Wednesday, March 31, 2004

COC Ring Blows

I was all psyched for the first Canadian production of Wagner's Ring Cycle by the Canadian Opera Company (COC, heh) in 2006, but then I realised that there is no chance in hell anyone who doesn't live in a mansion will be able to attend.

There will only be 6,000 seats available. And who gets those seats? Priority goes to donors, then COC (hee, hee) subscribers, then whoever gets their tickets applications in first.

The whole shebang, including separate stagings of the first three operas over the next few years, will cost approximately $11 million dollars to mount. That's means the COC (guffaw) is spending about $1833.33 per patron to bring you the Ring Cycle.

Ridiculous, this opera stuff.

But don't worry: the COC (all right, settle down) will make 125 seats available at a reduced rate. [sarcasm] Hoorah! [/sarcasm]

Here's my article about yesterday's COC press conference (free!). Does my ambivalence show?
Bam!

Liberal-strategist-in-exile Warren Kinsella's blog remains an absolute hoot to read. What a fascinatingly idiosyncratic individual that guy is.

Just came across this bon mot of his re: the infamous Adbusters List O' Modern Jewry affair:
"Ad busters?" More like Jew busters.
Zing!

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Theatre Tuesday: Mighty Mighton Returns

Tonight Half Life opens at Theatre Passe Muraille, the first new play by Canadian playwright-cum-mathematician John Mighton in eight years. Directed by Daniel Brooks, set and costumes by Dany Lyne, a cast that includes Carolyn Hetherington, Diego Matamoros and Eric Peterson. Six performances only. I am pumped.

I've never been a huge fan of Mighton, but I have a good feeling about this work. This is the first play he's workshopped with actors right from the beginning of the process. Also, Mr. Brilliant Brooks, who fixed Mighton's parallel-universe play Possible Worlds when he remounted it in 1997, has acted as a dramaturge throughout the writing of Half Life. (Canada is full of fine playwrights who could be great if we just had better dramaturgy and would seriously invest in the development of new plays.)

Here's my short profile of Mighton from last week's Post.

Monday, March 29, 2004

Monday Schadenfreude: Imagine Dame Judy Dench falling

Picture Dame Judy Dench. Picture her walking down the street.

"What a lovely day!" Dame Judy Dench says to no one in particular.

There is a banana peel on the sidewalk in front of her. Dame Judy Dench steps on it with her sensible shoes. She slips, flies through the air and lands on her bottom.

"Oh bother!" she exclaims crossly.

Two fat children drinking slurpees point and laugh at her.

This has been: Monday Schadenfreude. Have a good week.

Post-script

Interesting fact about Dame Judy Dench: According to this, "Dame Judy Dench" is cockney rhyming slang for "stench." Tell your friends!
As the Blogosphere Turns...

*WARNING: Coyne-related post follows.*

The sequence of events:

March 17, 2004: Andrew Coyne makes a post to his blog about the new $100 bills. Free for the world to read.

March 27, 2004: The National Post prints the Coyne post on its commentary page and refers to it on its front page. You have to pay to read it, either by purchasing the paper or an online subscription.

I have two things to say about this:

1) Crazy, yo.
2) Editors wishing to purchase my blog posts and run them in their newspapers can e-mail me in my wildest dreams.

Can anyone think of another time that a publication has paid to reprint something that is on the internet for free?

Wait! I can think of one... And it's another Canadian example. The last issue of Toro featured an article about the National Post by Mark Steyn. That article had been available on his website for months for free.

Has the world gone mad?

Friday, March 26, 2004

Theatre Friday: Watch out, Fringe Festivals. Car Stories is back.

Donovan King, artistic facilitator at Optical Theatrical Laboratories, e-mailed me last week with news that is either good or bad depending on who you are. The Canada Council for the Arts has awarded him a $20,000 grant to "create Car Stories, an interactive performance piece to take place in an urban setting." With the cash, King plans to bring his activist theatre piece from Montreal, where it has been running for three summers now concurrent with the Fringe, to Ottawa and Toronto this summer.

Car Stories -- here's OTL's page about it -- is a play that takes place in cars with the audience members watching from the back seat. When I saw it in Montreal in 2001 -- while it was still actually part of the Fringe Festival -- it was a lot of fun, interactive and exciting.

(The Car Stories project, by the way, is based on a Dublin Fringe show called Car Show.)

Anyway, Car Stories is (in)famous in Montreal because it was the first show ever to be kicked out of the Fringe. The reasons why this happened depend on who you talk to. King believes that pressure from The Gazette's then-theatre critic Pat Donnelly resulted in him being kicked out. Most everybody else -- including the majority of the original cast -- cites other reasons, usually King's erratic behaviour during that Fest or the numerous noise complaints that Car Stories received during its run.

Others believe that the whole brouhaha was orchestrated by King as a giant "play." He is dedicated, after all, to "culture-jamming, Viral Theatre, Sousveillance Theatre, meme-warfare, Electronic Disturbance Theater, and Global Invisible Theatre." (In fact, by taking the bait and writing about the grant he won, I think I am caught in the crossfire of some meme-warfare.)

In any case, ever since that summer, Mr. King has protested the Fringe, mounting Car Stories near the Fringe, calling the show "too Fringe for the Fringe." Every year he clashs with the police and the Montreal Fringe's staff...

My personal opinion is that King's 'Reclaim the Fringe' project is bunk, more personal vendetta than anything. Canada's Fringe Festivals remain the most accessible way of getting your play put on. Most of the artists in the Fringe simply find him annoying, someone who is trying to spoil everyone else's fun. But I'll let him speak:
All we are asking as artists is to be treated with respect. You can see the mandate of the infringement festival online, as an attempt to reclaim the spirit of the real Fringe. We did not launch this campaign to be fececious; we are still, in fact, waiting our ticket sales from Car Stories '01. Is is so much to ask that a "fringe" festival behave as such? Is it so much to ask that artists be put first in an event like this one? What Pat Donnelly did was a disgusting abuse of power. The Fringe should not be controlled by the corporate media, especially when it is the only anglo Daily in town. I know there has been a lot of skepticism on the part of the corporate media, which is not entirely surprising, but trust me when I say that this year we are going to make our views heard loud and clear. The media can do what they like - whether they chose to report or not is their perogative, but silence is now louder than words. Even the Canadian Theatre Encyclopedia has recorded the facts as Canadian Theatre History.
(The Canadian Theatre Encyclopedia entry he refers to was, of course, written by himself.)

Anyway, if you are involved in the Montreal, Toronto or Ottawa Fringe, I'd gird myself for full-out war this summer. Donovan King is back and he's armed with $20,000. (Yep, I called the Canada Council to check. It's real)

(And if you have any interest in participating in or lending you car to Car Stories in any of these cities, King would love to hear from you. Caveat Emptor.)
And now a word from Billy Collins...

But my heart is always propped up
in a field on a tripod,
ready for the next arrow.
From "Aimless Love."

Thursday, March 25, 2004

And Speaking of the Muzak...

Tonight, I am going to see Nellie MacKay, a musician who I have fallen in love with, at the El Mocambo. For more information, read my colleague A. Wherry's swoon-enducing profile of the ingenue.

Ms. McKay claims she is 19 years old, but I suspect she is in her late 20s. I suspect this because her lyrics are too damn clever and also I only seem to fall for gals who are at least two years older than me these days...
Inspiring Arts Writer of the Week: Alex Ross

From Alex Ross's New Yorker article about French composer Olivier Messiaen's 'Quartet for the End of Time,' a piece that was composed while he was being held in a German POW camp during WWII:

"There shall be time no longer." How did Messiaen understand this eerie phrase? First, it had for him a precise musical meaning. By 1941, this composer no longer wanted to hear time being beaten out by a drum -- one, two, three, four; he had had enough of that in the war. Instead, he devised rhythms that expanded, contracted, stopped in their tracks, and rolled back in symmetrical patterns.
I had never made this connection between the two meanings of "time" before, or considered what reason a modern composer would have had for abandoning time signatures other than to be different or difficult.

