Monday, March 28, 2011

Love & Hate in The Hunchback on Stage

Dark and mysterious, macabre yet enlightening, Catalyst theatre brings Victor Hugo's classic to the stage. The same theatre that brought us the hilarious I love you, You're Perfect, Now Change last summer (click here) turns Hugo`s story into a Sunday night wonder. Jonathan Christenson and Bretta Gerecke, on the artistic team at the Catalyst, did a fabulous job coordinating the cast, set and music of this creative musical. The narrator, especially, was an interesting addition that set the sinister tone of the play.

Unlike Disney's upbeat version, the Citadel's production of Notre Dame de Paris, as Hugo first titled his novel, allows us to take a look inside the minds and hearts of an obsessive lover, his dangerously seductive woman, and his poor, deaf, crippled servant, who he loves to protect. Quasi-modo, who likens the church bells he rings to birds, remains the innocent picture of moral perfection, while the priest who takes him in, Claude Frollo, becomes the villain of the play, with Phoebus in tow as equally evil.

Admittedly, my experience with Hugo`s original text reaches its boundary at a few chapters of the novel (, but the emotional, passionate rendition of his work which the Catalyst put on was astounding. Stephanie, it`s been just under a month since you left us, and I know you would have loved to use your tickets for this play. As Victor Hugo so eloquently tells us through Quasi-modo in Book (Chapter) 13, ``friendship is...two souls which touch without mingling, two fingers on one hand``

I will never forget you, and you will live forever in my heart.

My next play review will likely be at the Globe theatre (or another) in London, or if I am a tad more lucky, at the Royal Shakespeare Company`s theatre in Shakespeare`s home town, Stratford-upon-Avon, next month. T minus four weeks to the UK!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Fat, Forty & Fired: Nigel Marsh & Other Reasons to Live Your Life

As promised, this month's book review is of a different genre; I chose a quirky look at life, from a corporate British/Australian CEO who took a year off to be with his family. Fat, Forty & Fired takes a leap into the social stigma of the stay-at-home dad, the downsizing family and those who don't put their career first. Simultaneously a recovering alcoholic and reforming workaholic, Marsh uses the opportunity he has to quit his job and mend relationships with his children and wife, rather than re-locate his family for the third time and take one of very few positions left at a merging company. He fires their nanny, uses their life savings to live and takes a giant stride into the "insecure", "unstable" and pitied state of true happiness.

His leap back into the corporate world a year later proves that it has changed very little and the top rungs of the ladder will always remain the workaholic frenzy he remembered, but he himself begins to appreciate other aspects of life. Taking care of four small children, swimming, working out, family trips and weekends at home keep him busier than his executive job; one outcome I had not expected .It's so easy to judge those who don't work as unproductive, but Nigel and Kate Marsh show us how untrue this is. Perhaps the most surprising is the extent to which others express their pity over their position, while Nigel himself was at the happiest point in his life.

Isn't it interesting how social status plays such an immense role in our lives and our perceptions of others? Don't get me wrong, money is important, work is important, but how many of us can define "success" another way?

Though his book was entertaining, his writing is a little too simple; his comical but educational speeches are must more enjoyable! It is a ten minute video, but believe me, worth the ten minute break you're about to take!

After the death of one of my best friends, Stephanie Wertz, two Fridays ago, I've come to realize that, cliche as this is, life is short and I must live the life I love. A week in London is just six weeks away, and I'll be on a mission to discover the city, not as a tourist this time, but as a potential local.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Remembering Stephanie Wertz: A Tribute to a Soul

Stephanie Wertz died March 4, 2011 from complications of bronchitis her small lungs could not handle

A Tribute to A Soul

A pain harbours and suffocates my heart’s beat,

A muffled terror cry shrieks, gasps and breathes

Hoping you watch in peace from soul’s seat

In spirit world, watch flashes of my anger seethe

Bogani café, a local pub, our favourite haunts

Never again. Over me, Stephanie,
Fate lingers, spooks and taunts,
I can’t believe we’ve shared a last memory.

You taught me love without fear,

To trust my heart, lighten life’s weight

Live life’s path as if it were clear

Now you will teach me Faith.

As I tribute your fierce, gentle, loving soul,

I know you want me at peace, but I am no longer whole.

Sapna Sehgal, March 9 2011

A scrambled attempt at Shakespeare’s form, but I had to try. In memory of Stephanie Wertz, who moved on March 4, 2011, age 27, to a spiritual world.

Stephanie, on Sunday, when I pre-read the tribute to you published in the Edmonton Journal today, I stopped suddenly at the words "although struggling through many health concerns" and kind of choked on these words. Of course, I knew you had muscular dystrophy, but I never felt that you fit under the label of those who have a "disease" or have "health concerns".

It was only yesterday that I saw the Muscular Dystrophy Canada page for the first time since 1998, as thirteen years ago, my teenage mind accepted your definition of the disease. You would never let me think of it as a problem – to you, MD was just a reason you couldn’t walk, simply an inconvenience – in fact, to you it was more like the reason your shoes would last forever and we could hang, not carry, our shopping bags. Degeneration never crossed my mind, and this word, plastered across MD’s site like a virus, holds an ugly, sickly, connotation I could never associate with you.

