Tanti Auguri, Birthday Girl!


Today is Monica Vitti’s 81st birthday, so I thought I’d send her best wishes and show her beautiful face in her prime to embellish my blog (besides which, current photos of her proved nearly impossible to find). I’ve heard of her since I was very young, but I don’t believe I ever saw a movie she was in, so I decided to have a little Vitti festival by borrowing L’Avventura (1960), La Notte (1961, with Marcello Mastroianni and Jeanne Moreau), and Eclipse (1962, with Alain Delon) from the library, all in Italian with English subtitles, and all directed by Michelangelo Antonioni and forming his famous “trilogy on modernity and its discontents”. According to wikipedia, Antonioni “redefined the concept of narrative cinema” and challenged traditional approaches to storytelling, realism, drama, and the world at large. He produced “enigmatic and intricate mood pieces” and rejected action in favor of contemplation, focusing on image and design over character and story. His films defined a “cinema of possibilities”. Should be interesting. And nice to look at!


Steinbeckathon Parts 1 & 2

Some time last year, after I finished re-reading The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (a five-star read for me which I reviewed right here), I decided it might be time to focus on this author’s work, re-read some favourites and discover many new-to-me titles. I mentioned this idea over on LibraryThing and quite a few people said they’d like to jump in too, and so the Steinbeckathon was born. A few buddies and I came up with a schedule for the year, thirteen novels in twelve months, highly feasible considering some of his works run no more than 100 pages. I’m a little bit late reporting this, since we started in January of course. Our first work was the short novel Cannery Row in January, which we’ve followed up this month with The Wayward Bus (links lead to the discussion threads). Here are my reviews for those first two novels:

Continue reading

A Change of Plans

I spent a good part of the day with my friend Liselotte today, whom I officially adopted as my surrogate grandmother, since she literally could be at 93 years of age. We were supposed to go to the museum of fine arts to see the latest exhibit and attend some conferences about Lyonel Feininger, who was a very famous artist in Germany at the turn of the 20th century. I’m a little bit shocked that I’d never heard of him before, considering he was a famous cartoonist, then was part of Der Blaue Reiter and taught at Bauhaus among other things, but then, I keep learning something new-to-me every day. Continue reading


My mum sent me the above image link today, which I of course hurriedly followed up on. They have a beautiful selection of children’s and young adult illustrated books; their French byline translates to “Illustrated literature for children, or all those who have been children”. This publishing house based in France has a mandate to promote multiculturalism and as such, pairs Chinese texts and stories with French illustrators in the creation of their titles. I was pleased to discover that I had already picked up one of their books, a sublime affair illustrated by Agata Kawa, called Tigre le dévoué (The Devoted Tiger). You’ll find my short review and some image samples below. I’ve now reserved another one of their titles which I found at the library called Yin la jalouse (Jealous Yin), which will be an introduction for me to the work of illustrator Bobi + Bobi; click on the links to have a look at their sites, which are brimming with wonderful examples of their work. Continue reading

“Mostly Nearly Authentic”

The real thing; NOT taken from tonight's performance.

Well, this evening L and I went to see the Balinese performance and were both immensely disappointed. For starters, it turns out the listing for the show was quite misleading as it was not at all an authentic affair, which came as a huge disappointment and is very strange, considering the event was held at the museum of fine arts, from which one would expect a certain level of excellence. Out of 20 musician, only one was a confirmed Balinese, and maybe one other was (presumably) Indonesian, while all the others were very much local white-as-chalk French Canadian. There were 4 dancers, three of which were from some Asian descent and reasonably good (one had the most amazing hand gestures), while the other a very very tall, very blue-eyed, blonde French woman. The acoustics were not at all right for that kind of music, which sounded like a bunch of loud noise made by countless out of synch percussion instruments, with plenty of cymbals and clanging. When the French dancer came out and did a solo dance in the full Balinese attire, the whole thing just seemed completely incongruous. She was much too tall and all the facial and eye expressions she made just seemed totally ridiculous. The worst part was that she seemed to do a pretty good job of the actual dancing, but it just didn’t come off right at all. Then, to top it all off, one of the troupe’s very nervous members gave not one, but TWO very long, very boring, very inept speeches, mostly in French, which added nothing whatsoever to the performance. He asked the audience to stay after the last dance as the group had apparently prepared “a surprise” for us, and already at that point, I could tell most of the audience wanted to leave, and we were only half an hour into the hour-long affair! And a very long hour it was too. At least the costumes looked good. A couple next to me did leave right before the “surprise” was sprung on us. In one of the two speeches, the so-called presenter actually said that “this show is mostly nearly an authentic Balinese experience”, which made me groan with discouragement. In other words, a major dud. L was especially upset because she felt responsible, since she was the one who had picked out this show for us, but as I said to her, how were we to know we would have this mockery foisted upon us? At least I got to spend some time with my new friend. That was the best part really, along with a simple dinner we had afterward at the Holt Renfrew café. I still hear the clanging noises in my head and just might have nightmares about it. *Big Shudder*