Prior to reading this article, I never knew the circumstances under which the Quartet was composed. Quite remarkable. In fact, the only reason I ever downloaded anything by Messiaen was because I had read in a previous Ross article that Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood was a huge fan his music...

I really admire how Ross writes articles that make me think about music at a deeper level than the personalities of the singer/songwriters. Somehow, he always manages to throw in a littleabout theory and structure without getting too technical (for a guy who played a little piano and five years of trumpet, anyway).

Here's a passage from his incredible article on Radiohead that changed the way I listen to OK Computer:
In the middle of the set, Radiohead played a song called "Airbag," which showed why this band is taken as seriously as any since the Beatles. It was a rugged ritual, full of cabalistic exchanges, with each player taking a decisive role. Jonny started off with a melody that snaked along in uneven time - one-two-three-one-two-three-one-two - and swayed between A major and F major. O'Brien added leaner, brighter curlicues on guitar. Selway came in with a precise but heavily syncopated beat. Then Yorke began to sing, in a well-schooled, plaintive voice, an oblique account of a near-fatal collision: "In the next world war / In a jackknifed juggernaut / I am born again." At the mention of war, Colin let loose a jumpy bass line, giving a funky spin to the hymns in the treble. The music cut through a jumble of verses and choruses, then held fast to a single chord, as Yorke fell into synch with O'Brien's chiming lines. Just before the end, Colin grinned, leaped in the air a couple of times, and seized hold of his brother's tune, the one that had set the song in motion. The doubling of the theme had a kind of thunderous logic, as if an equation had been solved. The interplay was as engaging to the mind as anything that has been done in classical music recently, but you could jump up and down to it.
And these two paragraphs changed the way I listened to everything else by Radiohead:
Radiohead's ticket to fame was a song called "Creep." It became a worldwide hit in 1993, when grunge rock was at its height. The lyrics spelled out the self-lacerating rage of an unsuccessful crush: "You're so fucking special / I wish I was special / But I'm a creep." The music was modelled on Pixies songs like "Where Is My Mind?": stately arpeggios, then an electric squall. What set "Creep" apart from the grunge of the early nineties was the grandeur of its chords?in particular, its regal turn from G major to B major. No matter how many times you hear the song, the second chord still sails beautifully out of the blue. The lyrics may be saying, "I'm a creep," but the music is saying, "I am majestic." The sense of coiled power is increased by several horrible stabs of noise on Jonny Greenwood's guitar. Radiohead have stopped playing "Creep," more or less, but it still hits home when it comes on the radio. When Beavis of "Beavis and Butt-head" heard the noisy part, he said, "Rock!" But why, he wondered, didn't the song rock from beginning to end? "If they didn't have, like, a part of the song that sucked, then, it's like, the other part wouldn't be as cool," Butt-head explained.
"Creep," as Butt-head must have noticed, was the first of many Radiohead songs that used pivot tones, in which one note of a chord is held until a new chord is formed around it. (In the turn from G to B, the note B is the pivot point.) "Yeah, that's my only trick," Yorke said, when this was pointed out to him. "I've got one trick and that's it, and I'm really going to have to learn a new one. Pedals, banging away through everything."But a reliance on pedal tones and pivot tones isn't necessarily a limitation: the Romantic composers worked to death the idea that any chord could turn on a dime toward another. Yorke's "pedals" help give Radiohead songs a bittersweet, doomy taste. ("Airbag," for example, being in A major, ought to be a bright thing, but the intrusion of F and C tones tilts the music toward the minor mode. "Morning Bell" sways darkly between A minor and C-sharp minor.) It's a looser, roomier kind of harmony than the standard I-IV-V-I, and it gives the songs a distinct personality. It also helps sell records: whether playing guitar rock or sampling spaced-out electronica, Radiohead affix their signature.
Alex Ross, ladies and gentlemen. Inspiring Arts Writer of the Week here at On the Fence...

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Internet: 1, Paul Martin: 0

Step 1: Visit Google.

Step 2: Type in 'Unfortunate Combover' (no quotation marks needed).

Step 3: Hit 'I'm Feeling Lucky.'

Triumph! Thanks to all the sites out there who helped out with this endeavour: Paul Martin Time, Sticks and Stones, Living in a Society, Karl, Danny, and the gone but not forgotten Tenorman... You can all sit back and laugh now at the silly little man who runs our country, his silly little budget and his silly little website.

But we mustn't rest on our laurels. There is still important work to be done. No rest until we take disappointment to his father (rude!) and then we take ethics cocktease (lewd!) and then we take Shortest Honeymoon Ever and then we're going to go to Google and we're going to take back Canadian Bacon. Yaaaaaarrgh!

Sorry. Got carried away there for a moment. Onward soldiers!

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Old Macfarlane had a job...

After being fired from the Lame Columnist position at The Globe and Mail, David Macfarlane decided to turn his misfortune into a bit of a cottage industry. First, he penned a piece in Toronto Life outlining his love-hate relationship with the Globe. And now, it seems he's already written a play about it! Fishwrap, by David Macfarlane, will play in the Tarragon Theatre extra space starting March 29, 2005.

From the press release announcing Tarragon's 2004-2005 season:

Fishwrap by David Macfarlane: "One minute you're at the top of your game. The next you can't get 500 words on bathroom fixtures in the Real Estate section."

There is no lonelier soul than a freelance writer who discovers, belatedly, that he is no longer wanted by the magazines and the newspapers by which he has eked out his living. Angry, funny and cruelly accurate, the plays asks the question: how can a man make sense of a life that has never been anything more than yesterday's paper?
As you probably surmised from my Lame Columnist remark above, I've never really liked David Macfarlane. In fact, back when I was studying at McGill, I wrote him one of my patented angry letters in which I complained about his "penchant for not getting to the damn point until halfway through [his] column" and his "unneccessary references to whatever book [he is] currently reading or the opera [he] last attended, which make some Readers stop reading, roll their eyes, and say to their breakfast companion(s), 'Ooh, Mr. David MacFancyPants went to the opera again with his wife! La-dee-dah!'"

Anyway, putting my intense dislike for his defunct column aside for a moment, I gotta say this: Man, D.M. knows how to make some fine lemonade outta those lemons. I am eager to see Fishwrap, which I hope will star Bronson Pinchot as Marcus Gee, Meryl Streep as Margaret Wente, and Doug Saunders as himself.
Polley Go Lightly

My interview with Sarah Polley is online now:
"Don't put in the yoga mat," she warns me. "That's so humiliating. That's such a cliche. Do not put in the yoga mat. I'll kill you. You heard me: It was a death threat."
Da Bomb!

Well, my Paul Martin Google Bomb Project is spreading across the Canadian web at the speed of a new Paris Hilton internet porn video. (NB: That hyperbolic simile was used solely to increase my hit count.)

The latest blogger take up the challenge is Karl Houlihan. Thank you Karl, for all you've done to help make fun of a certain ethics cocktease, who is a disappointment to his father and has an unfortunate combover.

Why don't you join the project? You're not an ethics cocktease, are you?

Post-script

As more than one person has noted, "Dude! Google Bombing is so last year. Didn't you just mock Warren Kinsella for only coming across the 'weapons of mass destruction' meme last week? What a hypocrite you are J. Smelly Nestruck!"

Yes, yes. It's true. And I hereby apologize. I will never mock anyone or anything ever again. Happy? New Liberal Party Logo, you are no longer lame.

Truth is, I'm always behind on Internet trends because I'm sort of wait-and-see guy. I only started my blog a year and a month old. At first I didn't embrace peer-to-peer file sharing for months because I was convinced someone would use Kazaa to invade my computer.

From now on, I'm going to rush every trend that comes along. For instance, I'm going to invest all of my savings in Google's IPO.

Monday, March 22, 2004

Monday Schadenfreude

Okay, so when I was interviewing Sarah Polley on Friday, she told me a great story, but I couldn't fit it into my profile of her (which is in tomorrow's Post). Thus, I print it here.

