2016-09-20

This day in (blog) history

Do you miss Stephen Harper yet?

Who do we have to thank for this? Paul Martin. For one thing, as some will remember, the dollar was a relatively strong high 70s performer when he took power in 1993. By his departure in 2003 the dollar had dropped to historic lows. (This, incidently, is a major reason why 1995-2003 was also the drought of Canadian teams appearing in the Stanley Cup Finals). Martin's coup suddenly caused the dollar to shoot up in value, as Canadian currency was no longer under the control of a dangerous lunatic. Additionally, Martin's politiking skills were so poor that Stephen Harper was able to become Prime Minister, and I don't need to tell you how confident the world markets are in his leadership abilities. (Unless you're from Saskatchewan. I'll summarize. Tory good. Liberal bad).
Of note in the original post, already Ontario is happy that the low dollar is hiding their inefficient manufacturing sector.

2016-09-17

The only bigger joke is pretending there are more than two (intransmutable) genders

I thought the Edmonton Fag Pride Parade was held in June...why are they having it now?

And yes, of course, this is a classic joke that works year after year.

And now a musical number reminding poofters that their sick lifestyle choices are the reason they have to get together every year to commiserate their pain.

2016-09-08

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode 5x26 and 6x01 liveblog

In commemoration with the 50th anniversary of the debut of Star Trek, September 8th 1996, we here at Third Edge of the Sword World Headquarters in Riverside, Iowa present a liveblog of the DS9 Season 5 finale "A Call to Arms" and the sixth season debut "A Time to Stand".

We'll start "A Call to Arms" at 11pm Eastern Standard Time, 8pm Pacific. "A Time to Stand" will start at midnight EST, 9pm Pacific.

Note: all times are in Mountain Standard Time

21:01: And we're off. Garak is showing Leeta and Rom wedding dresses. Compelling!

21:03: "It's two hankerchiefs and a loincloth!". Sometimes the non-Trek writing on this show sparkels. And who wants a Tellarite wedding dress?

21:04: "Any marriage where the female is allowed to speak and wear clothing is doomed to failure." Man, you gotta love Quark. It's a shame they pussified the Ferengi at the end of the series.

21:05: "Would you marry me?" Rom propositions Sisko in a rare Star Trek fagshenanigans gag. The scary music swells as a convoy leaves the wormhole bound for Cardassia. War is coming, kids.

21:06: Deep Space Nine really has an underappreciated theme song doesn't it? Obviously it can't hold a candle to the TNG theme since it was just a ripoff of the Jerry Goldsmith Star Trek: The Motion Picture theme. But DS9 is hopeful, brooding, often triumphant and apprehensive, and it never gets much respect. You can listen to 30 remixes and covers of the Voyager theme, but none for DS9. It's a shame.

21:08: It's worth noting that "A Call to Arms" is the only episode of Deep Space Nine that shares its title with a narrative piece on Babylon 5, specifically the fourth TNT movie where Sheridan and Garibaldi [rest in peace, Jerry Doyle... -ed] oversee the construction of the destroyer-class White Star. That episode features the legendary Tony Todd, who of course also plays Worf's brother.

21:10: Ben and Jake have a conversation about Jake being involved in the "Starfleet News Service", and Sisko doesn't like his public (or possibly private?) statements reported in the press. If this is a military press, then Sisko should already have some authority over what they publish. Later Jake will work for the Federation News Service, a civilian press organization which obviously wouldn't be subject to Starfleet oversight.

21:11: Everybody pay attention to this scene. It's a big and important scene, and not just because the geopolitical structure of the galaxy is being discussed. The Romulans have signed a nonaggression pact with The Dominion, which will ultimately lead in one of the greatest hours of television ever: "In the Pale Moonlight". There's a Tholian name-drop, which happened a lot in DS9 without payoff. We'd have to wait until Enterprise to see that.

21:12: Anyways, Sisko and Starfleet agree that they're losing the peace. Which means the Federation will mine the entrance to the wormhole.

21:15: If you think really hard about the minefield, you'll see that the science doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Each mine could have a replicator unit, but they need power to replicate other mines. This realistically wouldn't work scientifically, but all you need to know is magical technobabble means the mines will do the job your brain thinks they will. It also means that laying the mines will take a lot of time and tie up the Defiant while she has no cloaking device or shields.

21:16: Odo makes an excuse to see Kira: cutting off subspace traffic to prevent leaks. Seeing how Sisko basically just openly said on the bridge "Starfleet is preparing an armada to make a first strike on Dominion holdings in Cardassian territory" that is probably a good idea. The Odo-Kira relationship never sat well with me, and this is Odo being as he should be: cold and emotionless. Not sappy, even though René Auberjonois does that look so well.

