Monday, October 31, 2005

Report anticipation builds...

No, not Gomery. I'm talking about The Colbert Report. CTV and The Comedy Network announced today that as of November 7, they will be airing Stephen Colbert's Daily show spin-off after the Daily Show. Canadians rejoice! Those who haven't been downloading the torrents, that is.

(Thank goodness the CRTC approved FOX News first... Otherwise we wouldn't get the jokes.)
Ten Years Later

When Judge Gomery decided to issue the first half of his report today, I wonder if he was aware that he would be dropping it almost exactly 10 years after the 1995 referendum? Certainly, it's a coup for the separatist forces, because the two have been linked -- Gomery-referendum, referendum-Gomery -- over and over in the media all weekend.

I was in Montreal over the weekend and went over to my grandmother's yesterday to help her change her clocks. In a basket next to her desk, she had a stack of People magazines, recent clippings of mine from the Post, and, I found looking through it, a copy of the front page of The Gazette from the day after the huge No rally in Place du Canada. I took a good look at the picture of the giant flag above the fold (and the Paul Wells column below, continued on some long-lost A11) and found it touching that one of the very few items my grandmother had kept when moving from her NDG house to her two rooms in a Cote-St-Luc home was this.

I was one of those tiny heads in the picture, as were most of the students from my Anglo high school. I've been trying to recall the feeling that day -- which many have been waxing nostalgic about of late -- but for some reason I remember a hundred things better from 1995 than I do that historic rally. I remember a friend of mine complaining that the man behind her had rubbed up against her, but that's about it...

I was at a Halloween party with many of these people I attended the rally with on Saturday night and the topic didn't come up once. Meanwhile, the young sovereigntists I know were off fete-ing the tenth anniversary with a concert Un nouveau pays pour le monde.

Why is it that though the No side won, by however slim a margin, we seem more afraid to talk about that time than the Yes side? They talk referendum all the time and have concerts to celebrate losing!

On October 27, 1995, 60,000 people crowded into that square to say Quebec was an important and integral part of Canada. But since waking up October 31, 1995, we've tried to pretend like there wasn't a problem, that nearly half of Quebecers didn't give a vote of non-confidence in the country.

I understand. I personally like to ignore problems until I can't, clean the dishes only when I run out of spoons. While the separatist movement was demoralized, it wasn't a big issue. But they hit rock bottom four years ago and have been on the rebound ever since so we should wake up. Let's not again wait until three days before the divorce papers are about to be signed to say, "Hey, let's talk about this. We've got a good thing going here. Let's not take it for granted. I love you."

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Bush: "My fellow Americans -- Quack! Quack! Ouch, my leg!"

Miers makes like a good evangelical and pulls out. Fitzgerald to drop his load -- of indictments! -- any moment now. The White House is one sticky mess.

I apologize for all of that.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The Sisterhood of the Travelling Rants.

I realize that the word "vulture" is the only one that rhymes with "culture", but do all the bloggers and columnists that call themselves Culture Vulture not realise the implication? It means you are a large bird of prey feasting on the carrion of a dead culture.
Margaret Atwood's acting debut...

Takes place tonight in London, reports The Guardian:
"Phyllida and I first talked about staging The Penelopiad last fall, when she was in Toronto directing The Handmaid's Tale, the opera. I had just finished writing The Penelopiad and Phyllida said she'd like to read it. We agreed it had a theatrical dimension, and when I was next in England we got together to talk it over. Various schemes were suggested, and finally we decided to do this staged reading. It's not a fully fledged performance and it's been done on a shoestring. And I'm playing the part of Penelope because I'm cheap - in fact, I'm free."

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

A question for copy editors.

Here's a line from The Globe's Kamal Al-Solaylee's interview with the National Arts Centre's new English theatre artistic director Peter Hinton:
"A new artistic director should be an opportunity for a theatre to look at itself, to re-examine what it's doing," says Hinton as he takes a bite from his grilled portobello-mushroom sandwich at a trendy Ottawa brasserie, across the street from the drab NAC building.
Okay, so when I read this I laughed, because I was picturing Hinton speaking as he took a bite out of a sandwich. Ha, ha, I thought. I should make fun of this on my blog.
But then I thought, hold the phone. Don't I do that all the time in my articles? "Quote," he said, taking a sip of his soy latte. Is that really any different?
Perhaps you just shouldn't read newspaper articles too closely.
You know why blogging is less fun now than it was when I was student? I can't make fun of journalists anymore, because I know full well that there are plenty of examples of hasty or sloppy writing of mine sitting in Infomart, waiting to be mocked.

