Sunday, July 26, 2009

Tall Ship Kind of Day

Finally! Some real summer weather! Hot, muggy and pure July in my mind, even if mixed with a tad more rain than we usually get in July and just a bit cooler than the hot days we usually get. Good enough, I guess.

As I sit out on my balcony on this wonderful Friday night and put my feet up and sip a glass of my favourite beer of the moment - Rickard's White - I am really enjoying the evening. I have to remind my self that with the start of August (Oh My God - tomorrow?) it will begin getting cooler in the evenings. So our July this year had no heat wave and none of those hot summer nights I so much enjoy. Oh well, what can you do eh? Tonight the night is quite nice and I mean to enjoy it!

Once again I am facing uncertainty in my job situation. Its contract renewal time and I am wondering if I will have my contracrt renewed or if I will be out looking come the end of August. I had been told a few weeks ago that they wanted to retain my services until next spring, but apparently they have decided that they would be better off hiring employees rather than paying a premium for "hired guns". Latest is that the best they will do is 3 months and after that well its adiós a mi amigo!

So, when September rolls around I will need to start looking for another company that needs a hired gun - or else sell out and become an employee (they did offer me that). Too bad, if this were next year I would take a sabbatical and do a bit of a gypsy travel thing for a few months...

Ingrid Michaelson

There are a crop of new songs that have been grabbing me in the last 6 months and I hope to share them with you in the coming months. CBC Radio 2 in the morning (my walk to work listening radio station) plays the greatest music, often lesser known Canadian musicians, but not always. This US artist has caught my ear with a few of her songs lately and I was surprised when I did a wiki look up that her songs have been featured on quite a few TV series such as Grey's Anatomy, Scrubs and the like. This morning I was practically skipping to work and humming along with this one, which fit my mood entirely.

Simply the best song for a morning walk to work:

Of course, more well known is her song Always.

The Toilet Incident and a Bowl of Rice

I have been having a tough week. It all started last weekend when my iPhone took a dive for the deep.

Sometimes you see things happening in advance and you take no warning. You continue with a risky behaviour even though you know there is a possibility of something awful happening by accident but because doing otherwise is a bit more difficult or just even a few extra steps. So you continue a "dangerous" practice and risk the consequences. We all do this. If you are like me, as I decide to short cut a safety step a little voice tells me "one of these days this will go wrong..." as I picture in my mind's eye the awful consequence I am risking.

A few examples of this come to mind. I got caught with one of these a few months ago and ended up sendng an email to someone who should not have received it, simply because I used the "To" spot to type in the name and clicked on it to find the title of someone I was mentioning in the email. It is a faster way of looking up the contact than using the "Address Book" button. Disaster ensued since I had that person's name in the TO box and in haste, forgot to remove it before I hit the "Send" button. It was a big disaster because I was replying to a note sent to me by my boss marked confidential and she had explicitely said that the person should not be copied on the email. That person was a VP. My boss was not amused. I vowed never to use the "To" box to look up information for a non recipient ever again.

What happened to me with the iPhone is another example of taking shortcuts and risking consequences. Last Sunday I was rushing to take Bella out for a walk. I grabbed my cell phone and threw it into my back pocket and as I was about to run out the door realized that I needed to make a quick visit. As Murphy would have it, as I pulled down my pants the phone jumped out of my pocket and into the drink. I mean drink in a sailorly way - I was not sipping margaritas at the time.

As I turned to see what the "plonk" was all about I viewed my beloved phone slowly sinking to the bottom of the bowl. Without hesitating a moment I plucked the phone out and without skipping a beat I grabbed my blow dryer and blew air all over it and into the little holes. It might have been in the water for maybe 4 or 5 seconds at most.

At that point I remembered that I should power it off as it is the electricity which is the problem. I had discovered that a few years ago when a laptop sitting on a basement office desk had been flooded by a pipe leak many years ago. At that time we were told if it had dried out before we turned it on.... the smoke was a tell take sign that the laptop was not salvageable. As I started the power off sequence it flashed a message to me on the screen. "The iPhone is not compatible with this device" - I should say not - I do not have an iToilet, after all.

I immediately went to the great world wide web to find out what to do. It was surprising how many folks have had this problem - or worse. I read about numerous toilet, bathtub, boat and even washing machine incidents - and I found out what to do. Remove the sim card was the first thing (not enough to power the cell phone off). Taking the battery out is unnecessary it seems and from the acccount by the one guy who did that it is a several hour exercise for only the most teckie types in the crowd. The main solution involved rice. Plunge it in a bowl of uncooked rice and leave it for 3 days! Rice is a natural desiccant. Seemed like a great idea to me!

As I read the many accounts of these incidents and how folks made out with the rice process, I was struck by how many of these people just could not wait 3 days. In the maybe half dozen accounts, the iPhone owner, perhaps in a bad way with iPhone withdrawal or in the same way that a mother needs to get up in the night and "look in" at their child, felt compelled to turn on the iPhone after only several hours in the rice. In each of these cases there was also a story of woe - the iPhone malfunctioned and they quickly turned it back off and thrust it back into the rice until it had sat in the rice marinatd for the full 3 days. I determined not to take it out of its rice until the full 3 days were up.

It is so difficult to be without the iPhone when you are used to having it with you 24/7. Starting with the lack of an alarm clock, (the cheery alarm ring tone is the first thing I hear every morning), and continuing with the now need to be precise about when and where I will be for folks I need to meet and when someone can call me, not to mention only receiving/sending emails from home and lastly, the reliance on a walking atlas and encyclopedia in my pocket. In short, I felt deprived and perhaps just a little bit in withdrawl.

By Wednesday morning I could wait no longer - also I needed the phone to make last minute arrangements for the arrival of a window coverings installer at my place and so I took the phone to work and did the "Reveal" there in the morning.

I had a bit of a problem getting the sim card in. The tiny peices of rice had worked their way into the sim slot. After some vigorous shaking and the use of the tiny sim card removal tool to loosen a stuck piece, I was able to install the sim card and held my breath as I powered it on.

