Tuesday, November 29, 2011

a rooster, a bear, and a giraffe walk into a bar ...


or maybe it's just Christmas in Inglewood...

This rivals the giant plastic Yuletide walrus as my favourite Christmas animal.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

the sky filled with dust and silver

It was probably somewhat of a blessing that we lost power for over three hours this afternoon, because we couldn't hear the emergency broadcasts that were being aired. The wind freaked me out enough already without hearing that a state of emergency had been declared for the city, and the entire downtown closed down due to windows blowing out of highrises this afternoon.

It's amazing that nobody was killed.

The scene from our backlane indicates that we escaped relatively unscathed. I wasn't able to make the planned chili for Grey Cup but at least I have a roof over my head.


Friday, November 25, 2011

from the dental chair

It was while cooling my heels in the dentist's chair yesterday, waiting to have a chipped incisor patched up, that I realised I have not stopped to look at the world around me in some time. Oh sure, I look around me, especially since I am now taking photographs as part of my event covering duties. But I don't really look; I don't calm my pulse and just let the world unfold for me.

But yesterday, I had nearly an hour to watch the world unfold out the second floor window. The dental office is on a bit of a hill, with floor to ceiling windows facing west, so the panorama presented to me was reminiscent of those naive paintings you sometime see of village scenes that bustle with activity, a barn raising in one corner, a busy marketplace in another.

While the sun broke from the clouds and settled in the evening clearing of a chinook arch, I watched a row of school buses pull up to a distant middle school. I saw the ant-like figures that had been running up and down the yellow strip of playground suddenly turn and move en mass toward the waiting line of lego buses.

I was struck by the predominance of evergreens in the city, the number of brown roofs, how movement never stops, even in suburbia. I could have happily watched
all day the life of the city unfold before me.

I am not complaining about being busy, don't get me wrong. I am so grateful that I now have as much work as I can handle. Work that I love.

But writing all day every day does tend to quell the urge to write in my spare time.

For instance, I really should have told you about Any Night, the play I saw this week at Sage Theatre. It was a real thriller, a rather Hitchcockian study of sleep disorders, privacy, and the true intent of the guy who lives in the apartment above you. I really should tell you more about it, but I did see it late in the run, so unless you really hustle to get tickets for the final night, you've missed it. Which is a shame, because it was well worth seeing.

Staying behind for the talkback session with the actors, who are also the playwright team behind Any Night, was particularly enlightening. I love having theatre students in the audience for talkback because they ask questions I would never be able to dream up, not in a million years. It's like listening to a conversation in a foreign language, but one that makes complete sense to you.

The next night, at PechaKucha, I learned some new words that I fell in love with immediately.

The first was Moh' kins stisis, which is the Blackfoot word for the territory encompassing the city of Calgary. The Blackfoot traditionally viewed the earth as a human body and would name geographical areas for the body parts that they resembled. So in the larger Blackfoot worldview, the direct translation of Moh' kins stisis is "elbow", which refers to the crook of land where the Bow and the Elbow river meet. The birthplace of Calgary.

The other term that struck me at PechaKucha was Genius Loci, spirit of place. It's a term that city planners use to pinpoint the defining characteristic of a city.

What is the genius loci of your place?
What's your new favourite word?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

our world is going to change nothing

Evidently my gibbled knee is not yet working at 100% even though I can now take the stairs like a normal person. But I realized this afternoon while dancing in the kitchen that I was channeling my inner Elaine Benes more than should ever be done in polite company.

Day two of crazy wind around these parts. The roof was blown off a school in Nanton today and there are sem-trailer trucks lying on their sides all over the highways. Sinuses are exploding all over the province.

Off to PechaKucha tonight at the Central Library. Reclaim is the theme tonight. I'll fill you in on that and on Any Night, the play I saw at Sage Theatre last night.

~ciao, bella~

Monday, November 21, 2011

inside these walls

Room - Emma Donoghue

Jack is five. He and Ma live in Room. They read and play and learn and sometimes watch TV. Jack's best friend on TV is Dora the Explorer, but he knows that people on TV aren't real. They are just pretend and made of colour. Only Room is real.

Jack and Ma and Room are all there is. Except for Old Nick. Old Nick is from outside. Some nights he comes to Room after Jack is tucked inside Wardrobe. Old Nick brings groceries and clothes and disappears the trash. Ma doesn't want Old Nick to see Jack and she doesn't want Jack to see Old Nick, but sometimes Jack can see Old Nick through the slats of Wardrobe, even though he is supposed to be switched off until morning.

Ma is afraid of Old Nick.

