Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Idomeneus at Soulpepper

Today I saw Soulpepper's production of the Canadian premier of Germany's Roland Schimmelpfennig's play, Idomeneus. It is on from March 3 to March 24 at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts in the Distillery District.

Don't think of this as a theater that puts on plays by or for young adults. The Michael Young Family Foundation donated the first $3 million dollars to fund the $14 million required to renovate the historic space, hence the name.

The Trojan War is over, but for Idomeneus the greatest struggle awaits his return – a crucible of the soul. A chorus weaves fates and stories into a wrenching lyrical epic from one of Europe's most exciting contemporary playwrights.

Idomeneus is a one act, 60 minute play which tells multiple stories of what was thought to have happened to King Idomeneus upon his return to Crete. The king and his army had been away for ten years in Troy and was said to have been one of those waiting in the famous Trojan Horse. The one constant in all the stories is that after being victorious in the war, 79 of the 80 ships that were returning to Crete were sunk in a huge storm. Only Idomeneus's ship survived.

Although this was written in the past 10 years, the presentation is in the style of a 2,000-year-old Greek tragedy. Ten actors are on stage and all in the chorus. Michelle Monteith, who was excellent, occasionally steps out of the chorus to be Meda, wife of Idomeneus, who was played by Stuart Hughs when not in the chorus.

I have never seen a poorly staged production of anything at Soulpepper and today that streak continues. The acting was superb and the minimalist set of dirt and a wall, truly fit the production, as did the ratty dirty costumes

The background notes in the booklet we received said that Idomeneus returned home and lived a quiet, peaceful life with his wife, Meda, and son, Idamantes. That story is the one I really hope was true.

Sunday, 11 March 2018

Rock Battle Black Wolves for First

This afternoon Teena and I headed down to the ACC to watch the Toronto Rock play host to the New England Black Wolves, who came into the game in first place in the Eastern Division. It's a tight race in the east and a win for the 5-5 Rock would put them into a tie for first place.

Eastern Division Standings

New England - 5-4
Buffalo           - 6-5
Rochester      - 6-6
Toronto         - 5-5
Georgia         -  2-7

It should be noted that Georgia's two victories both came at the expense of the Toronto Rock in the last two games the Rock have played. They came into today's game not only fighting for first place but also trying to break a two game losing streak.

The boys huddle up.

Opening face-off.

The Rock scored just 18 seconds into the game for a great start. The rest of the quarter didn't go as well, though, as the Black Wolves answered with 4 straight goals to lead the game 4-1 at the end of the first quarter.

At the half, Toronto put on some pressure and was behind by a 6-4 margin when the horn went. The Toronto Rock Cheerleaders came out for a performance during the second quarter.

The view from our seats. The final score would have been much higher but both goalies brought their goalposts with them.

Action around the Black Wolves net.

Here we are.

Another performance by our cheerleaders.

No, we didn't win. One day, though ...!

The Rock scored with just 20 seconds left to go in the game to tie it up 7-7 and send the game into overtime. We had a chance or two but at 2:08 of OT, the Black Wolves scored to win. It was a disappointing way to finish after such a great comeback.

Despite the low score, today's game was perhaps the most action-packed game we have seen all season. Just wish it had ended different.

The Rock's next home game is on Friday March 30 at 7:30 and, yes, Teena and I will be there.

Thursday, 1 March 2018

Book Review - The Wolves of Winter

I just finished The Wolves of Winter by Canadian writer Tyrell Johnson.

Forget the old days. Forget summer. Forget warmth. Forget anything that doesn’t help you survive.

Lynn McBride has learned much since society collapsed in the face of nuclear war and the relentless spread of disease. As memories of her old life haunt her, she has been forced to forge ahead in the snow-covered Canadian Yukon, learning how to hunt and trap to survive.

But her fragile existence is about to be shattered. Shadows of the world before have found her tiny community—most prominently in the enigmatic figure of Jax, who sets in motion a chain of events that will force Lynn to fulfill a destiny she never imagined.

