Friday, March 31, 2006

You thought Lord of the Rings got bad reviews?

Well, Toronto's Hair revival just got one less star than the Hobbits from Richard Ouzounian in a scathing review the Toronto Star. Two minus one = one. I don't know if they ever give zero.

Say what you will, the opening night crowd was really into the show. The Boomer ladies around me were psyched, dancing in their seats and singing along on occasion. The standing ovation at the end seemed genuine, rather than obligatory. People actually jumped up.

I suppose it's all in expectations. I went in expecting something ridiculous and got just that. Ouzounian remembers the original 1960s production and apparently it was excellent and, you know, relevant. So he was disappointed. But I wonder if it really was as he remembers it. After all, if you can remember the Sixties, weren't you not really there?

Meanwhile, it seems like the Lord of the Rings producers should count their blessings that the high-tech stage effects didn't break down at either of the press previews or on opening night. A Tolkien Head fan went on Wednesday night and, he reports, they had to skip over the Battle of Helm's Deep again.
When we were called back into the theater soon thereafter, the voice of God thanked us for our patience and audaciously said "I'm afraid you will have to take my word" that Gandalf had returned and that, with his aid, the battle of Helm's Deep had been won by Theoden's army (I don't think he even spelled it out so clearly, which must have left Tolkien virgins in a daze -- though the confusing Khazad-Dum scene probably already did the job, as would the even more confusing destruction of the Ring).
I suspect this kind of news, circulating on the biggest LOTR fansite, with the show a week out of previews, is more damaging than any number of negative reviews...
Theatre Thursday (actually, Friday).

Hey! It's my Q&A with Layne Coleman, the artistic director of Theatre Passe Muraille, who is currently acting down the street at Factory Theatre in a revival of George F. Walker's Escape from Happiness.

Hoy! It's my interview (sub, alas, only) with Galt MacDermot, the Canadian composer of Hair, the tribal love rock musical that is currently being remounted by CanStage in Toronto. I saw the show tonight and a certain South Park episode came to mind. Peace, love, freedom, incoherence. Whatever, it was silly fun. And I wanted to dance when they sang Let the Sunshine In at the end. Of course, the ending is now impossible to take seriously, thanks to that song's brilliant use in The 40 Year Old Virgin (the best comedy of 2005, hands down). It was probably never possible to take seriously, mind you.

The cast is lovely to look at, it might be noted. And you get to see their privates.
Propaganda tracts are the new condom machines.

So says the Conseil de la souveraineté du Québec's Robert Cadotte, defending the new textbook he co-authored, Parlons de souveraineté a l'école
(Lets talk about sovereignty at school). This has been your bad analogy of the day.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

You, too, can remember!

Paul Tuns advises re: my memory problems:
Here... is the advice that my wife gives me every day and which I completely ignore every day. It is this: put your keys, wallet, etc... in the same place when you get into the house. Shoes are simple: leave them by the door. I've got that one mastered (even if our children do not). As for keys, wallet and cell, well, they have new homes every night, a fact to which the daily frantic morning "I-can't-find-my-stuff" routine attests.
I've tried this. I've had a little hook by the door for my keys for a few months now. But where are my keys at this exact moment? In my jeans on the floor. (And don't even try to tell me to put my laundry in the hamper...)
The Order.

From best to worst:

- Good Art.
- Good Entertainment.
- Bad Entertainment.
- Bad Art.

How could anyone disagree with this? And yet, if they did agree, what would we have argued about post-theatre? We would have just drank beer in silence.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

If you're confused as to what this protests going on in France are all about...

You may find this post by Andrew Potter, which is a response to this one by Paul Wells, useful. I did, anyway.
Fans of the Montreal Fringe...

The beer tent is in peril!

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Bragg about it later.

Just to reiterate, my problem is not with the folks who criticize the New York Theatre Workshop's decision to cancel their production of "My Name is Rachel Corrie." I agree: it was cowardly. My problem is with the folks who extrapolate this into a wider idea that you somehow cannot hear anti-Israeli arguments in the United States, that only pro-Israeli voices are allowed.

