A veteran photojournalist on the arts and entertainment scene, Julian Bynoe is a Toronto-based cartoonist, artist and arts blogger. From 1996 to 2014, he was the arts/entertainment editor for the street publication The Outreach Connection, and has had articles featured in Realms Magazine, among others.


“Sesqui,” sonnets and shamrocks round out lit fest

International Festival of Authors 2016 Reviews

Part 2 of a 2-part series

Left-right: Jon McNaught, John Martz and Andrew Butcher

Graphic Sonnet Exchange

Studio Theatre, Bill Boyle Artport, 235 Queen’s Quay West

Sunday, October 23; 3:30 p.m.

When I do count the clock that tells the time,

And see the brave day sunk in hideous night;

When I behold the violet past prime,

And sable curls all silver’d o’er with white;

When lofty trees I see barren of leaves

Which erst from heat did canopy the herd,

And summer’s green all girded up in sheaves

Borne on the bier with white and bristly beard,

Then of thy beauty do I question make,

That thou among the waste of time must go,

Since sweets and beauties do themselves forsake

And die as fast as they see others grow;

And nothing ‘gainst Time’s scythe can make defence

Save breed, to brave him when he takes thee hence.

-Sonnet 12, William Shakespeare

Centuries after Shakespeare’s death writers, academics and fans have tried to figure out his sonnets have ever meant and translations and interpretations exist by the hundreds with no real closer truth to be reached. As event moderator Andrew Butcher, the founder of two of Toronto’s premier comic book stores The Beguiling and Little Island Comics and the annual Toronto Comic Arts Festival; read off Sonnet 12, two graphic novelist attendees dived into the conversation to the commissioned blue-toned graphic novel pantomime pamphlet they’ve made together exclusively for IFOA’s anniversary celebrations on the poetic tome.

“My Shakespeare history is not extensive at all,” admitted Toronto cartoonist/illustrator John Martz. “Just than what I learned in high school…all the ‘greatest hits,’ that’s about it. But I did enjoy it; even in high school I enjoyed the act of deciphering some of the familiar language and seeing that it’s similar to modern English,” to which Jon McNaught conceded the same feeling study his country’s greatest contributor to global literature.

“We studied a lot of the plays in school and we watched these films that came out in the Nineties. They were Russian animation (film) and British films on BBC. They were kind of quite creepy puppet versions, like of Twelfth Night and like that. But they were my impressions of the Shakespeare plays,” McNaught said. “As an adult, I was quite taken how kind of immediately engaging and personal in an intimately way. I think mainly because the ones that really famous (sonnets) that I was aware of were the much more romantic…whereas the others dealt with all kinds of insecurities, the worries that are very human and recognizable kinds of things.”

His take on Sonnet 12 certainly shows it in the four panels-per-line pamphlet of commuters of an unknown British locale leaving from a transit bus terminal to a night on the town take on just mere observations from a window seat; as Martz puts a tragic science-fiction turn where a lone, dying interstellar traveller hurriedly collects flora as he prepares to evacuate from the volcanic planet he’s been on for a infinite time before it explodes. Butcher, in his analysis, noted how both comics work their own pace in tune to the sonnet’s themes like the pattern of time and decay of the natural world through its images and metaphors.

Excerpt from the Shakespeare Lives at IFOA fold-out pamphlet by John Martz

“It kind of feels like the four panels somehow feels the closest to the atmosphere of the work,” said Martz, “because it makes more sense. I guess it’s…I don’t know, for some reason with four it seems to have that rhythm that (works).”

“Yeah,” conceded McNaught. “We did look at doing three (panels) at one point as well, but three really feels waited and you want that nice, trembling rhythm…and it kind of keeps going. With three panels it’s kind of a bit tricky, so it’s kind of interesting that with four because if it ever becomes two pairs at least they’re even numbers that keeps rolling.

Excerpt from the Shakespeare Lives at IFOA fold-out pamphlet by Jon McNaught

“With my comics in general, I kind of like to keep certain things on a visual rhyme…and the images that are right with each other. You can certainly see the shapes of the compositions, so I kept it kind of exactly the same as the sentence of the sonnet.”

