12.29.2009

things a doin' where I do most of my stewin'

I hope you weren't getting used to somewhat relevant, thought-out blog posts.

Because my computer's acting silly again I'm trying to rid it of anything unnecessary so when I reformat there will be less to put back. With this in mind, here are some random photos with various words attached.

Let's start in my room.

As all of you must know by now, my bed is CONSTANTLY full of sexy babes.
This is just Toon and niXon snuggling. Sometimes they even let me in on the fun!






And by fun I of course mean moments of absolute terror.







What a dream puff!










With that in mind, sometimes I'm better off spending time alone, with a candle. Candles are great. This one was a gift I received at work. I gave a tour to the class and they appreciated it so much they candled me. Or they give one every year and I just won the candle lottery, either way, candle!
But candles can be dangerous. If you have one lit and say the wrong thing your room can EXPLODE! In my case the explosion resulted in most of my possessions being destroyed and a world of white descending on my being.
If this misfortune makes you sad dear reader, fear not! As luck would have it a small creature of indeterminate origins arrived to lead me on a magical journey.





He led me down a magical ladder.

















Then along a magical tunnel.












So much magic going on.
And then POOF! I was in my room...woah.
POOF!
Amazing. In homage to the journey, the poofs, the magic and the world more generally, I made a nice little display dealy. It was originally going to be for Battle Beasts, but I figured the pebbles looked nice instead.
I'm actually in the midst of a few new things for my room. Beyond the floor there's a bit of a reorganization and decorating spree going on. Even considering a real bed, but that might have to wait for financial stars to align. Anyone in the mood to buy or donate a bed to my cause, I'm looking for comfort and a complete lack of bed bugs.

Also, everyone should watch this space (and others) for a possible room warming party in the relatively near future.

A Serious Man

I was going to write a review for A Serious Man. It's a movie I just watched at the Bloor Cinema. It's on Bloor.

Here's a trailer.
Pretty good, huh? And it gives you a good feel for what went on in the moooovie.

I was going to write a review, but I don't know what that means so I'm going to say some things about whatever instead. SPOILER WARNING (just in case), and away we go.

For those that don't know the Bloor Cinema is a big ol' place with one screen and tonnes of seats, both a main level and balcony. They tend to show movies that have been out for a while, art house sort of things or sometimes they play the world's best commercials. You get the idea. This type of venue leads to a certain type of audience. In the case of A Serious Man an audience that laughs.

They laugh in a self-aggrandizing way. Does that make sense? They laugh to show the world their recognition of the cleverness they see before them, and in turn the cleverness that oozes through their own souls.

I know I said there was going to be less judging in my life and this seems a bad start. Oh well. I know this laugh because I've caught myself doing it in the past. These days I try to nod sagely rather than laugh, especially when watching a movie by the Coen brothers who layer so many clever, laughable moments into their work that someone laughing at every one might get...hmmm. Irritating?

Part of the reason I've decided to throw a little judgement on the bar-bee (q) is that I was eavesdropping post show and heard other people make similar comments. Therefore it's okay if I do it. They were confused that there was so much laughter during moments that while humorous did not deserve such belligerent joy.

The movie is one of nuance. Characters' sly mannerisms and tics move the film forward as much if not more than what was a fairly straightforward story, basically everything going wrong for the hero. Although, even as I type, a great deal of subtlety is springing to mind. Still, I feel those plot drivers were intentionally subtle (still important) to allow the performers' performances to carry the piece.

It was the kind of actoring that would likely benefit from repeated viewings. And also the sort of actoring that if given a loud guffaw at each perceived moment of greatness you end up missing a lot.

Right? Good so far.

I'll stop complaining now. If I don't want the movie experience I will stay home!

Because people like movie reviews to have structure I will now discuss the ending. The ending is one of those wha-oh and it's done deals, and a brief perusal of the interweb leads to me to realize there is a lot of possible meaning I might have missed. People are talking theology and Judaism alongside what it all might mean for the characters. I thought it was a pretty all right place to stop things. Sure 100% resolution might be nice, but then post film conversation would be relegated to more like-dislike realms.

As is, the ending has the ability to cause discussion and wikipedia research! What happens to the characters for starters? And from there we go on to all sorts of fun times about theology (did God send the tornado?) and whether the pathetic fallacy of the storm was a message to specific characters who had lost faith or just a general message that life can be shit so enjoy the good you got now, because tomorrow the good you got might be the good you had. Boy howdee!

Hell, there are even all sorts of aspects of the Jewish experience in America that I'm sure flew right over my head. Through the wonders of lobby eavesdropping, facilitated by a toque that just wouldn't sit evenly (cold out, don'tcha know?), I heard some guy talking about difficulties for certain American Jewish communities when it comes to dealing with varied levels of orthodoxy in the clergy. I wasn't listening closely enough to tell you anything beyond that, just saying there are interesting things a vague ending can hint at.

And in conclusion a two things. One - based on a brief skim of forums where movies are discussed I need to develop better analytic skills. It might just be a matter of sitting and thinking about things longer and harder before puking these words onto the internet, or maybe I need to go to movies with people so afterwards I can talk it out and other people can listen to me and my friends opining loudly on what we witnessed. Whatever the solution might be, right now I really feel like my reading of a lot of things (books, movies and on and on) takes place on a very surface level. Buried ideas and discussions elude me, and those are the deals I need to find and understand so I can more convincingly discuss and incorporate them in my own work (eventually).

And two - for me a movie is good or bad if I was immersed, didn't feel the need to check my watch or roll my eyes at obvious idiocy. In this case I enjoyed the film, didn't wonder how long things had been running, enjoyed the characters, watching them closely in an attempt to get more and at the end yelled, "Hey! You guys are alright, want to hang out some more?" They did not.

And that's saying a lot given the cringe inducing problems certain characters were presented with and a personal tendency to shy away from such things.

A Serious Man is a seriously good time. Take the missus!

If you are interested in some commentary and background far more deeply considered than anything I can give look at this interview from Salon, Here!

12.25.2009

oh yeah, and my own stuff

my bedroom floor just after 8 on a Wednesday evening (Sweat as Communication)

I have seen
a bear bark white honey
and lost
in a fit of giggles
sage advice granted.

I've been told
I flop. Too
submerged to know, me
carrying on without me.

