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.

 

UPDATED MONDAYS

Updated: June 20, 2017

NOTE: Please excuse the current state of the blog with some missing photos and various typos throughout, as we are undergoing a brief system problem that should be resolved in a few weeks time. Apologies for any inconvenience and please bear with this issue for the time being. Also, there will be no blog entry for the week of July 3-8 in observance of the Canada Day Long Weekend. The blog will resume either on July 8 or July 17 (both dates pending). Apologies for any inconvenience and hope to see you back soon. Your support is truly appreciated! - JB

The NEWEST Hounds of Love collection! Click on the cover link below for more details!

EDITION #140 - WEEK OF JUNE 19-24, 2017

Dark octane fuels Cars 3

Cars 3 (Pixar/Walt Disney)

Voice Talents: Owen Wilson, Cristela Alonzo, Chris Cooper, Nathan Fillion

Director: Brian Fee

Producer: Kevin Reher

Screenplay: Kiel Murray, Bob Peterson and Mike Rich; story by Brian Fee, Ben Queen, Eyal Podell and Jonathon E. Steward

Film Review

Better known as one of their sunnier franchises, Pixar's Cars takes a dark turn of the wheel and even darker octane fuelling their third entry like more of a Rocky III of the series as being its best after the oddly-confusing (for some), if rather engaging 2011 follow-up Cars 2, as it shifts gears back onto focusing on its main racing superstar, Lightning McQueen (Wilson).

Now a veteran champion on the racing circuit, Lightning McQueen faces some even tougher competition with a new cocky nemesis named Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer), a next-generation rookie heavily reliant on current technology that’s been helping him win more races and giving McQueen a serious run for the money.

After a horrific racetrack accident puts him out for the season and convalescing back home in quiet Radiator Springs, it's a haunting reminder of what happened to his late, great mentor and friend Doc Hudson (Paul Newman) back in the day after he got unceremoniously put out to pasture before his time by the younger set. Not ready to call it quits as his other contemporaries have with the upcoming next-gen racers, he heads off to his sponsor's high-tech Racing Center to get his mojo back into auto to show that he's still got plenty of mileages to go.

But as he soon discovers, Sterling (Fillion), the new owner of Rust-Eze is more interested in capitalizing on Lightning's legacy than having him back on the race course and having a young, energetic trainer Cruz Ramirez (Alonzo) treating him like a vintage model instead of racing material isn't helping matters. With only the Florida 500 race days away to prove himself again, he seeks out Doc's former trainer Smokey (Cooper) to help him figure it out, as well as to see other things in a newer light.

Director Brian Fee puts Cars 3 into a subdued and nadir feel in its digitalized film composition that might go over the heads of the younger crowd, while keeping its humour light enough to see them through it in the highly agreeable and mature script. But then again, their Cars franchise has always had a hard time getting the film critics behind it ever since it first drove onto the screens over a decade ago, accusing it of being nothing more than a excuse to boost merchandise sales over cinematic artistry as its been better known, even trying to pass off their rather weakish aerial spinoff Planes to their Disney owners a couple of years back.

Wilson puts a lot of gravitas voicing Lightning like he's never done before that is a quite refreshing curve to his character seeing vulnerabilities cracking his once-impenetrable confident veneer, yet willing to let humility be a good instructor. While some of the original cast members, namely Mater (Larry the Cable Guy), Sally (Bonnie Hunt) and Luigi (Tony Shalhoub); get reduced to minor parts shrinks the laughs they once provided, it is nice to see Alonzo, Cooper and Hammer's new characters, including one numbers-cruncher analyst Natalie Certain (Kerry Washington) with her dry humour; fills that vacuum and gives the film more depth, especially with Cooper's fatherly demeanour.

And totally watch for the hillbilly demolition derby from hell scene for one maniac of a school bus named Miss Fritter, as voiced by raspy Lea DeLaria; almost steals the limelight here better than Bob Peterson replacing Michael Keaton as Chick Hicks, now just a more annoying sports commentator who still lives to let out the air out of Lightning's tires; plus the usage of Newman's previously-recorded material before his death in 2006 in the film's flashbacks surprisingly adds very little to the story.

