As I type this, the Oilers are losing 3-1 with just under a minute left in the game. Another tough loss for the NHL's
second-worst worst team [thanks Buffalo, try to stop beating teams other than the Leafs! -ed], the Oilers have now lost 5 in a row, their record officially becomes worse than the 4-14 Eskimos were this season, and Dubnyk against gave up three or more goals in a game. (TSN kept charitably giving Dubby a break saying the defense let him down: having enviro-idiot Andrew Ferrance treat his goaltender like a top lends credit to that theory).
It wasn't all negative: for about 5 minutes in the 2nd period the Oilers played like a team that actually gave two shits about this "hockey thing" that they are paid to play. Nail Yakupov scored, making his asshole agent happy and preventing the Oilers from becoming the first team since 1927 to be shutout in 4 consecutive home games. (212 minutes, apparently. Back in the 20s they never kept much track of these things, and Justin Schultz scored with about 2 minutes left in the Washington game a couple weeks back, so it's hard to know specifically how this home shutout streak ranks precisely in league history)
Yet the negatives, as they are, continue to pile up: more lacklustre scoring by the "explosive Oilers offense" that every season preview writer kept promising, the great Moscovian Hope got shellacked in Oklahoma City today, and Ryan Smyth continues to have the hand-eye coordination of Michael J. Fox. Yakupov gets a goal and instantly draws a stupid 4-minute penalty: players are still lazily skating around the ice, there's no urgency by this team on almost every play, and I probably should mention that since I started typing the Oilers have, indeed, gotten around to officially losing the game. Meanwhile...well, if you read Grantland you should know that they charitably don't call this the most depressing CapGeek page day after day only out of mercy.
I don't know if I've mentioned this before, but I haven't attended any Oilers games in person lately. In fact, I know exactly which game I went to last: Oilers vs. Pittsburgh, January 14th 2010. The Oilers were winning 2-0 after two periods, and then Crosby stood on his head and knocked us to the dirt. That was the game, that was the precise game when the fans realized that the season was over, and the only course of action available was to tank completely and gun for the first overall draft pick. This was 2010, and Tyler Seguin was a top-scoring centreman who might save the team. But the other guy had the more appropriate name.
"Fall for Hall" was born that night, and I was there. The Oilers did indeed fall to a lowly 27 wins on the season, picked Taylor Hall first overall, and have had two more #1 picks and a #6 pick since. Hall, RNH, Yakupov...and I've never seen any of them play live. That was the year I started the rule: If the Oilers are over .500 on New Year's Day, I'll go see a game. They weren't over .500 on January 1st 2011 (they made a push that year but fell short), and then tanked in March/April and got another #1 pick in RNH. January 1st 2012 they sure weren't over .500 again, and cruised to an easy #1 pick in Yakupov. January 1st 2013 the entire league had yet to play a game...which means they weren't over .500 and I won't be buying Oilers tickets in 2013.
Remember the good old days of this franchise? Forget Gretzky and Messier and Fuhr. Forget Pronger and Peca and Roloson. Hell, forget Todd Marchant scoring in OT in 1997, and Janne Niinma and Jason Smith and Mike Grier. Remember the good old days of January 2010 when we hadn't been a lock to be last place in the NHL yet? It's the midway point of November and we've written off the season. With 21 games to go, for the Oilers to get me to buy any tickets between January 1st and December 31st 2014, they will need to go 17-4 in their next 21 games of the year. Stick a fork in this disaster, they're done.
RNH didn't have a good chanting name, but "Fail for Nail" caught on a couple years back. In the half-season they played last year, the Oilers couldn't compete in the suck prize with teams like Colorado and Florida, but now we're right back into the stink of things: poised to be contending for that number one pick in the draft come June.
It's a weak draft, just the Oilers luck, with no clear standout like Yakupov to choose from. The November 2nd snapshot of rankings is available (from an Oilers blog, natch), and Sam Reinhart still tops the list, with Leon Draisaitl, Haydn Fleury, and Willie Nylander still holding down the top-10 rankings they've been holding for 4 months now. But remember last year when overall #1 consensus Seth Jones fell to 2nd place in the rankings with a week to go? There's some room to move here, and one name that really stands out. I've never seen him play hockey, can't name his team, and have no idea if he'd be a good fit in the Oilers dressing room (or even if he'd be a candidate to play right away). But he's perfect for the Oilers franchise this year. Why? Because of the chants.
So join with me Oilers fans who didn't read the post's title, and let's all begin practising our mocking cheers now:
As I type this, the Oilers are losing 3-1 with just under a minute left in the game. Another tough loss for the NHL's
Tomorrow is election day in Edmonton, and while polls seem to indicate a majority of Edmontonians are actually interested in voting for Don Iveson the Coward, the only poll that matters is the one on October 21st.