I cheered as I saw the familiar menu appear! The good news is that my iPhone seems to have suffered not ill effects and is no worse for wear.

Why do we persist in taking short cuts when we know there could be negative repercussions? I don't think I am going out on a limb here if I state it is because we are living in a Hurry Up World and we are training ourselves to do things as fast as possible. We don't take time to smell the roses let alone take time to do things properly. I know I rush through all sorts of things - not only risking extra work to backtrack and fix the consequential mess, but also in so doing I am not taking time to appreciate the little things along the way.

Starting today, I vow no find a better way of housing my cell phone and keeping it safe from jumping out of my pocket and to take the time to ensure that it is safe from danger when on my person!

Today, I resolve to take a deep breath every time I feel rushed and remind myself not only that mistakes can cost more time in the end, but also that we only have one life to live (well, unless you are a Buddist) and I should take the time to savour every bit of it!

I am now going to take my dog Bella out for a nice walk and to enjoy the start of what looks to be a wonderful day. It has been so cloudy, rainy and cool in this last week and we have sun and warmth this morning! I am taking my daughter out to buy a new dress and then when I come back I shall finish my blog telling all about the Elvis Festival and the Beaches Jass Festival. It will posted by end of day today, in case you care to visit the "TorontoIsMyTown blog it will be posted by 9:30 p.m. at the latest!

There were lots sailboats out on the lake this week (they seem to be out there every day despite the bad weather, but this morning the scene is especially picturesque. They have their spinnakers unfurled and it makes for a colourful sight, that of which is only hinted at with this picture. Sometimes, the eyes are capable of seeing more beauty than you can capture in a photo! If you click on this and look at the enlargement - you will see just a small piece of what is taking place all over the lake in view of my balcony!

Elvis and Jazz

Every year I am torn by the need to attend two Music Festivals which are always on the same weekend. As I mentioned in a previous blog, in order to do this (and have a deserved weekend up north) the plan was to go to the Jazz Street Fest on Thursday night and then head up on Friday to the Elvis Event in Collingwood for the rest of the weekend. I did have to be back before Sunday noon, when I had promised to take Laura out to shop for a new dress for a wedding she is attending in a few weeks.

Unfortunately, the weather was not the best. Thursday was pouring rain and so I did not get out to the Jazz on that night. I did go up to Collingwood on Friday and the rain held off for the Friday night events and so I did get out to see the (literally) 112 - according to the web site - Elvi (the plural of Elvis is???) wandering the streets.

This is the 14th year that Collingwood has been hosting an Elvis Festival on the 3rd weekend of the month of July. Elvis tribute artists come from all across Canada to win the chance of competing in the Elvis contest. A large stage is set up on the main street where the preliminaries are held and everyone brings a lawn chair down to enjoy all the acts. Each Elvis gets to do one or two songs and it is a long slow happy time for everyone. A small town fair atmosphere prevails as in addtion there are Elvis tribute bands performing in each of the several beer gardens set up in the parking lots and blocked off side streets in the downtown core. There are consessions and a sales area and even a carney fair in another area.

From the Festival Web Page
  • Collingwood Elvis Festival is internationally recognized as the “largest Elvis Festival in the World” and the benchmark by which all other Elvis Festivals operate
  • The Festival was recognized as one of the two originally selected Preliminary locations for the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest in Memphis, TN.
  • Named one of the “Top 50/100 Festivals in Ontario” from 2001 to 2009 out of the over 3,000 Festivals throughout the province

The web site for the festival is well worth visiting, particularly the "Virtual Festival" page, which allows you to see a selection of Videos of past performances superimposed on an image of the Main Stage. Also, they have much better photos than I was able to take and if you go here - you can see a slide show of all the fun!

At the same site you can also see a slide show of the antique car parade that they had on the Saturday, just before the skys let go and it poured rain.

The main reason I wanted to get up to Collingwood on Friday night is that my friend John (from GopherBrokeFarm) plays in a band and they traditionally have a spot in one of the beer gardens on a side street. Barb and I always have a grand time at this event and this weekend was no exception. John's Band, Frankie and the Favourites, are really good, and while they are not an Elvis tribute band they purposefully have a full repertoire of songs from that era and as a well known local band they fit in spectacularly. I had a great time on Friday night.

Since the weather was looking iffy and also, truth be known, I am more of a Jazz fan than an Elvis fan, I decided to change plans mid day (after it started to pour rain) and drive down to Toronto in time (if the weather improved) to get out to the Street Fest on the Saturday night. It poured rain during the entire 2 hour drive to Toronto, but after dinner the sky cleared somewhat and with umbrella in hand I hopped on a street car and headed out to the Queen St. East area that runs parallel of the Toronto East Beaches. I used to live in this area several years ago and it is another fabulous Toronto community.

The weather once again cooperated with my evening plans and I was able to walk the entire length of the Festival Venue and take in all the bands. At least, I got to take in about half of the 50 bands, since they place bands so close - just out of range of each other each one on the corner of the next city block, alternating with a band set up on the other side of the same corner. This works given that each band needs to take a break and every other band on the length of the street is scheduled for intermission. Consequently, unless you do two passes of the street in alternate hours you will only see half of the bands. It is impossible to do two passes of the street in one night - maybe another year I will get there for two of the nights and be able to enjoy a taste of every band. Not to be for this year, though.

There is always one band playing in front of the Fire Hall. I snapped this photo of two firefighters who were out dancing to the music, who were, at the same time time, panhandling with their firefighter's boot in hand for the local children's charity. You can see the reflective strips on the parts of their uniforms they were wearing. In other years I have both seen the firefighters out on the firehall roof dancing the night away and also have seen them hustling back into the fire hall in response to a call which required the folks to make way for the firetruck so it could speed on its way.

My apologies for the poor lighting/contrast in this pic. It was near black and I used picasa to lighten it in order to expose the detail. It gives you some idea of the thick crowds that one needs to elbow past to get up close enough to see and to take a photo of any of the bands. Mostly I did not try to squeeze past people to get up front. Music and ambiance was wonderful from every where - ring side view of the band or not.

