comment 0

The Sisters Brothers – the movie

The Sisters Brothers, based on Patrick deWitt’s 2011 novel, is in limited release and is now playing at Scotiabank Theatre in Toronto. This film marks the English language debut for director Jacques Audiard. It has an excellent cast, featuring John C. Reilly as Eli Sisters, Joaquin Phoenix as Charlie Sisters, Jake Gyllenhaal as John Morris, and Riz Ahmed as Hermann Kermit Warm. Movie lovers will remember Gyllenhaal and Ahmed together in a previous film, the very dark 2014 flick Nightcrawler.

This film may not be a blockbuster. After all, there isn’t even one superhero in the whole movie. In fact, all the characters are tremendously flawed, each in their own way. As well, it’s a western, and that’s a genre which has been done to death over many decades. I’ve heard this one called a revisionist western, and that’s not even a new idea. After all, we endured the forgettable Tarantino effort, The Hateful Eight, just a couple years ago.

In a way The Sisters Brothers is a road-trip movie, except that there are no cars, just horses. For much of the film, in between various gunfights, the brothers are on their horses talking. They’re hired killers. That’s really all they’ve ever done for a living and they are good at their job and bloody ruthless too. Eli doesn’t have the same drunken enthusiasm for killing Charlie enjoys. He’s thinking of stopping, doing something else. He’s the more sensitive of the two. He’s a guy, for instance, who cares about his horse Tub, even though he describes Tub as middling.

Brothers can be a pain in the arse, but you need to be there for them. That’s really why Eli got into the hired gun business. The brothers look after one another, and of course they fight much of the time. The latest mission changes everything for the brothers.

They work for a guy called The Commodore, who tells them who to kill, and the Commodore sends them after a guy named Warm. Warm is a chemist who has a unique formula. Now you need to know this film takes place in California during the gold rush. Dump Warm’s mixture into a creek and it illuminates all the gold in the creek. All you need to do is pick it up. Of course, we all know if anything seems to be too good to be true, it’s – well – too good to be true.

If you get a chance to see The Sisters Brothers, I recommend it. It’s a film which aspires to be a great film. Ok, it falls a little short, but still, it’s got some ambition and it’s great to see a film not driven by special effects for a change. The pace lags for certain sections of this film. I mean noticeably lags. That’s the only thing that bothered me about it. It seems to lose its cadence now and then. Maybe it just needs a little editing.

I should say there are a couple scenes in this movie which have more gore than you may be ready for, maybe even more than the film needs. If that’s going to really bother you, don’t say I didn’t warn you. Would the film have been as good without them? Well, yes I think it would be just fine.

27th Street recommended.



comment 0

Gum Boot Cloggeroo

More Canadian fiddle music. I came across this gem tonight on YouTube. It’s Gordon Stobbe with Calvin Vollrath performing the Stompin’ Tom song Gumboot Cloggeroo.

For those viewers who aren’t from around Canada and maybe don’t know Stompin’ Tom Conners from a hole in the ground…’s the late Stompin’ Tom from 1990, with a little help from a friend.

comment 0

Nature walk – Lambton Woods

Today’s walk with naturalist Miles Hearn was at Lambton Woods, near the Humber River. This is a Toronto treasure. There’s lots of parking in the James Gardens parking lot and trails both along the river and through the woods.


Northern flicker

We saw and heard quite a few birds today. Miles identified 21 species. You can see his full list in the nature walk report he published on his website.

2 birds 1 chair.jpg

Cormorant, chair and herring gull

This is the best time of year for asters and over the past couple weeks we’ve been seeing lots of them.


There are a couple varieties of euonymus which are known as burning bush, the Winged euonymus and the Spindle tree.

There were a number of mushrooms fruiting today, including these puffballs. Most people are familiar with the giant puffballs but there are varieties of small puffballs which grow on wood. Most are edible as long as they are still pure white. Once they start changing colour like the ones in the picture below, don’t eat them. puffballs.jpg

The birch polypore below is growing on a yellow birch tree. These are reputed to be excellent fire-starters. birch polypore.jpg

What are these slimy mushrooms?slimy mushrooms.jpg

Speaking of slime, we saw quite a bit of slime mould today. It is such weird but colourful stuff. slime mould.jpg

Many people refer to cattails as bull rushes but that is not correct. Here are some Barber pole bullrushes we saw today.barber pole bullrush.jpg

What’s the most muscular tree you know? My pick is the blue beech. Sometimes it’s known as musclewood or ironwood. It gets confusing to use ironwood though, because another tree, the Hop hornbeam is also known as ironwood. blue beech.jpg

Each week Miles identifies a mind-bending number of plants. I’m trying to learn as many as I can. On each walk I write down the name of every plant I photograph then later match the photos and the names and look up quite a few of them on the internet to increase my learning about these plants. Even with this effort, I forget a lot of them, but I’ve been going on these nature walks since early spring and I’ve learned to identify quite a number of plants and trees and flowers. Repetition helps. The challenge is that many plants change through the season and in the spring look much different than in the fall.