Once, when Polley was staying at a hotel in L.A., she walked down for breakfast and who should be in the dining room but Tony Robbins, the famed motivational speaker. Robbins was sitting there with huge bags under his eyes, slowly drinking his coffee with shaky hands.

Soon someone walked by and said, "Hi Tony!" To which Tony Robbins weakly responded: "Hey."

Anyway, that's the whole story, but it made my Friday.

In conclusion, go out and see Luck, which opens this Friday. It's a fine Canadian comedy starring Polley, rising star Luke Kirby, and Jed Rees from the Chris Isaak Show.

The real stand-out here is Rees, I've got to say. I laughed whenever he walked on screen. Rees will hit in, oh, approximately six months. He's got a big part in The Ringer this summer (the next Farrelly brothers movie, written by Family Guy writer and Montrealer Richard Blitt; it has huge buzz) and The Onion movie in the fall. (Yes, they are ill-advisedly turning The Onion into a film.)

Sunday, March 21, 2004

Praising Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Slate's David Edelstein writes, "This is the best movie I've seen in a decade."

I can't get it out of my mind. Might have to go again tomorrow.
The bomb, part deux

Well, it turns out that Paul Martin's blog has been Google bombed already. Search for Worst Blog in the World.

This does not mean that we should falter in our bombing campaign against our fearless leader and his website. His unfortunate combover must be mocked! Also, the fact that he is a disappointment to his father...

Anyway, in discussions with friends this evening, another potential phrase was discussed: Ethics cocktease. Now that, to me, seems like Google bomb gold. "That Paul Martin... What an ethics cocktease!"

Note: Tenorman has taken up my challenge. Who else out in the blogosphere is on the case? May I recommend Ethics cocktease? Disappointment to his father and unfortunate combover are also fine options.
Spring: What a cocktease.
Chaplin v. Keaton. Judge Teachout presiding.

Over at About Last Night, Terry Teachout is holding court over the old personality/taste litmus test: Do you prefer Charlie Chaplin or a Buster Keaton? For Teachout, it's Keaton in a walk. (A funny walk...)

Today he posted some reader response to the issue. The second e-mail is mine.

Saturday, March 20, 2004

Les Bombes de Google

Yep, les Québecobloggers (Bloggeurs et Bloggettes) have jumped on the Google Bomb bandwagon... Now if you seach for "mouton insignifiant" on Google, the first site to come up is Premier Jean Charest's.

This is old news in Québec City, where Le Droit and Le Soleil reported the prank back in January. It was even on Le Soleil's front page.

But it's only snuck into the English press today, with The Gazette's usually-on-the-ball Don McPherson finally getting around to mentioning it..

Personally, I think this attack on Patapouf is much funnier that linking "miserable failure" to George W. Bush (as well as Michael Moore, Hillary Clinton and Jimmy Carter).

It's also about time that English Canadians get in on this. For instance, it would be fun to Google Bomb our much-loved Prime Minister Paul Martin, don't you think? But someone would have to get the ball rolling, by linking something like Canadian Bacon, Shortest Honeymoon Ever, Unfortunate Combover or Disappointment to his Father to his website.

If only I know someone with a blog who could link Canadian Bacon, Shortest Honeymoon Ever, Unfortunate Combover or Disappointment to his Father to the Prime Minister's website.

Does anyone know anyone who could link Canadian Bacon, Shortest Honeymoon Ever, Unfortunate Combover or Disappointment to his Father to Paul Martin's website?

BLOGGERS: TAKE YOUR PICK FROM THE ABOVE OPTIONS, OR POST YOUR OWN SUGGESTIONS BELOW!
Conservorama

I know you're all going to stay perched by your televisions tonight, eagerly waiting to find out who the new leader of the Conservative Party of Canada will be. Right? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

Look, let's face it: I'm not really the blogster to be reading about this. Without John Stacow as a candidate, I have little interest in this race. So, I turn you over to some fine (neo-)conservobloggers:

-- Jonathan Colford. He's little nutty. Like former Prime Minister Mulroney, his understanding of Stalin is a little shaky. He worries about the size of his butt. And he's blogging live from the convention.

-- Adam Daifallah. Editorial writer at The Post. Also at the convention. His Final Three pick: Stephen Harper.

-- Andrew Coyne. A couple of people have said to me lately, "Dude, you're obsessed with Andrew Coyne!" Meh... What can I say? Guilty as charged.

[SPOILER: If you'd rather go out and party tonight, I'll give away the ending for you: Stephen Harper's going to win. Duh.]
Happy International Day of the Theatre for Children and Young People

You didn't even know there was such a day, did you? Oh, but there is...

And Augusto Boal, originator of the Theatre of the Oppressed, has written an official IDOTTFCAYP message:

Theatre is Dialogue. You cannot play alone, in a desert: you need a partner to play with, you need people to watch you. Theatre is solidarity: you have to play together.

Games, in theatre, have rules that you have to obey, and also freedom to invent your own way. Games are just like Society: there are Laws that must be respected, but we must have freedom to create our own life. Without laws there is no social life; without freedom, there is no life.

The good citizen is not the one who merely lives in a Society: it is she or he who changes it to make it better. Theatre can be the means through which you become a citizen, a place where you imagine a future world. But pay attention: Happiness cannot be individual, only. Like theatre, true happiness is social - we cannot be happy making other people suffer. Happiness shall be you and me, our family and our country, happiness shall be the entire world, all nations, all races, all creeds, all ages, all humans - Happiness is Dialogue.
Okay, so it's a little dipsy-doodle, but I like Boal's final aphorism: "Happiness is Dialogue."

Agreed, Mr. Boal. Happy IDOTTFCAYP!
The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Three things about this movie:

1) Jim Carrey is good. Great, actually. He's figured out how to act straight.
2) Charlie Kaufman has finally figured out how to write a satisfying ending.
3) I'm going to go out on a limb and say that this is my favourite Charlie Kaufman movie. And I adore all of Charlie Kaufman's movies. (Though, I haven't seen Human Nature.)
Googlicious

You'll all be pleased to know that if you search for "How to meet super sexy Irishwomen" [without the quotes] on Google, only one page comes up. This one.

Bam!

Friday, March 19, 2004

NNA, NNA, NNA NNA! Hey, hey, hey!

The nominees for this year's National Newspaper Awards have been announced. Once again, I find myself shut up of all the categories...

Congratulations to the National Post's Robert Cushman, who is nominated this year for Arts Writing. Since Kate Taylor departure from the scene, Cushman has been Toronto's most consistently-good theatre critic.


More to say on NNAs, but I'm running out the door to see The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind...

[EDITED 11:57 pm: Spelling.]
New Feature: Ask Your Son

A mom in Montreal, QC writes:

Hi Kelly:

I just noticed [Jessica Paré] on the cover or TORO, a magazine which I have heard of only because you mentioned it somewhere………

Is she a sex symbol now - or does this magazine always have that kind of spreads?

TTYL

Mom
Dear Mom,

Good query, but it's not really an 'or' question. Yes, little Jessica Paré, who once came to my sixth grade birthday party (I think; pull out the pictures to be sure), has all grown up and is now a full-fledged sex symbol. Or Canadian sex symbol, at least.

Since being plucked from obscurity by Oscar-winning director Denys Arcand for his film Stardom a few years ago, journalists writing about Paré have invariably focused on her looks more than her acting.

In the latest issue of Toro magazine, Eye magazine's Jason Anderson asks, "Jessica Paré... wants to be a great actor. But will we ever get past the pretty face?" Toro's editors seem to answer this question with the sexy photo spread: "Sorry. What was the question? I was too busy looking at Jessica Paré's pretty [face]."

Oh well.. You'll also be disappointed to know that, sometime after graduating from elementary school, Paré started smoking. Player's Extra Lights, according to Anderson.

Moving on: Yes, Toro does always have this kind of spread. When Toro launched last Spring, they were trying to be a smart man's Maxim, often putting photos of bearded men on their front covers (très metrosexual, a word you asked about in another recent letter). With each issue, however, they seem to take a step closer to be the everyman's Maxim, a.k.a. Maxim.

