Spring Into Action

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The clocks went forward an hour on the weekend and the lighter evenings are waking me out of winter hiberation mode. Which makes it a good time for a round up, don’t you think?

Here are a few things that have caught my newly refreshed eye:

I haven’t yet made time for the Vancouver Art Gallery’s current show, MashUp: The Birth of Modern Culture, but I need to correct that soon. It seems like everyone I know has been making multiple trips to the exhibit – the whole gallery is devoted to this exploration of contemporary cultural production and it’s too much to absorb in a single visit. If you’re in Vancouver before it closes in June, you should block it liberally into your itinerary.

Last year, I brought a recipe to the AvoShowdown, competing against a number of Vancouver bloggers. This year, the general public is invited to submit a recipe – 16 competitors will face the judges on April 10th. You can find all the details here: Call for Recipes – Avocado Showdown. I’m looking forward to attending as a spectator this time around!

The Eastside Flea has moved from Commercial Drive to Main Street and have a bigger, permanent home. If you’re a vendor, they’re looking for all sorts of goods purveyors for their grand opening on April 16th & 17th.

The Femme City Choir brings their new show to the York Theatre on June 5th & 6th – I’m telling you now because it’s best to get your tickets early. Their shows sell out.

Food and community find perfect expression in the Food Connection Friends Potluck Dinners. For folks in and around the Mount Pleasant neighbourhood, they hold regular potlucks and DIY food workshops. There’s one coming up this Friday, March 18th, in fact.

But the big question this week is would you rather celebrate St. Patrick’s Day by rocking out to Pogues tribute band, Shane’s Teeth, at the WISE Hall’s annual St. Paddy’s Day Bash, or are you more into the nostalgic (and nearly as lively) sounds of the Irish Rovers? Just let me know – I’ll be sipping on a Guinness while you decide.

G-W Portraits: Trevor & Rowan Whitridge

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I’ve often said that there is art being made all around this neighbourhood, but much of it isn’t apparent. This has been a popular neighbourhood for artists, performers, writers, and makers over the years, but you don’t necessarily know which of your neighbours is a mid-list novelist and which is an accountant for an eco-trust.

Music is different. It wafts down alleyways and across parks, catches your ear as you pass by a coach house practice space, and greets you on sidewalks and plazas. We know who the musicians in our neighbourhood are. When I lived a few blocks away from where I do now, there was a jazz singer across the alley who’d have regular jams in her apartment. Sometimes, I see people I know congregating in the Napier Greenway as part of one band or another. And I always enjoyed hearing my neighbours’ sons practicing as I walked home.

As it turns out, Rowan and Trevor Whitridge have been accomplished professional musicians for a number of years now. They were kind enough to talk to me about their music and what they love about this neighbourhood a few days ago.

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You can find out what Trevor and Rowan are up to, along with their upcoming gigs, on their website: The Whitridge Brothers

Here are a few of the places where they play:

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Jazz Vespers at St. Andrew’s Wesley

VSO School of Music: The Big Band

Capilano University

And you can find out more about the community book exchanges Rowan mentioned in this article.

You can find the rest of the interviews in this series here: G-W Portraits

G-W Portraits: Kristina Zalite

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When I first met Kristina Zalite, nearly twenty years (!) ago, she was doing environmentalist work and making art. Today, she works at a landscaping architecture firm and she’s still making art.

These days, Kristina’s best known around Grandview-Woodland as a member of Orkestar Šlivovica, a lively Balkan brass band that can be seen at local events like the Parade of Lost Souls, festivals like the Ederlezi Balkan Brass Festival (which they organize), or their Šlivovica Social Club nights.

In our G-W Portraits chat last week, I was happy Kristina chose to focus on the landscape architecture work that she does, while also sharing her perspective on the ways this neighbourhood uses public space to build community.

One of the things I’m really enjoying about this project is how rich and diverse the responses to the question, “What do you love about Grandview-Woodland?” are proving to be. Thanks to Kristina for a great interview!

You can find Orkestar Šlivovica on their website or on Facebook.

G-W Portraits: Trudy Ann Tellis

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I was lucky enough to share a cup (okay, more than one cup) of tea with Trudy Ann Tellis of Trudy Ann’s Chai last weekend. She’s one of my neighbours and she’s also one of the people who work hard to help create and maintain the kind of community Grandview-Woodland is famous for.

We talked about tea and spices, music, potlucks, and all the things she loves about this neighbourhood.

Here’s a list of the organizations, people, and places Trudy Ann mentions in the video:

Pets and Friends

Whitridge Brothers

Drive Street Band

55+ Centre

Vancouver Farmers’ Markets

East End Food Co-op

Andy’s Bakery

Britannia Craft Fair

Britannia Community Centre

Napier Greenway

These are just a few of the ways Grandview-Woodland builds community. I’m looking forward to discovering more with you as this series continues.

