Friday, May 30, 2003

The Lakeview Lunch

Here in the Little Portugal area of Toronto, there are many fine eating emporiums. This morning I went for breakfast at the Lakeview Lunch, pictured here in a mural by Bill Wrigley, which is a hop, skip and jump away from my apartment on Dovercourt near Dundas..

I understand that this place is hip/happening. This is possibly because the 1988 Cocktail, starring Tom Cruise and Elisabeth Shue, was partly filmed inside.(Tagline: When he pours, he reigns.) Apparently, Shue dumps soup or something on Cruise's head here.

You may remember Cocktail for being the film that introduced the world to "Don't Worry, Be Happy" by Bobby McFerrin and the Beach Boys' "Kokomo." It has been described as "Top Gun without the planes."

And speaking of music and Top Gun without the planes, I'm going to be writing an article next week about "Top Gun! The Musical", which is opening at Toronto's Factory Theatre. TG!TM started off at the Fringe Festival here in Toronto last year...

The pop-culture musical send-up has long been a mainstay of Fringe Festivals. The first one I remember seeing was "Sorority Slumber Party Massacre: The Musical" back in 1997 in Winnipeg. Since, there have been dozens, and I even was in one called "Symposium", based on Plato's dialogue about love, in the 2001 Montreal Fringe Festival.

The question is, does the genre have a life beyond the Fringe? Well, "Debbie Does Dallas: The Musical" did well off-broadway, and someone's investing big bucks (8 million pounds!) to bring "The Lord of the Rings Musical" to the West End in London.

How will "Top Gun! The Musical" stack up? Well, don't worry... Not only is it a musical/pop culture hybrid, it's also metatheatre. That's right. It's about people trying to put on a musical based on Top Gun.

Hopefully, it will be better than last summer's "Cobra: The Musical", which I saw at the Montreal FF. That particular play, about GI Joe's terrorist enemies putting on Hamlet, had great potential but was instead homophobic, sexist, and - worst of all - stupid. It was literally unwatchable after the 30 minute mark. And I'm no theatre elitist. I love kitch and camp, but this was just lame. In fact, even the one female actress left the show after the Montreal performances, because it was so embarrassing being ogled and subjected to the sexist mess that was Cobra...

Will TG!TM survive outside the Fringe milieu? Stay tuned!

Thursday, May 29, 2003

World's Worst Lede Challenge

Today, I came across a particularly horrid lede [first paragraph of an article, for you non-journalists] from The Calgary Sun. Here it is:

Urine won’t be the only thing Calgary city hall is flushing away with the installation of new urinals.
The renovations will save $50 a year in water costs, but will cost $1,800 for the four units.
The city installed the new water-saving urinals Thursday, as part of its move to make civic facilities environmentally friendly.

So here's the challenge. Try to come up with a worse lede for this story and send it to or post it on this site.

Here is the article, if you want more details. [I see that they've changed the lede since yesterday. Wise move.]

Here's a sample to get you going:

Water, water, everywhere, and not a drop to flush my pee.
If Coleridge's Ancient Mariner worked at Calgary city hall, perhaps this is what he would have observed upon entering its newly renovated washrooms.
The city installed new flushless urinals Thursday, as part of its move to make civic facilities environmentally friendly.

Think you can do worse? Send those ledes in... I'll put the best/worst ones up next Friday.
And Speaking of Hawksley Workman...

1) ... a correspondant says that she saw him bicycling down Queen St. over the weekend.
If this is true, why does he not get off his bicycle and play a concert here in Toronto? Is he too busy riding his bicycle to play music? Is he now a professional bicyclist, instead of a musician? Is he recovering from Cancer and does he have plans to win the Tour de France, and thus is too busy to get down from his gel-covered seat and pull out his guitar, sit down in front of a group of people, and play some friggin' music!?!

2) ... it turns out that fellow intern Siri, previously mentioned for having been responsible for my Mojo radio gaffery, edited Hawksley (aka Ryan Corrigan) Workman's book Hawksley Burns for Isadora for Gutter Press. Now I know who to complain to about the glaring typo on the first page of my copy.

3) ... remember this? And this? Ah, the halcyon days of my youth. Those heady, heady days. Good times.

