Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Roger Toupin: épicier variété

Went to see this documentary -- about the long-time owner of a Plateau Mont-Royal dépanneur that closed down last year -- at Excentris today. It was beautiful.
I was under the impression it was about gentrification, but it was more generally about change and changing. (Background: Gazette; Voir;

Réalisateur Benoît Pilon doesn't shy away from long, long shots. How nice to have a camera linger on someone's face for more than three seconds at a time. M. Toupin has the most gorgeously fascinating face and, like my father, has "atchaforia" eyes. (One eye's atcha and the other eye's for ya, as papa puts it...)

Quebec's contribution to 2003, which pundits across the continent are dubbing The Year of the Documentary...

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Follow-up on Crave

Frequent readers of this space may remember my comments on Temenos' production of Crave by Sarah Kane, which was presented at the Monument National in Montreal in November. Said readers may also remember my condemnation of Hour reviewer Jason Whiting's review, which was drivel and the only one that saw no merit in the production.

Well. Since then, a well-intentioned but clearly-written-by-a-friend-of-the-cast rebuttal letter has appeared in Hour [Dec. 4; not online, damnit], Amy Barrett at The Mirror has decided that the show was "controversial", and Whiting has left the building, retiring from Theatre Reviewing to return to producing theah-tah himself.

Is it coincidence that Whiting is gone from the Hour a little over a month after his Crave review? Yeah, probably.
Anyway, while I've always been critical of Whiting's critiques, I wish him the best of luck. It's a difficult transition for a critic to make, one ripe with peril.


... all of which leads to the question, who will replace Whiting? I don't suppose there's any chance Gaëtan Charlebois could be lured back?

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Kubla Khan

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.
So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round:
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.

But oh! that deep romantic chasm which slanted
Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover!
A savage place! as holy and enchanted
As e’er beneath the waning moon was haunted
By woman wailing for here demon-lover!
And from the chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething,
As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing,
A mighty fountain momently was forced:
Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst
Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail
Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher’s flail:
And ‘mid these dancing rocks at once and ever
It flung up momently the sacred river.
Five miles meandering with a mazy motion
Through wood and dale the sacred river ran,
Then reached the caverns measureless to man,
And sand in tumult to a lifeless ocean:
And ‘mid this tumult Kubla heard from far
Ancestral voices prophesying war!
The shadow of the dome of pleasure
Floated midway on the waves;
Where was heard the mingled measure
From the fountain and the caves.
It was a miracle of rare device,
A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice!

A damsel with a dulcimer
In a vision once I saw:
It was an Abyssinian maid
And on her dulcimer she played,
Singing of Mount Abora.
Could I revive within me
Her symphony and song,
To such a deep delight ‘twould win me,
That with music loud and long,
I would build that dome in air,
That sunny dome! those caves of ice!
And all who heard should see them there,
And all should cry, Beware! Beware!
His flashing eyes, his floatin hair!
Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close you eyes with holy dread,
For he on honey-dew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise.

-Samuel Taylor Coleridge


Happy Holidays. Smoke some opium and have a crazy dream. Or just have a glass of eggnog and tell stories 'round the fire.

Saturday, December 20, 2003

The Nutcracker? Sweet!

Well, I saw The Nutcracker for the first time last night at the Hummingbird Centre performed by the National Ballet of Canada.

It's a tradition to have local celebrities play bit roles in The Nutcracker and James Kudelka's version is no exception. Last night the two cannon dolls -- they stand on either side of a cannon that is wheeled out and fires confetti and streamers into the first few rows -- were The Globe and Mail Review editor Elizabeth Renzetti and her husband reporter Doug Saunders.

Ms. Renzetti's performance, as the stoic cannon doll, was passable, if a bit bland. It was her husband who stole the cameo as the nervous cannon doll. He chewed the scenery like a real pro, ripping into it with his incisors and then chomping on it with his molars until it became indiscernible sludge. He rolled around on the floor silently screeching in staged stage fright. Pure brill. I will never read his weekend column the same way again.

A friend of mine suggested recently that it would be much more entertaining if they actually shot these pseudo-celebs out of the cannon in lieu of streamers. Tsk, tsk... How out of keeping with the spirit of the season...


This week in blogging news: The Guardian has announced the winners of their second annual British Blog Awards. Of particular interest: The Diary of Samuel Pepys, a project to put the entirety of Pepys famous 17th Century diary online over the next 10 years.

Halliburton: For all your reconstruction needs. (Thanks Marci S.)

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Theatre Thursday: I wanna be a Producer!

Well, Mel Brooks' megamusical The Producers opened in Toronto a week ago today. You either like it (Globe and Mail, National Post)... Or you kinda like it , sorta (Toronto Star, Eye, NOW).

Me? You want my little opinion? Well, it's fun and, yeah, it's funny. All the reviewers above are pretty much right in their assessments.

Moving on, there are two things people alwayswrite about the play that bug me to no end:

1) The Producers is "certain to offend everyone" and/or politically-incorrect, etc., etc.
-- Really, there ain't nothing offensive about it at all. I don't see anyone picketing outside the show. Maybe in 1968 when the movie came out. I guess, in post-9/11 America, The Producers is what counts as risque...

2) The Producers marks the revival of the Golden Age Broadway Musical.
-- No siree. If anything, it's a last hoorah. (Brooks should, by the way, not go ahead with his plans to turn Young Frankenstein into a musical. There's a misguided idea if I've ever heard one...)


- Okay, I've really got to say, I'm not a big fan of Kamal Al-Solayee's theatre reviews in The Globe. Some of them are pretty well-written, incisive, etc. But every so often they're just humdingingly bad. Say what you will about Kate Taylor, she never would have started a review with: "Hooray to the American musical comedy!" Pure ugh!
- Casting for next year's West End production of The Producers has finally been set: Richard Dreyfuss as the bombastic Max Bialystock and -- more interesting to me -- Lee Evans as timid, mousy Leo Bloom.
Theatre Thursday: It's a Gass!

Well, the big debate right now is this: Is Ken Gass, artistic director of Toronto's Factory Theatre, a big ol' racist?

Latino-Canadian Playwright Carmen Aguirre's The Refugee Hotel, dealing with the arrival of Chilean refugees in Canada in the 70s, was supposed to go on at Factory in April, but differences between her and director Gass caused her to pull the show.

What she says: Gass refused to cast actors of colour and native actors in the role, insisting on casting white actors. Aguirre claims Gass said, "I want superb actors for your play, and actors of colour are not superb."

What he says: Gass, of course, denies he ever said such a horrid thing. As Gass's son writes in the NOW article on this, "If her quote is true, then Ken must have a passion for working with un-superb actors, since nearly half of all actors hired by Factory last season were artists of colour. " (Richard Ouzounian of the T-Star, concurs.)

Here's my take on the whole thing: Gass is overworked and underpaid. He teaches at U of T, runs Factory and works on his own plays, writing and directing. Casting outside the white bubble takes work and he was slacking off... Racist? Nope.

Aguirre is probably better off the way this has gone anyway: A) Gass's direction of The Tiger of Malaya earlier this year was pure horrible and she's better off finding another director; and B) Now more people know about her play than would have previously.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Aleksii Antedilluvianovich Prelapsarianov reports

The best thing about the new HBO mini-series of Angels in America is the script. Tony Kushner's language remains fabulous on the screen -- and if you're watching on VHS, as I did, you have the added advantage of being able to rewind and listen to some of the denser bits of dialogue over and over again.

The worst thing about the mini-series is that it is a TV miniseries. Angels in America is a play for a good reason: it's theatrical. That theatricality just doesn't translate well to television.

Mike Nichols didn't develop a consistent vision for the miniseries. For instance, Meryl Streep, Emma Thompson and Jeffrey Wright (the absolute stand-out here) are cast in several small roles in addition to their main roles. But other small roles are played by actors who aren't doubling. Why only partly mimic the stage production's conventions?

On stage, the practice of having actors play several roles within a play is necessary if you're going to have an extensive dramatis personae, which Angels does. On screen, it's just an excuse to show off your actors' talent... The double and triple casting of Streep and Thompson unintentionally makes one think of Mike Myers mugging in his Austin Powers movies or Eddie Murphy doing the same in The Nutty Professor.

And, gosh, it's not pleasant when characters speak through the screen to you in a TV drama. The epilogue of Angels in America, where that happens, feels like one of those NBC: The More You Learn spots. (I'm not a big fan of Part II's epilogue in any case...)

Point being: a play is a play and a tv show is a tv show. They aren't the same. Their scripts aren't interchangable.

Perhaps Angels in America could have been translated for the screen, but it would have involved a thorough reworking of the plays. But change (see below) is tough. (Heck, it would've just been better to shoot a stage production of the play and show it, like a PBS Performance special...)

At least the text remains...

Harper: In your experience of the world. How do people change?

Mormon Mother: Well it has something to do with God so it's not very nice. God splits the skin with a jagged thumbnail from throat to belly and then plunges a huge filthy hand in, he grabs hold of your bloody tubes and they slip to evade his grasp but he squeezes hard, he insists, he pulls and pulls till all your innards are yanked out and the pain! We can't even talk about that. And then he stuffs them back, dirty, tangled and torn. It's up to you to do the stitching.

Harper: And then get up. And walk around.

Mormon Mother: Just mangled guts pretending.