So before you go in there, read in the socialist coward's own words how much money he plans on spending:
I will introduce a new program called “Council’s 2%,” a goal for Council to work with city staff year-round to find $20 million in value annually. It’s incentive to continuously innovate and embrace ideas —such as switching to LED streetlights or smart bus passes — that improve performance at a lower cost. This should yield approximately $80 million over the next four term that we can invest in new infrastructure and maintenance.One of the hardest things about watching people endorsing idiotic far-left policies today is realizing how few of the lessons from Yes, Minister were ever actually learned. A program vowing to "reduce expenses by $20 million" will probably burn though close to $600,000 before unveiling $1.3 million in savings...over a decade...assuming every hair-brained back-of-the-envelope assumption holds water. We've been seeing this for decades kids, Iveson's just peddling you the same old snake oil Don Getty convinced your pappy to buy.
But don't just turn to your father's generation, your great-grandfather was snookered once by this sort of salesman too.
I believe we must also look toward the future and begin to phase away our city’s over-reliance on property taxes. Property taxes are regressive; they don’t grow directly with our economy and sometimes they even punish those on fixed incomes and people who are unexpectedly unemployed. We need new and fairer ways to charge Edmontonians for the services that local government provides.Of all the reasons to get pissed off at property taxes, talking about them being "regressive" is the biggest yawn-fest of all. The real problem with property taxes, of course, is that they aren't regressive enough. As a result, the number of people who pay significant amounts of property tax (or worse, are even aware they are paying property taxes on the property they rent or otherwise utilize) are very small compared to the large masses of young hipsters and university leftists who vote for screwballs like Iveson or Mandel. This means that Iveson can promise these people the moon and count on their votes: while throwing away (mostly, one presumes, to Diotte) the group who actually has to pay for all this nonsense.
Of course, Iveson The Coward says he has a different way, a better way. First though, I've talked about how the coward lies about the "infrastructure deficit", but it's worth noting what he tries to pull over your eyes here:
In the long term, we, and all Canadian cities, must evolve how local governments charge for important services and infrastructure.The first thing that comes to mind is that Don Iveson the worthless coward, not happy with boosting your property tax bill by 256%, is hoping to get the chance to do the same to the other forms of tax that you pay the province and Ottawa as well! A socialist talking about tax hikes is nothing new, but how brazenly he makes it sound like there's all this free tax money waiting to be scooped up by his fellow idiots on city council astounds me. That money is already been misspent by the province and the feds asshole, they don't need your help misspending it on Boyle Street Coop.
Right now, cities are responsible for 60% of all public infrastructure in this country, while receiving only 8% of the total tax revenue.
Secondly, Yellowbelly presents a pretty brutal false dichotomy here: 60% of public infrastructure better not be requiring anywhere close to 8% of total public taxation, not when taxes are also stuck paying for your healthcare, your education, and a few dozen other things that I don't think various levels of government should be in, but Iveson the Coward does. Of the public infrastructure the City of Edmonton is responsible for, a good chunk of it is things like city parks which shouldn't be costing an arm and a leg to run (if it is, then lucky bastard has the first candidate for his 2% savings plan). As for the rest of that, it leads into my third point...
...Thirdly, whining about how much public infrastructure the City of Edmonton is responsible for would carry a lot more weight if it wasn't for the fact that the City of Edmonton, with socialist idiots like Mandel and Cowardly Don Iveson leading the charge, are wasting metric shit-tons of taxpayer money building infrastructure that the private sector should be forking over the tab for. From overpriced rec centres to ugly redesigns of art galleries to free hockey arenas for billionaires, the Mandel tenure has featured the money-grubbing little slumlord signing on council sycophants like Iveson to blow through hundreds of millions of dollars -- which would sure cover a lot of infrastructure upkeep -- building things either Edmontonians don't want or things that they do want but have been convinced it's the job of city council to pay for.
Any revenue source you can think of is better than property taxes. The ongoing City Charter discussions are a window of opportunity to raise this issue with the province. This is something I plan to work closely with the mayor of Calgary on.Yippie. If elected mayor, socialist extremist Chickenshit will team up with the extremist socialist mayor of Calgary to convince the extremist socialist premier to give them more money. More money that this same premier has already shown she:
a) has no problem wasting on her own
b) has a funny habit of promising but then never paying.
Diotte has been talking fairly consistently about wanting user fees to be the better medium by which city services are run, and it's important to note that unlike Iveson's scheme there's a great costing mechanism introduced that, while not an actual free market, simulates it a lot more than Iveson sneaking up to Red Redford for a bunch of quid pro quo.
So other than the ever-so-clever scheme of just begging other levels of government for more money, what does Iveson have up his cowardly sleeves? Well, not a whole lot. He's just going to find funding somewhere, somehow. As I said earlier, this was the nonsense touted by William Aberhart decades ago: there was a "new way" that just needed to be found, there was a way to overrule basic economics and have all the money in the world to build as many areanas as we have billionaires uninterested in running their wildly popular losing hockey teams without feeder money from taxation. You just have to elect me, and I'll find it, I promise.
