Sunday, February 29, 2004

Theatre Thunday: The Abbey Theatre

While here in Dublin I checked out the two shows currently playing at The Abbey, Ireland's National Theatre, which is celebrating its centenary this year. (Twas founded in 1904 by W.B. Yeats amongst others.)

In The Abbey mainspace: The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekhov in a new version by Irish writer Tom Murphy. It took me a moment to accept a bunch of accented Irishmen and Irishwomen playing pre-revolutionary Russians, but they had me by Leonid's bookcase monologue. The production nicely balances the comedy and tragedy, but favours the comedy as I suspect Chehkov would have liked. (Debate welcome.) Particularly good is Lorcan Cranitch (the businessman on TV's Ballykissangel) as Lopakhin.

In the Peacock smaller space: Finders Keepers, a new play by North Dubliner Peter Sheridan. Set against the background of the declining Dublin Docklands of the early 1970's, Finders Keepers is a touching coming-of-age story. Generally, I don't have much tolerance for touching coming-of-age stories -- especially ones that tie up every loose end with liquorice as this one does -- but I had a great time listening to the actors' accents and trying to decipher local references and slang. And the performances were really energetic and fun. So, all in all, a nice afternoon at the theatre that I would have absolutely loathed if the whole thing had taken place in Canada.

And now a rant: The Abbey Theatre demands that you BUY programmes. Yes: There are no free programmes. The programmes they have are glossy and colourful and cost 5 Euro each. Even on Broadway there are free programmes alongside the expensive souvenir volumes. But not in Dublin, noooo... I'm not going to shell out 5 Euro for a bloody programme. Do you know what that is in Canadian? Alls I wants is a photocopied piece of paper with the Dramatis Personae and the director's name and the designers' names. That's all. Is that too much to ask from a government-funded theatre? My ancestors' descendants tax dollars are go--

Oh, never mind.

Post-script

In response to comments below, I have asked the folks at The Towers here in Dublin to name a floor after Seamus Heaney. They have acquiesced and agreed to start building one immediately following the poet's death. (I suspect they'll build one after Marina Carr passes away too. God forbid she die soon, though. Carr is a great Irish playwright and -- on the cusp of forty -- she has many fruitful writing days ahead...)

Hey, you know what I wish I was here for? The Burial of Thebes by Seamus Heaney, a new adaptation of Sophocles' Antigone that is going on at the Abbey in April. Could rival Jean Anouilh's famed version, methinks... Look at me, I'm drooling in anticipation. I'll have to order in a script.
My Oscar Nosepicks

Disclaimer: These are my picks for who will win, not who ought to win. Well, except for a couple where I let sentiment get in the way of my good judgement. I promise not to change this blog post after the winners are announced and pretend to be omniscient.

ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE [Sentiment clouding judgement!]
Bill Murray - LOST IN TRANSLATION

ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE [Tough catagory!]
Tim Robbins - MYSTIC RIVER

ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE [Easy category!]
Charlize Theron - MONSTER

ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE [She was excellent.]
Shohreh Aghdashloo - HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG

ANIMATED FEATURE FILM [Sorry Triplets.]
FINDING NEMO

ART DIRECTION [Wild guess.]
GIRL WITH A PEARL EARRING

CINEMATOGRAPHY [They gotta give it something.]
CITY OF GOD

COSTUME DESIGN [Sure.]
THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RETURN OF THE KING

DIRECTING [It's really pretty.]
THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RETURN OF THE KING

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE [Tough category again. Runner-up: The Fog of War.]
CAPTURING THE FRIEDMANS

FILM EDITING [They have to give it something II]
CITY OF GOD

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM [No brainer. Everyone loves this film.]
THE BARBARIAN INVASIONS

MAKEUP [Whatever.]
THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RETURN OF THE KING

MUSIC (SCORE) [Eh, whatever.]
THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RETURN OF THE KING

MUSIC (SONG) [But, since people like Eugene Levy, it could be: "A Kiss at the End of the Rainbow" - A MIGHTY WIND]
"Belleville Rendez-vous" - THE TRIPLETS OF BELLEVILLE

BEST PICTURE [Blegh.]
THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RETURN OF THE KING

SHORT FILM (ANIMATED) [Canadian!]
NIBBLES

VISUAL EFFECTS [Duh.]
THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RETURN OF THE KING

WRITING (ADAPTED SCREENPLAY) [I would have liked to see this film nominated more.]
AMERICAN SPLENDOR

WRITING (ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY) [This one is totally up in the air.]
IN AMERICA

Saturday, February 28, 2004

The secret order of the Irish poets

Here at The Towers at the Jurys Ballsbridge Hotel, the floors are named after different famous Irish writers:
Floor 1: Oliver St. John Gogarty
Floor 2: Oscar Wilde
Floor 3: Patrick Kavanagh
Floor 4: Samuel Beckett
Floor 5: George Bernard Shaw
Floor 6: Sean O'Casey
Floor 7: James Joyce
Floor 8: William Butler Yeats
This isn't the way I'd number them, of course. In my hotel, Gogarty would still be at the bottom (no good really, except as inspiration for the character of Buck Mulligan in Ulysses), but Beckett would be right at the top. Joyce and Shaw would battle for the seventh floor, while Yeats would set up shop on the fifth. Wilde would languidly nibble at cucumber sandwiches on the fourth floor and O'Casey would settle in comfortably on the third, look up at the literary luminaries above him and ask, what is the stars, what is the stars?

Kavanagh willl have to settle for the second floor. Sorry, Kavanagh, but it's some stiff competition...

I'm staying on the fourth floor and am greeted by a giant brooding bust of Beckett each time I step off the elevator. And I'm very pleased to note that of all the buttons on the elevator, only the one to the fourth floor doesn't light up when pressed. This is by accident, of course, not design, but no less enjoyable for it.

Post-script

-- Inspired by the wrinkly bust on my floor, I went to the local bookstore and picked up James Knowlson's biography of Beckett, which has the rather dumb title of Damned to Fame. I'm enjoying it quite a bit so far and have to remind myself to put it down and get out and explore Dublin. [New York Times review of Damned to Fame.]

-- I welcome alternative rankings of the Irish scribes at uncascrooge at hotmail dot com.
These are the Yeats I know, I know... These are the Yeats I know

Of course, you've heard of the Irish poet W.B. Yeats, but what about the rest of his artist family?

I went to see the Book of Kells at Trinity College yesterday as all good tourists named Kelly should. The book is on display in the Old Library, which was built in 1732.

Aside from the Book of Kells, the Old Library is home to The Long Room (not that long, really, just 65 metres). Right now the Long Room is playing host to a fascinating, if undercurated, exhibit called "Irish Genius: The Yeats Family & the Cuala Press."

Inspired by the Arts and Crafts movement, W.B.'s sisters Elizabeth Corbett Yeats and Lily Yeats, along with Evelyn Gleeson, the daughter of an Irish doctor, established the Cuala Press (originally the Dun Emer Press) in 1902 [Bartleby entry]. Cuala was the most important literary publishing house in Dublin in the first half of the twentieth century, publishing Yeats, Joyce, Gogarty, Synge and many others.

Elizabeth Corbett, originally an art teacher, was in charge of the printing, while her sister Lily did the embroidery and Evelyn did the weaving for the press. Brother John (Jack) Yeats, a painter of some repute, did much of the illustration. Jack's wife Mary Cotterham-Yeats, who he met at Art College, made the designed for Lily's embroidery. William Butler was on the masthead as literary advisor. Cuala also sometimes employed "lithographer, engraver, master printer and typographic designer" Sir Emery Walker.

