September 30, 2007

Log Blog

One of the best things (oh, who am I kidding? After I stopped writing for them, the best thing) about Emerson's student newspaper is its 'Public Safety Log'. As an undergraduate, my dorm mates and I would delight in crowding around the week's Berkeley Beacon to read about the exploits of the campus police and, I am thrilled to announce that it has not decreased in quality by even one iota since the heady days of my youth.
Thursday, Sept. 20

• Police responded to a call from a security guard at 10 Boylston Pl. who said a young man entered the building holding his crotch. In lieu of a publicly available restroom, the man exposed his penis and urinated into a wastebasket. The man fled, and was not apprehended. Facilities management was called to sanitize the wastebasket.
Now, I'm no detective, but I think this quote from a few pages later, in a story about Emerson's scandalous gender neutral bathrooms, might provide a valuable clue:
The reaction from Emerson students, however, has been less vitriolic. Sophomore acting major Michael McNamara said he welcomes the unobtrusive change.

"If it makes some students more comfortable then I'm all for it," he said. "But I'd pee anywhere."
Back to the log.
Friday, Sept. 21

• Police responded to a call from a Resident Assistant in the Courtyard by Marriot Tremont Hotel who found distasteful material on a student's door. Officers arrived to find three phalli posted. The phalli were removed without incident.
How does one "post" a phallus? Is it like a Luther at Wittenberg sort of thing?

And now, to homework.

September 28, 2007

Conversations With Greatness CXLVIII

I know my blogging's been pretty sparse lately. It's partly because grad school's been keeping me busy (and I have less need for an outlet for my writing now that I have to write for school EVERY FREAKIN' DAY), but it's also because I've been putting a lot of my spare time into another project that will soon be wrapped up. After that I'll hopefully have time to rant a little more.

September 25, 2007

Just What The World Needs...

From Newsvine: State Department Starts 'Dipnote' Blog

A "dipnote", the blog sagely explains, is hip diplomat jargon for a "diplomatic note" – a formal communication between diplomats. It is certainly not an ill-conceived and easily-ridiculed name for a website showcasing the voice of US diplomacy, thanks to its (peculiarly apt) similarity to another word meaning "inept bonehead".

The blog is the brainchild of State Department employee Sean McCormack, "who came up with the idea for a blog during a recent trip to California's Silicon Valley with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice." I'm glad they weren't visiting New Jersey.

RICE: Yes, Sean?

MCCORMACK: Being here, with you, in Hoboken... It makes me think...

RICE: Yes, Sean?

MCCORMACK: We should punch everyone in the world in the face.
I await the transferral of all diplomatic functions to Web 2.0. I'm pretty sure we could put the whole Middle East conflict thing to bed with a good Wall-to-Wall.

September 23, 2007

Moment of Silence

From Newsvine: Marcel Marceau, Famed French Mime, Dies
PARIS — Marcel Marceau, whose lithe gestures and pliant facial expressions revived the art of mime and brought poetry to silence, died Saturday. He was 84…
Marceau will be buried alongside other French cultural dignitaries in Paris's famous Père-Lachaise cemetery, inside an invisible coffin with no lid.

September 21, 2007

September 20, 2007

Technical Terms

Seen on Newsvine:

Presumably that leading paragraph should actually read, in part:
The new Gammy-ray Large Area Space Telethingummy to be launched next spring doesn't see visible light like our eyes, but gammy rays, the most energetic photomatons in the electromagnetic spectrumabob.

September 19, 2007

Should've Pict On Someone Their Own Size

After the cultish following that emerged around John "Dinnae Fuck Wi' Glasgow" Smeaton earlier this year, Scotland has increasingly been revealed as a hotbed of vigilante justice. Who knew?

First, just a few weeks after the attack on Glasgow Airport, was the story of Mohammed Afzah, a former bodyguard to the Pakistani Prime Minister who now, naturally, runs a corner store in Edinburgh.
A knife-wielding robber … ran into the Edinburgh shop owned by Mohammed Afzah … and demanded money.

