Posts Tagged “Toronto”

08w07:5 Michael Redhill's Consolation

by timothy. 0 Comments

Consolation by Michael Redhill

York St to Queen 1857
Looking up York St to Queen.
Osgoode Hall at the Intersection, 1857

York & King 2007
Looking down at York and King, 2007.
The area above today.

The Earliest Known Photographs of Toronto | Toronto Archives

Old photos inspired Michael Redhill’s ‘One Book’ Consolation | Geoff Pevere
“Redhill recalls being thunderstruck by a series of photographs he discovered in book by William Dendy called Lost Toronto. A 360-degree panorama consisting of thirteen shots of the city taken in 1856 from a hotel at the corner of Simcoe and York Streets, the pictures sparked in the author a kind of hypothetical reverie of the city that once was. In fictional form, the photos would also come to play a key role in Consolation. ‘Seeing those pictures,’ recalls Redhill, ‘And reading Dendy’s narrative of what happened in those streets and in those buildings and in those shops and who lived in that city, it just brought it all to life.’ Considering the book is so profoundly motivated by the author’s passionate conviction to know the city through its past, and to protect that past from further acts of developmental sabotage, Consolation’s selection as the inaugural book in the community-wide ‘Keep Toronto Reading’ campaign touches Redhill considerably. ‘As you can imagine it’s a huge, huge thing for me,’ he says. ‘It’s big for me because it’s the city of Toronto that chose it, it’s the Toronto Public Library where I did a lot of my research who chose it, and it’s also especially sweet because a year ago, by January of 2007, the book was dead. It had had its run, for whatever it was worth, in Canada, it had not done well in the States and it was not looking good in England either.’ He pauses, no doubt scanning well above storefront level for the right metaphor. ‘It’s like being showered with gold.'”

Keep Toronto Reading 2008
“We encourage all Torontonians to read Consolation by Michael Redhill. Then join in discussions and events throughout the city about its themes, issues and sometimes controversial ideas.”

Panorama | CBC News at Six
Consolation was inspired by a panorama of 13 pictures of the city, taken in 1856 from the rooftop of an inn that once stood at King and York street. These images are on display at the Toronto Reference Library. They’re arranged in a partial circle, allowing you to walk into the centre of them, and get a sense of what the city must have been like back in 1856. The first thing that struck me was seeing Lake Ontario. So that’s what it looks like. Before it was pushed a kilometer to the south, and the city erected highways and condo towers in front of it, it had quite a presence on the town.”

Torontoist Reads: Consolation
“This is first installment of a new Torontoist column – Torontoist Reads – that will feature reviews of new books by Toronto authors and interviews with the authors themselves. This week, Torontoist is pleased to feature Consolation, by poet, playwright, and novelist, Michael Redhill. Redhill is the author of the novel Martin Sloane, the short story collection Fidelity, as well as several collections of poetry and the plays Goodness and Building Jerusalem.”

Hero: Michael Redhill | Torontoist
“Torontoist is ending the year by naming our Heroes and Villains of 2007––the people, places, and things that we’ve either fallen head over heels in love with or developed uncontrollable rage towards over the past twelve months. Get your dose, starting Boxing Day and running into the new year, three times a day––sunrise, noon, and sunset.”

One Book: Spacing Reads Consolation | Shawn Micallef (Feb 1 2008)
Spacing Magazine is excited to announce our participation in the Keep Toronto Reading ‘One Book’ campaign. An initiative of the Toronto Public Library, the aim is to get as many people as possible reading Michael Redhill’s Consolation — much like what Oprah does with her book club, but on a civic level.”

One Book: Hallam of Toronto | Todd Harrison (Feb 4 2008)
“Michael Redhill makes use of a few familiar Toronto surnames for characters in Consolation. Perhaps most prominent of these is J.G Hallam, late of Camden Town, sent to Toronto by his father to open the first New World branch of his family’s apothecary business. The real Hallam, the one for whom the street in the west end is named, was the man who led the campaign for the creation of the Toronto Public Library. John Hallam was born in 1833, and came to Toronto from Chorley, Lancashire, England in September of 1856. He started a business as a hide, wool, and leather merchant, and eventually became an alderman.”

