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The Engineer

The Life and Times of Donald F. Simmons

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Week of stuff

Last week went up to Muskoka with my brother to visit with Karen and Shirley, with me staying at Karen's and Dave at Shirley's, so they each got a full Simmons the whole weekend. All got together on the Saturday for NorthWords, a new literary festival in Huntsville that seemed to go off quite well, and for Thanksgiving dinner, courtesy of Shirley, on the Sunday. A lot of the leaves had already fallen from the trees, but it was still pretty spectacular up there.

Tuesday was at the Reference Library to see John Ralston Saul and Joseph Boyden. They have each written an entry in the Extraordinary Canadians series, Saul on Louis-Hippolyte LaFontaine and Robert Baldwin (both bigwigs in the Canadian government before Confederation), and Boyden on Louis Riel and Gabriel Dumont, and they spent the time talk to us and each other about their books, the writing process, and Canadian history in general. Saul credits Baldwin for founding U of T and the whole public university tradition in Canada, and blames the Family Compact for making sure we don't know about that (and for the fact there's no statue of Baldwin at U of T). There was only one eye-rolling moment in the evening, a question from a guy who seemed insulted that only a few of the Extraordinary Canadian books were written by actual historians. Saul said that Canadian historians had gotten out of the habit of writing publicly accessible works for a while now, but he hoped that would change, which still left the guy in a huff. Great evening.

Wednesday was at the Mozart Society for a performance by the Cecilia String Quartet, their last Toronto appearance this year (also caught them at Nuit Blanche and at the Four Season Amphitheatre over the past few weeks). They're completely amazing, and earlier in the year won an international music award in Banff. Got a great seat, and heard some great music. The Mozart Society itself seems to be sadly nearly defunct due to lack of people willing to run it, hope they manage to find a few new people (and I'm way too busy before you suggest anything).

Thursday went down to the Lightbox to see Raging Bull, one of their Essential 100, which I had never seen. Mixed feelings about it, it's sometimes hard to get a clear sense of something you've been repeatedly told is a masterpiece. I have to admit I did not know Jake LaMotta was an real person till I overheard the guys sitting behind me talking about it. Film broke in the middle, which doesn't endear me to the place even though they fixed it in a few minutes. Tickets are also a lot more expensive than the old Cinematheque ($12 instead of $6 and change), and if your theatre has multiple screens you really have to print the number of the theatre on the ticket!