A series of concerns about Peter Hinton

My impression of Peter Hinton on reading this article is that perhaps he's not cut out to be A-D.
First, he says he wants to cut down on co-productions with regional theatres across the country. This will either increase the costs of running the NAC English theatre or require him to cut back on production values. Plus, part of what makes the NAC the National Arts Centre and not the Ottawa Arts Centre is its co-productions. It's a good way to bring artists from across the country to the capital. Heck, co-productions are even in the theatre's current mandate. (The Canadian Theatre Review has a fine interview with Marti Maraden, Hinton's predecessor, about the benefits and drawbacks of co-productions.)
Later in the article, Hinton says he wants Canadian playwrights to not feel limited to writing plays with small casts. Excellent, but co-productions are one way to make thos large casts affordable...
There are other bits in the interview that make Hinton sound like he's thinking as an artist and a director, rather than as an artistic director. To wit:
"Often you'll see an artistic director writing in his program that a season is about a general idea. What I decided for the NAC is instead of looking at it as a reflective thing, is to make it an active thing. What are the questions that need to be explored? And then building a season around these questions. . . . What's a national theatre? What role should art play in our culture or society? Why do we still go to the theatre?"
Although Hinton will not commit to any specifics, he can reveal that "every play in the season next year will be a Canadian play and will explore these issues. Every play will be about artists," not in the sense of backstage drama but in "questioning the vitality of art speaking to an audience. To invite the audience into this dialogue. I want to talk to the people that [NAC subscription] telemarketers talk to and say we want to be entertained and not to think."
Oh god, not a WHOLE SEASON about artists. Gah. "Why do we still go to the theatre?" is such a defensive question, a sign of a lack of artistic self-confidence. Whenever I see a play about "Why theatre?", that's when I worry: This is dead.
And that bit about the people telling NAC telemarketers that they want to be entertained and not to think? No one has ever actually said that! How insulting and condescending. Defensive directors complain about how people don't want to think, they just want to be entertained... You don't have to kowtow to audiences, but you must respect them and should never feel superior to them.
Finally, I don't even know what to say about Hinton's plan to have "a season of 'Jacobeathan' -- Jacobean, Elizabethan, Renaissance plays, a repertoire that personally fascinates him." Is that serious? What an alienating, self-indulgent idea. No offense to the Jacobeathans.
Sounds to me as if the NAC English theatre is going to become Hinton's financially-disastrous vanity project. But I'm willing and hoping to be proved wrong. The board of directors, every artist's favourite bogeyman, will probably rein him in.
Smack my Siminovitch up...

Hey! The $100,000 Siminovitch Prize in Theatre winner is announced today, and I'm tickled pink with the choice the jury made. (The Siminovitch is given to a mid-career playwright, director, or designer every year in a three-year cycle. This year it's going to a playwright.)

I'm off to interview the recipient right now, but can't tell you who it is just yet because of an embargo. Still, perhaps there's a clue to the winning playwright in my pre-Siminovitch article in the Post today about director Daniel Brooks.

Wait, hold on... I forgot. None of you care about theatre. Have you checked out the clips for the Parliamentary Press Gallery's dinner yet? Stephen Harper's impressions are hilarious, the Mulroney cameo was great, but my favourite line of the night was Paul Martin's (as quoted on CalgaryGrit): "Now at this juncture, let me mention my father in an obligatory and awkward fashion."

You like those clips? Oh... so you do like theatre. You just don't know it.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Who cares about the Stratford Festival?

