Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The naked truth about Harry Potter

Hey – check out my review of the West End revival of Equus, starring a certain Daniel Radcliffe, in the Toronto Star.

UPDATE: The link is fixed. But check it out, as of 5pm EST, my review is the "Most Read" and "Most Emailed" story on the star's Web site. People are obviously interested in the play -- mainly, I suspect, because of the interest in Radcliffe's nude scene.

Indeed, I have got several e-mails from people today asking me to describe Radcliffe's hairy putter in detail! Folks, I was in the dress circle at the back. It was neither monstrous, nor teenie-weenie, but other than that I wouldn't be able to testify in court about it.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Happy Bloggeversary to me! But whither On the Fence?

Hello! My apologies for going AWOL. It's been a hectic little while, lots of changes on the personal and professional fronts.

I don't think I ever announced my new job on this ol' blog yet. Perhaps only on Facebook, which is the crack cocaine of social networking sites. (Wait, that ex is dating him? Again!?!)

Anyway, please head on over to: the Guardian Unlimited music site. I am the subeditor there, since last Tuesday, and will continue to be for the term of a one-year contract.

A "sub" -- for all of you who, like me until recently, were not up on their British journalism terminology -- is essentially what we call a "copy editor" in Canada (and the rest of North America, I believe). In the case of GU Music (uh, GUM?), I edit the copy that comes in, place it on the site with the appropriately sized photo and write the headlines and display copy. Ditto for the blog.

While my main job at the National Post was arts reporting, I also had the opportunity -- at one time I considered it a misfortune -- to do some copy editing. Subbing on a Web site is entirely different. Instead of having one deadline at the end of the day, when your pages have to be laid out and your copy clean, the Web site is constantly being updated. I put up the content from the paper when I arrive, then edit and put up blog posts and web-only content throughout the day.

I'm still getting the swing of things, so it feels a bit hectic at the moment. But I'm having a lot of fun, my colleagues are all congenial folks and I'm excited to be immersed in the editing side of things. I know a lot of you are music lovers, so I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on GUM and your suggestions to make it better. (I'd also love to hear your recommendations for good music blogs, UK-based or otherwise.)

In general, I'm just really happy to be working at Guardian Unlimited, which is by all accounts one of the best newspaper Web sites in the world. In fact, it has won two Webbies for exactly that. I have long been a GU reader (I'm not alone: the majority of GU readers are based outside the UK), especially of the arts site, so it feels like a real privilege to be part of the team that shapes its content.

One drawback: Spending my whole day on the Web hasn't given me much of an appetite for blogging when back at home. Plus, there has been the aforementioned personal front.

In fact, I've been so distracted by the world turning that I completely forgot my fourth bloggeversary on February 9!

As I like to do on my bloggeversary, here is an excerpt from my second post:
I know I'm kind of late jumping on this whole blog bandwagon, but what can I say... I was steadfastly against Napster for at least six months, before I actually got it on my computer and warmed to the idea of free music on my computer. I had this paranoid argument that some evil child pornographer was going to get access to my harddrive.
As for online communities, I teased a friend of mine for her obsession with a particular website, until I ended up addicted to a message board myself.
There's also the small matter of my cell phone. I used to endlessly harangue my friend Alex about his, the end of the distinction between public and private, the brain cancer... Now, I really don't know what I would do sans cell.
All this to say that I may be coming on late, but what the hell.
Mockery is welcome.
Mockery is still welcome, of course.. While I've been busy of late, I have no intention of stopping On the Fence. This place, in its many incarnations over the year, has become special to me and I can't ever see myself giving up on it until it is pried from my cold dead fingers.

Or I get a job where they tell me to stop.

One or the other.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

You Say, We Payola

Given the recent shocking turn of events relating to Richard & Judy's popular You Say We Pay game, I thought it was appropriate to link to this vid of the Best Contestant Ever.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Saturday, February 17, 2007

R.I.P. Ryan Larkin.

