Opera Hamilton – La Bohème!

Had a great night with Giacomo Puccini at Opera Hamilton tonight!

Thanks to my friend Megan Coppolino of kitestring.ca, I was able to get a last-minute ticket. I think I may have found a new opera-buddy. What a lucky thing.

Opera Hamilton is fantastic. Their La Bohème took me on the usual emotional roller coaster that I expect from Puccini. Wave after wave of powerful emotion breaking over the audience and gushing around us.

I love the Italian opera. Pure feeling. The whole range.

I went home jittery – I always do after a great performance at the opera. It took me until really late to settle down and fall asleep..

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Massive Artists Party at the Art Gallery of Ontario

This evening, my oldest friend, Stanley Yee, who’s President of the Dragon Fencing Academy, and I went to the AGO’s Massive Artists Party. It was a really nice night. Because Stanley and I are both members of the AGO Next Young Patrons Circle, we got to go to the pre-party, which took place in the basement of the AGO. It was a lot of fun. The party’s theme was “Speakeasy” so many women were dressed in 20’s-style dresses and had tiaras that sparkled with sequins. They also had a lot of feathers in their hair. It was all very glam. I left at around 12.30am, feeling pretty good. I met some old friends there and made some new ones. Very good to get out and network. I have been so down lately.

FRESH Symposium – CSMM@Mac!

Today I attended our Communication Studies and Multimedia students’ FRESH* Symposium, which features the best of their work in a poster format. It was fabulous. At 1.30pm, Dr. David Ogborn, a sound artist and professor of multimedia in my department introduced his laptop orchestra. That was a great moment. Listening to 1280 Lounge filled with the tweets and chirps of the laptop orchestra’s music as the performers clicked on their keyboards was surreal and incredibly cool. We even had some members of the orchestra do a “live-coding” performance, which was a new experience for me. How strange to watch someone type in code into the computer and then hear the sonic changes that the codes brings to the sounds you are listening to. I was sceptical at first, but soon I was transfixed. Live coding. Epic.

There were many presentations by a very good number of our students. My undergraduate honours student, Souzan Mansour, presented the findings of her content analysis on “Pathos in Barack Obama’s Speech Style.” – an excellent poster presentation.

All in all, FRESH* was a very successful event. And the faculty organizer, my colleague, Dr. Christine Quail, is to be commended for guiding the students through the process of putting it together.

A great afternoon.

A three-eventful birthday!

What a great day I had today on my birthday! I wasn’t expecting much – I don’t make a big deal out of my birthday and I don’t usually put a lot of focus on it. This year, though, my friends took it in hand! And I am grateful to them for thinking of me…

Joey Coleman, Philip Savage and Andrew Laing took me to lunch at the University Club. That was really nice! We had a great conversation and Joey had a chance to meet Andrew for the first time.

I had a glass of wine with Jeff Trzeciak and then dinner with Communication Studies alumna and good friend, Stephanie Henderson at a Thai place up on the mountain.

After that, Stephanie and I went to Hamilton’s first tweet-up, organised by Meg Coppolino, also an alumna of Communication Studies at Mac and now a “communications rockstar” at kitestring.ca. It was a great night. We had nametags with our twitter nicks on them. Mine is rather unimaginative – alexsevigny.

It was a great night because I got to chat with several of my good friends and made the acquaintance of @BeCircle – a multimedia programmer who studied cultural studies and now runs a small website company in Toronto.

A wonderful birthday full of good friends, new ideas and networking. What could be better?

Picked up my new car: Mercedes-Benz GLK 350x 4MATIC

A week ago, I decided to replace my 2002 VW Jetta 1.8T with a new car. I had a few things in mind when I went shopping: (i) My involvement in political organising, student life and community service proved to me that I needed more cargo space; (ii) The terrifying trip to Ottawa in December demonstrated that I needed 4WD; (iii) I wanted a power upgrade.

Given all of these requirements, I looked around and tried a number of crossover vehicles, or CUVs. I tested Lexus 350Rx, Cadillac SRX, BMW X3/5, Volvo XC60/XC90 and the Mercedes-Benz GLK 350X 4MATIC. I have to say that I really fell in love with the creamy power delivery of the MB, as well as the silent engine and the smooth ride. I also liked the sober styling and cues that hearken back to the G-Wagon. So I bought a black one. And today I took delivery at MB Barrie.

