Archive for August, 2009|Monthly archive page

Waiting for Moscow

Saturday, August 29th, 2009

Sue and I went to see Martha Henry’s production of Three Sisters at Stratford on Thursday night.

I went in with no real expectations since there have been some mixed reviews (though others have absolutely loved it). I was pleasantly surprised for the most part. It was at the Tom Patterson, so the audience is pretty much on top of the stage, and there’s really no place to hide for the set or the actors.

Basically, there are 3 sisters–Olga, Masha and Irina–and a brother–Andrei–living in a parochial town after their father’s death. Well educated and intelligent, the girls feel stifled and can’t wait for their brother to take them back to Moscow, where they can enjoy society while he becomes a famous professor. This is the only thing that keeps them going, other than the fact that the soldiers are stationed there, and they provide some diversion and attractive uniforms.

But it’s Chekhov, so you know this isn’t gonna work out so well.

I definitely got the feeling that the cast is comfortable with each other, and Henry assembled some long-time Stratford players who know their voice and can project without the spit-shouting that sometimes mars newbie performances in the bigger productions.

Most of the performances were quite good. In particular, Dalal Badr as Irina carried the innocence and idealism of the character quite well after her first scene (when she seemed to be completely flouncing her dress with no idea why she was flouncing her dress), and the wonderful James Blendick as Doctor Chebutykin (the sopped Doctor/tenant) whose quips and love of Irina are endearing, even as he descends to despondence “We are all not really here” (as they hope but know it’s not true).

Kelli Fox, as Natasha, pulls off that “small girl made tyrant” so well, that by the end of it we wanted to give her a smackdown. In every scene she was in, she pulled eyes toward her, and that’s a good thing on the stage. Also Juan Chioran brings the right kind of madness to Solyony whose social awkwardness belies a level of anger that comes to break Irina’s last chance to find a measure of happiness, even if it’s “settling” with the Baron (Sean Arbuckle, whom I’ve liked in several plays).

And Tom McCamus, looking a little old and weary, does a fairly good job with the philosophically bleak Vershinin.

The one let-down, in fact, was Lucy Peacock as Masha. Her costuming didn’t help – it was a frumpy Spanish doll look that made her look old and cheap. I get that Masha is old before her time in her marriage to Kulygin (whose entrance was both entertaining and spot-on) but even in later scenes when she’s falling in love with Vershinin, it’s like there’s a cougar trying to be a crazed teenager and a melodramatic crone at the same time. I’ve not liked her in other productions I’ve seen, but she’s known to be a darling of the Stratford set, and I really don’t get it. Her whole performance was disjarring for me.

Henry’s attention to the quotidienne, and the majesty, comedy and tragedy of small gestures really lifts the moments in the play. Some of the scenes I liked best include a tandem “striptease” between Vershinin and Masha where just the removal of footwear bespeaks longing and danger, and the poor cuckolded Andrei relentlessly pushing a baby carriage in circles (and probably not his child to boot), and in small caresses that the  Baron is allowed with Irina.

As commentary on contemporary life, this play has a lot to say. About deferred joy and about fulfillment. In Act I, Irina passionately wants to work–the sweat and physicality that she has never experienced seems a liberation and a realisation of her idea to have purpose–until the family finances and changing politics in early 20th-Century Russia forces her to first work at the Telegraph office (from which she recoils in despair) and then finally for the council. A life as a wife, even if it’s not in Moscow, can only be better than that.

But what makes you want to leap from your 21st Century chair and deliver a sobering volley upon their heads is that no character forces a change–takes charge of where they are going and changes the direction–hell, goes off to frickin’ Moscow on their own! Oh, but there are many of us who are sitting in a rut of our own making, who wake up and 5 years have gone by and the thing that was making us tired and angry and mentally lethargic is still there. And we may never get to Moscow either.

The Woz, curries, astronauts, art, dead art, baseball and rye in a cup

Friday, August 21st, 2009

I’ve been trying to keep myself busy and distracted this week. Mostly thinking about JL regardless. I miss him very much, but I’ve had a lot of friends checking in and making sure I’m okay, and this has been very much appreciated. Hardest part right now is coming through the front door and he’s not there. I think I’ve actually called out “Bumba?” once or twice before realizing why he wasn’t blocking my way into the house and meowing.

