Saturday, January 31, 2004

The Globe and Scare-mongering Mail

I threw the Globe Focus section across the room while eating brunch this morning. I've never seen such tripe in The Globe ever. Seriously.

The First Article That Pissed Me Off: Alanna Mitchell writing about kids these days. The lead-in to the article is: "What is it with so many children today? Sullen and surly, they ignore their elders and live to be with their peers."

Ms. Mitchell decides to figure it all out by talking to a group of baggy-pants teens outside of a Famous Players theatre. But the kids just won't tell her why they're so damn sullen and surly:

Delivered by one of the boys, the brush-off is immediate and absolute. "We're kind of busy," he says, with a hard look on his face. Then he turns his back.

When Gordon Neufeld hears this story a few days later, he laughs. An experienced clinical psychologist in Vancouver, he recognizes the symptoms all too well. This is a sign of what he calls "peer-orientation" or "peer-attachment disorder," which he contends is a modern blight responsible for today's dangerous teen landscape and getting worse all the time.


Excuse my language, but What The Fuck? A group of kids refuse to talk to a stranger, and not just a stranger, but a stranger with an agenda to find out if they are "like the [kids] who have spawned the parent-freaking headlines of the past few years: suicide, gangs, early sex, pregnancy, alienation, Littleton, Taber, Reena Virk and other random acts of violence from coast to coast" and this is diagnosed with a disorder? All they did was brush off a nosey reporter... Plus, I thought parents taught their kids not to talk to strangers.

The article gets worse, much worse.

"I'm convinced that peer-attachment disorder is the greatest disorder of our times," Dr. Neufeld says, adding that the problems of 90 to 95 per cent of the patients he sees are rooted in a skewed attachment.

In effect, he says, children are bringing up other children, and that's a recipe for dystopia straight out of Lord of the Flies. It's the death of parenthood.


Yes. Kids these days. When they hang out with their friends, it's just like the Lord of the Flies.

Does no one remember what it was like to be a teenager at The Globe? I think the real question is: Why are parents so afraid of their children these days?

Dr. Neufeld, by the way, does not even believe that children should leave their parents to go to school, though that's not mentioned in the article, of course. Quoth Neufeld: "[D]evelopmental science does not support school as the best context for children to learn, to mature or to become socialized."

Neufeld is a homeschooling proponent and, in my humble opinion, one of the nuttier ones. Check this out: "The prevailing assumption is that the greatest drawback to homeschooling is the loss of social interaction with peers. Times have changed however, making peer interaction more of a problem than an asset... If current trends in society continue, homeschooling may very well become a necessary antidote to escalating peer-orientation. We may need to reclaim our children not only to preserve or recover the context in which to teach and parent them but also for the sake of society at large and the transmission of culture."

The emphasis is mine. You know what he means by "transmission of culture", don't you?

The Second Article That Really Pissed Me Off: Michael Valpy writing about internet pornography.

It begins like this: "The mouse-driven quest for sex is tearing apart marriages and wrecking love affairs. It is undermining work and family life, sinking university and college students in a sticky swamp of failing grades and leading users of Internet pornography -- the crack cocaine of erotica -- into secret lives of shame."

Excuse my language again, but Give Me a Fucking Break. Valpy main interviewee is Professor David Delmonico from Duquesne University in Pennsylvania, but Valpy neglects to mention that Duquesne is a Catholic university with a mission statement to "serve god." In other words, Professor Delmonico and his colleagues are not just against masturbating to internet porn, but against masturbation in general.

My favourite bit is this: "[University of Toronto criminologist Marian Valverde, a specialist in both pornography and compulsive behaviour,] suggests that the bulk of today's excessive viewers of Internet pornography are likely overweight young men who avoid sports and who, 10 or 15 years back, would have been obsessive stamp collectors."

I seriously can't believe that got in the paper. It's full-on like something out of The Onion.

Globe Focus in summary -- Dubious experts say the following things are scary and liable to ruin your life: Kids and the Internet.

Post-script

There was one other thing that irritated me in the Focus section today, though not in a fling-the-paper-in-outrage way. An article with the wonderfully subtle headline "Why are you here Mr. Nigger?"

The lead-in reads: "Back in the USSR, racial tolerance was a top priority, but in today's Russia, writes Mark MacKinnon, people of colour live in perpetual fear."