I did get up close with this band, which shows the typical set up for most of the bands - those little roof rigs were all at the ready and in the event of rain it would be only the spectators that got wet - a small price to pay for all that wonderful music.

I did take a couple of videos to give all my followers a taste of the evening - as I said it was very difficult to get up close enough for a really good video and it was too dark for a great picture of the last band of the three. However, you can appreciate a bit of how wonderful the night was if you watch my video.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Stuart McLean's Vinyl Cafe and Basia Bulat

Vinyl Cafe on CBC Radio

I heard Basia Bulat for the first time on Stuart McLean's Vinyl Cafe radio show on CBC the other weekend. I stopped what I was doing and just listened - it was that good. I try to catch this CBC program each week as much for the 2 or 3 featured Canadian songs they play in the hour, as to listen to the humorous stories which are told in that time. I can usually catch the program each week because it is aired 3 times on CBC Radio 1 and Radio 2. It is also syndicated in a number of other radio stations world wide. Stuart tours Canada and the USA delivering his programs and recording them on location. A dozen or so of his radio programs are broadcast from these various (usually) smaller city locations during the year.

Stuart is known for his his Vinyl Cafe series of books - there are at this point 6 of them I think. They are collections of short stories all featuring a number of humorous characters (Dave and Morley being the main two - Dave owns a record shop called the Vinyl Cafe) and these stories are set in Toronto, where Stuart lives. Listening to his stories and the other bits of his program is somehow comforting as wiki puts it "the program is wistfully nostalgic". I agree.

If you want to see what I mean go to iTunes and look up Vinyl Cafe Stories from the CBC - they are free - and download the story from July 4 2009 - it is really funny and listening to 5 minutes of this will tell you more about what this program is about than all the words I could write. The July 4th episode is so funny you will split your sides. I had to listen to that week's program on both Saturday and Sunday because I only started to listen half way through on Saturday and needed to hear it all. These stories - and Stuart himself I dare say, is the sort of thing you either love or hate. I try not to miss him on any given week, if I can help it.

Basia Bulat - Folk/Pop Singer - Songwriter

Anyway, I digress. I was telling you about Basia Bulat, who I heard for the first time on CBC last week. The program was a rare all music one - they were trying to fit in all the songs they hadn't time to play in the last several months of programs and so had decided to one without all the usual story bits. Somehow I don't know where all the new young Canadian musicians are coming from - or whether I just have been in a musical "memory lane" fog with my listening tastes in the last few decades. There were quite a few songs which caught my ear and I may bring some of the others to your attention in the coming months also.

Basia is just one of the many Canadian singer songwriters I have recently been introduced to, not only on this radio program but also recently from other CBC radio programs. My binge diet of CBC radio has peaked over the year and of course, CBC are the champions of Canadian Music.

From Wiki:

Basia Bulat (pronounced /ˈbæʃə ˈbʊulæt/[1] is a Canadian pop music singer-songwriter. Based in London, Ontario, she released an independent EP in 2005. She subsequently signed to Rough Trade Records, which released her full-length debut album, Oh, My Darling in April 2007.

Her singles "Snakes and Ladders", "Little One" and "I Was a Daughter" have been playlisted on CBC Radio 3 while various tracks have received airplay on college radio in Canada and the United States. Her latest album, Oh, My Darling, made the short list for the Canadadian 2008 Polaris Music Prize.

Stuart featured the song Little Waltz on his program and I immediately liked it. Her voice is, in my mind, much like Tracey Chapman, but with a gypsy flavour in this song. What the Wiki article does not tell you is that she plays guitar, autoharp, banjo, ukelele, sax and flute and that her first album, recorded at jam sessions in Montreal with her friends, caught the interest of the big London England label Rough Trade Records and they released her LP Oh My Darling in Europe and Japan in 2007 and only recently in Canada. Her music has a freshness and excitement and the instrumentation, with autoharp a nice contrast to what is getting air play today.

Her recording of the Little Waltz was used in a VW EOS commercial in Austria in 2007. If I hadn't fallen in love with this car before seeing this commercial, I would have after seeing it.

Beaches Jazz Festival and Collingwood's Elvis Festival

As you read this I am recovering from last nights musical extravaganza of the Beaches Jazz Festival's Street Fest and on my way up to Collingwood to take in their annual Elvis Festival. I will try to find time to catch up with blogging upon my return on Sunday.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Remains of the Day

As my regular followers know, I am doing a series on the art benches in Liberty Village. If you missed my past blogs on "The Benchmark Program" you can read them here.

I must remark how uncharacteristically green our grass is. Usually in July all the grass is brown due to the heat and lack of rain. But not this year.

The bench is called Remains of the day and it is number 4 on the map.

This is one of my favourite benches, but I must admit if I were the artist, I'd change it just one little bit and spray paint the lunch box and thermos shiny black.

This bench is located across the street from the Liberty Cafe, the subject of several previous blogs about Rude Jake and friends who perform there each Tuesday night. I can't help but include a photo of the Liberty Cafe. It has a nice outdoor patio and if the weather cooperates we get music outside! The bench is also located kitty corners from our Sunday Farmers Market where I can go and get fresh veggies and meat from local farmers! Yeah the 100 mile diet!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Motown and Beaches Jazz Festival

So what does Motown have to do with the Jazz Fest?

Not too much except I will hear R&B at the Jazz Fest. The last half of the post talks about the Beaches Jazz Festival so I will say more about it later in this blog - but suffice for now to say it is not a purists Jazz Festival.

What did prompt me to include the word Motown in the title was that I got to listen to Randy Bachman's CBC Radio program on Saturday night. In it he focused on Motown Records and the unique sound of the R&B musicians who recorded for this recording studio in the 60s and 70s. I had forgotten how much I liked these tunes and of course the drive down memory lane brought many smiles as I relived my teenage and early 20s years, which was in the haydays of Motown.

I am not sure which of the Motown songs are my favourites as there are just so many good ones. Here are three of the better known ones which top the charts in my book.

Let's Get it on!