This is an incredible book. Told from the perspective of a five-year-old boy, Room creates an intensely realized world that manages to seem at once comfortingly normal and terrifyingly claustrophobic. Emma Donoghue has masterfully depicted the world of this locked sound-proofed 11' x 11' room through the eyes of Jack, who was born in captivity to a woman abducted from a university campus seven years earlier.

The voice of Jack is near perfect, not only in the distinct language used by a five-year-old, but also in the unique perspective through which that child sees the world, in this case, a single room. She manages to convey all the fears, desperation and depression that Ma goes through, as seen through the imperfect filter of a child's understanding.

I was completely engulfed in the world of Room. During the initial section of the book, I felt all the claustrophobia that Ma hides from Jack, making it difficult at times to continue reading, frankly. But this phase is mercifully brief, as Jack gains awareness of the fact of a world outside of Room. At this point, the pace accelerates exponentially and the suspense becomes almost unbearable. I shocked myself by gasping aloud at one point, and I couldn't turn the pages fast enough.

In the latter half of Room, Ma and Jack make the complicated transition to life outside of Room, a transition that is fraught with the perils of the unknown as well as the joys of discovery.

Room is simultaneously joyous and terrifying, light-hearted and intense. It is without a doubt one of the finest books I have read this year, and one that I will not soon, if ever, forget.

You owe it to yourself to read Room.

Friday, November 18, 2011

linkalicious

Long overdue, this post is. Sure I've been busy with new endeavours lately, but the fact remains that I have been falling behind lately on my mission to help emerging musicians to be heard. So in an attempt to keep an open heart and a critical ear, I plan to periodically offer a forum to those musicians who contact me, wanting to be heard.

Please check out these awesome musicians showcased in
part one of my two-part Much Neglected Musicians Review. Show a buddy some love.

Drew Smith:
Check out his gorgeous song "Love Teeth" which has a stunning video with a great story behind it.

My first 'real' job was teaching English as a Second Language in Ontario. I kept in correspondence with many of my students, and was pleasantly surprised to find one of them, Sohee Jeon, had become an established animator in South Korea. She expressed how much she had been enjoying my music, and while I was working on my newest record The Secret Languages she generously offered up her services to make an animated video for my newest single “Love Teeth”.

You can watch the video and download the song for FREE here: http://drewsmith.ca/

-#-#-

Dr. Kenneth Love:
If you are in the mood for jazz (and really with the approach of cocktail party season, who isn't), you may want to check out Dr Kenneth Love's new release cAsE sEnSiTiVe. He's got a fine smooth groove going on, and you can check it out here:

http://www.kennylovejazz.com/cAsEsEnSiTiVe.html

-#-#-

Kirby:
Kirby tugged at my heartstrings recently by sending me the following note. And I have to admit, his music tugged at my earstrings. He's offering his whole album for free download, so check it out:

For the majority of the last two years I’ve toured Canada in my car, most recently by myself. After a bad gig, or an insanely long drive I’ve had to ask myself; “Why the hell am I doing this?”

Then I'd get to the next show, have an amazing night or festival and I'd completely forget those nagging little thoughts. The people, the sounds, the indelible rush from the stage, it all kept calling me back, and I can’t see that ever changing.

When I'd get home I would engulf myself in recording. Into The Dark, was the result. I’m incredibly proud of it and right now its FREE for the whole fall season!

I’m working on following the EP with tours to Europe, and America. But don’t worry I won’t forget Canada either.

If you like what you hear, share it, let your friends know. The more people who hear it the better.

Click here to check it out, FREE download. | http://kirby.bandcamp.com/

-#-#-
The Rest:
Adam from the Hamilton band, the Rest, told me the tale of every band's worst nightmare. I'm glad it had a happy ending, because I am really digging their gorgeous dark and soaring gaze sound. Don't miss the FREE download:

At the end of last winter, we (The Rest) thought we were a few weeks away from completing our latest album, SEESAW, until a hard drive “glitch” deleted every last piece of it.

After a few months of false starts and false hopes, SEESAW eventually found its way to the same company responsible for airplane black box recovery. Almost five months after the process began, we miraculously had our album back.

SEESAW will (we promise this time!) see the light of day in early 2012, but we've launched a double A-side ALWAYS ON MY MIND | THE LAST DAY (includes artwork of my grandfather in the 1940s) to tide everyone over.