I really enjoyed the book. It's not your normal 'end of the world' kind of story but one more of survival in the north. This is a family that fled the big city life of Chicago to live in a community in Alaska, then had to pack up whatever belongings they could carry and head to the Yukon in order to find a secluded place to live away from all mankind.

I hold back the reasons why, which is all part of the back story. Suffice to say that when they are discovered by the outside world, their lives become complicated.

Tyrell Johnson is a very descriptive writer and has an excellent way of setting the scene in the readers mind. The story is told in first person by Lynn, who I found to be torn by her need to be alone, and a hunger to venture to find out what is out there beyond their valley and to meet new people. People she is not related to.

I liked Tyrell's style of writing and would not hesitate to go out and read his next book.

About the author:

Tyrell Johnson is originally from Bellingham, Washington and studied at the University of California Riverside before he got married and moved to Kelowna, BC. He has two children "and can often be found on the mountain with my Siberian Husky" (there is a husky in the story)

I did have a chuckle in the Acknowledgements at the end of the book where he thanks his mother- and father-in-law for providing him a place to write. Then he thanks his wife Tessa, "for believing in me and for doing all the hard work while I sat in a horse barn and wrote stories."

The Wolves of Winter is his debut novel which I guess was written in a horse barn. Just goes to show you that when you have a good story to tell, neighing horses can't slow you down.

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Douglas Coupland's Monument to the War of 1812

On the northwest corner of Lakeshore Blvd and Bathurst St. stands the Monument to the War of 1812 which was unveiled on November 3, 2008. I have written about it before but had much poorer quality photos.

The monument was done by Douglas Coupland, who is not only an artist, but a writer too with many books in publication. I have read a few and think he is brilliant. It was commissioned by condo developer Malibu Investments Inc. I'm glad to see a developer spend some of its money to highlight the history of a neighbourhood and, in this case, a city and a country.

Just north of the monument a major battle was fought on April 27, 1813, when between 1,600 to 1,800 American soldiers invaded Toronto (then York) in an amphibious attack. The attack is explained in detail in a chapter of my book, Defending the Inland Shores, available at Amazon and Indigo.

In an interview, Coupland said this of his work, "I wanted to create something that was just a quick haiku moment for people driving by or walking by to think about the War of 1812," said Coupland. "But once I began getting involved in the project and doing research, I began noticing that the Americans are now starting to change history and they're saying, 'Well actually we won that,' or, 'Actually, we didn't lose' or whatever.

"So it's a war monument but it's also an incitement for people to remember what's going on in the present as well as the past."

The standing soldier is gold and represents a soldier from the 1813 Royal Newfoundland Regiment, who fought valiantly in the attack. The other is painted silver and is an American soldier from the 16th U.S. Infantry Regiment.

The War of 1812 was an important part of Canadian history and I'm glad to see that we are still committed to remembering those who stood their ground to defend our country.

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Book Review - Endurance: A Year in Space, A Lifetime of Discovery

I have always found space travel to be so very interesting so when I read that Scott Kelly had wrote a book about spending an entire year on the International Space Station (ISS), I had to give it a read.

The veteran of four space flights and the American record holder for consecutive days spent in space, Scott Kelly has experienced things very few have. Now, he takes us inside a sphere utterly inimical to human life. 

He describes navigating the extreme challenge of long-term spaceflight, both existential and banal: the devastating effects on the body; the isolation from everyone he loves and the comforts of Earth; the pressures of constant close cohabitation; the catastrophic risks of depressurization or colliding with space junk, and the still more haunting threat of being unable to help should tragedy strike at home--an agonizing situation Kelly faced when, on another mission, his twin brother's wife, Gabrielle Giffords, was shot while he still had two months in space. 

Kelly's humanity, compassion, humor, and passion resonate throughout, as he recalls his rough-and-tumble New Jersey childhood and the youthful inspiration that sparked his astounding career, and as he makes clear his belief that Mars will be the next, ultimately challenging step in American spaceflight. A natural storyteller and modern-day hero, Kelly has a message of hope for the future that will inspire for generations to come. Here, in his personal story, we see the triumph of the human imagination, the strength of the human will, and the boundless wonder of the galaxy.