“The way that I make sense of (the project) is how many pages I have, I know what beats I hit,” Martz said in his method of doing his comics. “So generally I take Post-It notes and write on what happens on this page, what happens on that page. So after I get a few of those, I fill in the empty blanks on what needs to happen. It was a very similar process with this work; I used Post-It notes for each line of the poem. I wanted them to move all around until it hits all the beats I need to hit.”

“I always forget to add writing when I’m planning (projects). A friend once asked me if I was writing anything [relating to this project] and I told her I was thinking about things and she said, ‘well, that’s writing!’. And it is writing, because you’re working all these stories in your head and you have to write something because it’s part of the process.”

Weaving Canada’s Story: Ideas, People and Objects

Fleck Dance Theatre, Queen’s Quay Terminal, 207 Queen’s Quay West, 3rd Floor

Tuesday, October 25; 8:30 p.m.

Left-right: Charlotte Gray and Jane Urquhart

2017 marks the 150th year – sorry, sesquicentennial – of the confederation of Canada that historian Charlotte Gray made perfectly clear in the Weaving Canada’s Story: Ideas, People and Objects forum, with noted novelist and old friend Jane Urquhart; in their differing approaches yet same views on the nature and composition of the Canadian identity we’ve carved out for ourselves as a society for the nation and an example for on world stage.

While Urquhart waxed romantic in solid short stories from her book A Number of Things: Stories About Canada Told Through 50 Objects (HarperCollins Canada) on the advancement of technology connected to her family roots in rural Ontario of her farmer uncle Cliff Quinn during the 1930s with “Tractor” and a personal narrative on flight of her Northern Ontario days in “Bush Plane,” Gray instead went into a speech about what it means to be Canadian as seen as an British ex-patriot who’s lived here for 37 years seeing the kind of miracle this nation and people are in its collective state of existence in its short century-and-half period compared to her native England centuries older than us, is now in the throes of possible disunion in the wake of the so-called Brexit referendum to leave the European Union this past summer, that has left the country in a polarized shambles on its future while Canada, despite two failed referendums over the last 30 years imposed by Québécois nationalists to separate from the dominion; still keeps on going.

Afterwards, a sit-down followed. Here’s a condensed version of the 25-minute conversation between these two colleagues and friends:

Charlotte Gray: What aspects of Canadian history each of us has been informed by and how to put it on the page? Jane, we’ve each spent over the last several years working on our idea of different elements of the Canadian identity. You did things, I did people. How did you choose your “things”?

Jane Urquhart: Well, I’ll tell you, I did it in a very, very self-involved manner. Unlike you, Charlotte, I have, shall we say…a difficult relationship with facts [Laughter] and I like to make things up. And as my daughter would be only too happy to tell you, when she would go to school and the teacher would ask questions and she would put her hand up and say, ‘Well, my mother says – and she’s always wrong…’ [Laughter] and surprisingly, my daughter went on to become an author and write non-fiction books. She is really interested in facts, because she could claim that she had no “factual information” when she was a child. [Laughter] But what I want to know from you is, why these particular people (in The Promise of Canada: 150 Years – People and Ideas that Have Shaped Our Country (Simon & Shuster Canada) and) where were the Irish in this story? . [Laughter]

CG: Well, you were allowed to choose fifty (things). I had on good authority that they were all Irish. [Laughter] And about forty-nine (things) had to do with death. I write about promise, you write about death!

JU: In biographies, you can write about dead people because dead people can’t sue.[Laughter]

CG: It was a challenge to me in this book, because Jane had fifty objects and I had nine individuals. And they had to be nine individuals who had, as I said earlier, sort of introduced into the Canadian psyche. Particular values, particular ideas about this country, about what was important to them about to keep moving forward. And I also, obviously, wanted to make sure that every province was represented...

But when choosing my nine people, what I thought was a good representation of women. I was really surprised when I arrived here thirty-seven years ago; all the history seemed to be about politicians, generals and the explorers.

