Friday, November 30, 2012

the words of our mouths

Jack Goes Boating
Sage Theatre
Nov 28 - Dec 8/12

There is a point near the end of Sage Theatre's production of Jack Goes Boating, where I found myself gripped with fear, terrified of the savage violence that I was almost certain was imminent.  I have never before been quite so rattled with anticipation during a play.  The fact that the volatile situation happens off-stage speaks volumes about the power that this production wields in drawing the audience into the world of four damaged, but ultimately hopeful, characters.

Strangely, Jack Goes Boating is actually a comedy.  A romantic comedy, at that. Written by Bob Glaudini, Jack Goes Boating was first produced as a small, but critically acclaimed, New York play, which gained a wider audience and near-cult status when adapted for cinema under the direction of one of its actors, Philip Seymour Hoffman.  

Jack Goes Boating tells the story of four working class friends who struggle to find meaning in their relationships.  Clyde and Lucy are a long married couple, whose marriage is slowly unraveling.  Jack, Clyde's long-time friend, is a gentle, rather befuddled, ungainly giant with an unnatural fondness for Boney M. Connie, Lucy's new coworker, is an emotionally fragile woman, who talks incessantly when she is nervous.  Clearly she is often nervous.  The awkward couple are set up on a date by their friends, after which they embark on a slow and cautious dance of letting go of fear and inviting trust, while their married friends let go of trust and invite fear.  

The play begins as a series of vignettes - brief flashes of action - which gradually coalesce into increasingly extracted and  meaningful exchanges.  Along the way, Jack, Connie, Clyde and Lucy emerge as delicately nuanced personalities, who ache and bleed and love and betray.

The Sage Theatre production (which is co-produced with Edmonton's Shadow Theatre) uses a sparse stage setting of nine cubes which are tetrised between scenes to transform the stage from a living room to an office to a hospital room to a swimming pool.  The swimming pool, the metaphorical epicentre of the play, functions as a both a physical setting and an emotional one.  It is both the setting of actual swimming lessons, doled out with delightfully militaristic barking, and an internal monologue, delivered with desperate intensity.

Jack Goes Boating may be a romantic comedy, but the lovers are not the sort who resolve their problems to live happily ever after in 90 minutes.  They are flawed and capable of great cruelty, while being simultaneously gentle and painfully hopeful. The two couples you will meet in Sage Theatre's production will remain in your consciousness for a long time.  Almost as long as this song will.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

bring on the sparkly horses

It begins.  The giant fridge calendar is already beginning to groan under the weight of commitments, not all of them strictly social.  But then, I guess they never really are.

Tomorrow I have two events to cover.  The first is an urban planning and design speaker series, followed almost immediately by the sequel to last year's spectacular downtown shopping extravaganza.  I won't have time between the two events to procure sustenance, so I am hoping that The Core puts on the same glorious noshery that they did last year.  My heart lies with the urban planning session, but my stomach is definitely cheering for the shopping thing.

Naturally, the weather is expected to turn nasty during the day tomorrow, so I will certainly not be one of the chic shoppers who you will see swanning about in sparkly cocktail frocks and strappy little heels.  I'll be the one in jeans and Sorels, wiping my nose on my sleeve before elbowing that guy out of the way to get the last shrimp canape.  

How many seasonal command performances are you attending? 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

well-heeled boys

Tap9 - Tap9

I'm well used to people I know releasing albums, but I live in a city of 1.2 million, so it's the sort of thing that you expect to happen here.

It's a bit different when a friend, who lives in Lacombe, Alberta (pop 11,707), records an album with his Central Alberta-based band in a studio in Mameo Beach (pop 113) and holds the release party in Blackfalds (pop 6,767).  Suddenly it becomes a pretty big deal. Perhaps it was just my innate big city snobbery showing, but I was surprised by what I heard.

The self-titled debut album by Tap9 is comprised of thirteen original songs performed in a style that the band describes as modern day classic rock.  Those are words that would strike fear into the heart of many a hipster music critic, but fortunately the men of Tap9 are a pretty classy bunch.  Not a single wife-beater shirt or headband in sight.  And I suspect the Peter Frampton hair made an exit decades ago.

Instead, what you get with Tap9 is five accomplished musicians playing well-produced original music.  With songs that vary from guitar and drum-driven upbeat numbers to sultry saxophone-touched harmony-soaked crooners, this is an album that showcases the versatility of this small town band with the big city sound.

Check them out -

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

revered and the right

If the Mayans were right, we've got exactly one month.  Almost time to stop checking best before dates on milk cartons.  