Cuala certainly succeeded in its objective "to find work for Irish Hands in the making of beautiful things." I leaned heavily on the glass cases, wishing to reach in and touch some of the more gorgeous items on display.

I particularly love the long and windy colophons -- scribal notes -- that E.C. put in red ink at the end of all the books Cuala published. An example:
Here ends 'Certain Noble Plays of Japan:' From the Manuscripts of Ernest Fenollosa, chosen and finished by Ezra Pound. Printed and Published by Elizabeth Corbett Years at the Cuala Press, Churchtown, Dundrum, in the county of Dublin, Ireland. Finished on the Twentieth Day of July, In the eyar of the Sinn Fein rising, Nineteen Hundred and Sixteen.
Another one, at the end of W.B. Yeats' "In the Seven Woods," notes that the book was published in "The Year of the Big Wind, Nineteen Hundred and Three." (Joyce parodied Cuala's wordy colophons in the first chapter of Ulysses.)

(For those interested in typography, Cuala used Caslon type, a classic 18th Century typeface.)

The Book of Kells was wonderful too, needless to say. I did, however, end up spending more time perusing the exhibit about the Cuala Press. The two together were a one-two Irish bookmaking knockout.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

JamesJoyceLand

That's sort of what it feels like here. Of course, I'm on a media preview of ReJoyce 2004, Dublin's 100th Bloomsday festival, so that probably accounts for all the Joyceania.

Anyway, I was glad to make it up to the North side of Dublin today, where things are a little more real and a little less GuinnessVille. (The river Liffey separates the poorer North from the richer South.) Was given a frenetic tour by Alex Singer, former McGill Dailyite, now a Medical Student at University College Dublin and writer at the University Observer.

Must run off now. Just wanted to make a quick entry before heading off to 15 Usher's Island, the house where Joyce set his short story The Dead.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

When Wolf Whistles, the Cats Call...

By now, the Naomi Wolf-Harold Bloom sexual harassment story is all over the place. Here's the New York magazine article where Wolf makes her allegation that Bloom "did something banal, human, and destructive: He put his hand on a student's inner thigh, a student whom he was tasked with teaching and grading."

[The real relevation here, I think, is Wolf's hairstyle when she was a student at Yale in the 80s.]

As I've noted before, as much fun as the prospect of seeing Bloom squirm is, I can't see why on earth Wolf is bringing this up now, unless to drive the final nail into the coffin of early 1990s sexual politics.

Zoe Williams had a fine piece about this in The Guardian yesterday [read it]:

[The backlash against tardy allegations of sexual harassment/assault] almost always comes from other women, handily, if bizarrely uniting feminists, post-feminists, non-feminists and the undecided, in a single voice of unsisterly incandescence. Why should the response be so vehement? What is it about sex crimes, or charges thereof, which riles not men, defending each other in an old-boy stylie, but other women?

It's partly that the dangerous predator in question is often characterised not as an individual who behaved badly, but as a symptom of the rottenness at the core of all of society. For instance, Bloom's behaviour "devastated" Wolf's sense of "being valuable to Yale as a student rather than as a pawn of powerful men". Wolf depicts Bloom as the personification not just of an intellectual landscape (Yale), but of an entire gender ("powerful men"). In so doing, she styles herself as the binary opposite, the personification of her own gender, the eternal pawn or victim. And this is where, as someone who shares that gender, something rises in my throat - it really is debateable whether or not some drunk bloke putting his face quite near yours and his hand on your thigh, when you thought he'd come round to read poetry, undermines your value to an entire institution. In the barometer that runs from "misunderstanding" to "act of violence", it leans irrefutably towards the former. So, sure, object to it, at the time or many years afterwards, but not in the name of your gender. Not in the name of people who see no possibility of gender-parity in a world where women achieve victim status simply by being women. Not in my name - object to it in your own name...

Ultimately, sexual politics is the one thing that really dates feminism, that makes it "old school" and lets it down. Equal pay for equal work will never go out of fashion. But blanket assumptions of female victimhood and weakness, the inevitability of male exploitation, the drive to politicise every ambiguous physical gesture as if we're all working shoulder to shoulder against malevolent men - this is not feminism. To bundle it all together as such catches a lot of us who cannot agree, like dolphins in a tuna net. No wonder we thrash about so much.
[Okay, so that tuna metaphor is more than a little odd. Is Harold Bloom the helpless dolphin caught in the tuna net by accident? Tuna aside, I think she makes some good points.]

Post-script

-- I note that there has been a big spike in visitors to this page yesterday and today. Welcome. Most of the visitors are searching for something like "Naomi Wolf Harold Bloom" in Google.

-- There are also a number of visitors headed this way from Frank Magazine's website, where some discussion of a piece I compiled about Toro Magazine is taking place.
Traditional music, indeed

DUBLIN, Ireland -- Last night, I went to the Temple Bar district with fellow traveller Hillary Kaell. We walked into Oliver St. John Gogarty's hoping to listen to tin whistles and fiddles playing jigs and reels...

Well, what should the band start playing within minutes of our arrival? Why, Gordon Lightfoot's "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald," of course. Hillary and I signalled our approval with hoots -- as all Canadian tourists should when a Canadian person/place/thing is mentioned. (Also, on TV last night, a documentary on Nelly Furtado, who I think is more popular here in Ireland than at home.)

Now, I should note that the words the Gogarty Band were singing to the classic Lightfoot tune weren't what you would hear in Canada. Here they call the song, "Back Home in Derry" and its lyics are entirely different from the original. It's about a group of ill-fated Irish sailing from Derry to Australia, not the ill-fated North Americans who sank with the Edmund Fitzgerald in Lake Superior, November of 1975.

Post-script

-- The real Oliver St. John Gogarty's was a Dublin writer and politican prominent in the first half of the twentieth century. So what... What's more interesting to those of you interested in literaure is that Gogarty was a good friend of James Joyce's and was the model for the character of Buck Mulligan in Joyce's Ulysses.

-- I was prescribed a remedy for my travel cold last night at Gogarty's: Irish Whisky (Jameson's, of course), hot water, and a slice of lemon studded with cloves. Worked like a charm.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Live from Dublin it's... I don't know. Monday? Tuesday?

Well, here I am in Ireland's capital city, staying at the Jurys Ballsbridge Hotel. I haven't slept, but I must stay up until at least 11 pm GMT in order to get into the groove here. So time for a little jetlagged blogging...

There's much to tell, but it's probably stuff that only I find interesting, so perhaps I'll hold it for another time.

Still, let me tell you this: on the BMI connecting flight from London to Dublin, they served "Bacon Panini." Yes, I couldn't believe my ears. In fact, I thought the stewardress was saying "Blanket 'n' Weenie," which I suppose is a fairly accurate description of what Bacon Panini is anyway... [Thankfully some webster has photographed this BMI delicacy.]

Another thing about BMI: The stewardesses. I've never understood the obsession some men (a certain Globe and Mail cub reporter comes to mind) have with airline hostesses. But now, I get it. I think it's these funky hats that do it for me...

The three hours I spent delayed in Heathrow airport this morning are the only hours I have ever spent in London. Two things: 1) The coffee is indeed horrible; and 2) I was so excited to read a print copy of The Guardian, a fabulous newspaper I'd previously only read online.

Re: the news in England. The two top stories that BBC kept running today were: a) The Maths Crisis; and b) The Badgers Disaster.

The way the BBC so seriously went on about badgers reminded me of our own over-earnest, but much-beloved CBC. I felt at home. [Could not one of the reporters have said, "Badgers? We don't need no stinkin' badgers..."]

