Sunday, July 26, 2015

Pride on Parade

It was London's 21st Annual Pride Parade today, which ends 10 days of events celebrating Pride London.  Some years I walk in the parade, but this year, I decided to join my neighbours, Sarah and Mario, on their porch and be a spectator.  

There's no reason to not dress up just because you are watching instead of participating.  It was just the occasion for this retina-burning caftan I picked up at Red Light Clothing Exchange in Portland.  I watched most of the parade from the sidewalk so I could take photos, and people said they could see me from down the block. 

This young woman was sitting across the street from us, and she obviously agrees with my philosophy that you don't have to be in the parade to wear your party clothes.

It was a very hot, sunny day and Leif, who was part of our porch party, cooled off with the hose while waiting for the parade to start.

As soon as the parade was in sight, he promptly changed to his "Mr. Cool" outfit.  He quickly became the most popular guy on the parade route.

The Dykes on Bikes always lead the parade, and this woman welcomed the relief of the spray from the hose.

The parade route goes right through my 'hood (Old East Village) and includes representation from many local service organizations like the London Intercommunity Health Centre, which is based in Old East.

No one was safe from the madman with the hose, and almost everyone was very appreciative.

The parade has become a very family-friendly event with many kids walking in the parade with their parents, or lining the streets to watch.  

 The kids know how to have fun getting dressed for the parade.

Pets are welcome too, although some seem less than enthusiastic about the outfits.

Because of the heat, Sarah had put a bowl of water on the sidewalk for thirsty canines, and some owners asked Leif to spray their dogs to cool them off.

The dogs weren't the only ones feeling the heat - this woman jumped off the float she was riding on when she spied the frozen treat wagon and then jumped back on once she had her ice cream.

Police departments from London and surrounding areas are now regular parade participants.

Each year, more churches are represented in the parade, which makes me think that there is still hope for organized religion.

I love how happy this woman with her rainbow umbrella looks while getting "misted".

This woman makes the most fantastical costume every year for the parade, and each year I forget to get her name.  If you know her, please leave it in the comments!  She also gets major props for walking the entire parade route in heels.

For the second year, my employer, Western University, had an official presence in the parade, lead by the flag twirlers from Western's marching band.

I was trying to grab a photo of the guy in the fabulous  Priscilla, Queen of the Desert costume and was photographed in the process.  I made one of those flip-flop dresses for a contest when the movie came out, but it didn't look as good as this one.

The Pride Parade is easily the most colourful parade we have in London.

The London Firefighters usually end the parade, and get lots of cheers on the parade route (Firemen, hello!) and this year there was a mini-version of their truck in addition to the full-size one.

Sarah and Mario know how to throw an excellent Pride Parade porch party!  In addition to snacks, wine, and other beverages, we were treated to jello shots, which for some reason seemed way more appealing now then they ever did 20 years ago!  I may have had a few.   Thanks so much for inviting me over!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

You're Never Too Old to be a Groupie

A regular reader of my blog approached me at my desk at work on Friday and pointed out in a tone of gentle reproach that I had not posted since July 1st.  The only excuse I have to offer is that I've been laid low by an intestinal infection that won't seem to go away, and although tired and dehydrated, I've been able to go to work, but when I get home, all I want to do is sleep or lie on the couch and watch NetFlixx.  However, I did manage to spend some time at Sunfest last weekend, and saw a wonderful band who inspired this blog post, and reminded me of what it was like to fall in love with a band.

I spent most of my 20's working in new and used record stores, which was considered one of the coolest jobs a twenty-something could have.  I spent my shifts listening to music, and at night, I would go to hear local indie bands play at one of several downtown clubs.   Most of the other staff were music fiends as well (the only real reason for working in such places, as the pay was minimum wage with no benefits) and during my time at one of the cities most popular used record stores,  I frequently would find myself in competition with a colleague over a mint-condition, gatefold-sleeve album from a band we both loved that had been in a pile of records we had purchased from a customer.

For a couple of years, I also had an hour long show on the local university radio station.  The first featured music that had been written for, or featured in, a particular film.   After a year, I switched to the theme of women in Rock and Roll.   I have no idea if anyone listened to my shows, as I didn't take requests, so no one ever called in during my shift,  and the challenges of equipment that failed at inopportune times and fellow volunteers who didn't show up for their shift made the experience nerve-wracking at times, but I had a lot of fun in that booth with just me, my headphones and my records.

