Saturday, October 20, 2012

Fall Comes to Montreal & Life Moves Ever Faster

My painting of McGill University's downtown campus. I finished creating this around the end of September.

Fall Comes to Montreal

The colours on the trees are changing. Leaves in the city now have that eye-catching red, yellow and green mix that looks so good in photographs or a well-executed painting. I think to myself that I need to bring my easel into the out-of-doors one more time to capture an outdoor scene before the snow flies.

I visited the George-√Čtienne Cartier Monument at the foot of Mont Royal two weekends ago to begin such a painting. It sits in my apartment's living room now, waiting to be continued. I'm as yet undecided if I'll return to the mountain to make sure the perspective is accurate, or just use my 'Happy Impressionist' approach. I thought the second approach worked well for capturing the grounds of McGill University (see photo above)

Today the sun was out and I spent a good part of the afternoon reading near Montreal's Centre des Sciences. The book I'm currently reading is The Plague by Albert Camus. It's late October and I was perfectly comfortable in pants and a t-shirt. Which is very welcome but also feels foreign. I still remember growing up in Yellowknife with winters marked by extended darkness and dry, biting cold.

Looking at Montreal's forecast on Environment Canada's website I see that highs will remain in the 12 to 16 degree range for all of the coming week. The historical minimum for this time of year is 2 degrees. I'm not complaining at all; I love the unusually warm weather the city is having and plan to take advantage of the sun and warmth for as long as it's around.

Okay, maybe a small part of me worries this weather is the result of global warming. Only time will tell.                                                                                              

Speed of Life (Or Texting While Brunching)

I spent much of the post-Thanksgiving week in Toronto on a mission. The mission included work and visiting old friends. Keeping my ties to Toronto strong. I sometimes reflect on how I now have friends in three cities (Montreal, Toronto & Halifax) Whenever these thoughts make me lonely I console myself that my friends are only a bus or train ride away.

During my stay in Toronto I was reminded of the extent to which private, digital worlds are taking over people's personal lives. Going to brunch with two friends, one of them kept texting as we were having a conversation. I don't accuse him of being rude because so many people are wedded to their smart phones these days, but I do find the trend worrying.

Online information for most people means material that can be quickly digested and comes in packages of 140 characters or less. Unless you're an academic or someone who is taking the time to read longer pieces on the Internet, it trains you to expect everything instantly. Instant information gratification, if you will.

I find this happening in my own life. More and more I speed read through text in my personal time. I'm so used to the rapid fire nature of finding and working with data on the Internet that I sometimes forget how satisfying it is to sit down and engage with actual text you can hold in your hand. For a period of time longer than 5 minutes if possible.

In the developed world we spend so much of our working lives staring at screens. That's part of the nature of white collar work, I understand. But it becomes annoying when it filters into people's private lives. If I've arranged to have brunch with you it's because I want the pleasure of your company and stimulating conversation. I do not want to feel as though I'm competing with your iPhone for attention.

A piece I recently read on The American Conservative accurately sums up what happens when society begins to confuse viewing social media with having an actual social life. We do so at our own peril. Updating your status on Facebook while drinking with friends at a bar (or worse, during a date) is less a social experience than a retreat into a private world.

Skyfall - A Bond Movie Worth Waiting For?

Sam Mendes, director of the award-winning American Beauty (a personal favourite) is the man in the director's chair for the new James Bond movie, Skyfall. Check out this news story where the film's actors talk about what it was like working with Mendes.

Putting aside the positive press this film has been receiving, I'm buying my ticket because I want to see how Mendes does with a Bond movie. If he can handle comedy, romance and tragedy as masterfully as he did in American Beauty, moviegoers will be in for a treat indeed.

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