The Oscar-nominated animator / Schwartz's panhandler has passed away. (Was going to link to his shorts "Walking" and "Street Musique," but, alas, the National Film Board has taken them off YouTube.)

Monday, February 12, 2007

Out of the ring. Into the ring.

- Toro's finito... Can any Canadian general-interest magazine not funded by a crazy millionaire survive these days?

- Speaking of C.R.A.Z.Y., director Jean-Marc Vallée is to direct the next biopic about a British Queen. Scorsese to produce. Helen Mirren not yet attached.
What Are They Up To Now? Dept.

I was seduced as a boy of 12 by Martin Newland.
Ballsy! Recent Canadian Cultural Output That I Recommend

1. Right Side Up: The Fall of Paul Martin and the Rise of Stephen Harper's New Conservatism by Paul Wells*

The most readable book on Canadian politics since John Duffy's Fights of Our Lives. (And I'm not just saying that because the last book I read on Canadian politics was John Duffy's Fights of Our Lives.) I raced through the book and was enjoying it so visibly that people came up to ask what I was reading.

My one complaint about the experience of reading it was that I had already read the Maclean's election issue, Wells' columns, his blog and half a dozen reviews, so I spoiled parts of it for myself. This is what happened when I went to see Borat, too, and is my fault entirely.

I finished Right Side Up a month ago, so I'm a little hazy on the details content-wise. I think Matthew Hayday said a good chunk of what I would say in this review. I disagree that it was a mistake to not finish the book right after the 2006 election, though; it was ballsy. Certainly, I found it interesting (and suspenseful) to see what Wells sensed was coming (Dion) and what he didn't (Harper is described avoiding the Quebec as a nation issue; the environment is described as "an esoteric file for many Canadians"); it also helped illuminate how things have changed so quickly and how Harper has adapted to circumstances.

Still, I did enjoy the first third -- how PM and SH became leaders/creators of their parties -- the most, which is not what I expected. My eyes usually glaze over the moment I see the words unite the right, but Wells actually made the subject entertaining. For that reason alone, he was robbed of a Shaughnessy Cohen Prize nomination...

A minor criticism: Sometimes I get the feeling that Wells underestimates the pull of the narrative he is constructing and becomes worried that readers will get bored if he doesn't crack a joke every couple of paragraphs. I appreciate that he's looking out for the readers (how many authors of political books just seem to forget we're there?), but sometimes it feels forced. To wit, describing an Internet panel Maclean's did during the last election, he writes, "It's like a focus group as big as the audience at a Nelly Furtado concert at CNE Stadium. Also the focus group lasts eight weeks. Whereas the Nelly Furtado concert only seems to." This is a particularly clunky example, but I still got the feeling that overall Wells needs to trust himself a bit more. I, for one, look forward to his next tome. (Am I the only one who thinks it will be a biography of Stéphane Dion?)

Oh, and a quick note to the McClelland & Stewart book jacket writers. "The rise of Stephen Harper - and the tumbling fall of Paul Martin - deserves a dramatist like Shakespeare. Or perhaps a writer like Paul Wells." I know this book was rushed out, but... did you just compare Paul Wells to Shakespeare!?!

Ballsy.

2. The Arcade Fire -- Neon Bible.

Oh my gosh, it's good. You may have got the impression reading this blog that I am a hard-core Arcade Fire fan. In fact, I was only lukewarm on them until recently. Back in the day, I used to argue that The Unicorns were the better Montreal band. Ballsy, huh?

But, it's true, once you see them live, they find a special place in your heart. And the new album is right up my alley with a few songs (Black Mirror/Neon Bible/My Body Is a Cage) that I will probably no longer like in a month, because I'm playing them over and over on my iPod.

* Yes, I did briefly post a mini-review of this a few weeks back, but I was rushing out to a play and wasn't happy with it and took it down later. Which prompted an email from Wells asking what I had written. Sigh. The Internet sees all.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Helen Rogers.

