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Great Canadian Houses

Royal Ontario Museum - Great Canadian Extreme Make-overs - 2007

"It is a truism in art that two artists are always better than one, especially if they have divergent styles; in that way the second always manages to overcome the imperfections of the first, creating, voilà, a masterpiece every time!"

"Quite, quite!!" enthused Mr. Hume, obviously spellbound by his mentor, because, unlike Mr. Thorsell, who came by his artistic pedigree honestly, for once having made a bad film or two, Mr. Hume merely articles his way through life...

He tended to defer to his artistic superior more, of late, having just been privately assured, by a close friend, that the William Ronald (famous Canadian modernist who published variations of his palette until such time as he could find a subject worthy of painting ) he had proudly hung in his living room for all to see, for the past ten years, had been upside down, for all that time... Luckily none of the Rosedale crowd that had coursed through his place, and marvelled at it, spotted the error either ... Apparently the key to solving the mystery was the signature, admittedly small, which was upside down at top right - right photo taken before the mistake was discovered. Mr. Hume, who is one not easily fooled in matters of art, or architecture, had been of the impression that Mr. Ronald had done it that way, as a deliberate joke, to entrap unwary art snobs into hanging it upside down, by putting his signature on the bottom???. . of what he really intended to be the top...

So we wondered what this daring duo would do if they were to turn their creative genius of extreme make-overs to some other tired looking great public icons and works of art, and, using their creative talents, to modernize and improve those that are showing their age, and not very well at that... Below their fly-on-the-wall conversations...

Disaster on Bloor Street!!!

Wow! If you thought this was a disaster site, as if a pile of crates recently fell off a jumbo jet, crushing the rear of Toronto's venerable Royal Ontario Museum you would be wrong...

Far from being a horrid creative mishmash - which is what the rude sorts call it - it was the brainchild of the ROM's CEO, William Thorsell, below left, who prides himself on his artistic background, once having been a filmmaker.

Christopher Hume, the Toronto Star's Art & Architecture critic, who, in a feature article to celebrate the opening of the ROM's extension, instead of trying to explain, what many call a jumble, to the lower orders, wrote a bitter self-justifying article on all the hate mail the creation got. He, not being of the rude sort, loved it... the building that is...


Lady Black does His Lardship

Mr. Thorsell immediately thought of close friends Lady Black and Lord Black as good candidates in need of a makeover, He astutely suggested the well-bred Lady Black as the obvious makeover artist, and suggested that she, in view of recent developments, visit the costume department at Kingston Penitentiary. "Brilliantly original choice!" echoed Mr. Hume.

Lady Barbara Amiel Black of Hamilton, looking divinely cheerful under the circumstances - we mean because of the taught lines she is obviously facing. Noted for both, a strained complexion and budget, of late, what with not keeping up payments on her Florida estate, she has apparently, also been remiss in paying her surgeon in a timely manner. He has left, not a few, somewhat rude reminders behind, which she can't miss every time she looks in the mirror. Now we know why she wears those big sunglasses inside and out! What's a poor gal to do?

But rising to the occasion - something his Lardship, of late, is apparently finding harder to do - Lady Black was recently spotted in the prison wardrobe section of Kingston Penitentiary helping Lord Black - the name he insists on in Canada, but prefers just plain Conrad in front of the jury, thanks - pick out his new wardrobe.

She was delighted to find a sympatico outfit for herself and also managed to find more refined arm and ankle bracelets than the more manly ones she found more suitable for Lord Black.

Both complained crossly about the poor selection available. Scuttlebutt is that they both wanted Lord Black's stripes to run vertically, like Barbara's, to cover up His Lardship's porcine midsection, which has been growing alarmingly of late, possibly, say observers close to the situation, from fortuitously laying up the larder for the lean winters ahead.

Then, Lady Black, apparently suddenly rushed him off...

Word is there are no conjugal visits in the US jail Conrad is going to - at least not with non-inmates - and five to ten years is a long drought, indeed, for a Lady who prides herself on being well bred...

Right, in happier - pre make-over days - when Conrad still liked to dress up, here as a disreputable priest, complete with smirk. On other days he dressed as Marie Antoinette, in the outfit worn by Lady Black here, or the "French maid," as the mood, or Lady Black, took him.

Picasso does Michael Angleo

William Thorsell suggested Picasso as the best possible extreme makeover artist for what he called the "dowdy and dated Michael Angleo" painting, which he says has needed an update for more than a century.

"Quite! Quite!" enthused Mr. Hume. "I really think you should take your idea to the Loo, I'm sure they'll go for it!" (Which, Mr. Hume sniffed, when we asked, is apparently where the original is kept).

"Notice how, like in my ROM makeover, the hard, tilted, blocky offset - I coined the term "shardic effect" for it - actually enhances the aesthetic presentation of a painting which, in my opinion, has long been highly overrated. Especially the smile part. The Picasso shard is a vast improvement and yet allows us to preserve the very best parts of Michael Angleo's painting."

