Saturday, October 30, 2010

On Saving Red Geraniums

My last act at the Shuswap was to consider the beauty of the red geraniums on the path to the stream. I put them in pots to see if I could over winter them in the house. But two pots weren't enough to save. Mary gave me other varieties of geraniums this year – Isle de Paris, Ivy, and Apple Blossom, both pink and white. Why shouldn’t they live too, I thought, so two pots turned into 13 pots. The long, bloody scratches on my forearm are from the rose bush as I was trying to dig out the largest of the red geraniums, one that will take a whole room to itself, it has grown so large. I got to carry the dirt under my finger nails all of the way back to Calgary, because I just had to dig to the very last minute, while waiting for Wyona and Greg to drive up.

My level of anxiety is usually low, but I lost the video, Hilary and Jackie, a biography of the two DuPres sisters. I can’t find a copy anywhere as the movie is 1998 and not in fashion any more. Up goes my anxiety. My term paper was half written on it. Now I have to start again, with a new video to make the deadline. I wanted to choose Frida, then Pollock but The Source didn’t have either in stock. The clerk suggested but that will be too slow for me to meet the deadline. I did see on the list of possible choices, Kinsey, and I did run across some papers about him when I was doing the Natalie Wood Course. I know. Hard to see the connection, but it was there. Having little time left to search out other choices, I purchased the Kinsey film biography, to write my paper for my film biograhy course on that Golden Globe winner. Laura Linney won the Oscar for the Best Actress for her portrayal of Kinsey’s wife.

Stay tuned because I am going to be out asking someone to edit that paper before Tuesday night.

Kelvin Jr. was with me when I was trying to find my way up and down the video isles to see what choices were available to me. When I asked for help at a till, the woman told me, “Oh, movies are arranged by jenners.” I had to work hard to get my head around that. When I did, I decided to go for help at another till.

Here is more fast news. The Brendan Robertsons’ have a new set of twin boys. The rock-a-by babies have to wait to be five pounds before the family of two, now family of four are all together at home.

Bonnie McLoone had a hip operation. I remember her telling the Dr. at another of her operations that the new mobility is better than winning the lottery. I hope she feels the same way about this operation.

Mary Johnson met Grant, Boyce and Arlan on Parliament Hill, yesterday. How amazing is that for both her and them?

And now?

Off to write an essay.


Monday, October 18, 2010

Zoe and the Winter Club

Oct 18, 2010

I’ve never been to the winter club before. Their site is at the top of Nose Hill and they have a view of the mountains, the foothills and the plains that scans the horizon for a full 180 degrees. Absolutely breathtaking.

Zoe has been to the winter club before, knew how to sign herself in and get through the gated door on her own. So she was already lost as far as I was concerned by time I did the above. I had a hard time finding the curling rink on my own so that I could catch up to the person I was supervising.

Zoe’s coach is also the head coach: Linda Price, who sorted out the teams for the year, sent the older athletes on their way to their respective sheets and then she told the newer curlers what to wear, and gave them a demonstration of the look of the game before beginning their warm ups.

Having never curled (OK, once, 48 years ago, and now having no recall) I listened in. Even took notes. Thought to myself, you know, we are going to practise up on these terms so she will have them in her lexicon this year:
The Hack: what you put your foot in to push off
Sheet of Ice – every sheet has 2 ends and it is the piece of ice on which you play
House: that round circle on the ice
Hog Line: in front of house and you must let your rock go before it reaches the hog line
Rock / Curling Stone: They are 40 pounds and you don’t want to pick one up.
Handle: each rock has one
Bonspiel: curling tournament
Curling head band: the athletes can buy one at cost from Tuxedo – Source for Sports
Curling brush / broom: you sweep hard because that melts the ice in front of the rock
Crutch / delivery assistant: helps you keep your balance when you deliver the rock
I am deliverying these words to Zoe-lovers, for I learned another new word on Friday when I went to the lecture on animals rights:non-malevolence.

Dr. Beachamps said it once, said it twice, on the the next time, I began to practise it in my mind, and was doing so every time afterward that it rolled off of his lips. That is the first new word I have had to practise in my mind to get ready for it to spin out of my mouth at the appropriate moment. There is a difference for me in reading a word and knowing its meaning, and having it easily slip into conversation. Now that I have nonmalevolence down pat, I am going to work on delivery assistant, bonspiel, hog line, house, and hack.

I actually wanted to try curling myself. I wrote down the exercises, because while I think I could get my foot down in the hack and push off, I might not be able to get up after I had delivered the rock. I just wanted to give it one try.

I asked Zoe if we should buy a headband, but she gave me a black look and retorted, my hair looks fine. “no, no, I mean one of those that curlers use to stop the blow of the ice on the back of their heads if they should fall.”

Her look was still black. I thought, well, $30 saved there.

I couldn’t give it up. When we got home and she was laying on her bed, I laid beside her and said, “Hey, any interest yet in that headband.” Her face lit up. “Yes.”
That is what I don’t get, no matter how many times I am with her: how long it takes between when I begin an exchange and she finally answers it.

Has anyone else taken the handibus with Zoe, somewhere? Did you know that we are all seatbelted in and our arm rests are secured. Or that caregivers go free and companions have to pay a bus ticket? Or that Zoe knows to ask the driver, “Am I on your list. I am Zoe.” Or that there is music playing for us on the bus, sometimes. Or that the driver runs his route by a GPS? Or that the other passengers on the bus tell him where Zoe’s house is, so he will know which side of the street to let her off on. Or that they all know who she is and say hello to her, no matter how many times she doesn’t respond to their greeting.

I watched an interchange between Zoe and a bus driver as we left the Winter Club and were looking for a ride on the concourse outside.

Zoe: (Face lights up when she sees the driver and she looks at me questioningly. I notice the driver is watching us.)
Arta: I don’t know if that is our bus. Go ask the driver.
Zoe: (Stands in front of driver and is silent. Driver just looks at her.)
Driver:(Finally) Do you have a question?
Zoe: (Nods but is silent)
Driver: OK, you should ask it.
Zoe: (After a long pause) Am I on your list?
Driver: I don’t know. What is your name?
(Zoe gives her name very quickly for this is an answer she is sure of.)
Driver: No. I am picking up Stephen. You are not on my list.
Zoe: (Shoulders go down and she turns and walks away.)
Driver (calls after her): But I know who you are and I can still remember where you live.

