Category Archives: Hamilton

To do with Hamilton, Ontario, where we live, and where Artword Artbar was located.

Atom Egoyan’s Guest of Honour, at the Playhouse

Poster for Guest of Honour. David Thewlis.

Atom Egoyan’s new film, Guest of Honour, was shot mostly in Hamilton. Last night, masks in place, we saw it at the Playhouse Cinema.

I am a great admirer of Atom Egoyan’s films. Yes, they are dark and brooding. Yes, they drift and ramble. I’m okay with that, because his vision is so compelling, and the films are so beautifully crafted.

The story is set in Hamilton. Remarkably, for a Canadian film, it really is Hamilton, not pretending to be some American city. The film opens in St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church on Main Street (a location we know well, because our play Walter was staged there, back in March.) Jim, the main character, is a health inspector, who is seen checking on some of the well-known restaurants on James Street, most notably Wild Orchid, as well as the Trocadero on Barton Street.

The impact of seeing our Hamilton environment represented in film is surprisingly affecting. We’re used to nudging each other in the middle of shoot-em-up American films, whispering “Gage Park”, “King Street”. This really is Hamilton, and Hamilton is looking pretty good.

The acting is fine. The film is a tour de force for David Thewlis, shuffling and shambling his way through Jim’s troubled life, and for Laysla De Oliveira, as his daughter. Hrant Alianak and Arsinée Khanjian as the owners of Wild Orchid, Luke Wilson as Father Greg (and everyone really) deliver deeply nuanced performances.

Guest of Honour is a small, sad story about misunderstanding, about anger concealed too long, about the gulf between adults and children, about love felt but not communicated properly. Not for everyone, maybe, but for people who like a film that probes the complexities of life, more nourishing that twenty action-packed blockbusters.

Photos from Once I Lived in the Box

Some photos taken last night (February 4, 2016) of Learie Mc Nicolls’ Once I lived in the Box, at Artword Artbar.

Dancers: Angelo Del Franco, Sharon Harvey, Tanis Macarthur and Learie Mc Nicolls. Music by Edgardo Moreno and lighting by Judith Sandiford.

One more performance, tonight February 5, 2016, at 8 pm.

 

 

Building Dance in Hamilton

Rehearsal photo, "Once I lived in the Box", L to R: Angela Del Franco, Tanis Sydney Macarthur, Sharon Harvey
Rehearsal photo, “Once I lived in the Box”, L to R: Angela Del Franco, Tanis Sydney Macarthur, Sharon Harvey

Artword is presenting Once I Lived in the Box by Learie Mc Nicolls February 3 – 5. I know Learie’s work, and I know the dancers (Angela Del Franco, Tanis Macarthur and Sharon Harvey). I know Judith Sandiford very well, who is directing and designing the lighting that throws those beautiful shadows you see in the photo. This will be a very fine piece of dance drama.

There is hardly any contemporary dance in Hamilton yet. Will people come? There is a fundamental principle in entertainment: people go to what they know.

When Learie came from Toronto to Hamilton, he asked “where is the dance?” I told him it was up to us to build it. Learie did two theatre/ spoken word pieces that incorporated dance: Resurrection at The Pearl Company and Transformation at Artword in the Fringe.

Now this is the big step. This is a full-length dance piece, choreographed by Learie with three highly skilled professional dancers, and of course Learie himself. It has a powerful theme, delivered through intense physical movement.

There are years (decades!) of training, and months of rehearsal behind what you see on the stage. Learie Mc Nicolls has an international reputation. This is a stunning show. Come and see it!

 

 

 

Why Hydro One should not be privatized

Hydro One Voltage Lines in Woodbridge Ontario, photo Tom Stefanac, from Wikipedia
Hydro One Voltage Lines in Woodbridge Ontario, photo Tom Stefanac, from Wikipedia

The privatization of Hydro One is a terrible idea, for many reasons. There is one argument that I have not seen in the press, and I’d like to present it now.

The idea that retaining the single largest portion of shares guarantees control is naive. The danger is not total loss of ownership. The danger (and inevitable effect) is that on an ongoing basis decisions will be weighed in terms of what the shareholders will think. Will they sell? Will the value go down? Up? The corruption is not in the gross effect, but in the innumerable details of policy driven by a financial system that is out of control.

When any company goes public and sells shares, a new element is introduced that often overrides everything else: shareholder value. When shareholders are added, the need to keep the value of the shares continually rising overrides everything else. The market is extremely sensitive, volatile and focused on the short term. This becomes the primary driver of policy.

A government should be making policy in the best interests of its citizens. It also has a responsibility to its suppliers, part of keeping the economy healthy. It should not be making policy to satisfy the needs of investors staring at their computer screens and deciding whether or buy or sell.

Cycling in London, with Boris Bikes

BorisBikes
Boris Bikes at Hyde Park, photo by ZanMan (from WikiMedia)

This visit, I decided to try cycling in London.

When I first went to London, many years ago, the traffic was scary. The streets were filled with cars tearing around corners at high speed, especially cabs. And, of course, for a Canadian visitor, these cars came rushing from behind as you peered carefully in the wrong direction. Tourists were picked off like flies.

As the decades passed, London became more friendly to pedestrians and cyclists. Street crossing islands sprang up, with traffic lights, and “look left” or “look right” painted on the streets. Mayor Ken Livingstone (“Red Ken”, bête noire for Maggie Thatcher) instituted a hefty congestion charge for the core, which reduced traffic to manageable proportions. He also lowered fares on the buses and underground, which actually increased revenues, but after his term the prices went up again. The Millennium Walk transformed the south bank of the Thames.

And in 1910, the Barclay Bikes appeared, quickly dubbed ” Boris Bikes” after the Mayor, Boris Johnson, who (though Conservative) was an enthusiastic advocate of biking. Barclay’s Bank was the sponsor from 2010 to 2015, but now it’s Santander Bank, though most of the bikes still say “Barclays”.

Biking is big in downtown London now. There are hundreds of bikes whizzing along the roads, seemingly getting along pretty well with the autos, lorries and buses.
Bicycle lanes are quite frequent in the core. There are also two-lane “cycle superhighways” from the more outlying districts.

Generally speaking, the cyclists are well-behaved. London cyclists never ride on sidewalks, tempting as it often is. They usually signal and stay well to the left. And the motorists are generally patient, even when they have to go a little more slowly than they would like.

It’s easy to use the Boris Bikes, and no commitment is required. You can just stick you debit or credit card in a slot, and the machine spits out a 5-digit access code. You go to the bike of your choice (they’re all the same) and key in the code. Then you jerk the bike out and ride away. The bikes are solid, with a “step through” frame, and three gears. There’s a small luggage rack for parcels, secured with bungee cords. For two pounds, you have 24-hour use, but you can only keep out a particular bike for a half-hour, before returning it to some other docking station. You can keep it longer, but there’s an extra 2 pounds on your card. The idea is to keep all the bikes in use, rather than sitting somewhere while the rider is shopping or visiting the British Museum.

You can also register online for 24 hours, 7 days or a year. For 3 pounds you get a key, and you can pick up a bike anytime during the selected period. I’m sure that if I am there long enough, I would buy a key, but I think that it is wonderful that you can try the system out in such a casual way. The costs are the same.

I’m very intrigued by the new sobi bikes in Hamilton. I own a bike, but I will sign up just to try it out.

I think, though, that the comparison with the Boris Bikes is interesting. The sobi bikes cost $4.00 per hour; Boris Bikes $4.00 (2 pounds) for 24 hours. And you don’t have to sign up in advance. Just saying.