Saturday, September 26, 2009

Nuit Blanche

Next Saturday night art lovers and merry-makers alike get to stay up all night as our City transforms itself and many of its public (and not so public) spaces into backdrops for contemporary visual art (with just a touch of performance/participation art to add spice). It is the 12 hour night of celebration called Nuit Blanche.

I cannot do a better justice to the description of Nuit Blanche than provided in its 2009 Web Site from which I have taken the following:

Nuit Blanche was originally conceived in Paris, France in 2002, in an attempt to bring contemporary art to the masses in public spaces. Now universally translated as 'Sleepless Night', Nuit Blanche brings more than a million people to the streets of Paris every year. In 2005, Paris organizers contacted the City of Toronto's Special Events office with an invitation to join the ranks of approximately six other European cities producing similar all-night events. The international success of Nuit Blanche continues to build each year and has expanded its reach beyond Paris to Brussels, Rome, Bucharest, Riga, Madrid, La Valette, Portugal, Tokyo, Montreal and Leeds - each offering its own version of the all-night art extravaganza.

Toronto was the first North American city to fully replicate the Paris model, and has inspired similar celebrations throughout North America, including San Francisco, New York, Miami and Chicago.

At its core, Nuit Blanche is a 12-hour event with a mandate to make contemporary art accessible to large audiences, while inspiring dialogue and engaging the public to examine its significance and impact on public space. Nuit Blanche is both a "high art" event and a free populous event that encourages celebration and community engagement. From sunset to sunrise city spaces and neighbourhoods are transformed into temporary exhibitions. Unusual or forbidden spaces become sites of contemporary art open for all-night discovery and rediscovery. Cultural institutions, from museums to galleries to artist run centres, open their doors and offer free access to contemporary art. The everyday is suspended as the city's landscape is changed to welcome a variety of artistic experiences.

I attended last year's Nuit Blanche and enjoyed every minute of it. In a way, the art takes a 2nd place to the atmosphere. For the most part exhibits are outdoors and it is night. The crowds are thick (at least in the first 6 hours - I confess I did not stay out all night- and it is a party atmosphere. It reminds me a little bit like Halloween as everyone is out wandering around in the dark and what we see in the way of these works is often way out there - entirely out of the ordinary. I think in some ways these works stretch the definition of art. However I remind myself that these are created with no utilitarian purpose in mind - the works are designed only to elicit some response from the observer, so it must be considered art, in its more broad definition. I daresay, there are always admirers of the most "out there" pieces and who am I to judge what is and what is not art?

Regardless, it is a fun night and there are lots of interesting things to see!

In any case, as I said, I attended last year and have included some of my last year's snaps in this blog.

For me, this is another perq of living in Liberty Village, as I am in the heart of "Zone C" - one of the three areas in the City which serves as a focal point for many of the installations. There are over 130 exhibits and 36 of these are within my neighbourhood - Liberty Village.

I am busy tonight planning my route - there are some neat tools at the Nuit Blanche web site - and it is interesting to review the various installations which are planned and press the "add to my itinerary" button to ensure I have my route planned out well in advance.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

My Collingwood Shangri-La

I have for the last year pretty much been a city girl. I do have a getaway place, which in previous years I would trek up to every weekend all summer. This year, and much of last year, that has not been possible, since I have my place "on loan" to my parents, who needed a place to bridge the time between when they had sold their country home last year while they were waiting for their Toronto condo to be built. They are getting on in age, and it was just time to be closer to family and to remove the burden of exterior home and garden maintenance.

Next Monday they move into the condo they have been waiting for all this time - and, for a brief few weeks I get my Collingwood Shangri-La back. I say a few brief weeks because I just may have lucked out with an extra 3 week fall rental from Thanksgiving through early November. I rent it out for ski season every year and that rental starts early December and runs through April. I really cannot justify having 2 places when there is just one of me, so it helps that I call it an investment and rent it out part year. So not much time for me to enjoy it this year, however next year I will be up their without fail every weekend starting in April. I am also going to get myself a kayak, so I will be out on the lake a lot as soon as it is warm enough.

I was browsing through some photos today and reminding myself what a paradise it is up there. As I drive up on a Friday evening, I can just feel the stress seep out of my bones. It is heaven. Bella and I walk out to the end of the sea wall and sit for a few minutes upon arrival as our arrival ritual every time. She and I could be very happy in retirement some day up there.