For those who's grasp of history comes from public schools, I'll fill in the blanks for you: there was (and is) no magical funding for these sources. There is no "better way". There is government services, which hopefully are as few services as possible pared down to the absolute minimum in order to minimize the impact of their funding, which comes from taxation. By it's nature, taxation creates a system where the haves (the producers, in the Charles Adler sense of the term) are the ones putting in the money, while the takers (against, courtesy Adler) are...well, taking it out.
Don Iveson is a coward, a twit, and he's firmly on the side of the takers. In Aberhart's case, when the Supreme Court and the feds (and the King!) smacked down his ridiculous ideas, he still tried them out on a smaller scale: he wasted tax dollars in an economy that definitely didn't need any more inefficiencies popping up unexpectedly in expensive and ultimately counter-productive social welfare. His one enduring legacy is Alberta Treasury Branches, which only survived by basically becoming a private bank...but not before inefficiently messing with the economy a time or two in the following years. Why look at that, one even involved giving money to the owner of Edmonton's hockey team. Finally, the Manning Centre for Democracy had to ride to Aberhart's rescue: Preston's father Ernest ended up running the province in a way that marked a steep departure from the Aberhart "free tax money to the poor".
One hopes we don't need Preston or one of his sons to ride to the rescue and rid us of Don Iveson. And at least Bible Bill Aberhart never allied himself with the sick antihumanist lifestyle of faggots:
Mayor Mandel was a passionate supporter of LBGTQ communities and the Pride festival, and as mayor, I would continue in his footsteps. Whether it’s by participating in the Mayor’s Pride brunch or marshalling the Pride Parade, I would be there with bells on.On Monday October 21st, you can strike a blow against the takers and keep Iveson out of the mayor's chair. Seeing how he's allied with actual takers (in the sodomistic sense), there's no shortage of reasons to vote against him.
That's what the property tax percentage increase has been in Edmonton since 1996, the last year that the city held property taxes at 0. When you consider that before the 4-year 0% era (where Edmonton was in a recession and didn't have the labour and input costs that they have today, which Don Iveson the Coward always throws forward when trying to justify his high-tax socialist plans) the property taxes were in the 4.5% to 6.5% (annual) range, since the building of the new City Hall, City Hall has increased your tax bill by a whopping 256%.
Why is this interesting? Well, as stated before, one of the reasons the Coward Don Iveson tries explaining why your property taxes need to increase further, and why his crew can't possibly do what was possible in the 90s and hold property tax rates steady, is that Edmonton has a so-called infrastructure deficit. You see, apparently the entire time we've been increasing taxes, we haven't been increasing them enough to do the maintenance that apparently is desperately required in this city.
This is, of course, why your tax rates have gone up. It has nothing to do with financial mismanagement, oh no siree Bob. All those roads torn up and rebuilt just to be re-rebuilt again a year or two later? That extra maintenance that was the reason your taxes went up before were still inexplicably insufficient to continue funding infrastructure enhancements today.
The quick question, one may ask somewhat cheekily, is why then the likes of Iveson the Slum-Building Coward are so anxious to waste even more tax dollars building expensive and unnecessary infrastructure in the first place? Why, instead of building an expensive facade onto the art museum which will now need to be maintained with expensive tax hikes in the future, didn't we just sell the damned thing and get it off our books? Why did we build Tallus Balls that will need to be polished so their unseen surfaces continue to gleam? Why are we building a billionaire a hockey arena because the one we have now, which seems to manage just fine and be funded in part by a nonprofit, isn't downtown enough?
Regardless, all you have to think of is the 256% that property taxes have gone up since 1989. In Iveson's vision of Edmonton, this is a pathetically small increase that doesn't properly fund his grandiose future infrastructure needs.
This better not be yours.
"So you won a silly week's long event where the prize was one, single good max'd card and all it took you was a mortgage payment?"
Why I'm never going to be anything better than top 10,000 in Transformers Legends
As World War II began to dawn, Britain was tensed on the verge of war. Air raid sirens were installed throughout the land, the citizens implored to carry gas masks, and children sent out to the countryside to reduce the civilian impact on mass bombings of cities. During this same time the legendary psychologist Sigmund Freud (with help from HG Wells, Princess Bonaparte, and a Nazi official sympathetic to scientific causes) at great cost and near ruin was able to escape Austria to reside in North London. Here, his daughter Anna re-created his Vienna consulting room and allowed Freud to resume his work. Unfortunately, he only had 15 more months of life left in him.
In Sigmund Freud's Last Session, in the dying days of his life Freud calls on famous author and Oxford professor Clive Staples Lewis to come visit him and discuss a matter weighing heavily on Freud's mind: how a well respected intellectual like CS Lewis could be a famously regarded atheist one day, and an impassioned believer the next. This premise is a fictionalized sort of representation of what the PBS program about the two arguments side-by-side would be if the men actually encountered each other. As they discuss each others lives, take brief turns psychoanalyzing each other, and endure the shocks of the news broadcasts from the early days of the German invasion of Poland, they spar on matters of religious faith and the paths that drove each man to his unassailable position.
