Thursday, December 10, 2009
Friday, November 27, 2009
5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Essential part of the process—you can immediately see what’s going over, what’s not. Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings? Readings are wonderful—a way to connect to readers, to hear what they think, listen to other people’s stories. I love doing readings, even though they make me so nervous I can barely remember what I’ve said.which reminds me...must decide what to read from RATS OF LAS VEGAS tomorrow night in Ottawa.
Monday, November 23, 2009
Friday, November 27, 2009; doors 7pm, reading 7:30pm
at The Carleton Tavern (upstairs)
Armstrong at Parkdale, Ottawa
meanwhile, i've been watching rat videos, and i've finally decided that this particular rat is my favourite. it was thought to be extinct millions of years ago. you can practically hear this existentialist Laotian Rock Rat thinking to itself, "If i sit here perfectly still for long enough & pretend you don't exist, voila, you will no longer exist."
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Toronto-based Lisa Pasold's debut novel is as enticing as the lit-up Las Vegas strip and as satisfying as a winning hand at poker.
for the rest of Kathryne Kouk's lovely review of RATS OF LAS VEGAS, visit the Free Press here.
Saturday, October 31, 2009
Friday, October 30, 2009
this is the first time I’ve been involved in writing about an event that was being live-blogged & twittered via a Scribblelive screen. extremely interesting & distracting. reminds me of a study of GPS & its impact on our cognitive ability to navigate. we seem to be physically changing our brains with our new technologies; a study of London UK taxi drivers indicates that all the cognitive map-making necessary for cabbies actually alters their brains, making the back part of their hippocampus grow larger. and similarly, people who use GPS all the time are losing their map-making skills. (see further The Walrus, Nov/09).
surely we’re doing something similar with this constant hum of low-level multi-tasking—watching/listening to an event while making notes & comments about it. our media platforms that require us to look away at least occasionally from the person talking or performing. today, the huge projected scribble screens are distracting, like having a really chatty neighbour during an interesting speech. Sir Ken Robinson mentioned this today, “I sometimes wonder if tech doesn’t get in the way of the experience you’re trying to have at the time.” we all pondered this for a moment, then Sir Ken proposed: “Technology should be supplementing our lives not supplanting them.”
mind you, Sir Ken points out that technology, if it has always been there for you, no longer seems like technology. it’s just reality. (whereas I can actually remember a time before email, back in the dark ages when we were domesticating the tyrannosaurus rex, so the live-blogging definitely qualifies as technology for me!)
all this twitter-berry-ing is highly appropriate for the conference, because the ‘Creative Places + Spaces’ focus this year is collaboration.while Scribble produced a scattered dialogue today, all too often a 140-character series of micro-monologues, some of the Scribblelive board entries really did trigger further thoughts as the lectures went on. so conversation & collaboration can come out of the hubbub of twittering--something of a revelation to me. and most revealing, when the Scribble went dead for a brief period, i was disappointed, I felt I was missing something in the discussion & the conference.
the trick is getting tech such as Scribble to work with the cognitive diversity that today’s keynote speaker, Richard Florida, emphasized is crucial to creative discussion. “If you take people who are demographically diverse, you get cognitive diversity,“ he says, rather than taking a bunch of people who already think similarly—which just produces group thinking & isn’t getting us anywhere.
Florida’s talk was all about how complexity, creativity, and collaboration result in a resilient city. “At the very bottom of the struggle of our time is control,” says Florida. and he thinks Toronto is perfect to wage this struggle. “This is the great battle of our age, the battle between creativity and control... The world needs an example of a city that works. ...if we’re going to build creative places & spaces, we need to do it here [Toronto]. There are very few places on earth that can make this happen."
which brings me back to Sir Ken, talking this morning about our need to DISENTHRALL ourselves… if we're going to create a city that works...if we're going to even THINK about collaborating on a city that works...we need to think afresh. We need to disenthrall—it sounds like a new word, but in fact Abraham Lincoln used it. Sir Ken argues that we must disenthrall ourselves from what we take for granted. To innovate, to think creatively, we must shake off the bonds of common sense—disenthralling is crucial in this battle against control.
so can I disenthrall myself from technology while finding ways to use it? not sure. but I’m heading back to the conference tomorrow, to keep thinking about all this.
