Thursday, July 31, 2014

Netflix: Misc. Documentaries 1

Just terrific!  Great story, great music, and very well made.  Highly recommended. 

Sad, but thought provoking. Worth watching this for the wake up call (esp. re: environment) it provides.

So-so.  Not quite what I had expected.  It didn't focus only on couples who met via specific dating sites, but also on chat rooms and games.  Even though most of the stories were warm and fuzzy, overall it felt rather dated (pardon the pun).

Skip it!!  Felt like an infomercial-puff piece for The Golden Arches.  Waste of time.

Very good!!  Thorough and frank.  Self-deprecating and wryly funny.  Worth watching.

Monday, July 28, 2014

5th Annual T and T Waterfront Night Market

On Saturday night, a couple of friends and I went to the T and T Night Market.  I went to the first one back in 2010 and missed it the next few years.  It was a treat to go last night, but holy smokes, the event has reallllly gained in popularity!  It was jam packed, and some of the booths had very long lines.

This year, there were considerably more vendors, activities and entertainers than the first time I went.  The event is still primarily about food, and - WOW - what an array!  T and T is an Asian Supermarket, so not surprisingly the food tends towards flavours from the Far East.

I tried something called Tornado Tempura Shrimp, and there is no way at all to eat it gracefully (note the crispy noodles on my shirt).  It was delicious, but I should've splashed a bit more hot sauce on it.  My next treat was a Tater Twist, in this case a purple potato.  It's basically potato chips cooked on a skewer, but these were seasoned with wasabi - yum!  I also sampled an avocado milkshake (didn't really care for it - it's like drinking guacamole), squid takoyaki (meh, but it was interesting to watch it being prepared), grass jelly drink (pretty good), and paprika pineapple (very good - I plan to make this at home).

For entertainment, we caught a bit of the Chinese Dragon Dancers - very cool, and we goofed around in a photo booth.  All in all, it was a fun night and it was cool to try some new foods.  I'll probably go again next year, but will head down earlier and try to beat the crowds.

For more info about the event (and videos) click here:

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Recent Reads: Rock Divide Sky

I haven't read a police procedural in ages and ages, so it was a treat to dive into this! I loved the main character Eddie (Dog-er-dee), and Montreal in 1970 is a terrific setting for a crime novel (heavily steeped in reality - McFetridge certainly did his homework.)  Great mystery - highly recommended!

I'm already a fan of Matt Taibbi's, and this book just cements what I already knew:  The guy can write, and his words will make you think and make you angry.  Injustice meets inequality... arghhhh!  My jaw dropped several times.  Meticulously researched, very detailed, and Matt's tone is tartly delicious.  Anyone who paid any attention to the Occupy movement and anyone with even a passing interest in justice and human rights should run right out and get a copy of The Divide.  

I hated this!  I really tried to get into it, but the characters were hard to like or to even care about.  The dialogue was stiff and unrealistic.  I finally gave up on page 177 and deliberately left it behind when I got off the bus.   

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Making a Big Grey Mess

One things I've always wanted to learn is pottery.  The idea of moulding something while the wheel spins has long appealed to me.  Finally, last night, I tried it for the first time ever, and it was a lot of fun!

I joined a drop in class at the Gardiner Museum (here's the link).  The class is about two hours and costs only $15, which includes all materials (although firing your piece(s) is $5 extra).

I can't say I was a natural, but that hardly matters.  The clay didn't seem to want to do what I wanted it to do, and I sometimes forgot about the speed of the wheel - my foot would lean down and suddenly the whole damn thing spun out of control and a few bits went flying - luckily not too far. The woman sitting next to me was very nice and very patient.  My jeans were pretty much grey by the end of it, but who cares?

I made two pathetic little misshapen vases and paid to have them fired.  I'll go back sometime next week to paint my sad little creations.  I'm looking forward to the next class!

Update (photo) added July 26th:  I returned the following week to paint the works of art I had created in the previous class.  That, plus they let you paint "abandoned" pieces that people made once upon a time, but never picked up.  So, I painted (glazed) four pieces (two that I had made, and two "abandoned" pieces).  Plus, made one new creation.  I'll go back again next Friday to make another mess.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Toronto Fringe Festival 2014

Every year, I try to see at least a couple of plays at Toronto's Fringe Festival, and every year it's a treat to see innovative, honest, creative, low-budget shows.  As much as I love the overblown, million dollar Broadway productions, there's something special about seeing smaller scale (much smaller!) where the script and the acting really survive on their own merits. 