21:20: Weyoun has arrived to threaten Sisko fairly blatently. Usually the Vorta are the classic nice-talking diplomats, but here Weyoun almost pounds his shoe on the table and cries "we will bury you!" Sisko doesn't give any quarter back either, and when Weyoun tries to "compromise" Sisko holds his ground. Weyoun tries his good cop routine again, of course, and gives a total bullshit reason for the military convoy. This is a great scene. Weyoun proposes civilian-only transport ships to cease the mining of the wormhole.

21:22: I enjoyed this scene more when you the viewer had to see through the subtext yourself. Unfortunately, as Penksy File notes, 90s audiences needed things spelled out though. After Weyoun leaves on "good terms" and Sisko explains to the senior staff that the entire last half of the conversation was a ruse. The minefield has to be finished within 16 hours.

21:24: Sisko asks Kira to meet with the Council of Ministers, so that he can persuade them to sign a nonaggression pact with the Dominion. He says Bajor must be kept safe, those were his orders in the first episode. Actually, his orders were to do everything short of violating the Prime Directive to get Bajor to join the Federation. Dude should learn to read better.

21:25: Remember what I said about the Odo-Kira romance? Double goes to the Garak-Ziyal romance. Robinson plays a great speech, but he's really a softie compared to the cold hearted bastard from "The Wire".

21:26: Rom and Leeta are married. This is still a horrible romance, but not as bad as those other two. Nog refers to the Dabo Girl as "Moogie" which is weird. Chase Masterson is 6 years older than Aron Einsenberg.

21:28: All Bajorans have left the station, Sisko has prepared his top secret program (which shouldn't need any computer prep time, but whatever), and Martok has the Dominion Fleet on sensors. Gul Dukat does his best 1989 Batman Joker gag and takes over the screen, making idle threats.

21:30: Already it's the "Federation News Service". Way to stay internally consistent, episode writers.

21:31: Garak is telling Odo about the events of "The Way of the Warrior" where he and Dukat fought side-by-side and Garak turned down the
opportunity to kill him.

21:32: I didn't remember this episode having so much family and relationship drama. The brothers Ferengi argue and then make up in the face of disaster.

21:33: Kira "officially" protests Starfleet still occupying Deep Space Nine, and then reports for duty. That's a lot of ships!

21:35: Dukat gives the game away, talking about how he plans to invade Bajor next. Weyoun will have none of that.

21:36: SHOTS FIRED! The Battle for Deep Space Nine has commenced. It's awfully hard to write about a bunch of effects shots, though at least Weyoun comes in to be shocked the Federation has developed shields the Dominion weapons cannot penetrate. Dukat references their science abilities, and then oddly enough brings up Sisko.

21:38: Martok saves the Defiant from Jem'Hadar warships so they can finish the mines. Dukat uses his knowledge of the station to tell the Dominion/Cardassian fleet to concentrate on a section of the docking ring, a move he stole from Captain Picard in Star Trek: First Contact. He penetrates the shields just as the last mine is deployed. The mines all activate and then cloak, which confuses me since I thought they weren't cloaking them.

21:39: Sisko gives up the ghost, Starfleet will evacuate the station. Spoiler warning: this will somehow be done very slowly without any tension.

21:41: Oh my God, another romance scene? This one between Dax and Worf. She kisses him when they should be evacuating the station, seeing how the Dominion has punched through the shields.

21:42: Sisko is explaining how important Deep Space Nine has been to him, and also how Starfleet has successfully destroyed Dominion shipyards. After his long-winded speech on a station apparently about to be destroyed/invaded, he beams aboard a (shieldless) Defiant and Starfleet evacuates DS9 along with...Garak. Somehow they let him on a warship.

21:43: The Defiant found time to dock in this mess? Both she and Martok's ship cloak and escape.

21:44: Kira welcomes the Dominion to Deep Space Nine and launches Sisko's secret program, which does to the computers on the station what the Goldeneye satellite did in the eponymous James Bond movie. Quark's, somehow, has lights despite Sisko's program. I don't know how that works.

21:45: Rom has gone back to work for his brother, and openly says that he's a Federation spy. He runs into Federation citizen Jake Sisko, who wants to stay in the warzone and report for the Federation and/or Starfleet news services.