Mr Afzah immediately adopted his martial arts stance and shouted "I'm ready - come on" at his assailant …
The robber swiftly fled, leaving Afzah chuckling triumphantly to the theme from Dragnet.
The suspect is described as being white, about 6ft tall, aged between 30 and 35, with short brown hair and an Edinburgh accent.
Oh no! A white guy with an Edinburgh accent is lurking somewhere in Edinburgh! What's the police line-up going to be, a satellite photograph? A Hearts match? A haystack?

Then there's the story of Helen McAdam, a seventy-one-year-old who single-handedly foiled an armed bank robber back in February.
Mrs McAdam described how she spotted a security guard being held up at gunpoint as he was about to load a cash machine with money.

The guard handed over a cash box containing £19,000.

Mrs McAdam said she lost her temper…

She said: "I tried to hit him with my handbag. I was angry. When I swung it he was away like a shot."

Mrs McAdam then chased Carlin and memorised the make and colour of his getaway car and a partial registration.

She handed the details in to Tesco before carrying on with her shopping…
The supermarket was having a seasonal promotion on cans of whup-ass.
In court Mrs McAdam referred to the security guard who handed over the money box as "a wimp."

… Mrs McAdam was said to be relaxing at a beauty salon for her weekly hair appointment as Carlin was led away to begin his sentence.
Okay, so maybe two incidents doesn't constitute a "hotbed", but seriously, it's like the whole country is slowly becoming an episode of Walker, Texas Ranger.

September 14, 2007

Conversations With Greatness CXLVI

You know, this may seem like it's inspired by my FHM rant the other day, but I actually wrote it a week and a half ago. Go figure.

September 13, 2007

Stamp Duty

From Newsvine: Jury Duty Stamp Released
WASHINGTON — A new postage stamp celebrates jury duty as an important way for Americans to serve their community.
The stamp goes on sale on Wednesday, although the Postal Service expects that most Americans will try to find a way around having to buy it until next year.

(And when they do finally get one, they will be able to tell you exactly where you can stick it.)

September 11, 2007


From The Guardian: Girl, 14, appeared topless in FHM
FHM has been censured by the Press Complaints Commission after it published a topless photo of a 14-year-old girl without her consent.
Quick! Humorous and topical list of things FHM could stand for!

For Hot Minors
Fourteen? Hardly Matters
Felonies Have Materialised
Flustered Her Mother

And, my personal favourite:

For Humbert Magazine

Okay, back to the story.
FHM said it received around 1,200 photos of women either topless or wearing lingerie for publication each week. It added that it was "extremely surprised" to learn that the girl was 14…
Well, I'll bet. I mean, I'm sure they have pretty rigourous procedures to make sure that the anonymous pornography they get sent is above board.
It added that it was "extremely surprised" to learn that the girl was 14 "as she certainly appeared to be older", the PCC reported in its ruling today.
Oh, okay. So in the above sentence "pretty rigourous procedures" should be replaced with "Sweaty Joe".

Folks, I don't mean to get all alarmist conservative on you, but this just seems like it demands more than a slap on the wrists from the Press Complaints Commission. As far as I can tell, although the complaint was upheld, FHM is obliged to do, um, nothing; they've agreed not to republish or syndicate the picture (what saints!), and have offered to write a private letter of apology to the girl (the generosity!), but otherwise face no punishment whatsoever.