Review the Reviewer has Dr. Richard Ouzounian's dismal diagnosis of the Stratford Festival up:
[I]f you look past dollars and cents, the picture gets more upsetting. Although every year has its highs and lows, the general feeling among Toronto critics is that the artistic output has been less than satisfactory in recent seasons.
Personally, I’ve found some individually rewarding shows, but, alas, an even greater number of truly disappointing ones along with some appallingly misguided failures.
All in all, there’s been a disconcerting lack of consistency, a boring predictability to the casting and the scary feeling that no one is really in charge of overall quality control.
As someone who grew up in Montreal and Winnipeg and now lives in Toronto sans car, I've never quite understood the appeal of Shaw or Stratford. Theatre is, for me, a city thing. If I want to go see theatre on vacation, I'll try to go to New York or (not that I can afford this again any time soon) London or Edinburgh. Or any big city, really -- places I actually want to visit as well as see theatre in.
In Canada, I'll make a special trip to go to Calgary's One Yellow Rabbit High Performance Rodeo, Montreal's Festival de théâtre des Amériques, Edmonton's Fringe, Winnipeg's Master Playwrights Festival, Ottawa's Magnetic North. These are exciting to me.
But while I love Shakespeare and enjoy seeing a few of his plays every year, there's nothing terribly exciting about a whole festival of his work. (Shaw, don't get me started...) Maybe when I'm older and greyer and want to go on winery tours, I'll enjoy my trips to Stratford more. Right now it's not dynamic enough for me... And that's because it's not supposed to be dynamic. People don't go to Stratford to be shaken up. They go for a relaxing time at a bed and breakfast in a beautiful, sleepy town... and to see solid productions of classics while they're there. And good for them. Someday I will be middle-aged, too.
I understand Stratford's contribution to the development of Canadian theatre has been incredibly important, but I'm not sure why we still give it such disproportionate scrutiny today. A-D Richard Monette is running a popular (financially successful) festival that provides steady employment for lots of actors/directors/stagehands/designers. As far as their artistic track record, I haven't seen a heck of a lot up there so I'm not the best judge. But, from what I've seen, I wouldn't say they do any better or worse of a job than a big Toronto company like, say, CanStage. They certainly do a better job of Shakespeare than most/all of the various summer Shakespeares across Canada. At least one thing I saw at Stratford this summer was excellent: Jason Sherman's Brothers Karamazov.
It's not 1953 anymore... Canada has a huge theatre network from coast to coast. I'm not saying we should shrug Stratford off, but its state of affairs is hardly a national crisis.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

There are some things...
...that you can't be on the fence about.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

How to get young people interested in theatre?

London, as always, leads the way:
"Yes this did happen. It was extremely unfortunate but the whole point of previews is to iron out small glitches like this.

"I have to admit, though, that most glitches don't involve drenching paying theatregoers in a torrent of vomit. We were happy to pay their dry cleaning bills."

Friday, October 21, 2005

Talking to Afghanis.

Rick Mercer visits Kandahar.
Dear McGill University...

Alumnus J. Kelly Nestruck, here. I agree entirely with Jack Todd. [via PW.] Until some heads roll in McGill Athletics, I'm not filling out any of those postcards or answering any of your telephone calls. You ain't getting a red and white cent until this mess is dealt with.

Dear McGill Daily...

Of all years, you cancel Slibel and Lander now? I know full well that Buckminster E. Slibel and Ayn Lander are still completing their ten-year extended Cultural Studies Masters... I am certain that they would love to take aim at Redman David "take [simulated sodomy] like a man" Riendeau over and over all year. You could start by mocking his self-published short story from CEGEP...
I Love Me, Vol. I.

Everybody loves Jack! Everybody!

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Guns are wicked awesome.

Goats, on the other hand, are just cute. Curried goat, however, is wicked awesome.

Amateur linguist Sarah Marchildon does some investigative research.
Tales from Quebec that really take the cake...

Forget Sidney Crosby. This rookie actually showed himself to be a superstar in his first game with the Montreal Canadiens:
With the arena's lights dimmed, the video scoreboard showed Canadiens defenseman Sheldon Souray looking into the camera in the team's dressing room and offering encouragement to an unknown, who was obviously making his debut.

Cheers filled the rink as the familiar mascot's image was seen wearing a Canadiens uniform and grabbing a toy stick and oversized puck before racing onto the ice to the approval of the audience.

Youppi! did a circuit of the rink, dropping a puck at center ice and — doing his best Guy Lafleur impersonation — driving the slot before burying a right-handed wrist shot into the wide open net, crouching down and pumping his fist as he skated back to the bench.
And, in other news, a 20-year-old man tries to steal a whole truck of delicious Jos. Louis and May Wests:
Police chased the driver all the way to Highway 25, near Montreal, says Sûreté du Québec spokesperson Chantal Mackels.

The thief tried to use the tasty cakes in an attempt to divert police.

"The doors of the Vachon truck were still open and the thief that had stolen the truck zigzagged so that the cakes would fall out while the pursuit was going on," said Mackels.
I blame Pauline Marois for making the youth of Quebec think it's okay to smoke pot...

Does anyone really want a lucid Quebec? I prefer more of an 'I Love Lucy' Quebec, myself...

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Bill O'Reilly on The Daily Show

That was amazing! Best interview segment Jon Stewart has ever done. Why? Because it was funnee. Both O'Reilly and Stewart were hilarious, albeit for different reasons. (Or, are the reasons perhaps the same?) Find it and download it!

