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Blog: The Red Chronicles

Summer begins now

By June 21, 2017 Life

floating picnics…magic forest hikes…dreamy rowboats… gelato twilight…breezy backroads…ferry me away…what are you waiting for?

 

 annehome1@rogers.com or order your copy here

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Guest blog: how good is Wonder Woman?

By June 19, 2017 Film

Summer is just about here, and with it, I’m delighted to welcome a few guest bloggers in this space. The first, fellow film fan Peter Murphy, contributes some thoughts on the hit film, Wonder Woman.

Note from Anne: I saw the film mostly to support Patty Jenkins. Female directors need support and I’m happy to give it to them, especially those working in the action genre, an arena crowded with dudes. Saw it (so did lots of others— the film has earned $438.5 USD so far) and yawned at this whole notion of feminist hero. Really? Making a superhero with tits does not change the universe. Far more compelling was Charlize Theron in Mad Max Fury Road. Back in 2015, that film made it to the top of my list.  Okay, okay, hands up, I know, we’re in the comic book universe here. I usually avoid this genre altogether, and give it up to fans like Peter, who bring an entirely different sensibility to the cinematic gaze.

Here’s Peter’s take:

WONDERING ABOUT THIS WOMAN

by Peter Murphy

(for more of Peter’s writing, find him here)

DC finally made a good movie, and somehow managed to make what is probably the best super hero movie of the year so far. I hate the DC movies, like really, passionately, hate the DC cinematic universe. I think superman was only good as a Dragonball Z movie, I wrote a whole thing on Suicide Squad, and Batman v Superman is still probably my greatest cinematic disappointment (I don’t care about director’s cuts, I care about what I paid for). I hate the DC universe, and fully went in planning to hate this one too. I didn’t, I couldn’t. I enjoyed every second I searched for a flaw. The characters were likeable and had chemistry, the action scenes were wonderfully choreographed, plot points well-executed and interesting; in short it was the opposite of everything I had come to expect from a DC movie.

Wonder Woman (aka Diana Prince) has come a long way from her original incarnation. She is about as strong as Superman (weaker but with more combat experience/training) and less morally confined (she is pretty lenient about killing). She isn’t invulnerable, just damn tough, a literal Greek god (demi-god technically), and a warrior at that. She doesn’t have a weakness the same way Superman does; she is simply a little less durable. This is a very happy change from her historical position.

Minor history lesson; Wonder Woman was debuted in 1941, one of the ever magical “lets punch Hitler” superheroes that appeared during the second world war (Captain America would be the most famous). This was a big step; she was a female heroine at a time when women had just finished fighting for the vote, and were making up a larger percentage of the work force (especially during the war). So this was a step forward, here is the step back: Her weakness, and I promise this is true, is that she loses her powers when tied up by a man.
Take that in for a second: BDSM/being dominated was Wonder Woman’s official weakness.
This has fallen out of continuity for a huge list of fairly obvious reasons, but, just for context, that is what we have moved from. Not to say Wonder Woman isn’t sexualized. Gal Gadot’s character is described in movie as “the most distractingly beautiful woman you have ever seen”. She is a former Ms. Israel and Ms. Universe contestant after all; she is distractingly attractive. I’m not going to touch the politics of her as an IDF soldier. I’m a big Orson Scott Card fan and, more than anything, that has taught me you are under no obligation to listen to an artist’s political opinions to enjoy their work. For context, Orson Scott Card is a well-documented asshole, but Enders Game is a phenomenal series. I will say the fact that she is a combat trainer does go a long way towards helping the fight scenes: they look phenomenal.

The film itself does a fairly good job of addressing gender issues; Diana Prince is the functional definition of a strong independent woman.I think the greatest message comes through her sheer force of will and utter dismissal of the “because you are a woman” reasoning of the men who try to impede her. It has never been a good reason, and she doesn’t let it stop her.

Now, I fully admit that I say that as a white straight male, so it’s worth clarifying that it only fought the super direct “you can’t do that because you are a woman” type of sexism.

The movie is solid, I’m not sure I agree with the 93% rating it had when I went to watch it, but it is certainly in the high 80s, and I 100% recommend you go watch it.