- The first half of Angels in America was the highest-rated made-for-cable TV movie of the year, says Neilson.
- Dale Peck expresses my thoughts on the mini-series much more eloquently on Slate.
- Oh, by the way, Al Pacino -- as horrible McCarthy henchman Roy Cohn -- was good. THere were times when I forgot he was Pacino (no such luck for Streep or, especially, Thompson. But the best Made-for-TV-Movie Cohn was James Woods in 1992's Citizen Kohn. This movie, written by David Franzoni (Gladiator, Amistad), also features Cohn haunted by Ethel Rosenberg on his deathbed. Strange that it and Angels (the play) came out at just about the same time.

Saturday, December 13, 2003

There she is... Miscellanious...

Yes, more than a week without a post. I know. But, you see, I had a lot of articles to write this week. Like this, this, this and this. Also, I've been sick. A little flu-like ailment sapped any extra strength I had.

Excuses, excuses.

Anyway, this blog entry will pull together a few disparate items of interest that I haven't had time to put up over the last week. I'll be more cohesive next time.

December 6

I wanted to write a post on this day. It's my grandmother's birthday, yes, but also, of course, the anniversary of the Montreal Massacre.
It's a bit nebulous the concept of "violence against women." Sometimes one is tempted to say, "Yes, yes. But why aren't we concentrated on just stopping violence in general?"
This article by Kristian Gravenor in the Montreal Mirror was a good slap in the face.

Google Bombs over Bagdad

If you haven't done this yet, do it: Search for "miserable failure" in Google and hit "I'm Feeling Lucky." Heck, just search for "failure".

(On a more serious note: While this joke amuses me to no end, it's a little alarming how easy it is to totally fuck up the most important search engine in the world.)

On a similar subject: What the hell? (Thanks, P.T.)

Don Boudria

I had a dream about him last night. I know. It's weird.

Poor ol' Don. We hardly knew ya.

And on the topic of our new prime minister...

Boy, Paul Martin changed the PMO website fast. I wonder if this means that he's not going to update his blog anymore?

(Do be sure to check out this "Why Am I Keeping a Blog?" page on his site.
Answer: "Good question. One that I asked my staff when they first made the suggestion to me. After all, its not like I can pretend to be the kind of guy that spends a lot of time surfing the web. To be honest, until a few weeks ago, I didn't even know what the hell a blog was - I joked that I thought it was something that might climb out of a swamp.")

Now that he's PM, will PM fly our flag, or will he just clutch it under his arm like he did yesterday?


Clearly, the comment thingie at the end of my entries isn't working too well. It looks like there are no comments to my posts, but, as it turns out, there are. Thanks to Amy H. for pointing this out to me.
For instance, I'm pleased that Maclean's scribe Paul Wells -- or at least someone pretending to be him -- responded to my post about him below. Writes Wells, "Infomart costs MONEY, Kelly. Even now, even at today's Post, you're shielded from this sad truth.... In other news, I secretly think Colby Cosh is swell. cheers pw."

Thursday, December 04, 2003

Oh, Canada, Oh Canada, How are thy leaves so verdant!

Up here in the Great White North, we just love it when Americans write about us. Any newspaper or magazine article that even remotely mentions Canada gets forwarded from e-mail inbox to e-mail inbox for weeks afterwards. Some suggest this means were insecure. I think it means we're vain, a nation of actors searching for our name in print each morning...

The latest specimen is a puzzling article in the New York Times [mirrored here without registration requirements] on Monday headlined "Canada's View on Social Issues Is Opening Rifts With the U.S."

What was puzzling about the article? Not its thesis that "A more distinctive Canadian identity — one far more in line with European sensibilities — is emerging and generating new frictions with the United States" thanks to the liberalization of drug laws and the introduction of gay marriage. That seems fairly obvious.

No, what was puzzling was the following statement in regard to outgoing PM Jean Chretien's (in)famous quote that he's gonna smoke a big doobie when he retires. "But in a nation where the dominant west coast city, Vancouver, has come to be known as Vansterdam, few Canadians blinked [at the Prime Minister's quote]," writes reporter Clifford Krauss.

What? VANSTERDAM? You've gotta be kidding me. Who calls it Vansterdam? I've never heard such a thing.

I mentioned this to my editor at work yesterday and he said that the Post's ed board had been discussing this at the morning meeting as well. No one says Vansterdam... Van City maybe...

That's what I thought anyway, so I did a Google search. Turns out there are a significant number of pot smokers who refer to Vancouver as Vansterdam. People like the folks at Vansterdam Comix and the Sativa Sisters Bed and Breakfast, which promises "a hemp friendly haven for travelers looking for the Vansterdam experience."

I guess pot smoking makes you think STUPID PUNS are clever. To further prove this point, I offer up the titles of a couple of marijuana magazines: High Times and The Hempire. *Shudder*

Anyway, a message for those of you who actually call Vancouver by that horrible nickname: Stop it! Stop it now! Just say no to "Vansterdam"!

Or, maybe, I just need to mellow out...


Okay, one more interesting bit about the New York Times article: I think it's cool that the two professors Krauss interviewed were from McGill, my alma mater. But why did he only speak to right-wing professors: historian Gil Troy and economist Chris Ragan?

Don't get me wrong: I love Gil Troy. He is a great professor and I'm eager to read his new book about Reagan "Morning in America," which will hit the stands, rumour has it, as soon as the ex-president dies. (By the way, did you know that Troy consulted on the "controversial" mini-series The Reagans, while is was being shot in Montreal?)

But Chris Ragan? Ugh. That guy makes me shudder. Shudder like I'm being subjected to a really a bad pun.

His quote by the way -- "You can be a social conservative in the U.S. without being a wacko. Not in Canada" -- was the quote of the day in the NYT that day. (Thanks to Phil for pointing that out to me.)

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Outrageous (Good) Fortune

Just wanted to rave about Slings and Arrows, the Canadian mini-series that wraps up Monday on the Movie Network/Movie Central. Starring Paul Gross, Susan Coyne, Mark McKinney, Don McKellar, Martha Burns, Stephen Ouimette, Sean Cullen and Luke Kurby (to name just a few), the show is a real ensemble drama -- none of the cast are showboating. Slings and Arrows has the behind-the-scenes snarkiness of my fav CanCon series The Newroom, but has a bigger heart than that show did. It's my favourite non-Finkleman Canadian series ever, methinks.

Slings and Arrows was supposed to air on CBC, but the public broadcaster pulled out. Thankfully, The Movie Network and Movie Central stepped in.

In some ways it's unfortunate that the best shows on TV these day are only available to those who can afford pay-TV channels (or have access to promotional screeners), ie. Six Feet Under and The Sopranos. On the other hand, these shows all become available on VHS and DVD soon enough, which are arguably more accessible.

The final episode of Slings and Arrows airs Monday night at 10 pm on The Movie Network in Eastern Canada and Movie Central out west.


Speaking of The Newsroom, 13 new episodes are finally hitting the air next year, six years after its first season aired. For those who were disappointed with last year's Escape from the Newsroom movie, no worries. I hear that the new episodes will be funny and less drenched in Fellini references.

Here's what I don't understand... Last I heard, the new Newsroom debuted in January, but there's no mention of it on CBC's website. What the hell?

Monday, December 01, 2003

Montrealers on the Loose in Toronto! (I)

If you're in Toronto and looking for something to do this Wednesday, why not check out Jessie Stein & Jason Bajada at the El Mocambo (494 Spadina Ave). Jessie Stein is a transplanted singer-songwriter Montrealer who now calls Toronto her home. I always think of Jessie as being, like, 15 years old, because when I first met her, she was still a high school student and kept having to sneak into Montreal bars to watch local bands. I don't think I've ever met anyone who was so dead set on making music her life.
Jason Bajada is another Montrealer, but he's still based there. Formerly the frontman of a band called Ocean Hope (which was basically a solo project), Bajada sold out his recent concert at Le Cabaret in Montreal. A great musician and one of the nicest, most laid-back guys I've ever met.

Montrealers on the Loose in Toronto! (II)

"In the same week that The Producers premiered in Toronto, a very different kind of musical theatre opened across town. On Tuesday, Montrealers Eli Batalion and Jerome Saibil reprised their roles as Biblical brothers MC Cain and MC Abel in Job: The Hip-Hop Saga, at the Tarragon Theatre, bounding onstage in their track suits and do-rags to rap, 'MC Abel and MC Cain / We've done it before, we goin' do it again / So throw your hands high like you's insane / It's the story of Job, allegory of pain.'" Full story (by me).
Job: The Hip-Hop Saga is a combo of Job: The Hip-Hop Musical and Job II: The Demon of Eternal Recurrence, both Fringe Festival hits. The shows feel a little different outside of the Fringe setting and seeing both of them in a row can be a little tiring; but if you haven't seen these guys do their thing, you should definitely catch them at the Tarragon Extra Space before they close on December 14. Details and such.
I knew these two way back in high school, when they were students at Bialik High School. We used to compete at debating tournaments. Uh, did I say debating tournaments? I mean, rap battle. Yeah. Rap battles...

Post-script: Montrealers on the Loose in Toronto (Bonus round)

Denys Arcand was here in Toronto a couple of weeks ago to promote Les Invasions Barbares a.k.a. The Barbarian Invasions. (My interview with him.) Have you seen it yet? Why not? It has subtitles now, you unilingual silly...