Thanks for writing!

Your son,

Kelly

Ask Your Son welcomes questions from all mothers (and fathers) of mine. Send your queries to uncascrooge at hotmail.com, or call me on Sunday afternoon while I'm doing my laundry.
Thought of the day

"Ever notice how cell phones have changed the standard telephone greeting from 'How are you?' to 'Where are you?'"

-- wise words from Sam Grice.
Theatre Thursday (oops, Friday): The Irish

In celebration of St. Patrick's Day, Richard Ouzounian at the Toronto Star decided to draw up a list of his Top Ten Irish playwrights:
[A]s far as I'm concerned, the best thing that Ireland has done (and continues to do) is to provide the theatre with a constant stream of inventive and provocative playwrights.

No one seems to know what makes it happen. Some claim it's the weather, others insist it's the whiskey.

But if one of the major qualities that a good stage writer needs is the ability to create sparkling dialogue, then the legendary "gift of the gab" that comes with an Irish heritage must surely be part and parcel of the deal.

Well... I would make some sort of comment about Irish stereotyping, but there are worse things that having people think that your nationality is possessed of special powers...

Anyway, Ouzounian's list is predictable: Richard Binsley Sheridan, Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw, William Butler Yeats, John Middleton Synge, Sean O'Casey, Samuel Beckett, Brendan Behan, Brian Friel, Martin McDonagh. All great playwrights, of course, but all but Friel and McDonagh are dead. (And McDonagh was born and raised in England.)

So, in the interest of pointing out that Irish writing is still alive and well, here are a few other contemporaries:

-- Marina Carr. Carr is the only one who I am certain will be on the lists of future Ouzounians. Among her plays: The Mai (1994), Portia Coughlan (1996), which is being remounted at The Abbey in Dublin this year, and by the Bog of the Cats (1998), an awesome retelling of Medea in a small Irish town.

-- Marie Jones. This Belfast-born playwright is really hot in Montreal right now where two of her plays are playing this month: A French translation of the two-hander Stones in his Pockets (until the 27th at Rideau Vert), and the one-man show A Night in November (opening at the Saidye Bronfman Centre this week ), a funny piece about a World Cup qualifying match between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

-- Hilary Fannin. I haven't actually read or seen any of Fannin's plays, but everyone in Dublin said I should. She's only written two so far: Doldrum Bay and Mackeral Sky. And she co-wrote a play with Mark Ravenhill (of Shopping and Fucking fame) called Sleeping Around.

Others of note: Frank McGuinness (Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme), Tom Murphy (saw his adaptation of The Cherry Orchard)...

Thursday, March 18, 2004

All Coyne all the time.

Well, after writing about columnoblogger Andrew Coyne's fabulous thespian sister Susan, a little birdie e-mailed to tell me that Mememaster C. has another famous relative: Deborah Coyne, the lawyer who had what used to be called a love-child with former Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau. D. Coyne is now married to another Canadian pundit, the pornophobic Michael Valpy, who moralizes readers to death in The Globe and Mail.

Quite a family. But wait! There's more... Andrew and Susan Coyne's father was James Coyne, a former governor of the Bank of Canada who clashed with Diefenbaker in the 1960s. (The head of a bank with the last name Coyne? Rich!)

Anyway, I'm sure you're all fascinated to read about The Life and Times of A. Coyne, so here's an interesting old profile from the Ryerson Review of Journalism from back when he was still at The Globe. One interesting tidbit:

The younger Coyne inherited [his father's] penchant for standing alone. The first public example came when he was 19 and editor of the University of Manitoba's newspaper, The Manitoban. He refused to remove the word "cunt" from a page on which students sent messages to one another for a quarter. The mainstream press grabbed hold of the story, thrilled that this was happening to James Coyne's son. His refusal to take the word out led him all the way to the provincial publishing board,which came within one vote of firing Coyne.
I wonder if my compadres over at the present-day Manitoban know this story... (Ruslan? Teresa?)

[EDITED Saturday: 'H' extraction.]

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Happy St. Patrick's Day

For some reason both of the articles I wrote about my trip to Dublin are available online -- for free! Hoorrah! Harrooh!

First up, what Dublin is doing to prepare for the 100th anniversary of Bloomsday, the day that celebrates James Joyce's Ulysses.

And then, an article about the Abbey Theatre -- also celebrating its centenary -- and its artistic director Ben Barnes' dealings with Centaur Theatre, Théâtre du Nouveau Monde, Soulpepper, CanStage, Shaw, Stratford -- just about every major theatre company in Eastern Canada.

Post-script

Speaking of the Irish... Paul Wells explains why Bertie Ahern, Taioseach of Ireland, is coming to visit Canada smack-dab in the middle of his country's national holiday celebrations. It's a heart-warming story.
The Small World of Canadian Everything

As regular visitors to this blog already know, my two main interests are journalism and theatre. Now, these two realms cross paths more often than you'd think.

For instance, it was only today that I discovered that columnist/blogger Andrew Coyne is the brother of Susan Coyne, one of the founding members of the Soulpepper Theatre Company (and husband to fellow co-founder Albert Schultz).

Now Soulpepper, incidentally, announced its summer season on Monday. Among the plays they are presenting: Translations by Brian Friel, directed by Abbey Theatre artistic director Ben Barnes.

Not so incidentally, the interview I did with Ben Barnes while I was in Dublin last month will be published in The Post tomorrow.

And The Post is also a newspaper that Andrew Coyne writes for.

So, in the end, everything comes full circle... Whoa!
More on Shatner...

Pursuivant to my post below, I've dug up the interview I did with William Shatner in September and posted it here for your reading pleasure. An excerpt:

While Charlie Kaufman's Being John Malkovich made self-parody hip, Shatner has made it into a viable career option all its own. Whether playing a lovelorn celebrity who dreams of producing a six-hour musical adaptation of Julius Caesar in 1998's mockumentary Free Enterprise or an eccentric drama queen in his regular appearances on The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn, William Shatner has made William Shatner his most recognizable character, perhaps even supplanting Kirk in the pop-culture pantheon.

"There's an ironic joke, I think, that I'm aware of how ephemeral all this is, [how] nonsensical and how brief it is," he says. "So there's not too much to be serious about."

Shatner doesn't see what he does as all that different from what other actors do. "The truth of the matter is that, with very rare exceptions, actors really are themselves," he says. "It's very rare on screen, less rare on the stage, where the actor absolutely submerges himself into other idiosyncrasies, verbal and physical."
Anals of Public Relations

Man, I can't believe that I missed out on this today. Damn...

Attention Lifestyle/Entertainment/Food Editors:

Media Advisory/Photo Opportunity - Kellogg's All-Bran Challenge 2 heats up with William Shatner and Toronto Fire Fighters
Tuesday, March 16, 2004

When: 11:00 a.m. - 12:15 p.m. (media registration begins at 10:30 a.m.)
Where: The Docks, Main Building, 19 Polson Street, Toronto

Participants:
-------------
Actor William Shatner
Toronto Fire Fighters

TORONTO, March 15 /CNW/ - Join host William Shatner for the second All-Bran 1/2 Cup Challenge as Toronto's finest fire fighters trade in their fire hoses for half cups in benefit of the Colorectal Cancer Association of Canada and the Ross Tilley Burn Centre at Sunnybrook and Women's College Hospital.
From tire tromps to balance beams to climbing walls, the All-Bran Challenge pits ten of Toronto's hottest firefighters in a head-to-head skills competition where they race against themselves, their opponents and the clock.
The event will kick off the second Kellogg's All-Bran Two Week Challenge campaign, a national challenge to encourage Canadians to increase their daily fibre intake while increasing awareness of the health benefits associated with a high-fibre diet which includes reducing the risk of certain cancers. It also marks the launch of a national advertising campaign featuring William Shatner moving into a fire hall with unsuspecting firefighters to encourage them to add more fibre to their diets.
Come on out and join William Shatner and Kellogg's for a sneak preview of what's in store as Toronto Fire Fighters rise to the All-Bran 1/2 Cup Challenge.
Post-script

Thanks to GT for the e-mail, but it was not a mistake. I spelt it "Anals" instead of "Annals" on purpose, because it's about colorectal cancer, see? I know, I know... Puns are the lowest form of humour. Yadda-yadda.

