Sunday, August 24, 2008

CD Recom: CRAZY!

Crazy, by my fave people in leather I Furiosi, is their new cd of baroque music. This is icing to the cake of their previous cd's Defiled is My (Middle) Name (2005)-- I don't know which I like better! Produced by Dorian Sono Luminus, this record does have a different sound to it, but what is consistent is the ensemble's ability to draw the listener in as much through the technology as they do in live performances; I'm pretty sure I've seen them perform the first piece, Sonata Decima a 3 by Dario Castello (1590-1644), and the recorded version just sucks you right in. I'm not a huge fan of the inclusion of pieces that diverge from the original genre, but Leonard Cohen's Suzanne really works here. I Furiosi do that successfully in concert, too. They have guest artists, including the wonderful Stephanie Martin on organ, and I must say that Gabrielle McLaughlin is one of the few soprani I like to hear. Normally I find them grating, but she has such a different quality to her voice (boy soprano? something original anyway), that she always makes me sit up and take notice. And I figure if she can please picky ol' opinionated me, she must be good! And of course the strings by Felix Deak, Aisslinn Nosky and Julia Wedman are gorgeous. It's lovely to have two of their cds to chill out with now. I'll keep you posted about their upcoming concert season, as I did last year. And really exciting::: ck out the cool video on YouTube! It's awesome!

This Just In......

I've plugged Jason Hildebrand's Prodigal Trilogy film before and now he is doing a performance of his play "Blue Like Jazz" on the 7th Toronto Alliance Church for an Art and Soul Cafe. It is a pay-what-you-can event. 602 Queen St. W (Upstairs) - that is at Queen St. W & Bathurst on the North-West corner. It is above the Mac Fab...Sept. 7/08 doors open at 7 and performance begins at 730. This will be awesome. Go to his site for more details.

Two Flicks and a Book

This week I have 2 1/2 recoms for you. The first, a video of Kirk Douglas' Lust for Life (Vincente Minelli, 1956) is a bit lame, I suppose, but you gotta love these old movies where he or Charlton Heston are pronouncing God's name Gad. It's the story of Vincent Van Gogh's life, with perhaps some added melodrama to the already real drama of it. Ok for a free movie from the library. A dvd I finally got to see is Who the *#)^&@ is Jackson Pollock? (Harry Moses, 2006) about a feisty (if nothing else) 73 tough-mouthed truck driver from the States who lands a Jackson Pollock for $5, inadvertently obviously. It is the documentary of her attempts to have it provenanced and examines the Art World, with capital letters. I won't tell you the conclusion of the film. All I will say is that it is impartial in some parts, and I laughed my head off at the end. Delightful, with a grain of salt. But for sure, go watch Ed Harris in Pollock (Harris, 2000). The book I want to flog is called The Shack by Canadian-born William P. Young. (I have two more books from the same publisher to review, but have only got this one so far). Whether you love it or not, buy into his theology or not, or are Christian or not (how'd you like that trinity?), this book will change you. Period. It fell into my lap at a very significant time, and while I didn't agree with every assumption in its worldview, it definitely speaks to our time and culture. Do yourself a BIG favour and read this book, at the very least so you can enter into conversations about it, which are sure to come up as its popularity spreads. Go to the website for more info. There's a lot of references to Bruce Cockburn music and other popular nods and topics. Come to think of it, you should read it particularly if you are disillusioned with religion. You'll find it refreshing.

CD Release Party!


I'm very excited to be going to a cd release party next week, Friday September 12th for The Roaring Girl Cabaret's In Last Night's Party Clothes. Recommended to me by a well-versed music friend, these girls have a very eclectic style--check out their myspace to hear some clips. $20 will get you the cd and admission (or $10 admission only) for doors-open at 8pm at St. Stephen-in-the-Fields, 103 Bellevue Ave TO. Call 647 341 2923 for more info.

Cool Organ--and that's just outside the building!

FUNtain by Steve Mann at the Ontario Science Centre
Thanks to an anonymous donor, my daughter and I recently went to the Science Centre for the first time in yonks, and were pleasantly surprised, as they say. This place is really hopping with new stuff and updates galore, not the least of which is the inclusion of more art, including the above piece, plus Michael Awad's and David Rokeby's Cloud inside. We had a blast in the Communication area, and noted the updates in other sections. Unlike many interactive museums one takes anticipatory kids to, we found that all the exhibits we wanted to use were in working order which was helpful! I like the direction the centre has taken over the last decade or so. It was also nice to see the ravine still untouched. Great outing. Check out details here.