Yeah, the USSR was really racially tolerant. Oh, except for the time Stalin killed six to seven million Ukrainians in the Ukrainian Genocide.

There are two reasons why this article is not fling-worthy, however.

First, why punish MacKinnon for the headline writer's ignorance. MacKinnon, a brilliant reporter, says nowhere in the article that racial tolerance was a top priority in the USSR. What he writes is: "It's a long way from the days when the Soviet Union bragged of seamlessly blending its Slavic, Caucasian and Central Asian populations, claiming to have created a non-racial 'homo sovieticus,' while condemning the United States and other Western countries for their inequalities and racial violence." (Notice his use of words like "bragged" and "claiming.")

Secondly, racism is a very, very scary problem in Russia right now. Read the article.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Pun of the Day

Thanks to Anders Yates of Montreal, QC, for sending me an e-mail with the subject line: Sexed up Paris Hutton video!

Glad it squeezed past my spam filters...
Two good guys: My landlord and Paul Wells

A) My landlord is real swell. I locked myself out of my apartment and had to ring his doorbell at 1 am this morning. He let me in without even a grimace. Quote: "No problem."
I suppose that's his job and all, but I come from Montreal, where the landlords won't do anything and grimace at everything. Three cheers for Mark! (And his wife Pam, who I also woke up.)

B) Paul Wells, Maclean's Backpager and Blogger Par Excellence, has left a couple of comments on my blog in the entries "Self-flagellatilicious" and "Our man Arcand." Click on the comments links below those entries to read what the man has to say. (I mention this only because on some computers, you can't tell that anyone has posted comments.)

Post-script

I'm home late after attending a talk given by Ken Finkleman at Massey College. It was part of a young journalist meet-and-greet organized by Philip Preville on behalf of the Canadian Journalism Fellowships (what was called the Southam Fellowships until a certain media chain out of Winnipeg pulled the funding).

Among my many gaffes this evening:

1) I made fun of the deep-voiced satirical intro to CBC Radio's The Current in front of one of the guys who writes that bit.

2) I told Rebecca Caldwell from The Globe and Mail that "Caldwell" would be a good name for a brand of mayonnaise.

3) I kept making my "It's getting Hutton here" joke... Come on! It's funny, people!

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Stop the Blog Presses!!!

It suddenly occured to me... I should have titled my last post: "BBC: It's getting Hutton here!"
Self-flagellatilicious

The BBC took it hard today. I was kinda joking about them retreating into hair shirts, but the chairman has already resigned and at the BBC online reporters' weblog every few minutes there's an update on the chaos at their offices.

Quoth Paul Wells:

"The amazing thing is that the guy at BBC headquarters, waiting for his BBC paycheque, has no qualms at all describing the disorder there and complaining about his own bosses' disarray. Try to imagine similar frankness, not only at the CBC, but at any private-sector media employer in Canada. You can't. Neither can I. The sandbox here is too small, the big kids too insecure."
Countdown: The Truth, the Whole Truth, and Hutton but the Truth...

By the time I wake up here in Toronto, Lord Hutton will have released his report on the circumstances surrounding Dr. David Kelly's death. It could have serious ramifications on Tony Blair, the Labour party, the BBC, British intelligence, post-war Iraq, the United States... Beforehand be sure to brush up on your Hutton at the Guardian's excellent weblog devoted to the inquiry.

Here's a timeline of today's events in Greenwich Mean Time:

12:00 pm -- The BBC prepares to self-flagellate.
12:30 pm -- Lord Hutton delivers a statement outlining the main findings of his report.
1:30 pm -- The full text of the report gets posted here.
2:00 pm -- The BBC begins to self-flagellate.
2:30 pm -- Tony Blair "sexes up" the Hutton report on his laptop by changing its typeface and sticking in some .jpgs.
3:00 pm -- More intense self-flagellation at the BBC.
4:00 pm -- Jack Straw discovers Iraq's weapons of mass destruction in the Thames Valley with their wires cut. A new inquiry begins!
6:00 pm -- Dr. David Kelly emerges from a spider hole and exposes the whole thing as an elaborate ruse.
8:00 pm -- Michael Frayn's play about the Dr. David Kelly affair opens at the London Royal National Theatre.

