Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Total Eclipse of My Summer 

Betwix Signal Hill and Cape Spear…

A post shared by Peter Rogers (@peterrogersesq) on

It all began after a late work day and heading to Toronto Island where I was immediately handed a cold beer in front of a beach bonfire. Someone played an ukulele, someone else talked about D&D, and someone splashed in the Lake. A few hours later I was on a ferry heading into Toronto’s sparkly skyline and a few hours after that I was on a plane headed east.
“under artificial lighting, chilled by artificial breezes, occupied by artificial deadlines”
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Monday, August 21, 2017

Time Will Tell 

One thing is not like the other thing.
“ Only time will tell, then we can rewrite that story too.”
Seeing a bust of Sir Winston Churchill anywhere in Canada is surprisingly common. Recently, it came up in conversation that the current desire to remove monuments to Confederate heroes is a version of rewriting history and seeing historical persons in a contemporary light fails to recognize that. Would there ever be a time Churchill would be viewed as a war criminal and have public statues of the British war time prime minister removed? Well… that isn't really the same thing is it? If there was a glass of milk on the table when we left the room and we returned to find it empty, who's to say it was consumed by a thirsty thief or returned to its carton by a do-gooder? The result only appears similar but what happened was entirely different. In truth, we rewrite history all of the time when new evidence is discovered that offers an alternative viewpoint or if a different context provides a clearer picture. Yet, the removal of monuments commemorating Confederate military leaders from southern US cities, particularly those monuments erected in the 20th century funded by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, isn't a rewrite, it's a correction. Those monuments themselves represent a rewriting of history intended to argue that the Civil War wasn't about slavery as much as it was about the rights of states (commonly know as the The Lost Cause movement) and to believe that interpretation is to accept the revisionist story as truth. This video makes that argument:

It's also a bit of a non-starter to equate Churchill's legacy with that of say Robert E. Lee, much as it was a false equivalency to compare Thomas Jefferson or George Washington with Lee et al. Of course in Canada, the recent renaming of the Langevin Block on Parliament Hill due to the namesake's role in the residential school system that caused so much pain to indigenous Canadians is another example of what some might think of revisionist history. I would say in this case the intention wasn't so much to rewrite history but to learn from it, and, by the way, maybe not commemorate someone whose very mention is an insult. I don't even really know Hector Langevin's part in the residential school system but taking his name off of a government building doesn't remove him from the history books but recognizes a reasonable diminishment of reverence.

It is interesting that this summer's acclaimed picture Dunkirk about a much revered moment regarded proudly by the British despite it being a tale of defeat, has been criticized for accuracy and will be followed by another British WWII themed bio-pic of Churchill. I suppose we accept the editing of historical fact for entertainment because we understand the desire for brevity or the elements that make for a better story are sometimes less complex than the reality of what happened. It's curious that World War II themed films of how the British overcame their "darkest hour" would be released in a cluster like that. It makes me wonder if on the heels of Brexit there was a swelling of British pride and a desire to pursue those kind of stories. Only time will tell, then we can rewrite that story too.

Update Friday, August 25, 2017. Okay Okay Okay - I have to admit I did not foresee the whole "Ban John A. Macdonald's Name" from schools thing when I wrote this. Yet I would say, who cares about dropping Hector Langevin's name? But our first Prime Minister? Well, I guess my first reaction would be the name is too pervasive and his role as founding father and first Prime Minister is too great to just banish his name or image. I would also say there's no reason to not at least have a long hard think about who we commemorate when we name buildings etc. There's actually no reason you can't accept John A. Macdonald as both an important historic figure who was also a first-class prick. Many important men in history were. The problem with the whole statuary and naming thing is it's very close to hagiography which is generally a prickly thing to do in a secular society. Especially when so many historical figures were kinda dicks by modern standards. Typically, Liberals like to point out Macdonald's flaws while Conservatives like to remind you how weird William Lyon Mackenzie King was. Canadian Conservatives would love to get rid of any references to Lester Pearson even though the guy won a Noble Peace Prize and was in power when we adopted our flag. Ain't no flies on Mike Pearson, surely? Or Tommy Douglas? Again, Conservatives bristle at a lefty getting kudos. The only wholly accepted personage I can think of who no one would argue about would have to be Terry Fox. Let the names and statues be, especially if the duality of the honouree has changed with hindsight. The nature of the Southern memorials was that their presence was insulting to a particular part of society from the moment they were erected rather than from a place of retrospection. It would be pretty hard to remove Macdonald's name and likeness from every building. I mean, the guy is on the ten dollar bill and is still a less racist Scot than Sandy McTire (if I were Scottish that guy would be my version of the Cleveland Indians' Chief Wahoo). Likewise, it would be easy to have an old white guy on a currency and know that this man, despite being a heavy drinker actually got a bunch of other white dudes to agree to something pretty great. By the way, he was also the kind of guy who would try to starve a part of the population and exploit a tiny uprising and hang a rebel to prove his ideas were right. Louis Riel himself is highly thought of in the west but was he entirely sane? I mean, let's not even start about Mackenzie King who had some serious mommy issues for talking to his dead mom, stuffing a beloved pet and as a "lifetime bachelor" may have been Canada's first gay Prime Minister (hey, just saying… he wasn't exactly a lady's man. Unless you count the dead lady he held seances to talk to). All I'm saying is don't let someone else's extreme position take away from reasoned argument and debate.