21:46: Sisko is mad as hell about Jake, but he can't risk the ship to go back for him. Starfleet will regroup for a counterstrike while Dukat and Weyoun stride onto the promenade. Weyoun wants to remind everybody that the Federation probably won this round. Kira/Odo/Quark welcome the Dominion (and arrogant Cardassians) to Terok Nor, as Weyoun snivels.

21:47: Dukat has discovered...

(cue scary music)...

...Sisko's baseball. See you next year! Or, for the purposes of this liveblog, see you in about ten minutes.


22:02: "In memory of Brandon Tartikoff", the Paramount executive who green-lit The Next Generation in 1986.

22:03: We're still looking at scenes from the previous episode. Remember back when they had to do this?

22:04: "And now, the continuation". That's a phrase that only was said on Deep Space Nine. A battered Starfleet/Klingon task force retreats to safety while O'Brian complains.

22:05: Why is Garak still on the Defiant? Sure, he can "study star charts" but he's not Starfleet personnel. In fact, he's not even from the Cardassian military. He was an intelligence officer.

22:06: Is Bashir "showing off" by using his super-enhanced brain, or are the writers just being lazy? I'd say the latter. We already have Dax doing the Spock "recite the odds" thing, we don't need another one.

22:07: Speaking of Vulcans, Garak accuses Bashir of being one. These same arguments will be used by Bashir against the "Jack Pack" in "Statistical Probabilities" later this season.

22:08: "You get married the way you want" Dax says to Sisko. He will. Against Starfleet wishes.

22:09: Why is Bashir the only one who's dirty? Why is Sisko able to break the table? Opening credits...

22:12: "Permanent documentation file". I'm glad I don't live in the Star Trek universe, it seems like everybody has to record captain's logs and personal logs repeatedly. Odo made fun of that fact in one episode, apparently he's the only one in the universe.

22:13: The Bajorans are coming back! Weyoun has a vision of the station that sounded like what Sean Penn claimed pre-war Iraq was like. Kira wants the Bajoran security officers to be reinstated, and Weyoun is cool with it. Dukat refuses though. Weyoun promises the security guards will be reinstated...eventually.

22:14: Poor Weyoun. He's desperate to win Odo's affections. Try having a bumpy nose and a nice rack...

22:15: Weyoun kicks Damar out of the room and insists that Dukat consults him on future decisions. He doesn't like having to tell a Dominion ally "no".

22:17: Quark is trying to get the table-hogging Jem'Hadar soldiers in the spirit of the bar/casino, and it's just not working. They don't want holosuites, they don't want the dabo tables. I kept waiting for the "maybe Vorta are sex maniacs" talk from Leeta, I guess it's not in this episode.

22:19: "As occupations go, this one isn't that bad". Compared to the Cardassians running the station, Quark notes that Terok Nor used to be a worse place to be. There's no outward sign of problems on the station (other than no Bajoran security officers). Everything is clean and well behaved.

22:21: Hi Admiral Ross! While at Regula One Starbase, Sisko is relieved of command of the Defiant.

22:22: Hi Admiral Cartwright! Brock Peters has come back to the Star Trek franchise to yell at Sisko for not sending a fleet to rescue an 18 year old who dreams of being a journalist. I keep forgetting he was already in season four episodes.

22:24: Sisko Sr. says space is so big and infinite...so why can't all these galactic powers be happy with the territory they already have? Good line. Now he should ask why ships always meet along the same plane when meeting in space.

22:26: Jake tries to interview "Mr. Weyoun" for his articles, but Weyoun doesn't like Jake's biased reporting and "pejorative terminology" and therefore he has blocked transmission of Jake's articles. Weyoun insists that Jake will need a "more balanced" perspective if he wants his news reports to make it to Federation space. At least Jake isn't writing "Dominion propaganda" after receiving $150 million annually...

22:28: Starfleet is using the stolen Dominion destroyer to infiltrate Dominion space and destroy the Ketracel-white facilities. Nog and O'Brien discuss the issues with the ship: no chairs, no infirmary, no replicators, and no viewscreen.

22:30: They brought Garak on this mission too? The whole joy of Garak is when he's used in small doses. Without a viewscreen, only Sisko can see what it looks like outside with that eye-thingy.

22:31: How does the door in Sisko/Dukat's office know not to open because Dukat hasn't "dismissed" Kira yet? Dukat does the usual thing he does with Kira, trying to get on her good side so that he can get in that elusive "mother and daughter" screw. It also know when he steps in front of the door that he wants to block her rather than walk out through it.

