Saturday, February 18, 2012

Chelsea Hotel

The title of this post is Chelsea Hotel, but the first photo is of Black Jack.  Any connection?  None that I can think of, except that I photographed her the same day we saw the play.  She gets this expression just before she believes it is meal time.  It works every time.
I told you that I was going to do "Ottawa" and "thank you" posts next, but Chelsea Hotel has jumped the queue.  I had thought it would fit into a facebook post, but it turned out to require a bit more space and time.  Our Thursday evening began after a very pleasant meal (eggplant/bean taco salad) delivered by Bill from Topanga Cafe.  Thank you, Bill!  Then we were off on our fairly long walk to Firehall Arts Centre. There was a light mist falling, but  I was still able to take a couple of pictures.  BC Place roof caught our attention almost right away. We had seen it in pink, blue, tangerine and mauve hues, but never before in such a brilliant shade of green.  
I've since learned that was in honour of the Home and Garden Show.
There are many who would describe the walk we took as unpleasant: lonely, barren street except for that impossible to ignore green disc, noisy traffic on rain-soaked pavement, Bill with a bad cold, I with a much less severe one, but tired from some late-night blogging the day before.  Yet, as I think back on the evening, it is with great pleasure.  Bill waited patiently when I stopped to take photos, made me laugh at least a 100 times, and hardly whined at all about his cold.  (Actually, I did most of the whining for him :) The play, in spite of the fact that I should have done my homework before going, like all successful art, has inspired lots of thinking.
This sign was on the front step. I snapped quickly, not wanting to hold up the people behind us, and paid with blurry focus.
We had front row seats.  Yay!  I took these next two pictures before the play began.  I was prepared for the mounds of crumpled paper, having skimmed a review a few days earlier.   However, skimming has its drawbacks.  Somehow, I thought the tortured writer (Adrian Glynn McMorran) was Leonard Cohen. In fact, the characters in the play are not linked to Cohen's life at all, except in so much as the lyrics to his songs brought images to the writer's mind, and it is a parade of these images that play out before us.  Every single line of the play came either from Cohen's song lyrics or his poetry.  That in itself is an astounding feat.  This too, I hadn't realized before going, and perhaps led to the fact that Bill and I were both confused about the story line.  Although many aspects of the play were stunning, I found myself disappointed at intermission.  I claim to love Leonard Cohen's music, but in fact, I realized that I barely recognized many of the songs we heard.  Some, I had never heard before.  Added to that, some of my favourite songs were taken at tempos much faster than expected.  Still, the voices and acting were strong, and I hoped to begin to make more sense of the story in the second half.
The reviewer, Marsha Lederman, referred to the huge mound of papers on the left side of the stage as a "sleeping mountain of rejected words." I think she was spot-on with that image, although I have a small suspicion that she too, missed some of the point of the play.  "Rejected words" makes more and more sense to me as I think back on the play.  
I also loved the way people and even a cello suddenly emerged from that mountain.  Again, that is making more sense to me now.  At this point, I must make an embarrassing confession.  Miss "love-the-front-row" dozed off a couple of times during the second half.  I am so deeply sorry if the performers noticed this, and I'm pretty sure it would have been hard to miss.  It was definitely not because of boredom.  Going to a performance when sleep-deprived is no longer something I can get away with, and I really hope not to make that mistake again. An interesting side-point of that dream-state I found myself in, is that the beautiful voices, exquisite harmonies and absolutely pure intonation of the slower songs continue to play through my mind, almost as though I had dreamed them.  I long to hear this performance again, and after some time reading reviews, studying Cohen's lyrics, and just thinking over our experience, I have decided to go back for a second chance sometime before the end date of March 3rd. I was prepared to go alone this time, but dear Bill has said he is more than willing to go with me.  I am convinced the man is a thinly disguised saint!

