Thursday, August 10, 2006
University of Toronto professor and inventor, Steve Mann, developed Nessie with designer, Chris Aimone, as one of several models of a musical water sculpture he calls the Hydraulophone. There are several versions of his designs; some are circular, others suggest the shape of a treble-clef and still others resemble the grand organs found in cathedrals, but unlike most instruments, Mann’s version is intended for water and community parks as well as public spaces like HTO on Toronto’s waterfront.
The Hydraulophone could best be described as a water-organ or a water-flute, using water instead of air to generate the mellow and appealing sound Mann calls ‘harmelody.’ Each of the designs requires a power-source to pressurize the water, like a hand-pump, elevated reservoir, marine or solar-powered pump, or even a simple garden hose.
“Water creates sound with enough musically expressive control to play overlapping harmony and melody,” he says, placing his fingers over the gentle jets of water to demonstrate. With a soulful rendition of ‘Stairway to Heaven,’ a stirring ‘Scarborough Fair’ and ‘Amazing Grace,’ his digits restrict, dampen and bend the flow of water arching from the keyboard-arranged, recorder-like holes. The tone is reminiscent of other instruments, but unlike anything else you’ve ever heard.
“Nessie presents itself with the same vocal quality as humans,” Mann observes. As a result, Nessie’s personality is contagious. No matter what style of music is being played, novices and experienced musicians alike can’t help but want to test it out. It’s not an intimidating instrument. “It isn’t as formal or serious as a piano or violin and it has an expressivity that encourages interaction.” Mann explains, as one of his co-creators, Ryan Janzen, joins him on a version of ‘Summertime’. The sound reverberates as cleanly as any modern keyboard, but has its own full-bodied character.
Nessie is more fun to play than other instruments too. You can’t exactly jump in the public pool with a piano or flute, but that’s where Nessie performs best. The ‘FUNtain’ inspires “awe and wonder in the way that it connects to the basic element of water.” It stimulates the player on multiple levels: aurally, of course, as well as through motion and touch. “The sculpture has a seductive and teasing quality that tends to draw people toward it, to touch it.”
Professor Mann recently demonstrated Nessie at the Ontario Science Centre where he was invited to join a jazz band for a performance. “I haven’t had any formal musical training at all,” he admits, but that doesn’t seem be an obstacle for the talented and versatile Mann, perhaps buoyed by a number of jazz musicians and composers who have embraced the Hydraulophone. His ‘FUNtain’ or ‘Poseidophone,’ as he sometimes refers to it, is particularly suitable for acoustic folk music, given its natural sound. It would compliment Uilleann bagpipes and tin-whistle perfectly, and perhaps even make a great choral accompaniment.
Originally inspired twenty five years ago, the ‘waterwind’ was invented as a means of amusing his two year-old daughter, Christina. It has since evolved into the Nessie that delights children and adults everywhere. Even musical therapists have discovered its potential for healing and are working with Mann to develop the unique instrument for rehabilitation purposes.
Unlike her namesake in Scotland, Nessie is a welcome sight in wading pools, on beaches and hot-tubs and doesn’t make her appearances nearly as rare or photographically challenging.
It's a sunny and warm March 28 and the seasonal cyclists are out to join the near 90,000 year-round cyclists. Soon, there will be an estimated 900,000 cyclists on the roads in the GTA. Why is it that Metro Police, even with cycling officers, maintains such utter contempt and disregard for the safety, well-being and legal status of cyclists in this city? I know there are many cyclists who violate traffic rules like stop-signs and proper lighting, etc., but a large percentage of us don't, yet we still have no protection against cars parked or stopped in bike lanes (5 of them this morning alone on my commute) or against vehicles that endanger our lives, often right in front of a police cruiser that refuses to take action against the motorist. And this happens thousands of times per day. Please explain why officers simply will not target vehicles nor attempt to educate motorists and, quite frankly, sometimes don't even know the basic rules of the road, as they apply to bicycles. Do they only investigate when one of us dies?
Thursday, April 06, 2006
When your Rogers cell phone bill contains an error, who do you blame? That son-of-a-gun Ted Rogers. When your Rogers cable bill has gone up, who do you blame? That son-of-a-gun Ted Rogers. When you can only download at reduced speed from the internet, who do you blame? That son-of-a-gun Ted Rogers. When negative billing forces you to call and cancel a service or you’ll continue to be charged for it, who do you blame? That industry-magnate, Forest-hill living, multi-millionaire son-of-a-gun Ted Rogers! Yeah, We’re pretty quick to criticize and condemn when we feel we’ve been victimized or suspect that others are getting rich and not giving back, but damn, are we slow to praise and congratulate when its due.
