Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Absence!

Pneumonia. Damn. It's my fifth time in two years but its the asthma that it triggers that makes life so challenging. On top of that, there's the prednisone. Holy crap it is a weird drug in terms of its side effects, but it performs miracles on my alveoli. Woo hoo. More soon….

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Woo Hoo

Not a day goes by that I don't realize how lucky I am to be able to get up every day without anxiety. I cannot believe I don't work, spend what I want, do what I want and have no job. I can't believe I earn royalties still from my book. Life is very, very sweet. And this year, I am winter walking for the first time. It's been fabulous. I have done two seawall walks and one walk to West Van already this year, and look at the upcoming weather….

There's no snow on the mountains and I am of the impression that environmental change is making winters harder in the east and easier in the west.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Lucky Reptiles

No visible conductor, no applause at the end, young people being truly spontaneous… I wept at the beauty of it all. Turn up your volume!

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The choir from Harding University in Arkansas came to visit the Cincinnati Zoo. A few of them wandered into the Reptile House, which is also the oldest zoo building in the country. They noticed the acoustics and texted the rest of the choir to join them. Then this happened.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Weird and Wonderful

I have posted a video of this technique before, but here it is applied to classical visual art.

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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Year of Selfies

My Fabulous Tank



Above is the first shot I can find that I took of my 60-gallon tank. I took it in November last year.


This shot was taken today. The purple lil is growing up to the top and there are three little lilies coming up as shoots now. It is an ever-changing landscape and it fascinates me.

Remembering

I am very proud of us, the friends of Chris Adkins.

When Chris was diagnosed with cancer, we were there for him. We organized a benefit screening of a film and an auction at Vancity Theatre where Chris worked for years and we raised $10,000 for a "comfort fund" for him. It was a resource for him during the ensuing 4.5 years of his life and while he was alive a "salon" group and a "breakfast" group formed to party with Chris. Chris lived close to the Sylvia Hotel so it was easy for him to get there (even with help toward the end) where we could have drinks and snacks together without crowding into Chris' apartment.

The Sunday Salon group were a bunch of friends from Chris's time at the Arts Club Theatre (the 1980s). A lot of us who Salon together worked in the office or backstage and we had drifted apart but Chris brought us back together to have regular salons all during his last years with us. The Breakfast group dates to the same era and the Arts Club, but it is almost exclusively comprised of actors. Lucky for me, I was part of both groups and since Chris's death in December, both groups have met again at the Sylvia (the Salon group, this past Sunday), and we have vowed to keep meeting indefinitely.

What greater testament to a friend is there than the desire of all his friends to stay together forever as "Chris's friends." All through the 80s when I lost so many friends to AIDS (dear Rory, oh my God, and Peter, Chris C.), I felt horrid about the ending of community that went with each one. IN every case, friends rallied to be the support team, but with each death the ties that bound turned to ashes immediately. Perhaps it was because we all had another death to move on to. Perhaps it was to put the deaths "behind" us because they were awful deaths. Who knows?


But with every Salon and Breakfast, Chris stays alive in our hearts. I am so proud of us because I cannot help but feeling  that this is how it should be. You lose one but you gain a bunch.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

SHERLOCK

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This awesome fan film is a musical preview for Season 3 of the absolutely awesome BBC series Sherlock that begins to air next weekend.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Reflections on Golden Globes

There was lots to love watching the Globes this year:
  • When I absolutely hate a work of art, I get a kind of high hating it. I love to riff on why I hate it and although it is not nearly as satisfying as loving an artwork, I find the pleasure of hating something mysteriously pleasant. Consequently, the highlight of my evening was listening to Bono win for best song. U2 has to be the most pretentious band ever formed and Bono is the most pretentious singer ever. It was thrilling to taste the bile in my mouth while he spoke. Oh for the old days when you could ship undesirables to Australia and forget about them.
  • "And now, like a supermodel's vagina, lets give a warm welcome to Leonardo DiCaprio."  
  • I had to leave the room during Jacqueline Bisset's acceptance speech. That was not pleasant like the bile fest of  Bono.
  • When Reese Witherspoon came on, all I could think of was her comment to the cop arresting her: "DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM?!" It only takes six words to lose respect.  
  • Dianne Keaton, looking spectacular as always, revealed how little of her Annie Hall role was acting by being herself. Her speech was heartfelt and unsurprisingly clever; I am a fan. But the poor woman was doomed in this role. Woody Allan is a genius. He is another Hitchcock and  the most prolific and successful screenwriter ever I suspect, but he also caused moral hearts to chill when he married his stepdaughter. His personal life makes the apt honouring of his heroic career difficult.
  • I cheered alone out loud for Jared Leto when he won his award for playing the character of Rayon in Dallas Buyers Club, but when he ended his speech by acknowledging and accepting his award for "all the Rayons in the world" I cried. That was classy.
  • Emma Thompson was hilarious carrying her shoes and a martini. Gorgeous, talented, accompanied by her daughter; I love her. (Bono, you are such an asshole—you should take some notes from Ms Thompson about how to handle fame.)
  • Alfonso Cuaron was hilarious when he told us that his thick accent had Sandra Bullock hear "I am going to give you herpes" instead of what he was trying to say: "I am going to give you (an) earpiece."
  • Kate Blanchett's win and speech were both terribly satisfying. Her performance and Woody Allan's writing made her character in Blue Jasmine.
  • I worship Julia Louis-Dreyfuss and her cameo cut-aways with Amy Pohler and Tina Fey were fabulous. (Take note Bono.)
  • And finally, Leonardo DiCaprio, here is something you should know:
This is phyllo mania.