One Book: The Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library | Jessica Duffin Wolfe (Feb 8 2008)
“The Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library is a multidimensional map of the city: it contains documents from every locale in Toronto, but also every moment. As Michael Redhill’s Consolation flips back and forth between eras, the library is a kind of waystation. While the late twentieth-century character David Hollis spends all his time studying the Toronto archives at the Thomas Fisher Library, the mid nineteenth-century characters can only wonder if their city will ever be established enough to keep those archives. To them a city library is a futurist dream. While Thomas Fisher himself also lived in the mid-nineteenth century, he wasn’t an archivist. He came to Canada in 1821, owned a mill on the Humber river, and was active in civic affairs. The library has his name because of his great-grandsons, who donated their rare books to the collection in 1973, the year the present building opened.”

One Book: Natural Light | Dylan Reid (Feb 11 2008)
“This passage, in which some of the book’s characters are trying to establish a photography studio in a shopfront in 1856 Toronto, brings to the fore the essential role that natural light played in building and city design at the time, and still does today. […] When I interviewed Ward 20 Councillor Adam Vaughan for an article about the Queen West Heritage District, he suggested that one of the reasons why preserving Victorian buildings is valuable is that they had developed a range of techniques for managing natural light and its energy efficiently — techniques that we can learn about and bear in mind as we try to move towards a more sustainable, less energy-intensive future.”

One Book: Hanlan’s Point | Shawn Micallef (Feb 12 2008)
“Once on the ferry, you get the most magnificent Toronto skyline pass-by this side of a late night drive along the Gardiner Expressway. You can stand still on the ferry deck and watch the buildings of various distance shift between each other as you move west. In the superhotsun and dizzy smog you might almost think it’s some kind of Proustian Remembrance of Things Past episode, where you can see all the Toronto skylines at once. Other times it’s just Toronto and it looks good. As Redhill says, the ferry arrives at the buggy, unkempt part of the island.”

08w02:2 The Toronto School

by timothy. 0 Comments

My excuses for tardiness: my sister’s dog ate it. Or not …. yes, I found this when it first came out and wanted to post it, but it was just before New Year’s and I thought I’d wait.

Then I saw it on BlogTo and thought there was probably no need. (But here I have to say I considered Laura Mendes’ attempt to make it palatable to BlogTo readers juvenile. She wrote that Kingwell was ‘brutally harsh’ and ‘mean’. Mean? Brutally harsh? Who do you think is reading BlogTo, 13 year olds? How thin is your/their skin? Is this what happens to bourgeois bohemians after a live time of anti-wrinkle skin cream?)

Yesterday it was on Metafilter. Metafilter! The poster on Metafilter said, ‘The article is a great read even if you’ve never stepped foot in the city.’

Geesh. I guess I better get on this.

Speaking of bourgeois bohemians: I went to see Kingwell interview Carl Wilson at his book launch the other night, and brought my recorder, but I had to leave before they got around to talking. Because I’m a humorless nerd I found the preceding performances intolerable (although I loved Laura Barrett’s cover of Weird Al Yankovic’s ‘Smells Like Nirvana’) but that also had a lot to do with not having a place to sit, put my coat, nor the fact that I couldn’t move around freely with bouncers guarding the doors lest anyone leaving to use the bathroom be mistaken for someone trying to sneak in.

It was a widely successful night and I congratulate Mr. Wilson on it.

Toronto: Justice Denied | Mark Kingwell
Link (The Walrus)

07w50:1 Fredric Jameson at U of T

by timothy. 1 Comment

Future of Culture, Future of Utopia | Fredric Jameson of Culture, Future of Utopia.mp3

Jameson’s recent lecture launching the conference ‘The Humanities after Utopia’ at the recently inaugurated Jackman Humanities Institute at the University of Toronto.

