Monday, August 30, 2004

Erratums: It's fast. It lasts.

In a previous blog post, I implied (er, stated outright) that Optimus Crime uses Microsoft Word. In fact, he uses WordPerfect.

On the Fence regrets any confusion this error may have caused and is all, like, holy shit, WordPerfect still exists?
Eine Kleine Nachtposting

1) Paul Wells is discussing Duke Ellington's Blues in Orbit track by track on his blog. If this appeals to you, go on over. I think this is a neat BlogU Introduction to Jazz. If you play your cards right, I suspect most of you McGill students will be able to get credit for following along during the week.

2) Colby Cosh's column in the National Post today about Napoleon Dynamite was his worst column ever. Poor guy sounds like he's 100 years old: "Back in my day, kids had real angst. Whatever happened to that?"

I realise the 95% of you who don't pick up the Post are like, "What are you talking about?" I'll link to it when he puts it up on his website so that you too can mock his aging Gen-X wankitude.
Hare today, Gone tomorrow?

Tonight, David Hare's new play 'Stuff Happens', opened at the National Theatre in London. About the Iraq war, its title is taken from Donald Rumsfeld's reponse to the looting of Baghdad: "Stuff happens... and it's untidy, and freedom's untidy, and free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things."

The Guardian seems very excited about the work and sees a reignition of energy in the theatres in the recent spate of hastily-spat-out political plays like Guantanamo and Tim Robbins's Embedded.

With a preponderance of activist theatre hitting New York, timed to coincide with this week's Republican convention, and the opening of 'Stuff Happens' in London, it seems like a good time to think about the merits of mixing politics with theatre.

Personally, I find most political theatre unsatisfying. The kind of theatre I like is ambiguous, more full of questions than answers. Agitprop, it seems to me, debases the theatre, changes it from art into a stick.

However, that's my personal preference. Overall, I am heartened by these new shows. They say to me that people still -- shock! -- actually believe that theatre can make a difference.

I do too, of course. But not in the short-term, get-a-warmongering-president-out-of-office way.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

We now return you to your regularly scheduled blogging.

Okay, so I finally got around to putting links back up on the side. Please, don't be offended: they are in no particular order.

If you were up there in the old days, please drop me an e-mail -- jkelly -at- gmail.com -- and remind me, k? It's not you. It's me.

Also, with my special lady friend having just returned to Montreal to do her Masters, I find myself with a lot of, er, time on my hands. So, I expect to be on the Internet a lot. Blogging, I mean. Yes. Blogging. That's it.

It's September. It's raining outside. Let's get this blogging party started again.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Filmtastic!

The Toronto International Film Festival may begin on September 9, but for those of us covering it the work began on Monday when the preview screenings kicked off downtown at a secret undisclosed location in the National Film Board building on John.

As the zeitgeist dictates, the TIFF has a blog on its website. It's being kept by director Rob Stefaniuk, whose film Phil the Alien is screening at the festival. Called (a bit redundantly) Filmmaker's Blog: Director's Dish, it is an excellent journal actually, full of insight into the various firey hoops a filmmaker must jump through during a film's post-production process and the festival circuit.

What am I looking forward to at the TIFF? The Real to Reel documentary programme, Sean Penn's movie The Assassination of Richard Nixon, and the presence of the lovely Jennifer Jason Leigh, who is in Don McKellar's new movie Childstar and Todd Solondz's new flick Palindromes. (But who won my heart back in 1994 in my favourite Coen Brothers movie.)

Post-script

Yes, I know Montreal's Festival des Films du Monde opens tomorrow! But, not being there, I just can't get excited about it. Sorry.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Get this man a column!

After hearing the news that Paul Martin paid $48,507.38 to have the last Speech from the Throne focus-grouped (message: Less big words! Ab-o-what-ginals? Snore!), Optimus Crime runs the last six Speeches from the Throne through a program (a.k.a. Microsoft Word) to get their Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease and Grade Level scores. No surprise here: The focus-grouped speech is three grade levels below the others.

But wait, you say. Isn't it good that the speech was more accessible? Well, only if you believe that citizens should be spoken to as if they are Grade 9 students.