To wit (t'wit?), Billy Bragg, who has just released a protest song called "The lonesome death of Rachel Corrie." Here's the final verse:
The artistic director of a New York theatre
Cancelled a play based on Rachel's writings
But she wasn't a bomber or a killer or fighter
But one who acted in the spirit of the Freedom Riders
Is there no place for a voice in America
That doesn't conform to the Fox News agenda?
Dude... Rachel Corrie was AMERICAN. She was a member of the International Solidarity Movement, which was founded in 2001 by an Israeli, a Palestinian, and two AMERICAN activists. The "censored" play will open in Seattle next year. That's in AMERICA.

And 1,200 Americans showed up at a church in New York last week to hear Rachel Corrie's words being read.

But if you want a list of all the American voices that don't "conform to the Fox News agenda", we'll be here all night. Heck, New York Theatre Workshop has frequently presented the work of Tony Kushner, whose brilliant Munich was nominated for Best Picture at the American Oscars...

Why does this hyperbole bother me so much when I agree with the general condemnation of the NY Theatre Workshop for its decision? Because it's one thing to criticize the theatre for not wanting to offend the sensibilities of local Jewish groups, for trying to proactively avoid the accusations of bias and lack of balance. It's another to muse that the cancellation of the show was "orchestrated" from the outside by "the presence of a cultural lobby that parallels the vaunted pro-Israel lobby in think tanks and Congress" as per The Nation, whose writer counts the number of Jewish-sounding names on the Theatre Workshop's board of director.

And it's a whole other thing to extrapolate one incident into proof that it is impossible to criticize Israel in an entire country because the pro-Israel neocons behind the scenes are too powerful, too controlling of the media. You see what I'm saying here? It's a slippery slope to the International Jewish Conspiracy working hard to shut down a little play that's trying to tell the truth about Israel's misdeeds...

Why not take the folks at the New York Theatre Workshop at their word?
MSN vérité.

Raymi IMterviews a skinhead. (Warning: Very offensive content. But, I think, very illuminating.)
Forget me not.

I am extremely jealous of this woman who can remember the details of every day of her life. Though, perhaps, she's jealous of me. Still, I'd like to be able to leave the house each morning without spending ten minutes searching for my shoes, wallet, keys and cellphone.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Tonight in Toronto: Alibi Baby.

I'm not sure exactly how this all came about, but I will be performing with the band Alibi Baby at Neu+ral (349A College Street, enter on Augusta) tonight.

What exactly does that mean? Well, I'm not singing or playing the keyboards. Basically, since the Babies are strong on rawk, not-so-strong on stage banter, they are outsourcing the latter to me. It may be ridiculous. They may ask me to stop after the first song.

Or it may change the face of indie music forever.

Five bucks. 9 p.m. I will be wearing a ridiculous hat.
You too can join the Montreal rock revolution.

Thanks to craigslist.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Gored by the Rings.

I'm still recovering my strength after sitting through the Lord of the Rings musical two nights in a row. That's over 7 hours of hobbit theatre.

My review is here in the Boston Globe, gratis, though you might have to go through a free registration to view it. My Post colleague Robert Cushman's much-longer review is here (as well as condensed in The Guardian).

While not raves, our reviews are generally positive; overall the reviews are quite mixed, with some real killer ones in the New York Times, The Toronto Star, and the Globe and Mail, and the odd exuberant one like in the Times of London.

In the Globe and Mail and Star reviews, you feel almost a sense of betrayal. Something akin to: "This was the big show that was supposed to put Toronto theatre back on the map and you guys screwed it up. WTF!" As Richard Ouzounian writes, "[W]hen the 3 1/2-hour, $28 million behemoth finally comes to an end, you may find yourself fighting back tears, but they'll be ones of disappointment."

There's no doubt that the show has many problems. They all stem from one large one, though, it seems to me: Too much ambition. Too much of a desire to be innovative both technically and artistically. Too much respect, even reverence, for the source material. I had nowhere near as much fun as I did watching, say, The Producers, but I found elements of this show much more interesting, challenging, and beautiful. And this is coming from someone who is by no means a fan of the books and movies.