JU: But wait a minute, is that true about (Pierre) Burton as well? [Laughter]

CG: Listen, I can tell you the educational system I went through in Britain, it was actually much more gender-balanced than anything…

JU: Well, Laura Secord was a spy for the British in the Revolutionary War and she was a Canadian.

CG: The only reason people knew about Laura Secord because of the chocolates! [Laughter]

JU: My husband used to, I think, played with his BB gun or something in Lundy’s Lane Cemetery and he claims that if you walk around Lundy’s Lane Cemetery, Laura Secord’s carved eyes [on her tombstone] followed you. [Laughter]

CG: I also had to give a historical narrative (in the book) and I will admit, that the Scots seemed to have more impact on the development of the country than the Irish.

JU: And my mother, Marian Quinn, said that was the problem with the whole country. [Laughter] It was very difficult for the Irish, obviously, because they were Catholics, which is why I brought up (Confederation co-founder) D’Arcy McGee. Because of course, without D’Arcy McGee Sir John A. McDonald could not have been elected (prime minister), due to the fact that brought along with him the Catholic vote because there were quite a number of Catholics to early Canada. And they were not perhaps treated as well as one likes. But they were the immigrants and refugees of their time, because they came here because of the Irish Potato Famine and arrived destitute on the docks of the cities and also bringing with them terrible contagions and disease.

CG: So we spent the last few years or however many months working on our books, and each of the fact, we tried very hard to rethink what about Canadian history attracts us, helps us understand the country today. And one thing I’ve realized that we can absolutely agree on is that Sir John A. MacDonald has been completely overrated [Laughter]. Now you were to think to impress the case of D’Arcy McGee, as the man who made Sir John A., for without him McDonald could never be prime minister. So I’m afraid all this Catholic hand-wringing is not going to get past this matter. [Laughter]

JU: I think there was a good thing there was a Lower and Upper Canada. When I had to live in the Maritimes when I was a younger person working as an assistant information officer for the Royal Canadian Navy, they still look at me with distain and say: ‘You’re an Upper Canadian!’ It was astonishing to me! I couldn’t believe that the term was still in use. Did you run into those kinds of things when you were working on your book?

CG: As I travel through Canada, I realise the further you get from Ontario, the more people identify you by their province than by Canada. I mean, by the time you get to Newfoundland, the only thing that they’re Canadians is that their heart is close to the Rock. In British Columbia, there’s a sense of European Canadian there. I remember a wonderful Canadian history teacher saying, ‘The issue is not when history begins, because so often in Canadian history it begins with the settlers. We’ve forgotten the hundreds of years of indigenous history before pre-contact.’

Watching the (current) American election, I really do get the feeling one of the big gulfs between the United States and Canada is that Canadians don’t really have to trust their government in a way that is how we’re part of the conversation there. You spend all the time talking about on how ‘Washington is broken’ and nobody talks that way here in Canada.

JU: I think it’s very hard for us to take ourselves seriously, because as I’ve said we’re not taught – at least in my generation – that we were considered part of the British empire. And therefore, when we read our history books, they were the same history books that you read. So taking ourselves seriously enough to kind of discuss on how to ‘fix what’s broken’ was something that wouldn’t have occurred to us actually, because we didn’t necessary take ourselves that seriously as a country.

Like for example, you say that the West says they feel cut off [by the rest of Canada]. Well, every farm in Ontario had one person who went west in the late nineteenth-century, it certainly was true with (my family) the Quinns. I discovered my Quinn relatives in Saskatchewan when I went up there to seek and made all sorts of jokes about how they disappeared and they got lost between the barn and the end of house in a blizzard, ha-ha-ha. But I did not realise this was being recorded by the local CBC and they heard this. [Laughter]

But it’s so fascinating because, of course, yes the progress went from east to west. Of course it did, because we were so close to Europe that people first landed, but the families themselves kept on moving in a sort of stately way across the country. So there’s a sort of love connection there than that we fully understand, people lost touch and we’re not necessarily sure who we’re related to in that way. But the only thing there what all of the provinces have in common in the final analysis is the indigenous people. There were different tribes, different nations, different languages but all of us, as we said earlier tonight; we’re here at their pleasure really, in so many ways.

