matter how I think it will go, the day of the move, I'll be scurrying around, throwing stuff in boxes just to get it out of the way.  For instance, the desk hasn't been completely emptied out.  On the other hand, the downstairs file cabinets and bookcase have been.  I'll need to take part of tonight and tomorrow to box up the books upstairs.

Anyway, I think I can consider the basement a success.  It is down to maybe 12 or so relatively light boxes when it was well over 50 at one point, probably closer to 70 boxes.

Upstairs is looking pretty good, though I'll have to toss my clothes in a few bags just so the wardrobe is empty.  I do hope the movers can actually get them up and down the stairs without too many pieces breaking off (only a bit of a joke).  I guess we can ask that those be wrapped in the clingwrap stuff.  Anyway, it turns out that the downstairs basement stairs are so narrow that one of the wardrobes simply won't fit, and they'll have to try to bring it in through the back room in the basement.  It might be the same thing with the Christmas tree container, though I think that makes more sense, as it will be left in that general area anyway.  Fortunately, that is all that I think they are moving downstairs (aside from the bookcase that may or may not fit).  Most of the heaviest furniture stays on the main floor.

Tonight I am supposed to take the kids' beds apart and run them over in the ZipVan, and if there is still time after that, I can grab a few more boxes from the basement and perhaps the art work.  I haven't decided if that is a good idea or not.  I'd prefer to move them myself, but after the furniture is in place.  However, I don't really feel like renting the van again.  Once is enough.  I'm still not sure how well it is going to go trying to get it back in the alley and backed up in our parking space.  And whether there will be parking at the new place (though generally that hasn't been a problem).

Well, it will be over soon, one way or another.  I do wish this wasn't all happening at a time when work is hotter than ever.  I find I am torn in far too many directions right now.

Monday, June 15, 2015

The Move (t-minus 7 days and counting)

It's getting down to the wire.

I was very busy this weekend, and am still sore now, though I did take a break here and there.  I have to say, I wonder if I won't feel quite so creaky in a month after I can get some rest, or if this is a new, permanent condition.  In which case, it really is good this is the last move in a long time.  I just will not be able to do so much of the work the next time around.

Anyway, I stayed over at the new place Saturday night, and I'll probably do that one night this week (though obviously a bit harder to do on a school/work night).  I unpacked essentially all the CDs and started on the DVDs.  I may not actually get the books up in time, but the key is to get them out of the way, but also leave a space to get the desk into the back room where it is supposed to go.  I am going to gamble that it will fit into that slot next to the 4th bookcase (rather than cutting a wedge out of the molding beforehand).

I also put a narrower bookshelf together for my son's room.  Now we just have to get rid of the older one.  One thing that added several days to this process was moving this enormous desk to my son's room, which is why the bigger bookcase doesn't fit.

On Saturday, after making a couple more trips with the ZipCar, I dropped my son's bike off at the shop.  It turns out that Canadian Tire didn't really construct it all that well, and the mechanic had to make quite a number of adjustments and tightenings, but now it seems like a decent bike.  It's almost adult size, but he's growing into it and getting pretty good.  My daughter is really struggling to deal with life after training wheels, but I suspect she'll get there eventually.

Since it was a nice day, and I thought I deserved a break, I biked off to 4 of the photography exhibits mentioned in this post that were still open.  Of all of them, I liked Scott Conarroe's Canada By Rail and By Sea the best.  I also dropped into work for about 30 minutes, which was good, since I didn't have time to go on Sunday, as I expected.

I had a friend come by Sunday and help out with some of the key electrical upgrades.  In one case, the outlet was done in 10 minutes, but then he had to essentially reshape the electric box and file it down to get the new outlet to sit back in there.  That added an hour to the chore, and I felt really badly about it.  Fortunately, getting a light into the second bedroom closet, which he had thought might be tricky, was just a 10 minute job.  Quite a number of the outlets in the house are reversed, but I think I'll leave them until my father-in-law comes up and we can spend an afternoon fixing them.

I moved a few more things out of the way, and I even had a chance to drop off a piece of artwork that needed its glass replaced.  I'll probably go to the same place and have them frame a poster or two (if there is any room left for more artwork after we get all the furniture in place -- it may be quite a challenge to get everything we have hung up, but I'll try to figure it out).  I cut it very close, but managed to make two more trips with the ZipCar in 90 minutes, even bringing back a bunch of empty boxes tp pack back up again.