How sweet was that?


Saturday, October 16, 2010

A NY Times review of Boris Godunov


Today I checked out the New York Times review for the Oct 23 performance of Boris Godunov.

What the NY Daily News says is no less interesting.

If that isn't enough, look what the Opera Tattler has to say.

I will be in Salmon Arm at the Classic Shalomar for the performance.

I have never been to an opera that was five hours long before.

Do you think I need to buy my ticket ahead? I don't want to get to the door and have it sold out.

Will I have to take a lunch and two snacks?

Will I be alone or with other loved ones?

Can I find time to listen to some u-tube clips or alternately borrow a CD from the library and listen to some of the themes.

So much excitement.


PS Essential Russian words to know if you perform in this opera: blood and tears. Didn't you just love that line?

A Disappearing Number - Final Performance

Lyn Gardiner’s Guardian(15 Sept 2010) review of A Disappearing Number is a joy to read:
Everything adds up beautifully in Complicite's exquisite meditation on maths, love, grief and the way the past is linked to the future and the living to the absent. The show has mellowed and deepened since it was at the Barbican in 2008. The staging still has a fluid sleight of hand, as if director Simon McBurney has taken GH Hardy's belief that the mathematician, like the poet or a painter, is a maker of patterns, and applied it to his own art. But while you gasp at the stagecraft, the production now seems to allow more room for its entwined stories to breathe.
At its centre are two love stories: the affection of Hardy for the self-taught mathematical genius Srinivasa Ramanujan, a lowly clerk in Madras whose discoveries have shaped modern maths; and the relationship between Ruth, a maths lecturer, and Al, an American of Indian descent who deals in futures. Ruth and Al want to build a future for themselves, but Ruth's biological clock is ticking as loudly as the one in her lecture theatre.
McBurney has always had a gift for turning ideas into visual poetry and making the abstract concrete, and this swirling couple of hours is like watching a juggler keep all the balls aloft, with help from a superb cast. It's not just dazzling theatre, but wise and comforting. Picking up the threads of the company's masterpiece, Mnenomic, it suggests we are all linked to one another, even – or perhaps especially – in death.
I loved the opening sequence of last night’s National Theatre Live’s movie broadcast of “A Disappearing Number”. The play began with Ruth Minnen (Saskia Reeves) writing whole numbers on a blackboard. She was into her fifth sequence begun David Annen, not in his G.H. Hardy character, but as interloper on the stage got between her and the audience, to point out who the characters in this play were. and what is about to happen to all of us, now that he has put us in the mode of imagining together. And that thin, he promised, was something that is grande than even the beauty of maths.

The opening sequence involved audience participation. “Think of a number. Double it. Add 14. Divide by 2....” And soon everyone in the audience arrived back to the number they began with .A magical trick with numbers done first in my childhood past. Sleight of hand? None of that was the point. The actor was drawing all of us in, helping us to imagine, imagine together, all of us connected in a pattern that would help us think about interconnectivity. We were about to imagine real people, not actors, landscapes, not theatre sets. Interconnectivity, not loneliness

The play was conceived by Simon McBurney who was interviewed before the performance began. “Maths was so difficult I would break out in a sweat before entering the class room.” But it was the poetics of maths that was about to be revealed.

The technique of having an actor speak to the audience, out of character, is a charming device -- to have an actor who is both inside and outside of the play be at once, on stage, teasing new interest in maths from his audience and at the same time, acting for us. Yes. He was prevaricating. He was on stage, we knew he was part of the play, even though he professed not to be part of what we are about to see. Soon that extra persona leaves us. He becomes what he says he will be, part of the internal story, a G.H. Hardy character for us, though we continue to hear his omniscient voice present as he pushes the narrative along during the evening.

A charming opening sequence.

As an aside, I was surprised to see the theatre – empty when we walked in and when the play started, only a sprinkling of people in the auditorium. Maybe only 20 people.

National Theatre Live hasn’t caught on like Live from the Met has ... yet.


Animals Have Rights

Yesterday’s outing was to hear Tom Beauchamp, Professor of Philosophy, Georgetown University, Washington D.C. give a paper called “Rights Theory and Animal Rights”. The poster promised that there is a firm correlativity between rights and obligations: all rights entail obligations and all obligations entail right.

I love philosophers. While it might be easy to trivialize the yesterday’s subject matter, it is not long before I began to worry, as they do, about the need to discuss bio-ethical issue and have other minds help them hone their arguments.

Now obligations and rights seems more like it belongs with the transfer of shares in business / company law to me, than that it would be part of an argument that would prohibit most of the ways humans use animals (ie in cockfights, cosmetic research, etc). So I read the fine print in the poster. ”If we have any obligations at all to animals (e.g., an obligation to feed a farm animal, an obligation to proved exercise opportunities for zoo animals, etc), they have correlative rights.

I couldn’t think of a right any animal had, but the Leona Helmsley case where she gave her animals $10 million dollars after she died, helped me to see ... yikes ... by law, those animals had rights.

Now, I am trying to be open to all kinds of ideas from my film clatss, so I listened up in the philosophy lecture as well. I noticed that I pulled out my notepad when the presenter used his theory to generate “A Catalogue of the Rights of Animals”. Even as a person who doesn’t have a pet, I thought to myself, this is too good to be true for pet lovers.

Dr. Beauchamp has been in the U.S. for so long that the professor who introduced him told all of the “French types” in the audience to Americanize his name – no French accent on it. That was the first hard word to get used to. Just try to anglicize the word Beauchamps. The second hard word that he used was non-malevolence in connection with the way to treat animals. I began to say the word over and over in my mind, wondering if I it will ever slip out of my mouth sometimes and me be surprised and wonder where that word came from. My guess is that I will have the word with me, long after I have forgotten the content of the lecture.

Makmiller has a new office on the 12th floor of the Social Sciences building. He showed it off to Burley and me after the talk. He said that it was beautiful today when the first snow in our area covered the rolling foothills of Nose Hill. From the window I could can London Drugs, Senator Patrick Burns Junior High, Aberheart High School, and John Laurie Boulevard as it rims the bottom of Nose Hill. The road was empty but for two semi’s one behind each other, drawing an imaginary circle around the hill. I sat in Mak’s chair, checking to see how perfect his view was if he should cast his eyes a little to the right and out the window. The view is perfect.

