I’ve gathered up some bits of wisdom of late that I’d like to share.
First up, how to…
…Figure out what streaming service a particular show is on
Netflix, Apple TV, Disney+, Prime, Crave, Tubi, CBC Gem… It’s nuts. So many services! I don’t subscribe to them all, but enough to make it hard to remember what’s where.
It’s even more confusing for Canadians, since US media will tell us a show is on a service we don’t have in this country (Hulu, Peacock, HBO+)—but that doesn’t always mean we can’t get it on a service we do have. Even more confusing, just because it’s on an American version of a service we have (like Netflix or Prime) doesn’t mean it’s also on the Canadian one. Could be on some other service entirely here.
This is why I love the JustWatch app. You select the streaming services you have access to and it serves up what’s on each. You can set up a Watchlist of every TV show or movie you’re currently watching, or plan to watch, and have one-page look of everything you’re currently caring about. You can mark off episodes or movies as you watch them. It will notify you when new episodes or a new season become available. And it has a pretty good recommendation engine if you need more to watch.
Of course, you can also use it to look up some show you’ve heard about, to find out if it is available to you at all, and if so, where.
…Watch Poker Face
Solid as I generally find the JustWatch app to be, one thing it doesn’t quite get is conventional cable. Particularly when it behaves unconventionally.
I’ll blame Gus the cat for my slowness in getting into any kind of Christmas spirit this year. A few weeks after his pretty speed recovery from the injury above his eye, he suddenly come down with something… He stopped eating, grooming, or doing anything other than shuffling uncomfortably from one sleeping spot to another. It was a weekend, and the vet was open only for supplies, not medical appointments. They suggested taking Gus to the emergency veterinary hospital.
There he got tested for everything imaginable. He had some neurological symptoms—asymmetrical eye pupils, inconsistent results on the “knuckling” test—and few slightly abnormal results on the blood test. Could be infection, could be tumors… He was admitted and hydrated, appetite stimulated, given pain killers, and started on antibiotics. I went home to fret.
Gus responded quite well to the various ministrations, though, and we were able to take him home the next day. He seemed pretty good from that point, though lower energy, and with the uneven pupils persisting a while. We continued the antibiotics for seven days, and a few days later, the eyes improved, the energy back. I brought him in for a final check from our vet, who found that all seemed good, except for the eye on the injured side looking a little irritated.
So she suggested a week of twice daily eye drops. Gus was much better about letting us give him those than we expected. What seemed much more upsetting to him was if we had to chase him down first; he’d sometimes hide for hours afterwards. So we took to surprising him with eye drops. Those done, he continued to seem quite fine.
This hasn’t happened in so long, it was almost confusing to see it in the calendar. But we had a concert date on Friday night, then another one on Saturday might.
The first was a Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony Pops concerts, Thorgy and the Thorchestra. Thorgy Thor is a classically trained musician who plays violin, viola, and cello (!). And she is also a drag queen who has been featured on RuPaul’s Drag Race.
Despite knowing the drag queen part (and not the musician part, actually) before going, this was more of a gay pride kind of event than I was expecting. It was conducted by Daniel Bartholomew-Poyser, who is gay, and in between Thorgy’s comic antics and demonstrations of musicianship, we got the history of gay rights in Canada (to the tune of Oh, Canada) and a documentary featurette about the Brunswick Four, three of whom were arrested for performing a parody song, “I Enjoy Being a Dyke”. This was followed by a performance of said parody.
Thorgy was very funny, and is quite a talented musician, but she wasn’t the only guest performer. Keiko Larocque from Wilfrid Laurier provided vocals on some numbers, and the Eastwood Collegiate Dance Team performed some choreography on others, from ballet to Vogue-ing. Along with a rainbow of humanity, we got a range of musical styles, from Brahms, Beethoven, and Tchaikovsky to Rogers & Hammerstein to Cyndi Lauper and Lady Gaga. It was a fun night!
Saturday we had to make the slightly longer drive to Stratford, Ontario to see the Art of Time Ensemble perform A Singer Must Die: A Tribute to Leonard Cohen. The Art of Time musicians are a sextet who play piano, saxophone, violin, cello, bass, and guitar. They seem to specialize in performing new and novel arrangements of popular songs. In this case, of course, it was all songs by Leonard Cohen.
The featured singers were Steven Page (formerly of Barenaked Ladies), Gregory Hoskins (of Gregory Hoskins and the Stickpeople), Tom Wilson (of commercials and Lee Harvey Osmond), Sarah Slean (of… Sarah Slean), and Tamara Lindeman (also known as Tamara Hope, apparently). Each singer brought their own style. Page could handle the serious and the light, as he does in all his work.