The first video is a great recording of Marvin Gaye singing one of the all time classics "Let's Get It On". It was originally released in 1973 and the explicit sexual content earned Marvin a sex icon status - well deserved as you view his performance, I dare say! This video was recorded live in Montreux in 1980.

As I recall this song was a slow dance favourite of mine when dancing with the heart throb of the moment in my late teens/early 20s. At this point, my "Hippy years" were done with and I was moving into R&B, Soul and Funk and this one is a classic. Having chopped my long blond hair short and paying big bucks to turn my hair into a stylish afro, I transistioned from the 60s and sailed through the 70's. While I danced the decade away, little did I know that the 80s would sheppard me into my decade of childbirth. LOL

My Gal

I like the next song a lot and go back to humming it year after year when I am in a good mood - it is another one of my Summer Good times songs from the oldies but goodies list. While originally written for the Temptations to record, it was actually written by Smokey Robinson and Robin White of the Miracles, another Motown favourite.

When the Temptations first came out with this song in 1964, I was just 10 years old, so I suspect I must be remembering the Stevie Wonder cover of the original which was probably more the right time frame. Of course "My Girl" has been covered by all sorts of artists and is a Motown classic.

This version has been digitally enhanced and so is really great to watch. The choreographed synchronized dance movements, classic of 60s R&B is so fun to watch. I have recollections of watching The Temptations on the Ed Sullivan show when I was a young girl.

My Guy

Lastly, I feel obliged to include the answer song, "My Guy", also released in 1964 by Mary Wells. It too was composed by Smokey Robinson and has been covered by many R&B greats, including the Supremes.

This is a great song for gals of any age who are in love to have in heart and hum when skipping down the street with music in their hearts, if not actually enabled with an iPod plugged into your ears. I say this because I often find myself when walking down the street listening to music actually skipping along (and heaven forbid) actually singing along to the music if it matches my mood.

The 2009 Toronto Beaches Jazz Festival

Listening to all these Motown tunes is getting me into mood for the 21st Annual Beaches Jazz Festival which runs from this weekend through next. This weekend there were several free concerts in the park, but the feature attraction in my mind is next week when they close a length of Queen Street for a few kilometers for Streetfest, which runs Thursday through Saturday. In each of those nights there will be 50 or so Jazz/Blues and other some such styles of music in this 2 kilometer stretch. It will be a musical smorgasbord and I try and get out on the Thursday of the 3 nights. On Friday and Saturday nights the crowds are usually so tightly packed you have to really elbow to get in close enough to see any of the bands.

I did catch one of the concerts at Woodbine Park this weekend, but I must admit the weather was not so great this weekend here in Toronto, so I did not hang for long. I hope the weather is hot and dry on Thursday night for (IMO) the real treat of the festival. Go here to learn more about the Toronto Beaches Jazz Festival. and go here to see the impressive line up of bands. This snap shows the StreetFest in a previous year. As you can see there is quite a crowd!

From the website:
StreetFest is a Beaches International Jazz Festival original event showcasing the finest in Big Band, Swing, Dixieland, Smooth, Post-Bop, Afro-Cuban, Fusion, Funk, R&B and Soul sounds that Canada has to offer.
I am not really into big band and the other older styles of jazz but am quite into all the others and anything with jazz roots. I love blues in all its forms - and they seem to sneak in a bit of blues in this so called Jazz Fest. The nice thing about the Beaches Street Festival is that just about every musical genre in the jazz, blues and anything even remotely reminiscent of these genres is represented at one point or another along the street of bands.

The best thing about this Jazz Festival is that it is all free!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Lazy Days of Summer - Not!

This song reminds me of my childhood summers. Until I was about 10 my parents would take us kids to a family cottage with my Mother's sisters, her mother and all the grandchildren during the summer school holiday - which here in Canada is from late June until after Labour Day at the beginning of September.

The men would all arrive on the Friday night and leave on the Sunday night. In those days women did not generally work out of the home, particularly once they married and started their family. One of my uncles was both single and played a guitar and so the weekends were we had singalongs and a party atmosphere prevailed with the small cottage overflowing with family.

The women folk would have each other's company and a break from routine and the heat of the City as they helped one another out minding the children and shared cooking and cleaning tasks. We would have a glorious and happy month or two of playing in the woods and afternoons at the beach with our cousins.

It was 1963 when this Nat King Cole song came out - just a couple years before his death and when I hear it I think of those cottage days. It was one of his last 2 big hits - the other hit released just before his death was pure jazz - After Midnight.

Of course, the best known Nat King Cole song is Unforgettable, and in particular the version that his daughter released as a duet with her deceased father, thanks to the help of technology. If you listen to this song and close your eyes and think of that "unforgettable" lover from your past - or better yet, if your "unforgettable you" is still in your life today - in either case, you must agree with me that it is a wonderful love song with a great sentiment.

According to Wiki:
His last album, L-O-V-E, was recorded in early December 1964 — just a few days before entering the hospital for lung cancer treatment — and released just prior to his death. It peaked at #4 on the Billboard Albums chart in the spring of 1965. A "Best Of" album went gold in 1968. His 1957 recording of "When I Fall In Love" reached #4 in the UK charts in 1987
This song (along with Unforgettable) has to be right up there in the list of all time best romantic songs.

However, I digress, back to the topic - Lazy Days of Summer - Not!

Those of you who regularly wander by for a visit to my pages have probably noticed that I have slipped to maybe 2 or 3 posts per week. I wish it were because I am out at the beach, sitting on a nice patio with a glass of wine with my "unforgettable you", or even out on one of my "marathon city walks", which last summer was the standard exercise strategy for summer time. No such luck!

The sad truth is that I have been holed up at work in these last several weeks and putting in 50-60 hours over the 5 work days and then on the other two days of the week I have been trying to both keep the routine things of life in order and progress my novel planning. I am not complaining, the extra work hours are productive and well spent and I am putting away money for my extended holiday trip which I hope is next spring.

