Wednesday 22 February 2017

Celebrating Jacqueline


I'm very sad to learn that a favourite blogging buddy passed away earlier this month -- Jacqueline of Randomosity and Cranky Bar blogs. Some of you may have been among her readers as well. Last year, she suffered a stroke and was hospitalized since then. I believe it was another stroke on February 6th which ended her life.

Today various blogs are honouring Jacqueline's memory as a final tribute to a wonderful woman gone too soon.

Jacqueline's two successive blogs were always a fun place to visit. She had a great sense of humour and a big, BIG heart! Jacqueline loved to post about her culinary adventures, her favourite music and dealings with family and friends. She was also a talented writer and often posted entertaining and imaginative short fiction based on photo prompts.

But Jacqueline's most inspiring characteristic was her positive, upbeat attitude in the face of serious health issues and other vicissitudes of life. Although she called herself "The Cranky" in her second blog, Jacqueline never appeared to give up in the face of adversity. She celebrated the good times when her arthritis pain and Parkinson's tremors decreased and persevered in bad times when she was more debilitated. I admired her greatly for her strength of character in meeting the many challenges of life.

Jacqueline often posted videos of her favourite music which I always enjoyed because of our similar musical tastes. She introduced me to a lot of great songs and artists, including the European singer In-Grid and her hit Vive le Swing. Jacqueline posted this video two or three different times on her blogs. It was one of her favourites and has become one of mine too. Hearing it always makes me think of her and I'm glad.

Thanks to Rawknrobyn of Life by Chocolate: Robin Alana Engel's Blog for organizing this special blogosphere tribute day.

Tuesday 14 February 2017

It's February 14th!

Wishing all of you . . .

. . . and . . .

. . . on Valentine's Day!


Sunday 5 February 2017

O Canada! Blogathon 2017 -- "My Winnipeg," Part 3

Winnipeg is, and always has been, a hockey city. This central reality of the Winnipeg psyche is mythologized to great effect by Guy Maddin in My Winnipeg, as he narrates the Tale of Two Arenas and the story of the ghostly hockey team called The Black Tuesdays.

This is the segment of the film which probably contains the greatest number of actual facts. Everything is true about Eaton's, its replacement with a new downtown hockey arena and the destruction of the old Winnipeg Arena. All the hockey facts and historical photos of players are true and known to every Winnipeg fan. Even the trough urinal is true!

Quite frankly, I cannot tell if Maddin's bitter outrage about the Arena Debate and the NHL is real or satirical. But if he's a true Winnipegger (and he is), it's probably real.

The video excerpt is 10 minutes long but it's well worth your time to watch!

One of my favourite aspects is Maddin's whole riff on the homoeroticism of hockey. Yes, he goes there, a subject virtually never explored in Canada. Another example of sleepwalking?


"Erotically-charged secret slapshots!"

Smitten by a naked Soviet hockey player glimpsed in the showers as "he emerged from the steam, naked except for the lather mantling his torso," a young Maddin steals his jersey. Wearing it against his own bare skin, "I nearly fainted from the touch of its fabric, and the fear." He immediately throws the jersey into the waters of The Forks, terrified that the KGB will come after him for the theft.

Like much in this film, it's amusing and poignant all at the same time. I love it. And for those of you familiar with Quebec author Roch Carrier's iconic coming-of-age short story, Le chandail de hockey [The Hockey Sweater], I feel this story in My Winnipeg is its English Canadian equivalent, LOL!

So this concludes my series about My Winnipeg -- I hope if you ever get a chance to see this film, you will! It's a classic gem of Canadiana which plumbs the very depths of our soul, eh? Thanks for reading along, those of you who persevered this far!

Saturday 4 February 2017

O Canada! Blogathon 2017 -- "My Winnipeg," Part 2

Part of Maddin's "mystical hypothesizing" in My Winnipeg is the crazy, macabre myth he concocts about the frozen horse heads at The Forks (where the Red and Assiniboine Rivers meet in the centre of Winnipeg).

It is one of my favourite scenes in the whole movie. It is SO Winnipeg.

It's a perfect example of how mythology always employs untruths to express deeper truths. In Maddin's satirical hands, the "ice-and-horse jam" morphs from a scene of horror and terror into a benign excuse for a Sunday afternoon outing, as hardy and resourceful Winnipeggers adapt, as always, to their harsh surroundings.

Or are they just sleepwalking again in the snowy city? "We grow used to the sadness. Simply incorporate it into our days."

Either way, if that doesn't say it all about Winnipeg, I don't know what does.

Tomorrow's Post: The Black Tuesdays

Friday 3 February 2017

O Canada! Blogathon 2017 -- "My Winnipeg," Part 1

Winnipeg, Winnipeg, wonderful Winnipeg!
Where I belong and joys redound
In one long, happy song. 
Here are friends and kindly faces,
Folks I'm glad to know.
It's no Eden that you would seek,
Yet it's home, sweet home to me.

Independent Canadian filmmaker Guy Maddin grew up in Winnipeg, Manitoba and (until recently) lived his entire life there. Now, Winnipeg was also my stomping grounds for 22 years, from my university days until middle age when I moved to Edmonton. So I understand very well the "love/hate relationship" that all Winnipeggers (and I mean ALL) have with that great prairie city.

When the Documentary Channel commissioned Maddin to make this 2007 film about his hometown, the producer reportedly said, "Don't give me the frozen hellhole everyone knows that Winnipeg is."

So you can predict, of course, a central theme of Maddin's masterpiece.

Filmed in Maddin's signature black-and-white palette, with lots of shaky or blurry handheld DIY-looking shots, plus a crazy mix of historical film footage and surrealist drama, Maddin calls My Winnipeg a "docu-fantasia" based on "personal history, civic tragedy, and mystical hypothesizing." The New York Times accurately noted that the film "skates along an icy edge between dreams and lucidity, fact and fiction, cinema and psychotherapy." It is one of this country's truly great mockumentaries, a style at which Canadian filmmakers excel in particular. Mockumentaries suit our dry, subtle and satirical sense of humour.

While the film's universally-applicable meditations on the "heinous power of family and city" can, of course, be enjoyed by all viewers no matter where they live, any Winnipegger who watches this film gets a special thrill. [Note: all the following references are viewable in the trailer]

We can spot the familiar thoroughfares like Portage and Main, Ellice Avenue and the World War I era back alleys of the Exchange District. We recognize the fleeting glimpses of instantly identifiable locations, like the University of Winnipeg, the North End rail yards and the old Winnipeg Arena.

We are aware of which true (if often mundane) historical facts are sprinkled throughout the narrative. We catch the iconic Winnipeg cultural references mixed together with their crazy alter egos, like the old Paddlewheel Restaurant in the downtown Hudson's Bay Company flagship store, where the salacious "Manitoba Man Pageants" are staged. Or the plaid skirts of the school uniform worn at Winnipeg's exclusive, private girls' school, Balmoral Hall . . . I mean, the "Academy of Ultravixens."

These receive our special belly laughs.

Tomorrow's Post: Those frozen horse heads!

Thursday 2 February 2017

O Canada! Blogathan 2017

Just a reminder that the O Canada! Blogathon 2017 starts tomorrow and continues all weekend! Stay tuned for my upcoming three posts on Guy Maddin's film, My Winnipeg.

If you want to browse around the blogathon and see what else is on offer, the full list of participants and topics is found here.

And although he has nothing to do with the film I've chosen, may I just say how much I love Donald Sutherland? He is a National Treasure.