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Having a Paradise Cow. (Worst post title, ever.)

Whatchabin up to lately, Kelly?

Oh, nothin' much. Been chattin' about the suicide-bomber drama Paradise Now over at Small Dead Animals... And by chattin', I mean, I'm all, "If it were hate propaganda, the Israel Film Fund wouldn't be underwriting its distribution in Israel... There is plenty to argue about in the film -- parts seemed sanitized to me -- but overall, it's a worthwhile film and a welcome contribution to a civil discourse on the issue..." And then the kids reply, "Fuck You, JKelly and other murder supporters. Go to hell."

Sigh. Direct quote, yo.

Anyway, why don't you go read the misguided ideological take on the film over there and then read my guided anti-ideological comments and then go see the film yourself when it comes to town. Then I don't have to write a post about it.

Speaking of Small Dead Animals, say what you will about Kate, but she has really revolutionized 'posting the cat' in her latest post, in which she posts a picture of a mummified cat a friend found during renovations. Now that's catblogging I cat get behind. Woof!
iPod Onan.

Everyone’s favourite On the Fence commenter and garrulous graphic-designer work-at-home bloggodad Cameron Campbell has posited that I bear a striking resemblance to children’s entertainer Curtis Cregan from Hi 5. Here is his Comparative photo essay.

Thanks for sharing, Uncle Cam.
Dame Edna Everage is so J.

And she's just the latest to mock my lead-in initial:
"Did you know my name is Edna J. Everage?" the lavender-haired Australian housewife-turned-star teases over the phone from a Los Angeles hotel. "I put the J in. It was a little bit naughty of me -- it doesn't stand for anything at all! What does your J stand for?"
It stands for James.
The rest of my interview with Dame Edna is here, gratis.
Shteir Shteatre

Never read any of Rachel Shteir's theatre writing on Slate before, but with a single turn of phrase she won me over: "Beckett's apocalyptic optimism." Yes! It forever bothers me that people regularly describe Samuel Beckett's plays as "pessimistic." I've always felt the opposite: the extra-textual message of Beckett's work is that even in this shit flowers grow. But calling them optimistic would be a tad misleading... Apocalyptic optimism seem just about right.

Anyway, here's Shteir's appraisal of Harold Pinter's Nobel win, with which I quite agree, and here's her consideration of August Wilson's legacy. (The extra-textual message of this blog post is that winning a Nobel and dying are pretty much the same thing for a writer.)

Monday, October 17, 2005

The Unbearable Lightness of Being

I think this is beautiful.
Monday Ménage à trois: Condoms and tampons and iPods, oh my!

1. Have you seen these ridiculous LifeStyles condom ads with the picture of a man and a woman with their heads on fire and the slogan "Condoms to Spark Your Imagination"? Worst advertisement ever.
First of all, what kind of marketting genius thinks that images of burning will sell condoms? I mean, here you have a product that you can legitimately sell with sex, and instead you choose to depict two heads in flames? If I had no fear of fiery pain, I wouldn't need your damn condoms...
Equally idiotic, the ad's secondary slogan "Your pleasure, it's all we have in mind." Good god! While I appreciate that you, LifeStyles condoms, have my pleasure in mind, it should not be your first priority and certainly not all you have in mind. I place your product on my you-know-what to keep away the babies and disease! Please keep them away! And not with burning!

2. Hey ladies. RE: the other you-know-whats. The NDP's Judy Wasylycia-Leis is working on it.

3. I purchased one of these iPod nanos over the weekend. It's my first portable mp3 player and, also, my first trendy purchase since... well, I'm not exactly trendy, let's say. Anyway, I enjoyed commuting with it, but I felt conspicuous and slightly embarrassed, like I did the first time I wore a pink shirt. And I noticed other people with white wires coming out of their ears like I never have before. Have I joined a cult? Discuss, Jack Shafer.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Globe-ing the cat.

The Globe and Mail's Web columnist Ivor Tossell discusses the truth about cats and blogs in today's paper. After mentioning the recent holiblogaday Blogacatmus, Tossell turns his attention to On the Fence's little pet, ahem, project: the propogation of the expression 'posting the cat':
There's a stereotype that goes like this: When somebody running a website has run out of useful things to say, they post a picture of their cat. When they don't feel like writing one thousand words on their blog, there's always the option of posting Fluffy and pretending that she's somehow of interest to anybody. When the boiler of thought is out of steam, out wheezes a kitten.