Even when you think about the fur trade and the first great big huge corporation that landed in this country (Hudson’s Bay Company), it couldn’t have happened without the cooperation of the indigenous people who were the hunters who brought in fur, who were the people who showed Europeans how to paddle canoes, etcetera, on how to get through the waterways. I think that’s something that we all have in common.

CG: I agree with you that the indigenous thread in our history covers every part of this country. And but it’s also in terms of following the many threads of the Canadian narrative. It is such a difficult story to tell and it’s even more difficult story to tell in every generation. I, in fact, followed it in a chapter which is on (First Nations leader) Elijah Harper who was the Cree chief who held up his eagle feather in 1990 and blocked the passage of the Meech Lake deal that was the constitutional deal that Prime Minister Mulroney put together in the hope to get Québec to sign on to the Constitution. They didn’t in 1982 when it arrived and they still haven’t (signed it yet), but somehow the country is still together.

JU: I think it’s time for us to pay attention to indigenous people all over the world. Fortunately, they’re now in touch with one another, which is a very good thing. But there wasn’t an awful lot, upon (European) arrival, in helping oneself to whatever hunk of land happened to be there that took place and the British… along with Europeans, participated in that kind of imperialism and there was a lot of red on map. And a hundred and fifty years isn’t awful long in the history of the world when you think about it, when we became Canadians and stopped being British subjects…we didn’t even have Canadian citizenship until after the Second World War.

CG: It’s fun putting jigsaw puzzles together, isn’t it, on getting the sense of what makes this country unique? What are our unique experiences, what our unique values and again and again it all comes back to our vast and generous land. In the last one hundred and fifty years so many are involved and so many peoples continuing to strive to some ethereal goal of Canadians being neighbours to each other and to live together although we don’t necessarily share the same language or same origin, we don’t pray alike. And yet, this country over the last one hundred and fifty years has become more cohesive…it seems to me, what a magnificent experiment. It’s not always successful, but I think it works pretty well.

JU: But isn’t that like that with any country?

Poetry Ireland’s Rising Generation

Lakeside Terrace, Bill Boyle Artport, 235 Queen’s Quay West

Thursday, October 27; 2 p.m.

Left-right: Julie Morrissy and Ciaràn O’Rourke

Two contemporary Irish poets Julie Morrissy and Ciaràn O’Rourke made their way on a drizzly afternoon with their most recent collections of poems to a lightly sizeable audience ranging from themes about art, home and surprisingly, some mentions about musical icons Joni Mitchell and hip-hop legend Tupac Shakur.

Dublin-born, Toronto-based Morrissy started from a couple of her latest poems from I Am Where (Eyewear Publishing) on about family gatherings (“Moving Day”) and the everyday views of daily life (“I Am A Inventor”); then moving on to her forthcoming collection Medics, doing a main focus on her late grandmother in the 1940s and ‘50s Ireland and the rustic view she weaved on “Frau;” “Churching” on a long-phased out Catholic ceremony celebrating childbirth, the reflection on her grandmother’s struggle with post-partum depression and conformity to tradition to more familiar themes of the wishful promise of a old love and TTC streetcar observations with “Northern Dancer Blvd” and a ode to the latter two trimester seasonal changes in Canada on “I Do.”

“I find that great vocation in the places that I lived,” said Morrissy in the Q&A afterwards with O’Rourke. “I probably developed most as a person in the years that I lived in Canada. So it took a really important, in a kind of impressionistic way, the way that I talk about places in my poetry that it’s not in a kind of a detailed and in depth exploration on a memory and feelings. But it definitely emerges that I’m aware and in more recent work, so it’s a very obvious trait in my work.”

As a Dubliner on his first trip to Canada, O’Rourke read from his collection When You Get Here (Smithereens Press) beginning with a couple of love poems “When You Get Here” and “Love Song,” before going into more darker territory with new work from his latest, The Sea Path, with tributes to fallen Guatemalan hero-poet Otto René Castillo (“Guatemala, 1967”) and Finnish poet Edith Södergran (“Cathedrals”), his late grandfather (“The Cure for Nettles”), a couple on art-inspired works (“The Helmet Maker;” “Coyote”), a untitled poem on the European Space Agency’s recent Rosetta comet project having that cosmic feel and a anti-xenophobic retort on the European continent on the refugee crisis (“Death of a Refugee”) was hard-hitting and direct.

