João Pina

The Guardian posted an album by João Pina. They chose the one that focused on Brazilian favelas/slums, their drug culture and the ongoing conflict between dealers and police. There are slightly better copies of all these pictures on his website.

The depth of focus in this one is great. Andy was explaining such photography terminology to me over Thanksgiving. Ya see, the lens is really wide so it lets in a lot of light lickity split quick, but then shuts again. The result is a front foreground focus with an infinite but ill-defined background drifting behind. Makes the subject appear almost placed at times. (If I'm describing that incorrectly I'm sure some clever camera type can remedy things for me in the rejoinders section.)
Hmmm, maybe it's not that effect. I don't know, I'm not a photog. Nice picture though.

This cemetery shot is fantastic. A landscape that captures the dual nature of the city as the buildings are reflected in the tombstones and visa versa.
Oh Rio, it's going to be a great olympics!

Pina also has some interesting write-ups with his albums, I encourage you to have a look at those.

Did you know São Paulo, along with NYC and Tokyo, has the greatest number of private helicopters in the air? A helicopteropolis, if you will. Rich people chopper to work to avoid both enormous traffic jams and the risk of being kidnapped.


when you have a question about poetry ask a poet

Or at least read what they say.

Who is David McFadden? A Canadian poet who I had never heard of until today...what's the opposite of an oxymoron...internet research, and...


Thanks to Monkey Farm his deets were sent my way.

She's in the midst of a poetry course right now so undoubtedly has all sorts of goodies she can share, but started me off with some great news, just the sort of thing I want to hear...

"Also we had a guest lecture in class last night and there was a brief discussion of clarity in poetry. He told us that there are levels of obscurity in poetry, and that the more you study it the more you can get out it. But he also said that the best poetry - the stuff that will stand the test of time - will have surface clarity, and then underneath that layer upon layer of complexity."

She then mentioned Mr. McFadden and was kind enough to send me a link to his book, recommending Margaret Hollingsworth's Typewriter as an excellent place to start.

I was eating scrambled eggs in the Shamrock Restaurant
and the eggs tasted like Chinese food
so I said to the waitress I'm a person
who likes Chinese food but doesn't like
my eggs in the morning to taste like chicken fried rice
and she laughed and said it must have been
the green onions and suggested the next time
I come into the Shamrock for breakfast
I specify that I want Canadian green onions
with my scrambled eggs or I'll get Chinese again

and I said there won't be another time,
this is it, I'm a widely respected blah blah and blah
and well-regarded in the community too
and shouldn't have to subject myself
to such bad food. I'm finished, I said.
This used to be my favourite Irish-Chinese restaurant
in the entire West Kootenay
but this is it, I'm never coming back --
and through the kitchen door I could see
the Chinese chef covering his ears with his hands.

And so I went to pay my bill
and this is the really embarrassing part,
this is why I'm writing this poem
by hand, pencil on paper, because Margaret Hollingsworth's
typewrite has a three-prong plug
and all the outlets in the house are two-prongers
and her adapter is up at the college
and I begged her to let me cut the third prong off
so I could use her typewriter
because I had a simply overwhelming
desire to write this poem, and she refused
and I told...oh, never mind all that.

This is the embarrassing part. After complaining
so vociferously about the eggs I went to pay my bill
and discovered I had no money with me
so I had to go home and get my wallet
and bring it back to the restaurant
making myself a liar for having said
this is it, I'm never coming back.
The waitress was very nice about it all.

Is it hard to write poetry?
Yes, I would say it is. For instance
in this poem I didn't know whether to start
by talking about the scrambled eggs
or the Smith Corona. And I didn't have
a lot of time to think about it
because I simply had to start the poem,
it was that urgent,
and then you have to torture yourself
wondering if it's all right to write about
writing in a poem and you keep resolving
never again to write about writing
and you always break your resolve.
It's as if writing has a will of its own
and wants to be written about
just like Margaret Hollingsworth's

Great stuff, so clear and seemingly simple. And the book was nominated for the 2008 Griffin Poetry Prize.

It's great when you find out you aren't alone. Others are pondering poetry's absurdities as well, and And AND, the introduction to McFadden's book compares him to Frank O'Hara (see the below post if you've already forgotten) in the first line! Oh universe, you are a tricky monkey.


poetry and the TTC (not necessarily in that order)

Where does one rant?

Is it here?

Okay. 2 rants. One price (free). Oh, and there is no connection between the two.

Rant number 1: TTC fare increase

I'm not mad at the TTC, that would be dumb. Why would I be mad at an organization whose job it is to move people from point A to point B. They're not trying to make a shit-ton of money while doing it, just break even. And yet, people are losing their minds that fare prices are going up. Going bananas at the temerity. How dare they charge me more?

