Thursday, September 30, 2010

the pulsing of the blood

Blood: A Scientific Romance
Sage Theatre

The stage hints at what is to come. Against a backdrop of hospital drapes, behind which the wheels of a stainless steel gurney are visible, a reel-to-reel projector casts an old-school anatomy lesson - sepia images of a pulsating heart and branching vessels, complete with a vintage voice-over that plunges you straight back to 1960. To the right, a desk with an open medical textbook, to the left, a bunk bed on a raised platform. It's an ambitious stage, and it speaks to the complexity of the play about to unfold.

Blood: A Scientific Romance opens as a shadow-play depicting a cross-country road trip in which the seven-year-old twins, Angelique and Poubelle, amuse themselves with cutouts and by finishing one another's thoughts in rhyming couplets. When the accident happens, the accident that kills their parents, the twins are not expected to live, particularly Angelique who suffers severe internal hemorrhaging. But when, at Poubelle's insistence, they are placed in the same room, against all medical odds they begin to thrive.

And when the attending physician adopts the girls and spirits them away to his isolated farm house to perform a decade of research upon them, to study the source of their physiological and physic bonds, the play adopts a decidedly creepy undertone.

This is at once a very intense play and a decidedly playful one. The doctor's obsessive record keeping, his nightly physical examinations of the twins, the cruel and unethical experiments to which he subjects the girls are the stuff of nightmares. The musical score, with its strident notes of distorted glass, both effectively heightens the dramatic tension that is never far from the surface, and parallels the clinical sterility with which the doctor and the twins live their lives.

And yet, there is an undeniable bond between Angelique and Poubelle and their adoptive father. Although Dr Glass is a very strict taskmaster, there are moments of real affection, particularly toward Poubelle, who displays an interest in biology that partially fulfills his craving for companionship and understanding. He needs the girls as much for the human connection as he does for the raw data with which they can provide him.

Ellen Close and Nicola Elson are mesmerizing as Angelique and Poubelle. There is a palpable connection between the two, a synchrony that lets one believe that they are actually fraternal twins. Close perfectly embodies the more frail twin, the one prone to dreaminess, while Elson is stunning as the more rebellious, the stronghold of the pair. I was particularly impressed with their Quebecois accents, which to my admittedly untrained ear sounded highly believable and I admired the way the twins, and by extension, the play, shifted effortlessly between English and French.

The lifelong game in which the girls engage, making up stories in rhyming couplets, in which they must without hesitation finish each other's thoughts, makes Blood: A Scientific Romance a beautifully lyrical play, which becomes almost musical when it shifts into French. The equally poetic language of biology heightens the linguistic complexity of Blood and allows it to straddle the world between cold hard science and inexplicable emotions.

When a recent medical school grad arrives to assist the doctor in his studies, his presence acts as a catalyst to the twins' longing to return to a world they have never known and the growing restlessness which accompanies their approaching adulthood. Angelique and Poubelle are suddenly forced to consider the possibility of life without each other.

Blood: A Scientific Romance explores love, in all its strange and sometimes disturbing forms. It's a strikingly powerful play that pulsates with life and forces us to examine all the painful, beautiful, messy complexities of the human connection.

Blood: A Scientific Romance is playing at Sage Theatre from September 30 - October 9, 2010.

Monday, September 27, 2010

opticklish illusions

Do you suppose zebras get dizzy when they watch each other run? Especially when they are travelling in a herd? I'm pretty sure I would get all woozy if I found myself in the midst of a scrum of undulating bar codes.

But maybe zebras are immune to their own stripiness. Sort of the way snakes are immune to their own venum. And yet we can detect our own asparagus pee. Hmmm.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

those leash kids on the way there

With apologies to the Handsome Family, I see them all the time in airports, those gaggles of kids being led around on leashes, like bipedal puppies about to board a plane to the coast. It took me a while to figure out that their leashes were cleverly disguised as whimsical animal backpacks. Not only are these kids being leashed, they are being duped at the same time.