One of the many things I appreciate about the Collingwood Area, is the diverse geography. The Niagara Escarpment is within sight - the Blue Mountain Ski Hills are in view from my doorstep - an enchanting sight at night in the winter when they are lit, let me tell you. The wonderful huge expanse of the blue waters of Georgian Bay are also just steps away. Collingwood has lots of great places to shop, eat and entertainment of all sort as it is a 4 (ok - 2) season resort town.

I have condo in a resort style gated community of stacked condos, well serviced with a Community Centre with all the amenities, including tennis courts and a marina on the Bay. That aside, there is one other thing which my location affords me - I am just across the road from the Georgian Trail which interconnects with all sorts of other area trails of varying terrain and difficulty for hiking. You can see by the map below, how many trails there are in the area.
Whilst going through some pictures I came across a bunch which I took while on a hike along the trails from my Shangri-La at Rupert's Landing to Sunset point. To illustrate the route better, I cropped and enlarged the above map to show the area I travelled. I trekked pretty much from the left top shoreline to the right most shoreline in the map below. It was a great day, windy but warm. Half way along it got cloudy and a storm threatened, but the bad weather held off until we got home. I shall have to get in a few fall hikes whilst I have the place in the coming weeks!

The slide show audio is from Ingrid Michaelson's tune "Far Away"... it has been a while since I have been able to spend some "quality time" at my Shangri-La, so it seems right now "Far Away"... He song makes me smile as I listen and does provide a little extra ambiance to the photo gallery.

A Taste of African Blues and the Blue Men of the Sahara

On the way home from work today I heard some new music which really wowed me. When I got home I had to find out more about the band and their music. It was so distinctive, lots of electric guitar (and please note I am not a major electric guitar fan), a little trance like, lyrics which were not english, and I couldn't place the language or the style of music. When the announcer said the band was Tinariwen and the tune was Tahult In, I had to find out more. I made a mental note to look up the song on the Radio 2 playlist (their songs are posted) when I got home.

Therein started a musical and educational journey for me and a new dream for my life list. I would like to share this musical find with you. It may not be quite your cup of tea, but I quite like the music and the story behind it is intriguing

Firstly, let me give you the Reader's Digest regarding the band and their music. It isn't really a band, per se, but rather an extended family of ethnic Tuareg people from Saharan Africa, within the country of Mali.
To quote Wiki:
They play in the Tishoumaren ("music of the unemployed") style, and sing mostly in the French and Tamashek languages. Their songs mostly cover the subject of independence for their people from the government of Mali. They are said to be the first Tuareg band to use electric guitar...

Tishoumaren as a musical style diverges from some traditional styles of Tamasheq music in that the group of performers is, first, much smaller (10 or so, as compared to about 30), and second, among other factors, the music is based around the sound of the electrical guitar. The style has grown in popularity, much in line with the growth of Tinariwen's popularity, as they are regarded as the first Tamasheq group to feature electrical guitars, and thus as the originator of the style.

Having said that, have a listen and see what you think.

I also found several You Tube videos with Tinariwen accompanied by various famous guitar men. I liked this one featuring Carlos Santana with Tinariwen performing "Amasskoul" at the Montreux Jazz Festival

As I looked through the You Tubes available on this band I discovered most of them were documentaries. There is quite a story behind this people, their music and their struggles. If you have a little bit of time I would highly recommend watching this 2 part video to gain an appreciation of what is behind this really soulful African Blues music.

Documentary on the Band and Their Music:

Part 1

Part 2

Whilst browsing through the You Tube Videos for Tinariwen (mostly documentaries as I said), I found a Video describing the Festival in the Desert. When I saw the You Tube about this international music festival, which is held in the middle of the Sahara Desert, I was blown away. Gosh it would be fabulous to go there! The Festival au Désert (Festival in the Desert) is an annual concert in Essakane, Mali, showcasing traditional Tuareg music as well as music from around the world.
So now I have another item on my "life list". I would love to travel to North Africa and attend one year.

If you like this music and want to see another amazing You Tube of the African Blues Music Try these two You Tubes
Festival in the Desert:
Part 1
Part 2

For the Tinariwen web site go here

Incidentally, I did decide to buy their album on iTunes. I feel not only like I have bought an album, but also like I have sent money to aid Africa.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Sunrise in September

These days, it is easy to wake up before dawn. I guess that is the thing I dislike about fall the most, shortened days and increasing hours of darkness. I find it harder to spring out of bed when it is still dark. I will find it more difficult still in December and January, when it is cold as well as dark, so I am glad for our great September weather and the fabulous sunny days we are having.