I remember
dowelling fanning out the fabric of existence
rotating from my fulcrum
ceaselessly, holding
colours of toys,
retro and for a wall
in my head.
Yellow? brown? orange? Blue?
Ceaseless
I roll and chase the real I want.
Just pushing it away
just panicking.

Then
a friend, down, now up,
or at least at the stairs' other end,
watching from the fan.
And I know everyone will be
slowly
all right.

Pillow
Bed
Sweat as communication
returns to my brain
first, and mouth
slowly.

I am searching
for sight in everything
even as revelation drifts away
and fades out.
Lost, but for a poem,
so something.

musings from the slightly north

Here I sit in Owen Sound, the land of milk and honey and cold freaking basements where the computer lives.

Sheesh. I'd better type fast.

Away from Toronto for a day and my brain starts to function on a different level, as the quiet of my house and its slower pace of life leaves me with time to contemplate the world in a different way. Thoughts that bubble just below the surface in Toronto, shunted aside by the distractions that accompany big city livin', here are allowed time to surface and percolate. Owen Sound, at least for me, gives time and space.

Time and space for doubt to re-emerge, in this instance.

Said doubt, however, is not a bad thing. Let me explain, won't you? It's the holidays, you have lots of time.

As mentioned previously I tend to get ahead of myself and a wee bit self-congratulatory for producing the tiniest something. On a mission to buy moustaches the other day Annie even noted my tendency to play fast and loose with the word genius...when describing my own work.

Uh-huh.

She's great for "calling it as she sees it" and forcing me to think about what I'm saying or doing.

Is the poem I wrote this week the best thing ever? No.
Do I have the right to be pleased by a clever turn of phrase and take joy from it? Yes.

Even if I think I'm using genius ironically, on some level there's a whole lot of ego rumbling, telling me I don't need to work hard. That no matter how long it takes me to make one thing, when that one thing is done my inborn brilliance will be revealed and lauded by one and all.

That's dumb. And a dangerous trap to fall into.

So! A harder working me, rife with humility is what is needed from here on out (until the end of time). Confidence is fine, but thinking everything I do is a paragon of awesome risks stopping me before I start. Why work more, try harder, and push onto bigger and better if I'm already sainted? Reminding myself, even if it's forcibly, that there is always much to be done can only help me in the long run.
(This isn't a new year's resolution, just a resolution that happens to have come at this time of year. Sometimes having a fixed date in mind for a change can help, but I figure why wait if you already know what needs to happen?)

Hurray for self doubt!

Good doubt can also emerge when you're reading an entire book of poems by someone who's quite good. There's this guy, Leonard Cohen, maybe you've heard of him. Anyway, I've been reading Book of Longing, his latest, and it's reinforcing how important consistent work truly is. I mean, you don't get 200 plus pages of poetry with an hour's writing, every once in a while when you're in the mood.

Beyond that, the poems are pretty neat too.

With so many poems in a book there's bound to be a lot of variety (not all of them are equally fun or golden), but the ones I'm enjoying the most are what I would call spare. Simple, clear writing, without need for overt cleverness, provides more than enough for an enjoyable poem. You could end the interaction there and walk away happy, but the truly great thing is that such simple writing can leave you thinking that there's something more. I feel a hidden depth of meaning that such simple words shouldn't be able to hold, but they do.

Super!

Here's one, the last poem I read before shutting off the lights last night.

The Moon

The moon is outside.
I saw the great uncomplicated thing
when I went to take a leak just now.
I should have looked at it longer.
I am a poor lover of the moon.
I see it all at once and that's it
for me and the moon.

Pretty good, huh? Can you tell where his writing ended and mine began? Probably.

Oh Leonard. He really is interested in the mundane and essential acts of humanity. Eating, sex, poo and pee. He sees a lot of beauty there and those themes emerge again and again throughout his work. Also, he apparently really likes to go down on ladies. Good for him!

12.21.2009

what's the deal with publishing poetry?

I know I tend to get ahead of myself sometimes, cart before horse and all that jazz.

This is definitely one of those times.

BUT.

What are the rules around publishing poetry and prose on a blog? Sometimes, when you enter a contest or submit a piece to a magazine the regulations state it must be unpublished material. Does my blog count as a something?

According to the CBC Literary Awards it does.

Uggh. So that means that I can't post my poems on here if I want to submit them to something like the CBC LAs. Of course that's just one contest, but such regulations are of concern to me.

Why? Let's introspect, shall we.

Reason 1 - Up until now my creative output has been an inconsequential, unenviable mess, so when I actually do finish something it takes on far more significance than it should. Each finished piece is a symbol, something to signify ALL the potential I'm convinced rattles around in my brain.

Reason 2 - Stemming from 1, if I consider each finished piece a master-work I'm instantly convinced of its dearness and value. Something of great worth of course needs to be cherished and only launched into the world at an appropriate moment, an instant where all eyes are watching and all mouths are ready to shout its praises.

Those moments don't come around too often. In fact, if one thought for about three seconds they would realize that such convoluted logic sound more like excuse making. A way to avoid ever finding out if what I'm doing is actually good, and so...

Reason 3 - This reason is a bit of a mess, bear with me, but we can generally say the third reason I am writing this inane post is confidence.

a - As mentioned above, if I talk about publishing something or submitting something it takes attention away from the act of publishing or submitting (or the lack of action) and my untalented deceit is never revealed!

b - Stemming from 2 is another facet of confidence; FEAR! On some level I'm afraid that I won't be able to rally my creative forces ever again. This one can be overcome, simply by doing something. Then doing something new. Then following that second something with another, and a fourth, and a thirty-second (after a 29th) and so on.

To be a creative individual you need to create all the time. Do, do, do, do and do. Not think, suggest and maybe next week. Take artistry seriously. As Canadian poet David W. McFadden ( a fella I've mentioned before) said, "From Grade 11 till now I've been writing poems every day, or thinking about it a lot on the occasional day I'd miss. To me an artist had to work every day, it had to be his entire life, or he was a fake."

A fake eh? Sounds familiar. So all I need to do is write a poem a day for the next 40 years? Well, maybe I should just take the meaning of his words and apply them personally.

And reason number...I don't even know. Am I onto italicized sub-sub-headings by this stage? My next point doesn't necessarily follow from the others, I just want to include it somehow, so...