My one complaint about the movie is the theme of love/human goodness triumphing is nice, but does give the ending a little bit of a CareBears vibe. I don’t have much to complain about otherwise.  The twist I didn’t see coming, and very much enjoyed. They are setting her up to be okay with killing, and very aware of human nature (with regards to war), so Injustice is still on as a storyline. Ladies and Gentlemen, they are going to give us a movie series based on a comic series based on a game series based on a comic series. I wonder if they know the injustice games are already out as non-movie tie ins.
If you have never heard of Injustice it is the one comic series I actually advise people to read. It is very good and that seems to be what these movies are working towards. Also take a look at what my good friend Thomas has written here about his view on the DC Injustice plans.

Director Patty Jenkins did a phenomenal job and has already been signed on for the sequel. I personally hope she takes more of a lead on other DC projects. Maybe they will find a way to turn this thing around; I’m still not going to see Justice League until reviews come out though.

 

Thanks Peter.

Have your say below. Did you see the film? What’s your take?

 

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Pay attention: life ahead.

By June 16, 2017 Life

Age spots come with time, as do smarts. Being smart on the right day is a bonus of middle age. Being smart to soak it all up, it being this delicious brew of parental pride, and poignance for a life on the speed track. Being smart to pay attention to every detail of a glorious day and to thread together the beginnings…

And the benchmarks.

Paying attention is harder these days. Our eyeballs are begging for relief. I found them in the faces of graduates, paired off to be presented to the gowned academics smiling at each one with genuine encouragement.

We live in an age of terrible global truths; here there was nothing but hope. The graduates faced the audience for a few seconds before descending the steps. Each bore grins I’d like to string up on kites to sail high over the gorgeous University of Toronto campus. Some gave modest waves, no different than iterations a few decades earlier at the kindergarten door. Others bowed with grandiosity; a few sported swagger I’d like to borrow on one of my less than shiny days.

Earlier in the day, we were invited to an awards ceremony ahead of the convocation. Need some inspiration in your routine? Pop in to one of these events and douse yourself in a little wonder. Honours degrees with wide ranges of major and minor combinations: all weird and wonderful. Kinda like our newest grad. A devout curator of street fashion, new music and ideas, our eldest has wonky sleep patterns developed since reading late into the night as a skinny kid. Her paintings dot the walls here; her mess, as considerable as her kindness, dot the floors where she once practiced ballet, over and over, those slippers tracing patterns in a life sure to hold beauty. This year she will cross the globe to pursue a career in public health.

Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself;
( I am large, I contain multitudes.)

-Walt Whitman, Song of Myself, Leaves of Grass

Thrilling for this writer was the thoughtful address given to the awards participants by Professor William Robins as he encouraged this group to engage in communities throughout their lives, especially local ones, and to be compassionate towards themselves.

You are here at this ceremony because you are extremely smart and keen individuals. Your families and your teachers expect, and have probably always expected, great things of you and no doubt you do too. I bet most of you have deeply internalized these expectations such as your own sense of identity cannot be easily separated from the marks of success that are recognizable by others. There is a lot of pressure to succeed and there will no doubt be disappointments and setbacks. These can often lead to feelings of inadequacy and doubting your own worth. At such moments, I encourage you to find compassion for yourselves, to take a moment and think about what it is like when you bash yourself, when you judge yourself and find yourself wanting. Think about what expectations lead you to be harsh on yourself. What would it be like if you could remove that judgemental criticism? So I encourage you to practice a generous kindness not only towards others, but towards yourselves.  Because there will be times when you need it, and because you’re worth it.

Prof. William Robins, President and Vice-Chancellor of Victoria University, University of Toronto

Back at home, we drank sangria and, as is our way in these parts, toasted the long line that came before: Kate knows well enough hers is a family that values learning almost as much as chocolate.

All over the map in June right now appear dots now connected as one jump of joy at completion: WE DID IT, said the chorus of gowns.

