Friday, February 28, 2014


What is wrong with people?

OK that's not quite the right question, a bit too general

Same as asking: What's wrong with doofusses who write blogs asking what's wrong with people. No right answer there .. or so I shall tell myself

Let's narrow it down a tad more. Nicer weather has returned to Ontario so more people are out enjoying it and by doing so are reinforcing an observation I've made in the past. When people in Toronto go out, like outside, like walking, like not in their cars, no matter the reason why and really no matter the season, in this big multi cultural multi national city they seem to have one thing in common ...

They. Just. Can't. Get. Enough. Coffee.

Downtown with the shoppers, in the dog parks, at the outdoor (and indoor) rinks, there they are, the Toronto elite, toddling about (with their toddlers) transporting paper or styrofoam cups the size of old school Buick Regals

Those of you who know me (and everyday do you shed a tear of joy that you do so) may be screaming "Hypocrite!" and gesturing to the full sized cutout you have of me in your living room .. and if you don't have one of those, contact my people, we'll send you one out Xpress Post, only 139.99 but act now, we can't do this all day ...


But here's the deal: I enjoy my coffee in the morning. I get up at the crack of noon ... ok at 8 am but a boy can dream can't he ... and I slug down maybe three or four cups before I start scooping up my dogs for the day. I don't take a coffee with me in the car. Driving around the city really doesn't lend itself to sipping a hot beverage. If I'm taking a hiway trip I may start out with a cup of coffee but it rarely gets finished in a two or three hour trip

But I never never ever seem to need to have a container of coffee with me when I'm out and about in the city. If I'm downtown with Collette or walking dogs, be the ones I'm paid for or Terra, I just never think of grabbing a coffee first, even in cold weather

If I'm out with Collette and we want a coffee we may take one out then we would go someplace and sit down to enjoy it. Maybe that's just age, one is always looking for an excuse to sit down. But having a coffee in my hand while I'm walking around seems .. awkward. When I'm with Collette one of my hands is always occupied with her ..

Now wait a minute, cool down, this is a family blog (no it isn't, your kids may never want to read this blog) so clean your mind. I'm talking about holding hands. We hold hands. Hey, I'm old, I need to be guided.

Certainly when I'm out with Terra I need free hands. Sometimes I have one hand on the leash. Being Terra, one hand almost always is occupied with a ball or a frisbee or a stick or Rubik's cube for the dog ... yes, a Rubik's cube. She's a border collie after all

Mind you, many of these coffee swillers who I meet in public dog parks have no problem with having a free hand while their other is clenched, claw like, around their paper cup. Hell, they use that free hand to clutch their cell phone, an incredibly essential piece of dog walking equipment .. apparently. God know they don't need a free hand to actually interact with their dogs. That's why they bring their dogs to these parks, so the owner can sit on a bench sipping a coffee and texting while screaming at their dog "PLAY!" Yeh, that works

The dogs should have coffee too, to keep them awake as they stand around, bored out of their brains

So, beyond the physical awkwardness involved with only have one hand free to play with your dog, hold hands with your Booboo (yes I said Booboo, just making sure you're paying attention) or to beat the crap out of those people on the street who invade your personal space with their too-white teeth and that freshly tazered gleam in their eyes to ask you "Have you heard the truth today" the other point is .. why do they need all this caffeine

I ask that last question because, even with these Jacuzzi sized containers of coffee in their hands, these people seem as alert as a dung beetle buried in a pile of poop

You try to talk to them and they just stare at you .. then of course they need to dig the ear buds out of their skull but even when they are now in a position to actually relate to another human being, they seem completely unable to do so

Maybe it isn't always coffee that they are swilling. But it's something hot, so tea or hot chocolate or a semialfredosoylattemochaespresso with extra foam and a dollop of Oxycodon.

Yeh, that may not keep you exactly alert

So what is the point. Well, in some cases, I do notice the artful placement of the coffee cup to show the logo of the brand and/or coffee shop even while being grasped in heavily manicured and glitter painted finger nails .. and the women do this too

That is, of course, a very Toronto thing. They aren't buying the coffee for the coffee, they are buying a brand. After you all, you are what you purchase

Then there are those who are actually drinking the coffee. It's cold outside, perhaps they are trying to keep warm but here's a clue for way too many people I see outside right now .. WEAR A FUCKING HAT, YOUR HAIR AIN'T THAT GORGEOUS ANYWAY

See, that's why your kids can't read this blog

It is an odd site, downtown on a sunny morning or a Friday night, sitting off to the side, watching the river of people flowing along, encaged in their "portable devices", the white containers in their hands bobbing around like boat bumpers as they careen off of each other, isolated and caffeinated, just flotsam, just debris, hands full, never touching

Monday, February 17, 2014


The women walk in a circle in the city square, they walk quietly heads wrapped in white scarves photographs hung around their necks, they are there every day, have been there for years, their sorrow hangs around their necks as do the photos and that sorrow that pain fills the air, rubbing up against the windows of the Presidential Palace and further up, out of the country of Argentina, into the world, where the pain of the women, the mothers of the Plaza de Mayo would eventually change everything ...