The bright side of this is that most days from now until next spring I will see the sun come up - at least, on the days the sun shines. This morning I took the time to take some pictures of this beautiful sight and set it to some music, I think fitting music for a brand new day - a day full of opportunities and full of wonder.

I am quite surprised at the south/north distance the sun travels in a year. In the middle of winter I can watch the sun rise over the Toronto Islands a good deal south of the location the sun rose today. At the summer solstice the sun rises around the corner of the building to my immediate east, just out of sight. This distance is even further than the two opposite points on the the headline picture in the slideshow above.

The Queen Street West Annual Art Crawl

Tomorrow starts the fist day of the Queen Street West Art Crawl, which runs over the weekend. I plan to take several long leisurely strolls over the weekend to see it all. The outdoor art show and sale is centered around Bellwoods Park but there are also events and exhibits all the length of the Queen Street West Strip from Spadina to Roncesvales - a very large area. It will take some time to experience and appreciate the work of the 250 participating artists.

Also this weekend is the final weekend of the Toronto International Film Festival, however, I understand tickets involve multihour line ups - just not my cup of tea, so I guess I will satisfy myself by viewing all the trailers on the TIFF web sight.

Marie-Pierre Arthur

Again my CBC Radio 2 station has blown me over with a new Canadian talent they are giving air time to. Her name is Marie-Pierre Arthur and the song they have been featuring is Pourquoi. The melody is up beat and perky, her voice clear and melodic and happy and the lyric has grabbed my interest (but I can make out only a dozen words. (I have not been able to find the lyrics on the internet :) From reviews on the net, I understand that her lyrics are poetic. Having pulled up her CD on iTunes and listened to the rest, I am a fan.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Poetry, Jazz and Toronto Skyline at Night

Days end and another wonderful day it has been! Spent a good deal of the afternoon sipping beer with a friend on the patio of a pub watching the world walk by on the Queen Street Strip. The Toronto International Film Festival - or TIFF as it is known, started on Thursday and lots of beautiful people are out and about. The TIFF is among the world's foremost film festivals and it is 10 days of glitz, glamour and fun here in the city. I have a list of maybe 20 films I really would like to see - sadly, I suspect I will not get out to more than maybe one.

After my fabulous afternoon, I wandered home with great intentions of working on my novel, but got sidetracked taking some photos and reading my book. LOL... and reading blogs and also writing this one... However it still is not late and so next I spend an hour or three novel planning.

I keep saying this, but at risk of rolling eyes, I will again say how lucky I am for where I live and what I have. Even if now and again, I moan out loud for want of my Prince Charming, I have to admit, life is good.

Tonight I am happily working away in my home office (a recently re-acquired 2nd bedroom which was vacated by my daughter who is happily living not too too far away) enjoying the view to the east. Wish I could bring you as spectacular night picture as my eyes behold, but that is just not possible with my camera and camera skills...

This is the best I can do - it does give you some sense of the of the Toronto night skyline, but of course, you will need to come visit if you really want to experience its beauty!

Poetry and a Love Story

I just finished reading Canadian author Elizabeth Smart's book of poetic prose "By Grand Central Station I sat down and Wept". For the Wiki on this fascinating author go here.

The original was published in 1945. I have a 1966 reissue of the book, with a forward by Brigid Brophy describing it as one of the half dozen masterpieces of poetic prose in the world. Incidently, her preface to the novel provides some excellent insights into Smart's prose. The novel is both an ode and a lament to Smart's utter surrender in love to George Barker, an English Poet. It was written whilst she was "away" to birth the first (of four) illegitimate children he fathered by her. Their affair was to last her lifetime. It is a epic tale of a love so consuming she is driven with it blindly and without control. Somehow, in her prose, Smart is able to marry stanzas of poetic words testament to the heady, passionate and intense love with the very mundane day to day business of living. A slim volume of 112 pages, I devoured it in two short sittings.

Interestingly, it appears that while George Barker was on the receiving end of such searing love for so many decades, he had a very different viewpoint on it. He wrote a counterpoint novel of prose in 1950, The Dead Seagull. I have not read it, but suspect by the title that it was not of the same mood as Smart's novel. Barker, in my mind, is an undeserving recipient of such boundless love. Through research I found he was as much remembered for his numerous love affairs and fifteen children by several different women as for his very large body of poetry. It seems that he was prolific, and not only in the literary sense.

Interestingly, I was able to obtain Smart's book second hand through Amazon for $1.65. Barker's book (also poetic prose) is selling for $116. Both are out of print. I would like to get a copy of Barker's to read - from my research it is a "must read". I will have to check out the library.