Favourite Ten Albums of All Time, in ten catagories (at 3:21 am EST)

I'm not John Cusack and, heck, I haven't read any Nick Hornby novel, let alone High Fidelity, but here's a list of my ten favourite albums, inspired by Ben and Chow's kitchen wall, and the message board chat I mentioned below.
Feel free to post your own in the comments section, particularly if your name is Anders and you have just arrived home from an eight-month trek through Europe.

The Beatles - The White Album
--- Best Obvious Album

Miles Davis - Kind of Blue
--- Best Jazz Album

Pink Floyd - Dark Side of the Moon/Pipers at the Gates of Dawn
--- Best Pink Floyd Album (Tie)

Radiohead - Kid A
--- Best Radiohead Album

Ben Folds - Ben Folds Live
--- Best I'm-such-a-Geek Album

Erik Truffaz - Bending New Corners
--- Best nu-jazz album

Hawksley Workman - For Him and the Girls
--- Best "Hay" Album (Heterosexual gay)

Chet Baker - The Definitive Chet Baker (or any other good compilation)
--- Best Make-Me-Cry Album

Gilbert & Sullivan - The Mikado (D'Oyly Carte) / Guys and Dolls Original Cast Recording
--- Best I'm-Embarrassed-I-Love-This-Stuff Album

Eminem - The Marshall Mathers LP
--- Best Interior-Rhyming-Scheme Album
Slim Shady at the Savoy?

Okay, this is a silly thought, but it suddenly occured to me that there may be a connection between my enjoyment of Gilbert and Sullivan and Eminem.

Consider, if you will, W.S. Gilbert's patter songs versus Eminem's raps. They are more closely connected than either of those parties would like to admit...

"I am the very model of a modern major general."
"I am whatever you say I am. If I wasn't, then why would you say I am?"

In fact, the Lord High Executioner Koko's List song ("As someday it may happen that a victim must be found, I've got a little list of society offenders who might well be underground and who never would be missed.") is kinda like Eminem's "Kill You" ("I said you don't want to fuck with Shady, cuz Shady will fuckin' kill you")...

As a brilliant musician friend on a message board I frequent put it:

Conspiracy theory in the making! I can see it now: unearthed detroit free-press reviews of a local d'oyly carte-type thing: "one could only marvel at the empathy with which the young marshall mathers.."

Man, if I was still in university, this would be an awesome paper....

Saturday, May 24, 2003

The Dominion: A promising new Canadian newspaper

Dru Oja Jay, like so many university journalists, used to kick around the idea of a national left-wing newspaper with his buddies. Unlike the rest of us, however, Dru has actually gone ahead and decided to create one, damn the lack of funds, damn the scoffers.

Right now The Dominion consists of a monthly eight-pager that you can print out in PDF format from the website. There are four volunteer staff putting it all together: freely-available content from the web and original articles.

Okay, so you might roll your eye at "The Weekly Chomsky", but there's actually some nice stuff in the Dominion, especially for a first-issue. Dru's got the ambition to take this somewhere. Unlike the rest of us beer-swilling talkers, he got off his ass and tried something.

I don't know how this whole national distribution thing will work out, but the Dominion already functions nicely as an alternative to the sloppiness of the indymedia web journalism sites. It's worth a look.

[edit] I fixed the link above, which was accidentally leading people to the Dominion institute. Whoops...
The Which Blair? Project

"So Jayson Blair the human being could live, Jayson Blair the journalist had to die."
- Jayson Blair, quoted in The New York Observer on Wednesday.

Whoo! Is this guy nutters or what?

Actually, I can relate. But I've always seen it more as, "So J. Kelly Nestruck the journalist can live, J. Kelly Nestruck the human being has to die..."

Just kidding... I love my job. (Really!)

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

And on the subject of Canadian Poets...

Did you know that Irving Layton and Louis Dudek once played a game of squash to determine who was the best poet in Canada?

It's true.

No word on who won...

Esoteric Poetry Corner

Letters to Gwendolyn MacEwan’s Lovers
By J. Kelly Nestruck

Dear Sir,
We have looked into your claim
That the police stole your Thursday
And regret to inform you that
Due to lack of evidence
We must drop the case.
We’re looking into appointing
A special independent body to investigate,
But frankly, we just don’t have the funds.
For the time being keep a close eye on your tomorrow,
But try to forget about yesterday.

