Category Archives: Arts/Literature

10 Things You Might Not Know About Maurice Sendak

Maurice Sendak, Where the Wild Things Are, Books, Arts/Literature

Maurice Sendak, beloved author and illustrator of the wildly popular children’s book Where the Wild Things Are, among others, passed away today at the age of 83. The cause of death was complications due to a stroke.

In honour of Sendak’s life and work, I compiled a list of 10 facts about his life and work that the average person may not realize. What historic tragedies are symbolically represented in Sendak’s stories? What movie did he believe was the best children’s film of all time? Who did he model the wild things after?

Much like how many beloved Disney-treated fairy tales find their origins in darker, more sinister stories, Sendak’s work was often informed by personal suffering, as well as the many social and political horrors he encountered as a child. To find out more, check out my article 10 Things You May Not Have Known About Maurice Sendak (1928-2012) on the Zoomer magazine website.

Canadian Publisher Pop Sandbox Ready to Make Splash in U.S. Bookstores

I recently had the privilege of reading and reviewing two fantastic graphic novels from a Canadian start-up publishing/production company called Pop Sandbox. One is called KENK: A Graphic Portrait, and is a clever mix of investigative journalism and comic book design focussing on the real life story of Toronto’s most notorious bicycle thief told in part by the perpetrator himself (check out the preview of an animated film version of the book here). The second is called The Next Day — a tale of four real-life suicide survivors recounting their respective emotions and reasoning for attempting to kill themselves and what it was like to wake up unsuccessful the next day (this book is also paired with an online interactive animated documentary co-produced with the National Film Board of Canada) .

Since both are being released in U.S. bookstores Wednesday (November 2nd), I’m publishing my reviews below. Congratulations to everyone at Pop Sandbox for two great releases. And for all the avid readers out there looking for something unlike anything you’ve read before, be sure to check out the two titles below.

KENK: A Graphic Portrait

Igor Kenk is coming to America. Luckily for cyclists, their rides are safe.

Kenk, the infamous Toronto bicycle shop owner who the New York Times called “the world’s most prolific bicycle thief,” will grace U.S. bookstores on November 2nd in the form of a unique and compelling graphic novel from the award-winning Canadian start-up Pop Sandbox.

KENK: A Graphic Portrait provides an intimate and first-hand glimpse into the background and early life of the Yugoslavian-born Kenk, as well as the details surrounding his 2008 arrest and seizure of almost 3,000 bicycles from his west-Toronto repair shop.

Named a “Best Book of the Year” by Quill & Quire, the design and format of the book itself is intriguing. Built from a collection of footage, interviews and archived material compiled in the year leading up to his arrest, the tale is for the most part narrated by Kenk himself. Make no mistake — Kenk’s stories, though at times told in the absence of all the facts, are quite fascinating. Here the reader is allowed a first-hand retelling of Kenk’s checkered, early years in Yugoslavia, planting his roots in what was then one of Toronto’s less desirable neighbourhoods and the day-to-day running of his bike shop. The narrative then delves deeper into Kenk’s personal life where readers are introduced to his wife, business model, environmentalist mantra, disgust at the excesses of Western society and his belief in an impending economic collapse.

To accompany the narrative, the images are cut and cropped directly from the footage and interviews and edited in such a way as to evoke an appropriate mix of intrigue and grit. Part comic book and part investigative journalism, KENK: A Graphic Portrait breaks new ground as a multi-platform graphic novel that, in the end, leaves the reader with a lingering sensation that they didn’t merely read a story about Igor Kenk, but that they met the man himself.

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The Next Day

November 2nd is shaping up to be a busy day for Canadian production/publishing company Pop Sandbox. Accompanying the release of the gritty and compelling KENK: A Graphic Portrait in U.S. bookstores will be the company’s follow-up, The Next Day.

Co-written by Jason Gilmore and Paul Peterson and illustrated by John Porcellino, The Next Day,   a graphic novella, recounts the stories of four real-life suicide survivors. The stories of Tina, Ryan, Chantel and Jenn — all gleaned from interviews with each survivor — provide an intimate and sometimes disturbing glimpse into the life and mind of a person considering, and eventually acting on, their suicidal intentions.

According to statistics from the World Health Organization, each year approximately one million people worldwide die as a result of suicide. The number of those who attempt suicide is more than twenty times that. The Next Day offers critical, first-hand insight into the thoughts and emotions of individuals so desperate that they believe taking their own lives is the only way out. Readers discover that these people aren’t crazy or out of their minds. Rather, they’re regular people dealing with exrtaordinarily heavy emotional weight brought on by certain personal experiences and issues. And when these people wake up the next day, readers are offered a rare glimpse into the thoughts and emotions that one deals with following a near-fatal suicide attempt.

Originally conceived by Peterson, a former social worker, over a decade ago, The Next Day is an honest and open portrait of four average people who decided to end their lives and failed. Paired with an online interactive animated documentary (co-produced with the National Film Board of Canada), it’s a must-read for anyone looking to explore a deeper understanding of the issues and reasons that approximately one person dies every forty seconds from suicide.