While it may be a little off-putting to see an animated film taking a somewhat shadowy detour, Cars 3 is probably Pixar's most honest film to date on what it means to go against the odds and finding oneself in the process. And its preceding short Lou has a mysterious benevolent figure aiding a school playground's lost and found box teaching a bully the meaning of sharing and respect for others' belongings, as written and directed by Dave Mullins; is a fun and humbling lesson on manners that is so sorely needed in today's world.

Native Sons and Daughters

Luminato 2017 Reviews

Part 1 of a 2-part series

Tributaries: Part 3 -Reclamation and Part 4 -Emancipation

David Pecault Square, 215 King Street West

Wednesday, June 14; 9:30 p.m./10:30 p.m.

As Canada's sesquicentennial fast approaches, there’s been a heightened awareness on our relationship with the country's First Nations community and its women that the annual multidisciplinary arts bash Luminato addressed for its opening night event Tributaries on Indigenous artists from across the Americas. Managing to catch the latter-half of the four-part program, Reclamation and Emancipation; it raised those issues as much as it did entertain thoroughly as its mandate allowed.

On a much more scaled-down outdoor center stage unlike previous years when it mixed visual artistry with practicality in David Pecault Square, the restless crowd awaited for Mexican-American Mixtex star Lila Downs to start the third part and disappoint she did not in her hour-long set. In a melange of ranchera, cumbia, folk, Latin jazz and hip-hop the tough Latina with the timbre husky vocals, with the spunk of Selina and Gloria Estafan; never minced words when singing about ecology, Mexican journalists murdered by government and local mafia figures, migrant workers’ blues and a sly commentary about "whole countries who have broken our hearts" that shall remain anonymous.

When not riding on socio-political contexts of her content, the Latin Grammy- and Grammy-winning Downs also put a little something on singing about a spurned romance (her only English tune "Keeper of The Flame"), a tribute to 1950s Mexican cinema stars ("Lejos Suplicas") and closing out on a bittersweet note over a spicy confectionary ("Balas y Chocolate" ("Bullets and Chocolate")) that kept her performance well in tune and in touch with the people.

Fourth-part Emancipation with a DJ-VJ call-and-response production where First Nations turntablist Bear Witness of the Cayuga Nation and Afro-Columbian/Wayuu vocalist Lido Pimentia took to the tiny stage near Roy Thomson Hall with Native dancers and b-boy/b-girl dancers while video images mashed-up Native stereotypes from classic Hollywood Westerns looped in unison to the on-spot tunes, was a little more out there in concept that probably would have been more effective if the said video screen was above the very stage itself instead of being located across the field. Still, the message and music did have points to make despite this mild, if well-meaning misfire.

Notes of a Native Song

The Famous Spiegeltent, David Pecault Square, 215 King Street West

Thursday, June 15; 8 p.m.

In the wake of last year's riveting Academy Award-nominated documentary I Am Not Your Negro, there has been a resurgence of sorts on the words and legacy of James Baldwin, who leaned heavily on the ugly truth of American race and class relations with a touch of smart, cheeky witticism that the author/activist was best noted for. Moving between song and spoken poetry, Notes of a Native Song also moves in that manner as conceived and performed by Stew and The Negro Problem that the lead singer/guitarist aimed diligently, even in mocking tones in trying to connect with Baldwin's words for the 21st century.

For their four-night run at its Canadian premiere in The Famous Spiegeltent, Stew along with collaborator/bassist Heidi Rodewald, pianist Art Terry, drummer Marty Beller and violinist Dana Lyn played for 80 minutes with superfluous numbers like the punky blues of "If You Need a Little Soul," "Which Harlem" and a Southern Rocker called "The Amen Corner" to archival and artistic visual projections about the (un)changed world of Baldwin's worldview, including "Are You Following Him?", the deepest tune about lynching since Billie Holliday sang "Strange Fruit."

