Monday, December 21, 2009

Stirring the Emotional Embers at NT Air

Watching that video for the first time caused me to gasp – even though I knew from the news what I was about to see.

My Dad worked at NT Air for about 40 years, retiring just under two years ago.

I underestimated just how much that building was a piece of my identity until last night when I watched this. I’ve walked through that hanger more times than I could possibly count.

When I was in kindergarten my class did a field trip to the airport and we got to ride on a plane (never leaving the ground) and get a tour of the hangar and look at other planes. Most of those kids had never been on a plane before – if was a different time – though by then I was already taking them for granted. It was simply what Dad did.

Though I’d need to work with the schedule of their various charters, any time I’ve gone to Prince George in the years since I moved away I almost always would deadhead on one of their flights (sometimes running mail, other times shipping forestry personnel and equipment, sometimes riding with mining workers being shuttled home for their off-cycles) Dad would be waiting on the tarmac right outside of the building – pretty much exactly where the collapsing sheet metal falls in the video.

We’d walk on through the hanger and into the office like we owned it (indeed, Dad was a minority owner for a number of years) where I’d have a coke or coffee while Dad tied up whatever work he was doing. We’d possibly run an armload of mail to the postal plant or stop and do a company deposit at the bank on the way home.

When Dad retired in February 2007 the company flew a plane load of family and Vancouver based co-workers to Prince George for the party. The trip home would be my last time in the building. NT Air had put the name of their longest serving employee on one of their planes. We went early and took pictures of the plane.

I was going to be there again this coming Wednesday. But now that’s not going to happen. Our flight up for Christmas was cancelled – understandably. We now have to bus. But we will be there to fly home on Monday.

I’ve seen pictures of the blacked pile of ice covered debris that is where the building once stood. I’m not looking forward to standing beside it. I’m not sure how I’m going to feel. I’ve been looking forward to going home for Christmas for the first time in years (and for the last time in Dad & Kay’s house – which has recently been sold), but I can’t help but feeling that it’s going to be a bit different.

But no matter how I feel, someone else is going to feel worse. It appears as though, despite initial indications, that someone was caught in the fire. It’s going to be hard to not think about that family.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Movin' on up...!

By now this is more clarification than news...

About three weeks ago Jodie and I had joined some friends out at the Cambie for drinks.  As the night wore on I mentioned in a moment of drunken weakness that perhaps we should start thinking about moving in together.

At the time I was thinking in relatively long-view terms, thinking that I wanted to be 'over the hump' with the film and that we'd want to wait 'til after the Olympics anyhow, 'cause not only will vacancies probably go up then, but who would want to try moving during the months immediately surrounding the games.  I wasn't even really considering the possibility of moving earlier than that.  The New Year would be the earliest possible really, and who would want to have to deal with moving at Christmas - especially as we are going to my Dad's for the holiday.

We talked about it more seriously a few days later - when we didn't have a few pints in us and she pretty much echoed all of my thoughts on the timing.  We decided that 'yes' we'd start looking, but we were going to be patient and casual about it.

Jodie's idea of 'casual' surprised me and was less casual than mine.  She started looking regularly at ads, and sending me them.  While I did mention my surprise at how she dove in, I did nothing to stop her.  We both re-affirmed that we weren't rushing.  That we'd find the place that we loved first before giving notice and eat the extra cost - and not find ourselves desperate to find a place.  Patience was the order of the day.

Then about two weeks ago, Jodie found about three places in short order - all in Gastown - that seemed interesting.  Before we looked at any of them we agreed that this was all we'd do until the new year.  The first one we arranged to look at was in the new Woodwards' building.

The short version of the story is that we never looked at the other two.  To hell with patience.  To hell with avoiding moving in anywhere near Christmas.  This was the right place and the right price and we knew we had to pounce.

We had done our best from the moment we first made contact to put our best face forward, doing our best to connect with the landlords from the outset and to build rapport.  I mentioned that I had family who had worked in the original Woodwards' building at the perfume counter, and that on the night before they demolished the building a few years back I went and got pictures of the last sunset over Woodwards'.  I had also got pictures of it the next day too.  We emphasized (genuinely) that we are looking for a place for the long-term. "Til we buy or die" I said.

The day after they tore down Woodwards, this old fellow was heart-broken.
I hope he's still around to see what they have done with it.

When we left, I think we had both decided that we had to put our hats in the ring on this place.  We did go and talk about it for good measure, but I don't think there was much doubt in either of our minds.  When we got home we emailed them immediately with "$1.49 Day - Tuesday!" as the subject line.  For those of you unfamilar with Woodwards, Dollar Forty Nine Day was a regular Tuesday promotion in the old department store.

When Deanna emailed back, the first sentence of her email was "I love your subject line!"  It was at that point that I figured we were the first choice.

Sure enough, less than a day later we got the word.  It was ours.

So, let me clarify something that should be obvious if you are reading this - we are renting - leasing actually.  Some people took from my status updates that we'd bought.  Not so.  It is more of a commitment (a lease) than I've ever entered into though.

The building is pretty amazing.  The apartment is smaller than either of us would ideally like, but not to the point where we were scared off.  Indeed I don't think there are any one bedroom layouts in the building that are bigger.  The balcony adds rougly 30% to the square-footage, though that will be a summer thing.  The view is amazing!  I'll post pictures once I've got them.  And even better, it's all heritage buildings in that neighbourhood, so the view is going nowhere.

The residents' communal ammenities are better than any other place I've ever known of.  There are common things like a roof-top deck, a gym, and a party room.  But there is a media room (kinda common), a lounge, a library (a LIBRARY!?!), wireless internet and others.

On top of all that, there is a London Drugs, MY bank, a coffee cafe and of course the new Woodwards' Food Floor - re-opened after 15 years. (I went to the first $1.49 Day this past Tuesday to buy Woodwards' famous peanut butter.)  And we are a five or so minute walk from Waterfront Station, making getting virtually anywhere by transit as efficient as imaginable.

On top of it all - a teeny bit of kismet - the closest pub* is the very place where the discussion first began - The Cambie.

I'm ever so slightly anxious about leaving the neighbourhood I love, and the home I've lived in the second longest in my life, but I'm excited about Gastown, exited about the apartment, the building and of course, Jodie.

We move in on January 15th.  I'm packing already.

*Turns out I'm wrong.  The current closest pub is The Cambie.  There is actually going to be one closer.  Seeing as The Cambie actually sits in the shadow of the Woodwards building, getting closer actually requires being in the complex - which it will be.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

For the Record, BC Ferries aren't so Bad

I was away for the Thanksgiving weekend and for my birthday.

Jodie and I decided ages ago to go to Victoria and just kind of get away and relax.
For the most part we were successful.  Sleeping in for four days in a row was awesome.  Thanksgiving dinner at my cousin Greg's place was excellent.

But so many friends on Facebook and elsewhere have asked about how the ferries were.

Well, we did get lucky going to Victoria, and I'm glad we did not only for the immediate hassle, but also because it meant it was something we didn't concern ourselves with all weekend, ruining our R&R.

Friday morning when Jodie went on line to check the bus-schedule I on a whim suggested that she also check the ferries.  She scoffed, but before too long the thought nagged at her and she checked anyhow.  Soon she was standing in the doorway of the bedroom incredulous that "I knew".

The ferry we'd been planning to catch was indeed cancelled due to the engine fire that anyone listening to the news in Southern BC this past week now knows about.

We simply delayed our departure by an hour and had no problem getting on the boat.  The boat was quite full, but otherwise we really didn't notice a thing amiss.

Our return trip on Monday was different.  We didn't realize until we got to the terminal how bad it was.  We had managed to catch the overflow bus - which was not at all full.  Not even close.  But when we got off the bus, the line up for walk-ons went out of the terminal and a third of the way up the car-park.  We got in line and watched as it more than doubled behind us.  We missed the next ferry by about 2 to 3 hundred people.  The next ferry was cancelled.  As we were buying tickets for the next ferry the fire alarm in the terminal went off and we had to evacuate the building for twenty minutes.

Unluckily for BC Ferries the media showed up to cover the length of the walk-on line up just as the fire-alarm went off.

When we were eventually let back in we had to sit out the next two hours in a cramped space on the floor of the waiting room.  We managed to get seats on the ferry, but plenty of other people were lined up along the walls on the floor.  Our bus into town was also packed to the limit.  It was unfortunate and undid a fair bit of our weekend of relaxation.

This morning I've been catching up on a bunch of podcasts that I would have normally listened to over the weekend, but didn't.  Amongst them are a number of newscasts, and time after time the coverage of the ferry issues were accompanied by interviews with disgruntled passengers declaring how ridiculous it was and how poorly BC Ferries was handling it and how badly prepared they were for it.

I feel a need to put in my two bits.   BULL.  SHIT.