Saturday, November 29, 2003

Canadian Blog Wars! (As if...)

The most important thing that Professor Desmond Morton imparted to me at McGill was that the idea that Canadians are peacekeepers is more myth than anything else.
Nonetheless, it can't be denied that there is some truth to the stereotype of Canadians as quiet, polite compromisers.

To wit: the recent Blog battle between Macleans back-pager Paul Wells and National Post columnist Colby Cosh. Here's how it went:

Round 1: Wells writes a blog entry about how the nuts and bolts of public service, legislation, etc. "has vanished from the Press Gallery’s priority list." He blames (in part) his old paper The National Post, which he says has diminished in quality steadily over the past few years.

Round 2: Colby Cosh responds: "[Wells'] self-interested claim that the Post was so much better when he was there has now grown too noxious though incessant repetition to be tolerated, even if true, and sits uneasily alongside a self-conscious attempt to clamber up to a moral summit of media criticism. "

Round 3: Wells refutes Cosh, writing that "Colby's snide assertion that I have criticized the Post only since I left is at odds with the record, which I would demonstrate if I could get any access to Infomart around here." [Note: Does anyone else find it dubious that Wells would ever be incapable of accessing Infomart, but was capable of posting to his blog?]

Round 4: An infuriated Colby Cosh fires back by... agreeing with Wells' original points? Saying that his "original point was stoopid"?

What? Are there no fun feuds here in Canada? Not even in the blogosphere?

Come on boys! Duke it out! Sigh...


- Alternate headers for this entry:
"Osh-Kosh, B'Gosh, Cosh!"
"Well, Inkwell, It sure is swell that All's Wells that ends Well."
"Fuck you, you Canadian journalist motherfucker!"
- I wasn't the only one who was hoping for a real dust-up.
- Maybe I should pick a fight with someone. Like, I dunno, Warren "Kick-ass" Kinsella?

Friday, November 28, 2003

Ong, Ong-Ong, Ong, Ong

Being a writer and a fan of Neil Postman, I've always been skeptical of the displacement of the rational written word by the emotional irrational medium of television earlier last century. What I haven't considered as much is the oral culture that writing supplanted. Thanks to colleague Jeet Heer, who writes for the Boston Globe as well as the Post, for introducing me to the work of Father Walter J. Ong, close intellectual ally of Marshall McLuhan, in a recent article.
Heer writes:
"[To Ong,] written language was a mixed blessing. Societies governed by primary orality were incapable of ornate syntax and abstraction, but they were rich with personal interaction. By contrast, writing was "voiceless, immobile, devoid of all warmth, not interactive but isolated, not part of the human lifeworld but utterly above and beyond it.'' Ever since Plato, the written word has detached the speaker from the audience. The invention of movable type in the 15th century, along with the Protestant Reformation that followed, privileged the rigours of individual introspection over the riches of communal experience."
Ong also wrote about the shift to new technologies like television, in which he saw similarities to the older oral traditions, Heer explains. "In his examinations of popular culture, enlivened by the teaching he did in St. Louis' inner-city schools, Ong was impressed by the parallels between traditional oral societies and the media-rich environment of young Americans. He noted there were similarities between Homer's oral world, where warriors prove themselves not just by their physical strength but also by their rhetorical prowess, and contemporary pseudo-sports such as professional wrestling and the African-American street game of "the dozens,'' with its competitive insults and yo mammas."
Must read more of this Ong character.

Speaking Ill of the Long-Dead?

Who's the most-overrated president of all time? Asked this in one of my U.S. History classes a few years ago, I replied John F. Kennedy. Is the 40th anniversay of his assassination a good time to bring this up? Well, Christopher Hitchens thinks so. He really thinks so.


- Yes, the title of the post is a gratuitous and inappropriate Reference to Sisqo's 'The Thong Song.' I admit it.
- Apparently, is "a place where people of all sexualities can come and learn that they are not alone in many aspects." No, my site is not connected, but thanks for asking.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

New York City

In the Big Apple for a series of movie junkets for my employer. In the interest of keeping my job, I won't say anything about the absurdity of junkets or the obnoxious whores/sycophants that comprise 33% of junket journalists.
In the interest of increasing my hit count, however, I will mention the three movies I was here for, and all the stars I "interviewed". (I put it in quotation marks because for most of these it was me, the star and 30 other journalists all fighting to ask questions.) The movies: Big Fish, Something's Gotta Give and Stuck on You.
The stars: Tim Burton, Helena Bonham Carter, Jack Nicholson, Diane Keaton, Keanu Reeves, Amanda Peet, Ewan McGregor, Alison Lohman, Steve Buscemi, Danny Devito, Albert Finney, Jessica Lange, Matt Damon, Greg Kinnear, Eva Mendez, Bobby Farrelly and Cher.
Ha ha! I can feel my hit count increasing my the second. Wait! People I didn't interview include: Paris Hilton, Britney Spears and XXX.


Post-junket now, still in New York tracking a couple of stories. No longer in the care of the Hollywood studios, I am now staying with a fine young multimedia artist who goes by the name of Vivianne Hedgehog. Check out her stuff.
Remember Boy George? Of course you do. He's still an icon and a brilliant musician, but don't expect anything Taboo from his Broadway musical. More on this later.

Thursday, November 20, 2003

Memories of Shish Taouk

Went back to Montreal this weekend and ate at Boustan twice. Man, there just ain't nothing like a Boustan Shish Taouk plate at 3 in the morning.
I'm glad they remembered me. When I lived on Mackay St in my last year at McGill, I ordered from Boustan an average of twice a week. And when I was passing by, I'd often drop in, just to look at that picture of Trudeau eating a falafel there.
I hate to link to The McGill Tribune -- the archrival of the McGill paper I wrote at -- but this article is quite good. Learn the story behind Mr. Boustan. Also, shocking evidence of two-tier healthcare in Quebec: one tier for falafel vendors and another for the hoi polloi.


So why is there no Shish Taouk in Toronto? All there seems to be is the inferior twirling Middle Eastern meat chicken Shawarma/Shwarma.
The woman at my local schwarma (god knows how you spell it) shop says it's because Shish Taouk is Lebanese and there are few Lebanese in Toronto, whereas Montreal has lots of Lebanese.
Anyone who can confirm that out there?

Monday, November 17, 2003

Sarah Kane

I'd like to recommend whole-heartedly Crave, the Sarah Kane play currently playing at the Monument Nationale in Montreal. Directed by Kate Bligh, a Temenos production. It runs for another week, so if you're in Montreal, I say go see it.

I went to see it on Saturday night, after having written this article about Kane and the popularity of her work in Montreal for The Post.

Here's Matt Radz's rave review from The Montreal Gazette. I'd like to echo his rave. It's one of the most affecting theatre experiences I've been privy to. And, like the best theatre I've seen, it keeps resonating more and more, the longer I think about it.


- Maintained by Iain Fisher, this page is a great web resource for info about playwright Sarah Kane.

- Some have disagreed with the artistic merits of the Temenos production of Crave, notably the Hour's theatre critic Jason Whiting. In the interest of balance, here's his review.
It should be noted, however, that Whiting, who replaced the excellent Gaetan Charlebois as the Hour's critic, has personal issues with the director Kate Bligh, which I think have severely hampered his judgement here. If you know the situation, you can really read the bitter subtext here. Since he's the only critic for The Hour, I guess there was no choice but to have him review it. I hope given the bad blood, he will opt out of discussions of this play when the Montreal English Critics Circle meets next year to discuss the MECCA awards.
-In the interest of exposing all biases, it should also be noted that I have known Kate for a number of years now and have worked with her in the past. Which makes me all the more happier that this production is so good. There's nothing better than seeing a friend succeed.
The Strange Google Connection Between Goatse and Scientology

Okay, first of all, for those of you who are unfamiliar with "goatse", let me explain. There's a popular internet picture of a man's bumhole that is affectionately known as goatse: Guy Opening Ass To Show Everyone. (Check out a thorough definition at Urban Dictionary.)

Silly morons everywhere on the web link to this picture on message boards, but disguise the links. It's a sophomoric joke that has turned into a horrible trend. Now when surfing the web you never know when what you click on will take you to goatse. (Unless you're smart, of course, and check to see what is being linked to before clicking on it.)

Anyway, so while looking into the goatse phenomenon I searched for "goatse" in Google. Try it yourself.

Now, see what's at the top? It's a link to the Google Directory entry on Society - Religion and Spirituality - Opposing Views - Scientology .

What's going on here?

Well, if I were to wager, I'd say it's a practical joke, either by some clever hacker or by the folks at Google themselves.

My guess is with Google. Google, you may have heard, was in a fight with the Scientologists back in 2002. The Scientologists didn't like that when you searched for Scientology on the Internet, a lot of anti-Scientology sites popped up. So they asked Google to no longer link to one site (, threatening to take them to court under the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copywright Act).

The Scientologists' reasoning was this: The anti-scientology sites Google linked to contained passages from copyrighted texts. Therefore, Google -- by linking to these sites -- was spreading copyrighted texts.

This is absurd. That's like the recording industry suing Google because it links to sites at which you can download mp3s.

The Scientology-Google case is not only absurd: It's chilling and a blow against freedom of expression. Linking is not a crime. Thankfully, it seems that is once again in the search results for "Scientology".