Regardless of the heavy subject of Notes, its highlights included Stew did a little standup comedy about the current social climate in America; some beatnik cabaret with "King Richard" when Baldwin slammed his ex-champion/friend Richard Wright for his controversial 1940 classic novel Native Son; psychedelic '60s rock vibe of "Jimmy, Take Me Higher" where the white liberal establishment and Civil Rights movement united against Baldwin's boldly-open gayness and "Florida," the satirical punk-pop dig at the Sunshine State post-Trayvon Martin killing, which is not so remote from the previous tune "Are You Following Him?".

From its more eclectic fares like the Euro-Arabic grunge tune "In Istanbul" on the author's travels to separate his art from his politics; "Power Is" about corruption and the monsters who willingly consume it to its ending jazz-rock salute to its greats with "Sonny's Blues," Stew stirs his pot of conscience homage that is Notes of a Native Song with a bone of contention holding a lot of relevance of his and Baldwin's words.

Life Reflected

Sony Centre for the Performing Arts, 1 Front Street East

Sunday, June 18; 7 p.m.

As it's been said, Canada is not a nation of hero-worshippers in a grandiose way as we prefer to silently honour them. Women often get pushed to the side of such accolades as Life Reflected  tries to correct this, courtesy of the National Arts Centre (NAC), in a flurry of new classical compositions and audio/visual for the two-night run at Sony Centre after a highly-acclaimed world premiere last spring in Ottawa.

Four Canadian women, namely novelist Alice Munro, online activist Amanda Todd, astronaut/neurologist Roberta Bondar and poet Rita Joe; as envisioned and enabled by creator-director Donna Feore for the NAC Orchestra goes a little deeper than just commissioned music to the visuals of these ladies from different walks of life, including one shortened way too soon; as the ensemble under conductor Alexander Shelley performed under a 70-minute stretch of varying degrees that all offered unique perspectives matching these individuals themselves.

The first stave, "Dear Life" based on Munro's 2012 swan-song work adapted by Merilyn Simonds, was its longest piece by 25 minutes; as soprano Erin Wall harmonized to Zosha Di Castri's dramatic moody score and narrated by actor Martha Henry. Focusing on Munro's own relationship with her mother spanning decades from her life on the family mink farm in rural Ontario to married life out on the West Coast, it moves between isolationism to togetherness on both physical and emotional planes. While a lot of crescendos are involved, it kind of loses its momentum mid-way onwards but at least its stark photo images courtesy of Larry Towell keeps it darkness quite centered.

"My Name is Amanda Todd" has a kinetic flow by composer Jocelyn Morlock as descending digitalized snowflakes intermingling within the vastness of cyberspace as busy-looking as any present-day teenager's life would be. Then it descends into the dark side of (online) bullying as Todd became a tragic victim of, which drove her into despair and suicide at fifteen in 2012 that grabbed the attention of the nation and the world but not before her YouTube video immortalized her and the ongoing debate of these subjects.

The music and visuals are dizzying and exuberant are meant to be tributes to Todd as life lived with gentle persuasion of one young lady's battle cry against those faceless trolls who "anonymously" hide behind their keyboards and if the ten-minute segment's final visual doesn't melt your heart like snow, then nothing will.

As musical notes light up like stars, composer Nicole Lizee's "Bondarsphere" totally dives into the life and times of Canada's first woman and neurologist astronaut with archival and personal footage of Dr. Bondar's days growing up in Sault Ste. Marie to her historical 1992 eight-day spaceflight, as well as her landscape and nature photography talents that also made her the first artisan space traveller (later followed by Guy Laliberte) sure brings back memories. The fifteen-minute compositions here, both musical and visual, meld the old of classical oeuvre to the new of hip-hop looping brings an avant-garde, if fresher approach to what latter-day symphonies can offer.

"I Lost My Talk" addresses the residential school experiences of Mi'kmaq poet Joe in getting a lush, eighteen-minute silent cinematic treatment by director Barbara Willis Sweete with John Estacio's highly sweeping and anthemic score. Performed by the Kaha:wi Dance Theatre's hybrid of Western ballet and Indigenous dance choreographed by Tekaronhiahkhwa Santee Smith in Nova Scotia's Killbear Provincial Park co-starring Monique Mojica, the short holds moments of anger and reconciliation of a people reclaiming their tongue and heritage the poem portrays that the healing experience is more important than languishing with past injustices and misperceptions, as it suggests for both Native and non-Native communities engage in.