“I’m moving now to a certain point [in my work] I’m beginning to think about poems within song,” he had mentioned about other forms in poetry. “And it’s just about the kind of presentation with musical aids to poetry and as a way of facilitating poetry close to custom and also in an academic sense. If it doesn’t rhyme in a very traditional form of sense, then it’s not really poetry. As I mentioned earlier (on Joni Mitchell) the ‘poems’ that she wrote on the page worked in another way, but I think that they are songs and also certainly (did) Tupac. His ‘poem,’ “Keep Your Head Up,” I think that works out very well as a music recording and again, it’s a form of presentation.”

Ireland @IFOA

Brigantine Room, Bill Boyle Artsport, 235 Queen’s Quay West

Saturday, October 29; 7 p.m.

Left-right: Catriona Crowe, Emma Donoghue, Julie Morrissy, Ciaràn O’Rourke and Paul B. Muldoon

Mainly a slight overextension of the Poetry Ireland event, as moderated by Robert Kearns, Ireland @IFOA did include some prose with Irish historian Catriona Crowe reciting her favourite poem about the 1916 Irish Uprising “The Rose Tree,” as two friends from that period discuss the revolutionary fervour gripping the country as much as it is an anti-war commentary on the wasted blood and lives it consumes.

Emma Donoghue, who became a literary star after 2010’s Room earned her nominations for the Giller Prize and later for an Academy Award for her screen adaptation to the 2015 film version, took the audience back to the Irish midlands of 1859 in her newest book The Wonder (HarperCollins Canada), with an engaging segment about Lib Wright, a English nurse assigned to dealing with a precocious nine-year old Irish girl Anna O’Donnell; read with a sense of coyness and mischief from the writer who now calls London, Ontario home.

Irish poets Julie Morrissy and Ciaràn O’Rourke, as stated earlier, offered a few more of their poems they recited on October 27 with Morrissy reading the pro-cannabis tome “Joint,” reflections on a night in Dublin in “Quill” and the art of learning to speak and being silent on “Among My People;” as O’Rourke paid tribute to the Hungarian poet and Holocaust martyr Miklós Radnóti in “The Killing March” for all of its moroseness and his direct, if not overtly angry or defiant comment on the Middle East conflict “Postcards from Palestine” with simple honesty.

Pulitzer Prize-winning author/poet Paul B. Muldoon was the most entertaining of the ensemble as he read “A Thousand Things without Knowing,” as he recalled an amusing childhood memory about walking to school and a moving tributary to the revolutionary Irish hero Joseph Mary Plunkett Ward, “Anseo.”

In the following Q&A, many topics came up regarding the difference between Catholic and Protestant poetry, appreciation for James Joyce, the status and future of Irish Gaelic language in modern-day Ireland and how centuries of hardship and violence may have moulded Irish poetry, O’Rourke summed it up in his analysis on the latter.

“I would say that whether you’re write poetry or fiction or creative non-fiction, as the case may be, I think all of us can presume that kind of emotional and cultural summit outing between people and their various experiences,” he said. “So for poetry, I think, you presume that there are people out there who are engaged with the message. I assume that if you are a reader, that’s probably the case. Technically, in one’s own heritage there are international forms of cultural identification in how you read and how you write.”

Stronger Than Fiction: A Disappearance in Damascus

Studio Theatre, Bill Boyle Artport, 235 Queen’s Quay West

Sunday, October 30; 12 p.m.

Deborah Campbell

Looking back now at pre-Arab Spring Syria, despite its seemingly benign dictatorship (if there ever was such a thing) under Bashir al-Assad, it almost looks idyllic compared to the wanton destruction brought on in its current Revolution, as award-winning journalist Deborah Campbell brings to the first-ever Stronger Than Fiction event for IFOA as writers tell about our humanity, current affairs and the world around us, with A Disappearance in Damascus: A Story of Friendship and Survival in the Shadow of War (Knopf Canada/Random House).