Sunday, August 20, 2017

Daring and Devilishly Good 

Marvel's Daredevil image via

I wouldn't describe myself as a Marvel fan-boy nor an aficionado but I did grow up reading the Spider-man and Daredevil comics of the 70s when Hell's Kitchen really was a crime riddled neighbourhood and I was enthralled by Frank Miller's re-imagining of characters like Batman and Daredevil in the 90s. What I loved about those original Marvel comics were their placement in the real world of New York City and the interconnectedness of the heroes (now often referred to as the Marvel Comics Universe or MCU).

Now comes the Netflix series of Marvel stories which are unique to the oeuvre in how rooted to a real time and place they seem. Every thud or punch thrown is felt like a cracked rib. The characters eschew spandex costumes and logos and fight in gritty urban streets, rooftops and alleyways. Just as each of the series revolve around a singular character like Matt Murdoch, Jessica Jones or Luke Cage, (I’ll exclude Iron Fist for now, due to its failings) each show has its own look and voice despite being connected thematically by shared characters. Each show also has its own colour palette.

Daredevil. Interior, Indian Restaurant.

Instead of yellow boxes filled with hand-lettered captions, or thick black frames, these shows use colour to thematically and spiritually connect them to each other and their source medium, comic books. This approach of distinguishing the separate series by colour is obvious but I’m not sure I could say “red” = “fear” or something but in the early episodes, before Matt Murdoch dons a red suit, his silhouette is often drenched in red neon or framed against a red wall. It’s a great way to connect a television series to the lurid palette of comic books in a way that’s doesn’t seem contrived or convoluted but fitting to the medium and storylines. A lot of the episodes reveal themselves in the dark under artificial light. Murdoch describes his sense of enhanced vision as “a world on fire” and as if to echo this without special effects the sparks of a relationship that is beginning to bubble with Karen Page takes place in an Indian restaurant with the same myriad of coloured strings of lights as in the liquor store scene in Birdman. I doubt there was any intended connection but both scenes capture the weird magic of moments in our world within the world of film. I realize that last sentence is a bit of jibberish but I think those scenes stop us, the viewer, with the intention in both scenes of being a momentary pause in the swirling events of the character’s lives.
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Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Seen in… July 

Last month I started exercising regularly again and sketching more often which, between showers and suppers, didn’t leave a lot of time for regular movie going. Still. Two movies? That was it? A blockbuster, an “indie” rom-com and a Netflix series? I guess I just spent more time running around Corktown Common, making pickles and grilling stuff. Usually in the summer, the air conditioning of a theatre is enough to make me go see any movie. This is definitely a perplexing lack of cineplexing. Turns out, I saw more movies last weekend than all of July.

Typical New York City moment, Spidey hanging out on a fire escape. Image via

Spider-man: Homecoming
To compare this Spider-man with others, I re-watched both Sam Rami/Tobey Macguire Spider-man films and the first of the Amazing Spider-man movies with Andrew Garfield and if I'm being honest Emma Stone who is the perfect Gwen Stacey. Spider-man 2, where a lovelorn Peter Parker battles Doc Oc is a definite favourite of mine. Yet, there was so much to love about the young Brit Tom Holland. Scenes of Spidey sitting on a fire escape, mask pulled up halfway eating a sandwich or whiling away time hanging in a hammock spun from his own webbing harkened back to what makes Peter Parker such a relatable comic book hero. He's just a kid and Holland's body language and his way of speaking firmly rooted the character in his teen years (despite Holland being 21). The inclusion of the Vulture as the nemesis sealed the deal. The only thing I didn't like was the gadgetry of Spider-man's outfit. Not so much because the suit had bits and bods but that it was created by Tony Stark and given to Peter. In the comics, Peter Parker is good at science and making his own ingenious kit which we sometimes see him tinkering with to fix (he's not Batman, he can't afford to waste gizmos). Though the story certainly didn't take that ability from him and in fact, part of Peter's appeal to Tony Stark is that Stark sees Parker as a younger version of himself. One last trope from the original stories that makes its way into the movie is just what a crap driver Parker is (he's a New Yorker whose father figure died before he could learn). In my dreams, Spidey’s getaway man is Baby Driver.