Instead, these people should be getting mad at multiple levels of government that claim to support public transit but fail when it comes to anteing up the money. Either giving nothing or attempting some misguided tax write-off silliness.

Public transit is great. Public transit is vital for a connected, thriving city. To say nothing about where greening initiatives would be without it. Public transit needs more respect.

And, as an aside, streetcars make such a great noise when they're zipping along. It's a hum, but with a tenor cadence, throbbing in the underbelly of the sound. I like the word thrum to describe this noise and have been using it a lot lately. Any other suggestions?

Rant number 2: poetry

What's up with that stuff?

I'm trying to read some right now, but I miss a lot. Some of the poems I fall into, I find the cadence, understand the words and get what's going on. Some remain obscure to me, but although I try to parse a meaning from the metaphor and fail I still find pleasure in the flow and lyric of the thing. Then finally, there are the poems I don't get, at all.

When I read a poem I adjust my reading style, trying to savour the word and form laid before me, and avoid my normal quick read that hunts for narrative and drops details in the process. Sometimes it even works, as a line's structure pokes me in the eye, a word choice makes me smile or nod. My appreciation for poetry ends up stemming more from self-satisfaction at gaining entry to an imagined poetry in-group than any sense of actual understanding.

It wouldn't concern me, but there are way more poems I have no clue about than ones I get. Makes me worry I'm doing something wrong. Does anyone have expertise in poetry, whether reading or writing? Would they like to start a poetry circle? Or maybe just lend or point me towards a book.

How to Expose Your Soul to A Raging Tempest: The poetry teachings of Franz Léderée

Maybe that book exists?

Heh, who knows. In the meantime I guess I'll just keep reading and experimenting and seeing what results. Poetry is difficult because of its density. It requires and sometimes demands re-reading. Like the rest of my daily existence my adventures in poetry will be better served by living with the moment, re-reading to find additional meaning, having patience with what is before me.

Watched this documentary about Leonard Cohen and he apparently spent (spends?) 5 hours a day writing and editing. I'm sure that's part of the answer to my dilemma as well. He is also described as a "very confident young man" who keeps all his correspondence and makes sure to have many photos taken; the duties of one who considers himself the record keeper of a generation but with very little ego, apparently.

He also claimed to have chosen a path infinitely wide and without direction. Sounds like me, so that's gotta be a plus!

(EDIT: I've taken off the Leonard Cohen video because its automatic play function was getting a bit annoying. You can still watch it here.)

And let's sign off with a little taste of some of the good stuff I'm muddling through, the Frank O'Hara poem Mayakovsky was used in an episode of Mad Men. Or at least the 4th stanza was. Caught my ear. So hear it is in word form.

My heart's aflutter!
I am standing in the bath tub
crying. Mother, mother
who am I? If he
will just come back once
and kiss me on the face
his coarse hair brush
my temple, it's throbbing!

then I can put on my clothes
I guess, and walk the streets.

I love you. I love you,
but I'm turning to my verses
and my heart is closing

like a fist.
Words! be
sick as I am sick, swoon,
roll back your eyes, a pool,
and I'll stare down
at my wounded beauty
which at best is only a talent
for poetry.

Cannot please, cannot charm or win
what a poet!
and the clear water is thick

with bloody blows on its head.
I embraced a cloud,
but when I soared
it rained.

That's funny! there's blood on my chest
oh yes, I've been carrying bricks
what a funny place to rupture!
and now it is raining on the ailanthus
as I step out onto the window ledge
the tracks below me are smoky and
glistening with a passion for running
I leap into the leaves, green like the sea

Now I am quietly waiting for
the catastrophe of my personality
to seem beautiful again,
and interesting, and modern.

The country is grey and
brown and white in trees,
snows and skies of laughter
always diminishing, less funny
not just darker, not just grey.

It may be the coldest day of
the year, what does he think of
that? I mean, what do I? And if I do,
perhaps I am myself again.

Hopefully I got that all right. Goodnight. Work starts anew demain. Hard run in to Christmas.


Artsy fartsy stuff in the city

Thursday night was Entire Cities' album release party.

Literally a vinyl record album. The CD has been out for a while.

The show was great, the opening act Doctor Ew was his standard level of awesomeness, I missed Tonka & Puma's set because I was out looking at Daydream's brother's new car but I'm sure they were keen beans.

