No Such Nonsense

A little of this, that and... what was I talking about again? It's TV, sports, pop culture and politics - all the stuff that really matters in life.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Hug your Mom Today...

Remember when you were a teenager and hated your parents for being such hard-asses about stupid stuff like curfews and rules? Oh, and for getting all up in your business? And for telling you what to do, and what not to do? And how dare they treat you like a kid?

Well you might want to take a minute to thank your folks for all that annoying "discipline" and all those stupid "boundaries."

Because the alternative ain't pretty.

The alternative, it seems, is letting your kid drag your whole family to Hollywood to become a star at the age of 10 or 11. To follow her dreams. Because 10 year olds are totally rational in their dreams, no? Because 10 year olds should be able to choose between a real childhood and fame/money/excess all on their own, yes?

The alternative is being your daughter's "best friend" - instead of her mom. Letting her set the rules. Letting her pay the bills. And partying beside her while she spirals into oblivion.

Like Britney, who was so far gone at a recent photoshop for OK magazine that they're actually printing all the dirty details, instead of the usual star-fu*&er fluff pieces they're known for. And who has systematically cut all the people out of her life until she is totally alone and clearly on the edge of serious breakdown. And mom? Mom, who let Brit become the most sexualized 15-year-old since Lolita? Mom, who taught Brit that it's okay to steal a pregnant gal's guy so long you're more famous than she is? Well, mom's now on the outs - because how do you turn to someone for help, when that someone's been earning cash off your back since you were a kid?

Like Lindsay, arrested last night for the second time in 3 months, driving with alcohol in her system and cocaine in her pocket. Fresh out of rehab, almost certainly on her way to jail, career totally screwed. And her mom? Her mom? Her mom, who has been out partying with Lindsay in the hottest clubs since Linds was 17? Her mom, who seemed to endorse a relationship with a piece of human filth like Calum Best? Her mom, who argued that Georgia Rule would get Lindsay her Oscar? Who said that producers were out of line for criticizing Lindsay's work ethic? Her enabling piece of crap of a mom - where is she? On set with younger daughter Aly Lohan - getting on a new bandwagon while the old one falls apart.

Makes you appreciate your own mom just a little more, eh?

A Problem Like Michael Vick

The NFL has asked Michael Vick not to come to the Falcon's training camp next week. Just as well, really, since he'll be a bit busy on the day camp opens. That's the day he'll be in a Richmond, Virginia courtroom to be arrained on a slew of charges related to dog-fighting ring he allegedly ran from one of his properties.

The charges, if you have the stomach to read them all, are lurid and disgusting. Any who has ever had a pet - even if, like me, they don't care much for dogs as a rule - will be repulsed by the accusations. They suggest a level of cruelty and disregard for suffering that is just plain shocking.

What the NFL wouldn't give for a record-breaking steroid user right about now.

While baseball grapples with the sins of its past in the way of steroids, and basketball faces news of possible points-shaving by a former referee, football is facing the biggest personnel problem short of having one its all-time greats on trial for murder.

The last year has been murder for the NFL. With every month of the season came new charges of assault, weapons possession, drugs -and that's just the Cincinnati Bengals. The number of arrests and accusations during last season got so bad that commissioner Roger Goodell instituted the new Personal Conduct Policy. It's under this policy that the league has suspended Pacman Jones for the entire 2007 season. Chris Henry and Tank Johnson got eight games each.

It's a tricky thing. Vick hasn't been convicted a thing - though if I'm remembering correctly, Jones, Henry and Johnson haven't been convicted, just yet, either. But none of them - even with Jones' genuine talents as a DB - present the problem that Vick does.

Vick is prodigiously talented. When he joined the league, many speculated he would change the game - a player taking a position to a whole new level just as Bobby Orr transformed our understanding of what it meant to play defence in the NHL. Ridiculously fast, with the cornering ability of a running back, Vick was a new breed a quarterback - or possibly just Kordell Stewart 2.0. Seven years later, Vick is still more famous for his potential than for what he has delivered. And just what has he delivered? Lots of spectacular plays. Lots of injuries. An embarrassing mishaps with airport security. No championships. And now this.

This isn't a role player, even on a championship team. This isn't a young star in the making. This is one of biggest names in the league. And he's now associated with a reprehensible, criminal lifestyle. Which is probably why Goodell is wishing he had a Barry Bonds problem instead.

Expect to see a lot of Joey Harrington at QB in Atlanta this fall.

