Saturday, March 29, 2008

We've Moved!

Beautiful Feet has moved to a new blog address. Click here to go to the latest posts. Same great stuff. Bookmark the new url for future artists' care happenings too (and see for more details). Thanks for your continued support!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Easter!

Redemption by Ann Kim, Mixed Media, 2004, 25" x 50"

Friday, March 21, 2008

It is Finished by Jeff Wunrow, Silk Matka, Silk Chiffon, Silk Dupioni, 2007, 32" x 40"

Sunday, March 16, 2008

It is the Triduum

Maunday Thursday Footwashing, Photography, Patricia Smith 2006

"The Bono of Lahore"

Great indie movie to recommend: Man Push Cart by director Ramin Bahrani (2005). While this film can be viewed from many perspectives, do yourself a favour and watch it untainted by any reviews or commentary on its 'meaning'. I did, and was able to appreciate it for the offering it was, and to not be influenced by others' take on it. Nice editing. Winner of many awards, such as at Sundance. Available at good video stores.


Aleksandar Antonijevic in Rooster. Photographer: Sian Richards
I recently saw the National Ballet's Rooster, 24 Preludes by Chopin and Soldier's Mass. I attended with a dancer, and we had polar opposite reactions: alack, you are stuck with mine alone.
The Preludes, accompanied by piano, were arranged by 'bad girl' choreographer Marie Chouinard. I haven't seen much modern ballet for about ten years, so I found it interesting to be updated, but I found the attempts at humour often lacked substance and didn't do Chopin justice. This was a very organic piece and the dancers connected with the audience, but I found the tone of the choreography just too self-reverential. I also felt the larger chorus lacked cohesion, although the demi-chori were more successful.
Soldier's Mass was extremely poignant but avoided being sentimental about war; indeed, much of the choreography was evocative of military formations and battlefields. I appreciated the references to a Christ figure during the Kyrie and other parts, and I felt the costume design suited the eastern music of Kylian well. Did anyone else notice that with the exception of three musicians, all the instrumentalists, dancers and choral singers (members of the Elora Festival Singers) were male? There was a palpable weightiness to this ballet. That's a good thing.
The much-awaited Rolling Stones-scored ballet, Rooster, tried to do too much. Choreographer Christopher Bruce created this some 30 years after its characters, Mods and Rockers, walked the earth, and it is still fresh. I'm glad the NBC put it on. But I kept feeling like the ballet couldn't decide what style it wanted to be: it rocked between lyrical, Elizabethan dance, and rock 'n roll. During Not Fade Away, I half expected Elvis Stojko to come out on rollerblades. Paint it Black worked and the finale Sympathy for the Devil lived up to my expectations. I hope next time the ballet administration decides to push the boat out that they will go whole hog and really let loose with something even more audacious. Bruce was working with the music; I just wish it had all been serious rocking.
I'm glad my one recent chance to see our ballet was this one. Karen Kain has breathed a much-needed breath of fresh air into this arts organization. I hope they will continue to diverge from the traditional repertoire, and often.

Ewen Me Both

Good news! Another venue to see some Paterson Ewen pieces! Olga Korper will be exhibiting Ewen at her gallery in April; Mapplethorpe in May. Ck her site for more details. 17 Morrow Ave.

Paterson Ewen, Cross Section of Sun 1997, watercolour on handmade paper, 22" x 30"

The Evil 14

I recently heard that the Vatican has announced an updated and expanded version of the 7 Deadly Sins, the original being a construct by the church in the 6th century, I believe, and not biblical. So here are the additions to Pride, Envy, Gluttony, Lust, Anger, Greed and Sloth. See if you qualify---or rather, offend:
ruining the environment; carrying out morally debatable scientific experiments; or allowing genetic manipulations which alter DNA or compromise embryos; social injustice; taking or dealing drugs; causing poverty; and the excessive accumulation of wealth by a few (see source). I guess Prada shoes are exempt...

Oh... my...goodness...

While checking out the Christian art of Sister Mary Proctor recently, I was pointed in the direction of other 'visionary' folk art via America Oh Yes website. What a surprise. If you'd like your eyes opened to the extent of another genre, ck the site out.
What's with dishonesty being cool? From commercials to books, such as one recommended by How magazine, it's supposed to be funny to outwit establishments and rip them off, either by not reporting their errors in your favour, or by theft. The IKEA commercial was funny in itself, but let's drop this attitude of screwing companies whenever possible...theft is theft.

If You Like My Poems Let Them

if you like my poems let them
walk in the evening,a little behind you

then people will say
"Along this road i saw a princess pass
on her way to meet her lover(it was
toward nightfall)with tall and ignorant servants."

~e e cummings

Wednesday, March 12, 2008 a good way of course

All you baroque lovers out there, don't forget this Saturday, March 15th at 8pm, I Furiosi return to Calvin Presbyterian Church for another concert with a wacky theme: Bad. As in Furies and fate and well, you never know with these musicians. Guest Lucas Harris on lutes and theorbo. Tickets a bargain $20/$10 at the door (compared to what some other groups are charging these days.....).

