Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Day I Insulted Jonathan Franzen

Went to hear Jonathan Franzen read from his new book Freedom tonight. Afterward a lengthy line for his signature, about 40 minutes, so I started to talk to the people in line around me and they all looked at me like I was crazy. We had nothing else to do so I started asking people if they had read the book - I figured we were all standing in line waiting for him.
No one had read the book.

Now I should preface this by saying I fell a little out of love with Franzen in his most recent book.  He came off arrogant sometimes, he bad-mouthed cats, he made all his female characters servile and mono-sylabic. He came into the reading with a leather jacket and a swagger and a part of me thought "This guy is the biggest blow-hard I've ever seen!" which may not have been true but was still on my mind as I approached the front of the line.
I'm not very good at hiding my feelings.

As I waited to approach him with mixed emotions, the woman in front of me was taking FOREVER and telling her life story. She closed with "All the best to you".
I thought "that sounds good" so as I walked up I repeated her line "All the best to you".
Franzen goes on the defensive, saying "She really meant it!" and I thought "This is starting well...."
So I said "Good!  I mean it too!" and he accused me of being sarcastic and mocking the woman. I said I wasn't mocking her as I wouldn't want his job anyway, talking to crazy strangers all day, and then I realized I had inadvertently mocked this woman some more and then I rambled for a while.
Franzen quickly signs my books with what looks like a circle instead of his name, no personalization, and says "Next!"
The pretty girl a couple in front of me got a doodle drawing and her name and everything, which kind of reinforced my "he's a douche" thing, but at the same time....
That didn't go how I planned.


I want to be covered in rocks.

Big boulders, smooth, and hard and round.  Impenetrable.

I want to lie down, lie back,

the first one is placed on my chest.

It feels heavy and I ask for more.

Another on my left leg, then another on my right.

Hard, firm, solid.

I can feel the crushing weight.

"But sir, I have a question", I hear,

as I ask for another on my head.

And another on my groin, and another on my feet

and another on top of another, on top of another.

The wall complete.

There is silence.

I want to be encased and covered, smothered.

And I lie back, and breathe,

for the first time in 20 years.

I am at peace.

I feel my place.

I feel content.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Last One - The Gravy Train

I worked for city hall temping for the computer leasing inquiry in 2005.

While there I remember they had one photocopier for the entire East York civic centre, and I'm guessing from it's looks it was bought in the early 1980's.

I remember using outdated computers with Word Perfect, the 1995 edition.

I remember only two computers in the entire office had the internet.

I remember they couldn't afford cleaners so at the end of every day you want to walk your garbage can over and dump it in a main receptacle. 

I remember there was a water cooler and if you wanted to drink from it you had to join "the water club" and pay $10 a month for the privilege.

Basically conditions that no private sector would ever put up with.  EVER.

And now we find out, from Rob Ford, that this ladies and gentleman was the gravy train.  And the time of the gravy train is ending....

Heaven help us all.

The God Delusion

Rob Ford

Ford was opposed to funding an AIDS prevention program and made homophobic remarks: "If you are not doing needles and you are not gay, you won't get AIDS probably. That's bottom line."

Regarding bike lanes and cyclists who are killed in accidents: "I can't support bike lanes. Roads are built for buses, cars, and trucks. My heart bleeds when someone gets killed, but it's their own fault at the end of the day."

Mr. Ford reacts to councillor Howard Moscoe's suggestion that police overtime be audited:
"It just makes me sick when you left-wing nut jobs like Howard Moscoe are down here trying to bash the police non-stop."
- February 2003

he most notorious incident involving Rob Ford occurred at a Toronto Maples Leafs game at the Air Canada Centre. Ford got very drunk, yelled obscenities and essentially made a spectacle of himself. Some people asked him to tone it down and Ford began harassing them. Dan and Rebecca Hope, from Enniskillen in Durham Region, were on the receiving end of Ford's nasty obscenity-filled attacks, and was eventually escorted out of the Air Canada Centre by security. The Hopes did not know the identity of the man who harassed them, but Ford had left a business card identifying him as a city councilor. The couple wrote a letter to Toronto city clerk Ulli Watkiss. When reporters asked Ford about it, he lied and claimed he wasn't at the game, and then alleged he was being slandered, that it was a "hatchet job" and that he was actually a victim. Ford changed his story however the following day, admitted that he had lied and that he harassed Dan and Rebecca Hope.