For starters, the passengers around us in line, in the waiting room and on the boat were all in good if resigned spirits, as were the BC Ferries employees.  When the fire alarm broke out in the terminal (it wasn't actually a fire, just smoking hyraulic fluid) after doing what they needed to do (evacuate us and wait for the pros) they were laughing at the outrageous misfortune... what else was there to do? 
Un-prepared?  Well on a certain level - yeah of course they were un-prepared.  They hadn't exactly planned on losing the biggest ship in the fleet at the beginning of the biggest ferry traffic weekend of the year.  And because it was the biggest weekend of the year, they already had everything running at maximum capacity.  So how exactly do they pick up the slack, other than do exactly what they did - run the ferries late into the night to pick up the slack.
There were customers mad that their preferred boarding passes weren't being honoured.  Well, to my understanding the right to suspend them is actually written on them.  This is a measure that has never been utilized before, so suck it up.  Besides, there were so many people at the ferry that in order to run the logistics of letting someone through the line up would have been an extra level of chaos.  So get over it, we were all inconvenienced.  Most of us took it with a sense of amusement.

The angry travellers were a significant minority.  I was there.  The media likes the apparent controversy.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Geeks Win Nobel Prize... no really.

This was so cool that I had to do my second post in a single day on Skeptic North.

In fact, I almost had to arm wrestle fellow SN-blogger, Kimberly Hebert for the right to do so. Willard Boyle is from the Maritimes, so it's in her region, but the technology is key to modern film-making, so it's kinda in my domain too.

Luckily I spoke up first and called dibs. 'Cause I don't know how that arm wrestle would have worked out - my reach isn't that good.

Monday, September 28, 2009

This American Life... Returns to the Giant Pool of Money

If you've been reading along over this past year, you know that I am really enamoured with This American Life's ongoing coverage of the financial crisis.

I've actually lost count – I think this is show four... but it may be five.

With a little luck we're truly on the other side by now... but if you're thinking that, the first segment of this new episode will be sobering.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

An Open Letter to Eddie Vedder

Dear Eddie,
Way back in the mists of time, 1993, when I was part of the Juanabees comedy troupe we once received a piece of fan mail written in about six different colours of highlighter-pen. It gushed about us and thanked us for making her summer so much fun and how she could hardly wait for our next tour. We didn't get many fan letters – I could probably count them all on my fingers – but this one stood out for one single, oddly presumptuous question and request. The young lady asked "If [we] knew Pearl Jam" and would we "please tell Eddie Vedder I love him?"
I wrote back – I answered all of our fan mail with as much whimsy as I could, we did have a reputation to uphold. I told her that "No, we don't know Pearl Jam, but next time I'm golfing with Soundgarden I'll have Chris pass on the message." That of course was a lie. I have never golfed with Soundgarden.
Fast forward to last night. I went to your show at GM Place. It was fantastic. Top ten of all time for me. And I have a sneaking suspicion that it was a pretty special one for you guys too. You pretty much told us that, but it was more than your words. It was more than the three encores that lasted longer than the main show. There was a moment during Rearviewmirror where Jeff Ament looked up at you and shared a look that I interpreted as something to the effect of "I am having the greatest fucking time, buddy – you too? Yeah I thought so."
And it was totally deserved.
I had a transcendent moment during Evenflow. That's the song that brought me in back in 1992. It's special for me. I recall those days when even for me as a performer with occasional bouts of fan-adulation that even I was prone to looking up at a stage and imbuing a demi-god image upon the rock star belting it out for us on the floor. I never actually made it to a Pearl jam concert back in those days, but had I it would have been no different. But last night as Mike, Jeff, Matt and Stone noodle away, you walked to the back corner of the stage, not far from where I sat, and you smiled and waved at the crowd. It was a far cry from those fame-hating days of yore. (Which incidentally I can appreciate to an extent. Even on our small level, I found I was constantly uncomfortable with the fan's intimate knowledge of who I was, when I was at an utter disadvantage with them.) No, this was no longer the relationship of screaming groupies, this was a friendly exchange of accepted ritual between friends. And then you returned to the main portion of the stage and you all played on. Playing the hell out of a song that we all know you could sleep through and still bring to 95% of the same intensity. But I think that is why we, the fans, are still so appreciative of you and your side of the bargain – you still top up that last 5%. That is why from the days of grunge, you are the last band standing.
Anyhow, I just wanted to say 'thanks.' Sorry I missed you at Harpo's when you were practically no-one. But I'll be back next year if you are and I'll still be standing when the lights come up. This has been a really rewarding friendship these past seventeen years, I figured that I should pass that much on seeing as I failed to tell you that "Tanya loves you."

Monday, September 14, 2009

Welcome to Post 160: A no less arbitrary benchmark than any number of rounder numbers like "100."


It's been a while since I've posted here about much.
I've done a fair bit of posting lately on my other blogs. (Though not so much this past week.)
Most of my attention has gone to Confessions of an Asshole Skeptic - a mix of philosphizing about process and purpose, coupled with the excercising of both. It's been fun and I've even had a couple of entries that I'm abnormally proud of.
Along the same lines, my TAM diary - The TAMaz!ng Blog - also got a bunch of attention for a while there, but I haven't written a damned thing in over two weeks 'cause I just got weary of deciphering really muddy audio. But I really ought to get back to that and finish up. Once it's done then I can turn my back on it forever... or at least until next TAM.
The Beast of Bottomless Lake production blog hasn't had much to say lately. We are in an infuriating time where we are waiting for other people to finish up their bits and it just stretches longer and longer. I really wish it were over. I love that project, but it ought to be done by now and the longer it carries on the more it hurts in various ways.
And on top of all that I've got myself involved in the inaugural project of the fledgling pan-Canadian skeptical umbrella organization. For now we are just preparing a group blog. I've got my initial post ready to go, and may do a second one before we actually launch.
That's the blogging.

Today I spent my day - going on 18 hours now - mostly working on two commercials. I had the opportunity to shoot two very low budget commercials for a crown corporation (I'll say more later, but for now it's close to my chest.) For both combined the total cast and crew was six people, and a dog. Yes we broke one of the cardinal rules and worked with animals... and it's a bit clearer why it should be avoided now, though I think we fared admirably. We had very little equipment and even less time. The rough cut of one of them is already complete, and we only started shooting around 9:30 this morning (technically yesterday morning now). Why I am I still awake? At least I have no real commitments for tomorrow.

Friday night Jodie and I went and had a picnic in Stanley Park and listened to Great Big Sea. That was sweet.

For years of my childhood the Leon Uris book Trinity sat on my parent's bookshelf. I always had the sense that it was somethign that I should read. I picked it up in a used bookstore on the North Shore last month. Jodie and I just went wandering for the day and we found ourselves in this crazy store. Our first reaction when we walked in was "Yikes! Disaster area! Leave now!" But the owner saw us walk in and greeted us with such encouragement that it was hard not to at least take a peek. We spent over an hour there. It was a disaster area, but that was part of it's charm. Much of the 'organization' of the books was extremely haphazard. There were parts of the store that could only be accessed by moving stacks of books or climbing over them. (I did neither.) Jodie found a number of books. So did I, but I limited myself to two - despite the awesome prices. I bought a copy of L.A. Confidential, which is not only one of my favourite movies of all time, but also one of my favourite books. I don't tend to keep books, but when a book is 'a favourite of all time' it deserves to be kept. At some point after I've re-read it I should write about why the magic intersection of favourite novel and movie happened with this particular adaptation - it is important to the inclusion of both in that esteemed position. I had another book... can't recall what it was... as my second book (Tailor of Panama made the short list, but I don't recall carrying it around.) until just before we left - I was already at the point of milling about waiting - I stumbled upon a previously unseen cranny. In that hidden nook, there was a copy of Trinity. I had to buy it and answer a decades old call.
It's a monster of a book - over 800 pages. I'm not a particularly fast reader, and lately I haven't had a lot of time to read. For now I'm only nominally past the 1/8th mark, but it is one heck of a read. It's tough enough for any novel to make me cry, let alone do so in the first 100 to 120 pages, but Uris's chapters about the Great Potato Famine are so heart-breaking it's... ...and the words fall short.
I suppose knowing that part of my heritage comes from that stock - people who boarded coffin ships, practically swindled into abandoning their homeland, and being among the fraction who made the crossing of the Atlantic alive only to be given a farm of peat in the prairies... though I suppose it was in a sense familiar and certainly no worse than where they left. And the people who stayed behind... egads... what a nightmare. It's in a sense ironic tha such a religiously motivated people would be put to such random peril that it would be a truly Darwinian challenge - a weeding of the weak, and strengthening of the stock. We who have descended have done so because our ancestors were such complete badasses that they survived a cultural decimation that killed half their numbers.

Half their numbers... Christ.

I am looking forward to seeing The Road this fall. It'll have to be different from the book in order to be a film. I'm very curious to see how it turns out. It had better be as bleakly-hopeful as the book. Half their numbers doesn't tell the... well, the half of it.


A touch of Trinity, and then to sleep... providing that drunken-asshole neighbours don't start hollering again.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Further thoughts on Future Musings

(Cross posted on Confessions of an Asshole Skeptic.)

