Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year!

I'm early, yes, but have a great 2008. It's been an exciting year of highs and lows and Hi and Lois for me, but not the most exciting year for this here blog. Soz. But as Fiddy and J.T. say...

(Ayo. I'm tired of using technology. Why don't you sit down on top of me?)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Please: Obama
Weirdest news broadcast ever.

Who thought it was a good idea to hire Windom Earle of Twin Peaks to reenact Conrad Black's court statement on CBC's The National?

Friday, December 07, 2007

One day we're going to live in Paris. I promise. I'm on it.

This Friendly Fires track, plus the latest singles from Amy Winehouse, Plain White T's, Newton Faulkner and Muscles reviewed by me in the Guardian Guide. Pick up a copy on at yer local newsagent today.

Yes, I've gone over to the dark side and become a music reviewer! Don't worry, I won't make a habit of it...

Here is a theatre review to make up for it

· Macbeth with Patrick Stewart: Overrated! Seriously, the witches rap. And stop with the hammy howling, Picard!


PS. I'm seriously mad about Crystal Castles right now.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Fo linkle my dinkle.

· My latest Noises Off, round-up of the London theatre blogosphere. Not many comments, by which I mean not a one. Go get into a fight over something in it!

· Plus, one of those music news round-ups, this time about Amy Winehouse and the Spice Girls.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The Morrissey-NME feud just got real.

The Moz's blog response to the NME article that made him appear to be anti-immigration is vicious and hilarious... and it largely misses the point of the criticisms that have been leveled at him.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

C koi ste marde la?

Forget the various crunk dances, forget Dude N Nem's Watch My Feet and the Juke craze, forget all that came before and Fait Le Tabarnak:

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Monday, November 26, 2007

Pasta Point of No Return

Mulroney is.

- The National Post's new website. Thank the lord! The design and subscriber wall of the old one were real sources of frustration as a writer and a reader...

- Hee, hee, hee, hee, hee... Oh, Tea Makers.

- Did I link to my last Noises Off blog post? The one with the gratuitous swipe at Joe Penhall?

- Actual all-girl tribute band: Lez Zeppelin.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

We are the champions!

Well, Paul MacInnes and Rosie Swash, my fine colleagues at Guardian Unlimited Music are anyway. They picked up the Best Podcast award at last night's Record of the Day awards for GU's Music Weekly, beating The Times, The Sun, Drowned in Sound and Xfm.

As someone who has guested in the studio twice (1, 2), I tried to claim 1/26 of the credit last night, but Paul reminded me that there is always a second person in the pod and the producer at least, so I could only claim 1/78. Fair point. It's still going on the resume.

Anyway, check out the full list of winners and you'll see GU, the Guardian and our sister paper the Observer were the big winnas across the board at the music journalism awards. I'll spare everyone by NOT posting the pics... Huzzah!

- In other Guardian news, my interview with Gallictronica artist Sebastien Tellier is up. (Yes, I invented the term Gallictronica.) He is marvelously French, to wit: "Having a Latin vision of sex on my album, that was important for me. In Paris or in Europe, it's the same kind of culture like in the US, this kind of feeling with the very dominating guy and very bitch woman. I like it, but maybe it's more ideal to talk about sex with a Latin sensibility."

- And here is my latest news round-up starring Beth Ditto, Alice Cooper, Alex Turner and... Sharleen Spiteri from Texas.

I quite like that song, actually.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Whatt"a" ya mean?

The blog of unnecessary quotation marks really outdoes itself today.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

An Imperialist Calls.

What did playwright JB Priestley think of Canada when he visited it in the mid-1950s? "My publishers persuaded me one year to do a tour of the country to stimulate book sales, but it was a depressing experience," he said later. "I got the impression that Canadians didn't read too many books."

Still, he wrote a play called The Glass Cage set in Toronto for that city's Crest Theatre. The play then transfered intact to London in 1957 - the first all-Canadian production to play there - where it received a mixed reception (translation: it bombed). Charmingly, Priestley blamed expat Canucks.

"We had hoped all the Canadians in London would support it - what a hope. And here's the difference between Canadians and Australians: About the same time, there was an Australian play put on, [Ray Lawlor's] The Summer of the Seventeenth Doll, quite a good play, but not as good as mine. But all the Australians in London turned out and gave it a good reception. And it ran for months."

The Glass Cage did not. It closed and no one put it on professionally again - in Canada or in the UK.

Until this autumn, that is, when the Royal and Derngate theatre in Northampton (one hour out of London) saved it from obscurity and resurrected it. I went to see it last weekend, which you can read all about in today's Globe and Mail. If you live in Canada, that is - cuz it's not on the 'net.

In short: I think it should be remounted in Canada. Shaw Festival, I'm looking at you, but I think it could really be up Soulpepper's alley, too.

Friday, November 16, 2007

That is Fucked Up.

The New York Times runs a review of a show by the Toronto band Fucked Up. But they can't bring themselves to publish the name of the band. Instead, this publish it like this: "Music Review: ********". Oh, so Cat Power, then?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Noises Off...

This week's round-up of the theatre blogosphere tackles the questions:

- Should bloggers accept free tickets to shows? (Yes.)
- Should everyone get free programmes at the theatre? (Yes.)
- Should New York stagehands get paid properly for their work? (Why, yes.)

I'm hardly selling it here. Um, I use the expression "hear, hear" a lot in it. Does that help?

Anyway, as Dave Coulier might say: Check. It. Out.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

I am a journalist!

Hey, sometimes I don't just make lazy, snarky comments about other people's news stories. No, sometimes I dig up the news myself. Or use Google, anyway.

Today, I had a story on the Guardian site about a mysterious Google ad I stumbled upon last week. When I Googled "Radiohead" on Thursday, I received a sponsored link that read:

Radiohead - New Album
New Album 'Rainbow' now available as Boxset inc. CD USB, Digital

Only problem was, it didn't lead to the site where you can buy Radiohead's independent release In Rainbows. No, instead, it led to the website EMI has set up to sell Radiohead's back catalogue. The website it set up a week after Radiohead signed to an independent label to distribute the physical album of In Rainbows. Ahem.

Says EMI, after I contacted them, "Parlophone were aware of the data source glitch and removed the link immediately." Understand what that means? No, me neither. And the folks at Google Ads neither.

Anyway, there's a screengrab of the ad - now removed, after my inquiries - and the full story at Guardian Unlimited Music.

I'm pleased to see the story picked up by or linked to Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, NME, Idolator, The Daily Swarm, BBC and my old friends at At Ease.

Monday, November 12, 2007

This is basically what everything here sounds like to me.

BBC Upgrades Flap To Row

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Montrealers: Catch it before it hits London.

I was very interested to note that Olivier Choinière's latest play Felicité - on at La Licorne until November 24 - is getting a production in English at the Royal Court Theatre this March. And who's translating it? None other than Caryl Churchill.

How did this happen, that a Quebec play about, amongst other things, Celine Dion worship gets its English-language debut in London announced just a couple of weeks after its premiere in Montreal? Must be a story there...

Ah, but I forget: Churchill's family moved to Montreal during WWII and she went to Traf for high school. She returned to England in 1955, but she still may hold the claim to being the most famous (English-language) playwright to come out of Montreal.
Cop lova

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Radiohead and Contextomy.

A couple of writings on the Guardian site to point your attention towards:

1. While I wrote the story, I am in many ways more proud of the headline: EMI stab Radiohead in the back catalogue.

2. And here's my latest Noises Off theatre blog: Bloggers fight against 'contextomy'.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Canada: America's stunt double.

The Guardian arts blog editor asked me this week if I had any thoughts on the official American tourism video that included shots of Canada in it. I said, "Well, Hollywood has been using Canada as a stand-in for the United States for ages, so why not the US state department?"

This is obviously not a hot topic on a UK website, so I encourage all Off the Fence readers to jump in the comments...

