Friday, February 27, 2015


They will be toasting him tonight. At Starfleet Academy, at various military outposts on various grimy worlds way out there at the edge of the galaxy half forgotten, and of course on that great ship; old and battered but more storied than any other, they will be toasting him. Officer, Friend. Legend.

They will not be toasting him on his homeworld. Such affection may not be considered logical. But they will acknowledge him, they will have a place for him, if not for the memory of his companionship but for his achievements He was not always one of them, not purely, but through his actions he proved himself and proved his worth to this most prosaic of cultures

It will not be just Starfleet and Vulcan that will miss him, that will acknowledge him. All over, on many worlds in many languages, they will know him. They will know about the one who was different, the one who was conflicted, torn between two kinds of existences, two kinds of reality. The conflicted one,  who like them in all their various ways was not perfect, was not well defined, who could not be categorized; yet he still moved forward, he still found a way to succeed, who defied both sides of his own nature to become not one thing, not one or the other, but who became himself

That is what they will remember, as they move their own lives, trying to find who they are, trying to find their niche and sometimes failing, trying to deal with all those who demanded of them "Who are you, what are you, which one are you" They will think of him and how he just became himself

And that self became a legend.

Leonard Nimoy was not Spock. He told us so. But then later on he knew that he was. He told us that as well. He was a man of may talents, a man of many things

But he was Spock. And Spock was more than the pointed ears and the raised eyebrows. He was a character torn between two destinies. And through the long on screen life of that character came to realize that his destiny was his own. That his flaws made him stronger than his strength and damn, he had some kind of strength

A star has fallen today. But there is no void in the galaxy. Because that star's gravity was so great, its affect will be felt for a long long time

RIP Leonard Nimoy. You will live a long time in our minds and our hearts and we shall be the ones who will prosper


Noel Coward was a pretty smart fella. And also a pretty talented one. Playwright, composer, singer, actor, director, raconteur, he may have been the guy for whom the term "rapier wit" was coined.

This past weekend we attended a new production of Coward's Blithe Spirit at the Princess of Wales Theatre. It is a comedy of manners involving a married couple, a deceased wife, a medium, a seance, a clumsy housekeeper and a rather impish ghost. It is damn damn funny but there were lessons to be gleaned from it. So here is what I learned from watching Blithe Spirit

BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU ASK FOR: In the story, Edith and Charles are a happily married couple. Urbane, sophisticated and as dry as their martinis, they are the quintessential Noel Coward couple. Lots of silk with some lumpy gravel underneath. They have both before been married, Charles first wife, the young and vivacious Elvira, having passed away several years earlier. As the play opens, the couple is hosting an evening of entertainment and Edith pesters Charles for details about the dearly departed Elvira and their relationship. Yeh, that's a problem. The entertainment, you see, is going to be a seance

THE SEANCE OF SILLY WALKS: The medium who the couple invite to their country estate is called Madame Arcady. Not only have the guests in the story come to see Madame Arcady, but so have we. You see, in this production, Madame Arcady is played by Angela Lansbury. Yes, that Angela Lansbury. Ms Lansbury has been in the acting game a very long time. She achieved her greatest amount of fame in Murder She Wrote, playing an elderly character. The actress we saw on the stage is supposed to be 89 years old. Yeh, right. Her delivery was a sharp and perfectly timed as you could want and for all Coward being a writer of incisive language, the physical was not lost on Ms Lansbury. As Madame Arcady enters her trance to perform the seance, she is overtaken by a series of jerky, staccato movements that propelled her across the stage. At one point she hooked one leg over the other and began a series of long limbed glides. Yes, it was the seance of silly walks

THE GHOSTESS WITH THE MOSTEST DOESN'T ALWAY MAKE THE BEST HOSTESS: Let's cut to the chase. Quite against her will, Madame Arcady manages to conjure up the ghost of Elvira. At first, she can only be seen by  her husband Charles. As hilarious as Angela Lansbury was, Jemma Rooper as Elvira is a standout. She is a very bratty ghost, quite enjoying Charles discomfort and taking every opportunity to indulge in a naughty, cheeky haunting.

TWO WIVES SOUNDS GREAT UNTIL YOU REALIZE THAT ALL MORMON MEN ARE PROBABLY INSANE: Ok, this is not your normal polygamal arrangement. A wife and a ex wife, one of whom is dead. And you are the only one the dead one can see. That sounds perhaps a bit kinky until you realize that the dead one wants you dead as well, so you can be together forever. Yeh, there may be a flaw in this plan

THE AFTERLIFE MAKES STRANGE BEDFELLOWS: The wife and the ex wife together .. but both now dead. Yeh, two ghosts. Oops. They can now see each other and they both see you and Charles, you gots some splaining to do. This isn't till death do you part, this is we're dead, live with it .. or not. It gets confusing. But pretty hilarious

IT WAS THE MAID, IN THE PARLOUR, WITH AN ECTOPLASM: In this very strong cast there was one more standout, Charollette Parry as Ruth, the maid. At first we were completely entranced by her fine sense of physical comedy. A tiny woman of limited words who moved way too fast, when reminded to slow down, she affects a kind of slow mo Frankenstein shuffle. But there is more to Ruth than hilarious slapstick. Trust me, it's always the servants

And the final lesson gleaned from Blithe Spirit:

Whenever Angela Lansbury walks on to the stage, you damn well better applaud

Sunday, February 22, 2015


"Do not judge lest ye be judged." So it sayeth in the Bible. But hey kids, it's Awards Season so strap into your glowinthedark fake sealskin corset and high heeled combat boots, grab your bags of swag, rehearse your spontaneous inappropriate comments and let's collect some trophies

The Oscars, the Grammies, the Junos, Screen Actors, Golden Globes, Raspberries ... it's an orgy of judging art

It's an interesting yet dangerous enterprise, judging art. Judge is not only subjective, it is often designed to be subjective. Art is personal, for the person who creates it and for the person who appreciates it. You look at a painting or read or poem or hear a piece of music or watch a movie and you may say "I don't like it" You mean even say "That sucked" But you're not really judging it, you're reacting to it. You are engaging in the art and even a negative response is still a response, you are reacting to the art, through your experiences and your preferences and it's personal.

That is how art is supposed to work

Yet we have this need to qualify things. "Is it good? Is it awful? Is it great? Is it the best, yeh that's it, is it the best"

Well, is it? How can we tell. How do we access a film, a book, a TV show, a song to determine if one is better than the other. There is something about us that makes us ask these questions For some reason we're not always satisfied that we just like something, that it moves us, that we react to it, we still need to know if it's good

I'm not sure where this comes from. In sports there has to be a winner, Olympic athletes refer to the bronze medal as the "second loser" although they have "beat out" at least dozens of high caliber athletes. 

Then there's school; You get an A, you get an A -, you get an A + ... all of which is pretty much bullshit when you think about it, this shaving away at a label to make it seem more less important to some tiny degree

Can a movie really be better than another movie? Or do you just like it more. 

We like to think that we can judge a movie, or a song or a TV show, on technical merits. Lighting, editing, direction. Sometimes these things are indeed quantifiable. But it still make a difference to whether or not we like it. I've loved some movies that I know, on a technical level, are not good; many of Audi Murphy's westerns (though not all) where cheap, carelessly made B films that I still can enjoy. 

There are also many technically well made movies that do nothing for me. The films of Tony Scott, like Man on Fire and Vengeance, are beautifully shot, well edited and often well acted, but I'd rather watch Audi Murphy where the same outfit over a month of screen time, I just don't find those films engaging

So it seems that even we can apply standards to a work of art, it's still very much subjective. So how do we explain all these awards, how do we explain this judging

I have some personal experience with this. I've been judged and I've been a judge ... but not in the legal sense, or the biblical one

I have entered several competitions, a few for poetry but many more for videos that I've helped create or have fully created. I've won badly and lost well .. or something close to that. I've been critiqued and assessed, and some of it made sense and some of it did not. Generally when I've made these videos I made them for myself, I tried to make the best video I could but I always tried to keep the judges preferences out of it; when I didn't that's usually when I fell on my oh so artistic face

Many people create a video then "shop" it around to competitions. I've rarely done that. Usually I create a video for a competition, be it the films I made for the St Lawrence College video awards, the music video I made for the Moby Hello Future contest; the short film I made for the Amplify Me festival, or an unintentionally creepy short I created for a one minute film fest, I need to be inspired to make fictional videos. I'm a corp video dude at heart and although I'm a writer, I still need some sort of spark to make an "artistic" video. Competitions and contests are a good spark

I've been on the other side of things as well. For many years I judged the St Lawrence College Greg Awards. If you take the judging seriously, it's not an easy thing. Going back to judging technical aspects, you'd think it would be easy: Best Audio goes to the film that actually used a lavalier mic on the interview subjects ... except you learn that after that film used it, the lav broke and no one else had access to it. OK, that probably is not the case with Oscar nominated movies but it just goes to show that nothing is black and white. Unless you made your movie in black and white, for which I would give you artistic kudos ... .unless you had an issue with your camera and you had no choice but to make it black and white

See, it's complicated.

These big televised award shows, well clearly, artistic merit or even technical competency may not be the most important criteria for awarding prizes. Do you smell it? Yes folks, that's the smell of money. To quote an old pop song "all that cash makes a succulent sound"

In that sense, the Grammies may be the most straightforward of all the big award shoes. Money, baby, money. No matter what they tell you it's pretty clear that those who sell the most, win the most. And we want to celebrate this commerce to such a degree that we will keep creating redundant categories so you can win even more awards. Album of the year, record of the year, recording of the year, song of the year, biggest bank account of the year ... you get the idea.

The Oscars are big more complicated. It's not always about money. Certainly in the last few years the Oscars seem to be going about avoiding movies that are sure to make a lot of money. They're probably still embarressed from giving Titantic all this awards. So we gets lists with movies like Birdman and a Boy's Life and Dallas Buyers Club and Silver Linings Playbook.

On the surface, acknowledging and rewarding more "independent" movies seems a noble thing. But it could also be an image-correcting process. As Whoopi opined when the first black actress won an Oscar "We're going to be alright" (or something to that affect) Hollywood is this entirely insular world where their own self image may trump their desire to actually reward movies for being .. you know .. good.

I love Jennifer Lawrence. Her performance in Winter's Bone is still something that gives me goosebumps. But Silver Lining Playbook? One of those films that after watching it you remark "Well, that was a movie"

I think we should give awards to awards. Like Best Redundant Award. Or Best Image Correcting Award. Or Best Award for Something About Which No One Really Gives a Fuck

I'm writing my acceptance speech now
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