But as the Offspring Formerly Known As Resident pointed out, just wait till those kids figure out that all they have to do ...
is take off the backpack.

I've never leashed a kid, although I came very close to doing so after the OFKAR and I became separated in a mall when she was about two years old. We were in a craft store which had a little table set up where kids could colour and mess with crafty stuff. While she coloured, I turned the corner to look for something in the next aisle. I swear my back was turned for no more than 15 seconds, but when I turned back, the table was empty.

Have you ever had a child go missing on you? It is the single most devastating blow that I can imagine. Even now, seventeen years later, I can still feel utter panic punch me in the gut when I recall the moment that I realised my child was no longer in the store.

It was a rather large mall, set up in a star pattern, so it was impossible to know which direction she had gone, or if she had gone alone. Happily I found her a couple of minutes later, being comforted by the information booth lady, where I raced to after I realised that I would need help.

We sat on a bench and hugged and cried for several minutes. The guilt lasted much longer.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Colin Meloy with a bleached fringe

Colin Meloy was not at the party tonight, but if he had been, he may very well have been sporting a bleached fringe. Undoubtedly he would have been carrying a customized wine glass from location to location, and he likely would have chosen the silver sparkle paint with which to write a sonnet on the glass.

So they would know it was his.

I didn't customize a glass, but I was drinking water, being the keeper of the car keys and all. Despite having to decline the myriad of tempting wine varieties, I did manage my fair share of barbequed morsels on skewers and desserty bits. The designated driver needs some perks, after all.

Kudos to the kids of the corp for organizing this evening's dine-around. You don't need no old boys' social committee to tell you how to have fun.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

the blue dot affair

"It sounds like six billion souls in torment," she announced, and, with a dismissive flick of a heavily bejeweled finger, flicked the power switch off. "Not exactly the effect I was going for."

"But madam," he protested, "we have set up all the parameters exactly as you specified." He willed himself to maintain contact with those piercingly formidable eyes, not to blink, not to look away. "And at considerable logistical and monetary cost, I might add."

"That's not my concern," she shot back. "I provided the vision and the financial means to accomplish it; it was the responsibility of your corporation to make that vision a reality." She adjusted the fox stole around her hunched shoulders, shifting the lush tail a fraction of an inch to the left. "This is the most ambitious art installation in the history of humankind and if you cannot provide the logistics to successfully complete it, then refund my deposit and I will find somebody who can."

He shifted uncomfortably. He could not afford to let this monumental opportunity slip away from him. To be known as the foundation that successfully produced the Blue Project would be enough to set him up for life. No more kowtowing to the Universal Federation of the Arts, no more undercutting other bids to produce overblown autobiographies of warlords, no more snuff films.

"Okay," he sighed. "We will re-calibrate the audio recorders so that they are closer to the ground, adjust the ultraviolet filters on the cameras, and then we will increase the dosage of lysergic acid added to the earth's bodies of water."

She regarded him for a moment, raised an eyebrow and rose out of her chair. "Good," she declared. "I want to see humanity phosphoresce this time. Vividly." She strode toward the door, then turned and added "And this time turn that damn system up to 11. It's German engineering, it can handle it."

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

weed-free manicure

The Year of the Flood - Margaret Atwood

In one of those serendipitous moments that happens every now and then, the Flash Blogging phrase that I am required to use today as my post title, just happens to also make a very suitable title for this review of Margaret Atwood's latest novel.

Set in the post-apocalyptic near future, The Year of the Flood unfolds through the reminiscences of two women who have survived the Waterless Flood that has obliterated most human life, Ren by virtue of being locked in quarantine in a sex club, Toby by barricading herself in an exclusive spa where she has functioned as a planted sleeper agent. Both women have been members of God's Gardeners, an environmental cult that blends Christianity with science and that struggles to preserve biological diversity in a world that is increasingly impacted by both species depletion and genetic engineering.