Approx 20minutes of this talk available on YouTube:
Part 1
Part 2

07w49:4 22nd Century Architecture

by timothy. 3 Comments

Bridged City
Figure 1. A 22nd Century Bridged City

The above is from an episode of the Star Trek series Enterprise. It came to my attention the other day through a montage depicting history in another episode of the series. As fans of the show know, one of the running plots involved time travel, and the depiction of human history ‘resetting itself’ (after plot related meddling) was done through the use of images from various sources grouped together into thematically recognizable decades. So the 1980s were depicted by images of Ronald Regan, Margaret Thatcher, and Ruhollah Khomeini, the 1990s by images of the Clintons, George H Bush shaking the hand of Mikhail Gorbachev, etc. After the depictions of the first half the present decade (scenes of 9/11, Bush & Blair) it moves on into speculation. (The images from the stream are available here). The future was represented by a car and a robot and from then onto scenes of the show’s 22nd Century, marked by the opening shot of the series, the launch of the Enterprise spaceship, in the year 2151 (Figure 2).

Captain Archer in the Timestream
Figure 2. Cpt Archer in the Timestream

The 22nd Century is therefore marked by two cityscapes, one being that of Figure 1 the other being the following. These are meant to be Earth cities given the context of the time stream, but both shots are re-used production art from previous episodes. As I’ve mentioned, the cityscape below is from a Season 1 show (‘Dear Doctor’), while the bridge above is from an episode of Star Trek Voyager‘s last season (‘Workforce Part 1’).

Toronto 2110 AD
Figure 3. Toronto, 2110 AD

With regard to Figure 3, because it is otherwise unlabeled and supposed to depict an Earth city in the 22nd Century, I thought it might as well be Toronto. We can imagine this stretch of waterfront as being a bit to the East, or a bit to the West, of the CN Tower thus accounting for its absence (or, I could just invite anyone to Photoshop it in). We can imagine the bridges are subway extensions to the island, and we see that a similar subway/covered LRT path runs right along the water.

This being an image originally from s-f, it reflects the current architectural trends of the beginning of the 21st Century, the postmodernist appreciation of angles, glass and concrete.

But I present this image to you thus as a reflection of what kind of city we’ll get if this century is to be one of starchitects. This is what another hundred years of Frank Gehry and Daniel Leibskinds will result in.

Does this city look like a place you’d want to live? We can spy green-space but it seems very sparse. And don’t give me the old, ‘who cares I’ll be dead’ routine, so common from the likes of the Baby Boomers. It’s precisely that type of attitude which has gotten us our present shit world, and I don’t want to encourage more of that. Given the extension of our lifespans over the past century, it’s not unreasonable to suggest that this could be the city of your elder years, so take the question seriously: is this where you want to hobble and feed pigeons? Further, are you so selfish as to be that uncaring about the type of environment our proverbial great-and-beyond-grandchildren will live in?

Caprica City, Caprica
Figure 4. Caprica City, from the Battlestar Galactica Miniseries (2003)

A much more dramatic depiction of the type of city we could end up with it that from Battlestar Galactica. Filmed in Vancouver, perhaps one could label this ‘Vancouver 2210 AD’ since it seems a bit more harsh than the aesthetic presented above, as if one needed another century to get both the flying cars and the brutal deadness of the civic space:

Caprica City, Detail
Figure 5. Caprica City Detail

The real nightmare of urban development is this uniform cityscape of similar buildings, all equally unadorned, apparently utilitarian, with a neglected use of green space.

As spaces designed on computers to provide semiotic scenes meant to convey an advanced technological civilization, these reflect in turn the imagined futures of our own civilization. This is what we could end up with. But, in all likelihood, my guess is that the 22nd Century will not look like any of these images.

