Pick of the Day

As of today — the final day of the Vancouver Winter Olympics — I’ve watched a grand total of three hours of TV coverage. Feb. 18, I was over at a friend’s and saw the last two periods of the Canada vs Switzerland Mens Ice Hockey game, plus some of the stumblebums in the lower tiers of the Men’s Figure Skating (when did they bring in those extended sleeve-glove things anyway? They look gross).

While I haven’t been watching the Olympics, I have been following them a bit. I lament the amount of trash-talking that goes on in sports these days. Good sportsmanship is hard to find in players, fans, coaches and management. So I was never a fan of the “Own the Podium” smack that some Canadian officials and athletes were talking in the run up to the Olympics.

It’s fine to be enthusiastic. But to pull a Joe Namath and guarantee victory … well, that’s pretty brash. And as host country, a tad ill-mannered. Then when our athletes got off to such a brutal start, it made us look pretty foolish in the world’s eyes. Our climate gives us a natural advantage in the Winter Olympics, sure. But we’re still only a nation of 34 million. And there’s some pretty big countries out there that compete and do well in winter sports.

The low point for the Canadian contingent probably came on Feb. 21 when the Canadian Men’s Ice Hockey team lost to the U.S. 5-3. Since then, Canada has performed tremendously. As I write this, Canada sits third in the medal count at 13 gold, 7 silver and 5 bronze, ahead of countries like Russia, Norway, Korea, France and China, and behind only the United States (9 gold-14 silver-13 bronze) and Germany (10-12-7).

And after getting off to a shaky start due to the tragic death of a Georgian luger in a training run, technical glitches at the opening ceremony, some unseasonably warm weather and early street protests against all the political and economic bullshit that unfortunately accompanies the Olympics now, Vancouver and the rest of Canada have drawn rave reviews for the party we’ve hosted.

That leaves one more bit of unfinished business. It won’t be an easy task. But since getting beat by the U.S. on Feb. 21 the Canadian Men’s Ice Hockey team has looked pretty strong. But the Americans, after squeaking by a tenacious Swiss squad 2-0 in the quarter-final, have also looked impressive. In Friday’s semi-final, they spanked Finland 6-1. If U.S. goalie Ryan Miller stands on his head, as he’s perfectly capable of doing, the U.S. will be tough to beat. If Canada can get to him, though, the gold should be theirs.

Game time is 2 p.m.

Review of WhyRobotsMakeBetterLovers

Interactivity is a tough nut for a critic to crack. Generally, within the limits of our subjectivity, we strive to be neutral observers. When we check something out, we can’t help but to see it through our own eyes. Sit ten critics of diverse backgrounds (age, gender, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, etc) down in front of an art work, and guaranteed the analysis and interpretation that they offer will have unique aspects to it. Occasionally, you might even wonder if they’d seen the same painting, play, movie, or whatever.

Sometimes, the insight the critic provides is valuable. Other times, they totally miss the boat. Regardless, it’s a cardinal rule of criticism that while everyone is entitled to their opinion, a critic never interferes with the art. I could go all quatum physics here and talk about Schrodinger’s famous thought-experiment of putting a cat in a sealed box with a flask of poison. If an atom decays, the cat dies, if one doesn’t, the cat remains alive.

Under quatum mechanics, the statistical probability of both outcomes is the same. Therefore, the cat is regarded as being both dead and alive. The only way that the paradox can be solved is through direct observation. Copenhagen model, many-worlds interpretation, yada-yada. Bottom line is that by acting to look in the box the observer becomes “entangled” with the cat.

Say I’m a theatre critic. I go to a play, and half-way through I start chucking golf balls at the actors. That would kind of taint the review I subsequently wrote, wouldn’t it?

That’s an extreme example. But with a performance that’s designed to be interactive a critic — normally a neutral observer — is afforded an opportunity to impact on what happens. Impact too much, and at what point does a critic cross the line and become a co-creator? And if there’s a second cardinal rule of criticism, it’s that it’s impossible for a critic to critically engage with their own work.

I entered the space tonight the same as everyone else. Standing in line in the hallway outside the Globe’s main stage where Tuesdays With Morrie was playing. We were let in in small groups, where we got a brief welcome to acquaint us with the ground rules … dark a lot of the time, if one of the performers directs you a bit do as they say, and don’t fall off the riser in the corner. Otherwise, feel free to do what you want.