Between what was in my fridge and what was in Mak’s fridge we made a nice meal, though Burley had to couldn’t linger after the meal. The lecture was ringing in her ears. She was afraid her dog, Tilley, wasn’t getting all of his rights. I don’t have such an obligation.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Pilling Men


I began to miss David a lot today, even though he has been gone six months now. I came across some Dried Pork in a four cup plastic bucket (which is what reminded me of him) and was wondering what to do with it. I took a trip out to Google for some recipes and came across enough links that I think I can use up the pork.

Then I found some Frank's Hot Sauce in the fridge: 2 squeeze containers and one gallon jug. I took another trip out to Google to find some recipes for the Hot Sauce. It is no surprise that 1 1/2 pounds of hamburger can have its flavour improved by adding two tablespoons of Franks Hot Sauce. At least it would be no surprise to David. It may have been a surprise to me.

I am going to get my calculator out to discover how many pounds of ground beef I will have to buy to use up that gallon of special sauce.

The men around here love their food this year, and some even love to cook it. One of the boarders sent the rest of us the following U-Tube
link, for it reminded him of Connor's love of pure food.

You may agree.


Sunday, October 10, 2010

Das Rheingold

The opera began in E flat with a sonorous 4 minute overture, setting the stage for the Rhine, undulating, the rocking motion of water, under which appeared the 3 Rhinemaidens.

Really, before the opera began we were backstage, watching the Rhinemaidens learn to work the trolleys, harness and wires of their costuming months before the day of the opera. When the curtain opened there they were – their faces glistening with the shine that water leaves on the skin, sparkles on their skin, and drops of water on their costuming, bubbles coming out of the mouth of the maiden who was singing for us.

Glen, Janet, Kelvin and I were at the opera. For the technician running the show, everything was going wrong. The transmission stopped, pixelated on the screen which was not full screen yet. When we did see the full screen the Rhinemaidens’ heads were being projected on the curtain. The subtitles were lost on the bottom of the screen, either only the first line showing, or only the tops of the letters of the first line showing. There was no booing from audience. Glen leaned over said, “Perhaps we are going to have 3 free hours this afternoon, after all.”

The audience at this theatre didn’t pick up and leave. The problems were 90% sorted out, we watched the reswt of the show and free movie tickets to the next special event were handed out to us at the door as we left.

The music was so ... so ... Wagnerian. The costuming was over the top. The muscles on the giants seemed like arms made for the Michelin man. Cod-pieces are the new accessory for the opera season. Wotan’s lock of hair hung down from his forehead and was plastered over one eye. I was well into the show before I figured out the correct pronunciation of his name, having talked of him all week as Wotan. But hearing the singers I clicked in. As Wittgenstein is really (V)ittgenstein, as Wagner is really (V)anger, so Wotan is really (V)otan. Slow learner, Arta, on that one.

My absolute favourite character was Albericht, that evil gnome – hard not to love a guy who has pockets full of gold and can smelt gold rings that have magical powers. Beautiful voice, fabulous dreadlocks, master of lesser gnomes. I also enjoyed the tarnhelm (helmet) forged by Mime, especially when it was thrown around the shoulders of Loge, the god of fire (it was a very flexible helmet). How very London of Loge to turn it into a scarf – such verve and daring.

My favourite curse is the one put on the ring – until it returns to him, whoever does not possess it will desire it, and whoever possesses it will live in anxiety and will eventually be killed and robbed of it by its next owner.

Now there is a piece of jewellery to die for.

Three Cheers for Crescent

Crescent Heights High School Reunion
Friday, Oct 8, 2010

Greg’s friend, Tom Tait, (who, by the way is responsible for getting him into the foreign service) is on the Crescent Heights High School Reunion Alumni Executive. That is how Greg knew that there would be two events – a tour of the school on Friday and a dinner and dance at the Thornecliffe Community Association on Saturday. Greg drove in from B.C. to attend the reunion and to look for the class of 1960. That looked like the perfect chance for me to come along and look for the class of 1958. Fran Van San, a member of his class, lived up on 16th Avenue and attended Briar Hill School, and also Crescent Heights High School and is another amazing force on the organizing committee.

Greg and I took the tour of the school, visiting the sewing classroom for me, and Greg standing at the doors of the mechanics classroom, saying how sweet the smell was, and wishing again that he could have taken that elective, but it was always full or didn’t fit into his schedule. Between a longing for automotives and the art class (which didn’t fit his schedule either), he had a chance to look at a past not lived.

The tables were set up so that you could find someone from the class of the 40’s ’50’s, the ’60’s, the 70’s. I couldn’t find anyone from my 1958 class until later in the evening when I saw Barbara Rawsthorne, my old Mormon friend from elementary school and Diane Card, my Mormon friend from high school.

Greg and I had walked the halls, finding the graduating pictures of both of our classes.

I slipped back to that spot later, alone. I was hoping that someone in that class might be there, lingering over the pictures on the wall. I read through every name and looked at each picture. We were a composite high-school with both academic and technical streams. Home-rooms and option interests sorted students, so there would be kids there I knew from church, but didn’t really compute were in my year at school. That recognition was fun, as was the exercise of looking at the young faces of my then friends. One guy even had the collar of his jacket turned up. How rebel was that!

The reunion invitation asked people to bring along their old school sweaters, their old beanies and Bugles. My year book burned when my garage went down. I couldn’t find one piece of memorabilia, not even a pin, but I recognized the sweaters and the football jackets that some of the men wore. Greg jogged my memory about youthful lust for those items – too expensive for some of us to buy. And the high school letters – a big red “C” – I got one for being on the volleyball and basketball team and every subsequent year, a bar was presented at the yearly Academic banquet. I just didn’t have the dollars to buy one of those great sweaters to put it on. Greg laughed and said yes, those sweaters or frat jackets were signs of having arrived. He had neither, either.

We visited the cafeteria. Lemming-like, I was driven to look for the spot where my group sat – a studious little bunch that wolfed our lunches in 15 minutes – 20 max -- and headed out to the study hall for the rest of the lunch hour. I wanted to reach into my pocket and bring out $.25 to drop into the box, then pick up a carton of chocolate milk.

