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Blog: The Red Chronicles

A good catch

By June 14, 2018 Film, Life, Performance

As Summer offers up her breezy welcome, I salute the Spring that was, the Spring that sprung me loose, for a time, among olive groves. Did I manage to catch enough? Moments, not olives. Here follows a few that sustained me before the days became long and sunny:

Watching the sweet new documentary about Mister Rogers, Won’t You Be My Neighbour with my guy, both our faces stained with tears, all of us there in that theatre suddenly children again, we agreed we were the lucky ones who grew up with this gentle spirit leader, even if the experience was again peering at the snowglobe: the world will never be like this again. Go see this film, out now in theatres, my favourite from Hot Docs 2018.

Fun Home. What a theatrical masterpiece, featuring three actors playing a character at different stages of her life; the production we saw received rapturous applause. Mine was mostly for Sara Farb for her solo, I’m changing my major to Joan. Who doesn’t remember that first thrill of amazing sex, no matter what your orientation?  Here’s the Toronto cast:

 Other theatrical highs for me this past spring include the exuberant cast of Wavestage’s Beauty and the Beast. I’ve rarely seen that show done with such joy, helped along with the mad skills of a young choreographer who juggles gorgeous wedding photography on the side. More reason than ever to admire these hustling millennials. Yup. I said millennials. They are more than a trend colour.

Every social gathering is now lined with small screen binging currency. What have you seen? What are you watching? My answer this spring is The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Yes, it is marvellous, and reason enough, along with Mozart in the Jungle, to keep an eye on Prime. Both are antidotes to The Handmaid’s Tale. Yes, I’m watching that too and who could not as it is beautiful execution at every turn, even as it is harrowing.

 

To rid myself of too much angst, I go to a handful of NHL hockey games every season. Let’s leave stats and scores for the whiz kids like my nephew John but here’s a confession: it’s mostly about the collective experience for me. Are there any left? Where hollering and whooping with the rest of the crazies is better than…just better? We may be shouting Go Leafs Go but here’s a handy translation: Fuck Gloom. We’re for Glory. World Cup mania is about to hit. I’m ready. 

Driving my youngest kid home after her university year wraps up and she has to say goodbye so of course there’s tears, and me maintaining control of the wheel on the 401 when there is a sudden cry in the car: she’s looking at her phone as an email just came in from her school with her marks. And her smile is as wide as the road ahead.  I turn up the radio and we’re rocking all the way home now.

Hearing my father express his enduring love for our mother on their 61st anniversary with this simple grace note, when I wake up in the night and reach over, she’s there, warm beside me. 

Two months later, they were together at University of Toronto, where Mom showed off her medal received, along with other classmates, for their 65th reunion from Victoria College.  I sat beside Mom as she smiled at her two old chums across from her, all of them singing their school song there in Burwash Hall, and she told me she didn’t want to leave quite yet; there was strawberry shortcake after all.  Memory isn’t like my ten year old dog, Lucy; she our faithful door butler/surest secret keeper. Memory flirts ferociously, flutter here, flutter there, where did I put my keys? I don’t know how to find my way there anymore… But old friends and school songs and holding hands like college coeds?  That’s the there there.When my young nephew Henry came over to muck about with our dollhouse, his current set-up for the miniatures that inhabit our children’s library were configured as a band surrounded by fans. He was hearing music in his head when he set this up. Imagination just needs a door.

Then came Greece. Check back soon for my travelogue. Leaving for a spell is easy when you have people. Not rows of uniformed help. Rather, friends. A certain kind of friend who says yes when asked if she can be your surrogate caregiver while you are away. You know there’s work to be done and people in need, and without a back-up, your absence would produce challenges too hard to bear. So you ask. Her response, I would be honoured. Every day I was gone, she was here, quietly offering up intuitive leadership with efficiency of which I can only dream. My siblings cleared a way for me to travel. My friend Eva made it easy for my soul to fly.

 

Love yourself. Then forget it. Then, love the world. 

-Mary Oliver, To Begin With, the Sweet Grass

 

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Poetry Alert

By June 10, 2018 Books, Headlines

Missed the Griffin this year but wowed nevertheless when I heard this year’s winner.

Congratulations to Billy-Ray Belcourt who wins $65,000 for his first ever poetry collection This Wound is a World. 

Belcourt hails from northern Alberta and is the first First Nations scholar to be selected as a recipient of a Rhodes Scholarship.

 

 

 

I don’t hear everything but I too fall in love with the trees.

 

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Surviving the slop of Fake Spring, one eyebrow raise at at time

By April 19, 2018 Art, Headlines, Performance
  • Is it just me or did that horrific crash in Humboldt not just seem the most Canadian ever of tragedies??  A bleak and frozen intersection, a hockey team of beautiful boys, an overturned bus? Is it just me that can’t stop thinking of that sad and stunning 1997 Atom Egoyan film, The Sweet Hereafter?  I know I’m not alone in my tears.  Last night, the GoFundMe page dedicated to the hockey team stopped taking donations after raising $15,185,700 in twelve days.