Monday, March 15, 2004

Theatre Tuesday: The Syringa Tree

Okay, I've seen The Syringa Tree, a one woman-show currently playing at CanStage, twice now: once with Caroline Cave in the role; once with Yanna McIntosh.

The first time (with Cave), I liked it. Then, I saw it two days later (with McIntosh) and I was extremely bored. This has nothing to do with McIntosh's performance. It's just that with a second viewing, Pamela Gien's script's many flaws were painfully obvious.

Anyway, most everyone else in Toronto is raving about it. [Toronto Star/Richard Ouzounian: five stars -- "This is what the theatre should be."; John Coulbourn/Toronto Sun: five stars -- "Imagine, if Ruebens and Caravaggio had painted the same subject."]

Kamal Al-Solaylee -- whose reviewing I'm beginning to like more and more -- gives the dissenting view:

For the current CanStage production, the role of Elizabeth -- in addition to the two dozen other characters that populate the play -- is performed in rotation at different performances by two actors, Yanna McIntosh (who's black) and Caroline Cave (who's white).

While there's a whiff of stunt casting and profiteering from the ever-entrepreneurial CanStage, it unwittingly proves to be an apt strategy for a play that sees life in strictly black or white, and whose approach to that life is safely and predictably sentimental. This is not feel-good, but feel-bloody-superior, theatre.

Nothing wrong with a dose of sentimentality; the American popular canon (to which The Syringa Tree rightfully belongs, if not now, then in its next incarnations as a novel and film) would be bankrupt without it. But here, the very complicated and explosive politics of South Africa are rendered in such an uncritical, touchy-feely way that the play reduces characters (especially Afrikaners) and story lines into caricatures and tokens.

The world of The Syringa Tree is divided between two essentially drawn sets of families: the kind white liberals of the Graces and the servile black nobles of Salamina and her daughter Moliseng, whose life and fate fill the play's otherwise vacuous political agenda.

Structurally, Gien spends too much time on Elizabeth's childhood, perhaps because the perspective of a young child helps her to avoid asking harsher questions. By the time Elizabeth has developed the political consciousness that makes her leave South Africa for the U.S., "the land of the free and brave" -- another unexamined assertion, given that only a decade earlier blacks were officially segregated in parts of the American South -- events as cataclysmic as the abolishment of apartheid are given cursory stops. Gien is more interested in the personal past than the collective future.
Dude, exactly! The Syringa Tree is anti-political theatre. It pats you on the head and says, "Hurrah! We beat apartheid! It's the end of history!"

My friend SB, who saw both shows too and is brown, adds this, "None of the reviews I read said what I thought was perfectly obvious: When Caroline does the show, you sympathize with the whites more; When Yanna does it, you sympathize more with the blacks." [I'm paraphrasing from a conversation here, but that was the jist of it.]

I don't really agree with SB on this, but her comments -- plus the fact that Kamal was the only one to see through this play -- just reminded me how old, white and male so many of Toronto's theatre reviewers are and how that can sometimes inhibit any interesting or provocative discussion about a play -- often because of politically-correct self-censorship. You may not agree with SB or Kamal, but their comments are sooo much more engaging than "This is what theatre should be."

[This isn't to bash old, white males! Heck, I'll be one in a few short decades and I hope that people will (still?) be interested in what I have to say....]
The Doctor is Out

Old columnists never die, they just make a half-hearted attempt at a web presence and then go write for CARPnews.

[Correction: Sometimes they also are "highly sought after on educational cruise line trips."]

Sunday, March 14, 2004

Lost in Translation

Over at Andrew Coyne's uberblog, there is some discussion about this Montreal Gazette story. Seems that the Office de la Langue Francaise wants the Quebec Bar Association to censure language-rights twit Brent Tyler for telling Premier Jean Charest to "call off your dogs" on a client the OLF had taken to court.

See, calling someone the French word for dogs -- "chiens" -- is roughly equivalent to calling them "pigs" in English. So, the OLF is upset that Tyler seems to have called its inspectors "dogs" -- which again would be like calling them "pigs" in English.

Whatever... Worth a roll of the eyes, nothing more.

This is par for the course for the OLF, of course. But it's silly for them to attack Tyler, a man who is the best thing that ever happen to them. Tyler, an aggressive narcissist, marginalized and then destroyed the English-language rights group Alliance Quebec while he was president. The OLF should be thanking him for his dedicated service...

Anyway, go ahead and scoff. But it's not like tête-carrée English Canadians are any better.

Remember when former-Premier Bernard Landry, then merely Quebec's finance minister, said -- of the federal government's now-discredited Sponsorship Program -- that the Quebec people would not prostitute themselves for "des bouts de chiffon rouge." (Twas, January 2001.) Well, CP literally translated that as "bits of red rag" and then the English-language media when all nuts on Landry for calling the flag a "rag."

Clearly, the media missed the boat on that one while they were busy working themselves up into a patriotic fervour. Turns out that Landry was right on about the dubious nature of the Sponsorship Program, father of AdScam...

[Landry, by the way, took the high road and immediately apologized for the "effect of that choice of word" and explained that he was referring to the red flag that toreadors wave in front of bulls during bullfights, and that the phrase "chiffon rouge" was an old French expression for provocation." Tyler simply said the OLF was "barking up the wrong tree" and added "I don't think they understand the English language."]

Post-script

Hey, a quick question to y'all out there: Can you see the accented letters when I write words in French, ie. tête-carrée? They appear as question marks on the computers I use... Doesn't anyone know how I can solve this? Or should a file a complaint against Blogger with the OLF?
Auf der Maur interviews Sarrazin

Over at the Media in Montreal Yahoo group, Mirror scribe Kristian Gravenor has posted a previously-unpublished transcript of a conversation between gone-but-not-forgotten journalist-cum-boulevardier Nick Auf Der Maur and Michael Sarrazin, the Montreal actor whose films include The Flim-Flam Man (1967), They Shoot Horses Don't They? (1969) and, alas, FearDotCom (2002). The interview, which was done for an unaired episode of Gravenor's old show Behind the Scenes, took place at Grumpy's bar in 1993. It's full of great exchanges like this one:

Nick: We have some clippings of you from the Montreal Gazette and there is a photo of you in a bathtub with Barbara Streisand, in "For Pete's Sake". I mean not many of us get in a bathtub with her. What was it like working with a super vedette ?

Sarrazin: Great. Great we got along well, I liked her, I admired her tremendously, it was a lot of fun, it wasn't too demanding, because it was a nice light comedy. She is an extraordinary person, a lot of fun, a great sense of humour, we shot it on the lot because you can't go on the street with Barbra Streiseand, it starts a riot. So, it was a kind of light weight kinda movie, but the film experience and meeting her it was a happy time.

Nick: She collects antiques.

Sarrazin: Yeah.

Nick: My mom has an antique coat racks, and every time you get to Montreal my mom asks me to get you to ask Barbra for a coat rack but it hasn't worked out... I also saw you in Playboy nude with Raquel Welch?

Sarrazin: No I don't think so..

Nick: Who was it?

Sarrazin: I didn't pose specifically for Playboy.

Nick: Yeah but who was it?

Sarrazin: I really don't remember.

Nick: It was kind of like a Tarzan thing.

Sarrazin: In those days there were obligatory nude scenes with the actress at which time all of the stills were either pirated or sold by the studio to Playboy and went around the world so everybody thinks I was having I mean they were just still photos taken during the course of your working day they always had a market value, Playboy ran that every year, "Sex in the cinema", I was in a number of years, with whom I can't recall.

Nick: You can't recall? Photographed in the nude with Raquel Welch and you can't remember?

Sarrazin: It couldn't have been her, I haven't worked with her.

Nick: Who was it? I would be able to remember!

Sarrazin: I'm getting old now and I have a girlfriend, I don't want to brag about these things.