Below is a Cohen print in the lobby of the theatre.  It is available for sale, at what seemed to me a very hefty price ($4000 and something), along with some other merchandise.   
The array of talent in the play was mind-boggling.  I have never before seen six actors on stage at the same time with such versatile musicianship.  They all sang well (an understatement), and they traded instruments so nonchalantly that I began to take that versatility for granted.
Photo by David Cooper  
The talkback after the show was enlightening.  Seeing the actors back in their street clothes somehow made them much more vulnerable.  Lauren Bowler (Sister of Mercy) made me realize just how difficult it was to remember the countless prop and costume changes.  Never mind the lines, the music, the choreography, the limited rehearsal time!.  One person in the audience asked if any of the actors had learned an instrument specifically for the performance, and there were a few chuckles amongst the group. I think several of them could play every instrument: keyboard, guitar, bass, drums, violin, cello, kazoo, and accordion, to name the ones I remember at the moment.  Another (rather unkind) person criticized the Bellhop's (Benjamin Elliott) drumset skills.  I agree that there was a problem with balance. Even placed at the back of the stage, the drums drowned out the vocalists' lyrics in the more exuberant songs.  That may be a matter of technique (thinking of lifting the sound out of, rather than of  playing into the drum, might help), but Elliott's rhythmical and musical understanding were solid. He never lagged behind, and in some of the lighter numbers, was brilliant.  I hope he won't be discouraged by that person's comment.  That said, the lyrics are crucial to the understanding of the play, and I am also hoping that the actors will find a way to correct the balance so that they can always be heard and understood. My final words about the play?  Go, if you can!  I'm quite sure you won't be sorry.  Perhaps, we'll see you there.

Walking home late at night through east-side Vancouver streets is always an adventure.  I don't remember which street we were on when I took the pictures below, but I do remember we purposely chose a route where there were quite a few police cars.  I was even a bit afraid to take the pictures of these etched (or painted?) scenes in two door windows as I thought my camera might make us a target.  No worry though.  Bill promised to run for help if we were attacked :)
I am curious about these windows and hope to get more information about them soon.
I love the gate to Chinatown, especially with lit-up towers in the background at night.
Bill had never seen this Rick Hansen sculpture (and I only once before), so we stopped for a look.  I loved the night-time lighting. I finally solved the problem of unwanted shadows by..  
focusing only on the sculpture.  Rick Hansen is one of my heroes.  If you haven't read his autobiography, I think you would find it gives you a much broader view of him.  I  believe Bill Koochin caught a perfect blend of noble determination and fear in this expression. 
Neither of us had ever seen these huge aluminum balls before, although one would think they would have been impossible to miss.  We couldn't find information on site, but enjoyed looking at them. The balls were much lighter than they appeared, and they moved, although I think they may have been attached in some way to prevent them from rolling (or being carried) off the property.  There was a face in each ball that seemed to be an athlete, but we couldn't figure out who they were, or even what sport they may have represented.
Bill was curious about the balls, but also playful, probably just the response the artist, Liz Magor, would have loved.
There's untold mystery in them thar skies :)
I am becoming more and more aware of my shadow when I take pictures, but I missed seeing myself in this one, looming over the depiction of the athlete.
I like this one: Bill's shadow on the left and mine on the right.
I finally did find information (thank you google!) about  "The Game."  Here is a quote from the artist, Liz Magor: 
Fourteen large metal balls are scattered throughout the grounds of General MOtors Place Arena: 7 are smooth stainless steel with 3 grooves at each pole and 7 are aluminum with grooves every 3". Two bronze medallions are inset into each ball; one end depicts a star and the other is the face of a person in action.  All balls are 60.5' in diameter.  "The Game" engages all the exterior sites of the Arena at once, identifying them as a field for an over-sized game.  There are two teams of balls - 7 for each side.  It appears as a game in progress... Contributing to the idea that there are dramatic consequences to this game, bronze medallions are set into each ball to carry the image of a person in action.  In the form of a portrait, these human images lend an identity to each ball and also indicate its situation in the game.  Some faces appear triumphant, others suffer the stress of falling or spinning... At the opposite pole each ball carries the image of a star.  Whether read as rising or falling this sign casts the player as a guest of fate, inexorably rolled along in the flow of events.
Wow!  Bill came close to guessing some of these details, but it sure does help to have an artist's statement to clarify questions.  How do people come up with these ideas, I wonder.  I am becoming more and more aware of the importance of artists to our view of the world.  I think, when a work of art is installed, we sometimes quibble at the cost, but taking time to explore and understand art expands the dimensions of our thinking. 
We finally continued on our way.  I love that there are some trees in front of BC Place, and took this photo of a few branches against the luminous green.  
The photo below shows the top of the grove of evergreens.  It would be nice to have light on those trees, although, as Bill noted, he would hate to pay B.C. Place's electricity bill.  He quickly followed that with, "Wait a minute.  I do pay that bill in the form of taxes." Hm..
As we walked on, we were rather amazed to see several trees in bloom with cherry blossoms. 
In the darkness, the pink didn't really come through, but it was a perfect opportunity for Bill to point dreamily off into the distance, and for me to reflect on the myriad of ways I appreciate him..  and Vancouver.
Thank you to everyone (including Leonard Cohen) who worked so very hard to bring Chelsea Hotel to us!  And, as always, thank you, dear readers, for giving me an audience for my thoughts!