Update: Many columnists, including those in Atlanta, are now suggesting that Vick will never play another game for the Falcons, and possibly for anyone else either. Can't help thinking if he'd played a little better over the past 7 years, he'd have an easier time keeping that job. Just ask Ray Lewis.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Recapping 'The Half Blood Prince'

It's been a big week, Harry Potter-wise. First, it was the film version of book 5 - The Order of the Phoenix (I liked the movie, but didn't love it. Still, given that it was by far my least favourite book of the series, I enjoyed it more than I hoped I would). Now, tomorrow, the final book hits the stands.

It's been 2 years years the last book - Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - came out. Which means its been 1 year and 363 days since I finished reading it (I tend to have trouble stopping once I've started a new Potter tome). And damned if I could remember what happened. Other than The Big Death, of course.

So I dove back into The Half-Blood Prince to remind myself - and now you too - just what went down.

Lots of Love

With Cho out of the picture, Harry's affections shifted to Ron sister Ginny. Harry spends much of the book alternately daydreaming about Ginny, worrying about how Ron would react if he knew and hating Ginny's boyfriend Dean. Finally, after Harry gets himself detention from Snape during the championship Quidditch game, and Griffindor wins anyway, he and Ginny get it together.

Ron gets himself in a snit over the notion that Hermione may have done a bit of snogging with Victor Krum back in the day. So, he gets himself a girlfriend, in the form of Lavender Brown, and an affectionate nickname: Won-Won.

Hermione and Ron spend much of the book at odds, refusing to speak or be in the same room. Ah, young love.

Following Sirius' death, Tonks just isn't herself, leading Harry to speculate she may have had more than friendly feelings for her cousin. Nope, turns out she's got a thing for Lupin and he resists her entreaties because of the whole wolfy thing. Men.

We learn Mr. Weasley's pet name for Mrs. Weasley is Mollywobbles.

Lots of Hate

Early on, Snape takes an Unbreakable Vow to help and protect Draco Malfoy in his latest evil pursuit. That job, it turns out, is to kill Dumbledore.

Meanwhile, the Death Eaters are on the rampage, killing and maiming across the countryside.

To help Harry understand the fight he is up against, Dumbledore shows Harry a series of memories in the Pensieve, which lay out Voldemort's history, from troubled orphan to evil young man. It all builds to the idea that Voldemort has split his soul into 7 parts, and hidden 6 of those parts in objects (the seventh resides in his physical body). As long as these objects - the Horcruxes - exist, Voldemort remains immortal. Harry had already destroyed one - the diary that opened the Chamber of Secrets. Dumbledore had since destroyed a second - a ring from Voldemort's wizard ancestors. Harry and Dumbledore work out that the remaining 4 are hidden in a locket that once belonged to Slytherin, a goblet that belonged to Hufflepuff, something that had belonged to either Raveclaw or Griffendor (they don't know just what) and, finally, Voldemort's own pet snake.

A Big Death

Harry and Dumbledore set out to destroy one of the horcruxes - the locket - and manage to make it out alive - just barely, with Dumbledore badly weakened from drinking poison to beat Voldemort's defenses. The arrive back at Hogsmead to find the Dark Mark shining in the sky and rush back to defend the school. They are waylaid by Draco Malfoy, who seems ready to finally kill Dumbledore. Dumbledore doubts it, and even as 4 Death Eaters arrive to prod Malfoy along, it seems Malfoy won't be able to do it in the end. So, Snape does it for him. Quickly, coldly and before Harry's frozen eyes.

And the Half-Blood Prince?

Harry borrows an old potions book that once belonged to the Half-Blood Prince. The Prince's written notes give Harry an edge in potions class, and he continues to use the book despite Hermione's objections. Turns out, the book was once Snape's.

But is Snape really evil? Or did Dumbledore expect that Snape would need to kill him for Harry to succeed? Did he, in fact, order it?

Guess we'll see in book 7, as Harry sets out to avenge Dumbledore and his parents, and to finally face off with Voldemort for the last time.

This ought to be good....

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Canadian Idol: Well, that's enough of that...

Watched the Canadian Idol top 10 show last night. Just walking up from the stupor now.