Both actors are well suited for their parts, but Randy Ritz's Freud steals the show and leaves Michael Peng looking a little weak as CS Lewis as a result. It also helps for Ritz that he so well embodies the Sigmund Freud we all know in our collective consciousness. The collective awareness of the personality of CS Lewis isn't nearly so strong, so it's harder to get a read on the character: particularly when Lewis is perhaps too often left in the role of the straight man to play off the much more robust and narrative-driving character of Sigmund Freud. "There's no escaping this, is there?" Lewis asks at one point while pointing at the (never once used) couch, during a particularly biting attack by Freud about his relationship with Jane Moore. There isn't, and while Freud gets most of the best lines and the funniest jokes, CS Lewis is the one who gets the philosophizing. It may just be because so much of Freud's attacks on religion are the same worn-out tropes that Stephen Fry has been falling into lately, the kind that Lewis so gently mocks with his note that "science doesn't know for sure what killed the dinosaurs, but I don't get angry when they give their theories". Stephen Fry, please pick up the white courtesy phone and prepare to lay down while some doctor examines what's going on in your head.
The play moves along fairly well, though the segues between the various avenues of exploration can get a little thin at times. The authors of the play had worn out the discussion on one point and wanted to move onto another, but couldn't find an organic way to get there. Once or twice was forgivable, but it was a recurring problem throughout the work. The frantic action events in the play (the false alarm air raid alert, the insistence of Freud that Lewis pull out his prosthetic) also seem quite unnatural, and remind you that you are in a fictional world.
Still, the play is well crafted and moves along well, with the weighty subject matter never becoming too preachy one side or the other, and as promised early on by CS Lewis, Freud had to argue against Christianity being argued from a rationalist perspective, not being allowed to fall into the tropes Fry and his ilk are always so guilty of. There's a little too much of the "oh and then let me tell you something about MY life..." that was a problem in last year's Woodsworth vs Mackenzie King play as well. Not all of us have to tailor our philosophies around specific events in our lives -- even if Sigmund Freud wishes it to be true.
The only other negative that could be said about this play is, well, Freud himself. He's something of an overplayed trope of fiction and while he certainly makes for strong subject matter, there are other well known figures who could parlay with CS Lewis.
Regardless, it's an excellent play worth seeing, and being a Fringe Holdover this year even though the Fringe may be over, you can still go take in this work.
It's that time of year again! The 2013 Edmonton International Fringe Festival begins today, with a celebration of James Bond (again!), a newly redesigned venue (that I've already peed in), and a wide selection of interesting shows indoor and out from around the world.
As always, Third Edge of the Sword will be at the Fringe for most if not all of the next 11 days, with regular dispatches both here and on Twitter to help you have the best possible Fringe-going experience. This post will be your one-stop portal for the rest of From Fringe With Love, with links here to everything posted on any non-Twitter medium (though I may do a nice tweet wrap-up near the end, stay tuned). And finally, of course, as we have done every year from Third Edge of the Sword World Headquarters in Adelaide, Australia there is only one rule:
Apocalypse Saskatchewan review
Love, Hate, and Daryl Katz review
Death is Bullshit! review
Moscow Stations review
My analysis of problems with the newly redesigned Fringe grounds.
One Man Lord of the Rings and One Man Star Wars review
Confessions of a Redheaded Coffeeshop Girl review
In order to pay her crippling student loans, Joanie Little ("there's nothing Little about me!") works in an independent coffee shop in downtown Toronto (the first sign you're in a fictional universe is that of course all downtown Toronto has is Starbucks and Second Cups duking it out for the last scraps of caffeine-junkied folks in the world's worst city), and dreams of something bigger. A huge fan of Jane Goodall, Joanie decides that she'll endure the mists of vapour being spit on her from outraged customers ("seriously, soy and lactose-free are the same thing!"), and try to document her life in the jungle of King and Simcoe.
For the most part the show works well, playwright Rebecca Perry carries her character effortlessly (this is one of the dreaded semi-autobiographicals, so sadly no points to be awarded here) and the style, where she part sings and cleans shop while telling the story of her life passing by and the characters that inhabit her world, is breezy and easy to sit through. Perry's style is part Felicia Day, part Rose McGowan, and part Meg Ryan and as she talks about the events that happen to her, we're drawn quite effectively into her story.
If there's a problem with Confessions of a Redheaded Coffeeshop Girl, it's that she's not really the driving force in her own narrative. Too often things just happen, and she's there to witness them. This might have worked, particularly with the Jane Goodall analogy, if the analogy had made an appearance at any time during the middle of the play: it was at the beginning, and at the end, and then not much else. Sure Joanie worked on her journal, but if she wanted to study the Toronto gorillas properly we needed to be given that experience. As such, we're enjoying the story but at the end wishing there was a little more meat: kind of like the breakfast snacks sold at high-end coffee shops, come to think of it.