Reason 3bi - I've mentioned this before, but thinking in terms of a best sellers and smash hits is wrong-headed. Chasing the latest trend and not being true to personal creative instincts results in shallow, unformed pieces. Mere shadows of what other original people were doing weeks, months and years before.

Stick with what you love and find hilarious, however, and at the end of the day you get something that you at least find enjoyable. If it finds fans in other like-minded souls that's great, but if it doesn't, who cares?

And so I struggle. Wanting to create something that receives recognition, worrying that personal notions of grandeur might be pin-pricked and deflated (not necessarily a bad thing), and simply wanting to create and push things out there regardless of the venue. Maybe even get to a point where I'm comfortable enough with myself that I know there will be other poems after this one and that I'll have another short story idea.

And I think I'm getting there, becoming more willing to release things into the world. Able to set aside all the above mentioned concerns. And if it does turn out I have created the greatest thing ever I'm sure it will take care of itself.

What set all this off?

I'm working on a poem entitled my bedroom floor on a Wednesday just after 8 in the evening (or sweat as communication). With a name like that how can it NOT be the greatest thing ever?

I was actually thinking about not posting it on here, but after writing everything I've just written I don't think that's possible.

Now you all have something to look forward to!

The Last Goodbye at Summerhill

I'm busy so you get this bit of lovely. Found with a description via Torontoist.

12.15.2009

Jane and Shoreham - catching the eye and understanding why

There's a building I pass whenever I take transit to work.

I get off the Jane bus and walk to BCPV along Shoreham, passing the building as the morning sun reveals its form. The view from Shoreham is the one that caught my eye.
The view is messy. A mix of geometry, the building's squares and rectangles stacked and also popped out, providing angles and a home for shadows.

The Shoreham side with its blocked appearance and open balconies is messy.



Bikes and boxes are visible from the road. People's lives in outdoor closets.

Over Shoreham, a pedestrian overpass provides an elevated, mid-road perspective on things. And a peak at the back of the Jane Street section.
To walk across a daily bridge to school feels magical to me. Even if it is reinforced concrete above four lanes of traffic, being up high brings a sense of vision, perspective and power. Or it does to the 5 year old I imagine myself to have been.

Sharp edges and jagged turns lose sway as Shoreham turns into Jane. One of the building's curved outdoor stairwells signals a corner.

On Jane the towers break up the building's neatly balconied sections, and allow experiments in perspective to occur.

Moving north, each tower signals a section and each section loses a floor.
The building recedes. It stretches into the distance, presenting length where there is none. One end to the other becomes a distance to the eyes that the feet disagree with. The northerly sections stagger back as building and road do not parallel one another. The recession to a point must be maintained.
I haven't looked at that cluster of structures at the north end. I have never been inside. An interesting building just the same. Something more than the same old rectangle. It might be part of the Edgeley Village Shoreham complex, but I can't say for sure.

The perspective games were only revealed to me as I wrote the post and looked at the pictures. To that point I just knew the building had caught my attention, but after this little analysis I feel I have somewhat of a better grasp on why.

12.12.2009

subways and Fort York

Twitter is something else, eh guys?

I just sit here and everyone else finds links for me. It's great. I don't even know I want to find something until it appears. When it does I just have to write about it.

This go round we're talking architecture and public transit to start. We'll see where we end up.

Designboom had a neat post the other day detailing the best subway architecture going. I will now commence moving some of their pictures over here, then adding my own limited commentary. This post is basically me giggling uncontrollably at neat things and wanting to share said giggles more fully than a simple link would allow.
Holy Stockholm Batman! The entire system is stuffed with artwork, and they have some great design features, including the hacked out of stone feel in a lot of stations.

I'm always a fan of mashing the hyper-future into unfinished and naturally riotous spaces. The notion bears a connection to my aesthetic appreciation for classical architecture and the modern; having a sleek, electric tram silently snaking through a centuries old city-centre or a new windmill silhouetted in the skyline beside an ancient, stone belfry.

Nice lights Munich.
The joys of building a system starting in 1972 and being able to incorporate what other cities have already learned.
This one reminds me of St. Clair West station in Toronto, which reminds me of a lot of Metro stations in Montreal (not that I've visited them particularly intensively). Both in the colours and in the high ceilings. I love how that mirrored ceiling makes the space last forever.

Tempo from St. Clair West station. It's nice, but not all encompassing like the above example. I understand that making the station itself into the art (or at least part of the art on display) can be more expensive and difficult, but with bigger risks come bigger rewards (sometimes).
I like the clean lines in this Bilbao station. Apparently the whole system and all its stations were designed byFoster + Partners.









Or this epilepsy inducing little number in Shanghai. Because this transit system is so short it's more about the sound and light display you experience than actually moving.

Check out the amazing texture on the wall in Prague.

And the opulence you can find in Moscow.
Just because I like the future combined with nature, doesn't mean having a straight-up future future future is now look is bad, like they have at Drassanes Station in Barcelona.
So what to take from all this?

Basically we need to be bold. I'm aware of economic restrictions, but you HAVE to be willing to spend money. Something like a subway station can't be changed after the fact terribly easily, so you have to get it right the first time (I don't mean get it right in the sense that a perfect solution can be found, but instead that we need to remember this is building the city for the next 40, 60, 100 years and to change a design to save $200 000 now might result in pain and bother for years to come). Spend the money and after the basic architecture requirements are met, turn it over to the artists, or even better have the artists and architects working together from the beginning.

As people move through a transit system everyday, their existence is at least partially defined by the spaces that they pass through. If you make those spaces big, bold and inspiring the people get something positive from it. Prioritize these spaces and invest in them.

If the people hate the art I'm willing to bet they're going to complain, and THAT's good too! Complaint leads to more discussion and more discussion leads to more change. Nothing about art or architecture is static and the next big project will be influenced by the last.

The key thing to remember - and probably also the most difficult thing to wrap your head around given the brief time-spans most people and governments operate on - is that each one of these projects is building towards an unseen city of the future. The infrastructure and groundwork we lay now is what will support the layers of urban citizenship that will arrive in forms unseen tomorrow. And in an even more perfect world the groundwork we lay now should also appreciate some of that which was built in the past. The city exists in time as much as it does space.

It's tough. Even the best conjecture lacks absolute certainty. The people trying to envision what is to come and build accordingly are going to receive all sorts of complaints around cost and style. Only years later will people be able to see the brilliance and foresight in what they built (think of the under-bridge subway line on the Bloor Viaduct. If that hadn't been a possible add-on in the original bridge design the entire subway system in Toronto would be vastly different, or at least have cost way more). And of course, some of the ideas won't pan out, giving all the naysayers something to point to.