The idea of putting the entire 1,000 page Lord of the Rings trilogy onstage in one musical evening is an insane one. And the fact that it worked at all, when it was initially seen as pure folly or the punchline to a joke, is a triumph of sorts.

The most-expensive-musical-ever hype overshadows that, though... If you set something up as the "biggest and most ambitious theatrical production ever staged, anywhere," as the producers did, then you're tempting critics to view anything less than the best theatrical production ever as the biggest flop of all time. Charles McNulty in the L.A. Times is the first of the gate with a "Waterworld" reference...

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Lord, those rings.

Yes, the Lord of the Rings musical has its gala opening tonight and, starting tomorrow, you can hear what the critics have to say. (I mean the professional ones bound by embargo; you can already read what bloggers thought of the previews.)

Our wonderful critic Robert Cushman will be expounding in the Post tomorrow. As for my review, you can read tomorrow's Boston Globe or turn on Global TV in Ontario at about 8:25 a.m. to watch me discuss it with Anne-Marie Mediwake.

In non-rings news, my interview with one of my favourite stage actors, Randy Hughson, is online here. He's in Morris Panych's Earshot at the Tarragon right now and will be playing Stompin' Tom Connors at the Blyth Festival this summer...

Sunday, March 19, 2006

The World's Fastest Indian...

... is my new "It's hard out here for a pimp." I can't stop saying the title of this movie.

And now, a popcorn panel on the feel-good flick, which I went too easy on.
The Rachel Corrie play.

Over the past couple of weeks, I have read probably a dozen articles about the New York Theater Workshop's decision to delay their production of the British play, "My Name Is Rachel Corrie" -- there are 179 mentions of the play on Google News right now. The verbatim play is about an American woman who was crushed by a Israeli Army bulldozer in the Gaza Strip as she tried to protect a Palestinian home three years ago.

There has been much discussion about the Workshop's decision to postpone, possibly "indefinitely," the play. Most of it has been accusing the Workshop of censorship and bowing to political pressure. In the Guardian, the play's co-writer Katharine Viner wrote:
The political climate, we were told, had changed dramatically since the play was booked. As James Nicola, the theatre's artistic director, said yesterday: "In our pre-production planning and our talking around and listening in our communities in New York, what we heard was that after Ariel Sharon's illness and the election of Hamas in the recent Palestinian elections, we had a very edgy situation." Rachel was to be censored for political reasons.
It makes you wonder. If a young, middle-class, scrupulously fair-minded, and dead, American woman, whose superb writing about her job as a mental health worker, ex-boyfriends, troublesome parents, struggle to find out who she wanted to be, and how she found that by travelling to Gaza and discovering the shocking conditions under which the Palestinians live - if a voice like this cannot be heard on a New York stage, what hope is there for anyone else? The non-American, the non-white, the non-dead, the oppressed?...

Artistic communities need to resist the censorship of voices that go against the grain of George Bush's America, rather than following the Fox News agenda and gagging them before they have even been heard."
Of course, Harold Pinter has weighed in, saying, "[T]hat play has now been withdrawn by the producing theatre in New York and that is, I think, typical of what is happening more and more in Britain and America: suppression of dissent and the truth."

And, for a Canadian voice, let's add Antonia Zerbisias: "[N]ow Corrie's life and death have once again been hidden from view."

Now, I would like to see "My Name is Rachel Corrie." And it seems as if the New York Theater Workshop's decision to postpone the play was an act of cowardice, a desire not to rock the boat, more than anything else. Most of the criticism aimed at the Workshop is deserved. But that these folks I've quoted actually believe that anti-Bush or anti-Israel voices are being stifled in the American artistic community is, in a word, mind-blowing. It is as if they live in an alternative universe where theatre artists are not constantly speaking out against Bush, Israel and the War in Iraq.

I'll reiterate what I said at the top of this post: I've read a dozen articles about the play this week. There are 179 currently on Google News. This is much more attention than the play would have got if it had opened.

And the Workshop has suffered enormous backlash for its decision. This has been a public relations nightmare for them, which they are trying desperately to rectify, like in this article in today's New York Times. If there is any strong pressure on the theatre, it is for them to backpedal and actually put on "My Name is Rachel Corrie."