A true triumph of what the mandate of Luminato is about, Life Reflected effectively and artistically showcases the contributions these women have made in the last half-century for Canada, the world and their gender on female empowerment, as Bondar's own clever words would put it: "I'm a cheerleader for women, but I'm a role model for men."

***

Luminato 2017 continues through to this Sunday (June 25). For tickets and information, call 416-368-4849 or luminato.com.

EDITION #139 - WEEK OF JUNE 12-18, 2017

The Mummy staggers

The Mummy (Universal)

Cast: Tom Cruise, Russell Crowe, Annabelle Wallis, Sofia Boutella

Director: Alex Kurtzman

Producer: Sarah Bradshaw, Sean Daniel, Alex Kurtzman and Chris Morgan

Screenplay: David Koepp, Christopher McQuarrie and Dylan Kussman; screen story by Jon Spaihts, Alex Kurtzman and Jenny Lumet

Film Review

Looking to reinvigorate their classic Universal Monsters series from the 1920s to the ?50s after a couple of false starts with 2010?s The Wolfman and 2014?s Dracula Untold, the studio reboots The Mummy into a contemporary action-adventure horror fare that slightly misses the mark, if not a noble attempt to play catch-up in the movie franchise craze that could have been better planned out.

Five thousand years ago, the beautiful if ambitious Princess Ahmanet (Boutella) was in direct line to the New Kingdom royal throne of Egypt until jealousy drove her to make a pact with the dark forces of evil, which were immediately quashed and got mummified alive in a secret tomb faraway from the land of the Pharaohs.

Zooming towards present-day Iraq where two foolhardy American soldiers, as led by Nick Morton (Cruise) and his partner-in-crime Chris Vail (Jake Johnson), set out to find treasures in the desert for their own profit and discover Ahmanet?s enormous tomb, courtesy of some deceptiveness on Morton?s part with the young British archaeologist Jenny Halsey (Wallis).

Transporting her sarcophagus back to England on a military transport, Ahmanet?s spirit is awakened and possesses Morton?s soul in the process in order to unleash her chaotic vengefulness for world domination. The only hope for him in breaking the curse and saving the world, sorted as it is, lies in the hands of one Dr. Henry Jekyll (Crowe) who runs Prodigium, a mysterious scientific organization dedicated to the finding, examination and possible destruction of the monsters in our midst; in finding the Dagger of Set to stop the otherworldly princess.

Given that two masterful screenwriters like David Koepp (Jurassic Park; Spider-Man) and Christopher McQuarrie ? who previously directed and wrote Cruise?s decent Mission: Impossible ? Rogue Nation ? and with the combined star power of Cruise and Crowe, this would have been a more than plausible summer blockbuster.

Unfortunately the fault lies not entirely in these stars but with the director, Alex Kurtzman, better known for being one-half of the producers for the resurrected Star Trek film series; has very little experience behind the camera. He does offer moments of intensity, thrills and enough spooks, but a more seasoned filmmaker would have done a much better job in working around a semi-clunky script that?s long in places that weren?t necessary to the storyline.

Cruise works around a tailor-made role suited to his action talents and persona with some elements of humour, yet it?s an average one and it wouldn?t be another franchise he could bank on as he seemingly coasts into the third-stage of his career; whereas Boutella makes one beauty of a beast as the deadly seductive antagonist against the film?s flawed hero. For the rest of the cast, Wallis has enough brashness as the intrepid Halsey who doesn?t fall sway to Morton?s charms so easily and Johnson makes for an okay sidekick for him if in a much muted presence, however Crowe is relatively good as the well-meaning scientist grappling his own obvious demon he literally fights against, so there might be hope for his standalone project ? should it even come to pass.

While it?s not an entirely bad idea for Universal to dig up their old Monsters horror series (now rebranded as the Dark Universe series in a hopeful competition with the cinematic universes of DC Comics and Marvel Comics) into something sellable for today?s audiences, The Mummy just stumbles along in a slightly entertaining, if half-hearted effort. But just remember: for every Suicide Squad there?s also a Wonder Woman to come along...eventually.