Then at some point,  I got a "real" job, and couldn't listen to music all day, or stay out until 1:00 am watching a band, my passion moved to other things. However, every once in a while, I come across a band that ignites that spark again...

DakhaBrakha is a quartet from Kyiv in the Ukraine that began as a theatre project in the Dakh Theatre for Contemporary Arts in Kyiv.  I had seen them perform a couple of years ago at Luminato in Toronto and when I heard they would be playing at Sunfest here in London, I was excited to see them again, as the music they played was unlike anything I had heard before.  The above video is a brief snippet showing off the talented trio of women in the band.
Clockwise from top left:  Marko Halanevych, Olena Tsibulska, Nina Garenetska and Iryna Kovalenko

The band defines itself as "ethno-chaos" and Marko Halanevych, the front-man for the band, has been quoted as saying “We decided to create a new style of music that consists mainly of our native Ukrainian folk motifs, with some African-styles added in. We also combine Arab, Bulgarian and Hungarian ideas. Dakha Brakha collects the components of its repertoire during our expeditions. We go out to villages, pitch our tents and visit local babushkas and ask them to sing their folk songs. We record them and use them in our compositions.”

Each band member plays at least four instruments, and has an impressive vocal range.  I shot the video above while they were playing a very atmospheric instrumental piece that was like a soundtrack for a walk in a strange, dark forest.  They also play percussion-driven songs that got the audience on their feet dancing, and hypnotic, mesmerizing tunes that inspired one to drift into a blissful trance.

Irynya, above, is also an actress, and has played Ukrainian folk music since she was a child.  She is the English-speaking spokesperson for the band.  All three women have

Nina is a self-taught cellist, and at times she plucked the instrument like a bass, strummed it like a guitar, or sawed at it furiously.  At one point she performed what sounded like a Ukrainian rap that delighted the audience and although she was physically small, she had a huge presence.

As much as Marko may be the front man of the band - and a multi-talented front man he is, providing vocals, and playing accordian and tabla - the women are definitely the audience focus.  They have been playing together for many years, and are graduates of the Ukrainian Folklore and Culture Faculty at Kyiv University.  The trio's complex harmonies, combined skill at playing multiple instruments, sense of humour, and the obvious joy they find in what they are doing is captivating.  It's easy to imagine them as characters in a folk tale in which three strong, talented, and beautiful women escape from their respective arranged marriages by running away from the altar in their wedding dresses, and decide to travel together bringing joy and music wherever they go.

Nina has decorated her cello with a traditional Ukrainian pattern and I thought it looked beautiful against the background of the skirt of her vintage wedding dress.   After their first show on Friday night, I stayed and chatted with Nina for a few minutes and we discovered a mutual love of thrift-shopping and unusual clothing.

Members of the local Ukrainian community came out to support the band, some bringing a Ukrainian flag to wave during the performance.  The young woman second from the left was one of several young woman who asked to have their photo taken with the band.

And then there was this not-so-young woman who also wanted a photo with them...

and an obligatory selfie with Nina.  I really need to relax my neck muscles when I smile...

Which all're never too old to discover your inner groupie!  If you get an opportunity to see DakhaBrakha perform,  take it - it will be a musical experience that you won't forget.  Below is a video of their NPR Tiny Desk concert that shows off their unique vocal styles.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

O Canada!!

Today is Canada Day, the day we celebrate the "birth" of our country, and it has inspired me to think about how grateful I am to have been born here, and able to create a safe, productive, and enjoyable life.  In honour of the day, I wanted to share some specific things I'm grateful for, or have enjoyed recently....

I am fortunate to live in a city with many parks and green spaces.  I work on a university campus that features many different types of trees and flowers, and in the summer it's a beautiful place to take a lunchtime stroll.  The tree on the left with the drooping white blossoms is just outside the building where I work, as is the bush with the flowers in the bottom right photo.  The flowering tree in the upper right photo is some type of Dogwood and this was the first year I noticed it had exploded with blooms.