22:34: Dukat figures that the worst thing in the galaxy is Cardassia as a "third rate power", and now he dreams of the Dominion turning the Alpha Quadrant (Bajor, Earth, all of it) to him, and naked Kira as a handy side dish. Now the door knows to open.

22:35: Sisko needed a shot to get over the headaches caused by the Jem'Hadar headsets, and Garak notes that Cardassians have been seen to use them. I think he just senses deep down inside that Gul Dukat is treating his baseball like the top from Inception

22:37: The USS Centaur has opened fire on them, and followed them across the border. Sisko uses baseball analogies and the weapons array to disable the ship. Unfortunately, the real Jem'Hadar are chasing after "Charlie", the Centaur's captain.

22:39: The Jem'Hadar are receiving their daily dose of the Ketracel White drug, and Dukat has finally combed the messy hair he used to try and seduce Kira. Dukat tries to figure out the specific hierarchy of the Dominion, and Weyoun insists that everybody serves the Founders. Odo (a Founder) arrives at Kira's behest to ask for his security services. Weyoun consents without the slightest hesitation...but then asks Odo to join Weyoun and Dukat on the Ruling Council.

22:41: Is Odo on the council a good idea? Dukat doesn't like it, so Odo thinks it will be good based on that alone. Kira is less sure, but Odo talks her into accepting it. She's scared that Odo on the council legitimizes the invasion.

22:42: Starfleet's Jem'Hadar destroyer watches a real destroyer load up on White, and then plans to repeat it themselves...and beam down a bomb.

22:43: As our heroes make the exchange, the base raises its shields. 90 seconds to go to warp or we're all dead.

22:45: Sisko's plan is to time their escape so that they pass the security net just as their bomb goes off...just like Bashir requests: 1.3 seconds before detonation. This is kind of tense.

22:46: Things didn't go as planned. The bomb went off ahead of schedule, and the ship is in one piece...mostly. Deflectors and navigation are down, and the warp engines are gone forever. That means a 17 year trip back to a starbase, which means they are...pretty close, since that means going less than lightspeed. Bashir should have really answered "56,312,092 years" or something.

22:47: And that's the episode...ends on a bit of a downer for a season opener, but then Season 6 will be that sort of season.

2016-09-02

@emmaoulton @chescaleigh

Hey guess what? Free speech is a fundamental and inalienable human right.

But if somebody's speech is curtailed, cowardly left-wing cunt Franchesca Ramsey should be the first to suffer. After all, she doesn't believe in your free expression.

So punish her when she tries to exercise hers.

`emmaoulton Im in favour of imprisoning and/or executing chescaleigh to prevent her from speaking Everybody else gets FreeSpeech

2016-09-01

Turnabout (Intruder) is Fair Play

I've been listening to the Pensky Podcasts discussing Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Earlier this year they reviewed "The Outcast" and I have posted a YouTube comment regarding the episode:

I'm gonna go with a -1 and say that I wish this episode didn't exist. Not only would I never watch it again, I was very uncomfortable while I watched the whole thing, and I think their treatment of it, while not overtly rage-worthy, it adds to the normalization of sodomy and the Homo Agenda that I find very pervasive in our society and I think that if things like this that sort of water down the sexual perversions than the repercussions of this kind of act, the act of you choosing an illegitimate lifestyle...I wish it didn't exist, I would never watch it again, and I wish they hadn't made it.

Where did I borrow that vicious invective from? Easy, from this earlier video in which one of the commenters used the same language to attack "rape culture" (which, as we all know, isn't really a problem).

2016-08-31

Culinary discovery of the day

Yes, Virginia, that jar of peanut butter in the back of the fridge can go bad.

So much for my "whew, I'm not out of peanut butter my morning PB&J is saved."

2016-08-29

35th Edmonton International Fringe Festival: That Was Then, This Is Fringe

(this post is "sticky" and will remain at the top until August 22nd. Scroll down for new content)

It's that time of year again, where the streets of Old Scona come alive with green onion cakes, lame busker shows, and 140 plays which promise to be edgy and counter-cultural (and at least 95 of them will contain one tired Donald Trump joke).



And that means it's also time for Third Edge of the Sword's annual collection of Fringe reviews, highlights, and photos.

Keep your eye on this page for the eleven days of the 2016 Fringe Festival as more and more content is loaded. You can also take a look at the content from the 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015.

And, naturally, it almost goes without saying at this point...

No fags.

2016-08-19

2016 Edmonton Fringe: two plays with questionable politics

A couple years ago I opened up the Fringe by posting a list of plays I had no interest in seeing. While I'm not up to the same task this year, there are a couple of plays that are so boilerplate and ridiculous that they deserved to be made fun of.

