Otta-wah-wah

Saturday night, i watched the gravid moon rising behind the main stage of the ottawa folk festival, with colin linden doing a solo blues set and then sarah harmer and her band taking us to midnight.

Then it was a wildish 40-minute bike ride in the dark along the ottawa river, back to friends Mark & Jimena’s place (he’s an ex-Ukeeite). What a night!

Ottawa’s great fun. I spent hours today walking around and visiting the fabulous Museum of Civilization — fascinating stuff, including a section on West Coast Indian life that made me nostalgic.

I’m off to Montreal tomorrow, to visit my sister. I was going to stay an extra day here in Ottawa, i like the town so much, but the hostel is full tomorrow night. This is a full-on youth hostel (though they’ve all dropped the adjectinve now), with accents from around the world, and i’m the oldest one here by a factor of probably two. It has an interesting French flavour, in that the dorms are co-ed; my third-floor room has 8 bunk beds (16 people in all), split about half and half. I appreciate it; i suspect the girls don’t.

I’ll post some Ottawa pics from my sister’s computer.

Last half of August — tourist season’s almost over, folks. The heady days of September are nigh.

tARTing around

Marathon yesterday seeing the Queen City (Regina) sights. Saskatchewan, with just over a million people, seems to have artists up the yin-yang, and apparently 80% of them are heavy into ceramics. Tons and tons of artfully executed cups and bowls and vases — some real beauts — but i couldn’t help wondering how many more cups, bowls and vases the world needs. I wonder that about a lot of what comes across as “art.”

On the opposite hand, at the sizable MacKenzie Gallery (civic owned, free admission, all Sask. artists), i checked out with glee Kent Monkman‘s multimedia exhibit Miss Chief Eagle Testickle’s GROUP OF SEVEN INCHESA titillating taxonomy of the customs and manners of the European male, turning the 19th century European documentation of North American Indian culture nicely on its head.

Another First Nations eye-popper was Wally Dion‘s multipanel, oversize paintings in his Red Worker series, and the 3D constructs of his Starblanket series (all beautifully made of circuit boards). Worth checking out if the show travels!

Unmugged in Medicine Hat

Arrived at Medicine Hat 8:30 p.m. with a plan for the all-night layover. I asked a cab driver where the movie theatres are: Medicine Hat mall (where else?), about a $13 cab ride. Could i walk there? Oh no, you can’t walk that far. Categorically impossible. So i wandered instead, and immediately stumbled upon a bus loop, and caught a bus to the mall, which turned out to be about an hour’s walk away. What’s wrong with these old folks that they can’t remember life before the almighty car?

To my surprise films were showing till 10 p.m., even on a Thursday, so i caught Wanted, with Angelina Jolie and one of the nondescript male stars i no longer keep track of. I’d read Christy Lemire’s positive review on CBC that made me want to see it.

Underwhelmed. Neat effects, interesting idea (if a bit of a stretch), but the male lead was annoying and the camera work was MTV and A.J. was, well, A.J., as always. Another dozen over-the-top stunts involving people killing people in ever more novel ways: when will we get to the end of that road, i wonder. (With time to kill beforehand, i snuck in to see the first 20 minutes of Hancock, with Will Smith as a down-at-heel superhero in need of a PR makeover, and that one looked better all round.)

Got out at midnight, with 4 hours to bus time. I walked mostly back via the city network of unlit, winding trails through forest and green space — a highly unnerving three hours of pausing to listen for lurking muggers or drunken youth gangs, scouting out flight opportunities into the bush, and berating myself for stupidity in inviting disaster. One hand on my little LED flashlight, knife at the ready in my pocket, stealthing along on the gravel path … i met exactly four living creatures in the whole three hours — two amorous teens, a doe, and a cat — and they all startled the shit out of me.

In my dubious dark-path wanderings i found the very spot where Sylvia and i launched our punt in our 2004(?) row/drift down the South Saskatchewan and Saskatchewan River system, ending up in Lake Winnipeg 6 weeks later. (I’ve got to get that page posted again.) Aty least i think it was the same spot — it was 2 a.m., dark, and the river was quite a bit higher than i remembered.