Post-script

All right, I'm off to meet Hillary Kaell, a former colleague of mine from The McGill Daily now living in Oxford, who I serendipitously ran into at Heathrow. She is also here for a week.

Sunday, February 22, 2004

On the Fence, On the Road

It's NADbank study time -- the Canadian print equivalent of TV's Sweep week-- so in an effort to push up my hit count, On the Fence will be going on the road this week.

Tomorrow evening, I'll be hopping a plane to Dublin, Ireland, from where On the Fence will be published for a week. In one highly-anticipated entry, guest blogger Ed the Sock will report about his experiences throwing potatoes at the spectators at a hurling match between Dublin and Galway. (Hurling is the Gaelic version of hockey; I wonder if this hurler Humphrey Kelleher is a relative of mine?)

It's my second trip to Ireland. The first, eight years ago, was with my grandmother Kay Kelleher Nestruck, who was born at Glenbeg near Castletownbere in County Cork. We spent most of the time in the Southern counties, so this will be my first time in Dublin.

Stay tuned!

Post-script

Speaking of the land of Leopold Bloom, another Bloom -- pleonastic literary scholar Harold Bloom -- is about to plunge into a nice puddle of hot media-frenzy water. [I agree... that was the worst segue ever.] As reported by Rachel Donadio in this week's New York Observer, feminist critic Naomi Wolf will claim that Bloom sexually harassed her while she was an undergraduate at Yale University 20 years ago in a New York magazine article slated to come out this week. [via About Last Night.]

Are you ready to rumble? Much as I relish a potential Bloom take-down, I suspect that the anti-Wolf backlash will be stronger. You must read the Observer article, if only for a particularly fun opening slap from contrarian feminist Camille Paglia:
"I just feel it’s indecent that if Naomi Wolf did not have the courage to pursue the matter at the time, or in the 1990’s, and put her own reputation on the line, then to bring all of this down on a man who is in his 70’s and has health problems—who has become a culture hero to readers in the humanities around the world—to drag him into a ‘he said/she said’ scenario so late in the game, to me demonstrates a lack of proportion and a basic sense of fair play," said Ms. Paglia, who is professor of humanities and media studies at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, where she said she helped institute that university’s sexual-harassment policies in the 1980s.

"At the beginning of the 90’s, people said, ‘Oh, Naomi Wolf, this great thinker,’" said Ms. Paglia. "But what she’s managed to do in 10 years is marginalize herself as a chronicler of teenage angst. She doesn’t want to leave that magic island when she was the ripening teenager. How many times do we have to relive Naomi Wolf’s growing up? How many books, how many articles, Naomi, are you going to impose on us so we have to be dragged back to your teenage-heartbreak years? This is regressive! It’s childish! Move on! Move on! Get on to menopause next!"
Bam! Up next, Andrea Dworkin!

Happy (Belated) Birthday to On the Fence

One year ago on February 9, a young student journalist in Montreal began keeping a weblog. In his first entry, aptly and succinctly titled "Hi", he wrote:
Well, this is my attempt at a Blog. Really, I just wanted to create a space where I could archive my McGill Daily column and other writings online. But now, the allure of web-celebrity is slowing pumping up my ego. Now I have dreams of becoming the next Jennycam or whathaveyou. Soon, The New York Times will write a story about the charismatic young Montrealer who captured the world...
So to those of you who know me, hi. Please make gratuitous fun of me in whatever way you can.
To those of you who do not know me, what the hell are you doing here? How did you get here? Also, hi.
(Thankfully, soon after, the young man stopped capitalizing the word "blog.")

Today, as per his prediction, the "On the Fence" blog -- sometimes known as the J. Kelly Nestblog -- is indeed an international phenomenon. Its readership may not be on the level of say Metafilter or even Andrew Coyne, but the important people read it. People like my friends and family -- and the various Canadians I make fun of who then Google themselves and end up here.

Much has changed in the past year: I'm in a new city, Toronto rather than Montreal; I'm still a journalist, but now sans the student prefix; blogging has moved from out of its subculture status to become so mainstream that every pundit and politician from Prague to Peoria has one. (Actually, it was already well on its way in that direction last February.)

But enough wankery. So far in February, On the Fence has already received more visitors than it has in any other single month. Thanks to those who have visited since the beginning. May there be many more years of self-indulgent blogging ahead.

Friday, February 20, 2004

I'm famous! (In my own mind!)

Earlier this week, On the Fence was mentioned in an editorial called "When sex education goes haywire " in The Brunswickian, the fine student newspaper at the University of New Brunswick. Sean Patrick Sullivan writes about the fictitious Middle School Oral Sex Epidemic I keep going on about.

Post-script

The title of this post is an inside-jokey reference to a old, old column by Zach "Zachsky" Dubinsky, who hasn't updated his website since he ran for McGill's Board of Governors four years ago.
Two Blogs I've Noticed Lately

In the Left corner: Ed Broadbent. Yes, that Ed Broadbent. The former leader of the federal NDP is back in the game and on the Internet, getting ready to run for the Ottawa Centre seat in the next election. Most of the entries written by his campaign team members end with: "Tommy would be proud!"

In the Right corner: Jonathan Colford. This former McGill Tribune editor is a real character. He mixes posts about the "Stalinist Canada Health Act" and his work on the Belinda Stronach campaign, with posts about this girl he has a crush on and his varying levels of depression. The best part is that his left-leaning Dad posts responses to almost every one of his entries. Sometimes (someone pretending to be?) his Mom comments too.
What can I say? I'm addicted. It's so frikken good....
Blog Tip of the Day: Morse code may not be compatible with some browsers

My blog was all messed up today on some browsers. So I e-mailed Blogger support. I received a fast and helpful response from Graham. Thanks Blogger!

So you at home don't make the same mistake, here's what Graham wrote.
Hi Kelly,

In a recent post, you'll notice that you typed a long series of
dot-dot-dot- etc. Unfortunately, a browser doesn't interpret these hyphens
as break points for wrapping lines to fit in the window, so it puts it all
on one line. This stretches the width of the rest of the content along
with it, so your whole blog becomes too wide. You can fix it by cutting
down that list of dots, or by adding some spaces in it.

I hope that helps.

Sincerely, Graham
Blogger Support

Thursday, February 19, 2004

Punktuation II: Morse code knows where it's @.

Everything old is new again. From an article by David Kohn in the L.A. Times:

Morse code is entering the 21st century -- or at least the late 20th.
The 160-year-old communication system now has a new character to denote the "@" symbol used in e-mail addresses.
In December, the International Telecommunications Union, which oversees the entire frequency spectrum, from amateur radio to satellites, voted to add the new character.
The new sign, which will be known as a "commat," consists of the signals for "A" (dot-dash) and "C" (dash-dot-dash-dot), with no space between them.
The new sign is the first in at least several decades, and possibly much longer. Among ITU officials and Morse code aficionados, no one could remember any other addition.
"It's a pretty big deal," said Paul Rinaldo, chief technical officer for the American Radio Relay League, the national association for amateur radio operators. "There certainly hasn't been any change since before World War II."
The article goes on to note that there is no morse code character for the exclamation point.