Sarah Slean flitted happily onto the stage, even though, as she then noted, some of the songs covered were a bit devastating. (“But that’s how the light gets in.”) She also apologized for a voice somewhat damaged by weeks of colds (not that I noticed), which even required one song substitution from the program (but I was happy to hear “Take This Waltz”).
Tamara Lindeman was a bit more earnest, and I believe she’s the one who handled “The Partisan”, the one song not written by Leonard Cohen, though famously covered by him. (Hadn’t actually realized til this that he didn’t write it…) Quite lovely.
Tom Wilson was pretty funny, and possessed the most Leonard Cohen-like voice of the bunch. He covered “Closing Time” and “Who by Fire”. Gregory Hoskins was very intense! His version of “Treaty” was particularly striking.
“Hallelujah” wasn’t on the program, but was performed as the encore, by Page and Hoskins.
I quite enjoyed the whole evening. Jean, as less of a Cohen fan, struggled with the first half but ended up enjoying the second.
(And both performances featured a pretty good amount of masking in the audience. In the case of the symphony, even the musicians were masked—except the singers and wind instrument players, of course.)
American Express “Front of the Line” offer: Elvis Costello and The Imposters, live at Massey Hall in Toronto in August. Sure, why not get tickets to that? Massey Hall is a great little theatre. And surely everything will be fine by summer.
Tickets now on sale for & Juliet…
Created by the Emmy®-winning writer from “Schitt’s Creek,” this hilarious new musical flips the script on the greatest love story ever told. & Juliet asks: what would happen next if Juliet didn’t end it all over Romeo? Get whisked away on a fabulous journey as she ditches her famous ending for a fresh beginning and a second chance at life and love—her way.
Juliet’s new story bursts to life through a playlist of pop anthems as iconic as her name, including Since U Been Gone‚ Roar, Baby One More Time, Larger Than Life‚ That’s The Way It Is, and Can’t Stop the Feeling—all from the genius songwriter/producer behind more #1 hits than any other artist this century. Break free of the balcony scene and get into this romantic comedy that proves there’s life after Romeo. The only thing tragic would be missing it.
Well, that sounds fun. And hey look, it’s playing in August. We’re going to be in Toronto anyway. Why not get tickets for this the day before the Elvis Costello concert?
“What are we going to do with this?” Jean asked, about the Corsi-Rosenthal box that he’d agreed to build, to humor me. And which had turned out much larger than we’d expected.
Literally four MERV-13 furnace filter duct-taped to a floor fan, a Corsi-Rosenthal box is a kind of homemade HEPA filter. Viruses and other nasties get trapped in the filters, and the fan blows out clean air. Thus replacing bad room air with cleaner air.
I mumbled something about it being useful when we had people over, but had to concede we don’t really have much by way of visitors these days.
“It could also be useful if we ever have to isolate from one another,” I mumbled.
One week later
“Where did you put that Corsi-Paranoid box?” Jean asked, using his “affectionate” nickname for it.
“In the closet,” I said. “Why?”
“We might want to run it for a bit…”
We had a plan (of sorts) that we executed. Jean got the upstairs rooms, running the C-R box. I got the downstairs. Main floor was the masking zone. Windows open. Doors closed. Cats rather confused.
His symptoms started two days after exposure, and were confirmed by rapid test after three. Thanks to four vaccine doses, the worst of it was two days spent in bed, feeling achy and exhausted, and the only lingering symptom a bit of cough. With ongoing positive tests, though, the isolation had to continue quite a few days after he was on the road to recovery.
One week later (August 2021)
Jean gets a call from his sister, reporting that she’s not sure how much more time his mother has. (She had a stroke in February.) He reconsiders his plan to wait until Labour Day before visiting her again.
We’re both tired of the in-house Covid protocols, but having stuck with them this long, it seems important to continue. It would just suck to get infected at the very end, after making so much this effort to avoid it for so many days.
One week later
Finally his test is negative. I have never developed symptoms, and the tests I subsequently take are negative as well. Jean thinks he should visit his Mom.
I had a nice visit with Jean’s Mom in June. (Jean was there too, to be clear!) He’s OK with me not travelling with him this time. I’m OK with doing my Toronto activities with my sisters instead of with him. Brief first hug in two weeks, then we’re each off to different parts of Ontario.