This is Philomena.


Sunday, January 12, 2014

Detail

Click to enlarge.
The saying goes: "God is in the details" and this is how I see this series called Face to Face by New York Michael Mapes. When I look at the piece above (Dutch Female Specimen: J) I am filled with calm. This is a work I could happily own because there is so incredibly much to see. Heaven!

A psychologist recently interviewed me as part of a compliance study of people living on life-sustaining medications. In the ensuing interview, I was kicked off the study because, they said, I had (non-clinical) obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). I had no idea but it has altered my perception considerably; it is weird when one aspect of your personality is kind of taken away from you and labelled as a disorder or disease.

I believe Face to Face appeals to that part of my personality. I see a festival of order and control. I've been looking at everything very close up by magnifying it in Photoshop. There is order in the universe.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Doyin Richards: Dad


Doyin Richards is a blogger who calls himself Daddy Doin' Work (DDW) describes a typical husband/wife situation: one is late, the other covers all the domestic duties. In this case, DDW said he would cover braiding his oldest daughter's hair (Daddy Doin' Work's first daughter, or DDW1) while rocking his youngest daughter to sleep (DDW2).

Mr. Richards sent proof to his wife with a photo that he then pasted on this DDW Facebook page and these are some of the comments he received:

  • "He probably rented those kids. They don't even look like him."
  • "I would bet anything that you're a deadbeat."
  • "OK buddy, cute picture. Now why don't you hand the children back to their mom so you can go back to selling drugs or your bootleg rap CDs?"
  • "So do you do this for all of your illegitimate kids?"
From reader's he knew to be black he got these comments:
  • "This would be so much better if those kids were BLACK!"
  • "Look at this Uncle Tom. No chance he would be doing this if his kids were black."
  • "I'm sorry, but I can't support a brotha who didn't marry a black woman."
  • "Your MOM is black and you dishonored her by marrying outside of your race? You probably can't handle a strong black woman."
Through it all, Mr. Richards takes the high road:
I love being a dad and I love sharing my love of fatherhood with others. Shit, being a dad is one of the few things in life I'm actually good at. Of course I'm going to be passionate about this gig. My dream is that ALL people will embrace men who embrace fatherhood instead of wondering if they have ulterior motives. Remember, we're the good guys in this fight.
Read about this in Mr. Richards' own words here.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Meanwhile, at Shoe Lane

Maxine Peake as Martha Costello
Whereas I have been disappointed in the writing of Downton, I am giddy about Silk. Right after seeing the first episode, I went online to learn more about the series because I loved the writing and I really loved the lead actor, Maxine Peake.

Imagine my surprise when I found a lot of criticism about the show. I was stunned to find myself so out of synch with the critics and the public, but wait…. The critics are all lawyers doing something I hate: criticizing an art form for not being exactly like reality. Excuse me? Do they not realize that if courtroom dramas were like real life we'd be bored to smithereens? Have they not attended a criminal trial?

Artwork is not meant to replicate reality but like everyone who saw The Queen (with incredible writing by Peter Morgan and inspired acting by Helen Mirren), I revel in good writing and acting that attempts to present a dramatic version of reality. Silk is fabulously written by Peter Moffat whose words fit beautifully in the mouth of barrister Martha Costello (who is portrayed by the wonderful Ms Peake) and Billy, Shoe Lane Chambers' senior clerk (played deliciously by Neil Stuke).

Silk is easily my favourite show on TV. If you like Aaron Sorkin's writing (West Wing, The Social Network), you will love Silk. Sadly, the season is short so I have watched it twice. I await season two and I have read that season three is currently being filmed. Hurray.

Is there anything literary Britain cannot be the best at? I think not. I have been gobsmacked by their scriptwriters: The Singing Detective, I Claudius, Upstairs Downstairs, Sherlock and so many things from Merchant Ivory Productions. And now I can add Silk to this list.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Why Downton is Failing

Allen Leech plays Tom Branson
I’m Julian Fellows and I have this idea of essentially doing Upstairs Downstairs (a class drama with the focus on the Downstairs people) as a super rich costume drama about a manor home (this time, more focused on the Upstairs people).