Sergeant Gossamer
21st Precinct
Toronto, ON


Dear Sir,
I am writing to you
In your insane asylum
To tell you about our
Excellent new product:
It will help you deal with that unfortunate smell
Of pee and PEI.
But frankly that’s about it.
The rest, we can’t help you with.
After all, the acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree.
Write back for a free sample.

Dr. Marvel Comics
PO Box 23397


Put down the guitar and come over to me.
Pluck my strings,
Sing my song,
Dance with me.
You don’t need it to soar.


My Lovers,
$202.02 is a fine amount to have
Because when the decimal is removed
And the dollar sign too
You have a palindrome.
But I needed to withdraw
So I took out $200.
How sensual these numbers are,
Back to front, front to back,
Like you and I in a basement apartment…
After all, we all begin where we end
And end where we begin.
Watch me.

Harddrive Detritus

Hi folks... For those of you who haven't read Harddrive Detritus before, it's an occassional feature of this blog, where I search on my harddrive for silly things that I have written and abandoned.
This particular bit of detritus is from January 29, 2002

A true story.

So I got in the elevator the other day to ride up to the office to see if my friend was there and if he was going to class. It was 1:20, fifteen minutes before class.
As I arrived on the sixth floor, said friend entered the elevator with another friend. Assuming that said friend was going to class, I jovially rode the elevator down to the ground floor with them. Upon arriving at the ground floor, “George” informed me that indeed he was not going to class, but to drop off an essay.
“Bollocks!” I exclaimed. “Then I’m going back to the office to check my email.” I then pressed the sixth floor button and rode on up.
Upon reaching the top floor, I exited and checked my email for approximately eight minutes. It was then 1:30 and I decided that indeed I would go to class. I exited the office and entered the elevator. Once the elevator had started descending, I realized that I had left my bag in the office. I exclaimed and frantically pressed the button for level four.
Once the doors opened I thought to myself, “Now that was silly! I can’t get the elevator to switch directions.” I let the door close and began to descend again.
I then realized that I could have walked up the two flights of stairs, pressed the button for the elevator, fetched my bag and saved a minute or two. So, I pressed the buttons for floors number three and six, expecting to then run up the three flights of stairs and grab my bag in time for the elevator to reach the sixth floor.
To my dismay, the elevator had passed the third floor already and it descended to the ground floor.
At the ground floor, a disheveled man entered and pressed floor number four. Pretending that I had come up from the basement, I pressed number six again.
We stood in silence. The man sneezed once.
At the third floor, the door opened. The man exited the elevator without realizing what floor he was on and I was too embarrassed to tell him. The closing door muffled his cry of realization. “Hey! This isn’t m—.”
I silently rode up to the fourth, and then sixth floors, collected my satchel, and then returned to the ground floor to head to class.

Sunday, May 18, 2003

Media Slut Update!

I was interviewed on Mojo radio on Thursday, about The Matrix Reloaded, which I saw on Wednesday night. Mojo radio is like Maxim, but instead of being a magazine, it's a radio station. Whoa.
Anyway, fellow intern Siri Agrell had written an article the day before about these wackos who believe that the Matrix trilogy signals the second coming of Christ. Well, they called her to ask her what she thought about the movie, but she hadn't actually seen Matrix Reloaded yet, so she passed them over to me.

Pre-air dialogue between me and the host:

Host: So, you review movies for The Post?
Me: Uh, no.
Host: You work in the entertainment section.
Me: Well, yeah, sometimes I write for Arts and Life.
Host: So, you're an entertainment writer.
Me: Uh, well, I'm really a national news reporter.
Host: Right. [Pause] Well, we'll just call you Kelly Nestruck from The National Post.
Me: O-kay...

So, then, 30 seconds later, I'm live on air, and he asks me about the movie, and I say, well the action was a lot of fun, but the philosophical stuff this time was a bunch of hooey - lousy, clumsy dialogue that was extremely confusing. The following is our conversation as best I recall it:

Me: ...It's nothing new, really, Jean Baudrillard was writing about the simulacrum 30 years ago.
Host: Well, existentialism goes back a long time...
Me: Uh, yeah. Well, but I'm talking about the idea of our reality being a false, constructed one, which is practically a basic tenet of postmodernism.
Host: Well, I don't know about this Jean Boogamoo, but - tell me - do we get to see any bum in this movie?
Me: Uh, yes.
Host: Keanu, or Carrie-Ann Moss?
Me: Well, there's some bum shown by both of them. [Pause] Carrie Ann Moss is really hot.

