Monday, February 19, 2018

Family Day 2018

It ended up being a nicer day than I expected.  It did sprinkle on and off, but we didn't get caught in any showers.  I was taking my son to the AGO to see the Mitchell/Riopelle exhibit, which opened on Sunday.  It wasn't until just a couple of days I realized this was about the abstract expressionist Joan Mitchell, and my interest in the show sky-rocketed (it had been fairly high already).  In a weird irony, the AGO was simply packed with families with young children (still, I am sure the ROM and the Science Centre were even worse), but they almost never left the main floor.  Thus, the Mitchell/Riopelle exhibit was almost empty (I assume it was fairly crowded on Sunday).

It's quite an impressive exhibit, and I'll just put up a few of the pictures I took.  In general, I was more drawn to the Mitchell paintings, but there were quite a number of Riopelle's that I liked.

Joan Mitchell, Untitled, 1955

Joan Mitchell, Untitled, 1961

This painting by Riopelle was my son's favourite.

Riopelle, Saint-Anthon, 1954

I liked this one (No, no, no, no, no), but I'll have to go back and take some close-ups, as you can't really get a sense of the texture, which was quite interesting.

Riopelle, Non, non, non, non, non, 1961
Here is a much "sunnier" Mitchell than one typically sees.

Mitchell, Untitled, 1969

In the later rooms the paintings got quite enormous, and I am working on piecing together an image of one of the largest paintings.

Joan Mitchell, Canada I, 1975

Riopelle, Large Triptych, 1964
I'll definitely go back a few more times.  I haven't decided on the catalog, but it is a bit pricier than I want to pay ($55).

We avoided the parts of the museum overrun with strollers, but still managed to see quite a bit of the main collection.  I was pleased to see that the Tissot is back on the walls, though a few of the Dufy's I liked are gone into storage.  (Maybe my campaign worked.)

James Tissot, The Shop Girl, 1884

There was actually a Caillebotte on view as well, which certainly surprised me.  As it turns out it is on loan from a private collection.  Perhaps someday it will be donated to the AGO.  While it isn't a masterpiece, it is certainly worth a closer look on my next visit.

They have also set aside another room for 20th Century art, and while I like some of what is there, I wish they would just go ahead and put the Rothko back up, as it is kind of a shocking thing to keep in one's basement, so to speak.

After leaving the AGO, we walked down to Queen.  I couldn't believe the size of this excavation, which makes it look like this church is going to fall right down into the pit (and OCAD may lose its view).

We then went to an Indian buffet on Queen, which was a first for him, but he enjoyed it on the whole.  We then strolled over to Scotiabank Theatre (trying to work off some of the meal).  It turned out that Black Panther was pretty much sold out for the rest of the afternoon.  I have to admit, I wasn't really that keen on going, but he wanted to see it, and I thought he deserved a reward for a great report card (just as I'll take my daughter to the Science Centre next week).  He was a bit disappointed, but I said we'd go in a few more weeks when it wasn't quite so hectic and we wouldn't end up smooshed next to other people.

We got back home much earlier than I expected obviously.  I did take a short nap and then read a bit (finally finishing up Bennett's The Old Wives' Tale).  I probably should have played some board games with the kids or made the banana bread like I had promised, but otherwise it was a decent Family Day.

Sunday, February 18, 2018


I am finding it slightly easier to stick to my routines, a few minutes of exercise in the morning, skipping sugary snacks at work (trying to just stick to fruit, rice cakes and gum) and then going to the gym.  Currently, I'm making it to the gym is 2-3 days a week.  I assume when it gets nicer, I'll be back around 3-4 days.  I'm starting to know some of the regulars.  I still don't see great progress, but I am definitely in better shape than I was a few months back.  It does help that I haven't been sick in a while.  I don't really like going, but once I am there it isn't too bad, and I feel I am on track.

It can be frustrating though (being virtuous).  I generally feel like I've given up so much: meat and alcohol (though so long ago that it isn't painful), diet soda (and basically caffeine in general) and now sugar at work.  (I never started on coffee or cigarettes or really alcohol, so I never had to give that up.)  But I often am a bit cranky from lack of sleep (and it probably is the irregular sleep patterns that caused much of the weight gain in the first place), and this giving up the sugar isn't helping my mood.*  Of course, the sad thing is that people who succeed on their diets are those that ask themselves about every treat, is it worth eating this.  I don't really want to be that kind of person (and for the rest of my life!), but I think it is the only way to stop being fat.  It finally bothers me enough that I am training my will power on it.

At this point, the main hurdle I can see coming up is when I start biking to work again (maybe late March) and I'll be feeling like I deserve a treat for all the extra exercise.  If I can battle through that and just satisfy myself with fruit (and gum), then I think I'll start seeing the results soon enough.  Maybe one of these days I'll start jogging again, but I probably ought to lose a bit more weight first, just to spare my ankles. 

