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heart and music

Jul. 11th, 2013

11:41 pm - Rant about Globe theatre critic

There's an article in last Saturday's Globe about Drayton Entertainment.

Drayton is a mid-sized theatre company that has a bunch of theatres in cottage country around SW Ontario, plus two in St. Jacobs and a brand new one in downtown Cambridge. Basically, they do summer stock: a bunch of crowd-pleaser musicals and revues.

The critic for the Globe went to one of the latter, and comments about how it was cheesy, and that Toronto audiences don't want to see that sort of thing.

I call bullshit on two counts.

First, it's not all they do. Over the past several years, we've seen "Brigadoon", "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum", "How to Succeed in Business Without Even Trying", "The Man of La Mancha", "Annie", and probably a couple others I'm not remembering. We'll see "Oliver", "Spamalot" and "Godspell" this year. They do good productions. Not brilliant, but certainly good. I'm pretty sure I was earwormed by every single one of those productions; I've now given 17 talks (about rap music, but still) that have included the lyrics from "Come to me, bend to me", from "Brigadoon", because I couldn't stop thinking about the song after I saw the show.

And second, there's cheese in Toronto, too. In the past few years, we saw "Lion King", "Billy Elliott", "Book of Mormon", and other Mirvish cheese. Yes, it's better cheese. But it also was 2-5 times as expensive cheese. And actually, thte Drayton production of "Forum" was, I thought, better than the one at Stratford that was (I think?) the previous year. Not all theatre in Toronto is Acting Up Stage. (I might wish it were, but it's not.)

Kelly Nestruck goes all over North America, and even to Germany, to see productions. He could come see "Oliver" here. Or "Godspell". He might even have a good time. Sheesh.

[I am annoyed enough that I kind of wish I did the Twitter, since I can't find an email for the guy to save my life. Instead, I guess we'll have a rare public post.]

Jul. 29th, 2009

08:36 am - Public post on orange juice book

Because it seems to have been of interest to a lot of readers, I'm making this post about Squeezed: What you don't know about orange juice public. It might amuse you.

Jul. 27th, 2009

07:40 pm - Review: Squeezed

Alissa Hamilton's Squeezed is a book about processed orange juice.

What's to know? Orange juice, after all, is "100% orange, pure and natural".

Actually, much of what's to know is available right on Tropicana's website, which kind of blunts the claim of the book that they're trying to lie to you.

Anyhow, what is to know? Well, both pasteurized orange juice and concentrated orange juice, if you created them in the obvious ways, would taste awful. So in both cases, what happens is that a quantity of fresh juice or of orange oil is added to them; both concentration and pasteurization destroy these flavour components.

Also, ready-to-serve "not from concentrate" brands turn out to be pasteurized twice: once when they're juiced and placed into huge chilled OJ tanks, and once when they're to be put in cartons or bottles. This means that the "less processed" image of this kind of OJ is totally bullshit. Once upon a time, it was actually a little better: they were frozen straight after being juiced, and then pasteurized right before being bottled.

Another funny situation is that the "Florida" image that Tropicana and Minute Maid cultivate is increasingly bullshit: the actual juice processing plants, including those in Florida, are owned by Brazilian companies these days, while Tropicana and Minute Maid are largely marketing companies. (This is not, one notes, much different from the state of affairs for pet foods; after the melamine-in-pet-food scandal a couple years ago, one of the surprising facts is just how many different pet food companies Menu Foods made pet food for.) Anyhow, most American juice manufacturers are starting to use Brazilian concentrate (or pasteurized not-concentrate) in their production of OJ. They don't have to actually document the quantity of this in their label; they can just say, "from the US, Brazil and South Africa" or whatever.

All of this is vaguely interesting, but the book enters some weird rhetorical flights of absurdity, which gets tiring. Not just the one I posted about a few days ago, but she also waxes at length about how much consumers want more of a connection to all of the steps in their food's processing. I don't really think that's so; probably some do, but others still enjoy their Twinkies, thanksverymuch.

The book ends with a big jeremiad about how awful it is that citrus farming in Florida is losing out to the state being a giant condo community for retirees, and how terrible foreign (Brazilian, in this case) food is for US society.

This really amuses me, because of course, Floridians, until the Brazilians started selling more, used to supply the world with lots of its OJ. So, um, is international trade in foodstuffs only a good thing when it's exported, not imported? Oh, okay. Good to know.

Really, orange juice, like any other commodity is manufactured and standardized. We shouldn't be surprised that international trading partners enter into the process of producing it, and that as a consequence of that, it becomes less possible for people in the First World to make a living producing it. In fact, we should be surprised if that didn't happen.