May I suggest one? How about dot-dot-dot- dot-dot-dot- dot-dot-dot- dot-dot-dot-dot- dot-dot-dot-dot -dot-dot-dot-dot-dot- dot-dot-dot-dot-dot- dot-dot-dot-dot-dot-dot -dot-dot-dot-dot-dot -dot-dot-dot-dot-dot- dot-dot-dot- dot-dot-dot -dot-dot-dot-dot- dot-dot-dot-dot -dot-dot-dot?
Punktuation I: semicolons and gay marriage

The semicolon, a controversial punctuation mark, came out in favour of gay marriage this week. Read all about it in this article by AP reporters David Kravets and Lisa Leff:
Two judges delayed taking any action Tuesday to shut down San Francisco's same-sex wedding spree, citing court procedures as they temporarily rebuffed conservative groups enraged that the city's liberal politicians had already married almost 2,400 gay and lesbian couples.
The second judge told the plaintiffs that they would likely succeed on the merits eventually, but that for now, he couldn't accept their proposed court order because of a punctuation error.
It all came down to a semicolon, the judge said.
"I am not trying to be petty here, but it is a big deal ... That semicolon is a big deal," said San Francisco Superior Court Judge James Warren.
In response to this decision, House Republicans have threatened to withdraw funding from the MLA.

[More on the semicolon debate at Language Hat.]

Post-script

-- I know what you're all wondering now: Who will the emdash support in the Conservative Party leadership race? My money's on Belinda.
I'm a big ol' sexist!

Well, maybe. As someone pointed out to me the other day, all the pundits I link to on the left are men.

Are women pundits simply too smart/not geeky enough to blog? Perhaps y'all can suggest some websites where Canadian women provide incisive/pithy commentary on the day's news/arts... (Or, heck, even not Canadian.)

Post-script

Not even the Mother Corp is immune from the disease that is the Middle School Oral Sex Epidemic! To wit: Some irritating online pundit named Georgie Binks.

All this talk of the MSOSE reminds me of the gossip I used to hear in the halls in high school. I remember one Grade 9 rumour that a certain girl had given oral sex to a guy with visible herpes sores at a party. Perhaps The Globe and Mail, The Toronto Star and CBC could look into that...
Stop. Hey! What's that sound?

It's the sound of former Liberal strategist Warren Kinsella being spot on about something. Check out his blog entry for February 18th about the NDP and Jack Layton's repsonse to Adscam...

Yes, Layton has failed to capitalize on it so far. The headless Conservatives haven't exactly been all over it either, but they don't need to. They're the natural beneficiaries in times like this.

Also, who's writing these quips for NDP MP Bill Blaikie? They suck, ie. "The Prime Minister is starting to look like another Bre-X story of Canadian politics and even today, some Liberal MPs are beginning to jump from the helicopters."

Ugh.

Post-script

-- I was relunctant to link to Kinsella's website... Apparently doing so invites invective from David "Worst Son Ever" Frum (see here).

For that very reason, I've decided to add Warren Kinsella to list of pundits (see left)...

-- Aaron Wherry sees things a little rosier (orangier?) for the NDP than I do. And, well, he's got numbers. All I's gots is opinions.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

The latest to jump on the Belinda bandwagon...



[via Daifallah]

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Punktuation: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Colon

Among the people I interviewed for today's story about the overuse of colons in academic book titles (subscription only, sorry) was Kiki Benzon. Unfortunately, due to lack of space, the wit and insight of Ms. Benzon -- a Ph.D. candidate in English Literature at University College London and former Montrealer -- was left on the proverbial cutting room floor.

Here are Ms. Benzon's colon comments:

My history with the colon is somewhat speckled.
For a while there, colons ticked me off big-time. I used to think that if an author used a colon in the title of an academic article or book she was basically saying, “Hi. I am unable to identify the definitive core or central epistemological node of my essay so what I’ll do is like expand the title by way of this-here colon so that I can then drop in lots more terms and basically double my chances of hitting on something which might reflect the content of my article and/or could be the least bit intriguing to a prospective reader.”
So instead of “Gloves and Shakespeare,” you’d get “When Digits get Draped and Palms Embalmed: The ├ťberinstrumentality and Semiotic Propositionalhood of Intergendered Protocamouflage-Analogues in The Bard’s Historical “Mass-Cult” Garb-Heavy Dramas.” Or some such.
I figured colonocentric titles were just like unnecessarily wordy and complex prose, where pages of fluff and verbiage could (and ought to have been) be replaced by a few short sentences. The colon, I determined, was a crutch: the easy way out for someone who lacked linguistic finesse and discipline.
Some academic titles are brilliantly crisp and un-colonic. Jean Baudrillard’s Simulations kind of says it all. Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History and the Last Man couldn’t really be more loaded, elegant or evocative.
Then there are some really innovative titles that resonate on a number of levels without resorting to the two stacked dots, like Brian McHale’s article, “POSTcyberMODERNpunkISM” or one I just came across in a conference programme, Brian Jarvis’s “Art. After. 9.11.” These titles, I think, rock.
But lately I’ve recognized that -- depending on its deployment -- the colon can actually be a useful means of refining general ideas or, in the best cases, enacting a conceptual expansion that the book or article discusses in depth. Marshall McLuhan’s Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man is a good example of this.
These days though, I tend to restrict my own colon-ization to instances where a textual sound-bite epitomizes my critical approach and some aspect of an artist’s work -- for example, “‘Harry, they pissed on us!’: Critical Excretions in Frank Zappa’s Joe’s Garage and Thing Fish.”
But generally speaking, I’d say colonic evacuation is a noble enterprise indeed.
Thus spake Kiki Benzon.

For more discussion of the colon issue, see Jennifer Jacobson's article from the Chronicle of Higher Education (which inspired mine in the Post) and a discussion of said article over at Language Hat.

Post-script

Speaking of which, do you know why truckers tend to have intestinal problems?

They have semi-colons. [via Alan Kellogg]
The Barbarians Prepare to Invade Britain

The Barbarian Invasions, Denys Arcand's sorta-sequel to The Decline of the American Empire, opens in London on Friday. Here's The Guardian and The Telegraph.

Here's an interesting quote from The Telegraph article:

"I think we're at the end of the European civilisation that started with the Renaissance, of which the USA was the last bastion," [Arcand] says. "Where do you go in theatre after Samuel Beckett? Where do you go with painting after Warhol? You can't go further.
Discuss.

Post-script

Remember that time that Paul Wells and Terence Corcoran discussed The Barbarian Invasions on my blog? Those were good times. (Also, the only time I've seen Wells make a mistake. About anything. Ever. Sort of.)
Election-o-rama: Whither the N-Dippers?

Can a left-wing party make government corruption and/or waste an issue? I think so. In theory, the left should be the most infuriated by the misuse of public funds.

In practice, however, the NDP has dropped the ball on this whole Sponsorship Scandal. The latest poll shows the NDP down a percentage point, the only party to go down other than the Liberals. (Though, it is statistically insignificant given the margin of error.) Meanwhile, the leaderless Conservative party is going up, up, up...

So where was WonderBoy Layton last week while the proverbial shit was hitting the proverbial fan? He was at Duke University in North Carolina giving a speech about Star Wars.

And the NDP website? Not a word about the Auditor-General's report.

Anyway, Layton finally really gets into the fray today and what tack does he take?:

Ottawa — NDP leader Jack Layton says he's willing to form a minority government with Paul Martin's Liberals if the federal sponsorship scandal ends up denying the ruling party a majority of Parliamentary seats in an expected spring election.
"If the poll lines keep going the way they are going: us up ... and the Liberals down, then the probability of a minority government increases," he said.
But Mr. Layton says a non-negotiable precondition of any coalition with the Liberals will be holding a national referendum on switching to a new method of electing MPs to Parliament. "The condition of supporting any minority government would be that."
So the NDP is so appalled by Liberal cronyism that it will form a minority government with them?