					

The Day I Baptized Archbishop Aloysius Ambrozic

Archbishop Aloysius Ambrozic

The house lights fell. The crowd hushed. The players crossed the stage and found their positions. In a dark corner at the back of the auditorium, I clung tight to my squeegee and bucket. In my 18-year-old mind I recited over and over the lines to “Prepare Ye (the Way of the Lord)”, a number that I was to sing as I marched to the stage through the audience. As I stood at the cusp of the aisle, eagerly awaiting my cue, a quick order whispered in my ear turned the moment from one of excited anticipation to terrifying moral dilemma: “Soak him.”

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In 1998 I joined a community production of the acclaimed musical Godspell. The show, put together through the local Holy Cross parish, brought a number of high school students from around the city together under the direction of a young Franciscan Friar of the Atonement named Father Brian (who in time became affectionately known among the cast as “Daddy B”).

Godspell, a musical that tells the story of the Gospel according to St. Matthew in a contemporary way, is upbeat, fun and more rock and roll than gospel choir. In the production I played the dual roles of John the Baptist and Judas. As John the Baptist I had one of the show-opening numbers. Dressed in a blue striped shirt, corduroys and a red marching band jacket I was to parade through the audience as I sang until I reached the stage, dipped my squeegee in the bucket and flung water out into the crowd, “baptizing” them.

At this one particular show we had a special guest in the audience. At the invitation of Father Brian we welcomed Toronto’s Archbishop Aloysius Ambrozic, who earlier that year had been ordained a Cardinal by Pope John Paul II. To say that it was a big deal that he was there is an understatement. We were all on our best behaviour knowing that a man of great religious standing walked among us. As the show was beginning and I stood at the back of the auditorium awaiting my cue, Father Brian, in the brown robe that suited his stature so well, glided gently to my side. Continue reading

Guitar Girl

I took this photo at a Luminato event at Yonge-Dundas Square in 2009. Thousands had gathered with their guitars to attempt to set a world record for largest guitar ensemble (they came up just short). As the crowd tuned their guitar’s and prepared to play some Neil Young, I squeezed my way through the sea of bodies and snapped shots whenever I could. Continue reading

#133: Bacchus to the Future

Bacchus, from the Giardino di Boboli in Florence, Italy

I posted the above photo of Bacchus — also known as Dioysus, the Greco-Roman god of wine, theatre and ecstasy — since the weekend is upon us and many will be out partaking in all this half-human half-god represents.

Michelangelo's Bacchus

According to his bio, “he is….the Liberator, whose wine, music and ecstatic dance frees his followers from self-conscious fear and care, and subverts the oppressive restraints of the powerful.” In other words, god of the weekend.

It’s funny, though, to search through images of Bacchus. Many ancient artists depicted him as slender, dignified and even somewhat seductive — all traits befitting a god of wine, theatre and ecstasy. Michelangelo’s Renaissance Bacchus displays significantly more feminine features, while some paintings show him as somewhat of a bravo, entrancing beautiful women with his charm.

An interesting representation of Bacchus that I came across is courtesy of Dutch painter Jan van Huysum. In A Classical Landscape With The Worship Of Bacchus he depicts a garden scene with a group of young women crowding around a statue of a slender and virile Bacchus while in the bottom left corner a figure that eerily resembles the statue at the top of this page struggling to dismount an ass.

Jan van Huysum's In A Classical Landscape With The Worship Of Bacchus

Yes, the Bacchus statue at the beginning of this post, though hundreds of years old, seems to represent a more modern representation of what we may envision someone who loves to drink, party and partake in all that brings ecstasy to look like (or, “Bacchus to the future” — see, I made the title work….sort of). Think out of shape, inebriated celebrity tabloid photos, or waking up with a really bad hangover, or even that 40-something uncle of yours who never married and still clings to his hard-partying youth.

Anyway, if you should partake in wine, theatre or ecstasy (or a combination of the three) this weekend, tip your glass to Bacchus. Half-way around the world, in a beautiful blooming garden, drunk and naked on his turtle, he salutes you.

This post appears as part of the FOCUS 365 photo blog component of Bastard Type

#15: Judging “The Imperfectionists” by its Cover

The path up the Aventine Hill in Rome -- a location that figures prominently in the book "The Imperfectionists" by Tom Rachman

Almost a year ago I walked into a bookstore with Kristina and the cover of a book on the “New Releases” wall caught my eye. Featuring the image of a stack of newspapers tied with string sitting atop a wooden table, it was a novel by an author I’d never heard of — Tom Rachman — called The Imperfectionists.

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#14: Out of Focus? Nah, it’s Art

The above photo was taken at a party after a few drinks. It’s a shot of Kristina and her best friend Mia laughing. The original shot was blurry and as a result destined for the trash. But, with the help of some extra contrast and selective colour balance, a once useless photo became artistic expression.

Well, that conclusion is obviously up to the viewer. To some it may still be a pointless photo better suited to the recycle bin than a blog, and that’s fine. Art should be subjective.

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