Curiosity is terminal

Saturday 18 August 2018

Oh Hello. And Also: Caturday in the Summer

There is much going on in the world to comment on.

The province has declared a state of emergency because of the fire situation here.  ATMON is very smoky, but fine otherwise. The fires are some distance off and the City is providing emergency shelter and services for those evacuated from the threatened areas.  I personally do not have lung troubles (yet)  and so I am doing much better than many, many people.  This is a thing for which I am very grateful.

There are numerous things going on in American politics, some of which I think I understand a little, and a couple of which might have actual repercussions on their lamentable president, but I don't think I know enough to comment on any of it, save to say I still sometimes think it might be a humanitarian thing to do to adopt a few Americans, especially those of the "illegal" persuasion. (disclaimer: I do not believe anyone is ever illegal and I think that borders are weird and arbitrary. I also think nationalism is an unfortunate state of mind.)

A statue of John A Macdonald was removed from in front of the legislature in BC last weekend. Many white people are offended.  Too bad, I say. We have committed to a program of reconciliation and this is part of it. No I did not do bad things to First Nations persons. But racism and colonialism are unfortunately part of the Canadian air I breathe. Many of the systems in place privilege me over First Nations. It is important that I use my privilege now to stand with them when they ask for wrongs to be righted.  It is important to learn from the past. MacDonald was a racist guy and our country was founded on racist actions. We can do better. Our history is not going to change and cannot be erased, but there is no reason to keep doing the same stupid, destructive and unkind things now and in the future.  And we can acknowledge that we have actually learned something. (Well, some of us have. Clearly Andrew Scheer and most of the rest of the "conservatives" have not.  They will simply have to be shouted down.)

I was recently witness to a facebook discussion between a bunch of women arguing about being offended by the things men call us. I am part of a women in trades group on facebook. It is nice to have this group of women, all of whom understand the many confusing, infuriating and hurtful things that happen to us on the job, along with the unique joys and successes we have. But a group of trades women on facebook is no different than a group of anyone else on facebook.  Some of them are assholes.  Some of them are stupid, some of them are rude, and some of them are offended. And many of them, just like the rest of us are immature enough to think that their experiences are both unique and ubiquitous at the same time.  I mean, in general, I like people and I think they mean well. But we have our moments.
       Anyway, the argument in question was about a woman who prefers not to be called "young lady." There were women who also did not like it. There were women who didn't mind it.  And some people had an opinion and acknowledged other's opinions as valid, and left it at that, and then a few who needed to convince everyone else of their opinion. I have mixed feelings on the subject and did not want to get into it there.  If you don't like to be called a thing, and you ask not to be called that thing, that should be respected. Period. If someone repeatedly calls you a thing you have asked not to be called, they are a jerk. If you do not state your preference, but instead steam about it every time it is said, you are the maker of your own unhappiness.  I get it: confrontation is scary and boundaries are hard and women have been patted on the head and and condescended to a lot. Many of us (me included sometimes) are afraid to get into something with a man for fear of their anger, disapproval, ridicule. But here's what I think: times, they are a changin'.  Change is hard. And change is hard for all of us. And treating men like we have been treated - like they are only capable of a certain kind of response - is counter-productive.  We have the right to know and state our preferences. Some men will welcome the guidance. After all, think about it: there are no words for women that some of us are not offended by, and so therefore, what SHOULD men call us?
     And here is another thing.  I think it absolutely depends on the context.  I am nearly 100. If I get called "young lady" it is probably said ironically, by someone who is kidding me. Also I like a certain kind of banter that might be called "flirting" in some contexts, but I like that banter with all people, especially clever ones.  I don't mind most things people call me (even the negative ones can be applicable in certain situations). I have worked with men who called me sweetheart and it seemed like a term of genuine endearment. But there is one guy who has quite openly chauvinistic opinions who calls me sweetheart and it sounds creepy and condescending.
            So there's me, containing multitudes again, and trying to acknowledge the multitudes that others contain.

In the main part of my life, I still have cats, and I have a garden.  Let me share a little of both of them with you.

This was taken July 3, before the fires got really going, but also before all the flowers really started blooming.  You have met Thomas, foreground right, sitting on the Adirondack chair I built in 2007, and Meili, on the far left, but you have not met Bandit, with his back to us near the flower pots.  Bandit lives two doors down, but is the neighbourhood cat. He is a nice boy who is tolerated outside but treated with some hostility by Meili and Lucy if he comes in the house.  He likes to come in the house and be given canned food when it is being given out (morning and night only), and play with our cat toys.  He is not hungry, because I am free feeder and there are bowls of two kinds of kibble available all the time and he eschews them both. And he is not neglected attention-wise; I have met his person and  he is as affectionate  with her as he is with us. He is just a nice, friendly cat.  We call him one of our half cats.  Happy Caturday!

