Monday, May 14, 2018

Semi-productive weekend

I'm probably being a bit too hard on myself.  I did get a lot done this weekend, but there was one thing I should have tackled for work, which I simply didn't do.  Also, I had thought I would get more work done on my TRB papers.  I just let that slide, but before you know it, it will be late indeed.  I'll have to do better this week.

Anyway, Saturday I went and got some groceries and cleaned up some computer files.  Before I knew it, it was 11:30.  I decided to go to TCAF after all.  Since it still threatened to rain, I decided to take the TTC.  The ride to the Toronto Reference Library was pretty smooth (most of my TTC trips these last couple of weeks have been quite unpleasant).

Still, I didn't manage to get there (somewhat impeded by the crowds) until 12:15.  I was feeling a bit stressed, since I felt I should leave by 1 to get down to see a play at Soulpepper.  The crowds were pretty fierce (the picture doesn't quite do credit to how hard it was to get up and down the stairs), and I was definitely less receptive to pushing through them due to all the queuing at the AGO the night before .

I did a quick pass through the main areas, but didn't really stop to look closely at all the booths.  There were a few bargains that I probably should have picked up, but many of the comics were in the $20 range (or higher), and that wasn't really what I was looking for.  I did pick up a comic about 4 middle school kids with special powers that I thought my daughter would enjoy.  However, it was truly dire.  (I could barely get through it.  She took one look at it and recycled it.)

I was nearly out the door when I stumbled across the NYR Comics booth.  They had just published The New World by Chris Booth, and he was there signing.  While the book was a little more expensive than I wanted to pay, I decided to go ahead and get a signed copy.  On the whole, it was a weird TCAF visit.  Maybe next year I will be in a better frame of mind (or I'll skip it all together).

I had planned on grabbing a slice of pizza on the way out, but the line was out the door, so I just got back on the subway.  I was actually making pretty decent time when I got down to King to wait for the streetcar.  It was a pretty long wait, but it finally showed up a stop away.  Then it sat and sat and sat, and finally the doors opened and all the passengers disembarked.  That would have been bad enough (if it had just gone out of service and they cleared it out), but no the streetcar was just stuck.  It was a completely terrible place for it to get stuck, since there really is no where to divert the streetcar through the loop.  Basically, you have to change at Spadina and go down Queen and then come back to King around Parliament, which would completely skip all the important stops, and more to the point, any streetcars past Spadina couldn't go anywhere.  I was fuming.  There is no certainty about these things.  It is possible it would clear up in 5 minutes or 15 or 30.  Meanwhile the clock was ticking.  Had I been a few blocks closer, I would have just walked, but it was too far.  (To add insult to injury, the rain held off, so I could have biked after all).  In the end, I grabbed a cab and made it with plenty of time to spare but racked up another grudge against the lousy TTC service.

I didn't care much for the play at all - Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, and I'm kind of sorry I didn't leave at the intermission, since it didn't get any better.  I kid of feel like I am in bizarro land, since the few reviews that have come out have been pretty glowing (well, except for the Star, which is more on my wavelength).  I think August Wilson's play is right in the big details -- white record executives only want to use Black entertainers to make money, racism is pervasive and has twisted Black men, who mostly last out against their own (rather than the White Man).  However, in all the details, I thought the play was so false.  No way would the record executives have been that servile towards Ma Rainey (or been so bumbling that they didn't get her to sign the release).  No way would the cop have not locked up a mouthy, loud Black woman and her nephew, who had threatened a white cab driver.  Frankly, no way would the recording engineer have paid for Levee's songs without recording them.  Also, Wilson has left several dropped threads, particularly not having Ma Rainey know that Levee wanted to record his songs (and then threaten her manager about it).  The record executives say a couple of times that her records aren't selling that well any longer in the North, so why wouldn't they take a chance on Levee.  It makes no sense.  Anyway, I basically didn't like anything about the play, particularly the diva-like behaviour by Ma Rainey.  This is somewhat surprising to me, since I did like The Piano Lesson quite a bit (and will see that again if it turns up in Toronto).  Stepping back, this was an extremely disappointing Soulpepper season for me (with only Albee's A Delicate Balance a partial success), and I don't think I'll be subscribing again.

I finally finished reading Melville's The Confidence-Man.  This was actually a rereading, as I read it in grad school (and wrote a paper comparing it to the use of disguise in Spenser's Fairy Queen).  The first part is interesting, as you see the Confidence Man in various guises, trying to find the best way to gain people's confidence and thence their money.  There are certainly some interesting elements, but the second half drags, with some sections unclear who is really supposed to be spoofing who.  The book picks up again towards the end with a visit to a barber, whose "No Trust" sign on the wall leads into the last major con job of the book.  The last chapter is also a bit of a masterpiece with the Confidence Man blowing out the lamp and leading an old man who knows where.  Amusingly to me, this chapter partly turns on the fact that some Biblical quotes are from the Apocrypha* (rather than the Old Testament). 

I took a bit of a nap after that, but then managed to get to the gym in the evening.

Sunday I helped the kids make breakfast for their mother.  I had to go over to the mall to get some supplies for my daughter's school project.  We then weeded the front yard.  There isn't much left than dirt now, but at least the weeds are gone.  I'm debating getting rid of the grass entirely and replacing with more of a native flower coverage.  I really don't know why grass grows so badly here (compared to where I grew up), but I don't think it is worth the effort.

I then fixed the back gate (having to tear up and level out some paving stones as well!), so that was another substantial chore.  I'm glad it is done.  Probably I'll restain the fence over the summer, and possibly the lower porch, but that will have to wait for late May or early June (when we have a long stretch without rain).  It is always something.  So, as I said, a fairly productive weekend, though there were definitely things I wish I had gotten around to, but there always is too much to do.

* This recalls to mind a time when I mentioned the fact that I had a King James version of the Bible with the Apocrypha included and someone said that was impossible, as the King James translators didn't translate the Apocrypha.  I didn't really know how to respond, other than to show this person that it was in the book, and let him take it as he would.

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