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Noises Off...

...on NaPlWriMo.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


I'm totally getting ripped apart by the Reason "Hit & Run" blog. Fun! My favourite is this comment from "Paul":
Lemme hit this "music critic" with a tidbit of information: No one cares about Bob Dylan. Let the man alone. If there's one thing that can probably make Mr. Dylan's eyes roll like a badly thrown bowling ball is for some brain-fried octagenarian (who was "there" in the sixties, natch) with the grey ponytail, trying to chew Dylan's ear off about how he never should have gone electric.
That's the perfect description of me! Except that, as anyone can see from my Guardian blog photo, I am actually twelve years old.

PS. Apparently that's music by Smog aka Bill Callahan aka Joanna Newsom's boyfriend in the SUV ad! Next it's going to turn out that Al Gore was the cameraman!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Amusing Facebook News Feed line of the day

"Warren Kinsella left the group The Andrew Coyne Fan Club."
Logical, no?

Bob Dylan is doing ads for the new Cadillac Escalade. In the past, the Escalade has been named the SUV that is the worst in terms of fuel economy. That's like being named the most antisemitic Nazi. So, the Escalade is like Hitler. Ergo, Dylan is the new Goebbels.

I can't imagine why my editor took that bit of Reductio ad hitlerum out of my blog post about Bob's odious Escalade ads...

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Off the Fence TV

Location: Tate Modern, Turbine Hall
Date: October 12, 2007
Time: 7:01pm
What: Silly young folk dance to their iPods over Shibboleth by the Colombian artist Doris Salcedo. Or, as it has come to be known, "Doris's crack".

To me, the crack symbolises all the disasters we are afraid will happen. (Climate change! Nuclear war! Housing bubble burst!) And so dancing over it was especially joyous.

Take that, pessimism! Even if we're cracking open like an egg, we're going to dance as the yolk comes dribbling out.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

I'm afraid of Nancy Drew

Nancy Drew
Originally uploaded by uncascrooge
My latest Guardian blog post: Why can't Hollywood get allergies right? Yes, that old hobby horse.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Noises Off: All the latest seat reviews and toilet news

My weekly theatre blogosphere round-up is up over at the Grauniad.

Monday, October 15, 2007

The joys of St Vincent

St Vincent
Originally uploaded by uncascrooge
I'm a tentative fan of Annie Clark, the Polyphonic Spree-er who has gone solo under the name of St Vincent. I loved the first show I saw her do, fell for (some) of her album Marry Me, then was a tad disappointed when I next saw her live (muddy sound, my favourite tune not on the setlist).

When last she came to London, I interviewed her in her tour van outside the Slaughtered Lamb for a little feature we call The Playlist. She told me about songs that influenced her album and I pretended like I knew them all. Here's the result.

PS. I don't think she is named after a certain NFB docudrama.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Catching up on the Canuck media...

Well, it is Sunday. First of all, a passage from Colby Cosh's recent column on the latest bit of "reasonable accommodation" hysteria in Quebec - Jean Charest's idea to retool the Quebec charter of human rights to explicitly prioritize gender equality over religious freedom:
The ideal of religious toleration is much older, and one would have thought it was much closer to the core doctrine upon which our society is founded. It's a pretty major reason there is such a place as Quebec, and why Jean Charest is serving as its political leader as opposed to, say, captain of a Louisiana shrimp boat. " Je me souviens," they say in Quebec -- but have Quebecers forgotten what it is like to be a member of a religious minority surrounded and politically dominated by an openly hostile majority?
Captain of a Louisiana shrimp boat! Brilliant...

Moving on... I have to say I am, well, not terribly saddened to read about the demise of the Western Standard. Generally speaking, I am in favour of more voices in the Canadian media than fewer, but it's hard not to be slightly amused by the irony in an arch-capitalist mag dying because the laws of supply and demand did not make it profitable.

My lack of sympathy for the Western Standard really stems, however, from my real irritation with the shameful way Ezra Levant ran its Shotgun blog. (I can't say "runs", because I dropped its RSS feed in a disgust a year or so ago.) On it, he allowed all sorts of odious opinions that bordered on hate, or sometimes crossed the line right into the Land O' Hate (this post calling for a ban on Islam comes to mind), supposedly because of his high-minded ideas about free speech and the "marketplace of ideas" - the same marketplace, I note once more, that just kicked him in the ass.

To quote The Real Thing by Tom Stoppard: "I can't help somebody who thinks, or thinks he thinks, that editing a newspaper [magazine, blog, publication] is censorship.... Words don't deserve that kind of malarkey."

But then, Levant only thought, or thought he thought, that when it came to certain issues; sometimes, when something embarrassed his conservative friends, he'd quietly censor the blog. So, he wasn't a free-speech idealist really, just your garden-variety hypocrite.

The WS magazine, when I read it, was much saner, of course... Sadly, it seems the Shotgun will probably continue while the magazine - occasionally home to excellent, sometimes courageous journalism - is dead. What a lose-lose situation.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

More music and me.

Hey! I was yanked into the Music Weekly podcast as a last-minute studio guest yesterday, and what a show it turned out to be. We have Paul McCartney being interviewed by Pete Doherty (!?!), as well as much chatter about Radiohead's In Rainbows and the latest singles by Common and the Wombats. Check it out.

Radiohead have long been my favourite band, but sometimes I forget that they're everybody else's favourite band, too. See my review of the reviews of In Rainbows for proof of that fact.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Happy Radiohead Day!

Finally, my obsession with Thom Yorke and Co. and my desire to earn a paycheque have collided. I've put together a couple of Radiohead galleries over at the Guardian site:

- 15 years of Radiohead in pics; and
- The (cover) art of Radiohead.

Have you downloaded In Rainbows yet? It's the first Radiohead album you can imagine yourself having sex to. Well, I mean, I would have sex to any Radiohead album - yes, even Pablo Honey - but I haven't really ever found any partners eager to join me. Maybe now my ultimate fantasy will come true. ("Please, can you just keep that one eye really still? Yes, just the one…")

Er... Moving on from that creepy bit of TMI, I have a new weekly feature on the Guardian arts blog. It's called Noises Off and it's a round-up of the theatre blogs. Here is the first installment. It is probably mostly notable for the fact that FT critic Ian Shuttleworth pops by in the comments to demonstrate that he doesn't understand the internet.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

I love you, you eat me, we're the man-shrimp family...

Drawing Restraint 9
Originally uploaded by uncascrooge
Given that my art-world obsession Matthew Barney is exhibiting his Drawing Restraint series at the Serpentine Gallery at the mo', I thought it would be a good time to postmy interview with him about DR 9, the fascinating/irritating "filmed sculpture" that is the centrepiece of the multimedia series.
Watching ship workers create the [giant, Vaseline] field sculpture is interesting if you enjoy watching cranes slowly lifting and lowering objects at construction sites. For everybody else, the more intriguing part of Drawing Restraint 9 takes place inside the ship, where Bjork and Barney as "The Occidental Guests" undergo a bizarre mating ritual. After having their eyebrows shaved and swimming in a bathtub with lemons floating in it, the two participate in a skewed Shinto tea ceremony in a tiny compartment hidden behind a water fountain. As the compartment fills with fluid, the two real-life lovers slice pieces of each others' legs off, feed them to each other, and metamorphose into ... well, the artist is right here, so I won't take a wild guess.

"I was trying to explain it to someone last night and said you turn into men shrimp," I confess.

Barney laughs at this. "They're sea monkeys," he jokes, before explaining that he and Bjork, in fact, turn into embryonic whales.
Man, I love-hate that guy!

And if you can't get enough Barney (I can't!), here's my review of his entire Cremaster Cycle.
The most visually imaginative of the five in the cycle is Cremaster 3, which unfortunately is also the most difficult to sit through, clocking in at an inexorable three hours and featuring a score composed by Jonathan Bepler that literally had me sticking my fingers in my ears.

