Monday, December 31, 2018

December Cultural Roundup

White Christmas (U.S., 1954)
Miracle on 34th Street (U.S., 1994)
Fight Club (U.S., 1999)
It's a Wonderful Life (U.S., 1946)
A Star is Born (U.S., 2018)
Roma (Mexico, 2018)
My Man Godfrey (U.S., 1936)
The Last Picture Show (U.S., 1971)
Pick of the Litter (U.S., 2018)
Green Book (U.S., 2018)
La La Land (U.S., 2016)

Friday, November 30, 2018

November Cultural Roundup

True Patriot Love Gala at Metro Convention Centre, November 8th

Gordon Park: Flavio's Story at Ryerson Image Centre

1984 by George Orwell

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

October Cultural Roundup

Image result for "Matangi / Maya / MIA"
Matangi / Maya / MIA (UK/USA, 2018)

How Should a Person Be by Sheila Heti
A Collection of Critical Essays on "The Waste Land" ed. by Jay Martin
The Collected Poems by T.S. Eliot

Portraits of the Artists as Men at Queen Books featuring Trevor Abes, Arif Anwar, Valentino Assenza, Rocco de Giacomo, Paul S. Fowler, Luciaano Iacobelli, George Elliott Clarke and Michelle Alfano as emcee, October 14th

Draft Reading Series, 14.1 at St. Matthews Clubhouse, October 21st

Sunday, September 30, 2018

September Cultural Roundup

Fausto (Mexico, 2018)
The Wedding Guest (U.K., 2018)
American Dharma (U.S., 2018)
A Million Little Pieces (U.S., 2018) 
Her Smell (U.S., 2018)
Non-Fiction (France, 2018)
Vita and Virginia (U.K., 2018)
The hate u give (U.S., 2018)
Maria by Callas (France, 2017)
Asako I & II (Japan, 2018)
Searching for Ingmar Bergman (Germany/France, 2018)

99 Glimpses of Princess Margaret by Craig Brown

Word on the Street, September 23

Queen West Art Crawl, September 23

Friday, September 21, 2018

Portraits of the artists as Men

Michelle Alfano (emcee) is the author of the personal memoir The Unfinished Dollhouse (Cormorant Books, 2017) which was selected as one of The Globe 100 Best Books of the Year in 2017. Her novella, Made up of Arias, was the 2010 winner of the F.G. Bressani Award for Short Fiction. Her short story “Opera”, on which the novella was based, was a finalist for a Journey Prize anthology.

Trevor Abes is an artist from Toronto with a fondness for writing essays and poetry. He was part of the winning ensemble at the 2015 SLAMtario Spoken Word Festival, and competed in both the National Poetry Slam and the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word as part of the Toronto Poetry Slam team. His work has appeared in Torontoist, (parenthetical), untethered magazine, Spacing MagazineDescant MagazineThe Rusty Toque, The Theatre ReaderMooney on Theatre, The Toronto Review of BooksHart House Review, and Sequential: Canadian Comics News & Culture, among others. Reach him on Instagram @TrevorAbes.

Arif Anwar was born in Chittagong, Bangladesh, just miles from the Bay of Bengal. He has previously worked for BRAC, one of the world’s largest nongovernmental organizations, on issues of poverty alleviation, and for UNICEF Myanmar on public health issues. Arif has a Ph.D. in education from the University of Toronto. He lives in Toronto, Canada, with his wife Si (Sandra) Lian. The Storm is his first novel.

Valentino Assenza has been a published poet and performing spoken word artist for  over the last two decades. He is the author of four chapbooks of poetry.  He is currently a co-host and a co- producer of Howl on CIUT 89.5FM.  He is due to release his first full length book of poetry Through Painted Eyes in the Fall 2018.

George Elliott Clarke has published 17 poetry titles--not only collections, but also verse-plays, libretti, verse-novels, and, currently, epic poetry. he's won a few prizes; been translated into several languages. He was Poet Laureate of Toronto (2012-2015) and Parliamentary Poet Laureate (2016-2017). He co-founded, with Michelle Alfano, "The Love Poetry Festival In honour of Milton Acorn and Gwen MacEwen".

Rocco de Giacomo is a widely published poet whose work has appeared in literary journals in Canada, Australia, England, Hong Kong and the US. The author of numerous poetry chapbooks and full-length collections, his latest, Brace Yourselves – on the representation of the individual as it relates to the Zeitgeist – was published in January 2018, through Quattro Books. Rocco lives in Toronto with his wife, Lisa Keophila, a fabric artist, and his daughters, Ava and Matilda. 