Perhaps the stereotype was undeserved, but it stuck. In a gently self-mocking way, putting up pictures of cats has become the quintessential blogging gesture. And the cat, for its part, became the patron saint of tired websites.

Which leads us to the cabal of young on-line writers in Canada who are pushing the phrase "posting the cat" to describe the moment when a website passes its prime.

Coined by arts writer and blogger J. Kelly Nestruck (of fence.blogspot.com), the phrase takes its cue from the saying that TV shows "jump the shark" and decline at the moment they display a certain desperation (the prime example being when Fonzie was made to water-ski over a shark on Happy Days; everything was downhill from there). So, too, with websites, Nestruck says.

"The truth is that most blogs are just personal vanity projects of little consequence, the Internet equivalent of Christmas newsletters," Nestruck says. "And nothing pulls the curtain back and reveals that dirty truth more than when a blogger posts a picture of his or her cat."
Thanks for spreading the word, Ivor!
Let's put the men back in menstruation..

When I read that the Conservatives were going to propose to eliminate GST on tampons and pads, I thought, what a great idea. It's a smart way to package the supposedly right-wing idea of "tax cuts" with a supposedly progressive idea like, uh, not using natural bodily functions as a cash grab... It's like that nifty transit tax credit that the Tories proposed earlier in the year, a not-left, not-right policy that reduces your tax bill while encouraging public transit use.

Anyway, I was going to e-mail the article to an NDP-feminist friend of mine who just recently complained about the tampon tax to me. "See, the Conservative bogeyman has some ideas you could get behind," I was going to write...

But then, over at Small Dead Animals, I found out that Harper has denied the story. The Conservatives have no plans to eliminate GST from sanitary napkins. I guess they can only come up with one smart, non-partisan idea every year.

Adds Kate, "Thank God. Because, the last thing I want to hear pass the lips of a future prime minister during a televised debate is the word 'tampon.'"

Yeah, heaven forbid... What is this, Grade 5 health class? "Tee hee! The female reproductive organs look like a moose head!"

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Bad News for People Who Like Bad News.

Hurrah for the Montreal Canadiens and their excellent back-up goalie Yann Danis!

Hurrah for Harold Pinter, the first Nobel Prize for Literature winner whose plays I was already familiar with and whose collected works sit on my shelves! Thirty-six years after his buddy Beckett won, Pinter collects his own Swedish delight. Well-deserved, though I can't help but feel that, given the Nobel committee's recent penchant for tweaking the noses of the American and British governments, this might have more to do with Pinter's recent anti-war activism than his long-standing penchant for pauses.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

La laaa, la la la laaa...

It takes a lot to shock people out of complacency these days, so UNICEF is trying something a little different in Belgium....
UNICEF said it had concluded that traditional images of suffering in Third World war zones had lost their power to move television viewers.

"It's controversial," a spokesman for UNICEF told the Telegraph. "We have never done something like this before but we've learned over the years that the reaction to the more normal type of campaign is very limited."
What's this "something"? Since suffering children don't elicit sympathy, they're trying suffering Smurfs.
UNICEF, the United Nations Children's Fund, has recruited the Smurfs to deliver a blunt message about the plight of child soldiers.

The campaign advertisement to be broadcast on national television in Belgium begins with the blue-skinned characters romping happily, surrounded by flowers and butterflies and singing their theme song.

Then their village is bombed by warplanes, amid fiery explosions. The bombs kill Smurfette and leave Baby Smurf orphaned and crying.

The spot is considered so chilling it is not to be broadcast before 9 p.m.
The message: Don't let war destroy the world of children.

You know, that is chilling. How strange and sad that this poster of a dead Smurfette, one shoe missing, should move me more than yet another picture of a child who has lost a limb to war...

Good on UNICEF for thinking outside the box in raising funds to rehabilitate child soldiers in Africa. And good on Pierre "Peyo" Culliford's family for lending the Smurfs to this campaign.

This is the 50th year Canadian children have carried UNICEF boxes with them while Trick-or-Treating... Don't forget to gather up your loose change for October 31.
I don't want to name names... but he's a Chancellor of Germany whose intials are the same as Gilbert and Sullivan.

I'm gonna miss Gerhard Schroeder if this Reuters report is true and he's headed out of the political fray. Who else gives good quote like this re: the consequences of neo-liberalism:
"I do not want to name any catastrophes where you can see what happens if organised state action is absent. I could name countries, but the position I still hold forbids it, but everyone knows I mean America," he said to loud applause.
I don't know if it's Reuters' translator that makes that funny or if it's just as funny in German. Either way, auf Wiedersehen Schroeder!
Supreme Court Justice Poutine.