Fuck Rob Ford

Toronto needs to de-amalgamize. 
Let the suburbs have their Mel Lastman's and their Rob Fords, downtown doesn't want them.

All I hear is how worse off the suburbs have it.
"My road hasn't been paved in 3 years and downtown roads are perfect!"

Me and the 250 people who live in my unit pay to pave the road in front of my house.  The same amount of road in front of your house is paid by you and your neighbour across the street.  By that argument my road should be paved every 10 minutes but it's not as my money is going to fund you already.  And you say you're not getting enough?!?!?!

I'm ready to split this city in two.  Who's with me???

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Anderson Project - CanStage

The Anderson Project - CanStage

This is how the season should have started.

A play advertised as a biography of Hans Christian Anderson put on as a one man show. The play opens in Paris with loud rap music in French and quickly changes venue to a porno theatre.

This is theatre that opens your mind, that is new, and fresh, and thinks outside the box. Yet it's all still likable, relateable.

Incredible staging and performances, a tour de force of modern theatre.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Death of a Salesman - Soulpepper

Death of a Salesman - Soulpepper

The only thing I knew about this play going in was that it was depressing and that the main character was the model of Gil from the Simpsons. It took a while for me to shake that Simpsons image of hapless Gil, but shake it I did.

The play unravels slowly, like an onion, layer by layer to the point that even at the midway point I was unsure of what was keeping me there.

By the end the story is revealed, a timeless story of a search for identity, our place in the world, of hope.

In my opinion Death of a Salesman is the best play ever written.

Soulpepper as always means quality acting, the lone misstep being Nancy Palk whom I felt did not stay consistent. In her defense her part is the most thin, but I felt times where she lost her motivation. It should also be noted she is the real life wife of the lead, Joseph Ziegler.

Ari Cohen is fantastic as Biff, simmering with discontent throughout the play and finally boiling over at the end in a flood of emotions that had me and the entire audience in tears.

The revelation here is the lead Joseph Ziegler as Willy Loman, the salesman of the title. He does not go for show, but is consistent through out and I'm guessing most people didn't realize how good the performance was. Like a master actor, he embodies the role, becoming Willy so completely you can't imagine him as anything else.

A great performance of one of the seminal works of the 20th century.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Priscilla, Queen of the Desert: The Musical

Priscilla, Queen of the Desert: The Musical - Princess of Wales Theatre

We sat in the front row and they should have left the seats behind us empty for when we were blown away back in to the row behind us.
The best costumes, the best songs, the best staging.
"Material Girl" was the best performance of a song I have ever seen in my life.
If I won the lottery I would go every night until the show closed.
So beyond utterly fabulous, go now, sing, dance, live.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Blasted - Buddies in Bad Times Theatre

Both of the new artistic directors of CanStage and Buddies in Bad Times had something to prove when they took over the reins and both optioned provocative lead plays to start the season.

Whereas CanStage mis-stepped with Fernando Krapp Wrote Me This Letter, Buddies director Brendan Healy hits with Blasted.

Provoking but not exploitative, the play has a lot of positives, with a cast that is totally not afraid to check their ego at the door and go there, to excellent thoughtful staging and sensitive direction.

The problem lies with the script, a first play from a 23 year-old British author, it contains too many parts where you don't know what is happening.

That being said the 1.75 hours flew by, and you leave the theatre with a discussion, as opposed to CanStage's Fernando Krapp, where you feel like you SHOULD be leaving with a discussion, but aren't.