Chasing Francis


Chasing Francis: A Pilgrim's Tale is a novel in the genre of wisdom literature that embraces my own life theme: pilgrimage. Ian Morgan Cron, an Anglican priest, has written this completely endearing and accessible story about the protagonist's (read: our) postmodern pilgrimage alongside the historic St. Francis. It is one of my favourite books this year. One of the most appealing aspects of this ride is that it is 100% non-preachy, yet illuminates history and issues for the reader. There is also an EXCELLENT study guide at the back for personal reflection or group discussion. I can't speak highly enough about this book, available through Navpress (2006). I have recommended that the Anglican Book Centre carry it.

Lilith is Fair


Just wanted to highlight Maihyet Burton's store Lilith as it has changed location since I last mentioned it. This funky clothing (et. al.) store is now in Studio 103 of the Case Goods Building of the Distillery District, 55 Mill St. And Buttoons buttons are still being carried there!
She and partner Denis Taman Bradette also have a very funky thing going on with the
Warmings Project, part artistic endeavour, part environmental/social activism which assumes a post apocalyptic language and visual reference for Ontario should our land be decimated by our climatic abuses. They express this creatively through their photography and imagined mythology. I'll let her blogs express it better: "The hope is to voice the urgency of climate change through the development of a body of work that interconnects art, design, sustainability, education & literature....On 150 acres of scarred, previously clearcut land in Hunta, 100km north of Timmins, they plan to develop a Refuge for the Climatically Displaced (RCD) & the Otenaw Arcology, ecovillage prototypes. This territory will be the base for bringing together & hybridizing art, design, architecture, environmental studies, education, cultural development & sustainability, and furthering the visions of BeneCorpo." I love their vision and creativity, even if it is portentous. Check out their work. Between this, designing and making her store's clothes, and painting, I'm not sure when Maihyet sleeps....

Eyeballing Candy

Two interesting cds to recom this week--one a tv program from a few years ago, one a film.
Finally got around to watching 4 episodes of ART 21, a (largely) great series about contemporary art. The episodes I saw covered structure, memory, power and other themes, and I only nodded off during two artist segments. I got very excited about the cartoonish (apologies to the artist--adjective doesn't do it justice) figures of Laylah Ali, the macro video installations of Krysztof Wodiczko, Roni Horn's photos, Ellen Gallagher's films, Oliver Herring's photos and was blown away by the collages of Arturo Herrera. So cool!
Then I watched an Argentinian film called El Hijo de la Novia, or Son of the Bride (Juan Jose Campanella, 2001) starring Ricardo Darrin. In the interest of creating a spoiler, I won't say too much about it except that it has as its theme--yes, my favourite--redemption! Even the subtitles were well produced, so that the humour translated well culturally. I seem to be continually haunted by films about loving marriages, but that aside, it was very timely in its treatment of Alzheimer's disease, which had its poignant and funny moments. Highly recommend it, although I guess the R rating for language is valid.

One Hot, One Not

copyright V.Wells 2008
I don't normally trash exhibits or events, but I am going to give a definitive thumbs down to a show I saw at the newly renovated Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art across from the ROM. Object Factory runs until Sept 7th: I was looking forward to this showcase of industrial ceramic design and found it largely (a) boring and/or (b) dumb. I thought two pieces were funky and original. The rest failed the test. Dejected, I went back downstairs to the regular exhibit of contemporary ceramics, only to find more of the same: again, two decent pieces. And the award-winning (as per newspapers/magazines) new shop fell short, too. Yawn. I went to this show during a free-admission timeslot and felt gypped!

However, the good ol' COC did not let me down. More specifically the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. (I do dislike naming arts centres after sponsoring companies, but we'll let that go for the moment). Ian Ritchie gave a solid hour-long tour of the building, including the rehearsal hall and different areas and aspects of the opera house interior itself. Okay, so I'm slightly partial to the opera and the building already, but honestly the tour was comprehensive and extremely interesting. Go to their site or call 416-363-8231 for info about inexpensive tickets ($5-7) for this semi-weekly tour, at noon on Saturdays and most Wednesdays. Excellent for both tourists and regular opera or ballet subscribers. [A caveat: photos are allowed everywhere except for the the concert hall itself......?].


Two CD Recoms


Good stuff coming out of the cd press! Friday September 12th at 8pm sees a cd release concert for Roaring Girl Cabaret (see next week's blog) and i Furiosi return with a new season on Saturday October 4th. Their new cd, Crazy, is predictably gorgeous; next Sunday I will provide more detailed impressions of this new record by my favourite baroque kids in leather.

