Tuesday, September 08, 2015

So Long, Farewell, Auf wiedersehen, Goodbye

WTF????  I can hear both my Faithful Readers (FR) say not so sotto voce!  But you just said that you were going to start boring us to tears with your silly drivel again.  What exactly is going on?

ME: Well as you may, or may not, know I'm going to be going on a cruise very shortly.

FR: Well yes but what has that got to do with it?  You want us to come down to the quay and catch streamers while the band plays "Nearer My God to Thee".

ME:  Don't be smart! No but I didn't want to travel with too much baggage (that tuxedo for formal night takes up a good deal of room) so I was thinking of just taking my iPad with me and posting on the trip using the Blogger App.

FR:  Okay, it would be nice to hear about those far-away places with strange sounding names but from the sounds of that title you weren't intending to post anything anyway.

ME: No I was!   That's why I gave it a trial run to see what I could and couldn't do - I discovered its been been almost a year and a half since they made any changes to the Blogger App.  So it was pretty much as it had been the last time I used it.  I went in and started to edit a post I had started on the Mac.  I spent well over three hours finding the right words and sequence of photographs.  Very proud of myself I saved it and went off to do something else.

FR:  So when does it appear?

ME:  Someone is looking for a sound smack!  It won't be because when I opened it on the Mac none of the changes had taken.  I went back to the iPad and same damned thing.  Three hours work lost never to be read by you my Faithful Readers.  I checked what they laughingly call a "support" site and found that the biggest complaint seemed to be that no one ever got back to anyone on their questions or problems. 

FR:  Oh!

ME: So as a result I am stamping my little foot, saying "so long, farewell, auf wiedersehn, goodbye" to Blogger and switching over to WordPress.  So bear with me on this okay?  I'm old mature and it may take me a bit of time to get use to their little programming quirks and quarks. And I have to decide if I want to import 8 years worth of posts over to their system.  But keep in mind I'm doing it all for you my faithful readers - both of you.

So if you're planning to read my blog I suggest you change the bookmark to www.willyorwonthe.wordpress.com. Or you can click on the Bobby below and he'll take you there and then you can bookmark it. 

As he so rightly says:  there's nothing more to see here.

September 8 - 1930: 3M begins marketing Scotch transparent tape.

Monday, September 07, 2015

Lunedi Lunacy

It appears that "concept albums" have been around since the 1940s: according to the Wikipedia entry Woody Guthrie's Dust Bowl Ballads was one of the first.  But they seemed to have reached a zenith in the 1960-70s with Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, Tommy, Dark Side of the Moon, and The Butterfly Ball and the Grasshopper's Feast.

The last named was based on William Roscoe's children's poem written in 1802 which reappeared in 1973 in picture book form.  Retold and expanded by William Plomer and illustrated in his signature graphic style by Alan Aldridge it reflect the temper of the psychedelic 70s.  In 1974  Roger Glover, late of Deep Purple, used it as the inspiration for his album and the subsequent rock opera that came from it.  Glover recruited a large cast of well-known rock musicians to perform on the album including Ronnie James Dio of, amongst other groups, Black Sabbath.  The one minor hit to come out of the album was "Love is All" with Dio on vocals.

In 1976 Halas and Batchelor, turned the song into a cartoon short using the Aldridge designs as their starting point.  The cartoon become a cult favourite in Europe particularly in France where a new TV channel used it as an quick stopgap anytime they experienced technical difficulties.  It's popularity in North American was the result of it being shown on children's programmes on several emerging networks including Nickelodeon.  As their unwary parents slept in of a Saturday morning a new generation was "tuning in and turning on". 

I rememeber the album being a particular favourite of my first roommate Ray and his friends when they would  wander into the apartment in a mellow mood from the clubs as the sun rose over St James Cemetary.  I recall having my early morning coffee before the start of a Sunday 0630 shift to the sounds of Saffron Dormouse and Lizzy Bee or Sir Maximus Mouse and running out the door to catch the 0615 subway with the sounds of Love is All echoing in my ears.

September 7 - 1911:  Guillaume Apollinaire is arrested and put in jail on suspicion of stealing the Mona Lisa from the Louvre museum.

Saturday, September 05, 2015

So Where Is That Damned Muse?

I sat awaiting for my Muse
To descend from heaven.
I first sat down at two-fifteen
And now it's well past seven!
For some reason that little piece of doggerel I wrote for the school year book back in 19 some years ago has been running through my mind the past few days.  It may well be in response to messages from my friend David  at I'll Think of Something Later, a comment made by Spo when he was here in the summer or the rebirth of several blogs written by old friends from earlier blogger days.  