Thursday, February 16, 2012


Since Tuesday was Valentine's Day, perhaps this picture of initials seen at the edge of the seawall, would be a fitting start to the post.  
I have walked by that spot on the beach many times and noticed that the letters often change.  Have other couples been adapting the original?  Is a mischievous person rearranging them just for fun? Perhaps, one day, I will discover the answer to my questions. 
It seems that the colour pink is connected to Valentine's Day, and these cherry blossoms spotted in Stanley Park this past Saturday fit the theme quite nicely.
Another traditional Valentine colour is red.  It was a great thrill to spot this Cardinal in a tree by my sister's house in Ottawa. I have been researching a little bit about February the 14th, inspired partly by Penelope's post. I found that a poem by Chaucer is one of the earliest indications of the sentiments we now apply to the day.  Within that poem were many references to birds and nature, so perhaps, my inclusion of the cherry blossoms and the Cardinal embody a little more meaning than I first thought.
Valentine's Day brings expectations for a kind of romantic love that is somehow separate from the quieter reality of a feeling that resists labels. Below, my sister, Bill and Black Jack, during a happy walk together at Mud Lake in Ottawa.  They mean the world to me.
Retirement at the end of December brings different patterns to my daily treks and activities. It is taking a bit of time to find a sense of order to the days, but that is just fine. For now, I go with the flow.  In fact, as I think of it, that approach may be the one that will come most naturally over the long term, and the one that will make this new stage of my life the most productive.  My goals?  To tread gently on the planet and maybe even help it to be in a little better shape than it is presently, to be as quietly kind in spirit as Bill, and to keep on learning.  We saw a movie at Vancouver library called Vegucated.  It told the story of three people who agreed to try a vegan diet for six weeks. It was excellent; the facts were stated without sensationalism, often humourously and with no preachiness. The following morning, I found it impossible to prepare my latte, and it seems that I have given up dairy, however reluctantly, for the time being. (The photos below are by Jessica Mahady.)