My wonderful grandmother Hon passed away early this morning in Montreal. My whole life, everytime she would encounter a new technology or read about some new trend, Hon would laugh and say, "It's time I checked out of here." Strangely enough, instead of preparing me for her death, that made me feel that she'd live forever.

She lived to be 88, though, and that's a good age to live to. She lived on her own until a few years ago and still had her faculties and never stopped getting the newspaper even though her failing eyesight meant she mainly looked at the pictures. So, we're sad, but we're grateful that it was quick and that we had her for this long.

If it wasn't for my grandmother, I definitely wouldn't have become a scotch drinker and I probably wouldn't have become a journalist. She would refer to the columnists in the Montreal Gazette, the anchors on CFCF-12 and the talk-show hosts on CJAD in conversation as if they were personal friends. It was the way the media creates this sense of community that first attracted me to the profession...

In another time, my grandmother would have worked at a newspaper, too. When she visited me at the Post, she was amazed at how many women worked in the newsroom and confessed that she would have liked to have reported on fashion, if she had been allowed to get a job. (When she tried to find work in the Depression, she was asked her if her father had a job; he did, so she was turned away.)

The first letter I had published in the Montreal Gazette mentioned my grandmother in the first paragraph. Six years later, the very first article I had published in the Post was about her. These are clues that I loved her very much and will miss her.


A garden to remember
National Post
Monday, July 29, 2002
Byline: J. Kelly Nestruck
Column: Personal Life

My grandmother's garden is in bloom. She is pleasantly surprised at how good it looks and wants to buy one of those disposable cameras to take a few pictures. "In case I have to sell the house," she says.

My grandmother is known to us all as Hon, due to my sister's youthful mispronunciation of the name Helen (she didn't want to be called Grandma, it made her feel old). Hon has been living on Cumberland Avenue in the Notre-Dame-de-Grace district of Montreal for 46 years, which is longer than I can remember, that's for sure. When I was a kid, I would ask (she had taught me this), "What's your name?"

"Mary-Jane," she would answer.

"Where do you live?"

"Down the lane."

"What's your number?"

"Cucumber!" This was the punchline, which I always found funny, because it sounded like Cumberland.

At the age when I found this particularly hilarious, I would come for a visit and go into her garden, disturbing the flowers, jumping from rock to rock. I didn't know it then, but the flowers and plants, which extended their roots beneath me, tell the story of my grandmother's life. Today, as she leads me on a tour of the most impressive parts of the garden, I've come to realize the living history growing around us.

At the north end are memories of my grandfather, who passed away 10 years ago now. The asparagus growing here -- tougher than the stuff you buy from the supermarket, but always delicious -- is from Carberry, Manitoba, where my grandfather Jim grew up with his nine brothers and four sisters. The rhubarb in the shade of the pine tree is another reminder of my grandfather. (It's interesting to note that it was planted by my father before I was born, before my parents' divorce, when he was still welcome on the premises.) My grandfather loved rhubarb.

"He'd look out the window and say, 'Looks like the rhubarb's about ready'," recalls my grandmother. "I'd say, 'Why don't you go get it?" (My grandmother is allergic to rhubarb.)

The beautiful hostas in the rock garden, known also as plaintain lilies, are a link to family I never knew. My grandmother grew up in Toronto and the hostas came from there, too, from her mother's sister's backyard. Aunt Peggy (Great-great Aunt Peggy to me, I suppose) gave some to my grandmother's mother to bring to Montreal, and here they are.

The daisies just down the steps from the back porch are from even further away than Ontario or Manitoba and evoke a trip taken over 30 years ago. My grandmother picked up the seeds for these at Butchart's Garden in Victoria with my grandfather. Meanwhile, the October Crisis played out and they worried about my mother, alone, back in Montreal.