Paul S. Fowler grew up in L'Anse Au Loup, Labrador and currently continues to grow up in Toronto. As of late, his creative output has largely been geared toward his band, Uncle Lavender, but he's always happy to finish a short story or two at the behest of Michelle Alfano.

Luciano Iacobelli is a Toronto Poet, publisher and visual artist. He is the author of numerous chapbooks and five full length books. His most recent book, The Examined Life was published in 2016 by Guernica Editions, and his latest book, Dolor Midnight, by Quattro books will be released in late January 2019.

Jason Paradiso is an editor/poet/writer/artist. He continues to work on his poetry project, Cut Lines & Pulled Quotes, created with rearranged clippings from dated magazines. They have appeared in a variety of publications.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

August Cultural Roundup

Sorry to bother you (U.S., 2018)
Crazy Rich Asians (U.S., 2018)
Eighth Grade (U.S., 2018)

Transit by Rachel Cusk
Hollywood Babylon by Kenneth Anger
Love and Ruin by Paula McLain

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

July Cultural Roundup

Hardcore Logo (Canada, 1996)
Three Identical Strangers (U.S., 2018)

Goodbye to Berlin by Christopher Isherwood
Birthday Letters by Ted Hughes
The First Bad Man by Miranda July
I'll be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara

The Third Annual Love Poetry Festival honouring Milton Acorn and Gwen MacEwen at Queen Books, July 28th featuring bill bissett, Dom Capilongo, George Elliott Clarke, James Deahl & Norma Linder West, Catherine Graham, Stdemond Pardy, Banoo Zan

Saturday, June 30, 2018

June Cultural Roundup

Riverdale Art Walk, June 2nd
Sara Angelucci's Piece Work at Stephen Bulgar Gallery, June 9th
Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Decisive Moment, CP Museum, NYC, June 23rd
RFK Funeral Train: The People's View by Rein Jelle Terpstra, ICP Museum, NYC, June 23rd

Richard III by William Shakespeare
Another World by Pat Barker
Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote

Kusama: Infinity (U.S., 2018)

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

NYC Day 2: Looking for Pacino

Two sweet guys at Caffe Reggio
When we first started coming to NYC, I was excited to go to Caffe Reggio, 119 MacDougall Street, near Washington Square. I had read that Al Pacino liked to frequent the cafe. It is small, its walls covered with faux Renaissance paintings and an inordinately large espresso machine sits like a king on his throne in a corner (unused, perhaps broken). The tables and chairs are chipped and mismatched. It's heavenly. 

Now it has a garish lime green door (not at all fitting in with the dark, Italianate surroundings) which leads you into a very cheerful, pleasant cafe serving, among other things, lavender cafe lattes which the waitress urged me to try. Alas, we did not see Pacino that long ago day (or today) but back then on our first trip to the cafe we did see an older, less happy version of the Laugh-in comedian Ruth Buzzi who walked by our table on the street and we burst out laughing at the deflation of our expectations. 

The morning got much brighter on our second day in NYC when our son walked in. He had been staying with his boyfriend outside of the city and was spending part of the day with us. Proud to have navigated the subway on his own and the short walk to the cafe, he was in good spirits.

Spectral images at the ICP
We decided to walk to the International Centre for Photography Museum, 250 Bowery at Lafayette ($14 admission for adults). It had two exhibits that we were interested in - Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Decisive Moment and the RFK Funeral Train: The People's View curated by Rein Jelle Terpstra The second was particularly affecting as it included photos, audio and video taken by "ordinary people" of the train that bore the body of Robert F. Kennedy on June 8, 1968 on its way to Arlington Cemetery.

Afterwards, we wandered into a little shop on the Bowery selling "Asian" household goods - dishes, cups, pots, vases (I wish I had written down its name). I fell in love with four little dishes which I promptly purchased for 99 cents each. This was my most exciting purchase of the trip. 

Next was a walk to Mercer St. Books, 206 Mercer Street, an independent book store in the Village. Chaotic, poorly organized, non-air conditioned ... delightful. I bought a book on the Romanovs as I am contemplating writing a fictional book on the czar's sister, the Grand DuchessOlga Alexandrovna (1882 - 1960). By an odd coincidence, the grand duchess passed her last days above a beauty shop on 716 Gerrard Street here in south Riverdale in Toronto with a Russian family that took her in. Her path to Canada, and that little apartment, was painful and convoluted and she haunts me as a possible subject for a new fiction project.