Short term goals?  I'd like to do a post about the Ottawa trip, and then finish my long-overdue "thank-you" posts, one to the talented and hard-working teachers at my last school and one to students from the past who have made the effort to find me through Facebook.  Speaking of Facebook, I have found that it is a quick and easy way to post small thoughts and pleasures.  I suspect that there may be some blog readers who resist Facebook, as I did for a long time.  However, it has brought me such enjoyment to hear from students, teachers and friends from the past, and it also provides the opportunity to keep up with current happenings in the lives of those people I care about but don't see very often.  I will post my Facebook link here, and will put a link on the blog page as well.  I don't think you have to be a Facebook member to read it.  I have kept the privacy settings at "public" since I have the same approach with Facebook as with Blogger, which is to post only material that I would not mind my parents reading, were they alive to do so.
So many memory-filled events have passed since my last post.  There have been walks, cultural events, and precious times with Bill.  There was also a wonderful visit with him to Ottawa to see my sister and her husband, my niece and her husband, my nephew, and to meet the newest addition to the family, my unbelievably gorgeous and brilliant grand-nephew (my completely unbiased opinion), now coming up to his six-month birthday. I will fill a few in here, in somewhat random order, before returning in the next week or so to the thank-you posts.
Mural on Hornby
During one of our walks, Black Jack and I came across this mural.  
I could only photograph it through the fence, but it intrigued me so much that I wrote an e-mail to Ootmar Automove, the neighbouring shop (I thought) with a wall containing the mural.  They had moved from that location, but I had several e-mails back from both Lawrence, the service advisor and Allen, the owner (one at about 7:00 a.m. the morning after I contacted them).  They offered as much help as they could, giving me the name of the car dealership that moved into the space, and checking up later to see how I had fared in finding the artist. If I had a car, I would be going to Ootmar for all my maintenance and repairs!  It was heartening to come across these down-to-earth people who were willing to expend time and energy to satisfy my curiosity.  You can see Lawrence and Al, as well as the other staff at their shop, in the video at the link.  There's a feeling of honesty in that video that reminds me of my father, a mechanic who truly loved his work.  
As for the artist, Scion also responded a few days later to my e-mail, saying that they were working on finding out the name.  I didn't hear back from them again, but dropped into the shop yesterday.  The car salesman was very polite and friendly, suggesting that I google Scion and facebook, and sure enough, I now know that the artist is Travis Nelson
I love the way he worked with the existing layers of brick to make the truck seem as though it is driving right out of the wall.  In the close-up below, you can see how Travis Nelson used the bricks in his depiction of the radiator grill. 
Watching Glenn Gould
We watched the 10-dvd set of Glenn Gould's performances and lectures produced by CBC, and enjoyed most of it a lot.  This picture, taken from the television screen, shows him totally involved in the music.  I have thought quite a bit since about Gould's personality.  He was stubborn and  opinionated and a genius.  I had always thought of him as a Bach specialist, but we watched him perform (from memory) such a variety of music including Scriabin, Mozart, Schoenberg, and Strauss.  We also saw him accompany violin, cello and voice, almost all from memory(!) and when he lectured about concertos and chamber music, he just filled in the accompanying orchestral parts as he remembered them.   Here's one more link that I really love; it shows a very young Gould practicing a Bach partita.  At the 2:20 mark, you can see his collie (just for a second). He was a gift to the world, and through the fine work of CBC, his legacy will live on.  
I have posted the two photos below on facebook, and mostly will not duplicate postings, but Bill and Black Jack enjoying Glen Gould..
.. and each other, added an element to my Gould experience that begs to be recorded here.
An easterly walk along the seawall on a sunny day.
The BC Place stadium roof continues to fascinate me. 
We met Kylie with her Borzai, namedTsar, and a client's dog, Buck, along the waterside.  
Tsar is about the sweetest dog you could ever hope to meet.  I have posted about him before (he's about the 6th picture down in that post), as we run into them frequently on our walks.  
Buck was rescued from a very abusive situation.  His previous owner thought it was entertaining to shoot at him with buckshot (thus his name).  His new human adores him, and went through several very stressful weeks when Buck bolted from the back of the car when a guard (with a gun) at a U.S. border crossing opened the hatchback.  It took incredible persistence and several weeks to find him, but finally, a lady came across Buck crouched in a dark corner of her shed, and made the connection after seeing posters all over town.  Buck now wears a harness.  He is still a little bit nervous of humans but with encouragement, will accept treats, and he is wonderful with other dogs.  I am so happy that he is back where he so clearly belongs.
Kylie is a really interesting person.  She has chosen the two ways to earn a living that allow her to spend the maximum possible time with Tsar.  One is dog-walking and the other is house cleaning. I guess, for every irresponsible pet owner, there are several others trying to make up for that.
Tsar is friendly, fun, playful, and absolutely beautiful.
It was a challenge to get all of him in the picture, partly because he liked my treats, and partly because..
..he is the size of a small pony, and he wanted to approach to play with Black Jack.
She played coy.
Not easily insulted, Tsar remained hopeful.  It is always a pleasure to run into Kylie and Tsar.
Continuing on my way, it seemed even the Coolpix 500 (my nikon d90 was in for repairs) did a somewhat decent job of  picking up the stunning colours and reflections all around us.
A white pigeon,
framed in red, seemed to be enjoying the day as well.
I got a bit carried away with scenery shots.
Looking across the water, it was fun to see a different perspective of BC Place. 
I had never noticed this bird before, nor the..
interesting colour and shape of the light standards.
My long shadow was fun to step on.
Black Jack sat on my shadow's knee, insisting it was time for a treat.


