The last time I enjoyed the brisk bright nightlife district in Toronto, I was writing a story for Washington Flyer, an airport customer magazine.
On this recent trip, my visit overlapped the opening week of TIFF — Toronto International Film Festival — a bit like Cannes without the huff and Hollywood.
We join the ecelictic mix of late night party mammals at the top of Mr. Trump‘s hotel where the cocktail napkins are emblazoned with a large $ symbol. The barman was studying for an exam, we guessed, since he was slow to loosen up and was consulting a book.
In the elevator going down, the vapid girl-star from the vampire flicks was nosing her thumbs into a crack berry while an assistant in a too-tight denim jacket worked media appointments on her mobile. The big ‘ole body guard was Russian, Serb or Tra-jikastan.
Over at Four Seasons bar, the vibe was easier, but we didn’t like seeing the drink maker fish olives from the jar with his fingers. Please!
In front of TIFF headquarters, people with and without tickets milled around in amoebic clumps, seeing and being the scene. On another day I went to Queen St. East (way East) to Jac Flash to buy poppy strewn skinny jeans.
At KitKat/Club Lucky the mood is casual and off-hand chic. Downstairs is a familiar bar; upstairs explosed brick walls, red check table cloths, cigars and single malt. A tuxedo-wearing tenor from the London cast of Phantom might serenade the birthday girl at his table to exhuberant applause from the whole room gets into the act. The scene for cigars and single malt.
The Old Front St. neighborhood of downtown Toronto centers on St. Lawrence Market. The two buildings — one 19th century, one modern — are crammed with food vendors, purveyors of gourmet bottled goods and the foodie crowd angling in for a free taste. Back in the day the market was a lot more earthy and real with Italian sons of butchers hollering out to visitors, ‘buy our sausage, not from the next guy’.
Approach the Cathedral Church of St. James, 106 King St. E. from the south through the Market Square courtyard and sculpture garden for a memorable prospect of the 306 foot tower and spire, the tallest in North America after St. Patrick’s in New York City.
End the day at the ornate, opulent and sensually engaging Winter Garden. It’s all that a theatre should be. Colored lights hang from the ceiling, real and artificial branches suspended on high create the effect of stepping into a midsummer’s night dream extending from the stage to the back of the house. I saw the interior of this theatre with a CBC radio reporter back in the day when dedicated preservation groups worked to save it from the developer’s wrecking ball. So glad it was saved.
I admire his dedication and inventiveness. Take a look at his brilliant art made of weed pulp paper and essence of weed ink, plus a ferocious amount of creative energy.
In my own quest to help native plants, I usually pull Lonicera japonica out of the trees or bushes it is choking and weave the vines into baskets.
Urban Jungle column in Washington Post
Invasive Plant Species in the Mid-Atlantic – National Park Service
1145 17th St. NW, Washington DC
Workshop on Calligraphy
July 8, 2012, 1 to 3 pm
The workshop opened with a discussion and projected slides that explained the differences between Western Hemisphere and Eastern Hemisphere calligraphy and writing. The way language itself is represented by these different geographic areas reflects their approaches to writing down the concepts or things expressed.
The Western Hemisphere relies on alphabets that are combined in various ways to express words that represent concepts or objects. The Eastern Hemisphere, at least in China, Japan, Korea and other areas where Chinese culture influenced social evolution, relies on characters or symbols to represent concepts and things, often these characters are based on pictographs. For example, the character for “mountain” looks like E turned on its spine, with the three upward spikes representing mountain peaks.
Chinese characters are called Kangi and came to Japan in the 3rd century C.E. In Japan, these characters have been simplified visually and organized structurally to match the phonetic letters or combinations used in Japanese spoken language. This occurred in about the 8th century C.E. and the Japanese call their characters Kana.
The function of calligraphy is also different in the two hemispheres. In the West, the emphasis is on hand-lettering for inscriptions, decorative scrolls and ceremonial documents or occasions. In the East the design of the word and the spirit of the word or character are considered more important when it is expressed in writing.
Training differs too: In the West, penmanship is on the decline. In the East, school children practice writing characters all through their primary education and scholars practice calligraphy as a zen mental relaxation exercise.
The principal styles of calligraphy in the East are: tensho, the seal script used for official purposes; the reisho script for clerical work; the kaisho for regular use; the gyosho which is semi-cursive; and the sosho which is cursive. There is also a running style which is a very fast cursive script. The cursive calligraphy is nearly unreadable and mostly serves as artistic decoration or design on paper.
The Tools used in Eastern calligraphy are called the “Four Treasures” and are: natural hair brushes set in bamboo “stems”, mulberry paper, ink stick and ink stone. Mulberry paper is quite thin and until a certain level of skill is developed, students should use newsprint to practice writing ink calligraphy. Ink sticks are made from soot remaining from burned wood or coal. The ink stone is a shaped stone on which ink and water are mixed for the calligrapher’s use.
Our workshop assignment is to practice the characters that express the Seven Virtues of the Samuri: Loyalty, Honor, Honesty, Respect, Benevolence, Courage, and Rectitude. We will also practice the character for Forever which includes all the various brush directions and line weights that a calligrapher needs to learn. The workshop leader explains the development and brush strokes for each of these characters.
While Eastern Hemisphere calligraphy is usually written from top to bottom, right to left, accommodations have been made for novice calligraphers from the Western tradition and we may write our characters left to right.