(images courtesy of Artscape's conference Flikr page, with the liveblog balcony today at the Carlu, and Richard Florida just before he hit the stage to praise Toronto & Mayor Miller)
Thursday, October 29, 2009
'sustainable' is such a peculiar term, used for so many things, appropriate & less so, and tomorrow will probably bring some interesting discussion on that topic, even as the sessions focus on collaboration & change.
as a secret thrill for me personally, the conference takes place tomorrow in my very favourite Toronto location: the Carlu.
i am seriously considering wearing fingerless gloves as a tribute to Glenn Gould, who wouldn't have been out of place on tomorrow's speaker roster.
Saturday, October 24, 2009
of course, ask poets to write 3.5 lines & the resulting line breaks can be open to interpretation, but the symbolic structure holds.
(my contribution to the collaborative project is entry #204)
Monday, October 05, 2009
that's me, in the dress, and Craig Davidson, on stage, hoping i answer his question coherently...
Bremner Duthie sang the crazy Dyin' Crap-shooter's Blues (my special request) and then burned up a set of lounge lizard standards with his jazz trio...
a blurry photo of the divine Alejandra Ribera singing a knock-out Stormy Weather
the burlesque grrls waiting to do their tribute to Vegas...
Skin Tight Outta Sight had a little somethin' for everyone in their Vegas-inspired end-of-the-evening show...
getting into the spirit of things before the poker game (no cash, just points) organized by Joe LaFortune...yes that's really his name...the problem with fiction is, if i used a name like that for a poker player in the novel, no one would believe in him!
lounge singers, poker chips, burlesque dancers, and an audience that actually laughed at my jokes...it was one helluva launch & i owe BIG thanks to everyone involved.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
built in 1922, the Palais was originally a dancehall with a boat house downstairs. the building on the shore of Lake Ontario hasn't changed that much--though the view from the verandah probably has...
considering these awards focus on new buildings' context and the evolution of the Toronto's urban fabric, the Palais location seemed peculiarly appropriate--a gorgeous corner of the city's history, marooned by poor planning decisions. of course, the good people at the ceremony were far too polite to mention that fact.
no huge surprises at the awards. i was delighted to see two of my personal city faves being singled out for further glory: the 40R_Laneway house and the Spadina wavedeck.
and this is the Palais at the end of the rainy evening, when there was a special city bus to drag revellers back to Union Station. instead, i braved the crazy pedestrian bridge across the Gardiner Expressway (easier to get home, from there.)
for more about the Urban Design awards, check out my article for blogto.
Saturday, September 19, 2009
Monday, September 14, 2009
there's a newly-discovered giant rat in Papua New Guinea, living in the crater of a volcano. and the rat is quite friendly, as you can see on the BBC website's video. hopefully it won't meet too many humans who pull its tail (that might influence how friendly it feels towards us.)
and in case you think i'm exaggerating with the word "giant"...the rat is 82 cm long.
Monday, September 07, 2009
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Friday, August 14, 2009
i especially like the pigeon sitting on the head of the statue, which is apparently "Monsieur Fery"--no relation, as far as i know, to the Ferris Wheel. and the "non non non" from a nearby passenger, whose chair was being set spinning. but most of all i like the view in all directions...
Thursday, August 13, 2009
maybe that's not so surprising: cities have a great selection of flowers for the bees' delectation (whereas so many acres & acres of our farmland is now mono-cropped & covered in pesticides, which is hard on the bees.)
in Paris, i like to visit the beehives at the Luxembourg Gardens (taking care not to walk on the grass, of course!)
but the most bizarre beehive location is on top of the Grand Palais, the immense glass-domed exhibition space. the bee-keeper has quite the view! and i'd love to tell the tourists, touring the Opera Garnier, about the bees...i like the idea of the Opera being haunted by bees rather than Andrew Lloyd Weber.
