Tuesday, February 16, 2016


OK let's talk National Anthem here

Our National Anthem. The Canadian one.

Here in Toronto it's come up a couple of time cuz some jerk on city council decides the lyrics need to be changed to be more "gender neutral" I thought a neutered gender was a eunuch but that's another story. Also another story: Why is some street level city politician whose duties should include fixing street lights and counting manhole covers concerned with a national anthem

It came up (the anthem that is) this weekend as Toronto hosted the NBA Allstar game. Canadian singer Nelly Furtado has become a social media pariah (seriously, how difficult is that these days) for her interpretation of the anthem. A new arrangement, one could say. And sang poorly for what I heard of it

People seem genuinely upset by her changing the arrangement and to that I respond: Who the fuck cares

For as long as I can recall, seriously, I have never felt connected to the anthem. I've always had a problem with it; well a couple of problems actually

Problem the First: The song itself. Aesthetically, it just sucks. Musically, it sounds like a funeral dirge. And not one of the fun kind. Isn't one of the notions behind a national anthem is that it's supposed to inspire? If the purpose of this is to inspire me to take a nap well, job well done

Let's get to the lyrics. The song as we know it was based on a poem by R Stanley Weir from 1908. It was modified but I wonder to what degree. My point is: How does this represent Canada? Aside from the line about the "true north" this song is incredibly generic. It's like something written my committee. It's an example of our country's infamous lack of confidence "Oh know, let's not to be seen as bragging or whatever, let's have our country be represented by lyrics that could be played in a supermarket"

The version of the song often used at sporting events etc has no real mention of Canada or its history or its geography. The longer four verse version does refer to pines and maples and rivers but yeh, lots of countries have those. Nothing to actually inspire here and nothing to promote what this country is. But oh yeh, we have to be patriots and stand on guard for it; "nothing much going on here son but be ready to shoot that gun when I tell ya"

There are things here that make me understand why people have so many PC objections: Dang, it's so religious it may as well be a hymn. And specifically religious as in Christian. And it has that colonial ring to it: "maidens" and "sons" etc. Yeh no thanks, I ain't interested in bowing down to any entity that refers to women as maidens

This country has a disproportionate number of high quality poets and song writers and musicians, surely we can come up with something much much better. Something written by an individual inspired by their country, not some committee who seem more interested in conversion than inspiration

The other problem I have with our anthem is the issue I would have with any anthem; the fact that I'm supposed to just except it and sing it and somehow view it as something to which reverence must be paid

Um, come again?

This is something that's never really worked for me. This is supposed to be a democracy, we put the govt in place (even if we do that poorly) the point of which is: The govt works for us. We pay em, we hire em, they work for us. Yeh I know, I'm hilarious

In Grade Two I got my first ever strap from a principle because I wouldn't sing God Save the Queen. Even then, I knew we didn't have no queen so why should I sing about her. That is no longer required in schools, to sing that song

You're welcome

The govt's job is to take of the things that we can't, to manage the country. It's not to tell us what we should sing, what we should say, how we should feel.

Hey, if someone wants to sing the anthem please go right ahead. I don't mind waiting for you. You want to pray to your god, yup, by all means, I'll be over here sipping my beer.

I've been told that "people died for our freedom so don't dishonour the anthem" Yeh, exactly. I'm free not to sing it. You're free to sing it. It's that simple

The PC people are offended by the song's lyrics. But it's also PC to expect me to accept something just because I'm told to do so. You want me to sing this song, you want me to acknowledge it, give me a reason to so so. Make it about my country. Make it something that actually represents me and everyone else in this crazy country

Let Nellie Furtado mess with the music. Let anyone change the lyrics. That's actually democratic, that's actually "freedom" If the song is sung differently by everyone who sings it, well hell, that would actually be Canadian; province to province, region to region, neighbourhood to neighbourhood, everyone in this country is different. We throw around this term diversity. All right then, let's go out

Don't try to make us uniform, don't ask us to conform. You want an expression of this country? It ain't gunna be in some song. It's gunna be a lot of voices, singing different words, mostly off key

Hell yeh. Pass me the maple syrup

Tuesday, February 9, 2016


Once upon a time there was a movie called Gaslight. I remember watching it when I was quite young and being bored because there were no cowboys in it

I caught it again, years later, in my early teens because I realized it had Ingrid Birgman in it. Yes, I had grown away just a bit from cowboys. This is a 1944 film also starring Charles Boyer and directed by George Cukor. I remember watching the film, I remember enjoying it but aside from the bare bones of the plot, I don't remember much else. After all, there were no space ships in it

There is an earlier version of Gaslight, from 1940, which I've never seen.