Sorry folks, but running a government is a complex business. And communicating a government's agenda to the people isn't the same thing as trying to sell them laundry detergent.

Post-script

My special lady friend tells me that in Quebec only anglophones drink Neo Citran. Is she pulling my leg?
Canada: It's Funny!

I'd like to muster up some righteous, nationalist indignation about The Smoking Gun making fun of Canada Customs and Revenue Agency today. However, I used to make fun of the Prohibited Importations Unit's seasonal reports when we used to receive them at the McGill Daily, too. It is indeed funny that we pay someone to screen "Tattooed Tramps" and "Hardcore Horse Explosion" and decide what should and shouldn't get across the border.

So go enjoy a laugh with the Americans at our expense. And don't get your "Wet Cotton Panties 7" in a bunch.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Dear J. Kelly

A reader from Omaha writes: "J. Kelly, what's in that Neo Citran you are drinking?"

Good question, Wilbur. The answer is 10 mg of phenylephrine hydrochloride, 650 mg of acetaminophen, 42 mg of sodium and 225 ml of boiling water.

Makes me a little drowsy.

Sleepy.

Will return to regular, coherent blogging once this cold has slogged off.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Dear dwinding readership...

No, I'm not dead. Just sick. One of those stupid summer colds caught during a weekend of sleeping in a freezing tent near Morin Heights, QC.

So, until the mercury rises back up my health-o-metre, busy yourself by picking up the latest issue of The New Yorker, which is chock-a-block with good articles this week. Adam Gopnik's excellent discussion of recent re-revisionist WWI history books is online, as is Alex Ross's okay, so-so, he's-done-better piece on Bjork. For Oliver Sacks' holy-moly-fascinating article on differing perceptions of the passage of time, you'll have to catch a cold, get someone to go to the magazine store for you and bring you back a copy, and curl up under a blanket with a mug of hot tea.

Oh, and Parizeau? Whatevs.

Friday, August 13, 2004

Friday Roundup: Kim Jong-il loves pizza! Paul Wells hates Jean Lapierre! Alien and Predator sitting in a tree!

A few things before I hit Saint Sauveur for some hot cottage party action:

1) BBC: I made pizza for Kim Jong-il. More proof that truth is stranger than fiction... and that pizza parties, as Leonardo and his fellow crime-fighting turtles knew long ago, are the key to world peace.

2) As all of his readers know, Macleans scribe/blogger Paul Wells doesn't like Jean Lapierre. No, sirree. Not one bit. And it's not, he explains in the comments to this post of mine, just because Lapierre flirted with separatism:
The problem with Lapierre is that he had never flirted with separatism in his life until his buddy Paul didn't get the good job. And then, when it was unfashionable for hip Quebecers to believe in Canada, he spent a couple of years letting everyone know that of course he didn't believe in Canada. All of this while die-hard Quebec federalists were being removed from family Christmas gift lists, dis-invited from family functions, and generally *paying* for their beliefs in very concrete ways.
Then his buddy Paul got the good job, and suddenly Lapierre was a federalist.
And Paul Martin tells Quebecers who've been federalist all their lives — even when it wasn't getting them invited to the cool parties — to take orders from this guy? And then he's surprised at the result? Astonishing.
Point taken. By the way, you (the reader) should stop by Wells' blog, because there is a wicked debate going on about university tuition fees right now. Yes, dagnabit: wicked.

3) Alien v. Predator opens today, but critics were not allowed to view it. So I wrote a fake review in Post today. (Yes, it's free online!) An excerpt:
Fired from his job at the New York Post for fabricating and eating his sources, Predator takes off for a trip to Japan, where he has been hired to do a cameo in a Godzilla movie.

At his hotel, he meets a beautiful young manga and anime fan (the dreamy Maggie Gyllenhaal in an uncredited cameo). While her husband is off on a photo shoot (actually, we later learn in a clumsy flashback that Predator has disemboweled him), they head to a late-night karaoke bar, where Predator breaks down during an off-key but touching rendition of The Cure's Boys Don't Cry: "I try to laugh about it / Hiding the tears in my eyes / Because GAARG GAAAH GRARRRRRGH."
Yes. This is my actual job.