The world prior to the Waterless Flood is one that is disturbingly recognizable. The endangering of biodiversity, the rise of an increasingly powerful world security force, the ruination of cities, the barricading of the wealthy into scientific fortresses, and the development of splinter groups do not require a great stretch of the imagination to foresee happening. This is an apocalyptic tale with a strong environmental message, which only adds to its immediacy and its strength.

I do love a good post-apocalyptic story, and I was completely engrossed by The Year of the Flood. Atwood does such a masterful job of painting a rich and fully realised portrait of this world and the people who struggle to survive in it, that I found the 400+ pages not long enough.

My only quibble with the novel was with a couple of secondary characters who kept conveniently reoccurring and re-entering into the lives of Ren and Toby. Nobody has that many coincidental, yet highly significant, encounters with the same people.

I also found that the final portion of the book wrapped up rather quickly, when set against the pace of the rest of the novel leading up to it. Part of this, of course, was due to the fact that the novel had at that point moved entirely out of the realm of flashbacks and into the present. The pace naturally moves along more quickly when you are not stopping to reflect. But this was also where The Year of the Flood and its predecessor, Oryx and Crake, begin to meld and it felt slightly like two stories were battling to be told at once.

I think if I had recently read Oryx and Crake I would have appreciated that literary technique more fully, but as it was, I felt I had to spend too much time trying to remember what happened in a book I read several years ago.

But these are all minor quibbles, at most. I highly enjoyed The Year of the Flood, was thoroughly caught up in it, and come away with an ever-increasing admiration for the skill and the brilliant storytelling of Margaret Atwood.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Monday, September 20, 2010

more than baubles

I don't often wear jewelry.

Aside from clipping a band pin or two onto my lapel on occasion, the only adornment that I sport is a watch and a wedding ring. It's not even a particularly fancy ring, just a plain gold band that I bought on my way home from work a couple of weeks before the wedding.

I know my non-bauble-wearing ways were a great disappointment to my mother-in-law. Having had two sons and no daughters, she was just itching for someone with whom to do girlie things. I wasn't much for recreational shopping either.

She never really gave up on trying to press pieces of her jewelry upon me - massive chunky rings and elaborate necklaces - but I had a hard time feigning enthusiasm for these gifts. I amassed a jewelry box full of never-worn pieces before she realized that she was never going to see her prized baubles dripping from my stubby fingers.

Fortunately, we then gave her a grand-daughter and the dance began anew.

your feelings about jewelry?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

not a word wasted

We have a winner.

She wasn't able to explain to me exactly what I originally intended to do with those cryptic jottings I found recently in my purse notepad, but Urban Blonde was able to suggest a suitable purpose for them. And we all know that words are nothing if not versatile.

So, according to UB's suggestion, I shall be using those phrases as the titles for my next six blog posts. And then I am taking that clever word-nurturer out on a date.

Stay tuned for a week of Flash Blogging!

Friday, September 17, 2010

I'm sure it was a good idea at the time

Like many of you, I always keep a notebook handy. I have at least one in every room of the house and an official looking flip-top Barbie cub reporter-type notepad that fits nicely into the front pocket of my purse.

Because you never know when you are going to need to document something, right?

But those hastily jotted ideas, which seemed so absolutely crucial at the time, often lose their significance after the span of a few weeks.

Witness these jottings from my purse notebook, which have me completely flummoxed. A prize to the person who can figure out what I was supposed to do with them.

- more than baubles
- big fat keyboards
- weed-free manicure
- the blue dot affair
- Colin Meloy with a bleached fringe
- those leash kids on the way there

I don't even want to look in any of my other notebooks.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

be working on the sequel

Regardless of how rich and famous I become, it will always be a thrill to see my name on the cover. It's people like me who drive the vanity publishing industry, I guess.

If the heady excitement of the cover isn't enough for you, then come on in and check out my latest article - Dan Mangan and the quest for Polaris.

