Station Eleven Cover

Wordfest 2014: Future Imperfect at Theatre Junction GRAND

There’s a lot going on at Wordfest this year – literary deathmatches and clothing swaps and drawing classes – but the meat of any literary festival is always going to be one or more writers reading from and talking about their work.

One of the earliest readings in the lineup features two Canadian writers – now transplanted to Brooklyn, because everybody in literature is in Brooklyn – with two roughly similar novels out now. In Adam Sternbergh‘s Shovel Ready, a dirty bomb in Times Square causes the collapse of the city’s tourist economy, then everything else. Across the George Washington Bridge in New Jersey, a garbage man whose wife died in the attack embraces nihilism, then a career as a hitman in the newly dystopian Big Apple. British Columbian-born Emily St. John Mandel‘s Station Eleven proceeds from the onstage death of a Shakespearean actor to a pandemic that wipes out 99 per cent of the human population and follows the members of the remaining one per cent who form a travelling theatre company.

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Witch Mountain

Classic doom mongers Witch Mountain walk in the hallowed halls of Lord Iommi

Doom metal was a total accident, an accident involving blood and steel and grey northern skies, but still the result of one guy fucking up. Anthony ‘Tony’ Iommi, working at a sheet metal factory in Birmingham, England, cut the tips off his ring and middle finger on his right hand. His guitar playing days were over. He wasn’t willing to start over with his left hand. However, he learned that Django Reinhardt, jazz legend, had suffered a similar injury and developed a way of playing with only two fingers. Still, playing hurt. Thin-gauge strings were still a ways off. He tried banjo strings and crude homemade thimbles, but the real difference came when he down tuned three semitones below standard guitar tuning. Iommi’s band, Black Sabbath, subsequently became the thickest and heaviest band around, spawning the metal genre we hold dear.

More than 40 years later, metal has differentiated into unthinkably divergent realms. However, that guitar sound – along with a few other Sabbathian standards – define doom metal. The lyrical themes of despair, dejection and the occult continue to this day.

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Floatation Therapy

Float Life in Kensington offers aquatic respites for the mind

Let’s start by dispelling a myth: you’re not going to hallucinate while floating. In the pitch dark, naked and immersed in warm water, there’s just your thoughts exposed like a disassembled watch. No spinning mandalas or sage wisdom from your spirit guide, just the absolute absence of anything. It’s pretty great, actually.

Isaac Neubert and Dustin Ryan are two Victoria, B.C., transplants who have opened Float Life in Kensington, outfitting an austere-looking concrete space with two imported top-of-the-line “Iso-pod” floatation therapy tanks (also used by the New England Patriots and the Navy SEALs), each the size of a family sedan, with three more to come soon. For 90 minutes at a time, you can be cut off from everything, receiving relief from anything from back pain to PTSD – though the majority of customers will just want a brief respite from the modern world.

 

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Classic detective tale Farewell, My Lovely comes to Vertigo Theatre

Think of hard-boiled detective stories and you’re thinking of writer Raymond Chandler and character Phillip Marlowe. There were other influences on the genre, notably Dashiell Hammett and his creation Sam Spade, but Spade, as his alliterated name suggests, was a cartoon; Mike Hammer even more so, but Hammett could at least write. That Ayn Rand and Frank Miller are big fans of Spade should tell you all you need to know about him as an artist and human being.

Marlowe, as Graham Percy plays him, is a schlub. This is distinct from a schmuck or schmiel. A schlub is a schmuck that you can’t help but like. Percy is brilliantly cast here: he’s all jowls and the bags under his eyes, a smile that recalls Sam Rockwell at his most eager to please, pants up far too high. In film, Marlowe has been portrayed by Humphrey Bogart and Robert Mitchum, but if you were to extend his basic schlubishness in this adaptation you’d arrive at Paul Giamatti. His idea of dressing for a date is a beat-up black jacket instead of a beat-up brown jacket. While in the 1978 film version he bemoans having only “a hat, a coat and a gun,” here he has to be given the hat as an act of charity. He drinks. Boy does he ever drink. If you tried to keep up you’d wind up in the emergency room or morgue. And women love him. Every single woman in the play falls madly in love with him, usually within minutes of meeting him. They’re drunks, too, but it’s the schlub’s magnetism that has him punching far outside of his weight class, romantically speaking.

 

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