* I actually won a free donut in the Roll Up the Rim contest at Tim Hortons, and I am giving it to my son.  That kind of signaled to me that I am finally, finally serious about eating better.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Happy Year of the Dog!

It's the Chinese New Year, and this year is the Year of the Dog.

The Year of the Dog is actually my year, which is a bit ironic, as I really don't like dogs much at all.  Mostly I don't like dog owners, particularly those who feel that their pets should be treated like children and brought into all kinds of stores and restaurants.  But I don't really like the dogs themselves either.

Growing up we went to Chinese restaurants a lot, so studied the Chinese zodiac on the placemats.  I remember that I thought it would be funny if my brother was Year of the Pig, though he is actually Year of the Rat (not much better, though rats are certainly more respected in China than they are in the States).

I'm kind of hoping that this is a good year for me.  After all, I have a play in the Fringe (and I'm closing in on the last of the edits).  And it seems I am making some progress on pushing forward an interesting project at work.  However, the day itself was not particularly auspicious.  On the way home, I was dealing with too many things like a wayward garbage can, and I dropped my copy of The Old Wives' Tale in the snow.  I'm still pissed about that, though the truth is that, while I am enjoying it quite a bit, I am not particularly likely to reread it.  Thus, I can part with this copy and just download a version from Project Gutenberg.

Then it turned out that my daughter's laptop wouldn't charge.  It took a lot of fiddling around with it (and switching chargers), but it ended up charging after all.  So it won't have to be replaced for a while, though my son's laptop does seem to be on its last legs.  (For that matter, the main desktop computer I use seems completely out of memory all the time, and I probably will have replace it, since it certainly isn't cost effective to try to upgrade it.)

Then someone had unplugged my wall charger, and the laptop completely ran down while I was off doing something else.  This is always annoying, since it usually means having to restore a whole bunch of files when you reopen them.  However, I didn't lose any work due to it shutting down.

Finally, I had really planned on running off to the gym, but I simply ate too much, and it took too long to digest, so I gave that up.  I'll probably go tomorrow.  On the whole, not a great evening, given that my routines were all thrown off, but I suppose it could have been worse.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Quick progress report - Feb.

It feels like I should say early Feb., but only another few days and we'll be hitting the midway mark!  Anyway, it has been a snowy and somewhat cold Feb. so far.  It does look like it will hover around freezing this next week or so, but there is still quite a bit of snow in the forecast.  I'm getting a bit tired of all the shoveling!

I did manage to get to the gym a couple of times this week, even going through the snow and slush.  I might upgrade my performance to C+, and if I go tomorrow for a short visit on the way back from Richard III, then it will go to B-.  I'm kind of hovering around B/B- for the exercising at home.  But the main improvement is at work where I skipped the weekly snack break (called a "fika") on Thurs. and then on Friday I passed up Timbits and some fancy Italian pastry!  So that's an A- for the week.  I guess I finally got tired enough of being fat to make that last change of giving up the bad eating habits (at work at least).  Again, I'm trying not to expect too much visible progress until the late spring/summer, but it feels like I am on the right track.  Most importantly, I think I have a sustainable approach.  I've always hated those shows like The Biggest Loser, since they put these people on diets that are simply too strict to be maintained after the cameras are off and put them in the gym 6 or 7 days a week (as if normal people can keep to that regime).  It's hardly a secret that almost all the contestants end up putting the weight back on again, even if they are at least more active than they used to be.

I closed out the week feeling particularly productive.  We wrapped up a memo on freight planning that had been languishing a bit.  Of more interest to me, I completed and submitted a plan of future work that would last at least 3 years, so I'm waiting to see how that goes over.

While I have two plays to see this weekend (Richard III and Bang Bang by Kat Sandler), my main goal is to finish the rewrites to the script.  I only managed to get a few hours on it over the week, but now that I don't feel I have as much work work hanging over me, I think I'll have the required mental energy.  Fingers crossed.

Today I will launch into Arnold Bennett's The Old Wives' Tale.  In a way I am glad to finally have gotten to this one off my reading list.  This was a book I was assigned literally decades ago in undergrad; I had too many reading courses that semester, so I just skipped it (and sort of bulled my way through the discussion of the book that week).  So it is a way of getting around to some unfinished business,* though at least for the time being I will just be reading on the train/streetcar or while at the gym.  After I get my script edits done, I can focus on reading the book in earnest.  That's it for now.