I was so exhausted by this point, but decided that I should wrap up getting the upstairs bedroom painted, including the closet.  That way we can get all the random tape and stuff out of there.  I even painted the bottom half of the downstairs closet.  I'll touch that up one more time and paint the upper half tonight, and then I think I can cross painting off the list.

In terms of packing the downstairs, I have four drawers left in the file cabinets, which I'll pack up now.  I'd guess I can get basically all the random stuff in the basement done in two more trips with one of the bigger ZipCars.  That basically leaves my clothes to throw into bags and the art books to pack (those I will let the movers move).

Supposedly, the handyman company will give me a quote today, and I'll get them started.  I don't expect them to be done this week, but there's a pretty good chance they will be done before the kids are out of school, which would be great.  Kids and construction don't mix well.

On the evening of the 20th, I think I'll take apart the kids' beds (and ideally move the frames to the new house, but that may not happen).  Then in the morning of the 21st, I will basically need to tell the movers what needs to get packed up, take apart the bed in the master bedroom and get the mirror of the dresser.  Then I have to get to the new house and make sure they know where things go.  (I can probably collapse for the day once the beds are back in place.)  That will still give us a week to handle everything else that is left (like the shed which is supposed to be picked up on the 26th), and of course do at least some unpacking at the new place over the next few weeks.  So it could definitely be worse, though I wish it was just over.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Short notice - part 2

I just happened to be going through the latest Now before recycling it and ran across this short blurb that a company was putting on Maria Irene Fornes' Mud paired with a shorter work (by her as well).  This definitely caught my attention.  Five years ago, Halcyon Theatre did a summer series focused on Fornes, and I managed to get to all the productions.  All were pretty interesting, and I thought What of the Night was pretty incredible.  Anyway, I've never seen Mud, though I've wanted to since learning about Fornes.  I did a quick perusal of another review site (only glancing at the Mud review to see if it was positive or not) and I decided that I should go.  As it turns out, the show closes this weekend, and they are only selling 20 advance tickets each night with another 10 held at the door (I guess a bit in the spirit of the Fringe).  Given all the stuff I am doing related to the move, I was sort of glad that they actually had a Sunday evening performance, which is the one I will attend, but I also  like the fact that it is supposed to only last 90 minutes, which makes it a bit easier to be out on a Sunday evening.  More information about getting tickets here.  Get a move on if you are interested.

There is a bit more time to plan one's schedule around the Toronto Jazz Fest, 2015 edition, which is basically the last two weeks of June.  I don't think too many of the events will actually sell out, but one never knows.  I'm leaning towards going to the Chris Potter/Dave Holland show and perhaps Christian McBride's Big Band.  But I think for once the free shows at Nathan Phillip Square look just as interesting as the free shows.  Assuming the weather holds, I am leaning towards going on the 23rd and 24th, in part to celebrate getting through this move.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

The Move (t-minus 14 days and counting)

I was able to move the wire shelving over yesterday and assembled today, but then it got caught on the ceiling as I tried to put it in place.  I actually left it jammed there, and then later came back with a hacksaw and trimmed off 2 or 3 inches and it fit pretty well.  I am quite nervous about this other bookcase.  While I believe it is 2 inches shorter and it is going to a part of the basement where the ceiling is roughly another inch higher, it could easily get jammed on the 21st, and it will be much harder to fix.

I am trying to move this desk/bookcase unit they left in one of the bedrooms, and it is unbelievably heavy.  Maybe this is karma for the things I left behind when we moved from the South Loop and didn't clean everything out.  We kind of left in a rush from England as well, though in that case I actually did get a bill, including for some things that the movers packed and took, even though I clearly said they were to be left.  I have to say that experience in England left me with an impression that I will never shake that anything built or constructed in the UK is of just unbelievably shoddy quality.

Anyway, I even bought a dolly to help move this unit, and it is starting to come apart in unusual ways, so I actually have to break it down into smaller pieces and then reassemble it.  I am not thrilled about this, which is putting it mildly as it has added at least another day to the time I need to get the new place ready.

I was able to anchor the large CD rack, though it isn't quite as stable as I would like.  It should be a bit better when full of CDs, which I should be able to do tomorrow.  And I think I've done a pretty good job of getting the shims in place for the main bookcases.  I don't want to overload them, but next week I'll start getting some stuff up on the shelves and out of the living room.  So it was a relatively productive weekend, though as always I wish I had gotten more done.

