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Showing posts from March, 2016

3 Fun Things, 15 Not-So-Much

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I did something that I haven't done in a while and that I hate doing: I gave up on a book. Now that I'm a big kid, I allow myself to do that, but I don't like to. I was so looking forward to reading Fifteen Dogs, but alas 90 pages were enough.
It started out great. As a classicist, I loved the premise of the intervention of Hermes and Apollo. I enjoyed the dogs' perspective of co-resident cats (p. 65). My heart strings were yanked taut about animal neglect, pain and death (p.18–19). I had enjoyed listening to interviews on CBC radio with the author. But my god, was I bored otherwise! I can't offer much of a critique, because I'm not even sure where it fell flat for me, but blech. 
What I did like—love—was Fiona Barton's The Widow. Wa-hooo, what a ride! [At this point, I hope you aren't drawing the conclusion that I just don't understand literature and only like commercial page-turners. That ain't the point.] Actually, this book had its downish sid…

GUEST POST

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Homeless On BloorBY DAVID BARKER| PUBLISHED 
MARch 25, 2016 I’m working on a photobook tentatively titled The Disposable City. It’s a vehicle for exploring urban concerns like ephemera, waste (garbage, demolitions, pollution), and the commodification of everything, including people. Every now and then, I do another spread, then let it sit for a time to see how I feel about it. A while back, I did one on a homeless woman who camped out for a few weeks in a doorway across from me. It seems like a reasonable piece to post on Good Friday. I’ve included the text and a few images below, but for the full impact, you can download the two spreads in pdf format. From The Disposable City: I live high up in a condominium on the north side of Bloor Street. Across from me on the south side, one by one, the retailers are leaving their shops as a new owner—a developer—prepares to demolish the existing structures and build a 49-story tower in their place. A homeless woman has started camping out in a door…

Christ Carrying the Cross by Stanley Spencer, 1920

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We All Have a Place We're Not Meant to Give Away

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A good piece of art takes you out of yourself. Last night, Toro, the ‘dance’ piece, allowed me to forget an unrelated incident from an hour previous that had left me shaking. I put dance in quotes for positive reasons, not to denigrate the performance. As Matthew Jocelyn likes to do, we were presented with a genre-bending performance that focused on dance but also employed world music, singing and drama to create the kind of eye-opening and enlightening CanStage offering that Toronto is beginning to expect from it. Toro was the quickly re-visioned performance after one of the two booked dancers, Israel Galvan, had a serious knee injury in Paris and had to withdraw. But the audience did not suffer for it: four remarkable musicians augmented the dance of Akram Kahn, and I had an education. David Azurza, countertenor, B C Manjunath, percussion, Bobote, flamenco and Christine Leboutte, contralto, provided an organic background of vocalization, and instrumental and body percussion which ha…

Aliens of Different Sorts

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Mark Alpert’s The Orion Plan took me back to a large astronomy poster I had as a girl; I’d get lost in looking at its details for hours. This Wine and Cheese Award-winner gets my grudging Ebertian thumbs-up: I whinge because the reading went by too quickly, so gripping was the storyline.
Unlike The Six, which was a YA-oriented novel (see my review), this is an adult sci-fi thriller. (Although really, either book is equally readable by any age group, thanks to the lack of gratuitous sex in Orion.) But like The Six, there is non-saccharine treatment of characters with flaws or University-of-Life knocks; Alpert comments unapologetically about the notion of punishment and the breakdown of Western correctional systems, and he illustrates compassionately the issues around homelessness, grief, addiction, the call to ministry, ecological disasters and colonialism.
But he is not preachy. As Terry O’Reilly said in a recent radio show, “Story matters” and this novel centrifugal-force-flings you t…