Book Review — The Hiding Game

The Hiding Game
Naomi Woods

That first year at university, college or art school, when young people leave home for the first time and form new relationships with the world around them can become the framework for the rest of their lives. Thus begins Paul Beckermann’s journey through the Bauhaus school. It is 1922 and he and the other Bauhaus babies treat the town of Weimar and the surrounding forests like their playground. A quickly formed group of six offers up love triangles and jealousies. Paul loves Charlotte, Charlotte loves Jeno, Walter loves Jeno…

Told from Paul’s point of view decades later, he’s moved to England and is now Paul Brickman, famous abstract artist, The Hiding Game traces the life of the six friends and the Bauhaus school as it moves from Weimar to Dessau and finally Berlin, each time being pushed out by conservative (fascist) forces that dislike what the place stands for. Continue reading “Book Review — The Hiding Game”

Book Review — The Kitchen Front

The Kitchen Front
Jennifer Ryan

Kent, 1942 — the war rages on and the rural villages under the path of Hitler’s blitz on London are starting to feel the grip of food insecurity. The Dig for Britain campaign is in full swing and rationing is the only way to get meat, butter, and eggs unless you have a farm. This period was resplendent with contests and competitions to keep up people’s spirits and share advice on how to make the best out of limited resources.

In The Kitchen Front, The women of Fenley Village are encouraged to show off their best recipes and win a spot as an on-air radio host demonstrating their skills in the kitchen.

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Film Review – The Man in the Hat

The Man in the Hat
starring Ciarán Hinds, directed by John-Paul Davidson and Stephen Warbeck

There’s a theory, when it comes to reviews – of anything – that the reviewer needs to have a background, some level of expertise, to be able to effectively assess that which they are reviewing. In food writing, food critics will insist that to write a good review, there should be an understanding of how the food was made, flavoured, grown, etc. Meanwhile, sites like Yelp thrive on reviews based on whether or not an individual liked the taste of what they ate and little more. Does knowledge change our level of enjoyment and understanding of something?

I bring this up here because it’s an important point when it comes to The Man in the Hat as well as the reviews of this film published so far.

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Smörgåsbord: Easter Feasting: Tanto, L.U.S.T., and Salt

We may have gotten a little bit greedy. Three big, multi-course meals over a long weekend… a decade ago, when we ate out for a living, that might have been achievable with stretchy pants and strategic naps, but now, when our constitutions were less enthusiastic? Sure, we’ve put on the Covid 19 (pounds) like everybody else, from a year of eating as a form of self-care, but as we perused the menus, we were unsure… that was a whole lot of food. But heck, we’re troopers, let’s take one for the team and support our local dining establishments.

Of course, we failed. 5-course dinners got split into two or three meals, leftover duck got reworked with blueberry preserves and waffles for breakfast. Desserts got cut in half and shared rather than eating a full portion each. We did manage to eat it all, just not all at once. But when a great meal is the only high-light of an otherwise dull existence, then why not splurge occasionally, especially for a holiday that you don’t technically celebrate?

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Oh, Jeez… Look Who’s Back

Oh hai! It’s been a while. A long painful while.

A year ago, I thought it would be a good thing to look at this time away from the rest of the world as an opportunity. To write another book, to exercise, to learn something new… And while we pretended that it was only going to be a few weeks… no, maybe a few more weeks, or maybe a couple of months and… oh, maybe longer… I think most of us, back a year ago, knew this was going to be a long haul kind of deal. But that was too terrifying to contemplate, so we kept telling ourselves it would be over soon, disregarding all the proof that it was going to take years to resolve.

And during that year, time was elastic; days were both far too long and way too short. How can it be March again already, I’m not done with first March. And I didn’t get anything done.

That bit is okay; even if you had nothing else going on, we all had that low-level anxiety that made us frustrated and tetchy and just exhausted all the time.

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Potato Necklaces and Banana Peel Hats — An Ode to Le Chateau Circa 1984

I’m always a little confused when people dis the fashion of the 1980s. 80s fashion was cool and innovative, political, even… then I remember that most people equate 80s clothing with baggy acid wash jeans, huge hair, shapeless over-sized t-shirts, and too much neon. But that would be off the mark.