We've sort of sketched out what the living room/dining room might look like, and it seems that it might just come together to allow us to move the living room stuff nearer the fireplace.  (That's the way one would normally configure this space, but the dimensions are so odd that the previous owners had things reversed.)  It's a bit less clear about the main bedroom, but we'll probably be able to fit everything in.  After the movers are done with the furniture, we'll still have one more week to grab random things left behind.  In general, things seem to be on track.  Not the best or simplest move, but far from the worst.

Griffin Poetry prize winner - Jane Munro

I learned just the other day that Jane Munro had won the Griffin Prize for Poetry for her collection Blue Sonoma.  This is one of the better paying awards around, so it is quite something to win.  News stories here and here.  Part of me is a little annoyed that I didn't get around to reviewing Blue Sonoma yet -- I have a partially completed review started back in February.  I managed to get around to reviewing her other collections (here and here), and I have always planned to complete this review in June.  But I have been busy and so got scooped in a sense.

I do find it a very curious collection, with roughly half or even two-thirds of the book comprised of poems inspired by meditation or yoga and the rest a elegy of sorts to her husband who had just died of Alzheimer's Disease.  While there is no way of knowing, I will speculate that the prize was probably awarded on the basis of this section ("The Old Man Vacanas") and not the yoga poems, which certainly didn't do all that much for me.

I'll move my personal response to the rise of the yoga-poets of B.C. to this post, and I'll have a more formal review ready in the next week or so (famous last words...).  Anyway, this poem (mine not Munro's) is meant to be good-natured (as least I hope it is viewed that way):

So imagine your mom --
no let's say it is your friend's mother --
who you hear about in a casual way,
and probably see every three or four years
at weddings or graduations,
has taken up yoga.
That's nice you think,
wondering if this is just another sign from the cosmos
you should be spending more time at the Y.
(If only it wasn't so
embarrassing having to change
in front of everybody
in the locker room.)
Then you hear she goes everywhere
with her yoga mat.
Well, that isn't so strange
Almost every third girl has a yoga mat
poking out of a backpack
or clenched under her arm.
And again you wonder when you can get to the Y.
The next time your friend brings up his mom,
it turns out she is flying out to India
to learn about yoga and mediation
for a month.
That's hardcore, you mutter,
half in sympathy, half in envy.
And later that day, you call up the Y
and cancel your membership.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Free concerts in Toronto

I got this reminder in my email earlier in the week that Tafelmusik was having a free concert at Trinity-St. Paul's on Bloor on Friday at 8 pm.  I decided that I could justify staying late at work and then heading over to see if I could get in.  I ended up working a bit later than I expected, but I did get one thing out which was good (the other thing I'll work on tonight).  I grabbed a slice of pizza and then walked over to Spadina to catch a streetcar up (rather than walking over to the subway, which is what I normally do).  I got there right at 7:45, whereas I was hoping to get there at 7:30.  The line was very, very long and I was kind of upset at myself and nearly turned around and got back into the subway.  (I'll try to post a photo, though I seem to have lost the cord that allows me to retrieve photos off my phone.) However, I decided since the line was just starting to move, at worst I would lose 10 minutes of my time if I didn't make it inside.

Well, as it happens, I did make it inside.  Even better, they opened up some reserved seating, and I ended up with a very good seat.

It was quite a nice concert.  The did part of Telemann's Water Music Suite.  (I enjoy Handel's Water Music very much as well, but Telemann's is a relatively obscure pleasure.)  They did Handel later, as well as a short piece by Bach, followed by Bach's Brandenburg Concerto #3.  They did both Bach pieces completely from memory (aside from the harpsichordist), which is incredibly impressive, but apparently, it is something that Tafelmusik does in many of its concerts.  What might have been even more impressive is that one of the strings on a violin broke and the player swapped with a player who was sitting that section out and started right back up.  It was very enjoyable evening, and they did it in about 75 minutes with no intermission.

Obviously, that one is over, but there are 3 more free concerts over the next two weeks, though getting tickets to the final one seems kind of laborious to me.  I think I'll just enjoy what I experienced.  Here is the link with more info.  So this makes twice I've seen Tafelmusik in action, and I am leaning towards getting a few tickets to see them next season.