Meanwhile, several other theatre groups in New York have offered to put on the play.

There are countries in the world in which there is actually serious "suppression of dissent and the truth" and "censorship of voices that go against the grain." The United States is not one of them, least of all in the New York theatre scene: That is why other local theatres are jumping at the chance to put on "My Name is Rachel Corrie," and why the arts sections in England and the United States have been vigorously debating this issue for the past two weeks.

Rachel Corrie's life has not been hidden from view by this; it has been thrust into the spotlight. The furor over the Workshop's decision to cancel the play has been a sign of the strength of artistic dissent in the United States and Britain. But the theatre world is so blinded by its angry self-righteousness that it cannot see this...

To those of you who seriously write about "the climate of self-censorship that has led to the smothering of political drama like My Name Is Rachel Corrie," I must ask you this: Name one pro-Bush or pro-war play that has been produced in New York or London in the past five years. Can you name a single one?

Now, can you rattle off a dozen high-profile anti-war plays or at least "questioning" plays produced in that time?

Friday, March 17, 2006

Greetings from Ottawa...

And then Montreal tomorrow. Family business and the St. Patrick's Day parade, you know. Next week is the Lord of the Rings extravaganza and all the associated hullabaloo, so if blogging is light for a while, these are the reasons why.

I didn't realise that Hockey Night in Canada cut away from Boom Boom's memorial last Saturday. I was watching on Radio-Canada, so I saw the whole thing. Boy, the folks who write letters to the editor into the Ottawa Citizen are peeved at HNIC, though. "Leafs-centric!"

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Heureusement, ici, c'est le Soviet Bloc.

Awww, le p'tit Gilles Duceppe. Il a l'air un peu d'un jeune Stephen Hawking maoïste. [Merci a Le Blog de Poliscopique.]
Minx Messages.

My dirty secret: I am addicted to this blog.
Better than Ezra.

Blogging about the Western Standard's two-year anniversary party at Conrad Black's home, Antonia Z. writes:
Can't figure out why I wasn't on Ezra Levant's guest list....?
I guess we plebes will have to wait for the Post's gossip guy Shinan Govani or that party snapping boldface babe Amoryn Engel to give us the scoop on how the right-leaning rabble nibbled on duck quesidillas and prawns and had a jolly old time in the Blackness.

I like to think of it all as a kind of "last supper."
When I read that, I thought, "My, how nice of the Toronto Star's media columnist to wish the death of a Canadian publication..." But in the comments, A.Z. balked at the idea that she meant this was the "last" supper for the W.S.: "[W]here exactly do I say I long for the demise of the WS? Where? Tell me. Where????"

That can only mean one thing, then... Zerbisias just compared Conrad Black to Jesus Christ.
Get Your Freak On (omics)!

I'm way behind on this, but did you know Freakonomics authors Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner have a blog? It's true. And they're dialogueing with Malcolm Gladwell and his blog.

Monday, March 13, 2006

The Bad Google.

In today's Post, my colleague Samantha Grice tells the stories of various people with bad Googles.
[A] Toronto filmmaker... discovered his Google was seriously marred by a story he had written for a health magazine.
"First of all, it's embarrassing enough to admit I did a vanity search of my own name, but that's how I found the article I had written about erectile dysfunction," says the filmmaker, who would prefer to be known only as Ed.
In an effort to add some humour to the gloomy subject, Ed took a brazen approach and conducted an interview with his penis. His initial reaction upon finding this story he had done as a favour (and a small amount of cash) had made it to the Internet was, however, far less cocksure. "I thought, 'How can I get this off there?!' "
"Now, of course, I did write it, but it was for one of those magazines you get from the pharmacist, and I was really surprised it got on there," he says.
"I don't know who looks you up on Google, but I guess it's mostly old friends thinking, 'Hey, I wonder what ever happened to Ed? What's this? Oh dear, it looks like Ed has erectile dysfunction.' "
Then, there's the tale of how I beat my own bad Google, a story that longtime readers of this blog will be familiar with:
I began to wonder: How long would this Web page haunt me? Was it possible that someday, my grandson might tug on my pant leg, look up with that little cherubic face of his and ask, "Grandpa, why do you hate sexy lesbians?"
Free links all, for once, FYI.
Sadsack Mountain.