When Martin Rees published his book Our Final Hour in 2003, he famously gave our ‘civilization as we know it only a 50-50 chance of surviving the 21st century.’ (source) Now there’s some ambiguity there: others predict the potential extinction of humanity, which would certainly ruin our civilization, but it could also anticipate a sort of apocalyptic collapse into another form of Mad Max Dark Ages. But I have to point out the civilization known to the British in 1903 – and globally, that of every other nation and ethnic group on the planet (with the exception of those still living isolated tribal lifestyles) did not survive the 20th Century. The British Empire fell, the reliance on coal was replaced with that of processed crude oil, and the colonial projects of the era came to ignominious ends – the consequences of which we are still processing. Given how squanderous of natural resources our present civilization-as-we-know-it is, there’s no reason to want it to survive the 21st Century.King Charles III

Which brings me to Prince Charles, who by the times spoken of here will be thought of as King Charles III. In the early 1980s, Charles was mocked by the media for his interest in organic farming, and he’s currently thought of as daft for his architectural interests, including his sponsorship of the community of Poundbury. Poundbury is the result of Charles’ interest in the work of Leon Krier and Christopher Alexander. As the Poundbury website records:

Poundbury is a mixed urban development of Town Houses, Cottages, Shops & Light Industry, designed for the Prince of Wales by Architect Leon Krier on the outskirts of the Dorset County Town of Dorchester. Prince Charles, The Duke of Cornwall, decided it was time to show how Traditional Architecture and Modern Town Planning could be used in making a thriving new community that people could live & work in close proximity. Poundbury has now become World Famous as a model of urban planning, with regular visits from Councillors and MPs. Welcome to the Poundbury Community Website!

Given how Charles has already displayed some prescience when it came to organic agriculture, anticipating both its sense and its popularity, my expectation is that he’s once again onto something with his interest in such small-scale, community oriented architecture. The end result will be cityscapes of the 22nd Century which will not reflect the imagined exaggerations of the present shown to us through easy digital mock-ups.

I return now to the city of the bridge. When I saw this in the Timestream montage, the lines of it brought to mind the position just stated: that by the 22nd Century, technological advance combined with a rejection of explicit postmodernist, angular, and Leibskind-like egotism will brings us a meld of the traditional and the technological. The bridged city seemed a place inspired by Lord of the Rings, a technological version of Rivendell.

Figure 6. Rivendell,
from The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

Figure 7. Rivendell,
from The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

Rivendell, a bridge
Figure 8. A bridge in Rivendell,
from The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

Figure 9. Rivendell,
from The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

Given a choice between Caprica, or the Toronto of 2110 suggested here, I’d take a Rivendell of any season, of any weather condition. Of course, I expect to be able to continue to use a high speed internet connection, use a cell-phone, browse in an Apple Store, and be able to have sushi. The point here is we can take much more control over our built environment, and expect more from our architects than glass and concrete. Letting current architectural fashion guide the next several generations will only result in a Caprica like monstrosity.- Timothy


The Architectural Contributions of Prince Charles | Nikos Salingaros

Some Notes on Christopher Alexander | Nikos Salingaros

Restructuring 21st Century Architecture Through Human Intelligence | Nikos Salingaros and Kenneth Masden
Abstract: This paper introduces a compelling new way of thinking about, teaching, and practicing architecture. Founded on the basis of how the human mind
perceives and interacts with the built environment, we call this new design process “intelligent architecture”. Perhaps surprisingly, scientifically-conceived rules for architectural design and building can lead to a more human architecture, one with a renewed respect for traditional methods of architectural design. This new process can also be extended by implementing new technologies. By applying the most recent scientific advances to architectural thinking, we can better appreciate the architectural heritage of the past, giving scientific insight into its origins and manner of conception. This development also reverses an unfortunate misunderstanding that required the future to erase the past rather than to learn from it. […] How can anyone believe that a “Dutch Design Demigod” could know more about a place than the very people who were born and raised there? How can these starchitects espouse to know what is best for the rest of the world? More importantly, how do we combat the aesthetic authority that such individuals now exert over our place in the world?”