Elvis & Juliet
I’m not one to drive myself to Toronto, so I have to research what transit options have survived the pandemic. It’s pretty sad, people! Via Rail has only a single train running on Sundays, and it won’t get me there in time. Go Bus is a possibility (Go Train does not run on Sundays, why would anyone want to go to Toronto on a weekend), though it’s a convoluted route. Then I find: Flixbus! It’s cheap, the stop is nearby and reachable by local transit, and it’s a direct route to Toronto that gets me there in time.
It’s the first time I have taken transit since early 2020. Except for a bit of trouble finding the actual Flixbus stop, everything went well. Local bus to Ion to and Flixbus, all stops were close to one another (and to my house)., and all were on time. And no big traffic tie-ups on the way to Toronto, either… We actually arrived early.
Despite the heat warning that is to persist all weekend, I do the half-hour walk to my hotel. So many people on the streets! So many people in the hotel lobby! It’s all a bit mind-bendy after two weeks of studiously avoiding everyone, even my husband.
The hotel room is fairly uninspiring, despite its high cost (cheapest decent hotel we could find; Toronto is not a cheap city normally, and it’s still not quite “normal” times), and slightly high in CO2. Can’t do anything about the price, but I am able to quickly improve the CO2 reading by opening the patio door for a bit, letting in all the steamy, humid air!
But then I have to be off. Juliet, and my sister, await.
I grab some lunch on the way. We mwet up at the Princess of Wales theatre (six air exchanges per hour, MERV14 filters, yes I asked). I soon forgot about all that, though, because we have excellent orchestra seats, and the show is so freakin’ fun!
It’s all music by producer / writer Max Martin, so that means songs by Britney and Katie and Backstreet Boys and Bon Jovi and Kelly Clarkson and even Adam Lambert...! Between that, and the Shakespearean premise, and the themes of girl power, and being your authentic self, and… I don’t know, I was just so entertained. I would see this musical again in a heartbeat.
Then it’s a nice family dinner with my sister, then a call with Jean back at the hotel. His trip is less entertaining than mine, but between naps (hers), his Mom is happy to see him.
After my hotel patio breakfast, with pigeon companion, I had planned to go to the AGO (Art Gallery of Ontario). But I checked first, and learned that it’s only open on holiday Mondays, not regular Mondays like this one. It’s another steamy day. I decide to just amble up to the Yorkville area, and take in some of its nice shops, plentiful park seating, cafes, and gelato shops.
Meanwhile, my other sister and I are emailing, trying to figure out dinner plans. Rain was threatening later in the day. I came across a list of covered patios, and found that one was near Massey Hall: the Rabbit Hole, and make a reservation there.
Sis and I meet at the hotel, and walk over. I “convince” her that we want to sit outside, despite the steamy heat. After some water, and sitting, it’s not so bad. And hey, we’re in time for “happy hour” $5 glasses of wine! We both settle on fish dishes: mackerel for me, salmon for me. They are really good! And are their nice, light desserts: the lemon posset, and the strawberry rhubarb trifle.
Then over to Massey Hall for Elvis Costello and the Imposters, with special guest Nick Lowe. Rather good seats for this show as well! (And I’ve finally stopped thinking about air exchanges—mostly.) And it all starts quite promptly.
Though I’m not as familiar with Nick Lowe and his oeuvre, he and his band (who did a few familiar instrumentals) were very good. And he did conclude with “Cruel to Be Kind”!
And Elvis Costello was just fab, and far more chatty than he had been when I’d last seen him live, many moons ago. He praised Nick Lowe, reminisced about previous trips to Toronto, mentioned the El Mocambo, talked about his musician father… And he played plenty of old favorites along with some from the new album and few others he just felt like including (Set list). His voice was still good, his band terrific, and his stage presence compelling.
Tuesday I was on the early Flixbus back to Waterloo. And I had it all to myself! (Except the driver. Which is good, because I can’t drive a bus.)
Two days later
Jean back, me still testing negative, we go out with a couple friends to the local Babylon Sisters Wine Bar. It was great to meet with them, and we were very impressed with the venue, both with the interesting wine selections (very flexible on how you can make up a wine flight), and the delicious food (supplied by Little Mushroom Catering).
My timeline is stuffed full of doctors, epidemiologists, public health officials, and health journalists, and they are not an optimistic bunch of late. While Ontario / Canada seemed to have had a reasonable handle on Delta, the two-week’s worth of data on Omicron is not looking promising. Seemingly quite contagious, seemingly fairly evasive of both vaccination and prior infection, it looks poised to spread at exponential rates in the coming weeks and months, once again threatening to swamp Ontario hospitals whose already limited capacity is actually worse now when this happened last year.
