Tuesday, May 29, 2012


When I started working as an usher at the Confederation Centre of the Arts, we had an honest-to-goodness electromagnet in our office. It was used to wipe clean film without manually opening a guest's camera, but mostly, we just played with it. My favourite game was to see how far we could hold the magnet from the metal waste-paper bin to make it clatter across the floor and slam into the device.

It was very unusual to have to destroy film. It rarely came to that, and when it did, it was the manager's Schadenfreude-filled responsibility. As the theatre-goers arrived, we told them not to use their cameras, there was a bilingual announcement before the show, and if a flash went off, we ushers were trained to descend like samurai and tell them to knock it the hell off. It was only the defiant repeat photographer that had his or her camera confiscated and the film destroyed.

The core problem involves the image, of course. The set, the lighting design, and the staging are all protected by copyrights, and the performers are very hesitant to not have control over their images.

Besides the more legal stuff, it's hella distracting to an actor when a flash goes off. If you've ever been in a spotlight, you know that you're working half-blinded; the lights flood your retinas to the point where the audience disappears into an inky abyss. When a flash comes out of that void, it can be very discombobulating. I mean, these performers are seasoned professionals - they're not going to wander, dazed, fall off the stage and into the orchestra pit - but it takes a lot of mental energy to do these shows, and a distraction is a distraction.

It's different, now, with accessible digital cameras and "cameras" in every phone. Where the image was the primary problem and the flash was secondary, now, we have a tertiary issue of audience distraction from glowing LCD screens. Our lizard brains (moth brains?) are so drawn to glowing screens, no matter how amazing the show is, live, on stage, it's very difficult to look away from the tiny-but-shiny glow three rows ahead.

Let me end with this thought: as a spectator, why must we document shows?

Is it to remind ourselves we were there? Maybe the show's not worth going to if we're worried we'll forget.

Is it to share the experience with others? If so, is even a little bit of sharing also showing off? Honestly?

If it's because we're enjoying the show so much, we'll want to see it again, let's consider what quality of experience that will be: the person recording the show is cheated out of the real deal, distracted by the task of recording a tiny, 2D image instead of enjoying the live performance.

Maybe we do it simply because we can. Perhaps soon the novelty of "document & share" will wear off and we can watch a show like a Greek in an ancient open-air amphitheatre would have. I have to be patient. We may come to our senses in a few decades.

I kinda like thinking about the fleeting beauty of a live experience. It's bittersweet, but I love the bittersweet.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


I started watching Castle this year. It was purely to sate the Fillion Withdrawal I felt after finishing Firefly. I don't usually watch what I call "murder shows," but Castle had some charm and humour, so I was satisfied.

(Beef that has since been resolved: Castle was dragging out the will they/won't they trope way too long. I didn't care if they ever got together, and it was getting hamfisted. Also, the whole "Castle's-family-is-mirroring-a-situation-from-the-precinct" stuff is played out.)

I recently read an article that referred to Fillion's co-star, Stana Katic, as a "bombshell."

I started thinking about  that word, bombshell.

When I think of a bombshell, I think curves. I think pin-ups and victory rolls. Katic is tall and extremely slender. Bombshell is not an adjective I would use to describe her. Willowy, maybe.

Scarlett Johansson, Salma Hayek, and Joan Holloway* qualify. Katic has cornered the market on a strange girlish smoulder, but not bombshell.

Fillion's still a hunk. No argument there.

*Yes, I mean Holloway. Not Hendricks.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

"Yeah, That's Right: My Name's Yauch."

I thought I was having a fever dream when I heard that Adam Yauch had died. I was travelling and had come down with a virus, so I woke up from an afternoon nap in my hotel room, clammy and achy and I turned on the TV to see what time it was. It was on Much Music and the super in the bottom right-hand corner said "RIP MCA." I really thought I was dreaming. I left a fevered, rambling phone message to my closest Beastie Boys fan friend, M.

In 2009, Yauch announced that he had cancer in one of his salivary glands and not long ago denied reports that he was cancer-free. He didn't attend the recent Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction of the Beastie Boys, and all three Boys have been conspicuously missing from the first two videos from their newest album, Hot Sauce Committee Part Two. I didn't put two and two together - I just thought they were being reclusive. I didn't realise it was because MCA was so ill he couldn't appear (no pun intended). I guess I wasn't paying close enough attention.

There are many reasons his death is tragic.

To begin, the very human loss of a young man with a young family to a cancer that he understood was very treatable. Yauch also had a noble social conscience. A Buddhist, he was active in Tibetan independence protests and worked to support Tibetans in exile. In all the tributes I've been reading, the affection that friends and fans felt for this man are so moving.

Then, musically. Yauch was a third of the Beastie Boys. The symbiosis between these three men is one hundred percent part of their identity. They would trade off performing verses, and words, and syllables. I'm sure, over the years, performing their parts became a muscle memory, and now, it's bittersweet to listen to any Beastie Boys song, because MCA performed one third of it.

The remaining Beasties must be devastated. They had been friends and partners for over 30 years. They grew together, three bad brothers we know so well. They evolved from misogynistically rapping about "Girls" who do their laundry for them to penance by "[offering their] love and respect to the end" to "the mothers and the sisters and the wives and friends" in "Sure Shot."

I feel like I'm rambling, but it's been three weeks since Yauch died and I'm still blue about it. It's different from when Amy Winehouse died. She was just as important, musically and culturally, but she was a solo artist. I feel like a limb has been removed from the Beastie Boys. Two limbs. Or maybe just a piece of the heart.

Link: The Hollywood Reporter's nice compilation of regrets.

I'm so glad I got to see the Beastie Boys live when they were touring for To The Five Boroughs. They performed with such joy and energy! They seemed like they were having so much fun, rapping and dancing and playing, you could forget how good they were and how hard it is to do what they did so well. I'm mixing up past and present tense, I know, but I'm unsure of the group's future without Yauch.

Seeking solace through friends, I wrote a good man, Michał, telling him I was bummed, and he replied with exactly what I wanted to hear: "MCA. It hasn't sunk in yet, but if Ill Communication was any indication, he's with Buddha now. Or he is Buddha." It made me smile, and it made me happy. Thanks, Michał. Thanks, MCA.