It was a huge relief to get back to lit streets again, then the sanctuary of an all-night Tim Horton’s. But the layover time flew by like the snap of a finger.

The 4 a.m. bus from Medicine Hat was packed full, to my surprise. People like to travel all night? I barely got a seat, and all but wrecked my neck trying to sleep for the next few hours — it’s not humanly possible — but slid into Regina happy under the sun and eager once again.

Art last!

This walkabout has turned, for reasons unknown to me, largely into a search for local, homegrown art endeavours. I haven’t had much success so far — it takes a while to get into the loop, so it doesn’t happen easily when you’re travelling — but i did manage to get to a couple:

  • An open stage event at Finley’s Irish Pub. Billed to start at 9 p.m. (why i believed that is a wonder), i sat around in a virtually empty bar till 10, when people began trickling in with instruments. We eventually had the requisite first-timer who sang out of tune and forgot half his first song; the regular whose confidence overshadows his talent; and the woman-with-a-great-voice duo marred by bad sound and too many songs. I’m only being slightly glib here; they were all worthy efforts and i wouldn’t have done any better.
    I considered signing up to recite my poem The Battle a Abby’s Butte, which would have gone over well because Abby now lives in Nelson. But i had no local supporters and i didn’t know the protocol, so that wasn’t to be.
    I left about 11:30, overtired, as a 4-piece reggae band (lackluster but for the lead singer’s hat) started up.
    .
  • Abs and i were set to see a play, but she had a rerun of her summer cold so i went alone. Livingroom Theatre inhabits a converted garage off an alley, and seats maybe 30. The twin fish theatre show, well into a 3-week run, was sold out. Written by Bessie Wapp, one of the four performers, it was impressive, much better than i expected in a town like Nelson — rich, nicely crafted, well acted. Loco Phantasmo — go see if it comes near you.
    .
  • In my perambulations i happened upon Craft Connection, a most impressive co-op gallery owned and run by several Kootenay artists. Beautiful big space full of high quality work. I had a long chat with one of the staffers about the long, painful process of getting the facility up and running.
    .
  • I didn’t get to, but at least found out about, the Cottonwood Market Saturday drum circle, which has been running for over a decade. It takes place iin the Japanese garden adjoining Cottonwood Falls, during Saturday summer markets in the park. Sounded great, but the hostel was full up Friday and i had to leave town.

Gangster enlightentainment

If you’re in the mood for a cross-genre mindbender some night, do get hold of British direct Guy Ritchie‘s uncategorizable 2005 flick Revolver. That is, if you’re also in the mood for graphic torture, editing that sometimes looks like it was done in a food processor, seriously twisted egomaniacs, mucho gun battles, and hearing yourself saying “Huh?“and “What the…?” a lot.

The double-entendre tagline is Your mind will not accept a game this big (it becomes a double-entendre after you’ve seen the flick), and the plot involves a con job so pervasive and subtle that even you, innocent reader, are implicated. Plus it’s got voice-over and i lo-o-ove voice-over — though this may be the first time voice-over turns into a plot device.

The film becomes completely impenetrable early on, but your perseverance may be rewarded. I thought it wrapped up neatly, if ham-fistedly, but methinks one either gets it in spades or not at all, depending on one’s metaphysical bent. Critics savaged it. Roger Ebert gave it a rare one-half star in a review that begins,

Guy Ritchie‘s ‘Revolver’ is a frothing mad film that thrashes against its very sprocket holes in an attempt to bash its brains out against the projector. It seems designed to punish the audience for buying tickets….

You’ll have to watch this one twice. But not, dear God, on the same night.

Kudos to Ritchie and his actors for artistic guts. His other films, better received, include Snatch and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.

Thanks to the inimitable Jonesie (wish there were still an active link) for telling me about it: Ego, riding the human experience for some purpose of its own, worried sick about losing its horse.