The first play of the evening was a light family comedy called "If It's Not Too Much Trouble".  I liked it well enough, but to me the acting was a bit uneven.  The character Glen was my favourite and the actor playing him did a great job, but a couple of the others need a bit of polishing.  In my opinion, the script also needs a bit of tweaking - it felt like too much was squeezed into a one act play.  That, plus there was one blip in script continuity that irked me. Nevertheless, there were a few good lines and I generally liked the ways the characters were drawn.  

Ha ha Ha!  My friend and I didn't plan to see this one - the show we wanted to see was sold out, so we rolled our eyes and bought tickets to this one.  It was terrific!!!  It's about two men, who've know each other since they were kids, and the competitiveness that permeates their friendship.  The approach (sort of like a boxing match, with a winner declared for each round) was original.  The "referee" was a young girl the men knew when they were growing up.  The actors had their timing down pat, the script was terrific, the execution was great.  So glad to have stumbled onto this play!  

Hmmm... This was okay, but quite different from what I'd thought it would be.  It wasn't quite a musical, but it did have some songs in it (I'd expected more of a musical comedy).   It was a bit of a tongue in cheek, old west story about frontier justice, and while it had some very funny moments, it definitely wasn't a comedy.  However, I liked the characters and I think the acting was quite good, it's just that overall the story wasn't really my cup of tea.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Chico in Unusual Places

I have two little Maltese dogs that I absolutely adore!  Bella (girl, above, on the right) is 13 years old and Chico (boy, above, on the left, with tongue hanging out) is about 10 years old (unsure of birth date).  

Both dogs are toothless - yes, really, neither one has any teeth; this is why Chico's tongue is always hanging out.  Bella usually holds her tongue in, but smacks her lips a lot as if she's looking for her missing teeth.  Despite the lack of teeth, both dogs eat heartily.

Bella is somewhat camera shy, but Chico isn't, and he's very patient when I place him in unusual poses.  

Friday, July 11, 2014

Whackfuck! A good walk spoiled...

I know there are those who think of it as a good walk ruined, but golf has always appealed to me, even though I've only played 4 or 5 times in my whole life. (Several years ago, thinking that it would motivate me to learn, I bought my own set of clubs... they've been gathering dust  in the back of a closet.)

So, since I'm really making a point this summer of trying new things, I finally bit the bullet and signed up for a few private golf lessons.  

Lakeshore Links Indoor Golf  is only about 20 minutes from where I live, and their prices are reasonable, so there was no reason not to give it a try.  

My instructor is Roger Moores, a very patient man who has been teaching golf for over thirty years.  Even though I've only just begun, I can see a difference.  He's shown me how to hold a club properly, and he has emphasized posture and positioning.  Just those two things have made a difference already!  Instead of swinging and missing 99% of the time, my club is making contact with the ball more often than not, or as Roger says: the ball gets in the way of my club.  Either way, for me it's HUGE progress!

I have a lot to learn, but I'm pumped about it.  It will be interesting to see how much I can improve over the summer.

"Golf is popular simply because it is the 

best game in the world at which to be bad." 

~ A.A. Milne

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Queens Plate 2014

Today was event day for the 155th annual Queen's Plate Race at Woodbine Racetrack and I went!  The Queen's Plate is the first of three races that make up the Canadian Triple Crown. (The other two races are the Prince of Wales Stakes and the Breeders' Stakes later this summer).  Although I've seen lots of horse racing over the years, I haven't been to the track since about 1997.  

Today was a real hoot!  The events in and around the track were fun - live music, food booths, themed cocktails, and a lot of people watching!  The people watching was almost better than the race itself.  A lot of people really dressed for the event - almost like they were in wedding attire.  I particularly got a kick out of the women's hats and fascinators, some were beautiful and others were just outrageous (meanwhile I was wearing my tired old cap that I wear everywhere).  