Sleeping 2.5 hours that afternoon in preparation for an evening and the following morning left me in a funny mood. I was wandering and jittery after the walk to The Garrison, actually hopping from foot to foot for much of the evening and putting people off. I was glad when the music started so I could start bipping and bopping. Sometimes I think it's great being scatter-shot and weird. I don't do it on purpose but when it emerges I have fun with it. Lends me an air of mystery, gone before you can grasp my essence so that you're left wanting more. Perfect!

Or I'm weird.


Last night I went to the Sweatshop Hop residency at the Concord Cafe. Basically a space for anyone to do anything. Music, comedy, interactive art exhibits, etc. This event happens once a month and I may be looking into doing something for it in the new year. Right now I'm thinking tidy up some prose and doing a reading, maybe with Daydream as accompaniment.

Basically I'm excited.

There are things happening.

I no longer know if they're of consequence.

I'm trying not to care.

Instead I'm trying to do, to put out there, to let go of an imperfect creation so its void can be filled by something else...better?

Maybe the romance of the night, the magic of music and laughter overtook me.

Or maybe I'm just finding the right people, creative and supporting, to hang out with.


Aside from that, work is good. About to get busy and different as we institute our Christmas programs. I don't know exactly what this means, but have a few hints: more children, madness, tighter schedules, and cookies.

Sounds like a good time.


Trampoline Hall

Went to Trampoline Hall for the first time last night and enjoyed myself thoroughly. All the speakers were great and I walked away feeling depressed! What more could you want in an evening out? Depressed, but only because there are so many amazing people out there doing cool things and I continue being me. I think it's a good sadness to have, one that will inspire. OR crush my very soul and encourage me in more lawerly pursuits.

The speakers were:

Mary Albino - The Mean Problem

Instead of a diatribe about the film Mean Girls we received a lesson on the dangers of averages, what can be lost in the morass of numbers and summation.

Christine Pountney - Lot's Wife and the Art of Looking Back

Starting with an action many people do when leaving a building, looking over their shoulder in the direction they aren't going, launched us on a discussion of paths not taken, nostalgia and dementia, memory and the joys of living if not in, at least with the past.

For her a life gains stability and relevance only so far as all the experiences leading to you-now are remembered and cherished. Even/especially the bad ones.

Kristy Willow - Transitioning

Coming from the personal experience of discovering her dual-sexed nature following a heart attack and 28 minute death at the age of 50 plus, the talk focused on finding doors and going through. Choices can be good or bad, but if it turns out being the latter there's always the next door to try.

After the show Daydream and I walked down Ossington, contemplating all that had passed our ears and falling into our traditional staccato banter about where we are going, what we are doing and how we should get there.

As I say above, I don't know if what I saw at the event scares or inspires. Maybe both. But it's certainly better than the stare at the computer screen, indecisive, nothingness that seems to fill too much of my downtime. I still have no idea about anything except now I know I need to keep pushing myself. Out there. I need to see people do what I want to do, but more amazingly.

Maybe I'll just get a pleasant evening out of the deal, but the hope is it will push me toward something significant of my own.

Daydream reminded me I need to get away from the endless end result speculation that haunts my being. Instead of creating to create, doing things because I love them, there's a hint of doing things because it will bring me success. Money-whore and attention seeker. A man without confidence who needs the constant reassurance and praise of those around him, and if only the whole world could see his majesty, then they too would throw up their arms and lose their minds in rhapsodic praise.

Too often I miss the now, focusing instead on the awaiting future or perhaps fester upon the past I've let slip me by.

Oh you. Coming at things all wrong. If I'm going to write, I need to write without goals for a little while, create without direction and see what comes. Answer some big questions; If I'm not doing this stuff, is it because I see it as a chore? Do I even have the passion I claim? Do my passions lie elsewhere?

Questions I've asked and answers I've known, leading nowhere for years. Let's see what I can do with them this time round. Remember, getting nowhere can take forever and I'd do well not to waste eternity.

The mental anguish and joy of an evening well spent, summed up in a wee Twitter poem, re-posted here because not everyone reads the sidebar and what's the internet if not an echo chamber to reconfirm existence on a regular basis?

I need to find a crack to pull myself through WORDS need actions or die BUT the streetcar thrums and the city speaks of nothing but choice
(I even maintained the silly caps on instead of punctuation format!)

As Daydream said, Heh, it's a very nice bit of self expression via high tech communications.

For the time being that will have to do.


The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair

Oh, The Royal, The Royal...where to begin?

I was there because of the Greenbelt display and my close association with the TRCA through BCPV meant I was (somehow) allowed to sign myself up for a bunch of shifts. Said shifts consisted of me reading my book on Tuesday, gaily handing out activity books to children on Wednesday, then aggressively handing out activity books to children while forcing others to learn about the Greenbelt on Thursday.