This is hardly surprising, as apparently the greatest sanction the PCC can actually enforce on any publication is that
the editor is obliged to publish the Commission’s criticisms in full and with due prominence.
This is much preferable to fines or legal action because, apparently, it means that
editors have to publicise to their staff, rivals and readers that they have broken the rules agreed by all editors. Such a sanction – which calls into question an editor's professional judgement – is a far greater deterrent than fines.
No, see, what calls into question the editor's professional judgement is the fact that he publishes photos of fourteen-year-olds topless – in fact, that he publishes photos of women using an honour system for photo releases:
The magazine had been informed that the complainants’ daughter was in a cohabiting relationship with the person who submitted the photograph and, in those circumstances, no further enquiries about the image were made.
So, basically, all a man needs to do is take a picture of a woman, with or without her consent, then send it in to FHM with a note saying, "It's cool, bro, I'm banging her," and FHM will be happy with that. Doesn't that seem a little, I don't know, MIDDLE AGES to anyone? How does something so flagrantly sexist manage to pass itself off as "harmless fun for the lads"?

I would say I was going to boycott FHM, but considering I don't buy it anyway that wouldn't be much of a statement. Any bright ideas, anyone?

September 09, 2007

Family Fun

I normally try to stay away from posting chat transcripts on my blog – it just seems a little too self-indulgent. But my (twelve-year-old) brother made me so happy on MSN today that I had to share.
Carlo: look at this awesome emoticon
Carlo: :yoshi
A Good Ladd: didn't work
A Good Ladd: I'm using a weird version of msn though
Carlo: oh ok
Carlo: its mario on yoshi
A Good Ladd: I can't believe they have an emoticon for that
A Good Ladd: what emotion is it supposed to represent?
Carlo: uh.....
Carlo: let'sa go?
I wonder which gene controls COMIC GENIUS, because clearly my family has it IN SPADES.

September 08, 2007

Make Way For Pundigrions, Pt. 1

I have now been back in Boston for four full days. They've mostly been spent doing very productive yet boring things, like getting a phone, orientation, convincing the Emerson Health Services people that, in fact, Britain no longer has endemic plague - that sort of thing. Today involved more assembling Ikea furniture than I would normally care to do.

Living here again is a fairly surreal experience. I’m living with Adrienne and most of the same furniture we had in Montreal, but in the mornings, instead of us both getting ready for 10am classes like we used to, she gets up and puts on work clothes and goes to her responsible, adult job, and I dick around reading The New Yorker on the couch for a few hours – it’s a bit like one of those sitcom episodes that shows you some hypothetical future with the characters all doing hilariously ironic things.

It’s also pretty surreal being back at Emerson. In some ways it hasn’t changed at all (every damn thing on campus is still branded purple, right down to the ink in the free pens at orientation), but in some ways it’s a little unrecognizable. They’ve sold up all the Back Bay property they had when I was here, and squeezed the whole campus into a bunch of newly constructed buildings at the Boylston-Tremont corner of the Common.

Most spectacular out of all their new buildings is the Max Mutchnik Campus Center, which is exquisitely Emersonian for two reasons:

1. It’s named after the creator of Will and Grace. (Granted, I don’t think that's the primary reason he got the building named after him, but still.)

2. Its nickname (for all Emerson buildings must have a nickname) is ‘The Max’ which, the astute among you will realise, is the name of the hip student hang-out from Saved By The Bell. I can’t work out if this is intentional or not, but I’m assuming, given how much TV Emerson students watch, that it must be.

The other big new building is the Tufte Performance Center, which is tucked in behind the library. I had occasion to visit Tufte the other day for the very-impressive-sounding Student Services Fair. The name made it out to be a bustling room full of all manner of stalls with helpful staff and enthusiastic volunteers (I had SSMU Activities Night in mind); instead it was corridor in which five tables were set up:

1. Coffee table.
2. The Boston Police Department.
3. The Student Counselling Center.
4. The Writing Assistance and Resource Center.
5. The Office of Off Campus Student Services.

Whereas most of the stalls at least had personnel, OCSS was completely unmanned and consisted (this is not even a little bit of an exaggeration) of a sign saying “Off Campus Student Services” and a map of the subway system. Nothing else. Which is kind of amusing considering Emerson only has enough room to house about a quarter of its students, so most of its students are "Off-Campus".

