Wonder Wednesday

When you can’t go to the symphony… And the symphony can’t come to you… And the symphony can’t even get together… the music still can bring us all together.

Here’s the Rotterdam Philharmonic playing Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, playing their respective parts from home:

And, not to be outdone, here is the Toronto Symphony Orchestra doing the same, with Copland’s Appalachian Spring:

And here is Toronto opera singer Teiya Kashara belting out operatic amazingness from her balcony near the shore:

Thank you everyone for all the beauty you create and share with the world.

Storytelling Sunday

“It’s just a kid’s movie.”

I do not like this phrase.  As a way of excusing or justifying poor storytelling (or, worse, a poor story), it feels weird to me.  As in, is the person uttering it really trying to say that because it’s for a child, it’s OK if it is not well made?  That quality doesn’t matter?  That throw any ol’ thing onto the screen and that’s enough?

Because to say that in other contexts can be quite bizarre, no?  “It’s only a child seat.  Quality isn’t important here.”  “It’s only kid’s food… it doesn’t matter if its good or healthy, they won’t know the difference.”

To me, the thing is, they’re our children.  We should want to provide them with the best.  To give them the biggest and best leg up in life.  To let them grow.

No, that doesn’t mean a movie has to dissect the epistemological underpinnings of post-dynamism economies, but kids are way more capable than we often give them credit for.  And no, that also doesn’t mean that every movie has to teach something either (though they can), just the same as it is for adults.  There are plenty of rich, amazing, and profound stories we can tell, and tell them with excellent storytelling craft that engages, whether it be to inspire, to enlighten, or to simply amuse.  Or to do all three at once, and more.

And that’s the biggest thing for me about that phrase… because it’s not like there aren’t already excellent examples of movies ostensibly made for kids that are, well, excellent.  Movies that are excellent on many levels.  Take many of the works of Pixar, Disney movies (including my most favourite, of course), and, most certainly, the amazing (even stunning) works of Hayao Miyazaki.  Movies that are moving, Illuminating, full of heart, and that deal with the inner drama of both children (in a most profound Mr Rogers way) and of people in general.  While also being appealing, funny, delightful, charming, and captivatingly well told, a pure delight to watch.

So much so that not only do kids like them, but they are movies that are beloved in a general sense, from young to old alike, and whether we have children ourselves or do not.  They are simply good stories.  Good movies.  And good stories attract everyone.

We can make these amazing stories.  We do.  And kids deserve them.  There should be nothing “just” about a kid’s movie (or any other work of fiction).

And I invite us all to ask for it.

Architecture Monday

Oh this is a fun one.  A tumble of baskets?  A series of stacked boxes?  A series of wood piles?  Or yes to all of the above, writ large to the size of a building.

A museum in the middle of a dense urban area, the interlocking wood cubes are both neat and also break down the building to both fit within the scale of the surrounding town.  At the same time, they also allow it and the site to bridge between different street heights via ramped stairway.  It’s definitively a playful composition, with the slats that make up the boxy forms sometimes tightly woven, sometimes spread apart to act as a sunscreen, sometimes extended to become railings for patios, and sometimes completely empty, making for a fancy portico hovering overhead.

Inside, the same language drills down the centre of the building as a twisty atrium, connecting the various gallery levels together and letting sun penetrate deeply throughout.  Starting tall on the first floor for large-scale works, the floors gradually get shorter as they rise through the building, creating more intimate spaces for smaller works of art.  All the while, that central shaft of wood acts as a friendly wayfinder.

A bright museum that invites all while integrating itself into the surrounding urban fabric.  Very nicely developed!

The Odunpazari Modern Art Museum by Kengo Kuma & Associates

Wonder Thursday

More photos from our grand day at Disneyland!

Love those squirrel rain spouts…

The castle is really looking good after a major refurbishment last year.  It may not be large in stature, but with it’s bold colour popping and looking great under the strong California sun it captures the eye and is once again a grand centrepiece for the park.

Got to visit with Nick!  (Judy was out on patrol…)

ShadowCheetah was wearing this fun and semi-subversive shirt that was filled with traditional Star Wars poster imagery but with title text at the bottom said “Star Trek” in the Trek font.  Though he hadn’t approached Nick, as we were leaving Nick runs over and stops him to energetically point at the title on his shirt as if to say “What the heck?!”  That ol’ sharp eyed fox!  Spotted it from 6′ away!  And then, if that wasn’t amazing enough, he proceeds to pantomime pulling out his pad, writing up an infraction/ticket, and handing it to ShadowCheetah.  We laughed so hard, what a perfect act by Nick, a great interaction and totally impressive that he spotted it in passing from so far away!

The park as a whole for the day was delightfully quiet.  We didn’t even get or need a FastPass once throughout the day, and managed to see/explore/ride an amazing number of things (listed in no particular order):

  • Space Mountain
  • Star Tours
  • Pirates
  • Thunder Mountain
  • Jungle Cruise
  • Peter Pan’s Flight
  • Smuggler’s Run (3x)
  • Rise of the Resistance
  • Castle Walkthrough
  • Matterhorn
  • Submarine Voyage
  • Guardians (3x)
  • Incredicoaster
  • Nick Meet & Greet
  • Lunar New Year Processional

Plus exploring Batuu and many areas of the two parks.  My oh my, it was a gloriously full day!

There’s something certainly beautiful of walking through the park long after closing, but also… mildly disconcerting.  It’s weird to not have anyone else around, and with the silence that accompanies it.  I totally loved it, don’t get me wrong, it’s peaceful beauty and I am now scheming to ensure I get to do that again.  But it was very amusing to be in that headspace space of both marvel and unsettled at the same time.

 

I mean, though, how could you not love seeing the castle and main street so clear and free like this?