Post-script

Lord Hutton

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Our man Arcand

Well, it's Oscar Nomination Tuesday and the big news in Canada is that Denys Arcand's The Barbarian Invasions has been nominated for Best Foreign Film AND Best Screenplay. It's rare that a foreign film gets into the general categories.

I just spoke with Arcand over the phone and he sounded... well, he sounded tired. It is three hours earlier in Los Angeles right now and he's probably been doing phoners for a couple of hours now. (For the actual content what he said tiredly, you'll have to read the Post tomorrow.)

Arcand's nominations come on the heels of Canadians winning both world cinema audience awards at Sundance: Jean-Fran?ois Pouliot's La Grande S?duction (Seducing Doctor Lewis) took the drama award, while Jennifer Abbott and Mark Achbar's The Corporation won the documentary award.

In celebration, could we maybe stop whining about our film industry for a couple of weeks? For a country of our size, this is not half bad, yo.

Post-script

It seems to me that awards and acclaim like this kinda show how Canada's government funding agencies for film are good things.

Financial Post eic Terence Corcoran, of course, disagrees. He has a piece bashing The Corporation today. (Yes, The Post website has gone subscription. Sorry.) Taking a stab at film criticism, Corcoran calls the filmmakers "cultural welfare recipients" and the movie "an evil, ugly and dishonest pack of lies."

I look forward to tomorrow's paper, when Corcoran will review Radiohead's latest album, "Hail to the Thief."

Seriously though, I'm glad to see Corcoran writing about The Corporation, because it means that it's getting a wider audience than just leftist Mooreites AND that it's actually fostering debate. (Or angry screeds, anyway.)

Sunday, January 25, 2004

Stuck on the Rock

I was supposed to leave St. John's this afternoon at three in the afternoon, but my flight got cancelled. There's a real blizzard out there, low visibility, 45 km/h winds, all that...

New departure time: 6:00 am tomorrow morning. But it doesn't look too promising.

Post-script

Other stranded journalists: Jonathan Kay, columnist and the editorial page editor at The Post, and Neil MacDonald, Washington Correspondant for CBC's The National. I think Marcus Gee got out all right this morning.

Kay's another one who tried to sell the War in Iraq to the student journalists here in his keynote address. I am impressed at how passionate Kay and Wente are about this issue.

In conclusion, here is a picture of Kay wearing a funny hat on New Year's Eve. Also, Kay wearing only a bowtie. And the piece de resistance: Kay in Grade 8.
The Adobe Book of English Usage

"The Photoshop trademark must never be used as a common verb or as a noun. The Photoshop trademark should always be capitalized and should never be used in possessive form, or as a slang term. It should be used as an adjective to describe the product, and should never be used in abbreviated form."

1) Trademarks are not verbs.

CORRECT: The image was enhanced using Adobe® Photoshop® software.
INCORRECT: The image was photoshopped.

2) Trademarks are not nouns.
CORRECT: The image pokes fun at the Senator.
INCORRECT: The photoshop pokes fun at the Senator.

...

4) Trademarks must never be used as slang terms.
CORRECT: Those who use Adobe® Photoshop® software to manipulate images as a hobby see their work as an art form.
INCORRECT: A photoshopper sees his hobby as an art form.
INCORRECT: My hobby is photoshopping.

Saturday, January 24, 2004

Homosexuals are so fucking cool

This just in: Following up on its QEFTSG success, Bravo is working on a US version of the British show Straight Dates by Gay Mates.

Apply for the position of host here if you are a gay man "with great sense of personal style and organic sense of humor." Your job will be to "meet with a straight woman who is unlucky in love, give her a mini makeover (clothes, hair, make-up, dating tips) then go out and find her straight guys to date."

Quips the guy next to me: "What's next? Queer Financial Planning for the Straight Investor?"

Post-script

- Having a beautiful time here in St. John's. Notes on hacks of note at the 66th Annual CUP Conference:

+ CBC's Michael Enright gave a fine speech today, but disappointed the crowd by wearing a black turtleneck, not his famous bowtie.
+ The Globe and Mail's Marcus Gee: friendly and not what you'd expect. For example: I watched him do a Jello shooter tonight at the CUP Conference indy rock night.
+ Say what you will about Margaret Wente, the woman's got guts. She spent her keynote address trying to convince a room packed full of student journalists that the war in Iraq was a good thing.