I think that's enough for now, but rest assured there will be many more pithy Emerson jokes in the coming weeks.

September 07, 2007

Conversations With Greatness CXLV

Technical Difficulties

Sadly, my iMac has been delayed on its way over from Britain, so I can't post Conversations With Greatness today.

HOWEVER, I would like, instead, to draw your attention to the unofficial Conversations With Greatness "fan club", which Google Analytics unearthed for me yesterday.

It's in German, but I had my dad translate it for me, and this is what he came up with:
The first entry on the thread says "It pretty much matches my sense of humour". The second says "Hey, I think the site is really not bad at all,
the Letters to Marx section is really super". The third says (I think):
"Oh man, I'm cracking up :-). Really nice". The fourth says; "Just
beautifully silly".
In my impatience to find out what was being said, though, I ran it through Babelfish as well - and the results were a lot more entertaining:
Thus mean humor triffts to the majority. hey, I find the side genuinly not bad, letter on Marx section is genuinly super. I heard, the Admin is called in rl the Hermes WAR I NOW FINITE OF STARS?!?!?!?!? Oh one, I luggage me away! ; -) Very beautifully. simply only wonderful bloed.
Anyway, clearly whoever said Germans don't have a sense of humour was way off.

September 05, 2007

Plane Rude

Between packing, feeling gross, and wanting to spend as much time with people as possible before I left Edinburgh, I haven’t had much sleep the last week (or, hell, the last month, really). So when I got on my flight to Boston yesterday I fell more or less immediately into a beautiful slumber. For about half an hour.

Then, I was suddenly awoken by somebody shaking me by the shoulder. Groggily, I opened my eyes to find the guy sitting in front of me turned around and with his eyes fixed on me.

"Your knee was digging into my back," he said, with a look that seemed to express both irritation and an attempt at helpfulness at the same time.

Now, if I had been more awake and slightly less apologetic by nature, I would have said something along the lines of: "Yeah, well your fucking chair is crushing my legs – welcome to commercial aviation. I hope you're not expecting a gourmet lunch."

Of course, what I actually said was, "Nurgghhh? Oh. Sorry."

He looked expectantly at me for a few seconds, like I was supposed to say something else. ("May I please amputate my legs and pummel myself with them for the rest of the flight as bleakly ironic penance for my horrendous behaviour, sir?" perhaps?) When I continued to look at him blankly, though, he huffed, turned back around, and reclined his seat as far back as it would go. Which I think we can all agree was a stupendously mature thing to do – so naturally, I responded by calling the flight attendant and telling her he was trying to set his shoes on fire.


Adrienne has done an amazing job of setting up the place here, and I would like to issue her with a giant, blog-based hug, in addition to all the gratitude she’ll be getting from me in person. You're awesome, dear.

September 01, 2007

Show Off

The Witching Hour. This year was The Witching Hour's third year at the Underbelly, and, seeing it for the first time, I can see why they keep coming back. The basic premise is that the host (this year the extremely funny Steven Harvey) makes a few yuks as an intro, riffing on horror cliches and poking fun at the venue and audience. Then it all gets a little more theatrical and we're told that our car has broken down and we've taken refuge in an old mansion for the night. Cue a cavalcade of celebrity guests (different every night) to tell ghost stories, intercut with Harvey returning to add a few of his own. It's all done between 11pm and midnight, roughly, so the crowd is at that happy level of drunk and it all just comes across as good fun.

Then (and this is why I understand their preference for the Underbelly) they cut all the lights and, being as we're in an underground cave (famed for being haunted) we're plunged into complete darkness. Harvey then suddenly drops all pretence of stand-up comedy or light-hearted storytelling and proceeds to scare the absolute liquid crap out of the audience for about five minutes solid. It was exquisitely timed and carried out, and I can honestly report that not a single member of the audience (including all the big butch men) left without an anxious grimace on their face. Really, really excellent. Five pundigrions.