Tea & Company

Today was a very fun day. When I finally did manage to drag myself out of bed (at nearly 3 o’clock in the afternoon!—med adjustment making me drowsy again) I got myself a bowl of cereal and sat in front of the computer to read my email, and thank goodness I did, because I had a reminder that I was supposed to meet a friend at 3 on the dot at a café a few blocks away. I don’t think I ever got ready so fast in my life before. Somehow I managed to get there just 5 minutes late. It’s this place called Lili & Oli which is really laid back; they allow dogs and I just love the casual and warm ambiance. I took these photos a few weeks ago when it was uncharacteristically quiet, but gives an idea of the place. I like to go there with Coco after a trip to the library which is practically next door, and sometimes bring my laptop with me too like most people there do as well.

I was meeting a brand new friend, a girl I met at a bookstore a couple of weeks ago. She and her partner had arrived from England a week or two before as he’s gotten recruited for a big job in the aeronautics industry. She was a sociology teacher and is going through the motions of finding a job here. Really lovely girl with a beautiful attitude and very chatty like me, which makes for a pleasant time. We talked about everything but books somehow, though she did tell me she’s getting together with a book group tomorrow. When I met her, she was looking for Let the Great World Spin by Column McCann, which I heard great things of and which is what they’ll be discussing tomorrow. Michelle told me if this group seems interesting she’ll bring me along next time they get together, which is something I might really enjoy. Continue reading


Pink Reflections, Bishop’s Pond. Watercolour on paper by David Milne, 1920

So last night, I waited on the phone for about 45 minutes to speak to the good people at Apple so I could order my own iPhone 4S; I’ve been due for an upgrade since last December with my current carrier and my now ancient iPhone 3G threatens to give up on me at any minute. Turns out when they said the phone lines would be open to take orders starting at 12:01 a.m. on the 7th, they meant Pacific Time. So I waited all that time because essentially, the crew manning the phones was telling all the hundreds of thousands of callers who also assumed Eastern time the same thing. Figures.

This afternoon, I have an outing with my new friend, 93-year old L. I was supposed to go see her art show with her, and told her I’d call her last week, but then was too low to talk to anyone. She called me yesterday and I said “so when are we going to your show?” and she told me it was over. These are the kinds of things I feel guilty about for the rest of my days. But apparently she still wants to be my friend, since she did call me after all. The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts has added a whole new wing which includes a concert hall, and they are having all kinds of events to celebrate the inauguration this month. I had already purchased tickets in the Spring to go see two concerts with my new friend which are coming up a couple of weeks from now (a Beethoven recital and a Balinese dance and music performance). This week they have a bunch of activities exclusively for friends of the museum, so when I got the schedule last week, I reserved two free tickets for a session of 5 short films about Canadian artists. I had planned to invite L and was glad when she took me up on it. If I could go back and choose between her show and the short movies, I’d obviously choose to see my friend’s art. oy. But moving forward, it should be an interesting program, which is as follows:

Quebec in Silence
Gilles Gascon, 1969, 10 min, no dialogue

Canadian Landscapes
Radford Crawley, 1941, 18 min

The World of David Milne
Gerald Budner, 1962, 12 min

J. W. Morrice
Gerald Budner, 1985, 18 min

The Group of Seven – A Northern Shore
Harry Dunsmore, 1990, 28 min