Film Forum


More info next week, but just a reminder that Windrider @ Wycliffe happens Sept 9-11 from 7-9:30pm. Registration info is available here.

God Techno

My friends at Sound Ministry announce a new event--next Saturday, August 31st at 8pm they are holding a social/mission training fundraiser with live music. The lineup so far includes David James Martinez, acoustic/soul/pop; Steven Mulcare, soul/gospel; and dj Spiritually Minded (cool music and visuals on the sites!). It takes place at 225 Winona Dr (St Clair and Oakwood).

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Tons of good films to recommend these days, of which the surprisingly most touching was My Architect, the story of Nathaniel Kahn's search for the truth about his father's life. Poignant and luscious architecturally, this film delivered. Another pleasant surprise was What the Bleep Do We Know?, surprising because it actually made the rudiments of quantum physics understandable to the layman. Normally I would run the other direction from discussions of either physics or philosophy, but with creative visuals and narrative most of the concepts are accessible. Of particular importance to the Christian was the topic of thoughts affecting 'inanimate' objects change their properties, such as the molecular shifts in the photographed water. Now, you can decide this is 'outlandish' and full of 'bizarre claims', or you can approach it with a sense of openminded wonder and mystery. It's not gospel, but it's food for thought. It stars Marlee Maitlin, too, and who doesn't love her? It seems to be the summer of the cineplex film, so to speak: I keep inadvertently coming across movies about people's concurrent experiences. This week I saw 13 Conversations about One Thing. While I have enjoyed the other similar movies (posted previously), this one focused on faith, the human condition and--my favourite theme--redemption. Amy Irving's character absolutely seethes with unexpressed rage, and Alan Arkin, one of those actors one tends to forget about but who is very good, plays Everyman, if we are honest. As my dad would say, 'Terrific!'



Not the Finale

While Joshua Allen's win on So You Think You Can Dance was well deserved, what really got me excited was the final quartet dance choreographed by Mia Michaels. Check it out on YouTube.

Power Plant Exhibit


The Power Plant has some good art going at the moment entitled Not Quite How I Remember It runs til Sept 1 and until then admission is free. My faves were Nancy Davenport's Weekend Campus and her other constructed photographs. Several other visual and sound installations are there, including the intriguing hypothetical 1984 and Beyond by Gerard Byrne. Worth battling the crowds at Harbourfront.

Free Exhibit

The Circus Comes to Town
This exhibition features vintage photographs, posters, artist prints, illustrated books, heralds and programs from the Special Collections at Toronto Public Library.
July 19 - October 5, 2008
Toronto Reference Library

Sometimes the Simplest Things are the Sweetest

Where Seven Died, a ‘Shining Star’
"I tried to set up a memorial that meant something,” said Roy Holder, in front of his creation.
from the New York Times
By JASON GRANT
Published: August 3, 2008
[On] 50th Street near Second Avenue is a memorial that has been expanding for months, growing in complexity, size and emotional impact. In the wake of a crane collapse on 51st Street east of Second Avenue that killed seven people in March, a homeless man who lives on East 50th Street has built and maintained an intricate memorial.
This makeshift marker comes complete with a table and chairs, candles and blown-glass vases, and includes a sapling and tree branches painted white. Lovingly assembled, the display features a flowery yellow centerpiece, ceramic pots and a vivid piece of art painted on an eight-foot-high sheet of plywood.
Today, more than three months after he began assembling it, Roy Holder, the homeless man, still cleans and cares for his creation seven days a week.
“I tried to set up a memorial that meant something,” said Mr. Holder, who is 54 and has lived on this stretch between First and Second Avenues for seven years. “This is a shining star amongst the muck and the mud.”
Mr. Holder is careful, however, to credit the appearance of both the sapling and the sprawling painting of a cross inside a pink-rimmed heart to an unknown man in his 50s who used to come by on weekends and sit in front of the memorial.

Comfort Update

Comfort Queen Jennifer Louden has updated her website with a crisp new look. You can subscribe to her regular e-zine on the homepage. Jennifer is one of two 'self-help' types I am prepared to recommend. I have seen her work for several years and believe she offers comfort and help with integrity and common sense. Check out her stuff. I can personally recommend her book The Woman's Retreat Book.

Historic Walks

A note about the last in a series of historical walks sponsored by Heritage Toronto: three walks remain for this year, on August 16, 17 and 23 in Cabbagetown, the Theatre District and other downtown gems. For more info on how to join in, please go here.