Assuming you won't be riding shotgun as John Cusack drives through earthquakes and collapsing buildings, what do you hope to be doing when the world ends in a few weeks?  Kenna Burima is doing something cool.  She landed a gigyyc grant to put on a one day music festival on December 21, 2012 - the End Of The World Music Festival.  It's going to be magnifique.

Kenna filled me in on her plans, which I wrote about for my latest BC Musician Magazine article.  Feel free to have a read.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

every day is a reminder of the day that never came

The fruitcakes went into the oven at 4:20.  Somehow that feels significant, and perhaps foretelling.

So begins the Christmas prep season, November being the thin edge of the holiday wedge.  I feel a little badly for November.  Surely I am not the only one who feels that it gets short shrift in the calendar hierarchy?

The OFKAR will be coming home in just over a month and by then I plan to have most of my work responsibilities finished off.  The flurry of Christmas recitals at National Music Centre should be wrapped up by that point, and the events that I cover for East Village at this time of year all seem to centre around shopping and Christmas markets, so hopefully those too will be wrapped up with a bow put on them.  I'm already scheming my board game strategy for the holidays.

See?  I'm just as guilty of being unmindful of November's charms as everybody else.  I did, however, write about the New Pornographers for my November edition of Canadian Bands You Should Know, which I now write for the National Music Centre blog.  So there's that, I guess.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

I'm Leaving You For Me 
- Buffy Lawson

Buffy Lawson is gifted with the powerful voice and the right degree of twang that's needed to make it in mainstream contemporary country music.  No stranger to Nashville, she made her mark through the years with stints varying from back-up singer to staff writer to part of the country duo Bomshel.  As a songwriter, she has penned songs for such heavy hitters as Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, and Kris Kristofferson.  On I'm Leaving You For Me, Lawson draws upon life lessons to produce an album of intensely personal songs, songs of heartache and hope, remorse and regret.

Despite the fact that I am not generally a fan of contemporary mainstream country, I was taken with the power of Lawson's pipes and the open honesty of her songs. The bluesy Bread on the Table, with its sassy do-right-woman attitude, backed by a swinging horn section, is a standout track on the album, as is the darkly seductive Runnin'.  The confessional Much of a Lady, with its crying steel guitar, is deliciously reminiscent of honky-tonk angels of the golden age of country.  Personally, I would love to hear that track sped up just a bit and given the full honky-tonk treatment.

Buffy Lawson's I'm Leaving You For Me will hit all the right notes for fans of mainstream country music, and it has just enough diversity to satisfy those of us who long for the old days of country blues and opry.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

reissue repackage repackage

See that?  I even got paid cash money for that photo.

Needless to say, I'm glad I replaced my battered old camera last year.  I'm still wielding a point-and-shoot these days, but it's a lot easier to take a decent photo when you don't have to squeeze the duct-taped battery door closed every time you try to snap a picture. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

how many lords aleaping?

It's arrived early this year.  Like everything else in the world, the annual mystery parcel appears to have fallen victim to Christmas creep.  Mind you, this year the anonymous twelve days of Christmas mail-out was postmarked in New Zealand, so evidently the gift-giver was determined that it arrive well before those six white boomers race Santa under the blazing sun, which was prudent.  We'll wait until the OFKAR is home for Christmas before opening it, of course, but I expect that we will find ten something-or-others.  Drummers?  Lords?  I can never remember.  
It seems timely at this point to indulge my inner list-maker (and thus refresh my increasingly foggy memory) by putting together a chronology of those mysterious Christmas parcels thus far.  You have been warned.
-  (2011) nein injured dancers
-  (2011) the arrival of nein
-  (2010) eight milk maids and one unibomber
-  (2009) the swan has escaped from the castle
-  (2008) alaying those six geese
-  (2007) those five golden rings only get a #7 mention on the list
-  (2006) four calling birds from Philadelphia photographed on a mantel 

I'll bet that now you are as thankful as I am that there are only twelve days of Christmas, aren't you?

Friday, November 09, 2012

snow on sun on window

 Same window, different day.  

I hate to say I told you so, but I am very glad that I took a few days earlier this week, during a bit of downtime from deadlines, to take the garage-full of empties to the bottle depot, replace the stolen windshield wiper, stock up on groceries, and get flu-shotted.  Essentially all the outdoor stuff was looked after before the heavy snowfall warnings, that we had been been told to expect, took effect.  Heck I even threw the Lawnmower Kids' soccer ball back over the fence.