The first, from Morgan Cranny (previously seen doing Jeff Who Lives At Home fan fiction [yes, this is an old joke -ed], is Vasily Djokavich: Russia's #1 State Approved Comedian. In the poster, you can even see a photo of Putin overlooking the depressed looking performer. Haha, how sad is a country that has state approved comedians and a narcissist as their leader. Oh, wait, that doesn't describe Russia in 2016. It describes Canada. A comedian named Mike Ward has been fined for being a non-state-approved comedian. This isn't a one-off-case either: comedian Guy Earle was also fined for his comedy. Now maybe Cranny-as-Vasily makes reference to these cases in the play, which would sort of help. However, its ridiculous to be continuing to make jokes about state enforcers denying the fundamental free speech rights in a far-off country when the same thing is happening on our very doorsteps. In fact, I'll bet you dollars-to-donuts that Cranny himself doesn't see a problem with Human Rights kangaroo courts forcing citizens to pay danegeld to people who's "right not to be offended" has been invaded. As a result, the play itself is entirely pointed the wrong direction. It should be at the same so-called "edgy" Fringe performers that Cranny cavorts with day and night.

Similarly, I was alerted to this play by a text message warning me that it's hateful towards Christianity (and that she had to walk out on it): Jesus Master Builder — A Divine Comedy. All I can say is that I can't wait for playwright Mark Allan Greene's followup next year: Mohammed the Mountain Mover - Koranilarious.

(click here to return to the 2016 Fringe portal page)

2016 Edmonton Fringe: Grounds review

At least they changed some of it this year.

One of the most interesting and ironic things about the Fringe grounds is for a festival whose plays are entirely anti-conservative, there's nothing in this universe more conservative than the layout of the Fringe grounds themselves. A couple weeks ago Martok and I were out on Whyte Ave for drinks just before the Fringe grounds were being setup, and he had great sport verbally describing the layout end-to-end. Ever since the year they had that "eco-carnival" I've been concerned with the incredible shrinking Fringe grounds, though Martok's complaint was that the grounds don't mix it up at all. (To be fair, his suggestion that we shut Whyte Avenue down for 12 days and expand the grounds to include the street itself is crazy and I want no part of it)

The taco in a bag stand? Exactly where he described it, along with the mini-donuts and the green onion cakes. That (Brown) Indian food place "Zarika" or whatever it's called is a few feet moved from its location last year. The same hippie bead places dot the landscape just north of the main only stage. The fences and barriers connecting the Orange Hall "line" with the walking path between the main only stage and south beer gardens are still illogically designed to create a massive bottleneck the moment more than one stroller is thrown into the mix. There are a couple food trucks north of the ATB Arts barns and the usual food "trailers" along Calgary Trail, and then Fat Franks is in front of the Walterdale. Bruce Jenner changes genders more often than the Fringe Festival changes its grounds layout.

Though they did make a couple notable changes this year. A whopping one of them is a reorganization. The rest are...wait for it...subtractions.

The north beer gardens has moved from its traditional spot to just north of the train tracks, and now you can sit next to trees but not under trees. Instead of getting some nice natural shade, instead you can do the same gag as the north beer garden: sit under a heavy (and noisy) tent if you want to avoid sun and/or rain, otherwise you're out in the sun almost the entire day. You get a bit of grass this way. I can't say I like it, though it's at least different. So what did they do with the old beer gardens area? Something cool? You should probably know better by now. They put the daily discount tent there, and a Subway food truck selling their lousy new Korean BBQ, and Telus has a mini-tent there, and...no, that's about it. They opened up some space and didn't do anything interesting with it. Maybe that will be next year?

There are some subtractions, of course, and I'm not sure if New Asian Village just chose not to take their traditional spot along Gateway Boulevard or if they were forced out. The "freak show" tent that was just north of the north beer gardens is definitely gone and that's definitely something the Fringe was responsible for. Don't tell me there weren't any bearded ladies available, one of them has been walking the grounds almost constantly.

So another year, another drop in the number of things to do and see at the Fringe grounds. I've already talked with one friend who, upon learning the Butter Chicken from New Asian Village is no longer available, decided to skip the Fringe this year. The site itself seems eerily reminiscent of the Republican Party in 2012: not wanting to rock the boat, they tepidly put forth a slightly smaller and more low key candidate than they tried the last time and hoped it would work better. And just like 2012, it didn't and left us with another four years of disaster. Say what you will about Trump, but he's the party swinging for the fences, being bold, and trying something different.