I recently learned that both movies were based upon a play, from 1938, written by Patrick Hamilton. I can now say that I've seen that play ... well yes I can, actually. Because there is a new production of Gaslight running at the Ed Mirvish Theatre

The Mirvish Theatres love to run big productions: Kinky Boots, Titanic, Cinderella (yes, Cinderella, it was great so shut the fuck up) but it's nice every now and then to see a smaller more intimate production. Gaslight qualifies as such. The entire play enfolds in one setting, the living room of a Victorian house in 1800's London. There are seven characters in the play and two of those are essentially walk ons

The plot, as well, could be typified as "small" A psychological drama, really, about a young wife and her powerful husband and her very delicate state of mind. The Victorian setting is perfect in many ways. The temporal atmosphere; a foggy London night, creepy old houses, the flickering gaslights that give the story its name

Also perfect are the social conventions of the Victorian era, where women were expected to defer to their husbands and that the questioning of that authority could be seen as hysteria, and madness

Mrs Manningham is just such a woman and here husband is the kind of man who make any woman begin questioning ... things. Mrs Manningham begins to question her own sanity. Is she forgetting things, is she misplacing things, is she taking a picture down from the wall and if so why and if so why can't she remember These are questions of some import, her own mother died in the madhouse and Mr Manningham is quite afraid that he may have to send his wife there, for her own good

Yeh, right. That doesn't stink at all, does it

It stinks so much that shortly into the play a detective, or former detective shows up. There is history here, and suspicion and like all good Victorian stories, something nefarious going on behind locked doors in the attic

The storyline veers between mystery and psychological thriller. When Gaslight adheres to the latter, it gains it's greatest strength. The interplay between the married couple provides the play with its most powerful moments

Power comes from the performances. The wife is portrayed by Flora Montgomery and she has a heady task ahead of her; she has to keep her Victorian housewife authentic but we need to see her as a fully capable woman, both victim and hero, at the same. Montgomery is more than up to the task. She gives us a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown, a young wife clinging to her husband for strength, a woman who realizes that her strength must come from within and a woman who finds her voice all combined together. It is a credit to her performance that we never

Power also comes from the performance Owen Teale as the husband. If you watch Game of Thrones you will know, and despise, Teale from his portrayal of Ser Alliser Thorne, the lovely gent who is responsible for the death of John Snow

Take a breath. I'll give you a minute

So, another villainous turn for Thorne in this play. And damn, the man is good. He exudes a slow, smoldering rage that threatens to erupt at any minute. His sense with Montgomery, when he is attempting to impose his will upon here provides the production with some actual goose pimply moments

Another Game of Thrones alum graces the stage here. Ian McElhinney plays Ser Barristan on GOT, recently slain in his service to the Khaleesi. He plays Inspector Rough here and strikes the only off key notes in the play. He wants his detective to be more Columbo than Holmes; a doting old man disguising a steel trap mind. Problem is, occasionally, he is just a bit too jaunty and humbly. He had a little issue with his lines but being a professional was able to sail past it, with aid of his cast mates

The plot of the story is not exactly complex but it doesn't need to be. The meat of this play is in the interplay between husband and wife, a kind of battle where the psychological knives are sheathed for most of the duel and only bared at the end; but a deadly battle at the end. Montgomery and Teale are more than up to the task and when they are locked in they battle of words, you can't take away your eyes

I could have used much much more of that duel but I'll take what I was given and be happy about it. And every time the lights flicker, I'll be looking up at the ceiling (Now you have to find the movie to know what the hell I'm talking about)

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