Description 72 - Between Mud and Sky

Volunteering for a theatre company, I explore Dufferin Grove Park, where the play's the thing in more ways than one. Featuring a naked kid, a pongophone, ice cream truck music and Stephen Harper getting beaten with a stick.

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Associated links
(Update: November 21 - Jutta Mason opens the Dufferin Grove rink for the season with her own two hands)
Friends of Dufferin Grove Park
You may know Todd Tyrtle from such podcasts as The QN Podcast and Talking Stick
Blog post: The Tyrtles Have Landed
Clay and Paper Theatre
Trailer for Between Sea and Sky with ASL
Ryerson University Centre for Learning Technologies
Citizen Z @NFB.ca (not with description, which kind of sucks)
Dufferin Rink
The Brick Oven @Project for Public Spaces
Barbara Klunder
"Dufferin Grove Park" poem by RM Vaughan
Okay, technically, the wading pool is not a Splash pad...
For the Birds by Margaret Atwood
What is Cob?
The QN perspective on the Punch and Judy show with Stephen Harper

In case you think Dufferin Grove Park is some sort of hothouse of gentrification in some well-to-do, lily-white neighbourhood, you would be wrong. That area has had a history of poverty and crime and all kinds of people from everywhere doing their best to get by, so making the park what it's become was an uphill battle and continues to take strength. The fact you wouldn't immediately know that from being there speaks volumes.

If you could only click through one link in that list (and that's not true, so go to all of them), it would be the one for Friends of Dufferin Grove Park, because not only does it have all the information about everything going on in the park (rink! oven! cob! campfires! farmers' market! arts! history!), but it sort of evokes the vibe of the park - there are forums and public discussion sections everywhere. The transparency of process in how things work is really impressive.

It should not come as a surprise, then, that the editor of the site is Jutta Mason (from Germany - yet another immigrant), who was a major part of the "friends" creating what Dufferin Grove Park is now. She won the Jane Jacobs Prize in 2001, and continues to help hold together the spirit of freedom and community the park embodies every day, inspiring work beyond that block through the Centre For Local Research Into Public Space (CELOS). Mind you, she only helps to hold it together, because this sort of thing doesn't work the way they've done it through the control of a person or two - it has taken a deep but not-foolish trust in one's fellow neighbours.

I think many of the greatest thinkers concerning social media can relate to that. So if you have any interest in any kind of community, you'd do well to study that one site as deeply as you can, and take notes.


Coming Around Again

A new episode is coming next week, but a couple old episodes somehow seem to fit with some current events.

In Description 46, I talked about working "location support," and did a soundseeing tour of one of my long days guarding a location film set. The film in question was The Time Traveler's Wife, which is finally getting its release this weekend. In the previews, I've already spotted a scene (in front of a tv store in the '70's) in The Junction neighbourhood where I had a couple shifts, and even the gazebo/bandstand in Kew Gardens, where I started the tour of the last episode. Other settings where I stood/paced/sat for 12 hours at a time included a very wood-lined mansion (the Christie Mansion, where I finished Description 45) and an old hospital ward (actually an abandoned part of the Centre for Mountain Health Services, aka Hamilton Psychiatric Hospital). But if you check out the movie and notice scenes inside a house where you can see snow in a yard outside, that's where I was for Description 46, with leftover "snow" cushioning my butt on the concrete steps and keeping me warm in the autumn dusk. It's more than likely you won't notice a thing beyond the romance of the story, which is testament to the talent of the hard-working Art Department and those people whose job I would not wish on my worst enemy: the Location Managers. I don't know if I'm going, but if I do, I'm sticking around to see their names (especially A.J., Warner and Don) way down in the credits, and applaud.

And for something completely different...perhaps you've noticed the "debate" in the U.S. about proposals for reform of the healthcare system. I've been a bit more vocal about this on Twitter and Facebook, but suffice it to say it's been fantastically stupid and most of its stupidity has been fueled by very distinct economic interests. One element of the stupidity has been fearful and silly attacks of the healthcare systems in Great Britain and here in good ol' Canada (NDP leader Jack Layton said his piece about the matter in Huffington Post a couple weeks ago). I remember in the miniseries "Prairie Giant," the protests Tommy Douglas had to deal with a few decades ago from doctors spooked about his proposed introduction of healthcare reform in Saskatchewan (which eventually led to the systems we have today). Douglas must have thought the doctors' strike was pretty scary at the time - it's not quite like the more literal "strike threats" President Obama is dealing with now.

Anyway, a couple years ago, without such clouds of comparison over me, I did an episode illustrating a typical experience of mine with the healthcare system in Ontario (healthcare being under provincial jurisdiction) with a soundseeing tour of my trip to St. Michael's Hospital to get my first mammogram. So you can follow along in Description 52, but don't expect any death panels. ;-)