So you will excuse me if these blogs in the past and then next few weeks are light and breezy - things quickly put together and without major thoughtful analysis. I think many of us bloggers are on music binges andI think this is particularly nice since we all are expanding our musical experience with this. I trust that we are all on "summer blogger's hours", if not because we are too busy with work, then because we are too busy with R&R (which is Rest and Relaxation if that accronym is not in your English vocabulary). Of course, sharing the music we know and love is an easy thing to do and appreciated all around, I believe.

I took the above photo last night of the Toronto Skyline from a different vantage point from my usual snaps. This was taken from a place called the DOCKS, which is an adult sports and entertainment venue just to the south east of Downtown. I went there to watch a friend play soccer - it was the championships. It was about 8:00 at night and a storm was coming in from the west and shortly after I took this I had to run for cover as it poured rain. Will write more about the Docks (and also the Toronto Beaches Jazz Festival in my TorontoIsMyTown blog tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

More Benchmark Benches

The Benchmark program, introduced a previous blog (see here) , was initiated in 2005 with the unveiling of the first three benches themed onthe past, present and future of Liberty Village. The two which represent past and present are located near Lamport Stadium on Fraser near Liberty Street. They are benches B and C on the map.

I wrote about the bench representing future in the first Benchmark blog - as it was the more interesting of the 3. Today's blog is about the past and present benches - however there is a snag, which causes me to pause my discussion of the past and provide an explanation because the bench representing the past looks decidedly decrepit.

"The Past" - Benchmark Bench
However the past has disappeared! I photographed the bench representing the past several weeks ago, however the photo was so bad that I set out to do a new one the other week. This is what I found instead:

Gone! It looks like the boards have been stolen! Before you jump to conclusions, I suspect that it is simply being refurbished (I hope) as I have noticed other art benches are being repainted in the Village. The original work had faded and chipping paint and was badly in need of a facelift. In case it really is gone I will show the photos I had taken here earlier, with a promise that if a refurbished bench arrives in the coming weeks I will re-photo and update it in this blog.

The next detail to take care of, the bench representing the past is bench B on the on the map however it is positioned incorrectly on the map (the map is from the LVBIA site). If you look at the map, B is located to the north, kitty corner from bench C, not the reverse as shown on the map.

The bench titled The Past is by Mina Arakawa and represents the village, its streets and features from the past. I will gladly update this blog if they place a repainted bench here - other than seeing a few street names and a section marked "Dogs", I couldn't make out what this bench really was all about.

"The Present" - Benchmark Bench
Next is Bench C, located adjacent to Bench B, as mentioned above. It is titled "The Present" and is supposedly based on a Google satellite image of Liberty Village. To me, it was an interesting set of lines and colours and pleasant to look at, however it did not particularly remind me of a google map. However it is decidedly more modern looking than the bench beside it representing the past.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Agatha Christie and Funny the Way it Is

I listened to a radio program last Sunday on the CBC Radio One program called "The Sunday Edition" which in its 3rd hour featured Agatha Christie. We all know that her name is synonymous with the crime mystery novel. However, did you know, according to Wiki, that she has the distinction of being the best selling author of all time, right beside Shakespeare and trailing behind only the Bible? Quite an accolade!

Not only did she write sone of the most famous crime novels in all time, she was also very prolific. Aside from the 63 detective novels for which she is best known, and 163 short stories, she also wrote a series of romance novels under the pseudonym Mary Westmacott, 19 stage plays, 2 autobiographical works and some poetry. Her stage play, The Mousetrap, holds the record of the longest initial run in the world and is even today being performed at 10s of thousands of playhouses around the world!

I am always very interested in learning about people who are well known and understanding what made/makes them tick. I am not particularly a reader of crime fiction, but of course everyone has read (or watched at least a TV re-run of) Murder on the Orient Express or one of her other well known novels or the film adaptations, so I was particularly interested in understanding more about this woman who was able to be so prolific and creative in this genre.

It was an interesting hour long interview/discussion which included some recently found audio recordings, left behind by Agatha after her death in 1976 and recently found by the late author's grandson as he was clearing out "stuff". There were 13 hours of autobiographical thoughts and reflections which have been used by the Christie biographer, Laura Thompson, who has recently published her book, Agatha Christie an English Mystery.

The hour provided a great deal of insight into the person and the major bookmarks in her life, for instance, the heartbreak that led to her disappearance for 10 days in 1926 when her husband confessed infidelity and left her for another woman. She was from an era long gone, BritishMiddle/Upper Class of the Victorian era. I found it quite intriguing to hear about her life.

If you would like to listen to the hour long program go here.

Funny the Way it Is
Those of you who read my blogs regularly might recall that I attended a Dave Mathews concert last month. Go here if you want to read the blog about the band and the concert - please note that I have updated that blog with the lyrics of the feature song - I was remiss for not including them earlier. They are so poetic and convey something which I can relate to.

His new album, Big Whiskey and the GooGrux Kin and the song, Funny the Way it is has been getting a good amount of air play.

His songs are all musically complex and interesting, even if you do not get the same sense of the music from his recordings as you do from a live performance. His band is known for live renditions which are long and very improvisational and so the recordings of his songs (unless one of the "live from" concert albums) are decidedly inferior to those you might hear live.

I am also attracted to Dave Mathews the song writer as his lyrics are very poetic (which is why I went back and added the song lyrics to the previous post). Aside from the song itself, the lyrics of this song focuses on the vast differences in the human experience at any given moment in time. There are great contrasts in the quality of lives being lived and feelings experienced by individuals and yes, funny the way this is...