Thanks to Trudy Ann (and Coco) for a great interview!

Autumnal Anticipation

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We’ve had the first big rain of autumn here in Vancouver and though it seems we’re going to have at least a week’s reprieve, it’s got me thinking about hunkering down with cups of tea and bowls of soup. It also means there will be less outdoors and more books, music, and video to explore, until springtime rouses us.

So, my question to you is what are you looking forward to this fall and winter? Is it the big blockbusters like the latest installments of the Hunger Games and the Hobbit? Or are you itching to get your hands on books like Sarah Waters’ latest?

Here are some of the things I’m curious about this fall:

Film

Jimi: All Is By My Side promises to be more than the usual blockbuster biopic.

Dear White People is a satire that challenges persistent stereotypes.

Rosewater is Jon Stewart’s directorial debut and already getting good reviews.

The Imitation Game – Benedict Cumberbatch as a genius brutally betrayed by his country.

Wild features Reese Witherspoon as Cheryl Strayed and Amy Adams stars as a wronged artist in Big Eyes – a feminist double shot for the end of the year.

Finally, there’s Into the Woods – can Rob Marshall do Stephen Sondheim justice?

Television

Because it’s an Amazon production, I’m not sure when I’ll get the chance to see it, but Transparent looks like it could be a winner.

This is the year of comic book overload on the small screen – my pick is Agent Carter, for some much needed female presence, even though it’s not due to appear until 2015.

What’s with all the 2015 in my fall television picks? I guess there isn’t much that moves me, so let the countdown to Downton Abbey begin.

Of course, there’s The Walking Dead. I don’t care for horror much, but the writing on this show has made it one of my favourites.

Music (brought to you by Kevin)

Look for mandolin master Chris Thile and bassist Edgar Meyer’s new release, Bass & Mandolin, on September 9th.

That’s the same date as Ryan Adams releases his first album in three years. Until then, you can listen to it here.

Ólafur Arnalds gave a charming performance in Vancouver a few months back and we’re looking forward to a new release from his project with Janus Rasmussen, Kiasmos. And his label-mate Douglas Dare has a new EP coming out on September 22nd. And in case you hadn’t guessed we’re talking about Kevin’s favourite label here, there’s another Erased Tapes release worth checking out coming from A Winged Victory For The Sullen.

Books

Love Enough by Dionne Brand promises to be beautiful and heartbreaking by turns.

Eula Biss’ On Immunity: An Innoculation is a much-needed and wide-ranging exploration into the distrust of what were once thought of as revolutionary life-saving medical breakthroughs.

Vikram Chandra’s Geek Sublime: The Beauty of Code, the Code of Beauty sounds like the kind of peripatetic exploration of ideas I love.

Kathleen Winter travels Franklin’s path in Boundless: Tracing Land and Dream in a New Northwest Passage.

Those are just a few of this fall’s literary offerings. I suspect that I’m going to run out of holds at the library, working my way through the many I want to read.

Theatre

There’s too much to choose from at the Fringe Festival, which runs from September 4th to 14th this year, so I’ll just send you to their site.

2nd Story: Blood Alley is as much experience as performance.

The Wonderheads’ Grim & Fischer was a highlight for us last year and their new production, Loon, sounds just as good.

Last year’s inaugural East Van Panto was a huge hit. This year they tackle Cinderella and I’m guessing it will be the holidays’ hottest ticket.

I’m hoping I’ve whet your appetite for more exploration. After all, there’s visual arts, dance, museum exhibitions, seminars and lectures, workshops and guided tours – much more than I can detail here.

Now it’s your turn: What have I missed and what are the experiential gems coming up where you live?

A Holiday Round Up

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We’re well into December now and we’ve even had some snow here, so it’s hard not to feel a bit of holiday spirit. There’s a lot going on this month, with some of my favourite craft fairs yet to come, seasonal music and performances, and more. It’s been a while since I’ve done a round up, but what better time of year? Here’s your holiday hit parade.

Arts & Crafts

Shiny Fuzzy Muddy is the sophisticated older sister of the craft fair. It’s the place to find investment pieces in art, clothing, and jewellery. Which makes Got Craft? their slightly alternative cousin. I’m going to drop the metaphor before I get to Circle Craft, I swear. Well, one more. I don’t know whether Craftacular is the punk rock youngest or the mischievous middle child – you decide. A short look at Refresh‘s vendor list might take care of a good chunk of your gift list (or your wish list). Another upcoming favourite is Blim, which looks like it has some fun in store. And if your heart needs a little melting, I think the Winter Wonderland Children’s Art Fair should do the trick. It’s an opportunity for ten to nineteen-year-olds to sell their wares, from art to crafts to baking.