- Guy next to me: Nathan White, from The Brunswickan.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Greetings from St. John's

From what I've seen, it's beautiful here. But I only arrived two hours ago or one-and-half hours from now Eastern Standard Time. Or 30 minutes ago. Or something.

Spotted: Jonathan Tan from The Uniter (by Alma Paper at the University of Winnipeg) reading my article about The Peg's AlbeeFest on the plane here. So many resonances...

Also here: Margaret Wente. Though, I haven't seen her yet, she's in the St John's Fairmount. The very hotel I'm updating my blog from.

I'm tired. Goodnight everybody! I'm here every night...

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

I'm Leaving on a Jet Plane... Know when I'll be back again: Sunday

Flying out to St. John's, Newfoundland (and Labrador, sorry) tomorrow evening to speak at the Canadian University Press National Conference. I'll be presenting on a variety of topics, including Arts Journalism, Freelancing, and Blogging and Journalism. Whew!

Anyway, I'm looking forward to my first trip out to the Rock (no, not that one) and welcome anyone's suggestions as to what to see and do while in the oldest city in Canada, Newfoundland's provincial capital, and a "Centre of Ocean Excellence."

Post-script

"When General Wesley Clark donned an argyle pullover in New Hampshire this month, it looked for a brief moment like he might be the latest man to have his presidential dreams unravel because of a sweater." More from me on Argylegate, from today's National Post. (Note my gratuitous quoting from Weezer's The Sweater Song.)

General Clark's sweater, for those of you keeping track, is now at USD $14,600.

Monday, January 19, 2004

Kerry, Edwards, Dean, Gephardt

In that order in Iowa. Who knew?

Paul Wells has an excellent piece up on his blog about how pundits don't know nothin' about nobody. (How does he turn these smart entries around so quickly?)

Post-Script

John Edwards? Get out! I don't believe it... I mean, look at his blog.

Sunday, January 18, 2004

The On-Going History of Argyle

Presidential candidate wannabe General Wesley Clark is auctioning off his unfairly-ridiculed Argyle sweater. [via Metafilter]

For the record, the Centre for the Study of Argyle supports the inalienable right to wear Argyle without fear of media harassment.

Post-script

More hard-hitting analysis on Gen. Clark's wardrobe!

Also, remember Lamar Alexander's red and white flannel shirt?

Saturday, January 17, 2004

Torque in cheek...

The villain of the new motorcycle movie Torque is named Henry James. Did the filmmakers mean to name their antagonist after one of America's most famous novelists? Or was it just a weird coincidence?

One things for sure. No movie critic who caught the (in)advertant literary allusion could pass up the chance to make a joke about it in her review.

Without further preamble, we present to you:

REVIEWS OF MOVIE REVIEWERS' JOKES ABOUT HENRY JAMES AND TORQUE
(RATED OUT OF FOUR STARS)


The villain of the piece, that rival biker, is named Henry James. Characters repeatedly refer to him by name: 'We'll set a trap for Henry James.' And yet there's never the remotest inkling that this name has ever belonged to anyone else. - Marc Mohan, the Oregonian

Mohan does not mention to whom the name previously belonged, thus making connaisseurs of literature feel proud of themselves for getting the joke, and simultaneously sending the rest of readers to search for the name on Google, abashed at their ignorance. Makes some people feel smart and others feel dumb! The mark of a good reviewer. **

Ford has been on a trip to Thailand, enforced after he incurred the wrath of Hellions leader Henry James (an inadvertent literary allusion, surely, or else Shane [the heroine]should have been named Emily Dickinson). - Susan Walker, Toronto Star.

Not bad, but not particularly funny. Edith Wharton would have been a better choice for this gag. Better yet Gertrude Stein, because the image of her and Alice B. Toklas riding a hog is both funny and fitting. **

Torque n. the film that features a villain named Henry James, conjuring the tantalizing image of Edith Wharton riding shotgun wearing a "Fear This" tattoo and a Ramones T-shirt. Ann Hornaday, Washington Post.

