A&E EDITORS' BLOG

R’ha

Today’s post comes from a joint venture by the Web 3.0 and Kids These Days departments. This short was written, animated, and directed by a man/animation-machine named Kaleb Lechowski. Enjoy this painstaking, seven month effort entitled R’ha, and do your best not to be impressed.

All the tea in China, pt. III: Anti-communist edition

As a hardened tea-drinker, I couldn’t help but mention a final piece of tea-related literary goodness; this time, from a man who was perhaps totalitarianism’s staunchest foe throughout the 20th century.

 

George Orwell, about to unleash a chagrin-inducing tirade on the topics of communism, fascism, and tea.

George Orwell, often touted as Britain’s model of moral rectitude, was many things: a soldier, an observer of rare social perspicacity, and a passionate defender of liberalist ideas. And yet, both public and scholars seem to forget that he was also a curmudgeonly conservative who heed and hawed at changes to many changes affecting the British cultural tradition.

In his essay on tea, Orwell schools his lackadaisical readers in the proper methods of its preparation:

 

When I look through my own recipe for the perfect cup of tea, I find no fewer than eleven outstanding points. On perhaps two of them there would be pretty general agreement, but at least four others are acutely controversial. Here are my own eleven rules, every one of which I regard as golden:

First of all, one should use Indian or Ceylonese tea. China tea has virtues which are not to be despised nowadays — it is economical, and one can drink it without milk — but there is not much stimulation in it. One does not feel wiser, braver or more optimistic after drinking it. Anyone who has used that comforting phrase ‘a nice cup of tea’ invariably means Indian tea (click here to read the full version).


-George Orwell, 1946

 Orwell’s tea related catechisms were the least of his non-fictional works. Numerous pieces of his incisive social commentary, ranging from writings on boys’ books to humour, remain admirable studies in structure and subject development. Project Gutenberg has 50 of Orwell’s essays available free—you can read them on your computer, or download them to a Kindle/iPad. Personal favourites include Memories of  a Bookshop, Politics and the English Language, and The Spike.

All the tea in China pt. II

While we’re on the topic of tea, here’s a delightful poem for all the tea drinkers:

 

There are those who love to get dirty

and fix things.

They drink coffee at dawn,

beer after work,

And those who stay clean, just appreciate things,

At breakfast they have milk

and juice at night.

There are those who do both,

they drink tea.

-Pultizer Prize winner, Gary Snyder

 

 

 

All the tea in China

North America is decidedly a nation of coffee drinkers. Gems like Coffee and Cigarettes hit a certain lifeline shared by people of all stripes, regardless of collar colour. In fact, that first time I’d experience that bit of Americana—a waitress swishing her coffee pot around, kindly asking “freshen your coffee, hun?”—remains a memorable moment: I, too, was now one of those people that got what good livin’ was about.

In recent years, however, I’ve noticed tea’s resurgence. Emboldened by its outsider-status, teahouses have been popping up, shored up by bubbly staff, bright décor in tow. David’s Tea, alongside its multitude of pastel-coloured competitors, is to the twenty-something tattooed vegan what Starbucks is to the wealthy housewife experiencing the gravitational creep of middle age.

Elsewhere, however, tea remains the drink of choice, while coffee is its stupid brute brother. Want a guy roughed up? Coffee’s your man. Want to do some corporate espionage, mission impossible-style? That, friend, is a job for tea. And so, I give you the following photo essay:

Delicious tea!

 

 

 

Where the Wild Things Were: Maurice Sendak’s poignant farewell

Most people find their first taste of Maurice Sendak comes through the  childishly endearing Where the Wild Things. It’s only several years later that they realise the book’s dark undertow runs much quicker and colder—a bitter, primordial cold that tramples reason when the two meet—than they first thought. Indeed, Sendak was a deeply thoughtful man; a pessimist who flirted with misanthropy and scorn; and a skeptic who remained fiercely loyal to realism despite being an author of children’s books.