I know there are a few free shows at NXNE (including the somewhat notorious cancellation of an outdoor concert by the rapper Action Bronson).  Lots of info here.  While I would love to see The New Pornographers at Yonge Dundas Square on June 20th at 9pm, I really need to be getting ready for the move the following day.  Well, if all is completely under control, I will sneak out, but I don't expect that to happen.

I'm more likely to catch a few of the free shows at Nathan Phillips Square like the Flaming Lips on July 19, though I imagine it is going to be a complete madhouse.  Anyway, more information here.

I should add that there are a reasonable number of free shows at Luminato, which runs the second half of June.  The schedule is here.  Now I have to admit, I am kind of turned off by the mainstage events at Luminato.  I think it is simply absurd and even wasteful (almost in a potlatch kind of way) to come up with an event that requires 1000 actors/dancer/singers.  I'm talking about Apocalpysis, which I am avoiding for esthetic and ethical reasons.  I probably would have gone to see Contemporary Colors, which is David Byrne's hybrid event where he takes contemporary musicians to play live in front of a bunch of top-line color guards.  It turns out that color guard (or really winter guard) has a very slim toehold in Montreal and no presence at all in Ontario.  That's too bad.  Every now and then I consider going to see a color guard competition, and there aren't any in Toronto.  What I don't appreciate is that the ticket prices for Contemporary Colors are so absurdly high, and that they did not open up the upper seating area.  That is actually how color guard routines are best viewed to see the whole design of the show. Instead, due to the high prices, most people will be squeezed into seeing the show from the sides, which is absolutely the worst.  It simply isn't at all acceptable to try to watch these routines from the sides.  So I can't tell if no one could tell Byrne that this was not ideal (and quite counter to the spirit of color guard) or if the venues were just so outrageously greedy that they refused to open up cheaper seating with a frontal view.  In any case, this is another event that I am avoiding on esthetic and practical reasons.  Those are the two main headliners for Luminato, so you can kind of see why I am kind of down on it.

Well, anyway, the Toronto Symphony is performing some free concert focused on animal-related compositions (on the 28th), but even here most of the pieces are short excerpts from full symphonic pieces (like one movement from Elgar's Enigma Variations).  I generally hate the Readers' Digest version of classical music, so probably I'll give this a pass as well.  I guess I really am down on Luminato this year (just like I am such a grump about the actual TIFF festival, though not the TIFF Lightbox).

I'm sure there is plenty else to do in Toronto this summer, but these are a few of the best free concerts I'm aware of.

Friday, June 5, 2015

The Move (t-minus 16 days and counting)

The movers are scheduled.  It's starting to feel real...

The painting is done, although I did say I would try to touch up a couple of closets with primer.  I might do that Sunday.  I actually had to clean up a bunch of edges where the tape actually tore the paint off the wall!  And yet, the paint still leaked onto the woodwork in many places.  So I feel the tape ended up being pretty poor quality, and probably not worth the effort I putting into it.  Also, I won't use Behr paint again.  Fortunately, the downstairs office where I will spend far more of my time came out looking pretty good.

I have someone coming by to help a bit with some electrical work, and I hope to have a handyman or contractor (that handles small projects) stop by next week.  I've stapled down an extension cord to make sure I can actually use the office, and now I can start loading up the bookcases and so forth to get the boxes out of the living room (so that we can actually get the furniture into the house).  While this is still a pretty overwhelming task, I can get it done in time, though I may have to spend a couple of nights at the new place, which is why it was so important to get the futon over there early.

The plan for tomorrow is to get the car and move over another bunch of random boxes in the basement, and ideally empty the big metal rack so I can move that over there as well, or at least some key components to see if it will actually fit.  I have a sinking feeling that the rack and the final bookcase will be just slightly too tall for the very cramped basement.  We've kind of already decided that for the first year or more, the basement is just going to be a place to store boxes and sort stuff out and won't be really used for family games or anything like that.  That would have to take place in the living room.  Of course, if a contractor does come over instead that would throw off my plans substantially.

I am so looking forward to July when the worst is over and I can start enjoying Toronto again...

Update: The metal rack will just fit, though I am not entirely sure I have enough space to swing it into place.  The bookcase has another couple of inches of clearance, though it still won't be easy to maneuver.  I have to decide exactly where they are going, since these things won't be moving much at all after they are up.  In fact, I had an idea where they would go, and the bookcase would block a light in one case and access to the electrical panel in another case.  I have another idea that might work, but I have to go and measure things tomorrow.  I'm still a bit nervous if the desk will fit where it is supposed to go, but I think it will make it.  I may have to sand down some molding though.  Unfortunately, the desk is one of the last things that will be delivered, so I have to decide ahead of time what to do.