The wonderful Annie Proulx, who wrote the short story Brokeback Mountain was based on, tears the Academy Awards a new one in the Guardian:
The people connected with Brokeback Mountain, including me, hoped that, having been nominated for eight Academy awards, it would get Best Picture as it had at the funny, lively Independent Spirit awards the day before. (If you are looking for smart judging based on merit, skip the Academy Awards next year and pay attention to the Independent Spirit choices.) We should have known conservative heffalump academy voters would have rather different ideas of what was stirring contemporary culture. Roughly 6,000 film industry voters, most in the Los Angeles area, many living cloistered lives behind wrought-iron gates or in deluxe rest-homes, out of touch not only with the shifting larger culture and the yeasty ferment that is America these days, but also out of touch with their own segregated city, decide which films are good. And rumour has it that Lions Gate inundated the academy voters with DVD copies of Trash - excuse me - Crash a few weeks before the ballot deadline. Next year we can look to the awards for controversial themes on the punishment of adulterers with a branding iron in the shape of the letter A, runaway slaves, and the debate over free silver.
Ouch, that's some sour grapes rant. To which, Proulx says:
For those who call this little piece a Sour Grapes Rant, play it as it lays.
Yes, ma'am.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Can you tell who's going to die by looking at Annie Leibovitz's ads for The Sopranos?

Short answer: No.

Long answer.

By the way, if I had to name one perk that makes mine the best job in the world, it's this: Getting advance screeners of The Sopranos. Tonight's season opener is a doozy.

Friday, March 10, 2006

The Peanut Mystery.

Remember the anaphylactic Quebec 15-year-old who died after kissing her boyfriend, who had eaten a peanut-butter sandwich beforehand? According to Coroner Dr. Michel Miron, Christina Desforges did not actually die from her peanut allergy after all.

Miron won't reveal the actual cause of death until he receives some final test results and submits his report to the provincial coroner.

It's a very strange story, which leaves a lot of questions, namely how did an unsubstatiated rumour because an international news story. And, of course, what killed Desforges?

While this story is certainly bizarre, it should be noted that allergic reactions from kissing are not an urban myth.

Though Desforges may not have died from a peanut kiss, the lessons from the story remain the same. As Dr. Miron said in clearing up the story, "Nous ne sommes pas devant un cas de décès par choc anaphylactique, mais il est bon que les parents dont les enfants souffrent d'allergies informent les proches et les amis de la situation. Souvent, le jeune ne veut pas que son entourage soit informé de son état de santé."

Translated: "We are not dealing with a case of death from anaphylactic shock, but it is good for parents of kids who suffer from allergies to inform the people in their child's life and their friends. Often, the child does not want their entourage to be informed about their health problem."

(I don't know why some kids wouldn't want to let the people around them know about their allergies. It's not like you'd get harrassed for talking about it, or have to listen to people complain about how their kids can't bring peanut-butter sandwiches to school anymore, or be told to stop whining because there are kids who have been molested or who are in a wheelchair. Oh, wait...)
In The Stills of the night.

The drinks were free at the Strut magazine party last night, until 8:30 PM at least. And by then I had had enough to drink that I was willing to buy a few more even though it involved standing in one line to buy poker chips and then standing in another to trade them in for the actual vodka and oranges. (Is that what they call screwdrivers?)

Strut was a Montreal-based magazine, but now it is a Toronto-based magazine. I once was a Montreal-based human, but now am a Toronto-based one. I suppose that's why I decided to go to this party, even though I don't usually go in for the fashion magazine crowd (too fashionable) or the indie rock crowd (too fashionable). The indie rock crowd was there (at The Church, this place on Queen East is called) because The Stills were going to be playing. The Stills were a Montreal-based band, but they are now a New-York-based band.

