Thursday, July 23, 2015


There are so many posts I would like to get to, but I'll settle for a relatively short one.  Unlike the Luminato Festival, where I had reasonably high hopes but then didn't go see anything related to Luminato, I had quite low hopes regarding the Pan Am Games and Panamania in general.

I have come to really detest the spending associated with these events, particularly when it comes to the Olympics, but even more so the contempt for locals that is expressed on the part of the international committee and then the organizers.  Many cities and states go so far as to write laws giving away the store as it were to the games organizers sometimes up to a couple of years before the games.  This is particularly true of the Olympics.

The disruptions on a daily level are certainly lower (for me) for Pan Am than they would have been for the Olympics, though I was unhappy that they blocked off the road and even the bike lane just north of the UT Athletic Field.  I guess they finally sold most of the tickets, but it is not clear who is actually going.  Certainly the number of outside visitors seems lower than predicted.  While this has generally been better for traffic, I really wonder about the economic benefits of Pan Am.  It is hard to imagine they materialized, and the chances of getting a truly impartial accounting seems unlikely.

Nonetheless, I have benefited a bit on the arts side.  I happened to be dropping off some books at the City Hall library and saw a strange spectacle on Nathan Phillips Square.  There was this huge ring on wheels that had 3 seats for musicians and then two seats on the side for the handlers to peddle and put this thing in motion.

It kind of has to be seen in motion to be believed.  I will see if I can actually embed this video and get it to work.

(It works!  Sweet.)

I actually did see one of the official Panamania events.  I saw that there was a new piece on memory by Robert LePage called 887, which is actually the street number of an apartment building where he lived growing up in Quebec City (some details here).  So I got a ticket for Friday.  I did not realize until I turned up that LePage himself would be performing the piece, so this makes twice I've seen him.  The poem basically is set off when LePage finds it difficult to memorize the poem "Speak White" by Michèle Lalonde.  He decides to try the Greek technique of building a memory palace, which in this case turns out to be 887 Murray Ave. where he grew up.  This is a case where LePage mixes the personal (stories of his father driving a cab mixed with some of the other apartment residents) and the political, mostly about the rise of the FLQ in Quebec and how it was relatively muted in Quebec City compared to Montreal.  (I was definitely glad to have some of this background already from having seen Trudeau and the FLQ.)  While it is a relatively minor thread, there are some pieces on LePage's grandmother, who suffered from Alzheimer's.  I do understand where he was coming from with the public memory (how cultural figures in Quebec have relatively minor obits), I found the contemporary story of LePage trying to track down his pre-written obituary to be extremely self-indulgent.  The set and overall spectacle was terrific.  It may actually be the best LePage production I've seen yet, but this event desperately needs trimming (and I would start with all the interactions with Fred and pretty much anything set in the present not directly tied to the "Speak White" poem).  It was 2 hours without an intermission, which is just punishing, no matter how much you like the narrator.  As expected, the piece ends with a very rousing edition of "Speak White," showing that LePage still has a few brain cells left after all.

I decided that I would make an attempt to see a free concert Sunday (this was after the bus ride back from Stratford), so I hung around the office for a bit, ate and then wandered over to City Hall.  The Flaming Lips were performing and Wayne seemed appropriately appreciative of the trippy nature of the setting.  Maybe he will write a song about a spaceship that crashes in the middle of a city.  (I will say that the glowing letters of the Toronto sign do look pretty cool at night, so something good came of Pan Am...)

It was a good concert, 4 or so songs off of Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, "She Don't Use Jelly," the Yeah Yeah Yeah song, plus all the beach balls, confetti and inflatable mushrooms one would ever need.  Wayne even did the thing where he gets in a human-sized hamster ball and goes crowd surfing.  The night was topped off by fireworks launched from the roof of City Hall.  What more can you ask (particularly for free)?  So as I said, I have enjoyed myself more than I expected at the Pan Am Games, though I still don't want to see the Olympics coming here.  That is non-negotiable in my mind. 

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