The first half of it goes a little like this: A female corpse digs her way out of the basement of the Chrysler Building and is placed in the back seat of a Chrysler Imperial New Yorker in the lobby. Five Chrysler Crown Imperials begin battering the makeshift hearse, until is is reduced to the size of a large potato. Then, the condensed car is brought up to a dentist's office on the top floor and fitted into the Apprentice's mouth. This causes the Apprentice's intestines to fall out of his rectum. He then excretes his teeth, which melt and resolve into an ivory rod.

While this is jaw-droppingly inventive, it is also pretty darn well meaningless. Nancy Spector, who curated Barney's big Guggenheim exhibition, writes that, "In his work, Barney is transcribing a new post-Oedipal myth for our contemporary culture." But, frankly, that don't wash with me: I just watched a man put a car in his mouth and shit out his teeth.
Oh, I give up... It's not a love-hate relationship anymore. I just plain love Barney! I've recounted watching him scarf down a car and poop out his teeth more than any other art/theatre/film experience of the past five years, so he must be a genius, like Einstein or something.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Sex and the CBC.

Book of Don (called Damaged Goods until he realised people were reading it) is the best, most brutally honest blog I've read in a while. TV writer/producer Don Young posts entries from his 1979 diary of working at the CBC and juxtaposes them with his mildly depressive thoughts working in the industry today. Occasionally his unrepentant, unreconstructed Seventies sexism can be a bit much, but it's worth wading through it for the tidbits like a young Pamela Wallin (then working at As It Happens) screaming the c-word at Young and the rest of the Morningside crew after Young and his coworkers (including Gary Michael Dault) raided the AIH's beer fridge and stole all their contact numbers. Or this bit about having beers with Peter Gzowski one night: "He's writing a book about cannibalism - says it's a metaphor for the CBC, except cannibals eat the dead ... to survive at the CBC you eat the dying."

Catch Book of Don now before the libel suits!

Friday, October 05, 2007

Bolivarian revolution Number 9

My latest on the arts blog is about Hugo Chavez's new CD of Venezuelan folk music: Rock'n'poll stars: should politicians ever sing?

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Black Adder.

Some bits and bobs:

- Conrad Black's celebrity tip segment on The Mercer Report was quite funny. I had forgotten the joys of waxing leaves... Is it just me or do Canadians like Conrad better now that he's been knocked down a peg or twelve?

- To wit: they're exhibiting pictures of him in Winnipeg. Who knew Andy Warhol did a silk-screen portrait of Conrad Black!?! Surely the Canadian National Portrait Gallery should own this. That is, if such a thing existed. In which case, they should buy this Black painting, too.

- What's this? More weird Conrad Black news? He's using Margaret Atwood's bizarre LongPen device to sign copies of his Nixon book at a Toronto event. Is this what Atwood had in mind when she invented the LongPen? Kind of a niche market - authors who are unable to attend books signings because of their bail conditions.

- I had a piece in the National Post - which for thematic continuity I will remind you was started by Conrad Black - yesterday about how most museums and galleries in the UK are entrance-fee free. Giving me an excellent excuse to head down to the National Portrait Gallery and the Tate Modern this weekend, the article is part of the Post's campaign to abolish admission charges to museums across Canada. It started with Robert Fulford impassioned plea on Tuesday and continued today with Adam McDowell.

- Have a mentioned that Bob Saget is going to be the new Man in Chair in The Drowsy Chaperone on Broadway? Of course not, because it has nothing to do with Lord Black of Crossharbour.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Music... and Gordon Brown v Paul Martin.

I can't wait for the new season of Corner Gas!

Oh, wait. Actually, I can.

Anyway, a few links to post for you. First of all, check it out, it's a lyrical map of London we created in Google Maps for the Guardian Arts blog. We "marked out some more famous places and streets that crop up in the music of Blur, the Rolling Stones, Akira the Don and a couple dozen other bands and artists. Click around below to travel to, for example, the Joiners Arms with Bloc Party or the Clash's Hammersmith Palais (RIP)."

So, that's Nestruck Jr. But what's this? Nestruck Sr is on the Arts blog, too! Yes, I commissioned my father - currently touring 42nd Street in China - to write about touring a Broadway musical in China. Why? Because Cameron Mackintosh is making a big move into China...

And look: I teamed up with Rosie Swash to write the In the News today, so here's a link. Guess which items(s) I wrote up and you win a prize.

By the way, have I mentioned that Gordon Brown leaves me completely unimpressed? I know Canadians love to compare him to Paul Martin (Minister of Finance/Chancellor of the Exchequer, mounted campaigns to replace multiple-election-winning leaders, left to deal with scandals once old leader was gone, uncharismatic and with toupee-esque hair), but just because he's polling well doesn't mean we should backtrack on that comparison just yet. Watching his Labour convention speech, I was struck by another big similarity between the two: the rather annoying father worship. Brown goes on and on about how his father the minister was a moral man; Martin went on and on about his father the minister (of National Health and welfare) and how he helped bring in Medicare.

But really: Who cares who your daddy was? These are allegedly men of the (centre-)left who should know that in our modern meritocratic, put-everyone-on-a-level-playing-ground societies your breeding is not supposed to matter. (Emphasis: supposed.) Catherine Bennett skewered this really well today:
Traditionally, even those politicians who were proud to recognise the influence of their fathers seem to have recoiled - unlike Mr Brown - from passing them off as guarantors of moral purity. Blair occasionally deployed his father, Leo, but only to show he had known hardship. William Hague vouchsafed little more, in his years at the top, than that his father, a small-businessman, disliked red tape. Even Mrs Thatcher, although she declared on entering Downing Street, "I owe almost everything to my father," never seemed to make as much, in public, of the influence of Alderman Roberts as her critics on the left, who found his - and therefore her - shopkeeper's thrift so deliriously common.

There was a time when Gordon Brown also preferred to keep quiet about the provenance of his moral compass. Indeed we were not, I think, confronted with this accessory until his 2005 conference speech, when the then chancellor decided - he told Bel Mooney - that "you've got to explain your background and on that basis people may understand me better".

We can only guess if he would have been so forthcoming on this question, had his father been, say, a drunk, a bigamist, or a Foxtons estate agent. But maybe the spawn of such people are best kept out of politics. Maybe - as John le Carré (son of a confidence trickster) once said of his maternal grandfather (a pious JP) - Brown believes that "a rotten tree could not bring forth good fruit".
I think the key difference between Martin and Brown is that Brown is facing David Cameron and not Stephen Harper. Of course, that's with hindsight - who knew Harper would get his act together? On the same note, however, who knows for sure whether Cameron will be able to get it together or not?

I don't want to draw too many comparisons between Martin and Brown's situations; obviously they're different. But, again: I am not impressed by Brown so far. He is very much, pace Martin, trying to be everything to everyone, and, though previously praised as a policy wonk, he's demonstrating that he can be very sketchy about what he actually wants to do.

But he's going to scoop Conservative voters away! He's going to scoop Liberal Democrat voters away! Sure, sure. I've heard it before.

Monday, September 24, 2007

CBC Arts headline watch.

The Penelopiad a rich artistic experience for creative team.
Rest in peace. Emphasis on "peace".

Sole collective.

Ayo! I had an article in the National Post on Friday. It was about a play about a shoe shop that took place in a shoe shop here in London. There are lots of bad shoe-related puns in it. The article, that is. Ayo!

In other news, I’m not going to blog at all about the Drowsy Chaperone's tour launching in Toronto last night or Richard Ouzounian's four-star review. Nope.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Theatre of the surd.

I've got a post up at the Guardian arts blog about math and theatre. Or, as they say here, maths and theatre.