Meanwhile, I had tickets to my first crowded indoor event of the pandemic: a sold-out Blue Rodeo concert at Centre in the Square.
Ontario has reached that point in its slow reopening where almost everything is reopened, but with some restrictions, like distancing, capacity limits, and masks. Vaccination rates are some of the highest in the world, but the pace of increase is slowing. Case counts are fairly low, but slowly starting to rise again.
Mentally, I still switch between feeling fairly good / confident (I probably won’t get it! And if I do, it shouldn’t be that bad!) to still somewhat anxious (But the delta variant! What about long covid!).
And I have missed doing things. Some things, anyway.
One of the local restaurants we like, Swine and Vine, decided to move from its Kitchener location to uptown Waterloo. As part of the move, they rebranded, changing their name to S&V Uptown, and changing their menu focus away from charcuterie board to “upscale bistro”. I loved the look of their menu. I thought that they might not be so busy on Tuesday nights? So we decided to try it, as our belated anniversary dinner out.
Though they don’t have a dress code or anything, we decided to spruce up a bit for the event. I dug into the far reaches of my closet for shoes with heels—first time wearing such-like footwear in a year and half. (Wedge heels, though. Didn’t want to twist an ankle.) And though it was a nice enough day for their patio, we thought we’d try the indoor dining thing. First time we’d done that locally since—well, you know.
It was a quiet evening there, with no other dinners seated right beside us (distanced though that table be). And we were quite impressed with the whole experience:
The service was quite attentive and knowledgeable. They presented and described each dish as served. They were able to guide us to some good wine matching choices.
Everything was creative and delicious, with the octoplus a la planchette and lamb noisette as highlights.
The few service hiccups (they did just open in this space, with this new menu) were smoothly addressed. Our entrees were slightly delayed, so they gave us a pate taster to tied us over, and still compensated us on the bill.
Movie theatres have also reopened at half capacity (masks mandatory for entry and recommended when seated, except when eating or drinking). The last movie we’d seen in person in the before time at The Princess was Parasite, the Oscar winner. This week, in deciding to venture back, we went to see Nomadland, this year’s Oscar winner.
I didn’t pay much attention to the Oscars this year, so Nomadland wasn’t really on my radar until Jean mentioned that he’d read and quite enjoyed the book the film was based on. I then watched the trailer and thought it looked interesting.
It’s about people whose economic circumstances cause them to live in their trailers, or vans, and move around America in search of work. They converge on Amazon to help with the Christmas rush. They work in national parks during tourist seasons. They pick beets. Work in restaurants. It seems kind of bad—and in a number of ways, it is—but maybe not that bad? In terms of the freedom, the camaraderie that develops among the people who do this (the “nomads”), and the ability to see the beauty of the country.
An engaging film, even without a huge dramatic through-line. (And wearing a mask during a whole movie is moderately annoying, but quite doable.)
This long weekend we got tickets to see a production in Stratford. Unable to put on their usual large, elaborate, indoor productions of Shakespeare, musicals, and other plays, they have on offer instead some smaller plays and cabarets, presented outdoors, currently with a limit of 100 people in attendance (I believe with expectation that they can increase this later in the season). At those numbers, pretty much everything sells out, so it was thanks to advance ticket access that we were able to get tickets to the cabaret Play On! A Shakespearean Mixtape.
That took place on a rainy-ish day, with thunderstorm risk present. Still, it was sunny when we walked in under the canopy, about 10 minutes before the start.
But about 5 minutes after it started, the thunderstorm kicked up.
Now, everyone was under canopy, and we were pretty centrally seated, so we stayed dry—unlike the people nearer the opening, who had to raise up their umbrellas behind. And the wind, occasional thunderclap, and sight and sound of heavy rainfall were somewhat distracting to everyone for the storm duration.
But wow, the four singers—two young women, two young men—were terrific. (And one of the gents seriously looked like slightly portly Adam Lambert.) To introduce songs, they would perform some lines from the associated Shakespeare play, then launch into the song. It was quite a wide-ranging set: Taylor Swift, Radiohead, Rush, Mumford and Sons, Madonna, Prince… Well, here’s the playlist:
Some songs were played for laughs—Brush Up Your Shakespeare, Billy S., I Am the Walrus. Some performances were haunting—A Case of You, and especially, Exit Music (For a Film). And some were awesome, notably the take on Rush’s Limelight. Overall, great to hear live music for the first time since January, 2020.
