It's Elektra-fying

The moon is spectral tonight and it seems fitting to talk about seeing the production of Elektra last night by the Canadian Opera Company.

I attended with some apprehension because frankly, I'm never sure how much outside madness I should allow to mingle with my own.

The little I'd heard about the opera was that the score by Richard Strauss is a largely dissonant one and dissonance is a word that's scared me in the past. This is not the Strauss who is synonymous with the Viennese waltz. My worries faded quickly as the orchestra was found in their typically excellent form supporting a fantastic cast on a beautifully lit stage in this tale of vengeance and woe.

Soprano Susan Bullock in the title role was absolutely feral in her display of grief and madness over the death of her father, murdered at the hands of his wife the Queen, and her lover. As she plotted the deaths of these two thieves of her joy, she gnarled, stomped, and danced consumed by the justice the act would bring. Onstage for the one hour and forty three minute production, at times with only her shadow for company, she sang her pain with force and conviction. The Queen, played by contralto Ewa Podles*, was spellbinding and in strong voice. Even as her character suffered from a mysterious illness, there was no mistaking the power of her commanding voice.

The other performers were excellent and well heard from, no small feat considering the powerful music which featured very few soft notes and no real arias. The score was dissonant yes, but powerful as it roared, chased and sustained. The full company chorus, unseen but filling the hall with their voices was an amazing testament to them and the acoustical bones of the opera house. Such amazing sounds.

Lighting for this production by Thomas C. Hase was mesmerizing as the shadows of the performers cast upon the sides of the sets seemed to reveal other aspects of their intentions. The set itself was confusing with its awkward tilt and a window high above the stage, its purpose not discerned by me. A small building on the stage, not unlike a doghouse, seemed an entrance point not befitting a Queen. No matter, this production earned even the respect of my friend Deborah who favourably compared it to the production she saw at La Scala last year proving that we must be somewhere on the map. It was an amazing experience. Bravi!

*Another memorable evening of opera that I spent with my crazily attired friend Cathy was brought to us courtesy of Ewa Podles in the 2002 production of Julius Caesar in Egypt. Ewa played the title role and was clad in a skintight leather trench coat which magnified her breasts to the approximate size of objects that can be seen from space. She looked like a Klingon in drag and as she began the several series of trills, her head bobbed like a chicken pecking at the air causing us to have to do the near impossible, stifle laughter that needed to be expressed. There were several other moments that conspired to make us laugh from the pyramids that shrunk in size with each act to dance moves that Deney Terrio would have been embarrassed to judge. Thankfully, we got ourselves under control each time and lived to laugh later. The saving grace of the production was my introduction to the amazing talents of soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian as Cleopatra. Oh what a night.


Welcome Wagon

My friend's mom has just moved into a new condo after saying a long goodbye to the old family homestead. With sadness, she had to admit that since her husband had died, the place was too big for one person, the brood long gone to find their places in the world.

Boxes were packed and gradually moved to the new place and eventually, some of the furniture made its way over. A tentative first night was spent there and then it was back to the old place to finish up the packing. After it was done and the For Sale sign went up, the only thing left to do was turn off the lights one last time, wipe away a tear and head for a brave new world.

On her first full day at the condo, she ran into her neighbors in the hall, a nice older couple who offered their welcomes after introductions were exchanged. "So you've moved into Mrs. A's place, it's a shame what happened to her." "Oh? What happened to her?" "It was movie night and when she didn't come down, we called but there was no answer. Died right in your vestibule there, it was two days before they found her. What a shame. Well, enjoy the place! See you soon!"
This is not the ideal way to learn that with private home sales, disclosures of death on the premises isn't mandatory.


Judi Judi Judi

Johnny Yen mentioned in a recent comment that a friend of his owns the company that makes the Oscar statuettes. I wonder if he could get the Academy to go back in time and award a few trophies where they may have overlooked particular brilliance as decided by me. I only wonder as I tell myself often, I have exquisite taste and have no doubt I'd make a thoughtful voter.