Christopher Alexander’s The Nature of Order | Nikos Salingaros

Jim Kalb’s review of Christopher Alexander’s Nature of Order
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5

Pattern Language | Christopher Alexander

The Nature of Order | Christopher Alexander
“‘. . . Five hundred years is a long time, and I don’t expect many of the people I interview will be known in the year 2500. Christopher Alexander may be an exception.’ David Creelman, author, Interviewer and Editor Knowledge Manager, HR magazine, Toronto”

// what gets me is that Christopher Alexander’s work does live up to that blurb by David Creelman, but his principles of design do not carry over to his shitty websites.

Christopher Alexander | Project for Public Spaces

Prince Charles honored with Scully Prize
//contains a brief account of Poundbury

Prince Charles On Being Relevant | CBS’60 Minutes
LINK (60 Minutes)
//If you can handle the clutter of advert garbage on this page, your welcome to it. It was from this 60 Minutes story that I learned about Poundbury.

The Future of Cities: The Absurdity of Modernism | Nikos Salingaraos interviews Leon Krier
NS: Has humanity, as you claim in your writings and talks, made a fundamentally false step in building its cities, and if so, what can be done about it now?
LK: Humanity lives by trial and error, sometimes committing errors of monumental scale. Architectural and urbanist modernism belong — like communism — to a class of errors from which there is little or nothing to learn or gain. They are ideologies which literally blind even the most intelligent and sensitive people to unacceptable wastes, risks, and dangers. Modernism’s fundamental error, however, is to propose itself as a universal (i.e. unavoidable and necessary) phenomenon, legitimately replacing and excluding traditional solutions. Thank God there are, through the applications of New Urbanism in the last 20 years, enough positive experiences worldwide to see a massive return to common-sense solutions.”

Reforming the Suburbs | Conference Page, March 2007
// I wish the images here were better, but this link is pretty much just an FYI

Image sources and references:

The Time Stream Images | Star Trek Enterprise

Star Trek Voyager Workforce Part I Screencaps

Star Trek Enterprise Dear Doctor Screencaps
(Cityscape here)

Lord of the Rings Screencaps

07w46:6 Movie Review: Blade Runner The Final Cut (1982; 2007)

by timothy. 0 Comments

Blade Runner: The Final Cut (2007)
1982: The first edition of Blade Runner is released on 25 June.

1992: The second edition ‘Director’s Cut‘ is released on 11 July. At the time I’m a student of history and as a pet project I’m trying to write a history of Earth from the vantage point of the year 2400. In order to conceptualize the 22nd Century, I look to Blade Runner, and the images found in magazines, which are promoting the release of the Director’s Cut. But I live in rural Nova Scotia and I only know one person in my class who’s even heard of Blade Runner.

1993: I’m in Toronto that March, and look for a copy of the movie to buy. It’s not in stores anywhere.

Which is to say, it took me a few years before I got to see it for the first time. And once I did, it wasn’t the story-line that mattered so much as the sets; for years I’ve watched this movie as a series of montages in fantastic settings, the story-line connecting the scenes seemingly incidental and not even that interesting.

1999: I watch the Director’s Cut for the first time, and I find the extreme letter-boxing distracting to the extant that makes it almost unwatchable. I had the chance to see it on the big screen that spring but decided a now forgotten ’round-table’ conversation on art-something at the Khyber was more important.

So I can’t remember when I first saw Blade Runner, but it was probably one of the CityTv broadcasts that they ran on New Year’s Eve/Day at midnight through the 1990s. Ten years ago, January 1 1998 at 12am I recorded this broadcast and brought the VHS tape to back to Halifax with me, where it quickly became wall-paper. Whenever it rained that year I would on returning to my small one bedroom basement apartment at the end of the day put in this copy and let in play in the background as I went about my work.

Later I found the Director’s Cut in the video store and rented it. I think that was the last time I watched the film straight through, sometime after its release in February 1999, and with memories of the voice over in mind, I had an its interpretive slant on the images. I found the Director’s Cut version was superior in its subtlety. This film, without Harrison Ford telling you what to think, invited you to consider it on your own terms.