Taking place during an assignment to cover the Iraqi Civil War brought on with the American invasion in 2003 for Harper’s Magazine, Campbell spoke about her relationship with Ahlam, an independent, unconventional and strong-willed female Iraqi “fixer” who got her into contact with refugees and warriors between 2007 and 2008 up until she got arrested by Assad’s secret police for her association with her and the desperate and anxious three-month search that followed in a place where shifting alliances are the norm and whom to trust has to become a second nature.

Campbell put a lot of emphasis on the comparisons of middle-class Iraqi refugees fleeing the sectarian violence that engulfed their country after the fall of Saddam Hussein and becoming the huddled masses with uncertain futures (an irony that will not become a loss on their Syrian hosts a few years later) and describing their unique friendship as outsiders to their own cultures – herself, a writer and Ahlam, a ground contact – and the similarities they both shared going against the grain of patriarchal systems.

“But the reason that I went was because I was frustrated with all the media coverage that I felt was so narrow, it focused on battles, it wasn’t looking at history contexts or the future that was coming,” Campbell reflected on going into the turmoil and investigating on its origins. “And I felt that the dislocation of millions of people, there were about two-and-a-half million that had fled the country; there were probably three to four million displaced within Iraq that this was going to have catastrophic and long-term effects, and eventually it did.

“We talk about ISIS as if it’s unrelated to the Iraq War. Well, when Ahlam was working to find missing prisoners on behalf of families when she was in Baghdad and in those years she was doing this the leaders of ISIS met in Camp Rukha, which was one of the main American prisons and it was a group that came from al-Qu’eda of the Islamic Revolution side and military Saddamite Baathists who were quite secular and all they would do all day was sit around and plan under the armed guard of the Americans, who were just letting them [make future plans].

“They had nothing but time. They’d never form their plans outside of prison because they would have been hunted or killed. But inside prison, it was perfect for them. And this is where al-Que’da in Iraq and Syria had to rebrand itself as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria in 2006 after the killing of the leader of al-Que’da in Iraq in their response to the American invasion. And when Syria went into civil war, ISIS decided this was the perfect place for us to grab territory and chaos. But we don’t want to see these kind of historical entities, so my interest was looking at history, politics and where things might go.”

Stronger Than Fiction: Ireland’s violent revolution

Studio Theatre, Bill Boyle Artport, 235 Queen’s Quay West

Sunday, October 30; 5:20 p.m.

Catriona Crowe gives a visual presentation to accompany her Ireland’s violent revolution talk in the Studio Theatre.

Noted Irish historian Catriona Crowe’s in-depth treatise on the decade of revolutionary violence that would give birth to the modern Republic of Ireland from World War I to its Civil War that was brimful of stories and events she spun with interesting content after she had facetiously dubbed the audience as “designated Irish heroes and heroines” for coming to her 45-minute talk instead of the “celestial” Margaret Atwood event that was concurrently taking place.

Calling it the era of “bad tempers,” Crowe went into the changing face of Ireland that was still looking for its place in Europe still reeling from the spectacle of the Great War and in the shadow of the then-mighty British empire they’d been held under for over eight centuries prior to the 1916 Easter Uprising, which began the road towards independence. By introducing a slew of books relating to these events, she pointed out as some of them just released in the last two years on every aspect of the Uprising from children to women who contributed to the period, including her own popular book Dublin, 1911 (Royal Irish Academy).

She also pointed out dozens of web links of academic and governmental national archives means related to the period from war to disease in forming an independent Ireland, including preserved audio recordings of participants’ accounts that have survived; from hundreds of counties from the previous twenty that were known then.

As centenary celebrations go, the Irish go from the downright serious from stage productions recalling fictional and non-fictional accounts to the kitschy from a knitted diorama of the GPO (General Post Office), the epicentre of the Easter Uprising; to the awfully pun-tastic (the “Chocol-mation of Independence” chocolate bar) and awfully tasteless (one a cake reproduction of independence martyr James Connolly’s execution – “which part would you eat first?”).