(Thanks to Guy from work for the excellent "Theatre of the surd" theatre/math pun.)

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Je me souviens...

Apparently, this in memoriam notice appears in the Montreal Gazette every year:
WOLFE, General James. Died at Quebec City, September 13, 1759. Sadly missed.
This year, Le Journal de Montreal noticed. [Via mtl weblog]

(This reminds me to link to this article in which a Daily Telegraph writer says the key to uniting the UK is to, pace Winston Churchill, "Tell the children that Wolfe took Quebec.")
Would Naomi Klein run for the NDP?

She's not, as they say, ruling it out. From today's Sunday Times:
She supports the moderately leftish NDP in her home country and does not rule out standing for election one day. That being said, as soon as she has not ruled the prospect out, she gets nervous about having not done so and takes a gulp of coffee. She is a very big deal indeed back home and such an admission will have the phone ringing off the wall. For a brief moment the media veneer has gone and she looks slightly embarrassed.
Off the wall? Not so sure about that...

I'm more interested, actually, in the upcoming Outremont by-election. I hope Thomas Mulclair wins the seat for the NDP, not because of the party's politics per se, but because I think it would be a good thing for the country if the Dippers got a foothold in the Quebec.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

In which I write about hip-hop.

Yes, I wrote about Kanye West and 50 Cent's rap battle - the one West seems to be winning - over at the ol' Guardian site today. I'm pleased to say I think I'm the only one who has managed to work a reference to Tim Rice into it...

I'd like to use this non-impartial pulpit to tell you that I am rooting for Fiddy, to be honest. I love Ayo Technology. Its title has entered my daily speech:

"The server's going down in half an hour, everybody."

"Ayo Technology!"


"I think my mobile [translation for Canadians: cell phone] is ... reception... breaking..."

"Ayo Technology!"


"Oh-oh! I think the condom broke..."

"Ayo Technology!

See how useful it is? Has Kanye written anything that matches the zeitgeistical brilliance of that line?

If you'll excuse me...

"Let's get it poppin', shortly we can switch positions/

From the couch to the counters in my kitchen."


Sunday, September 09, 2007

A small victory.

First off, I should note my LOLcatsing on the Guardian site has got out of control. Here is the week in music, as told by LOLcats.


On Friday night, my friend Matt and I went to see the latest Complicite production, A Disappearing Number, at the Barbican - a flawed, but visually ingenious show - and you know who was in the audience? Why, none other than Sir Tom Stoppard, who is probably one of the five or so people I admire most in the world.

Matt and I spied on his giant, grey Stoppard-fro a few rows away from us and, after the show, exited the theatre on his side (stage left), though we really were closer to the other side (stage right). We stood a few feet away from Tom Stoppard in the foyer, pretending to be involved in a conversation that had nothing to do with how the man who wrote such plays as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, Arcadia, The Real Thing and Rock'n'Roll was standing a few feet away from us.

Now, one of the main reasons I decided to become a journalist is that I am often painfully shy, but have a great desire to speak to people and ask them questions. My father is good at this sort of thing; if he passes a site under construction that he is curious about, he has no qualms about calling out to one of the builders and asking what they are doing. On my own, I will not do this - I don't want to intrude.

If you stick a notebook in my hand, however, or a tape recorder, I suddenly gain a lot of courage. I feel purposeful and have no problem speaking to strangers. Take the pad and pen away and I'll just stare from afar and try to pretend I'm not gawking.

So, there Matt and I were in the Barbican and I'm thinking, "I would like to shake Tom Stoppard's hand. He is an amazing man, behind some of the cleverest plays of the 20th and 21st centuries. But here he is, out for a night on the town, enjoying himself with a friend, chatting after a play. I don't want to intrude. I shan't intrude. I will leave him alone." (I think the word "shan't", but thankfully never actually say it out loud.)

On the way up the stairs, however, I began to have second thoughts. "I'd like to interview Stoppard someday," I told Matt, "but what if I don't get the chance? No one lives forever. Pavarotti died this week! What if I had seen Pavarotti last week and was too chicken to shake his hand? His hand is no longer shakeable."

"You should tell him that," Matt said. We laughed. That would be a stupid thing to say.

But I decided I would act.

With Nessum Dorma ringing in my ears, I walked purposefully back down the stairs, strode purposefully over to Stoppard and then stared at my feet and shimmied purposefully right past him and into the parking garage, where Matt followed and laughed at me for being such a chicken. "I'm going to do it," I said, breathlessly. "I'm going to do it! Just give me a moment."

I started to head back in, but then, just then, Sir Tom finished his conversation and headed with his companion right towards me. I opened the door for him and asked, "Are you Tom Stoppard?"

"Yes?" Tom Stoppard said.

I thrust my hand at him. "Hi, my name is Kelly, I'm sorry, I would just like to shake your hand..." (He shook it!) "... I just really admire your work..."

"Thank you," Tom Stoppard said.

"...I don't usually do this sort of thing, I'm sorry to infringe on you privacy, but I was just about to leave without coming over to you and then I thought..." Wait! No, stop talking! Don't complete the thought! Nooo...

"I thought, well, Pavarotti has died..."

Whoops. Stopped three words too late.

Tom Stoppard looked at me. Tom Stoppard looked confused. Or, as Matt later put it, Tom Stoppard looked as if he was thinking, "Oh God, is this how it's going to end for me? Stabbed to death in the parking garage at the Barbican."

I changed direction. "Did you enjoy the show?"

"Yes," said Tom Stoppard. "Did you enjoy the show?"

"Yes, yes, quite a bit..."

Tom Stoppard and I stood there.

"Well, it was very nice to meet you, a pleasure, I hope you have a good rest of your evening," I said.

"Goodbye," Tom Stoppard said. And he walked away.

Matt and I went back in. "I can't believe you said that," he said.

"I just spoke to Tom Stoppard!" I said. "And shook his hand!" A small victory.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Live blogging the Mercury prize

Hey folks - I'm going to go hang out with Arctic Monkeys, Bat for Lashes and (tentatively) Amy Winehouse at the Mercury prize gala tonight. And by "hang out with", I mean, be sequestered away from in the press room.

I will, however, be live bloggin the whole razmatazz and right here on the Guardian site. Go check it out from 7pm BST and feel free to jump in the comments. I'm rooting for Basquiat Strings.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Meanwhile, over at the Guardian site…

I do get on the internet at work and you can read my Amy Winehouse gossip report, as well as my reviews of nobody-else-wanted-to-cover-them, "screamo" bands Billy Talent and Kids in Glass Houses in our Reading and Leeds 2007 special report. I got to sub on the scene at the festival and it was much fun, especially seeing LCD Soundsystem and learning about this new rave stuff the kids like. Not so bothered by the Klaxons; dig the Hadouken!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

My home internet has been down for over a month...

And I don't even live in France! Sorry folk(s).

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Bling or anti-bling?

Kanye West and Princes Harry and William disagree over the blinginess of his shades. Yes, more tabloid music news summarised by your truly.

Hey - I had a fun trip back to Canada, by the by. Live abroad; vacation at home. That's my new motto.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

"Pumps pillows"?

Is "pump" what people who say "fudge" instead of "fuck" say for "hump"? I ask because I was just reading Steve Dale's latest My Pet World column and a woman wrote in with the following question:
Our 4-year-old Pomeranian loves to pump pillows. We can't stop her unless I close the doors to every room where there's a pillow. She's doesn't pump people's legs like most dogs; she just pumps pillows. How do we stop her?
Stop her? Hire her out! Can she do air mattresses too? What about bicycle tires?

Anyway. Yeah. So I'm on vacation. Obvs.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Shake your spear.

