Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Golden Age of Television

It's a quiet holiday morning, the kind of morning that gives you room to think about things that you don't normally have time to think about, like television shows.

I love television. Like really, unabashedly, love television.  I'm not one of those people who thinks they're too "good" for tv.  I read a lot, so I don't feel guilty about the television that I watch or how much I love it.  And I only watch it once my kids are in bed, so I'm not taking time away from them.

Every season change I sift through the networks' offerings of new shows, noting the ones that interest me and scheduling them into my PVR.  My choices vary, usually based on premise, actors or creators, with the genres leaning towards Sci-Fi and comedy, but not always.  I'll watch British dramas, but rarely American, unless they star a British actor that I like. I give promising shows three episodes to prove themselves, and if I'm not excited to watch them by the third, they get dropped from the schedule.

Some shows I watch out of loyalty, because I've watched them from the first episode and want to see them through to their conclusion (Grey's Anatomy).  But if I feel like a show is dragging on too long, has lost it's spark, has lost it's entire original cast of characters, or has jumped the shark, I have no problem dropping it from the roster. I don't watch reality tv, game shows, daytime tv such as soaps, talkshows, etc., or surprisingly, the news. I read all my news online because I can read faster than I can watch. I do watch documentaries though, and will watch anything Anthony Bourdain.

I have a theory about the difference in the quality of television based on country of origin and networks.  Firstly you should know that the US and Britain are the two biggest exporters of pop culture and entertainment in the world.  India has an enormous entertainment industry, but doesn't seem that interested in exporting their cultural offerings.  So I will focus on only the US, Britain & Canada.

British shows typically have anywhere from 6-8 episodes in a season, which they call a "series".  Additionally, very popular shows typically include a Christmas episode, which can be a stand-alone episode or continue the storyline from the previous series as a connector to an upcoming series/season, for example, there is a great tradition of Doctor Who Christmas Episodes. But British series can be as short as 3 episodes (Sherlock).  Canadian seasons typically last for 13 episodes, and American for 22 episodes, except for specialty cable networks such as HBO, AMC, FX, Bravo, Showcase, etc. which have shorter seasons, much like Britain, with anywhere from 8-14 episodes.  I think that season length has a huge impact on quality. And Netflix has been a game changer.

Since British, Canadian, and cable shows don't require that a story line drag on for 22 episodes, they have the freedom to write tighter and more action-packed episodes.  There can be significant character development and plotline advancement in a shorter timespan, with fewer filler storylines.  I also love that many British writers & producers aren't afraid to end a show when they feel that they've told the story they wanted to tell, regardless of the popularity.  Gavin & Stacey is a good example of this. They don't keep flogging a dead horse to make more money.

I also appreciate the diversity of appearance of British television characters.  A show isn't filled with bland interchangeably pretty women and classically handsome men, but by real people, warts and all. And strangely enough, not being a supermodel doesn't seem to effect their ability to find and keep love, or live a fulfilling life within their world of make-believe.

Marionettes and Ronnie Burkett

I am figuratively the worst blogger these days. Not only do I not post very often, but I have started several posts and then not finished them. This post was started back at the end of October when Mike & I went to see Ronnie Burkett perform his Daisy Theatre marionette production at the Esplanade.

I have a strange love for marionettes which I believe stems back to a time in elementary school when a travelling theatre troupe performed a play with marionettes styled as Japanese geishas (racist? sexist? Probably, this was the early eighties.) You might remember those assemblies. A chance to get out of regular class and watch some performers, probably funded by some sort of arts grant, trying to engage restless elementary kids with their performances. That it made a life-long impression astonishes me and would probably astonish the performers as well!

It is possibly also a result of the famous Lonely Goatherd song done with marionettes on "The Sound of Music", as well as the performances in the movie "Being John Malkovich".

Whatever the original influence, I love them.

I had gone to Calgary over a decade ago to see Ronnie Burkett perform his play "Provenance" and although I found the content shocking and a little bit disturbing (it wasn't a comedy), I was enthralled by both his skill and stamina. And I was more than a little bewitched by his marionettes.