So on, so forth... until he asks:

Host: Since you know all about these things, what are some good movies coming up this summer?
Me: [not knowing about these things at all, stumbling, stuttering, unable to think of anything, totally on the spot] Uh, well, uh...
Host: What about The Hulk? Is that going to be any good?
Me: Uh, well, it's like the comic book, but on screen. [Pause] It'll be quite... hulky.
Host: Oh. [Quickly bringing the interview to a close] Well, thanks for talking with us. We've been speaking with Kelly Nestruck, National Post.

Ah... Not the most memorable moment of my media slut career.

Thursday, May 15, 2003

Adventures with Google!

Here are some of the more interesting Google searches that have led people to this blog of late:

speakers + "mark steyn" + contact
basem boshra
Steyn AND Asper
start work tomorrow Toronto

And my personal favourite:

austalians in belgium in the first world war

NB: That's "Austalians", not "Australians."
Yay for spelling errors increasing my hit count!

(Also, people keep searching for Rex Brynen and ending up here. Thanks Rex!)

And speaking of Google, here's a little story I like to call, "Google Rolls out Canadian News Site." From the Financial Post.

Google, the world's most popular Internet search engine, launched a Canadian version of its online news-search service Sunday evening.
Google News Canada went online alongside similar localized news services targeted at Britain, Australia, New Zealand and India.The different national versions of Google's popular news service are part of the company's plan to increase its international appeal. "We're trying to be a global news service," said Krishna Bharat, creator of Google News.
Google News, launched in September, differs from other news Web sites in that it has no editors. Instead, it uses clustering technologies to group headlines from different publications, allowing users to read multiple viewpoints on any news event. The sites employ Google's search technology to allow users to search over 4,500 online news sources. The site, which updates continuously, typically links to more than 100,000 articles a day.The prominence given to a particular news story is based on the number of articles circulating on the Internet about it.Google is targeting Canadians, because they are among the top visitors to Google. According to the most recent data, Google is the No. 4 site in Canada, and Canadians represent about 12% of Google's traffic."After the United States, Canada has the most traffic coming in to Google News," Bharat said.
Google opened an advertising office in Toronto last October, though as of yet, Google is not selling advertising on the Google News Canada site.
"We're concentrating on building a good product right now," Mr. Bharat said.
Mary McGuire, professor of online journalism at Carleton University, has been impressed by Google News. "I think the ability to search for news
stories that Google supplies is amazing," she said.

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

Post Diary : Week 2 begins

Well, putting aside the migratory patterns of certain editors and writers, I'm having an awesome time at The National Post, writing, writing, writing... (Hence the lack of blog posts of late.)

So far, I've been able to write for a whole bunch of sections, not just National News. I've had a piece now in Sports, Arts and, tomorrow, I think I have one in the Financial Post. (Knock on wood.)

The FP piece is about those crazy old Google kids, who've just created a Canadian portal to Google News.

It works well, but is anyone else worried about Google's path to global domination? Forget the Aspers or Rupert Murdoch... Google's going to control your minds by the end of the decade!


NB: While I did link to The Vancouver Scrum above, it was only because it was the only site I could find that detailed all the goings on lately. All this negativity is a bit misplaced. Exoduses (Exodi?) are common when a well-liked editor leaves a newspaper. As Paul Wells said on CBC this weekend:

It's easy to over-dramatize things, and it seems with the National Post people are always eager to over-dramatize, perhaps because we were always so good at dramatics. But in 1990 at the Globe and Mail when Norman Webster left as the editor and a fairly untested editorialist named William Thorsell became the editor, pots of people fled the Globe thinking its best days were behind it. Thorsell with a much-depleted newsroom, when on to build what I think, was the best Globe and Mail
ever, at least in my experience as a reader. So I could bore your viewers by naming all the people who left the Globe and Mail in 1990, but my point is,
that there is turnover and it often tend to be accelerated when there is a big change at the top.

Matthew Fraser heading the ROM in a decade? Not unthinkable...