I will always remember your unique perspective on any situation, as it often starkly contrasted my own. For me, the question is always, why, why, why? As it is now, why, why, why would a happy soul as yourself, engaged to be married, moved into an apartment, fiercely independent, just about to experience the heights of life, leave us? Where did you go? To you, a scientist with a spiritual conscience, while the question is still why, the answer can sometimes be acceptance without evidence. Equally, an idea can be accepted and understood without judgment or the nagging question ‘why?’ In your quirky, but blunt way, you gave me advice that I took and advice that I ignored. I will not say I have a faith, but every time, I knew in my heart there was Faith you were right.

You taught me about love. I am ashamed to say that it took me much, much longer than it should have to accept that true love had no boundaries of age, appearance or social judgment. It transcends that. Darryl and you had a love beyond fairytale fantasy.

You taught me about dreams. Never, for even a second, have you questioned my wildest dreams. Gentle encouragement aside, you would just say, this is what you need to be doing. To my doubts, you responded, you will be ok, honour your talents.

You taught me about self-honesty. Feel what you need to feel, Sapna. I remember the words of a high school day so long ago. Of romantic losses and losses of other kinds, you told me to abandon the why and work towards acceptance.

You taught me about happiness. It was like your perspective was twenty years old than mine; fun, quirky, but oh, so much more wise. That’s so great, Sapna, you said about my ambitious schedule, but are you still enjoying life?

If there is one talent I have in this world, it is to write, you told me. When I asked you to critique a story, you simply responded that you couldn’t describe your answer; it was like pieces sewed together perfectly and I had to follow this passion.

Heavy heart does not even begin to describe the pain that both harbours and suffocates my own heartbeat; it is as if a muffled, terrified cry replaces the steady, athletic beat. The most intense emotional pain I suffered three years ago, you pulled me through, and three years later I am finally at peace. Compared side by side, that wound to this one was a paper cut on a massive Allied battle ground in Normandy.

Your positive outlook always gave me the strength I needed when I didn’t know what to do. I’m not going to pretend to know what to do this time, either, Stephanie. I will not pretend to know where you are, but I hope that you will somehow prove to me, in a paranormal, quirky way, that you are safe.

Friday, March 04, 2011

All About Lizards: Double Genitalia Dragons & Miniature Geckos

March in a place like e-town is incredibly cold, -36 Celsius in the mornings and -14 for the high in the afternoons. So, to lighten up the damper the weather puts on us all, here is a post on the Singapore Lizard about lizards, in all their warm, beautiful climates!

All photos courtesy of National Geographic

(my macro photography skills way below par, so any geckos I saw in Singapore or Peru are little green blurs on my shots. The photo on my homepage, however, is a real photograph from the Singapore NTU campus (credits: Jens Jaeger 2007).

Last year, National Geographic photographers found a human size lizard (pictured above) in the jungle of the Phillipines, named Varanus bitatawa. A vegetarian (fruitarian, actually) himself, this giant, double genitalia-d (yes, that's right), human sized beast is hunted by the Phillipino tribesmen for its meat. On Tioman Island, in Malaysia, I did see giant monitor lizards lurking in swampy ponds, minding their own business, being incredibly quiet but exerting a sense of power over their swamp. A couple other fun facts about this creature:

* He lives in the Sierra Madre mountains, and has never moved

* He is the most secretive lizard around!

* He's new to western discovery, so I can't find much more about him!

A close relative, the Komodo Dragon, inhabits the Indonesian islands of Komodo, Gila Montang, Rinca and Flores. This giant, 3 meter monster attacks its prey simply through its saliva, which holds a poison that seeps into its victim's body, while the dragon himself saunters slowly after it until it dies.

While his jaws make him seem invincible, his gait is in 18kph bursts, and he eats virtually everything, this giant creature cannot escape man's grip. Due to human encroachment, the Komodo dragon is on the endangered species list.

Of course, there are tons of little species of geckos running around Asia, hanging off campus dorm doors and hiding in showers (ok, they're not as bad as the cochroaches hiding the shower, I can tell you that!) In Washington D.C., there is a gecko feature at 11am every Sunday morning, dedicated to these beauties (ok, I admit, I'm not sure I'd ever want to hold one, but they LOOK beautiful!)

* Tockay geckos are the vicious kind, who make sneezing noises before they bite (35 cm long)

* Stressed out geckos shed their skin (they're scared of people)

* The teeniest gecko is 16mm long

* The Coromandel gecko in New Zealand is the rarest gecko there is

* Geckos are the only lizards who socialize

Photo: National Geographic Info: Julie Crain

That's my random rant on a few types of lizards in places much, much warmer than here. Keep warm, Edmontonians - and hang on Brits, cuz the Singapore Lizard is coming your way in exactly seven weeks!