The book is very well written and it is so easy to tell as I read on that he is very much a detail oriented person. I believe that most astronauts are naturally inclined to be that way and have to be. Throughout the book he constantly stresses the detail of the things he does and the importance to that detail, whether it is inside the station or even more importantly during a spacewalk.

I knew that space walks were dangerous but never understood until I read this one how exhausting one could be. The space suits themselves can add danger to a walk as I found out when he described how one of his partners suits started to malfunction causing a huge water bubble to form inside the suit.

One thing I was disappointed in was that I wanted to read about the negative effects on his body after returning to earth after a year in space. He talks about it in the prologue and it sounds like something I would not wish to go through myself, but he never speaks of it again in the book. I think that telling the story would be worth a chapter or two at the end of the book as after all, the effect of long term space travel on the human body was one of the main reasons he and his Russian comrade Misha were sent up for a year.

It is an entertaining and interesting story and one that I would recommend.

Thursday, 8 February 2018

The Westin Hotel. Ottawa

While we were in Ottawa, Teena and I stayed at the Westin Ottawa which is close to the Byward market.

The view from our room was excellent as we overlooked the Parliament Buildings, the Chateau Laurier Hotel and the Rideau Canal. The canal when frozen, such as now, becomes the world's largest skating rink.

 Robes are supplied, which I wore to the salt water pool and hot tub.

There also is a nice sized workout room and a spa also in the hotel. I would definitely stay here again.

Eating in Ottawa

The first night Teena and I arrived in Ottawa, we ate at the Grand Pizzeria and Bar, which is a Napoli-style Italian restaurant. We both order the meat pizza which came on a thin crust and was delicious.

The next morning I ate at Cora's on Wellington. The food was great, as was the service, but I decided not to take pictures as it is a chain.

That night we ate at Fatboys Southern Smokehouse.

I had the fried chicken and ribs. The chicken was so juicy and full of flavour. I offered Teena a piece of my rib as she had ordered just the fried chicken and was surprised when she pulled a small piece off of the bone just with two fingers.

What I enjoyed about it too was that it was nicely spiced and slow cooked and they didn't put sauce on it afterwards. Three sauces are on the table so you can add your own. I loved them just the way they were. Once again the service was great.

My last breakfast in Ottawa was breakfast which I had at Zak's Diner.  It is fashioned after an old style diner with booths everywhere. Once again I had great service and a tasty meal.

I needed a snack after my visit to the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum so stopped into the Highlander Pub on Wellington.

 I had the Cock-n-leek soup which was hot and hearty. Note to self, learn how to make this at home.

Usually during a trip, even a short one, there is one so-so or bad meal. I never had one during my stay in Ottawa.

Exploring Ottawa

I love Ottawa and it was great to get back after a number of years. This is my first trip during the winter. The Ottawa sign is located at the entrance to the ByWard Market.

Here are the eight locks that connect the Rideau Canal to the Ottawa River. It was taken from the Wellington Street Bridge.

The East Block of the Parliament Buildings taken from the same bridge.

The War of 1812 Monument.

Our beautiful Parliament Building, also know as the Centre Block, in which the House of Commons sits. I'll have to go sometime during Question Period. It would be interesting to observe in person.

Here is the controversial rink that was built on the Parliament lawn for our nation's 150th birthday. I think it was well worth it.

The Centennial Flame.

The Bank of Canada has a museum attached. Entrance to the museum is free. Although it is geared to young adults, I found quite a few interesting artifacts. There is a large display regarding crypto-currency.

Although it was difficult to take photos due to the colourful lighting throughout, I did manage to get a decent one of the printing plate fro a $1,000 bill.

The Bank of Canada.

Here is the highest court in the land, The Supreme Court of Canada. Tours are available. On my list of things to do on my next visit.

The National Archives. I went inside and there is a large exhibition going on but I didn't have the time. Another thing to put on my list of places to visit in the future.

All these buildings are on Wellington Street. It might be one of the most interesting streets in Canada.