Thursday, November 13, 2008

Patricia McHugh

Patricia McHugh, who wrote one of the seminal books on Toronto's architecture, died in September in New York. Her death went largely unreported here, which is a shame since her book — Toronto Architecture: A City Guide — is one of the key references, along with Toronto, No Mean City by Eric Arthur, for anyone who's interested in this city's built heritage. There were two editions of the book, both published in the 1980s. It's sad to see how many buildings were demolished between publication of the the first and second editions, and then to see how many of the buildings in the second book are no longer standing.

When I began research for Faces on Places, I wanted my own copy of McHugh's book, but it was out of print and seemed to be unavailable. I kicked myself, remembering that I'd seen it in the World's Biggest Bookstore when it was new, but my funds were low at the time and I didn't think I had a spare $15. I subsequently found the book on eBay and bought it, from a seller in San Antonio, for $5 U.S.

I read about McHugh's death in Catherine Nasmith's Built Heritage News. The only other obit I found was at the Website of the Municipal Art Society of New York, which also has two quite nice pictures of her. (The MAS didn't respond to my request to use one of the pictures here; hence, the rather uninspired photo of my copy of the book.)

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Yma Sumac, 1922-2008

Yma Sumac, a Peruvian singer with a four-octave range, died last weekend. You can read her obit in the New York Times, and see more about her on her Website.

The way I heard of her was through Thomas Meehan's New Yorker story "Yma Dream," which is performed in the YouTube clip above by Christine Baranski. The visuals are just pictures of everyone mentioned in the story.

During David Letterman's rather disastrous hosting of the Academy Awards a few years ago, I don't think anyone got it that his bit of introducing Oprah Winfrey to Uma Thurman, and then to Keanu Reeves ("Oprah, Uma; Uma, Oprah; Oprah, Keanu...") was in fact modelled on this story.

This story begs to be heard. I don't think simply reading it off the page, silently to yourself, could have the same effect.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Bunch of bloggers

Last weekend (starting on Thursday the 23rd) a bunch of bloggers descended on Washington, D.C. The bunch was not, alas, as numerous as initially planned but we carried on. I was there, principally to cover a major infectious disease conference for the Day Job, and consequently did not get to hobnob with the other bloggers (largely sketch-bloggers) as much as I would have liked. Still, it was a treat to meet Sparky Donatello himself (he goes by a variety of other names including Wally Torta and Walt Taylor, but he'll always be Sparky to me), as well as Amanda of Craftmonkeys, her 16-month-old daughter Oonagh (who doesn't have a blog yet; slow learner, I guess), her sister Lydia who used to blog at Cootie Garage, and Sam of problemchildbride. In fact, you can see sketches, photos and tales of the weekend on their blogs.

I took my reportorial responsibilities so seriously I didn't even get out to hunt any new Washington gargoyles - although on the shuttle bus to and from the convention centre, I spotted this lion. At first, I thought he had buck teeth but that's a downspout. He graces the front of a former fire station on U Street.

Rumour has it that the bloggers (known, for reasons too detailed to go into here, as "Hosses") will meet again next year in New York, which has a gargoyle or two.