Sunday, May 27, 2018

Doors Open Toronto 2018

This is the first year I've actually made it out to Doors Open.  Last year I had thought about taking the kids to the Don Jail (kind of down the street), but they weren't that into it, so I did something else instead.  While the weather threatened to rain, it actually held off and was actually fairly nice in the afternoon, though a bit hot.  It looks like today (Sunday) will be a scorcher.  I'm done for this year, but there is plenty still to see today. A general website to see what is available is here

In the end I saw the R. C. Harris Water Plant, which is at Victoria Park and Queen off in the Beaches.  This is quite the palace of water.  There is a general discussion of constructing this facility and the Bloor Viaduct in Ondaatje's In the Skin of a Lion, which I really ought to reread one of these days.  Harris seems like quite the giant, perhaps as influential as Robert Moses, though somewhat less power-hungry (actually willing to give up some of his duties).  At one point, Harris was in charge of road and bridge construction, garbage disposal, the TTC and of course the water works for Toronto.

I biked over to the Water Plant.  I've never been that deep into the Beaches before.  I'm glad I got an early start before the beaches (and the bike path) got really crowded.

Anyway, after a bit of a detour I made it.  One night thing about this site is that is it so big, there are no lines to get in.

The upper building is where the filtration happens.  The lower building is the pumping station.

I may write more about this later.

I decided since I was already on my bike (and fairly sweaty), I should see if I could get into the Don Jail.  In the past, this has been one of the more popular sites with fairly long lines.  I don't know if I just got lucky, or most people who wanted to see it had already seen it last year, but I was able to get right in for a visit.

Of course everyone wants to see the tiny jail cells and then upstairs where they used to hang people.

It was an interesting site and worth a quick visit, but to be honest, the Ottawa Jail (now a youth hostel) is more impressive, not least because one can stay overnight in the cells, which I did many, many years ago.  One of the more impressive things is the Sorel Etrog collection they have, but I will hold off on that for a second post.

I was fairly tired by this point, but I had to go downtown for a concert anyway, so I left a bit early and stopped off at the Bay TTC station, since the lower level was open.  This is usually closed off and only open for filming.  It wasn't the most thrilling site (it basically looked like a dingy station), but just being in the space was interesting.  Unfortunately, this site isn't open today, but it will probably be opened up next year again.

So that was my Doors Open experience.  Pretty good for a first time.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

New cast photos

We have a few photos from last night's rehearsal.

The American male canon

To follow up from the Philip Roth post, this post will list the main works by the most dominant US writers of the 2nd half of the 20th Century, primarily Bellow, Updike and of course Philip Roth.

Philip Roth 
Goodbye, Columbus 1959

Letting Go 1962

When She Was Good 1967

R Portnoy's Complaint 1969

Our Gang 1971

The Breast (DK) 1972

R The Great American Novel 1973

My Life as a Man 1974

The Professor of Desire (DK) 1977

R The Ghost Writer (NZ) 1979

R Zuckerman Unbound (NZ) 1981

R The Anatomy Lesson (NZ) 1983

R The Prague Orgy (NZ) 1985

The Counterlife (NZ) 1986

Deception 1990

Operation Shylock 1993

R Sabbath's Theater 1995

American Pastoral (NZ) 1997

I Married a Communist (NZ) 1998

The Human Stain (NZ) 2000

The Dying Animal (DK) 2001

The Plot Against America 2004

Everyman 2006

Exit Ghost (NZ) 2007

Indignation 2008

The Humbling 2009

Nemesis 2010

In this list, (DK) marks the trilogy of novels featuring David Kepesh, while (NZ) stands for Nathan Zuckerman.  I didn't realize that the so-called American Trilogy -- American Pastoral, I Married a Communist and The Human Stain -- are all partially narrated by Zuckerman.  I thought it was the four parts of Zuckerman Bound, plus The Counterlife and Exit Ghost.  I'm looking into reading those, but would definitely hold off on the American Trilogy for quite a while.  I think eventually I probably will read all of these, but it will take a while.

Saul Bellow
Dangling Man 1944
The Victim 1947
The Adventures of Augie March 1953
Seize the Day 1956
Henderson the Rain King 1959
Herzog 1964
Mr. Sammler's Planet 1970
Humboldt's Gift 1975
The Dean's December 1982
What Kind of Day Did You Have? 1984
More Die of Heartbreak 1987
A Theft 1989
The Bellarosa Connection 1989
The Actual 1997
Ravelstein 2000

As mentioned, I've read all of these except for Ravelstein, which I'll have to get around to one of these days.  I've reread Dangling Man and Seize the Day.  I'm fairly likely to reread Augie March and The Dean's December, which are probably my two favorite Bellow novels.  I'm still deciding if I want to reread Herzog and Humboldt's Gift.  One thing about Bellow is that he does seem to repeat himself (more than Roth certainly), though when he is good, he is very good indeed.

