Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Poppies! Peonies!

Usually the sequence is poppies, then peonies, but not this year. I almost walked right by the first peony bloom after it had opened because I was so distracted by the mass of poppies. The peonies wilt in the noon heat but recover in the cool of the evening, and release such a beautiful perfume. I rushed home after work tonight so I could check on them. Another day or two of glamorous blooms before they change to more understated seed pods.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Doors Open

We hopped around some downtown spots this past weekend, exploring Toronto during Doors Open. This year the annual festival provided rare access to 130 buildings across the city. We made it to about seven.

Green roof at City Hall
We managed a tour of the Steamwhistle Brewery (free samples) and rested our feet in the cool of St. Andrews Presbyterian Church

City Hall is usually open to visitors, but once a year opens the Observation Deck. I didn’t even realize it had one! Great view of the surrounding territory from the 27th floor. We also checked out the Green Roof and Council Chambers.

Rescued Griffin
Across the road at Old City Hall, we admired Griffin that were sold for scrap and then rediscovered in an auction house in 1987. They have been returned to their 1899 sentry positions. The old court rooms, wrought iron, and tiled floors were familiar as I had walked these halls before.  

We wandered through Osgood Hall’s courts, library and restaurant.  The Benchers Quarters were open to view and the current Secretary was greeting visitors in Convocation Hall. 

Banking Hall in Commerce Court
We admired the Art Moderne of the Old Stock Exchange and Charles Comfort’s murals. We have a William Kurelek print showing the bustle of the brokers on a light trading day in the 1970’s.  The building opened for business in 1938, when Canada was still feeling the effects of the Great Depression. 

The cornerstone for the Canadian Bank of Commerce was laid just at the beginning of the Great Depression - just two days after the stock market crash of October 29, 1929. Construction proceeded over the next two years, costing $8M. It remained the tallest building in the Dominion until 1962. The coffered ceilings in the Banking Hall are still spectacular.

Who knew we had an elephant sculpture in Toronto? Tembo, mother of elephants, now parades in the outdoor courtyard, on loan from the Odette Foundation. It was such a surprise to see her there, with her light-footed step and two baby elephants following close behind.

Tembo, mother of elephants

Monday, May 23, 2016

Lost at C

In the words of the Crystals, Da Doo Ron Ron!

To coax people to perform at the Scarborough Uke Jam Open Mic, Paul B. has resorted to rewarding buttons and stickers to those who take the stage. It works with his Grade 5 music students, and it seems to work with adults, too.

The formerly yet-to-be-named BPYC strummers finally performed at the Old Stone Cottage Pub under the name Lost at C.

Cheryl had insisted on choreography, so we threw in a few dips on alternate choruses, and it was a nice touch.  Paul B. watched us with a huge grin on his face, and Jay said we "had him at the 2, 3, 4." Buttons for all!

It was a great night at the Uke Jam, with a variety of performers at the Open Mic, from the first-timers (us!) to the more accomplished musicians. A newcomer soloed a 1930's tune, 'He Played His Ukulele as the Ship Went Down' and had everyone singing along, and there was a very talented duo picking and strumming the Maple Leaf Rag.

On a sadder note, Jay's mother had died just a few days before. He and his sister made it out to the jam, where songs were sung and dedicated to her memory.

It was a special night, and a reminder that music has such power - power to soothe, to join strangers, to conjure laughs and smiles.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

With freedom, books, flowers, and the moon, who could not be happy?

How appropriate I spent the Full Flower Moon and long weekend in my garden, planting and transplanting.

I said I would pace myself but it was too much fun. Once I got started I didn't want to stop. At one point I looked down at my chocolate-dirty-brown hands and said to myself, I f***ing love this!