The bird and a worm kept my camera busy for quite a while. I don't know when some of the smaller critters in life became beautiful to me (although I do continue to be horrified by the thought of fleas, lice and cockroaches). I think Wanderin' Weeta has influenced me more than I realized.  Here is one of her posts about a Stripy Nymph.  She begins the post with, "Isn't he a cutie?" (I think that means it is okay to call "my" worm lovely.)

I don't know what worms eat, but I'm wondering if the little brown blob that suddenly appeared may have been a slug lunch.
I took two more pictures, trying to catch the flow of the light standards,
and the knowing look in the bird's eye, before we finally moved on our way.
The Cambie Bridge is at the back of this photo.  In the middle, there is a pathway that makes its way to a little peninsula.
The large flat rocks felt like stepping stones, and Black Jack enjoyed meandering in front of me.
This cement wall with algae and bird droppings and I don't know what else in its colour mix looked sort of like a painting to me.
The air and water were shades of cobalt and sapphire blue and so still, they formed almost perfect mast reflections.
No bird deterrents on this light standard (yay!) and this seagull looked content as it surveyed its world from a great lookout.
We finally arrived at Granville Island.  Can you see Black Jack making a determined bee-line to Woofles&Meowz where she feels very sure she will score a delicious treat?  She did indeed, and a healthy one too, from the very kind owner of the shop.  Every visit there has proved most pleasant, since the owners are so friendly and caring.
I do have to add that the little fish eyes in Black Jack's treats disturbed me. I struggle with the fact that as much as I do not want to cause any bird, animal or fish suffering, Black Jack has no such concern.  I have thought about (not very seriously) the idea of cooking her a vegan diet, but for now, have convinced myself that a meat diet is more natural for her.  I guess that leaves me with a duty to do my best to be sure that animals/birds/fish used for food (and even entertainment..ugh!) live as contented a life as possible and die humanely.  That, for sure, is not happening right now.  On Monday, there were young people on Davie Street recruiting members for the WSPA (World Society for the Protection of Animals).  I didn't join, but have been thinking about it very carefully.  One of their successful projects was to work with PROU to ban bull fighting in Catalonia.  I admired those young people.  Quite honestly, I find it difficult to stand up for my beliefs, even in front of my mostly understanding family and friends.  Those who face an often critical public have to come to terms with the reality that they will be laughed at and sometimes even hated.  Some of that has come from the fact that well-meaning people have used objectionable strategies to make their point.  Darn, I had no thought of getting on this topic when I started this post.  I guess my thought is that we should be able to deal with knowing what kind of life (and death) the food on our plates had.  It's fine to say that it has always been that way, but in fact, that is not true.  The world has changed to the point where we have disconnected from the reality of our food sources.  At least, the "chicken lady" of my childhood who butchered her own (and greatly influenced my becoming a vegetarian) knew exactly what she was eating.  And, one final note.  There will be some who will wonder if I am more concerned for animals than for people.  No, I feel exactly the same about the lives of humans.  I will rail against mistreatment and abuse of any living being (excepting the insects mentioned earlier).  The difference, I think, is that there is more sympathy (in general) for a cause that involves the well-being of humans, and that makes promoting their ethical treatment just a little bit easier.   