Nick: I used to call you up to speak French with your old girlfriend Jacqueline Bisset.
It's a great little interview.

For those of you who don't know Nick Auf der Maur, he was a city councillor, agent-provocateur and columnist who worked mainly from the bars on Crescent St. and knew practically everyone in Montreal. He's also the father of Melissa Auf de Maur, the former bassist for Hole and Smashing Pumpkins (who now has her own band Auf Der Maur).

He's also the guy most responsible for turning me on to journalism. When I was just a young lad of 15, I wrote him a long letter about Donald Duck comic books -- he was a notorious Duck fan -- and he printed the whole thing in his column, which was on page A2 of the Montreal Gazette at the time. That was it for me: After seeing my name in print and getting calls from about a dozen of my grandmother's friends, I was hooked on newspapers.

Unfortunately, Nick died before I was (officially) old enough to meet him for a beer at Winnie's. But I did attend his funeral -- along with about 4,000 other people. And, after one particularly debaucherous evening in third year at McGill, I took a ceremonial piss in alley named after him off of Crescent...

Post-script

-- Credit where due: I read about this transcript on Montreal City, your one-stop blog for all things Montreal.

-- A short bio of Nick Auf der Maur.

Friday, March 12, 2004

Geekier than thou.

If there's one thing that lamer than keeping a blog (ahem), it's keeping a blog in Klingon (see this one and this one). Right?

Well, linguist-cum-blogger Semantic Composition used to be of that opinion. Then someone came along and showed him the light:
Memorizing Klingon is heavily disparaged, in a way that memorizing sports scores or the attributes of different models of car never is. The time-wasting aspect is often cited, but surely it beats out watching daytime TV, which never incites such hoots of derision.
Well, I don't know from sports or cars or Klingon, but I do have a few embarrassing and esoteric hobbies (not just blogging), so who am I to judge?

Anyway, read the whole post from Semantic Compositions. It's quite interesting, especially the idea that the popularity of Klingon has led to a resurgent interest in learning dead/dying/obscure languages like Ancient Greek, Latin and Aramaic. Perhaps The Passion of The Christ owes a debt of thanks to The Search for The Spock?
The Weekly Pundit Index

Ann Coulter: Down 30%.

In a column on The Passion of The Christ last week, Coulter wrote, "Being nice to people is, in fact, one of the incidental tenets of Christianity (as opposed to other religions whose tenets are more along the lines of 'kill everyone who doesn't smell bad and doesn't answer to the name Mohammed')." Then, for good measure, she added: "(The Prophet) Muhammad's many specific instructions to kill non-believers whenever possible."

One week after the blatently racist column appeared, the backlash is only begin to build. Sell now. [via Daifallah]

Coulter is the second pundit to plummet on the TSE and the NYSE recently: Kalle Lasn's value also sank by 30% last week after an ill-advised merger between Adbusters and the Protocols of Zion.

Analysts say we can take this as a sign that the Old Media pundit bubble is bursting. They recommend withdrawing your assets from Lasn and Coulter and investing in Blogs immediately.
The Blogosphere: The sow that eats its farrow

As the Liberal sponsorship scandal – aka. AdScam – continues to unspool, former party strategist Warren Kinsella’s blog has become a must-read. [Perhaps you saw it referenced in recent articles about the Copps/Valeri nomination smackdown.]

But just when I was thinking, What a good Blogger Mr. Kinsella is, he goes and breaks the cardinal rule of blogging: Don’t give out your telephone number in a post! From yesterday:
Ever since the sponsorship story broke, I have been giving interviews to journalists about what I knew about Public Works, and what went on there. All of the journalists want dirt. They don't want to report this sentence, which I have insisted on giving them, on the record:
"Chuck Guité and these other public servants were officials who did their jobs, and did them honourably. They don't deserve to have their reputations destroyed, in my opinion."

Any reporters who want me to say that to them, call me at (416) 64x-0xxx. [The x's are mine. I will not be part of this folly.]
Well, the digits listed are actually his assistant's number, but still... If I were still in university, I'd totally be prank calling him right now. You know, leaving messages about the Prince of Darkness or kicking ass or something. [Kinsella's nickname was "Prince of Darkness"; He wrote a book called Kicking Ass in Canadian Politics.]

And then – making him look like the most out-of-it blogger out there – Kinsella posted this the same day he posted his number:
March 10, 2004 - Okay.
1. Go to www.google.com
2. Type "weapons of mass destruction"
3. Hit "I'm feeling lucky"
You're welcome.
Dude, that google bomb is older than "miserable failure." That meme is so Summer 2003. Heck, there was even a story about it on Reuters back in July...

Post-script

"What's with the blog bashing, Kelly?" you ask. Well, it's only because I am so fond of Kinsella's blog. Also, blog bashing is very en vogue today, ie. Jack Shafer politely taking down Gawker and Wonkette on Slate:
[A]fter several weeks of consuming every cartoon obscenity, bludgeoning wisecrack, and meta-knowing, callow riposte served on these two blogs, I've been asking myself: Are these blogs a part of the better world we hope to leave to our sons and daughters?
Well, yes, if we intend for our children to grow strong from sucking bile instead of milk.
Bam!

Thursday, March 11, 2004

May the Schwartz be with you after a night hooching it up at Newtown?

Schwartz's -- home of the world's most famous smoked meat -- is considering opening up a new deli on Crescent St. between de Maisonneuve and Ste Catherine -- a mere block away from my old apartment at Chateau Mackay. The Gazette's Bill Brownstein is all over this important meat development.

I don't know if it's heresy to say this, but I have never really understood why everyone goes all mooney over Schwartz's smoked meat. It's a little fatty for my tastes, frankly.

You know what I do miss from Montreal? Boustan, the Lebanese restaurant on Crescent St. Whenever I'm back, even for a day, I make sure to stop by and get their Shish Taouk plate. Even though I live in Toronto now, I still keep their delivery number in my cell phone.

You know who used to eat at Boustan? Former PM Pierre Elliot Trudeau. That's right. Behind the counter, there's a picture of him chowing down on a falafel with owner Imad Smaidi behind the country.

Anyway, Schwartz's-Schmartz's... Nothing more than a tourist trap. Boustan is the Schwartz's for the new millennium.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Teachout's Teach-in

I'm sure many of you have seen this already, but for the benefit of those who were introduced to blogging today : About Last Night's Terry Teachout's Notes on Blogging.

I'm not totally in agreement with his blogging philosophy (it irks me when someone writes, "A blog is not..."), but Teachout makes some really good points. Here are what I think are his two best observations:

7. The whole point of a blog is that its author controls its content. That’s why no major newspaper will ever be successful at running in-house blogs: the editors won’t allow it. The smart ones will encourage their best writers to blog on their own time—and at their own risk. The dumb ones will refuse to let any of their writers blog, on or off the job....

13. Blogging is inherently undemocratic in one important way: it privileges literacy. Like e-mail, it is dividing the world into two unequal classes: people who feel comfortable expressing themselves through the written word and people who don’t.
Exactly. And not just literacy, but computer literacy. And bloggers must have regular access to a computer... Blogs and the internet may be exciting and revolutionary, but they're also very bourgeois. [This is something that sites like rabble.ca and indymedia.org tend to forget.]
Blogging about Talking about Blogging...

I had a fun time pretending to be a professor today... This afternoon, I gave a talk about weblogs at the University of Toronto in journalist-cum-playwrights Rick Salutin's Culture and Media in Canada class, which is part of the university's Canadian Studies program.

I had assumed that university students – especially those take a communications class – would all be blog savvy by this point. However, only about a third of class (out of 120) said that they had visited a blog and only one student actually had a blog of her own.

So I reconfigured my talk – which was going to be about the myth of the democratization of the media via blogs – to be a general blog primer. [Much debt owed to Rebecca Blood's account of the history of blogs and J.D. Lasica's "Random Acts of Journalism" concept.

The afternoon was a nice reminder of a few things: a) That not everyone spends every waking hour on the Internet like me; b) That the blogging community remains terribly insular; and c) That the word blog is really funny when spoken aloud over and over for half an hour.