Layton was playing his A-game up until last week... Now he's faltering. Now he's playing his B-game. So, is he going to step up and resume his A-game? Or is he going to back down and start playing a C-game or D-game or something?

I am really not into sports. Except squash.

Post-script

-- A good article about Triumph the Insult Comic Dog by Colby Cosh in the American Spectator. Well, sort of good. Okay that bit about "[The outrage] being fomented by the social-democratic NDP, which is opposed to humor on principle" was a low blow. (But, I mean, what's he supposed to think, Alexa McDonough?)

-- BlogsCanada is running an election blog. Good times!

Saturday, February 14, 2004

Puppets Gone Wild: Triumph of the Will?

If there's one thing we as Canadians can all agree on this Valentine's Day weekend, it's that puppets are clearly out of control.

Yes, less than two days after noted dog/puppet Triumph the Insult Comic insulted Quebecers on the Conan O'Brian show, out comes a survey in La Presse showing that national unity is in peril: over the past week, the Liberals have lost support in Quebec, while the Bloc Quebecois have shot up in the polls.

(This must be Triumph's fault right? It can't have anything to do with this.)

But, unfortunately, Triumph isn't just a single bad apple in the puppet world. He comes from a long line of racist and prejudiced puppets, like:

- Finnigan (right), who with the Council of Conservative Canines was involved in a series of cat pogroms in the late '70s;

- Casey (middle), who once sported a T-shirt that said, "Kill Straighty";

- Howdy-Doody, who was directly involved in the genocide of North American Indians;

- Alf, who founded the Melmac chapter of the Ku Klux Klan;

- Charlie McCarthy, who persecuted socialists and labour activists throughout the 1950s;

- Lambchop, who gassed Kurds by the thousands during the Iran-Iraq War;

- Aloysius Snuffleupagus, who blew himself up in a Jerusalem pizza parlour during the early days of the second intifada.

- Ernie (right), who began organizing anti-gay rallies with Rev. Fred Phelps after being converted and "cured" by the Westboro Baptist Church.

And these are just the most famous cases.

Something must be done, before the Puppet Hate gets further out of control. We look to you, Alexa McDonough...
Gloating Alert!

While the rest of you are out there celebrating Valentine's Day with your loved ones, I watched the first two episodes of Season Five of The Sopranos.

Who's laughing now? Huh?
Middle School Oral Sex Epidemic, Part III

Thank you to Anne Kingston for her sensible article on the Middle School Oral Sex Epidemic (MSOSE) in today's Saturday Post: Rainbow Club a social scare: How an urban myth swept the land (Sorry; subscription only).

Sadly, it was immediately counteracted by "Shocking the unshockable: what to say if you're concerned about your tween and sex" in today's Globe Focus section, Alanna Mitchell's follow-up to her scare-mongering piece from last week called "Good Girls Do."

One of the things you can't see when you read the "Shocking the Unshockable" piece online is that it is accompanied by a sexy picture of a 12-year-old lying provocatively on a couch. You can't see her face, but you the photo does focus in nicely on her butt. Here's a line from the story: "[If students were exposed to a course in media literacy,] they would see Janet Jackson's Super Bowl exposure and understand it for a marketing ploy. They could begin to understand who makes the images, who profits from them and whom they are aimed at." [Keep moving! No irony here... Look away!]

The caption to the photo, by the way, is "One of the teenagers who shared her [oral sex] experiences in last week's Focus feature is shown at her Toronto home: 'Wow. It sounds like there's a lot of this going on.'" [I said, Keep moving!]

Post-script

Remember when Margaret Wente preceded her piece on the MSOSE with this warning: "The content of this column may offend some readers because of its frank sexual language."

Compare and contrast with the warning I put on my review of Bertolucci's The Dreamers on Friday: "The content of this review may offend some readers because of its frank sexual language. For that reason, please have someone read it to you with a seven-second delay."

Bam! Take that Wente! And your retrosexual husband too!

Previous On the Fence MSOSE entries: MSOSE, Part I; MSOSE, Part II

Friday, February 13, 2004

Is Copps off to the NDP?

CTV.ca had a report up on its webpage earlier today titled "Sheila Copps to defect to NDP next week."

It began like this: "Longtime Liberal MP Sheila Copps is planning to defect to the New Democrats
early next week, says CTV's Mike Duffy. Copps has been..."

What came next? I don't know. It's been taken down. Did the Duffmaster make a mistake?

You can read the first lines via Google News.

There's also a CTV Newsnet video online here [about halfway down the page on the right] that is titled: "Copps ready to jump to NDP: report." But the video we see says nothing of the sort...

Curious. Perhaps something is being held for the front page of tomorrow's Globe and Mail, a CTV Bell Globemedia publication?

Post-script

Hey, the boondoogilicious Jane Stewart is leaving politics. Bye.
Paul Martin and the Meta-soundbite

From today's CanWest News Service follow-up to the sponsorhip scandal by Anne Dawson:
The prime minister [Paul Martin] said he will leave it to the judicial inquiry he announced this week to find out which crown corporation officials were complicit in the scam cited in auditor-general Sheila Fraser's report. But he left no doubt he intends to make those people pay.

"To quote another prime minister [Pierre Trudeau, during Quebec's 1970 October Crisis], you just watch me," Martin said.

Does this mean that he's going to invoke the War Measures Act?

Next, he'll be talking about the federal spending freeze with "Zap! You're frozen." What exactly is he paying Scott Feschuk for?

I can see someone coming up with a serious argument that we are in our first post-modern parliament: a purportedly new set of leaders, made up of old parts. And sampling bits of old speeches too apparently.

Post-script

Andrew Coyne's site is back up, at a new address, and is your foremost place for Sponsorship Scandal blogging.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Theatre Thursday: David Mamet

I didn’t see any theatre this week. So in the absence of a review or polemic, here's a scene I really liked from Mamet's Sexual Perversity in Chicago, which I read for the first time on Tuesday:

JOAN and DEB at the apartment that they share. JOAN is getting ready to go out.

JOAN: Men.

DEBORAH: Yup.

JOAN: They're all after only one thing.

DEBORAH: Yes. I know. (Pause.)

JOAN: But it's never the same thing.

What a brilliant piece of dialogue. I love it. [Bonus: Here's Michael Billington's Guardian review of a recent revival of this 1974 play in London.]

Theatre Thursday: Ian Capstick and Harold Pinter

Ian Who? Why, Ian Capstick, Sheila Copps’ former “right-hand man,” of course. The news this evening is that Capstick has just defected to the NDP.

Every time I read Ian’s name in the news of late, it gives me a bit of a kick. I know him from his not-so-long-ago student journalism days, when he was an editor at The Fulcrum at the University of Ottawa.

The last time I saw him in person, I think, was a little over a year ago, when he helped me organize the 2003 Canadian University Press conference in Montreal. Ian was our diligent Security Coordinator and was instrumental in bringing in then-Minister of Canadian Heritage Copps as one of our keynote speakers.

Before leaving Montreal, Ian gave me a rather enigmatic gift, a copy of a short political sketch called Press Conference (2002) by British playwright Harold Pinter. It begins like this:

PRESS: Sir, before you became Minister of Culture I believe you were the head of the Secret Police.

MINISTER: That is correct.

PRESS: Do you find any contradiction between those two roles?

MINISTER: None whatsoever. As head of the Secret Police it was my responsibility, specifically, to protect and to safeguard our cultural inheritance against forces which were intent upon subverting it. We were defending outselves against the worm. And we still are.

PRESS: The worm?

MINISTER: The worm....


And so on. Not exactly Pinter’s subtlest work, but it’s a clever little satire of the relationship between the press and our political leaders.