“History is a twisted root/with art its small, translucent fruit/and never the other way around” as Crowe would quote Paul Muldoon to wind down the talk about historians and the public alike taking into account and reflection on the foundation of the Emerald Isle with some sense of pride and introspection, while others – most notably and regretfully, some Ulster communities who refused to participate in peaceful commemoration of these events – still hold a few grudges that may take longer to heal than most.

CiRCA 69: Slave to Mortal Rage VR Installation

The Loft, Bill Boyle Artport, 235 Queen’s Quay West

October 25-27

A participant goes through the virtual reality landscape of Slave to Mortal Rage in the Bill Boyle Artport Loft area.

Direct from England was transmedia artist Simon Wilkinson a.k.a. CiRCA 69’s apocalyptic installation, Slave to Mortal Rage making its Canadian premiere over a three-day period inspired by Shakespeare’s Sonnet 64 leans towards a more darker realm as one straps on the VR goggles for a seven-minute surreal experience that sort of hard to explain, other than decaying cityscape as viewed from inside a hotel room of sorts.

Buildings crumble and objects defy gravity while natural disasters play repeatedly on a television screen as passages from the sonnet change at every minute gives that sensation of realism the artist dwells upon, giving into the characteristic of the piece. It’s really a pity that the installation couldn’t have remained until the end of the festival, since an extended stay would have brought more people in the closing weekend to come view it instead of the very few who got a chance in seeing it.

Festival Summary

IFOA 2016 will go down as one of its better ones in the last couple of years by doing its YoungIFOA component a fresh makeover with the Toronto Public Library-sponsored Book Bash and hope they’ll not only give it a permanent home at IFOA, but to also extend it into a full weekender event to introduce the next generation the joys of reading.

The literary line-ups weren’t bad, the best ones being Five Artists, Five Ways, the Graphic Sonnet Exchange and Weaving Canada’s Story: Ideas, People and Objects (with Charlotte Gray’s opening speech the smartest lecture I’ve heard in all my years covering the festival and main highlight), plus the introduction of the Stranger Than Fiction series to give a human face to the multifaceted geopolitical situations that are of societal concern.

And the visual arts components were much better this year, what with the ongoing Harbourfront Fall Exhibits’ Stories We Tell (Funnies and Five Ways) adding heft to the fest’s temporary exhibits of Heike Steinweg: Writing in Berlin and CiRCA 69: Slave to Mortal Rage. With Canada 150th birthday earmarked for next year, no doubt the organizers will hopefully do a heavy emphasis on authors from the First Nations community, the francophone communities outside of Québec and the national mosaic to give the thirty-eighth edition of IFOA the cosmopolitan feel on what it is to be Canadian.

Legoland sails onto Pepperland

Pop Culture Feature

Since that Swedish block-building toy company Lego has ventured into almost every aspect of our pop culture from the playrooms of our childhoods to cinemas (can’t wait for the Lego Batman Movie coming in March 2017), it was inevitable that it would cross paths with The Beatles with their own set based on their (song and) 1968 animated surrealist classic Yellow Submarine, available for worldwide release this Tuesday (November 1) for Beatles fans alike (incidentally, “Yellow Submarine” happens to be my all-time favourite Beatles song) and just in time for the Christmas rush.

The 550-piece set not only includes the Fab Four as mini-figures, it’ll also include their companion Jeremy the Boob that joined them in their quest against the invading Blue Meanies as they set out to rescue Pepperland from their grip. Lego designer Justin Ramsden said, “I watched the film when I was younger and was really inspired by how it oozed so much imagination – comparable to how I view Lego elements. I’m also a massive fan of The Beatles, having grown up with their music all my life, so to see The Beatles in Lego form is a dream come true.”

Also, click here to enjoy this cutely funny promotional video link as the Beatles go off to rescue a fisherman from a sea monster beneath the sky of blue and sea of green!


LEGO The Beatles Yellow Submarine will be available worldwide in stores from November 1 at a cost of CA$80.