Brilliant! An actual, full-on joke. Wharton fuckin' rocks! ****

The hero is a hunk named Ford (Martin Henderson), and he's just back from Thailand, where he's been hiding for the past six months from the racist, redneck kingpin (Matt Schulze), the one with the mullet, the gang of goons, and the pierced and predatory girlfriend (Jaime Pressly) called China. His name, unbelievably enough, is Henry James -- although Schulze calls to mind only the slightly less literary Henry Rollins. - Wesley Morris, Boston Globe

Mr. Morris is referencing the hardcore lead singer of Black Flag and the Rollins Band, who is also a spoken word artist. I had to look "Henry Rollins" up on Google to get it. I am abashed at my ignorance! I'm feel so stupid... But now, the next time I am out with friends, I will name-drop Henry Rollins and when I get blank stares I'll say, "The punk poet. You've never heard of him? Reeeally..." ***

He's being stalked by the menacing motorcycle gang leader Henry James (Matt Schulze), who's so important a crime figure that even his grim whispers can be heard over the live thrash being played at a nightclub. Apparently when not finishing a screenplay adaptation of his novel 'The Tragic Muse' or working with Ismail Merchant, Henry runs a lucrative crystal meth business whose profits are threatened because Ford has possession of Henry's drugs. - Elvis Mitchell, The New York Times.

Wow! Trust the New York Times to really work this Henry James thing. Mitchell demonstrates his superb intelligence by mentioning an actual work by James and throwing in a reference to the producer of literary-works-turned-into-movies like A Room with a View, The Remains of the Day and The Bostonians (an adaptation of a Henry James novel) for good measure. I haven't felt this dumb while reading a movie review in years! ****

That somebody is Henry James, played by Matt Schulze of "Fast and Furious." Not only is this evil dude named after a famous British novelist, but he is also guilty of murder, framing, drug-running and having both an equally evil girlfriend (Jaime Pressly as China) and an apparent Kiefer Sutherland sneer complex. - Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune.

Poor Mr. Wilmington. He thought he was being smart. *

In his new movie, actor-rapper Ice Cube gets to play Henry James. No, not the brooding aesthete who wrote Daisy Miller and proclaimed, 'It takes a great deal of history to produce a little literature.' Cube's James is a 'playa,' a motorcycle gang banger who rebuffs a white Southern visitor by snarling, 'I didn't invite yo' Dukes of Hazzard ass.'- Stephen Cole, The Globe and Mail.

Ouch! While misidentifying Henry James as British, instead of American is perhaps excusable from a movie reviewer, the misidentification of one of Torque's main characters is not. Ice Cube played a character called Trey, the leader of a motorcycle gang called the Reapers. It was Matt Schulze who was played Henry James. Cole should spent as much time watching the movie as he did looking up James in Bartlett's Quotations. No stars.

Post-script

One more: "First-time screenwriter Matt Johnson is a lone holdout in an irony-drenched age, refusing for even a meta-moment to acknowledge that his villain is named after a great American novelist. You'd expect a 'Well, you're a real
portrait of a lady,' but you won't even get that." -- Me in the National Post.

Friday, January 16, 2004

Ronnie Burkett

What can I say? Burkett's new adult puppet show Provenance is beautiful.

Among the many, many things it made me ponder: Why so few verse dramas these days? They're gorgeous to listen to and they work. Was Maxwell Andersen the last major verse dramatist writing in English? Anyone know any playwrights writing like that now?

Post-script: Just a couple more things...

-- My colleague Aaron Wherry, the Post's "Pop" columnist, has just started blogging.

-- For those looking for a decided different look at English Montreal theatre, check out The Indie Theatre Times and Review edited by Jason C. Maclean of Travesty Theatre. Writes Maclean: "This publication features two anonymous critics, CRITIC A & CRITIC B, who can be played by anyone on the paper's staff or from the outside. True, their reviews are entertaining, but what's wrong with a little theatrics while reviewing theatre."

Thursday, January 15, 2004

Hour Town

Just when you think Montreal's Hour magazine's theatre coverage couldn't get any worse...

One hopes that this Dylan Young character they used in their first issue of 2004 is just plugging a hole while Hour searches for a new theatre scribe. His article about Centaur theatre's Wildside Festival was truly... well, just read it for yourself.

The best part was this bit, about Keir Cutler's show Teaching Witchcraft, currently being remounted as part of Wildside: "In a presumably chilling and hilarious rendering, Cutler portrays Blessed Heinrich in all his paranoid, conspiracy-of-witchcraft-loving, final-solution-justifying glory. Sure to amuse and delight."

"Presumably"? What, did he copy the press release?

Wait. Yes. He did.