Most of these are taking place this upcoming weekend, but for the truly last-minute shopper (putting down the mirror, now), there’s still hope. The Eastside Flea and the Last Chance Christmas Craft Fair have got you covered. They’re both on that last weekend before St. Nick arrives.

Food

What better place to start than the Vancouver Farmers’ Market Holiday Market? Then, there’s Gingerbread Lane, a fundraiser for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which technically involves food, but might get you arrested if you actually try to eat it. So, go to the Vancouver Christmas Market afterward and get your fill of Glühwein, Schupfnudeln, and Flammenkuchen. And don’t miss the Winter Solstice Festival at Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Gardens. There will be Dragon Spice holiday tea to drink and hot buns to eat while you enjoy the lanterns placed all around the gardens.

Performance

There’s more music, dance, and theatre performances than my fingers care to type up at this time of year, so I’ll just mention a few. The York Theatre is back in action with it’s first post-reno show, Jack & the Beanstalk: An East Van Panto – everything you ever wanted to know about my neighbourhood but were afraid to ask. Another locally set Christmas tale, It’s Snowing on Saltspring, has long been a Christmastime theatre tradition here. Music and stories take centre stage at Pacific Theatre’s Christmas Presence. Speaking of music, Musica Intima‘s Christmas concerts are always profoundly beautiful. Early Music Vancouver is presenting Festive Cantatas for Christmas, featuring their Bach Cantata Project. And the Vancouver Bach Choir will be presenting Handel’s Messiah. If it’s the Nutcracker you’re after, you’ve got two choices. Goh Ballet and Ballet BC are each having a crack at it, so to speak.

Fun

I’ve already told you about Christmas at Canada Place and the rest of the events at the Winter Waterfront District, but there is lots more going on. Free skating at Robson Square, the Festival of Lights at VanDusen Gardens, or for those who are suffering from holiday fatigue, MOV’s Play House: The architecture of Daniel Evan White exhibition.

Like I said, it’s a busy month. I’m going to try to make it to at least some of the events on the list, but I’ll also make sure to make some time for hot chocolate and It’s a Wonderful Life, holiday baking, and visits with family and friends.

Now it’s your turn – what’s up this month where you live?

Christmas, Canadian-style

Merry Christmas, to those of you that celebrate it. I love the music of the season; I can’t help it. Here are a few Canadian songs for the holidays, starting with Joni Mitchell’s River:

An instrumental version of In the Bleak Midwinter, from Loreena McKennitt:

My mother’s favourite Christmas carol, from the McGarrigles, et al.:

A wistful one from The Mountains and The Trees:

Said the Whale’s Christmas Under the Clouds gives us a typical Vancouver Christmas (no idea why the accompanying image shows snow, though):

Finally, a new tune from Dan Mangan, with lyrics crowdsourced from listeners of CBC’s On The Coast:

What are your favourite seasonal songs? Let me know in the comments, if you’d like.

I hope you’re having a happy, warm, and peaceful day. See you Friday.

Hard copy, please

I’ve been thinking about the word fugitive, lately. Not the Dr. Richard Kimble variety, but fugitive in the fine arts sense. Sometimes these effects are unintentional. Works that don’t use lightfast pigments can change colour or fade completely, while poorly produced paper can suffer damage even from a reader’s breath. Of course, sometimes the artist’s purpose is to create something temporary, as in Richard Long‘s environmental sculptures. What’s been bringing the word to mind lately, though, is the thought that we’re moving into a fugitive age, spurred by the digitization of cultural production.

Call me a Luddite, but I don’t believe that having music, books, film and television available for download or streaming can take the place of record stores, bookstores and video stores. The Amazon glitch that caused them to delete all gay and lesbian titles is an example of why I’m cautious. A more important consideration for me is my reliance on the idiosyncracies of the people who staff brick and mortar stores. Their recommendations and conversation can lead to amazing discoveries. But regardless of my objections, the tide is turning.

On May 5th, the owners of Videomatica, possibly the best video store in Canada, announced that they will be closing by the end of the summer. They’ve probably found a home for their massive collection, but it’s still a loss to our community. Don’t take my word for it, though, when you can read this eloquent piece by Darren of my local video store, Black Dog.

Not even libraries are reliable repositories for cultural production any more, as Nicholson Baker raged over in his book Double Fold. The deaccessioning craze that’s taken hold of libraries seems to be in the same vein as the narrowing of focus found in big box bookstores and online video providers. When most people want only a small portion of the newest productions, what incentive is there to carry the old, the obscure and the rare?

I’m going to continue to support the independent stores as much as I can, for as long as they last. I don’t want to think about a world in which I can’t spend time in my favourite shops, browsing through stacks of books, thumbing through cds and records, or scanning the back of dvd cases.

And that’s Ms. Luddite, to you.