Ola Onabule. A British soul sensation whose catalogue blurb lists as a dubious honour his having been the only musician invited to perform at the Spice-Beckham wedding. Onabule takes the stage with a seven-piece band and a large stack of confidence, and subsequently belts out song after song of slick jazz/funk/soul ditties, pausing every now and then for some tiresome London banter with the crowd. The band was technically proficient and Onabule's voice a treat, but the songs (like so many contemporary soul/funk acts) seemed to all blend into one, fairly limited bassy sound after a while, and the end result was pleasant but hardly memorable. Three pundigrions.

Craig Campbell. Craig's a Canadian comic from out West who some of you may know as Ed the Sock's co-host on Ed's Night Party. He has a very no-nonsense, Canadian sense of humour, and a keen sense of timing and of the ridiculous. He spends the first ten minutes or so of the act ad libbing banter with the audience, which I have to say is one of the most impressive things I saw all Fringe. One of the women in the audience was a fish biologist and, boy, did he go with it! He did fish biology jokes for a full two minutes, and they were funny and, I presume, pretty unprepared. The rest of his material, too, came across as spontaneous and energetic, and the show was entertaining from start to finish. Favourite line: "I love the way Scottish people party: 'Let's drink til one of us dies... And then kick him and call him queer'." Five pundigrions.

Aeneas Faversham Returns. A Victorian sketch show from some of the country's best comedy performers, The Penny Dreadfuls. Most of them are ex-Improverts (the main Edinburgh improv troupe), now based in London where they do a variety of comedy shows year round. Aeneas Faversham was their show last year and marked the first year they tried the 'Victorian' thing; basically, they all wear vests, long black coats, and cravats for the whole show, and most of the sketches have a sort of old-timey theme/content to them. I think most of them would actually work fine as 'straight' sketches, too, but the gusto with which the performers deliver their lines in their booming RP accents really makes it work.

They were the sweethearts of the Underbelly this year, selling out every night but two, and it was well-deserved. The material is sharp and the performances are convincing, and they have a couple of sketches in which the whimsy is so well-tuned you'd have a hard time not cracking a smile. A couple of the bits are slightly hit-and-miss, though, and frankly they would have done well to replace the weaker new sketches with some of the real zingers from last year. Still, a healthy four pundigrions from me.

Terry Saunders: Missed Connections. A hint to all Fringe performers: if you have an important critic in one night, get your tech to propose to you at the end of the show, and you're pretty much guaranteed a good review. Terry Saunders does a sweetly poignant show about love, fear and taking chances, but mostly what I remember is when his girlfriend/tech hijacked his slideshow in the last two minutes and inserted a few extra words along the lines of "Let's get married." The venue, which was packed to the rafters (mostly with venue staff who knew what was coming) burst into joyous tears as the unassuming Saunders stood, gobsmacked, in the spotlight, nodding and accepting from his thick daze. I think the show was pretty good, too, though. Four pundigrions.

James Dowdeswell: Wine. Dowdeswell bills his show as an hour of humorous discussion and stories about wine, which it sort of is, but in a kind of disappointing way. Mostly the wine thread is used as a jumping board into vaguely related tangents on other topics, which I think would have been okay, but he was too scared to really pounce on his punchlines - so the stand-uppy style fell a little flat. What worked best was when he was taking us through how to taste a glass of wine, but he seemed too much like a nervous kid at show and tell to really achieve the warm authority that the show demanded. A nice idea, but let down by its production. Three pundigrions.


Thus ends my Fringe reviews. In all I was pretty pleased with the quality of shows this year; my reviews have been overwhelmingly positive rather than overwhelmingly negative, which I think says something about the seriousness with which many acts take the Fringe now. Long may it continue.

Anyway, I'm moving to Boston in two days, and should really get packing. As usual, there will be something of a blog lull over the next little while as I get settled, but CWG will appear on Friday if nothing else.