"Oh, I loved Warren. I mean, Warren Burger, not Earl Warren, of course. We were on a first name basis...

"Oh wait, sorry did I say Burger? I meant, Frankfurter. Felix Frankfurter was my favourite Justice. I really relished his decisions, heh, heh...

"I mean, aside from Holmes, of course. I think he's great. He's very curmugeonly, but so smart...

"Hold on... Gee. I'm sorry. I was thinking of House. I love that show. If I ever get sick, I hope to have as qualified a doctor as him at my side."

-- Harriet Miers spooks the conservatives some more.

Friday, October 07, 2005

The Grinch Who Stole Blogacatmas.

Parts of the blogosphere are currently posting the cat en masse! It's the Blogstown Massacre or something! Boo! Hiss!
Being Stanley Kubrick?

Reader Anders Yates, who knows exactly which movies I've seen and which ones I only claim to have seen, points us to a curious imdb entry for a film called Colour Me Kubrick: "The true story of a man who posed as director Stanley Kubrick during the production of Kubrick's last film, Eyes Wide Shut, despite knowing very little about his work and looking nothing like him."

Odd. The mini trailer's at the official site.
In the pudding.

Our chief critic at the Post gave math-genius-gone-mad drama Proof four stars last week, but in today's popcorn panel (free) myself, theatre critic Robert Cushman, and Television Without Pity's Tara Ariano aren't nearly as enthused.

But what you and I and everyone we know really wants to know is what do mathematicians think about the film? Inside Higher Ed has the scoop. Is the level of unkemptness accurate?
“That definitely happens,” said Shilpa Khatri, 24, a third-year applied math grad student studying computational fluid dynamics at NYU, referring to the hair, not the romance. “When you have an idea and get excited, you’re like, ‘Oh, I haven’t showered or eaten,’” said Khatri, who also happens to be Stechmann’s girlfriend. All three agreed that the pace of work alluded to in the movie, nil at some points and frantically inspired at others, resembles real life. At one point, inspiration strikes and Catherine’s hand freezes as she reaches for a jar of Mayo, the only food in her refrigerator. “Ideas come at weird times,” Stechmann said. Added Kontorovich, “most of my work, I do on the can.”
There you have it. Straight for the source.
I can safely say that the wild party scene is accurate. The only math party I ever went to while at McGill involved people graphing in the living room, several professors with crazy beards, a bathtub full of beer and, later in the evening, myself at a piano singing a song entirely based around the C chord with the lyrics: "Mathematicians / Mathematicians / You're all going to be / Computer technicians."
Another one bites the dust.

So, it's not a mouse, but mice. I left the second trap baited just in case. Case: It caught a medium sized one, stiff as a board by the time I arrived home. It must have been waiting for me to go to work this morning to go after the tasty, tasty Aero bits.

This time the trap flipped over, so I didn't have to see the creature's beady little eyes. I scooped it up in between two sections of the newspaper (Is this what I work so hard on every day?), tossed it in an S.A.Q. bag and brought it down to the trash cans.

So this is how it's going to be, huh? Well, there's two new traps set and most of an Aero bar in the fridge ready to bait more. I didn't eat the rest this time.

Game on, mice!

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Return to Balconville.

Centaur Theatre is kicking off its all-Montreal season tonight with Condoville, David Fennario's sequel to his 1979 bilingual smash Balconville. I think it's amazing that Centaur is presenting seven new shows this year, all by local playwrights. I can't imagine any other English regional theatre in Canada pulling that off.
But it's not actually that huge a huge gamble. The Centaur's top three most financially-successful plays were all by Montrealers: Balconville, Michel Tremblay's For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again, and Steve Galluccio's Mambo Italiano.
My interview with Fennario is in the Post today and online gratis:
Is it possible David Fennario has mellowed with age? Discussing his new play, Condoville, which resurrects the characters from his 1979 bilingual classic, Balconville, the working-class Pointe St-Charles playwright sounds positively sanguine on the subject of the middle-class theatre-goers who will see it at the Centaur Theatre in Montreal.

"I'm addressing an audience that I think will be more sensitive to the ideas I've been promoting for the last 20 years than they have in quite a while," says Fennario, who vowed to turn Westmount mansions into co-ops when he ran for the leftist Union des Forces Progressistes in the 2003 provincial election.