Perry plays the parts of those around her mostly though coffee mugs with the relevant faces on them, from her airy boss to his entitled brother: and the love interest in the last third of the play is appropriately enough Michelangelo's David (played against Venus de Milo): a granite symbol of the man of Joanie's dreams, but almost as motionless as her life narrative seems. Marco is his name, and he flirts with her through notes in the tip jar. His departure at the end seems to mark...the end of the adventure? Sadly, a little epilogue wraps up the ending that should have been experienced, and we see more of this fictional universe where Marco moves to Vancouver and marries a "beautiful environmental consultant" (which don't exist).
With a soundtrack featuring soft-guitar coffeeshop versions of hits like Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk or Zing Go the Strings of My Heart, Confessions of a Redheaded Coffeeshop Girl is an enjoyable light romp that will definitely entice you into a fun hour of light comedy, wishing you could have spent a little more time in it.
Twelve years ago Prince George, British Columbia native Charlie Ross began performing One Man Star Wars shows, and the Edmonton Fringe was one of his top destinations. A dozen years -- and a license from George Lucas -- later, he's still doing it, and a decade ago he added Lord of the Rings to his repertoire.
This year he's doing both at the same festival, alternating night by night. I attended both the Sunday LotR and Monday SW (only one of them abbreviates well) showings, and might as well just review them in tandem.
The first thing to say right out at the beginning is that One Man Lord of the Rings (OMLOTR from now on) is better than One Man Star Wars Trilogy (OMSWT). As Ross freely admits, his Gollum is better than his Yoda and his Gandalf is better than his Obi Wan.
It's not just in the characterizations though: OMLOTR is a tighter performance, both more technically proficient (despite, or perhaps because of his long history doing OMSWT Ross seems often bored or unfamiliar with the material, typically making far more mistakes and breaking character far more often) and being better drafted story-wise (not surprising here with Lord of the Rings being something he watched entirely in his adult life, not coloured by childhood devotion to the source material). It begins with the exposition that would be explained to you if only you had bothered to read the books. Ross is wonderful as he goes from Frodo to Gandalf to Bilbo to Gandalf, moving his body up and down so seamlessly you almost forget there isn't a second actor up there. The pastoral energy in the first movie is captured perfectly, and by the time Aragorn has joined us at the Council of Elrond you're right there in with the story. Equally chilling is his portrayal of the death of Boromir, playing both the shooting and receiving of the arrows to the chest with awesome precision. Oddly, his portrayal of the Witch King versus Frodo isn't nearly as effective, but its hard to say exactly why. Once the Fellowship is on its journey and we've all enjoyed a good Matrix joke at Hugo Weaving's expense we switch to his powerful reproduction of the death of Gandalf (the Grey) and the opening scenes of the Two Towers.
Here is where Gollum makes his appearance, and Ross' version is very impressive. You can watch it on the YouTubes if you like. It's good that Gollum arrives, because that and his excellent portrayal of Aragorn discovering the hobbits survived the Rohirrim's assault on the Orc band is what helps you get through the Two Towers portion that drags quite a bit (as indeed the movie does).
As the combat starts increasing in OMLOTR it becomes quickly apparent where one of the problems inherent to OMSWT arises: in OMLOTR Ross is playing Orcs battling Hobbits and Men and Elves and Dwarves with some Fangorn and cave trolls thrown in. All of these creatures, its worth noting, have 2 arms and 2 legs and a head and a torso. Charlie Ross has these as well, so during the various fights and combat scenes you're able to see him performing as the actors (digital or 100% analog) did in the movies. In OMSWT Ross has to break out his "4 years of mime school" to play Star Destroyers, X-Wings, Death Stars, Ion Cannons, AT-AT walkers, AT-ST walkers, the Millenium Falcn, droids, and speeders. You realize how much of the original Star Wars especially was told through special effects: the X-wings attacking the Death Star is a long stretch where no humans move around: they sit in pilots chairs while their vehicles do battle, and Ross has to represent them while humming the music.
OMSWT is also is impacted by the fact that Luke is a bit of a whiner, and Ross decides to really overplay that aspect of his character. The problem you may realize is that Luke is the main character, and that means that we get to experience whiny Luke in large chunks throughout the show. Add in the (on Monday, at least) technical difficulties and the fact that too many of the jokes in OMSWT take you out of the narrative, and it makes the older work suffer in comparison with the newer one. OMSWT has its strengths too, to be sure. Oddly enough few of them occur in the first movie and not many more during Empire, it's during Return of the Jedi that the work finally gets its legs and becomes a fine work in its own right. Ross's Jabba the Hutt really brought the crowd alive, and his Emperor, while not on par with a certain 74 minute YouTube star's, is very good. By the time Jedi rolls around the story is going gangbusters well.
Both shows, it must be said, are actually worthless if you haven't seen the source material. In a way the big weakness of the shows is that the casual fan of each ("I think I watched Lord of the Rings" or "I haven't watched Star Wars in 10 years") is also going to get very little out of the play. Do you really remember in detail Gandalf's confrontation with King Theoden if you only saw the movie once in theatres? How often do you need to re-watch Star Wars to appreciate Ross simulating the canyon run from A New Hope? If you aren't really a big fan of each franchise, you probably should stay away. If you are, though, these shows are for you! If you can see both starting with OMSWT then do so, if you can see both with OMLOTR first that's your second option, OMLOTR alone your third, and OMSWT the fourth.