It seems that every year, there's a fierce competition for the nomination slots and these fill up quickly depending on who has the biggest marketing budget. To offset the boredom next year, I think I'll beg off the Oscar telecast and throw a Spirit Awards party. At least their show is sensibly aired on a Saturday, the participants seem loose and relaxed and a bunch of films that don't necessarily have all the clout at the box office get a shot at things.

I was hoping the Oscar race this past year would have had room for a handful of awards for Notes On A Scandal. I'm handing out praise in lieu of trophies simply because performers like Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett need my help desperately.

This film crackles with an intensity I hadn't expected given the themes it handles so artfully. Loneliness, desire and acts of desperation are on full display and deftly handled. Dame Judi Dench particularly gives a searing performance and Cate Blanchett is, as always, note perfect. Bill Nighy and Andrew Simpson help by inhabiting characters that act like real people and they all do justice to Patrick Marber's excellent screenplay based on Zoe Heller's book. The crowning punctuation to the film is an urgent and involving score by Philip Glass.

Director Richard Eyre has masterfully harnessed the power of these fine performers and presents a top notch entertainment.

In a related note, I saw an advertisement for the Luminato arts festival to be held here in June on television last night. Philip Glass will perform the World Premiere of Book of Longing, his collaboration with Leonard Cohen which sounds really interesting. I think I'll invite Judi and Cate along, you know, for the exposure.

Learn To Dance With Dale

Whenever it rains, as it is now and ferociously, I'm reminded of what a bonehead I am. It's not of course the only time I'm reminded of this but let's stick to this bit of business shall we?

A while back, I'd bought some new shoes. Like a good shoe owner, I'd decided to spray them to protect them from the elements. The best place for this is outside on the backyard deck as the smell of that spray'll knock you out, at least if you're doing it right.

I sprayed the shoes and went on to wear them many times with the confidence of a man who knows his feet won't turn colour if the shoes get wet.

Some time later, I was sitting and watching television. The chair I was lazing in sits beside the sliding door leading out to the deck. The sound of rain is so soothing isn't it, especially if you're warm and dry?

Something suddenly caught my eye! I jumped in surprise at seeing a sight I couldn't reconcile for a moment. Footprints! On the deck! Had someone been standing there watching me and suddenly bolted? No, who has that uninteresting a life?

It was the outline of where I'd sprayed my shoes. They looked like those little learn to dance diagrams. When I say sometimes I scare myself, I mean it. My fear quickly washed away turning this into one of the few times I've ever actually heard laughter in the rain, my own.

Dance anyone?


Torture At The Tower

Continuing my long tradition of giving 'til it hurts, I thought Bubs might be interested in this cheery little nook I happened upon at the Tower of London.

The Tower of London is actually a series of buildings, one housing the Crown Jewels and others offering their own delights. It was used as a fortress, a palace and a place to house prisoners. The Tower Bridge, often incorrectly identified as London Bridge is nearby.

Click to enlarge photos.Off we go.

This doesn't look too imposing does it?

Other forms of torture on display at the castle include this fair maiden being forced to stand not only in a hot period costume but right next to a litter can robbing me of the cheap trash joke. Or did it?

The torture exhibit was just a very small part of a fascinating place overall. After a long day of touring, you can probably figure what I was looking for though...

I thought of linking to the Royal website for the information on the Crown Jewels but something told me that someone would not be amused.

Things I Hate Vol. 912

This is a funny cartoon to me because all my ties say fuck you. If I was to send this to you, I would probably write something lame in the subject line like Attitude is Everything. The cartoon speaks for itself and does not require endorsement.

My spider sense always starts tingling when I get an email telling me before I get to the joke that THIS IS HILARIOUS!! Worse is when people send along something like: Here's a cartoon about a boss giving an employee crap because of a bad attitude and the guy is wearing a tie that says Fuck You. You're gonna love it! Have a look!

