There are mysterious images in some of my mother’s paintings of aboriginal myths and symbols. When I asked author John Robert Colombo what one of them might be, he replied at once, “Wendigo”. Then he gave me a copy of one of his hundreds of published books, Canadian Tales of Terror.
The collection of Algernon Blackwood stories includes a ripping tale of horror in the Canadian bush, wherein a French Canadian guide is swept up by a powerful spirit, transported at burning velocity and dizzying height, away from his camp and companions. He returns, a broken shell of his former self, hardly recognizable, demented and soon dead. He had seen the Wendigo.
The monster spirit of Algonquian lore is just one manifestation of similar beings known to the original peoples of this continent. West Coast cultures had their own versions and they probably inspired Helen’s imagery. Tsonokwa, Wild Woman of the Woods, another spirit figure, also appears with some frequency in the paintings.
Just what these images meant to my mother, I cannot say, but they spoke to her — and for her — in some way. Her art is often restless, unsettled, edgy and raw. That she felt some spiritual truth in tales like those of the Wendigo does not surprise me and I think John Robert Colombo has got it right.
Freehand airbrush on black paper by Helen Andersen
Thanks to a decade of skilled, scholarly labour, a comprehensive collection of quotations by Canada’s world-renowned literary critic has been published.
I love quotations and aphorisms and enjoy rolling them around in my mind. More than mental candies (although they can be yummy), good ones stimulate fresh thinking and mean different things in different situations.
Quote books often draw from many authors. Northrop Frye is exceptional in providing so much material from a single brain. This collection will provide years of pondering on a wide variety of subjects.
Beach Hill Neighbourhood Association Annual General Meeting
Tree Plantings, new sidewalks, park improvements, gardens, car sharing, spring bulbs in planters, new community bulletin board, Spring Clean-Up, skating rinks in parks, new local businesses on Gerrard, farmers’ market, pop-up stores, underpass landscaping, new condo building on the corner, ravine nature walks, men’s pub nights, Bake-o-rama fundraiser, web site and Facebook page … and the list goes on.
Nerda Lisa looks a little stunned, hanging among David Irvine’s collection of revamped thrift store art.
Back in the 80s, another guy in Toronto was making postcards with hand-painted King Kongs climbing the CN Tower and so on. Banksy has done some famous ones. Wayne White does it with letteringDone well, it is an amusing way of lampooning kitsch. David Irvine does it well. He also removes some of the “serious” from serious art, and that’s fun.
John Koerner was an outstanding artist and one of Helen Andersen’s favourite teachers. Here she is with John, sometime before her death in 1995. John lived on to the age of 100, still working right to the end. He leaves a huge body of excellent work and his influence on other artists was a significant shaping force in Canadian West Coast painting.
Moderator: CBC journalist Jesse Brown, Panelists: Colin Freeze — Globe and Mail national security reporter, Ron Deibert — U of T prof and Citizen Lab director, Wesley Wark, U of Ottawa prof and two-term member of the PM’s Advisory Council on National Security.
Is it good to know that our government is spying on us and making end runs around our Charter rights to privacy? Even if there seems to be little we can do about it?
A two-hour panel discussion at the Toronto Reference Library raised these questions and revealed the stunning extent of corporate and government espionage. The price tag to do this to ourselves has rocketed upwards, apparently unchecked. No end in sight. Very little in sight, in fact. The laws governing our spies are themselves secret.
The panelists seemed as informed as it’s possible to be in this Alice in Wonderland world, but they could offer little practical advice to the audience. Be aware. Read the User Agreement. Elect privacy-conscious politicians. Would doing these things make any difference, even if people took the trouble?
One audience member asked specifically where she could find citizen groups that would help her learn to safeguard her communications, encrypt her email and so on. There seems to be very little of this sort of group activity in Canada, although there’s plenty of it in Europe and the USA.
Panelist Deibert pointed the questioner to the Electronic Frontier Foundation for its resources, and to the Toronto HackLab in Kensington Market for local support. I won’t say whether I will be following up on these suggestions. Someone is probably listening.
