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Toronto for TIFF and Fashion

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Toronto at Night

Toronto at Night

 

 

 

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.

TIFF logoWe 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. tiff sked

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.  2954699 city-photos.org

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.

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Written by patwa

06/09/2013 at 1:40 am

Jihadi Stamps ?

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People's Democratic Republic of Yemen, 1971 stamps depicting weapons and soldiers

People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen, 1971 stamps depicting weapons and soldiers

Jihad Stamps from Yemen

FDR collected stamps.  Has any president since?   Maybe philately should be a required hobby for NSA types.   Stamps are miniature works of art, symbols of national identity, achievement and aspiration.   If  Bush I or Bush II had been stamp collectors, they might have noticed evolving political sentiments expressed on the postage stamps in the Persian Gulf region.  Rising militaristic spirit is spelled out boldly on Yemen’s stamps, for example.

Let’s look at a few stamps from Yemen Arab Republic (YAR), People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen and People’s Republic of Southern Yemen. Same place, different guys with guns in charge.

On stamps from the 1920’s through 40’s, the nation was known as Royaume de Yemen and Aden.  Stamps resembled philatelic issues of Syria and Lebanon, then French protectorates.  Early in the 1950’s the country name is simply Yemen.

There’s a flashback to French titling and design on several issues celebrating the Arab Postal Union, Arab League and other pan-Arabian organizations. During the early 1960’s, a wave of modern philatelic design focused on great works of art, boy scouts and the United Nations.

Yemen Arab Republic stamps, 1963-64.  Images of military equipment.

Yemen Arab Republic stamps, 1963-64. Images of military equipment.

Uh oh, trouble ahead. Trouble behind…

Issues of 1963-64 are labeled Yemen Arab Republic (YAR) and the stamps depict patriotic themes – flags and tanks, raised torches, guns with bayonettes and more flags.

Yet in 1964, the YAR splashed  their stamps with JFK, Olympic sports and Soviet astronauts, a practice used by many small nations to generate sales to topical collectors.  Oddly, the New York World’s Fair appears on Yemen’s 1964 stamps.  There’s  prescient symbolism too, with New York City skyscrapers on Yemen’s stamps.

Yemen Arab Republic stamps, 1963-64 showing New York skyline with Yemen flag and aircraft in the center.

Yemen Arab Republic stamps, 1963-64 showing New York skyline with Yemen flag and aircraft in the center.

New York City Skyline

The Yemen flag appears inside an oval over- laid on New York harbor including the Empire State Building.  It’s tempting to read meaning into the stamps which show airplanes  aimed at the New York skyline, but the stamps were airmail, so the image is reasonable.  I guess.

Issues of 1964-65 depict a turbaned revolutionary figure (an image similar to 21st century radical Arab-Islamics) holding a machine gun aloft honoring the Yemen Second Revolution Anniversary, not the 2nd anniversary of a revolution, but the Second Revolution.  Was the  First Revolution skipped by government stamp designers?

Yemen Arab Republic stamp, 1964-65, commemorating the Anniversary of the 2nd Revolution.

Yemen Arab Republic stamp, 1964-65, commemorating the Anniversary of the 2nd Revolution.

JFK and Builders of World Peace

There’s a stylized peace dove on one YAR stamp issued in September 1964 for the Arab Summit Conference.     U.S. President Kennedy’s  face appears on a series honoring space exploration and Russian cosmonauts issued in 1966.

JFK image with space craft.  Yemen Arab Republic stamp .

Builders of Peace series, Yemen Arab Republic, 1966.

Builders of Peace series, Yemen Arab Republic, 1966.

JFK image with space craft. Yemen Arab Republic stamp .

Also in 1966, Yemen prints  the  Builders of World Peace series and includes JFK and Pope Pius XII, who famously built peace by appeasing Nazi Germany.  Can you find the Arab leader who was an honored peace builder?

Several years pass.  Birds, fruit, medicine, space craft, European and Asian art treasures, and Olympic winter sports are the subjects Yemen prints on its stamps.  Not a bad idea since these are topical subjects prized by world philatelists, translating to revenue for the YAR.

 

Countries like Turkmenistan and Palau issue stamps commemorating events in the U.S. featuring U.S. Presidents.  Sales revenue unknown.

Palau stamps commemorate the First Undeclared Gulf War and President Bush, I.

Palau stamps commemorate the First Undeclared Gulf War and President Bush, I.

Honoring Rescue Workers.

Turkmenistan honors U.S. Rescue Workers and President Bush, II.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Soon Yemen has another name and a new revolution.  Would this be the Third Revolution? The Fourth?   In 1971 the postage stamps of the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen depict turbaned and masked fighters in white robes holding machine guns against a backdrop of barbed wire.


YAR barbed wire & fighter stamp

Perhaps the Yemen political propaganda department decided that didn’t encourage productive international relations, because in 1972, the commemorative stamps show folk dancing.

Southern Yemen abruptly appeared  as a new country in 1968.  (I’ve lost count of the revolution time line.)  The new name is overprinted on stamps of the Federation of South Arabia.  Subsequent stamps from the People’s Republic of Southern Yemen use images of girl scouts and soldiers aiming rifles out of a foxhole.  I wonder why is it,  that countries titled “People’s Republic” or “People’s Democratic Republic” never are?

Southern Yemen name overprinted on Federation of South Arabia, 1968.

Southern Yemen name overprinted on stamps of the Federation of South Arabia, 1968.

People's Republic of Southern Yemen, 1969=70 depicting explosions.

People’s Republic of Southern Yemen, 1969-70,  Palestine Day commemorative stamps depicting explosions.

 

Southern Yemen’s stamp designs and subjects for commemorative issues  in 1969-71, glorify rifles, fighters, explosions and soldiers with rifles.

Not surprising, the series titled Palestine Day bristle with military images.  The most explicit seems to be a jihad warrior ascending to the heavens on a cloud above what might be a sleeping dog.

Revolution Day in Yemen is October 14.

Might be a day to stay home.

People's Republic of Southern Yemen Revolution Day, 14 October 1965.

People’s Republic of Southern Yemen Revolution Day, 14 October 1965.

 

Chalk it up to your least favorite Bad President.

Images of fake stamps and coins from theskunk.org

Images of fake stamps and coins from theskunk.org

 

 

 

 

Written by patwa

04/08/2013 at 4:58 pm

Japanese Calligraphy :: National Geographic Society

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National Geographic Society

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.

Written by patwa

09/07/2012 at 1:20 pm

The Eye Has to Travel

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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.

Written by patwa

29/06/2012 at 10:35 pm

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