My guess: the fine folks at Google connected "Goatse" and "Scientology" as a sort of mini-revenge.

Wonder how long that'll last?


I see at least someone else has noticed the Google joke. It's mentioned in a discussion at slashdot. Frankly, I'm surprised no one has made a bigger noise about it.

For more information about the battles between the DMCA and freedom of expression on the Web, check out
An article on the Google/Scientology case.
The Church of Scientology has waged many electronic campaigns against anti-Scientologists. They hadan anti-scientology page removed from, aka the WayBackMachine. See discussion here. Also, search at for Scientology, like this.
Also, a good recent article on Google in The Guardian.

Friday, September 19, 2003


Apparently, I have to post to the blog or they delete it. Hmmm...

Here's the skinny: while I do enjoy posting to this blog (an excellent way of keeping in touch with many at once, without mass emails), it is fairly time-consuming. And since my job is to write all day, I don't have a lot of time/energy to do so when I get home.

So, please do excuse the sporadic entries. I'll keep thinking about what to do with this space...

Links and Dinks

- What's this writing at work I'm talking about? Well, I've been hired on full-time at the National Post, as an arts reporter. (Just got my business cards yesterday!) Here is a list of recent articles by me available on the web.

- A recent personal fave: this interview with Survivor host Jeff Probst, in which he says, amongst other funny quotes, " 'The tribe has spoken,' 'fire represents life,' 'this is sacred ground' ... all that stuff -- I was aware I was going to look like an idiot. I'm not that dense."

- Well, my alma mater newspaper is back online again, after its usual summer hiatus. Check out the McGill Daily. The proverbial shit has hit the proverbial fan at McGill as of late. Mainly, student union president Naeem Datoo has been ousted. He resigned after the rest of the executive said he wasn't doing his job. We have yet to hear his side of the story. Frankly -- knowing what an incredibly hard worker/non-sleeper Naeem is, from working with him first-hand -- something's rotten in the state of Denmark.

- Also, at the McGill Daily, check out gossip column Slibel and Lander. Some of the funniest Slibel I've read in years 'n' years...

Wednesday, August 06, 2003

A Reminder.

It may interest you to know that this is not the end of the Internet.


There is much out there to be savoured and relished.

For instance, may I suggest that you visit this website.

If you are disappointed, you may direct your anger at unrequited love here.


James K. Nestruck

Friday, August 01, 2003


I just wrote my first relevant blog entry in weeks and it disappeared. Goddamn.

That's it. Stupid internet. I'm going on blog vacation. It's too nice out.

Monday, July 21, 2003


At first it was a bane. In elementary school it was all that's-a-girl's-name and teasing and the usual chasing around the schoolyard.

It still causes issues, my unisex name.

Once, a middle-aged male journalist invited me out for a beer after I had contacted him for something or another. I thought, "Maybe he's just asking me because he's a dirty old lech wanting to ogle a college-age girl."

Thinking myself clever, I emailed back saying it would be nice to meet him, when should we go, etc, etc:

"P.S. Just so you know, I'm a guy."

He was terribly insulted, thinking that I thought him a middle-aged lech eager to ogle a college-age girl. Which, of course, I did, being inclined to believe the stereotypes one has about middle-aged male journalists.

There was no beer.

Now I am rather thankful for my unisex name. It occasionally affords me the opportunity to transcend gender, which can be fun, liberating. Women aren't the only ones who can feel trapped.

This thread on a Baseball website amused me terribly. The bit where they debate my gender.

I'm not usually privy to that conversation. Nice window in.

Saturday, July 19, 2003

Summer Blogging Madness!

Okay, clearly I haven't been updating that often lately. But, forgoshsakes, it's summer!

What are you doing on the Internet, anyway? Go outside and play catch or something...

Memo to Friends

"Hey! Go to Google and type in 'Weapons of Mass Destruction' and then hit 'I'm Feeling Lucky'..."

Yeah, yeah, I know already!

I can't believe how many people have sent me emails about this. They come in waves.

Could this be the biggest meme yet? Bigger than "all your base are belong to us"?

Someone should track this. Is there some sort of memetracker out there?

Personal Testimonies

What anonymous people are saying about On the Fence and/or J. Kelly Nestruck:

"How fucking pathetic... Who this Nestruck person? A friend (or, more likely, child of a friend) of the Aspers?" -- greyherring, Frank website.

"Much worse than [Rebecca] Eckler - and that is saying something." -- lurker, Frank website.

"Kelly, you certainly are a right-wing press slut! You should get a green card and go work at Disney World in the States! Or CNN - same difference." -- poster going by the name of Coutney.

"you're just ludicrous ... quit journalism while you're ahead." -- greyherring, again on the Frank website.

Insults always welcome at

Friday, July 11, 2003

Media Slut Update: I lost my cell phone; Pedro Martinez found it; Stop the Presses!

It's true.

I went down to the Skydome last night and picked the phone up. Got to meet Mr. Martinez afterwards. Terribly kind fellow.

From today's National Post:

Baseball superstar phones Post and asks for Batman (not batboy, Batman)
He said, "I'm Pedro Martinez. I replied, "Sorry -- who are you?"

Well, of course, we ran this on the front page today. I didn't really expect anyone else to pick it up, however.

But Associated Press and Canadian Press picked it up and now it's all over the place, for instance on ESPN's website.

And I did an interview with a New Hampshire radio station called The Score.

Then - thrill of all thrills - I got bashed on Frank magazine's website in the Remedial Media section. I was a little less than pleased that they linked to my high school webpage which I have been trying to delete for years, but I guess this means I've really made it, huh?

(A special hello to all you Frankies out there! You're just jealous I got to meet Martinez...)


Just moments after I updated my blog, some guy going by the name of greybeard posted my post on the Frank forum. A post about a post about a post about an article in the Post? That's too damn meta for me.

Also, he refers to me as "R. Kelly Turniptruck." Huzzah! My first Frank nickname...

Wednesday, July 09, 2003

Fringe Diary: I'm Exposed!

Donovan King, the man behind the "Reclaim the Fringe" movement has "exposed" me as a corporate blogger working for CanWest Global in cahoots with the Fringe festival to undermine his movement and keep the man down. Check it out, yo..

Mr. King has been upset at the Fringe festivals, what he calls Fringe (TM), since his show Car Stories was kicked out of the 2001 Montreal Fringe. Mr. King claims that the Gazette threatened to removed its sponsorship from the festival if Car Stories was not kicked out.

The independent Quebec press association and many journalists have investigated the situation and found there to be no real basis for Mr. King's claims.

Michael writes...

Michael, who keeps an excellent page on the Montreal Fringe, writes in response to this poorly-written press release from Donovan and/or his minions:

Somebody ought to tell the minions (or is it the fool himself posting under different names?) that Chuck McEwen is no longer president of CAFF. I gather his term has expired, and Miki Stricker is now president (and I believe Chuck is now treasurer or secretary).

At least, over on the Ottawa Fringe site, she/he has a message on behalf of CAFF. I think she must be running Ottawa now, though she was previously listed with one of the Fringes out West. But unfortunately, like most things Fringe related, CAFF doesn't have a website, or much of an internet presence, so it's really hard to be certain. I've tried to drill nto Patrick and Jeremy's heads that the way to control these outside threats to the Fringe is by being out there themselves.

I wonder how long after the Idiot discovers that Chuck McEwen is no longer president of CAFF that they will claim that they got him fired from the position?

Tuesday, July 08, 2003

Fringe, Day 6: Five Shows... and a Show of My Own

Okay, so I haven’t really had a chance to post my Fringing notes for a few day, mainly because I was Fringing hard. I’ve met a lot of fine people over the last few days and I shan’t list them all. I will, however, give you a quick run-down of the shows I caught Saturday and Sunday.

Sabotage : In Fine Form

I was nervous. You see, I brought my friend Ben along to see the show and I had hyped the Sabotage boys up as being really funny, hilarious, etc, etc.

My credibility as an arbitor of what is funny and what is not funny was at stake.

About 15 minutes into the show, I relaxed. Fuckin’ hilarious. That’s all I can say. I love these guys and I think I have to go back again later this week.

JOB II: The Demon of Eternal Recurrence

Much as I admire these guys and the incredible work they do, I didn’t like this show as much as its predecessor JOB: The Hip-Hop Musical. The sequel has a more complex story, more to say philosophically, more social commentary, and perhaps it got bogged down a bit because of all that. I think perhaps it needs to be another half an hour or so in length for them to more fully explore the characters and plot.

My other complaint is that I have trouble following what is going on some of the time. But I had a bit of this problem last year too. I have trouble making out the words. (Though, MC Cain and MC Abel do stop and bring us back up to speed from time to time.)

I don’t know how it could be done without losing the hip-hop feel for the show, but I’d like clearer enunciation from Jerome and Eli.

I’m critical because I like it. The audience loved it. It’s worth the money. Jerome and Eli have not just created another good show, they’ve successfully proved that the Hip-hop musical is a genre, one that can keep its appeal even after the concept loses its novelty.

A Canadian Bartender at Butlin’s

I’m profiling T.J. Dawe later this week for The Post, but I stopped taking notes after about 15 minutes of ACBAB. What a masterful storyteller! T.J. had the audience eating out of the palm of his hand – and that included me.

Go already.