Saturday 5 May 2018

Be Still My Little Set Carpenter Heart

Time lapse of the construction of the Yashida estate set on Wolverine. 

It would be so fun to build a set like this with a team. 

I spent a lot of time by myself on the construction of my two sets. A team is nice.   On both of the shows, there were actors who would peek in on the construction every day to see how it was progressing.  Those who were interested in the process were always so delighted by the changes each day. It was tremendously gratifying to build those little worlds for them.  I wonder if Hugh Jackman walks onto his sets and thinks about who made them for him? 

Monday 30 April 2018

Closing Night

Yesterday was the 20th and closing performance for our last MainStage play of the season.  We presented The Best Brothers by Daniel McIvor.

I loved this play.  It is about two very different  men, brothers, dealing with the aftermath of the death of their mother in a freak accident.  It doesn't sound like it should be funny, but it is. Life is funny and there are funny moments and things to laugh at, even in death.  One of the brothers, Hamilton, is quite straight-laced; an architect, married, he has very little sense of humour or play and his relationship with his mother is strained. He carries a lot of hurt and frustration and he takes it out on his brother.  Kyle is openly gay, a realtor with an ebullient light-hearted character. His relationship with his mother is easy, accepting and his ability to "let her go," as he advises Hamilton in one scene is not hampered by unexpressed needs or wishes.

In the first act, the men learn separately (but in the same scene) of their mother's death, and then are together to write her obituary (yes, it would be wrong to put your business website in the obituary), plan a visitation (blue fancy sandwiches are not fancy, they are weird), host the visitation (where Kyle and Hamilton's grief are never more starkly contrasted) and then eulogize her at the funeral (where all of Hamilton's regrets and frustrations are finally made known, and publicly).  These scenes are separated by each actor donning Mother's Hat, becoming Mother and illuminating the past. Mother is neither watching nor commenting on the current goings on.

There are two actors in this play, but there are four characters.  Each actor plays a brother, but also the mother. And while the fourth character is central, he does not appear: he is the mother's dog.  The dog is hinted at in the obituary scene and then mentioned and discussed in all other scenes, including Mother's scenes. The dog becomes pivotal at the end of the funeral and is then the subject of the play in Act 2.  Hamilton and Kyle come together again to compose thanks to the people who sent grief (and wishes and prayers), and to read the will. Mother has two more appearances, and Hamilton has a long monologue.  The second act has fewer funny moments than the first, but more growth and catharsis.  We are left feeling hopeful, and maybe, somewhat transformed?

Between the scenes, the lights dim and music plays and the actors themselves move the set around. I think these moments are kind of brilliant; the actors have slight, but telling interactions, and these are the places where their body language says so much.

While I admire all theatre actors to start with, I was astounded by these two men. Hamilton was played by Toronto actor Aidan DeSalaiz and Kyle by Winnipeg actor Ryan James Miller. Watching DeSalaiz work through Hamilton's grief and anger and frustration and hurt, and then to find some release was truly a journey, every single night.  Miller, in the more comic role of Kyle is flamboyantly expressive and  has wonderful timing. He  was hilarious and exasperating, especially when viewed through Hamilton's eyes, but heartbreakingly poignant in gestures, facial expressions and posture.   This was a play, acted by two men from different parts of the country who had not met before the company came together to rehearse. But night after night they were brothers, united in their love for an interesting, adventurous and loving mother, and working through their feelings for her and each other in conversations and monologues. I never once caught a whiff of "acting."  They were saying the things that came to their minds and responding to one another.  That I watched them do it, night after night, and deliver perfect long monologues every performance awed me over and over. I am trying to figure out how to afford to just follow these actors around the country to see everything they do, because I am sure I have only seen the tip of the iceberg that is their immense talent.  

I was their tech, and I am almost old enough to be their mother, and I have to say (though it is not my place) I was proud of them every single performance.  For the first three productions this year, I knit in the booth between cues, but I didn't bother for this one - I wanted to catch every word, every gesture, every time.

The Best Brothers was a co-production with Western Canada Theatre in Kamloops, where it debuted and ran back in September. The production (and the actors, with their wonderful stage manager, Christine) is heading back to Kamloops for 4 performances May 3-5  at the Pavillion Theatre and then on to Vancouver to the Kay Meek Theatre for 14 performances from May 8 to 19.  If you are nearby these venues, go.  And if you get a chance, say hello from karen.  Tell them I miss them.