It also makes me crazy when people name files in an obvious manner: maninfuckyoutiewithbosssayinghehasanattitudeproblem.jpg

As you can see, it takes very little to knock me off balance. The best part is that I inevitably find out later that the things I've railed on and on about are exactly the things I've been guilty of in the first place. Fuck you.


No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

My good deed is done for the weekend. I had dinner with a ginger. My niece has finished her exams and will be heading back to the home office for the summer. She asked why I was wearing a fake moustache, hat and sunglasses indoors at the restaurant but I don't really feel I should have to explain all my style choices.

I never knew there was widespread support for the fear and terror many feel regarding gingers until Catherine Tate came along with her series of sketches. South Park had broached the subject but I'd missed that episode.

One of my coworkers told me that growing up in Great Britain, there were slurs and superstitions aplenty regarding the ginger segments of the populace. I had a hard time taking it seriously until I saw first hand the delicious discrimination in London recently.

Pictured below is a snap I took just following the merciless heckling of a ginger who was ridiculed and forced to leave the tour bus by our wonderful guide. I was surprised she'd even been allowed to board with regular passengers in the first place. The tour and the guide were fantastic afterward.

Have a good summer ginge!


Friday Random Ten, Been A While Edition

Because it's been almost all about music and vacation here this week, I figured I'd better pony up with a Random Ten Songs list which I've been neglecting a bit lately. Some really great things showed up on the iPod as I shuffled along.

It's late so I only uploaded one mp3 that's definitely worth a listen. I used to love hearing my very white but cool friend Lorena singing all the parts along with the track. Nothing beats hearing all that swearing and a lovely invite from a true lady to 'suck my dick hos'.

1. Oliver's Army - Elvis Costello

2. High On Cruel - Neko Case & Her Boyfriends

3. Sweet Jane - Cowboy Junkies

4. My Hero - Foo Fighters

5. Christmas At The Zoo - The Flaming Lips

6. Somebody Told Me - The Killers

7. An Angry Blade - Iron & Wine

8. Lonesome Road - Julie London

9. Not Tonight (Ladies Night).mp3 - Lil Kim ft Left Eye, Da Brat, Missy Elliot, Angie Martinez

10.Tennessee Flat Top Box - Johnny Cash

I'm not sure how Julie London would have felt opening up for Lil Kim. Although they'd be a hard act to follow as well, our man Johnny's more than up to the task.


London Logic

Wherein the blogmaster points out a few really rather sensible things the Brits have on the go. This does not include the driving on the wrong side of the road thing. That's crazy.

1. There's no need to look for the stop sign red EXIT signs we're used to here in the Americas. The Brits go with a more sensible green and illustrate how to get the hell out of anywhere fast. Some of them are labelled and those say Way Out. That's smart.

2. Public toilets, what a concept! Calling them toilets rather than washrooms, bathrooms or powder rooms, what a concept! After you pay and pee, some of them self clean! George Michael went into this one and by the time I'd finished a grande Dulce de Leche at the nearby Starbucks, he still hadn't come back out. Please note the sensible spiky nails on top to dissuade pigeons from sitting and shitting on top.

3. In anger at not being allowed to perch, pigeons in London spend much of their time defacing signs to confuse tourists. I wish we had similar signs here that said this or Please be aware that morons may try and share their fries with you, mind your cholestorol.

4. Over the p.a. system on the train to Hampton Court Palace, the following announcement was straightforward enough: Beggars sometimes board trains. Do not encourage them by giving them money. If you see a beggar, please alert a member of staff. Excellent, another way of saying don't feed the pigeons!

5. Doesn't Give Way sound a hell of a lot more charming than Yield? If they just taken it that one step further and put Do Give Way on the sign, I'd be living there already spreading the message of love and gentility.