I saw Nharcolepsy after five games of squash and two other Fringe plays, so – to be honest – I don’t think I was in the right frame of mind. There’s nothing fast-paced about Harrington and Kaufman’s show, in which they reprise the roles of a Belgian cabaret singer and his slow, nearly-mute assistant, this time on a trip to the North Pole in search of the Yeti. In my state, I didn’t have the patience to enjoy this piece the way I think I might have under different circumstances. I wanted some dancing girls, maybe.

Several friends of mine, whose opinions I hold very highly, consider these two to be one of the funniest troupes on earth. The friend I saw Nharcolepsy with on Sunday evening, however, hated it and thought it was lazy and completely unfunny.

I think I’m the only one who has seen it and been ambivalent.

Caveat Emptor.

Self-Promotional Update: A train, a train, a train, a train, would you could you on a train…

I didn’t attend the Fringe tonight because I have to be up early in the morning. 5:30am, I think. I haven’t been up that early since… Well, I don’t think I’ve ever really been up that early, unless I stayed up all night.

I’m going to be an extra on the Global show Train 48, you see, and they start taping at the ungodly hour of 7 am, way out in Don Mills.

I’ll let you know how it goes. Do check it out if you get a chance tonight at 7pm on Global.

Email in your Fringe gossip, reviews and news to

Saturday, July 05, 2003

In Memory of Mordecai Richler

It was about a week before Mordecai Richler died -- two years ago on July 3, 2001 -- that I walked into The Word used bookstore on Milton and picked up a copy of The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz. I embarrassedly explained to the girl behind the counter that I had never actually read it, or anything by Richler. "I mean, I've read his newspaper column and all, of course," I stuttered. "And I follow the careers of his kids."

The clerk told me not to feel bad: she hadn't read Richler yet either and was determined to get on it that week. Whew!

When Richler fell ill, I felt partially responsible. Here I was bringing sickness to him, simply by reading his book. But the story begins at a fictional school located on St. Dominique, just up the street from where I lived at the time, so I couldn't stop then.

The day he died, I was stunned. I felt numb and raced through the pages atoning for some imagined sin by immersing myself in a Plateau of yesteryear.

While at work, on one of my many breaks, I reached the midway point of Duddy Kravitz. "Maybe Lennie'll turn out to be the guy who finds the cure for cancer," says Duddy's father Max about his other McGill-enrolled son.

Max continues, "That would be a big thing for the Jews. One of ours finding the cancer-cure. Aw, they'd still make us trouble."

I was slightly impressed that mere hours after Richler's death, I would stumble across a cancer-related passage in Richler's most celebrated book. But I fell off the couch, when I glanced at the page number: 173. That day, the day Mordechai bit the dust, was the 3rd of the 7th month of 2001. The numerological significance blew me away.

I became convinced that this passage fell on page 173 in all copies of The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, and not just the 1969 McClelland and Stewart paperback edition that I had picked up.

After getting off work, I stayed up for a couple of hours reading late into the night, despite having worked for 13 hours straight. I had to force myself to go to sleep.

I dreamt about Mordechai. He spoke to me in my kitchen and invited me to go smoke shisha with him on Emery St. He tried to get me to donate my fruit bowl to Sun Youth. "For Mr. MacPherson," he insisted, teeth covered with tar protruding from his mouth menacingly.

When I awoke, I eschewed the morning paper for Duddy and polished off the book by the end of my shift that day. I felt cleansed and no longer entirely responsible for Richler's death. I had achieved some sense of catharsis.

The other book I picked up at The Word that fateful date at the end of June was John Irving's The World According to Garp.

Pray for him, folks.

Next entry: Back to the Toronto Fringe Festival. Email your comments and bizarre Richler-related stories to
Day Three of the Toronto Fringe: Maggie Gyllenhaal is so hot!

I had an excellent day on the Fringe, so let's get right to it, strike a pose, there's nothing to it...

Shakespeare's Gladiator Games

Okay, so I couldn't hear a lot of what was being said and there were a few too many amputated penises, but Upstart Crow's Shakespeare's Gladiator Games was just plain fun.

The show is a weird comic amalgamation of Troilus and Cressida, Coriolanus, Timon of Athens, Julius Caesar, Titus Andronicus and Antony and Cleopatra, presented as a cable sports show on UCSN (Upstart Crow Sports Network).

The play, which takes place outside in University of Toronto's Trinity College Playing Field, is a giant postmodern mess of just about everything. At one point, they manage to reference/parody Monty Python's Life of Brian, Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange and Titus Andronicus all at once. Julie Taymor is mocked incessantly. There are lots of Greeks and Romans with funny names like in the Asterix and Obelix comic books.

The jokes are corny, the puns are punny: I loved it. Frivolous and clever mix of high and low.

Also, the actress who plays Cressida (Sandra Berjan) looks like Maggie Gyllenhaal. Swoon! (More on her later.)


That's the name of the show: Will.

It seems like ages since I left a theatre in tears. How wonderful to be reminded up just how gut-wrenching and cathartic theatre can be.

Excellent performances by Jennifer Gauthier and Marjorie Chan as a mother and daughter, growing apart, torn apart by a buried past.

The story is about family secrets and how destructive they can be. It's also about mothers and daughters. Its themes are universal, its plot straight-forward and unadorned by gimmicks (unlike most Fringe plays).

Crisp, sparkling dialogue. A truly perceptive script, free of cliche.

At first, I felt that the actors were rushing through the play. Ultimately, however, I think the fast pace was a good idea from director Tara Bastikar; the whole play felt like a sprint to the finish line and, consequently, left me breathless.

And, as I mentioned before, I left the theatre in tears. Heartbreaking.

Highly recommended folks. Bravo.

Random Fringe Gossip

So, yeah. I headed to the Fringe Club/Beer Tent after Will..

There, who did I see, but Sandra Berjan in all her Maggie-Gyllenhaal-esque glory. Go talk to her, Kelly. It can't hurt.

But I chickened out...

So, I had a few beers and chatted with some of the fantastic Fringe folks hangin' around tonight.

Chuck McEwen was congenial.

So were the cast and crew of Living Room, which is going on in the basement of the Sonic Boom music show on Bloor near Bathurst. Co-writer Andrea Donaldson and I and a couple other guys had an excellent discussion about fetuses (feti?) who can ride bicycles and play the drums and whether or not a coconut was a mammal. (It gives milk and it breathes: therefore, possibly, a mammal.)

The cast of Baby Steps was also quite nice, though I think they were only talking to me because they knew I was a journalist. (Damnit! I thought they liked me for me!)

Shenoah Allen (from Sabotage) and Jem Rolls (from, well, Jem Rolls) were fun to chat with. It turns out that Shenoah's car (which was stolen last week in Montreal) has turned up. Police found it about two blocks away from where Shenoah had parked it, but its windows were broken and it had been hotwired.
The theory posited by the Imponderables is that, because Shenoah accidentally killed a deer with the car a few years ago, it was the ghost of the deceased deer that stole the car and took it for a joyride -- as a weird sort of beyond-the-grave deer revenge.

Aha! I knew I had spied the talented Lori Delorme from Unsinkable and the Hungarian Suicide Duel earlier this week. Turns out that she is directing a comedy called Scrambled Eggs being presented at Venue 8.

(This is NOT to be confused with the sketch comedy show Leggs over Easy, also playing in Venue 8. Apparently, the Leggs girls showed up at the Scrambled Eggs show on Thursday and were checking with the people in line to make sure that they hadn't mixed up the two shows. Wooo... Talk about a breach of Fringe Etiquette.)

Turns out also that Lori saw me play Socrates in Symposium: The Musical in Montreal Fringe 2001.

Anyway, after I related my new-found love for Magg--- er, Sandra Berjan to Lori and Shenoah, they encouraged me to go and talk to her. Go on, they said, what do you have to lose?

So, taking a deep breath, I went up to Sandra and promptly turned around and went to the bathroom. She was talking to a much more attractive man. Sigh.

On my way out of the bathroom, however, I bumped into her again. Mustering up the courage, I said:

Hey, you were in Shakespeare's Gladiator Games, right?

Yes, she replied.

It was *squeak* good...

Oh, thank you...

And then she was gone with handsome boy.


Non-Fringe-Related Blog News

1. I found out today that I'm going to be an extra on Train 48 next Tuesday. Yay, convergence!

2. Scottish Blogger Peter is quitting smoking. Go give him encouragement at

Send your Fringe gossip and lovelife advice to

Friday, July 04, 2003

Day Two of the Toronto Fringe: In which I actually go to see shows...

An Act of God

Can I be honest with you? I was a little disappointed in this show. I've seen a couple of Joel Fishbane's plays before and, well, I think this is probably my least favourite of them all.

Which doesn't mean that this play is bad... I don't want to deter you from going. This show has moments in which it really shines: It does a good job of making you think. The cast is uniformly good. There are a few very well-written jokes that totally killed.

Now for some quibbling:

1) This play needs some dramaturgy and it needs to be directed by someone other than the playwright. There are parts of the script which contradict each other, little plot inconsistancies that could be easily ironed out. I have a feeling that Fishbane is too attached to his words (as all playwrights are) to make the cuts/changes that are necessary.
2) The Adam K. Adams role, played by Scott Faulconbridge, is underwritten. Compared to all the other characters, A.K.A. seems flat. I love watching Faulconbridge on stage. He's just plain fun to watch. I wish he had been given more to work with here.