  •  Is is just me or was the crowd at the ACC in Toronto just a little too ratcheted up for the Leafs playoff game? Waving those silly towels in the air like the mad dogs we’ve become, fed up entirely with Fake Spring, one of thirteen Canadian seasons (freak February thaws, dog turd melt, pothole construction). We need to cheer for something. Go Leafs Go!

  • Is it just me having a laugh listening to Viggo Mortensen making the media rounds in Toronto this week? Here to chair the jury for the $100,000 Glen Gould prize, Mortensen had to endure just about everyone being dumbfounded at his depth. “Isn’t it fascinating to discover someone with so many layers” mused one. Over on Breakfast Televison, the host dubbed the actor (also poet, painter, photographer, author, and musician) a “renassiance man”. Over here at the Red Chronicles, I’ll stick with a gem befitting no box. Mortensen said he doesn’t much believe in any kind of artistic competition but was drawn in by the level of artistry, his respect for the other jurors and past recipients, and his own curiosity, which he confessed was his guiding principle. Just place him at the head of my Fantasy Dinner Party, please and thank you. Past winners include Oscar Peterson, Leonard Cohen, Yo-Yo Ma, Phillip Glass; this year the prize went to opera singer Jessye Norman, the first female laureate in the prize’s history. Wow. It took only twelve years…

  • Is it just me being schooled by my children? Over at the Pulitzer HQ, the folks who dole prizes out are also waking up to reality. Kendrik Lamar is the first hip hop artist to win the music Pulitzer for his 14-track “Damn”. The Pulitzer has long been interested in jazz and classical works yet this year’s board deemed the twenty-nine year old’s work as a “virtuosic song collection unified by its vernacular authenticity and rhythmic dynamism that offers affecting vignettes capturing the complexity of African-American life”. Now it’s my children turn to gape. Huh? We knew already, Mom. Waaaaay before you clued in. 

  •  I know it is not just me who lives in a world controlled by robots. Don’t think so? Didn’t you just have to type in some code for your computer’s brain to let you in? For basic access? Now let your mind travel to space. Luxury space travel. Book it now.  (Globe and Mail)

  • Is it just me or does this sound just wacky…and wonderful too. Gravity blankets. They’re a thing.(New Yorker) Would you get one? Report back and let me know if your sleep was suddenly delicious.

 

 

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Easter Checklist

By March 29, 2018 Life, Rituals

  • No Coat Stroll

  • Rhubarb Upside Down Cake

  • Mitten-free hugs

  • Cherry Blossom Countdown Start-up

  • Judy Garland/ Fred Astaire approved Easter bonnets

  • Early rising becoming a thing of pleasure

  • Umbrella chic 

Easter peace to all my readers.

Enjoy the long weekend wherever you are. 

Things that caught my eyes and ears this week:

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The Long Now

By March 28, 2018 Art, Travel

Let’s meet in Berlin.

 You fly in from Athens and I’ll fly in from Toronto and we shall see if four days in this city of creative expressionism and tumultuous history will leave us as inspired as the thousands who come to live. Freedom, is what one transplanted Berliner told me. This is what I came for. Freedom to be whatever I want to be.

So went mom and daughter, she now grown and working in another historic city. This is our way now, these brief interludes of togetherness, and I shall learn the notes soon enough, if not the goodbyes. Travel buddies we are, with sneakers and trench coats for melancholy weather, weather that seems a good match for sombre sites like the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe: giant abstract blocks erected in 2005 covering an entire block near the Brandenburg Gate. 

These clear and present memorials are hardly hidden: my excellent free walking tour with Sandemans expressed this amply. In the Topography of Terror, erected in 2010 on the historical site of the main organs of Nazi terror between 1933 and 1945, we (and several tour groups) walked through fifteen comprehensive stations detailing the horrors of the SS. In the Jewish Museum (the largest Jewish museum in Europe) we watched in stunned silence as visitors were invited to walk noisily over ten thousand faces made of steel in the Memory Void; created by Israeli artist Menashe Kadishman in one of two buildings designed by Polish architect Daniel Libeskind(whose studio is based in Berlin)—Torontonians will recall that name from our own infamous ROM crystal.  Also at that museum, a moving exhibit (continuing to April 2019), Welcome to Jerusalem, an immersive experience using film and audio clips, art, maps and more, all highlighting the many contradictions of a sacred city.

Next door was the Berlinische Galerie.

Sleek and clever, housed in a former glass warehouse, here was one of my favourite exhibits on this visit: a permanent collection of art produced by Berlin artists from 1870 until the present. These artworks are presented in chronological order with a helpful dotted route on the floor to lead visitors into each historical period from Expressionism to Dada to Art under the Nazis…and so on.

Art spills out of every corner in this city where museum hopping could saturate any schedule: we also saw Nefertiti at the Neues, Dietrich at the Berlin Film Museum (you knew I wouldn’t miss that one), and a bevy of nudes at the Helmet Newton Foundation.