Marks off for the plot holes that are never explained, I hate that.


Nuit Blanche 2010

Best Nuit Blanche ever!
Started out at the Kent Monkman Iskootao show as I wanted him to sign his book, The TRIUMPH OF MISS CHIEF. As you can see from the link, a used copy is selling for $1,145, and that's unsigned. Not that I would ever sell it though. Art is worth more than money.
We got there a bit early as I was hoping to catch him setting up and flag him over to sign the book. We asked and were told he'd be there between 8 and 10 depending on the crowd. D'oh.
We went over to the ROM to see 20,000 Species? We asked as we couldn't find it and the description said "High up in the historic Red Oak tree in front of the ROM". The Nuit Blanche people said it was inside, so we waited for about 20 minutes in line, went in and saw Crossing which was people projected on the side of the ROM and not worth raising a camera for and heard XXIX which was people singing together on a video in 29 different languages and not worth even sticking our head in for one second.
Once inside there were blankets made of liquor bottle caps. No photos allowed. It looked like they took a LOT of work but ultimately not very satisfying.
We had a quick dinner, I was out-voted and we went to Taco Bell. I've learned you can't eat crap food and still walk around, so I had a snack size sandwich only, but Sarah has not learned and had like 4 tacos and fries supreme, ensuring she would be limping behind us for the rest of the night. And the minx shared her fries with me! Foul temptress!
From there we waited in line about 15 minutes for KortuneFookie, a huge fortune cookie that is interactive, you can write fortunes for it online. I kept guessing mine would be "You will find disappointment in a cookie" but instead it was "Daniel Patrick Moynihan said, 'Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.'" Which I thought was rather stupid.
Everyone was talking all these pictures of themselves with the cookie which held up the line considerably, so I decided I would too.

Lynn's dauther Key-something with the cookie.

From there we walked past Monument to Smile (Michael Jackson singing 'Smile' and more photos on a wall I didn't bother photographing) and went back over to Kent Monkman and there was now a HUGE crowd gathered. I was able to find us an amazing spot right up front, we had to nearly fall in a water fountain to get there, but it was worth it. After about another 30 minute wait he appeared!
She was dressed in full native/drag and beat a drum over a pulsing piece of the Canadian shield, representing a new mother earth, in drag form. Watching her dancing and drumming in huge heels and everyone clapping and moving along, that was cool. Unfortunately I mostly had a view of his back, but at least we were REALLY close, and no one could stand behind us because of the water.

This is the best photo I took, as she was making her departure. I was kind of reaching for the book at that time....

But Lynn's daughter took this amazing photo and I am forever grateful.

Afterward I snuck around back and found her tent and stuck first my head, and then the book through the hole and he signed it! I was so happy, like on cloud nine, I had to stop afterward to collect myself. Lynn's dauther was like "Would you like a picture with him?" and I was like "How? Get him to stick his head through the hole in the tent in full drag?" So that didn't work.

A short walk from there was our longest wait of the night, about 45 minutes, and Interactive landscape Dune at Lower Bay Station. I had wanted to see this FOREVER, well ever since I heard there was a dis-used subway station underneath Bay Street. There's apparently another unfinished one under Queen Street btw. Unfortunately they had parked subways on either side of the tunnel for the exhibit so we couldn't see much of the actual station.
I know the photo below is out of focus but it best represents what we saw in the exhibit.

Light sticks that somehow interacted with people, as you walked by they lit up. You were encouraged to run up and down the row and the lights would follow you. Here with the full flash to hide the darkness is Lynn's daughter doing just that.

I took this photo as we were leaving, a sign indicating Bay Station as 'Upper Bay'.

When we left we were already on the subway and had magically gotten in without paying, so we hoped on and went down to King Street with about a million other people.
The first thing we saw was Endgame (Coulrophobia), the squished clowns head between two buildings, which had gotten big press coverage for some reason and was just weird.