Clearly, I have Russians on my mind as we have a 2 o'clock reservation at the famed Russian Tea Room, 150 West 57th Street, serving tiny sandwiches, caviar on blinis, seasonal scones, cupcakes and petits fours ... amazing but not inexpensive - $60 American (that's $80 Canadian my fellow Canucks).

Dark, mysterious, delicious ...
the Russian Tea Room
Feeling much lighter in pocket (but heavier everywhere else) we take a stroll through Central Park to the carousel. I can convince no one to ride the carousel so then we part ways with the offspring who is off on his own adventures. A kind woman takes a picture of the four of us. I return the favour for her charming family.  Walking south through midtown towards the Village,  I am reminded why I don't like visiting NYC in the summer: crowds, tourists, heat. We escape by subway to Washington Square and have a hearty, inexpensive meal back at Caffe Reggio. An "Italian" cheese plate that would feed the multitudes and two plates of pasta - more than suffice. 

The crowds are gathering for Pride ... the glitter and feathers and rainbow make up is in full force as we returned to Washington Square and catch a lovely solo by a musician playing the violin and singing All of Me. I start to tear up as it is one of our very favourite songs and his voice is so sweet. What a lovely way to end the night.

Friday, June 22, 2018

NYC Day 1: Let them be happy

Why we came to NYC ...

We begin our trip in a panic as our passports had expired and spend a morning and a great deal of money making sure they are updated in time for our trip the next day. Lesson learned, likely this will never happen again. (We hope!)

We race to Billy Bishop Airport to catch our flight. Our son left an hour before us on an earlier flight to join his boyfriend. Porter has revamped its lounge and there we see two good friends heading for Boston for a wedding - a happy coincidence. 

We have been coming to NYC since our university days. In the early 1980s, the downtown core of Manhattan near Times Square was a rough place seemingly overflowing with peep shows, shabby retailers and very desperate looking individuals. But we were braver then (or more oblivious to harm) and we fared well. I remember seeing films at St. Marks Cinema (now long gone) and then dancing down Broadway together at night after we saw a Rogers and Astaire film. We were quite happy to sack out in a $50 a night not-so-reputable hotel in Times Square and wander the city in search of adventure.

Art Deco fixture in the lobby of the hotel
Today we are a tad more aspiring in our pretensions and fancied a hotel near Greenwich Village and NYU - in a hotel that Rob had been eyeing for some years. The Washington Square Hotel at 103 Waverly Place is just steps away from Washington Square. The area is busy, diverse, chaotic, a mixture of very elegant townhouses, students and down on their heels New Yorkers. It's a strange, sometimes exciting, sometimes disturbing brew of people.

Excited to be in this hotel, a historic 1902 building which has housed the likes of Hemingway, Dylan Thomas and 1960s folk heroes like Joan Baez and Bob Dylan, we were intrigued by the Art Deco decor. Alas, the room (small, spare and mildly disappointing) was not what we expected. The lobby which promised much does not correspond with the floor we are on, which resembles a downscale south of the border motel with curious white stucco walls and ugly mosaics of exotic flowers. The view is abysmal. The sky is not visible from the lone window. So ... whatever. We are here to have fun we decide, not sit in a hotel room and sulk about our accommodations.

The Stonewall Inn today ... preparing for Pride 
As we approached the hotel we saw the Stonewall Inn - a historic, almost sacred, site for the LGBTQ community. It was the scene of a spontaneous, violent riot on June 28, 1969. The New York City police raided the Stonewall Inn, then a gay club. The raid sparked a riot among patrons and Christopher St. residents which lead to six days of violent clashes and the beginning of today's Pride parades every June across the world.

Rob at the David Bowie Is exhibit
First stop: Brooklyn Museum, 200 Eastern Parkway ... yes, Brooklyn at last. In all the years that we have been coming to NYC we have never been to this borough. "David Bowie Is" is a multi-media exhibit that was featured in Toronto a few years ago and which I never got a chance to see. Rob did and he loved it. This museum is beautiful - brilliantly clean, well designed and spacious. The Bowie exhibit was ambitious but perhaps not carefully curated to my mind. Too many intriguing things to see in too many crowded spaces with too many people. We Canadians, a cautious and fastidious people, would have handled it more efficiently I think in Toronto. The multi-media - TV appearances, movies, concerts, fashion, audio clips, albums and music - so many facets of this talented artist's life - could have been more carefully displayed and given us, the museum goer, a bit more space to observe and appreciate his talent. 