6. Look Right. Look Left. If you're going to drive on the wrong side of the road, the least you can do is warn the idiot tourists like me. And you do. Thank you. I'm still here because of this.


7 Reasons To Keep Moving

Music? What is all this talk of music Beth? That's just not like you!

Last month, I was all about this but now? Well, a different 7 songs have my attention.

1. Australia by The Shins is in heavy rotation and is linked somewhere in this post.

2. DangerHighVoltage.mp3 by Electric Six. This song makes me smirk and smile.

3. Nobody But You.mp3 by Junior Kimbrough. This is some good old tyme blues from a guy who definitely sounds like he's paid his dues. I'm not sure where I picked Junior up but it may have been through dear bastard Mob because I know he's mentioned him a couple of times.

4. O mia babbino caro - Puccini (from the opera Gianni Schicchi which I saw recently. It's one of those pieces that gets used in commercials and films. The version I have is by Mirella Freni but nothing compares to hearing it live and in context).

5. Cellphone's Dead by Beck. This album took a while to grow on me but grow it did. Still hearing lots of new things every time it gets a chance in my ears. I was on a break with Beck when MJ demanded I try it. Thanks Pushy.

6. La Sandunga.mp3 by Lila Downs. Lila first hit my radar on the Frida soundtrack and her voice haunts my dreams.

7. The Future by Teddy Thompson. From the I'm Your Man soundtrack. Worrying about the future and the past has never been as perfectly Pop-O-Matic as this.


Little Britain

My recent trip to London included memorable encounters, educational components, and more dessert and booze than I'd expected. Distilling booze my memories down to blog sized bites is not easy as I'm still digesting myself but I will say I had a wonderful time and would go back in a minute. Or on a 7 hour flight.

An early highlight was meeting up with MJ and CP. As expected and known, they're funny, charming and international treasures. We spent a few hours together before they headed for France. It's always the French.

Here they are pictured walking one exhausted Dale from the gr
ounds of Kensington Palace to an even more sacred British landmark, the local pub. See how pretty we all are? For reference purposes: I am not the one in the red boots. I am also not the one carrying the bag. My bee outfit? Confiscated at the airport and handed back to me for the return trip.

There was much walking, touring and riding around in black cabs. There was also much taking in of wonderful museums, architecture, history, food, shopping and people. The hotel was excellent for those few moments when things slowed down and ah yes, the shows. Jessica Lange in The Glass Menagerie, Dame Maggie Smith in The Lady from Dubuque and 2 comic operas at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, one with Bryn Terfel, each amazing in its own way.

To prove just how highbrow I can be, you should know that this photo had to be taken several times before John got it right and she cleared my head. This exercise in buffoonery actually drew a bit of a crowd (I had to bend my knees quite a bit or it would have been an ear full of toes). Snap the damned picture already!


These Are The People In My Neighborhood

This entertaining music quiz is brought to you by the letters Splotchy and Bubs and by the number of people voting for Sanjaya.

What was the first recorded music you bought?

I believe it may have been Shannon.mp3 by Henry Gross on 45 rpm. I think the song is about a dead dog. Nothing says cheery childhood like harmonizing with a guy named Gross about a dead dog.

What was the last music you bought?

Wincing The Night Away by The Shins. I dare you to get the song Australia.m4p out of your head. I recall a bit of hoopla when they were on the Garden State soundtrack and then was recently reminded of them at Tongue Tied Lightning. Soon after, they were popping up everywhere and I was powerless to resist.

What was the first "professional" music show you ever went to?

I believe it was to see April Wine way back in my early teen days. Oowatanite.mp3

What was the last?

I think it may have been Bjork or Garbage but I can't say for sure because now I'm old. Either way, try one of these on. ArmyofMe.mp3 or Cherry Lips Go Baby Go.m4a

What's your "desert island" album?