So why haven't I written anything on the blog in the past five months?  What's my excuse?

Lack of subject matter?  

Well life may not be as exciting as it was in those far off days of our days in Rome but no.  Since April there have been several visits to Toronto that included two remarkable productions at Soulpepper, the Canadian Museum of Inuit Art and Casa Loma; the opportunity in July to show Spo and Harper's Keeper the sights of Ottawa (many of which I have never bothered to visit before); a bucolic week in August to Prince Edward Island filled with music, glorious vistas and seafood; and coming up a cruise down the St Lawrence River into the Gulf and on to St. Pierre-Miquilon.

Lack of posts?

I just checked and I have 75 drafts of various lengths, sorts and subject matter.  Some go back so far I can't even remember why I started to write them.

Lack of visuals?  

Good lord no - I have enough photos and videos on the trusty iPhone to fill several albums.  And there is at least one music video that I have yet to publish.

Lack of time?

Well when you work five days a week and your primary job is writing it is a bit of a chore to then sit down at home and start typing.  But I'm able to write rants and short pithy comments on Facebook so wherein doth lie the problem?  And I won't even count the hours spend surfing the web for all manner of things - good and bad.  And I'm now amongst the unemployed/retired I have more than enough time to sit down and write ad nauseam

So what's the answer?

What was the question?  Oh yes, why have I not written a blog entry in the past five months? Well I'm going for the Muse thing.  And no it's not what's suggested in the slideshow by that last image by Edward Gafford.   She/He/It just hasn't motivated me strongly enough to take idea from brain to fingers to keyboard.  However as appears to be happening with Cowbell, Auld Hat and Yellowdog Granny I can feel the old urge coming back - oh grow up I don't mean that!!!.

Having said all that I starting to look at old drafts to see if any of them are still relevant and looking at new ideas particularly with the upcoming trip.  We shall see how this all turns out.

September 5 - 1840: Premiere of Giuseppe Verdi's Un giorno di regno at La Scala of Milan.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Exhibition Hopping - Part IV

The evening calendar for my February trip to Toronto was a full one: two operas (Don Giovanni, Die Walküre) and Angela Lansbury in Blithe Spirit.  One theatrical hit, one operatic hit and one operatic miss that was was a hit musically but a total disaster theatrically - but I'm not a critic so what can I say.

The days were a bit cold (-24c) for much in the way of tromping around town but fortunately the hotel was within a short walk of the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO).  It had been many, many (and I could add several more manys) moons since I had been inside the Gallery and though the big attraction was the Jean-Michel Basquiat exhibition my destination were two much smaller, but to my taste, more interesting installations:  Memory Unearthed: The Łódź Ghetto Photographs of Henryk Ross and Manasie Akpaliapik.

On December 11, 1939 the Nazi authorities commanded that all Jews wear a Star of
David on the front and back of their clothing. As Henryk Ross says of this photo: 
Even the scarecrows were made to wear the yellow star. 

The story of the Łódź Ghetto is a complex one that has given rise to books, essays and articles that tell the many sides of life in the second largest ghetto of the Nazi period but more importantly the  stories of the men, women and children who lived in this devastating page of European history.  I will simply say that the exhibition of Henryk Ross's photographs made me angry and it was one of those exhibitions that I left on the verge of tears.  And I say that as a good reaction to a disturbing but important display of both the inhumanity of man and the resilience of mankind.*

Manasie Akpaliapik - the Inuit artist.
The small exhibition of pieces by Inuit artist Manasie Akpaliapik moved me but in a different way.  Unlike the Ross exhibition they are contained in one space and brightly lit and in their own way show the history, the changes and, in many ways, decline of a society.

IK-PI-AR-JUK (Arctic Bay - the Pocket) Manasie Akpaliapik's birthplace on Baffin Island
is 3,300 kms north of Toronto and approximately 700 kms north of the Arctic Circle.
Akpaliapik was born at the northern most tip of Baffin Island - a hunting camp in IK-PI-AR-JUK (the Pocket) on Arctic Bay, 700 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle.  His parents, Lazaroosee and Nakyuraq Akpaliapik, were both sculptors in the Arctic Bay community; his adopted grandparents, artists Peter and Elisapee Kanangnaq Ahlooloo, and his maternal great aunt Paniluk Qamanirq began to teach him to carve when he was about ten years old.  He learned by watching them, and as they carved the elders would recount Inuit legends and stories. These stories were to influence his work as much as the techniques they taught him.