Phew!  On with the walk.  It had been a very long one, and at Granville Island, I decided (with Black Jack's clearly indicated approval) to catch the aquabus home.  This picture is of the area under the docks.  I liked the greens and the light reflections. 
This seagull floating in silvery-aqua ripples seemed a perfect last photo before we hopped onto the boat.
Got the D90 back
Bill drove me to Richmond (bless his heart!) to pick up my camera after its repair.  To be honest, it just doesn't feel the same anymore, but at least, it will now focus on a moving object.  We tested it out on this plane, and I prepared myself mentally for the flight we would take to Ottawa in just a couple of days.
Although the plane was flying in clear sky, there were interesting cloud patterns in the other direction, and again, it was fun to see what the camera might capture.
Dance Performances
Dances for a Small Stage: We have been enjoying dance more and more lately, and had fun watching this show at the Legion hall.  Patrick Pennefather, as the Master of Ceremonies, was at least as entertaining as the dancers.  He is a very talented and versatile performer.  

Me So You So Me with David Raymond and Tiffany Tregarthen was a highlight for us.  Their company is called Outer Innerspace and anything either of these dancers are involved in will be very worth your while to see. To find out about upcoming dance performances, check out a blog that I call Dance that is linked at the side of my page.  Each Friday, they announce upcoming performances for the week in a post called "The Friday Round-up." These photos were in the reviews in The Straight and Vancouver Sun (linked above).  I could not find the name of the photographer but have a feeling he may be David Cooper.

New Animal by a company called The 605 Collective was the most recent performance that we enjoyed.  David Raymond was in this, and that pretty well guaranteed innovative and athletic dancing and we were not disappointed.  Although the choreography did not quite hold our attention all the way to the end, we were really happy to have seen it.  This you tube link from 2009 will give you an idea of 605's dance style.

Live Theatre

Only very brief reviews for these but  I've posted about some of them on facebook. I'm actually a bit shocked as I realize how many plays we saw over such a short time. Above are Sara-Jean Hosie and Monique Lund in a delightful performance of White ChristmasThe Patron Saint of Stanley Park was less satisfying, but still worth seeing.

Craigslist Cantata was clever and most enjoyable. Blood Brothers was thrilling. I pretty much embarrassed myself by jumping out of my seat to cheer at the end of it. The music, the staging, the acting, the voices.  Wow!

The Idiot, below on the left, was another excellent play, and I took the picture of the bridal doll at an absolutely  
                 riveting play called Danny and the Deep Blue Sea.

The photo of Pierrot was taken at the Jericho Arts Club where we saw another excellent play called Duet for One.  The photo of the boots was taken during intermission for the play, Waiting for Godot.  Both had very, very strong acting, and I think I could say in both cases that I enjoyed them more in retrospect than in the moment.  So much food for thought in every single play we saw, and I marvel that Bill and I are fortunate enough to be able to see such a wide range of cultural entertainment.
Apart from the Gould set, we have seen The Artist and We Need to Talk about Kevin.  Both were well done.  The latter was one of the most beautifully filmed and acted movies I've ever seen, but the subject matter will put many off, I think. 
A walk around Lost Lagoon
One heron at its lookout across from the pond.
A second heron fishing in the lagoon.
A racoon that I had to stop photographing,
because it began walking quickly toward us.
I think this was perhaps my best photograph that day.  A Common Merganser (male).
This Barrow's Goldeneye really made me laugh.  
Some ladies were feeding the ducks, 
and it rushed to them,
finally bursting into flight.
It seemed especially comical as it skidded to a stop, all ready for its handout.
The mountains in the distance were beautifully lit by the sun that day.
A sunset seen from the roof of my apartment building.
The light was reflected in the high-rises on the other side of the building,
and I zoomed in on the windows.
Just before darkness fell, the colours seemed to be at their richest. 
I have finally made it to the end of another too-long post.  It feels good to be blogging again. Thank you so much for reading any part of it.