Toronto did get a mention in the above article, Museum Station's redesign was considered cool enough for a comment.
And I agree. They did a good thing here. It is a retrofit but imagine the fun they could have had if designing this station from scratch, trying to capture the same themes and images. Oh boy!

-----

One more thing, non-subway, before I go.

Toronto is designing a new Fort York Visitor Centre. You can see the design proposals on Spacing Toronto. They're pretty neat and while I haven't passed judgement on any one, I recommend having a look at 4 first because its aerial view gives you a better idea of what's going on spatially.

This project interestingly connects to the previous post on the Gardiner Expressway. Fort York used to be right beside the lake. It's not anymore due to fill dumping and land extension, and is now wedged between the city and the Gardiner Expressway and the proposed visitor centre is actually going to exist at least in part beneath the elevated road.

As I said above, all these discussions on aesthetics are ongoing, with each piece adding to and elaborating previous physical opinions. Installing a fantastically designed visitor centre underneath the Gardiner brings together multiple eras, revealing both distinct moments of design (history, culture, society and everything) and how a moment in design-time lasts. Even after fashions change.

Just as a city's people move about and interact to provide its ever-changing social nature, a city's built aspects are not static. Each new piece of architecture reinterprets what is already there or was there before. Complete erasure (burying the Gardiner for instance) is not always feasible not necessarily desirable.

Given the Gardiner's decades-long role in Toronto and the lessons it has taught around prioritizing cars above people and neighbourhoods, re-interpreting it with more people friendly additions is a better way to go. As long as everything that gets built, no matter how avant-garde, remembers the person is the city's most important unit, it's difficult to really go wrong.

From pretty picture of train stations, to 200 year old forts and an expressway often called an eyesore, it's like a never-ending magical acid trip up in here.

Everything is WOW!!!

It sure is. Inessa Annie Frantowski is celebrating her birthday on Monday (Dec. 14) with an amazing show at The Comedy Bar. I'm going to be there because it is an AMAZING line up.

Amazing.

Also, it's all for a good cause.

Don't believe me? Read the list of acts below (and everything else Inessa wrote and I subsequently copied from the event's facebook page).


Hello friends!
In celebration of my birthday this year, I am throwing a huge show/party!
THE most amazing line-up:
Comedy:
NIKKI PAYNE! (Comedy NOW, Comedy Inc, The Nikki Payne Funtime show, Last Comic Standing)
SANDRA BATTAGLINI (Canadian Comedy Award Winner)
WINSTON SPEAR (Comedy NOW, Comedy Inc, Last Comic Standing)
SARA HENNESSEY (Video on Trial, Laugh Sabbath)
JET FIGHTER PILOTS (Real Jet Fighter Pilots)
HANDSOME BALD MEN (They are!) (Tal Zimerman, Chris Locke)
BOB N CRAIG (Canadian Comedy Award winners)
and our very special guest SCOTT THOMPSON (KIDS IN THE HALL!!!!)
Music:
LAURA BARRETT (The Hidden Cameras) and AJAY MEHRA (King Kaboom)
LUKE LALONDE (The Born Ruffians)
HENRY FLETCHER (Henri Faberge and the Adorables)
ANDREW SCOTT (Meligrove Band, The Bicycles, Sebastian Grainger and the Mountains)
LITTLE TV WONDER (featuring members of THE BICYCLES) - doing T.V. theme songs!
Plus, a dance by KEN (Gravity Wave) and KATE (lovely!)
A new "Kiss me Gordon" video by: Bob, Craig and Viv!
and...a debut performance from JAMIE FRANTOWSKI!!!
Girls...control yourselves. He is my brother!

HOSTED BY: INESSA FRANTOWSKI (Life Enthusiast!)
$12
Here's the best part:
All proceeds go to a terrific organization, THIRD WORLD AWARENESS.
I had the privilege of going to Haiti with this group in 2003, and I know first hand, what terrific work they are doing.
My goal is to raise $1000, so please spread the word any way you can!
Let it all hang out for once!

This party fully promotes:
- laughs
- being silly
- cleavage
- food eating
- drinking all kinds of beverages
- bright colours
- dancing
- going nuts
- partial nudity
- this just in: Farts! Farts are also permitted at this event!
YES!!!!
TICKETS CAN BE PURCHASED ONLINE HERE:
http://www.ticketweb.ca/t3/sale/SaleEventDetail?dispatch=loadSelectionData&eventId=782505

12.05.2009

Gardiner Expressway park? Sure!

Oh man.

A park, over a highway. How great is that?

The problem (the only one of course!) in Toronto is the Gardiner, an elevated expressway roughly parallel to the waterfront. It snakes along the base of the city and the argument has always been it cuts off the city from its lake.
What to do?

Toronto's been working on some ideas: keep it up (with repairs), improve the existing expressway, build a new elevated roadway or take it down, but only east of Jarvis and so on.

Unfortunately, you can't just straight knock it down because you still need to get all those people (errr cars) into the city.

Makes sense.
This particular idea is courtesy of Quadrangle Architects and on first blush it sounds like a goody.

Les Klein (of Quadrangle) says a surface road would cut-off the waterfront even more fully and I agree. Also, I'm assuming burying the thing à la Boston's Big Dig would be too costly and problematic, so that's out.

In a perfect world public transit gets so dirty good that no one wants or needs to drive into the core anymore, but that's not going to happen, so it seems we're left with a big concrete snake, standing guard. Protecting the city from lake monsters.

Lake Monsters!

But there's so much to consider beyond the Gardiner's monster fighting ability.

First off, the concrete snake isn't a standalone anymore, as its condo buddies show up in increasing numbers. The city is increasingly surrounding the road, encroaching on its carness, hiding it and pulling it into a more lived urban fabric that stretches ever lakeward. The growth and use of the island airport and The Wavedeck also fall into this lake grab, something that has been taking place all while people bickered about the city ignoring its waterfront.