Getting to start the day standing before the castle nearly an hour before rope drop (ie park opening) and ending the day again before the castle nearly an hour after closure, with non-stop attractions in between.  Truly a spectacular, wonderful, and fun-filled day.

Wonder Wednesday

Last week ShadowCheetah and I got a chance to hop into my starfighter and fly ourselves down to visit Batuu… and it was a decidedly good time!

After following the construction progress from afar, walking into Galaxy’s Edge and experiencing it was very cool.  It’s a deliciously hyper-detailed land, with an attention to detail I’d not seen in a Disney park outside of the ones in Japan.

Every nook and cranny has been paid attention to with set dressing so that there’s no blank or disused areas.  And the design of the land purposefully avoids any clear sight lines so that it unfolds bit by bit as you journey through it.  While it has its downsides (or even flaws) from an operation’s standpoint (such as lack of casual seating) the land is glorious eye candy everywhere you look (which would be great to observe from said missing seating).

Our plan was to visit the planet both during the daytime and then return to see it under the glory of night.  This worked out even better than we expected — our boarding pass was called for Rise of the Resistance (more on that in a bit!) late in the evening, which had us emerge from the ride just a few minutes before park closing.  Which was enough time to hustle it over to Smuggler’s Run for our third ride of the day.  We ended up being the last ones on the ride for the day, and when we were done piloting (woohoo!) we exited Hondo’s garage to a very empty Black Spire Outpost.  Which allowed us to not only marvel in the great detail and lighting, but also take some nice shots with nary another person in sight.

So clearly we enjoyed Smuggler’s Run, but we were especially fortunate that our trip to Batuu came after the opening of Rise of the Resistance.  Because it is truly something else.  Several something elses, really, as it is more like 5 rides in one.  Spoilers hereon out if you want to avoid, as I kind of did, studiously avoiding watching any on-ride videos so that I would go in semi-fresh.  So while I knew of a few of the big set pieces from following the construction photos, the overall of it I didn’t know.  I’ve heard it described as the first “F-ticket” attraction, and I would agree.  There are a lot of very nifty moments, a tonne of incredibly creative set pieces and effects, and it has a more cohesive plot and perhaps even story than did the The Rise of Skywalker movie.  It’s a tour de force (pun semi-intended), and I’m keen on seeing it again!

Some of my fav moments:

  • From those construction photos, I knew that there would be a Star Destroyer hangar.  But having us go out of the shuttle through same door we came in was unexpected… and best of all, there was this group of about 8 who clearly didn’t know about this and when the door opened and we were greeted by the tableau of three rows of stormtroopers and the giant doorway to space and the First Order officers this group, in unison, literally jumped back, leaned back, and screamed in a mix of surprise, amazement, wonder, and terror.  So much so that the officer had to stop his spiel and wait for them to finish before ordering us off the ship.  So while I unfortunately wasn’t surprised it was absolutely great to get to live vicariously through that group.
  • The cast members playing the First Order.  They must love it, getting to be all stern and order-y and generally being very non-Disney like.
  • The cutting out of the jail cell!  The effects of the plasma torch were neat (even if one fellow prisoner was standing in front of it, totally clueless to what was going on behind) them, and then the rough cut look of the wall when the panel pulls away.
  • As we’re in the droid vehicles, headed towards a lift… and a mechanical form slowly slides down from above into view.  Me:  “Gahhhh!  It’s a probe droid!”  Voice on the Ride:  “Look out, it’s a probe droid!”  Me:  “That’s what I just said!”
  • I want to see the blaster effects a second time… some seemed to work great (along with blasting holes in the wall), some less so…
  • The decompression effect was amazing.  I’m guessing a chamber of pressurized air to get that instantaneous blast effect, it was very effective.  (The debris that ‘falls’ to hide Kylo Ren, not so much.)
  • And then that last drop right into the motion simulator.  They must drop the entire motion simulator rig, and that’s just downright impressive — that thing plus the ride vehicle plus the guests can’t be all that lightweight!  And to do it over and over and over again!  It’s also very effective from an experience standpoint, you do get the sense of being ejected out of the ship and then escaping down to the planet’s surface (that said, they need to upgrade their graphics on both that and the original shuttle ride to take time-of-day into account — it was night outside but the graphics were all day).

All in all, a great ride experience, and super impressive from a technical standpoint.  Hats off and lightsabres up in salute to Imagineering for such great work!

 

 

Architecture Monday

The new Amos Rex Gallery in the heart of Helsinki is pretty cool.  Not the least of which because the building that surrounds it was co-designed by Vijo Revell – the architect who designed the Toronto City Hall!

Even without that tie to my hometown city, it’s still nifty in its own right.  Built to avoid disrupting both an existing plaza and the surrounding buildings – including the lovingly restored 1930’s era aesthetic functionalist building designed by Revell that contains shops, restaurants, event spaces, and a theatre – the museum is built underground, beneath the plaza, keeping it part of the urban fabric and open for continued public use.  But it doesn’t lie quietly or hidden, instead bursting out of the ground in undulating mounds, creating a fun topography of artificial hills and bumps all punctuated by a super tall tower.  Reminiscent of a lighthouse, the tower in actuality serves as a passive ventilation shaft.

The entry to the museum is by far one of its most dramatic moments, with a wide angled staircase creating a simultaneous bifurcated view of the museum lobby below coupled with an eye level view of the plaza.  It’s trippy and prepares you for the area below, with its arching ceilings matching the landscape forms above, all culminating in windowed occuli that allows the spaces to be naturally lit whenever appropriate.

Great little addition to the city, a new venue that totally both preserves and enhances the old. Nicely done.

Amos Rex by JKMM Architects.