Back on Monday I pre-recorded an interview for Skeptically Speaking that will air this Friday... hence the post title... I haven't publicly said the things that this post is a development of....

It was a fun interview, though plagued with technical difficulties, though if you are a regular listener of the show I should clarify that I don't mean that in the sense of how the show is infamously plagued by technical difficulties. We (by which I mean Des, the host, and I) evaded the typical difficulties by pre-taping the interview. Des is going to be at Dragon Con, so both of us would have been remote... it would have been too easy to lose both of us.
The technical details we had were more due to the fact that by not being live the pressure was off so neither of us was as 'on' as we might otherwise have been. As a result we ended up re-recording an awful lot. I even deliberately said 'fuck' once so that she would have to start again when her tongue was getting tied. We also got into a lot of laughing. I'm hoping that the final edit will be as fun as we had.

Fun or not I did have some staircase wisdom on the matter.

One of the things that we talked about was how saturated the acting community is with new-age thinking. Ugh. The answer is "Far too saturated." Which is not to say I am alone as a critical-thinker in the acting community. Whew! But lame-assed hippy-dippy earth-mother beliefs are far too common.

I've been in far too many productions with people who wanted to "share our energy" on stage. Whatever. Yeah, I know there is a rush that we get when a show is really clicking. It's a lot of fun. But that's not 'energy' - its endorphins... or some other chemical in our body. Okay, I don't personally know the exact hormone that is triggering us. Adrenaline maybe? In any case, not knowing the specifics doesn't actually make me wrong and the woo-eaters who thrive on building our collective conscious on stage correct.

I've heard it all.

The 100 monkeys theory has been brought up as an explanation for shows really working. Huh? Not only is the 100 monkeys effect bullshit in the first place, but even if it were... the cast was considerably short of 100 people. There were three of us, and sadly even if you counted the audience there were too few. But even so... how the hell do monkeys downstream learning a task through spontaneous telepathy explain actors clicking on stage? AUGH! I nearly married that woman... sometimes I am an idiot too.

I do have my own set of flakiness I admit. When I'm doing a really intense role I prefer to be left the fuck alone. I'm one of those annoying pricks who don't want to be disturbed. Don't talk to me, don't bother me with stuff that has nothing to do with what is about to happen on stage, or after the show. I also tend to live bits and pieces of the character in real life. I once played a serial killer (in a comedy, no less) for a summer, and by the end I was not a pleasant person to be around... though no bodies showed up.... yet. I played a Jew who was ostracized in Nazi Germany and I ended up ostracizing myself from the rest of the cast. I played a simple minded and insane chicken farmer... my already teetering relationship at the time didn't survive that one - though I ended up being nominated for a local award for the performance.

Once, in a particularly complex and intense show - George F. Walker's Theatre of the Film Noir - I was playing Bernard, a homosexual who had pushed his mind past the brink while narrowly surviving the Nazi occupation of Paris; one of my cast-mates decided that everyone of us should hold hands and stand quietly together through intermission in order to (you guessed it) preserve our energy. I lasted about as long as it took for him to suggest the idea. The best way for me to 'preserve my energy' was to stand in a dark corner alone and spit venom over his stupid idea. I got the impression that me walking away was all it took to trigger at least one other cast member to follow suit. (I am not entirely alone.) I took great pleasure that night in "killing" his character. Ah, method.

Amongst the worst... or best, depending on your interpretation... examples would be my first acting teacher in university, Linda Hardy, Assistant Professor and flake of top-degree. I recall a class where she told us with great reverence how important it was to the world that there were Universities that were granting doctorates of parapsychology. That it was such a coup that the paranormal had finally gained academic respectability. Is it any wonder that so many artists are woo-munchers when this is the kind of mentors they have?

I was always a little incensed that I was expected to pay money to sit in this woman's classes. We spent weeks of our first term exploring how acting through our various chakras affected our performances, and character presentation. It was this that I glancingly referenced in the Skeptically Speaking interview.

There was some severe priming going on in these exercises.
Linda would talk about our fight or flight response and then we'd "breathe through our solar-plexus chakra". The class would then walk around and respond organically to whatever was on their mind... and no one would turn their back on another unless it was to bolt to the opposite side of the room at top speed. We hardly needed any priming beyond our natural 17 year-old associations when she told us to "breathe through our coccyx" and before you knew it class members were rubbing up against each other in the biggest theatre-school cliche since Fame. Who was I to scoff at that particular part of the exercise? It was ridiculous.

I just did a quick back of the napkin calculation. If I took the same course today I would be paying nearly $300 worth of my tuition to play imaginary games for the first third of my semester. What a rip-off!

And what practical purpose were we to put this to?

"Well, dearies..." (I am channelling Linda through my asshole chakra right now - that's where the energy for total crap comes from.) "...say for example you were playing the part of Prospero, a richly spiritual and wise man. You could channel your performance through your brow and crown chakras to bring into your spirit the energy of magic and intellect that form the core of his being."
Yeah... or you could act.

"Using your chakras you can bring the embodiment of any character you desire into yourself and find their voice within you."
So why then, Linda, is it that every time you act you perform in the vapid and shallow voice of the lead character in a Shirley MacLaine auto-biography?

I think next time I get cast in something, I'm going get my inspiration from science to create a performance of infinite depth and mind-boggling complexity by basing my character on the Mandelbrot Set.

Postscript: I actually did a lot of reading into math when at university. I have an incident seared into my memory where when playing some kind of "Who am I now?" type party game at one of our theatre department parties that someone in the department got angry when I 'was' Rene Levesque. "You can't always be obscure mathematicians Kennedy!" For those non-Canadians and for those too young to recall who didn't click the link, Rene Levesque was a (pretty much, THE) prominent Quebec Sovereigntist leader of the 70s.... sigh no joke that you have to explain is funny....
In the previous round I actually had been Benoit Mandelbrot, so apart from not knowing her Canadian history she wasn't exactly wrong.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Friday, July 31, 2009

Crazy from the Heat

But not in the sense of "this heat wave is driving me nuts"... well, it IS - I'd love to have a night of sleep under my belt, I'm getting cranky. But that's beside the point.

If you listened to This American Life this past week you already know this story, but I felt like it was worth re-iterating in my own words.

If you were a teenager in the 80s you must have heard the tale about VanHalen having it in their contract with their promoter that they had to have a bowl of M&Ms backstage in their dressing rooms and that all the brown ones had to be removed.

If they didn't have it they were in their rights to cancel the show and still recieve their entire fee. Apparently in one case they even did $100Gs worth of damage to the dressing room.

This was taken usually one of two ways:
Either as an extreme example of spoiled diva behaviour; or - and not terribly different - as an example of a rock-band with enough money and chutzpah to put something totally frivolous in their contract just for yuks.

But apparently there was a real and practical reason for the clause. One that was easily missed in favour of the more colourful story.

So let's say you are a rock band. You have a certain style and flaire that really has to be seen to fully appreciate. You've come up with a show that - well it's a capital 'S' "Show." Fog and lasers and lights and stacks of Marshall amps and PAs, plus the people who have learned how it all goes together. It takes a LOT of power and it's a big mass o' stuff. There is - pardon me - a LOT of heavy metal. Plus the man-power it takes to operate it - the people who are on your travelling crew; plus a small army of local hires. The Show is BIG.

There are a whole schwack of details. There has to be enough wattage available at the venue; the structure of the building needs to be able to support - literally - the show, you need a thick cement floor - no basketball courts, and the ceiling rafters need to be able to bear extra load; there needs to be sufficent lodging for the road crew - who don't get to go to their hotels 'til after the show is over, so they also need to be fed; and the locals need to be both properly skilled and there needs to be the right number of them - not too many, not too few... and they need to be sober.

Lots of stuff has to go right every single stop along the way. Yes there is someone whose job it is to do their best to make sure that happens, but when it comes down to it every single show needs to have someone on the ground locally - typically hired by the local promoting partner - from the time the show is booked until the cages are swept out and the circus heads for the next town. Someone who can liase with the venue, who knows the local IATSE folks and has the contacts and know how to make all those little finnicky details happen.

Those finnicky details? They aren't so finnicky. One single simple example to demonstrate the point: I mentioned the ceiling needs to be able to bear sufficient load. Every venue knows it's specs - or at least figures them out in short order because of details like this. Let's say one night your band plays the civic arena in Mid-nowhere Alberta. The civic arena is really just the old curling club that was converted in 1927. Your lighting rig is usually hung from the steel I-beams of places like Pacific Colesieum. But the Mid-nowhere Civic Arena is actually made entirely of wood. The ceiling joists are old brittle cedar beams that have been soaking up the moisture of spring-melt, baking through the summer drought and then freezing in the dead of winter since long before the conversion that happened 82 years ago. So when your lighting rig pulls down the roof on the mosh-pit in the middle of your hit song "Chicken Li'l"... who exactly is to blame?