Case in point is Rogers Centre and the Toronto Blue Jays. Ted dropped $25+ million per season over each of the next five seasons for his baseball club, something its’ previous owners, Belgian-based brewery Interbrew SA, never did, and that has resulted in the acquisition of some major players, instantly making the Jays contenders again. Eight players in total, in fact and at least one of the new players even waived his no-trade to the Blue Jays clause because he liked the talent Ted paid good money to get. So, for thirteen years, the Jays were perennial third-place finishers, but maybe not this year, thanks to Ted’s willingness to invest in the team. But is anyone thanking that son-of-a-gun, Ted Rogers?
Ted changed the name of Skydome a year or so ago, to a chorus of disdain by detractors, but spent millions in upgrades, including new turf and state-of-the-art video wall last year. He hardly heard a word of acknowledgement from those same detractors for the improvements. This year, he took out seats (seats represent revenue, folks) and widened the concourses on the 100 level, put in better lighting as well as flat-screen television screens throughout the facility. On the 2nd level he installed kid-friendly zones featuring a jungle-gym and other play equipment, video games and even a kids concession area with juice and milk-boxes as well as grilled cheese sandwiches. There are newly refurbished and renamed concession stands, giving a more cozy, local flavour to the cavernous dome. A concierge, new restaurant with upgraded menu choices and an impressive (and expensive) wine list and new bar on the second-floor caters to the upscale seasons ticket holders. The 4th floor has a monster private suite for groups as large as 350 or divided into smaller units. Is anyone toasting Ted Rogers? I doubt it.
So, where are the accolades? Where are the public pronouncements lauding that true, patriotic Canadian who rescued the city’s baseball team---nay, the COUNTRY’s baseball team---and put it back in Canadian hands, poured the necessary money in to get the talent that might return them to the glory years of ’92 and ’93 and reinvented the concrete cavern that we used to call Skydome? It might be Paul Godfrey’s name in the paper and his mug in front of the cameras as he points out all the changes, but it was Ted’s money. The Jays sure weren’t making the kind of money it took to make those kinds of renovations, so it had to come from somewhere. The public has demanded for years that the Jays need to spend in order to compete with the Yankees and Red Sox, and now they have. Critics have squawked that Skydome had become the most unfriendly stadium in the league after a short honeymoon as its’ jewel, and listed all the changes that needed to be made to make it fan-friendly. They were made.
So, how come I’m not seeing any of those same people who bitched and complained, turn around and thank the man who responded and then some? If you’re going to bash a guy over the head when you think he deserves it, you better pat him on the back when he deserves that too. Come on folks, swallow your pride and give the man an ovation. He’s earned it. Fair’s fair, after all
Friday, February 17, 2006
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
Wednesday, February 08, 2006
Monday, February 06, 2006
It is with great sadness and sorrow that the Toronto Maple Leafs announce the passing of their once optimistic and promising Season at approximately 9:40pm, February 3rd 2006 after a relatively short, yet still agonizing battle with Inconsistency, Acute Defense Deficiency, Depth Deprivation and Unabletoscoreatosis. Friends and family mourn the loss of the Season, particularly when the end came so early and without the prolonged disappointment they are accustomed to. Yet, regretfully, they acknowledge that the incompetence and failure of so many vital organs had to result in the untimely death: there was no hope, in the end. The Season is survived by GM John Ferguson Jr., who apparently is unwell and in danger of following the Season into the great unknown beyond; Head Coach Pat Quinn, who, while under considerable stress and pressure, has managed to demonstrate his resilience and tenacity and is expected to survive, according to the attending physicians who warn, however, that the Season’s severe illness may be communicable and Quinn could well face the same fate as the Season; and a legion of faithful, yet profoundly dejected fans that are the envy of almost every other sports franchise in the world. They did not deserve such a cruel fate. Perhaps more than any other team, they are best able to withstand such devastation, though, and rebound when the Next Season arrives. The Leafs have asked that, in lieu of flowers, those that cared for the Season continue to support them by donating generously by purchasing any and all merchandise and tickets at the grossly inflated prices currently being charged. The service is being held at almost all private homes in the GTA and southern Ontario as well as local pubs, bars, taverns and inns. The Leafs’ younger brother, The Marlies, in spite of feeling depleted and ignored, will deliver the eulogy. The Season’s sad, tragic and bitterly short life was, perhaps, doomed from the start, following a prolonged and painful birth and its’ absence of preparation to face the world it was born into. We can only hope that the next Season will be a strong, forceful and contending Season with several new components that will ensure it does not meet a similar fate as the Season we are mourning. Goodbye Season.
Thursday, January 05, 2006
Edited version published Jan 5