Greg said that the biggest disappointment of the night was that so much had changed. He was hoping that it would have all been the same – but there were new wings to the school, new photographs on the walls and a new paint job on the auditorium where the school operetta had been presented.

I don’t know who had more fun, Greg or me. His best story of the night was from a woman who introduced herself to an old classmate, and the classmate said, “I don’t think I remember you.”

She said, “Well, we dated for two years.”

My best time of the night was singing the old school song with the band: “Three cheers for Crescent / hip hip hurray / She is the school we fight for each day ....” Even Greg remembered the words a few lines into the song. My second best time of the night was the tales from someone from the class of 1943 who stopped to chat with us. Two classes of Grade Nines from Balmoral Junior High School have had yearly events since they got to Crescent, meeting over the years to have a spring lunch together. Now those who can still dtrive and are still alive, arrange to pick up the others. They mostly trade stories about their grandchildren he said, though they all agree that education with private interests, special-interests, and home-school has changed the democratizing slice of life they had in their classrooms.

Saturday, Oct 9 2010

I didn’t know if I would meet any more people on the second night than I had on the first night. Greg knew that his old friend’s Rotary Club was catering the BBQ for the evening, so he had hopes of meeting at least one more person.

Greg heard the that our high school had no strong alumni association until someone left a significant bequest in their will to the high school. There was no mechanism to process the money, so the funds that are used by the Calgary Board of Education. That is how an alumni association for our school was born. A golf tournament is held yearly.

A big reunion happens every five years and this year’s reunion was created to create the data base for the next reunion – an email data base with a request that each of us should get in touch with 10 people we know from our class so that the size of the reunion would double.

High school dances were held after boys basketball games. The bleachers were pushed back and records spun, though I was too shy to have ever stayed for those. I am wondering now if I was afraid I would be asked to dance and didn’t know how, or that I wouldn’t be asked and be a humiliated geek. Either way, I shot out that gymnasium door before the dancing had begun in those days.

Greg danced me through every possible step combination last night – a little rumba, a little cha-cha, some two step, and the jive, a little swing. I did ask Greg to count out the rumba for me for the first few measures. Then I was good to go. Our hardest song to dance was the one where the singer’s rubbato on melody line made us both laugh about how hard it was for our feet to keep up a steady rhythm when there wasn’t one.

Part of the time we sat at our banquet table watching other dancers. You could tell which of the guys had been snappy dancers. It didn’t matter what shape their upper bodies were in, some skinny as rails, other bulbous, their feet could really talk the dance steps of the 50’s and 60’s.

“I made the biggest mistake of my life. I married right out of high school.” I heard that phrase many times on Friday night when people would begin to answer the question, “What have you been doing over the years?” Ouch! A hard question for more than the women. Surviving long enough to get to the reunion is actually a feat in itself, at least for some who were in my graduating class.

The woman I sat by at the banquet was from a class the year after me. She had taken one year at the University of Alberta, Calgary Campus, as I had. Of course we hadn’t known each other, because the first year of university was all that was offered, and then you made a transfer. She went to UBC, and straight into a PHD chemistry stream. She belongs now to the Artists Association of Alberta, and this week auditioned to play in the Calgary Baroque Orchestra. Her aunt from the class of 1941 was across the table from us. She lived on Crescent Road, a 3 minute dash before 9 am got her to the high school on time. She said, of living in that prime real estate location, that the saddest moment of her childhood was when the Mormon Crescent Road Chapel was built and she lost what had been an empty lot / miniature golf course.

Each decade came to the front to have their picture taken. I sat by Donna Suitor, a woman who grew up one block over from 16A, the street we lived on.

Greg phoned this morning to ask me how I had survived the exercise on the dance floor last night. I wanted to tell him that I could have danced all night.


PS Our tour guide was a CHHS student who took us to her own history class room. On the board was written, "Think for yourself. Your teacher may be wrong." I have no idea why that that has touched me all day.

A Disappearing Number


Take a chance and join HD Live at a Theatre near you on Thursday night. You will see the National Theatre's performance of a live play called "A Disappearing Number". The play has deepened, the reviews say, since it first came to the stage in 2007.

See what the Guardian has to say about the event.

Looks like a treasure not to be missed.


Saturday, October 9, 2010


The Mountain Standard Time Performative Art Festival is a phrase that I have name recognition of.

That’s all.

When I saw an invitation to listen to hear Scott Rogers and David Dyment give a Diogenes Lecture under the Festival moniker I read the synopsis closely:

A performative lecture investigating the life and activities of philosopher Diogenes of Sinope (c. 412 BC) as the prototypical performance artist. It encompasses numerous themes from Rogers and Dyment's mutual research on Diogenes including biographical information on his life and deeds, recreations of his 'performances,' and details on the striking similarities and parallels to contemporary performance art.

Dyment is a Toronto based artist whose practice includes audio, video, multiples performance, writing and curating. His work has been exhibited in Calgary, Dublin, Edmonton, Halifax, New York City, Philadelphia, Surrey, Toronto and Varna, Bulgaria. He is represented by MKG127

Rogers is a visual artist who produces site-specific, collaborative, and conceptual projects. Currently he's an MFA candidate at the Glasgow School of Art. His work has been exhibited widely in Canada and internationally in Ireland, New York, Minneapolis and Berlin.

Everything was working for me. A performance by people from out of town. A venue close enough that I could walk to the event. A subject, about which I know nothing: Diogenes. An hour to close down what I was doing at home and walk over to the Nickle Arts Museum.