To those of you visiting from Rick’s class: Hi. I had a great time today and you were a very gracious audience.

To the rest of you: J. Kelly Nestruck is available for conferences, classes and dinner parties. Will explain the mystical world of "web-logs" a.k.a. blogs and impart management secrets that will boost your company's profitability by 100%! Also: Make Money Online! Contact my representative at the Speaker's Bureau of Canada for pricing and availability.

[NB: As if.]
"EBay.com - Save Money and Buy Conservative On Ebay!"

It appears that the new Conservative Party of Canada has forgotten to renew their domain at www.conservative.ca. I guess they figured they would only need it for a few months or something...

See what happens when you take the "Progressive" out of "Progressive Conservatives"? [via Daifallah]

EDITED: Here's the domain's whois reference... It looks like it's still registered to PC webmaster Chris Hardie. Maybe this is just a brief glitch. Still: Embarrassing!

ADDITIONAL EDIT (10 pm): You can ignore this post now. The Conservatives' site is back up... Look away! Look away!

Post-script

Don't worry: Belinda's blog is still up! [Except it hasn't been updated since February 11...]

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Theatre Tuesday: Albee answers the age-old question

In discussions with theatre folk, the question always seems to come up: "What's the difference between a play and a movie?"

Well, playwright Edward Albee put in his two cents in an interview with the Boston Globe. "You can take a deaf person to a movie; you can't take a blind person. You can take a blind person to a play; you can't take a deaf person," Albee said. Then, he added: "Except a critic" and stuck out his tongue.

I'll add that to my list of answers...
R.I.P. Spalding Gray

I remember standing in that second-story window and looking down, wondering if I really had the courage to jump and if I did would it kill me from such a small height. I think I figured I'd just break a leg or something and end up in a cast for the rest of the summer, and that would be much better than dying because of all the attention I'd get.

-- S.G., from Impossible Vacation.
Since he disappeared two months ago, it has been a foregone conclusion that Spalding Gray had finally succeeded in taking his life. His close friend John Perry Barlow started eulogizing him on his blog back on January 16.

The eulogies are flowing now that the monologist's body has been found washed up on the shores of the East River. Here are a few obits: The Times, Toronto Star theatre critic Richard Ouzounian, The Telegraph...

At first glance, it looked as if there was no acknowledgement of Gray's passing at the website of The Wooster Group, the NYC experimental theatre he co-founded. But then I noticed that on the About page, someone has quietly added his death date: Spalding Gray (1941-2004).

It's very sad whenever brilliance is drowned by that beast depression. I wish he had just broken his leg in the jump off the bridge...

[Thanks for letting me know, Felicity. I had completely missed this somehow.]
Theatre Tuesday: Three Quick Hits

1. Which came first: Life or art?: A month ago, British playwright Brett Bailey went to Haiti to work on his play about the fall of a tyrant. Then, two weeks later, Aristide was overthrown/ousted/kidnapped/exiled himself. Then, a week after that, Bailey wrote an article about it for The Guardian.

Found this part particularly interesting:
Sitting with a local writer in the Oloffson on Friday, I asked, where are the heavily armed rebel forces that overran the northern half of the country two weeks ago? "They are here, keeping a low profile, waiting for an opportunity to make a move," he replied. And Guy Phillipe, their young commander - is he a local hero? "He is like a frying pan when there is a fire," said my friend. "You grab it because it is the only thing available to beat out the flames, but you don't want to display it on the mantelpiece."
Out of the frying pan into the fire?

2. Secrete Charity: Middle-brow American playwright Neil Simon needed a kidney, so who stepped up to the plate? His publicist Bill Evans did. (Get it? Secrete Charity... like Sweet Charity? Ha!) [via Optimus Crime]

3. The Syringa Tree: I went to see this one-woman play by South African expat playwright Pamela Gien at the Bluma Appel theatre tonight. I'd give you my thoughts, but I'll wait until I see it again on Wednesday. CanStage's unorthodox idea was to have two actresses -- one black and the other white -- alternate in the role. Tonight I saw Caroline Cave. Next up: Yanna McIntosh.

Sunday, March 07, 2004

The Liberal Party has a New Logo...



Ugh... What is that font? It looks like someone took a bite out of the letter 'B'... And it looks like there's a giant accent circonflex over 'era'.

The press release is kinda funny:

Updating a look is always difficult. We have fought elections under our old logo and have become attached to it - good logos often become the visual embodiment of our hopes and dreams. In time, our new logo will build on our pride and offer us new meaning. More importantly, it will provide us continuity with the past.

We continue to proudly include the maple leaf in our design and the use of red as the predominant colour. The "arc" design element underlines our status as Canada's only truly national party, as well as our vision of a strong, prosperous and united Canada. This arc, of course, doubles as an "accent aigu" to demonstrate the truly bilingual nature of our Party. Finally, the new typeface gives us a crisp, contemporary look.

While the Liberal Party of Canada is extremely proud of our heritage, we are focused on our future. We are a strong national Party that will always find new and better ways to serve the citizens of Canada. Under Prime Minister Paul Martin, we will continue to grow stronger together through a shared vision of what is possible to build a better Canada.

This new logo is a symbol of renewal and of our future together. We trust that you will share our pride in this new Party logo as we move forward.
In short: Don't worry your pretty little heads about the Sponsorship scandal! We gots a new logo!

Bad boys, bad boys... What is she going to do?

As Warren Kinsella is saying on his pseudo-blog, "There's nothing wrong with losing, of course, as long as you are losing fair and square. Fair and square was conspicuous by its absence last night in Hamilton." [Quibble: I would have said, "Fair and square were conspicuous by their absence last night..."]

This whole Valeri-Copps Liberal nomination competition has stunk since day one. I hope Copps does appeal her loss from last night. Her mother, Kinsella and about 400 others were barred from voting, so they say. I don't know what's true and what's not, but something's rotten in the Natural Governing Party...

I am increasingly irritated with this Paul Martin character who is running our country. He's petty, vindictive and selfish. It takes a lot to make Chretien look like a fair and non-partisan Liberal, but Martin's done it through these nomination shenanigans (see Paul Wells )...

In the next election, vote Conservative, vote NDP, vote Green, I don't care... Just don't vote for the Martin Liberals.
Here we grow again!

Two additions to my links.

a) Optimus Crime. This Montreal-based blog wins the award for Best Blog Title of The Month.
b) Casual Asides by D.J. Waletzky. I've put this former Red Herring editor's blog under Pundits! instead of Blogs!, because the moustachioed mountebank now works at Heeb magazine.

[I see that Ian Penney is linking to me these days, as is Sean at Tangmonkey. Next round I'll add them... I think I need to figure out a better way to categorize the links. Blogs! and Pundits! isn't cutting it.]
It ain't over 'til it's over and/or she sings...

So has Copps really lost the Liberal nomination in her riding? Canadian Press says so, but I also hear that she is challenging the results...

One things for sure, she's not going to run for the NDP. They said they wouldn't play Betty to the Liberals' Veronica....

I love this bit from the CP story:

And the battle may not be over yet, with Copps now expected to consider running as an independent in a likely spring election.

Many in this predominantly working-class city [Hamilton] say she has a clear shot at winning the seat as an independent.

"She has done so much for the city," said one cab driver.
Yes, "many in this predominantly working-class city"... Like, oh, this ANONYMOUS CAB DRIVER. Heh, heh...

Saturday, March 06, 2004

Hasta la Victoria Ottawa Centre!

Has anyone else noticed that the logo over at Ed Broadbent's campaign blog...



... is designed to resemble the famous image of a certain other revolutionary?



Just saying...

Friday, March 05, 2004

Comedy of Errors: Annals of Copy Editing

So, an L.A. Times opera reviewer filed a piece last week calling Richard Strauss's Die Frau Ohne Schatten "an incomparably glorious and goofy pro-life paean..." Upon reviewing this article, a copy editor decided to replace "pro-life" with the more neutral term "anti-abortion."