I know the American version has been on the downslope for a while - but I still had high hopes for the annual Canuck edition. See, I've always thought that the Canadian edition isn't afraid to do things differently. The judges are at once tougher and more constructive; they typically avoid the 'you did your thing, dawg' and the 'wow, you look pretty tonight' level of criticism typical of Randy and Paula. Sass rarely even seems to be drunk on air anymore these days. But what was really different about the show was the contestents that the judges chose and that Canadians voted for. Of the top three in the second season only one, pretty-boy Kalen Porter, would have likely made it past the top 100 in Hollywood. But quiet singer-songwriter Theresa Sokyrka? Hard to believe Simon would have selected such a non-commercial alternative if there were girls with long legs and thin voices like Antonella Barba around. And then there's Jacob Hoggard. Pierced, gelled, nasally voiced Jacob Hoggard. I honestly can't see him getting past the audition rounds in the States.

Yet both Theresa and Jacob each brought something sorely lacking in the current edition of the Canadian show. Theresa brought a genuineness, an openness and an honesty to her performances. Jacob, well, Jacob brought surprises. Every single week, we wondered what he would possibly do. For Canadian music week? Sum 41? Nope - Paul Anka. Then it was time for a little Bowie - in full Ziggy Stardust get-up. It was funny. It was entertaining. It was original. It was joyful.

I loved it.

Last night, not so much. See, last week, Canadians voted off the last contestants with the potential to surprise. It's not that I thought Liam Styles Chang or Tyler Mullendore were outstanding singers. Montana Martin Iles certainly wasn't. But they were interesting and at least a little unpredictable. And they're gone. And we're left with limpest, least interesting top 10 of any version - Canadian or American - I seen.


Last night was 'Number One Hits,' which meant we could have had almost anything, almost any song of any genre, as long as it had hit number one. And we got: Conway Twitty. Roberta Flack. Stevie Wonder. Gladys Knight. Celine freaking Dion. Plus karaoke-ready versions of true artistes like Matchbox 20 and Tonic. Whatever. Just one contestant tackled something remotely relevent - Greg Neufeld tried, and mostly failed, to summon up his best Brandon Flowers on All These Things That I've Done. But at least it was a song with a chance of hitting number one within the last 3 or 4 years.

The current crop of singers is best summed up by the girl Zac called the most talented singer of the bunch, 16-year-old Martha Joy. Martha has tackled Broadway show tunes and Celine Dion with technical skill but with an ironically joyless detachment. She hits her notes with all the emotion of a pressed and glossed pageant kid. And the show is much the worse for it.

Frankly, I had way more fun watching Age of Love on Monday night. When a washed-up tennis ace and a set of ravenous girls/women competing for his 'affection' is more entertaining than Idol, I gotta say Idol is in some serious trouble.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

A Very Rough Week for Canadian Theatre

On Monday, hundreds of mourners filled a church in Stratford to bid farewell to William Hutt. Who's that, you might ask? Well, you might ask, but only if you had never been to Stratford.

Hutt was one of Canada's finest stage actors, and arguably the actor most closely associated with Canada's Stratford Festival in the minds of its audiences. His King Lear was considered definitive - in fact, in a recent review of the Royal Shakespeare's Company's new production of Lear, Toronto Star critic Richard Ouzounian wonders how the star could measure up to his memories of Paul Scofield and William Hutt. The new Lear in question was Sir Ian McKellen.

On Wednesday, Canada's theatre community took another dramatic hit - the loss of impresario 'Honest' Ed Mirivish. Many of the stories written about Honest Ed since his death have focused on his retail empire, his very practical philanthropy (free Turkeys!) and his larger than life persona. He was a lovable icon, for all of those reasons. But he was also one of the most important figures in Canadian theatre - and likely the single most significant force in Toronto theatre.

In 1962, Ed bought a crumbling wreck of a theatre on King Street West with the goal of returning it to its former glory. He restored the Royal Alex and took to filling it with touring productions of Broadway shows. He brought shows to Toronto - Les Miz, Crazy for You, Miss Saigon - that helped build Toronto's reputation as a theatre city - and one of the most important stage centres in North America. For a time, he ran a series of restaurants along the King Street theatre strip, until the land became too valuable to continue. His most beloved restaurant - at least with my own parents - was Old Ed's. The menu was simple - roast beef, mashed potatoes and peas was the featured dish. Ed often related that he had sought the advice of a restaurateur friend who told him the secret was to do one thing and do it well. So, roast beef it was. Mirvish built a huge new theatre - the Princess of Wales, and purchased the Pantages - leaving his son David to run the most significant theatre company outside New York.

As that same critic Ouzounian has it: "He gave us a world of commerce where we could buy whatever we needed and he gave us a world of art where we could dream of everything else. But most of all, he gave us himself."