Anyway, I can see why Ian likes it. Listen to him. He already does political theatre like a pro:

PRESS: Why are you defecting to the NDP?

IAN CAPSTICK: I know Liberals from coast to coast to coast, and they're unhappy with the way the government has moved into things such as national missile defence… They're unhappy with the way the government has moved into the further corporatizing of government through their public-private partnerships. They're dissatisfied with the intolerance that Mr. Martin and his — there's no other word for them — henchmen have decided to take over the Liberal Party, to hold it hostage, and to force this right-wing agenda down our throats.

Looking forward to the next act, Ian.

Theatre Thursday: Missive from across the pond

Not every one is of my opinion on The Hollow Crown, currently playing at The Princess of Wales theatre in Toronto. Jan Pick from Birmingham, England writes:

I have seen The Hollow Crown quite a few times - so obviously I like it, 'horses for courses! I can't imagine it in such a big auditorium though! Still, I have to say I laughed at your comments. Revenge really - I once had to sit through hours of what passed for A Midsummer Night's Dream in a mudbath directed by Robert Lepage!!!!! AWFUL. Though some of our critics bowed down and grovelled.

How could she say that about Lepage! Blasphemy!

I wrote and told Ms. Pick that. To which she replied:

I too like Robert Lepage - usually... so A Midsummer Night's Dream was a real disappointment. Your auditorium [The Princess of Wales] is way too big for Hollow Crown, which is an intimate, friendly evening of conversational bits! Alan [Richardson] was dropped on at the last minute to take part as Pat Stewart was going to do it but couldn't. He has done it loads of times before at various points in his career -- usually very successfully -- they sold out at Stratford [upon-Avon, I assume, not Ontario], but then of course, over here most theatre people would pay to listen to any of those four [Donald Sinden, Vanessa Redgrave, Alan Howard and Ian Richardson] read the telephone directory!!!

Oh my god. I can't believe we almost had Jean-Luc Picard come to Toronto to do The Hollow Crown. Now there's an actor I'd love to see read the phone book.

Thanks for writing, Jan.

Theatre Thursday: Post-script

Two last things:

1) You know what I'd like to see? The stage adaptation of When Harry Met Sally, with Alyson Hannigan (Buffy, American Pie) as Sally. It opened in previews on Tuesday in London. [Guardian preview.]

I have such a geek crush on Ms. Hannigan.

2) A local Toronto actor, who I'll assume wants to remain anonymous, let me in on an interesting local tidbit: One of the backstage toilets in the St Lawrence Centre is named the Ray Conologue, after The Globe and Mail's former theatre critic.

Ah... Something to aspire to.
Trends in Newspaper Writing, Part I

What's up with all the affected use of French today?

EXHIBIT A: In an article headlined "But will the 'scandale' stick," Don Martin, National Post columnist, writes, "While it is still early in the unfolding scandale, there's little doubt this mess coupled with..." [Why scandale? We have a perfectly fine English word for this. It's "scandal."]

EXHIBIT B: Meanwhile, over in The Globe and Mail, Simon Houpt starts off his piece on Bernardo Bertolucci like this: "What are we to call an enfant terrible who is no longer un enfant?" And he ends it like this: "[Bertolucci] shrugs, no longer either enfant nor terrible." [Houpt's piece is good, by the way; he took the washed-up revolutionary tack that I did (here and here), but did it with much more tact.]

EXHIBIT C: This is the only bit of French from today's papers that I support. The headline to The Post's sponsorship scandal story was J'Accuse: The Blaming Begins, an ironic homage to what has been called the "greatest newspaper article of all time."

Trends in Newspaper Writing, Part II

You know what else is popular right now? Making allusions to the Lilliputians from Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift.

EXHIBIT A: My arch-nemesis Jack Granatstein tipped me off to this trend with his Feb. 3 National Post article "Brush Up on our 'Proud History.'". Writes Granatstein: "I readily concede that multilateralism is important to Canada. Small states have always worked together to constrain superpowers, the Lilliputians trying to tie down Gulliver." [Alas, not online.]

EXHIBIT B: Hollinger Inc. COO Peter White's comment piece in today's Globe titled, "Don't Let the Lilliputians Win." Writes White, "In both business and politics, strong leaders rise to the top. I have been privileged to work closely with two undeniably great leaders, my friends Brian Mulroney and Conrad Black. While neither of them ever broke any laws, both have been pursued as if they did. It is arguably in the nature of many great leaders to test limits; what was acceptable yesterday may not be acceptable tomorrow. Overzealous attempts to circumscribe our leaders' actions risks immobilizing them, like Gulliver among the Lilliputians, defeating the point of great leadership." [Brilliant argument there, huh?]

EXHIBIT C-Z: Visit Google News and search for Lilliputians: Harvey Weinstein is Gulliver and Miramax publicists are Lilliputians; The Toronto Raptors are the Lilliputians against the L.A. Lakers Gullivers; John Kerry is Gulliver, while Dean, Edwards, Clark, etc. are the Lilliputians... But the best line -- THE BEST -- comes from Renee Schettler's article on shallots from The Washington Post: "Ever notice how one-week shallots seem to resemble tiny Lilliputians whereas the previous week they seemed to be gargantuan Brobdingnagians? You're not imagining it."

Post-script

Yes. This is the silliest and most superfluous blog post I have ever made.
Why God, Why?

Matt Drudge is reporting that John Kerry had an affair with an intern.

Goddamn you, Drudge. Do we have to go through this all again?

Insert "Heinz. There are no other kinds" joke here.

Post-script

Later: I should have written, "Insert lame 'Heinz: There are no other kinds' joke here."

Truth is, moments after putting the link to Drudge story up, I thought to myself, "What am I doing? I'm just helping propagate something that a) may be a lie, and b) is irrelevant." The intern/Kerry pseudostory is like the Botox rumour, but worse.

But then I rationalized the blog post away as per Timothy Noah's "Selling Sleaze: A User's Guide
Ten ways to rationalize the publication of infidelity rumors
", a quickly-turned-around piece of satire on Slate, so true that it's not actually funny.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Update on the Middle School Oral Sex Epidemic!

From today's Globe and Mail: "Call me a member of the Morally Uptight Club if you want, but I'd argue that there's a direct connection between Janet Jackson's tit-flash and the outbreak of oral sex in middle school."

Ladies and gentlemen: Margaret Wente, card-carrying member of the Morally Uptight Club, the Logic Schmogic Club, and the I'm-Terrified-of-Children-Today Club.

I particularly like that this column was preceded by a warning: "The content of this column may offend some readers because of its frank sexual language." I guess Greenspon put that in there, because it's impossible to put a seven-second time delay on a newspaper article.

[My previous entry on the MSOSE!]

Post-script

My interview with Italian director Bernardo Bertolucci is online at The Post (and free for once). If there's one thing worse than an old hippie who has sold out, it's an old hippie who has sold out, but still thinks he's a revolutionary.

Monday, February 09, 2004

Movie Madness

I'm a wee bit tired this evening after sitting through the full seven and a half hours* of Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World** as part of my goal to see all the Oscar-nominated films this year, so this blog entry is going to be a short and sweet.

Are you looking for a movie to rent this evening? Check out What to Rent, a "website linked to a computer-cluster that will recommend a movie for you to watch based upon your personality and the type of film experience you are looking for. It will provide you with the name of the movie that fits you, the year it was released, the director, and a few principle actors." [via pullquote]

I asked for something a little different from what I would usually watch and the What to Rent algorithm came up with P.T. Anderson's Boogie Nights. To be honest, that was right on. It's a movie that I've always sorta wanted to watch, but haven't.