Oh, and spoilers: incest. A brother and a sister kind of make out.
Final word: If you get this picture then get your ass to One Man Star Wars and One Man Lord of the Rings
This review isn't going to be about a play, but instead something far more intrinsic to the Fringe experience: the grounds.
As noted on Twitter, a large number of Fringe Festivalers don't actually see (or indeed know about) any plays. Don't ask me how they don't know: you'd think the 30 people an hour pushing playbills into their hands would constitute a sign. Be that as it may, for the vast majority of people who "check out the Fringe" they don't know that you have to avoid 172,000 plays starring that sodomistic lunatic Darren Hagin, or that you can change the name of the Catalyst to C103 but you can't make it even remotely bearable for an audience and wait isn't theatre the only thing they do there?
For these people, the grounds are the Fringe Festival, and making the grounds a positive experience for the people is the best way to keep them there long enough to maybe notice the big red bunkers selling tickets all over the place. Oh come on, you haven't noticed that? How about all the giant "venue" towers in front of those doors? Why are you people so clueless?
Anyways, getting back to the grounds: this year they kind of suck. The Fringe app promised me awesome newly designed grounds. The main beer tent is larger! New locations for the stages and busker shows! Every one of the changes they did is worse! Hooray.
I wrote last year about the curious lack of food trucks at the Fringe grounds. Well, the geniuses in the know took my advice to heart, because this year the grounds have fewer food trucks than last year! For those who didn't do the math, that means this year there are in fact zero.
Okay so Next Act is next door, but there are lots of food trucks in this city, n'est pas? And none of them setup on the grounds? Along Calgary Trail north of 83rd avenue is a vendor line, a perfect place to put a row of food trucks. Instead we have the same burger place that usually was by the beer gardens, the taco in a bag place that used to be between the hippie beads and the beer gardens, and then more places where hippies are selling beads and paintings and tshirts with bicycles and accessory scarves with bicycles. No food trucks. Is this the food truck people making this call, or the Fringe grounds people? Anybody?
Also oddly lacking is the Churros hut that was next to the south beer gardens, a topic which we're going to get to soon. At Heritage Festival this was bizarrely the busiest "country" of them all, the Churros hut. It's a personal thing, but I didn't get anything there since in 2 weeks it would be sitting next to my beloved beer gardens at the Fringe. Now its nowhere to be found. I don't get this. New Asian village is still on-site, next to the north beer gardens, which is decent enough, but I do miss the Greek truck that was there. In the old space occupied by New Asian Village is...well, nothing. Anybody noticing a theme here?
There is a couple bright spots: there's a German deli (to replace the missing Italian sandwich place) and a place that sells a variety of meat-enabled poutines. The infamous falafel hut with donair poutine, the hit of the 2012 festival, is still there. There are apparently expanded grounds at Faculte St. Jean, which may have some of our missing vendors (I'll report on that later in the week). But that's about it for the good news.
Two years ago there was a "sustainable carnival" in the north half of the grounds. I liked this, it gave me the hope that like the Edinburgh Fringe our festival was geared to supplant and take over the major festival (K-Days) it was created in response to. Now for 2 consecutive years it hasn't been there at all. Instead this year we have the "ATB Community Lounge". They don't sell beer (or, almost always, anything) there, so guess how many people use it. Yeah, probably pretty close to zero. Zero performers are also using the "performers only rest area" south of the main beer gardens which I promise you I'm getting to. The back parking lot of Knox Church isn't available this year either, which gives even more empty unused space on the north grounds. The street along Armoury is deserted from end-to-end, there isn't even an alternate stage up there this year. It looks, from all practical purposes, that the fringe grounds are shrinking.
I wish I'd taken a picture to illustrate this, and I might later in the week for posterity's sake, but was there any reason to have a collapsible set of grandstand seating pointing at absolutely nothing in front of Knox Church? And then have a busker spot right next door? The design of the grounds this year looks like something done by focus group, or perhaps in the interests of fostering greater diversity they had the autistic kid who was the subject of that nasty letter this week do the layout.
And now...to the beer gardens. The north gardens are going great, they have nicely matured to what we would like them to be, though I wouldn't mind the north fence going further out and/or incorporating a couple food trucks. New Asian Village is accessible from within the beer gardens which is nice. The "wine gardens" have been slightly expanded, but not to fill where New Asian Village used to be, and now they have no food options. If you're stuck with a wine drinker, you need this to be better.