Alison Brie wondering what has she got herself into. Image via

Glow Season 1
GLOW aka the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling is a new Netflix comedy/drama that adds to the number of women's stories that have suddenly appeared this year, as if producers suddenly realized women watch television. The comedy is fairly low key however, as is the drama now that I think of it. It seems odd to say that a story based on an actual 1980's women's only wrestling league is low key but that's how it felt to me. Perhaps it's the portrayal of the drabness of the 80s that made it seem that way. This show is also another attempt by Netflix to mine a wave of 80s nostalgia. It's strange to have become the target audience for a nostalgia trend. The show revels in the irony of the women's personalities outside of the ring with the cartoonish outsized characters they inhabit inside it. The diversity of the cast seems unremarkable in some ways but is in stark contrast to the stereotypes of their wrestling personas. One of the leads, Alison Brie, will be familiar to fans of Mad Men or Community and this role combines both her comedic and dramatic skills as a struggling actress who is just desperate enough to try this pro wrestling thing. Of note, Brie gets her top off at least twice in the first half of the first episode which admittedly was kind of jarring mostly because it felt exploitative and really seemed like they were trying to show just what kind of grown-up show it was. That said, yes sir, may I have another.

Kumail and Emily up in a tree… Image via

The Big Sick
I laughed until emergency services arrived and placed me in a comedy induced coma. I awoke refreshed! This film is based on the real events that happened in the first year of the relationship of Kumail Nanjiani and his wife Emily. Nanjiani is an American comedian with Pakistani roots whose traditional muslim family were only patient with his stand-up career because they assumed it was a phase before he went to law school and settled into an arranged marriage. In the film, he's stuck between wanting to live his own life and his parents' expectations. Meanwhile as his career is flatlining and he entertains his parents' ambitions he meets Emily who sets his heart afire. At some point Emily discovers Kumail's cache of wifely prospects (candidates of arranged marriages have headshots and resumes - like offline OK Cupid profiles) and rightly asks if they have a future. She storms out leaving Kumail both crestfallen and angry about being in the situation he's in. Weeks pass and out if the blue Emily's roommate calls to tell him she's in hospital. As the only person visiting her Nanjiani is suddenly thrust into the decision of placing Emily in a medically induced coma. Then he has to call her parents (played by Ray Romano and the indomitable Holly Hunter) who, it turns out are not at all fond of him. I'm sure I could've explained this a lot faster but this just isn't your standard rom-com. Especially the final 20 minutes when everything goes awry. It's full of laughs, emotional torment, social commentary about family and culture and arrives at a time when the United States is battling its worse inner demons about what being American means. Years from now when we can look back in amazement at 2017 this film will be at the top of everyone's zeitgeist playlists.

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Saturday, August 05, 2017

Another Breath Before Sleep 

The run
“I’m a coach driver letting his team of horses run.”
I leave the theatre accelerated. Past the stilettoed women, laughing and confident, past the coiffed young men, sneering and arrogant. I find my bike and begin to glide. I’m never sure where my late night adrenaline surge originates but it’s there. My afternoon rides home are sluggish and doleful by comparison. Whereas late at night I’m completely awake and my legs are so full of spite they feel like they might tear themselves free of my body and ride on without me. Perhaps it’s the darkness of the streets, spotlit by dim streetlights strobing beneath me which gives an illusion of speed but I feel like I am ripping over the tarmac without touching the surface at all. I slip through stymied traffic like a dry wind and all the while my legs carry me ever faster. I’m a coach driver letting his team of horses run. My back tightens while my knees pump the steel crank. Maybe it is the thick close cool night summer air that wills me to pedal so hard that I can feel the bike’s frame twist in my assured grip.

It’s these humid turbid nights when the ride starts chilly but soon enough I feel the sweat forming on my back like morning condensation on the hood of a car. At some point I break from the Entertainment District and past the valets and hotels and the city quietens and I take the side streets where the breeze through trees sounds like water lapping on a shoreline and my thin rubber tires rolling through shallow reflecting pools flit like swift flying insects buzzing by.

I’m surprised by the size and brightness of the full moon which I mistake as a streetlight above rooftops of low darkened apartments. The dank green acrid smells of laneways and all their putrid water anchors me back on earth. I dismount, unlock the gate and pour my bike through the back door with an easy fluency. I’m home, the surge ends and my energy drains away like I’m leaking blood from a huge wound. I wobble momentarily, my head swoons slightly and my hands shake from the sudden shock of stopping. The creeping sweat I was aware of before is now a deluge with my shirt and jeans sticking to my skin. I let it take its course and breathe deeply while allowing my arms to dangle lifelessly and my legs to slacken. Another breath and the tiredness of the hour sinks in. A glass of water before closing. A rinse and stretch before lying down. Another breath before sleep.