Three other people attended: a curator from the Nickle and two others in front of me. A powerpoint presentation flashed a picture of Diogenes on the screen and thought to myself, “Hey, I saw that on the ceiling at the Vatican.” At least I thought I saw it.Later,Wickipedia was to confirm for me that yes, Raphael’s “The School of Athens” has Diogenes front and centre. In the Vatican, the guide that day had said, pointing at the figure reclining on the mable steps, “Here is Diogenes, a character in his own right, but we don’t have time to go into that today.” A mystery is always more interesting than all of the other facts at hand, and so I continued to stay alert because what could be luckier than having 2 performance artists talk about Diogenes

Their paper opened with a quote from Laurie Anderson: "History is an angel being blown backwards into the future / History is a pile of debris / And the angel wants to go back and fix things /To repair the things that have been broken / But there is a storm blowing from Paradise /And the storm keeps blowing the angel backwards into the future / And this storm, this storm is called Progress." The presenters were also referencing Walter Benjamin’s book On the Concept of History. That was a lot of information in the first five minutes of a lecture given to someone whose face and probably brain is still frozen from cataract surgery. In the back of my mind I was thinking about Rebecca’s paper-in-progress on Angels in America and wondering how it was that I was making connections with 4th century B.C. Diogenes.

By the time the lecture was over there were plenty of links, showing how Diogenes might have been the first performance artist – even linking him with contemporary Spank, whom I would have known nothing about unless I had attended this academic lecture.

Well, enough jokes for all of you.



Thursday, October 7, 2010

Yellow and Blue Make Green

Oct 7, 2010

Kelve drove me to and from the Holy Cross Eye Surgery Clinic today. He hasn’t accompanied me on any of these minor surgery trips before and so I had to coach him.

“Look, when I say that I feel well enough to go to my afternoon film class, your job is to say, no, Arta, I am taking your right home and tucking you in bed. And then you have to do it.”

With all of the best instructions I could give him, he still lost me in London Drugs. I thought I was following him since I needed to touch his shoulder so I didn’t veer of course. But I heard one of those announcements over the intercom about everything in the middle isle now being 75% off. I couldn’t help it that my feet travelled over there to check out what my eyes couldn’t see. He didn’t even notice the loss of pressure on his shoulder that my absence made.

And when I was talking to the druggist, I lost Kelvin, again. I zipped up and down the isles, going from isle 1 to isle 12, looking for him. Three times up and down and I couldn’t find him. When I was about ready to walk home he came out from the drug department himself and said, “It was supposed to be you sitting down in there, not me.”

I have no idea why I am still so fired up with energy. I haven’t been able to sleep since I came home. I think the adrenalin rush from the fear factor is still in me. I tried to relax, but it is hard not to be fearful when the only freezing is in your eye, it feels as though your eyes are open in the midst of some viscous material, and there is a white light piercing your iris.

I did go out in the neighbourhood tonight and walk up and down the sidewalks and alleys of Banff Trail, trying to tire myself out.

Now it is time to lay down whether I want to or not. I have to wait five minutes between each set of eye drops and I noticed that even though Katie Mallik was playing the best of CBC’s jazz, I was falling off to sleep. Oh, not when the Wailin Jenney’s were doing their set. That was so lovely that I found myself trying to sing along with the woman doing the bass of the trio.


I think, maybe, I still should have someone here, bossing me around instead of being on my own. Oh, where is Wyona when I need her?

I have a badge on my shirt – on the left side – a sign that it was the left eye to be done. I have a huge X on my forehead, a sign again that it was the left eye to be done. And that side of my face is yellow from the solution that was wiped there to clearn the area, a solution that was also swept back into my hair.

I wouldn’t care so much about that yellow skunk streak except I heard today that Greg is driving back to go to the Crescent Heights High School Reunion this week-end. I asked if he wanted a date. So how lucky is that for me.

I don’t mind what my cohort is going to think when I wear those huge dark sunglasses to the reunion, but the yellow streak through my hair? That is bothering me. When I couldn’t sponge it out (and since eyes are not allowed near any water for 2 weeks), I mixed up a blue rinse to dab on that side of my hair. Ringing in my ears was a little scripture I heard in the Rembrandt film last week: the Biblical words of King Solomon, "vanity of vanities, all is vanity." That was drummed into my as a child as well. Still, I put the devil’s warning behind me, I worked on that spot with the blue rinse, trying to get out of my hair what wouldn’t come with soap and water.

Looking at the spot more closely, and saw a gradual colour change. I also had flash into my mind what I learned when I was colouring a yellow sun and a blue sky in Grade I

Yellow and blue make green.

Guess I will have to live with in the name of getting a new lens today.



1940's - Nila Stringer

Nila Stringer wrote a piece for the Houndsfield Heights-Briar Hill Community Association History Book.

Here is the text she entered there:

1940s Anecdotal stories of growing up in Hounsfield Heights

Shooting Stars and Crocuses by Nila E Stringer

Ours was one of the 16 A St., post-war urban pioneer families of the new district of Hounsfield Heights. My parents, Howard and Lila Stringer, were frequently chided by their urban friends and relatives about moving way out of town, near Cochrane; that was considered miles out of Calgary at the time. Fourteenth Street was a very steep single dirt track and tough to navigate in the mud, for the old forties, two-wheel drive vehicles, the ice block truck and the horse-drawn milk wagon. That was the sum total of our services.

My parents bought a lot and a half for around $150. The house would eventually face the mountains with spectacular views of the city centre, the south hill and the west to the Rockies. My father was a post Air Force university student in the USA, when my mother and I, aged three, moved into the concrete basement with no windows and waterproofed flat roof. Two by fours alone framed the rooms; we had apple boxes for cupboards and saw horses and a wood slab for a table. My mother was a Calgary General nursing graduate who continued to work nights and, with the help of friends and neighbors, commenced the interior finishing including the insulation and wall board. My parents took out a $25,000 mortgage to complete the exterior of the upstairs of the house. That mortgage allowed for the outer wall of the house, the roof, concrete steps, heating and roughed-in plumbing. The remainder of the construction continued as the money became available which meant that we were basement dwellers until I was 12 or 13 years old. My folk’s first couch was an old second hand one for which my mother made slip-covers and she wallpapered the walls using the brushed blue method. We always had a piano and I remember the adults having some great times, rolling up the rug and dancing in the basement living room as my uncle played the piano. The neighbors would be at the parties as there was only one or two houses at that time.

The Hap (sic) and Marie Manning family, were friends of my parents prior to the building their homes side by side in 1945 and 1946, as Hounsfield Heights “urban pioneers”. Aside from our two families, there were about five large, older farm or acreage homes scattered over the hills and one old brick mansion was at the end of our street. There were five children on our street at the start; two McCready’s; Ken and Marie; two Manning’s; Lois and Ardel, and me, the preschooler. Before long the Pilling family built across the street and that raised the child count by six; Arta, Earl, Bonnie, Wyona, Darla and Rita. Things were looking up when more kids moved in.