This is the world of Arrabal, a dance show currently running at the Panasonic Theatre in Toronto

Essentially this play is a ballet; there is no dialogue and there are no lyrics. The story is expressed through music, some audio visual aides and dance. The story takes place in Argentina so the dance, is of course, the tango. Or primarily the tango and versions thereof

The story opens during the regime of brutal dictator Rafael Videla who "disappeared" over 30,000 of his own citizens, anyone who protested his government, men and women, most of whom were kidnapped and tortured them murdered. So yeh ... this ain't Disney.

Arrabal is a young woman whose father is one of the Disappeared, taken by police 18 years earlier and his mother, Arrabal's grandmother, is one of the women of the Plaza de Mayo. Arrabal knows little of her father and neither women know of his exact fate; we the audience do, in a harrowing sequence we watch the man's arrest and torture and murder

The story is one of discovery, of Arrabal discovering her father's story, of the country discovering its new sense of self after the regime, of a young woman discovering her self in the bright lights of Buenos Ares ... and Tango is the medium through which all change is realized

The dancing and the staging is spectacular ranging from humorous (Arrabal is enticed to a tango palace run by her father's friend by a boneless, fluid, magical character) to poignant (the father's friend flashes back to an innocent time when he and his friend played soccer only to watch the man walk off to his doom) to sexy (Arrabal is emotionally and physically seduced by the dancers of the tango palace). Oh yeh, sexy in a way that only tango can deliver

The last two shows we've seen, Once and Heartbeat of Home featured bands that played on stage and interacted to some degree with the show. Arrabal was the same. The band fuses traditional tango instruments like the accordian with electric guitars and synths.

In addition to dance and music, the show uses a wide range of audio visual techniques to tell its story. Heartbeat of Home also used projections but they only added to the puzzlement of what that show was all about. In Arrabal, projections and lighting effects and audio serve to deepen and explain the story. In a sequence where the Mothers of the Plaza dream of dancing with their Disappeared sons, the back of stage is filled with pictures of those who were lost, one by one winking out into darkness; at the end of the number the grandmother is alone on the stage in her white scarf, holding the picture of her son when suddenly the theatre is filled with the pictures of those who were murdered, leaving the woman looking very small and very alone

Across the board the cast was incredibly strong, acting and dancing in a way that gave us every nuance of the story with no need for words. I don't much about the tango, I certainly don't know enough to understand whether or not this was a perfectly executed dance

But I do now that this is dance not just for the sake of dancing but dancing used as an expression, a wide range of expressions and that were moments of performance that made me catch my breath

The period of time described in Arrabal was one of pain for the people of Argentina. Through it all they had each other and had the tango. When the world is against you, when it seems all you can do is suffer and grieve, perhaps the best thing you can do is to dance away the pain

Friday, February 14, 2014


Valentine's Day is an asinine holiday. It's artificial. It exists only to create profit

Valentine's Day is for asses

And it may for those who like to smell asses

Settle down, it's not like that

It's more like this

Thursday, February 6, 2014


OK kids, slip on your elbow length leather driving gloves, your goggles and your bonnet and jump into the back of VJ's Way Back Machine

Don't worry, it will be a short trip, we won't burn much gas and we can avoid the toll roads

Feb 8, 2013 Toronto was hammered by a significant snow storm. People freaked out, traffic snarled and politicians whined "we need more money who would know it would snow in Ontario in winter!"

My reaction is different, I have a border collie. I grabbed a toy, strapped on my GoPro and took out Terra to play in the snow

Storm? What storm? from Victor Kellar on Vimeo.

A year has passed and a lot has happened: We live in a new house, I have a new job and Collette works in a new school. But guess what ... winter in Canada doesn't change all that much

Feb 5 2014 Toronto was hammered by a significant snow storm. People freaked out, traffic snarled and politicians whined "we need more money who would know it would snow in Ontario in winter!"

My reaction is different, I have a border collie. I grabbed a toy, strapped on my GoPro and took out Terra to play in the snow ....

Sounds familiar eh

Deja Winter all over again

Deja Winter All Over Again from Victor Kellar on Vimeo.

Sunday, February 2, 2014


You can't be all things to all people. You can't please everyone. You can't do a tequila shot out of the navel of a girl named Candy without being locked out of your house .. er ... ignore that last bit

But in art, the first two lines hold true. The problem with most popular art, be it music or print of visual is that it tries to do just that .. please everyone. Or sell something to everyone. Can we say Grammy awards? No, let's not


Collette and I are into our season of plays presented by the Mirvish Company at several theatres around the city. Buying a season of shows is an interesting experience; you see a couple plays you want to see but you also have the opportunity to see shows you may know nothing about. The Mirvish shows are always professionally produced and we have discovered many many shows of which we are now quite fond.