THAT is why those contracts exist. They are actually called riders - they are an addition to the contract, what the specific legal difference and explanation is, I can't really say. But every single line in that contract has a very specific important purpose. It may be as critical as keeping your fans alive, like in the example above; or it might be about keeping your locals sober enough to do their part (Apologies to IATSE members everywhere, I know you are typically far more responsible than two mentions of drunkeness in one blog entry implies - I just got off on a jag.); or it could be about making sure that your feather-allergic road manager actually gets a bed he can sleep the night through in so he can be rested enough to go through it all again tomorrow.

Van Halen.

They had a really clever idea. Their show was HUGE. Far bigger than your band's "S"how. (That's why we've heard of Van Halen and not your one-hit-wonder band and their stupid forget-me hit "Chicken L'il", despite the infamous Mid-nowhere Civic Arena disaster.) The details for their shows were way beyond what most promoters were accustomed to and many of those details were critical in the sense of "if this goes wrong, people die" or "if this doesn't happen the electircal grid for the surrounding city collapses and the show is over, like it or not" variety. Now they could say to the promoter as many times as they liked, as emphatically as possible "make sure you go through every line-item in the rider very very very carefully" - and presumably, they did. But that was hardly a guarantee that these things would actually happen.

So, rather than hold the hand of the folks at every venue along the tour, they came up with a simple, seemingly frivolous canary in their coalmine. The bowl of M&Ms. Buried on page 9 of the 11 page rider... an innocuous little item.

And thus they knew that if they were to show up and there were brown M&Ms in the bowl - the rider had not been carefully read and they needed to check the details of the show line by line if they were going to perform at all.

As to the alleged hundred thousand dollars worth of dressing room trashing?

In his biography "Crazy from the Heat" (See, it all comes 'round.) David Lee Roth wrote that he once found brown M&Ms in a bowl and threw a fit. But most of the damages were caused by the stage set-up sinking into the wooden floor of the arena. To quote Diamond Dave, "they didn't bother to look at the weight requirements or anything, and this sank through their new flooring and did eighty-thousand dollars worth of damage to the arena floor. The whole thing had to be replaced. It came out in the press that I discovered brown M&Ms and did $85,000 worth of damage to the backstage area. Well, who am I to get in the way of a good rumor?"

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Vancouver hits record temperature of 9 million 3 hundred and 84 thousand, one Hundred and twenty-one degrees Celsius

I know I've been in hotter places.

  • Montreal heat wave of '94 - 38 degrees
  • Kuala Lumpur stop-over in '98 only left the air-conditioned hotel for an hour - 40-ish degrees
  • Darwin about 12 hours later - 44 degrees - got on another plane in 20 minutes
  • Adelaide for a few weeks shortly thereafter mid-30s and dropping
  • Penang the next month - 40 degrees for 48 hours
  • Las Vegas last month 41 degrees, almost never left the conference centre
But I honestly don't think I've ever had it so consistently hot for so long with the humidity so frikkin' ridiculously high. It's day five of really hot weather. (EDIT: Today was apparently the hottest day ever recorded for Vancouver.)The one real relief being that on Saturday night there was a thunder-shower during the fireworks - a show that will remain legendary for years no doubt.

Jodie and I were soaked to the bone and that night wasn't too bad thanks to the rain.

Even before that there was a day or so of warm - though not outrageous - temperatures. They say it's not over yet. Days to go probably. I don't think anyone is sleeping. The whole city is getting cranky.

In '94 - in the Montreal heat wave mentioned above - I was doing a show that took place in a heat wave. I wrote it. In the play one of the lead characters - the one I played had gone over the edge and started killing people. It wasn't the heat that pushed him over the edge, the heat was simply a co-relative thematic element. When his killing streak ended, the heat wave broke.
I'm going on a deliberate tangent here: The play - believe it or not - was a comedy. My character - Nigel - was upset about the lack of upward mobility for his (our) generation so he started an employment agency where he created opportunities for his clients by killing people in their corporate structure who had desirable positions. The show was the Juanabees' most successful show ever. We kicked ass for a few years previous to that, but the reviews of that show were over the top.
Looking back I'm amused that the show - despite the plot I outlined above - wasn't really about that. I mean it was. But it wasn't. (Blame the heat for this lack of clarity.) Nowhere in the plot did we get into the detail of what was being done to stop Nigel's killing spree. In the end he was caught largely by a police officer being in the wrong place at the right time. (Not quite so deus ex machina as that sounds - Nigel ultimately DID make bad choices (other than becoming a serial killer) that directly led to the police officer being able to put things together. Ultimately the play was really about three 20-something Gen-Xers trying to figure out their place in the world.
There was Mark, the career-student, hiding from responsibility, trying to be the moral core of the roommates, but ultimately too lazy to make a stand on anything more important than whose turn it was to do the dishes, Teak, on the surface, your standard issue stoner whose hallucinogenic internal life seems to manifest in the real world (mostly to comic effect). We in fact never showed Teak using any kind of drug - people just assumed; and in the end it turned out that all the weirdness that surrounded his life (much of which I'm still pretty proud of as far a humour goes) actually was a result of him being from another dimension (to which he returns at the end.). And of course the previously mentioned Nigel - frustrated bottom-rung ad-exec turned crusading murderer. They had a fourth roommate - Dale - who was never seen (though occasionally heard) until the last scene where he managed to tie up a number of loose ends with one line and about 20 seconds of stage time and often get one of the biggest laughs of the entire show. Dale was often played by a special guest, but otherwise he was played by the fourth actor in the show (on that tour it was Mike Rinaldi) who played "Everyone Else" and usually stole the show in the process.

Anyhow... so much for that nostalgic sidetrack...

It is SO fucking hot.

Today I had to meet Craig to go over some endgame "Beast..." stuff. We chose a place that required me to go up a hill to get to. I made a point of approaching from a direction that placed the hill last so that I could go from hill to cold drink as soon as possible. Holy crap.

I can see why people have heart attacks from the heat. And I'm starting to see why people 'lose it' in a heat wave. My head is not screwed on right. I'm not in any danger of going all 'Nigel' on folks, but the phrase "crazy from the heat" makes a LOT of sense to me right now.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

What is it about Moby Dick?

I received an email from my Mother. She has a friend who is reading one of my favourite books – Moby Dick – for a book club selection. She wanted to know why I loved it. I haven't really thought about it that much in definable terms, so I kind of got into my reasoning a bit. It's not a very good literary critique, but I thought it was worth posting nonetheless.

Hi Val,

Mom tells me you're reading Moby Dick for you book club and that you are curious why it's one of my favourite books. (NOTE: This explanation got a little bit away from me, and ended up turning into a really crappy turgid essay. A literary critique that would have my University professors giving me retroactive fails. But it was fun to focus my thoughts a bit. I suspect I'll have to answer the basic question again someday.)

For starters, let's take the basic story-line. A lot of people complain that the book is too complex. And there is an awful lot going on on various levels, but when it comes right down to it, the essential narrative is quite simple and it's fairly simply presented. Many people, myself included quickly tire of the florid writing of anything written before the early 20th C. but I don't find that Moby Dick goes far in that direction. Perhaps that it's a North American novel – and thus written in a more colloquial form of English – is the reason why. Certainly the traditional image of 'classic literature' is more likely to be written on the other side of the Atlantic. I'm getting off point... The story itself is really very simple, and I think on that basis arguments of its complexity are easily cast aside.

Perhaps it's a testosterone thing, but naval adventure itself has a certain visceral effect on me, and evidence suggests I'm not alone.

But to take the book simply as a naval adventure is to do it an obvious disservice. It's hard to talk about the book without defining its two major elements as separate structural pieces and dealing with each as its own entity.

I'll come back to the narrative after I've dealt with what I think of as the 'documentary' chapters. It actually amazed me when I re-read the novel just how late in the book the documentary chapters begin – somewhere in the forties if I'm not mistaken. They are such an important part of what I love about the book. The precision with which Melville itemizes the aspects of whaling and breaks down the minutiae is for me the most fascinating thing about the novel, and I believe it was one of the most interesting parts of the book when it was published (serially, if I'm not mistaken). Whaling was at the time a very important industry and 'on the radar' of most if not all people – yet unless it was something one had embarked upon, it was an industry that was largely un-illuminated in its detail. All the most essential aspects of it occurred out on the sea, well out of the awareness of the common person and amongst a demographic sub-set which was not known for its public availability. When the book was written it was opening up a new world to people via the story and plumbing detail with the documentary chapters. Compare that to today where whaling is caught between being a dead industry and a criminal act and we get to examine a very different world than our own.

That latter thought is taken to greater/more-specific detail when we look at the knowledge and social norms of the time. Whether it's as simple as looking at the racism applied to Queequeg – even from the relatively enlightened Ishmael – in a manner that was so acceptable at the time that it's baldness is in itself interesting; or looking at Melville's own ad hoc taxonomy of whales – which is so simplistic by today's standards, showing hints of Linnaean influenced order which was probably not popularly known at the time of the writing. I think the chapter on types of whales may even be the first of the documentary chapters – it's an interesting way to begin them; bearing witness to the scientific ignorance of the time and author.