At the time, Blade Runner was part of my extra curricular studies which also included the novels of William Gibson. For a time I was confused and thought I’d read somewhere that Blade Runner had influenced the writing of Neuromancer, (and later read that Gibson had actually been far more influenced by Alien, and imagined Neuromancer as a bit of background to that world). Given that the 21st Century was looming on us all in the late 90s, and my excitement at seeing that s-f time become real, Blade Runner and Gibson’s Sprawl Trilogy were part of a process of understanding what kind of world I’d spend the rest of my life in.

Walking up Spring Garden Road in 1999, and seeing the recently installed refurbished pay phones, I recognized their design as something ‘futuristic’ (a term that I hear less and less often these days) and something that would have looked fine in Blade Runner. There seemed to be an attempt to update our world to match the set design of 1980s s-f films, and given how such films then as now use the experimental work of industrial designers, this all made perfect sense. In that way, s-f films function as marketing for new designs. It seems to me that things like Blackberries and iPods are so successful since they were preceded by lengthy marketing campaigns in the form of s-f novels and films, so that when they arrived, we knew what they were, and had a good idea of what we could do with them.

Watching Blade Runner and reading Gibson’s Sprawl Trilogy was a way of prepping myself for the life I expected in Toronto, where I knew I’d end up. In fact, Gibson’s descriptions of the Sprawl always reminded me of Scarborough, so at first, experiencing mini-mall urban decay and franchise restaurants had the excitement of visiting a film-set from the future.

(I had the same experience when I visited Ottawa in early October 2000, just after Trudeau’s funeral, and the city reminded me of San Fransisco as seen in the Star Trek Voyager episode ‘Non Sequitur‘. Ottawa had not only cleaned itself up for the new century, but it was also a giant film set, constantly on our television screens hosting those actors of Parliamentary debate. Meeting someone by the Peace Flame, I looked down at the roses laid in honour of Trudeau’s memory, the flag above the Peace Tower at half-mast, as I’d seen in on television in the days before).

So to see Deckard eating noodles in 2007 is a different experience than seeing the same in Halifax in 1998, where chopstick joints were few and far between as they say. There was a Japanese restaurant on Argyle St but I was still too much of hick to understand the menu. Of course, after these years in the Toronto, Blade Runner just seems like a rainy night on Spadina, only more congested with archaic neon logos. Our bars aren’t filled with smoke and clay pipes, and while it probably will cost $1.25 to use a pay-phone in twelve years, the real Deckards by then are much more likely to use an old fourth generation iPhone.

As Gibson was saying over this past summer’s book-tour, even imagining a future in the first half of the 1980s was an act of optimism. I’m old enough to remember television stories about the Cold War and talk of Nuclear Winter. Blade Runner too offered a vision of the future, not quite post-apocalyptic but close, based loosely on Dick’s novel, which had projected a post-nuclear envirocide where ‘real’ animals were all but extinct. The novel’s Deckard dreamed of buying a ‘real’ goat as that society’s status symbol (as I recall, but I read the novel fifteen years ago). Now the movie has eclipsed the novel and the focus on artificial animals seems out of context, and we have a different understanding of artificiality. There’s enough GMO stuff around already that doesn’t seem any less ‘real’ to us, and the idea behind the Replicants is equally strange. Today it’s comprehensible as ‘Oh, there just genetically engineered humans with a four year life-span,’ which is a different play on 1982’s confusing ‘are they robots or something? How are they fake?’ And as we approach November 2019, it’s one time cyberpunk has become steampunk. Maybe our computers will accept voice commands by then, but we won’t have CRT-television set-top scanners at work printing out Polaroids of our 600+dpi zoom.