Despite his bumptious nature, one cannot help but feel a pang when listening to his 2011 interview with NPR’s Terry Gross. Sendak is disarmingly frank about his past, his current state of mind, and his impending death. This flood of honesty from a man who plays the part of a cantankerous grinch is striking, and I was left nonplussed for several minutes following the broadcast. Please enjoy the following excerpt, set to animation by Christoph Niemann.

For the remainder of the NY Times Magazine’s coverage  of departed figures, read The Lives They Led.

Les Grands Ballets’s Nutcracker

Les Grands Ballets’ Nutcracker

 

Inside Salle Wilfrid Pelletier, light snowflakes graced the stage. The curtain rises to revealed a life size, animated Victorian storybook, complete with playful snow fights outdoors, children mischievously trying to open the presents before the guests arrive, and maids dusting a grand mansion as adults waltz the night away.

Recently, Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal presented the Nutcracker, one of the city’s most quintessential holiday traditions. First staged in 1964, Les Grands’ version of the traditional holiday tale is the longest-running continuous Nutcracker in the country.

Renowned Montreal choreographer Fernand Nault’s interpretation, one of the more faithful versions to Marius Petipa’s original choreography, was among the most child-friendly versions of E.T.A Hoffman’s classic tale, peppered with humour and charisma.

The ballet tells the familiar story of young Clara, who receives a nutcracker from her mysterious godfather at the family Christmas party. That night, following a victorious duel against the King of Mice, the nutcracker turns into a prince and takes Clara on a magical journey to the Kingdom of Sweets, a land of enchanting characters.

Where Nault’s version diverged is in the second act, where he added several new characters, like the King of Candyland (Jocelyn Paradis). This jolly, clownlike monarch made repeated appearances between the different dance numbers of the act, eliciting widespread laughter from children and adults alike with its antics and hijinks. Nault’s Land of Sweets also included other bucolic performances, including a number by a shepherd, his obedient white sheep, and a staunchly independent black one.

Under Gradimir Pankov’s artistic direction, Les Grands presented strong, multifaceted characters. Clara was very young and played by Clara Corbo with particular innocence, whether she was swinging from the staff of the King of Candyland in delight or running around the dancers with spontaneous, childlike joy. Nault’s Drosselmeyer (Robert Deskins) was also less mysterious and more playful than in traditional renditions of the ballet, dazzling guests and children alike with stage illusions and teasing house maids in a performance that adds depth to the sorcerer’s typical secrecy.

For a company that focuses on presenting contemporary works, Les Grands Ballets delivered this classical ballet with remarkable virtuosity. The Sugar Plum Fairy (Valentine Legat) and her Cavalier (André Silva) presented a flawless pas de deux with intricate footwork, and the Snow Queen (Eva Kolarova) and her Cavalier (Yadil Suarez) ended the first act with a moving performance. The Nutcracker also featured appearances by over a hundred child dancers, many of them remarkably young, who added charm and charisma to each scene. Although some of the dance numbers performed by younger dancers lacked the precision of those performed by the corps, the skill level in the production was notable.

Perhaps one of the highlights of the production, Peter Horne’s set delivered magic, with rising, translucent backgrounds, and a levitating candlelit Christmas tree that captures the family ambiance and excitement of Christmas Eve. In the second act, the set translated the wonder of the Land of Sweets with a canopy of dazzling leaves that gleamed golden, green or blue as Nicholas Cernovitch’s artful lights bathed them.

Like the set, Francois Barbea’s intricate costumes played an important role in creating this lifesize fairytale. In the first act, the Les Grands production combated the winter somnolence with an energetic wardrobe that featured bright violets, fuchsias, oranges, and turquoises in the costumes of the winter party, while the lush layers of tulle and silk that draped the characters of the second act fabricated the intricate illusion of a fantasy realm.

The orchestra of the Grands Ballets did justice to Tchaikovsky’s beloved score, capturing the nuances of the music while allowing the dancers to remain the focus of the production.

Les Grands’ version of this holiday tale skillfully balanced the preferences of the purists and innovators alike—and, at the end, brought a smile to both children and adults.

 

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