Monday, May 12, 2003

Use Blogs to Fight the War on Terrorism!

That's right! Now you can use your blog to fight TERROR!

Find out how!

Sunday, May 04, 2003

How is J. Kelly Nestruck doing these days?

I didn't sleep very much Wednesday or Thursday night. I was nervous to speak at the CNA conference and to start at my new job. So yesterday, I slept until 8pm. Now my internal clock is all messed up.

There was no reason to be nervous for work, however. My first day at The Post was a lot of fun. I met my bosses, fellow reporters and interns, as well as a bunch of other people. The names are all a blur, so I'm going to embarrass myself on Monday trying to remember them all.

Most of the day was spent surfing the wires trying to find a story to pitch, but around 3pm, I got my first assignment, writing a brief "attic" (that's what they call those small stories that The Post has at the top of almost every page) on Esso and Petro-Can dropping their prices by 16 cents in Toronto to encourage people to go spend their cash in the city. Alas, my 150 words didn't make it online, so I can't link to it. However, I was pleased to wake up at 8 pm, head to the 7/11 at my corner and pick up the paper and see my byline.

Media Slut Update: I was also quoted in the Saturday Toronto Star business section in an article by Steven Theobald about one of the panels I sat on at the CNA conference. Again, this is not online, so here's the excerpt dealing with me:

Kelly Nestruck, 22, presented a far more sanguine outlook to the conference.
Nestruck, who is beginning a summer internship at a large daily newspaper [Ed note: What large daily newspaper would that be? heh, heh.], listed four steps to attract younger readers:

Write about 20-somethings.
Write for them.
Hire young people.
Be a newspaper, not some sort of hybrid.
Most of all, acknowledge that young people are considered important readers, Nestruck said.
"Quote young people in your articles, no matter what it is about."

This contrasts with what pollster Michael Adams said at the conference. From the same article:

Adams also provided a warning to newspaper executives in the audience.
The good news is 60 per cent of Canadians older than 57 read at least one newspaper five or more times a week.
"If you could follow them into the afterlife you'd be in a great position," Adams told the crowd, foreshadowing the statistics to come.
Forty-six per cent of the baby boom generation, 35 to 57, are regular readers.
And a mere 28 per cent of people aged 15 to 35 read a newspaper five or more times a week.
"These people are more likely to have a global network of people who will e-mail them the message they want to read," Adams said.
Not all is lost, Adams suggested in an interview following his speech. He cited Metro, the paper given away free to Toronto transit users, as an effective way to reach younger readers.
"Maybe in the future you will have one that is sports-oriented or one that is entertainment-oriented."

Ah, Metro... This is what the kids want, say Pollsters and William Thorsell. Sigh.


Well, I've settled in to my sister's apartment in Toronto. She lives in Little Portugal, which is a cool part of town, near the Annex and Little Italy.

I didn't like Toronto much the last time I stayed here for an extended period of time. I know this is heretical for a Montrealer to say, but I think I'm warming to T-dot a bit this time 'round. Which isn't to say that I'd live her permanently, but rather that I think I'm going to have a fun time this summer.

One of the nice things about being in a city you don't know that well, is that it encourages you to talk to strangers. Tonight, for instance, I chatted with three drunk indy-rockers while waiting in line to buy groceries at the nearby 24-hour Dominion. I think they may have been stoned too, because they were buying lots of mini pizzas by Pillsbury.

The friendliest one, Jay, invited me to come see his band play at Clinton's Tavern on Thursday. Why not? I'll let you know if they're any good.
How is Rex Brynen doing these days?

I know you're all curious about Sexy Rexy's whereabouts. Don't deny it. You are. The blog-savvy Brynen posted a comment on my April 24 entry about him. Here is his comment, in case you missed it:

Well, since you asked.....

Rex Brynen is sitting in a World Bank office overlooking the al-Ram checkpoint on the road from Jerusalem to Ramallah, contemplating the dynamics of donor coordination in Palestine and trying to decide if he should 1) stay here, cuz I can get free internet access (hey, I always carry an ethernet cable), or 2) head back to the American Colony (one of the coolest hotels on the planet) where I have to use expensive dial-up access, but where there is a very nice bar.

(Yes, for those of you who just received graded papers back from me, I can write excessively long sentences too.)