Sunday, March 9, 2008

New to me...

The Wave VII, (Vågen II) 1901. Musée d'Orsay, Paris

Check out this artist I learned about on the Tate Modern's website: Swede August Strindberg (1849-1912), who was also a sculptor, photographer and writer. His art was expressionistic and--after some research I confirmed my hunch--he shared the artistic ideology of Naturalism with which Emile Zola also wrote ('Les Quatres Journees de Jean Gourdon', Germinal, Nana, Therese Raquin are my recoms). Cool stuff from 100 years ago.

blog recom

Got a comment from a fellow blogger about the movie, Conversations with God (see label god/phantom, below), so I checked out his blog and it rocks! Kingdom of God Media's Patrick Roberts writes reviews of movies, books and records with thoughtfulness and aplomb. Those who don't yet need reading glasses might appreciate his review of this:

God loves those who can laugh at themselves

smooth as merlot

Next Sunday brings Jazz Vespers at CCDP again; at 4:30pm Mike Murley (sax) and David Occhipinti (guitar) inspire low-key worship. Admission is free; freewill offering to support this music ministry.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Does This Challenge Your Idea of Opera???

Baritone Calvin Powell in The Shaman’s Tale, part of Opera to Go 2008 presented by Tapestry New Opera Works, February 14 to 23, 2008. Photo Credit: Bruce Zinger.

What--you don't think a spliff-smoking shaman is operatic? Well, shake up your idea of what opera is by getting down to Tapestry New Opera's Opera To Go at Harbourfront's Enwave Theatre (streetcar from Union stops right outside). If you don't believe me, take it from The Star's John Terauds, who says Tapestry is "...where the future of Canadian opera is being made today", and coming from that authority, that's high praise indeed. I've covered them before, but Tapestry is so hot, I have to keep the recoms coming. I love my COC, I drool over Opera Atelier's productions, but these folks are fearless and always successful (never mind what the Globe says...). This company is innovative, fearless and consistent in their musical and professional integrity. I applaud their vision and approach: they never shy away from new things or risky stories or stretching their artistic talents. The only criticism, if I can call it that, is that I found their surtitles superfluous--the singers' enunciation needs no crutch. Best of all, they always manage to push the boundaries: if they can have my 17 year old daughter going regularly, they must be doing something right.

(left to right) Mezzo-soprano Jessica Lloyd, tenor Keith Klassen and soprano Carla Huhtanen in See Saw, part of Opera to Go 2008 presented by Tapestry New Opera Works, February 14 to 23, 2008. Photo Credit: Bruce Zinger.

Okay, so we know that I love them, love them, love them. Here's why. The librettists and composers from the annual Lib Lab (opera pseudo-boot camp: read up on it here) are versatile. The story lines are always fresh and surprising. The designers are resourceful so that one never notices they aren't working with a zillion dollar budget. Best of all, they do cool new things---thank you, God! It was exciting to see film, paper theatre, large-scale puppetry, and laptop media being incorporated into this medium. I've talked before about enjoying their sense of humour. But this time I was also taken by their multi-tasking, if you will: Carla Huhtanen and Keith Klassen not only singing and manoeuvering over-scale puppets, but simultaneously acting as if they weren't also contending with the third mode of expression. I also appreciated their fearless interpretation of a political plotline.

So kudos, Tapestry! We look forward to Sanctuary Song in May. And to the rest of you new opera virgins: hustle down to the remaining performances on Feb 20-23. See their website info about tickets, times etc.

Book Recoms

I recently read Stumbling On Happiness by Daniel Gilbert, which may be of interest to those who are into non-fiction. It's a little heavy on the cranial stuff, but it's a very readable explanation of why we are or are not happy. I am scientifically challenged but the psychological stuff was accessible, and the author kept me reading and laughing, which is something these days. Check out more about the book here. It's available in the library too.

I am presently reading Steven Pinker's book, The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature, for future review here, courtesy of the publisher. More about it at a later date.

ECVA has a new call for artists on self-portraiture which you might want to consider if you are a Christian artist. Although based in the US, they are very welcoming to others farther afield (i.e. Canadians and others). Also, check out their current online exhibit (I'm plugging it again!) Feasts for the Eyes. Good people there: please support them.

HM at work

Don't miss the next four Sundays on CBC from 8-10pm for a unique look at the Queen and the many obligations she fulfills. Good for dispelling any myths about a rich, cushy lifestyle! Monarchy: the Royal Family at Work is a sympathetic look at Her Majesty and her family in situations beyond the sound bites and photo ops. While you're at it, why not check out the Monarchist League's website to learn more about the function of the monarchy in Canada. She is our Queen, too!