It's a great way to see new things. Last year they did a production of Mary Poppins. I never would have bought tickets to see this show on its own but I ended up enjoying it very much

The first show we saw this year was Les Miserables, you may have heard of it. There was this movie so some guy named Hugo wrote a book based on it then they did a musical ...

This would be our fourth time seeing this show. It was a new staging, which mostly worked and featured an entirely new cast, most of whom .. vast majority of whom .. were outstanding. Ramin Karimloo as Jean Valjean was absolutely riveting with a voice and stage presence that almost made me forget Micheael Burgess and that's saying something. Another standout was Melissa O'Neal as Eponine, the best I've seen in that part; she has almost ... almost .. made me change my mind about TV singing competitions, apparently she won Canadian idol. Seeing this show again with beautiful new staging and a powerful cast made me realize how much better it is than the movie .. and I rather liked the movie

In the category of shows with which I was not familiar you can list another musical, one that was based on a movie with which I was equally unfamiliar, Once

Once is a musical about music, and musicians, in contemporary Dublin. The cast play all their own instruments and when not at front of stage as their character, sit to the side, as part of the band. The music is lovely, a kind of modern folk music, all piano and guitar and violin. The cast was strong (they almost always are in a Mirvish production) and the story, that seems at first blush quite simple, was moving and in terms of the resolution, quite brave

The next play I was unable to attend but Collette assured me that Aladdin was well produced and quite funny .. and yes, Mary Poppins aside, my Disney bucket was overflowing

Now, all of these shows were plays, well musicals actually, and from the epic decades-spanning Les Miz, to the intimate personal Once, to the magic inspired "family" fare of Aladdin, they were shows that knew what they were and didn't try to be anything else. And were therefor successful.

Heartbeat of Home, currently playing at the Ed Mirvish theatre (previously the Pantages) is not a musical, it not even a play. It is a show, a concert, a performance. The kind of thing I would never have seen if it had not been included in our season

Heartbeat of Home is prominently sold as coming from the "creators of Riverdance" OK right then I knew I may be drinking during this show .. heavily. Like through an IV ... a couple of IVs. This may just be a tad insincere .. I like Irish music. I particularly like the traditional instruments; fiddle and guitar and pipes and bodhran (skin drum). Some of the music is a tad oversentimental for me but I do enjoy the emotion and the humour of a lot of it

I am not a huge fan of traditional Irish dancing. I don't mind tap (Gregory Hines. Ben Vereen etc) but I can't quite get this Irish dance where they stand rigid, arms held by their side and clog away. Skillful? Certainly. But what's with the rigid arms? Are the shirts too tight? Are they holding up their pants/skirts? Have they had too much Irish whiskey and this is the best way to keep their balance?

But we were going, I'd never seen one of these shows, Mirvish always puts on professional productions and I thought .. what the hell I'll enjoy the music. See, I was all set to watch an evening or Irish dance and music ... and what I got was  .. well .. everything else.

See, this is a fusion show. We had Irish dancing, we had flamenco dancing, we had African dancing, modern dance, traditional tap, Broadway style dancing, hip hop and B boy ... when they pulled out the Kodo drums I pretty much had had enough. 

There was no theme to this show, no thread, I think they tried to morph from one musical form to another but it never really succeeded. It was like watching a variety show or more properly, a TV talent show. And like one of those talent shows the performances were far from stellar

A big problem with this show is that they kept trying to fuse everything, we never got a full on example of whatever dance form they were showing. The flamenco couple had talent but they felt restrained; a hot Latin number would start then here would come the Irish jig girls with their rigid arms .. SERIOUSLY WHAT THE FUCK IS IT WITH THOSE ARMS??? 

Sorry, had to be said


Art works when it's committed ... and yes, many artists should be committed. But art is all about a vision, a purpose, a desire to express a point of view. I've seen many examples of art that failed to move me on any emotional level but I admired and appreciated it for it's committment ... I didn't like it but damn it was good. That sort of thing

There were some highlights in the show. The band was excellent, particularly a pair of fiddlers, a girl who played a haunting Irish bagpipe and a bodhran drummer who led a couple of dance numbers. I want to mention in particular Lucia Evans, the show's main vocalist, a woman with a lovely fluid voice and a quiet, powerful stage presence that doesn't require flash and special effects to move you. 

There was a fun number with the male dancers emulating being on a girder high up on a sky scraper, it was casual, relaxed, stomp-inspired tap where the dancers were able to showcase their personality, something largely bereft in the rest of the show. We needed more moments like this

In the search for a musical Home this show gets lost, lost quickly and lost to the point you forgot you were on a journey in the first place. It was very much like a buffet .. a Vegas buffet .. an old school Vegas buffet. Gosh, there's an awful lot of food, but no matter what they call it, it all tastes like chicken 

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