John Updike
(novels only)
The Poorhouse Fair 1959
Rabbit, Run 1960
The Centaur 1963
Of the Farm 1965
Couples 1968
Rabbit Redux 1971
A Month of Sundays 1975
Marry Me 1976
The Coup 1978
Rabbit Is Rich 1981
The Witches of Eastwick 1984
Roger's Version 1986
S. 1988
Rabbit at Rest 1990
Memories of the Ford Administration 1992
Brazil 1994
In the Beauty of the Lilies 1996
Toward the End of Time 1997
Gertrude and Claudius 2000
Seek My Face 2002
Villages 2004
Terrorist 2006
The Widows of Eastwick 2008

Aside from the Rabit novels, which are in a class of their own (and which I should finally read by the summer), I've seen strong recommendations for The Centaur and In the Beauty of the Lilies and moderate ones for Couples and Roger's Version.  Updike also wrote a huge number of short stories.  They have been collected in a two volume LOA set, though I don't know if this does include the Henry Bech stories, or if this was considered a separate product.  For my part, I will read Licks of Love (mostly because it contains Rabbit Remembered) and The Afterlife.  After that the Olinger Stories, which I don't actually own, and then if I still am inspired, probably the Henry Bech stories, then tackle what is remaining from the LOA Collected Stories set.

Bernard Malamud
The Natural (1952)
R The Assistant (1957)
R The Magic Barrel (1958)
A New Life (1961)
Idiots First (1963)
The Fixer (1966)
Pictures of Fidelman: An Exhibition (1969)
R The Tenants (1971)
Rembrandt's Hat (1974)
Dubin's Lives (1979)
R God's Grace (1982)
The People and Uncollected Stories (1989)

So I've read 4 of 12.  To be honest, I have no interest in The Natural (I'm pretty allergic to sports in literature or real life) and almost none in The Fixer.  I do plan on reading the two remaining novels from the list (A New Life and Dubin's Lives) but mostly I just need to work my way through his stories.

John O'Hara
(novels only)
R Appointment in Samarra (1934)
BUtterfield 8 (1935)
Hope of Heaven (1938)
Pal Joey (1940)
A Rage to Live (1949)
The Farmers Hotel (1951)
Ten North Frederick (1955)
A Family Party (1956)
From the Terrace (1958)
Ourselves to Know (1960)
The Big Laugh (1962)
Elizabeth Appleton (1963)
The Lockwood Concern (1965)
The Instrument (1967)
Lovey Childs: A Philadelphian's Story (1969)
The Ewings (1970)
The Second Ewings (1972)

Somewhat similar to Updike, O'Hara wrote many, many stories.  The new LOA volume is a selection, with relatively limited overlap with his Collected Short Stories (1984).  What is somewhat amusing is that both collections include "Imagine Kissing Pete" but not the other two novellas from Sermons and Soda Water: A Trilogy (this is one that I tracked down at the library a long time back, though I can't remember if the editors' judgement was just).

I know that I am not even going to attempt to get through this many novels by O'Hara (and I suspect most of them are not even in the library).  I'll reread Appointment in Samarra and read BUtterfield 8 and then probably the stories in Collected Short Stories, the LOA Collected Stories and Waiting for Winter (which I happen to own).  This reviewer makes a solid case for O'Hara, and suggests adding three more novels to my list (Ten North Frederick, Ourselves to Know and From the Terrace), but I'm not quite ready to commit just yet.

Enough new lists for now.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Philip Roth, RIP

The news today is sad.  Philip Roth has passed away.  He was one of the last writers who still was at the center of US culture (at least as seen from the East Coast).  While it isn't the be-all and end-all of awards, Roth will never be able to win the Nobel Prize in literature (nor did John Updike, another very deserving candidate).  Not to go on an anti-Nobel rant, but I really did lose complete respect for the award and certainly the committee when they gave the award to Bob Dylan, which I thought was completely inane.

Here is a solid obit, cribbed from the NY Times.  I agree with how they have placed Roth at the center of two trios -- Bellow, Updike and Roth (as powerful observers of American life -- from a male, middle class perspective)* and then Bellow, Malamud and Roth (as Jewish American writers).

Of all these writers, I've read the most Bellow (essentially all the novels and novellas aside from Ravelstein) and the least Updike -- essentially nothing, though this summer/fall, I'll finally be tackling the Rabbit novels.  I think I've hit 50% of Malamud's novels and stories, though I'll have to do a tally soon.