So, if it's going to stand there - hidden or not - we might as well make it look awesome and a park up top with fences and walls to keep people safe and exhaust free does that. Not to mention the green goodness the space promises to provide. And imagine the views! I would expect there to be plenty of points to look up towards the city or out to the harbour, island and the lake beyond.
Between the condo towers of course...I'm not saying I'm a mega fan of the condos or necessarily everything about an increasingly busy island airport. Just that I like what they represent in terms of density and urban life.
Oh heck! We should totally add a glass floor (similar to the one up The Tower) just so park users could moon motorists stuck beneath in traffic jams.

And, AND! as an example of poured concrete modernist architecture the Gardiner Expressway is slowly losing its eyesore tag (at least to my mind). Such style was a popular deal in the '60s and 70's and as retro-chic continues its unstoppable cyclical march it's starting to enter a cool phase again. This is to say nothing of the other aesthetic gifts a giant chunk of concrete can provide, acting as a versatile canvas for art of all sorts.

A couple years back the talk was of a river of light.
Just recently, the underside of the Gardiner became the setting for Watertable, art that marked the old Lake Ontario shoreline with an LED display.
I particularly like this project as it reminds us of urban space's vital connection to the, hrrrm, natural world. I'm hesitant to even make the division because a city without the rest of the world is dead dead dead, no matter how much we pretend to pull back and exist independently. But that amorphous, organic city is something to be considered elsewhere (in the first chapter of this book for instance).
As an aside Toronto as a whole is being recognized for some green initiatives at the current Copenhagen summit. I've posted the city's video, apparently playing in Denmark on a loop, at the bottom.

As if we needed any more support for the idea, someone else has already done it, therefore it must be good. The High Line in New York is a park built onto a disused railway viaduct. The city gets more green space and overall quality of life goes up as the park has become a place for art and interaction; so much more than just a place to stroll! (and for those looking for more staid markers of well-being, there are more people in the area for shopping and to drive up property values). Similarly, Paris has its Promenade Plantée.

I think a Gardiner park is a great idea and given that no matter what the greeners might hope, we're stuck with a car culture for the time being and still need to live with it as best we can. That doesn't mean we need to be subservient though. More scramble intersections that let the pedestrians take the road and more projects like this where pedestrians are allowed to move under, over and around a main thoroughfare.

Eventually it has to enter a person's mind I am as important as these cars, and in time, I am more important than these cars.

The world isn't going to change overnight, but through these acts and architectures - realized demonstrations in urban space that people are the prime unit - we will start to see change. People, allowed to feel and live their importance, subsequently have an easier time of moving past autocentric paradigms. The change happens, but it does so organically.

Theory is given life and people believe, but only if we can build those spaces so the imagination can take hold.

(This is a little west end of the Gardiner Expressway centric due to personal geographic experience...methinks I just found my first springtime bike trip/urban hike)

Toronto's green leadership video currently being shown at the climate summit in Copenhagen.

Feral Houses

Now here's another cool thing.

As I'm sure you all know Detroit has had a bit of a demographic shift in the past few decades, meaning a shit-ton of people have left. Fortunately they were kind enough to leave their city behind. Parts of it are rotten and festering, but the urban decay has also become a focus or urban explorers and artists' more extreme, large-scale projects.

What better way to bring attention to demographic decline and housing loss than painting melting houses Tiggerific Orange?
The city has even become a centre for slow food and urban farming!

But what caught my eye recently was the feral houses pictured on Sweet Juniper.

Look at these beauties.
You can really see how thinned out the city has become. Fields where before there were fields. Or forests?
As Sweet Juniper points out gardens planted for aesthetics now frame houses in green, speaking to words like consume and swallow.
I've been talking with the plants. Their plan is to grow. Stab mortar with roots, pressure windows and invite wood back to earth. I like deconstruction sites where the foreman is nature.
These houses were obviously for the wealthy at some point. Gone. Fled. Fearful and in the suburbs.

Where do the poor people go who aren't sub-urban-knights? Where have all those people gone who lost their homes in the sub-prime mortgage debacles of the past few years? Are they all living with friends? Camping in the forests of national parks? Of Detroit? Filling up flea bag hotels where they pay by the month?

The pictures are instructive. I sometimes have a hard time getting my head around the notion that progress can be stopped, humanity might have to shrink back and try again somewhere else.

I know it has happened time and again; ancient ruins and lost cities, even North American ghost towns, all speak to the reality. Rivers change course, soil becomes infertile and saline, ore veins are bled dry. Or the industrial-capitalist system loses track of how to work in a certain place at a certain time for a certain group of people and once those that can get are gone the rest are left to their fate - be it barbarians or trees.

Cities decline, leave, end.

I know these things happen. But on a deeper level the concept of hundreds of thousands of urban citizens leaving and abandoning continues to astonish and exist just beyond real comprehensibility for me. An intangible, only coherent through numbers and words.

Individual stories - job loss and watching helplessly as a neighbourhood falls apart - I can understand those. But translating that into a coherent narrative that encompasses downtown blight and sprawling suburban growth is a trickier proposition.

How to solve a problem that in its size alone defies real comprehension? I dunno, but I think a bunch of people working at a comprehensible scale on a whack of projects can add up to something. Eventually. Don't forget about the trees when contemplating the forest and all that.

12.02.2009

Kerry Skarbakka

Busy busy busy.

Working 5 days a week leads to tired. It also encourages me to enjoy my weekends more, fully, shall we say. Too many 4 AMs.

In the meantime, here's another cool set of photos, this time by Kerry Skarbakka. Again, I found them in The Guardian, I wish all newspapers were this awesome!

Inspired by the helplessness he felt after 9/11 he started taking some pictures featuring him in moments of peril. I'll let the pics do the talking for themselves.
Apparently he doesn't want to be a sacrifice for art so safety is a factor, but there is an element of risk. Yeah...I can see that.
Tasteful Nudes is happening tonight. Promises to be a great show.
Not related to these pics, just thought I'd mention it.

I'll have more exciting things to say (I think) sometime in the near future. What can you look forward to?

Architectural commentary!
Urban planning!
Jokes I play on children at my workplace!
The marking of undergraduate papers and the inexorable decline of the current notion of post-secondary education!

Oh man, I am jealous of you. So much to look forward to! But for now, I nap.

11.29.2009

João Pina

The Guardian posted an album by João Pina. They chose the one that focused on Brazilian favelas/slums, their drug culture and the ongoing conflict between dealers and police. There are slightly better copies of all these pictures on his website.