Funny the Way it is
Dave Mathews from

Lying in the park on a beautiful day
Sunshine in the grass and the children play
Sirens pass and fire engine red
Someone’s house is burning down
On a day like this
And evening comes and were hanging out
On the front step and a car goes
By with the windows rolled down
And that war song is playing
Why can’t we be friends?
Someone is screaming and crying
In the apartment upstairs

"Funny the way it is"
If you think about it
Somebody’s going hungry
And someone else is eating out
Funny the way it is, not right or wrong
Somebody’s heart is broken
And it becomes your favorite song

The way your mouth feels
In a lovers kiss
Like a pretty bird on a breeze
Or water to a fish
A bomb blast brings a building
Crashing to the floor
Hear the laughter
While the children play war

Funny the way it is
If you think about it
One kid walks 10 miles to school
Another’s dropping out
Funny the way it is, not right or wrong
On a soldier’s last breath
His baby is being born

Standing on a bridge
Watch the water passing under me
It must have been much harder
When there was no bridge just water

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Salsa on St Clair and the Toronto Indy Race

I admit I have been neglecting my TorontoIsMyTown blog. Too many things like shiny Christmas Tree ornaments have grabbed my attention. I am totally negligent in not writing about our Gay Pride Week here in Toronto last week. It is after all one of the world's largest Gay Pride Events and a major annual week long party in our downtown area. We don't have a Canada Day Parade, but we do have a Gay Pride Parade - tells you something about us Canadians, eh?

But that was over last weekend, so it is on to this weekend events.

First and foremost, it was Indy Week here in Toronto and I got a bird's eye view of it here from my balcony! For two days I have been listening to giant mosquitos or bumble bees from Planet 5 in outer space. With my binoculars in hand, I got some first rate views of the races and some of the action with the tow trucks also! Pretty neat! The picture above is from my balcony. You can see the race track running from the lower right to the left and the grandstand seats (white roofed structure) just beyond. In the link here to the race track map my condo is just beyond the point marked "5".

In the video below you won't see much because the image is too small, but you will appreciate the sounds which I listened to from 8:00 am onwards in each of the two days.

The other event that I attended this weekend was the Salsa on St. Clair Street Festival. A length of St. Clair Street was closed to traffic and was turned into a salsa crazed street party, complete with salsa lessons at every corner, it seemed. My friend and I wandered the length and breadth of the festival and then parked ourselves on a patio opposite the Main Stage and listened to salsa music and watched the dancing and drank beer for quite a few hours.

I had to laugh at the differences between my friend and I. Being Canadian, I was quite content to be told that there was no room on the patio for 2 more girls to sit and drink beer. My friend (being German, and more forward than I as far as insisting on what she believed to be her rights) argued with the guard at the gateway to the patio several times until at last we were granted admission. It was worth the wait as we scored a perfect table in the sun and with a great view of the sea of people who were flowing by.

We had a great time. Both of us agreed it reminded us of being on holiday.

I did not make it to Afrofest, which was being held at Queens Park on the weekend also. Just to much to do and so little time!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Another One Bites the Dust! The Week Just Flies By!

This has been a week for absence from blogging! I am not going to bore you with the mundane details of my life, but for the most part it has been work, eat sleep and repeat.... Except for a few hours of fun on a couple of the nights, the week has not been particularly memorable. Just like our weather seemingly this summer.

I am thinking more and more about my planned Cuban vacation next year. I have this week researched language "live and learn" packages in Cuba and I am hoping to be able to swing a 7 week sojourn maybe as early as next April/May. I plan to stay with a host family so I can immerse myself in Cuban culture and get lots of language practice. I will be at the mercy of my job though, and as a consultant on the whim of client commitments, it may be that I will need to put it off a while if my contract is renewed past that time frame. Whenever it occurs, it will be my next big sabbatical from work.

BTW, still have my novel foremost in my mind... researching and jotting down notes and ideas...

It is the Honda Indy Race Weekend here in Toronto and I get to watch and hear the action from my balcony! Sounds like giant mosquitos are attacking fromPlanet 5. If you are interested in more detail, I will be blogging about this on my Toronto is my Town blog tomorrow. I have a great view of one section by the Main Grandstands - and with my binoculars I I have quite the view!

In about an hour I will be heading uptown to join a salsa crazed crowd to attend "Salsa on St. Clair" - An annual street festival. I might also swing by Afrofest held at Queens Park and celebrating African Music and Culture. Busy weekend in the city!

Thanks to Sheila from BlueGreenEyesYellowButterflies for reminding me about this favourite. She included it as her first track on the CD she made for me and sent in her blog swap package.

It is an R&B tune written and first released by Sam Cooke in 1963. It became an anthem for the American Civil Rights Movement, and is widely considered Cooke's best composition. Barack Obama made reference to it when he won the 2008 Presidential election and proclaimed "It's been a long time coming, but tonight, change has come to America."

It has been covered by many notable singers and this version by Otis Redding is among the best of them.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Mixed Moods - Short Stories and Music

Sun and Clouds - But No Rain

My mood this weekend was like the weather - mixed. We had sun and clouds and some threats of rain - and even rain in the distance - but happiliy, no real big storm. I dare say we certainly have had enough rain and could use a few weeks of dry and hot weather.

My mood matched - happy and then for some reason a bit less so...

So, moods mixed this weekend. Don't get me wrong, I had a great weekend... I went up to Lake Simcoe to visit my friend Alex at his cottage on Saturday and had a fabulous visit. Alex just got back from 3 months in Spain. He was doing a "semi-volunteer" job of assisting in the schools with English language classes. I say "semi", as he was provided with accommodation and a very small stipend each month. I got the low down on his time there and some ideas for my Cuba trip next year.

Alex introduced me to the concept of "couch surfing", something he learned about from his son and he has "couch surfed" in a few different destinations. Go here to learn more about "couch surfing".

We trucked around Jackson's Point and up and down the Lake Simcoe Lakeshore Road and did some sight seeing at a Historic Church which had a lakeside location and happened to be the burial sight of Stephen Leacock. I took some photos which will be the topic of a future blog.

Last night I watched the 3rd and final installment of the Symphony of Fire fireworks and it was as spectacular as expected. Today I did not do as much on my novel as I had hoped to, but I am plugging along with the ideas and am still forging ahead with enthusiasm. I got a bit sidetracked with another bit of a short story plot which has been swirling in my brain - but it must be put aside as I can only birth one baby at a time.

I did get tied up with a Mavis Gallant short story which set my mind thinking and hence probably both the ensuing dip in mood and the genesis of another story idea. I have since decided that Gallant deserves all the glowing accolades on the back cover - including the praise leveled by Michael Ondaatje " of the great short story tellers of our time".