But wait, doesn’t this mean leaving a posse behind? Yes, it does. Sort of. That cosy group will disband. Others will form. Be assured of the terrific possibility of newness again. And if your facility with goodbyes is poor, take a shot, as my fine young friend (and 2017 grad herself) Alison Chang did, to say goodbye to her university friends in song. Her ode to her USC university friends is one I’m going to borrow for my own cherished smartypants. It’s not goodbye. It’s just see you later.

June. We love you so far.

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Long weekend reads

By May 19, 2017 Books, Performance

What happens when you grow up with the Bogeyman narrative playing out large in the culture around you?  Literary darling Emma Cline grew up in California where the Manson drama was the defining event in the zeitgeist of her parent’s adolescence. The story of the charismatic sociopath was too familiar to her as a novel protagonist so she decided to focus on the peripheral players in the story, and conjured up a character who might have been on the sidelines of a dangerous cult. This became the starting point for her critically acclaimed debut, The Girls, which kept me enthralled on my sickbed this week.   Read More

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Mom’s best: a sample

By May 12, 2017 Rituals

Moms do it all. Ask kids what they remember and often it is the wee maternal gestures, not the big strokes, most embraced. Sharing themselves. That’s it. What a load off all of us. Be yourself and extend your arms.

That’s it, that’s all.

To celebrate my new spring cover of with love and sugar♥*, I asked some fun personalities to share something awesome from their mother’s kitchen. Try to guess which story belongs to my own lovely mom.

To order a copy for your own mother, other bakers in your circles, or a copy for your own kitchen, a simple order form is here. I will be giving out one free copy every Friday from now until end of June for the best story about ritual. It’s your turn. Have your say below.

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY. (yes, that’s my mom above, on her honeymoon 60 years ago)

 

 

 

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Rain plan

By May 4, 2017 Life

We’re in for a major dump of rain. Rain makes things grow.  And it’s your excuse to…

Throw a party. Invite a new friend.

This guy, one of my kindred spirits, will get you started.

.

Get feverish about tulips.

Or go for drive to see all the spring blossoms around the city before all this rain brings them down.

Read

Two thoughtful longreads:

Ann-Marie MacDonald’s short story, The Claim, part of the Globe’s 150 series of stories celebrating the country’s history in fiction.

Brad Pitt on becoming a better man, listening to Frank Ocean, and starting therapy in this month’s GQ.  Favourite quote?

I wish I could just change my name

-Brad Pitt

Photo credit: Ryan McGinley

Make yummy things

 

All things mango

Mocha doughnuts

My favourite all season salad

Baked Maple French toast 

Double vanilla cake with warm blueberry sauce 

Clean out your crib and donate it all.

Here’s one place to donate.

Dance to your spring jam

I grew up surrounded by classical music in this house. These days, unless I’m driving, I find classical music to be a balm when my soul is weary. Here’s a great list of summer concerts where you can drown in  classical music.

Dream up some fun summer plans that require wearing a big hat.

 What’s your rain plan? Hopefully it doesn’t involve a wet basement. Crossing my fingers for the residents of  the Toronto Islands.

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Have you read a poem lately?

By April 28, 2017 Books, Performance, Urban gadfly

April is National Poetry Month.
We almost missed it, didn’t we? There are so many distractions in this fine city. Last night I was at Hot Docs 2017, with Last Men in Aleppo. There are two more screenings of this. Highly recommended. I cannot think of anything else this morning.

Thank goodness for Henry, a clever boy I love, who gave me one of my most favourite gifts ever last year: a collection of his own poetry.

Meet the under ten set’s new poet laureate.

Hooray for Henry, you’re our Friday inspiration.

For more on poetry…

from a year ago:

The profane and the sublime

While you wait, make eggs. Read poetry.

from two years ago:

Whale breath

from three years ago:

Unclogging the air

from four years ago:

Pack a rock

from five years ago:

We were all children once

Happy weekend.

PS. The Handmaid’s Tale begins this Sunday on Bravo!

 

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Spring chicks

By April 21, 2017 Performance

“hanging out with the hipsters is hard work

how many selfies can you take without looking like a jerk?”