The depth of focus in this one is great. Andy was explaining such photography terminology to me over Thanksgiving. Ya see, the lens is really wide so it lets in a lot of light lickity split quick, but then shuts again. The result is a front foreground focus with an infinite but ill-defined background drifting behind. Makes the subject appear almost placed at times. (If I'm describing that incorrectly I'm sure some clever camera type can remedy things for me in the rejoinders section.)
Hmmm, maybe it's not that effect. I don't know, I'm not a photog. Nice picture though.

This cemetery shot is fantastic. A landscape that captures the dual nature of the city as the buildings are reflected in the tombstones and visa versa.
Oh Rio, it's going to be a great olympics!

Pina also has some interesting write-ups with his albums, I encourage you to have a look at those.

Did you know São Paulo, along with NYC and Tokyo, has the greatest number of private helicopters in the air? A helicopteropolis, if you will. Rich people chopper to work to avoid both enormous traffic jams and the risk of being kidnapped.

11.25.2009

when you have a question about poetry ask a poet

Or at least read what they say.

Who is David McFadden? A Canadian poet who I had never heard of until today...what's the opposite of an oxymoron...internet research, and...

WOAH, THAT'S A TAUTOLOGY IF I'VE EVER HEARD ONE, AM I RIGHT PEOPLE?

Thanks to Monkey Farm his deets were sent my way.

She's in the midst of a poetry course right now so undoubtedly has all sorts of goodies she can share, but started me off with some great news, just the sort of thing I want to hear...

"Also we had a guest lecture in class last night and there was a brief discussion of clarity in poetry. He told us that there are levels of obscurity in poetry, and that the more you study it the more you can get out it. But he also said that the best poetry - the stuff that will stand the test of time - will have surface clarity, and then underneath that layer upon layer of complexity."

She then mentioned Mr. McFadden and was kind enough to send me a link to his book, recommending Margaret Hollingsworth's Typewriter as an excellent place to start.

-----
I was eating scrambled eggs in the Shamrock Restaurant
and the eggs tasted like Chinese food
so I said to the waitress I'm a person
who likes Chinese food but doesn't like
my eggs in the morning to taste like chicken fried rice
and she laughed and said it must have been
the green onions and suggested the next time
I come into the Shamrock for breakfast
I specify that I want Canadian green onions
with my scrambled eggs or I'll get Chinese again

and I said there won't be another time,
this is it, I'm a widely respected blah blah and blah
and well-regarded in the community too
and shouldn't have to subject myself
to such bad food. I'm finished, I said.
This used to be my favourite Irish-Chinese restaurant
in the entire West Kootenay
but this is it, I'm never coming back --
and through the kitchen door I could see
the Chinese chef covering his ears with his hands.

And so I went to pay my bill
and this is the really embarrassing part,
this is why I'm writing this poem
by hand, pencil on paper, because Margaret Hollingsworth's
typewrite has a three-prong plug
and all the outlets in the house are two-prongers
and her adapter is up at the college
and I begged her to let me cut the third prong off
so I could use her typewriter
because I had a simply overwhelming
desire to write this poem, and she refused
and I told...oh, never mind all that.

This is the embarrassing part. After complaining
so vociferously about the eggs I went to pay my bill
and discovered I had no money with me
so I had to go home and get my wallet
and bring it back to the restaurant
making myself a liar for having said
this is it, I'm never coming back.
The waitress was very nice about it all.

Is it hard to write poetry?
Yes, I would say it is. For instance
in this poem I didn't know whether to start
by talking about the scrambled eggs
or the Smith Corona. And I didn't have
a lot of time to think about it
because I simply had to start the poem,
it was that urgent,
and then you have to torture yourself
wondering if it's all right to write about
writing in a poem and you keep resolving
never again to write about writing
and you always break your resolve.
It's as if writing has a will of its own
and wants to be written about
just like Margaret Hollingsworth's
typewriter.
-----

Great stuff, so clear and seemingly simple. And the book was nominated for the 2008 Griffin Poetry Prize.

It's great when you find out you aren't alone. Others are pondering poetry's absurdities as well, and And AND, the introduction to McFadden's book compares him to Frank O'Hara (see the below post if you've already forgotten) in the first line! Oh universe, you are a tricky monkey.

11.22.2009

poetry and the TTC (not necessarily in that order)

Where does one rant?

Is it here?

Okay. 2 rants. One price (free). Oh, and there is no connection between the two.

Rant number 1: TTC fare increase

I'm not mad at the TTC, that would be dumb. Why would I be mad at an organization whose job it is to move people from point A to point B. They're not trying to make a shit-ton of money while doing it, just break even. And yet, people are losing their minds that fare prices are going up. Going bananas at the temerity. How dare they charge me more?

Instead, these people should be getting mad at multiple levels of government that claim to support public transit but fail when it comes to anteing up the money. Either giving nothing or attempting some misguided tax write-off silliness.

Public transit is great. Public transit is vital for a connected, thriving city. To say nothing about where greening initiatives would be without it. Public transit needs more respect.

And, as an aside, streetcars make such a great noise when they're zipping along. It's a hum, but with a tenor cadence, throbbing in the underbelly of the sound. I like the word thrum to describe this noise and have been using it a lot lately. Any other suggestions?

Rant number 2: poetry

What's up with that stuff?

I'm trying to read some right now, but I miss a lot. Some of the poems I fall into, I find the cadence, understand the words and get what's going on. Some remain obscure to me, but although I try to parse a meaning from the metaphor and fail I still find pleasure in the flow and lyric of the thing. Then finally, there are the poems I don't get, at all.

When I read a poem I adjust my reading style, trying to savour the word and form laid before me, and avoid my normal quick read that hunts for narrative and drops details in the process. Sometimes it even works, as a line's structure pokes me in the eye, a word choice makes me smile or nod. My appreciation for poetry ends up stemming more from self-satisfaction at gaining entry to an imagined poetry in-group than any sense of actual understanding.

It wouldn't concern me, but there are way more poems I have no clue about than ones I get. Makes me worry I'm doing something wrong. Does anyone have expertise in poetry, whether reading or writing? Would they like to start a poetry circle? Or maybe just lend or point me towards a book.

How to Expose Your Soul to A Raging Tempest: The poetry teachings of Franz Léderée

Maybe that book exists?