I have to say that my buying experience was effortless because I engaged Mr. Mark Buslovich, owner of Worldmark Automobiles, who found me the best deal going and did all the negotiation for me.

So I was on a GO bus earlier, riding to York University to meet my father, who would then take me up to Mercedes-Benz Barrie. Once we got there, we were greeted by Janet Lee Holden, who walked me through the purchase process. She was just great! She explained everything about the car to me thoroughly and patiently. Then we went for another little test drive, took a picture for a postcard to arrive later, I guess, and I drove off into the sunset.

I love my Mercedes-Benz GLK. Highly recommended.

AGO Next Launch Party

Last night I went to the AGO Next Launch Party at the Art Gallery of Hamilton. It was a great night – elegant, artistic and full of beautiful, interesting people!

I enjoyed listened to Mr. Tannenbaum describe the purpose of AGO Next – encouraging a young patron’s circle of people under 40. An opportunity to get the inside scoop on new exhibits and to meet new people who share an interest in art and culture.

The party broke up late, then I went for dinner with my old friend Stanley Yee, president and head master of the Dragon Fencing Academy in Richmond Hill.

Here’s the flickr photo feed for the AGO Next Launch Party. I look forward to the next event (ahem)…

CLIR Workshop in Washington DC

From December 14-16, I had the distinct pleasure of traveling, with McMaster’s Chief Librarian, Jeff Trzeciak, to Washington D.C. for the annual workshop of the Council on Library and Information Resources. It was an amazingly good workshop, held in the Cosmos Club, in D.C. – a club whose members are all somehow linked to science, literature or the arts. It is an incredibly beautiful place, with a gorgeous stone elevation and rich hardwood floors throughout. The walls are all wainscotted in a tasteful fashion and the ceilings vaulted and marked by ornate mouldings. The Warne Room in which the workshop was held is palatial with a pleasant, sunny view out of splendid bay windows that face onto Massachussetts Avenue. The workshop itself was fascinating, with leaders from the world of library sciences from around America participating. We heard about many library innovations, including three-dimensional tours of ancient places and how the PhD in digital humanities at King’s College was founded. Most interesting to me was a talk about an American-style university that is being built from scratch in Vietnam by an American consultant, using the investment money of a prominent Vietnamese businesswoman. Since we at McMaster are contemplating building a new campus in Dongguan, China, hearing about how a similar institution is being built in another communist Asian society was very enlightening.

Also while in D.C., I visited the Newseum (my favourite museum in the world!) and had dinner at Martin’s Tavern in Georgetown, which is always friendly and full of fascinating people. Another highlight was a late-night walk with Jeff and Marshall Breeding, Director of the Vanderbilt Television News Archive. We went to take in the Lincoln Memorial, which is so beautifully lit at night and then, inspired, walked down to the White House and looked at the beautiful Christmas tree all lit up and festooned. Under the tree was running a very elaborate train set, which tooted and chugged along, round and round, all night while fascinated children and their parents watched and took in the quiet splendour of the White House in the background. There was also a giant firepit in which whole logs burned red-hot and filled the air with and homey smoke that made you think you were at a Christmas party somewhere in the bush. I love D.C. – it is one of my favourite cities. It is full of tradition and quirk, grandeur and a sense of home, all at the same time. Just like America.

Breakdancing in the McMaster Student Centre

Yesterday, I stayed late, writing in my office. I had a manuscript to finish for submission to a journal. It was an interesting piece about how Barack Obama uses time words to create a link between past and present in his speeches.

I had a quick dinner and glass of merlot with a friend at 1280, McMaster’s student-run pub and café. The wine was okay and the service was great. I have to say that 1280 is a great improvement over Quarters, the pub that used to occupy that space until it folded last year. I also had a carboholic Irish nacho fries – a caloric nightmare, but they tasted good.

After that, I went to the library and had an extended convo with one of the desk clerks about the pros and cons of unix, Mac OS and linux. Finally I decided to go to my car and finish writing at home. It was about 8 o’clock.