What did I do?
- transplanted ferns into the ravine
- transplanted brunnera
- planted the daphne
- poked holes in the dirt for Ladybird Cream and Jewel Mixed Nasturtium
- planted Rex begonias (4 different kinds)
- transplanted lily
- transplanted Ladies Mantle
- planted hardy cyclamen (5)
- planted Alexanders Great Siberian Bugloss (Brunnera)
- transplanted woodruff
- mowed the lawn

I also called Dave and Therese to take some plants, and was happy they accepted the offer. Now I will be able to see Cicely, Hosta, Euphorbia, Forget-Me-Nots, Woodruff, Bleeding Hearts, Geranium & Sea Holly in their garden when I visit.

It was the perfect temperature to muck about, wonderful sun and blue skies. Dappled light.



On Sunday, I persuaded Rob to help with the heavy lifting and digging in the front garden. Two hydrangea replaced the white rose, with the boxwood moved to the middle.  The hostas Alex helped me divide on Mother's day found new homes in the front garden.

Monday, I seeded the lawn in the back (what's left of it) and planted Sights of Summer dahlia bulbs. Hope they are as pretty as their picture. I think they will look stunning with the purple aster in the fall.

Full Flower Moon - May

The moon is full May 21, 5:14 pm EST to be exact.

Flower Moon
Mother's Moon
Milk Moon
Corn Planting Moon

illustration: Billy Hassell

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Scarborough Bluffs

We'd lived in Toronto a couple of decades before a neighbour brought us to the beach down by Scarborough Bluffs. We wondered why we hadn't known about this marvel.

It's hard to get to, especially by transit. We see people walking up and down the hill on Brimley Road, wheeling wagons for family picnics, kids in tow.

Anchoring by the bluffs with the the cliffs towering above, and listening to the laughter and splashes from the beach, is one of my favourite past times. It's also a great spot for birdwatching and hiking. The Globe article below mentions a public meeting next month to present different options to help open up the area, but nothing published on the Scarborough Waterfront Project site yet. It would be interesting to attend.

The Scarborough Bluffs are rarely seen — but there’s a plan to change that

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Spring Magic

Mid-April the blood root started poking up in the garden, and by April 22 they were in full blossom, bees buzzing.

Now it is mid-May, and they have dropped their petals, with the green leaves standing next to the May apples. Splashes and dashes of colour with the tulips and daffodils and forget-me-nots coming and going.

The leaves in the ravine are plumping out, the greening soul nourishing.

It is a very cool spring.

Blooming now
- red tulips
- trillium
- grecian windflowers
- bergenia
- violets
- brunerra (Jack Frost)
- primrose

Just starting
- sweet woodruff just peeking white
- Solomon Seal buds translucently white
- bleeding hearts just pink
- poppies round green heads are starting to swell, but no colour just yet

One of my favourite plants didn't rebound after this last winter, so I called around to several nurseries for a variegated daphne. Plant World had one that was promisingly called Briggs Moonlight. We drove out to Etobicoke, but the variety wasn't half as nice as my last one, so we picked up Eternal Fragrance, with a lovely perfume, instead. Not variegated, but it has pretty blooms and a nice shape. While wandering about, I spotted a dwarf evergreen called Cypress Fernspray. Hopefully it will retain it's fern-like appearance over time. As soon as we got home, Rob planted it where the daphne used to be.

We also picked up a couple of hydrangea bushes, begonias, and veggies.  Can't wait to get them in the ground!

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Puff the Magic Dragon

Puff the Magic Dragon!
I hadn't heard the song Puff the Magic Dragon in years, yet when Dick played it at on Open Mic night this past winter, it brought me straight back to childhood, with the strong memory of the teacher who played it just before recess and let most of the kids into the schoolyard crying their eyes out.

I'm learning the song now on ukulele and still, after all these years, the thoughts of Puff languishing in his cave touch a raw nerve.

Add the fact that I'm learning how to play it in Alex' old boyhood room, turned music room.... well, the circle goes round and round (hey, that's another song).

Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea

And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honahlee
Little Jackie paper loved that rascal puff
And brought him strings and sealing wax and other fancy stuff oh

Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honahlee
Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honahlee

Together they would travel on a boat with billowed sail
Jackie kept a lookout perched on puff's gigantic tail
Noble kings and princes would bow whene'er they came
Pirate ships would lower their flag when puff roared out his name oh

Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honahlee
Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honahlee

A dragon lives forever but not so little boys
Painted wings and giant rings make way for other toys
One grey night it happened, Jackie Paper came no more
And puff that mighty dragon, he ceased his fearless roar

His head was bent in sorrow, green scales fell like rain
Puff no longer went to play along the cherry lane
Without his life-long friend, puff could not be brave
So Puff that mighty dragon sadly slipped into his cave oh

Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honahlee
Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honahlee

Monday, May 9, 2016

Hot Docs 2016

As subscribers to Doc Soup, we get 12 free tickets to Hot Docs, which ran April 28 to May 8. Choosing from all the films can be a bit overwhelming, with 232 titles spread across 14 different programs and 11 different theatres. 

The Toronto festival is the biggest in North America by volume. We get many international premiers of a lot of docs that have already screened at Tribeca, Sundance, or SXSW. Many of the Canadian films are world premieres. Catching these films on the big screen is hard to do. Although the festival may be over, the Hot Docs Cinema continues to screen documentaries 364 days a year (every day but Boxing Day).

Persistence and fortitude seem to be at least as important as talent for documentary filmmakers. Isn't that the way with most things? Many of the pieces take five or more years to finish, often because of the difficulty of raising the cash. A few titles this year were partly made possible with funds raised through Crowdsourcing, which also helps secure an audience eager to see the final product when the film is complete.

For more than one of the filmmakers, it was the first time they were seeing their own film on a big screen in front of a large audience. Their excitement was contagious. I walked by someone sitting in the audience at I Am Not Your Guru that looked remarkably like Tony Robbins - and it was - he had flown from Australia to be part of the Toronto festival.

This year, our film selection was limited by a busy calendar, but we still managed ten in ten days. Hot Docs is definitely one of the perks of living in Toronto!
After Circus
The Last Laugh
The Happy Film
Android in Lala Land
Contemporary Colours
I am Not Your Guru

There were some unconventional subjects with conventional approaches. After Circus joined retired circus performers in a retirement community, where they banded together to resurrect some of their acts. Engaging and upbeat, but it literally avoided too many close-ups of the characters' warts, which would have made it all the more interesting.

Koneline's director had the perfect name for a documentary about an indigenous community facing a new mining venture: Nellie Wild. She talked about bringing along a camera with a curious vs. judgemental eye, into the community. It was gorgeous to watch, even the skinning of a moose was captivating. The sound editing was incredible, as well, with the director sharing how one song was played backwards to avoid it coming across as too dreary. This could have been a typical film with a narration or one point of view, but it took a more unconventional approach and was all the more richer for it. I only wished it had more visuals with the Northern Lights, instead of one single 20 second shot at the end.

We chose some films because of their famous musicians. Android in Lala Land (Gary Numan / Cars) and Contemporary Colors (David Byrne / Talking Heads). Android was a satisfying portrait of a musician in their later years, creating a new album not only for artistic but pragmatic reasons - needing an income. Contemporary Colors, on the other hand, was quirky but had only glimpses of Byrne - it was more about an event the icon staged to feature high school kids presenting Color Guard choreography. 

Death and the question of the meaning of life were central to at least two of the docs we saw. Gleason was about a young man struck with ALS. A well known football player in New Orleans, he is able to leverage his celebrity to raise funds and awareness for the disease, creating a Team Gleason. He lobbies Washington to provide technology that will enable sufferers to continue to communicate after the disease has ravaged their ability to speak. Shortly after his diagnosis, Gleason learns his wife is pregnant with their son, and he begins a series of vlogs to his son, trying to communicate life's important lessons. In early days, before the child is born, he is able to speak, but as the disease progresses, and after the child is born, Gleason is using technology to explain his struggles with the disease. 95% of ALS patients opt out of an operation that, while it will continue their life, will afterwards require around the clock care. Gleason chooses to continue his fight, and I couldn't help but wonder if he would have made a different choice if he hadn't been fundraising with a slogan that was, "No white flags."