Kash and Carlotta opened a nifty Italian gelato shop on the main street of Niagara-on-the-Lake last season. Big hit! So now it’s tweaking time and Kash is always looking for little ways to please his customers. When he told me about plans for a storefront bench, I was tantalized by the opportunity to put some branding on it. Kash says it’s a go.
UPDATE: Nice try, but the Department for the Preservation of Artificial Quaintness will allow only a small plaque on the bench. The words are OK, though …. so far. The yellow is illegal, I think.
Danica and I went to watch the Porter PR machine work the room at a civic meeting in Scarborough tonight. Before we even entered the auditorium, we were handed glossy leaflets promoting Porter plans for Island airport expansion. They want to overturn the ban on jets, too.
Inside, it immediately became clear that Porter boss Deluce had a stack of employees in the audience. Nothing says he can’t do that, but his claque could not outdo the opposition. Porter has spent plenty on lobbyists, publicists and advertising. Money talks.
Money talks, twists and distorts. Jets are “whisper jets”, 400 metre runway extensions into the lake are “modest”. “Polls” have one third of Torontonians flying Porter. Yeah, sure.
Money also connects. One of the funniest jokes of the evening was unintentional. Playing down Porter’s violations of curfew times, Deluce bowed his head and said that his company had paid fines for these transgressions. Guess who collects the fines? Porter’s expansion-backing friends at the Toronto Port Authority. And guess who gives the Toronto Port Authority a huge part of its income? Porter, of course.
If the Toronto waterfront is to stay out from under jet traffic, citizens will have to defeat a persistent, wily foe. Loud voices, publicity tricks and determination will be required.
The Leslieville Flea Market gets around. I first heard about it when it was being held at the Jimmy Simpson Community Centre on Queen but we caught up with it today in the Distillery District’s Fermenting Cellar.
Great location. Like a giant industrial age attic. Terrific grungy walls, spotty lighting and loads of oversized, rusting iron fixtures. Talk about atmosphere!
The stalls lived up to the ambience. Unlike more conventional flea markets (which are often like sprawling dollar stores), this one had real old stuff, quirky one-off objets and hand crafted oils, lotions, potions, leathers, woodworks and metal fabrications.
Here’s your deer head, ready for mounting on the wall. There are your typesetters’ letters or, if they’re too small, the outdoor sign letters. Need a giant search light for your patio? How about a sweater made of old, cut and resewn sweaters? Some old shoes? A Danish modern lamp? Some cookware from the 50s? You get the idea.
The Fermenting Cellar is, of course, part of the old distillery district at the foot of Parliament. The brick factory buildings have been left nice and raw and the cobbled walks are a pleasure to explore because the whole area is car-free. The flea market is one small part of this rapidly expanding operation, which is filled with galleries, theatres, design studios, restaurants, brew pubs and coffee bars. The whole space is paved in undulating, old brick, with spaces punctuated by large, whimsical sculpture.
In more benign weather, there will be outdoor cafés, live music and people-watching.
There’s more. New condos provide a living community that makes the district a real neighbourhood, not just a tourist trap. Right across Cherry Street, which bounds the Eastern end of the area, HUGE development is going on, preparing athlete’s accommodation for the Pan Am Games in 2015. This will become housing, probably for young urbans but also for empty=nesters who want to stay in the Big Smoke.
It’s a little hard to see the whole picture at the moment because there is still so much construction going on, but the future is promising. Road systems looks practical and coexist with human-scale, walkable streets. There seems to be plenty of parking, above and below ground and better yet, the area is so close to downtown, its easy to reach on foot, by bicycle and by public transit.
There are 3 more Leslieville Flea Markets slated for the Fermenting Cellar… two in March and one in April. Where it goes after that? Who knows? You could get on the mailing list.
Samuel Johnson’s famous quotation continues to ring true. I shudder with revulsion when the word “patriotism” is in Rob Ford’s mouth. Same goes for Tim Horton’s “patriotic” advertising, hiding their so-so products behind a screen of sentimental Canadiana.
Are we really as gullible as the scoundrels believe?