Ck out this amazing Christian arts project called Bibelots. I love organic movements with a purpose! This one is a ministry which touches people on many levels. Info courtesy of CIVA.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Opera to Go Recom

"Everyday tales of passion and pathos…with just a touch of paranoia
Toronto, ON…Tapestry explores the passion and peril of contemporary relationships in Opera to Go 2008, presented in
association with Harbourfront Centre’s World Stage 2008 at The Enwave Theatre (231 Queens Quay West). Opera to
Go 2008 previews February 14 and runs February 15, 16, 17, 20, 21, 22 and 23, 2008. All performances begin at 8 pm
with the exception of the February 17 matinee at 2 pm.
Opera to Go 2008 showcases seven world premieres of six 15‐minute chamber operas and a Bravo!FACT film by composer‐writer teams who have graduated from Tapestry’s Composer‐Librettist Laboratory, an annual opera “boot camp” that brings together artists of various disciplines to collaborate on new opera creation."
Tapestry New Opera is the coolest company going. You may recognize their director Tom Diamond from Bathroom Divas. Ck out the Tapestry website for more details.


In my continuing study of art about the Prodigal Son, I found out that Tissot had done an etching on this subject, part of an exhibit now on at MOBIA in NYC. Also cool are the versions by Timothy Vermeulen and Mary McCleary. Check them out.

Even more exciting was my discovery of a fellow exhibitor in the ECVA Feasts for the Eyes, Rev. Paul Fromberg, and his work, such as Good Friday: Lebanon Bombing:
Another artist's work I will save for Maundy Thursday. Although Fromberg's is for Good Friday, I couldn't wait til then to post it!

compline with a side of organ

Christ Church Deer Park has a Lenten program for the next several Sundays which sees various organists playing recitals followed by the BCP service of compline with Gregorian chant. This evening office begins at 7:30pm. Even chiller than Jazz Vespers!

jazz vespers

Next two dates are Feb 17th and March 2nd at 4:30pm, at CCDP. Visit the link for details about the musicians and other goings-on there.

Film Recoms

A neat film I saw recently was Last Orders (Fred Schepisi, 2001) starring Michael Caine and Helen Mirren. This movie had sensitive direction about life and grief, and was particularly astute about the English. All you WASPs out there will feel emotionally at home....Worth a watch. Also finally saw American Beauty (Sam Mendes, 1999); I think I'm the last person in North America to see it. For an accurate portrait of the realization that life is not as it always appears--especially in the American dream--put aside a few hours for a watch. And buy the soundtrack.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

The Menorah

The Menorah (1993) by Roger Wagner, British, b. 1957

Happy Epiphany!

Today is Twelfth Night or the twelfth day of the Christmas season. It marks the liturgical celebration of the magi's arrival at Christ's side with their three gifts. It is also the feast of Christmas for our friends in the Eastern Church. For more info about epiphany, please click here.
You can also catch the Archbishop of Canterbury's new year's message on YouTube but here is an excerpt, which is good for reflection:
In a society where we think of so many things as disposable, where we expect to be constantly discarding last year’s gadget and replacing it with this year’s model - do we end up tempted to think of people and relationships as disposable?
You gotta love an archbishop who goes on YouTube! Well, that's the Church being sensible about how to reach the people. I like to think of Thomas Becket's mind being boggled by all this! Anyway, good food for thought. I heard him speak this past year, and I am much impressed with Rowan Williams.

Inflationary Language

If you want a bit of a giggle, go to this site to read Victor Borge's Inflationary Language sketch. Read it through before going to watch it on YouTube; you'll get more out of the AV version if you are familiar with the text. Great fun!

Film Recoms

The first film I would like to discuss is Jesus Camp (2006 Ewing and Grady), a documentary about evangelical children in the U.S.. There is much that is difficult to swallow in this movie. If it were just little kids saying "I love Jesus", that would be one thing. But consider the following quote from a conversation between a 12 year old and a children's pastor: Levi: At five I got saved... Becky Fisher: Yeah? Levi: ...because I just wanted more of life. Now, I'm sorry, but at 5 you don't have cognitive development that enables such thought; even if you did, this is clearly parroting adult talk. The views expressed by the participants are racist (see the quotes on IMDb if you don't believe me), narrow-minded and threatening. The film also gives Christian homeschoolers a bad name--they are not all fundamentalist. I found Jesus Camp completely frightening and yet it is absolutely required viewing for any Christian.
On the other end of the spectrum is a movie called Into Great Silence (Die Grosse Stille, 2005, Philip Groning), about a French monastery that is considered to be the most ascetic in the world. The Carthusians apparently took 16 years to consider even allowing the film! At times I thought the art direction was superb, at others boring--how unoriginal to be filming dew-covered flowers!!! In any event, the film is almost 3 hours long and almost completely silent--a hyperacutic's dream come true! Amazing how you get drawn into these men's lives, then. And it contained some wonderful surprises. Overall, I would recommend this film with the proviso that you must set aside the 3 hours to watch it uninterrupted, or you won't be able to enter into the spirit of it. If you do this, I promise you your blood pressure will be lower and your spirit calmer by the end of it. Great chilling!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Ring in 2008

art by Jan Neal
In Four Steps to Wisdom:
You don't have to do anything to acquire happiness. The great Meister Eckhart said very beautifully, "God is not attained by a process of addition to anything in the soul, but by a process of subtraction." You don't do anything to be free, you drop something. Then you're free.
Jan quoting Anthony de Mello quoting Meister Eckhart