Judy Chicago's The Dinner Party 

As luck would have it, the museum also houses Judy Chicago's The Dinner Party - still stunning and gorgeous to behold. It is comprised of a long triangular table with 39 place settings - a history of women in Western civilization representing both historical and mythical women across millennia. The colours and designs are overwhelmingly beautiful. The place setting on the left above is dedicated to Virginia Woolf.

After the museum, we search for a hospitable place to eat close to our hotel and we find one at Amelie Wine Bar, 22 W. 8th St. Elegant French cuisine served and the place rocking with attractive young couples and groups of pretty girls (what are we doing there?!). Rob ordered hand-seared brook trout with green beans and I ordered Gratin De Raviolis Du Royans (both excellent) accompanied by beer and rosemary flavoured lemonade. The food is excellent but at a price. Not for the fiscally faint of heart. Without dessert or tip the bill was close to $90 American.

We are close enough to The Strand Bookstore, 828 Broadway, my favourite bookstore in the world - and we walk there within minutes. I find a book of poetry among the thousands of books. I have been searching for this volume for a while: Ted Hughes' Birthday Letters.

Close to The Strand is a tiny, perfect gelato place called Amorino, 162 8th St. for pistachio gelato. Small in size but worth the crowded seating for a taste.

We walk back to Washington Square, which is lit up like a Christmas tree and there is an Afro-Caribbean band playing. The odd tourist starts to wiggle and flail, even a few kids chime in. We giggle and text our son, who is with his boyfriend in another part of the state. Not brave enough to dance ourselves we laugh a bit at the eager dancers. He says, "Let them be happy." So we wish them well and go home after a very long but fruitful day. 

Washington Square monument by night

Thursday, May 31, 2018

May Cultural Roundup

The Fourth Estate (U.S., 2018)
Running from Crazy (U.S., 2018)
Tiny Shoulders: Rethinking Barbie (U.S., 2018)
My Mother's Letters (U.S., 2018)
The Return (U.S., 2018)
Black Panther (U.S., 2018)
The Rachel Divide (U.S., 2018)
Joan Didion: The centre will not hold (U.S., 2018)

Wild Writers at Poetry Jazz Cafe, May 1st
Pride Comes Before the Parade Reading - Celebration of Pride, Queen Books, May 27th

OCAD University for GradEx 103 Exhibit, May 5th

The Rules Do Not Apply by Ariel Levy
Voodoo Hypothesis by Canisia Lubrin

Monday, April 30, 2018

April Cultural Roundup

A Quiet Place (U.S., 2018)
Ugetsu (Japan, 1953)
Alt-Right: Days Of Rage (U.S., 2018)
Two Worlds Colliding (Canada, 2004)
The American Meme (U.S., 2018)

Mixie and the Half Breeds, Pia Bouman School, April 15th

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
The Marrow Thieves by Cheri Dimaline

Saturday, March 31, 2018

March Cultural Roundup

Serpico (US, 1973)
The Florida Project (U.S., 2017)

International Women's Day Reading at Queen Books with Danila Botha, Canisia Lubrin, Sofi Papamarko, Gianna Patriarca, Ayelet Tsabari, Jessica Westhead and Michelle Alfano, March 11th

Launch of Arif Anwar's The Storm (HarperCollins, 2018), Bar Mercurio, March 27th

2018 Canada Reads at CBC, March 28th & March 29th

White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America by Nancy Isenberg

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

February Cultural Roundup

Hitchcock and Truffaut
The Newspaperman: The Life and Times of Ben Bradlee (U.S., 2017)
Hitchcock Truffaut (U.S./France, 2015)
The Final Year (U.S., 2018)

Bellevue Square by Michael Redhill

Christian Dior at Royal Ontario Museum, February 23rd 
Martin and Ropelle, Art Gallery of Ontario, February 25th

Metropolitan Opera HD Live - La Bohème with Sonya Yoncheva and Michael Fabiano, February 24th 

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

January Cultural Roundup

Interview with Steve Paikin on The Agenda, January 2, 2018
Interview on TVO with River Fujimoto, January 5, 2018

Launch of Captive Love by Karen Mulhallen, January 14, 2018

The Shape of Water (U.S., 2017)
The Post (U.S., 2017)

Call me by your name by Andre Aciman
The Spider and the Fly: A Writer, a Murderer, and a Story of Obsession by Claudia Rowe