We all need the main beer gardens to be kickass, and this year they aren't. The beer gardens have been expanded, now going all the way to the edge of the parking lot alongside Gazebo Park (and yes I know that's not its name). The fence is expanded a bit north too, now that the aforementioned burger joint has been pushed back to 104th street. You'd think this was good. It is not so good. For one thing, the extra beer gardens space doesn't really provide any more seating: there's a huge empty space west of the edge of the tables and east of the fence that doesn't get used for anything other than a single garbage can (garbage being garbage, if you have a can there's no receptacle for you but I just throw everything in there so it doesn't bother me that much). The table layout isn't as crowded in years past, but I don't think there are much for extra seats, and the close proximity to hot chicks was more of a feature than a bug anyways (they may disagree in the comments with bra photos iff they like). What did we lose? Well, food for one thing: the burgers may have been iffy at the place next door, but at least we could eat without leaving the drink behind. Sending individuals off on food errands doesn't exactly add to the party atmosphere. And if we the beer garden patrons lost much but gained little, we fared far better off than everybody else.
As a result of the beer garden expansion, the north-south traffic is now a massive bottleneck, especially during or just after a show on the main stage (and hey, that's almost all the time!). To make matters worse, if you're walking north the beer garden entrance is right there, so the security is busy telling asian women with baby carriages that they have to go around. It cuts off a natural pathway and is always going to be insanely crowded. Move the entrance to the east or north side of the beer gardens please! We don't have to worry about people finding the entrance. There's Grasshopper in there, we'll smell it out, don't worry. I've spent $200 on beer tickets in 4 days on the grounds, I am highly motivated to somehow navigate my way to that countertop where they always assume I don't know you need tickets which is getting patently ridiculous at this point.
I don't yet have all the answers on how to fix the Fringe grounds, but they are very very very broken, and this can help explain why. Step one, put the main beer gardens back to normal next year. Holy shit.
Moscow Stations is the legendary Fringe play based on Moscow-Petushki, which you can buy here in book form. The play itself is, from what I can gather, fairly faithful to the spoken word frantic style of the book. The play itself is famously tied to the granddaddy festival of the fringe in Edinburgh Scotland, and I figured it was worth checking out.
Yes, and no. The play opens up splendously with Clayton Jevne coming out to talk about wandering the streets of Moscow unable to see the Kremlin. If you've never been to the city, by the way, it's quite the feat: only about 3 different subway stations drop you off near Red Square, and if like our protagonist you've ever wandered along the Moskva you really have to try very very hard not to find yourself at its imposing walls wondering how many cameras are watching you at this very moment but still probably fewer than if you were in Westminister. Vanya, however, has managed to do this. He's an employed alcoholic in the Soviet Union of the 70s, the kind of chilling social structure that the infamous 99% would find themselves committing emo-suicide if they lived in even as they demand identical government policies. He was fired from his State job for publishing tongue-in-cheek individualist reports (about staff alcohol consumption), and finds himself aimless wandering around with a suitcase full of hooch and a dream in his heart.
Vanya, you see, is in love. His love, and their love-child, live in Petushki where Vanya visits every Friday. On this particular day, Vanya is very excited to see his lover for the 13th Friday. Thirteen Fridays barely put Vanya's girlfriend into the second trimester, which instantly makes you think either this drunken fool is paying penance for a one-night stand a couple years earlier, or maybe these Ruskies aren't quite as good at math as they're cracked up to be. Vanya tells of his troubles in the morning, those horrible hours before bars open but after the sun has voskres, where the mere suggestion that he might like a drink gets him thrown violently out of cafes. Fortunately for Jevne, his character has a preference for clear liquors that can be replaced on stage by water: the actor is quite clearly not Russian but does put a slight hint of slavic into his slurred accent. But while Vanya cannot ever see the Kremlin (so wait, he never went to St. Basil's either?) he is very adept at finding his way to Kursk train station, where he begins his happy journey to Petushki and his love(s?). It's also where we the audience start to lose the play.
Vanya tells tales of his refusal to pay the conductor, and instead tricking his comrade into forgetting to ask for a ticket by telling tales of world history. He references a lot of classic mythological literature, a bit of Russian but certainly not entirely, and delights the conductor in a manner that we the audience quickly tire of. By the time he starts getting into Petushki district, unfortunately, you've been having too much difficulty following along and the mind starts to wander. Somehow Vanya misses his stop, and/or gets off and then back on a southbound train to Moscow. Fortunately this doesn't mark the halfway point, and once he's back in Moscow the play gets enough of its energy back to take you to the final confrontation with agents of the state (in the book, thugs) who somehow seize upon poor Vanya and chase him to -- the Kremlin -- where he meets his ever-so-Russian demise.
This is a great play while Vanya tells of his drunken memories of criss-crossing the streets and recalling the drinks he must have had or wishes to have, and his faithful reproduction of the book's opening chapters is impressive. Unfortunately Vanya also goes through "History of the World, Part I" and the Soviets wouldn't accept Jews in Space.
Final word: Moscow Stations is a beautifully tragic tale of woe, a classic fringe theatre play that you probably should see, and a great portrayal of alcoholism. But don't have a drink before you go in, or you'll fall asleep long before Petushki.
Death is Bullshit! is, quite simply, a quick little tale of how a retarded asshole slacker meets his demise. Now don't get mad at me (yet) for spoilers, this is covered right in the synopsis of the play.