Of the documentary chapters much is said about the literary value of the "Whiteness of the Whale" chapter – which is an oddity among the documentary chapters as it is more like a poem than a clinical or historical examination of anything. I have a very well read friend who loves that chapter and is totally unflinching about the possibility of tossing the rest of the novel away wholesale. For myself I am far more interested in the chapters about the minutiae – the chapter about the use and creation of rope for example – utterly mundane until examined in detail. Who knew that so much thought had ever been put into rope? We tend to just take it for granted.

To the best of my knowledge, Moby Dick is one of the first post-modern novels. I can't really say why it is, but I have a looo-ong appreciation for the clash of styles and approaches that can be used in a post-modern work. There are many ways a story can be told and using multiple styles – chapters in Moby Dick include (beyond the documentary chapters) one which is a short play and I believe plural chapters which are songs. The lack of strict format would not work for all books, but if one format might work better for a certain element, then why not use it? Being an early attempt, Moby Dick is hardly a paragon of post-modernism – having only a fraction of the refinement of say "Ulysses" but I don't think it suffers from it. I don't think I'd be the only person to fairly be able to say that Ulysses borders on unreadable, despite being so tightly crafted to encompass a wide variety of styles without sacrificing unity.

Though it's not a major focus of my appreciation, I find Melville's brewing agnosticism – or perhaps better identified "defiance in the face of god" – interesting as expressed through Ahab. I guess I personally find the mid 1800s to be an interesting time in the philosophical development of western thought because of the dawning possibility/awareness that there might not in fact BE a god in the Judeo-Christian sense. Melville was a little ahead of the curve in that way of thinking. Not outright denying the existence of god, but denying god's authority over himself as a person. "Moby Dick" was written nearly a decade before the publication of "The Origin of Species" really started to shake things up. I do have to wonder if Melville had a chance to read "Origin..." and what that did for his way of thinking. In any case, that was years after he symbolically railed at god through Ahab at the storm and the white whale. As I said, I haven't considered this aspect in depth – and there is much depth to be considered in the book if one wants to read into it beyond the narrative and the documentary – but I suspect that should I get around to reading Moby Dick again, this will be what I focus on.

One more thing that I found interesting (if ultimately unsupportable) was upon my last reading it was suggested in some critical literature that there is a chance that Ishmael is in fact himself Ahab. He does not actually say his name is Ishmael, he merely says "Call me Ishmael." And now Ahab, sole survivor of the Pequod, is banishing his guilt by divorcing himself from his true identity and telling the tale of how he, in the name of revenge, doomed his entire crew. It's an interesting thought – but I don't really think it stands to scrutiny.

I have occasionally noted that there is so much to read in the world that there are few books that are great enough to read over again. I have read Moby Dick twice now, and I suspect there is a good chance I will read it again someday. I really think it is that good.

I hope you enjoy it.

  • Kennedy

Monday, July 20, 2009

Moon Landing Anniversary

Today is the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.

I've been thinking of today as Greatest Achievement in the History of Human Endeavour Day.

I've also started a new blog - Confessions of an Asshole Skeptic. I began it with an entry on my thoughts on the moon landing. I do stray slightly towards moon landing hoax discusssion, (hence the connection of the two together in one post here).

The Asshole Skeptic blog is intended to be my on-going skeptical blog. I had begun the TAMazing Blog as a test and to diarize my experiences at TAM. I'm a long way from completing that, but along the way - both in blog musings and in discussions at TAM I found myself thinking long and hard about the ideas of Asshole Skepticism. I'm not going to get into that here - that is the other blog's purpose. It occurred to me that my ongoing exploration of the uses and boundaries of Asshole Skepticism are worthy of their own venue. I will probably do a few scattered posts on the Asshole Skeptic blog between now and finishing the TAM blog. I may even re-open the TAM blog in a year's time should I return to TAM, but I don't think the two should be connected anymore than by association via me.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Social Distortion & the Discovery of Civet

Jodie took me to see Social Distortion last night at the Commodore Ballroom.

It's always cool to be at the Commodore. It's such an awesome room, and knowing that my grandparents danced on that dance floor (okay, the floor was replaced back in the '90s.)

Social Distortion was great. I don't think Mike Ness stopped to breathe until they've scorched their way through five songs. The crowd was awesome – I don't recall being at a concert where the audience was SO happy to be there in a very long time. It's also been a while since I was at a show with hardcore moshing going on.

But I don't really want to spend my effort touting the well established cred of Social Distortion. We tried to arrive late enough that we'd miss the opening acts. We failed in part and thank goodness we did. We missed The Strangers entirely, but as we were coming up the stairs from Granville Street, the all-girl pop-thrash band Civet. Hit the stage like a pack of rabid... mongoose like things, not really lemurs, kinda like cats.... uh... this is actually a joke. Civets are weird looking African mongoose-like, cat-ish, lemurian sort of things. They happen to be believed to be the source of the SARS virus. Perhaps that's why the ladies chose the name for their band... or perhaps it was because they happen to like coffee made of poo.

In any case... they fucking rocked! Imagine the Bangles and W.A.S.P. having love children... that's Civet. They were loud, sexy and absolutely delighted to be there. They made it no secret that last night was the biggest show yet of their lives and they played to the occasion.

If I were to level any criticism at the band it would actually be disguised as a compliment to one of them. The drummer, Roxie Darling, is slumming. They are all high-energy and make up for the shortcomings of their still young career with enthusiasm and passion – saying Darling is slumming is unfairly selling the others short.

This is what it would have been like had The Runaways done burlesque.

Go to iTunes, buy their album Hell Hath No Fury, now.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Cronkite & Apollo 11

I remember watching the news when Walter Cronkite retired. Even though he was an American anchor it seemed weird that there could ever be someone else reporting the news. I'm surprised to be reminded that it was 1981. I expected it to be the late 80s. I'm surprised I had a recollection of him retiring when I was only 11 years old. And since then Dan Rather who took the baton from him has passed it on to Katie Couric... both great in their own way, but nowhere near being the defining face of the news the way he was.

I found out he died last night by coming in the side door of the news. I was watching Apollo Moon Landing footage... one of the links mentioned his death. It couldn't have been more than a few minutes old at the time.

Here's what I was watching:

Part I

Part II

Part III

And now skipping to footgae that is less condensed...

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part V

Part VI

Part VII


Kind of strange that he should pass away so close to the anniversary of an event that was so important in his career. Nixon resigning. Kennedy being assasinated. Those are the only things amongst a list of historic events that he was central to the public understanding of, but none in my mind are as luminous (pun intended) as his reporting on the moon landing.

"...and that's the way it is."

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Neko Case on Wait Wait Don't Tell Me!

I haven't laughed so hard at a portion of a podcast in ages...

Neko Case (who knew?!?) playing "Not My Job" on "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me" riffing Ken Burns style about Necco wafers.

Interview on Radio Freethinkers

The day after returning from The Amazing Meeting I was interviewed on Radio Freethinkers.

All episodes appear on the feed page, so the longer after the publish date of this post, the further down the page you'll have to scroll. For (relative) ease it's the July 14th 2009 episode, episode #17.

It was their cryptozoology episode, so naturally we talked about The Beast of Bottomless Lake.

Monday, July 13, 2009

New Words for 2009

Time to update the vocab.

Merriam Webster have published their new words list for 2009.

I'm surprised a few took so long to get recognized. Like; earmark, shawarma and sock-puppet. Haven't there been sock-puppets for... well all my life and longer? And sure shawarma has ported over from Arabic, but this small town boy had his first shawarma in 1991, and I doubt that they had just arrived on the shores of the big city I had it in.

Some of those other words – vlog and webisode, I'm looking at you – in comparison have totally jumped the queue.

A TAMazing time

So... fuck what those boring guys said about post titles and puns...

You probably had to be there.

Just got back from a really great weekend in Vegas at The Amazing Meeting.

LOTS to say. Luckily I have a second blog where I am going on about that, The TAMazing Blog. I'll put anything of relevance there... though it's a LOT of catching up to do. No cross posting I promise.

Friday, June 26, 2009

No King of Mine...

So perhaps you've heard...
Michael Jackson is dead.

I figured, seeing as many of my earliest posts on this blog surrounded his infamous trial that I should probably say something.

No secret, I have no love for Jacko. I've pretty much never been a fan and I think that as much as his life was a disaster caused by his surroundings and success that he has to be held somewhat responsible for himself. He was an adult. There was a world of examples of healthy living surrounding him. If reality wasn't enough of a cue to him that he was way off the rails it doesn't fall to us to make everything alright for him.

I found the response to his death fascinating though. We'd all started the day shocked and tossed into mourning of Farrah (You know Farrah Fawcett died yesterday, don't you?) and then all of a sudden the grandaddy of thunder-heists occurs...