Soulpepper?s Canadiana summertime

Left-right: Eric Peterson is back as the World War I flying ace Billy Bishop in the titular comedy-drama masterwork Billy Bishop Goes to War and a ensemble gathers for the Soulpepper Theatre?s first podcast series, The Complete 150 in their Can-Con line-up this summer.

Theatre Preview

History makes up the bulk of Soulpepper Theatre?s summer line-up with the re-return engagement of a Canadian music theatrical classic, a World War I drama and an ongoing historical tragicomedy series of our nation?s history in what is expected to be the most engaging repertoire in the local theatre company?s twentieth season in marking Canada?s 150th anniversary of Confederation.

First out of the gate is VideoCabaret?s The History of the Village of Small Huts saga in their highly ambitious undertaking to date by going back to the very beginning in the two-part, one-act play Confederation Part I: Confederation and Riel (June 9-August 19), where a new nation is born under its first prime minister John A. Macdonald and most also contend with a M?is rebellion in Manitoba led by Louis Riel; followed by Confederation Part II: Scandal and Rebellion (June 23-August 19), as the tracks of the national railway are being laid, scandals plague Parliament with Macdonald found pocketing kickback guarantees and MP and future prime minister Wilfrid Laurier is caught cooing with his best friend?s wife and the Second Riel Rebellion threatens Macdonald?s unification plans with the west.

Left-right: Actors Wesley French, Tim Dowler-Colman, Sebastien Bertrand and T.J. Riley in rehearsal for the upcoming award-winning WWI drama for Soulpepper Theatre,Vimy.

Vimy (June 29-August 5) recreates the horror of World War One in Vern Thiessen?s Governor-General?s Award-winning drama year where a group of Canadian soldiers recover in a French field hospital under the care of a young nurse after the battle that would define a nation ? in recently marking its centennial this year ? but will forever physically and mentally scar the combatants in the incommunicable experience of war.

Coming back is the limited return engagement of Billy Bishop Goes to War (July 1-August 10), performed by its playwright/actor Eric Peterson and co-writer/composer John MacLachlan Gray; as the aging World War I flying ace and national hero reminisces his exploits and aerial dogfights in a 1950s nursing home is the seminal musical mixing comedy and drama that really shouldn?t be missed.

And going digital is their podcast The Complete 150, a satirical audio drama as created and written by Jason Sherman, directed by Wernham-West Director of Audio Programming Gregory J. Sinclair and performed by the Soulpepper ensemble and special guests, in a sixteen-part serial currently being posted over the next eight weeks every Tuesday and Friday until July 1st.

***

Tickets now on sale. For more information, call 416-866-8666 or visit soulpepper.ca. For The Complete 150, visit soulpepper.ca/complete150 or on Apple Podcasts and SoundCloud .

CanStage goes retro in High Park

Theatre Preview

A feminist re-imaging of a royal power struggle and a bellbottoms-and-boogie comedy of errors launches Canadian Stage?s thirty-fifth Shakespeare in High Park season with the Immortal Bard?s King Lear and Twelfth Night, both running in repertory cycles June 29 to September 3 at the High Park Amphitheatre (1873 Bloor Street West).

King Lear (June 29-September 2) is set in the final days of the Elizabethan era as her Majesty Queen Lear, as played by original Shakespeare in High Park veteran Diane D?Aquila; divides her domain amongst her three daughters that inevitably leads to familial discord, civil war and downfall that only she can attempt to resurrect in order to salvage what?s left of her legacy.

Twelfth Night (June 30-September 3) takes a nod toward Billy Wilder and Wes Anderson under the 1970s halcyon days of disco as a young shipwrecked noblewoman looks to reunite with her long-lost twin brother on a island hotel, while a lovesick duke longs for a countess and a bunch of mischievous courtesans get caught up in the mayhem.