In addition to the variety of flora, we also have an entertaining selection of fauna on campus.  We have at least two groundhogs who make their home near our building, and a few years ago I managed to get a photo of a litter of groundhog babies.  Like most critters, they are adorable when they are small, before they get their giant yellow teeth.  I have also spotted the occasional rabbit, and a few chipmunks, which are my personal favourite - I've wanted to pop one in my pocket to bring back to the office as a pet.  We are also visited by raccoons and deer.

I am proud to live in a country that supports equal rights for gays and lesbians, and while the recent Supreme Court decision in the United States is definitely a cause for celebration, it's worth noting that Canada legalized gay marriage 10 years ago!  This past weekend was the annual Gay Pride Celebration in Toronto, Ontario and the city was awash with rainbows (and a whole lot of rain, unfortunately). The ten day festival is the largest Pride celebration in Canada, and one of the largest in the world. 

As a single woman, I am able to travel in Canada unaccompanied without the fear of being attacked or harrassed, which is a privilege many women in other countries do not have.  I travel alone often, and am fortunate to live close enough to Toronto to be able to enjoy the city's many art galleries, museums, and other arts and culture events.   On my most recent visit, it rained cats and dogs all day, so I took refuge in the Bata Shoe Museum for a couple of hours.   The museum celebrates the history of footwear and has approximately 1,000 pairs of shoes on display at any one time.  In addition to the main gallery which showcases footwear through the ages, special themed exhibits occupy three other galleries.

My favourite pair of shoes in the "History of Footwear" gallery are these beautiful Bolivian dancing boots from 1950.  They could easily be worn today with their stylish "spectator" design.

One of the current special exhibits was titled "Fashion Victims - The Pleasures and Perils of Dress in the 19th Century" which contrasted the beauty of the clothing and accessories that were available to the wealthy of that time period with the dangers posed by clothing containing arsenic-based dyes (the dress in the photo above was coloured using such a dye) and impossibly narrow footwear that constricted and deformed the feet.

I was in Toronto to see a performance that was part of Luminato, an annual celebration of the arts that began in 2007.  Since Jorn Weisbrodt (aka Rufus Wainwright's husband) took the helm as Artistic Director in 2012, the festival offerings have shifted from events aimed towards the mainstream masses, to a more balanced selection that includes creative experiences designed to challenge audiences to think about what Art is, and its purpose in society.  Apocalypsis, which was performed at the Sony Centre, was such an event - a musical theatre spectacle composed by R. Murray Schafer in the late 1970's, and performed only once, in 1980.  The piece is based on the Book of Revelation;  Part one depicts the end of the world, and Part two, a renewal of life, and hope.  This version featured approximately 1,000 performers (800 of them members of choirs from all over Ontario) including actor Brent Carver, dancer Denise Fujiwara, throat singer Tanya Tagaq, and the voice of Laurie Anderson.   It was an extravaganza that was at times mystifying, mesmerizing, discordant, annoying, beautiful, and moving, and I was so glad I made the effort and spent the money to see it, as it was one of those experiences that will not be repeated.   The budget was reportedly 1.4 million dollars, and Luminato is the only arts festival in the country that has a large enough budget to be about to put on an event of that scale.

There are many other things to appreciate about Canada, and I won't attempt to catalogue them all;   these were the things that came to mind this past week.   There has been one other thing I've been grateful for and it's not really related to Canada, although, I'm sure there are countries where I would not be able to keep these two little girls as pets...

This is included for the remaining members of my St. Louis fan club (a lovely group of elderly women who unfortunately are dwindling in numbers), who asked if I could please post more photos of Ginger and Ruby.  I never thought I could become so attached to a pair of rodents, but I love them dearly, and am fascinated and entertained by their adventures.  And for those of you wondering, unfortunately, I am still allergic to them.
top left - they are very affectionate, and at times I am the recipient of double rat kisses; top right - beverage and bath break during evening playtime; bottom - they love climbing things, but are not the best at figuring out how to get down.  Often their strategy is to just let go, fall off, and hope that I catch them (which so far has worked)

Hope my Canadian Readers are enjoying their Canada Day Holiday.  I just finished reading the "The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind" - if you are looking for an informative, entertaining and inspiring story that reminds you how much we have to be grateful for living in Canada, this fits the bill.