How do you force someone to learn about something? Basically accost them as they walk past, ask them if they are interested. Then, before they answer, tell them that they are in fact interested until they enter the display area. If that fails, telling them that learning about the Greenbelt and local food is the only way any of us will survive the zombie apocalypse also works.
(The point I was trying to make with the zombies is that a closed US-Canada border would see Toronto out of food in 3 days, I know zombie apocalypse doesn't explain this reality but it's all razzle-dazzle with kids these days.)

Not the most strenuous or all-consuming work so I had to find other things to keep me occupied.

Checking out the hot and heavy cock on cock action in the central ring:

Also, imagine these images facing one another...I'm too tired to make it work.

Food samples: Every break I was off touring, loading crackers with salsas and sauces, pretzels with spicy mustards, and stuffing my face with all sorts of cheese (goat cheese was big with lemon and cranberry and all sorts of party flavours). I didn't buy anything. For that I suck. Oh well.

Watching the Mennonites: No real commentary on this, it was just nice to see them about. Also, hearing that loverly German derivation they work amongst themselves is always mighty keen.

Rural chic: I forget how people look different sometimes. Growing up on a farm just outside Keady I like to think I'm well acquainted with rural Ontario life. I've hunted groundhogs, watched tractors bale hay for an entire afternoon, started then had to stomp out a grass fire on my property because the fire department was a 40 minute drive away, and as a result have fond memories of that culture (?) no matter how slick, urban and badass I've become.

I don't want to try to illuminate what I mean here, just acknowledge that differences exist and thank the world for people in all their belt-buckled, permanently-hatted, stern-faced, same-haircut-since-1964'd glory.
Milking: The cows hanging out, waiting to be shown, still need to be milked regularly lest they burst. Interestingly, they need to be full to the right degree before being judged. A challenging life.
I wasn't THAT interested in the milking process. There were, however, some beautiful girls doing some milking. I wanted to write a hilarious commentary on milk maids and eroticism, but now I can't. Oh well.

They did remind me, in a roundabout way, of the straight to the point nature of marriage and relationships for some. You find a spouse to partner with on the farm. You make babies with said spouse so there are more people able to lend a hand. Other concerns, aesthetics or soul mate status for example, tend to be outweighed by something termed necessity.

Dear lonely individuals interested in a bit of hard work and a warm body to sleep beside, farmers need you!

Pigs: saw some pigs. Here are little ones.
The Horsey Set: A huge part of The Royal are the horse related events. I saw some prancing wee fellas and some big work teams, I even saw Ian Millar (THE IAN MILLAR) up close and personal in the warm-up ring.
I also tried to take a really great photo. The punch line would have been about flanks, and it would have involved a combination of the following two images...you figure it out!
So many flanks...

But back to the horsey set. Evening shows at The Royal have an additional ticket attached and when I was leaving around 5, people were starting to show up for those. People were always dressed to the nines and sometimes beyond, in tuxedos and gowns.

I think this part of the fair is a great vestige of old Toronto (or perhaps old Ontario more broadly). All the self-styled gentleman farmers from around the province toodling down to Hog Town for The Royal, celebrating their good breeding and that of their animals with lots of booze and party.

Nothing says juxtaposition like a bar in a barn with a sign at the door saying "Private Club - Dress Code in Effect".

I'm expressing these ideas based purely on a general sense I have of Toronto social history. I wonder how significant it is on social calendars now versus 10, 20 or however many years ago? I wonder how many non-white people attend the glorious evening galas? Do any of the head-scarfed ladies guiding their children around the fair at 2 in the afternoon come back in the evening? (Doubtful on that last one.)

Oh jeeze, now I'm thinking of all the interesting and fun research directions that could emerge from a socio-historical analysis of The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair. Maybe I do belong in academia, or maybe I just need to start a marketplace where I can sell people thesis titles.

Okay, time to bring things back down...way down. I had an unfortunate habit of taking pictures of animal's behinds. With the fowl it was because I wanted to make this fella look intimidating. Monster bird!
With this cow I just thought the udder looked funny, it was only later I noticed the...amazed face. Do you see it?
Then I became entranced with this cow's hips.
No one seemed particularly perturbed (and I assure you there were many more photos than these three), but maybe people pegged me for a judge or something. And for the people that think the hips look a little skinny, don't worry. These fine ladies are well-fed, but they are bred to give milk and milk doesn't need big fat hips.

And finally, it's time to play a game! What is it?
A map of an island off the coast of Scotland?
Okay, maybe an archipelago. With some weird undersea ridging.
Why, that's the craziest map I've ever seen!
Oh, it's a cow.