The Fringe Theatre Festival keeps telling us that's who they are. And then every year they give us the Fringe grounds equivalent of Mitt Romney.

(click here to return to the 2016 Fringe portal page)

2016-08-18

2016 Edmonton Fringe Review: Led Zeppelin Was a Cover Band

Led Zeppelin recently made international news by winning a court case about the origins of "Stairway to Heaven".

The music industry, still reeling from the Blurred Lines verdict, will be relieved, said Larry Iser, a lawyer and copyright specialist who was not involved in either case. “Today’s verdict is a vindication of copyright, which only protects an original expression of music.” Led Zeppelin showed that the disputed chord progression was a common building block of classical and popular music dating back centuries, he said.
That notion, that Zeppelin was just building on the musical influences of the past, is the primary thesis of Zeppelin Was a Cover Band, a one-man show by Montreal's Stéfan Cédilot. Cédilot begins by reciting the history of Led Zeppelin's formation, from Jeff Beck joining the New Yardbirds after Jimmy Page turned it down, to the hiring of John Bonham and the infamous Keith Moon conversation that possibly never happened. Once Zeppelin formed though, Cédilot isn't interested much in the band itself: not the famous Page and Plant disagreements and reconciliations, not the loss of John Bonham, not the endless reunion rumours. From the formation to the present day, it's only about the music...and the musical influences.

As noted, the general thesis of the play is "Zeppelin didn't write most of their songs and we shouldn't expect them too." This open admission of copyright theft is a touchy one: unlike far-left extremist Pete Seeger the white boys from 'Zep don't get lionized (pun intended) for re-recording songs made by poor American blacks. There's a strong torrent in today's racially-charged society that these black artists deserved their share of the pie. Willie Dixon successfully sued Zeppelin for a chunk of that "Whole Lotta Love" money, and Howlin' Wolf got $45,123 for "The Lemon Song". However, Cédilot discounts that notion and "The Lemon Song" provides a great example of it. Howlin' Wolf wrote a song called "Killing Floor" which Led Zeppelin borrowed the tune from to make "The Lemon Song". However, "Killing Floor" doesn't mention lemon juice at all: the lyrics came from Robert Johnson's "Travelling Riverside Blues" which Robert Johnson wrote in...no, just kidding. Black blues legend Robert Johnson stole many of the lyrics from a song called "She Squeezed My Lemon" by Roosevelt Sykes. In fact, despite Zeppelin recording a "cover" of "Travelling Riverside Blues" it actually is a "version", which stole less of Johnson's original song than the original song itself stole from another blues artist.

For a good chunk in the middle of the play, Zeppelin almost takes a backseat to the history of blues/gospel/rhythm n' blues music as Cédilot defends (or at least lays in detail) the practice of "stealing" music. "In My Time of Dying" from the 1975 Physical Graffiti album is controversial for having writing credits to Zeppelin's four members despite Bob Dylan recording the song in 1962. But, of course, Bob Dylan didn't write it either. Josh White recorded it in 1933, but White also didn't write it. In 1929 Charlie Patton performed it, Blind Willie Johnson recorded it in 1927, but he stole large chunks of it from Reverend J.C. Burnett's 1926 song "Jesus Is Going to Make Up Your Dying Bed". While Burnett may (but probably didn't) have written parts of the tune, it's an even older gospel song of unknown origin and refer to Psalms 41:3 and despite what some 70s rockers might tell you, Led Zeppelin did not write the Holy Bible.

Throughout the play, Cédilot strips down physically (he starts in a nerdy tweed jacket, and eventually pulls off his dress shirt to reveal a Zeppelin tee underneath) as he strips back the origins of various Zeppelin songs. "Gallows Pole" was a cover of the 1939s Lead Belly song...but Lead Belly stole the song from...white people! The original "version" of the lyrics comes from "The Maid Freed from the Gallows" which dates back centuries. This is the strongest current of Cédilot's argument: that every couple three generations a song has to be re-done and re-"released" in order to be remembered into the future. He sort of ignores the differences caused by the recording era, which is a shame. He doesn't even pay lip service to the fact that a song from 1827 being "redone" by a band in 1875 is necessary for its survival in the cultural landscape, while a song from 1927 being redone in 1975 isn't. As a result, his argument suffers.