But any notion that Fennario's notoriously rough edges have been smoothed by his recent battle with the debilitating Guillain-Barre syndrome is quickly dispelled.

"By the way," he segues suddenly over the phone from the Centaur, where Condoville premieres tonight, "tell your editors they're f---ing assholes ... Everything that my play is against, your paper supports.

"Don't put my picture in there -- I don't want to be seen in your f---ing newspaper," he continues through the speakerphone, making it difficult to discern to what degree he is kidding. "That good enough for you? You think I've mellowed out?"
The mouse is dead.

When I go to the 7-11 to buy an Aero bar, I never fear that a metal bar will descend and smash my neck to bits. This is a fear that mice must live with every day.

I tricked the little mouse that was in my apartment. He thought that I had just left a little mouse-sized Aero bar lying on the floor by accident. He didn't notice that it was on a pedal or, if he did, he didn't expect that when he rested his mousey weight on that pedal it would cause the metal to whizz down upon his vertebrae and bring his life to end.

There were warning signs: The drawing of a mouse on the trap's base. The cheese-shaped pedal.

All he could see was the chocolate.

It was a swift death, so I don't feel too bad about it. But I do feel like he deserved a more respectful burial than I gave him. It's too late. The garbarge trucks came this morning and carted his Old-Navy-bagged body off to the dump.

Look: You didn't belong here. Did you not hear the decree? Mouse and human are not to live together.

I know winter is coming. But we have a nice shed in the backyard. You could have lived there with the bicycles and chaise longues and the old fridge and the rakes. You could have had a family. A long life.

If you hadn't hidden from me, I might have been able to do something for you. I could have put you in a box and taken you somewhere. Where? I don't know. I'm just talking. Where would you have wanted to go? Other than my kitchen, I mean.

Maybe I should do my dishes more often. Maybe I was just encouraging you. Maybe I should have bought one of those humane traps and taken you to the Don Valley.

It could have been worse. I've seen worse. You're not the first. I certainly will never use glue traps again, no siree.

I'm sorry, but I'm not sorry. I wish you luck. It's silly, but I do.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Indigo Blues...

Sober so-con Paul Tuns' book Jean Chretien: A Legacy of Scandal isn't in Chapters/Indigo bookstores, but it's not because the chain is owned by Liberal fundraiser Heather Reisman as some conspiracy-minded conservatives have posited. On the Western Standard, Tuns explains:
The simple reason that the book is not available through Chapters or Indigo is that the company's terms are prohibitive for small publishers: they want to pay a mere 40% of the retail price (and sometimes less), won't pay a cent for the books until 6-8 months after they sell their first copy of the book and want the right to return unsold books less than a year after they receive the first order. (Note: the 40% takes into effect Chapters-Indigo's percentage as not just wholesalers but as distributors.) The problem is, as I've already said, these terms make it impossible for small publishers to make a profit -- the little capital they have is put into the physical production of a book that they won't see payment for until at least half-a-year later. Some publishers are willing to do that for exposure but some, including Freedom Press (Canada) Inc., are not.
Something to think about next time you're perusing Heather's Picks instead of visiting your local independent. A free market approach to bookselling is not always the best for the free market of ideas...

Anyway, reading Tuns' follow-up to this on his personal blog, I was interested to come across this misleading quote from Reisman from a CP story:
While Reisman did not comment on her ties to Chretien or the Liberals, she called the accusations "ludicrous," adding the company simply wasn't aware of the book's existence.
'I was hugely offended because it wasn't so much a shot against me, you know that happens, as it was a shot against the people who work in this company,' she said. 'First of all, I don't choose those books, so nobody comes to me and says "will you carry this or not"?'
Curious, because Reisman obviously has some say in what is carried in the Political Philosophy or History sections since she personally ordered Mein Kampf out of all her bookstores in 2001... If she is "hugely offended" by accusations that she doesn't sell certain books because of her personal politics then she shouldn't not sell certain books because of her personal politics...

(Sorry to lump you in with Hitler there, Tuns.)
The Misadventures of Baron Munchausen

Interesting exchange of e-mails between Sarah Polley and Terry Gilliam in Sunday's Star.

Writes Polley, "I'm always amazed when people don't question the repercussions of children being managed and moulded in an environment as perverse as a film set. The experience of working on The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, in particular, was traumatic to say the least."

Replies Gilliam, "As far as the scars of Munchausen go, I had no idea that they were that deep."

[Via MF.]

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

"You can only close if you opened."

African-American playwright August Wilson dies at age 60, just months after completing his 10-play Pittsburgh cycle.