One fondly remembered pasttime included picking crocuses on the hills and shooting stars in the boggy ground of the lower end of the field between 16A and 17th Streets, an area with a high water table which kept it unfit for building. This little piece of natural green space has fortunately remained, thanks to the vigilance of members of the community. This hill also provided hours of safe tobogganing over the years. In the early beginnings of our neighbourhood, we could see horses tethered out on the hills and farms in the distance but, as the community grew, the horses disappeared and the green space for crocuses and shooting stars naturally diminished as well. Our house had a garage and tucked into its inner sanctum was our main entrance. This was the only paved area where I could ride my trike or my pedal car and I was always envious of the kids in other neighbourhoods that had sidewalks and paved streets. It was several years before sidewalks and pavement came our way. By the time, our neighborhood was paved, I was long past a trike and a pedal car and the milk came by truck, but still in glass bottles. I remember that well because I dropped a full one on that same concrete garage floor, much to the dismay of my mother.

The elementary school was called the University Demonstration School located at what was then University of Calgary and what is now the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology Campus. I attended SAIT’s open house and was delighted to see that the beautiful of wood of the doors and frames, display cabinets, stairs, hall passages and auditorium in the old original build had been preserved. The murals above the stairs have been revitalized, cleaned and retouched by their original artist as well.

Kindergarten was at an old cottage school where Queen Elizabeth High School is at present on 5th Ave and 18th St; a long walk for a five year old. There were three of us who walked to kindergarten from 16A St at that time, Lorie Drew, Bonnie Pilling and me. One memorable kindergarten day occurred, when there was a huge snowstorm and our mothers had obviously collaborated on a means of getting us home safely, by sending a cab. We were not told about the plan though, and were scared by the change in routine, and by being called out of class by Mrs. Ledbetter, and then have to get into a car with a stranger! Most families had one car in those days, if they were lucky. The closest transit service was 15th St and 5th Ave.

At one early point in the neighborhood’s development, some ambitious parents on the block behind us, built a home made ice rink with one light bulb hooked to a pole. I’m not sure I could even skate when my mother dressed me up in a costume and skates and send me off with neighbor’s kids to join the fun. The closest commercial or municipal skating arena was the outdoor Crystal Palace Ice Rink and indoor pool on the corner of 10th St and 4th Ave, downtown. As preteens and teens we could skate to music there and meet the kids from other neighbourhoods that attended our school. It was a long, cold walk home after dark tough. Our closest grocer was on 14th St, almost at Kensington. I would be sent there, at age six, to buy bread or milk. It’s a sad statement that what was considered safe in those days is not so in today’s world. It must have taken me an hour to make that trip knowing how kids dawdle.

Another neighbourhood event that intrigued us as elementary school children was the birth of baby brothers and sisters. My baby sister, Terry, was born when I was seven and I remember playing outside with the neighbours’ kids when I coaxed them all inside. I trooped them all in to see the new baby in her crib that just fit behind my parents bedroom door. I remember an unusual feeling of power over the horde, because “I” had to tell them to be quiet and not to wake her up. I look behind that bedroom door now and wonder how any crib could have fit behind there. I also remember going up the street to see the McCready baby boy, Stuart, in his bassinette at the old red brick house. That house and yard was like a magnet to all the neighborhood kids, it had a five or six-foot good solid brick wall around a large yard with shrubs and huge trees that made wonderful grounds for imaginary games with monsters, dragons, cowboys, Indians, run sheep run, kick the can, hide-and-seek, and anything our pre-TV imaginations could muster. Unfortunately it was just a bit too far from home for me to hear my parents call me for meals and I often got into trouble for not coming right away. Time means very little to a kid having a wonderful time. Mr. and Mrs. McCready must have often felt inundated with noisy children climbing in the trees and bursting out of the shrubbery, but I do not remember ever hearing them complain or shooing us home.

When my father returned from University after the war he taught at Hillhurst School. One precious memory of mine was being allowed to attend his class of high school students one day, at the age of five. I was in awe of them. However, one of them was my occasional babysitter so there was a familiar face. My dad gave up teaching before my sister was born and went into business. My mother continued to work nights at the Calgary General Hospital until my sister was born and a lifelong friend, Mary Cooper, who came from the country into the city to attend Western Canada High School during the day, looked after me at night. Calgary did not have many high schools at the time. Queen Elizabeth Junior and Senior High School was built just in time for many of the children of Hounsfield Heights to attend. The junior high went into action first and grades ten to twelve were added just as I was moving up to the next grade. Prior to then, the high school kids had to travel to Crescent Heights to go to school.

When the Louise Riley Library was built, I was in heaven. It was a library within easy walking distance and my parents never discouraged my many trips there. Prior to that, the closest libraries were either Kensington Road or Center Street, both of which required an accompanying adult or a car to reach.

The early 1950’s polio epidemic was a genuine threat and an extremely stressful and fearful time for all parents and families. My mother was not working as a nurse at the time but certainly was the neighbourhood authority in many emergencies. She knew the people who had contracted the disease and the families that were quarantined. As a child, all I remember was having my activities severely curtailed and my mother being fanatical about hand washing. I could not go to friends’ homes and we did not attend public events or go to the public places often. I was too young to really understand the threat but I was irritated by having my activities curtailed. What kid wouldn’t be ticked off? Happily, all that care and attention worked. We did not contract polio, thanks to the diligence of our parents.

In 1954-55, the hills, that we tramped across daily to the University were bulldozed to build the Jubilee Auditorium. One of the most frightening events for me was having to run between huge dirt movers, and caterpillar tractors to get to school. I was never sure if the drivers could see us or not and the noise was terrific. I marvel that there were no severe accidents during that time; a tribute to the men who must have been frustrated by having children darting across their work area. We ran that gauntlet twice daily for months. Exciting, but terrifying at the same time as we climbed the huge mounds of dirt and dodged the machinery.