Anyway, there were a lot of people who looked familiar at this party (read: promotional event). One said to me, "It's such a McGill crowd!" It was true. Soon enough, I was on the back fire escape with a few alumni. I could see some flashing lights in the distance through the rising smoke, but I couldn't tell what they were no matter how hard I squinted.

Back inside, there was a man in a suit with my friend Amy. He was leaning in, the way drunk people do and it was funny. He asked her if she wanted to come to meet The Stills. "I'm a friend of the owner," he said. And she said we'd like to, yes, we'd like to meet the band.

And so I followed. We went down a staircase and through the basement and then outside through the garden and then into the green room. There was a table full of drinks and I wondered if I should have another. The table also had fruit on it, but bananas were all that were left and you should never eat bananas in mixed company. The Stills were there too. Not on the table. In the room around us, I mean.

We were there for only a minute -- it felt like just a minute -- before someone came to inform us that it was time for the band to go on. We all marched out single file and for a moment I thought, "Maybe I'm about to go on stage with the band. Maybe I'm a member of a rock band."

I stopped marching to consider this. The lead singer and guitarist of The Stills went around me and did a double take. "Hey, I went to high school with you," he said.

"Yes," I agreed.

Did I?

The fellow -- his name I have since learned through the Internet is Tim Fletcher -- did look familiar. As did Dave Hamelin, the other singer and guitarist.

(I don't have my old yearbooks with me... Anders? Lindsay? Can you look that up for me?)

My rock-star story doesn't have a particularly exciting end. I followed my friend and the guy in the suit and the band to the back of the stage. The Stills swore in French to get pumped before facing the crowd. "Ostie de crise," they yelled at 10:38 p.m. (I wrote this down in my notebook, though I wasn't actually on assignment.)

I ended up back upstairs, but spent most of The Stills' set looking for someone I had lost in the crowd. I guess I should download their album now, though. Legally, I mean.

Wait a second... The Stills didn't used to be the ska band The Undercovers, did they? Goodness gracious. I'm just having a flashback to skanking it up in grade 8 or 9.

Time keeps on ticking into the future, doesn't it?

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Sunshine Sketches of a Little Frown?

In preparation for Samuel Beckett's upcoming 100th birthday, I am reading his authorized biography, the unfortunately titled Damned to Fame, by James Knowlson. Today, I stumbled across the interesting fact that Beckett was a big fan of Stephen Leacock as a schoolboy. Writes Knowlson:
Leacock's playful wit, somewhat unsubtle games with the reader, amusing parodies, wordplay and interest in unusual words would certainly have appealed to two bright adolescents. But, again with the invaluable benefit of hindsight, intriguing parallels emerge between Leacock's humorous, extravagant toying with logic and reason and Beckett's later novels, Murphy and Watt.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

It's Hard Out Here for a Wimp.

This article by Philip Kennicott in the Washington Post about "It's Hard Out Here For a Pimp" is a nice embodiment of everything that irritates me about the way certain cultural critics bandy about the idea of "appropriation." In this case, frankly, I think it's racist:
And so "It's hard out here for a pimp" enters white culture, as so many black memes do, with a wink and a nod. Of course your great aunt sitting down the table complaining in an impeccably white way that it's not easy for a pimp isn't thinking about real pimps. She may not even know what real pimps do. But that doesn't matter. Black memes in "white culture" are vaguely scandalous, used with a wink and nod that say, "I know this is transgressive, but I'm not going to learn anything more about it."
Earlier in the article, Kennicott puts scare quotes around the words "white" and "black", but it doesn't make it any better. It's still clear that he thinks that pimps, real pimps, are part of "black culture," but not "white culture." Meanwhile, your great aunt -- white, of course, because the readers of Washington Post must be white and therefore their great aunts are too -- couldn't possibly know anything about prostitution. No, white people, especially old white people, are too sheltered and rich.

Later in the article:
An Associated Press report began, "The Oscar people showed they were ready to embrace a song called 'It's Hard Out There for a Pimp.' " But the line was, "It's hard out here for a pimp."