" "

And you, liar, teller of tall tales: you trample all the Lord's commandments underfoot, you murder, steal, commit adultery, and afterward break into tears, beat your breast, take down your guitar and turn the sin into a song. Shrewd devil, you know very well that God pardons singers no matter what they do, because he can simply die for a song....

~The Last Temptation of Christ,
Nikos Kaztantazkis

For the Youngsters

Yellow by Coldplay

Fundamentalist Trials

George of The Hour (CBC trying to be hip) recently interviewed AJ Jacobs, a New Yorker who spent a year living according to the tenets of the Bible. While I have often questioned fundamentalists on the convenient compromises they make to suit their lives while claiming to live biblically, I loved hearing about the Jewish embodiment of this quandry. Of particular note was the anecdote about him stoning an adulterer. You gotta love this guy's tenacity. And his wife's for that matter: he was not allowed to sit on a chair sat upon by his wife while she was 'unclean', so she went around the apartment and defiled every last one of them! Ah, the trials of living like our forefathers.... But on a more serious note, his book does address questions about the development of one's prayer life, and the issue of 'cafeteria religion'--picking and choosing what suits us in our faith.
You may know him from his articles and other adventures such as reading all 44 million words of the Encyclopedia Britannica. Here is an excerpt from his website : 'His father is a lawyer who holds the world record for the most footnotes in a law review article (4,824). His wife works for a highbrow scavenger hunt called Watson Adventures. He lives in New York. He wonders if he fooled anyone with this third-person thing, or if everyone knows that he wrote this bio himself.'

Hero of the Week

Ok, so it's not weekly. But I would like to sing the praises of a gentleman who has done me favours and who serves the Christian art scene in Canada with unrelenting passion, energy and support: the very humble John Franklin, executive director of Imago. This organization provides financial, logistical and promotional support to Christian creators of the performing and visual arts. I love it because I constantly find new good Christ-centred art through them, particularly at their Imago Evenings. Imago busts the myth of 'good' and 'Christian art' being oxymoronic terms. And John's quarterly newsletter is a source of theological reflection on new works and issues in art, as well as book reviews, calls for artists and show announcements. To support this very worthy organization, go to their website and use the contact us link at the bottom; I guarantee you your donation will be VERY well used.

Next Jazz Vespers

january 6th is the next jazz vespers at ccdp (1570 yonge st) at 4:30pm. the canadian jazz quartet plays a tribute to milt jackson. come join me in chilling in the pew.

Upcoming Movie Recoms

This year will see recoms for more offbeat, artsy and inde movies. I have a wonderful source, and a Board that always brings new ideas for me to try. So ck back for the popcorn and spilled coke ratings. I recently saw The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988, Terry Gilliam) and wondered how I managed to miss yet another interesting flick. It is completely insane. Note that this does not mean perfect; I am not saying it is the best movie on the planet, but I am always appreciative of artists willing to at least do what they need to do, and in the process not bore me. If you want to ck out the cultness of it, go rent it. I don't think you'll ask me for your money back.

Gross Out for the Kids

Gags for the adults, guffaws for the kids. Here is a link to a recipe that is usually for Hallowe'en, but it is where I am metaphorically dumping 2007. This coming year is looking good, however....

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Advent IV

Advent IV

On the Cusp of Christmas

This fourth Sunday of Advent we light all the candles of the wreath and mark Love incarnate, birthed by Mary.

O Wisdom, holy Word of God, Jesus Christ, all things are in your hands, come and show us the way to salvation.

This is my favourite season of the year: it's about reflection, intensity and delayed gratification. I almost find Christmas too much. It goes against my asceticism, and the peace of Advent is lost. Ah well, I can start counting the days til the beginning of Lent...

And my last plug for Buy Nothing Christmas:

Back in the Christmas season....