The side of the garage is completely covered with a heavy vine; Hon doesn't know the name of it. Her friends keep telling her she has to cut it down, that it's ruining her wall. I think her friends are just jealous.

Once a police car stopped outside of the house and an officer got out to inspect her garage. "Oh no," my grandmother thought. "What have I done?"

When she spoke with the police officer, he asked her, "How do you get your vine to grow like that? I've been trying and trying, but I can't get mine to climb."

Many of the flowers and plants are memories of friends, some still around, others gone for years. The forget-me-nots were a gift from Lillian. The irises are from Winnie's mother; the ferns, from my parents' backyard.

The yellow flowers -- she doesn't know their name, either -- are from Betty. The other hostas are from my other grandparents. (To their credit, my two sets of grandparents have remained friends, long after my parents' divorce.)

The silver dollars -- Hon's famous silver dollars! Who doesn't have some of her dried flowers in their house? -- are from down the street, from a field that has long since been turned into houses. For a long time, the woman who owned the field, where the wild silver dollars grew, wouldn't sell the land, because she wanted it to remain in memory of her dead husband.

"Well, she was a little cuckoo, I think," says Hon.

Not everything here has a story that is remembered. The hydrangea, the peonies, the snow-on-the-mountain and the rocks date from when the previous owners, the Champoux, lived here. Mr. Champoux worked on Allo Police, while Mr. Wardwell, next door, was a Montreal Star man. The Wardwells, until they died, were best friends with my grandmother and grandfather and the friendship has been passed down the generations. My sister is going to be a bridesmaid at the Wardwells' granddaughter's wedding in August. (Perhaps, my grandmother will give the newlywed couple some silver dollars for their home.)

There are new flowers, too, of course, as history has not yet ground to a halt. Planted by Ilsa, the German lady who helps with Hon's garden, these are beautiful, exotic, unnamed (to us) flowers. Ilsa was our landlord, when my mom, my sister and I lived in a duplex on Madison. She now lives in a duplex herself and, missing her garden, comes to help my grandmother out. Hon gives her a bottle of wine every so often and buys Jarlsberg cheese to serve when she comes, after Ilsa rejected the Vermont Cabot cheddar my grandmother likes.

It's a sunny June afternoon, when my grandmother walks me through the garden, sharing her roots with me. "Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow?" I ask, another of the rhymes we used to say. We talk about how a house nearby sold in only a few days for many times what the owners had paid for it. The area is going upscale. A couple of times, Hon has had people come to her door to ask her if she's selling.

More than half of her 84 years, she's lived here, but it's getting more difficult to live in the big house by herself. How many more years will she have here? Who will move in and inherit this history?

Who knows? But the geraniums in pots on the back patio are in bloom and she's going to go get one of those little disposable cameras and take a few pictures ...

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Hoorah! Bou-Bou boo-boo corrected.

Mayor Tremblay has decided not to rename Avenue du Parc after Robert Bourassa after all: "My intention, as well as that of my caucus and the family and friends of Mr. Robert Bourassa, was solely to honour his memory, and never to generate any controversy."

I'm not so sure this is a case of the stubborn mayor coming to his senses as it is a result of the Bourassa family intervening, but, regardless, a good day for people power and whatnot.

Or... is it just more -- cue ominous buzzword -- accommodation raisonnable, as the slightly xenophobic commenters on La Presse's message board suggest.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Doubt.

Crawl Across the Ocean has a clever post about, er, Iran... yes, Iran. That's it.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Shoes, Glorious Shoes!

Imelda Marcos: The Musical? With score by David Byrne? And Fatboy Slim?

Well, yes. It's the year 2007. Question marks can no longer be used rhetorically. Everything is possible. In the year 2007.

Nightmare on Fleet Street.

Thank you Internet.

For letting me watch the Super Bowl commercials the CRTC won't. Er, theoretically, if I was living in Canada at the moment, I mean.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Department of Head Furniture.