But this isn't just a musicology essay, it's a dramatic work in its own right: playing blues standards and Zeppelin tunes and playing "spot the similarities and influences", realizing that we can't enforce a "your copyright is sacrosanct" when it comes to Muddy Waters without extending the same courtesy to Sister Rosetta Tharpe, and then back to whoever she "stole" from before recorded music existed. As the play winds down, Cédilot just starts up with the air guitar and explaining (whitesplaining?) that Zeppelin's versions are just better. Whatever the music's origin, Led Zeppelin was at the forefront of a new style of music: they mixed their albums in a new and nontraditional style. They recorded 3-8 minute versions of centuries-old slave work songs that typically only were a minute or so long and introduced music to a wider audience. They ultimately were later "stole/adapted" when Puff Daddy remixed "Kashmir" with his rap beats. They sang about Tolkien and dead 5-year olds.

And they fucking rocked.

The play moves at generally a good clip, and Cédilot's passion shines through. While he doesn't expand on some of the legitimate issues brought up by Zeppelin's copying in the recording era, and he riffs on the relatively ridiculous Spirit lawsuit without mentioning the numerous other and more successful ones, it's an entertaining foray into the world of music and might open a few eyes about the role of influence in music even as it leaves open the question of when that influence can be monetized. If you're a music fan, Zeppelin Was a Cover Band is a play worth a watch.

(click here to return to the 2016 Fringe portal page)

2016 Edmonton Fringe Review: Call Me Kirk: The Ultimate Trek

Adapting Star Trek to a Fringe play can't be easy. It just can't. Especially when you're covering an almost 50-year-old TV series than spawned a movie franchise that spawned another television series which spawned three more television series which spawned nothing...but then the 50-year-old TV series spawned a second movie franchise.

There are a few ways you can go with this: you can try telling a new story, which won't necessarily impress fans or non-fans but will at least let you be creative and do something different. The fan-made movies like Star Trek Horizon and the fan made series like Star Trek Hidden Frontier go this route. I can't say that I particularly like any of the series...whatever you can say about the questionable acting of Marina Sirtis, Denise Crosby, Wil Wheaton, and Robert Beltran they all can act rings around Larry LaVerne and Nick Cook. The ones that also feature Trek actors suffer this problem less (not that Chase Masterson is exactly a top-notch talent) and then have the questionable writing as well. The best you can say is now fans can make effects that easily match the stuff Desilu spent a fortune on in 1968.

The other route you can take is to pastiche and/or ripoff the existing property. Fans will recognize everything and non-fans will vaguely recognize everything and presumably send them all home happy. That's the route taken by Call Me Kirk: The Ultimate Trek, a one-man show by Michael Schaldemose. Schaldemose worked on One Man Star Wars, which took the "ripoff" ideas and twisted it: turning it into a line by line (with snide asides) reproduction. For that to work, however, a huge portion of the fanbase needs to know the existing property by heart. How long into Star Trek III do you think the average Joe could start rattling off the plot? I think they'd pretty much fizzle after "they search...for that Spock guy...". Instead, Call Me Kirk does the pastiche route, stealing huge chunks of plots/scenes from "Elaan of Troyius", "The Trouble With Tribbles", and "Journey to Babel" and a few extra plots/scenes from "A Taste of Armageddon", "Arena", "Space Seed", and "The Wrath of Khan". At various points he breaks from just reciting lines from episodes of the TV show and breaks into Shatner-inspired musical parodies.

The musical breaks are the best part, for two reasons: one, they let Schaldemose do his William Shatner impersonation with full gusto and not trying to play him off other characters. Secondly, and this cannot be stressed enough, they are new creations that don't involve actual Trek fans being sixteen steps ahead of the script. That's why the prose sections are so much weaker: they are the fringe theatre equivalent of Data at the beginning of "Elementary, My Dear Data" where he's just recreating all of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries verbatim from the books. Kirk is going to fall in love with Elaan after touching her tear, he's going to use the command codes to beat Khan, he's going to fake being well enough to command the Enterprise so Spock can go into surgury to save his father, and Scott is going to fight Klingons after they call the legendary starship a garbage scow. You'd think the plot is going to bore hardcore fans but keep the masses happy, but they ultimately do neither. Call Me Kirk is stuck between a rock and a hard place due to their format, and they stumble across a "musical revue" escape route that they only tentatively step forward through. Having a few token plots ripped from the show that lead into musical theatre Star Trek parodies could have worked great. Unfortunately, the music parodies only occur twice and just remind you that you came to the show wanting to have fun.