I have decided my favourite story - actually included in each of the two books I have by this author (the 2nd is an anthology), is "In the Tunnel", which was written in 1971. While the story's main theme is one of cruelty and exploitation, it is written in an engaging manner and you are both sympathetic with and amused by what you are reading, well at least for the first 2/3rds of the story. I like a story which can be enjoyed on several levels and this is one such story, which left me thinking...

There is an interview with Mavis Gallant in the Walrus Magazine in which she discusses In the Tunnel. The interviewer also offers some interpretive commentary comparing Gallant's style to Ann Munro's which I believe rings true. To read it go here.

I heard a new young singer tonight on the CBC Radio 2 Concerts series. Her name is Niki Yanousky and she is 15 years old. Listening to her sing on the radio, I had no idea how young she was, except she was singing a song with the lyrics "too young for the blues". When the song ended and she started with the between song banter, I could tell she was quite young by the sound of her voice and the references to Mom. She was born in Montreal, Quebec and has been singing professionally since she was 12. I bet she will have a long and successful career.

This You Tube features an interview and a song. If you want to hear her first before deciding to listen to the interview, skip to 3:39.

If you want to hear the CBC Radio 2 Concert featuring Niki Yanasky go here.

Short Story Authors, Levi Blues and the David Wilcoxes

First, the Novel Report
I don't think I mentioned that I headed out to the library and bookstores to get research material for my novel. I have several books on order at the library and have sussed out a line of research that will pave the way to keep me from venturing too far out of sight of the possible in my story line. While I wait for these books to arrive, I am doing some thinking. I believe that some authors let their characters tell the story and lead them through the plot. I on the other hand, at least for this particular novel, believe that the plot (and subplots) must be carefully conceived and thought through so that I can figure out which characters I need to progress my plot. Having said that, a good story must necessarily involve people who propel you through the story and who keep you interested because you care about what happens to them. So carefully constructed characters are essential.

Mavis Gallant
I listened to an interview with Mavis Gallant on CBC Radio 1 on Wednesday as I drove up to Collingwood. Mavis Gallant has been the preeminent international author of short stories since the 1950s. She is 82 and just recently published her latest book of short stories. From the interview it became clear that she still very mentally agile and writes daily.

Interestingly, if one asks about a notable Canadian author of short stories it may be that Alice Munro's name comes to mind. Actually, Gallant is the more Internationally renowned author. She has in the last 50 odd years rarely given interviews - she has made it known that she likes her privacy, which may explain why Munro is better known. Gallant was born in 1922 in Montreal, Quebec. She moved to Paris in 1950 to pursue her writing career.

You can hear the interview here on the Wed July 1st CBC Radio 2 Program called Q:

In any case, listening to Gallant talk about her characters and her immersion into the settings of her stories was very compelling. In the interview she recounts on one occasion in the 1990s, when she was writing a story set in the 1950s she went outside and was momentarily confused to see modern cars and clothes on the people in the street. Now that is focus.

I need to figure out who is in my novel and then get to know them as well as I know myself. I need to put myself into the setting sufficiently that I can experience it myself in my minds eye. This will take some imagining and doing. I have given myself to the end of August for this and then September through October to do the chapter summaries before November 1st, which is the day I start my draft. My journey there is just beginning.

Levi Blues
I am a sucker for feel good songs. There are a lot of them out there. I woke the other morning to the sounds of Dala and their new song "Levi Blues". I jumped out of bed and wrote down the song and the artist. As I was clearing up my scraps of notes from my dining room table today I came across it and it led me on a wild chase.

Firstly, let me tell you I really like the song. I like the easy laid back tune and I like the simple message and lyrics. But it isn't poetry. It is just feeling. If you read the lyrics below you will agree. Girl likes guy, girl goes traveling, girl keeps him in her heart and plans to always come back to him. Nice feel good song and lyrics. I have plans to do some extended traveling and hope when I do there is someone special to keep in my heart to "always come back to"...
Levi Blues by Dala 2008
I always come back to you

I've been waiting for a guy like you
You've been waiting to be my guy too
I'll go to Paris see the lovers in the park

Try California walk the beaches in the dark

I'll see the world in my Levi blues

But I'll always come back

I'll always come back to you

I've been waiting for a guy like you

You've been waiting to be my guy too
I'll go to China, write "I love you" on the wall
And maybe London, catch a show with Albert Hall
I'll see the world in my Levi blues

But I'll always come back

I'll always come back to you

I'll always come back to you

He loves me
He loves me not
He loves me
He loves me not
He loves me He loves me not
He loves me

Yeah yeah yeah
Yeah yeah yeah

I've been waiting for a guy like you

You've been waiting to be my guy too

In the big Apple where we both take a bite

We'll have to hurry 'cause we always miss our flight

We'll see the world in our Levi blues

We'll see the world in our Levi blues

'Cause I always come back
I always come back to you
Two Levi Blues???

When I looked on the internet there is another song called Levi Blues which is quite different. I know the raunchy style of blues that the Canadian musician David Wilcox sings so I was anxious to find what I immediately thought was his song - another titled Levi Blues - on the internet. No luck - there are only a handful of David Wilcox songs on You Tube and other internet sources came up blank.

I did find the lyrics and you will see this version of Levis Blues has a cute idea behind it.
Levi Blues by David Wilcox 1996
I was doing my laundry baby
I thought I'd do my new jeans too

Yeah, I was doing my laundry

I threw my new blue jeans in too

And when the spin and rinse was over

Every single thing in there was blue

Well blue on my bedsheets

To wraparound like doom

Blue on my sweatshirt

Blue fruit of the loom

I went to the laundry

I did what you're never supposed to do

I washed a brand-new pair of Levi's

Every single thing in there was blue

I had the blues

You see, turned my reds to purple

Yellows gone to green
Even all the browns and greys

Got blue that can't be see

Yeah the blues got me surrounded

No matter which outfit I choose

Because I just went to the laundry

And got the brand-new pair of Levi blues

Interesting lyrics, also not poetry. LOL

Two David Wilcox???

