Monday, September 27, 2004

Random Thought Generator, Prior to...

Only in this day and age could four people in four different cities and three different countries simultaneously do the same exercises in the same book and keep each other motivated to continue through.

It sure isn't easy, learning to live alone. Just when you think you've got it figured out, you realise that you really don't.

Why do I live in this city, honestly? Why couldn't we have had summer in, you know, summer?

Nothing beats a Sunday evening spent with a pint of berry ale and an improvised soap opera, especially when said soap opera is starting to hit its stride and understand its own internal conventions, and especially when I always get a long hug from Johnathan, the cast is happy to see me when I arrive, the cute bartender knows me by name, and the waitress knows my drink order.

I shouldn't only review things that I like. I should review things I don't, as well, shouldn't I? But there are so many things that I actually like. Should I waste my time not recommending something?

I should post more than just reviews.

I apologise for the tardiness of this week's review. I took a bunch of CDs out from the library last week, and I had to listen to them all before I could decide which one to review.

The Stealth Project is subtitled music under the radar, and that's what it is. You will not hear this music in high rotation on the radio, if you hear it on any radio at all. Why did I pick it up then? Because in the brief time I listened to CKUA, I heard Christine Lavin sing a song called New Age Sensitive Guys, and it was one of the funniest things I'd heard in a good long while. And since she was the one to put this compilation together, I decided to give it a try. Glad I did, too.

The fact that none of these songs will be played on any conventional radio station does nothing to take away from their brilliance. In fact, it's because they're not radio-friendly, mass-media darlings that they seem so fresh. The CD opens strongly with Red Grammer's Hold Me Tonight, a sweet melancholy ballad, and continues in that vein. These songs are introspective, and some of them are a little sad, yet still hopeful. No track disappointed, but if I had to pick three stand-out ones, they would be:

  • #7: Dee Carstensen, Ten Complaints. Immensely powerful, wonderful chording, and the content! I just got chills at the end of the song.
  • #9: Christine Lavin, Harrison Ford. I laughed! It's brilliant, really. I must take it to Mom and let her listen to it.
  • #12: Grit Laskin, Hi Sal, Have You Checked Your Email? Wonderful satire about our dependence on technology. It's hard to work "domain name server" into a song, but he manages very, very well.

Jackie Tice's The Marijo Tonight, Deborah Pardes' Prom Dress, and Ron Renninger's Twilight came very close to being on this list.

The library, for the sake of convenience or perhaps because they didn't know what else to do, filed this one under MA (Popular Music), but it's more folk or modern troubador than anything else. I'm glad I found it. It's well worth the time.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Fruit and Fields

I really don't know why I don't eat more fruit. It really does taste yummy. But unless I really consciously think about it (like the past month, where I've been bound and determined to have some fruit with my lunch every weekday), when I go for a snack, it's something decidedly non-fruit. Flatbreads, or crackers, or even random slices of cheese enter my mind before a small plum, or a slice of watermelon. I think I shall have to be a little more proactive in my eating habits.

This week, I'm reviewing Of the Fields, Lately, the current presentation of Theatre Calgary. Super wonderful thanks to Mom and Dad for the birthday present! It makes me so happy!

Of the Fields, Lately is the last chronologically of a series of five plays about a Newfoundland family that lives in Toronto. This play is set in the late 1960s, and details the estranged son Ben's return home for his aunt's funeral. The play is done in two acts over the course of two days, with some asides by Ben reflecting on the events from an unknown time in the future. There are four main characters that occupy the stage, and their interaction, from belligerant to reconciling, forms the meat of the play.

Although, or perhaps because, I have a good relationship with my family, the character of Ben really struck a chord with me. Here was a young man who had been out on his own for two years, coming home for a funeral and forced to confront his relationship with both his father and his mother under trying circumstances. With more information in his possession, he is able to set aside his animosity towards his father to offer to return home. And yet, he has the strength of character to retract the offer when it becomes clear that his return, despite how it is longed for by both his parents, would negatively affect their peace of mind. Chills ran through me when Ben, after his father asked him why he was coming home, said, "I want to." Perhaps that was because, prior to the play, Mom and I had just been discussing how much I didn't want to come back home, and how much she didn't want me to either.

Death is a prevalent theme in the play, and it is juxtaposed with images of life and beauty, giving the play a haunting power. Uncle Wiff's description of Dot prior to their marriage is brigh, and the subtle use of projected images on the black backdrop really added a level to the story. And while we are taken in by his description of her vivaciousness, we are continually reminded that she is dead, and that the love with which Wiff speaks of her had cooled. Death and destruction hangs over the entire play, visually represented by the black backdrop, which was only superficially marred by various projected images.

R.H. Thomson directed Theatre Calgary's production (and if I'd known he was going to be sitting behind us the entire time, I would have brought my Cyrano de Bergerac program for him to sign), and I believe he did a fine job. The actors were believable (though Cheryl did point out that Mary looked a heck of a lot older than 50), and they interacted with conviction. There were some points when the Newfoundland accents were difficult to understand, but for the most part, I was able to follow the dialog.

I enjoyed this production quite a bit, and if you're one who also likes a bit of well-prepared meat to your entertainment (and are in the Calgary area), you might want to consider buying tickets and going to see this one. It will be playing until October 3.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Vanessa's Hopefully Weekly, Very Opinionated Media Reviews

As I am going back to school and fencing within the next week, I decided that I needed a new feature in my blog, to give me incentive to post things. Thus, I have decided to review things. We start with a movie. Who knows what'll come next. I've also put together a quick website to host previous reviews in one spot. You'll see the new link to the left.

If you have not seen Bubba Ho-Tep, then I recommend most strongly that you do. You might not think it's your cup of tea. After all, the premise of the film is a little out there. An aging Elvis Presley, played by Bruce Campbell, battles an ancient Egyptian, soul-sucking mummy, aided and abetted by JFK, played by Ossie Davis. I can't begin to count the number of things wrong with that sentence. And yet, it is by far one of the best movies I've seen this year. Because it's not a horror film, and it's not a comedy, and it certainly isn't a drama. It simply defies definition. Despite the surreal subject matter, there is a sweetness and sadness that transcends and even legitimizes the story. I reached a point where I believed every detail in context, which is a rare thing for a movie with so many unbelievable details.

For a low-budget independant film, the cinematography is excellent. Some of the night scenes began to blur, especially when the action ramped up, but perhaps that was deliberate. Bruce Campbell was wonderful as Elvis, and Ossie Davis pulled off JFK with far more success than you might think at first glance. Their supporting cast was also excellent.

I can say little more without giving away too much. I must simply repeat my earlier recommendation that you all see this movie soon.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

A thought...

I was scribbling something the other day when I described the POV character as being touchstarved. Funny the way the mind works. The word resonated with me a little, and the more I thought about it, the more I came to realise that I am too. Living alone doesn't allow too much opportunity for substantial human contact, let alone physical contact, and yet touch is so important for maintaining balance. Oh, you learn different coping strategies, and you take touch where you can, but you still feel the lack of it. I do, anyway. Not that I'm asking for sympathy; far from it. Privacy, independence, and maturity are worth a sacrifice or two, and I'm more than willing to make them and continue to make them. Naming the sacrifices makes it easier. Besides, I think it's fascinating how my mind used a character that bears only a passing resemblance to myself to bring the issue to the forefront. There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy...

Class starts September 11. What an auspicious date to launch my run towards graduate school! Lucky I'm not superstitious... Updates to follow.

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