Monday morning though, the Woz was in town and Communitech hosted a breakfast at which he was the keynote speaker. It was as one would expect: some rambly, sometimes funny anecdotes and then a blast of passion about why the interface and design are so important in whatever you are engineering–even if that’s the number of holes in a motherboard that not many will notice and even fewer will appreciate. It was quite amusing to realize that most of the brain power in K-W were in one area, as Melle pointed out.

Tuesday was birthday day, but definitely low key. It was as much a missed anniversary as a celebration. But birthdays must be had, so Melle and Melissa and I went out for some curry on Tuesday night–I had some crazy shrimp dish (“Sambal”, I think, related to peppers or spices) with tomotoes and it was very good. Melissa gave me some very awesome scotch glasses that have astronauts whose lifelines are shaped in a heart. I mean, science + scotch is really the bomb if you ask me. And they were wrapped in purple bubble wrap! Bubble wrap is a wonderful thing, but purple bubble wrap is twice as nice.

Melle and Andrew commissioned a good-sized canvas by a local artist and it will go above a bench that I have in an alcove area of my living room. It’s pretty fab. I guess Melle had to give an idea of what themes might work, so she came up with “random old doors, literature, scotch, moorish architecture, conspiracy theories, earthy colours with a lot of dirt in them, Tom Robbins, and nature”. And that’s what I got. Colours are perfect, and there’s a lot of interesting detail. I promise I’ll take a picture once it’s hung to show you.

On Wednesday, Melle and I met up with Andrew (who was already in Toronto for a filmfest) and two other friends to see the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit at the ROM, followed by some pretty awesome Thai food and then a Jays game. The Dead Sea Scrolls were dead. And very tiny. They had a series of exhibits set up before you actually got to see the scrolls. I discovered a fraud – well, really they had two coins in the wrong spots when you looked at the detailed drawings compared to the coins themselves. They were so tiny it was difficult to spot the difference, so I think this is evidence that I have the same level of competence as a trained archeologist. They should take me on a dig or something.

The people-watching was pretty good. There were what appeared to be church groups, at least one Chassidim family, then more average folks. I pretty sure we were the only ones making jokes about the resemblance of oil burners to hash pipes and enjoying the pictures of the original restorers in a room with full sunlight, using scotch tape to piece together pieces of scroll with a cigarette in hand. That’s conservation, people!

After that, we wondered around the dinosaurs once we found them. Melissa was thrilled that Melle sent her a pic of dessicated poo. And I’m pretty sure we saw an ROUS skeleton in the supersized mammals section.

Then we wandered down the street and picked a random Thai place for dinner. Since we were eating at old people time (i.e. before 5pm), we got this awesome dinner combo that included a really good soup, a spring roll, a bit of salad and a main course. I had curried chicken and green beans. All the dishes were fabulous and the bill was probably less than what we paid for parking.

Then it was off to the Jays game. Melle got us really great tickets right at the rail in the 200 deck of right field. The Jays lost (which made about 60% of the audience in attendance very happy), but the most important thing is that Andrew obtained for me… a cup of rye! Sure, I could have had beerz with the rest of them, but as you well know, I’m a hard liquor kind of girl. Apparently he went into the bar and asked if takeout was allowed. The bartender said yes, so then he asked for a double-shot of rye in a cup. She said, “and?”. He said, “and that’s it”. I highly recommend it for any sporting event.

16 years, 362 days

Saturday, August 15th, 2009

When I arrive at the vet’s, a woman in her 50′s is sitting on the bench outside of the foyer. Short styled hair, cruisewear, bright pink toenails, dark sunglasses. I have dark sunglasses too.

“The door is still locked. I think they will open in a minute. …Is your cat sick?”

“Yes. He has diabetes.” And a heart condition, and he won’t eat, and he can’t poop. And I’m afraid he might die today.