A freshly shorn cow looks so dapper and given that this one was standing right beside the salon (or what passes for a salon in a cow barn) she was the dapperest of all. I wonder if the guy doing the cutting is a full-time cow trimmer or he's just a farmer with a passion.

And where were all the bulls? I didn't go looking but I'm willing to bet farmers leave the bulls at home. Too much animal, too much danger. Save'em for the rodeo.

I think I've said enough. Other stuff happened too, but that was just me flirting with random ladies and we all know how that ends. HILARIOUSLY. So if I'm going to write about any of that it'll get its own post.


I don't have anything to say, but...

Check out what Toon has on her mind and the pictures she took the other night for niXon's b-day party.

Blog posts are so easy to write!

(Is it really obvious this is just an excuse to link to a nice picture of me? Well, maybe now.)


Nice sweater

Pardon me for imposing an experimental structure on this post and on my day. Writing in full sentences just wouldn't feel right.

Ended up by the island airport giggling
uncontrollably at the ferry route.

Toot toot and you're there.

My one regret,
not waving at Toronto-businessman-to-a-T,
if only to see how heavy the briefcase was.
Went up the CN Tower for free
-the benefits of working at a pioneer village are beginning to show-
and the lady that took my picture at the bottom said she liked my sweater.
It's a basement find
I told her so
She doesn't know which basement though.

Surveilled the city. It's a lovely city.
Looked every which way
and stood on the glass floor.
No one trying to break through from below
but it holds 14 hippos from above.

Spent a lot of time grinning at myself and others.

CN Tower information displays: casually ignoring recent construction since 2004.
Back on the ground a man outside union station.
I liked his eyes
or what they used to say - today they were confused.

I offered him a hot dog but his stomach was upset,
I asked him what he'd be doing later with the dollar I dropped,
a pop or something,
I suggested ginger ale to settle his tummy
and he liked my sweater too.

I didn't mention the basement,
don't think he'd care.
Should have patted his back when I wished him a good day.
Touch is nice.
Into the banking core,
my suit against their's and mine won!

I was able to stand outside, staring up for as long as I wanted.
Black steel is a good steel
to use
if you're building things skywards.

While they had to scuttle past,
forced inside by cotton and wind.
Trekking home, I was self-stuck on University's median
joined by other people,
light-trapped, 30 seconds at a time.
I considered dancing for my captive audience, but ended up smiling at them all
Funny poutine in my stomach and existential philosophy via text,
a Queen street frame of mind for the last stretch home.
First time I was loathe to walk Dundas
first time a sense of street struck me so powerfully.

Looking in all the clothing stores
but interested in pretties and music,
not clothes.
Hello pretties, I was adventuring today!

Then through the park, instead of directly,
leaping up the stairs,
the knee now feeling better.

And dogs,
And home,
And rest,
And supper,
And so forth.
And my room's cold and I'm putting on my sweater.



I had a costume. That's an important part of the evening. I was a mountaineer?

I found the sweater at a second-hand store on Bloor. It's for a cyclist, with fun pockets in the back for protein bars and drinks, so originally that's what I was going to be. But then I put on the hat, Fancy suggested a climber and I agreed. Also, the rope is such an easy prop and not one I have to carry all night.

A key consideration on Halloween.

Finally, nice gams.

Went to Comedy Bar, The Boat, then back to Comedy Bar and had a good time. Not a mind-blowingly awesome time, but a good time. The problem is being tired.

If you're tired you're less likely to pop out of the chair, bounce around the room and interact with people. It's one thing to interact with those you know, but it takes more energy to put yourself out there and start talking with new people.

So I guess the problem is being tired and not knowing enough people. Next time I'll be less tired, become the best of friends with EVERYONE then follow that up with an exhausted visit during which I'll reconfirm my newfound friendships by having low energy repartee and banter.

Can't wait.

We switched venues midway through the evening because Annie was due for a Sweatshop Hop shift at The Boat. We arrived, aerobicized and departed pretty quickly but there was still enough time for me to get my crush on. Just for an instant, just the one person and just as I was leaving.

Methinks my strategies around babes need some work.

And that's where not being so tired comes in. Right? Or, at least that's part of it. Sorting out my own muddled state and what exactly I'm looking for couldn't hurt things either.

Ah well. I'm sure I'll figure out what I'm up to soon enough. In the meantime there's lots to keep me busy. Tomorrow I'm off to Kingston for the day to meet with students and tell them how to write better papers.

Write better papers kids! I'll say. And they will giggle. Giggle and fail.