I would go out to rent it right now, but I spent fifteen hours* tonight watching The Hardy Boys and the Secret of Napolean's Ghost Ship**.

*Approximate figure.
** Best Picture, my ass.

Bust and Boomer

Also via pullquote: Rick McGinnis's Boomer Deathwatch.

Having recently been irritated by Bernardo Bertolucci's comments re: his new movie The Dreamers ("I was very much hoping that this film could speak to the generation of kids of today about another generation of kids, many years ago, so that kids today could see the difference. How, in '68, young people were in some way more idealistic.") and been similarly irritated by Mark Kurlansky's g├╝ber-nostalgic book 1968: The Year that Rocked the World, I was in the mood for some Boomer bashing...

Post-script

My recent speaking engagement at the Canadian University Press National Conference in St. John's has merited a couple of mentions on the World Wide Web.

At something called The Local News, Isabelle Gallant writes, "I attended two seminars, both led by J. Kelly Nestruck, an arts reporter for The National Post. This man is knowledgeable, and most importantly, he's also attractive."

Meanwhile, over at my Alma Paper The McGill Daily, the gossip columnist Slibel & Lander has a much less accurate report...
Funny Pictures of Pundits!

Exhibit A: Last week, washed-up liberal strategist Warren Kinsella posted these pictures on his blog.

The first one is of Kinsella giving the thumbs up as he waits for Paris Hilton to emerge from a bathroom at the Super Bowl. The second one is of the heiress-cum-sex-video-artist exiting from said port-o-potty.

Kinsella claims that there was a third, less stalkeresque picture of him and Paris, but that it didn't turn out or his friend didn't press the shutter button fully or something.

KICKING ASS!

Exhibit B: Here is a picture of National Post editorialists Adam Daifallah and Jonathan Kay at a recent curling tournament [via Daifallah's blog].

See folks? Even the vast right-wing conspiracy takes time out to curl...
Your Kids are Really Scary! Part II

The Globe Focus section has officially jumped the shark... (See my rant last week.)

This week's Your-Kids-Are-Scary-And-Out-Of-Control! article is called Good Girls Do:

School counsellors, researchers and teenagers themselves say that girls as young as 12 and 13 are performing oral sex -- not just the class 'bad girls,' but students from every walk of life. They don't consider it real sex, but an act almost as normal as acne and cafeteria gossip. In today's oversexed consumer culture, reports Sara Wilson, popularity commands a high price.

The Middle School Oral Sex Epidemic! story has been around for a while now, so The Globe is actually way behind the meme on this one.

In a 1999 article, the Washington Post wrote about an "unsettling new fad" of oral sex being indulged by "about half" of suburban middle-schoolers. In a 2000 article called "The Face of Teenage Sex Grows Younger" (pdf/html), The New York Times quoted a Manhattan psychologist who said that for Middle Schoolers oral sex "is like a goodnight kiss." (A much more sensible simile than "acne and cafeteria gossip.")

These stories -- like The Globe and Mail's on Satuday -- were anecdotal and alarmist and tended to blame pop culture. Both then and now, any rise in Middle School sexual activity was not backed by statistics. As Mike Males, senior researcher for the Justice Policy Institute, wrote in a debunking back in 2002:

Among today's 10-14 year-olds, birth rates are lower than they were in 1950, while total pregnancy rates (birth, abortion, and miscarriage) are at their lowest level since statistics first were collected in 1973, Guttmacher reported ("U.S. Teenage Pregnancy Statistics" 3/01). Despite better monitoring, sexually transmitted infections such as gonorrhea and syphilis (both transmittable by oral sex) fell to their lowest rate in 2000 among boys age 10-14 since 1958; among girls that age, the lowest since 1972 (Centers for Disease Control, "STD Surveillance 2000").

The great thing about Sara Wilson's Globe Focus piece is that it claims to have statistical evidence...

According to statistical evidence, as well as reports from social workers, educators and the girls themselves, oral sex is now a fact of life in middle-school culture.

... but then a few paragraphs later admits that there is no such statistical evidence:

While there are no hard data to confirm the increase in oral sex, late last year Health Canada published the best evidence available in this country -- a state-of-the-union survey of about 11,000 students in Grades 7, 9 and 11 entitled "Canadian Youth, Sexual Health and HIV/AIDS."

The study was the first in more than a decade to examine adolescent sexual trends in Canada. However, researchers deliberately avoided asking Grade 7 students about intercourse or oral sex, for fear that controversy-averse school boards would have refused to participate...

Let's face it folks: The Middle School Oral Sex Epidemic! is a media myth. Teen pregnancy and STD transmission have been on the decline since the 1970s in the States and in Canada, even though kids have become exposed to more and more sexual images in the media in that time. (Perhaps if Janet Jackson exposes her breasts more often we can eradicate teenage pregnancy!)

I repeat the question the Globe Focus section spurred me to ask last week: Why are parents so frightened of their children these days?

Post-script

For a very level-headed view on how to discuss the Super Bowl half-time show with your kids, check out this pamphlet from The Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States.


Friday, February 06, 2004

Yes, Prime Minister

The following is a guest entry by Anders Yates, friend and Montreal filmmaker:

Showcase was running the first three episodes of The Office last night, and so I tuned in for fun even though I'd already seen it. After they were over, I flipped channels to Newsworld, and they were showing a town-hall style discussion where ordinary Canadians get to ask Paul Martin serious questions, mediated by Peter Mansbridge.

I tuned in just in time to hear a question about Canadian Steamship Lines and why Paul Martin's company received millions of dollars of subsidies and yet only paid roughly 2% in taxes while the average Canadian company pays more like 40%. Martin responded by talking about what a proud Canadian company CSL is, and how its home office is in Canada, how the majority of its employees are Canadian and how his dream is to see more Canadian multinational companies base their operations in Canada.

Mansbridge asked the woman who posed the question if she was satisfied with the response, and she said no, she really wanted to know why there was such a big difference in the rate of taxation of this company versus the average Canadian company. Martin responded by saying that CSL has been a Canadian company for 150 years and always pays its taxes within Canada, not other countries. I found myself talking to the TV at this point: "My God. You've completely ignored her question. Twice."

Now I was not so shocked to see a politician try and spin a question. This happens all the time. What took me aback was that throughout his response, the Prime Minister sounded exactly like the boss on The Office. This country is being lead by David Brent. He had been backed into a corner and was weaseling his way out of it. If the woman asking the questions had said to him after his second response "That's pathetic," I wouldn't have been surprised to hear him say "Is it, really?"


Post-script

More on last night's Town Hall from Theresa Zolner, a psychologist in Saskatoon, whose blog has the unfortunate title Random Thoughts. [via Living in a Society]

A very, very happy birthday to Wall Street Journal theatre critic, Mencken biographer and "Oldest Known Arts Blogger in Captivity" Terry Teachout, who turns 48 years old today.

Okay, I've switched my commenting tool to www.haloscan.com. There should be no more silliness. Please let me know if it's not working...

Thursday, February 05, 2004

Theatre Thursday: The Hollow Crown

I will forever remember last night's performance of The Hollow Crown, now playing at The Princess of Wales theatre. Unfortunately, that's because it was the very first time I have every walked out of a show at intermission.

I must admit, I was biased against the show from the outset. Here's the press material:

The Royal Shakespeare Company brings to Toronto its famous production of John Barton's The Hollow Crown, a history of the kings and queens of England - but nothing like any schoolbook history you've ever read.