“Poor thing. My Roger has a feeding tube right now. …I’ve only had him for a year.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.” I wish he would meow at least. The quiet is even worse. And it’s too hot out here.

“The thing about Roger is that I had two cats before and when they died, it broke my heart. I said never again, but then here I am. He was my friend’s.”

“That’s very respectful to your friend for you to take him and care for him.”

“He was at the nursing home, and they were supposed to take care of him, but I think they overfed him. He’s overweight, and now he might die. I’ve had two strokes. … But he’s a wonderful cat. A wonderful cat. There’s more shade on the bench here – put your cat here.”

She sits and I stand and neither one of us is willing to remove our sunglasses, and it’s hard to really talk at all.

Then the vet comes and opens the door. “Here are two people who love their cats,” she says.

She takes care of the lady first – making sure Roger is ready for a visit, then she ushers Jean Luc and me into my favourite room – it’s library panelled, and it has an original Victorian door with deeply inset panels and years of wear.

I hear her taking the lady back to Roger, joking about how he’s managed to tangle up his IV lines, and that it’s a good sign if he’s feisty. I open the door to Jean Luc’s carrier so I can stroke his head while we wait.

She comes back and starts the exam: heart is remarkably good, considering he’s been on meds for it for a while now. She says if we are talking about a checklist, then that’s a definite checkmark in our favour. Weight is down, but that’s no surprise since he hasn’t eaten hardly anything except tuna juice and yogurt in a few days (neither of which is exactly cat food, but certainly the cat breakfast of champions). His blood sugar is way low, dangerously low.

If it’s blood sugar only, then maybe that’s something that can be worked on. However, it’s a good idea to do an x-ray just to make sure we see nothing else. She’s hopeful that things are looking better than feared.

She takes him from my arms and off to the back room. At this point, I’ve swung from surely thinking it was time, to wondering if he had yet another life he hadn’t used up yet, and back again. Hoping that I would know what the right thing to do is.

She comes back and we chat about nothing in particular while we wait for the film to dry. About what he might like to eat. About how great his fur looks. About Bogie, the less-than-smart cat at the clinic.

Then we look at the x-ray.

“The dark area is gas, and you can see the heart and lungs are really clear right here – that’s really good news. And here is the colon, which is fine to this point. …To this point.” She turns, tears in her eyes, “but here, what you see, is a tumour. I’m sorry.”

“And it wasn’t there a few weeks ago.”

“No. It wasn’t. They grow fast. If he were a candidate for surgery, which he’s not, then it might be removable, but once it’s in the lymph system, it’s hard to stop. And chemo..”

“No chemo.”

“No chemo.”

“So, then…”

“So, then I think we know the decision.” I said I needed to know what the right thing to do is, and now I know. I can see it there on the picture. In some way, this is a comfort.

“We always want to have a clear sign, even though we really don’t want that sign. But this is pretty clear. I’ll leave you alone with him for as long as you like. I’ll go prepare the medication.”

So then it’s just me and Jean Luc in a room. His head on my shoulder and my tears in his fur for a while. I tell him that he did well and kept his promise to make it to his 17th birthday, and too bad he couldn’t make it to my birthday in just a few days–what would have been 17 years since I met him–a little black thing sitting in the middle of my kitchen table with a bow, for my birthday–but that I understand.

Then I go and get her.

Wherein I discover I have ESP, and design my new logo

Thursday, August 6th, 2009

So, Melle and Andrew and I were watching the True Blood last night, and it was the scene where Hoyt and Jessica are in bed sharing their secrets (and aren’t they the cutest thing evar!?), and Hoyt said, “I have to tell you something”, and I said I ain’t never done it… and then right after that, HE said, “I ain’t never done it”!!!

I looked at Andrew and Melle to make sure that they recognized my newly unconvered superpower. Which means I totally need a new costume, because I need a logo to that encompasses super power 1 and super power 2.

I’m thinking a picture of an ass (human not donkey) with a lightening bolt and music notes coming out of it and then the letters “E.S.P.” emblazoned overtop of it all – in a colour scheme of popsicle pink and white, in velour. Except for the tights, cuz they might bind up.