Have a good weekend.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

The Gay Governor

Since when does being gay or having an affair mean you have to resign? Interesting story, but I'm not sure what significance it has:
In a stunning declaration, Gov. James E. McGreevey announced his resignation Thursday and acknowledged that he had an extramarital affair with another man. "My truth is that I am a gay American," he said.

"Shamefully, I engaged in adult consensual affairs with another man, which violates my bonds of matrimony," the married father of two said at a news conference. "It was wrong, it was foolish, it was inexcusable."
I think what really violated bonds of matrimony was marrying a woman...
Aserejé, ja de je de jebe tu de jebere sebiunouva majavi an a bugui an a buididipí

In the course of daily events, I am often asked, Are bloggers journalists?

Good question. The key is to think of bloggers as rectangles and journalists as squares. (The latter shouldn't be too difficult.) Some bloggers are journalists -- professional or otherwise -- but not every blogger is necessarily a journalist.

"But wait," you say. "If I'm to follow your geometric metaphor to its logical conclusion, doesn't that mean that all journalists are bloggers?"

*pause*

Shut up, you.

Anyway, the point of this ridiculous preamble is to say that sometimes real, important, eye-opening journalism appears on blogs. And this week Optimus Crime -- one of my favourite blogs -- has done some serious investigative journalism, discovering exactly what it is that makes certain ketchups "fancy."

Viva la revolutione informatione!

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Theatre Thocker! Something actually shocks playwright Mark Ravenhill

No joke. Ravenhill, the mad genius behind the in-yer-face classic Shopping and Fucking, has "expressed his shock" at an Edinburgh Fringe show called Sex Addict by Tim Fountain. The Guardian reports:
In his act, Sex Addict, [Fountain] trawls Gaydar, the gay internet site, in front of a live audience, looking for a man with whom to have sex. The audience votes who he should pick. He then cycles off to whichever part of Edinburgh he has been summoned, has sex, and then reports back on the experience to the following night's audience.

In Friday night's preview, he claimed already to have slept with a man from the planning department of Edinburgh city council, a man from the soft furnishings department of Jenners with a dungeon, and was sent off by that night's audience to seek out a songwriter who wanted sex before his taxi-driver boyfriend came off-shift at 6am.

"It didn't take long," Fountain said the following day. "I was back in the bar 45 minutes later." Fountain claims to have had sex with 5,000 men and one woman.
At least that's what the show was about until Monday when Gaydar suspended his account.

But the curtain has not yet dropped on this little bit of rear-end avant-garde. Now, according to the Independent, "there are now so many gaydar-registered men coming to the show, he is simply going to ask them to bring print-outs of their details and go from there." Quoth Fountain: "I think it's the first show where members of the audience are shown naked pictures of other members of the audience."

You know how they say, if you get nervous on stage to picture the audience in their underwear? Bye-bye, stage fright.

Sigh. Oh, the Internet. Will you ever change?

Post-script

Ooh... There's a new play by Marie Jones at the Edinburgh Fringe, too. "Will you shut up about Irish playwrights, already?" Okay, okay...
Could Allan Rock and Jean LaPierre maybe be related?

Excuse the misleading post title.

While Jean LaPierre has turned out to be a bit of a, well, bungle-ass, I actually originally thought it was a good move by Paul Martin to bring him on board as Quebec lieutenant. Separatist, schmeparatist, I thought.

Anyway, Andre Pratte, chief editorialist for La Presse, has a good piece in *gasp* The National Post today explaining how it is imperative for the Liberals, Conservatives, etc. to embrace Quebec nationalists, reformed or otherwise.

I concur.

I confess to finding it a little baffling that whenever a federalist political party even speaks to someone who once flirted with la souverainte-association while out drinking at a St. Denis bar, English-Canadian pundits/politicians get up in arms. Um, I thought the idea was to make separatists realise it was a good idea to be a part Canada. Maybe even, heck, get them involved with federalist politics, building a better country, yadda-yadda...