And now a compliment: Fishbane has written an (almost) perfect ending. Endings are really hard to write, but this ending is enderiffic. With a little work the whole play could be brilliant, even Stoppardesque...

The One Man 80's Blank Tape

Charles Ross follows up last year's One Man Star Wars Trilogy with this show, a blast from the past directed by T.J. "Mirvish of the Fringe" Dawe.

Tonight was the first time Ross has performed this show in front of an audience and he did a marvelous job taking us on a tour of 80s pop-culture detritus like: Juicy Fruit ads, The Muppet Show, The Breakfast Club, Dirty Dancing, Night Court, the Karate Kid, the Princess Bride, Whatchamacallit ads (the candy bar, remember?), Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the Dark Crystal, etc, etc.

Also, for the second year in a row, the Toronto Fringe has featured a musical version of Top Gun on its stages. Someone should alert the Guinness Book of World Records. (Ross only does about 1 minute of Top Gun, however, unlike last year's hit Top Gun! The Musical.)

Verdict: Fun, but disturbing. In the end, I walked away amused but somewhat depressed: is this what is being stored in the recesses of my memory? I didn't even have cable in the 80s, so why do I recognize so much of this?

...And in the audience of TOM80sBT..

... Were a whole bunch of Fringe actors, directors and playwrights, as well as several representatives of the media. What this meant is that, while the house was pretty full, very few of those patrons were actual paying customers.

But that's a smart move, Fringers... Hold free volunteer shows and give away tickets at the beginning of your run. It's good for word of mouth, which is the best sort of publicity you can get.

So who was there?

- T.J. Dawe, the aforementioned director and "Mirvish of the Fringe". (I'm trying to get that nickname to catch on.)

- Nicola Gunn and Mark Chavez, the Fringe Power Couple. Gunn is the star of the WONDERFUL Tyrannous Rex and Chavez is the director of Tyrannous, as well as half of the HILARIOUS comic duo Sabotage.

- Peter Katz and Melissa-Lynn Dozois, director and star of Uncle Jack. Poor Uncle Jack only had eight people in the audience tonight. I haven't seen the show yet, but it has good buzz and the cast and crew are very congenial people who will happily give you tips on where to buy flashing lights for your bicycle. (Dozois recommends the shop on Bloor across from the Beer Tent. Also, did you know that you can get a $110 fine for riding your bike without a bell here in Toronto? Good God!)
So go see Uncle Jack folks; they deserve more than eight audience members. And send me your reviews or comments or Toronto bicycling tips to

- Oh, one last thing about Uncle Jack. Peter confirmed for me tonight that Andrew Katz -- the guy who sent me a review of Uncle Jack during the Montreal Fringe - is indeed his brother. I told you so, Vava Laverite!

Fringe Trivia: Which theatre company's car was stolen in Montreal?

Burning City New Works Company a.k.a. the guys behind Sabotage: In Fine Form. Mark Chavez, Shenoah Allen and Nicola Gunn (Tyrannous Rex) had to come to Toronto by train, because of the vehicular disappearance.

Kate Taylor Watch!

Two days down and no sight of Globe and Mail Theatre Critic Kate Taylor! Perhaps, unable to stand the heat, she is hiding with Mme. Proust in the Kosher Kitchen?

Send yer gossip, tidbits, and pseudo-celebrity sightings to

Wednesday, July 02, 2003

First Day of the Toronto Fringe is over...

... and despite my claims that I would see a couple of shows tonight, I have yet to see a single one. Various factors -- including work, a snarky (but then apologetic) ticket vendor, and a pot of uneaten Pad Thai noodles with chicken -- conspired to keep me from the Fringe.

I did make a stop by the Transac club (aka Fringe HQ), however, to pick up my press pass (for my day job duties). While making a brief stop there (I left my 4-ways on), I did spot one Imponderable (the sinister-looking one with the dark hair; Tony Lombardo?), and one of the talented women from Unsinkable and the Hungarian Suicide Duel (either Michelle Winters or Lori Delorme), Fringe hits from years gone by.

Also hanging around the beer tent playing their guitars were James Downing and Paul Gibson, the stars of That Boy, a play described as 'Othello' meets 'Spinal Tap' and this year's winner of the Fringe New Play Contest.

I promise some real honest-to-goodness, I-hung-around-the-Fringe-and-saw-some-shows news tomorrow. For now, you'll have to make do with the fact that my article from Saturday's National "Your Canada, Your Post" Post is finally online , accompanied by a lovely picture of the talented Nicola Gunn from Tyrannous Rex.

Ottawa Fringe was a success

Since I am now striving to make my blog Your Number One Stop For Canadian Fringe News (tm), let me tell you this: The Ottawa Fringe Festival closed on Sunday having increased their audiences by 10%.

The Ottawa Fringe - which currently wrapped up its 7th season - is smallish (40+ shows, 4 venues), but it is growing and seems to have a lot of spunk. It is also the only Fringe outside of Montreal's that tries to be billingual.

The Ottawa Citizen reports that the People Choice Award went to Vision Theatre's production of Daniel MacIvor's Never Swim Alone (a Fringe favourite). If you Ottawans did not catch it, the show will be remounted at Arts Court Theatre Aug. 20 to 24.

In the Fringe round-up article, Catherine Lawson reports that:
- Third Wall Theatre Co. of Ottawa won the award for outstanding comedy for An Adult Evening of Shel Silverstein.
- John Huston's from Creeping Murmur and Pouring Dark won for outstanding solo performer.
- Job II: The Demon of the Eternal Recurrence won awards for outstanding concept and outstanding original work.
- Outstanding visual design went to Maximilius Draconius by Groupe des deux of Ottawa.
- Independent Auntie Productions of Toronto won outstanding performance for Clean Irene and Dirty Maxine.
- The Spirit of the Fringe award went to Brian Sostek and Megan McClellan who presented Trick Boxing.

Note to Fringe Festival Producers: Just because your festival is over doesn't mean that you should stop updating your website. Neither the Montreal, nor the Ottawa Fringes have put the list of prize winners up on their sites. Which is why people end up here...

Send your Fringe-related gossip or news to J. Kelly is now at the Toronto Fringe, fringing it up in a fringey way.
Toronto Fringe Kicks Off

Well, tomorrow [ed. Today, I suppose] the Toronto Fringe begins and I better start attending plays immediately, or I'll never get through the 30 or so shows that I circled while going through the program.

Unfortunately, four of the shows I really want to see are all scheduled at the same time tomorrow: Nharcolepsy, Toothpaste and Cigars, A Canadian Bartender at Butlin's, and P.S. 69. These are all at 8:30 pm or 9:00 pm.

And there's not really any show I want to see afterwards.

Perhaps this is, in fact, a blessing, because then I am forced to go see a show I know nothing about at 10 or 11.

All right then. If anyone wants to recommend a show that's on at 10:00, 10:30 or 11:00 tomorrow and post it here, I will go see it.

Or, I suppose, I will just go home and go to sleep.

Eye spy with my little Eye..

That the Eye Fringe Page is up and running. You can go and post your reviews there starting, well, now. Be aware, however, that if you post a review before a show opens, everyone knows that you're related to/are a member of the cast.

NOW? Yes, of course. Jon Kaplan has his guide to the first day of the Fringe up on the NOW website right here. Kaplan and Glenn Sumi will be posting their reviews online throughout the festival.

Oh, has a list of shows, venues, times, etc., as well has a short article with the enigmatic headline "Theatre that’s shakin’ – and stirred." (What does that mean?)

With all these interactive sites available, my blog doesn't seem like it will have much of a purpose, now does it? Nonetheless, I will endeavour to post any gossipy bits that I hear during the fest. Also, I will post anything you send me at, provided that you are not a crazy person. Or you can post comments on the entries by clicking on the comment button: I don't know how to edit or delete comments that people post here, so you can write whatever you want there.

Have a good Fringe!

More Fringe in the News

Saturday's National Post Fringe Preview is archived online here. The Post's Top Ten Best Bets of the Fringe are also there....

...The Toronto Star had a Fringe Fest preview recommending certain shows last Thursday by Derrick Chua, which is a little weird, because Chua is the president of the board of the Fringe. This is weird for two reasons: 1) it seems somewhat wrong for the president of the board of the Fringe to recommend certain shows over others, and 2) It seems a little wrong for the Star to have Chua write a preview of his own festival. (I think the Star is guilty of the lesser evil, because they at least identified who Chua was at the end of the article.) There was also an article about Victoria Goring (Happy) and Sunday Muse (Bitty Idiot) by Robert Crew.

...T.J. "Mirvish of the Fringe" Dawe was profiled in the Toronto Sun today. In the interview, Dawe revealed this startling fact: He "shunned the Vancouver Fringe Theatre Festival during his high-school days because he thought it was full of weirdos."
Well, sounds like High-School T.J. (That'd me an interesting premise for a sitcom) had it right on. Of course, the Fringe is full of weirdos....

Happy Canada Day, by the way.

Saturday, June 28, 2003

Toronto Fringe Set to Begin Soon

The Toronto Fringe Festival kicks off this Wednesday in the Annex and Fashion District in the biggest city in Canada.

But does Bigger mean Better?

My personal experience with the Toronto Fringe (which admittedly is only one year of Fringing here) is that it just doesn't have the same funky atmosphere that other Fringes do.

