Friday, August 29, 2014

Glass Fusing - WOW! So Cool!

I keep finding so many fun things to do!  

On August 17th I attended a GLASS FUSING class at The Devil's Workshop taught by multi-talented artist (and ad-hoc photographer!) Melissa - check her out on Twitter  .

I've never tried anything like this before - and it was so cool!  It's much easier to do than you'd guess.  Basically, you use a miniature pizza cutter thingamajiggy to score where you want to cut.  Then you use some kind of pliers more or less to snap off the piece you're working with.  You can add layers, paint them, add more layers, and use different colours, shapes and sizes.  These four pictures are from Aug. 17th.  You can see my six pieces (pendants) in their pre-kiln stage.

Today, August 29th, I finally got around to picking up my pieces after being fired.  The firing takes several hours, and then of course the glass needs a lot of time to cool down.  So cool to see how they all turned out!!!  

I like some of the pieces more than the others, but since the whole endeavour was a new thing - an experiment - I've got to say I am quite pleased with the results!  And keep in mind, I was winging it - I had no clear plan or idea of what I wanted to make.  I just wanted to do something creative.  The three blue ones in the centre are my faves.  I really enjoyed doing this and cannot wait to give it another whirl!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Netflix: Misc. Documentaries 4

This was a bit of a disappointment.  Bukowski got drunk, smoke, wrote, got laid, and then did it all again the next day.  Blah blah... worked at the post office... Blah blah... got tons of rejections slips... He got drunk again, used the word "cunt" lots of times, wrote some more... Blah blah... 

WOW!  So many interesting back stories!  This was fantastic - tons of talent, lots of dark insight into the music biz, a sharp look at a different time and place, and some wonderful bits of trivia about so many songs I know and love (Gimme Shelter and Sweet Home Alabama to name a couple).  Highly recommended!

Pretty good, but... It would have been nice to know more about the internal change - did they REALLY renounce all thier prior beliefs?  Or did they just get rid of the outward symbols in order ot make it easier to find a job.  I think there was sincerity to their actions/changes, but a bit more introspection would have been welcome.

I love dogs, so it's no suprise that I liked this (and my dogs are both rescues).  The focus of this movie is on shelter dogs being trained as guide dogs, service/therapeutic pets.  The dogs are trained by women who are in prison, which was interesting to learn about.  There were vignettes of the people who received the trained dogs in which they discussed the positive impact the trained dogs had made in their lives.  A feel good flick.

Ahhh... stories of redemption... people who make a difference.   The film focused on lifers who volunteer in the hospice program, serving other inmates at the end of life.  I was misty eyed several times.  Worth watching.  I wish the movie had explored questions about sentencing, the roles of prison (punish or correct?), three strikes laws, justice and race, etc.  but I guess that would've been another movie entirely.  Worth watching.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Netflix: Misc. Documentaries 3

This was absolutely fantastic!!!!!  A frenetic stroll through the heartbeat of a place as it morphed and reinvented itself, while setting the scene and defining what's cool.  Five stars!!!!!

Another winner!  I had no idea what to expect and I was too lazy to change the channel.  As I watched, the movie became more and more captivating.  An engrossing story/slice of life.  
Highly recommended!

Interesting yet disturbing.  Scary to have another reminder of just how influential pharma companies are.  And, while I'm not one for male bashing, it's worth noting how the topic is framed almost exclusively as a woman's health problem: something must be *wrong* with her.  
Maybe guys should  just - oh never mind.

A real disappointment.  It was basically just a love fest - and I do adore Calvin and Hobbes, but I didn't need to watch a movie about them.  Better off just rereading some of the old comics.

Meh.  It was nice to see how fond the man and the elephant were of each other, and all warm and fuzzy that he wanted a good home for Flora (and I like elephants), but, dude - what were you thinking when you got an elephant as a pet and then had her in a circus for most of her life?  Glad she got a home, but the owner did little to elicit sympathy.

