Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Next time - more players!

Poach Motel got off to an auspicious start to the season last night against our traditional arch-rivals and companions in spirited play the U-Files.

We had five players show up, and with the addition of a serendipitous substitute (thanks Carl - we're so grateful that you happened to be in the neighbourhood!) managed to play 6 on 7 for the entire game to end in a well-deserved tie.

So, congrats to the four others who showed up and played their asses off. As for the rest of you chumps, next week we need you!

LOTR Magic

As visual spectacle, the LOTR musical was pure magic. Obviously a lot of effort was put into the design and construction of the stage, as it was a large circular stage that was comprised of at least two rings around a central circle. The central circle could rise to at least 12 feet above the stage, and sink far enough that people disappeared into the hole. The middle ring was broken into segments, each of which could be raised and lowered independently. All three rings could rotate in either direction. The stage was used for a number of different effects: to convey a sense of the journey, to act as physical representations of bridges, mountains, caves, tunnels, to mimic the act of climbing up into Lothlorien, to enable the fight scenes to continue for long periods of time with only 5 men playing orcs (the dead ones would rotate around the back, and then be able to come to life out of sight of the audience). The lighting was amazing; it was used to convey sunrises, nightfall, the flickering flame and darkness of Mordor, the implacable hatred of Sauron's eye, and it interacted with the thorny branches permanently installed on the walls on either side of the stage entering into the theatre and used frequently as a backdrop to convey the sense of warm green spring/summer forests, or the bluster and falling leaves of autumn forests. They even went so far as to use really powerful flames to issue smoke and bits of black paper into the audience when the Balrog appeared. They also used an interesting backdrop placed in the middle of the stage with a circle of glass in the centre(apparently embedded with black mesh - I didn't notice it but Matthias did) to cast shadow puppet plays where you could see the actors on the other side of the glass and simultaneously watch their shadows on the circle. The best use of this was to tell the story of Bilbo Baggins adventure and encounter with Gollum and the one ring. The black rider's horses were amazing creations of black wire, moved on sticks (no less!) with a sinuous motion that was deeply creepy and effectively conveyed a sense of decay and zombie-like half-life. The orcs were likewise fantastic creations; some of the men were walking on contraptions that raised them more than a foot off the stage, which enabled them to shamble and move with a eerie grace at the same time.

If only I hadn't started taking singing lessons, I wouldn't have known how bad the singing was! The quality of voices was not strong - I get the feeling that they picked actors for their acting ability and resemblance to the cast of the movie more than their singing talent.

And of course, nothing can improve the essential flaws in the LOTR plot structure, which in my opinion are the lack of characterization and the continuous battle scenes.

But still, it was a great way to spend three hours!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Tragedy Too Close to Home

When I heard on the news this morning that there had been a fire at a house in Vanier and a little girl had died, it didn't have much impact on me. I am practiced at ignoring the painful parts of the news, since they are so plentiful, and there are usually a few deaths by fire per year in Ottawa. They inspire a momentary sadness and a round of checking the fire alarms in my building, but that's about it.

This time, circumstances have shown me the aftermath of the fire much too clearly to ignore. Sean is a friend of my neighbour Linda, and she lived in the other half of the duplex that burned down. In her half, the smoke alarms were working, so she got out safely and called for help, but it was too late for the little girl. Sean had to watch as the girl's mother came out, with her legs burned to a crisp, and as the firemen carried out the body of the little girl. Now she has no place to live, has probably lost most of her worldly possessions, but can't go into her apartment to check, and can't stop smelling the odour of burnt human flesh. She's staying with my neighbour Linda, who says she is in pretty severe shock, although she did finally manage to get to sleep a couple of hours ago. Sean is a real sweetheart, a person who embraces the world with a combination of hope, joy, and piss and vinegar. I hope she comes through this okay.

As for the CBC story, my cynical side points out that Linda isn't really the neighbour who saw Christine Brideau's injuries - she was repeating what Sean had told her. This minor inaccuracy irritates my ex-journalism student sensibilities - as in all things, if it is worth doing, it is worth doing well.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Weekends are better!

So, I have left my project, only to land squarely on the bench. And my timing is fantastic, so I managed to land there on precisely the same day that at least sixty other people did (a large project was cancelled).

Now I have the privilege of doing proposal-type work, in that I have to sort through people's resumes and score them against a matrix of qualifications, but without the time pressure that comes with an actual proposal, and certainly without the possibility of success, where success is defined as my personal efforts making any difference to winning new business for my company.

As you can imagine, I'm thrilled. And there is no end in sight; this could go on for weeks.

On the upside, I have a shiny new laptop, a cubicle with a window and a view down Kent street to partliament hill, the river and a fountain on the Quebec side. The weather has been gorgeous, and the lunchtime walks have been glorious.

But you will not be surprised to hear that I am enjoying my weekends _much_ better.