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.