From the Centaur website: "A hilarious, yet chilling portrayal of Blessed Henrich who explains the worldwide conspiracy of witchcraft, and justifies his 'final solution.' Keir Cutler's latest piece follows his celebrated style of one-man shows Teaching Shakespeare, Teaching Detroit and Is Shakespeare Dead? Winner of Fringe Festival prizes in New York, Montreal, Edmonton and BC, Cutler's work is always a sure-bet."

Come back Jason Whiting! All is forgiven!

(Some of you must be wondering, why on earth does this guy care so much about a Montreal weekly's theatre coverage? It's true. In the grand scheme of things, it doesn't matter. But there are two reasons for my angst: 1) When I was growing up in Montreal, I used to enjoy picking up the Hour every week, mainly because of its good theatre critic. It's sad to see it decline and then decline further. 2) In order for theatre to continue to exist, we need good theatre journalists. The fact that so few exist just reminds me how marginal an art form theatre has become.)

Life as a journalist is tough I

"About 30 editorial freelancers who contributed to the now defunct Lingua Franca and University Business magazines are being sued in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Manhattan. University Business LLC, the company that owned the two magazines, filed for bankruptcy in April 2002, and now its court-appointed trustee is trying to recover payments made in the months before the company went out of business?including fees of a few thousand dollars paid to writers, editors, and artists for work done long ago." [Full Village Voice article]

Life as a journalist is tough II

Elm Street died last week leading Canadian pundits to once again complain about the dearth of good magazines in this country. Note that Andrew Cohen's article ignores both Maisonneuve and Geist (probably because they're not based in Toronto), barely mentions Walrus, and doesn't care that Saturday Night is expanding back to 10 issues a year. Am I the only one who thinks that, perhaps, the Canadian magazine industry isn't doing half-bad?

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Under the Name of Saunders

From: DSaunders@tktk.ca
To: uncascrooge@tktk.com
Subject: Dec. 20 cannon doll review
Date: Tue, 13 Jan 2004 10:04:11 -0500

Though I knew that my status as a local hack would expose me to various pains and humiliations, never did I dream that I would some day suffer the sting of the dance critic upon my own not so well toned skin. Thanks to the magic of the blog, and your own strange obsessions, I can now add this honour to my list of accomplishments. I would never stoop to contesting a critical judgement, but my wife would like it to be known that she considered her performance measured and understated rather than "bland and passable"

====================
Doug Saunders
International Affairs Writer
The Globe and Mail -- [One of] Canada's National Newspaper[s]
Master of my own Domain

Yes. It's official. I now own www.nestruck.com. Yes, now instead of typing in fence.blogspot.com -- which everyone seems to confuse with the bisexual site onthefence.blogspot.com (not, as they say, that there is anything wrong with that) -- you need only remember my last name.

Perhaps I should start marketing this with a jingle... "Type Nes-Truck, that's my name! My name again is Nes-Truck." (You know what I'm talkin' about...)

Post-script

Paul Wells has a funny, little contest on his blog: Which one word best describes John Doyle, television critic for the Globe and Mail?

Monday, January 12, 2004

One last Copenhagen post....

I love Robert Cushman's reviews in The Post and not just because he's my co-worker. I do genuinely believe he's the best theatre critic in Toronto right now... Here's his take on Copenhagen. What I admire here is how he explains the complicated plot so simply. I struggled, struggled, struggled with that when I wrote about it.
Warning: Restitution may be harmful to your health

Okay, apparently everyone HATES Restitution (on at Factory Theatre right now), not just Richard Ouzounian. So, if you go, be aware that apparently I'm the only person who kinda liked it.

Kamal Al-Solaylee in The Globe and Mail writes, "What the feck? That just about sums up the proceedings in Michael O'Brien's Restitution: An Irish-Canadian Rhapsody and the only critical response I can immediately muster to this latest addition to the Factory Theatre hall of shame. I mean, honestly, feck, feck, feck."

John Coulbourn's Toronto Sun review is more tempered, but not glowing in any way: "Press notes for Restitution carry the warning: 'Extreme Violence, Much Blasphemy, And Tons Of Profanity.' What it doesn't say is that, beyond that, it doesn't have much to offer."

Caveat Emptor.

Sunday, January 11, 2004

We'll always have stick figures...

Having recently rewatched the video for Fatboy Slim's Weapon of Choice (yeah, the one with Christopher Walken) on the DVD collection of Spike Jonze's videos, I found this animated stick figure version of it particularly funny. [via Dan's Delirium.]