Here, there. Inside, outside. The slip of the pen captures exactly how these things play out when appropriated across class and race lines.
There are just so many assumptions in this article: The Academy -- white; the viewers at home -- white; the Associated Press reporter -- white; the person who will read this article -- white. And of all these whiteys, only Kennicott truly knows how hard it is out here for a pimp.

Given that this is how race is normally discussed in America, no wonder Crash was hailed as a such a revelation and won the Oscar for Best Picture.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Le Untrod Map.

More remixed transit maps! Matthew Hollett has come up with some excellent anagrams for the Montreal Metro. I'm delighted to see Place-Saint-Henri turn into Penile Anarchist, Université-de-Montréal transformed into True Lover Inseminated, and Côte-Sainte-Catherine rearranged into Anaesthetic Erection. See a certain theme emerging? That's Montreal for you...

Julien has another one. Stations of note: A Fete in Porn (Préfontaine), Manly Root (Mont-Royal), and A Varicose Squirt (Square Victoria).

This remix is perhaps the most, er, ribald, including Oral Monty (Mont-Royal), Cervix Halo (Charlevoix), and No Nut Beaver (Bonaventure).

That such sexual anagrams should emerge is fitting since, for most of my life, the transit system in Montreal was called the STCUM. It was named, of course, after St. Cum, a little-known Catholic saint who was very well known in his time. (Now, unfortunately, it's just called the STM.)

I should also note Hollett's map has a station of particular interest for bloggers: Guy Concordia, which turns into Accordion Guy. (That's not how this guy got his name, is it?)

Sunday, March 05, 2006

DIY culture.

I was momentarily shocked that the top search in Technorati right now is "Do it yourself abortion." It'll all lead you to this post: For the women of South Dakota: an abortion manual.

If access to the procedure is increasingly restricted in the United States, will the term "back-alley abortion" soon be replaced with "Internet abortion"?
Buzz offed.

Good on the Ontario NDP membership for upholding Buzz Hargrove's suspension from the party:
Party members from across the province voted overwhelmingly yesterday to support a decision by the provincial executive to suspend Hargrove after his controversial move to strategically support the federal Liberals during the recent election campaign.
First of all, I don't see why members of the Canadian Auto Workers would want their president to belong to a party anyway. He should be able to work for their interests with whatever party is elected.

Now, if he believes that a Conservative government could not possibly be in CAW's interests and wouldn't cooperate with them, I don't have any problem with Buzz telling his members that they should vote for the NDP in some ridings, the Liberals in others and the Bloc in others. That may well be in their best interests. I just don't understand how someone can openly campaign for other parties and claim to be an NDP member. Nor do I understand why certain NDP members want to stand by their man while he sluts around; if he wanted an open relationship, he should have at least mentioned it before the wedding.

It's nice to see the NDP behave like a political party that doesn't have self-esteem issues. The party should continue to do the opposite of whatever NOW magazine tells them to. In this week's NOW, they had an article encouraging the NDP to overturn Hargrove's expulsion. And then, even more ridiculously, they had one urging the NDP to form a coalition with the Liberals and stop running candidates in the other's strongholds.

The NDP isn't served by these people who claim to support the NDP, but who are really left-leaning Liberals who like to feel morally superior to their left-leaning Liberal friends and only vote for the NDP when the Liberals are in the clear, ie. when it doesn't really matter. If you want to be non-partisan, be non-partisan. (In fact, I recommend it.) But if you really are an NDP supporter, show a little backbone -- like the Ontario party members did this weekend.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Question for y'all...

What did Canadians call the Great Depression while the Great Depression was going on -- particularly in the early years? I ask because I went to see Michel Tremblay's Past Perfect, a play set in 1930, at Tarragon Theatre tonight and a character said, "We’re in the middle of the Depression, Bertine, people are dying of hunger left, right and centre, open your eyes."

This, of course, sounded absurd to my ears. A) 1930 was the beginning of the Depression, not the middle; and B) a character saying she's in the middle of "the" Depression is almost as anacronistic as a character saying he's fighting in the "First" World War.

Might someone in 1930 have said, "We're in the middle of a depression" however? I don't know... Historians? I know you're out there. (I'm interested in what people of all walks of life would have said, but the character here is poor and not terribly well educated, FYI.)