One reason for this is that the venues (20) are spread out in a fairly large geographic area. It's hard to foster a community atmosphere when it takes forty minutes to walk from your venue to the beer tent.

As well, perhaps because so many theatre professionals live in Toronto and see the Fringe as a way of getting their name out there, the whole thing sometimes feels a little bit more like a giant networking session than a Fringe.

The Fringe here just doesn't have the same "alternative" feel to it that exists elsewhere. I know this is a rather superficial way to judge that feel, but just take a look at the marketing here versus other Canadian fringes:

The Winnipeg Fringe's theme this year is "The Twelve Days of Fringing" with a Christmas motif and a sunglasses-wearing Santa. The Edmonton Fringe is "Attack of the Killer Fringe!" with its posters modelled on B-movies. The Montreal Fringe had a "Tales of the Crypt" thing going for their "Fringe 13!" which started, appropriately enough, on Friday the Thirteenth; their posters were done, as always, by local Comix Jammer Rupert Bottenberg.

The Toronto Fringe? The marketing material is BOOORING, featuring publicity stills from last year's Fringe. Its motto is "Celebrating 15 years as Toronto's largest most exciting and adventurous theatre festival." Yawn.

To top it all off, when I was speaking with Toronto Fringe producer Chuck McEwen earlier this week, he referred to the Beer Tent as the "Beverage Tent"! The BEVERAGE TENT!?! There is only one type of tent at a Fringe, and it is called the Beer Tent!

(To be fair, I was calling under the auspices of my day job as a reporter for a certain staid, conservative daily.)

The Toronto Fringe has about the same number of shows as the Canadian Fringe Kings Winnipeg and Edmonton, but is number 3 in terms of attendance -- meaning that it has grown in size and scope without growing its audience at the same rate. Of course, the Toronto Fringe has to compete with all the other theatre in town, plus the other Toronto summer festivities that occur concurrently with the Fest.

So, perhaps, it needs to put out a slightly more mainstream image in order to bring in the crowds. Besides, as Sprite commercials have taught me, Image is Nothing, Thirst is Everything.

I'm not sure how the second part of that slogan applies here...

Regardless, I am thirsty to get out there and start drinking some Fringe in my adopted city-for-the-summer (and perhaps longer).

Toronto Fringe Blogging Set to Begin Soon

Yes, that's right, just as I did for the Montreal Festival, I will be posting news, gossip and hearsay for the twelve days of the Toronto Fringe Festival.

This time, of course, I will be able to report what I see and hear first-hand. Nonetheless, I am eager to receive your juicy tidbits about Fringe artists, festival hanger-onners and Kate Taylor -- all of which I will be pleased to post here post-haste.

Email it all in to

Toronto Fringe in the News

Well, some early Fringe news and previews have been trickling into the media here.

The National Post's Toronto section today has an article about the Fringe Festival today, featuring interviews with Fest Producer Chuck McEwen and actor Mark Chavez from Sabotage: In Fine Form. (Not online, alas.)
Writer J. Kelly Nestruck also picks ten "Best Bets at the Fringe Festival": A Canadian Bartender at Butlin's, Tyrannous Rex, Jem Rolls, P.S. 69, Meet the Imponderables, Sabotage: In Fine Form, The Power of Ignorance, JOB II: The Demon of Eternal Recurrence, An Act of God, and No One Showed Up For The Anarchist Rally.

In The Globe and Mail, theatre critic Kate Taylor writes, "The Toronto Fringe is growing, but who can ever manage to see enough of this non-juried smorgasbord to judge whether bigger is better?" She recommends the following shows as "likely prospects": Victoria playwright Janet Munsil's The Ugly Duchess; New York comic duo Harrington and Kauffman's Nharcolepsy; and David Austin's Belize, directed by Toronto director Chris Abraham.

Eye Magazine will have a comprehensive guide to the festival in its next issue, as well as online reviews updated daily starting Wednesday. For the time being, Joel McConvey picks out a few shows here, including Rutabagan in Down Town, Thousand-Dollar Zombie, JOB II, Teaching Witchcraft, and Highway to Rock 'n' Roll Hell.

Meanwhile, NOW Magazine has a guide to surviving the Fringe here by Jon Kaplan and Glenn Sumi. NOW will also be featuring online reviews updated daily, making for a furious Fringe battle between three-lettered alternative weeklies!

Send in your news, reviews and gossip to

Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Montreal Fringe Finito

Well, this year's Montreal Fringe is over and I'm back in smoggy Toronto, where I have a week left to recooperate before the Toronto Fringe begins. Whew...

If you didn't catch the Frankies, here's a list of the winners:

The Spirit of the Fringe award went to Ron Scott's Almost Productions for the second year in a row. Again, I reiterate: Damnit Ron, why are you so likeable? Almost Productions (which presented Ninjas Get All the Chicks this Year) wins a free spot in next year's Fringe.

The Centaur Showcase Award went to Hamlet, which was a bit of a surprise, because every knew it was good, but no one seemed to think it was going to win. The Lit Moon theatre company will bring their physical/visual Hamlet back to Montreal in the fall, so you and I can catch it.

The Just For Laughs Prize went to Sabotage, which you may have read ahead of time here on the J. Kelly Nestblog. Those crazy kids will be back in Montreal for JFL, with a place in the On the Edge series.

The Chapters best text award went to Jerome Saibil and Eli Batalion for the second year in a row for JOB II: The Demon of the Eternal Recurrence, the sequel to last year's JOB: The Hip-Hop Musical.

The Chapters best French-language text award was won by Theatre du Cloitre for Richard III ou la chute du corbeau, which I picked (without seeing the play) as one of my Shows to Avoid like SARS. Shame! Shame on me!

La Derniere Mise by Delegation du Cerveau Droit cleaned up the rest of the prizes, winning the Theatre d'Aujourd'hui Award for best French play and the Infinitheatre prize.

And, finally, the award you've all been waiting for. On the Fence's Montreal Fringe Blog Prize for Best-Looking Black-Curly-Haired Monologist goes to T.J. Dawe, who was rated as an 8/10 on Hot or Not, with 57 votes. Rainer Hersch from All Classical Music Explained came in second with a 7.3/10 rating with 62 votes.

And the last word goes to...

.. Mr. Rainer Hersh, from All Classical Music Explained, who writes:

Needless to say I am flattered and entertained to find that I have such a colourful past. Naturally, I deny everything.

You may be interested to know that the naked picture of me you feature on your site is one of ten or so such poses I took at major tourist sights around London for my first ever Canadian fringe offering "The Mass Bands of the Grenadier Guards and R.A.F. Flypast Plus Support" (1994). Whatever you may think of its aesthetic qualities, allow me to point out that I am standing without any clothes next to a man on a horse with a sword. He was very angry indeed. While this picture was being taken, the horse reared up and almost unseated the rider, causing anguish to the horseguards regiment which (for all I know) persists to this day. Shame you have never seen the picture I took outside Buckingham Palace.

My warm wishes and thanks to fringers everywhere
Rainer Hersch

Thanks Rainer... And thanks to all who emailed or posted comments on my blog this week. It was a lot of fun keeping this online Montreal Fringe blog, so hopefully I'll do it again next year.
And keep on visiting the blog, as I update it regularly with mudane non-Fringe related stuff. Also, starting next Wednesday, you should be able to get your gossip about the Toronto Fringe here, though, frankly, they don't party as well here in T-dot, so there won't be as much silliness to post.

Sunday, June 22, 2003

Last Chance to Fringe

Today is the last day of the Montreal Fringe Festival, so head out and catch a final show. Also, head to the Beer tent at 10pm for the Frankies, hosted by the beautiful Andy Nullman and the hysterical Jessica Pare.

Certain Fringe staffers with a particular fondness for liquor have leaked the name of the winner of the Spirit of the Fringe award, but I won't post it here, because that would be like printing an obituary for the character who dies in the latest volume of the Harry Potter septology. I shan't ruin the surprise.

Sources have told me that Sabotage is in line to win the Just For Laugh prize. (Uncalled For, the improv troupe of John Abbott College grads, is the most popular comedy, for sure, but the JFL already has a Improv troupe in its On the Edge series.)

The Centaur Prize looks to be a real dust-up this year. There were so many incredible shows, the jury had a difficult time picking one to win a spot at the Centaur for a fall run.

Some possibilities: T.J. Dawe has never won the Centaur Prize before (though he did win the JFL prize in 2001 for Slip-knot), so perhaps this will be his year. Two other shows I heard tossed around a bit as contenders were Uncle Jack and She's Not Well. Nicola Gunn's Tyrannous Rex is incredible, but it's unlikely she'd win two years in a row. Jem Rolls, perhaps?

We'll find out in just a few short hours.

Drag Race Scandal!

In the biggest scandal since the Black Sox threw the 1919 World Series, yesterday's Drag Races were marred by allegations that the contest was rigged. Two out of the three finalist pairs or individuals in the event hosted by Mado turned out to be employees of Cabaret Mado!

Worst of all, Gigi, an obnoxious drag queen dressed like Marie Soleil, inexplicably made it to the finals for the second year in a row, beating out crowd favourites Miss Vicky, Fonda Dix (a much-too-sexy Dan Jeannote from Uncalled For), and Lenore Lovecraft (Fringe General Manager Patrick Goddard cleverly disguised as a shy Marilyn-Manson-esque queen).