Tuesday, August 04, 2009
Friday, July 24, 2009
Saturday, July 18, 2009
Tuesday, July 07, 2009
Sunday, July 05, 2009
Wednesday, July 01, 2009
but in the meantime, bring on the the fireworks, the poutine, and yes, our proud national rodent, the beaver. (you other countries with eagles & things, you're just jealous you don't have a national animal as practical & entertaining as a beaver.)
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
i love this project because it's a refreshing new take on what a street mural is supposed to be--Mongiat isn't trying to hide the wall or cover up the sometimes sketchy aspects of his neighbourhood. "I like working with what's here," he says.
the broken-up & stained surface of the concrete wall, the industrial feel of the railway bridge overhead, even the graffitti that has turned up on the south side of the mural (completed last year)--it's all part of his inspiration. for more about the mural, see my BlogTO article here.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
above, the interior of the main Grand stage; Bremner is performing in the downstairs black box theatre, which used to be a rabbit's warren of rooms for the vaudeville performers. very appropriate for the cabaret-inspired "Barker's Spiel"!
unfortunately, the exterior has been renovated, so you would never suspect the interior is so fabulous. the theatre is apparently haunted by the Grand's original impresario, Ambrose Small, who disappeared mysteriously in 1919. we haven't seen his ghost, as yet (and we had a late show on Saturday, so if he was going to appear, surely he'd have turned up then...maybe he can't figure out what happened to the outside of his theatre.) the various stories about him are quite fascinating. the theatre technician happily showed us the original basement wall of the Grand--where Small kept a secret office, to settle gambling debts & meet the ladies.
this kind of nefarious history seems to turn up all over London, even behind the most elegant 19th century facades that we walk past every day. we're staying in Woodfield, beside downtown; starting in the 1840, tobacco barons, a medical genius or two, and all kinds of business tycoons built homes here. (photos are two of my favourite "white brick" houses--the brick was quarried nearby & gives the streets a much brighter, lighter feeling than Toronto's red brick bay & gables.)
we're staying in a 19th-century Ontario cottage a block from here...and our first evening, while we relaxed in the garden, our host admitted that back in 1920s, the house was a well-known brothel. the immense claw-footed tub (since refinished) still stands proudly in the main bathroom.
for a theatre performance that's inspired by Berlin 1930s cabaret, by 1950s Vegas lounge, and by the vaudeville world of the carny, turns out London couldn't be more appropriate...
Friday, June 12, 2009
of course, nothing is flawless: the curving steps of the city's new urban dock seems a little too inviting for skateboarders...and some grouches are worried that urbanites will slip on ice in winter (or the city will completely cover the bridge in salt, turning the fish beneath into gravlax).
but i'm excited about this new deck because it shows creativity and vision--rare qualities indeed. and i like the determined playful work of Adriaan Geuze, the Dutch landscape architect whose design won the Waterfront competition. at this Friday's opening, Chris Glaisek (vice-president of planning and design for Waterfront Toronto) said he hoped the WaveDeck's success would calm critics who are raging about the project's slow progress and cost. the deck was completed two weeks early, and under budget.
Tuesday, June 09, 2009
i was lucky to attend a lecture by Danish urban planner extraordinaire, Jan Gehl, at the gorgeous Design Exchange on Bay Street. The former Toronto Stock Exchange room was packed, to hear Gehl talk about his projects, including his recent work with New York City's radical Commissioner of Transportation Janette Sadik-Khan for the PlaNYC Initiative. Times Square for pedestrians, bike routes down Broadway...as Gehl said, "If you can do it there, you can do it anywhere!"
i'm sure i wasn't the only one in the room wondering why Toronto isn't making similar moves. For more on this, with some high-octane reader comments, my BlogTO report, here.
and the very same evening, the PUGs were handed out. Awarded by popular on-line voting, this year's winners weren't surprising--the gorgeous AGO came out on top in the commercial building category, and classy but safe One St. Thomas won in residential. the losers weren't publicly mocked at the ceremony, but things did get interesting during the panel discussion. my article focusing on the PUGs' impassioned panel, here (along with some more photos).