The T-Star's Geoff Pevere's columnist photo is ruining this blogger's breakfast. So he writes letters:
I've seen Geoff on his TV show, and he doesn't look like he's hungry for human flesh like he does in his headshot. In the picture you use on the site, he appears as a heroin addict desperate for his next fix, and willing to obtain it by any means necessary. I'm not sure what look he's going for, but whatever it is, it's not pleasant. ...

[A]ll I'm asking is that you ask him to take a new photograph. When you do have this new photo taken, can you please ask the camera operator to step back a foot or two? Also, he may want to try saying "Cheese" instead of "Geoff, would you like some human flesh with your eggs?"
[via Raymi]

Friday, February 02, 2007

Montreal English Theatre Bombshell!

Hmm... Gordon McCall is stepping down at A-D of the Centaur Theatre, is he?

Jeremy Hechtman for Artistic Director!

Or maybe not... I can think of a few folks who must be in the running. I wonder if Steven Schipper could be lured back from Winnipeg? And I wonder if Guy Sprung has any interest in the job? I will be following this with interest from afar...

Re: GC's tenure - I know a lot of theatre folks in Montreal love to pick on McCall, but I think, overall, his decade at the Centaur has been quite a success. He created long overdue connections between the Centaur and franco theatres and playwrights, notably Michel Tremblay. He developed an important relationship between the Centaur and Ben Barnes and the Abbey in Dublin, which has resulted in a lot of back-and-forth exchange between Quebec and Canadian artists and Irish ones. He was at the helm for two of the most popular productions in Centaur history: Mambo Italiano and For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again. He convinced David Fennario to write another play AND he commissioned a trilogy by Vittorio Rossi (A trilogy! What Canadian theatre other than Stratford and Centaur has had the balls to do that lately?)...

That's more than enough accomplishment for a decade's work, really, enough for me to forgive him his (mostly directorial) trespasses anyway. Even enough for me to forgive (but not forget) a certain 2000 production of The Crucible that famously resulted in one audience member standing up and declaring, "This is the last time I will ever come here. If you ever see me here again, kill me."

NOTE: An anonymous comment below has been removed at the request of its author.
Folks, check your e-mail addresses.

Ever since I started using jkelly - ought - gmail.com as my main e-mail address, I have been getting misaddressed e-mails on a daily basis. Not spam, but e-mail intended for James Kellys or Jane Kellys or Jehovah Kellys around the world.

What's amazing to me is how often I get sent sensitive information in these e-mails: resumes, legal documents, fraternity secret-handshake instructions.

Today, however, I got the best misaddressed e-mail to date. It was from someone at the Office of Naval Research. It includes a template for contingency plans related to the SIPR (Secret IP Router) network.

There doesn't really seem to be anything classified in the document sent to me, but still... Remember to check that your spelling your e-mail addresses properly!

I just thought I'd blog about this tonight before going to bed in case someone from the military bursts into my house overnight and ships me off to Guantanamo... You'll know what happened if you don't hear from me.
Ready, Aim... Arcade Fire.

Yes, despite my ticket misadventures, I made it to the Arcade Fire concert on Monday at St. John's Church -- the first of the Neon Bible pre-release gigs (not counting the secret Montreal gig or the Canterbury caf one in Ottawa), the one where they finished things off by playing an encore outside, the one Sasha Frere Jones flew across the ocean to see... It was truly a magical concert. The kids won me over with that final stunt. I don't think I've ever felt so much love at a gig before.

I'd tell you more, but I've already told Maclean's -- and my article is in the issue on newsstands now. Don't wait for your dentist appointment in July: Pick one up today.

Speaking of the Canadian media's Mac-daddy, they's got a new music blog featuring a bunch of writers who actually know about music: Messieurs Wherry, Radwanki and Wells, plus one mysterious Madame Izenberg, who I know nothing about.