And in related news, felicitations and mazel tov to Ms Sookeh Stackhouse and Mr William Compton on their recent engagement. I think they are worried about supe crashers at the wedding, because they are insisting that their names are Anna Paquin and Stephen Moyer, but those aren’t good Southern names at all.

In the name of science

Monday, August 3rd, 2009

It’s a truism that science fiction embeds many a kernal of truth, or the possible (if not the probable). A good science fiction writer sees what is now (or was) and takes it to some logical end to see what happens. Sometimes, the results are pure delight: a la Jasper Fforde, and sometimes the results are terrible: The Road comes to mind.

In the latter category is Mars Life by Ben Bova. Intelligent life has been confirmed on Mars from about 60 million years ago, when it was wiped out, presumably by an asteroid event similar to the one that wiped out the dinosaurs on Earth. There are about 200 scientists on Mars carrying out excavations and experiments, and a village is discovered at the bottom of the canyon.

Due to global warming and the decimation of resources, arid areas have become floodplains, the prairies have become desert, and much of the coastline has been lost to much higher water levels. It’s hell on Earth, and sufficient monetary pressure on governments and big business to either donate or make money off the backs of refugees.

Meanwhile, in an increasingly fundamentalist USA, funding for the Mars program is cut and leaders from the religious right are seeking to stop the program entirely, since the concept of intelligent life on another planet clashes with their view of God – i.e. he made humans, to rule the EARTH. This is also a culture in which Darwin has been entirely suppressed, and only creationism is taught in schools.

The battle is to try to sustain the research on Mars with what would be the most important scientific discovery ever, in the face of persecution, lost funds and pressure to open up the planet to tourists.

I found myself alternately swearing and shaking my head in either rebuttal or disbelief, with a palpable sense of discomfort at just how possible this scenario is. As Bova notes in the interview linked above,

I consider religious fundamentalism to be the most serious threat to democracy and individual liberty that this nation has ever faced. Religious intolerance has destroyed great empires in the past. It could destroy the United States of America in the foreseeable future.

Of course, it’s not just the US, but they do seem to have an inordinate number of powerful and wealthy fundamentalists. Even Obama is not immune from their influence, and tactics such as boycotts or blocked advertising aren’t science fiction at all–they are in use today.

It’s very hard to step outside of the facts to try to understand how these people see the world through a little arrow slit of thought and fear and prejudice (so wonderfully detailed by Mark Morford on a regular basis). It’s a mean little world view. An aggressive view. A dangerous view to science, to nature and to tolerance. Scares me more than any monster that a fiction writer might come up with.

Bova does try to show perhaps some alternative, more progressive “spiritual” paths–namely Native myths (Navahoe), and even the Catholic church to some extent. The book itself is in some way an affirmation of a spiritual interpretation to anything that we might discover out there (i.e. God’s work wherever we may find it in the universe).

While that interpretation is unecessary, it’s certainly better than the fundamentalist alternative.

Books that make me think = good stuff.

Of course

Monday, August 3rd, 2009

About 10 minutes after I started doing the hallway floor, JL, who hasn’t jumped on anything in about 2 years and would qualify for the senior cat sleeping olympics, vaulted a 2-foot barrier to land directly on the wet surface.

Shiny hardwood floors, now featuring paw prints.

Here’s hoping there’s no bubbles

Sunday, August 2nd, 2009

I’m about to try to finish the bald spots on my hardwood floor. It’s the one thing I wish I got done before I moved in, but the timing didn’t work out so well and here I am 2 years later with spots that have no finish at all.

The grossest part was when I washed it. I’m not a dirty house keeper, but my gods, that’s some dirt that came up. I’m hoping a lot of it was sawdust.

If this works, I’ll continue to do sections, since I’ve got nowhere to put all of the furniture and do it all in one go.

One of these days, I’ll live in a house where all of the reno jobs are done, and it will be peaceful. And then I’ll probably get bored and try to break into the neighbour’s and redo their house (I can see through the window that it hasn’t been properly updated since some time in the 70′s.