* I'm sure I would have found the novel worthy back then, but it really is about the progression of time (and one only escapes from growing old by dying young), and I suspect I will take it to heart more now that I have to fight off the effects of growing old (see above: diet and going to gym...).  In any event, this was a book that had gone out of print back then.  The professor actually debated substituting another book, but we managed to find enough used copies to go forward.  However, one must remember this was pre-Web and wasn't even an idea (even email was just in its infancy and mostly only used by researchers and university students).  My mother was living in Ferndale, just north of Detroit, and was able to pick up 3 or 4 copies of the book from local used book stores (after we had exhausted the Ann Arbor shops), which was quite a help for us.  So the guilt I have always felt about not reading the book goes just a bit deeper than letting down the professor; I felt that I turned down an offering from my mother.  I suppose the most surprising thing is that I didn't find the time to get to this novel much sooner, say when I was teaching in Newark and read well over 150 books.  But I have reached it now and look forward to crossing it off the list -- and essentially paying off that minor debt to my mother.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Cats cats cats

Cats have been on my mind for a while, perhaps because I am longing to have one again, even though it probably doesn't really fit my lifestyle.  I certainly haven't cleaned up enough of the study and the basement to the point where I could put down litter boxes, for example.  Nonetheless, I am still thinking about it.

When something is on your mind like that, then you pick up signals everywhere, mostly because you are attuned to the thing you are thinking about.  So, for instance, while I was at Robarts, I ran across a large number of Japanese books with "cat" in the title, and in general cats seem to be held in high esteem in Asia.  While it is a gross overstatement, I do wonder if Japan and China having more of an agricultural background (where cats are valued for getting rid of mice and other rodents) and not much of a hunting tradition among the landed elites (who valued dogs for hunting) swings the balance towards cats.  Though apparently the legend goes that the cat (and the snake) did not cry when Buddha died, so Buddhists are apparently not overly fond of cats.  Here are some other legends about cats.

At any rate, here is a listing of cat tales that I came across in Robarts.  I don't know that I will read them all, but perhaps I shall.  I currently have The Guest Cat checked out.

And I definitely must read I Am a Cat one of these days, as I've owned it for many years.

R Sakutarō Hagiwara Cat Town (NYRB Poets) Mostly poetry and "Cat Town," a short tale (or long prose poem) which Murakami* riffed on in 1Q84
R Takashi Hiraide The Guest Cat (New Directions)
Naoyuki II The Shadow of a Blue Cat (Dalkey Archive Press)
She Lao City of Cats (this is probably the same as Cat Country, also in Robarts)
Tomoyuki Hoshino We, the Children of Cats
O Sōseki Natsume I Am a Cat
Huang Chun-ming The drowning of an old cat and other stories

* Speaking of Murakami, Blind Willow, Speaking Woman and Men Without Women both have stories featuring cats.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

John Mahoney

I'm trying not to make this a blog just of people who passed away, but I have a very small connection with him, having seen him in a couple of performances at Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago.  Most of the obituaries focus on the TV show Frazier, and a few mention his performance as William Faulkner in Barton Fink (which I should watch again one day soon), but only the Chicago-based obits talk much about Steppenwolf Theatre, even though doing live theatre was his main calling, he felt.  After Frazier made him rich enough to do whatever he wanted, he mostly retired from Hollywood and just acted with Steppenwolf.  Here is one that covers a breadth of his career.

I saw Mahoney in Conor McPherson's The Seafarer in 2009 and in Harwood's The Dresser in 2005.  The Dresser was particularly notable as it also had Mike Nussbaum (a real fixture of Chicago stage) and Tracy Letts (the actor/playwright).  I was supposed to see Mahoney in Enda Walsh's Penelope, though Mahoney had to pull out for family reasons and he was replaced by Letts.  Letts did a fine job, though of course I would really have loved to see Mahoney in the role.

In many ways, Mahoney is a prime example for those of us who come to something they love late.  He didn't start acting until he was 37, but made quite a career of it.  I have no intention of taking up acting, but, in a sense, I do aspire to be a more creative person and do more with my writing, i.e. have it produced or get it published, now that I have reached my middle age.

Progress - early Feb.

I have definitely been remiss in not writing down any number of things that belong on the blog, but I have been busy, and it just hasn't been my highest priority.

It's still quite cold out and generally a bit unpleasant.  It might not be so bad if we didn't need boots, but there is just enough ice on the sidewalks (particularly in residential areas) that we just can't get away with regular shoes.  It looks like the weekend might warm up just a bit, though I don't think the snow and ice will melt.

I didn't really want to go, but I did manage to make it to the gym today.  I basically only forced myself since I had promised to go pick up another bag of road salt as we were running low.  Under any circumstances carrying the 10 kg bag would have been a challenge, but after a relatively heavy workout, it was murder on my arms.  I don't want to get too hung up on numbers or progress, but I had thought I had noticed a bit of an improvement (probably more to finally getting serious about eating better at work than anything else), and it does look like I have lost 5 pounds, though I have a long way to go still.  Nonetheless, if I can maintain and even lose a bit of weight, even in the dead of winter when I am hesitant to go to the gym, then things should be looking up in the spring.

I did a bit more on the quilt, though I ran into a bit of a snag where one strip is too short, so I'll need to try to fix that.

Finally, I put in another hour on editing the script for the Fringe.  I clearly need to focus on that more, but it is a bit too late to get to it tonight.  At this point I need the sleep more, so let's it for now.