From a 1999 Paris Review interview:
WILSON
When I first started writing plays I couldn’t write good dialogue because I didn’t respect how black people talked. I thought that in order to make art out of their dialogue I had to change it, make it into something different. Once I learned to value and respect my characters, I could really hear them. I let them start talking. The important thing is not to censor them. What they are talking about may not seem to have anything to do with what you as a writer are writing about but it does. Let them talk and it will connect, because you as a writer will make it connect. The more my characters talk, the more I find out about them. So I encourage them. I tell them, “Tell me more.” I just write it down and it starts to make connections. When I was writing The Piano Lesson, Boy Willie suddenly announced that Sutter fell in the well. That was news to me. I had no idea who Sutter was or why he fell in the well. You have to let your characters talk for a while, trust them to do it and have the confidence that later you can shape the material.

INTERVIEWER
It’s interesting that you started with poetic drama, because you have such a wonderful ear for dialogue.

WILSON
The language is defined by those who speak it. There’s a place in Pittsburgh called Pat’s Place, a cigar store, which I read about in Claude McKay’s Home of Harlem. It was where the railroad porters would congregate and tell stories. I thought, Hey, I know Pat’s Place. I literally ran there. I was twenty-one at the time and had no idea I was going to write about it. I wasn’t keeping notes. But I loved listening to them. One of the exchanges I heard made it into Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. Someone said, “I came to Pittsburgh in ’42 on the B & O,” and another guy said, “Oh no, you ain’t come to Pittsburgh in ’42 . . . the B & O Railroad didn’t stop in Pittsburgh in ’42!” And the first guy would say, “You gonna tell me what railroad I came in on?” “Hell yeah I’m gonna tell you the truth!” Then someone would walk in and they’d say, “Hey, Philmore! The B & O Railroad stop here in ’42?” People would drift in and they’d all have various answers to that. They would argue about how far away the moon was. They’d say. “Man, the moon a million miles away.” They called me Youngblood. They’d say, “Hey, Youngblood, how far the moon?” And I’d say, “a hundred and fifty thousand miles,” and they’d say, “That boy don’t know nothing! The moon’s a million miles.” I just loved to hang around those old guys—you got philosophy about life, what a man is, what his duties, his responsibilities are . . . Occasionally these guys would die and I would pay my respects. There’d be a message on a blackboard they kept in Pat’s Place—“Funeral for Jo Boy, Saturday, one p.m.” I’d look around and try to figure out which one was missing. I’d go across to the funeral home and look at him and I’d go, “Oh, it was that guy, the guy that wore the little brown hat all the time.” I used to hang around Pat’s Place through my twenties, going there less as the time went by. That’s where I learned how black people talk.
There is a mouse in my living room.

I have lived in three apartments in Toronto now. In three different neighbourhoods. And I have never not had a mouse in my living room at some point.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Technorats.

Technorati should scrap its buggy "Top Searches this Hour" from its home page. It just makes them look like amateur hour. The top search right now is for "Harriet Mier" and the fifth is "Mier." But Bush's SCOTUS nominee is "Harriet Miers"...

Anyway, who knew Bush would make such weird and unexpected appointments to the Supreme Court? I'm waiting for all the info to filter out about Miers, but it certainly is interesting that she donated that $1,000 to Al Gore in 1988. You know my position on things: If it frustrates the liberals and the conservatives, it can't be that bad.
Shining.

Pursuant to our earlier conversation about how movie trailers are ridiculous, I should like to draw your attention to this young wag's About-A-Boy-esque reimagining of the trailer for The Shining. [via Zoilus]

Also funny: Trailers for Titanic and West Side Story as if they were horror films.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Interesting tidbit from last night's Metric show in Ottawa...

According to frontwoman Emily Haines, Hummer asked to use the Metric song "Succexy" in an advertisement. That would be the song whose lyrics go:
Invasion's so succexy

Let's drink to the military
The glass is empty
Faces to fill and cars to feed
Nothing could beat complete denial
Well, that's a real Hummer-dinger, now isn't it? And they said irony was run over by a Hummer. It wasn't!

We would also like to say that the word "succexy" makes us cringe when we see it written down. When we hear it aloud, however, it sounds kinda succexy. So read this blog entry to a friend. Then, make out.

"Ace show, P.S.," says my Ottawa-based concert arm-candy. True. It was. As for the new disc Live it Out, more listening is needed to determine the precise level of rawk.

Bonus: On the Fence's previous thoughts on the subject of Ms. Haines.