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The Martian

I didn’t know what to expect – how good could a lost in space movie be? First things first…..if you have to have one of the crew stuck on Mars, you want it to be Jason Bourne er, I mean Matt Damon – resourceful, indestructable and damned hard to kill.

This improbable film is really good. It’s well-written, well acted, well shot. With the exception of a few shots in which the rover looked more like a small model than the real thing, Ridley Scott et al had me suspending my disbelief and going along for the ride.

The Martian is an entertaining movie that succeeds because we can’t resist the human spirit rising up over crazy adversity and impossible odds.

Go see this one!

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Billy in the Lowground

This tune has been recorded all kinds of ways. Here’s a swanky bluegrass version by Chris Thile and Michael Daves…this one is for the guitar pickers and mandolin freaks out there.

Here’s a more old-timey version played by Art Rosenbaum, Beverly Smith and and Erica Weiss…

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A good seat on the bandwagon

Yes, I’ll admit it. I’ve jumped up on the Blue Jays bandwagon. Hard to believe, I know.

There was a time I was a casual baseball fan. I used to enjoy listening to the games on the radio while I did other things like work on paintings in my studio. Those were the days when Tom Cheek and Early Wynne called the games. I used to like it when Tom took a bathroom break and Early called the “filth” inning.

Then came the baseball strike. When was that – 95? The idea that the super-rich owners and the super-rich players would have themselves a labour dispute seemed so silly to me. There was plenty of wealth there for everyone with excess gold spilling over the edge of the pot. I just couldn’t believe they couldn’t sit down and divide up the pie in a way everyone could be happy with. I abandoned ship completely. From 1995 until this year I have no idea what happened in baseball. I neither listened to nor watched a game.

Then this year the team traded up and went from mediocre to pretty great and it perked my interest. OK, they stacked the team with a few top-drawer players, but there is no way they’re going to catch up, or so I thought. I was pretty sure there was no way the Jays were going to make the playoffs, but I began paying attention. I found myself checking scores. How are those Jays doing? And then I started listening to games. When they last played the Yankees, I actually went out to a local pub, had an ale and some mediocre wings and watched the game on the pub’s many screens. I’ve never done anything like that. In fact, it’s pretty rare I go to a pub for any reason these days.

So, OK mea maxima culpa, I jumped on the bandwagon. I even find myself jabbering about the team as if I know what I’m talking about (trust me I don’t). Go Jays Go!

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Down the River I go

Here are Cathy Barton and Dave Para performing Down the River I go at the 29th Annual Lupus Chilifest, October 16, 2010. I found this on the YouTuber. I love the exuberance of this performance. Cathy Barton’s banjo bounces along like a boat shooting a rapids.

She does something in her playing I’ve never seen any other players do – she performs a roll with the pinky of her right hand. At best, it’s hard to see what clawhammer players are doing with their right hand when they’re going full tilt, but once you hear the sweeping roll, watch her hand in the video.

A lot of old time players play open back banjos these days, but Cathy Barton plays a beautiful old Ode resonator banjo. These two have been playing together for a very long time, and it shows in the way the guitar and banjo are interwoven together.

I hope you enjoy this as much as I do. I’m hoping Cathy and Dave will be back at the Midwest Banjo Camp in 2016. I took some of Cathy’s classes in 2014. I know they weren’t there this year, and I missed it as well, but I plan to attend the next camp in June.

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IMG_4106At 5:41 this morning, our cats staged a demolition derby and a boxing match. This meant they wanted breakfast and they wanted it now. Some combination of the cats and my job have made me a morning person.

I remember catless days when I used to work afternoons. I’d get home at midnight, work in the studio until about 3:00, then sleep until the crack of noon. The sleeping until the crack of noon part seems attractive now, but there were plenty of disadvantages to that weird schedule too.

Actually, I’ve come to like waking up early. I just wish the cats would ask us nicely and not get so theatrical every morning.

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Sunday was Grooming Day – for Memphis

IMG_4448With her surgeries this summer, it’s been some time since Memphis had a good full grooming. She seems to be pretty much recovered at this point, so off we went to see the fabulous Lorraine at Peticure. Memphis had a nice soapy bath and a blow dry (which seems to help release the undercoat and matted fur). Lorraine stripped out the old undercoat, and removed some nasty dreads Memphis was nurturing on her underside. The fur around Memphis’ paws was longish and scruffy, making her look rag-a-muffin, but now that’s all been trimmed up. You can see in the photo Memphis left behind a lot of fur along the way.