Saturday 21 April 2018

Caturday Thomas

Thomas joined our family in the spring of 2007.  He was the last of a litter of stray kittens hanging around a house where a bunch of The Offspring's friends lived. The friends all moved out and the mom cat and other kittens had found homes, but Thomas was still at the house when it became empty.  So the kid made me go and get him.  He was adorable and playful and loved us all, especially The Offspring.  He loved the dogs too, and Kodi the shepherd/rottweiler became his adoptive mom.  I don't seem to have a picture of this but it was common to find Thomas sleeping between Kodi's front paws. Bandit, on the other hand was afraid of Thomas and Thomas used to like to sneak up on Bandit and hide around corners and ambush the poor dog. Thomas did like Bandit, despite Bandit's terror, and tried to treat him affectionately sometimes. He would often wind around the dog's front legs and rub under their chests affectionately. Kodi liked this display quite well, but the look of abject fear on poor Bandit's face while Thomas did this was pretty sad.  

Thomas is a pretty easy going cat. He is not overly demanding, except when a door cannot be left open all the time for him.  In his younger days he was more snuggly, but he is mad at us for getting all these other cats and he is less affectionate.  Years ago, if you were sitting at the table reading, and you put your arms out in a circle, he would climb into the circle and lay down and purr.  He hasn't done that for a long time.  

Thomas was bereft when The Offspring moved out the first time, and he has never entirely forgiven her. Shorty after she moved out, my first partner and I broke up and he moved out. He worked away for a few months after that and so the dogs stayed with me and Thomas, but eventually even the dogs moved out. Thomas seemed quite lonesome. In The fall of 2013, we decided to get him a kitten.  I think that kitten (Meili, in fact) would have been fine, except that we made the decision to adopt the kitten's mom, Maggie at the same time. Meili was about 8 weeks old when we brought them home and Thomas was curious, but respectful of her, and they were getting to know one another after a few days of different rooms, when Meili's mom realized there was another cat sniffing her baby. Maggie attacked Thomas and from then on they could not be in the same room.  Thomas found places to hide until spring and in the spring he moved into the greenhouse.  He stayed outside all summer in 2014, coming in only briefly to eat a few times a day.

We found another home for Maggie, but Thomas has never entirely trusted Meili, try though she might to make friends.  

Thomas found the move from the little old house to our new house four blocks away very unhappy. Most advice tells you to keep a cat inside a new home for three weeks. Thomas paced and yowled for a week before we gave in and took him outside. He gave us the slip as soon as it was dark, and we found him at the old house the next day. We brought him home, and this was the routine for three months: Thomas would mope and yowl for days, we would let him out, and he would go to the old house.  The neighbours all knew him and would let us know when he was back.  We took to leaving him there for a few days at a time to see if he would come home on his own. He never did. We would go and get him and he would eat and sleep at the new house and then leave again as soon as he could.  The house sat unsold for a month after we left, and then the new owners let it sit for another month after that, so the greenhouse was still there for shelter and there were raspberry bushes and bishop's weed and other shrubs to hide in. Once the new owners took over, they tore down the greenhouse and ripped up everything green but the two trees and a lilac. Thomas left us the evening that all of that had happened, and was back before it was light out, calling under the bedroom window to be let in. It was the first time he had come home on his own, and the last time he ever left.  

He seldom gets on a lap anymore, but he will snuggle up if we lay down for a nap or go to bed.  He will occasionally go and get Beloved and tell him it is time for a nap. 

Thomas hates winter, has a foul mouth and likes to put his toys in the water dish. I often think he should have his own blog.  

Tuesday 10 April 2018

Tree Time Machine

The buds are just barely beginning to show on the trees here in Atmon, but show they do, which means spring is coming.  There will be days when I am not working 12 hours and all of the daylight, and when they come, I will venture forth with a camera and get some current pictures. 

Fall was quite pretty here, as it mostly is when it is a sunny one.  I have mountain ash trees in my back yard and I am so glad I took this photo on October 30.

I was heading to work and I realized that the yard seemed bathed in golden light. I turned and saw the sun in the leaves of this tree.  It was kind of breathtaking.  

And then, the very next morning, I went out to this:

I don't remember hearing a thump in the night, but surely there must have been one.  

There is still snow around the tree, although the patio is clear now and the swing is accessible. The garden behind the swing has about a foot and a half of snow in it. At it's height, I think we had nearly four feet of snow just lying in the yard.  If it had snowed one more time this winter I don't know where I would have put the snow I shovelled off the driveway, the shovelled pile was about six feet high.  