I immediately separated myself from everyone else and sought throughout to be as detached as possible. In the program, the performers Johanna Bundon, Lee Henderson and Barbara Pallomina speak collectively of a childhood memory, pre-PowerPoint, of being enlisted by the teacher in class to run the film-strip projector.

Operating the projector, they observed, the student became “a functionary of the machine. To advance the story for the rest of us. To respond when the machine requested advancement.”

Not exactly a positive take on technology. Yet without technology, what would WhyRobotsMakeBetterLovers have been like? It didn’t start until 8 p.m. At this time of the year, as we are painfully aware, the Sun has set by then. Without electric light, the darkness would have been unrelenting.

Some of the lights used in the space, along with most of the furniture, was vintage technology. There was even an old record player spinning an LP. Yet the sound board that was as futuristic as they come. So overall, there did seem to be a bit of a love-hate relationship with technology.

Most of us can probably relate. And the pace of change is only going to accelerate. That’s a concern because, biologically, there’s no way that we can evolve fast enough to cope. We live in a nuclear age. But we have Stone Age brains. Not a good combination. Are we masters of technology. Or is technology our master? We hope the former, but fear the latter.

 That’s kind of the vibe I got watching the performance, anyway. And while the performers did do a reasonable job of utilizing the space, and of shepherding the audience around, the 25 or so people who were there were still very much that — an audience.

 At one point, an old fashioned dial phone began ringing in the corner. After a few rings, it might have been nice if someone had shown the initiative to walk over and answer it. As it was, Pallamino finally directed a woman to do so.

 So many rules in our society. So many taboos.

Pick of the Day

 

Final night of the Mid-Winter Blues Festival. Tonight’s gig at Casino Regina features headliner Omar & the Howlers. If you’re looking for a bit of background, you can check out a preview in the Feb. 25 on-line version of Planet S.

Also on tonight are gigs by Royal Red Brigade at the Club (see James Brotheridge’s preview in the Feb. 25 print and on-line versions of prairie dog), plus a heavy metal blow-out with Shadows Fall (pictured), Bison bc, Goatwhore and Baptized By Blood at the Distrikt. Brotheridge also did a preview of in our Feb. 25 issue of Bison BC if you feel like checking it out.. Finally, at Gabbo’s tonight there’s another instalment in the new Comedy Grind series hosted by Shaun Hall.

Pick of the Day

 

So, I’m off to see WhyRobotsMakeBetterLovers at the Globe Theatre tonight. It’s previewed, in somewhat amorphous terms, in our Feb. 25 print and on-line editions. I use the word amorphous because when I spoke with two of the three participating artists (Johanna Bundon and Lee Henderson) they were still in the early stages of putting the finishing touches on the performance. Plus, as I note in the preview, WhyRobotsMakeBetterLovers has a component of structured improv to it, with the artists (Barbara Pallamino is the third performer) drawing inspiration from the audience. Each night, the audience is different. So each night, the performance is different. I’ll post a short review of the piece tomorrow.

Also on tonight is the second evening of the Mid-Winter Blues Festival. Tonight’s gig is at the Royal Sask Museum, and features headliner Sonny Landreth. For info on him check out pp. 18 of the Feb. 25 Planet S on our website. Also on tonight, the Winnipeg ska/punk band Subcity is at O’Hanlon’s Pub.

Pick of the Day

            There’s a ton of things happening today actually. First, it’s the opening night of WhyRobotsMakeBetterLovers, the latest offering in the Globe Theatre’s Sandbox Series. It’s previewed in our Feb. 25 issue, and I’ll have a short review on the Friday production on Saturday.

            Also tonight, the three-day Mid-Winter Blues Festival kicks off with a show at the Exchange. Check our music listings for line-up and venue info. And there’s an interesting talk at the George Bothwell Library at 7 p.m. by U of R English prof Jean Hillabold on Erotica & Censorship as part of Freedom to Read Week.

            At nearby Chapters, U of R Geography prof Julia Siemer discusses the challenges of modern demography as part of Coffeehouse Controversies. And U of R History prof Bill Brennan gives a potentially controversial talk on the Regina Riot and the On-to-Ottawa Trek at the RCMP Heritage Centre.

            Do-It-With-Class Young Peoples Theatre has the second night of its musical The Wiz at Conexus Arts Centre. Rik Emmett, Pavlo and Oscar Lopez are at the Casino. Mix Improv is doing a show at Aegean Coast Tea & Coffee. And dope Regina rapper Def 3, recently returned from a series of showcase performances at the Vancouver Olympics, is at O’Hanlon’s Pub.