Fine. The only problem? The opera has nothing to do with abortion... The reviewer simply meant that it was pro life, like for life, in favour of procreation...

A correction was printed, but it didn't mention that the mistake was an editing error. So, at the insistence of the reviewer, a second correction was printed. But then that pissed off the copy editors... Office antics ensued.

The whole story is here. [via About Last Night]

Clearly the reviewer is guilty of writing ambiguous prose, but the copy editor is guilty of high-handed political-correction.

[For the record, I think the term "pro-life" has no place in news copy. Anti-abortion is the more neutral term. But in a review -- essentially an opinion piece -- rhetorical language is fine and should be allowed.]
Adbusters Jumps the Anti-Semitic Shark

The new March/April issue of Adbusters has an article written by Kalle Lasn entitled, "Why won't anyone say they are Jewish?" It's accompanied by a list of 50 top American neo-cons with black dots next to each one that is Jewish. Excerpt:
Drawing attention to the Jewishness of the neocons is a tricky game. Anyone who does so can count on automatically being smeared as an anti-Semite...

Here at Adbusters, we decided to tackle the issue head on and came up with a carefully researched list of who appear to be the 50 most influential neocons in the US (see above). Deciding exactly who is a neocon is difficult since some neocons reject the term while others embrace it. Some shape policy from within the White House, while others are more peripheral, exacting influence indirectly as journalists, academics and think tank policy wonks. What they all share is the view that the US is a benevolent hyper power that must protect itself by reshaping the rest of the world into its morally superior image. And half of the them are Jewish.
What the hell is Kalle Lasn thinking?

This article -- especially the list -- is quite disturbing. There's been a lot of crying wolf re: anti-Semitism in the Left over the past few years, but this is the real deal and I'm disgusted. I'm glad to see most of the folks over at Rabble Babble are condemning this article. Still, a significant number of posters are trying to defend it... Ugh.

Thursday, March 04, 2004

Political Theatre Thursday: Stupid Like Me

"President Clinton was often known as the first black president. I wouldn't be upset if I could earn the right to be the second."
-- Democratic Presidential Nominee John Kerry, in an interview with the American Urban Radio Network yesterday. [via Pop (all nipple)]

Choose from one of the following snarky comments:
a) Shortly after his interview with the American Urban Radio Network, Kerry tossed someone else's ancestor's slave chains onto the Capitol steps.
b) When asked in a follow-up what he thought of same-sex marriage, Kerry inexplicably responded: "Word."
c) Kerry went on to add that he had many "Black brothers back in the shit."
d) In other news, Rev. Al Sharpton said that -- despite Kerry's primary wins -- he had not yet given up on his dream of becoming the country's first Hispanic President.
e) Look in the damn mirror, Whitey!
Theatre Thursday: The Laramie Project

Going into The Laramie Project last night, I wasn't expecting much. I'm not a big fan of agit-prop and I had assumed that that was what this play was.

It's always best to go into a play with low expectations, because you inevitably end up with a fine night out. Sometimes, you even get blown right out of the water.

The Laramie Project, a documentary play, gets almost all of its text from a series of interviews Colorado's Tectonic Theater Project conducted in the wake of Matthew Sheppard's 1998 murder. Studio 180's production of it at Buddies in Bad Times is spot on.

Great performances, great play. What an exciting, relevant and humanist show.

Not much being written about it in the press right now, mainly because this is a remount, so I thought it was important for me to blog it. Go buy tickets now.

A have a quibble though. From the production notes:
Plays that deal with important and often controversial social and political issues are generally seen by those already aware of the issues at hand. The expected Laramie audience member is educated about and concerned with questions of hate, violence, tolerance and homophobia. In remounting this play, we hope to expand our audience to include those who may not have previously considered the issues brought to light in Laramie.
By remounting it at Buddies in Bad Times? Not likely.

This is definitely a dilemna that "social issue" theatre has to deal with on a regular basis. Outside of scheduling school performances, how do you get non-theatre-goers to go and see theatre?

Perhaps the only recent play I know that has succeeded in doing that is Steve Galluccio's Mambo Italiano, which was, of course, snootily huffed at by most Montreal and Toronto theatre critics. (Gaëtan Charlebois excluded.)
Theatre Thursday: But is it Fart?

Reading Aaron Wherry's fine music blog today, I learned that Globe and Mail theatre critic Kamal Al-Solaylee sometimes writes about non-theatrical topics, ie. Harry Connick Jr. Comments Wherry:
Having sufficiently questioned the Jazz pedigree of Norah Jones and Diana Krall, The Globe and Mail decides to question Harry Connick Jr's breeding in Wednesday's paper.
"Yes, but the question persists: Is it jazz?" ponders theatre (?) critic Kamal Al-Solaylee.
For good measure, Kamal elsewhere throws in this little slap: "The same maturity, Connick claims, marks his arrangements for Only You, which, to my ears, sounds overarranged and overproduced."
Well then.
Ugh, I hate that whole "But is it ----?" question. Silly structuralists. Don't they know we're living in the popomo era? Everything's jazz now, man...

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

How to run a good Opposition Party Website 101

How does one run a good Opposition Party website in Canada? I'll give you a clue: It's not like this (NDP) or this (Conservatives).

No... It's like this. While other parties release a few press releases a week on their site, the Bloc Qu?b?cois has been releasing several a day lately and appear to be on top of everything. Nice commenting functions, visually-appealing layout and fun theme song... No unnecessary splash page introductions and no pictures of Jack Layton staring creepily out of a bus window (scroll down, on left).

My favourite part of the BQ website is "Jeune souverainiste de la semaine" -- Young Sovereigntist of the Week. This week it's Nastassia Williams, who says (in French quotation marks, of course), ? On ne veut plus ?tre une province comme les autres, on veut ?tre un pays comme les autres? ?

Anyway, you may well find the Bloc Qu?b?cois amusin, but the party is resurgent in the polls. Last weekend's CROP poll shows the BQ at 48% and the Liberals at 32% in Quebec.

The reason is, of course, their website. If there's anything Howard Dean has taught us, it's that clever websites are the most important part of any political campaign.
Hockey Arenas: Get Your Peanuts Here?

Okay, so I just got back from the Leafs-Bruins game at the Air Canada Centre. Had absolutely lovely seats in the front row of section 310 (the second balcony) and the Leafs won (3-2) and all in all a great evening was had by all...

Now here comes the complaint: Peanuts. The whole third period I kept smelling peanuts. Everyone around me was eating peanuts.

Back when I was a kid at school, few students other than me had food allergies at school. It was only when I was in high school that I started hearing about peanut bans being implemented at elementary schools and the increased incidence of peanut allergies among kids. About this time they stopped serving peanuts on flights too.

I have a fairly severe allergy to peanuts, but it's not nearly as severe as some. The smell of peanuts irritates me, puts my system on high alert, but, unlike other people I know, it doesn't cause me to become sick.

Point being: I think it's about time they stop serving peanuts at sporting events. I believe the whole point of the salty snacks is to sell more beer, but pretzels surely can fill that gap. Cutting peanuts out wouldn't significantly bother the non-allergic fans and it would bring plenty of allergic fans in.

Sound reasonable? Good.

Now what we need are a couple of Hockey players with allergies to take the charge. How about Tom Poti, the New York Rangers defenseman, who has severe allergies to nuts, fish and MSG? Or Todd Reirden, defenseman for the Phoenix Coyotes, who has a gluten allergy?

Guys like these can help fight the perception people have that all allergy sufferers are pale, weak, inactive, sexually-unattractive guys with glasses -- which are the only kind of people who have allergies on TV and in the movies.

So once again, I hereby call on arenas to stop selling peanuts at hockey games. Peanut allergy sufferers of the world unite!

Monday, March 01, 2004

Home again, home again, Jiggity-jog

Back in Canada, safe and sound... Now I can get back to complaining about scaremongering stories about the MSOSE again.

No, no... That chapter of my blogging life is closed. [Except, if you reeeeally wanted to persue it further, here's a fine Wente-bash by syndicated sex columnist Josey Vogels.]