Monday, May 25, 2015

Blank canvas

On Sunday a group of us from BPYC spent the afternoon in an art class. Maria, the instructor, is actually a grade school art teacher, but turned out to be a perfect fit for us. She brought along everything we would need to complete three different projects: paints, canvases, brushes, palette knives, and most importantly, her encouragement. After a short demo and general advice, she wandered among our tables to lend an eye or  hand when invited.
 
Seventeen participants, most of us from the book club, sat four or five to a table. I found the blank canvases a bit intimidating at first, but took a leap of faith and dipped my sponge into the paint. A circle of white, expanding to iridescent blue and deepening to midnight, became the background for five birches bathed in moonlight. The birches were created using masking tape to create negative space around long, straight trunks. A credit card turned out to be the perfect tool to blend the hues with gentle curves. We waited for the paint to dry, and then removed it for the big reveal – hoping none had leaked under the adhesive.
 
It worked!  I was pleased with my artistic effort, and It was great fun to wander around and look at others’ creations. There was so much variety in the execution of the simple theme. I could almost see the little kids coming out in people’s smiles.
 
During the afternoon we also played with making a few more canvases. Flowers in a field, and hydrangeas in a vase. I didn’t get around to the hydrangeas, but it was a fun approach  that involved blowing bubbles with a straw. The flowers in the field were another technique, using palette knives to give shape to the paint.
 
Maria’s projects were well chosen. Not only were they simple, they incorporated basic techniques for maximum effect. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves and we hope to have Maria return again in the fall or winter to lead us through another session.
 
It made me happy to see how an idea I’d had a few months earlier had taken shape. Last New Year I had made a quiet resolution to take a few art classes. I thought it would be fun to get a group together, and reached out to my BPYC book club to see if there were any takers. There was lots of interest, so I then reached out to a teacher to try to organize an afternoon. The person I found was a bit pricey. That’s when Laura B. stepped up. She found someone willing and able, who could do it for a great rate. Who knows, the session may have inspired more than a couple of members to pick up brushes again. We may need to have an exhibition some time in the future.
 

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Book Babes AGM 2015

What a wonderful weekend at the Book Babes AGM.  Nicki hosted again, with six of us on Friday night and nine of us on Saturday.

I was lucky enough to be at the first meeting almost 12 years ago. There have been some fresh faces come and a few familiar faces go, but there is a strong core.

The AGM is definitely part of the glue that holds us together, and I'm grateful to Nicki to keep herding us cats throughout the years and also to the AGM.

It's great to have a reason to get together, and it's definitely not just about the books!

We chose the coming year's selection but also had a timely discussion about ways that we might renew and reinvigorate our get-togethers. As a result, we'll try a few new things this coming year, and hang on to some of the tried and true things that help to make the club so special.

In addition to a great discussion we also managed to get a nice walk in the Haliburton Sculpture Forest and a trip into town to check out the public library. We popped in to a Thrift store and some of us got some fantastic bargains - Nicolette treated me to a straw boater and Liz managed to pick up some Brazilian leather shoes.

Great fun, great food,  and lots of laughs.

Book clubbing

Can Lit was on the menu in April and May, along with some very compelling characters.

Best Laid Plans, Terry Fallis / BPYC Book Club (Kaarina's pick)
Who makes the perfect politician? In this political satire, it's someone who doesn't want to win in the next election and ends up in the seat by a wicked twist of events. Once in the Legislature, Angus McLintock has nothing to lose. He's not interested in being re-elected, he's not beholden to anyone for funding his campaign, and he doesn't abide solely by party loyalties. Improbable events become somehow plausible. An entertaining premise and a timely read, given our upcoming election.

Flee, Fly, Flown, Janet Hepburn / Book Babes (Nicki's & Judi's pick)
Two senior residents escape from their long-term care home. They're also Alzheimer patients without their meds. The road trip is sometimes comic, often tragic. It is the story of a quest with archetypal imagery thrown in for good measure. Told from the point of view of Lillian, one of the escapees, I often doubted the authenticity of the voice and its portrayal of the disease.  The character goes in and out of the present and past and is at turns beguiled, confused, terrified, competent, incompetent.  Very thought provoking.

House in the Sky, Amanda Lindhout / BPYC Book Club (Lisa's pick)
I started reading this without any preamble or idea of genre, loading it on my e-reader without the benefit of a book-jacket blurb. At first I thought it was science fiction, but by the second chapter it was reading very much like a memoir. And that is exactly what it is. The story of a back-packer turned freelance journalist, who is kidnapped in Somalia and spends a horrific fifteen months in captivity. That she survived and lived to tell the tale is a miracle. Amanda Lindhout has since founded the Global Enrichment Foundation to empower Somali women through education.

Cabbagetown, Hugh Garner / Book Babes (Louise's pick)
First published in 1950, written about the Depression era. I read the '68 version in the early '70's. And now again in 2015. The language is a bit stiff sometimes but the story does stand up, decades later, as a gritty and realistic depiction of tough times. Many reviews rank it alongside Grapes of Wrath or the Tin Flute. The original Cabbagetown was razed in the late 1940's because it was such a slum. Regent Park was built in its place and the buildings again torn down in 2010. The street names and many of the neighbourhooods are so familiar. I'm glad to have reread this story.

Friday, May 22, 2015

The Barber of Seville

COC Four Seasons is a gorgeous performance space, offering not only surface appeal but outstanding acoustics. The perfect venue to experience our first opera, the Barber of Seville.

The production itself had mixed reviews for sets, costumes and stage direction. If I were an experienced opera-goer I might have brought a more critical eye to the performance, but I was happy just to be there and take it all in. Our perch in the balcony had been upgraded for free to orchestra seating, so we had a great view of the stage and the comic events. 
The Barber of Seville  is 200 years old: young lovers scheming to be together and thwart the plans of the older, powerful male to dictate their destiny. Figaro, the Barber of Seville, comes to their aid and the pair are wed in a grand celebration for the opera's finale.

The stage was crowded with colourful players as they took their final bows.

The music is so familiar, having been the soundtrack to so many Saturday morning cartoons (Bugs Bunny in The Rabbit of Seville).

Some of my favourite operatic moments were when the three principal performers are each singing their own parts, clearly not listening to the others, voices rising, expressing entirely different points of view, tenor and soprano and baritone seemingly deaf to each other but harmonious at the same time.
The next day my ears are still hearing the music.

The COC has developed guides to help make opera more accessible:

COC Opera Study Guide
COC Listening Guide