At roughly 3:30 I took a 'picture' of the trending words on Twitter:

according aim alive angeles arrest attack believe believing breathing cardiac cnn condition confirm confirmation confirmed confirming confirms cpr credible dead death deaths die died entertainer flash heart hospital hospitalized icons jacko jackson jacksons king legend los mcmahon michael michaeljackson micheal mike msnbc news overdose paramedics passed pop pray prayers reliable reported reporting reports rip rumors rushed sad saying shock shocked source sources suffered threes thriller tmz trending true ucla unconfirmed

I'm not sure about 'aim' or 'flash', but every other word on the list is somehow related to MJ's (then rumoured) death. Let's see what the list is RIGHT NOW (1:30 June 26th):

11k 2gb 5pm alley alot amar amendment att attempting attsucks bastard bb10 bitch bono boyz brown canada charge chatter chris cilic copy cubs district doubles dragon eastenders feat fees file gaga game glasto glastonbury haas hott hun jack kirk lady lakers lisa mack marie mario max messaging myhotwife mythbusters picked pls polo praising rite roaming robbery savage sharpton shut similar size specials stoudemire supernatural surfing taylor uploads voting wed winans

Hmmm... Sharpton, that's about Michael (more on Rev. Al in a moment). 'Lisa' and 'Marie' may be about Michael in tandem with one another... but I think Twitter is relatively done. But yesterday, his death practically broke Twitter.

That said, TweetDeck posts another 100 MJ tweets every 30 seconds.

Those who know me, know that I hold very little sacred. Death is not one of the things I do. Death is the most ubiquitous fact of life, yet we treat it with kids gloves. This is not to say that life is not precious, and it doesn't mean I would go spouting inappropriate comments to bereaved families. I just think that if we give death too much deference we give it too much power over our lives. Yes, this is an open invitation to treat my death with humour and irony and hopefully instant irreverence. I'm not promising a death worthy of the number of jokes I got out of Michael's demise yesterday - that would be a real challenge.

So there I was taking flak for my irreverent treatment of Farrah on Facebook when news of Michael came in....

I immediately switched to Michael and managed to come up with in the range of five times the amount of inappropriate comments... how many people complained about that? Not one. I find that interesting. Even I must admit that Jacko's accomplishments leave a long shadow across Farrah's, and yet it appears to be open season on him. Go figure.

A few more thoughts before I put this to bed for the moment...

A few absurd pieces of info... once again the "People die in threes" canard surfaces. It took all of five minutes before someone connected Ed McMahon, Farrah and Jacko on Twitter - if that long. So I guess the claims of three deaths at Noon that included David Carradine are now irrelevant? So what about David Carradine dying alone? (I mean without two others, not in the sense that he DID die alone.) What about David Wells? was he too unknown to count...? Or would that inconveniently make it four? What if someone dies today? Will that knock Ed McMahon off the trio 'cause he's too far away? - oh what a difference 24 hours can make! (June 28th Edit: Check and Mate - Billy Mays, obnoxious TV pitchman who you may not know the name of, but you know from commericals died.)

There was a similar tweeting of a list of celebrities who died on the 25th... of any month, not just June and of ABSOLUTELY ANY YEAR. Many of the lists only included African Americans, musicians, or African American Musicians (James Brown Dec 25th, Aaliyah Aug 25th, Left Eye Lopez, April 25th, Static Major Feb 25th.) Accompanying comments include "How random is dat?" "Creepy, huh?" "WTF? Is it a conspiracy?" "Weird, huh?" Allow me to answers those in order.... It's not random, it's cherry-picking. I'm betting I can find approximately 30 times the number of people who have died on different numbered days from exactly the same demographic sub-sets you are using. / Creepy? Fuck off and quit trying to make something of your cherry picked information that totally ignores the laws of large numbers. / No, it's not a fucking conspiracy. Why do you feel the need to victimize yourself by the thinnest of associations? You are just embarrassing yourself. / Weird? Yes. It is. It's weird that anyone can be bothered to make something out of such a meaningless and ultimately imagined pattern. But if you really want to talk about weird, let's go back to Michael Jackson...

In his address outside the Apollo, the Rev. Al Sharpton began with "I hope that finally Michael will be given the respect that he is due..." Let me put aside my acknowledged lack of respect and begin with "What the fuck are you on about? You mean, being labelled the King of Pop, being the fourth biggest selling artist of all time including the biggest selling album of all time (which incidentally rose to #1 on iTunes in the course of hours yesterday after the news broke.) isn't enough? But I just want to peek at one major boner - later on CNN he claimed "Michael Jackson did 'We are the World' before Live Aid." While technically correct, it implicitly skips right over the facts. 'We are the World' followed on the heels of the original famine-relief song by Band Aid on the UK 'Do They Know it's Christmas?' Sure, Reverend, let's make him out to be something more than what he was. Sigh.

I'm going to be curious what kind of information about his life gets revealed over the next several years. I think I'd prefer to not find out that his dealings with children were more questionable than the current official legal version, but I have no faith that that ground is safe. Similarly, I'm going to be curious to see how the trajectory of his children's lives go now that he is not a direct influence.

One last thing that amused me... the approximate time it took CNN to compare his death to Princess Diana's - one hour. Yeesh!

Okay, that's it, I'm off to go and respectfully listen to some Alien Ant Farm and jerk-off to a certain 70s pin-up poster, but for larfs... 3:10 PM... here's the latest trending topics on Twitter... Hmmm Jacksonville, but no Jackson.

allow amendment ana beck blue blvd boehner cocktail cspan cubs damage detention dinner dre executive filibuster findingthegood frank glenn gods hail helped hhrs hoyer indefinite jacksonville jax kaberle kisses leader leads lightning mythbuster netflix newsnight nhl plays preparing producer pulled punk rain raining recap rehearsal remembering reportedly revolt ross savage shade shine sirens springs stimulus storm suspects terror thunder thunderstorm tila tix tornado tornadoes tornados trial tsn unlimited warning waxman

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Not So Miserables

I'm not a big fan of musicals. I don't have a default of dislike towards them, I just find that they need to be pretty special for me to like them.

I really liked the film Chicago. I had fun being in Guys and Dolls in high-school. I look forward to someday seeing each of Avenue Q and Wicked. But more often than not I just find the convention of spontaneously breaking into song to reveal ones inner thoughts or to declare one's romantic love just a little bit weird.

All that said, I frikken LOVE Les Miserables. It is hands down my favourite musical of all time. It is epic and tragic and uplifting all at the same time.

I've even been in a condensed (deliberately humourous) rap-version of it – but that is a story in its' own right.

I've seen it five times. The first four were various versions of the Canadian touring cast. The fifth was a preview of the local production opening at the Arts Club here in Vancouver in two days time.

I hoped as I waited for the show to begin that it would diverge from the staging format of the original production. Some shows are constrained by proprietary rights on the design – the essential argument being that the design is inherent to the show. Little Shop of Horrors is one of these shows. (In Little Shop's case mounting the production without using the attached designs for the man-eating plant costs extra.) I was more interested in seeing something new from the show than to see a re-mounting of practically the same show with a smaller budget.

It was apparent immediately that I was going to get something new. Before the first word was sung it was clear that the signature revolve that dominated the stage in the classic production was nowhere to be seen.

The show itself was uneven. It reached peaks of emotion similar to the more accustomed versions, but it came up short at least as many times.

To be fair, I am rather certain that the show I saw was the first time the production had been in front of a paying and objective audience.

My guess is that the cast hadn't yet come to realize that a show this big has no place for humility. It's big and can support a huge performance. Which is not to say that it wasn't effective, but it can be so much more. And once it is trusted to hold up its end of the melodrama it can bear the weight of their raw emotion.

At time's they hit it. Kieran Martin Murphy only half embodies the rich soul of Jean Valjean until the second act when he delivers one of the most awe inspiring renditions of "Bring Him Home" ever. Rejean Cournoyer also reaches for the upper limits of his role with Javert's final song. Jeffrey Victor as Marius is out-charisma-ed by Jonathan Winsby's Enjolras until after the latter's final exit and he has no chance to answer to Victor's wonderfully wrought "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables." Spirit of the West front-man John Mann even fails to come out the gate strong, though gets there later. The Thenardier's as roles are saddled with the task of having their best song – by a country mile – be their first song, leaving them little place to go. Previous portrayals have answered this issue by making such a big meal of the first that the latter ones are inevitably forgotten. Mann and Nicola Lipman (in possibly the most jarring yet ultimately successful casting of the show) finish stronger than they began. Almost as if they're wilfully trying to not retread the well-worn territory of previous "Master of the House" renditions by under-playing it.

As the show went on the performances grew stronger. I continue to chalk it up to being a show that is still finding it's legs – the cast getting more confident as it goes along.

I never felt Rebecca Talbot lived in the costume shoes of Eponine – the role I once rapped (and was no more effective, just silly really) and indeed I was hardly moved by "A Little Fall of Rain" a song that always chokes me up. I was amused to see her surprised reaction to the audience's overwhelmingly positive response – a deserved (despite my quibbles) standing ovation. She didn't seem to be alone... more fuel to my theory that the cast was trying on the size of the show in front of an audience for the first time.