I found a quote on The Dead Seagull from an anonymous reviewer on Amazon:

"...these two novels are as convenient as they are breathtaking. As you may probably have guessed, i cannot recommend these novels enough. In fact they would be in the top ten of all novels i would recommend concerning mid 20th century literature."

And now some very wonderful Jazz Music:

I have been captivated by an artist who has been getting air play on CBC's Radio 2. Her name is Melody Gardot. According to Wiki:

Melody Gardot is an American jazz singer, writer and musician who lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She was disabled at 19 after being struck by a car while riding her bicycle and began writing music after using music to aid her recovery. She has been influenced by such blues and jazz artists as Janis Joplin, Miles Davis, Duke Ellington and George Gershwin as well as Latin music artists such as Stan Getz and Caetano Veloso.

This You Tube video includes 3 of her songs and illustrates the range of her repertoire and her utterly sweet yet Jazzy voice. I am enchanted by the first song, Les étoiles.

Les étoiles

Les étoiles les étoiles les étoiles
Dites-moi étoile, pourquoi je vous regarde?
Les étoiles les étoiles les étoiles
Dites-moi, étoile qui vous regardera?
Les étoiles les étoiles
Si seulement je savais
Dites moi étoile de qui obtenez-vous la lumière
Les étoiles les étoiles
Vous qui êtes belle dans les cieux
Dites-moi étoile, qui vous donnera l�'amour?
The stars the stars shining up above
Tell me stars who will give you love
The stars the stars lights of white and blue
Tell me stars why I look to you

More Air Show Pics:
A previous post included pictures of the Air Show from my viewing last Sunday. I did take some more photos on Monday and caught a pretty good shot of the F/A-22 Raptor which is the United States Air Forces' fifth-generation fighter aircraft. It really looked incredible in the sky - I can't but help post these two which both show the general shape of the aircraft and also how close it was to my condo as it flew by.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Ok, so 2 Blogs are not better than one!

Today I decided to act upon something I had been thinking about for a while. I initially started blogging last January with my blog "Half Way Along Life's Highway" and in late spring decided that some posts had a lot to do with the city I live in and perhaps I should split the posts into 2 blogs by subject matter. I had this vague thought that some people might follow my Toronto blog while others would follow my Life blog. That has not really proven true. While my Life blog does get more hits and does have more followers, many folks do wander from one blog to the other. There is no discrete separation of followers.

Content wise, I might start out with a theme which should point to either the Toronto blog or the other one as its home, truth is, I am inclined to wander between the two opposite goal posts in any given blog.

My blogs about Toronto and the events I attend here are really closely linked with stuff about me and the life I lead and opinions I have with regard to current events and the world around me.

Following the stats, it seems that a lot of folks hop back and forth between the two blogs, and I seldom write in both on any given day, so it is a bit of an inconvenience. So I have combined my blogs into one this one which is named for the city I live in. I will put a link on the other to this blog and in time retire the other one entirely, since I moved all my posts into this one.

Friends who were kind enough to "befriend me" on the other blog are invited to do likewise here. Not that I judge success by the number of followers I have, but it does motivate one to keep writing knowing that there are followers who will be checking back to read content.

I will post this blog as a separate entry and shall resume a twice weekly only posting schedule through the coming months as my NaNoWriMo commitment approaches and I need to claim as much time as possible for novel planning.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Toronto CNE Air Show

Yes, it has been a while. Ok, so I have been noticably absent on the blogsphere, and in truth have been so, so busy (I can see you now reaching for those tiny violins! - give me a break, eh?) ... No matter. I am really excited about today's post.

I had a spectacular day watching the air show from my VIP seats on my balcony with a few great friends, lots of good food and drink and fabulous weather! Could I ask for more? Not one bit! Took tons of pictures and turned all those snaps into a video to share with you folks!

The picture above shows the beach packed with people and a ring of boats lined up around the perimeter of the "no go" zone.

I took some of the best pictures and strung them together into a video.

In case you don't want to do the movie version - here are a couple of the better pics... I am sure that my guests with the great big zoom lense cameras who were click, click, clicking - 3 clicks per second - like a machine gun, got better pictures... but these are mine and I am proud of them none the less!

Tomorrow will do a newsy update blog - but for tonight - goodnight!

The Snow Birds were the best!
After formation flying the Snow Birds would separate and at times flew right over my condo!

This is a close-up of the Blue Angels US Airforce plane.

This is just a pretty picture I took one night last week - the sun was shining so nicely on the sail boats making the sails a brilliant white.
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