I probably ought to get a bit more real work done tonight, since tomorrow will mostly be spent at the new house, rearranging boxes and putting a few things up on shelves. 

Monday, June 1, 2015

riverrunning (Finnegan's Wake in 2015)

I think I disclosed already that while I have read Joyce's Ulysses* twice, I have never read Finnegans' Wake.  I'm not really sure I want to, as it is so opaque and non-linear.  I am finding myself quite bored with Vassily Aksyonov's The Burn, as there is no grounded story behind the novel, and Finnegan's Wake is even more extreme.

Nonetheless, there were a number of interesting articles and stories about Finnegan's Wake, which are making me give it second and third thoughts.  First, there was a piece on how the first third of the novel have been translated into Chinese (and slightly streamlined in the process), and it has become a best seller.  How odd.

This led to a more general discussion of how Finnegan's Wake has gone out of copyright in the EU and presumably most of the Commonwealth.  I believe, despite recent efforts to extend copyright in Canada,** at the moment it is in the public domain here as well.  There are a number of particularly interesting artistic re-uses of Finnegan's Wake that are now legal (which is exactly what those of us arguing for a robust public domain framework have always said would happen).  This story contains quite a number of interesting links, including in the comments.  Personally I prefer Patrick Horgan's unabridged and relatively straight-forward reading to this somewhat overly busy reading over at Waywords and Meansigns, but some will be drawn in by the layered effect.  I've never been one to listen to audio books, but I suspect this might be an exception.  I am far more likely to make it through the book with Horgan doing all the hard work and heavy lifting.  Given that much of Finnegan's Wake is built around punning and sound associations, it is far more a book for the ear than the eye.  While it is only a short except, Joyce himself can be heard reading from the book here.

For those that prefer reading for themselves, the book has been converted to epub format by the University of Adelaide.  This is quite handy, as it allows for searching throughout the text.  Wordsworth Classics has come out with an inexpensive paperback version, which I actually saw in BMV a couple of weeks ago, though I don't need another copy of a book I am not that likely to sit down and read in the first place.  On the other end of the spectrum, the Folio Society has put out a really attractive (but quite expensive) illustrated edition of Finnegan's Wake.  I thought briefly about it, but decided that did not make sense for me.  As nice as the illustrations by John Vernon are (and I'll just embed a couple below), there are only 12 in total, and nearly all of them can be seen here.

They seem to draw nearly as much on Alice in Wonderland and the Book of Kells as Finnegan's Wake, but perhaps Joyce's esoteric masterwork can be conceived of as a fusion of the two.  At any rate, all this activity has gotten me thinking about the book far more seriously than I have at any point in the last 25 years.  I'll report back if I make it through the audio book version or actually decide to tackle reading Finnegan's Wake on my own.

* Just a friendly reminder that Bloomsday is coming up (June 16) for anyone looking to get into Ulysses this year.

** With another round of copyright extension built into TPP, which is being rammed down our throats by Obama.  It is stuff like this that really makes me hate the world and all the bought-and-sold politicians in it.

Indeed, there is actually a competing recording by Patrick Healy, who did a complete reading of the novel broken into 132 parts! While trying to trace out what I meant by Patrick Horgan, I did stumble across Frank Delaney's reJoyce project, which tackles Ulysses.  Well, something to delve into but not for this summer.  (And of course, the internet age being born for pedants, it turns out there is someone who actually has reviewed both audio versions and comes squarely down in favor of Horgan over Healy.  I'll probably listen to a bit of each, but I simply cannot listen to both straight through.

‡ While I would find it incredibly distracting to try to do work while listening to Finnegan's Wake, I may be returning to try to finish up a project I put on hold 25+ years ago: weaving/constructing a rag rug.  I certainly have more productive projects I could work on, but this would fit the colour scheme of the new office reasonably well.  The snag is that I, somewhat stupidly, made it out of denim, so it is very durable but also very hard to sew together.  I probably could finish off a completely new rug made out of regular materials, i.e. cotton or flannel, in a fraction of the time.  But would I feel the same feeling of accomplishment?