The Shatner impersonating can only take you so far, and while it's entirely likely that you can crib his musical career for this more than his acting career, we're instead watching Schaldemose-as-Kirk talk about the horrors of nuclear war. In 2016. Rehashing slightly modified lines from the 60's TV show is a nice bit of nostalgia, and the script does a decent enough job of tying them into a single overarching plot (albeit one where plot threads appear and then vanish again without much fanfare), but essentially we're watching a partial one-man recreation of catchphrases. It literally ends with a re-telling of Shatner's "I Am Canadian" rant, driving home that we're watching the Star Trek equivalent of an Elvis impersonator. Also, as a brief aside we already "saw" Sulu take the Kobayashi Maru simulation, and he never even entered the neutral zone...

If you're looking for a rough "rating", let's call this equivalent to the episode "The Mark of Gideon". Not as bad as it could have been with a few good Shatner-ish moments, but hardly worth your time to watch.

(click here to return to the 2016 Fringe portal page)

2016-08-15

2016 Edmonton Fringe Review: Breakneck Hamlet

Where be your gibes now? your gambols? your songs? your flashes of merriment, that were wont to set the table on a roar?
Hamlet is in the upper pantheon of Shakespeare's works. Voted his best play by both Time Magazine readers and a Daily Telegraph survey of British artsy types, it's more palatable to modern pussified audiences than Othello or The Merchant of Venice (as I covered in last year's review of "Shylock"). While it doesn't speak to as universal a theme as Romeo and Juliet (or even Othello) it still ranks up there with Shakespeare's most "accessible" plays, a definition not always easy to define but generally considered the sort of play where you can easily identify with the central drama to the main character and the plot is easy to discern through the flowery writing. However our aversion to incest and the sheer unlikelihood of such a thing happening in a western nation in 2016, the notion of our uncle seizing our late father's wife is one that most of us can appreciate as being very un-kosher. His dilemma of how to find out the truth about what happened to his father and make everything right is the essence of the heroic drama. It also featured Shakespeare writing at his best: the dialogue snaps and sizzles in Hamlet more than any other play.

Unfortunately, there's a lot of it. Hamlet is 29,551 words (4042 lines), making it a third again longer than the average play in the Elizabethan era. Some stuff ends up having to be cut out to bring it to a length where a modern audience can fit it all in (the exception being the 1996 Kenneth Branagh version). So how much of Hamlet do you cut in order to bring the runtime down to three hours? Two hours? 135 minutes?

All of them are dubious propositions, so imagine the stress required to bring the play to a tick over 59 minutes. That was the challenge in adapting the play for Breakneck Hamlet, a one man show starring Timothy Mooney. Just to hammer the point home, with the first syllable from his mouth he hits a digital timer next to the throne and you almost literally engage in clock watching. But unlike the kind I do at work ("I'm 65/117ths done my day!") this helps you stay with the story, letting you benchmark the act and scene breaks and wondering "if Claudius is praying 36 minutes in, how can he fit in the Laertes mob?" and so on and so forth. Mooney covers just enough dialogue to propel the plot and provide basic character motivation for the star, leaving behind the backgrounds of the other characters. We never really feel the tension between Laertes and Ophelia over her relationship with Hamlet, we don't know much about Polonius's motivation at all, and (as is typical for a shortened version of Hamlet) Fortinbras is relegated to being just a plot element to resolve the tale. The gravediggers are portrayed for a scant fifteen seconds, Ophelia's suicide not shown at all, and Gertrude doesn't get much in the way of attention either. This is purely Hamlet's story, with brief aways to Claudius's plotting so that we understand the context.

And it works. While we never delve into the "is he mad or isn't he" that wasn't originally a big part of the play (we can blame the Goths and Freud for that one), we do see a prince trying to first determine if the ghostly apparition is telling him the truth and then determining (wrongly) how to properly remove Claudius and take back the throne he is so owed. The most famous of the Hamlet quotations still make their way forth, and only occasionally are Shakespeare's words dropped in favour of snide asides or brief explanations of the world of 1601 England for a modern audience's benefit. While they did provide the play's only laughs, and I understand the narrative need for them, I would have preferred they had been left out.

For the work they distract from is superb. Timothy Mooney vaguely resembled William H. Macy and really sounds like him, and his ability to subtly portray the different characters helps keep the play moving at...well...a breakneck pace, frankly. Naturally being Shakespeare the language is flowery and sublime, and Mooney's delivery expresses the beauty in the language of Shakespeare that so flustered Jim Hacker. For the Shakespeare aficionado to the Shakespeare neophyte (I wouldn't necessary recommend this to the Shakespeare purist) Breakneck Hamlet play is designed to delight and entertain both. And yes, indeed, it's done in under an hour. He has the clock to prove it.

(click here to return to the 2016 Fringe portal page)