But no, as soon as someone like Jean LaPierre changes his stripes, people cry foul: Are you now or have you ever been a separatist? Have you ever worn a black turtleneck and smoked Gauloises? Have you ever spent more than half an hour arguing about the exact definition of the word 'distincte'? Do you know all the words to Gens du Pays?

When the inquisition extends to those who aren't even politicians, say, Olympic athletes, then it gets a bit ugly. [Note to the Toronto Sun: A guy who voted Yes in 1995 is now proud to wave the Canadian flag and you think it's a bad thing?]

This is, of course, part of a bigger problem in politics, the reason why I will never get involved: Politicians who change their minds about issues are called hypocrites, flip-floppers, washy-washy. In real life, people who change their minds are called human.

As John Meynard Keynes said, "When the facts change, I change my mind – what do you do, sir?"

Bam! Keynesian zinger! That's it. I'm outta here! Unity problems: solved.

Monday, August 09, 2004

Monday, Bloody Monday...

... is here once again. But at least there's some good news:

a) Presumably still reeling from Dale Peck's wish that he "shut off his goddamn word processor and tr[y] to find someone who would passionately shove a dick up his ass," David Foster Wallace has started writing about the ethics of boiling lobsters alive in obscure food magazines.

b) Donald Duck is finally getting a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame today, 26 years after that overrated rodent rival of his. (Yes! That article is by me. And, for once, free online. Huzzah.)
Theatre Thought of the Day

"[T]heatre is always a self-destructive art, and it is always written on the wind."

- Peter Brook, The Empty Space

Friday, August 06, 2004

More Pepper for the ol' Soul

-- Went to see Translations by Brian Friel at the Premiere Dance Theatre last night. What an absolutely fabulous play, so brilliantly written. I had issues with the production, but not big enough to stop me from enthusiastically encouraging you to go see it. It's the most worthwhile show of the Soulpepper season so far, if not necessarily its best put on, if you know what I mean.

Scratch that. I don't even know what I mean by that.

-- Tonight, I'm going to see some sketch comedy called Better than Shakespeare at the Tim Sims Playhouse at 10 pm. They also play tomorrow at 10:30 pm.

I'm not a big fan of sketch comedy per se, nor does the press release's assertion that it "borders more on performance art than joke telling" turn my crank. But the troupe has been recommended rather enthusiastically by a couple of friends of mine, so off I go.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Another Summer Theatre Festival

This time it's Summerworks, which begins today and runs until August 15. Originally started for overflow shows from the Fringe, it is now a juried festival of 46 shows presented at Factory Theatre and Passe-Muraille.

I've never attended before, but I'm going to try to catch a few shows this time around, including:

- Descent, written/directed by Ed Gass-Donnelly, Toronto theatre wunderkind/son of Factory A-D Ken Gass. I want to see if this fellah is all he's cracked up to be or what.

- The Memory of Bombs, by bluemouth inc. Bluemouth's last production was --- sorry. Hold on. I must rant for a moment.
Goddamnit, artists! Just capitalize words, okay? I understand you want to subvert the tyranny of grammar or some other such nonsense, but it drives me bonkers. It looks stupid. Don't get me wrong: e.e. cummings was a fine man. But you're not e.e. cummings. You are not friggin' e.e. cummings! Fuck.
What was I saying? Yes. bluemouth inc's last production something about a river (had to italicize the damn thing, so you'd know it was a title) was much-lauded at the Dora Awards. So I figure I should check this one out... Plus: The Memory of Bombs. That's a great title, I think.

- Lullaby, by Thelon Oeming. Actor William Webster is in this one. I really liked Webster in Soulpepper's Nathan the Wise, so I'd like to see what this is all about...

Okay. Yeah. That's about all I know I want to see. Any other recommendations?

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Ham & Cheese Update

Remember that film Ham & Cheese I went on and on about last week? Well there's some good news on that front.

I ran into co-creator Mike Beaver's wife Jennifer Baxter (who also co-stars in the film) today and asked her about the film's fortunes. Attendance was good over the weekend and so the film is going to roll over into the Carlton theatre next week. Hoorah!