Story and song illuminate the splendid institution of the monarchy, its rich history, its colourful pageantry, its noble traditions - as well as its majestic quarrels, lordly jealousies, regal squabbles, uncivil wars (and the merest hint of the rowdy secrets of royal bedchambers).

If the "splendid institution of the monarchy" isn't enough to turn your stomach, then listen to what Vanessa Redgrave had to say at the press conference last week: "The monarchs who wrote were unafraid for their words to be heard... I think something of that kind of authority is missing today. The quality which says this is what I think, come what may."

With the utmost respect, Ms. Redgrave, do you think that this might have possibly had something to do with the fact that these monarchs were unelected, claimed Divine Right and could kill anyone who disagreed with the flip of a wrist? How absurd.

Here are some reviews: Robert Cushman in The Post is charitable; Richard Ouzounian at The Star writes a two-star review, but gives it three anyway; Glenn Sumi in NOW does the same; Chistopher Hoile at Eye, clueless as ever, gushes.

Only Kamal Al-Solayee at The Globe and Mail has the guts to say the show is a sham:

No doubt The Hollow Crown will go on touring for another 40 years or more and it will always have its fans. This won't change the fact that it has become a hollow and shameful vanity piece that needs some serious retooling in performance. It's not dead theatre yet, but it's clinging on to dear life by a thread. At nearly $75 for a top-priced ticket, this is also one overpriced, imported ham. And why import it when, if you look for it, we have enough of it here?

It bothers me to see some of these older reporters and reviewers bow down to the British acting monarchy (Donald Sinden , Vanessa Redgrave , Alan Howard and Ian Richardson) like good colonials. For instance, Michael Posner in his preview in The Globe and Mail quotes Richardson as saying, "[The Hollow Crown] is as critical of the monarchs as . . . North Americans would want us to be."

Richardson's full quote more fully reveals the antiquated mindset these people have: "It is as critical of the monarchs as you, a North American race, would want us to be." (See CP.)

I can't think of any valid reason for Posner to have cut that out.

Enough. I won't rant any more, especially since I didn't even have the courtesy to stick it out for the whole show.

I will tell you the reason I left the show, however. I love theatre and think that it is an alive and relevant art form. But all I could think of during this show was: Dead, dead, dead, dead, dead...

How depressing.

Post-script

Well, my hits have been through the roof the past few days, so hello to all new visitors to On the Fence.

On Wednesday, all the new visitors were coming from a lovely blog called Emily's Evolution. Emily was kind enough to compliment my entry on Janet Jackson's alleged wardrobe malfunction.

Today that Janet Jackson entry was responsible for about, oh, 100 hits, because when you search for "Janet Jackson's tit" on search.msn.ca, this page inexplicably comes up first.

Welcome tit-seekers!

....

Paul Wells has an exclusive interview with former Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development Robert "Bob" Nault up on his blog.

That's all well and and good, but what I really want to know is: What is former House Leader Don Boudria up to these days? Remember when he used to be in the news all the time? Like the time he visited Canada's Neutron Beam Laboratory? Man, those were the days.

Now, I only see him in my dreams...

....

NB: The comments on my blog aren't working again. Please feel free to e-mail me. I post most everything.
And I'll work on fixing the comments pronto.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

RIP J. Kelly Nestruck (circa 1997-1998)

A couple of weekends ago, I was at a seminar on blogging and journalism that turned into a discussion of how technology can lead to fragmentation of identity: how the Internet allows for the existence of multiple yous.

The idea, over-simplified, is that while online you might be very outspoken, the offline you may be very shy. And on different websites and message boards you may assume different permutations of your online identity. (Just as offline you may act differently at work, with your family and with friends.)

But the Internet not only allows multiple current yous to exist, it also keeps all previous yous online as well. Everything you said or did on the Internet five years ago is still there to discover today... (Even if it's been deleted, it is likely stored in the Internet archive.)

Sometimes the past yous can be quite embarassing to your current you.

For the last couple of years, I have been trying to delete a webpage that I created during high school: Kelly's Pointless Homepage (KPH). I was tired of it coming up first or second when you searched for me on Google. When someone on Frank Magazine's message boards linked to it this summer, I became even more irritated by KPH's continued existence.

The reason the site was so hard to get rid of was that I could not remember my username or password, and the e-mail address I used back then was with a company that has gone out of business... Geocities wouldn't delete it without that information.

Finally, earlier this week, I sent an e-mail to Yahoo! Geocities saying that they were keeping up my copyrighted material without my consent and demanding that the site be taken down. It worked.

Now that Kelly's Pointless Homepage is gone, however, I'm surprised to feel a bit sad about the whole thing... I killed my sixteen-year-old self today.

Ah! But there's always Google's Cache!

And so, I can still visit my old splash page, which declared "Now with even more nudity!" (The pimply pictures of me in my high school uniform are gone, though.)

Visiting the Google archive of my guestbook, I see that on November 16, 1997, Julia G. left a message: "nice page. Cheese is the best food on earth! E-mail me eh!" (I met Julia in Winnipeg the summer before Grade 11. I was her first kiss. She introduced me to Radiohead.)

The rest of KPH's content isn't in cache, unfortunately... I guess my list of "25 things that really annoy me" has disappeared forever now. (That list, I recall, included "sexy lesbians" and "flashing text on the internet".)

What were you like when you were 16? Where did that person go?

"Sorry, the page you requested was not found."

Monday, February 02, 2004

A Nipple is Better Than a Long Bomb?

If you're looking for Janet Jackson nipple news, I can suggest no better site than Aaron Wherry's Pop blog. Wherry's got all the latest developments from Howard Dean's take on the boob to what this all means to the War on Terror. Yes, Wherry loves this story like a fat kid loves cake...

Me, I'm baffled by the whole darn thing... I actually find it quite disturbing that a single exposed boob during dinner hour causes a government agency to open an inquiry, but the fact that the breast was supported by three hours of violence doesn't bother anyone. As far as I know, it wasn't Janet Jackson's tit that caused fans to riot in Boston, flipping cars over, starting fires and resulting in at least one death.

In response to the boobie on the boob tube, FCC commissioner Michael Copps said, "I'll bet there are millions like me who wonder why parents wanting to watch an all-American sports show with their children have to worry about what's coming on their screen next."

White House spokesman Scott McClellan echoed the FCC: "Our view is, it's important for families to be able to expect a high standard when it comes to programming."

Neither of these two men seem to care, however, that 21% of the players in the NFL have been charged with a serious crime like rape, assault or domestic violence. The kids can idolize criminals and cheer for them to beat each other up, sure, but don't let them see a mammary gland...

This all makes me think of what Italian film director Bernardo Bertulucci said about Fox Searchlight's decision to release his new film The Dreamers uncut in the United States even though that means that it will be saddled with the dreaded NC-17 rating because of its sexual content. "I'm relieved -- in so many ways -- that the distributor has had the vision to release my original film," he said. "After all, an orgasm is better than a bomb." (NB: No film has ever got an NC-17 rating for violence.)

Am I the only one who thinks it is a sick culture that sees violence as compatible with family values, but is scandalized by a woman's exposed breast?

Then again, what do I know? I'm from Quebec...

Post-script

-- You've heard what the pundits had to say about the Hutton Report. Now hear what Radiohead's lead singer Thom Yorke has to say.

-- Hey! Urinetown is coming to Toronto in May. Hurrah!

-- In response to popular demand, check out the new font size here at the Nestruck blog: 14 px! The good news: You don't have to strain your eyes anymore. The bad news: Now that my grandmother can read my blog, there will be no more discussion of Janet Jackson's breasts.