After two weeks of damp and gloom and lingering snow, it was grand to have a few days of sunshine and dry sidewalks earlier this week.  I was so enamoured of the stripes of sunlight that poured in through the kitchen window one afternoon that I shot a whole roll of film (if I used film, that is) trying to capture the warm nostalgia escaping those ceramic tiles.  Afternoon sun through a kitchen window.

It's been quite a different story the past couple of days.  The Spousal Unit made it home from his business trip yesterday before the highways got really bad, and worked from the home office today.  I was registered for a short course downtown this morning, and got up extra early to monitor the road conditions.  Despite the fact that I probably could have made it unscathed, I am glad that I made the call to stay home.  And I am glad I made that decision early.  A quick no is always better than a long maybe.  

And tomorrow the temperature will drop.  -19C in the afternoon, they say.  Damn it feels good to be a gangsta freelancer.

Monday, November 05, 2012

future obsolesence

Who remembers PalmPilots?  It was only a few years ago that I would attend meetings at which all the neurologists pecked away at their tiny PalmPilot keyboards with a little stylus.  It looked cumbersome and far more trouble than it was worth.  My boss, in the meantime, kept a tiny daily calendar in his breast pocket in which he wrote all his appointments in pencil.  It was simple and sensible, and I have since adopted the practice of keeping in my purse the smallest daily calendar that I can find.  You don't see PalmPilots around anymore.
What about pagers?  Not long ago, everyone who was anyone had a pager dangling from their belt.  At these same meetings where neurologists painstakingly entered appointments on PalmPilots, the entire staff of white-coaters also carried pagers.  At least once per meeting, a mass page would be sent out with the resulting cacophony of beeps causing a mass exodus of white-coats from the meeting room.  You may still see pagers in hospitals, I'm not sure, but really the only other place you will see them anymore is at restaurants, where they hand one to you along with the assurance that your table will be ready in twenty minutes.

For your consideration:  tablet computers are the new PalmPilot/pager.  I don't really see the point in ipads and their ilk, but then again, I don't carry a cell either, so maybe it's just me.

Do you use a tablet? Why or why not?

Saturday, November 03, 2012

ambivalent about Frank

Loving Frank - Nancy Horan

I have long been enamoured of Frank Lloyd Wright's designs, but knew nothing about his personal life.  I knew that he had lived many years in Chicago, where he left behind a plethora of fabulous buildings that I hope to see at next year's Communique, but that's the extent of my knowledge.  So when I spotted a hardcover edition of Loving Frank at a book sale this spring, I grabbed it.

I was somewhat troubled by the fact that Loving Frank is a historical novel, as that is definitely not my first choice in reading material.  I had even more reservations about the scope of the novel - the long-time affair between Frank Lloyd Wright and Mamah Borthwick Cheney.  Since I have been known to run screaming from the mere sight of a romantic novel, it took some convincing for me to finally crack the cover.

Ultimately I am glad that I did.  That's not to say that I didn't have any issues with this book, because I did.  But I did learn a lot about Frank Lloyd Wright (he was sort of a dick) and about the proto-feminist with whom he defied societal conventions. 

Mamah Borthwick Cheney and Frank Lloyd Wright, both married with children, fell into a lengthy affair after Wright was hired to build a new house for the Cheney family in Oak Park, Illinois.  Mamah, an early feminist who gave up an established career to marry Edwin Cheney, found an intellectual equal in Frank.  Eventually they both abandoned their families to live together, travelling the world before finally settling down at Taliesin, the house that Frank built for them in Wisconsin.  Mamah eventually obtained a divorce, despite Edwin's initial objections, but Frank, whose wife refused to acknowledge the affair, remained married.

Their lifestyle was considered scandalous by early twentieth century standards and they were vilified by the press. I had a hard time believing just how much time and effort the press put into following every move the couple made, until I thought about the lengths undertaken by modern day paparazzi.

Loving Frank is somewhat unwieldy and the narrative tends to ramble at times.  Both Mamah and Frank come across as being somewhat self-centered in their determination to live their lives in the manner they have chosen.  Mamah, at least, has the decency to feel guilt at the loss of her relationship with her children; Frank just runs up enormous debts.

Mamah Borthwick Cheney is, for the most part, portrayed sympathetically.   Partway into the book, I searched out her life story and was shocked by what I discovered.  Surprisingly, this knowledge did not lessen the impact that the final part of the book had upon me.  That remained very powerful.  Getting there, though, was a mixed journey.

I would recommend Loving Frank for anyone who is interested in the life of America's most famous architect.  But be prepared to slog through a lot of rambling narrative.