Monday, July 09, 2007

Acts of Spontaneous Patriotism

I spent yesterday afternoon at family reunion outside Lakefield, Ontario.

We left for home around 5:30, zipped down hwy 35/115 and turned onto the 401 a bit after 6:00. As we drove along, passing by Clarington and Oshawa on our way to Toronto, we saw a curious thing.

Flags. Draped from overpasses. Waved in the hands of folks standing on overpasses. Dozens of Canadian flags. Dozens of people on the bridges over the highway, including an elderly veteran in dress blues with medal gleaming.

We hadn't listened to the radio all day - and had no idea why a bunch of people would suddenly get it in their minds to tote their Canadian flags out to a 401 overpass. Then it struck me.

The soldiers.

Last week, 6 Canadian soldiers were killed in an explosion in Afghanistan. They would be coming home about then. This could be a procession from CFB Trenton to Toronto.

And it turns out it was. The bodies of the fallen troops needed to be transported from Trenton to Toronto for autopsy and so a convoy was headed down the 401 a bit behind us.

Those folks on the bridges had heard about the procession on the radio and were lining the route to pay their respects.

I get choked up at this point. It is yet one more reason I am proud to be a Canadian. You see, these weren't just folks from Canadian Forces towns like Trenton or Borden. These weren't necessarily folks with personal connections to the troops. They were just people who wanted to salute the soldiers who had died so far from home - in a war many in the media say we should never have entered and should now leave as soon as possible.

But what does pulling out, and leaving chaos in our stead, do to the sacrifices of these young men?

There is no easy answer. But the flags along the highway yesterday told me that everyday Canadians are proud of these soldiers. No matter what the media tells them.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Feel the Love

Today is Schadenfreude Day here at No Such Nonsense, wherein we take just a little bit of pleasure in the misfortunes of others.

Who am I kidding? Every day is Schadenfreude Day when I'm around. And on the subject of Schadenfreude, mad props to the Germans for having the good sense to coin such a perfect word for such a profoundly human emotion.

But to get back to the point of this post - two recent news items had me experiencing more than a little schdenfreudeyness.

Exhibit 1: Avril Lavigne

Avril is being sued for stealing large parts of the song Girlfriend (get out of my head, you evil little song) from an obscure little 1970's ditty called 'I wanna be your boyfriend.' Now Avril has always maintained that she writes her own songs, positioning herself as an authentic alternative to the processed pop delights of Britney et al. So this couldn't possibly be true, right? Surely a former mentor, collaborator and friend - a respected voice in the Canadian music scene - can speak up for Avril and clear this whole mess up. And so, to Chantal Kreviazuk, with whom Avril wrote much of her second album. Says Chantal, in this month's Performing Songwriter (per Lainey):

"I mean, Avril, songwriter? Avril doesn't really sit down and write songs by herself or anything. Avril will also cross the ethical line, and no one says anything. That's why I'll never work with her again. I sent her a song two years ago called "Contagious," and I just saw the tracklisting to this album and there's a song called "Contagious" on it-- and my name’s not on it. What do you do with that?"

See, if Avril weren't such an annoying, spit-spewing, self-satisfied little twerp, we might feel bad for her. Not everyone can be a songwriter. If it was easy, everyone would do it. But, no, songwriting is hard. And so folks like Linda Perry and Max Martin and Chantal Kreviazuk are paid a lot of money to write songs for other people. There's no shame in not being able to write a great pop song. But if you can't do it, maybe you shouldn't pretend that you can.

Exhibit 2: Tipper Gore

Maybe I'm going to hell for this one, but I can't help it. Tipper's son, Al Gore III, was arrested this week for drug possession. Young Albert was speeding along in his Prius, was stopped by police and happened to have with him some Pot, Xanax, Valium, Vicodin and Adderall.

Now you may recall that Tipper spend much of the late 1980s and early 1990s campaigning to clean up that dirty rock and roll music, after she found her 11-year-old daughter getting her groove on to Prince's Darling Nikki. It was largely through Tipper's efforts that the recording industry introduced the parental advisory label (which, incidently, one assumes has been rendered totally useless in an i-pod world).

So after Tipper spent a decade worrying about stopping other people's kids from listening to the dirty, dirty rap music, it turns out she might have wanted to spent a little more time explaining the whole 'drugs are bad' thing to her own brood. If only the bottle of Vicodin had a parental advisory label on it!