Thursday, June 04, 2009
Monday, May 25, 2009
here's an interview that pretty well sums up his attitude about art & life.
Thursday, May 21, 2009
i dropped by a year ago & had doubts that the building would be ready for residency in November...
but in fact--despite a few changes to the architect's plan due to budget shortfalls--the Barns are great. with The Stop's food program, the Saturday market, LEED certification, and some good art events, they're really living up to their environmental & community commitments. my only quibble: the one-room live/work studios are VERY small.
Monday, May 18, 2009
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Thursday, May 07, 2009
"Silence possesses striking similarities [to] aspects of life and community, such as unpolluted water, air, or soil, that were once taken as normal and given, but have become special and precious in technologically mediated environments."which gives me something to think about, when next trapped in an elevator with piped-in music & overflow static noise from a neighbour's pod-like headphones.
"Today scientific constructs have become the model of describing reality rather than one of the ways of describing life around us… . Because the scientific method separates knowledge from experience, it may be necessary in case of discrepancies to question the scientific results… rather than to question and discount the experience. It should be experience that leads to a modification of knowledge, rather than abstract knowledge forcing people to perceive their experience as being unreal or wrong.”a balance of knowledge & experience, of science & feeling. i have a feeling i'll be reading more from Franklin.
Tuesday, May 05, 2009
i had a fantastic Sunday, walking through Beaconsfield Village, starting at the fabulous Gladstone Hotel...around 80 people turned out for my "Secrets & Lies" walk as part of Jane's Walk. which was wonderful for me because i had the chance to hear great stories from people who live or used to live in the neighbourhood. gorgeous weather, too, which always improves a walk!
Friday, May 01, 2009
No one can find what will work for our cities by looking at ... suburban garden cities, manipulating scale models, or inventing dream cities. You've got to get out and walk. (wrote Jane Jacobs)Jacobs died barely 3 years ago, but her legacy of passionate, intelligent interest in how we live in our cities continues. Jane's Walk celebrates her legacy...and this year, the walks aren't only in Toronto, they're international!
tomorrow, i'm leading a walk through the streets around the Gladstone Hotel--THE IMAGINARY LIFE OF BEACONSFIELD VILLAGE. we meet at 11:30, behind the hotel (at Gladstone & Queen West) so if you're in town, see you there?
Sunday, April 26, 2009
Saturday, April 25, 2009
the amazing, the astonishing, the first...One-Minute Film Festival, created by Scott Amos...being held tonight, for one night only, at KIAC Artist-in-Residence building, the Macaulay House Residence. i wish i could be there...since i have a 1-minute film being screened at the event, with music created by Rozalind MacPhail.
participating filmmakers include Elisabeth Belliveau, Terry Haines, Deco Dawson, Scott Amos, Dan Sokolowski, David H. Fraser, Rachel Wiegers, Jessie Currell, Rozalind MacPhail, Karen MacKay, Jen LaLiberté, The KIAC Staff, Lulu Keating, Veronica Verkley and Charles Stankievech. and me, in what i suppose is my filmmaking debut. !
the idea of home is constantly evolving in cities--we live in old buildings, new buildings, converted buildings, factories, houses, apartments... right now, i'm living in a house that has been subdivided into apartments (i'm in the former attic.) across the street, there's a church being turned into townhouses, which seems to be a tediously slow project...whenever the weather is lousy, the construction crew stays home.
this week i was lucky to visit Toronto's Foundry Lofts--a site which originally produced steel railway rails, fences, fire hydrants...and rather splendid decorative dragons. the foundry company dates back to the 1870s; these buildings were mostly built in 1903. now, this main warehouse has been repurposed as lofts, with a massive communal shared atrium running down the middle of the space.
several of the buildings on the former 60-acre site have been given Heritage status, and deservedly so--the smokestack, above, built at the beginning of the 20th century, was once the 2nd tallest structure in all of Canada. several of the lofts look right out at the smokestack--including this one.
more on the evolution of the Foundry, in my series on homes in Toronto, for blogTO.