Next was the one we wanted to see, 1850, which was to show a recreation of the former Lake Ontario shoreline from 1850 with an "array of lights projecting an immersive wash of blue". What we got instead was a blue/black light with a bunch of people standing in front of it like it was a rave. Although "impromptu rave" would have probably worked as an installation too.

From there up Yonge St to The Task. The concept was a man moves 15 tonnes of bricks from one side of the lot to the other side and back over the course of the night. We saw him move one brick. I think he was ahead of schedule or something.

Back east to The Next Community. This sounded cool, a machine would take photos of people and digitally mix them up so that the resulting photo would be a combination of all the people's photos.
There were problems however:
1) 15 minute line to get your photo taken
2) The projection was like in an alleyway between two buildings and you could barely see it. Look in the photo, it's WAY at the top:

3) The resulting photo had no mouth.
All this said, the resulting photo's eyes did look Asian.
From there we went over to I Cried For You, which I had been discussing as a highlight of the evening. Over the course of a 10 minute "audition", a "director" asks you to make yourself cry. Would I be able to do it? I have no idea, and neither does anyone else as when we got there the place was set up but deserted.
Over to Arrivals/Departures, a huge chalk board where people write either where they're coming from or where they're going. I was impressed at the size of the chalk board.

Here's a close up.

Starting back home we passed The Bus House Collective, which was: "Bus shelters will be transformed info comfy, interactive environments that question traditional ideas of infrastructure, home, and public space." This was the best one:

As we passed Yonge/Dundas square I spotted Trevor Boris and shoved Sarah over to him so we could get a group photo.

An exhibit called Just because you can feel it, doesn't mean it's there was just a big fire in the middle of Yonge/Dundas square.

I have no idea how it could be called art, but it was a cold night so the fire was nice.
We walked past Nuit Market Starring the Toronto Weston Flea Market but there was a HUGE line to get it and we didn't feel like waiting in line for a flea market at 1 am.
Our final stop was Happy Birthday to _____________! which was a bunch of people signing Happy Birthday to You every 15 minutes. We thought they'd be miserable but they were still happy, with huge smiles on their faces.
From there we were too tired to continue. A great night!

Alyson folds

One of the world's oldest LGBT book publishers, Alyson Books, has effectively folded. They released a statement recently announcing a switch to e-book only format, with the first e-books not being released for 9-12 months, if ever.
I don't read e-books.
Plus they published some vital stuff, like this collection from OUT magazine (also owned by Here! Media, also in danger of folding...). I pre-ordered this book over a year ago and am still waiting.

I have been critical of Out magazine for having like no content, and I found out recently it's that they haven't been paying their writers, according to Michael Musto. No payment means no writers. No writers means no content. No content means no readers. And another 10 page article on "What's new in port wines!" That is not gay!
The worst part is my favourite author, Paul Russell, who has like no web presence, his book was to be their fall lead title, The Unreal Life of Sergey Vladimirovich Nabokov.

Now Paul Russell is under contract so he can't even publish anywhere else, this book may never see the light of day and that SUCKS.
The argument that gay publishing is dead doesn't really fly. What about Josh Kilmer-Purcell? An unknown whose first book his the New York Times bestseller list. Argh.

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Clockmaker - Tarragon Theatre

The Clockmaker - Tarragon Theatre

The play starts well with strong characters. The title character, Charlie Chaplin-esque, is not over-played, the police chief played by a handsome gay man and the husband in unfortunate pants is criminally attractive. The only faulty piece is the wife who runs around in a haze, then freaks out, and finally turns in to Nancy Drew. 
The problem is the story, far too convoluted, un-followable. I fell asleep 30 minutes in and awoke for the unsatisfactory finale. The play started with character and ended like a poorly written episode of 'Touched By An Angel'. 
2.5 out of 10. Definitely miss - no redeeming value.