We Will Rock You, the musical

I was recently treated to We Will Rock You, the musical by Queen and Ben Elton. Guess I am stunned, coz I misunderstood what the show was; I thought it was a tribute band. However, I was quickly corrected but then relieved of new doubts. It is actually a storyline that initially is questionable, but you are quickly sucked into the 'world' therein and get into it. While the singing and choreography is good, I would say the writing is the most fun--very clever and very topical. There was one moment, however, where a character gets the equivalent of tasing and you could cut the tension in the hall with a knife. We attended a night with the understudies who were actually better than the main cast members, according to someone who went twice: Breanne Arrigo was endearingly feisty as Scaramouche, and Jewelle Blackman as Killer Queen was reminiscent of Tina Turner. The background multimedia visuals were absolutely fantastic, perhaps my favourite part of the show. There was a poignant nod to Freddie Mercury, a too-short video clip of Queen and tons of good-natured fun-poking at the group. Just completely good fun from start to finish: if you like Queen, you absolutely MUST go see this. You will indeed be rocked. (Even I, with my usual wasp-y reservation, let loose, so you know it must be good.)


If you want a giggle, check out this one of several videos of prison inmates in the Philippines in which they dance en masse to popular music--a new type of rehab for Corrections Canada to try??? I really don't get this and that's what fascinates me. This one is to Queen's Radio Ga Ga . There's also a really weird version of (what else) Thriller. Beats carving shanks, I guess.

from "The Nativity of our Lord"

Then tear the sky apart with light

And with your news the world endow.

Proclaim the birth of Christ and peace,

That fear and death and sorrow cease:

Sing peace, sing gift of peace!

~Carl Schalk

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Welcome to Advent III

We're almost there! It's the third Sunday of Advent, often known and celebrated as Gaudete Sunday, wherein we light the pink candle. Joy is the theme and we read about the pronouncement of Jesus by John the Baptist as the Lamb of God (John 1: 19-34).

O Key of David, Jesus Christ, the gates of heaven open at your command; come and show us the way to salvation.

And I offer this advice, with personal endorsement:

Flying Bow

My best discovery this week was Trevor Dick and the 5th String Blvd Band; our mc told us, as he introduced them, to fasten our seat belts, and he was right! I was not convinced that I would be enamoured of yet more versions of Christmas carols, but this guy rocks. He had great audience rapport too. He reminded me of a cross between Jean Luc Ponty and Oliver Schroer. I have to say I prefer the raucous carol disc over the more low key carols in his double cd, Glory and Peace, but he is a breath of fresh air. Laila Biali was a guest performer, so that was a treat as well. Check out some mp3 clips of Trevor's at and put those boring old Christmas cds you have away!

Sound Art

I generally have little time for Performance Art as a genre, but this week I had the opportunity to watch sound art unfold. I admit I was rather skeptical initially, but the work of the artist sold me on this medium. At a concert by Trevor Dick, as mentioned above, Tina Newlove created a painting which, had I been able, I would have bought. You can see her stuff on her website and also follow the link there to her myspace site. I quite like her urban crowd stuff. One of the works, City Crowd, reminded me of Klimt. If you ever have the chance to watch her, stick around to the end. It's worth it.

Movie Night Recoms

I was watching Marie Antoinette recently, thinking 'This soundtrack reminds me of the one in Lost in Translation'; sure enough (I had popped the dvd in without much study), it was another Sofia Coppola film (2006). Definitely not for my mother's crowd; she would have a fit at what had be "done" to this quirky period piece. It had been recommended to me precisely because its focus was the visuals rather than plot. Like Translation (2003), Coppola used the technique of dampened audio, which has various effects on the audience. Also lost to the traditionalists would be the use of current American accents and vernacular language, mixed in with the sensibilities and expression of the time. A completely cool film. But I love anything different; there is no room or time for boredom. Half a box of popcorn to my next recom, 49Up (2006), which I used in my continued study of the series in my classes. My students and I felt there had not been substantial change from 42Up, so while it was a wonderful film in and of itself, the series does seem to be lacking momentum. What was so eagerly awaited seemed a bit flat. I wonder if director Michael Apted will pursue this longitudinal study and how many of the participants will continue with the project. So, definitely worth watching for its sociological importance, but don't expect the shake ups encountered between, for example, 35Up and 42Up. I plan to watch the director's interview to hear his views.

Kids' Stuff

Two things for kids this week:
I was referred to a group called the Go Fish Guys, and they have some worthy music for children that goes beyond the usual potty-training and monsters subjects. You can check out various things on their site at but one song I liked was It's About the Cross which you can find on their index of sample mp3 clips along with other Christmas songs: . I like the fact that they don't dumb things down for kids.
Also of note is a hot-off-the-press book (I was at a launch by the author) which I bought as a Christmas present for certain young people I know (can't ruin the surprise here): Jim's Grandiose Big Bible Picture Book. What is different about this one is that it is witty (yay! something unboring about the Bible for kids!) and it has a pretty cool, age-appropriate key at the back about symbols and references. A good stepping stone for the 8-12 age group in terms of Bible acquisitions. Good fun. You can find out more about Jim Paterson's book and order it via or .

Another Kind of Good News

As we enter the season of Good News, it is fitting that I found this website: on which only positive new stories are found. Now many will counsel you not to take a media fast, especially as Christians, because we should not turn a blind eye to suffering and should continually pray for those who need it. I believe that is true. However, if one must read the regular news (which is 99% bad), I think it is balanced to look at this good news source. I love it.