Seated at long tables covered with plastic, we each receive a little ink in a plastic dish, a natural hair brush in a bamboo “stick” and several sheets of newsprint paper and a mulberry paper with grid markings to help us properly align the character brush strokes. We also receive a very helpful model of the characters that represent the Seven Virtues of the Samuri with the strokes marked in numerical order for correct duplication.
We watched Ms. Lok demonstrate the proper way to hold a brush and approach the paper. She demonstrated writing each of the eight characters we would be practicing.
Then, for the next 45 minutes, the room was silent while adults and children, parents and their kids, and several single adults practiced writing Kana and learned the character virtues of a Samuri. The writing was achieved by paying attention to the meaning built into the brush strokes that become characters representing the virtues.
As part of my year-long Mandarin language training program in 2007-2008, I had to write Chinese characters every day, but we were using pens or pencils for this activity on gridded paper, which is very different from freehand brush calligraphy. While I have studied Italic calligraphy and am familiar with brush work from my art training and practice, I had not approached Eastern calligraphy before. Therefore, I was a near-novice, just like everyone else in the class. It was gratifying to see that nearly everyone managed to approach the calligraphy and focus on the spirit of the characters while also following the guidelines shown for the order of the brush strokes.
The workshop leader Ms. Lok, and her assistant (her son), walked around and helped anyone who needed specific guidance. The workshop offered special insight into the language and visual representation of Japanese and its mother language, Chinese. The workshop was interesting, completely engaging and an appropriate length for adults or children. The children in the audience were attentive and well behaved. A workshop aimed just at children might have less background and more practice. Some of the adults assisted each other and Ms. Lok spent time with each participant demonstrating the finer points of brush control. An excellent experience by all parameters.
At Silver Docs a few days ago, during the Documentary Film Festival at AFI in Silver Spring, I swooned over this film DV:The Eye Has to Travel about Diana Vreeland. She was the editrix-empress of Vogue, long before the Devil Wears Prada. The director of the documentary answered questions after the screening and revealed she is married to one of Vreeland’s grandchildren the access to contacts and family archives was fluid. Said the film project grew out of a book she was already working on. The images are fab — wry, witty commentary on the 1960s and 70s.
My friend Virginie Raguenaud is publishing this wonderful book about the artists who painted in Catalonia. I can’t wait to read it!
At the end of my trek across France through the Pyrénées Mountains, I rested in Ceret and sketched the fishing boats and old seaside buildings. When I left town, I boarded a train in Ceret and transferred to another heading east across Provence. During the interlude waiting for the long distance train, I marveled at the scenes around the train station in Perpignan which Salvador Dali dubbed the center of the world.
“It has become so to-day that when you see the flag boldly and proudly displayed you smell a rat somewhere. The flag has become a cloak to hide iniquity. We have two American flags always: one for the rich and one for the poor. When the rich fly it it means that things are under control; when the poor fly it it means danger, revolution, anarchy. ”
Author Henry Miller wrote this in 1941 during a cross-country road trip of the United States of America. He had lived in Paris during the 1930s and settled in California after returning to the States, as described in the Air-Conditioned Nightmare.
I apply Henry Millers mid 20th century observations to the 21st century ornamental habit practiced by Congressional elites, Cabinet members and corporate executives — the wearing small U.S. flag pins on their suit lapels. Do they control the flag and what it stands for?
The Air-Conditioned Nightmare, Henry Miller, New Directions Publishing Corp, 1945, p. 37.
Henry Miller Online Resources:
A review of Air-Conditioned Nightmare that appeared in The Satirist.
Henry Miller website by Valentine Miller, his daughter.
Nexus, The Henry Miller Journal.
Henry Miller Memorial Library, Big Sur, California
Weird chattering flying foxes shelter in the botanic garden trees, considered a nuisance by some.
Heliconias, orchids of miniscule to generous size, rubber trees, ferns, jasmine displayed in several glassed spaces.
Maps of Antarctica and the history of exploration of Australia’s “Down Under” — the southern polar continent was on view at the State Library of New South Wales across from the gardens, so that’s where I spent the rest of the afternoon.
Last week of January, 2012, I hopped on a bus to Congee Beach and walked up the coast line on a really nicely constructed walking path that skirts the coast for 6 KM up to Bondi Beach. The point north of Congee is notable for a metal and concrete memorial to the Australians killed in a bomb attack on a tourist club in Bali. Reported sightings of the Virgin Mother Mary have brought a home-made memorial nearby.
The walk follows the limestone cliffs, park land, playing fields, past houses with expensive views, old boat houses, and fancy flats. There’s also a huge cemetery overlooking this segment of the ocean.
Strolled through the Bondi Pavilion, built in 1928 and opened in 1929. Wandered into a large exhibition space and spoke with photographer Hilton Luckey about Australian surfing traditions, the manly-matey culture, and the alt lifestyle back in the day. Reminded me of Santa Cruz, Big Sur and points south during the mid 1970s when we would sleep in vans or under the stars, and pass the time hiking in the forests or lolling on the beach. Did the strong gut ”’get-‘er-done” ethos from Australia migrate cross the Pacific? I don’t know.
The coastal path was well marked and graded with stair and teak railings for elevated areas. While the sun burned down, the physical part was easy for me and the infrastructure is so highly developed that there are filtered water dispensers and fountains every kilometer or so.
After slurping down a chocolate milkshake from the beach bar at Clovelly (Shark Point on the map) I paused to paint a little watercolor. My idea of paradise — walk, look, paint. At the end of the day, I watched young surfers, then took another bus back to town.
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