For the most part the child actors are solid. Joshua Ballard as Gavroche is engaging as Gavoroche, Rachael Withers as Young Eponine finds no emotional reality and merely demonstrates her judgment of her character... and thankfully is off stage in little more than one scene, Emily Machette falls between the two as Young Cosette - luckily landing far closer to the former than the latter.

Doing Les Miserables at this particular juncture puts two numbers in particular under inevitable scrutiny. The previously mentioned "Bring Him Home" – Kieran Martin Murphy out sings Jaimie Pugh in a walk. Pugh is tender and beautiful, but Murphy adds drama with fantastic dynamics. Sarah Jean Hosie doesn't fare as well against her virtual competition Susan Boyle. I suspect she may have even been psyching herself out. She knows, like everyone else does, that Boyle's "I Dreamed a Dream" instantly became one of the most viewed pieces of music on YouTube ever. The pressure to match that performance is unavoidable, and counter productive. Hosie bucks the trend of the show and tries too hard.

Excepting a few surprisingly cheap bits of lazy stagecraft the staging itself is more successful and intriguing than clunky... though on occasion it is the latter. I am surprised that Director Bill Millerd, AD of one of the largest theatre companies in the country slips into the a few hackneyed moments of staging that threaten to de-rail the show. It's as if the show runs on five gears but Millerd only has four.

I'd be curious to see the show a sixth time later in the run to see how it has matured. I expect many of my criticisms will be answered as the actors are inspired by the strength of the material to reach the heights that the show's structure can support building up to.

Damn that Puck Luck!

Whatever you do, don't make the mistake of accusing the Canucks of rolling over and dying.

And while I'm at it, let me compile a shot list of reasons the call-in radio-show crowd will be perpetuating – none of which are the reason they lost:

Bad officiating.

A no-show from Mats Sundin.

Poor coaching.

Playing defensively.

I'm not even going to get down on Luongo for looking human in the conference semi-finals.

So what did it then? I propose it was a confluence of things – let's face it, it almost always is – some of which have seeds of truth in the points listed above, but as much as anything, that elusive x-factor "puck-luck" worked against us more than in favour of us, largely by when it reared its head. The Canucks got favourable bounces and unforeseeable circumstances, but never when it counted.

Few people mention or even noticed when in game two a Canucks player lost his stick; if flew up in the air, half of the distance into the defensive end, landing... right back in its owners hands. It didn't amount to anything. I don't even recall who it was and can't find it on-line... because it never made a bit of difference.

But when it mattered most, time after time, the 'Hawks got the breaks.

Game one was a squeaker. The Canucks came out strong with three goals, and then gave up three before taking advantage of the 'Hawks aggression and getting behind their defence for a three on one game winner.

Game two the Canucks came out blazing again, and again it bit back. This time it was a disaster. Chicago's facility with the stretch-pass owned the Canucks, and even though Luongo was still making some spectacular saves he wasn't a sheet of plywood across the goal-mouth and pucks were making it in. To his credit, most of the shots that made it in were good plays on Chicago's part. If anyone was to blame, it was the skaters in front of him – but in their defence, a locked-down game was clearly not the plan. To make matters worse, two back to back bad bits of luck burned the Canucks hard. First, on the penalty-kill – which up to that point had been the Canucks stock-in-trade for months – the puck went off Willie Mitchell's stick over the glass in the defensive end. There wasn't the least bit of intention to do so on his part, it just happened that way. On the ensuing three on five Kelser broke his stick and could not get to the bench to get another, effectively giving the Hawks a five on two and a half. It's no wonder they scored, and that is where things really turned in that game. The flood gates opened and Luongo let more pucks past him than he had in the entire St. Louis series. Psychologically I propose that was a HUGE blow.

For game three coach Alain Vigneault recognized that Chicago's style of offence – specifically that stretch pass – HAD to be shut down. And for the most part, in game three it worked. It would be the last game the Canucks would win.

Game four the Canucks employed the same strategy that won them game three. And why not? Letting the Chicago offence have its' way had led to near disaster in game one, and DID lead to disaster in game two. The plan worked. For most of the game. With less than three minutes left Willie Mitchell had to make a split-second decision about where to clear the puck. He made the high-percentage choice – the one he should make on instinct when there is no time to consider. In other words, in MOST cases clearing the puck along the boards instead of up the middle is the right play for a defenseman to make. This time however there happened to be a flotilla of Blackhawks where he was clearing to... and they scored. Overtime went the Hawks' way too. And THAT was the real turning point of the series. I don't think there is any hockey literate fan who would really bother arguing otherwise.

Game five Vigneault stuck to the plan. It had worked in game three and had for all practical purposes worked in game four – except for those last few crucial minutes. He felt he had more to be scared of the 'Hawks shooting game, and that seems like a reasonable assumption. Once again it nearly works. But twice more puck-luck fucks us late in the game. Arguably Kelser's botched clearing attempt was bad luck giving Bfuglien a momentum changing goal. If someone wants to declare that Kelser failed on that play, I won't stop them. He was mid-check and clearing one-handed. Even if he failed, he was making the play under duress. But then... on the penalty-kill again, Mitchell (Notice how often he is associated with the bad puck luck? Hmmm... perhaps we should be looking harder at Mitchell, but I don't hear him being offered the horns much.) breaks his stick... and Chicago gets the go-ahead. And then to add insult to injury... that is very nearly a pun – with Luongo out of net for the extra attacker in the final two minutes and the assault on Khabibulin mounted, Kelser and Salo trip over each other allowing Havlat an empty net goal. He was probably half-embarrassed to put it in the net, but how could he not?

With the series on the line, Vigneault was put in a bad position. He had to change the game plan again. He had to abandon the strategy that had worked in game three and had worked in games four and five – except for crucial moments where fate had different plans – BECAUSE despite being effective for 90% of the game, that 10% where it didn't cost us the game... twice. He was forced to go back to the strategy that had nearly lost us one game and lost us a second BADLY.

Game six... was insane. A five – seven outcome for the Hawks doesn't tell the tale. The whole game was back and forth and even in the dying minutes two goals behind it still felt like the Canucks might come back. Not much puck luck giving the Canucks the gears in this game. The team just isn't the right team to beat Chicago at their own game. Vigneault accurately said this himself a week ago in mid-series. We made a good show of it, but in the wash the Canucks played better defensive games against Chicago than the run and gun games.

Before game six started, Ami, one of the friends I watched with asked me to predict what was going to be the game story. I said "Knowing that if we don't win that it's the last game of his career, Sundin will play like we've never seen him play." I'd argue that he did. He scored what in almost any other game would have been the game winner but it was soon answered, and he was regularly in the play. For the playoffs, Mats Sundin was third to the Sedins in both scoring and goals. Mats Sundin was NOT the problem on this team.

Bad officiating? Alain Vigneault has the class to not bitch about iffy-calls. He knows they all equal out over time. Canucks fans can suck it up and do the same. I doubt that there was a single call in this series that the refs heard back from Toronto about after the fact.

Bad coaching – Vigneault did what he had to do and made the right choices. They just don't always work out. If anything, he should have stuck to his guns and kept with the defensive game for game six. The previous two losses under that system were mostly due to unfortunate circumstances. But I can't say I blame him for changing. If he stuck to the plan and lost he'd put his job in jeopardy. Making the change, win or lose, he'd made a proactive choice. Alain will still be our coach next year.

Defensive play? – The Canucks won one and lost two for each style of play; offensive and defensive. I don't like to count empty-net goals – they skew the stats away from the real game story. In any case, take the games the Canucks played defensively and the games they played offensively and compare them. All goals counted, the Hawks out-scored the Canucks 7-6 in defensive games; and 16-13 in offensive games. Take away empty net goals and its 6-6 in defensive games and 16-12 in offensive games. Though I don't have the figure in front of me, I am confident that if the amount of time the Canucks held the lead in those games were compared, the difference would be even more apparent. Now... which way came closer to winning?

Anyhow... there's always next year!

Keep Vigneault. Re-sign the Sedins. Give Mitchell a good shake. Hope Kelser plays more like his best than his mediocre self. Give Sundin a heart-felt handshake, thank him for the effort, and buy him a watch. Think hard about the futures of Salo and Demitra... they too may be put out to stud, but not with a hint of shame. Then acquire a few really promising free agents and show Luongo that this is a team he's going to want to keep fighting alongside of after next season... you know, the season where we win the Cup.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Ski Bum Musical

Went and saw the celebratory screening of The Staff: A Ski Bum Musical the winner of this year's Telus 72 Hour Film contest.

The crew was predominantly made up of guys from our crew from Beast.
They were runners up last year, this year they rocked the house.

Congratulations guys!