We had selected The Bruce Restaurant for dinner. And we had hedged our bets by making two reservations: one for the patio, one for indoors. Of course, we didn’t want to tie up both tables, and the weather forecast made us think that indoors would be a safer bet. But by actual dinner time, it had pretty much cleared up again. Unfortunately, when asking about being seated outdoors, a large party had already filled the space.
Again, it wasn’t a full establishment, though it was a little busier than S&V Uptown. And just as good! I started with a lovely watermelon salad with a glass of Champagne, while Jean had a goat cheese and beet entree with Stratus White. He then had an amazing truffle pasta with a Languedoc Pinot Noir (new to us, Pinot Noir from that region) while I enjoyed a lobster BLT with the Stratus White. (The bread and bacon were the highlight of that sandwich.)
For dessert, I had berry assortment, with berry tea, while Jean had a cheese plate.
And now we have an email that some ballroom dance classes are restarting—refresher courses (literally). Hmm…
Nothing much to do today I think I’ll do my hair today Can’t do a thing with it, look at it, this way and that.. Then we’re on the phone, hear the news It’s all grief and gloom! Yes, things are bad, really bad We’re clearly immune We lead charmed lives
Charmed Lives, Boomtown Rats (songwriter: Bob Geldof)
Been doing a bit of binge-listening to The Boomtown Rats lately. “Charmed Lives” was written in 1982, so is in no way is commenting on the world of 2020–21. But the lyrics certainly struck me in a differently than they had previously. Here we are, all empty social calendars and overgrown hair and terrible news, and yet…
… On our way to immunity, and all the charms that can bring.
I recently received my second dose of the Pfizer COVID19 vaccine. I won’t get into why this is so, but I did qualify for it, no lying or cheating. The timing of both my doses made me something of an outlier at the vaccine clinic. First visit, it was me and a bunch of 80 year olds. Second visit, I was a second dose person in a first dose world: Agreeing to complete a post-vaccine survey only to find I didn’t qualify for it, because my first dose was too long ago. Having to stop the person checking me out from booking me for yet another vaccine appointment, 16 weeks hence.
For what’s it’s worth, I do agree with the delayed second dose strategy, but also wish they’d get a bit more of a move on now in doling them out to those who qualify (like frontline healthcare workers) and in offering them sooner to more people, notably those over 80. Still, it really looks as though enough supply is on the way that few will actually have to wait a full 16 weeks for dose 2. Most will likely get it within 3 months—which studies are indicating is actually better than getting it after only 3 weeks.
In the meantime, what difference does being fully vaccinated make to me? Well, mentally it’s nice, knowing that I’m building even better immunity and becoming less likely to infect others. But otherwise, not much has changed. I still can’t go to a restaurant, salon, movie theatre, or concert hall, because none of those places are open yet. Travel’s not really a practical option, either. And any indoor spaces that are open, masks are still mandatory for all.
So, I’m not relating to all those American articles on the challenges of rejoining society. (Though for the record, when the time comes, I won’t have to adapt to brushing my teeth and taking showers again, or to wearing jeans and other zippered pants and shirts with buttons, because I never stopped doing those things, and can’t really comprehend why anyone else would have…?!? I even kept up with makeup most days—that one, I’ll admit is bizarre—but it’s fun for me, and I don’t care that it doesn’t impress my cats much. On the other hand, wearing shoes with heels, or wearing any sort of fancy dress at all, is something of a distant memory…)
But you know, I agree with the slow reopening, because I want this one to stick. What’s true now is what’s been true all pandemic: no one can beat this thing alone. There’s little benefit to being vaccinated if everyone else around keeps getting ill. It’s a group effort. And fortunately, it’s going well.
Things are tentatively reopening in Ontario—parks (not for camping yet), stores (but not the ones in malls), some medical and veterinary procedures (excluding dentists and optometrists).
But Ontario simply hasn’t been testing enough. So we just don’t know what the real levels of community spread are. The only certain thing, at least in my part of Ontario, is that there is some.
So you really have to do your own risk assessment to determine what newly possible activities you want to take advantage of. The blog post The Risks – Know Them – Avoid Them has been really influential, with a lot of newspaper articles covering similar points. What’s the gist?
Successful infection = Exposure * Time.
The worst cases occur with a group of people close together indoors in a building with poor ventilation who are speaking loudly (or singing) and sharing food. So it’s safer to be outdoors, and when indoors, best to be able to keep some distance from others, and not stay too long.