Blogger's--not My--Bad

Just noticed that Blogger has inserted automatically a new Video Bar which usurped my YouTube Beauts. Somehow, some weird video was attached and as yet I have been unable to remove it from the html. Please ignore that one ('sweet rose' something or other) and do not think that it has any connection to me. Thank you!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Welcome To Advent II !

Today we light the second (and first) candle of Advent. This candle represents Peace, and the scriptures and focus today are about the prophets' foretelling of the Messiah's coming.

O King of all nations, Jesus Christ, only joy of every heart, come and save your people.

If you can handle a bit of tongue-in-cheek about Jesus, but which is really about what he would say about our consumerism, check out Jesus Shops for Sandals:
There is some hoopla about a line in it about Jesus not knowing what to pray, but I would suggest that some people need to relax. Nevertheless, check out the feedback at Then, join me in this
Advent Prayer on Consumerism
Slow us down, O Lord, this Advent, So we may understand the darkness we are in, The darkness of fear that comes with wanting more, And the fear of having less. Grant us the light of transformation, As we wait for your true abundance— The love of the Incarnation, A love that brings us true dignity and security, A love that embraces all, that enriches all, That calls us all to share justly and celebrate joyfully. (author unknown)

From Over the Pond

From blogger Dave Walker, some cartoons about Advent:

and this, which I tripped upon as soon as I had put up our lights:

Non-Christmasy News

CONTACT Photography Festival is sponsoring an exhibit of some of the Malcolmson Collection of 19th century photographs at Lennox Contemporary gallery. The show runs from Dec 14th through the 23rd (Th-Sun 12-5pm), 12 Ossington Ave. just north of Queen St. Call 416 924 7964 or for more info.

The Nativity

Last year saw the release of the film The Nativity. I would like to recommend the related book The Nativity Story: Contemplating Mary's Journey of Faith, edited by Rose Pacatte, FSP (Pauline Press, 2006). It is a collection of reflections on Mary by various women, one of whom is my best friend: Marily Elphick wrote the chapter entitled "Mary's Journey of Love". Don't just take my word for it--the book is presently being translated into Italian, with more translations sure to come. You can purchase it at Pauline Books in Toronto; email for info or go to

Christmas Specials on TV

I noted a glitch with the link to the CBC tv guide listings last week, so although it is corrected below, I am repeating the address here:

Concert Reminders

Sunday December 16th at 4:30, there are two options: The Festival of Light at St. Clement's church--carols, pageant and living nativity scene--or for those of us with grown up kids, head over to Jazz Vespers at Christ Church Deer Park ( where the Barlow Brass and Drums will present a Christmas Vespers. THEN, for even more fun, go to the Church of the Messiah (240 Avenue Rd, N of Bloor at Dupont) for a Christmas Concert and Show that will include jazz, gospel, rock, choral and celtic music, highland and step dancing, and carol sing-alongs! 7pm, freewill offering.And that's just the people I know! For more concert listings, see

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord!

Welcome to the first Sunday in Advent! You will notice that this image has purple and pink candles; that is because I am renegade and refuse to switch to the modernized blue and white and pink adaptation (apparently my preference was too Lenten; never mind that the purple is a symbol for royalty). So for you traditionalists, the first purple candle of the season signifies hope. Of course, the circular wreath represents God's completeness, the greenery reminds us of renewal of life. A prayer for the lighting of this first candle:
O Emmanuel, Jesus Christ, desire of every nation, Saviour of all peoples, come and dwell among us. Amen.
To kick start your advent season, why not use some cues? Play the soundtrack from Godspell, or the quintessential Christmas piece, A Ceremony of Carols by Benjamin Britten. Start an Advent devotional (see God With Us post on November 18th, below). A neat thing for the kids is to host a party where they get to make a Jesse Tree (see or do your own version); my kids didn't have birthdays en masse, so this was a chance for them to have a party with their friends. Try and get a permanent (not chocolate) advent calendar for your family; there are quilting and sewing patterns for them, or see the variety of store bought ones at Delay putting up your really Christmas-y decorations to mark this season. An advent calendar, Jesse tree and the wreath are simple ways to declare the season. Finally, start your Christmas baking and gift making now, so that you can enjoy Christmas when it comes. And save a tree and ditch the Christmas card madness.
Veni veni, Emmanuel
captivum solve Israel,
qui gemit in exsilio,
privatus Dei Filio.
Gaude! Gaude! Emmanuel,
nascetur pro te Israel!