As for the races, well, they were great overall. I placed small bets (generally $2 to show) on a few races. Won a couple, lost a couple.   For the main event I had a triactor, and  two of the three horses came in, but the other one I'd chosen came in fourth - damn it!  In any case, it was a terrific day and once again it was great to do something different.  I probably won't wait another 15+ years to go to the races again. And next time I go to a Triple Crown event, I'll be sure to get a helluva hat to complement my outfit!

Not surprisingly, I was NOT on the guest lest for the FLARE garden party tent at the Hats and Horseshoes event.  Must have been on account of my footwear...

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Not sure what I was thinking...

Today's new activity was Stand Up Paddleboarding.  

Wow!  It was really cool, totally fun, much easier than I expected, and very relaxing!

I did an evening intro course at Harbourfront Canoe and Kayak Centre, which is the same place where I recently took a kayaking course (see previous post).  

I am proud to say that I didn't do any unexpected flips and end up soaked!  I'm lucky I stayed dry and stayed - however precariously perched - on the board (sometimes sitting, sometimes standing).  Because of the broken foot and sprained ankle, my balance wasn't great.  Not sure what I was thinking when I signed up for this!  

Also, the way one must move to get on the board, or to raise one's self from sitting to standing was hard and quite painful on the foot/ankle.  Again, not sure what I was thinking...

Perhaps I should have waited a couple more weeks before trying this, but... Oh well!  I learned something new, and I really can't wait to do it again!  And I can definitely see PI Sasha Jackson giving this a try... and getting soaked!

Note: For both the SUP and the kayaking, we paddled from the inner harbour to the areas between and behind Muggs Island and Centre Island Park.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

New Thing: Kayaking

This weekend I did a two-day Intro to Kayaking course.  What a hoot!  

I did do some canoeing when I was much younger, but this is the first time I've ever been in a kayak and I loved it!  I especially loved it because I didn't flip over and have to do any wet exits!

There were eight students in our group, plus two instructors.  All-together, a cool bunch of people.  

The pace of the course was leisurely and we spent most of our time on the water - Lake Ontario - rather than on land just listening to instructions.  My paddling needs a lot of work - I can't seem to go even kind of straight yet, but so what?  I'll just blame wind and waves.  Saturday was actually a bit choppy and wavy (which to me made it even more fun!), and Sunday was calm but hotter than hell.  

I could see myself writing in a kayak scene in a future PI Sasha Jackson mystery - and if I do, you can be sure she'll tip it over and get herself soaked!

Update (Photo) added July 24th:

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Thank You BBQ

Tonight I went to a BBQ/Thank You Party.  Who was being thanked and why, you ask?  Well, in the spirit of doing new and different things, for much of May and June, I was a campaign volunteer.  This is the first time I've ever volunteered for or gotten involved in politics.  It was a great experience and I met a lot of cool people!

The candidate for whom I volunteered is Arthur Potts (Liberal, Beaches-East York).  It was Art's first time running in a provincial election, and it was a tough riding to run in.  The incumbent Michael Prue had held the seat for many years (too many!)  

I don't know Arthur all that well, but I have known him for many years (we first met in 1998).  When I found out he was running, I immediately volunteered.  I knew instinctively that he'd put up a heckuva fight for the riding.  I also felt from the get-go that he'd do a fantastic job if (when) he won.  Arthur has endless energy and his enthusiasm is infectious!  He also has a knack for connecting with people.  

The election was on June 12th, and waiting for the results was something of a nail-biter!  It was a very tight race, but we all knew that Arthur and everyone involved in the campaign had given their all.  The hard work paid off:  Shortly after midnight, the ballots were tallied and Arthur won by 431 votes.  I'm so glad I was a part of this process and I am truly happy for Arthur.  And yes, I will definitely volunteer again in a future campaign (maybe municipal? maybe federal?).  It was cool getting involved.  

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Broadway Binge

I love seeing live shows, whether it's comedy, music or some other type of performance. I especially enjoy theatre (plays and musicals).  I've been to New York five times in the last two years, and the reason for the trips is solely to indulge in Broadway shows (and some off Broadway, too).  This time around, I saw four shows in two days (2 matinées and 2 evening shows).  