New this year, Canadian Stage will offer free all-ages pre-show programming and day-long events at the High Park Amphitheatre throughout the summer, funded by the governmental Community Fund for Canada?s 150th, offering called Territorial Tales, a showcase for diverse young writers inviting High Park audiences to experience three new short theatrical works on the theme of displacement, migration and settlement. Staged by three emerging theatre creators, Aaron Jan, Fiona MacAulay and Luke Reece, and performed by an ensemble of youth performers, Territorial Tales will run from August 3 to September 2 on Thursdays and Saturdays.

?We are excited to celebrate this thirty-fifth anniversary by putting on two of Shakespeare?s true masterpieces: King Lear, in its Shakespeare in High Park premiere, and the delightfully heartful and musical comedy Twelfth Night, an enduring favourite staged in a new light,? said Canadian Stage Artistic and General Director, Matthew Jocelyn.

?Alistair Newton (King Lear) and Tanja Jacobs (Twelfth Night), who are graduating from York (University)?s MFA Program in Stage Direction in Collaboration with Canadian Stage, direct these two iconic works with a theatrical gusto and contemporary socio-political depth. With a multi-talented acting company led by the incomparable Diane D?Aquila ? company member of the very first Shakespeare in High Park thirty-five years ago, it is a fitting way to recognize the past, present and future of Toronto?s most popular outdoor theatre tradition.?

***

Performances are pay-what-you-can (suggested price $20) on altering days, starting June 29, weather permitting. For advance tickets and information, call 416-368-3110 or canadianstage.com.

EDITION #138 - WEEK OF JUNE 5-11, 2017

O, Kanata!

Reconciliation and recognition are the themes for Harbourfront Centre?s summer festival line-up starting June 27.

Arts Feature

Like any other arts institution in the year of Canada?s sesquicentennial, Harbourfront Centre makes the point very clear in recognizing the founding First Nations with their summer music line-up beginning on the eve of Canada Day Long Weekend June 27th and throughout the month of July of Canadian artists of all stripes and colours, as well as mixing in our multicultural stew of annual standbys until September, as recently pointed out at their May 23rd media conference held at the Bill Boyle Artsport?s Lakeside Terrace.

?We?ve arrived at the seminal celebration called ?Sounds of Home,? which is tribute to the strength and diversity found across Canada,? said Harbourfront Centre CEO Marah Braye in her opening remarks. ?And the initial questions we asked ourselves as we began to discuss what does 2017 primarily looks like, how does a country celebrates colonialization and where is the Indigenous voice in that conversation?

Harbourfront Centre CEO Marah Braye introduces the lakeshore arts centre summer events at the May 23 media conference at Lakeside Terrace.

?In response, we invited Rh?nne Chartrand to curate on what became Our Home on Native Land (Festival of June 30 to July 3). In our mandate, it is the responsibility of cultural organizations such as ours to take a lead role in helping to realize the Truth and Reconciliation Commission?s recommendations. And it is our hope that Harbourfront Centre will provide the space where creative exploration will lead to increased awareness in individual and collective responsibility that will lead the path to reconciliation.?

?As we prepare to launch our summer festival season at Harbourfront,? added their Chief Programming Officer Iris Nemani, ?we look across the city and across the country for inspiration. Visit the contemporary sound of Canada, where music and dance, literature [and] photography are perfectly teamed led by Norma McCloud, Director of Cultural Engagement, have gone out and found the most contemporary and diverse sounds of our country and have brought them to what we call ?Sounds of Home.??

?This is the year where we are certainly, being the one hundredth-and-fiftieth anniversary of Canadian Confederation, but we are always cognizant to the fact that for many, many people on this land, the history of this land is much, much longer that just one hundred-and-fifty years and its dates [countless] millennia,? concurred the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Parkdale-High Park MP Arif Virani standing in lieu for M?anie Joly, the minister in charge.

?And it is important to recognize that fact, to recognize the Huron-Wendat, the Mississaugas, the Huron Credit, the M?is, the Anishinaabe and many other (First Nations) communities that have call this land home for a long, long time and whose struggles have been pronounced and in cognizant to the past one hundred-and-fifty years has been a lot more about colonialization than celebration?we?re working toward learning of what the past has shown us and also creating one hundred and fifty years going forward that will be much more positive and much more inclusive, in celebrating truly all aspects of this country and the people who have enriched it.?