According to the German culture secretary Tim Renner, the majority of the artists featured in the 2016 Venice Biennale live in Berlin. The city resides continuously on the brink of action. The tension between policing and anarchy, uniformity and debauchery, rules and social unrest, as well as a bristling right wing intimidation is also tangible. This makes it a fertile space for activism, creativity and agency that artists record and channel into their work. Many also come to Berlin for the (still) affordable studios and space that allows them to nurture their practice.

-Sleek Magazine

Hodge podge architecture lends Berlin’s avenues a storybook sheen, but we know none of it is fiction. If museums daunt, walking throughout the city’s boroughs would offer too its own lessons. Most visitors (three million a year to this site alone) find their way to the East Side Gallery, a series of murals painted on a remnant of the Berlin wall; explosive art that make up the largest open air gallery in the world.

Walking makes us hungry. Shall we go to the market? Which market first?

Perhaps the Turkish market?

 

Or delicious Reubens at Mogg…

 

Or wine at Café Jacques…

Or twenty miraculous offerings at Ernst (once we discovered the secret door)…

 

None of it…none of this heady activity prepared us for The Long Now, the closing event of MaerzMusik Festival. Held in the magical moody setting of Kraftwerk Berlin, this wildly popular event includes concerts, performances, electronic live-acts, sound and video installations to form a study of time and space.  

 Here is what we were told going in:

“Embracing musical worlds from early Renaissance polyphony to the musical avant-garde, experimental electronics, Ambient and Noise, this fourth edition of “The Long Now” allows for sonic and bodily experiences of an exceptional kind. Visitors are welcome to spend the entire duration in the powerplant, sleep over, or come and go. Beds will be provided. The Long Now is a place for the enduring present. A space in which time itself can unfold and the sense of time can take uncharted paths. With a duration of more than 30 hours, the project invites visitors to detach from the clocked pace of the present and indulge in the chronosphere of “The Long Now”.

-Resident Advisor

Here is what we knew going out: we want to, need to, MUST go back. No, we didn’t live out our wristbands allowing us to stay until 8am—packing loomed for flights the next morning—yet stretched out on a cot beside hundreds of others of all ages, all shapes, listening, no, absorbing the strangest music—beautiful, sad, enthralling music—we locked arms and floated on this surreal pillow of possibility…this here, this long now is all we have, this place, this is Berlin. All of it pushing forward in relentless modernism…No posturing here. This surely was the absolute expression of freedom.

And this too…my cab driver en route back to the airport. My wife knits, he told me. 

What a city!

Auf Wiedersehen!

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The real world class city 

A Big Apple Blitz

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Pie and sun= heaven

By March 27, 2018 Life, Recipes, Travel

By the time March arrives, the Canadian landscape out my writing window offers little inspiration. Bleak skies begone! Behold a bevy of bougainvillea!

Wrap me in it and set me alight on a frisky wave. A strawberry daiquiri to go? Surely you jest? I like your style, and yes, I’ll have another.

Sun, sand, salt: how I love thee! Friendly winds whipping up waves for those unfazed by losing a bathing suit in the fray…this is the stuff of winter daydreams. An invitation to join my sister on vacation in Captiva, Florida, was an easy yes for this writer.

While in this charming corner of the planet, I had occasion to taste two delicious desserts. You know already what the next part is, don’t you? Read More

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A nation of readers

By March 20, 2018 Books, Headlines

Next week across Canadian airwaves comes a reality show featuring contestants getting up in each other faces about…books. These are my peeps. Are they yours too?

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Unpredictable means entertaining (she says with hope)

By March 4, 2018 Film, Headlines, Performance

Drama. The certainty of it is sure to bring viewers to the Oscar telecast tonight. But how many viewers? The awards show has been bleeding viewers in one steady decline to match that of the overall box office: we are just not going to the movies as often. Streaming devices have proved so disruptive that movie fans like me should be alarmed. Our beloved and immersive art form is in threat. Yes, wondrous things are happening on small screens, yet watching anything that way is a different way of  interacting with art. Not a worse way, just a different way. If you can pause the film, get up and let your dog whining at the door out, you are not immersed; and that will fundamentally change the way these stories will be told in the future. Already, wizards are at work interpreting data of this very nature.

Now, there are things that should be killed off immediately. Let’s start with the casting couch. Set all of them on fire. I’ll dance around that blaze.

Other things I’d like to see gone forever? Read on:

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The search for authenticity continues. We just need to know. Is it real?

By February 22, 2018 Headlines, Performance

Watching the Olympics over a two-week span is to view one inspirational narrative after another, sandwiched between superhuman feats of athleticism. Some have a little extra romance to offer. Or so we hope…

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A fierce and welcome bolt

By February 20, 2018 Film, Headlines

When you watch films as often as I do, you sit in a surfeit of sameness. Green screens film often bore me; the behemoth that is Marvel and caped leotards running about saving the world from evils, all one-dimensional, mostly eliciting yawns from me…then I saw Black Panther.
Black Panther is a game changer; a touchstone for real cultural change, all so elemental that our shame should be deep.

Why? Tell the story of your people. And your people will see themselves and feel authenticated.  Story is culture. Through story, we allow others in, and begin to understand one another and develop social consciousness. Without stories, we are nothing. Read More

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