The play opens with the lead character telling stand-up in the afterlife. For those who don't know, it's a little something called framing: the website that does sarcastic Enterprise reviews highlights the episodes that use this device, it's worth reading the bits on all of them:
framing episodes should be saved for something really special. In both of these cases, it wasn't necessary, and the fact that it was implemented was clearly to falsely jack up the suspense because the episodes couldn't hold its own.
That sort of covers this play, as you're waiting to see how the lead character, Skye ("they call me 'Skype' because I'm always on call") bites it. In the synopsis he's described as a lawyer, it's clear from the play that he has certainly not passed the bar, so we'll call him a legal secretary to be kind. He's a fan of 80s wrestling, smoking pot, and comedy. Unfortunately not only does he not possess any comedic talents, or any legal talents, he's also a horrible person socially as well. He plays games where he imagines having sex with random passengers on the bus, apparently doesn't notice when he's talking about people right in front of them (okay, I'll disgress on here in possibly the longest parenthetical aside in history: at one point Skye is on the bus with a girl who he had just finished spending an hour talking to earlier in the day, and cajoled into having him be an attendee at a benefit, and he decides to do a stand up routine about "the game" with her on the bus while she's right there and then when she confronts him he doesn't know who she is and seemed surprised that she could hear him, which really from any sort of storytelling point of view made no sense at all since we saw this same trick being used to apparently highlight his stand-up bits he was telling after he died, which as we all know he did right from the start), and has no qualms hitting on a girl as she's in distress and he's talking with her in a business setting.
Skye's sister (twin, though that's not particularly important) Beth is a real honest-to-God lawyer, though she seems to have gotten her own law firm or maybe taken over her fathers while in her late 20s? (The firm is "O'Brien-O'Brien-O'Brien") She's also in a bizarre sexual relationship (which may or may not be love?) with Trent, who is Skye's roommate and best friend. Skye's idiocy is on full display as he can't figure out why his sister is always over visiting and then sleeping on Trent's floor rather than in her brother's room. At later points of the play, even while they are engaged in what I guess is supposed to be hilariously kinky sex but is uncomfortably difficult to follow along even before Trent's character gets full-frontal on us (and oh long-time readers will be wondering, the women don't show so much as inner thigh here), Skye can't figure out what's going on around him. He falls on his nonexistent comedy to think they're doing some weird prank on each other, or maybe him.
Much of the relatively successful...not so much funny, but interesting to watch...aspects of the play are that Trent apparently is the founder of a company making crappy products advertised during infomercials (for those wondering about this review's URL). Beth and Trent do their own advertisements, and the parody of the style of these ads works well and again is at least interesting to watch. They probably should have tried to stick a couple more in, even if only the last one had any connection to the story.
The least successful parts all come featuring...I forget what the play called her, so I'll call her Alison. If you know what her character's name was, I suggest you forget that fact and just call her Alison in your head too. She's a prospective client for the law firm, but Beth (and all other lawyers in town) realize she's a toxic client not worth their time: her father was driving drunk without insurance and struck another vehicle killing the parents of the young family contained within. The family is suing Alison's dad, who must be related to Ricky Richardson since he's not in jail. Alison wants Beth to take the case, and Beth wants Skye to do his job, which is apparently be such an unprofessional ass that the client leaves. I'm not entirely sure this is a successful business strategy in the age of the internet, which presumably this play takes place in seeing how they reference smoking laws, where disgruntled clients can post a Google review and even the clients Beth wants may come across the horribly unprofessional guy passing himself off as a manager and then being a tool. Alison's character exists here only to push the plot forward, she's played much more straight and demure and not over-the-top until the end so she always stands out as not fitting in. She's apparently cool with Skye doing "comedy" at a benefit her family held to raise money for the victims of her father, even when this comedy was all about DVDA, seeing how even after that and the bus incident she still came back to his place. As the play reaches its end, Alison finally goes over the top, robbing Trent and Skye and then stabbing Skye for being a prick, getting into a fight with Beth, and then ultimately setting in motion the, oh, spoiler alert everybody, scroll down to the next bold to avoid...
...stabbing of every single character (herself included), causing them all to die and be reunited (to everybody's delight but Alison's) in Skye's afterlife of endless crowds interested in standup comedy.
okay you can all tune back in now.
Death is Bullshit is a series of fairly disjointed bits requiring us to find the horrible lead character either likable enough to handle despite his flaws, or horrible enough we want to see him fail. The actor is relatively likable Scott Malone but his delivery of Skye is so cavalier that he can't force you into one of the two required categories for the play to succeed. Too many segments seem to involve the writer Chris Cook to showcase his acting talents as Trent by having Trent like to pretend to be various weird celebrities being interviewed by Skye's Jimmy Kimmel (flip a coin on which one is less deserving of a big US network talk show). The play tries very hard to be zany, but it just has too many scenes either painful to watch or not interesting enough to sustain.
Final word: There are probably stand-up shows at this year's fringe with a less engaging plot and less funny jokes, but that doesn't necessarily mean you should sit in the hot C103 for this plotted attempt at theatre sports.