This means that some activities that many of us have been worried about—because it’s the only ones we privileged types have been going out to do—aren’t actually that much of a risk. Walking (or riding or jogging) past people outside, even if it’s a bit less than six feet away—is not that risky because the interaction is so brief and the virus doesn’t transmit that well in open air.
Going to the grocery store? Also not that bad, because you’re not there that long, the number of people is restricted such that it’s not crowded, and you’re moving around fairly quickly past different people. Plus with the lone shopping, not so much talking going on. Wearing a mask is a nice gesture also, mostly to protect the store workers from you.
So it will be with other stores that can now open but with restricted occupancy. Plan what you want to buy there, get it efficiently while keeping space, then get out. Wash your hands, and wash them again after unpackaging whatever you bought. (And wash your mask if you wore one.)
Odds are you’re going to be all right.
Working 9 to 5
But what about working in our own offices for 8 to 9 hours a day?
I would note that I have not been asked to do this, so this is merely hypothetical musing.
Atul Gawande, in the New Yorker, notes that hospitals have done a pretty good job of preventing spread among healthcare workers there, and wonders if some of there approaches can be adapted to other workplaces: Amid the Coronavirus Crisis, a Regimen for Reentry. The four-point plan is basically:
Employee screening, with orders to stay home if you’re sick
Gawande notes the issue with relying on temperature checks only: Apart from the fact that some with the disease never do develop a high fever, for those that do, the onset is typically later than with other, milder symptoms. So you really want people with scratchy throats or body aches staying away, even if they’re fever-free. That would need to be made clear.
2. Frequent hand washing
Great, as long as there is copious hand sanitizer about. Otherwise, there would be serious sink lineups happening.
3. Keep distance between employees as much as possible
Definitely a challenge in my office, which (like many) has gone for cramming more cubicles into less space, and even some “banquet table” style seating (side by side and facing, with no separation at all). Many of us having standing desks that put us above divider height (as lower dividers were installed to encourage collaboration). Is it possible to rearrange everything to actually seat everyone six feet apart, with higher dividers? Dunno.
4. Wear masks
Yeah, it’s one thing to wear a mask for a brief shopping trip or transit ride, but quite another to wear one for most of an 8-hour work day. Yes, healthcare workers do, and thank you to them: I’ve seen the photos of how uncomfortable that is. But surgical masks, at least, are better masks than the ones we can get (per the Gawande article); less hot, more breathable.
Furthermore, what about my drinking habit? Seriously, at work, I drink all day long. First coffee…
Then water, then maybe a tea, a decaf, some more water… I think it somewhat defeats the purpose if you’re constantly taking the mask off and on (and so is everyone else). But working dehydrated and with a caffeine headache, with a sweaty face and foggy glasses, does not sound like a recipe for great productivity. (And what about lunch? My afternoon snack?)
So I think some thought needs to be given as to the purpose of actually returning to work at the office.
For me, though I’m slowly working on it, it’s still true that my office setup is more ergonomic than my home one; my desk there is just better For some people, home might not be a particular good workspace due to noise, pets, lighting, other family members, etc. For those purposes, it could make sense to allow a certain percentage to work at the office each day, as potentially the numbers could be kept low enough that spacing is fairly easy and masks less necessary.
Seeing people, and the ease of talking to them. Team building. Building culture. All being missed, but how easy to get back?
You can’t be cramming people into small meeting rooms to have discussions like we used to. We can’t have fitness classes with the previous numbers of attendees. The communal kitchen is a bit of a hazard. Coffee machines might be have to be disabled, so more chats there. Going over to talk to someone might be less welcomed. We can’t open windows. Outside meetings could be nice in July, less so in January. The elevator could become a scary space. Also, the bathroom.
Basically, it’s hard to build warm and fuzzy feelings toward your coworkers when they seem like disease vectors.
And what about leisure activities
The Saturday Globe and Mail featured a list of 46 changes they predicted for the post-pandemic world. (Most of these items are not available online, I’m finding—so no links for you.) I didn’t find it too depressing til I got to the Arts section. (Whereas, the point that flying might not be that fun—or cheap? Not exactly new, right? And at least we might finally get more space.)
But it wasn’t the one about rock concerts likely moving toward smaller venues with sky-high ticket prices. For one thing, there aren’t that many bands still on my “must-see” list. For another, if I did feel I could indulge in such an experience, it could be kind of cool. The article also postulated a cheaper streaming option might be available—which doesn’t sound bad.