But the buds are just barely beginning to show on the trees. It will be spring. 

Sunday 8 April 2018

And So Begins Tech Week

(Which is a terrible excuse for missing Caturday yet again, but there you are.)

Performance number 4 this season is a travelling show.  It comes with a pre-constructed set and dressings and all we have to do is install and focus the lights and set up the stage. It is a pretty simple set. 

The curtains at the back are tied up to wash and paint the stage, and there will be some furniture once all the painting and light focus is done.  

Tech week is hell.  The lights get hung and focussed, which we have to do from scaffold and extension ladder, and then the sound and lights all have to be programmed. Then there are rehearsals in which the lights and sounds have to be synced to the action and dialogue of the play. Then there are rehearsals with full sound and lights and then full sound, lights and costume.  There are two rehearsals a day and all kinds of miscellaneous bits and pieces and details to take care of between rehearsals. Because I am the carpenter and the light and sound tech, I have to be there to run sound and lights with the actors, but have to do the bits and pieces during the actors' breaks. The days are 10 to 12 hours long.   Saturday is day one of tech week for me. We will not go to performance schedule until next Saturday.  

The lights are absolutely my least favourite thing to install.  Big modern theatres have light bars on hydraulics that can be dropped to a height where the lights can be installed from the floor.  Our theatre was carved on the cheap out of an old bakery and its light bars (called LX) are chained to the trusses.  If we are lucky, we get a preliminary light plan before the set is built and the lights can be installed by scaffold. If not, we have to monkey around with ladders on the set and it is precarious and scary. That is our shaky scaffold in the back. It is my least favourite kind of scaffold because it is always shaky, even with all of its proper pieces installed properly.  So I get 15 feet in the air, drop a rope, pull up a light, and then clamp it to an LX.  Then it had to be panned (turned) and tilted to face whatever it is going to illuminate. Then it needs to plugged into one of the many power cables I have brought along via the scaffold from the roof at far stage left.  These cables need to be secured to the LX as we go. We use a ton of electrical tape.  

I love the effect of lights. I love what light does in a show. But man, I hate putting lights up and focussing them. 

This post has been brought to you by anxiety and stress. Thanks for listening.  There will be better days (and posts!) ahead.  

Saturday 31 March 2018

Caturday in the Giant Metropolis

Last weekend I had a small holiday. Beloved was working on the Capital Island, in a city where I don't really know anyone. So he left me with the Offspring for two days in the Giant Metropolis. After two days  I took the ferry to the Capital Island and Beloved and I drove north to a small city where we have friends. We came home again last Tuesday.

When we are together, the Offspring and I generally make things, talk about making things and look at tools and supplies for making things.  We also eat, and sometimes cook. Last weekend we also attended a play directed by someone I met through my theatre. When the offspring and I are at her house, though, we are attended by the handsome and clever Stanley.

Stanley chose the Offspring at a rescue in Halifax when she was a student. She went to the rescue intending to get a kitten, but the adult, worldly and adventurous Stanley climbed into her open backpack and her heart. He was 2 or 3 when she got him and they've been together for 5 or 6 years now.  While in university, the Offspring made her summer living by cooking for tree planters. She would leave great suitcases of clothes and books and sewing and knitting projects at my house and go off to the bush for 4 months.  One summer Stanley stayed with a friend in Halifax because the schoolyear apartment was to be given up, but after that, lodgings, and more importantly, roommates were kept over the summers and Stanley did not need to be uprooted.  Which is not to say there were no moves. Stanley is a veteran mover.  The offspring stayed in Halifax for a year after graduation, but then decided to come west and settle for a while in the Great Metropolis to the South. Before she did, however, she worked one last long season in the bush. She and Stanley flew out with everything they could get on a plane and they both stayed with us until the home in the GM was found. The Offspring actually left Stanley with us for nearly a year while she got established in the Great Metropolis, and also until she could manage to fly him home rather than subject him to a 9 hour drive. 

Stanley was a fine addition to our collection of cats.  He was utterly indifferent to the three cats we had, eschewing all overtures completely.  But he liked human company and would sit nearby and purr and accept any and all pets and scratches. He is the only cat I know who tolerates, and even seems to  like belly rubs.  He also likes to converse. 

We missed him a lot when he finally moved south to live with The Offspring again, but Stanley remembers us and when we go to visit The Offspring, he comes to the door to greet us and behaves affectionately. He has excellent manners and also comes to see us off. It is very endearing.  

Next Saturday: Cat Number One.