The New York Times employs a staff of five to write obituaries, some prepared ahead of time for the subject's eventual death. Obit interviewed the writers about their craft and allowed the camera into the morgue - the place the paper files old clippings prior to the digital era.

The Happy Film took almost 7 years to complete and faced many challenges, including lack of funding, the death of the first director, and some creative ennui. The concept was to follow three different regimens to see which would result in the greatest incremental improvement in happiness: meditation, therapy, and drugs (prescription). The concept belonged to a graphic designer, who learned a lot about storytelling, shooting, and editing in the process of the film. Great graphics! Jonathan Haidt, social psychologist and author, acted as advisor to the film.  Stefan Sagmeister fell in and out of love four times during the making of the movie, and the quest for happiness came across more as a quest for a relationship. In the end, Stefan advocates drugs as being the most efficient route to increasing happiness.

You have to wonder if all the negative publicity Weiner received about his inappropriate sexting would have made as many headlines if it weren't for the opportunities his last name presented for sexual double entendres and scintillating headlines: Weiner's Second Coming! Beat It! Too Hard to Stop!  The headlines took away from his stand on the issues as his name in the run for NYC mayor became a punchline.

Some jokes are in bad taste and some are offensive. Are there some things you should never joke about? Are jokes about the Holocaust ever funny? That's one of the questions the director of The Last Laugh posed to comedians Sarah Silverman, Mel Brooks, Gilbert Gottfried, and survivors. The Anti Defamation League deems it is never appropriate, whereas some survivors say being able to laugh at absurdities helped to keep them sane.

I Am Not Your Guru was an uncritical look at Tony Robbins, filmed during his trademarked seminar, Date with Destiny. Six long days are edited down into two hours, including looks behind-the-scenes into how the motivational speaker works with his team and keeps his energy pumped to the max. Many who sign up leave with lives genuinely transformed. Director Joe Berlinger had his own Date with Destiny, and it affected him so profoundly, he wanted to share the experience with a wider audience. The film isn't a replacement for the full-length experience, but offers more than a glimpse into why 200,000 people a year line up to pay the $5,000 entry fee. 

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Happy Mothers Day!

A champagne breakfast with my favourite guys! Later, Alex and I did some gardening together, dividing hostas. The rain came, and went, and the sun came out again. It was glorious!

Sunday, May 1, 2016


Yondering is in the water!

It was a fantastic day for Launch. Sunny, windless, and warm-ish. The crane was busy lifting more than 100 boats off their cradles and into the water. Teams were also working at Highland, Cathedral, and Ashbridges. By next weekend, keeners will have their masts and sails up and some will be sailing.

It will take us a little longer to get Yondering ready this year. I watched her being towed along, gliding high on the water and then being tied into a slip. The refurbished motor will be delivered and installed in the next few weeks, and in the meantime she waits, and we wait.

This was the first year I took part in the launch day and volunteered in the kitchen. I worked the afternoon shift, along with eight others, and we served both lunch and dinner to hungry crews. It was a long day, and mostly fun, with great camaraderie sharing a drink with friends at the end of the night.

Today it is gloomy and grey, and raining. When I opened my eyes in the morning I looked through the skylight to see branches in the tree being whipped by strong breezes, and was thankful for such great weather yesterday.

The BPYC general meeting is Tuesday night, and it will probably be raucous, with contentious changes being proposed to the by-laws. Then next Saturday, the Commodore's Ball, being held for the first time at the clubhouse.

The sailing season begins.