Heh, who knows. In the meantime I guess I'll just keep reading and experimenting and seeing what results. Poetry is difficult because of its density. It requires and sometimes demands re-reading. Like the rest of my daily existence my adventures in poetry will be better served by living with the moment, re-reading to find additional meaning, having patience with what is before me.

Watched this documentary about Leonard Cohen and he apparently spent (spends?) 5 hours a day writing and editing. I'm sure that's part of the answer to my dilemma as well. He is also described as a "very confident young man" who keeps all his correspondence and makes sure to have many photos taken; the duties of one who considers himself the record keeper of a generation but with very little ego, apparently.

He also claimed to have chosen a path infinitely wide and without direction. Sounds like me, so that's gotta be a plus!

(EDIT: I've taken off the Leonard Cohen video because its automatic play function was getting a bit annoying. You can still watch it here.)

And let's sign off with a little taste of some of the good stuff I'm muddling through, the Frank O'Hara poem Mayakovsky was used in an episode of Mad Men. Or at least the 4th stanza was. Caught my ear. So hear it is in word form.

1
My heart's aflutter!
I am standing in the bath tub
crying. Mother, mother
who am I? If he
will just come back once
and kiss me on the face
his coarse hair brush
my temple, it's throbbing!

then I can put on my clothes
I guess, and walk the streets.

2
I love you. I love you,
but I'm turning to my verses
and my heart is closing

like a fist.
Words! be
sick as I am sick, swoon,
roll back your eyes, a pool,
and I'll stare down
at my wounded beauty
which at best is only a talent
for poetry.

Cannot please, cannot charm or win
what a poet!
and the clear water is thick

with bloody blows on its head.
I embraced a cloud,
but when I soared
it rained.

3
That's funny! there's blood on my chest
oh yes, I've been carrying bricks
what a funny place to rupture!
and now it is raining on the ailanthus
as I step out onto the window ledge
the tracks below me are smoky and
glistening with a passion for running
I leap into the leaves, green like the sea

4
Now I am quietly waiting for
the catastrophe of my personality
to seem beautiful again,
and interesting, and modern.

The country is grey and
brown and white in trees,
snows and skies of laughter
always diminishing, less funny
not just darker, not just grey.

It may be the coldest day of
the year, what does he think of
that? I mean, what do I? And if I do,
perhaps I am myself again.

Hopefully I got that all right. Goodnight. Work starts anew demain. Hard run in to Christmas.

11.21.2009

Artsy fartsy stuff in the city

Thursday night was Entire Cities' album release party.

Literally a vinyl record album. The CD has been out for a while.

The show was great, the opening act Doctor Ew was his standard level of awesomeness, I missed Tonka & Puma's set because I was out looking at Daydream's brother's new car but I'm sure they were keen beans.

Sleeping 2.5 hours that afternoon in preparation for an evening and the following morning left me in a funny mood. I was wandering and jittery after the walk to The Garrison, actually hopping from foot to foot for much of the evening and putting people off. I was glad when the music started so I could start bipping and bopping. Sometimes I think it's great being scatter-shot and weird. I don't do it on purpose but when it emerges I have fun with it. Lends me an air of mystery, gone before you can grasp my essence so that you're left wanting more. Perfect!

Or I'm weird.

Perfect!

Last night I went to the Sweatshop Hop residency at the Concord Cafe. Basically a space for anyone to do anything. Music, comedy, interactive art exhibits, etc. This event happens once a month and I may be looking into doing something for it in the new year. Right now I'm thinking tidy up some prose and doing a reading, maybe with Daydream as accompaniment.

Basically I'm excited.

There are things happening.

I no longer know if they're of consequence.

I'm trying not to care.

Instead I'm trying to do, to put out there, to let go of an imperfect creation so its void can be filled by something else...better?

Maybe the romance of the night, the magic of music and laughter overtook me.

Or maybe I'm just finding the right people, creative and supporting, to hang out with.

Yums!

Aside from that, work is good. About to get busy and different as we institute our Christmas programs. I don't know exactly what this means, but have a few hints: more children, madness, tighter schedules, and cookies.

Sounds like a good time.

11.17.2009

Trampoline Hall

Went to Trampoline Hall for the first time last night and enjoyed myself thoroughly. All the speakers were great and I walked away feeling depressed! What more could you want in an evening out? Depressed, but only because there are so many amazing people out there doing cool things and I continue being me. I think it's a good sadness to have, one that will inspire. OR crush my very soul and encourage me in more lawerly pursuits.

The speakers were:

Mary Albino - The Mean Problem

Instead of a diatribe about the film Mean Girls we received a lesson on the dangers of averages, what can be lost in the morass of numbers and summation.

Christine Pountney - Lot's Wife and the Art of Looking Back

Starting with an action many people do when leaving a building, looking over their shoulder in the direction they aren't going, launched us on a discussion of paths not taken, nostalgia and dementia, memory and the joys of living if not in, at least with the past.

For her a life gains stability and relevance only so far as all the experiences leading to you-now are remembered and cherished. Even/especially the bad ones.

Kristy Willow - Transitioning

Coming from the personal experience of discovering her dual-sexed nature following a heart attack and 28 minute death at the age of 50 plus, the talk focused on finding doors and going through. Choices can be good or bad, but if it turns out being the latter there's always the next door to try.

After the show Daydream and I walked down Ossington, contemplating all that had passed our ears and falling into our traditional staccato banter about where we are going, what we are doing and how we should get there.

As I say above, I don't know if what I saw at the event scares or inspires. Maybe both. But it's certainly better than the stare at the computer screen, indecisive, nothingness that seems to fill too much of my downtime. I still have no idea about anything except now I know I need to keep pushing myself. Out there. I need to see people do what I want to do, but more amazingly.

Maybe I'll just get a pleasant evening out of the deal, but the hope is it will push me toward something significant of my own.

Daydream reminded me I need to get away from the endless end result speculation that haunts my being. Instead of creating to create, doing things because I love them, there's a hint of doing things because it will bring me success. Money-whore and attention seeker. A man without confidence who needs the constant reassurance and praise of those around him, and if only the whole world could see his majesty, then they too would throw up their arms and lose their minds in rhapsodic praise.

Too often I miss the now, focusing instead on the awaiting future or perhaps fester upon the past I've let slip me by.

Oh you. Coming at things all wrong. If I'm going to write, I need to write without goals for a little while, create without direction and see what comes. Answer some big questions; If I'm not doing this stuff, is it because I see it as a chore? Do I even have the passion I claim? Do my passions lie elsewhere?