And it’s such scanning tech which has enabled this final cut version to come out. The original print was scanned at such an extremely high resolution that watching this version of Blade Runner is a new enough experience in itself – such clarity of image and level of detail was never seen before. This ‘restoration’ reminded me of that done on Michelangelo’s Sistine Ceiling – we live in an era of restoration, the grand updating to reflect cinema’s recorded vision, our imaginations inhabited by visions focused through Carl Zeiss lenses. Some critics then complained that the ‘brightening’ that occurred with the Michelangelo restoration destroyed the experience, while other welcomed the return to the ‘original’ condition.

Michelangelo’s Blade Runner: The Director’s Cut, circa 1970
Michelangelo’s Blade Runner: The Director’s Cut, circa 1970

Michelangelo’s Blade Runner: The Final Cut, circa 2000
Michelangelo’s Blade Runner: The Final Cut, circa 2000

Which is to say that the 21st Century experience of Michelangelo’s ceiling is different from that of the 19th, when the paintings were obscured by three centuries of candle-smoke and the like. And so with Blade Runner: in twelve years time, when it’s actually November 2019. undoubtedly this version of the film will be playing in theatres, and I most likely will find myself in front of the big screen once again, remembering both the time in 2007 when I saw it and the Halifax of twenty one years before. And if the film then still has any currency with the twenty-somethings of that world, what will their experience be of a quaint steam-punk movie depicting questionable dating practices (a forty something throwing a 20 year old girl up against the wall and telling her to say ‘kiss me’, followed the next day with a ‘do you love me?’ question), congested public spaces filled with cigarette smoke, and a level of visual detail lost on the earliest versions of the movie? Will copies of the original voice-over narrated film still be watched, or as ignored as the as murky as the reproductions of the Sistine Ceiling made in the 1960s? Treated, if anything, as historical curiosities, but not invitations to historical experience.

My sense is that Blade Runner is one of those rare works of art which is a master piece despite everything. One feels watching this that no one involved in the actual production had any idea they were making a masterpiece, and watching in straight through as I did, with the scenes visually clarified to highlight how they work together gives one the sense that the plot is kind of weak, in some places (as mentioned above with the romantic scenes) nonsensical, and that this film continues to work for the special effects alone. (It’s a silent movie originally provided with two voice-overs and now only one remains. Blade Runner is probably worth watching with Vangelis’ soundtrack alone). As a masterpiece it gets away from all intentions of its creators and that is one of the reasons it rewards viewing. No one knew what the fuck was going on with it or why, but it just works.

I’m reminded here of Malcolm Gladwell’s ‘story telling problem‘: that when we are confronted with something new we may not have ready-at-hand language to describe how we think about it or how it makes us feel. This in turn can cause us to make simplistic decisions rather than go with more ambiguous and complicated ones. This is how I understand the motivation for the first version’s voice-over narration. It was felt that the film needed some language to orient the viewer. But because this movie is so much about it’s visuals, it should be thought of as a form of animated narrative painting, for which language is not necessary.

So why then record my thoughts on it as I have? Because when I come home from seeing it on the big screen again in November 2019, I’ll want to read this record of what I thought of seeing it in 2007. And for that matter, I might as well share.

Blade Runner: The Final Cut will be released on DVD (in a 2-disc or 5 disc set) on December 18th.

07w44:2 Richard Florida on Toronto

by timothy. 0 Comments

Wake up, Toronto – you’re bigger than you think | Richard Florida

…and don’t forget this superficial assessment by Leah McLaren who explains to the moneyed hipsters that Richard Florida matters by stating:

“Both husband and wife are tall, slim and dressed to minimalist perfection – the ideal complement to an airy house furnished in contemporary classics by Corbusier and Starck.”

McLaren’s write-up was appended to the print version in italics my friends. In other words: what these two gorgeous people have to say matters because they’re young, rich, and fashionable. Leah McLaren approves. We can only hope that Mr. Florida will hob-knob with people who have less money than he does, i.e. this city’s other creative class.

07w43:1 Fuck the Young eh?