-Sheryl Crow, Be Myself

  • Sheryl Crow has released her ninth studio album, Be Myself. Nine seems a good number for Crow who has nine Grammies to match. After a recent foray into the country music arena, Crow’s latest is a fierce flourish of rock-pop born of a wish to revisit the sound and feeling of her earlier records. Still, the record hardly ignores the current landscape as the musician felt a sense of “real urgency” following Trump’s election. Match that with a recent bout of breast cancer, motherhood, and the launch of a new clothing line, and you have a sage on your spring jam.

  • Tap-dancing is one of those skills you can’t do without absolute commitment. See it nailed down in full glory this weekend with the most buoyant cast of spring in Wavestage’s latest production, Anything Goes.

  • Toronto’s Soulpepper is bringing their most celebrated productions to New York for a month of programming this summer. I’ve seen most of these shows and loved them here and here. Read on about the hidden figures behind this initiative and others.
  • Fun quiz: read this description and try to guess which famous Torontonian is featured in an essay in this week’s New Yorker:

 She would look striking even if she were not familiar. She owns an array of brightly colored winter coats—jewel red, imperial purple—with faux-fur-trimmed hoods that frame her face, as do her abundant curls of silver hair. She has high cheekbones and an aquiline nose, the kind of features that age has a hard time withering. Her skin is clear and translucent, of the sort that writers of popular Victorian fiction associated with good moral character.

 Read on here to see if you guessed right.

This spring chick is spring cleaning this weekend (sigh) between cheering (GO LEAFS GO!). Then again, I might just ditch and hang out in the best playhouse in my neighbourhood. Guess where? Then again, if I tell you, I might have to kill you.

 

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Very Married

By April 20, 2017 Life

It was an April morning like any other in Toronto when my parents pledged to take care of one another in front of friends and family at a midtown church. Sixty years later, the front of the church stands yet; behind it, an enormous hole where construction has begun on new condos. Change is a constant in this city. To become attached to any one pile of stones is sure to bring heartbreak.

Attach instead skin to skin.

 

Today my dad reaches under the table for my mother’s hand at an intimate family lunch in their honour. Beside me, my mother giggles. For a second I allow myself to be her University of Toronto chum, pondering the merits of this very tall suitor, who courted her for more years than he would have liked before she said yes.  He would have to promise first to have many children for this only child was resolute about wanting a brood. That we would be unwieldy and prone to spontaneous outbursts was likely not what she imagined. Yet here we are, doing that celebrating thing we can’t seem to give up, and here’s Dad at the head of the table once again, reeling out the first chapter.

“I was suggested by somebody that I should run as as a Member-at-Large in first year so I went to the meeting and there was this good looking blonde who got nominated as the woman head of the year. I went out to Charles Street on the first football game and here came the blonde with her friends and I said to myself, I better sit by her because we’re going to be on the executive together: this was the beginning.”

We’ve heard this one before. Indeed, we’re arrogant enough to think we know all the chapters, one spectacular constellation to guide us in the fog. Of course we don’t.  It is theirs alone, inside every embrace.

 

But we do have the main, the heft, the long thread of this gorgeous narrative weaving through all of us.

Today, I had the immense honour to toast this couple and what I told them was this:

Your story is unending. It is in me when I wake up and when I close my eyes at night. It is the story of us, and lives within your five children and eleven grandchildren. It will be the story their children and all future generations know. It is the story of devotion and strength, of tremendous commitment and good humour. It inspires me and sustains me; my own marriage exists on the shoulders of yours.  

“I know what it is to live entirely for and with what I love best on earth. I hold myself supremely blest — blest beyond what language can express; because I am my husband’s life as fully as he is mine.”

― Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre

 

Diamonds really are forever.

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Easter peace to you all

By April 16, 2017 Life, Rituals

“Mother of all bombs” dropped this week. Did you shake where you stood as I did hearing the terrifying physics of this first-ever weapon deconstructed on a radio programme? I was in my kitchen, chopping carrots.

Far away is right here in 2017. There is no far away.

Be relentless about peace where you stand if you’re lucky enough to live in Canada.

To all my readers: Happy Easter.

 

 

More on Easter:

Three years ago:

You’re never too old for egg hunts

How deep is your love?

Four years ago:

Green Eggs and Ham

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