It's available for FREE at bandcamp: http://therest.bandcamp.com/

-#-#-

Dave King:

Mr King's musical resume is really impressive:

This album was created in my own converted barn studio, named Barn Window. Under The Golden Sun is the product of over a years worth of recording and I was extremely fortunate to have some of my favourite musicians, who just happen to be some of my favourite people play on the record! Included in this cast are Pat Sansone (Wilco, The Autumn Defense), Paul Linklater and James Strachan. Their contributions to the record are immeasurable and having them on board was an absolute blast.

You can grab the 7'" single, featuring the tile track from “Under The Golden Sun” and "Rachel's Garden" for FREE: http://theheavydream.bandcamp.com/

-#-#-

The Infinite I:

No download post would be complete without a little proggy, semi-techno indefinable space music. I like what I hear, even though I'm not exactly sure what The Infinite I is, but here's how they define it:

Comprised of a total of 38 artists that combine to create, music, costumes, stories and artwork from southern Ontario, Canada.
Infinite I is a community for all types of art.
Infinite I is theatre.
Infinite I is music!

Hear and bring the digital single that is already popular in other dimensions of our universe to yours today with a FREE DOWNLOAD! infinitei.bandcamp.com

-#-#-

I'll be showcasing more new music, complete with linky download goodness in about a week, so be sure to check back. It's good musical karma.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

show me where to sign on

Perhaps not the world, perhaps not saving anything at all really, but a cape and tiara would go a long way toward outfitting me for my new gig. An event facilitator needs to demonstrate a certain style, don't you think?

But regardless of whether I end up wearing my ermine stole or my mom jeans to work, I am thrilled to be joining the Cantos Music Foundation.

How could I not be? I am in love with the vision. The vision of a National Music Centre, amplifying the love. The vision of magnificent architecture which will celebrate Canadian music, a convergence of the old home of the blues and the new buzz of the East Village.

I had my training yesterday, met many cheery like-minded folks, and got a glance at the incredible instrument collection. How I long to play that Theremin. Later this week, I will work my first shift. Still debating the cape and tiara.

In linkety-link news, I have some new posts floating around town:
- coverage of the King Eddy campaign launch (complete with photos) at Music Matters
- partial contribution to an article about the Telus Spark/Mayor's Urban Design Awards appearing on EV Experience. It's a marriage of my scribbling and my editor's sassy style. She has a knack for swooping in and making everything infinitely more awesome. Even if if does mean dropping my Uranus joke.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

welcome, viral overlords

The Hot Zone - Richard Preston

Surely I am not the only person who thinks that viruses are fascinating. The singularity with which viruses mobilize, replicate and attack is the stuff of horror novels. The strains of viruses responsible for such gruesome diseases as Ebola, Marburg and other hemorrhagic fevers are particularly fascinating.

The Hot Zone details accounts of outbreaks of these virulent diseases and science's attempts to identify the contagion and halt its spread. It makes for a ripping good yarn,
made even more compelling by the fact none of it is fiction. Preston does rely on some speculation, out of necessity, about certain specific instances in which the viruses were able to crash into the human population, but generally his detective work is backed by documented facts. Scary, amazing stuff that will keep you reading late into the night.

I did have some issues with Preston's writing style. Perhaps because he is relentless about sticking to documented evidence, the nuances among statements are lost. He gives equal weight to documenting the specifics of a veterinary pathologist doing paperwork in their office at USAMRIID as he does to the gory timeline of an Ebola victim crashing and bleeding out. It did keep me on edge, but it was a little frustrating. Time and again I found myself waiting for the boogeyman to jump out of the closet, when in actuality Preston was merely going into great detail about non-events because that's the way he writes.

I was also puzzled by the existence of the final chapter, in which Preston recounts his own expedition into the cave in Kenya where Ebola is first thought to have jumped species to human hosts. It felt like an afterthought that diluted the impact of the rest of the book somewhat.

But these are minor quibbles. The Hot Zone is a riveting tale from the field of epidemiology that investigates some of the most terrifying and wonderful viruses in existence. Highly compelling reading.

Friday, November 11, 2011

we rule the school

School zones are challenging on days like Remembrance Day, where some people get the day off and some people don't. The the post office is closed, but the garbage still gets picked up.

I didn't have a clue whether the school around the corner was open or not today. Why would I know this? So, not wanting to risk a speeding ticket or a run-over junior high kid, I drove standard school zone speed. Evidently all the other motorists had gotten the school closure memo though, because they all blew by me with disgusted looks on their faces.

We need to get schools to send out a bat signal or something when they are closed for an inconclusive holiday. That would be the neighbourly thing to do.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

5th and 7th

We pass each other twice, at almost the same spot. I'm walking to the river and then returning to my car, parked at the front of a row of cars driven in from the suburbs.