With Roth, I've read 6 of his novels, but he wrote so many, that it is only a relatively small percentage.  I had the David Kepesh novels on my reading list, and I should get to them by June, so I don't feel I need to make any adjustment there.  I will more seriously consider rereading Zuckerman Bound later in the year (it was much lower on the list) and then probably add to that The Counterlife and Exit Ghost.  I don't think I'll be reading the other novels loosely in the Zuckerman canon any time soon.

Right now, I am running late, but in the next post, I'll go ahead and make lists of Roth, Updike, Malamud, etc. so I can track them in one place.

* Perhaps long ago, Norman Mailer would have been squeezed in as a fourth, but his career sort of went off the rails.  It doesn't seem as though John O'Hara has as much staying power as Bellow, Updike or Roth, but several of his novels and short stories are worth a closer look.  It's certainly possible that the LOA volume of O'Hara's stories will bring him back into circulation.


While I sometimes slip up a bit on my early morning exercises, mostly because I feel I need the sleep more, I have been doing much better on the main exercise front.  I had a period during the winter I could only drag myself to the gym once or twice a week, but I've been going three times a week pretty regularly, and I have also been biking to work three times a week on average.  I haven't started the swimming up again, though I hope to do that soon, perhaps next week -- or even this Friday depending on schedules (mine and the rec centre's).  I've started slimming down a bit (another belt size at least), though certainly not as much as I had hoped, particularly given that I have been refusing treats at work.  Indeed, I have had to pass up so much cake and donuts these past few weeks!

The frustrating thing is that I had plateaued weight-wise for a very long time and only a couple of days ago had the needle started moving again in the right direction.  I really had hoped that eating better and all the exercise would be enough, but it doesn't seem so.  I'll have to really cut calories to finally convince my body to burn the fat.  I've decided that I will skip a big lunch and just replace this with fruit and perhaps rice cakes.*  While this is not likely sustainable over a long, long period, I am hoping that I will burn enough fat and reset my body to a lower weight, and then I can find a maintenance level that works.  The biggest difficulty will be not replacing all the calories once I get home.  I wasn't so good about that yesterday, but I will start squeezing on that end too.  I've stopped buying ice cream, crackers and chips.  The next time at the grocery store I won't buy any dried fruit or dates (something I have been indulging in a bit too much).  As with everything, there will be good days and bad days, but I am definitely committed to losing most of this excess weight.  I'm just trying not to be too upset with myself for letting it happen in the first place, as that isn't actually helpful.

* I forgot to mention that for the first time ever, I have a co-worker who is fasting for Ramadan.  So we will try to provide moral support for skipping the treats at work.  Not that I consider a fruit diet a fast, but it is certainly less than I am used to eating during the middle of the day, and it does make me a bit cranky.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

First peek at Final Exam

As promised, a few shots taken during rehearsal.

We're actually deciding whether to go with desks (or rather tables) for the students or not.  We probably will forgo desks in favour of seating for the audience.  Of course if ticket sales are very slow, we might bring back the desks...

Monday, May 21, 2018

Bike fixed

A big shout out to Velotique on Queen (near Coxwell)!

I had been noticing that the gears on my bike were slipping pretty uncontrollably (nothing between 4 and 7 would really grab, which is where I spend most of my riding time).  I thought maybe the derailleur just needed to be tightened, and I was going to ask a co-worker.  I happened to be in the Beaches on Sunday, and started heading home, when I saw this bike oasis.  (It's kind of hard to miss.)

While I didn't really want to leave my bike overnight, I decided it couldn't hurt that much to go talk to them about the problem, and then perhaps leave the bike with them, especially as I could take the streetcar home (and then back to pick it up, presumably on Tuesday).

They showed me that the real problem was the chain, which had been quite stretched over the past year.  (I vaguely recall that my main bike shop, The Broom Wagon on Danforth said that it should be replaced in the spring.)  While I could probably manage replacing the chain myself, there is no way I could put on a new carriage, since that was somewhat damaged from the loose chain.  They said they could have it done in an hour, which I thought was pretty amazing.  While I do like The Broom Wagon, they get pretty busy, especially in the spring, and it usually take 2-3 days for them to finish repairs.

I had some time to kill, so I went down Queen and grabbed a bite to eat, then headed to the lake.  I watched the beach volleyball for a while and walked on the boardwalk.  I don't think I've done this in a couple of years.  I made it back to Velotique, and they had finished the repair in 45 minutes!  So I am very impressed.  I would certainly go back if I needed anything bike-related and I was in the neighbourhood.