And the one claiming that movie theatres would only play blockbusters seemed doubtful. Wouldn’t your little art movies, attracting only the smaller crowds you want, be more feasible?
No, it was the one about theatres moving more to one-act plays, because:
a) They’re cheaper, so the crowd can be smaller
b) Makes it way easier for the actors to keep distance than in a big musical
But not because of plays themselves, which I don’t go to that often anyway.
It’s that it made me think about symphonies.
By their nature, that’s a whole lot of musicians crowded together, some of them playing wind instruments. (Which sometimes need to be cleared of spittle mid-concert, as I recall.) Let alone when it’s a special show with singers or dancers or trapeze artists, or what have you.
And how close the audience seats are? And the crowded lobbies before? And the bathroom lineups? How do you get this to work?
Is it viable for a symphony to play with the musicians spaced apart on the stage, to a 25% capacity house, if that’s what’s needed?
Ballet Jazz de Montréal brought their Leonard Cohen – Dance Me program to Centre in the Square recently. It assembles the work of three choreographers into a single program that pays tribute to Leonard Cohen’s body of work.
Much of it was, of course, very sexy. Less expected was the funny—“Tower of Song” is a pretty wry piece, when you think about it. And the dance interpretation definitely did have you thinking about those poetic lyrics in a new way. Though just when you were getting into that groove, they’d shake it up. Interspersing Leonard’s image, his voice (in interviews), his words (projected on a screen). For “So Long, Mariane”, the dancing stopped in favor of a woman just singing the song. The inevitable “Hallelujah” was treated similarly, albeit with two singers.
The whole thing was terrific. Despite not being particularly a Leonard Cohen fan, Jean quite enjoyed it as well. It was very well attended (not quite sold out, but “limited availability”) and was much lauded at the end.
Most of the music came from the later part of Leonard Cohen’s career, with a number of live selections. This pleased me, as to this day, I have trouble listening to his earlier, folky oeuvre.
I first got into Leonard Cohen music via Jennifer Warnes’ Famous Blue Raincoat album, which I adored (and still rather like). I thought of that when they danced to “Famous Blue Raincoat”, obviously using Leonard’s version, not Jennifer’s. Warnes subtly changed the lyrics of that song, such that I could never make heads or tails of what was going on in it. When I finally listened to the original, it was like, oh, now see I. Not “You treated some woman to a flake of your life”, but “You treated my woman to a flake of your life.” Completely changes the meaning and feeling of the next line, “And when she got home, she was nobody’s wife.”
I recently heard Joan Baez’ version. She just sings the original lyrics, right down the the “Sincerely, L. Cohen” at the end. His songs are so “covered”; I guess everyone, especially women, have to decide how to make them work. K.d. lang’s “Hallelujah” skips the verse with the line “I remember when I moved in you”; other women (like Emilie Claire Barlow) keep it in. At Ballet Jazz (where it was mostly sung by a man; a woman provided harmonies) they did a shortened version overall. I would guess might have skipped the song entirely—it not being that danceable—except that you can’t, really…?
Amazing how iconic it’s become, given a what a flop it originally was (and Cohen’s original version… still isn’t my favourite thing to listen to). Malcolm Gladwell has a really interesting podcast episode on the song’s long road to success (even if it doesn’t have enough k.d. lang in it).
“Dance Me to the End of Love” and “Take This Waltz” were more obvious choreographic choices, and were featured early in the program. Warming up the room nicely. Brought to mind the film Take This Waltz, which features one of the sexiest scenes I’ve ever seen… though that’s probably a woman thing, because the two participants are fully clothed and don’t touch each other. They’re contemplating what to do with their lust for one another, given that she’s married (and not to him). “I want to know what you’d do to me,” she says.
And then he tells her. Wow.
Leonard Cohen himself played Centre in the Square once. This was after he’d decided to go on tour, to make some money, having found out that his manager had embezzled all his earnings. Not being sure how the tour would be received, Cohen played some smaller venues, like this one.
I had the opportunity to buy tickets early, but I was like, well, do I even really like Leonard Cohen himself, versus some woman singing his songs? So I passed. Which, of course, turned out to be really stupid. The tour was amazing because (as the podcast gets into) Leonard Cohen is something of a late bloomer, and his mature voice and (especially) his terrific full backup band—not to mention all those great songs—made them so. I love his live albums.
Other residents of KW were smarter than I, and the show sold out quickly, so there was no getting late tickets, either. After that initial, very successful tour, it was all stadiums in big cities. So I never saw him live, except on video.