If it had happened once, I might have forgotten about it. But "the Depression" is referred to like this throughout the play and it was quite jarring each time. I thought perhaps this meant that I was watching a "memory play." (A play that is "remembered" by a particular character, usually many years after the events of the play took place -- think The Glass Menagerie.)

When I checked my French-language edition of Passé Antérieur once I got home, however, I found out that that this was actually a mistake made by Tremblay's usually on-the-ball translator Linda Gaboriau. Tremblay's original French reads, "On est en pleine crise, Bartine, le monde crèvent de faim autour de toé, ouvre-toé les yeux!"

I'd translate that as "We're in the middle of a crisis, people are dying of hunger etc...." Doesn't that make more sense?

But maybe I'm wrong. Maybe people knew they were in the Depression during the Depression... What do you think?

Friday, March 03, 2006

If at first you don't succeed, what a relief.

If I had just read this e-mail exchange between Malcolm Gladwell and ESPN's Bill Simmons a couple of years ago, I could have spent all those therapy fees on a new car. Writes Gladwell:
This is actually a question I'm obsessed with: Why don't people work hard when it's in their best interest to do so? Why does Eddy Curry come to camp every year overweight?

The (short) answer is that it's really risky to work hard, because then if you fail you can no longer say that you failed because you didn't work hard. It's a form of self-protection. I swear that's why Mickelson has that almost absurdly calm demeanor. If he loses, he can always say: Well, I could have practiced more, and maybe next year I will and I'll win then. When Tiger loses, what does he tell himself? He worked as hard as he possibly could. He prepared like no one else in the game and he still lost. That has to be devastating, and dealing with that kind of conclusion takes a very special and rare kind of resilience. Most of the psychological research on this is focused on why some kids don't study for tests -- which is a much more serious version of the same problem. If you get drunk the night before an exam instead of studying and you fail, then the problem is that you got drunk. If you do study and you fail, the problem is that you're stupid -- and stupid, for a student, is a death sentence. The point is that it is far more psychologically dangerous and difficult to prepare for a task than not to prepare.
Well, that explains why I'm such a terminal procrastinator. I wouldn't get drunk before exams (though I know a couple of people reading this blog who have done just that), but I would frequently not do any of the readings and skip class all semester and then try to teach myself the entire course material the day before the exam...
Would you, could you on a train?

Hours of fun for railway enthusiasts over at the Atlas of Alberta Railways. 224 new historical maps to show you how the West got in.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Pipes Bomb.

If you didn't find Daniel Pipes odious before, perhaps you will after this column. It ends with this conclusion: "Civil war in Iraq, in short, would be a humanitarian tragedy but not a strategic one." Good god... On the one hand, there's his callousness. On the other hand, there's his baffling belief that Operation Iraqi Freedom ending in a bloody civil war could somehow not be a huge strategic disaster for America's "War on Terror." There's never been stronger proof that Mr. Pipes lives in his own fantasy world.
Liberal leadership news! Doo doo doo doo!

I haven't really been following the Liberal leadership race. Why? It's like those first episodes of Survivor: There's too many people to keep track of. And you don't want to get attached to a character that's just going to be voted off in one of the early episodes and spend the rest of the season wishing s/he'd come back...

Nonetheless, I was interested to hear that Reg Alcock is going to support Belinda. Mainly, just cuz I hadn't thought of www.Regalcock.com in a while. In even stranger news, Anne McLellan is apparently supporting Bob Rae.

Fascinating stuff, but, still, I'm not really going to pay much attention to the Amazing Race until the summer. (So check out Calgary Grit, your one-stop Liberal shop.)

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Editor's note.

I've very rarely edited or deleted comments here, but I have decided to remove parts of some comments left on a recent post. New rule: No personal insults directed at minors. Not on my site. They know how to use Google and they end up here and I get their e-mails. Attack the argument, not the person. That should always be the rule, of course, but I'll only edit if the person being insulted is under-age.* For instance, you are free to say that Lindsay Bernath is a stupid dork.

*Rules subject to change at my whim. Bwaa-haa-haa!