I particularly like this article. Not only does it remind me of a very pleasant conversation I had with one of the nicest guys in rock n roll, but it brings me back to the only hot day we experienced all summer. If only I had realized, I would never have bitched about the heat.

Monday, September 13, 2010

you can tell by the wind

I've already resigned myself to winter.

It hasn't been much of a transition, mind you, since we only had three days of summer, but it's been an odd sort of transition. In my twelve years in this city, I have never before seen green grass in September, nor green leaves for that matter. Normally, by August the grass is brown and crunches when you walk on it, and the leaves have started to turn yellow. This year, however, the leaves have only just begun to turn.

But if the continual rain and the persistent cold are harbingers of the coming season, I have a feeling I will be parked in this corner, curled up with a glowing laptop, until May.

Now I am really glad that I got that ugly wallpaper stripped and the living room repainted in soothing colours. If you need me, I'll be cocooning in my cave.

Do you want to see more? Here's the rest of the room, strutting its splendid new cocooniness.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

that would explain it

Aha. So that's where the time has gone. It's been turning into butterflies. Odd, it feels more like it's been evaporating.

We've been home since Monday and I am still scrambling to catch up. I did get that all important initial care package off in the mail today though. Gotta look after my baby, first and foremost.

It was a good trip, but really hard to leave the Offspring behind, especially since her residence room faces onto a massive construction site, where a 700 room residence is going up. I'll share some pictures of her stellar crane view later, but thankfully I can't share the construction noises with you. Jackhammers from 7:30am to 6:00pm daily.

There was time spent with good friends; there were awesome sword-fights in the Bard on the Beach production of Falstaff; there were some fine meals consumed; there was not as much walking as a Vancouver trip usually entails, but there was getting lost over and over again trying to drive to the campus bookstore.

And there was my new favourite sign, sported by a panhandler on Davie, naturally:
one dollar away from world domination

What's the best thing you've read on a sign lately?

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Rear Window, Davie edition

I do love a good corner store.

It's one of the things that I really loved about my old neighbourhood in London - that ability to stroll to practically any corner to buy a jug of milk - and one of the things whose lack I lament most about my current neighbourhood in Car City Calgary.

When we first started staying at this hotel in the west end of Vancouver, I was immediately drawn to McIntosh's Grocery. It's a tiny but bustling store on the corner of Davie and Thurlow, run by Our Lady of the Chinese Sitcoms, whom I assume to be Mrs. McIntosh. She has a little tv behind the counter, upon which she watches her stories, a delighted smile on her face, the occasional chuckle bursting forth.

Recently her son has been spelling her off behind the counter. He's more interactive with the customers. He inevitably wears a huge smile on his face as he simultaneously chews on a mouthful of something that requires a great deal of gnawing and asks you how you are today. He, of course, is always "terrific!"

We wonder if they live in the apartment above the store. Last night, as we sat on the balcony, unwinding from the day and watching the always fascinating parking lot dramas unfold beneath us, we saw some lights come on behind the shades and watched the silhouette of someone moving about. I like to think it was Mrs. McIntosh, preparing herself a tasty treat with which to watch her sitcoms.

I wonder who was watching us, watching them?

Which neighbours do you like to spy on?

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

in the blink of an eye and be gone

Somehow everything fit into suitcases. Mind you, those suitcases are piled as high as the eye can see and I sure hope they don't weigh them at check-in, but they are packed. They even close.

It will be a whirlwind and busy trip, what with moving the Offspring into rez, buying text books and printers and whatever we forgot to bring, meeting musician's mothers for coffee, partaking of a little Shakespeare on the beach, dining on roti with dear friends, introducing the Spousal Unit to Vera's burgers, and popping into McIntosh grocery on the corner to say hi to the smiling Asian lady as she watches her Cantonese sitcoms with great enjoyment.

Hello Vancouver.

What courses would you take if you could go back to university this fall?