Been having a number of fairly unscheduled weekends of late, which generally suits me, but last weekend I did get out of house a number of times. And survived!
Willibald is a distillery and restaurant located in the nearby small town of Ayr. We’d been hearing about it for a while—including one claim that it was as good as our beloved Verses—and finally had dinner there with friends last Friday.
It’s in a pretty cool space, with some communal tables that they divide up with table decorations, so you don’t quite feel as though you’re dining with strangers. We got a bit of a history of the place from our waitress. It started as a whisky distillery, and they more recently added gin. The restaurant has been open about two years.
None of their whisky was available (it’s aging(, but I decided to try one of their gin cocktails. Made with pink gin, ipa, ginger, balsamic, lemon, and mint, it was very good—but I think the gin was fairly disguised.
Wine is a relatively recent addition to their menu. As a distillery, they previously thought they wouldn’t offer wine (save one house red and white), but when they decided to have an Italian-themed winter menu, adding wines seemed apropos. We got a bottle of Champs Pentus, which is a GSM, but from the Languedoc region rather than the Rhone—making it a cheaper option.
Normally their food menu has a focus on local and fresh, but since the pickings are slim on that front this time of year, the menu was built around pastas and pizzas. We had the sourdough foccacia, rigatoni with pork ragu, and cavatelli with butternut squash, pancetta, sage, and walnut. So a real carb-a-palooza! But everything was very good. And the wine suited nicely.
For dessert (why stop with the carbs now?), I was intrigued by the olive oil gelato and the limoncello sorbet, so we tried both. Both nice, with the olive oil gelato the winner overall.
At the end of the meal, the waitress said that we were the “fancy” table and that they were trying to impress us, because they want more customers of our ilk. What made us “fancy” was ordering that whole bottle of wine, and one of us getting a cheese plate for dessert. Funny!
But she can rest assured that we do plan to try it again. It might not have been Verses-good, but it was still quite good (and not Verses-expensive). It would be cool to see what they put together with the seasonal produce, when they have it. I hope they retain some wines…
Choir! Choir! Choir!
Choir! Choir! Choir! are a Toronto-based duo who gather amateur singing enthusiasts together and teach them to sing a popular song in choral harmony. They are crazy popular over here in Ontario.
This was my second time joining in on their performances. I probably didn’t report on it the first time, but we did Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams”. And I enjoyed it enough to be willing to go again.
This time the song was Abba’s “Mamma Mia”. Both times were at Centre in the Square, but this time, instead of having us all up on an extended stage, the two guys were on the smaller stage, and we filled the auditorium. And I do mean filled—it was completely sold out.
The evening lasted around two hours, and we did not spend the whole time working on the one song. To warm up, we did some quickie run-throughs of other Abba songs—”Fernando”, “Take a Chance on Me”, and “SOS”, and to close out, we got “The Winner Takes It All” and “Dancing Queen”. (No “Waterloo”, despite the repeated requests—including very loudly by one woman right behind one person in our party of six.)
Really focusing on Abba lyrics, you see dark and desperate they really are: When you’re gone, how can I even try to go on? / I’ve been angry and sad bout the things that you do. / If you’ve got no place to go, if you’re feeling down. Last time we finagled ourselves into position to sing the main melody line; this time we couldn’t move around, so had to tackle the high harmonies—for most of the song. At one point that switched. But, it was an interesting challenge, though one that gave me a sore throat by the end of the evening.
And, it certainly wasn’t all Abba. Other warm-up songs were Queen’s “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” (yay!) and Madonna’s “Vogue”. And throughout the evening, there were random break-out singalongs, including “Backstreet’s Back”, “Ring of Fire”, “One Week”, excerpts from Sound of Music, and a suggestion that maybe a Grease night would be fun—only to lead into the lamest song of that soundtrack, “Sandy”. Along with a bit of mocking of Gordon Lightfoot (so don’t expect a Choir! Choir! Choir! version of “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” anytime soon).
I found it all quite fun. I’d maybe even do it again.
Snowshoeing (despite limited snow)
Jean was determined to go snowshoeing on Sunday, despite us getting less than the forecast amount of snow. He found five of us willing to go along, though we were all a bit dubious.
We went to the Elora Gorge. Normally when we snowshoe here, we can do so on the frozen-over water. This year, that was not an option!
Instead we had to walk along the cliff edge, on a mix of ice, snow, and dirt… Which presented some challenges.
Still, it was pretty… And did give a sense of accomplishing… something.