Here in the 6ix is the official celebration of Multiculturalism Day on June 27 in a full-day free event of a special dance in the Natrel Pond by local aboriginal dance company Red Sky Performance following a morning yoga stretch and community breakfast, multimedia performances by Six String Nation with Jowi Taylor and The Dream Catchers, children?s activities and artistic workshops, closing out with a evening concert by Torontonian hip-hop star Kardinal Offishall and special guests.

Our Home on Native Land on the Canada Day Long Weekend will have the creative mosaic contributions of aboriginal and new Canadians and performances by Kinnie Starr, the genre-bending Afrobeat Haitian reggae band Vox Sambou and Mob Bounce followed by a fireworks display set to music inspired by the festival. Then the month-long celebration of the regions in the following fests range from Prairies to Pacific (July 7-9) of the West of the traditional potlatch and powwow to country, folk and pop featuring R&B singer Tanika Charles, world music artisans Delhi 2 Dublin, Afro-Cuban jazzman Alex Cuba, prairie blues-gospel queen Dione Taylor & The Backsliderz and a live-stage version of the award-winning comedy show Stop Podcasting Yourself; Shield to Shore (July 14-16) heads down east with the Franco-Ontarian sister folk group Ariko, The Sadies, Montr?l Latin hip-hop group Boogat and Canadian indie supergroup headman trio TUNS featuring The Inbreds? Mike O?Neill, Sloan?s Chris Murphy and The Super Friendz?s Matt Murphy, before heading beyond the 49th Parallel with Northern Passages (July 21-23) with Ojibwe singer-songwriter Nick Sherman, Qu??ois folk group Le Vent du Nord and rising Inuit alt-country band The Jerry Cans.

Juno-winning R&B/soul singer Tanika Charles does a sample performance as part of the Harbourfront Centre with her own appearance coming July 7.

?This is really the confessional starting point for our home on Native Land,? said Chartrand, who has worked on the 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games? Aboriginal Pavillion of First Nations arts/cultural/sports festival and currently the Aboriginal Curatorial Resident at McMaster Museum of Art. ?I thought it was apropos that we begin it on Canada Day (July 1) and that we start taking these conversations and to directly challenge in a constructive and inclusive way, on what it means to be Canadian and how the social fabric of Canada and the bureaucratic structure of this country have actually limited the expression of diverse understanding and belonging. For aboriginal and non-aboriginal people that now share this land, we look as how do we more forward as a country, [and] as a people, recognizing and supporting that we are on Indigenous land and how we share our simple principals of belonging together in positive ways.?

Guest curator Rh?nne Chartrand speaks at the May 23 media conference at Lakeside Terrace.

The remaining are the biennial Persian culture f?e Tirgan Festival (July 27-30) and perennial favourites Island Soul (August 4-7), Habari Africa Festival (August 11-13), a made-in-Canada Breaks Beats and Culture (August 18-20) of hip-hop culture, TAIWANfest (August 25-27) is turning Japanese with their look at the Land of the Rising Sun and closing out with the twentieth anniversary of Hot & Spicy Food Festival (September 1-4) and the Vegetarian Food Festival (September 9-11).

***

Most events for Harbourfront Centre?s Summer Festival season are FREE. For information, call 416-973-4000 or visit harbourfrontcentre.com.

Crushes and blushes

Invisible Emmie

by Terri Libenson

185 pp., Balzer+Bray/HarperCollins Canada

Softcover, $13.50

Comics and Graphic Novels/Juvenile Fiction

Book Review

For her first graphic novel, illustrator and Reuben Award-winning cartoonist Terri Libenson of the internationally-syndicated and acclaimed family comic strip The Pajama Diaries focuses on the drama that is junior high romance with Invisible Emmie which takes on a fresh approach that tweens and younger teens will easily digest and relate to on many levels.

Thirteen-year old Emmie Douglass is a quiet, shy but artistically talented girl who barely gets noticed by anyone at Lakewood Middle School, other than her more outgoing and gifted best friend Brianna Davis; to the point of near non-existence by her fellow schoolmates. Then there?s Katie, who seems to be the envy of Emmie because she?s so ultra-popular, athletic and very pretty that everything seems to go her perfectly own way from a winter jasmine-scented locker to getting fast-tracked into girls? bathrooms.