Halifax, Nova Scotia, in 1984, wasn’t exactly a hotbed of alternative fashion. If you were a young person inclined towards punk, post-punk, mod, new romantic, or new wave music and styles, your best bet for cool clobber was to write away to the UK clothing shops that advertised in the back of Star Hits magazine, wait impatiently for a catalogue that may or may not ever arrive, make your selection based on black and white, usually photocopied images and weird European sizes, purchase and send an international money order, and hope like hell that your gear arrived and (haha!) actually fit.

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Book Review: Aubrey McKee by Alex Pugsley

Aubrey McKee
Alex Pugsley

This collection of stories about a well-to-do kid from Halifax’s South End is apparently meant to be the first in a 5-part fictionalized autobiographical series. This book covers Aubrey’s childhood and teenage years in the 70s and 80s, and includes a cast of characters that range from his parents’ friends to drug-dealing ruffians from the poorer parts of town, to a collection of eccentrics and misfits who are the early adopters of Halifax’s vibrant punk music scene in the early 80s. But Aubrey’s life is pretty insular and posh. Private school, tennis lessons, and yacht clubs all play a role in his development and it’s only when another character tells him off and points out that his life is nothing at all like that of other Halifax youth (a refreshing twist, because I wasn’t sure the author actually had that self-awareness up to that point and was beginning to think he might be an awful jerk), that it became clear that somebody had the great good sense to consider Aubrey a poncy twat, and to call him on it.

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There’s a Hole in the Bucket (List), Dear Liza

I’ve never been a bucket list kind of person. Which is weird, because I’m a list person. “Girl of 100 Lists” is one of my favourite Go-Gos songs because it feels as if it was written just for me. But the “bucket” list, that big, big list of dreams, goals and aspirations, has never appealed to me. It feels too grand, too fantastical, especially when it’s full of things that just don’t seem realistic. My lists are, if nothing else, pragmatic.

For instance, my imaginary bucket list would include jumping out of a plane. I would love to do this. I would never do this.

My imaginary bucket list would include travel to lots of places, but pragmatic me, for reasons both environmental and personal, is fairly anti-travel. I’m sure we were promised Star Trek-style transporters by now, weren’t we? Until those are available, I’m happy to stay home.

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The Best Restaurant

Let me tell you about the best restaurant I’ve been to lately…

Nestled in a corner of Parkdale, the room is pale green with a wall covered in black and white photos of (mostly weird) celebrities. The table is large and round, glossy black with red and orange accessories. Seating is straight-backed parsons chairs; super-comfortable with lots of back support, and covered in slipcovers that evoke a mid-century lounge. The lighting is bright but not glaring, and nobody EVER turns down the lights to near-darkness just as you’ve started to read the menu. The soundtrack on the stereo is whatever you want it to be, but mostly leans to bebop jazz or Klezmer music at brunch. Nobody, diners or staff, wears perfume, cologne, or bad aftershave. Service can be a bit haphazard, but is warm and charming, and nobody ever corrects you when you mispronounce the name of the wine, or uses their pinky finger to point out the various elements of a dish while you sit impatiently waiting for them to shut up and go away so you can eat already. The linens are well-washed cotton napkins, not old tea towels that shed all over your outfit. The menu changes daily, and ranges from super-simple to multi-course high end fare, offered at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Brunch is served on weekends. There’s only one table so your meal is never interrupted by other guests, and there’s no worry about social distancing.

Welcome to my dining room, which I’ve discovered that I prefer over pretty much any restaurant I’ve ever been to…

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We Wish You a Merry Chris-Mask

Five months, two weeks, three days… Louis Prima would have been Covid-ready, singing his way through this mess, Keely Smith by his side. Because how the projected time frame for this thing has chanced since March.

Now, a reasonable person would have been skeptical back then when our governments told us it would all be over in three weeks. We knew then, even if we were being told different, that this thing would take months to get under control.

And when the timeline extended to months, we all went, yeah, we knew that, and figured (optimistically) that it would be done by Christmas.

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