Christmas Specials on TV

As a CBC brat, I bring you access to listings of old favourites this month only on Channel 6: there's a nice pdf of the month's Grinch/Charlie Brown/Muppets etc. specials at Don't miss the Vinyl Cafe's inevitable Dave and the Christmas Turkey story on the 18th! Remember to watch A Christmas Carol/Scrooge (the only acceptable one, with Alastair Sim), and please do yourself a favour and read The Polar Express to your (grand)children; like Jumanji, some things should stay on paper only.
~Buddy the Elf

Concert Recommendations

Okay, so I'm slightly biased in this post, since I have friends in and connections to these groups, but I can guarantee superlative musicianship! Due to the busy Christmas concert season, I am posting some two weeks in advance.

Saturday December 8th~dear I Furiosi help those with a blue Christmas with an irreverent look (as always) at loneliness: Solo includes guest percussionist Graham Hargrove. Calvin Presbyterian Church on Delisle (Yonge and St. Clair) 8pm (

Sunday December 9th~first at 3pm, Brother Heinrich's Christmas, a Christmas story with music by John Rutter, at St. Clement's Church, 59 Briar Hill Ave. ( Then after a skate and a bite to eat, head over to Blessed Sacrament Church (south of Yonge and Lawrence) for Aradia's Et Exultavit Christmas Concert, at 7:30pm (

The following week, you'll have to pick between church and church:
Sunday December 16th at 4:30, there are two options: The Festival of Light at St. Clement's church--carols, pageant and living nativity scene--or for those of us with grown up kids, head over to Jazz Vespers at Christ Church Deer Park ( where the Barlow Brass and Drums will present a Christmas Vespers. THEN, for even more fun, go to the Church of the Messiah (240 Avenue Rd, N of Bloor at Dupont) for a Christmas Concert and Show that will include jazz, gospel, rock, choral and celtic music, highland and step dancing, and carol sing-alongs! 7pm, freewill offering.
And that's just the people I know! For more concert listings, see

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Offered without Comment


Stir Up Sunday

Yes indeedy, it is 'Stir Up Sunday', an affectionate and quite colloquial name for the last Sunday of the Christian year or the Sunday before Advent begins. The term comes from the collect (meaning communal prayer for those gathered, accent on the 'coll') in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer:
Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Thank you Thomas Cranmer! You can check out this and the OT and Gospel readings for today in the BCP on page 259-260.

What Exactly are we Stirring Up?

So now that you know what today is, you have to do the stirring up! Most families have their own tried and true recipes for plum pudding, but if you don't, you can find some suggested recipes and suggestions here: Actually, we try to avoid the gluttony of the holidays, so we no longer serve the plum pudding at Christmas dinner--usually later in the week or for New Year's. Coz we still love a bit of that terribly rich hard sauce!!! But if you really don't like the (in fact) plumless dessert, you can stir up your Christmas cake today. But you'll have to really douse it with booze to make the cut for Christmas. No matter what, do some stirring and keep that tradition going!

Christmas Windows

If you are trying to avoid that conspicuous consumption but still want a Christmas window outing, ck out this new competition: . Several stores in the downtown core have had their windows dressed by Ryerson students on a budget of $100! These will be judged on December 3rd, but in the meantime you can see them yourself (ck the website link for the pdf map) and/or vote online for your favourite. Excellent outing for the artsy fartsy type!

Carol Service

Next Sunday, December 2nd, is the first Sunday in Advent and the annual carol service at St. Clement's Anglican Church will take place at 4:30pm. Music will include Palestrina, Archer, Vann, McKie and Near. Freewill offering. 59 Briar Hill Ave, Toronto. Call 416 483 6664 ex 26 for more info or go to our website at

Buy Nothing Christmas

This may not be a new notion to those of us who have Buy Nothing Days most of the time, but I wholeheartedly promote the Buy Nothing Christmas movement. Not only because of its Christian sensibilities, but also because they invite people of all opinions to participate: you can go whole hog and really buy nothing, or you can use their varying degrees of suggestions to cut down on your Veblenian conspicuous consumption. It is a wonderful notion that is actually accessible, unlike a lot of the resolutions that will likely follow a week later. Ck out this great idea (which is not new) by going to their website at For each week of Advent, I will be highlighting one of their clever posters.

Opera at the Met

If you haven't jumped on the Metropolitan Opera Live broadcasts at your local cinema bandwagon, you should: you get top notch music, cast interviews at intermission, and other treats, all while munching down on your popcorn and smarties! We did this last year and got more tickets for this year. But caveat emptor--the lineups are long and start early. Just coz you have a ticket, doesn't mean you'll get a good seat, so go early to the movie theatre. Cineplex has added more venues due to the raging success of last year. Ck out this link to investigate what's on for 2007-2008:$Cineplex/1a0b9dfc-71bc-44f3-be62-4f42afd297f5/2007-09-20--Metropolitan_Opera_Live_in_High-Definition_Returns_to_the_Big_Screen--.pdf . [I believe the National Ballet is looking into this too, the ol' copycats.]