Monday, August 18, 2014


YAY!  Tonight was the first class of an intensive Improvisation course I just signed up for.  It feels so good to be back at it!

I've taken many improv classes over the years.  I've done a couple at Second City and did the first four levels of improv training at the now defunct Bad Dog Theatre Co.  In either case, I've been away from it for a few years.  Man, have I missed tapping into that side of my brain, into that type of creativity.  So much fun!

Like so many of the other things I've been doing this summer, it's not about prowess or talent - it's about doing something enjoyable (but if I may say so, I'm not terrible at it!)

We did a number of games and activities (making an offer, saying yes, listening, establishing the space/scene) that I've done before and it was cool to feel so comfortable right from the outset doing these things.  Throughout the course of the evening, I became a peeping tom, a raccoon hunter, a champion bowler, and I spiked some chick's drink with a roofie...  Okay, none of that really happened, but all of it was believable for that moment.  

There was great energy in the room (classmates are various ages, various levels, various backgrounds), and everyone was laughing quite a bit.  Awesome!

I can't wait for the next class!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

I ain't no Picasso!

The latest trend around Toronto seems to be drop-in art studios, painting workshops and themed "Cocktails and Canvas" events at bars/pubs around the Greater Toronto Area.  (Painting as a social thing, in a bar doesn't appeal to me at all - I prefer a quieter environment when it comes to being creative).  

Now, like so many other things, I quite enjoy painting (with acrylics)  despite my obvious lack of talent.  Years ago, a roommate and I used to work on canvases together whenever we were bored.  Every picture we made was awful and sooner or later they all ended up in the garbage.

I realized that lately I've missed painting, missed getting in touch with that type of creativity.  So, when I discovered PAINTLOUNGE, I immediately signed up for a couple of workshops.

Now, PAINTLOUNGE is not quite "Paint By Number" for grown-ups...  They give you a sample picture (rated by skill level as "easy", "moderate" or "challenge") and suggest colours and approaches, but you can put your own spin on it.  (You can also go in for solo work and do your own thing.)  They supply all materials, and it's no big deal if you spill some paint here or splash a few drops there - BONUS!

Using a blow dryer to get the background to dry more quickly.

This was Monday night's masterpiece (my picture is on the left).  I wish I had done the background stripes differently - fewer colours and wider bands.  Also my birds look fat, especially the one on the far right!

Again with the blow dryer (but this is from Tuesday night's session).

My painting is on the left - I rather like this one!  I like the colours I used instead of the 
purples and pinks.

I plan to keep up with this whenever I have time (PAINTLOUNGE is not too far from where I live).  I find it totally relaxing and the time just flies by.  I doubt that I'll ever paint anything worthy of framing (never say never), but prowess isn't the point - having fun and zoning out for a few hours is.

* * *
UPDATE - August 22nd:  I had so much fun the first couple of times I went to Paintlounge that I returned today and brought my friend Katrin with me.

Before changing into painting T-shirts and smocks.

Getting started...

Yeah, we totally rocked it!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Netflix: Misc. Documentaries 2

Terrific!  An important topic and a well done documentary.

Wow!  What a guy, what a story, what a movie!  Definitely worth watching.

This one got to me... and I'm not even a cat person.  If you like animals at all, this is worth seeing.

Even though this is an important topic, the film was dull.

This was good.  An interesting story of exploitation, agribusiness and injustice.  It'll piss you off (as it should).

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.

UPDATE - August 22nd:  I finally went back this week to pick up my fired and glazed pieces.  Wow - you really have to put the paint on think (several coats).  The yellow bowl and the orange flowerpot were not made by me; these were "abandoned" pieces that I just painted.

My works-of-art from start to finish are the misshapen vase on the right, the paperclip holder (?) in the upper left and the unpainted dog food bowl for Chico.  I had a lot of fun doing this and learned a lot.  I'll definitely go back again for another drop-in class.  It's a great way to relax and let your mind go.

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.