Questions I've asked and answers I've known, leading nowhere for years. Let's see what I can do with them this time round. Remember, getting nowhere can take forever and I'd do well not to waste eternity.

The mental anguish and joy of an evening well spent, summed up in a wee Twitter poem, re-posted here because not everyone reads the sidebar and what's the internet if not an echo chamber to reconfirm existence on a regular basis?

I need to find a crack to pull myself through WORDS need actions or die BUT the streetcar thrums and the city speaks of nothing but choice
(I even maintained the silly caps on instead of punctuation format!)

As Daydream said, Heh, it's a very nice bit of self expression via high tech communications.

For the time being that will have to do.

11.12.2009

The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair

Oh, The Royal, The Royal...where to begin?

I was there because of the Greenbelt display and my close association with the TRCA through BCPV meant I was (somehow) allowed to sign myself up for a bunch of shifts. Said shifts consisted of me reading my book on Tuesday, gaily handing out activity books to children on Wednesday, then aggressively handing out activity books to children while forcing others to learn about the Greenbelt on Thursday.

How do you force someone to learn about something? Basically accost them as they walk past, ask them if they are interested. Then, before they answer, tell them that they are in fact interested until they enter the display area. If that fails, telling them that learning about the Greenbelt and local food is the only way any of us will survive the zombie apocalypse also works.
(The point I was trying to make with the zombies is that a closed US-Canada border would see Toronto out of food in 3 days, I know zombie apocalypse doesn't explain this reality but it's all razzle-dazzle with kids these days.)

Not the most strenuous or all-consuming work so I had to find other things to keep me occupied.

Checking out the hot and heavy cock on cock action in the central ring:




FIGHT!
FIGHT!
FIGHT!
Also, imagine these images facing one another...I'm too tired to make it work.






Food samples: Every break I was off touring, loading crackers with salsas and sauces, pretzels with spicy mustards, and stuffing my face with all sorts of cheese (goat cheese was big with lemon and cranberry and all sorts of party flavours). I didn't buy anything. For that I suck. Oh well.

Watching the Mennonites: No real commentary on this, it was just nice to see them about. Also, hearing that loverly German derivation they work amongst themselves is always mighty keen.

Rural chic: I forget how people look different sometimes. Growing up on a farm just outside Keady I like to think I'm well acquainted with rural Ontario life. I've hunted groundhogs, watched tractors bale hay for an entire afternoon, started then had to stomp out a grass fire on my property because the fire department was a 40 minute drive away, and as a result have fond memories of that culture (?) no matter how slick, urban and badass I've become.

I don't want to try to illuminate what I mean here, just acknowledge that differences exist and thank the world for people in all their belt-buckled, permanently-hatted, stern-faced, same-haircut-since-1964'd glory.
Milking: The cows hanging out, waiting to be shown, still need to be milked regularly lest they burst. Interestingly, they need to be full to the right degree before being judged. A challenging life.
I wasn't THAT interested in the milking process. There were, however, some beautiful girls doing some milking. I wanted to write a hilarious commentary on milk maids and eroticism, but now I can't. Oh well.

They did remind me, in a roundabout way, of the straight to the point nature of marriage and relationships for some. You find a spouse to partner with on the farm. You make babies with said spouse so there are more people able to lend a hand. Other concerns, aesthetics or soul mate status for example, tend to be outweighed by something termed necessity.

Dear lonely individuals interested in a bit of hard work and a warm body to sleep beside, farmers need you!

Pigs: saw some pigs. Here are little ones.
The Horsey Set: A huge part of The Royal are the horse related events. I saw some prancing wee fellas and some big work teams, I even saw Ian Millar (THE IAN MILLAR) up close and personal in the warm-up ring.
Legal?
I also tried to take a really great photo. The punch line would have been about flanks, and it would have involved a combination of the following two images...you figure it out!
So many flanks...

But back to the horsey set. Evening shows at The Royal have an additional ticket attached and when I was leaving around 5, people were starting to show up for those. People were always dressed to the nines and sometimes beyond, in tuxedos and gowns.

I think this part of the fair is a great vestige of old Toronto (or perhaps old Ontario more broadly). All the self-styled gentleman farmers from around the province toodling down to Hog Town for The Royal, celebrating their good breeding and that of their animals with lots of booze and party.

Nothing says juxtaposition like a bar in a barn with a sign at the door saying "Private Club - Dress Code in Effect".

I'm expressing these ideas based purely on a general sense I have of Toronto social history. I wonder how significant it is on social calendars now versus 10, 20 or however many years ago? I wonder how many non-white people attend the glorious evening galas? Do any of the head-scarfed ladies guiding their children around the fair at 2 in the afternoon come back in the evening? (Doubtful on that last one.)

Oh jeeze, now I'm thinking of all the interesting and fun research directions that could emerge from a socio-historical analysis of The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair. Maybe I do belong in academia, or maybe I just need to start a marketplace where I can sell people thesis titles.

Okay, time to bring things back down...way down. I had an unfortunate habit of taking pictures of animal's behinds. With the fowl it was because I wanted to make this fella look intimidating. Monster bird!
With this cow I just thought the udder looked funny, it was only later I noticed the...amazed face. Do you see it?
Art!
Then I became entranced with this cow's hips.
No one seemed particularly perturbed (and I assure you there were many more photos than these three), but maybe people pegged me for a judge or something. And for the people that think the hips look a little skinny, don't worry. These fine ladies are well-fed, but they are bred to give milk and milk doesn't need big fat hips.

And finally, it's time to play a game! What is it?
A map of an island off the coast of Scotland?
Okay, maybe an archipelago. With some weird undersea ridging.
Why, that's the craziest map I've ever seen!
Oh, it's a cow.

A freshly shorn cow looks so dapper and given that this one was standing right beside the salon (or what passes for a salon in a cow barn) she was the dapperest of all. I wonder if the guy doing the cutting is a full-time cow trimmer or he's just a farmer with a passion.

And where were all the bulls? I didn't go looking but I'm willing to bet farmers leave the bulls at home. Too much animal, too much danger. Save'em for the rodeo.

I think I've said enough. Other stuff happened too, but that was just me flirting with random ladies and we all know how that ends. HILARIOUSLY. So if I'm going to write about any of that it'll get its own post.