- From a 1996 New Yorker profile of Salman Rushdie, via ALN:
Rushdie excels at what might be termed Shakespeare trivia. Once, in the course of a literary word game, he was challenged to rename a Shakespeare play as if it had been written by Robert Ludlum. He was asked, first, to retitle "Hamlet" in the style of the author of "The Bourne Ultimatum" and "The Scarlatti Inheritance." With no advance notice and almost no hesitation, he said, "The Elsinore Vacillation." A palpable hit but, the other participants thought, sheer luck. Bet you can't do it twice. What about "Macbeth"? "The Dunsinane Deforestation." More meditated offerings included "The Rialto Forfeit," "The Capulet Infatuation," "The Kerchief Implication," and "The Solstice Entrancement."

- From Richard Ouzounian's recent interview with outgoing Stratford honcho Richard Monette:
"You can always remember sadness," he says with a grave wisdom. "As an actor, you can always access tears. The joy of life, that's harder to find, but the pain is there forever."

He pauses and looks across the table, deciding whether to tell this story. "I had a little rag doll called Pom-Pom," he begins, "and I loved that doll. I loved it so much.

"My mother decided that because I was going off to school, I had to be a man and cast aside these childish things. She threw Pom-Pom down the garbage chute, where I knew there was an incinerator at the bottom."

"I raced down the stairs, but of course, I was too late. Pom-Pom was gone into the flames. That was the day when I lost my innocence."

His eyes are filled with tears, unashamed. "In every show I have ever done since then, I have put a little rag doll. The audience may not know it's there, but I do."
You could put that word for word into a Christopher Guest mockumentary.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Music Weekly: spotlight on Canada

Canadian music
Originally uploaded by uncascrooge
Music Weekly: spotlight on Canada

Hey - my colleagues Paul MacInnes and Rosie Swash invited me on their Guardian Unlimited Music Weekly podcast this week. Why? Well, it's a Canadian special and they wanted a real-life Canadian in the pod with them. I help review this week's singles, use the word "Chimo" and briefly and ineptly discuss the fluid nature of Canadian nationality. Overall though, I seem to get through it without making a complete fool of myself, so I'm considering this, my first podcast experience, a success.

But, of course, the show is not about me. Rather it's about interviews with Feist, Emily Haines and Chromeo and discussion about Arcade Fire, Broken Social Scene, Michael Buble and Patrick Watson. And Fergie.

You can get it right here. If you want to take a listen, may I suggest you subscribe through iTunes rather than just grab the mp3? Then, we'll climb up the charts...

Monday, July 23, 2007

Puns, gossip, Paul Potts…

Today's Guardian Unlimited Music "in the news" round-up has it all and is written by me. But what I'm really excited about is guesting on the Music Weekly podcast later this week… More on that soon.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

How cool is Google Earth?

OK, you probably already know Google Earth is amazing. But I didn't, really. Thanks to Concordia University's Sandu Baciu, however, my mind is officially blown.

Baciu, from the Department of Civil Engineering, was one of the winners of Google's Build Your Campus in 3D Competition. His department is located on the university's Loyola campus in the NDG area of Montreal, which just happens to be a few blocks away from my house and is where I like to go to walk my dog, Jacqueline. (She's a Bouvier, geddit?)

This campus now exists in 3D in a Google Earth file. So I just followed my old dog-walking route in three dimension. From my flat in London, England. How crazy is that!?! It was so immersive, I almost bent over to poop-and-scoop.

Monday, July 16, 2007

My attitude about Latitude: It was Phatitude!

Scroobius Pip vs Dans Le Sac
Originally uploaded by uncascrooge
Hey - it turns out music festivals are fun! Latitude in Suffolk was a blast, even though we had to leave early yesterday and miss Jarvis Cocker and Arcade Fire.

This is a picture of Scroobius Pip and Dans Le Sac (right, left), who I think are just brilliant and were one of the highlights of the weekend for me.

You can read all about my cheery weekend spent listening to the Magic Numbers, the Hold Steady, Herman Dune, Final Fantasy, Camera Obscura, the National, Au Revoir Simone, Damien Rice and many others over on the Guardian arts blog.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Who killed The Drowsy Chaperone?

The Tony-winning show is leaving the West End less than three months after opening. Is there no room for original musicals in Theatreland? I ask on the Guardian Arts blog.

(I swear, they asked me to write it! My Drowsy obsession is over. Honest!)

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Desperately Seeking Susan: the musical

Yes, it is real. And over at the Guardian arts blog, I use it to make an old point of mine: there is nothing inherent wrong about jukebox musicals or musicals based on films. No one's commenting, so if you want to start a fight with me over there, we can have some fun, yeah?
Oh, by the way...

The Drowsy Chaperone is closing on the West End on August 4.

And my friend Alison has a show called Expiry Dating in the Toronto Fringe that is selling out. Can't vouch for it personally, but I'm assuming Alison wouldn't do something bad.

I can vouch personally for the improv troupe Uncalled For, who are my friends but also capable of reducing me to hysterics.

And also, the Sopranos ending was, indeed, a cop out. David Chase cheated. But it's not a big deal, the episode had some great final moments and the series was a resounding success.

And the new Stars album? Torquil is much less annoying when he actually sings, but still too much of his breathy, articulated obnoxiousness. And the rereleased, old Metric album? Yes, more derivative, but a few awesome tracks.

And work? Oh, yes, I'm on my way.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

When in Rome...

When in Rome...
Originally uploaded by uncascrooge
take photographs with your new camera and then post them on Facebook.

(You can see these even without a Facebook account. I think. I have written captions so it's not completely boring. But, really, if you're not my mother or a friend, you'll probably not be that interested.)

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Happy Canada Day!

I am, I must admit, feeling a bit homesick today.

But I'll be back, July 28 to August 12, on tour through Montreal, Toronto and Ottawa. I can't wait! Well, actually, I can because I have a trip to Rome planned for next weekend and then I'm going to this the weekend after. Summer!

Saturday, June 30, 2007

A few notes about the events unfolding...

- I was just joking about the car bomber trying to disrupt Canada Day celebrations in London. But then comes news that there was a second car bomb ready to go and parked on Cockspur Street (see map), which is where Canada House and Trafalgar Square, where Sam Roberts and K'Naan and others played a free Canada Day concert last night, are located.

Experts believe, however, that the target for that second foiled car bomb was people fleeing from the first foiled bomb:
"It appears that the bombers' original aim was to have the first bomb go off on Haymarket and the second bomb go off in Cockspur Street just as the emergency vehicles are arriving," said Mr. Beaver, describing a crowd-funnelling technique that has become popular in Iraq. "It would have been a scene of complete carnage and mayhem."
How utterly terrible.

- One of my favourite old Onion headlines is Car Bomber Given Shittiest Possible Car. I had always assumed there was an element of truth to it, but apparently you shouldn't judge a VBIED - a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device - by its make and model. The two unexploded car bombs in London were Mercedes (Mercedeses?) and the one that was rammed into Glasgow airport this afternoon was a Jeep Cherokee. Blue, green and green if you're interested in the esoterica, as I am (though likely only because I find it comforting to focus on the details rather than comtemplating the larger picture).

- The first car bomb was parked outside a nightclub called Tiger Tiger. While we shouldn't jump to conclusions, this is usually one of the calling cards of Islamist terror. Why? Because radicals view nightclubs as a symbol of Western decadence. As one plotter of another thwarted attack put it, "[N]o one can put their hands up and say they are innocent ... those slags dancing around." Charming.

Anyway, because of this, I find it rather ironic that Thursday's carbombing attempt was foiled because of London's decadent binge-drinking culture:
The first car bomb was spotted by an ambulance crew coming to the aid of a young woman who had consumed too many drinks at the Tiger Tiger nightclub on Haymarket, a major boulevard in central London. The attendants noticed a parked Mercedes filling with smoke or fumes and the crew called the bomb squad.
So, yes: young men and women of London, go out and drink too much tonight, proud in the knowledge that you are on the frontlines of fighting terror. At least, that's what I'm telling myself as I nurse a hangover from a decadent night out last night...