Here’s a few more photos I shot today. Each of them are labeled.

Next week, we’ll be in High Park.

comment 0

The Star-maker Machinery

I just read Tommy James’ 2010 autobiography, Me, the Mob and the Music. You remember Tommy James, right? Lots of big hits. Hanky Panky. Crimson and Clover. Mony Mony. Catchy pop tunes. They don’t really interest me much, but his story is fascinating.

Tommy James signed up with Roulette Records which was run by the so-called Godfather of the Music business, Morris Levy. He came by that descriptor for every good reason. James describes all the Genovese family mobsters involved with Levy and it’s very scary. Levy didn’t pay out royalties owed. He didn’t pay writers. It seems he hardly paid anyone.

At one point a gang war broke out in New York and members of two rival organized crime families began killing one another off. Morris Levy blew town and James received a warning through his lawyer that it would be safer for him to to leave town as well and go work in Nashville for a while. Throughout his time at Roulette and through all the hit singles, Tommy James made his money off live shows only and was never paid royalties. When he finally left Roulette, he claims he was owed some $40 million.

This book paints a seriously ugly picture of the music business. Scams. Payola. It’s all there and it’s eye-opening.


comment 0

Earl Mitton’s Breakdown

Here’s another Canadian fiddle tune. I stumbled across this one on the YouTube while listening to some Mac Beattie and his Ottawa Valley Melodiers material. This is called Earl Mitton’s Breakdown from an album called Down East Fiddle Favourites by Earl Mitton and the Valley Rhythm Boys. Mr. Mitton was the composer of  the Carleton County Breakdown and numerous other tunes.  He was born in Nova Scotia in 1926 and moved to New Brunswick after serving in the army during the Second World War. He died in 1991.

If any viewers have additional information about Earl Mitton, please comment.

Here’s one more of his recordings, The Rippling Water jig.

comments 4

See you later Lazy Allen….

I posted the last Lazy Allen story in January 2017, the 17th in the series. Even though the closest they ever got to publication was on my little stories site, I’m glad I got them out of my system and stuck them somewhere where people can read them if they want to, and looking back on them today, they mostly pass my personal sniff test. I received barely any feedback on the stories, which I take to mean most of the people who read them didn’t find them all that compelling, but reading some of them again today, I’m proud of the effort.

I don’t think of myself as a writer but some of the ideas for these stories were cluttering up my brain for some time and I really enjoyed trying to form those thoughts into compact little stories. Some of them are very short, shorter than what we think of as short stories. What do you call those, short short stories, or maybe flash fiction? I don’t know. Although they are individual stories, they share characters and all somehow or another revolve around the relationship between two musicians, Lazy and Staashu.

Curiously I read far and away more novels than I do stories. I started by thinking of these slices of Lazy’s life as fragments of a novel rather than as a set of stories but somewhere along the way I became mired down in the muck and they sat around as fragments for quite some time. At a certain point I thought, okay, forget about the big picture for a little while and start focusing on the fragments. Work on the ones you really need to get down and hammer away at them until they’re clean and true.

As soon as I got back to work, it was like a floodgate opened and I was able to write a group of stories dealing with many of the same ideas and characters and treatments as the novel I began working on.

I had not looked at them in months but I ventured over to the site tonight and re-read a few. I’ve been thinking about writing again, so I thought it would be a good idea to go back and spend time with the material I previously created.

The thing is, I’ve been considering taking another crack at writing a novel, and I’ve began making some preliminary notes about the characters and bits of a story. I know this is perhaps crazier even than making paintings. I have no clue how to go about getting anything published even if I manage to complete it. I guess if I find my way through the thing, I could do what I did with the stories and simply float them out there in the blog swamp somewhere, maybe as a serial. 570 people visited my stories site, which seems pretty dismal to me, but then it’s 570 people more than if I kept the stories in my head and never put them down at all.

I don’t think I have the confidence as a writer to send around a manuscript even if I complete one. It seems as if there is a better chance to win a lottery than find a publisher. Besides I really wouldn’t know who to send the thing to. For now, I’m not going to worry about any of that. I think it’s worth trying to get it all down if I can and figure out what to do with the thing later. If I get anywhere with it, I’ll let you know.

comment 0

The McCracken Cardinal

The McCracken Cardinal, our latest mosaic project, lives on a deep blue wall in a wonderfully eclectic and creative bungalow in Brampton Ontario. It benefits from lots of daylight – will all the textures in this mosaic, it’s appearance will change as the light changes throughout the day.

This cardinal is one of our “everything but the kitchen sink” mosaics, improvised using everything from broken crockery to smalti tiles to erector set pieces.