And it's all thanks to this blog! Er, sort of. Not really. I suspect Murray Whyte's nice piece in The Star on Sunday probably helped a bit as did the film's own abundant merits.
Terror, Terror, everywhere, and not a drop to drink

Look. I don't want to sound cynical here, but if the American government really, like, really really had even the slightest worry that the Citigroup Centre in New York City was going to be the target of a terrorist attack on Monday, there's no way in h-e-double-hockey-stick that Laura Bush and the twins would have been allowed to go there...

Is it unreasonable for me to find this whole recent terror alert somewhat dubious? Am I the only one who finds the pictures of NYC police officers with assault weapons a little scary? Did I take a Michael Moore pill with my breakfast this morning?

Bah.
Professor Gil Troy Watch

Everybody's favourite American history professor at McGill is embroiled in a plagiarism scandal! Well, sort of...

Slate's Jack Shafer reports:
U.S. News & World Report chief political correspondent Roger Simon deeply admires the work of McGill University professor of history Gil Troy. Simon has quoted him in at least five U.S. News pieces since the summer of 1999 and in another four articles between February 1998 and February 1999 in the Chicago Tribune, Simon's previous publication.

But in last week's U.S. News, Simon took his admiration of Troy a tad too far. In the second paragraph of "Kerry's Coronation Ball," Simon paraphrased without attribution—some would say plagiarized—an equal-size portion of Troy's See How They Ran: The Changing Role of the Presidential Candidate (1996, revised ed.).
Some would say "plagiarized," but I wouldn't. Simon was lazy and didn't attribute as he should have, but I think this catch-the-journalist game is going a wee bit far now. Troy's got it right:
Professor Troy explains via e-mail that he tends to gives journalists more "slack" than students or colleagues in this realm because space and time restraints often don't permit them to footnote their work adequately. He also confesses to a reservoir of good will toward Simon, who is an obvious devotee of See How They Ran and who has quoted him repeatedly. But in a phone interview, Troy says that under current academic standards it would be "unacceptable" if a student did what Simon did as a part of his coursework without footnoting the book or putting it in his bibliography.


Tuesday, August 03, 2004

This Week in the Cinematic Arts.

It's back. The blowjob heard around the world.
Notes from a weekend in Ottawa

Ah! Our nation’s capital, where politicians politic and pundits pun. But not in late July/early August, of course. Ottawa in late July/early August is a lovely city to visit if you like your grandparents and your grandparents happen to live in Ottawa, which mine do.

Highlights of a long weekend excursion to the 'T'wa:

-- Went to see The Great Parade: Portrait of the Artist as Clown at the National Gallery of Canada. It's an absolutely exhaustive collection of art about clowns/circus performers. But while I thought the works exhibited were fascinating and gasped audibly at the Picasso stage curtain (Imagine having Picasso as your set designer! Holee!), I felt the curator knew little about clown traditions in theatre and chose to make his own (in my mind, misguided) theory about the Artist as Clown the main focus of the show. The audioguide was largely useless and often gave interpretations of the paintings that were highly dubious, and the English captions to the paintings were awkwardly-translated. A more than worthwhile exhibition, if you disregard the narcissitic curative bafflegab.

-- Went to the National Gallery gift shop and marvelled at how crass an ending it is to every superlative trip. To wit: A mug with a picture of Van Gogh on the side. When you fill it with a hot liquid, his ear disappears. How quaint, he said snootily.

-- On my grandmother's couch, gave The Walrus another chance. Turns out that the magazine isn't so bad after all. Or, at least not so bad as having to once again look at the family photo album.

-- With some wonky friends in a Market pub, had an inebriated discussion about how nice Canadian political journalism is, insofar as no one has yet written an article about the fact that three members of the new Cabinet are gay -- something that would have resulted in myriad magazine covers south of the border. Huzzah! Another round of over-priced pints for everyone!

-- Pondered the prejudice facing mixed metaphors. What's so bad about mixed metaphors, anyway? They never really bother me. I am capable of handling multiple metaphors in a single sentence. Maybe we should call them hypermetaphors. Metametaphors?