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 doll 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.
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.
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?
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”.
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.
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
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:
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…
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
It’s that time. You know it. I know it. Time for some softness in the twilight of winter (just go with me, winter whiners. Spring is closer than you think). Every year about this time, I fall for a new love poem. Here’s one for those of you needing inspiration in the romance department:
Today’s guest blog is written by actor/writer/producer Stacey Bernstein.
I met Stacey when we worked together at Global Television in the newsroom. I include her story this week, when love is in the zeitgeist. There are all kinds of love. This one touched me. I hope you love it as much as I did.
by Stacey Bernstein
Thirty years ago my Mom started this needlepoint project after she left my Dad. I always said my mother, a talented interior designer, could knit a building; she was an incredible crafts person. She could refinish furniture, reupholster furniture, draw, cook...she was a wonder woman to me and everything became more beautiful with her expert eye, skill and magical touch. A decision to return to school and balancing work left her little time to continue with this massive project of which she only got a sixth of it done.
About ten years ago, when I downsized Mom from one apartment to another, I found the needlepoint tapestry in a drawer and was wowed by the potential: there was no design on the canvas. It was something she was copying from a book. I loved it instantly and I begged her to finish it but she felt she just didn’t have the the time to work on it anymore. She gave me her blessing to take it and if I could ever find someone who could continue the work then she would be most happy to pass it on.Read More