As I was leaving the student centre, I saw a group of kids breakdancing in the common area. The beats were great and they had some amazing moves. Most of all, I was amazed at how natural the whole thing felt – there was quite a crowd, maybe 120 people sitting in a circle around the dance floor, which was marked by yellow tape on the ground. The kids would take turns on the dance floor, sometimes they would coordinate in pairs. It was amazing. I was impressed.

I like working late and seeing McMaster’s campus after-hours. You never know what community event or performance you’ll run into.

Every day is an interesting day at the university.

Two great nights out: One Duke and CLiC at the Art Gallery of Hamilton

On Wednesday night I went out to a new pub for me – One Duke in Hamilton. It was a night of great conversation and good wine. The grilled calamari was excellent. It’s a shame that busy schedules and time constraints don’t let me hang out with one of my favourite people as much as I would like.

Last night I went out to the CLiC Paparazzi event at the Art Gallery of Hamilton. I went with my friends from kitestring.ca, a PR and advertising agency that specialises in youth marketing. I met Meg Coppolino and Chris Farias at their shop at 7pm and then we went to CLiC. The theme was celebrity and paparazzi so people showed up dressed like their favourite celebrities. Meg won “best costume” with her likeness of Lady Gaga to which she added a Hamilton twist as Lady Gage Park. Very clever.

The CLiC event was really well put together. The crowd was lively and mixed well. The space was great – small enough to feel full but not claustrophic. The food was Asian-inspired and there was a good selection of drinks. There was a diverse and fashionable crowd, representing Hamilton’s entrepreneurs, lawyers, business people and artists, most of whom were under 40. Good networking event.

There was an excellent lecture and tour by featured artist Jesse Boles, who does large-scale photographs of industrial sites, mostly in Hamilton and Toronto. His work was very beautiful and evocative. I love the detail that large photos of industrial wastelands and scenes provide. You can stare at it for hours. His show, Crude Landscapes, is featured at the Art Gallery of Hamilton right now. Check it out. Highly recommended.

Ingmar Bergman Makes a Movie – a great documentary

I have spent the evening writing up a grant to fund a new research project (while eating lots of chicken couscous that I made yesterday) on political communication using the technique of content analysis. I will be submitting it later on this week. More on that project in a future post.

While I was writing, I had a film about Ingmar Bergman‘s creative process playing in the background: Ingmar Bergman Makes a Movie. It is fantastic. While watching it, I realised how challenging his creative life must have been. He was identified early on as a creative prodigy and his work usually involved deeply personal insight. Often his work would involve reflections on the nature of God, prayer and the contemplative life. In the documentary, which is composed of a series of interviews with him and his crew, Bergman reflects on his desire to produce films that move people and capture a feeling of place. He describes, quite candidly, how these goals obliged him to always move among people. What is most interesting, however, is how he keeps coming back to the idea of blending in, of anonymity. He says, at one point in the documentary, that he had no greater desire than to fit in to be anonymous – but that the very fact that he was capable of pulling truths and feelings out of the people, society and scenery around him made him stand out and maintained his celebrity. What a paradox.

I think the world of political communication is similar. A good political communicator is always among the people of his or her riding, empathising with them and then finds a way to synthesise the feelings, thoughts and dreams of his or her constituents into policy, communication and action. The politician becomes the tribune for the dreams, fears and everyday concerns of the population – something that requires maintaining a critical distance at the same time. I hadn’t realised how much politicians and artists have in common. I guess it shouldn’t surprise me – both artists and politicians deal in raw human needs and desires. There is a lesson to be learned here somewhere for Canada’s politicians. A little soul-searching is in order. To return politics to its place as the ground for negotiating the order of things in the City, it is necessary for political communication to become less stunt and attack oriented, and focus more on telling the story of Canada’s citizens in the House of Commons, then translating that story into legislation that retains what is good and beautiful, but points the nation toward a better future. This better future cannot be communicated as the imposition of a party’s ideology (“After all, you voted for us!”), rather it should be the weaving together of the stories that all members bring to the House, whether they are members of the Official Opposition, or of the Government.

I highly recommend the movie – very thought-provoking. Ingmar Bergman has a lot to teach political communicators in Canada.