Sunday, November 18, 2007

My Favourite Ad

Day by day
Day by day
Oh Dear Lord
Three things I pray
To see thee more clearly
Love thee more dearly
Follow thee more nearly
Day by day

~Saint Richard of Chichester 1197-1253

Advent venit!

This week I will be attending the Toronto reception and book launch by one of my heroes, Kathleen Norris, author of The Cloister Walk and Amazing Grace. You can learn more about her contributions to a new book called God with Us: Rediscovering the Meaning of Christmas, which includes other authors such as Eugene Peterson (The Message). Her talk, Remembering, Waiting and Hoping: The Countercultural Pursuits of Christmas, will be right up my alley. I will feature products and thoughts in future posts based on the same ideology. This event, after the New York launch and before the Vancouver one, is sponsored in part by Imago ( You can check out the exposition of the book by clicking on this link:
Because Advent is just around the corner--yes, three Sundays from now!--a reminder to buy the Christian seasons calendar I recommended a few weeks ago. I received mine and it is a keeper. Go to to order; they also have some cool ideas about using it, which they send with your order.
And if Advent starts in 21 days, then two weeks from today is 'Stir Up Sunday', a fine Anglican tradition. Put the plum pudding ingredients on your grocery list soon!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Call for Sponsors

I am seeking a corporate or individual sponsor for the production of my donation to the 2008 Design Hope Toronto art auction and gala; this would involve a very modest investment, but is crucial to the professional developing and mounting of the photography by Toronto Image Works. The venue is moving this year to Modern Weave on King E. and the event is the evening of February 8th. I need confirmation of support by Christmas to make my production deadline. If you can support my contribution, please contact me via If you would like to view my previous entries and learn more about the 2006/2007 events, in which over $17,000 was raised for Dixon Hall's homeless, hostel and housing programming, please go to and FYI, corporate or individual sponsorship is eligible for publicity online, onsite and in the auction catalogue. Many thanks!

A Cool Photo by Jan

Memento Audere Semper 2, © Jan Neal, 2007. You can visit her Studio Journal here:

An Unfinished Life Premiere

I am a huge fan of Canadian 'classical' music and was looking forward to the premiere of Brian Cherney's oratorio, An Unfinished Life, last week at Metropolitan United. Unfortunately much seemed to conspire against this event: errors (e.g., labeling Dutch as German)
in the already poorly laid out concert programme, a cell phone ringing during the CBC recording of this (!!), a sense of underrehearsal (it was only composed this summer) or at least hesitancy or nonconfidence, and worst of all, the sound set up made hearing the narration by Marilyn Lightstone completely unintelligible. The audience was restless, several walked out before the midpoint, and it became something to sit through out of politeness. You might suggest that this modern classical piece was too challenging or deep for me to understand: after over 30 years of singing, I feel comfortable forming opinions about choral music. I'm not Jewish and didn't get the profundity of the piece? Just finished teaching an in-depth and emotional unit on the Holocaust: I don't think I am uneducated in this area. I just felt there was a disconnect between the music and the selected text, and it is hard to make a connection to cacophony. Aside from the redemption at the end of the borrowed Bach motif, I felt jarred and lost rather than moved and drawn into the life of Etty Hillesum. I would like to give this Soundstreams Canada commission another chance one day; maybe the gods were conspiring against this premiere. But I did find the evening unsatisfying: the advertised 'works by Jewish composers of the Renaissance' amounted to psalms set to music by Palestrina and Lassus (whom I understood to be very Christian) and the only Jewish composer represented was Solomon Rossi (1570-1630), of whom I had never heard, so I was interested to learn something there. So, alack, no raves here, but hope for a better experience next time.

For Kids up to 35

On Saturday November 17th, Sound Ministry hosts another night of DJs, electro and techno beats at the Sanctuary, 25 Charles St.E. just off Yonge St, south of Bloor. This time they have guest DJs from the British club scene! I believe these wild and crazy kids start at 8pm and go half the night. They request $5 cover to go towards expenses. If you go to their MySpace page, there's some YouTube footage you can check out (the ones in dark with the glo stix).
Also, please note there is a new internet Christian rock radio station on the permalist at left; the old one folded for regulation reasons. This one has rock, hard rock, hip hop and other listening options. Check it out.

The Sugary and the Hard to Take

Something made me watch Simon Birch (1998) recently, although I think it was just insomnia and it was on TV; I wished I had tried another soporific remedy. Yech: sacchrine and preachy, and worst of all, exploitative of Ian Michael Smith for the purposes of making us feel smug for our normalcy via lecturing us about being grateful. Towit: have we seen him in another movie? No. Anyhow, clearly not sucked into this vortex of the Feel Good genre. However, I do recognize the didactic worth of the movie for perhaps the Tween set if one is looking for an illustration of the importance of love, acceptance and true friendship. Hmmm
On the other hand, The Last King of Scotland (Kevin Macdonald, 2006) is good stuff and definitely not for the Tween set.