I don't know where you are headed or where you have been. You don't lift your eyes from the street. Lost inside your thoughts, held captive behind wounded eyes.

All around us, the sounds of industry terraform the neglect. To me, the vibrations from the diggers carry the buzz of possibility. I can't help but wonder what you hear, though, in those sounds carried on the winds of change.

Monday, November 07, 2011

the smiling is pushing it around

I've been thinking about civic involvement.

Over the years I have crossed paths with people who have such an infectious sense of community that it's difficult not to get caught up in the rip tide of excitement that they generate. These civic boosters, these momentum builders, not only share my vision of what makes a great city, they are not afraid to take action to make that vision happen. Just being in their wake is invigorating.

I have witnessed a lot of changes in my city lately, and the pace of these changes seems to be accelerating. Starting with the groundswell of public engagement that led to the election of the most popular mayor ever, my city is becoming exponentially more inclusive. And you know what happens when a crowd starts to form - it attracts attention.

Recently His Purpleness, our mayor, launched a 3 Things for Calgary initiative, which I think is a great way to get people engaged in making their community better in some way. It's a simple concept: think of 3 things you can do to make your community better, do them, and then tell 3 people about what you did.



I'm still trying to decide on my 3 Things. I do quite a lot of volunteering already, so I don't think I want to necessarily go that route. Must get a bit more creative on my approach, I think.

What 3 Things would you do personally to improve your community?

While I have reservations as to whether or not it will actually improve the city, here's my first blog post with Getdown.ca, the Calgary Downtown Association blog.

Because a little shameless self-promotion is always in vogue.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

destined for the junkheap

The cogs are rusty and the bolts are falling out. And I am not at all sure how to fix the machine.

I'm not talking about our microwave that has finally been repaired after one month minus two days of non-waving, micro or otherwise. That was an easy fix. The impetus to this particular grumpy complainy rant is the slow erosion of the human machine, the one that has been hauling me around for several decades.

I'm feeling rather betrayed by this. Not that I was ever a Ferrari. More like a dump truck, really. But I always figured that chassis would continue to house my being for eternity,
reliably and without complaint.

I'm starting to realize that isn't so.

I won't bore you with a litany of complaints (although I am tempted), but I will tell you that the aches and pains that began several months ago just keep spiraling into an ever-expanding circle of creakiness. The thigh bone, it would seem, really is connected to the knee bone.

When you can't move normally, you can't move normally, and fitness levels begin to plummet, making it harder to move normally.

I was complaining to the Spousal Unit this morning, as I hobbled down the stairs, that I wished I could just bisect myself at the waist and throw away the bottom half. He laughed and said he wished he could do that with his top half. Maybe we could just ditch the broken parts and fuse together a brilliant new machine with the bits that still work.

Dr. Frankenstein, do you make house calls?

How do you deal with your corporeal complaints?

Thursday, November 03, 2011

nice day to pass under

The Gods of Underpass Opening were smiling upon us that day.

With the pumpkins only slightly frosted
under a clear November sky, it was the perfect afternoon to make the trek downtown to witness the cutting of the ribbon to the city's newest roadway.

The 4th Street underpass, already receiving accolades for shaving time and frustration from commutes, will be instrumental in linking the city's East Village - a previously isolated and ignored area- to the rest of downtown.

With the rebirth of East Village as Calgary newest, oldest, coolest, warmest neighbourhood, the 4th Street underpass makes for a stunning entrance.

It's going to be a great place to hang out this summer. You
should come join me.





Tuesday, November 01, 2011

dead souls march on

I was sorely disappointed to discover that the mini Coffee Crisps were stale. It did curtail my dipping into the trick or treat box for just one more, however. At least until I came to the realization that the mini Kit Kats, a suitable substitute for the annual Coffee Crisp annihilation, were just fine.

The sixty-some Raggedy Annes and Maru cats who showed up at the door saved me from myself. There were more candy-deprived zombies darkening our stoop this Hallowe'en than we have seen the past three ghoul nights all together.

I, for one, am glad to see the reversal of the trend in recent years to take the kids trick-or-treating at the local mall, instead of letting them experience the darkness of the streets. So what if some of them appeared to be bussed in from other areas? At least they weren't just scooping up candy from bowls set out in front of the sunglasses shop and the hair salon. Where's the fun in that? "Look at that scary monster, mommy!" "No honey, that's just the lady who runs the tanning shop."

What was your goblin number?
And more importantly, what are you doing with your leftover minis?


If you enjoy a good Psychic Vampire now and then (and really, who doesn't?), do check out my latest blog post on Cantos' Music Matters.