I am also pleased to report, for those among you who have always wondered such things, that the pen IS more powerful than the sword. Having accidently forgotten to carry my passport earlier in the week while in the West Bank, I bluffed my way through three Israeli military checkpoints with a McGill library card...

2 May 2003

Now, you and I love Rex in class and on his The National appearances, but, apparently, there are those who don't so much. If you search for "Brynen blog" on Google (as a couple of visitors did to reach this page recently), you'll find two entries: a link to On The Fence here, and a link to an irate, young, right-wing blogger who calls Rex "Arafat's Advisor" (entry Feb. 17,2003).

You can please some of the people some of the time, etc, etc...

Thursday, May 01, 2003

What Twentysomethings Want From Newspapers

The "Building Brand for the Light Reader" panel at the Canadian Newspaper Association Super Conference went well today. I was a little nervous and hadn't slept very much, but I pulled it off nonetheless. (It got good response, and I'll be back again tomorrow morning, subbing for someone on the 9 am Readership panel discussion.)

What was really helpful to my presentation was all the feedback I received from you twentysomethings out there in cyberspace. I got responses from across the country (thanks to the CUP listserv) from journalist-types and those who work/study in entirely different fields. I thought I'd get a few people responding, but I wasn't expecting the dozens of long, carefully-reasoned emails I got. Thank you very much, everybody.

The general consensus seems to be that twentysomethings feel alienated by the mainstream media. And people aren't indifferent about this; they're upset and angry and frustrated. As one writer put it, "I feel disenfranchised."

Click here to read the responses.
Adventures with the BigWigs
(And the Shake-up at The Post)

Well, my summer in Toronto has got off to an incredibly exciting and somewhat surreal start.

I spoke this morning at the Canadian Newspaper Association’s conference, held at the Royal York Hotel in downtown Toronto. The panel went very well. (read above post) It was especially nice to be able to put a face to the name Lucinda Chodan. Lucinda is the readership development editor at The Gazette and has been involved in that paper’s attempts to reach allophones and francophones. And I found out today that she was responsible for the hiring of Basem Boshra, the paper’s television critic, who is one of the (too few) good reasons to read The Gazoo.

Anna - the kind and friendly president of CAN who had asked me to speak – was in attendance at the panel. Afterwards, she invited me to stay for lunch and attend any seminars that I liked in the afternoon.

The surreal portion of my day began at lunch. I entered the ballroom, spotted Anna near the stage, and headed over to ask her where I should sit. As I approached her, a congenial man at one of the front tables offered me a seat. I accepted the invitation from the man, who smiled a lot and reminded me of Mr. Hoskins, my school bus driver from Kindergarten.

The man turned out to be John Honderich, the publisher of the Toronto Star. My other tablemates were: Phillip Crawley, Publisher & CEO of The Globe and Mail; Michael Sifton, President and CEO of the Osprey Media Group; Timothy Balding, Director General of the World Association of Newspapers; John Forzani, Chairman of The Forzani Group, which owns Sports Experts and other sporting good stores; and Anna, who gave me the occasional reassuring glance from across the table. Quite the company!

Mr. Crawley – consummately British, and therefore more intimidating than the others at the table – soon introduced the topic of the recent firings and hiring at The National Post. This was news to me, and several of the others around the table. (Ken White is gone. David Asper is the new "chairman" of The National Post, and the position of publisher has been eliminated. Read the press release for all the deets.)

I shan't relate the lunchtime conversation betwixt the bigwigs, because it was all "off the record." (These are not the kind of sources that you burn...) I'm sure you can imagine what they were saying, though...

Anyway, I was made to feel slightly nervous for my new job, which I am starting tomorrow. (I've got a four-month contract working as a reporter for The Post.) But, I was later reassured by some of the people that I'll be working with. Actually, the shake-up at The Post today is probably making it safer to work there. The changes today do show that CanWest is making a commitment to the paper, and that it won't fade out any time soon.

It any case, it was a fascinating lunch. I was a bit out of my league, but I think I handled myself all right. In fact, I had quite a pleasant time with them all.

Tomorrow: more excitement! I'm speaking on another panel at 9 am, and then heading to work to start my new job... I'll keep y'all posted.

(Also, I apologize for using the term "y'all". I'm a little tired.)