Traditional carving tools used to fashion Inuit carvings.  From the soapstone sculptures so favoured as
ceremonial gifts from our government to the works created by artists like Akpaliapik, who work in ivory, whalebone and
other media found in the far north, many of these tools are are still used along with more modern equipment.

At the age of twelve he was sent to a Residential School.  Suppression, sometimes violent, of the language (Inuktitut), the traditional culture and values of his people led him to leave school at the age of sixteen and return to Arctic Bay in 1971.   He began to examine his heritage and  to work on carvings that reflected life in his wider community.   He married but tragically lost his wife and children in a house fire in 1980.  He moved to Montreal and began to work in earnest using new techniques, varied materials and learning to refine the details of his work.  He considered the links between the traditions, those legends and stories of his family, life in the North and the mounting problems of alcohol,  unemployment, drugs and rootlessness experienced by the people of the Arctic.  Carving became a healing process for him and a way of focusing attention on the problems of his people.

The pieces on display at the AGO are from the Collection of Samuel and Esther Sarick, one of the most comprehensive collections of Inuit art in the world.  The Sarick's gifted the AGO with the collection in the late 1990s.

As I mentioned this exhibition was small - only twelve pieces of varying sizes - from a slender carving of a hunter riding (or perhaps being dragged by) a narwhal (left) to two large sculptures made from the ossified bone from the bases of whale skulls - I've created videos from the walk-around of these two extraordinary pieces.  Amongst the other materials he uses are ivory, antler, stone, horn, baleen and stone.  Unfortunately I didn't get all the information on the works on display so several of the photos have no identification as to title or materials used.  An e-mail to the AGO asking for information has gone unanswered so I will have to leave some things untitled.

Shaman Muskox
whale bone, ivory, bone, antler - 1995-96.

This double sided ivory carving shows the two sides of life for the Inuit:  one based on the traditions of the North, the other the influences from the outside that has destroyed many of those traditions.

There is a wealth of art created by Inuit artists working in both the traditional and the modern style that deserves to be explored.  This small exhibition opened my eyes to a small portion of what is out there by one artist.  On my next visit to Toronto in May I plan to spend some time at the Museum of Inuit Art at Queen's Quay - an attraction I must admit I had no knowledge of until I read two short pieces on the use of whale bone in Inuit carving:  I've Got a Bone to Pick and Let's Talk About Whalebone.

*I use both the terms man and mankind in their inclusive meaning and should that offend anyone then they do not know me and any flames will be extinguished immediately.

April 16 - 1910: The oldest existing indoor ice hockey arena still used for the sport in the 21st century, Boston Arena, opens for the first time.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

mercoldi musicale

Okay the first day of Spring was over two weeks ago and temperatures are still coming in the minuses - we even had snow for Easter, try finding white Easter Eggs in the snow!!!!

However here are two of my favourite chantootzies singing the praises (???) of Spring!

The great cabaret and Broadway star Julie Wilson died earlier this week and here she tells us about  one of the more melancholy aspects of the Equinox.

The wonderful Blossom Dearie has a slightly more optimistic outlook on the season - perhaps one we should stick with, even if it takes to June to prove true.

Oh look the forecast calls for snow and -10 tonight! Spring Fever? I don't think so more like the winter flu!

April 8 - 1820: The Venus de Milo is discovered on the Aegean island of Milos.

Monday, April 06, 2015

Lunedi Lunacy

Napoleon the Pig - Animal Farm
Halas & Batchelor (1954)
Halas and Batchelor Cartoon Films was founded in 1940 by husband and wife team John Halas and Joy Batchelor; over the next 58 years they were to be one of the premiere animation studios in Western Europe.  Their output include 70 propaganda films during the Second World War, children's shows, full length cartoons (the first was Animal Farm in 1954 - unwittingly a propaganda film clandestinely funded by the CIA), musical shorts, educational cartoons and a series based on the popular books of Gerald Hoffnung - he of the Interplanetary Music Festival.

In 1961 they introduced Hamilton the Musical Elephant in two charming little shorts with soundtracks by British jazz great Johnny Dankworth (it was only later that he became the more formal John). 

You have to wonder why the little guy only appeared it two cartoons though perhaps the creators wisely thought there were only so many plot lines you could create for a trumpet playing forgetful elephant.

April 6 -1327: The poet Petrarch first sees his idealized love, Laura, in the church of Saint Clare in Avignon.