Memphis used to dislike being groomed. For some time, Lorraine had a grooming truck, and she used to bring it by the house. Memphis was not amused by the grooming truck. She wouldn’t take treats from Lorraine and often tried to avoid getting in the truck. Six years in, she is much more accepting of the whole business. These days, Lorraine has a nice little store-front operation on Davenport near Oakwood.

Yesterday, Memphis got into the tub without a fuss, and she even took some treats from Lorraine and offered up a few doggy-kisses during her grooming. I think she kind of enjoys the attention these days. Lorraine does a fantastic job on our Newfs, and Memphis left looking fabulous!

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A Shopping Odyssey

I started out early at the Sam Smith Park Farmer’s Market. I had been there on the first morning, but there were few stalls set up. I thought I would wait a couple weeks and check it out again. There were a dozen or more stalls now, a much more robust set-up, and there were some nice looking products available.

I bought a few things because I like the idea of having a local market, but I thought the prices were out of line, at least for me. The words GMO-free and gluten-free and organic and local were being tossed about, and maybe that’s code for super-expensive. My neighbour said these were farmers’ market prices and to be fair I don’t go to a lot of farmer’s markets so what do I know?

$3 for a cookie seems really expensive to me, though, even if it contains the best ingredients and even if it is a generous-sized cookie. I suppose they would charge that at a Starbucks but going into a Starbucks, you know everything is over-priced. 4 medium-sized tomatoes for $5 is expensive, even if they are GMO-free organic, and locally grown heirloom varieties. One stall had great-looking corn, but $5 for half a dozen cobs is extremely expensive. A local pie place had lemon squares that were more attractively priced, and I have no ability to resist lemon squares.

There were pies and there were soups and there was an artisan bakery there and everything looked great. It as just mostly all outside my snack bracket. I can see stopping by once in a while for a special treat (I just ate one of the lemon squares I bought and it was delicious) but I can’t bring myself to do any regular produce shopping there, though.

I guess I had a different idea about what a farmer’s market was all about. I kind of expected stalls set up in front of 5-ton trucks full of produce just driven down from the farm, with loads of produce and enough vendors to keep prices honest. The Sam Smith market is more of a niche shopping experience, a place that specializes in the highest-end items. If I had a family to feed and I wanted to be sure they ate produce that was chemical-free, I think having a vegetable garden or plot somewhere to grow my own would be the only way to go, short of a lotto win.

Next stop was Purrfect Pets at Lakeshore and Twenty Seventh to pick up some kibble (and more) for the partners. I enjoy the shopping experience at this store. Michelle and Rory are great to deal with and they go out of their way to make sure you’re a happy customer. They get my top recommendation for pet supplies.

I headed west to Curry’s on Queensway in Mississauga for some encaustic paint sticks. This is basically pigment mixed into melted wax medium then cooled in stick-shaped molds. I’ve started in on the new series of work, and wanted to stock up on more colours. My intention was to use oil paint with the wax medium (I’ve cooked up a batch of medium for this purpose, mixing beeswax and damar gum) and I may yet do that, but I’ve been enjoying the pre-made encaustic paint a lot. One of the qualities I like about it is that it is completely dry as soon as the wax cools. I don’t know if you’ve been into an art supply store recently, but it’s like hooking up your bank account to a giant vaccuum hose. Good thing I controlled my spending (somewhat) at the market.

After Curry’s I drove up to Starsky’s on Dundas, west of The West Mall. Starsky’s is a madhouse on Saturdays, but I like their meat, and their sausage is fantastic. The usual plan of attack shopping at Starsky’s is to walk right to the deli counter, where they sell the kielbasa, and get your number. Then go and do the rest of your shopping, keeping half an eye on what number is being called. Don’t miss your number being called out, though. They won’t wait and you will lose your spot. Today I was number 025 and they were “now serving” 61. By the time I finished the rest of my shopping, they werer only at 81. This was unusual because usually they are very fast at the sausage counter. I abandoned ship and headed home without kielbasa.

There were a few items I can’t get at Starsky’s which meant a quick stop at the No Frills on the way home. That was OK though, because it’s right next door to the liquor store, and I wanted to get a few beers. The guy who orders the beer for this store is crazy for craft beer and the selection is silly-wonderful.

I commented to the cashier that they carry more brands of craft beer than College St has restaurants. That’s a lot of selection. I can’t drink more than one or maybe two beers in a day, and I don’t stick to any one brand. Usually I’ll buy 4 or 5 cans, each of them a different crazy exotic brand. I suppose I should be as price-sensitive when buying beer as I am buying groceries, but I’m not. I like the brews from the various small breweries a lot, and I confess having a few in the house is an indulgence.

I got home and unloaded, to find I missed two or three things on my list. How could that have happened? I’m not going back for more shopping today though. No way. I have some work to do outside and I’m heading there now.