The next double take was, having looked on Wiki for David Wilcox I discovered there are 2 David Wilcoxes who are musicians - (neither of which have many of their songs on You Tube and both of which have a dozen albums noted on Wiki). There is the Canadian David Wilcox (born 1949) who is a rock-blues musician and another who is an American Folk-blues Musician (born 1958). His Levi Blues was released on his 6th album in 1996. I found a cover of the song on You Tube and will report that it is a typical Blues style song.

Canadian David Wilcox who did not write nor record Levi Blues (as near as I can tell although he is a blues/rock musician.
The American David Wilcox who did write and record a Blues song called Levi Blues (Sorry, no tune found to give you a listen to)...

Thursday, July 2, 2009

To Make You Feel My Love

Even though Wednesday was a holiday I did not further my writing project one little bit. I did however do a lot of other stuff. So, no regrets. (Actually, I make it a policy not to regret - learn maybe, but not regret...)

Gopher Broke Farm
I had long been putting off a drive up to Collingwood to visit the Parents - as mentioned in an earlier blog they are staying at my Collingwood Shangri-La while they wait for their Toronto Condo to be ready mid September. I also dropped in to see my friends Barb and John to visit and get a progress report on the landscaping project at the GopherBrokeFarm. Barb's good friend Leslie was there also - double treat! I was able to sit and visit for an hour or two before I had to truck on back to town. I got back in town in time to watch the Canada Day fireworks from my balcony!

This year Barb and John are working on the landscaping of the spectacular home that John has built for them.

If you want to hear more about this project and what the Exterior looked like early spring go here

They are about 1/3 finished, I would guess and it is looking like it is and will be fantastic. I present a couple pictures here to show you what they are up to.

This is going to be a pond and the plan is to build a small dock (you know, like you might hitch a boat to) from the left near the window, so you can sit on it and dangle your feet in. The picture doesn't do it justice, but there is a wooden "bridge" on the end, where you can see Johnny and Barb has found the most wonderful 2 foot high clay pottery candle sticks and she has 6 of these lining the bridge.

This is around the corner from the pond - you can see the spot I took the last photo from at the back right of this pic A nice cement sitting area, off the dining room of the house, and it will be surrounded with pea gravel.

This is the back of the house and the entrance through the back to the living room. John will be pouring cement here and there will be a pea gravel walkon either side. On the side toward the foreground of the picture will be a sand beach volley ball court.

For now, this area houses a fire pit and seating area, but in due course it will be a garden. They are thinking of a circular one, with different crops as pieces of the pie!

To Make You Feel My Love

I have been listening to the cover of this Bob Dylan song by Adele for the last many months as it gets lots of air time on CBC Radio 2. The song was first released in by Bob Dylan on his Time Out Of Mind album in 1997. The Brit pop singer released her cover in her debut album "19" last November.

This song was one of those included on the CD that my dear blog swapper Sheila sent to me. I think the Adele cover is the best I have heard and certainly tops the original version with Adele's clear and melodic voice more suited to the song.

The Lyrics are so poetic and romantic, I can close my eyes and dream of the love I am waiting for.

To Make You Feel My Love
Bob Dylan

When the rain
Is blowing in your face
And the whole world
Is on your case
I could offer you
A warm embrace
To make you feel my love

When the evening shadows
And the stars appear
And there is no one there
To dry your tears
I could hold you
For a million years
To make you feel my love

I know you
Haven't made
Your mind up yet
But I would never
Do you wrong
I've known it
From the moment
That we met
No doubt in my mind
Where you belong

I'd go hungry
I'd go black and blue
I'd go crawling
Down the avenue
No, there's nothing
That I wouldn't do
To make you feel my love

The storms are raging
On the rolling sea
And on the highway of regret
Though winds of change
Are throwing wild and free
You ain't seen nothing
Like me yet

I could make you happy
Make your dreams come true
Nothing that I wouldn't do
Go to the ends
Of the Earth for you
To make you feel my love

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Happy Birthday Canada

Today is Canada's 142nd birthday and it is the day we Canadians wear red!! I hope you enjoy this bit of Canadiana You Tube. I thought it was cute. I am not sure if everyone who crosses paths with this blog will get it, but in case you have not met a Canadian, we are exceptionally polite. :)

Normally, I have a party every year up at my Collingwood Shangri-La and after dinner we all go out to the end of the sea wall and watch the fireworks which are set off in the Collingwood Downtown Waterfront Park. It is a great view to see them light up in the sky over the water in the distance. Also from that vantage point we get to see the fireworks across the shore at Wasaga Beach and up and down that coast as cottagers set off their own fireworks.

This year the holiday is on a Wednesday and sadly, I was just not able to get any time off to allow me to host a party up north and get back down here to work for 7:00 start at work the next morning. However, I will be able to watch the Symphony of Fire Fireworks from my Toronto Liberty Village Condo and it will be as if I have front row seats (well, minus the music). There is a barge out on the lake just directly to the south of me where they send up the fireworks.

In this picture you can see the boats out on the lake getting in position for the fireworks last Saturday night. The night was warm and there wasn't a cloud in the sky. It was a good night for them, unlike tonight.

From the Ontario Place site it says:
See the skies light up over Toronto with the spectacular Canada Dry Festival of Fire at Ontario Place. The Canada Dry Festival of Fire is back with world-class fireworks choreographed to the world’s finest music over 3 nights. Additional entertainment surrounds each day, with entertainers performing throughout the park leading up to the fireworks. The shows start at 10:30pm, each night.

I watched them last Saturday night also when they ended the Portuguese Day Celebrations. A spectacular 25 minute display featuring mostly the colours green and red - the colours of Portugal.

Tonight's fireworks will be spectacular as well, of that I have no doubt. The weather is iffy - threatening rain at any time and a little bit chilly, but I will huddle under a wrap out on my comfy balcony couch and enjoy them none the less.

It is hard to blog about fireworks - the pictures do not do it justice and it is as much about the whiz bang as it is about the flash of lights. So you will need to take my word for it - or turn out next Saturday night when we help the US celebrate the 4th of July!

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