Before auditorium construction started, I remember, one Spring, being unable to go to school on the regular path because of an extreme thaw and major runoff that caused the little brook to flood so we could not get across. That meant that we had to walk north to 16th Ave, along it till we were past the stream and then across the hills west of 14th St to get home. We had all thought we already had a long enough walk! I rode my old balloon tire bike to school after I turned eleven, and age that my parents deemed old enough to manage a bike, and once a week I rose to the other side of the university for music lessons. Those were the late evenings coming home in all kinds of weather.

By the time my sister was old enough to go to kindergarten, she still had to walk to 5th Ave and 12th St to an old cottage school. My mother often used to send me to meet her because it was a struggle for the little tads to get up the hills in their big snowsuits and boots and they often stopped to play on the toboggan hills. It worried mom when Terry did not show up at the regular time. As a teenager, likely going through the subhuman phase of development, I was not thrilled having to walk down the hill again to fetch my mischievous little sister after having just walked up the hill from Queen Elizabeth High School. Fortunately, for my sister, by age six, she was able to attend the new Briar Hill Elementary School that was very accessible from our neighbourhood.

My parents did not have a car when we first moved to Hounsfield Heights and the purchase of our first car was a wonderful event and not without incident. One day, soon after its arrival, our neighbour, Marie Manning, spotted the driverless car backing down our steep driveway and up the street to pause in front of her house. She ran out outside to try to catch it. But the errant vehicle turned to the right, then headed over the bank. It just missed the Pilling house and ran on down the hill, where the shooting stars grew, with Marie in hot pursuit. My mother was home and heard someone holler but did not realize what was happening initially. Fortunately, there were few houses at the bottom of 17th St and the car came to a stop before causing too much damage. It gave us a great story to tell for many years. Marie took most of the ribbing for believing she could catch it and stop it, but her heart was in the right place. She knew the value of that car to the family and what a loss it could have meant if any injuries had occurred. It is a “Norman Rockwell vision” though, to picture a 50’s housewife in housedress and apron running through a field, after a car without a driver.

My sister and her husband now live in the house on 16A St., and although there have been disappointing changes in the neighborhood it terms of the loss of wonderful old neighbours, compromised panoramic views, increased population density, and traffic, this inner city neighborhood remains a pretty nice place to live with its access to the town center and amenities. Keeping the home in the family also allows me and my children to visit the home and neighborhood of their grandparents on a regular basis. My children did not know their grandfather and we did not have their grandmother with us for long either, but visits to the house always bring back memories that keep those family members forever in our hearts.

My brother-in-law is teaching at SAIT and twice daily he retraces the steps that I took fifty-two years ago, to attend my elementary school. To some it is a relief to walk mud-free on concrete over flattened hills. But for me, I’ve really enjoyed remembering the families, the neighbors, the childhood friends, the horses on the hills, the brook and especially the crocuses and shooting stars with great fondness and I don’t even think about the mud. I think that walking over grassy, wildflower-filled hills is better. Wouldn’t you agree?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Assigned Seating

When I went to the Crowfoot Cinemaplex to get the tickets for the opera on Saturday, I ducked under the stainless steel posts and elastic banding that is used to create line-ups for the ticket wicket.

After all, I can bend down that far, and no one was at the front of the line. Why walk up and down three isles to get to the seller who was idly reading a paper, when a small bend at the waist could do the same thing.

“Two seniors, and two adults for the opera on Saturday,” I said.

I was surprised to have the woman in the ticket booth turn a screen to me and ask which of the seats in the house I would like to book.

“What? No general seating?”

“The opera was so popular last year that the manager decided to have assigned seating this year.”

I was out the door with my tickets before I figured out that if there is assigned seating for Saturday, it will be like that all year. I pushed back through the glass doors of the theatre, I ducked under the banding again and said, “Two tickets for the opera in two weeks, as well.”

“Boris Godunov?”, the woman said, stumbling over the words and looking at me questioningly.

I laughed.

“I guess both of us are going to have to learn how to pronounce that before two weeks are up,” I replied, "because I don't know how to say those words, either."

I felt some level of annoyance that the seats I was looking for have already been booked.

Still, I know a fantastic day is just starting for me, when three days in advance, I am delirious over the anticipation of Saturday’s event.

And the seats for both events are still good ones.

Further, just seeing the giants dragging away Freia has to instill some measure of terror into the hearts of even the most brave. Terror is good. It stops old people from falling asleep.

I slipped out to U-Tube yesterday and listened to a few clips from the opera. Wagner’s music is so dark: complex textures, rich harmonies and orchestration, and the elaborate use of leitmotifs. Now that is going to be enough for me.

I am going to think about all of this tomorrow when the eye surgeon is slipping a new lens onto that left eye for me.

I will breathe deeply, exhale slowly and think of the New York Metropolitan singers getting ready to do Das Rheingold for me on Saturday.


Monday, October 4, 2010

Das Rheingold Reviews


For those of you getting tickets for the first of the Ring Cycle Wagnerian operas at your local HD Theatres, the first performance Oct 9th, here are 2 reviews and Wickipedia's info on Das Rheingold.

Glen and Janet are going to be in Calgary for Thanksgiving, so I am picking up tickets for them tomorrow.

Why not!

Enjoy, at the very least, the reviews.

I can hardly wait.

A longer review from a New Jersey paper

Look to the middle of this link for a New York Times review of Das Rheingold

And ever sweet Wikipedia

Dinner at Sherwoods

Dinner at Sherwoods
October 4, 2010

Cable television carries conference we discovered Saturday night.

I drove Kelvin to Sherwoods who are only 3 blocks away, so he could watch the proceedings at their house. On picking Kelvin up at 4 pm, Jim invited me to stay and eat with the rest of their big family, all who come over after conference, each coming in the door with food gifts: salads, apple crisp to feed 30, banana cream pies and Erva having prepared a ham and a roast.

When every appetite was satiated, I heard someone say, “Now what are we doing for Thanksgiving?”

“You are on your own,” said Erva. “Jim and I are going to Seattle.”

She explained more. “Grandpa Rufus is 102. He needs private day care, private family day care, 24-hous a day. It is our turn.”

Jim said private health care has been coming for a long time for grandpa.

Ten years ago, instead of having family reunions where a whole mass of people overwhelmed the aging grandparents, the families decided to go one by one to visit them through the year. That has worked until lately when Rufus needed care 24-7.