The guy behind this stick-figure drama is Gareth Forman. Forman seems to be following in the steps of China's brilliant Zhu Zhq, who created those stick-figure martial arts flash animations that were all the rage in 2002.

All right... What I'd like to see next is a stick figure version of West Side Story, please.

Post-script

Fun fact! Dan of Dan's Delirium blog was born on the exact same day as me. If anyone else out there was born on April 6 and has a blog, please let me know. We can start an April 6 blogring.
We're always have Restitution...

I didn't have great expectations for Restitution: An Irish-Canadian Rhapsody by Michael O'Brien, currently playing at the Factory theatre. This is probably why I ended up enjoying the play, which is about two feuding Irish-Canadian brothers/stereotypes..

Described as "a joyous, rollicking comedy about faith, family, murder, suicide, the Irish Famine, domestic violence, bare-knuckle boxing, torture, vivisection, alcoholism", O'Brien seems to be writing in the tradition of the in-yer-face playwrights, particularly Martin McDonagh.

Unfortunately, O'Brien is no McDonagh and he really pulls his punches in the second act. As a result, the play finishes all saccharine and gooey. Until then though, it's fun. (Would have been more fun with 20 minutes cut out of it.)

Director Sarah Stanley, I think, is the one who made this production fly. She understood that the play would only work if it was staged broadly and the stereotypes were played at full volume.

She had some excellent contributions from Lisa Norton (Eye's cover girl this week), who plays Bridget Macready, and some guy whose name I'll track down, who cracked up the audience everytime he stepped on stage in one of his multiple roles.

Post-script

Whoa nelly! Richard Ouzounian massacred the play in his Toronto Star review... Quote: "The author calls this epic 'an Irish-Canadian Rhapsody.' I prefer to think of it as a Rhapsody In Boo."

Ha! Worst pun ever! I love it...

(I think Ouzounian must be a little under the weather this week. His review of Copenhagen was paint-by-numbers and this one is just overly and unnecessarily harsh...)
We'll always have Copenhagen...

There's a lot to love about Copenhagen by British playwright Michael Frayn.

For one there's the taut historical mystery: Why did German physicist Heisenberg go to visit his Danish mentor Bohr at the height of the Second World War? (An article about this debate written by me.)

Then there's the basic theme of the play: The unknowability of the human mind -- even your own. (As extrapolated from Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle.)

What I love best about this play is that it's four days since I saw the Mirvish/NAC/Neptune co-production and I'm still thinking about it. (For one, I'm thinking about how Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle applied to human thought smashes the very tenets of Method Acting. Discuss.)

The NAC/Mirvish/Neptune co-production, however, is a disappointment. The "Science is mystical!" fallacy permeates the show from the way the actors deliver their lines to the mathematical formulae that are projected on the back wall as if they were pentacles or masonic symbols. (All of the video projections are distracting and, well, just plain unnecessary.)

No wonder so many people walked out saying, "Boy, that was good but I didn't understand it" -- Diana LeBlanc's production tells the audience that they shouldn't understand or expect to understand it. Like, science is hard.

(The best part of this Copenhagen? Martha Henry as Bohr's wife Margrethe is astonishing.)

Production aside, go see the show, because the play is so darn good. I recommend reading Copenhagen's script before you go, though, because it's really not something that is easy to take in on first viewing.

Post-script

-- Reviews: The Star is the only one I see online.

-- Frayn's fascinating post-script to the play.

--- Historian Paul Rose's riposte to the play, which he thinks is "subtle revisionism" and an apologia for Werner "He-who-tried-to-build-an-A-bomb-for-Hitler" Heisenberg.

-- Frayn's post-post-script, which takes into account and counters Rose's critique (and others').

-- A whole slew of essays about the play from a symposium held in Washington a couple of years ago.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Xtreme Blogging

Read with interest a thinkpiece chronicling the "Xtreme" food trend (Dentyne Ice Intense, Gatorade Fierce, etc.) in the most recent issue of Saturday Night yesterday. In "Taste for the Extreme", Mireille Silcoff (former Mirror and National Post writer/editor) asks, "These days, we like our coffee wickedly strong and chewing gum powerful enough to make us feel as though our mouths have been abraded with a windshield scraper. Have we become a nation of culinary thrill-seekers? Or are we just bored?"