This answer could change from moment to moment but right this second, I'd go with David Sylvian's Secrets of the Beehive. Here's why: Orpheus.m4a

What's your favorite album/song title? (the *title* , not the actual album or song).

Without much in depth thought, I'll say Short Sharp Shocked by Michelle Shocked for album title and 5 & 1/2 Minute Hallway by Poe for song title.

What's your favourite album art (include an image of it if you can)?

Most of the Talking Heads covers were pretty damned cool but for now, I'll go for the cheap visual joke (how unlike me!): I bet Julie was really happy they didn't call this around six.

Ideal choice for a karaoke song?

Group: Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen

Solo (and if I could sing): Blame It On The Sun.mp3 by Emiliana Torrini.

Song you don't like that WILL NOT LEAVE YOUR HEAD if you hear it.

I start out liking it and laughing but eventually after hearing Sunshine Day on a loop in my head, I'd kill The whole Brady Bunch for a nickel.

Which is cooler? -- Vinyl? CD? Cassette? 8-track?

Although I'd go with vinyl overall, could there be anything dorkier and more fun than rocking out to KISS Alive on 8-track? I did it. Ah, the horrible fade-outs mid-song, the chunky click to the next track and then the fade back in? Classically fucked up!


Coaster Punchman



and the rest of you too please.


View From The Top

Whenever anyone mentions superstition, my mother pipes up with "I once won 500 dollars on Friday the 13th so it's always been a lucky day for me!" I haven't got the heart to tell her "no, it's only been lucky for you that once".

I wasn't really worried about the prospect of a Friday the 13th flight home and ending up in the 13th row didn't faze me much either. From where I sat, I could tell that the snakes had been safely quarantined with their expense accounts in First Class so all I really had to contend with was a brigade of squalling babies. After climbing into the overhead bin and getting comfortable, it was pretty smooth sailing the rest of the way.

I've now added London to the list of places I would enjoy living if I were to become wealthy. The overhead bins? They're not on that list.


Ye Olde Blog Post From Across The Pond

London. What an amazing, chaotic and interesting city. So far it's been pretty smooth sailing and interesting events which I'll write more about later.

You know you're not in Kansas anymore or anywhere near North America for that matter when your local grocery store carries not one, but two types of duck fat! Right beside it are jars of goose fat and bags of potato chips in exotic flavours. Ew, it's not a dip is it?

Here though, just as in America, anyone can be on television. Witness one Charlotte Church. Voice of an angel, wit of an acorn. This may be the first time I've seen a live audience that required a laugh track. Her conversation with American 'singing' 'star' Fergie of the Black Eyed Peas left me stumped. Fergie told the viewing audience that '...in America, we get Easter Eggs with money inside'. What? I'm definitely in the wrong family. Luckily, many television series here have the sense enough to last for 6 episodes only before they're gifted with the fate of death or renewal.

Catching up with CP and meeting the most excellent Melinda June was the perfect start to what's shaping up to be a great vacation. It already feels like I've packed of week of things in.

More to come. Please send cash.


There's A Kind Of Hush

Since I've been carrying a few extra pounds around lately, I've decided the best way to shed them is to head for London and spend the damned things.

I've lined up a few things that I feel I must see and do and otherwise plan on a lot of sightseeing and not worrying about how much everything costs. This is easy for me because when it comes to math, I've got the brains God gave a table. No ongoing conversions in my head everytime I buy something, no siree! I've already forgotten that 1 British pound = 2.26 Canadian dollars. Come what may.
One of the things the guide books seem to be very hush hush about is that if you play your cards right, it's possible to get an audience, no, not with the Queen or even Helen Mirren but with beloved cyberstalking icon Coaster Punchman and his brilliant accomplice Melinda June.

Currently on 'vacation', CP is no doubt selling all his Strategic Sales Secrets with MJ acting as his fence while avoiding stepping in swan poop in her badass boots. My job will be not to appear completely travel drunk after a 7+ hour overnight flight that begins this evening. If you have any questions for them, please feel free to post them and I'll be sure to pose them. The questions, not the people.