I think I'm getting tired of formulaic, clichéd musicals.  I can handle thin storylines, and I can live with predictability.  But what I disliked about this (and other recent "must-see" musicals) is the music - particularly the lyrics.  The lyrics were repetitive and seemed to be exclamation points for a theme or emotion.  I kept thinking "Yeah, I get it, move on already..."  The songs didn't seem to advance the narrative - or at least not enough to justify the length of a given number.  There were some funny lines though, and the actor playing Lola was delightfully over the top.  

Cranston was great, but the play itself was meh... Maybe it's hard to build suspense and to sustain tension when you already know the ending (will LBJ get elected???)  I kept looking at my watch.

I really liked this one!  I got a last minute rush ticket to see it.  I've never seen the movie and had no expectations about the musical (I'd not read any reviews or anything...) Terrific!  Zack Braff does a great job in the lead.  The actress playing Olive was a hoot, and Cheech was wonderful.   The story, music, set design, acting, costumes and the rest were really good.  A lot of fun - go see it if you get a chance!!!!

Another last-minute ticket purchase, and again, I had no idea what to expect...  "The music is Tupac, the story is now" - great slogan, but I don't know (didn't know) Tupac's music.    

This was great!!!!  I thoroughly enjoyed it!  Holler If You Hear Me was edgy, angry, hopeful, honest... It's about inner-city gang bangers trying to turn their lives around. It's quite a departure from the usual Broadway offerings - definitely worth seeing if you're in NYC.  An all-round talented cast.  

I should also note that Holler doesn't rely on fancy-schmancy costumes and zillion dollar set designs.  It's raw and simple, and that's part of what makes it so compelling.  It's simply a talented cast telling an interesting story set to great music.  Check it out.  

Thursday, June 19, 2014

I'm Bored... So...

You may have noticed that I haven't done very much blogging in the last little while, and perhaps you're wondering why that is.  The short answer is that I'm bored.

I'm not exactly bored with stories and ideas, but I do feel a bit of ennui with some of what comes as part and parcel of writing: being sedentary, being solitary, being quiet.

Don't get me wrong: I do have several works-in-progress, and I will indeed finish them sooner or later, but for now I need a break.  The break isn't just from writing, but also from the auxiliary tasks that writers must attend to, such as tweeting, promoting, etc.  In short, I've been spending  too much time chained to my desk/smartphone.

So, what I plan to do over the next while is try a whole bunch of stuff/do a number of things that are new to me and are different from my usual routines and milieux.  

A few years ago, when I was going through some big changes in my life, I decided to try something new.  I took Fencing lessons, Belly Dancing classes, and I did several courses in Improvisation.  I had a lot of fun doing them all, but what I particularly liked was waking up a different part of my brain, tapping into different talents and skills (or lack thereof.)  I may do them all again someday, or not - who knows?  And maybe some of the things I try out over this summer will eventually work their way into the next Sasha Jackson Mystery, or will provide inspiration for a short story.  

* Apropos the above: Two weeks ago, I broke my foot and sprained my ankle, so methinks Fencing is not in the cards for the time being. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Guest post from Lorne Oliver, author of THE CISTERN - Just Released!

It isn’t always what’s in the dark that you should be afraid of…

When Chrys asks her brother Spencer for help to clean a foreclosed house for the bank, neither expects their lives to be on the line.  It’s supposed to be a simple Sunday: take pictures…clean out the house…collect the cash.  Chrys and Spencer are plunged into a fight for their lives when the house reveals unspeakable horrors.

…Sometimes things in the light are even more deadly.

One of the writers I have always looked up to is Stephen King.  I will first admit that I am not a huge fan of his novels. I’m scared of the dark and scared of the thoughts that build in my head when I’m in the dark, but I have read a few and seen most of the movies based on his novels.  One thing I really enjoy about them is finding the little connections between the novels.  For instance there is an organization called The Shop which shows up in a few of his novels or is just mentioned as being the reason for whatever freaky stuff happens.  A character from his novel THE SHINING appears in a flashback in the novel IT.  Then, also from IT, the character Eddie Kaspbrak’s family used to live next door to Paul Sheldon’s family who is the main character in MISERY.  The list goes on and on so much that people have made ever growing flowcharts dedicated to it.

