On Saturday afternoon I took a drive out to the McMichael Canadian Art Collection. The gallery is just outside of Toronto — in Kleinburg, near Canada’s Wonderland — but it’s log-and-stone buildings and treed surrounds makes the place feel like an Algonquin retreat. It’s a refreshing escape so close to the city, and while there I was delighted to discover a great Canadian artist that I hadn’t previously heard about: Jean-Paul Lemieux. I only noticed a couple of the Quebecer’s works among all the pieces by Tom Thomson, Emily Carr and the Group of Seven, but Lemieux’s paintings made an impression with their minimal, graphic quality. I like how he captured the desolate, vast landscape of rural Quebec — in particular the harsh, snowy weather and long grey skies.
Obviously, Lena Dunham’s new dramedy, Girls, isn’t about men. But as a guy, I have to complain a little about how grossness of the dudes on the show. To be plain, Dunham’s character, Hannah, is dating Frankenstein, and her best-friend Marnie is dating a 12-year-old girl trapped in a 16-year-old boy’s body. Let’s have a look:
He’s dense, poorly-shaven and unemployed, but that’s not the worst of it. Adam seems to have learned about sex from a curious mix of raunchy porn movies and professional hockey. What girl doesn’t like being surprised by a little anal action, or hearing sweet nothings like: “You’re a dirty little whore and I’m going to send you home to your parents covered in cum?” But I can see why Hannah likes him. Not only does he have special skills — ejaculating in the shape of Africa takes a lot of hand-penis coordination — he can also be quite considerate. Offering Hannah a bottle of orange Gatorade after she “almost cums” shows that he cares about her, and doesn’t want her getting too dehydrated. After five minutes of traumatizing sex, though, I think Hannah should be reaching for the gin.
Dear Ai Weiwei,
I think you’re hot. It’s not because I have a thing for beards, bellies or artists, because I don’t. (Especially artists — imagine what it would be like to date Jeff Koons? Scary. You’re bits and bites would be on display).
I was really excited for HBO’s new comedy Veep, starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Like any good satire, I hoped it would shine a slightly harsh but terribly amusing light on its subject matter — in this case the fraught American political system, and specifically the neutered, ineffectual office of the Vice President. Watching it, though, I was left wanting: for a solid story line, for somewhat believable characters, for a reason to tune in again.
The sad fact is that I can not, under any circumstances, afford to buy a house in Toronto. I can barely afford a new pair of runners or wine with dinner. Yet, like a tween girl (or boy) with fantasies of being whisked away by Justin Bieber, I can dream. And I have a serious real estate crush at the moment. It’s a peaked-roofed, brick Victorian row house in Kensington Market, with a garden in the front and bright, clean-lined interiors.
In the first episode of HBO’s much-hyped new dramedy, Girls, the central character, Hannah Horvath, quips “it costs a lot of money to look this cheap.” The line is borrowed from Dolly Parton, but instead of too much makeup and rhinestone-studded clothing, Horvath (played by the show’s creator Lena Dunham) and her friends wear disheveled vintage rags (from the best stores) and carefully blend a Hippie nomad/world-weary artist/spoiled preppy aesthetic (think drape-y blouses, fedoras and broad-shouldered overcoats). They live in bourgeois-bohemian squalor in the hipster-packed neighbourhood of Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Horvath shares an apartment with her roomate Marnie Michaels, and their place suits their clothes: slightly rusty chairs around a Saarinen tulip table; a bathroom decked in trendy white subway tiles with a gaudy floral shower curtain. Horvath’s boyfriend, Adam Sackler (whose last name, fittingly, is an obvious anagram for slacker), is a carpenter-actor-louse whose apartment is even more elegantly disheveled: a tarnished mirror, an typewriter, scraps of his carpenting wood, a plush but ratty settee.
It’s possible to say that I’ve had an intimate relationship with both Toronto and Vancouver. I was born in Canada’s largest city, and have lived here on and off (currently on) for my whole life. It’s my steady, and I love it the way I love an old, comfortable sweater. I’ve also traveled west a few times to visit. There’s something about all the mountains and trees that used to really spark my imagination. But my most recent trip to Vancouver — a three month stint in 2008, when I was on a university work term — cured me of any desire to live on near the pacific. It’s pretty, true. Yet aside from the great skiing and hiking, it can be kind of tedious. How many lattes can someone drink without wanting a bit more edge? I have to admit, however, I’m a little jealous right now of a couple of their architectural projects. Might make a trip necessary again in the future.
Modern architecture is often derided for being austere, yet over the past few years, I’ve definitely noticed some clever, playful things inspired by the work of Mies van der Rohe, Arne Jacobsen and Le Corbusier. Toys, gingerbread houses and even a bird house have brought a certain down-to-earth charm to some of the most iconic buildings of the twentieth century, making them more accessible to people who wouldn’t necessarily know the difference between Ronchamp and Fallingwater. Here are some of my favourites.
If I had a backyard with birds in it (especially birds wearing black turtle necks), I would definitely buy Monique Engelund‘s tribute to Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona Pavilion.
I’ve never read a Mavis Gallant short story, something that, as I write this blog post, I’m ashamed to admit. But every so often I come across a mention of this escaped Cannuck — who has lived in Paris for over 60 of her 90 years — that re-asserts her importance in the world of writing. As a result, I have a certain sketchy understanding of her life through the Globe and Mail, the Walrus, the National Post and other media outlets. The first time I really took notice was in a charming 2008 radio interview on CBC’s Writers and Company, but it wasn’t until last week, when I listened to another CBC radio interview on Ideas, that her life strongly resonated with me. She seems to have achieved something that I find deeply admirable — independence — and I wish I knew how to do the same.
I just finished reading a review of Titanic by Slate Magazine’s Dana Stevens. The review is premised on the fact that when James Cameron’s epic was first released in 1997, Stevens snubbed it for being “a schlocky, sentimental blockbuster that would force [her] to listen to that Celine Dion song again.” She claims, admittedly snobbishly, to have been too busy with her nose in Walter Benjamin to see the movie in theatres, and, before its current 3D re-release last week, only ever half watched it on TV while distractedly folding laundry. Stevens goes on to admit, however, that after finally seeing it on the big screen, she can understand the mass hysteria that surrounded the film 15 years ago. “Titanic isn’t subtle or tasteful or novel,” she writes “but it’s indisputably big and bold and beautiful.”