Over the years I had asked at the Esplanade about when they would be getting Ronnie to come and perform in Medicine Hat. A Medicine Hat performance would not be just another stop on a long countrywide tour, but a return home for Ronnie as Medicine Hat is his hometown. How amazing that this little redneck city on the Prairies could produce a world famous puppeteer!

Finally it happened.  And it was glorious.

The night that I was there Ronnie emotionally introduced his grade 1 teacher in the audience.  It was a touching and wonderful start to a lively and hilarious performance.

Afterwards, Ronnie graciously let me have a picture with him.

If you read this Ronnie, thank you for coming home to Medicine Hat - we were delighted to see you and hope you return sooner than another 30 years from now.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

"You're so embarrassing mom!"

Do you know how easy it is to embarrass a tween?  I took my girls up to Calgary last weekend to stay at my sister's for a visit.  While we were there I pointed out locations of places I used to frequent when we lived in Calgary such as: "That's Glenmore Reservoir where I used to train and compete in Dragon Boat races", or "That's the neighborhood where I used to go for my Flamenco dance class".

My 10 year old was mostly silent and when I asked her what was wrong she said, "Why do you have to do such weird and embarrassing things?!" Parenting win.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Banishing Brown From My House

I like colour. And although many people have beautiful homes with neutral browns and greys, I prefer to surround myself with colour and light, especially as our winters are so long and dark. I don't mind the cold of winter, but hate the constant darkness.

This weekend Mike is patching and painting our downstairs hallway, which actually starts in our mainfloor kitchen. Mike is a bit of a perfectionist, so he thoroughly scraped, patched & sanded all the surfaces as well as removing a door and all the hardware from one doorway.

When we moved into our house it had a grand total of 4 different colours of greige/taupe/brown in a variety of finishes, and often a satin finish was used to patch an eggshell wall. Not only that, but the walls were filled with nail holes and gouges.  Mike painted the girl's rooms before we moved in and has been steadily working away at the rest of the house since then.

Once this hallway is painted we will only have one more room to paint in order to completely banish the unwanted brown from our house - the downstairs family room.

Here are the colours of our house now.  I've tried to include pictures of each room if I have one.

Living Room/Dining Room/Upstairs Hallway: Martha Stewart Beach Grass


Master Bedroom: Glidden Gentle Tide. This is a really hard colour to show in pictures.  It photographs as a grey-blue, but in reality is everything from a warm aquamarine to a pale blue depending on the light.  It is almost identical to Benjamin Moore Palladian Blue.

Oldest daughter's room: Pittsburgh Paint Honeydew Melon.

Youngest daughter's room: Pittsburgh Paint Coral Flower

The kitchen walls and cabinets and the whole house's baseboards are all Behr Vermont Cream.

Somehow looking at these colours in the photos doesn't do them justice.  I'm not much of a photographer and that probably doesn't help. I also realize that every computer monitor shows colour differently, and every person sees colour differently.

I'm so particular about the colours I choose, it literally took me 6 months to choose the white that we used for our baseboards & trim, and I waffled for about a year on the exact colour of green that I chose for the living room & dining room.  It worked out for the best though; when I was choosing the colour of white for my kitchen walls and to colour-match my cabinets, I already knew what my favourite colour of white was and the decision was easy.

I've chosen the colour of our basement family room when we eventually get around to doing it - Periwinkle:

Sunday, June 28, 2015

This is England

I've been sick for forever.  I had strep throat and then managed to catch a wicked cold while on my fifth day of antibiotics.  I'm just coming out of it now.  I took this opportunity to watch the original movie and the following series' of "This is England". Thank you to all the YouTube users who took the time to upload all the series.

What can I say? It's amazing.  It's gritty and real. The characters are multi-dimensional and complex. It touches on friendship, love, family - the one you're born into and the one you make for yourself - pretty much everything that matters.

I laughed, I cried, I discovered the saddest and most beautiful song I have ever heard, Dogwood Blossom by Fionn Regan.