Friday, June 29, 2007

Three things...

1. Hey, over on the Guardian arts blog, I'm discussing how many of the 1000 films to see before you die list I've seen. I think I should get extra points for having sat through the entire Cremaster Cycle…

2. Funny thing about that quixotic newscaster who refused to lead with the Paris Hilton story. She's Mika Brzezinski, daughter of Zbigniew Brzezinski, Jimmy Carter's realist national security adviser and a McGill University grad.

3. Is it possible that car bomb was intended to scare us off from the Canada Day festivities in Trafalgar Square tonight? I say no/non to terror! I'm heading down there right now to watch K'Naan and there ain't nobody gonna stop me…

Friday, June 22, 2007

The Pain and the Itch.

It's great. Well, it's funny and cutting and exactly what Royal Court audiences should see, says I. Bruce Norris: a playwright who I want to read/see more of. Unfortunate name, yes, but I'm a guy named Kelly.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

When the cats are away at Glastonbury…

The Canadian sub stays in London and rounds up the stories about Aerosmith, the Who and Tokio Hotel in the tabloids.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Description, prediction.

This week, Paul Potts wins Britain's Got Talent.

Next fall, Adele Fitler wins American Idol.

This joke would have been funny, like, two weeks ago. Maybe not even then.
Stunned into yawning.

If you're not bored of the Rings, why not check out my Guardian-Arts-Blog thoughts on the London production of the Most Expensive Musical of All Time, which opened last night.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Bob Barker in the diner with the onion rings.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Who spoiled the Sopranos?

My latest contribution to the Guardian Arts Blog is about the perils of being a Sopranos fan outside of North America. (The blog now includes a picture of me looking fornlorn. And check out my mad photoshop skillz on that pic!)

Also, if you were to go back in time two days and pick up a copy of the Globe and Mail, you would find my interview with Rufus Wainwright. It's not online, so time to roll up your sleeves and get into that recycle bin, Ma.

Actual blog posts on the way: A visit to the North of England, and my miffled thoughts on the final episode of the Sops. I'm sure all 12 of you who still read this blog are waiting with bated breath.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Leah McLaren pops up in the funniest places...

Like the New York Observer, in an article entitled "My Book Deal Ruined My Life": "[Y]ou start to think, ‘Oh God, this is a complete piece of shit that couldn’t be published—nobody is going to read it.’ But then you have a sandwich and go, ‘I am a genius and I’m going to win the Booker Prize.’"

In other news, St Vincent is today's The Awesome. I've spent the weekend with "Marry Me" in my head." (Even better live, so friends in Montreal and Toronto why not go to La Sala Rossa or the Horseshoe Tavern in July?)

Friday, June 08, 2007

The Drowsy Chaperone in London.

It's a hit with most of the critics. I prefer the majority of the Broadway cast, I do, but nonetheless am still a big fan of the show...

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Lord of the Rings musical update.

"My leg! My leg!" Not good news for the production, which needs good news...

Is there a LOTR musical curse? Will future generations of actors refer to it only as The Tolkien Play?

Thursday, May 24, 2007

I just came back from the Canadian High Commissioner's house...

And boy are my arms tired.

Wait. I don't think I told that joke properly.

Anyway, I was worried whether I was using the right fork at the right time or not. And I had to look up what "Lounge Suit" meant. NOT LEISURE SUIT. Just FYI.

I don't think I'm going to get into it tonight. Nor will I get into the dinner I had on Sunday night in an abandoned school in south London. In the abandoned drama room, with copies of Brecht's Mother Courage and her Children lying around.

But I thought I might link to a couple of songs I'm liking lately. Just because. I'm not going to become an mp3 blog, don't worry. Or, wait, maybe that would make this blog more focused. Maybe you would like that.

Okay, worry. If you like to worry. (And who doesn't?)

Anyway (I'm using that word too much lately; also "ersatz") here is a song by Low, a band that I saw at the All Tomorrow's Parties in Minehead a few weeks back. (You probably heard about them in 1994; I was listening to Weird Al sing "Smells Like Nirvana" then; sue me.) At the time, I thought: "I think I'll have a nap. These songs are making me sleepy." Now, I keep playing them or, rather, having someone play them for me.

I like this one: Belarus. (I sing, "Belle-ah-Roooooooooooooos(t)e... Belle-ah-Roooooooooooooos(t)e..." to myself, sometimes out loud, too.)

I also lurve this one called Sandinista: "Oh Sand-da-knees-sta... Oh Sand-da-knees-sta." (I sing that one too. Sometimes interchangably with Belle-ah-Roooooooooooooos(t)e.) I can't find it online, but you can hear some band cover it on YouTube and it's sort of like the actual song.

What else? Well, I love the first two songs on The National's new album Boxer. I loved the opening track, Fake Empire, even before Said the Gramophone posted it yesterday. (NB: Yesterday will changed depending on when you read this post.) I kinda like the lyrics, "We're half awake in a Fake Empire." Not too polemical, you know? Just kinda true. (Also the lyric makes me think of the title of Half Asleep in Frog's Pyjamas by Tom Robbins, who I don't really like that much, like I don't really like Breakfast of Champions that much.)

Oh, by the way, Low are Mormons. And Cold War Kids, who I saw the other way and who I might have liked more if their lyrics weren't so ersatz, are Christian. And it's annoying when indie kids back away from music because it's created by religious musicians. Unless those musicians are black. Because black people are allowed to believe in make-believey godheads because they're so salt-of-the-earth, gosh!

I bring this up, because Michael Hann has a good lil' essay about this in today's Guardian.

I don't just like things, by the way. I, for instance, hate some things. Like Mr Hudson and the Library. I call him Mr Hudson and the Die-brary, because he goddamn screwed with two of my favourite songs on his new album, the cocky, wannabe prick. (But which I mean he is a prick and a wannabe; he doesn't want to be a prick; I don't think; semi-colon. Period; punctuation.)

You can listen to him screw the corpses of Tom Adair and Matt Dennis and, what the hell, Chet Baker too with his "cover/hostage taking" of Everything Happens to Me over on his MySpace page. If you want to hear him rape Lerner and Loewe's On the Street Where You Live (I sing this in the shower!), you'll have to buy his album or something, which you shouldn't.

Wow! There are so many Chet Baker videos on YouTube! Oh, by the way Chet, you're not supposed to sit in an armchair cross-legged while you blow your trumpet... Okay, you can get away with it. THIS TIME!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Who wants to be Kevin Wallace?

My favourite email forward of the day
- thanks secret forwarder

----- Forwarded Message
From: ****
Reply-To: ***
Date: Tue, 22 May 2007 11:09:24 -0400
To: ****

Please direct all responses and inquiries directly to the theatre or
association listed in the e-drive notice below.

One male actor needed for a Toronto Fringe production of "The Lord of
the Rings: The Musical: The Musical" a musical comedy about the Toronto
production of The Lord of the Rings.

The actor should have strong singing abilities and must be available for
rehearsals in June. The part is for the character of the sinister
British producer.

Auditions: Saturday May 19th, and Sunday May 20th at 286 Lisgar Street,
Dovercourt and Dundas.

Email or call 647 833-4863 to sign up for an


Monday, May 21, 2007

I've been a bad blogger.

I have. You must agree.

Nonetheless, even in my current bad-blogging state, the Globe and Mail (by which I mean Siri Agrell, bon vivant and author of Bad Bridesmaid) asked me about being a blogger the other day for an article about bullshit jobs and the book 100 Bullshit Jobs. I was asked if "Blogger" was indeed a bullshit job, and you can read my response here, as well as the responses from a meteorologist (Michael Kuss, no less!), a handwriting analyst and a closet organiser - other professions deemed bullshit by the bullshit bathroom book author Stanley Bing.