Cross Posted on The Beast of Bottomless Lake blog.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Illiad over The Odyssey

An open letter to the Vancouver Mayor and Council,

RE: The Odyssey Night Club

I expect that City Council generally fields more complaints than commendations about their collective actions. This will be the latter.
For starters, in the spirit of full-disclosure; I am a former West End resident. I have not lived there for nearly five years; I am straight; my girlfriend, whose apartment I stay at regularly, lives within 100 meters of the former proposed future site of the Odyssey Night Club on Denman street; and you'll have to take my word for it that I'm not homophobic, though any thorough search of my past would certainly find the heavy balance of by actions to support that claim. I should also mention that while my girlfriend is my direct connection to this issue, what follows does not speak for her - it is my own frustration with a segment of an otherwise well self-representing community and their need to rely upon unsound argument and false premises that fuels this message, combined with a desire to commend council for seeing through the childish and unproductive politicizing being done by the side which feel wronged.
Thank you and congratulations for your recent decision disallowing the Odessey to re-open on Denman street.I have over the past five days heard an awful lot of outrage from within the gay community I am in touch with, and it disgusts me. What I am witnessing is a demographic who rightfully and genuinely feels persecuted, but that feeling of victimization is being irrationally applied in this case.
I've posted a few comments politely explaining the 'other' side of the argument in various locations - including blogs, forums and gay friend's outraged Facebook comments - and in all cases (most unfortunate in the latter case) they have been deleted, and if responded to at all, done so in a persistently hysterical manner. Hence I figured I should respond directly to you via email and publically on my own blog.
Apologies to council for much of what follows is information that you will already know as you are in the thick of it, I include it for the casual reader reading this as an open letter.
I will begin by stating that I fully support the effort to find a new home for the Odessey, but I stress the need to find a solution that will balance the impact as best as possible. I am convinced that the location on Denman was absolutely not the answer that would provide balance.
There is a common assumption in the pro-Odessey-on-Denman-camp, (I may regret this, but for Brevity I'll henceforth use the term "Prodcamp".) that being a vital part of the gay community - a gay-neighbourhood - that Denman street is an ideal place for the night club. I have lived a block off Davie street - behind a relatively quiet night club, but I'll get back to that - and spent plenty of time at my previously mentioned girlfriend's apartment, roughly the same distance from Denman. There is a world of difference in the neighborhoods. While both are rich examples of the gay community, comparing them to one another is not unlike comparing the entertainment district of Granville Street to Shaugnessy. One is where the younger crowd lives and goes to for their night-life, the other is where the married and older citizens settle. Do not be fooled by the propinquity of Davie and Denman compared to the other example. It's a smaller and more densely populated demographic thus the distance is less spread out.
Despite being a major street, Denman is not a 'party street.'
As mentioned above, I have lived behind a relatively quiet nightclub - a gay night club, so the comparison does bear a layer of correlation. Closing time was NEVER quiet, and occasionally I was compelled to call the police due to unreasonable noise from the patrons afterhours in the alley... yes, I am avoiding the gory details.For the most part though we did not complain about the noise - it was merely the few outrageous exceptions - but it needs to be stressed that we moved into that neighbourhood fully aware of both the general night-life along Davie and the specific from said club. It bears saying that this was in the days before smoking was pushed out into the street. That is not a judgement on smoking by-laws, simply relevant framing, as smokers would by necessity spread out along Denman street and ajoining side streets and alleys.Another aspect that the Prodcamp seems to have a tin-ear about is that if the neighbourhood is against the club in the first place that the number of complaints to the owners, council and the police are going to be magnitudes greater than would be experienced in a neighbourhood where the club is established. It's unwelcome nature (not for being gay, just for being loud) would NOT serve it's longterm health as a club - an for the most part, THAT is the crux of the problem, and where Michael Levy is actually being the short-sighted one, contrary to his claims about City Council. COuncil has recognized that noise pollution in the neighbourhood is the primary concern, and that is bang on. It's necessary to acknowledge with out predjudice the existence of largely anonymous, but more specifically spontaneous sexual activity that is ignited within a club. This can happen at straight or gay clubs, thus is not specific to the Odyssey. But when correlated to the proximity of the proposed 911 Denman location to Stanley Park - a known cruising location - it is unreasonable to suggest that couples and individuals would not leave the club heading west through a quiet residential neighbourhood - possibly making it to Stanley Park, possibly not waiting that long - and then have to make a return trip through the same neighbourhood. This is in addition to the expected and accepted diaspora along major thoroughfares at the end or even during a given night's entertainment.
Additionally, putting the club in a location better accessible to other clubs (gay or not) is to the advantage of both patrons out for the evening and to police patrolling. This latter point has little to do with responses to complaints or incidents and is primarily with regards to standard patrolling of night-life. The further the police have to travel, the more their resources are unnecessarily stretched. In the rare event that there is a need to respond to an incident the distance only exacerbates the problem.
There are a few more fallacies and mis-understandings I wish to address as they regularly come up as part of the argument:
Odyssey supporters claim that the noise can be controlled. This is a totally unsupportable claim. For starters the club cannot be actively responsible for revellers who have left the club, they can opnly take flack for it post-facto. Additionally, it is ridiculous to speak for future patrons five and ten years down the road, no matter how many current patrons swear that they themselves will be quiet as they gather and depart.
Council passed a motion to support the Odyssey in finding a new location, as motioned by Councillor George Chow. There seems to be great propensity for the Prodcamp to ignore this. This sadly strikes me as further evidence of an internal need to wield political weight by the demonstrating the false appearance of persecution.The Odyssey IS a cultural icon. Every resonable effor to preserve it should be made in a location where the impact will be less severe, possibly even predominantly welcome. Somewhere along the Davie corridor - not far from it's current location - is the obvious solution, if at all possible. Though if the gay community is prepared to venture out to other neighbourhoods, not specifically percieved as gay, it may be a good thing to break out into either the Granville entertainment district or Gastown. There is an acknowledgeable argument that this might not be as safe; but this should be explored as a counter to the equal an opposite argument that gay activity might be "ghettoized" in the West End, a circumstance that would be reprehensible in either an active or passive form. I believe this latter circumstance would be the opposite of councillor Woodsworth's intentions in her excellent public statements on the subject, and she should stand proud behind her comments and not listen to the ludicrous public attacks of the likes of Joan-E.
Contrary to many attacks, the Odyssey is NOT being forced to close. It is being forced to move by having their lease cancelled - which must happen in order for an AIDS hospice to be built on City land. To quote another public letter from the Prodcamp "Maybe you should leave the Odyssey where it is and try and find a new place for the Hospice." Ouch. This is from a letter within the gay community. I am certain it's not representative of the whole, but it does demonstrate the headspace of some of the Prodcamp, who are willing to throw some of the worst-off segment of their community under the bus for a place to party. It makes me sad. Though... if it is possible to extend the Odyssey's lease for a time longer as they search for a more reasonable location - without impacting upon the building of the hospice, I heartily support and recommend it. Today, April 14th council is to be meeting on exactly this matter, and as I write this I do not know the result.
Another mis-characterization by the Prodcamp is that the opposition is from the elderly. This is fundamentally not true. I happen to know a number of people in the neighbourhood who are not among the elderly who are not in favour of the club moving into the neighbourhood - and at this point, what is the point of name-calling?
I have thus far only managed to uncover one side's versiopn of the alleged "Chinese Restaurant" comment by councillor Chow. I suspect it is being mischaracterized. As it comes across - without ever a direct quote - from the Prodcamp is that Councillor Chow said that when his grandfather's favourite Chinese Restaurant was closed, he was disappointed but eventually he found another.As it appears - and quite possibly in actuality - it's an unfortunate statement. But what was the intention and context? When Councillor Chow's Grandfather was a young man the Chinese population of Vancouver was marginalized - nothing like the enormous and healthy community of today, quite possibly even more marginalized than today's gay community. That's the context. The point is that if the Odyssey closes it's doors forever there will be a void. It will fill. It will fill fast. That's a reality. Hopefully it won't come to that, but if it does, it won't take long before in all practical circumstances there is no difference between what exists today and what exists in the future.
Many of the Prodcamp are prone to making claims about the Odyssey's singular position on the gay community. To hear some, you might think it's the only gay-club in town. Others make the assertion that it's the only gay-club with dancing. Well, I think it's time that we turn to Joan-E for facts rather than hysteria: "Vancouver has Numbers, 1181, Pumpjack, Pulse, Celebrities, The Fountainhead, Oasis and Score. Of those, three have dancing for a combined capacity of around 1500 - all this for Western Canada’s largest gay population."
For those in the gay community who are taking up the stances that this is not a gay issue (or at least isn't until the currently fictional time council approves for a straight-club to open in the same premises); and those who are residents who would have been affected in their comfortable homes with their long-time companions off Denman street, I want to thank you too for being the reasonable people you are.
For those straights who opposed the club, and ever made any sort of assertion of evil in the gay community... please, we are not on the same side - or to the degree we are, you aren't helping.
Once again, congratulations to council for making a well reasoned and forward thinking decision, I'm sure you don't hear that often enough.

Sincerely, Kennedy Goodkey