Then she answers: "We're suffering from a relatively new, still-uninvestigated boredom epidemic," which we try to escape by "putting something hard-core in our mouths and feeling the synapses go wild." (She expands on this theory and it's much better explained than my summary here.)

So, I was in Loblaws today, shopping for milk, prosciutto and toilet paper, when I happened upon the deodorant section. Since I am getting near the end of my Gilette Cool Wave deodorant, I thought I'd pick up another one. (Hold on! There's a connection! It's coming...)

Anyway, with Silcoff's article in mind, I started examining the deodorants and was amazed that they were all "Xtreme" now. What the hell? Where's my boring deodorant? Where's my non-extreme alternative?

These were the Right Guard "flavours": X, Xtreme Spray, Cool Peak, Fresh Blast, Clean Impact. Also Xtreme Sport Ultra Gel. Ultra Gel? What does that mean? Also, Power Stripe Anti-Perspirant Accelerate. These are real products, not parodies!

The varieties of Speed Stick were equally bizarre: Cool Fusion, Fresh Rush and Icy Surge. Excuse me? I don't want an ICY SURGE in my ARMPIT. You've got to be kidding, Mr. Speed Stick. Who buys these? Also, Speed Stick Avalanche and Speed Stick Ultimate.

As for Degree: exhilaration, extreme blast, cool rush.

Even Arm and Hammer wasn't immune. It's Advance deodorant claimed to have "Advanced Deodorancy" and "36 Hour Power." I think that the most I would ever need or want my deodorant to last would be 24 hours, frankly.

Anyway, all these absurd buzz words almost made the Adidas deodorant look like the most sensible purchase. But then I read the Adidas deodorant closer. It said, "Team Force." I don't know about you, but my deodorant need only be strong enough for one person, not a whole team.

For those of you dying of curiousity, I bought the "Exact Men's Deodorant: Extreme Energy" brand. Yes, it's extreme, but it was also cheaper than the other brands. And it smells a bit like my old Cool Wave.

Post-script

I hadn't read Saturday Night for a while, but Hey, there were more than a few interesting articles in it. Which is more than I can say for Walrus, unfortunately. (Still holding out hope.)

Been reading more magazines lately. I'm a big fan of The Believer. I'm an advocate of Maisonneuve, which is much better than I thought it would be. Also, strangely enough, I picked up Vanity Fair at the Loblaws check-out today.

Also, isn't it funny that the guy who owns Loblaws is named Bob Loblaw? Someone told me that this summer and it still amuses me.

Sunday, January 04, 2004

Judith Thompson: Canadian Playwright

She's won the Governor General's Prize for Drama twice! Her new play Capture Me opens this Tuesday at the Tarragon Theatre! She walks her dog in the park near my apartment!

Hurrah! Here's my interview with her.

Post-script

Sigh. I'm not looking forward to the National Post website going subscription. I kind of like the idea that people around the world can (though probably don't) read my articles. It's going to happen though, so get ready.

Saturday, January 03, 2004

Prepare for the O'Neill Onslaught

That's right! Thanks to Canada's life + 50 years copyright laws, all published works by people who died in 1953 have now entered the public domain in this country.

So I'd expect an Eugene O'Neill (1888-1953) festival to be started by some enterprising Canuck any day now. (In the States, his copyright still holds. See this Law Blog entry for confusing details.)

Let's see... I can see the programme now: Long Day's Journey Into Night, Desire Under the Elms, and The Iceman Cometh, with a couple of obscurer plays thrown in, Hughie and More Stately Mansions. Plus, an innovative updating of one of his plays titled mourning.becomes.(e)lectra.

O'Neill on the Outaouais? How's that sound?

Others whose works are entering the public domain in Canada this year: Welsh poet and playwright Dylan Thomas, country music singer-songwriter Hank Williams, Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev and everyone's favourite Soviet dictator Uncle Joe Stalin (A Five Year Plan! The Musical?). [via Colbycosh.com]

Post-script

In other news:
1) TV columnist/humourist Scott Feschuk has left The Post to become Paul Martin's speechwriter. How is this a good idea for either of them?
2) The House of Sand and Fog: The most depressing movie I've seen since Requiem For a Dream. Thanks a lot, Jennifer Connelly.
3) Happy New Year!