You know who has been a good blogger, by the way? Vanessa Farquharson. My old Arts & Life colleague at the Post has a great blog called Green as a Thistle. On it, she is tracking her one-year quest to reduce her carbon footprint day by day. I can't even believe some of the sacrifices she has made over the past 78 days. My jaw dropped when she unplugged her fridge the other day... Is this this same VF who once came by my apartment and laughed at how little my television is? (Admittedly, it was so old it had a dial, so it was giggle-worthy.) I'm glued to her transformation.

Oh, speaking of bullshit (two paragraphs ago, but hey, I can segue however I damn well please), I must point you in the direction of this Sunday Times article about the Lord of the Rings musical, which having flopped like a house full of hobos in Toronto is about to open in a New! and Improved! version in London.

Kevin Wallace, the gab-gifted producer behind this insane endeavour, has been pedalling a revisionist history of the Toronto production to credulous journos here in L-town. It's hard to know where to start screaming with laughter at this particular passage from the Times:
Showing hobbit-like determination and a calm eloquence worthy of Gandalf himself, Wallace put a brave face on things when, in September last year, he abruptly closed the Toronto show after only six months. "We have made theatre history here," he declared, but he also promised that The Lord of the Rings would reappear in London in the summer of 2007. And Wallace spake wisely. His production, almost entirely recast, with more music and 25 minutes shaved off the running time to bring it in at three hours, is now previewing at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, and will open for critical scrutiny, after a lengthy bedding-down, on June 19.

The widely received notion that the transferring musical has already been branded a flop is an understandably sensitive – and hotly contested – point with all concerned. Wallace insists that the show sold nearly 90% of the seats at the Princess of Wales Theatre in Toronto. The chief deciding factor in closing early was the need to ship the enormous set to London before the Hudson River froze over. It took four months, and the complete removal of all the existing understage equipment, to install the Rings' elaborate machinery in the Theatre Royal.
I'm sorry, did you say something? I couldn't hear because I was SCREAMING WITH LAUGHTER. Shall we enumerate the bollocks?

At the press conference announcing the closing last JUNE (1), Mr Wallace behaved more like Gollum than an eloquent Gandalf (2), naming and shaming the critics who had given LOTR bad reviews, and then blaming Toronto in general, saying: "Its spiritual home is the London theatre."

Oh, I don't even want to enumerate anymore. But the Hudson river? Surely, the St Lawrence...

It's getting harder every day to root for this production. (But I am.)

Sunday, May 20, 2007

A hat!

Fiddler on the Roof holds a special place in my heart; playing Avram the bookseller in Grade 9 was probably the most exciting moment of my life to that point.

So it was a real pleasure to interview book writer Joseph Stein the other day. He even told me Avram (who has about 12 lines in the show) was his favourite character. He was joking, but I'd like to think he was telling the truth.

I hope I'm still writing musicals at 95. (Of course, that would mean that I'd have to start writing musicals at some point...)

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Why does Lily Allen hate trannies?

And other fluff in today's music round-up.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Gone with the Wind in 60 Seconds.

A funny little animation from Scott Chantler, the talented graphic novelist who I did those Beckett comix with last year.
When the cat's away...

... the mouse will fill in with the daily music news round-up.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Treat Your Mother Right.

So says Mr T. And so sings Mr T. [via the Brove]

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Eat your heart out, David Frum.

The critics are raving about my latest post on the Guardian arts blog, about Spider-Man 3 and the death of the neoconservative dream.

Spider-Man 3 and George W Bush

"This really is one of the poorest articles associated with The Guardian I've ever read."

"[I]s this the best use of the Guardians money?"

"The Guardian doesn't like it when you point out how close their conspiracy theories parallel the paranoid fantasies of anti-semites."

Ladies and gentlemen... the Internet!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Dig that hole a little deeper, Kelly...

Over at the Guardian Arts blog, I confess that I'm looking forward to the Lord of the Rings musical opening in London.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Joe Penhall's Landscape with Weapon at the National Theatre.

What Christine said. Except I don't even think it's a radio play... It's a debate about military technology - and an uninteresting and unbelievable one at that.

Oh, but he kept referencing Da Vinci, it must be smart! Blegh.

Dance Dance Russian Revolution!

Dance Boris Yeltsin, dance!
Originally uploaded by uncascrooge.
Was Boris Yeltsin the best dancing politician ever? Another of the serious questions I have considered of late over at the Guardian arts blog:
[I]n honour of the late president of Russia, I think we should all hit the clubs tonight, wait for a suitable song, and then do the Yeltsin:

You make a fist with your left hand
Another with your right
Then you take a shot of vodka
And move them up and down all night.
Rest in peace, big guy.

Monday, April 23, 2007

12 inches!?!

Anyone know where I can find a picture online of the old Globe and Mail size compared to the new size?

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Some thoughts on Feist.

Originally uploaded by uncascrooge.
Back in Toronto, you were either an Emily Haines guy or a Leslie Feist guy. (Well, within that certain segment of the population for whom Broken Social Scene was an integral part of the scene, anyway.) I was an Emily Haines guy. See: I blogged about her here.

As for Feist, I didn’t really get the big deal with Let It Die. Sure, Mushaboom was alright, and I liked her cover of the Bee Gees Inside & Out, but otherwise there was just something about her voice that was unsatisfying. She sounded like - am I way off here? - a sober Cat Power who didn't smoke and was brought up in Calgary. Her voice was neither soulful enough, nor quirky enough to be that interesting. Sometimes it sounded wafer thin, weak frankly. And it was all too polite, too. (I won’t say too Canadian.) I thought Let It Die was middle-of-the-road – SFJ calls it “ready-made for hotel bars and furniture stores” - that had somehow been given the imprimatur of acceptability by the indie kids. (Not that I didn’t know many people who don’t give a damn about cool who loved it.)

So, why did I pay £15 to see Feist last night at the Shepherds Bush Empire? Well, there’s the buzz factor surrounding her new album, The Reminder. Then, there were those cool videos for new tracks 1234 and My Moon My Man. Then, there’s a certain part of me that right now doesn’t just tolerate things that are “too Canadian”, but yearns for them. After six months in London: Politeness? Yes, please!

So I’m at the concert last night, front row of the second balcony at the red velvet ocean that is the Shepherds Bush Empire, primed with the requisite two pints of beer and sipping my third (it was almost 9pm!), and then here comes Feist is out on stage and I’m skeptical and hopeful. She's surrounded by her men, five of them forming a star around her, on drums and keyboards and various wind instruments, notably a flugelhorn.

I think she opened with a tune called Honey Honey, but the second song, I Feel It All, is where I started to relax and enjoy and think there was something more to her than I had realized. I like the lyrics, too. Here:
I feel it all, I feel it all
I feel it all, I feel it all
The wings are wide, the wings are wide
Wild card in sight, wild card in sight

Oh I’ll be the one who'll break my heart
I'll be the one to hope

Can I know more than I knew before
I know more than I knew before
I didn't rest, I didn't stop
Did we fight or did we talk

Oh I’ll be the one who'll break my heart
I'll be the one to hope
Sigh. You know, sometimes it's just a small connection - the tiniest lyric fragment that speaks to you - that is all you need to get sucked into a show, be it a concert, a play or whathaveyou. Then, you pay attention a little harder, engage a little deeper than you otherwise would, hoping to get that thrill again, hoping there's another secret message for you.

It turns out that weakness I thought I detected in Feist's voice was just the illusion of weakness, by the by. That’s kind of her schtick – breakable, wobbly, but not actually so. It makes for slightly disingenuous stage banter, but adds to the music.

Live at least, she does all these interesting tricks with her voice, one of which is to use that wafer-thin quality she can have to slip notes and phrases through cracks and under doorways. And I know she has a huge full voice now, too, because she lets it out sometimes. Why not more? It’s a tease! She’s not polite, or shy; she’s coy. She's about less rather than more, texture over wowwy fireworks, intimacy over extravagence... (But she's feisty - and I don't just say that because of her name.)