Enthused a clearly impressed Mr. Hume, "Now why couldn't anybody else have come up with this? No wonder you're head of the ROM."

Personally Mr. Hume, for a fleeting second, thought that Michael Angleo might not be the painter, but deferred to Mr. Thorsell's superior expertise. Still, something D'ish kept nagging him: "D, ah, D, D, D... Delacrosse, David, is that it...? Or something like that. David Chichi... No wait. That's an Indian painter... Ah now I got it; it's Leonardo... that's it... now it's coming back to me... It's not Michael Angleo at at all, but Leonardo di Capreo. That's it exactly." But he decided not to embarrass his mentor by correcting him. "Merely a momentary slip," he told himself...

Privately he was also distracted by that thing that was sticking out of her mouth. But he didn't dare ask what the significance was... He was sure Mr. Thorsell, would know, but he was already on to the next makeover...

Picasso does Grant Wood

Warming to the task, Mr. Thorsell next tackled one of his pet peeves, the "ugly farm people" as he called them. "Really, I know no one in Rosedale who would hang the Wood, though they would like to," he smiled, in homage to his cleverness with words, to add to his accomplishments in the visual arts.

"Notice the vast improvement because the shardic effect now puts the focus of both people on the fork, creating a floating visual superimposition of a perceived triangulation effect, which is, and at the same time isn't - what with the eye going around the triangle - creating another level of artistic articulation over and above the bounding shardic square. Really clever what Picasso has done here... Grant Wood was really off on this one. Again, we're not losing anything here; the best parts of the old are preserved, with the minor parts replaced with superior."

"Hmmh, yes, I see what you mean. I never would have come up with it myself."
echoed a clearly impressed Mr. Hume... "I guess that's why I only write about art, instead of doing it myself..." Mr. Thorsell grinned and nodded in agreement, clearly pleased with himself.

Privately - it would not be prudent to voice such concerns - Mr. Hume mused, "I never realized how really ugly the lower orders are. Picasso has done us a great service here by removing the unpleasantness in our society. I mean why should we have to look at ugliness in our art, when there are so many beautiful people around?" And he dreamed of the next Rosedale party...

Mr. Thorsell smiled in approval. He liked being around beautiful people too, because they, like him, appreciated progressive art.

Johnson & Johnson does the CN Tower

The daring duo now turned their attention to the CN Tower.

"I have always believed that Toronto is a world class beacon for the arts and need not take a back seat to anyone."

Mr. Hume, eyeing Mr. Thorsell's next creation, squirmed uncomfortably in his chair at this.

"Clearly the CN Tower is under threat around the world, and Toronto, as a world class leader in art and architecture, is in danger of being surpassed by others who are adding rude extensions to their buildings and towers just to make us look, well frankly, flaccid in comparison."

"Quite, quite." nodded a subdued Mr. Hume, who now suddenly recalled, that he had been assured, more than once, that size does matter.

"For some applications, I really don't like the shardic effect, preferring something more retro, if you know what I mean. That's why the latest from Johnson & Johnson is the perfect solution to counter all these upstarts in Asia and the Middle East who want to dethrone us as creators of the longest standing up thing, in the world."

"Quite, quite, but what material is that?" asked a somewhat distracted Mr. Hume.

"Rubber!" pounced the clearly aroused Mr. Thorsell. "It's rubber, and better yet, it's inflatable! It's an inflatable rubber!"

Mr. Hume quietly pondered the possibilities... He could see that Mr. Thorsell clearly knew what he was talking about.

"You see," continued Mr. Thorsell, with rising excitement, "Whenever some new upstart builds a tower that is higher, we just blow more air into it till it is sticks up more than the competition's. Toronto will never lose its status for having the biggest erection in the world."

Mr. Hume knew that the CN Tower had been the highest free-standing structure in the world since 1976, at 553 metres, featuring the world's most elevated restaurant. But the Burjdubai in the UAR left was fast closing in, destined to surpass the CN Tower sometime in 2008, at 818 metres.

Mr. Hume could see the enormous economic benefits of Mr. Thorsell's splendidly huge erection. For one thing, it would create an awful lot of blow jobs.

He knew the Premier would certainly be pleased. Why Toronto might even capture another artistic coup - blow job capital of the world, mused Mr. Hume. The only downside? To create an extension to surpass the Burjdubai, it would take an awful lot of blow jobs to add the extra 250 metres. Would Torontonians have time, or energy, for anything else?

"Believe me. Toronto is certainly up for it," erupted a clearly aroused Mr. Thorsell who was already puckering his cheeks with anticipation at taking on the Arabs.

Now, thanks to such cultural visionaries, Torontonians can rest assured that their city would retain its well-earned reputation as the world's unrivalled creative centre of modern art and architecture.