Luckily, the winners were Hiro and Sho, two Fringe artists from the Gay Samurai Revue. Otherwise, we might have had a real ballroom blitz on our hand!

Scandal aside, the Drag Races were wonderful, a popular and entertaining tradition that deserves to continue for years to come -- though someone needs to tell Mado that she doesn't need to explain how the race works to every single contestant.

Vava Voom!

Thanks to all of you who wrote in to let me know that Vava Laverite, the sexy gossip columnist on the official Fringe webpage, is a real person -- Fringe Communications Director Marta Cooper.

Yoicks! Rrrrrr... I will pop a couple of breath mints before tonight's Frankies and introduce myself. Surely love can spring between a gossipy blogger and a gossip columnist?

(Sniff.. sniff... Whoa. Anyone have any Febreze I could borrow?)

Shows I saw yesterday: Tyrannous Rex, Uncalled For, Ninjas Get all the Chicks.

Tyranneous Rex: I tend to ovate from my feet only when I'm in a rush to leave or when a show is remarkably good. I think standing ovations should be dispensed like I-Love -Yous, with a mix of passion and sincerity and only on rare occasions. Therefore, consider the fact that I shot up as soon as Nicola Gunn finished her performance last night as a sign that I loved the show. Brilliant and precise physical characterizations. The ironic retromania and gentle surreality present in her work remind me of the Coen Brothers' filmography. Strong, strong talent, that Nicola.
Hey guy-friend Mark Chavez (from Sabotage) is one lucky fellow. What a power-fringe couple.

Uncalled For: Anders, Matt, Dan, Caitlin, and Mike are hilarious. Top-notch improv, much better than what I see at the World Improv Championships each year at the Just For Laughs. They deserve all the kudos they've been getting. I'm proud of these kids.
Reminder, you can catch a bonus show of Uncalled For tonight at midnight, fundraiser for the Fringe.

Ninjas: One-man shows are often the expression of an actor's narcissistic tendencies let loose: "Me, me, me, me!" In fact, even the most talented one-man performer always ends up seeming a bit full of himself.
Well, almost always...
How does Ron Scott manage to pull off being so likeable, damnit?
A marked improvement on last year's hastily-thrown-together My Wellness Buddy Gave me Pink-Eye (he had to write and learn that show in three weeks), Ninjas shows that, if you give Ron a bit of time, he'll come up with an excellent Fringe show, which Ninjas is. It's original, competent and funny.
The biggest triumph of Ninjas is Ron's decision to remake the one-man show as a two-man show. He has an "invisible" helper on stage at all time, helping him fly across the stage in ninja-kick mode or pretending to be a video-store rack (the modern equivalent of the actor who has to play a tree?). That poor guy had to perform dressed all in black in the most sweltering-venue.
Don't be surprised to see this neat and clever technique become as frequently-used in Fringe shows as the Matrix multiple-POW effect has become used in film.
(Also, kudos to Ron and Helper -- sorry, didn't catch his name -- for using the black-outs during the scene changes. I can't believe how often I still see shows with clumsy, out-of-character scene changes.)

Out-of-town Shows Don't Need Reviews THAT Badly!

In response to a blog correspondent's assertion that "Actors who travel, especially from overseas, have significantly greater expenses that can only be offset by bums on seats. Their travel schedules and lack of local knowledge make self promotion more difficult. They need publicity.", Long-time Fringer Michael responds:

This is bunk about the out of town acts needing the reviews. The limited reviews we've been seeing have focused on (a) returning troupes, and (b) out of town acts, and both categories tend towards seasoned performers. They tend to come with the ability to get press, and for returning companies, I count at least 21 this year, it's really easy to say "I saw them last year, so I'm going to see them again this year". Meanwhile, the local shows, which tend to be the real Fringe shows, are locked out of the process.
I don't care if shows get bad reviews, but I really dislike the tone that suggests some shows aren't worthy of review before they've even been seen.

Thanks, Michael. Your point is also well-taken.
Michael sent me an interesting email about the Fringe and publicity, reviews and the Internet, from which this is taken. It's too long to post here, but it's here for those of you who are interested in these issues

Quick Fringe Hits

I hear that a high school English teacher brought her class to see Medea (presented in Japanese) on Friday, mistakenly thinking it was in English. After the show, she tried to get a refund for her and her 19 students. The gall... What is our education system coming to?

Big Celebrity Sighting: Margie Gillis, the internationally-acclaimed dancer and choreographer, has been spotted around the Fringe. She apparently attended one of Cuppa-Jo's performances earlier this week. Michael explains the connection:

Not a complete surprise, because one of the pieces [in Cuppa-Jo], "Mara", is the work of Stephanie Ballard, who long worked with Margie Gillis. When the music started,
I realized I had heard it before, and as the piece played out I remembered seeing Margie do it, maybe as far back as 1989 and I think for the first time.

Send in your final bits of Fringe gossip to and I'll post it in my final Fringe blog entry on Monday. Even though the festival is over tomorrow, you are always welcome at for my usual blog stuff. Thanks for visiting and for all the kudos and constructive criticism..

Saturday, June 21, 2003

Saturday Fringing! Extra Shows! Rumours! Janis Kirshner!

Well, I almost missed the train from Toronto, but here I am and ready to Fringe. Here's my schedule for tomorrow:

13h15: No Cycle at Geordie Space (4001 Berri)

14h30: Beer Tent Fun/Games

16h00: The Power of Ignorance at La Chapelle (3700 St-Dominique)

20h00: Ninjas Get All the Chicks (3997 St. Laurent)

21h30: Uncalled For (4247 St. Dominique)

Midnight: Tyrannous Rex at Geordie (4001 Berri)

When I am not in a show, I will be hanging out in the Beer Tent. There, I will be accepting verbal complaints and/or beer.

Uncalled For Announces Extra Show!

Hey Kelly,

Just thought I'd let you and your blog-readers know that Uncalled For has just been picked up for a bonus show this Sunday at midnight, after the Frankie Awards. The extra performance will be at Venue 8 and is a fund-raiser for the festival. As usual, it promises to be completely different from every other show we've done, simply because hey, that's improv. Hope to see you there,

Anders the dirty corporate sell-out

More Janis Kirshner Bashing! An English Man Writes

In response to my crazed attack on Mirror reviewer Janis Kirshner's writing, a blog reader writers: I also read said review of TJ Dawe by Janis Kirshner. And my immediate response was that it would in no way be well received in the UK.

Seeing the piece (which was/is fantastic) last night reinforced this impression -- the average Brit /[insert nationality of choice here] with no knowledge or experience of Canadian culture would not get many of the comparitor references being made -- bumming a fag remains a daily event for thousands back where I come from. I know this doesn't buttress your literary arguments particularly well, but I like to hope that it adds to the overall impression of the review.

In other news, I and others were heavily impressed by Tyrannous Rex, Nicola Gunn's one woman rampage through the Scottish countryside, black leopard in tow. Each of the characters/caricatures was a beauty to behold, the transformations magically swift, the plot itself well written, if a little rushed at times. One can see why Gunn one the Centaur award last year. Go see this weekend.

An Englishman in Canada

Thanks AEIC, more fodder for my overly-harsh Kirshner vendetta. As for Tyrannous Rex, I have Nicola Gunn's show scheduled in tonight at 24h00. I cannot wait. See you in the beer tent.

Why it is important for weeklies (and other news sources) to review out-of-town shows...

In response to my complaint yesterday that not enough Montreal shows were reviewed in the Hour & Mirror, a blog reader writes:
Being parochial is fine, but some of us out of towners rely on the net reviews to see how our favourites are doing. Montrealers (Montrealites?) can enjoy the fringe experience in the time honoured manner of randomly picking several productions in the hope of chancing on one or two gems, thus gaining new experiences and supporting up and coming actors. Actors who travel, especially from overseas, have significantly greater expenses that can only be offset by bums on seats. Their travel schedules and lack of local knowledge make self promotion more difficult. They need publicity.

You make a very good point, sir. Thanks for writing.

Frankies: Rumour

Sources close to the jury say that the frontrunner for the Just For Laughs prize is.... Sabotage. We'll see what happens at the Frankies Sunday night.

Got a hunch? Want to have your say? Send in your picks for the Centaur Best Show prize, the Just For Laughs Prize, Spirit of the Fringe, and all other Frankies to I'll post your choices on Sunday.

Quick Fringe Hits

The Black Fringe Page has a comprehensive list of ALL reviews and Fringe articles online. Check it out here. The guy's recipe for Chocolate Chip Cookies is here.

Does anyone know if this Vava character really exists? She's really hot.

Blork hasn't reviewed a show since Monday... Is he all right?

Yes, I know there was a skirmish in the Beer Tent on Thursday. If you really want to know about it, you can read the comments people have posted on this page. I would advise, however, seeking out other sources on this subject...

The Short-Curly-Black-Haired Monologist Hot or Not Challenge Continues! Rainer Hersch remains steady at 7.4/10, while T.J.'s rating has increased to 8.0/10. Meanwhile, my score has decreased to 6.2/10, but I am just going to pretend that it is somehow Donovan King's fault.

My New Yorker summer fiction issue has arrived. Includes articles by Jonathan Franzen and David Sedaris. Huzzah!

Keep sending that sweet, sweet gossip to Don't forget to send in your picks for the Frankies!