Special preparations for this trip - I watched Snakes on a Plane. What better way could there be to say I hate you! to yourself than by settling in with an entertaining, disgusting, and anxiety inducing pre-flight film than this? It was pretty enjoyable but I won't be remembering that if an overhead compartment should suddenly spring open; I'll be screaming, pushing old people down and looking for safe haven inside the drink cart. My other special preparations include thinking about packing. This could happen at any time so I'm ready for when it does.If I'm not able to get any blogging time in, rest assured I'll miss nearly each and every one of you. Cheerio! Or is it Cheery Oh! Either way, it's time for breakfast.


Some Assembly Required

Melinda June mentioned something about going to IKEA and I commented that I could never find my way out of the damned place.

When I was talking to Tanya today, we spoke of her love and my fear of the place. She loves their sensible pricing and functional everyday pieces (I have no idea if that's what she said because I just kept cracking jokes).

For a place run by dwarf Swedes (evidence - tiny pencils everywhere), it's pretty damned big. They do have some nice things in there but I resent the fact that even the cardboard display items in their living rooms are nicer than the real versions of some of that stuff at my place.

It's sweet of them to put a trail of paint splotches on the floor to help me stick to the path but I still manage to get confused and wander into the lampshade department every damned time . All I'm really here for is those free paper measuring tapes anyway. I mean, who'd ever get tired of measuring it, adding 2 inches and then moving on with their lives?

So just how do you get out of here? Sure, you could follow the smell of the 10 cent meatballs and glug but I prefer to walk through the shower curtains, into the metal container filled with the weird Swedish kooshball looking things and past the do it yourself farfenhoogen demonstration.

Before I leave and for my efforts at getting in and back out, I always feel I should buy something. More often than not, it turns out to be the big bag of tea lights, a tremendous value.

After that, it's a simple half day's journey across the larger than my subdivision parking lot and I'm back on my way.

I once thought of getting work there so I could understand it all better but I'm not the handiest guy in the world and I knew something like this would happen:


The Music of My Life

I saw this fun music related quiz over at AC44's blog.

His answers were funny and when I gave it a try, I thought, some of these are pretty lame but from #11 to 18 things seem to have worked out to be hilarious, to me anyway.

Give it a go people.

* Put your iTunes/Winamp/WMP/Whatever on shuffle.
* Use the song title as the answer to the question.

1. How does the world see me? Fingertips...Poe

2. Will I have a happy life? 40 Miles To Vegas...Southern Culture on the Skids

3. What do my friends really think of me? The Rifle...Alela Diane

4. Do people secretly lust after me? Brotha...Jill Scott

5. How can I make myself happy? Don't Know How...Joss Stone

6. What should I do with my life? All Cried Out...Alison Moyet

7. Will I ever have children? Last...Jeff Buckley

8. What is some good advice for me? The Same Boy You've Always Known...White Stripes

9. How will I be remembered? Hold On...Sarah McLachlan

10. What is my signature dancing song? Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again...Sarah Brightman (burning right up the charts)

11. What do I think my current theme song is? Feeling Gravity's Pull...R.E.M. (parts of me anyway)

12. What does everyone else think my current theme song is? A Common Disaster...Cowboy Junkies

13. What song will play at my funeral? Alone in the Garden...Gold City (how awesome that a gospel tune ended here where we're talking about my end)

14. What type of women/men do I like? My Off White Flag...Dirty Projectors

15. What is my day going to be like? The Scorpion Departs But Never Returns...Phil Ochs

16. Will I ever have love again? One Thing...Amerie

17. What type of sex life do I have? Get Off...Dandy Warhols

18. What song would be the title of my own porno movie? Young Americans...David Bowie (I'm sure he means over the age of consent Americans, otherwise, that would be creepy.