Entering all this is one Tyler Ross, whom Emmie has had a (semi-) secret crush on since the fourth grade and the cutest guy in school, however he?s mostly got his eye on Katie. As the two girls go about their day, Emmie and Brianna write gushy love letters to their secret crushes just for kicks during lunchtime period until the note meant for Tyler gets into the wrong hands and it turns into the biggest disaster ever for all parties involved. Or?does it?

Libenson taps into those insecurities of growing up in Invisible Emmie which resonates to all of those who?ve ever had to guide themselves through the emotional rollercoaster ride of adolescence with humour, as she?s done so with The Pajama Diaries? resident (and real-life) teenaged daughters; in a clear and intelligent tone and surprisingly does away with any of the expected outcome of events for her characters.

Her artistry takes an unconventional style of presentation with the Emmie chapters done in a mix of illustration and text like in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, while the Katie chapters go for the regular-style cartoon panels to provide a balance and unique perspective in writing graphic novels for children that parents would approve.

Bittersweet and funny with a sense of triumph, Invisible Emmie is a bright start for Libenson who actually gets what growing up is all about, learning to find your own voice and how to make of a situation of what would seem like it?s the end of your world as you know it, but you?ll feel fine eventually.

Smokeless Guns

Left-right: Tracy Hiner invokes ?liquid? gunsmoke in the gun violence-themed travelling exhibit Raise the Calibre ? Art Creates Change.

Raise the Calibre ? Art Creates Change

Venue: Only One Gallery, 5 Brock Avenue (corners of Queen Street West and Brock)

Dates/Times: Through June 15; Wednesday-Friday 3-7 p.m. and Saturday 12-5 p.m.

Admission/Information: FREE. Call 416-964-1162 or visit onlyonegallery.com or calibercollection.com

Gallery Review

The impact and presence of gun violence is problematic in any major or minor city the world, even when crime levels are at its lowest despite what some politicians and pro-gun lobbyists would like to embellish. While it?s not as epidemic unlike the United States, Canada (and Toronto) is just as susceptible to it and flare-ups do occur on occasion (about 355 firearm-related injures a year occurred for Canadian youth under 25 from 2008-2012, compared to 13,235 firearm deaths for Americans under 19 from 2011-2015).

A group of artists bring these issues to life with Raise the Calibre, an New York-based organization dedicated to the advocacy of gun control and reducing gun violence, in a travelling exhibit making its Canadian debut at Only One Gallery in the Queen Street West area. Turning decommissioned guns and bullets collected at gun buybacks and police gun amnesties into harmless duds and later artwork, Raise the Calibre mainly consisting of two artists, photographer Tracy Hiner and sculptor Doug Schwartz, who make the most out of their material ? and materiel ? into some interesting and thought-provoking pieces.

Hiner, whose close-up camera lens captures of guns submerged in aquariums and bombarded with coloured inks to create cloudbursts almost like gun smoke into a thing of beauty and not deathly. Some of the photos take on a Warholian aspect in their composition, especially with a enlarged wall installation of greys, whites and blacks is more effective in that manner.

Schwartz takes on an approach akin to Damien Hurst by permanently encasing the former lethal weapons in clear, grey and some coloured moulds of Lucite, including impacted bullet casings into coasters in example that probably would make some gun enthusiast ironically happy, considering that the theme of this work is more about anti-gun than pro-gun in that respect.

Left-right: Entombed in Lucite, Doug Schwartz literally silences lethal weapons for his Raise the Calibre ? Art Creates Change works .

What?s more is that twenty percent of the proceeds from the exhibit, including the gallery pop-up store (through June 7) selling artwork and accessories by Carey Lowell and Jessica Mindich also made from shell casings and gun-metals; will go into Raise the Calibre to continue their awareness program in reducing urban violence and fully promoting gun control measures. Taking in the saying of turning swords into ploughshares, Raise the Calibre leads by this fine example in bringing this topic to the forefront and committing the artists to do the same.