If I have a problem with what I heard, it’s that too much of it sounds the same - when Feist does that thing where she pulls the rug out from under her voice too many times, it gets a bit predictable. But the new songs have a real quality to them, and I liked the old ones better delivered live than I did on the record (which is lost somewhere).

So, am I still a Haines guy? Probably, yeah, still a bit. Then again, why come down firmly either way... Thankfully, unlike so so so many other things in life, one doesn’t actually have to choose, does one?
Fact, Fiction, did I just dream that?

Just downloaded the first of the last episodes of The Sopranos - What? I'm not going to wait for it come to England - and there's this scene where Tony and Bobby meet up with a couple of "Canucks". They turn out to be French Canadians from Montreal, one of which want Tony to do him a favour by rubbing out his sister's boyfriend. The boyfriend, a musician, wants to take their child to Winnipeg.

Anyway, just really weird for me, because my father is a musician who moved to Winnipeg from Montreal - and wanted us to live with him there. (I spent my summers there, instead.) No one took out a hit on my pa, though, thankfully.

It's just such a strangely specific thing to see crop up in a drama.

Still love, love, love the Sopranos. That Monopoly game and the house stuck to Tony's cheek!

How many more episodes does that leave? I'm sad already...

Monday, April 16, 2007

Good news.

Feist is bringing Busby Berkeley back.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

A thing you may know, but I didn't know, but now I know, and find somewhat interesting and will pass along, though, upon further reflection, maybe it's not actually that interesting after all.

Adam Sandler: Republican.
Today's articles of note.

- The friendship that dare not speak its name: Liza Frulla and Louise Beaudoin release a book about being BFF across the sovereigntist/federalist divide. Which actually isn't that unusual a thing, but I always like reading stories about such relationships, as they warm the cockles of my cold, cold heart. [In French, by the way.]

- Have I mentioned Nick Cohen on On the Fence, oops, I mean Off the Fence yet? He's my favourite columnist over here (so far: I have left so much of the UK media landscape unexplored; that's something I really need to get on). His column today on how the far fringes of the environmental movement are undermining the very important movement they supposedly support is classic Cohen, so here's the link.

Friday, April 13, 2007

My favourite band ever.

The Teenagers
Originally uploaded by uncascrooge.
The Teenagers.

At least for today.

Visit their MySpace page and listen to Starlett Johannson and Homecoming. If you have the same sense of humour as me, I apologise for the tears streaming down your face. If you don't: Oops, sorry. Me? No, I don't find that amusing at all. You're right.

Also, Scroobius Pip! (Click Thou Shalt Always Kill.) Awestastic!
The history of falling pianos.

Falling piano
Originally uploaded by uncascrooge.

From Charlie Chaplin to Michel Gondry, it's always been funny, I write over on the Guardian Arts blog.

Update: Hey, it made Artsjournal - cool.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Headline of, possibly, the decade.

Dion says he does not feel fears

A-a-a-a-hahahahahahahahahahahaha... Oh,

My job... it ain't so bad

Pull Tiger Tail
Originally uploaded by uncascrooge.
For instance, yesterday I stood waiting for the elevator with Pull Tiger Tail. They had just finished recording the Guardian Music Weekly podcast with my colleagues, who informed them that I was Canadian.

Pull Tiger Tail's tour manager is a Canadian himself and has O Canada on his alarm clock, so the band was familiar with (and slightly annoyed by) my national anthem. Nevertheless, as we waited for the elevator, they broke into an acoustic guitar version of it, and I sang a line or two. When the lift finally arrived and we embarked I told them, "You know, in Canada, they play the national anthem in every elevator." (I regularly make up stuff like this here.) And so, as we descended to the basement, I got some more O Canada.

So, yes, my job ain't so bad, and the Pull Tiger Tail kids are very nice folks - especially Marcus, who chatted with me down Farringdon St. If you like the tunes on their MySpace page and want to see them in London, why not hit up the Camden Crawl on April 19th? The least I can do after the elevator ride is plug their show.

(Also, as you can see from this photo, they play Scrabble - do you need any other reason to go see them?)

In other Canadian/music news, I am pumped to go see Feist next Tuesday, especially after reading Sasha Frere-Jones's piece on her in the New Yorker.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

What do we memorialize in a memorial?

Neue Wache
Originally uploaded by uncascrooge.
This is probably the best photo I've ever taken on holiday. It's kind of too good. Here we have the Neue Wache - the Central Memorial of the Federal Republic of Germany for the Victims of War and Tyranny - and it looks like I'm selling you a new car.

And yet, that's somewhat appropriate. I was not terribly impressed by this memorial to be honest. Thing is, it's hard to take seriously – or somberly, at least – because of the way it has changed over the years.

The building used to be a guard house, but after World War I it housed a Memorial for the Fallen of the War.

After the next world war, the Soviets - it's on the Unter den Linden in East Berlin - rechristened it Memorial to the Victims of Fascism and Militarism, a name more suited to their propagandistic purposes. They buried an unknown soldier and a concentration camp victim inside.

After reunification in 1991, the Neue Wache was given its third name: Central Memorial of the Federal Republic of Germany for the Victims of War and Tyranny, a name that sounds, if anything, more Sovietesque than its last one. Under the central skylight was placed an enlarged version of Käthe Kollwitz's Mother with her Dead Son, a statue that only really moved me when I learned the story of Kollwitz losing her own soldier son when he was just 17 (and she had given him permission to join the army young after his father had refused).

So, today, we have all this memorial that has had all these names and all these purposes. It's to both the soliders and the victims of war, and apparently anyone who suffers under tyranny – an egalitarian, inclusive sentiment, but too non-specific and vague. You can't weep for all the pain in the world. How do you feel that? How do you pay your respects, and who are you paying your respects to?

The shifting nomenclature also makes you question the purposes of war memorials in general. To what extent did the manipulation of the sadness and pain and resentment over the German WWI war dead help Hitler come to power? And then, how absurd is a memorial to the victims of Fascism and Militarism erected by a tyrannical, militaristic regime?

And by turning it into such a non-specific memorial in 1991, were Germans avoiding the big questions about responsibility by lumping all “victims” of war in together? (During the Cold War, all the former Nazis were always on the other side of wall from you...) And isn’t it just a memorial to Germany’s war dead disguised behind all this other stuff because they’re too embarrassed or nervous to have a memorial for fallen Nazis (who were brothers, fathers, sons, too, lest we forget)?

It’s wishy-washy. The memorial is everything and nothing and it's ambiguity verged on the sinister for me. (Which, from another perspective, makes it one of the more memorable and interesting memorials I've ever visited.)

In other parts of the city, Germans have faced up to the big questions in a way that really is admirable. The new Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe is really incredible - a field of concrete slabs that you walk through and immerse yourself in. It's thought-provoking and you have to engage with it directly on a personal level. It is, without a doubt, the most brilliantly conceived memorial I have ever visited.

But it's impossible to take a picture of it that does it justice. So, there you go. Take this photo for what it is worth.
Miranda July...

...still cool. But did she name her book of stories after the (unfortunate) Israeli Ministry of Tourism slogan?
Email dialogue of the day.

Lindsay: While sitting, lift your right foot off the floor and make clockwise circles.
Now draw the number "6" in the air with your right hand.
Your foot will change direction.
Give up hope.

Kelly: I do think we have free will. Otherwise, I'm just cursed, no? And yet, I would be off the hook for all the trubble I cause if your theory was incorrect...
I got the foot/6 thing going after a bit.

Lindsay: I wholly believe in free will.

Kelly: But do you freely believe in free will?

Lindsay: Yes, I freely believe in free will - just like others have no choice but to not believe in it.