I pitch it to the BBC and they say, “Great, but make the Countess of Grantham an American to seduce the American audience.” And then I write and write and write, showing drafts to my producers and tweaking to please. Then it airs and we party. Then success delivers the really hard part.

The enormous success of the show created the inevitable: a demand for another season or seasons, and suddenly after having years to write the first season, I have months to craft a second series and then a third and now a fourth.

It is still better and richer than anything else on television but the problems are becoming harder to ignore. The debut episode this past Sunday was a disappointment in several ways:
  •  What was the point of the story line about the Nanny? It was unnecessary and contributed nothing to our understanding of the times or another character.
  • Mary was badly written and directed in her grief. She was written as a cartoon and the worst part was her line to her son” “Poor little orphan.”
  • And poor Barrow… Mr. Fellows has abandoned a character that had become complex and interesting and reverted to making him a caricature of evil.
  •  And poor Lady Crawley… She has been treated like Barrow. She has become the character who cares for those whom others will not care for. She is the Upstairs version of Mrs. Hughes who does the same thing. They are identical characters of differing means.
  • The return of Edna Braithwaite is a forced plot point. I do not believe that this character could or would be re-engaged by the family after being fired—especially for inappropriate behavior with Branson. The return of this character is an unfair challenge to viewers who cannot remember or did not see her first scenes in the show.
  • The forced love quadrangle of Daisy & james etc. is uninteresting and confusing.
  • And finally, Fellows has not had Tom Branson become gay, time travel to Vancouver and meet me. 

Monday, January 6, 2014

More on Walking


Many people have remarked on the curious relationship between walking and thinking. The rhythm of the body seems to free the mind, just as the rhythm of a mother’s walk (it is imagined) puts at rest her babe-in-arms. Solvitur ambulando, declared the ancients: “it is solved by walking”. Wordsworth wrote many of his poems on the move, as did John Clare. Nietzsche claimed to have made all his philosophical discoveries while walking, and Kierkegaard wrote that “I have walked myself into my best thoughts.”
~ Colin Thubron in The Economist 's Intelligent Life Magazine (Link)

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Actors

Jenny Agutter
Jenny Agutter is an English actor. She came to my attention playing Sister Julienne on the BBC series Call the Midwife. And last night I saw her playing a psychopathic human trafficker on another BBC series, Inspector Lynley. She played her role in a way that had me feel empathy for her and she became, in my estimation, a master actor.

People use words and terms and phrases such as “versatile” and “disappear into a role” to describe that which is so hard to describe: true talent. A performer’s talent is measured by this capacity to adapt, to change—to be malleable for their directors, the characters and the tones of the script, the choreography or the score.

Last year I was in a play with W.K. whom I had seen and admired onstage but whom I did not know. It was my first time in a professional performance. And as we took notes from the director after rehearsals, he would often say: “I was thinking... what if I did this (and he would show us) instead of what I've been doing so that the audience…” and he would complete the sentence, always expressing his desire in terms of what was best for the audience, not him. It was like he was in the show and out in the auditorium watching it at the same time. Working with W.K. helped me see into the craft of the artists whom I love above all other professions. And when I see mastery, as I did with Jenny Agutter, I am captivated.

When I travel, it is discoveries I remember most—the things I was not expecting or planning to see. And serendipitous activities with friends are the most memorable. So whereas I am used to mastery—in fact I expect it—when I go to see Meryl Steep, Laura Linney, Judy Dench or Toni Colette, when I see it for the first time in an actor I've never noticed before, like Jenny, the element of surprise enhances my transcendent awe.

And Jenny makes me think of all the other actors out there who are unknown to me who are fellow master actors. They are ambassadors creating more fervent fans like me, unheralded. How I wish they could feel my love.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Perfect Music From Fred

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A favourite music video... The chorus is wobbly but a hugely moving part of the track is the clicking of Fred's oxygen pump. This version of Fix You is part of the documentary Young at Heart, one of the more uplifting movies I have ever seen about a choir of geriatrics. Fred passed away during the making of the film but what a touching legacy he has left us in this unparalleled version of a very moving song by Coldplay.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A Stunning Chart


This chart is an inspirational celebration of beautiful design, interesting statistics and masterful graphic communications.

I Can Hardly Wait

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What the hell is happening to me? All my values are changing and all I seem to want to do is stay at home. I don't want to go out (but I do when friends invite) and I certainly do not want to travel. I used to be a gadfly, now I am becoming a recluse.

Why don't I like TV anymore? Why don't I go to movies (but I  will see the one promoted above)? Then of course, there's the libido; well actually there's not the libido. Maybe it's with my hair somewhere.

I remember when standing up, turning and walking was a single movement. I remember not waking to cramps and having to jump out of bed. That's the worst part, the remembering. Of capacities past and people like Mike and Chris who are gone?

What the hell is happening to me? Oh wait… it's winter, the days are 10 minutes long and all there is is dark and wet. Today is January 1. There are 67 more days until Daylight Saving Time starts!!