I accidentally started connecting my novels together with tiny tidbits from the start.  In RED ISLAND one character is reading a novel I wrote 14 years ago and will be publishing later this year.  In RED SERGE some characters listen to a CD purchased from a singer at the Farmers’ Market.  On the CD is a song called RED ISLAND.

In THE CISTERN I took the connections a little further.  The female singer who sold the CD’s in Serge is a full blown character this time around.  She is found in a cinderblock room along with the dead body of another woman.  When Spencer and Chrys find her they also find a case of her CD’s.  Back in Serge, it is also mentioned about a cook coming to work at The Alcrest Gastropub which is more than the central setting in THE CISTERN.  It is a character in itself.

As time goes on there are going to be more connections from one novel to the next.  The hardest part is making a connection to a novel that has not even been written yet.  Though I am working on it.  My thriller and mystery series will be coming together when characters from the other show up at THE ALCREST.

There are a couple other connections in THE CISTERN to my other novels, but you’ll have to check them out to find them.


Chapter Four

 Maeve Campbell’s head snapped up.  The back of her cranium bounced off one cinder block wall then another.  For one brief confused moment she didn’t know where she was.  Then the smell hit her and her body shivered with violence.  Was the smell worse?  Was the water colder?  Was that woman’s body still out there in the dark?
She had been dreaming.  She actually fell asleep sitting in the corner.  And she dreamed.  There were daisies again, only this time they were woven in and out of her long blond hair.  Her mother always said Maeve belonged in the sixties, a flower child reborn.  She stood on a beach and her bare feet dug into the sand as the ocean's waves came over them.  A strand of green seaweed wrapped around her calf.  She wore a shear red dress that flowed with the wind and danced on the surface of the water.  You could see the outline of her body when the light was right.  Her guitar hung from one hand beside her. 
The rotting smell was back.  There were no flowers in her hair, no seaweed around her leg.  She saw nothing in the darkness.
What made her waken?  There was no water dripping from the pipe.  She struggled to hear if there were any sounds, but the hits to her head made it ring from inside her skull.  Perhaps she just woke because it was time.  She longed to be back in her dream.
What was that?  There was a sound.  She knew the top of this room had a wood ceiling and above that was another.  Was it all the way up there?  Was it all in her head?  Was it Enid?  Maybe she had come back to life and wanted revenge for being eaten.
There was the sound again.  Footsteps?  It was so faint she could barely hear it over the ringing.  Her heart pounded.  It was him.  Maybe he was back to kill her.  Maybe he was back to finally do the things she feared the most.  She knew some of what he had done to the other woman.  Her body ached from the games he had played already.  She felt so week
She pushed away from the corner.  Maeve didn’t want this to go on. 
More sounds came from above, something along the floor.  Something scraped like it was dragged.  Another woman?
He’s found another.  If he had another girl to play with then this might be Maeve’s last chance.  She was going to be held under the water.
She rolled forward onto her hands and knees and began crawling through the water.  She couldn’t see, but knew where the trap door was.  She had to get under it, behind it almost so that she would still be in the shadows when the door opened.  Her hand fell on the leg of the dead woman.  Enid.  Her hand flinched away.  She gently put her hand back on the body and followed down the leg to her toes.  At the far wall she let her hands crawl upward until she was standing.  Her weak legs wobbled beneath her.  Her ankle was in violent pain.  Unless she was lucky, she wasn’t going to win.  Maeve knew her only chance was to grab him when he looked in with his flashlight.  All of the possibilities played through her mind.  Either way she was going to fight.  She was going to claw and scratch and kick and bite until either she killed him or he ended it.  She widened her stance, arms out to keep balance.
Where was he?
She felt an almost excitement growing inside her.  She had tried to be nice to everyone her entire life, but she was going to kill the next person that came through that trap door.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Recent Reads: Magical Clear Ranch

Meh.  I liked the voice, I just didn't find the content/topics consistently interesting.  

WOW!!!  This was terrific!  Stellar research, well documented.
An in-depth look - worth reading! 

I like Dorsey's writing & characters, but with this book as with others by him, I find it drags on a wee bit too long.  If this had been about 20% shorter, I would have loved it.  I laughed my head off for the first 50 pages, but as I went along, I just wanted him to wrap it all up.