Now they take turns staying for a long time. Since Jim is 75, I am guessing the rest of his sbilings are within 10 years of his age, on either side.

“That is an incredible investment of time,” I shaking my head in wonder.

“We do less than others,” replied Erva. “Jim’s health care will only let him stay 10 days in the U.S. and I still work 3 days a week. We go for 10 days at a time when we can – next month Jim goes twice. All of it is carefully scheduled. If we arrive at night, the family who has been doing the caregiving leaves the next morning. We are leaving this week and going to stop at Adams Lake and see the salmon run on our way.”

The whole conversation had come up, because I had been telling Erva about Bonnie, when she asked about her. The news that Bonnie, Joaquim and David live in B.C. and that they had taken her son to Yard Creek where he could see the salmon is what had prompted Erva's story about why they would be passing the Adams Lake.

Please tell me the salmon run will still be going on when Erva and Jim stop to see that magnificent spectacle.

They deserve to see the cycle played out by the salmon.


Sunday, October 3, 2010

A Sailor Moon Weep

I picked Zoe up for bowling but she had just a few minutes left on her Sailor Moon programme to watch.

By the end of the show she had tears streaming down her cheeks.

"What is wrong," I asked. "Don't you want to go to bowling."

"I can't believe she died," Zoe said.

I assumed the character in the video was now deceased.

"Give me the phone," said Wyona to whom I was talking when noticing the tears and to Zoe she said, "You can't watch that show if it is going to make you sad."

When Zoe got off the phone she was mad!

Oh no, I thought. How is our afternoon going to go, but Wyona had prompted me, saying, "She probably needs something to eat."

Wyona was right. On the way to bowling I looked at the apple in her hand and all that was left was the little wooden stem she was holding between 2 fingers and a few pieces of the cellophane that were encapsulating the seed.

We had already gone through how mad she was at Wyona and Greg. He must be included now, either by vitue of retirement or by virtue of association with Wyona.

"Wyona and Greg are always bossing me around," she said, still weeping.

Well, I don't want to be in that "always bossing me around" category, so I was offering her everything to stop the tears which continued to stream down her face on the ride all the way up fourteenth street and down 64th Avenue.

"Look. You have to quit thinking about something that was only a video, and if you do, we shall stop for ice-cream on the way home."

That stopped the tears.

And the only remaining fly in the ointment was that she had forgotten to take her bowling card with her, but her supervisor wrote down her scores, so I thought the day could be termed well done by us.

We picked up Kelvin from watching October Conference and offered him either a ride home or a trip to the Dairy Queen with us.

He choose the later.

Now I don't want to say anything bad about myself in this post, but I honestly confess that I don't know the difference between the Dairy Queen and MacDonalds, obviously, because we were at the MacDonald's counter, ordering, when I figured out I had come to the wrong fast food joint. The way I could tell is that when I ordered a large sundae with two toppings, hot fudge and cherry, the clerk told me that they don't sell that cherry flavour.

I was so disgusted with myself that I told Zoe, go ahead. Order whatever you want. I could feel myself laughing when she said 10 chicken McNuggest, fries and a medium drink. I should have known she hasn't picked up the Pilling penchant for ice-cream over all other choices. I should have ordered for her.

I have got to work on driving to the right food outlet -- at least if I want hot fudge and cherry on a sundae.

Perhaps a few more outings would help.


The Virtuoso Liszt

One of the concert series at the university is called "The Virtuoso Liszt". Last night Makmiller, Ed, Amir and I attended Programme One of Charles Foreman at the piano playing Liszt.

Forman had done my homework for me.

Attached to the programme was a five page, single-spaced essay on "The Great Liszt". There was some biographical material, but the essay was mostly notes about the pieces we were to hear (ie something on each of the six Pagannini studies in the last half of the concert).

The programme started with the Hungarian Rhapsody No 2. It was so much fun a couple of times I thought I would burst out laughing.

The insert in the programme listed the four stumbling blocks to having an appreciation of Liszt's works:
1. ignorance of the repetoire -- When do we ever hear a group of Liszt's songs.

2. bad performances (by others turn us off -- not Forman's performance)

3. eclecticism -- titles in French, motifs in German, divergent musical styles

4. rhetorical style -- all of the Romantics were a bit long-winded,such as Schuman, Berlioz, and Tchaikovsky.

Rather than attach the five page essay to this post, I send you a picture of Liszt's hands.

How ghoulish is that!

I must be looking forward to Halloween.


Doral's Birthday Party

The plates matched the table cloth. The clumps of balloons and silver tendrils that hung down from them picked up the colours in the other decorations. Old friends (Pam and Rob), neighbours (and their children), and family (Thomas, Kelvin and me) were there.

Dalton had created his Rice Krispie cake with strawberry ice cream.

The candles were grouped on the cake. Four of one colour for the "tens" and 3 of the other colour for the "ones". Doral looked at the cake and said, "Look, 3 on this side and four on that side. I must be 34."

Dalton turned the cake around for him, so Doral could get it right.

Dalton made the phone calls inviting us to come. Ron Treleaven said his phone call went like this. "Hello. This is Dalton. I am calling to invite you to my dad's surprise birthday party. I hope you can come. If you need directions to our place, please call me."

Ron hadn't found a chance to make that call-back.

We hung out for the evening.

When the other guests were gone and just before going home for us, Doral brought out his Appendix N, the bibliography that contains the books used to create the old style Dungeon and Dragon game.

Oh, but Appendix N is not just the bibliography, but it is a brown box full of the books listed in the Appendix.

Zothique and Poseidonis, both by Clark Ashton Smith;

10 Books by E. R. Burroughs, including 4 from the Mars series;

10 Books by Jack Vance, including the complete Dying Earth cycle;

10 H.P. Lovecraft/August Derleth titles; and

9 other books, from William Morris, Joy Chant, Hannes Bok, Ludovico Ariosto, Lord Dunsany, David Lindsay and Lin Carter.

Everyone should have their own Appendix N.

Keeping it in the corrugated cardboard box that contains the 41 books is a great way to make sure no one knows how precious the contents of the box is.

In the conversation that followed Doral said that of the blogs of this kind has moved from 8th to 6th place if importance can be measured by the number of followers that have signed on.

I read his.

I have not signed on, which makes him one short of having yet another follower.