Donald Simmons (theengineer) wrote,
Donald Simmons

Busy Week (and the end of UTARPA)

A busy but fun week. Got together with handful_ofdust for dinner (which I have to do more often) and got caught up. Got a free lunch from the Doubletree and discussed how the con went (they had no problems to discuss with me, which is always good to hear). Had a Friends of the Merril board meeting to review all our activities over the past few months (we have a quiet summer planned in order to recover). Met up with Charles at Cinematheque to watch two James Mason movies, The Man Between, where he's an East German agent in post-war Berlin and Claire Bloom gets mixed up with him (brilliantly directed by Carol Reed), and A Deadly Affair, based on a John le Carre novel. In that one Mason is supposed to be George Smiley, but another studio had the rights to that name so they had to change it. In the first film he's the smoothest guy around, and in the second he's such a hangdog he can't even get too mad at his wife for sleeping around.

Friday Nate Phelps was speaking at U of T, presented by the Center for Inquiry. He's the estranged son of Fred Phelps, head of the Westboro Baptist Church, the "God Hates Fags" guys, who pickets military funerals because God let soldiers die because we all don't hate gays enough. Nate left home midnight on his eighteenth birthday. His talk on growing up in that household was beyond scary, a testimonial to what blind unreasoning devotion does to people, and frankly it's amazing he's turned out to be such a well adjusted guy.

Saturday was busy. First there was the Space-Time book club, where we were doing Dangerous Visions. I haven't read the book in years, so it was a good excuse to (some of the introductions by Harlen Ellison were longer than the stories), and we got to discuss if the stories were still "dangerous" after the passing of 40 years. After that it was down to the Small Press Book Fair, where I ran into handful_ofdust again, at the ChiZine publications tables, headed bykelpqueen and jack_yoniga. I picked up a few things (gotta support the arts), and then zipped up to the ROM of a lecture on the Terracotta Warriors Exhibit, which opens soon. Except I got the day wrong, and there was no lecture that day. So I bought some comics instead.

In the evening it was over to U of T for the last UTARPA showing ever. UTARPA (University of Toronto Anime and Role-Playing Association, although the role-playing part never really materialized) was the anime club I was involved with before Anime North. It had its first showing in May, 1995. U of T has been increasing the room rental rates for a few years now, and they can't afford space anymore with the 30-odd people they get per showing (as they don't have U of T student majority membership, they don't get funding from the University), although a few of the exec hope to carry on with informal events during the year. Anyway, I got there in time to see My Neighbour Totoro, which I haven't seen in years. A girl in the front was doing Totoro dialogue whenever he was on screen (he has no dialogue in the actual film) which was pretty funny.

Fifteen years isn't a bad run for any club, although it's still sad to see it go (full disclosure, I haven't attended a showing in about two years). In the late 90s there was five anime clubs going in the Toronto area, some bi-weekly. YAMA at York is the last one now, and they get their space free from what I hear. But there's been an explosion of Anime cons, with ConBravo being held in Oakville in two weeks being the next one.

Sunday it was on my bike for a nice long ride. With a detour first to the ROM at 10:30 AM to catch the lecture I thought was on the day before. It was quite good, a lot of background on the Terracotta Warriors, the process of arranging the exhibition, how the display space was planned out (with the gift shop constantly asking for more space), etc. There was some great video footage from the actual dig site in China, of one of the major pits (two football fields long and completely covered like a vast airplare hanger). Most of the figures had been broken when the original ceiling of the excavation collapsed (hundreds of years ago) so it's been the work of decades to reassemble them. There was a segment where they were talking to the farmer who discovered them in the late 60s while digging a well. He looks like the stereotypical Chinese peasant, but the presenter said he was very media savvy, asking the cameraman "Do you want to to look left? Right? Point at something?"

After that I took a ride east on the Waterfront Trail out to Oshawa, one of my favourite rides. What with stuff and bad weather it was the first time this year I've been able to do it. I go out to the Oshawa GO station and take the train back. It's about 74 km in all, and a lot of it by the lakeshore thru parkland. Since the train only runs once an hour on weekends it can get tricky to make sure you get to the station in time (and not have to either sprint to get there or end up waiting 40 minutes) but I timed it nicely this time. Got back home in time to have a shower and head out to again to join my brother down at davemerrill and dwinghy place for an evening of watching weird videos, including Anime Hell, a collection of deranged animation that davemerrill puts together each year to show at Anime North and the Atlanta Anime con. It's a highlight of the con, we put it in our biggest room this year and it still filled to capacity.
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