A couple of other thoughts about OJ. First, I know people who prefer reconstituted OJ or pasteurized OJ to fresh-squeezed. I'm pretty sure my mom does, in particular. Do you?

And second, it does interest me that juice oranges are worth something like $3/bushel to growers. I don't want to think about how much more I pay for them when I buy them here and juice them in my food processor.

Oh, and it should be clear, but don't waste your time reading this book. This could have been an okay Harper's article of 5 or 10 pages, but 200 is way, way too much.

Apr. 1st, 2008

11:28 am - Rick Astley's "Never Gonna Give You Up" as a breakthrough gay text

Lost amidst the (deserved) hubbub about the Internet RickRolling phenomenon, wherein the video of Rick Astley's 1987 hit "Never Gonna Give You Up" is linked in (seemingly) unconnected internet discussions, is the seminal nature of this #1 hit, and particularly its video, in the prominence of homosexuality and the gay gaze in 1980's Britain. It is also a classic document of just how far interracial gay relationships were and were not able to go at that challenging moment in gay history, right when AIDS was first decimating the community.

Let us note, just for starters, how Rick himself has just a completely incompetent white-guy shuffle through the entire video, and that the blonde bombshell in the first bit of the presentation is similarly not much of a dancer. Note, also, the phallic shadow that comes 30 seconds into the document: clearly by being only in the shadow, we are hinted at what he will never give up, but in the standard lexicon of 1987, there is no complete openness here.

Further: "We're no strangers to love: you know the rules, and so do I" clearly is a reference to the Love that [then] Dared Not Speak its name: if Rick could find the stranger love, he would, of course, never give [it] up or let [it] down.

However, the seminal moment in the entire piece comes at 51 seconds in, when the black dancer, with the ambiguous facial expression, first appears. What is he doing? Polishing the bar. Polishing the bar?! The sexual tension is thick, particularly given that we never see this dancer alongside Astley himself: instead, almost as in a game, the dancer does ever more impressive stunts trying to level the playing field, including the full split at 1:20. But Astley is "too blind to see", instead focusing on the ass of the woman dancer at 1:21-1:22.

The transgressive flirtation continues, when the dancer does a front flip over the [!] polished bar while smiling, immediately followed by the most flirtatious smile of the entire piece, from Astley. Again, the female dancer's ass, again the phallic shadow. The pattern keeps spiralling, to a conclusion we all anticipate, but, again, in the 1987 millieu, we cannot fully consummate.

Except, we learn that maybe Rick doesn't only go for the truly transgressive black guys: a white guy with chiselled features and bleached hair appears at 1:57. He takes the rule of the fascist übermensch.

But liberation happens, or begins to! At 2:10, the black dancer appears in the outside set, the fenced playing field. Freedom, of a sort. And Astley doesn't know what to do; at 2:20, he briefly shows us the lining of his jacket, in a thinly veiled attempt to tittilate to the boiling point. Is he worried that the black dancer will run off with the white dancer, and he wants to remind us that he's the one with the record contract and the nice (for the '80s) clothes.

The true lesson of "Never Gonna Give You Up", then, is that economically powerful gay white men are starting to exploit their privilege, but are unfamiliar with exactly how: Astley keeps repetitively chanting "Never Gonna Give You Up", almost like a mantra, but is not entirely certain of what he will be giving up or getting. He knows the rules, but not the entire game. He keeps grinning everytime one of the dancers' asses appears, but then goes back to that perfectly coiffed hair and that marvellous, striped shirt with a polo collar, safely separated from the black dancer by that eternally polished wood bar. He may glance, and he may grin, but we all know what he wants, but just can't quite bring himself to reach.

Truly, this documents the mid-80s gay experience in a tragic, yet seemingly upbeat way. Rick wants to give himself up, but instead promises only that he will never let us down. How tragic.

And, of course, it's obvious why he worries his daughter will be embarrassed, twenty years later. So much gay pathos, in a perfect three-and-a-half-minute pop song.

Current Mood: amusedamused

Dec. 17th, 2005

05:42 pm - On Brokeback Mountain

So we went to Toronto today to see Brokeback Mountain.

It was a bad day to go to Toronto, and I compounded it by suggesting to da_lj that we should go the whole way by car, rather than parking at the subway station and taking the train in. Traffic was nutty, plus people [including both of us] were not driving well. I expect that they're nervous about their Xmas shopping.

Brokeback Mountain stars Alberta in the role of Wyoming. Far down the cast list are some humans; there are also notable performances by sheep and some shepherd dogs.

I'm not as impressed as I might have expected. And I'm going to write a very spoiler-y review.

You've been warned.Collapse )