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Why is Vancouver eating its young? Nothing cool about that | David Beers
“Nowadays in Vancouver, if, like me, you are middle-aged and own your digs, it can seem cruel to invite younger adults over for dinner, a taunt to those whose incomes are relentlessly outstripped by real-estate inflation. Even worse, you begin to sense that you and your guests are on opposite sides of a political divide. You are, after all, a member of the generation that is asking the young to endure and solve global warming, but what have you done for them lately, besides pouring fine wines in a heritage home of the sort they can never aspire to have? Much as the real-estate windfall graced middle-aged Vancouverites like myself, rising resource commodities prices have helped B.C.’s Liberal government run surpluses in the billions of dollars for several years now. But, for the young, the same government has more than doubled university tuition fees since 2001. And it’s given its MLAs a fat raise while refusing to up the minimum wage to $10 from $8. To add insult, the Liberals let employers pay a ‘training wage’ of just $6 an hour to workers starting out, most of whom, of course, are young. Spiralling housing and education costs. Low entry wages, weak public transit, kids living on the street and greenhouse emissions spewing away. If these seem vexing “issues” to older people, the young tend to bundle them as “boomer legacies,” burdens unfairly shifted onto them, says opinion researcher Angus McAllister. Politicians ignore at their own peril this way that youth filter politics, he suggests.” [emp mine, obviously]

Raging against the tyranny of CanLit | Stephen Marche
“Now, in the middle of prize season and the authors’ festival, the differences between the two literary capitals couldn’t be starker to me. Brooklyn is so, so young and Toronto is so, so old: It felt like moving from a frenetic day care to an old folks’ home. […] Literature in Toronto is something your smartest aunt does once she’s cozied up in her favourite sweater. And the work therefore is less exciting. The popular novels here are generally ponderous, draped in sanctimony over suffering and history, melodramas in exotic settings. One thing you are not going to get out of a novel on the Giller list or indeed the best-seller list is a good laugh. […] Setting is everything in Canadian fiction. Plots don’t matter much. There are only a few plots anyway: recovering from historical or familial trauma through the healing power of whatever (most common); uncovering historical or family secrets and thereby achieving redemption (close second); coming of age (distant third place). The characters are mostly the same: The only thing that changes is the location of the massacred grandmother, what kind of booze the alcoholic father drinks himself into fits with, what particular creed is being revealed, in deft and daring ways, as both beautifully transcendent and oppressive. Innovation, whether in language or form, is a dirty word. […] If you think I’m being extreme, just look at recent comments by Ellen Seligman, the publisher of McClelland and Stewart, one of the most powerful people in Canadian publishing. Her response to the Giller list this year struck me as a devastating assessment of where we stand: “I don’t think prizes are necessarily for young writers,” she said in The Globe. It is a remarkable sentence. There are two ways to read it. 1) Young writers don’t write well enough to deserve prizes. 2) Even if they do write well enough, only old writers deserve attention. Because that is what the Giller is, a massive dollop of attention. Seligman says it openly: Only books written by old people are worth serious attention. The danger is that the Giller, like the CBC, will become just another institution for boomer self-congratulation.” [emp mine]

07w40:1 No Shit Sherlock

by timothy. 0 Comments

Leaks, woes a smudge on Crystal’s sparkle | Val Ross
As winter approaches, fingers are crossed that there will be no more puddles, and that the Crystal’s cladding, designed to prevent it from turning into an avalanche-maker, will function as well in cold reality as it does in theory. But it’s clear, four months into the Crystal’s life, the new spaces pose huge challenges, and leaks are the least of them. An unveiling concert in June shows the Crystal in Toronto. Its new spaces pose huge challenges, and leaks are the least of them. Far more daunting are the problems of mounting exhibits in the strange new spaces, ensuring public safety and budgeting for the new reality. There are rumours that the Crystal’s oddly shaped, difficult-to-access windows have increased window-cleaning costs by $200,000, a figure ROM’s executive director of capital development and facilities, Al Shaikoli, disputes. “But it is considerable,” he admitted. “In the old days, our window-cleaning budget was next to nothing.”