February 19, 2014

I made a meme?

In January, on a cold blustery morning, I made up a little joke and tweeted it out.
And the Weather Network retweeted it.

A few days ago, a friend said this came up in a social media feed from an American cousin. No connection of mine whatsoever.

How do you win on Canadian Twitter? You talk about the weather.
Some more people decided to share it.

And kudos to whoever made this graphic for giving me credit. I didn't know the Internet was that honest :)
No wait, it isn't.

Your numbering is redundant! And capitalizing every word? A terrible choice!

Totally ruining the punchline.Oh well.

Wrong. Argh.
At least Al Roker liked the original gag.

And really, I'm not the first one to come up with the idea. More than one person has applied the Kubler-Ross model of dealing with grief to winter...

But maybe I'm the first one who memed it?


February 4, 2014

Google it: The Terrifying Autofill Questions of the World

Normally you know what you're searching for when you head out onto the interwebs, so Google's autofill function doesn't have much of a chance to be revealing. Oh, maybe it corrects your spelling or finishes off your final word - but it doesn't hint at what other users are doing.

Unless you type generic phrases to begin a question...

And let the democratic algorithms of the web fill in the blanks...

The horror... the HORROR...

February 3, 2014

Five More ChekhovFest reviews

Three Sisters: A black opera in three acts

This little “freakshow on the Prairies” is less a play than an experience. Housed in the gritty St. B on the same floor amateur strippers grind for cash, a twisted take on Chekhov’s Three Sisters gets a fantastic production for horror/comedy fans who’ve gotten off on Kristine Nutting’s work before. (The original production at the Winnipeg Fringe in 2005 and PIG in 2009.)

Like the Prozorova sisters in the source material, the Cuddy sisters desperately want to escape their humdrum lives. Except they live in Bigger, Saskatchewan, instead of Russia. And their father is a ballad belting cross-dresser who goes by Mommy-Daddy. And they’re willing to suck cock to get to Edmonton. And…

Even with the effort of keeping inventive clowning and self-accompanied songs meaty for 75 minutes in a tough venue, the cast and director Andraea Sartison rarely let the fun dip down; scenes in the acoustically challenged far side of the bar and some of the guys’ numbers are the exceptions. Perhaps it has less polish than the original show, too. But fuck it’s fun. And sibling trio Jacqueline Harding, Dorothy Carroll and Anna-Laure Koop even manage to keep a fresh, moving heart beating under the broad brushstrokes of their clown act.

It’s a must see and it closes soon. You know what to do.

Three Sisters: A black opera in three acts
By Kristine Nutting
Based on Chekhov’s Three Sisters
Who is John Moe? Productions
Through February 3

Directed by Andraea Sartison; with Dorothy Carroll, Anna-Laure Koop, Kristian Jordan, Jacqueline Harding, David Arial and Jeff Strome; musical direction by Suss; stage managed by Gislina Patterson.


A Marriage Proposal

Merlyn Productions is a fine community theatre group dedicated to getting non-professional actors into the spotlight in their spare time. And the two Chekhovian farces (the opening act “A Tragedian in Spite of Himself” warms up the restored movie theatre venue before the main piece begins) should be approached with that understanding. Hobby actors are having a ball onstage, their friends and family in the audience eat it up, and if they’re not able to fill two classic scenarios – an overworked average Joe pushed to the breaking point and a marriage proposal gone wrong – with genuine, non-partisan laughs, well… What did you expect?

A Marriage Proposal
By Anton Chekhov
Merlyn Productions
Through February 1

Directed by John Chase; with Daniel Gilmour, Nicholas Curry, Brian Dougherty, Kelsey Tuma and Mitch Krohn; set design by Kevin Hamill; costume design by Jenn Harder; props by Heather Forgie; stage managed by David King.



Black Hole Theatre trades Russia for Ireland in an ensemble piece that shows off a range of developing talents. The thematic links between Chekhov and Brian Friel are pretty clear, though the haunted legacy the impoverished O’Donnells struggle to shake off as they unite for a wedding has a less universal character. Catholic, patrician, colonized and darkened by The Troubles, these ruined aristocrats are distinctly Irish in a play about Ireland. Even as the strong national character of the show adds unique flavours, it sets the audience at a distance.

The university actors span from those still figuring out basic movement to a few present, thoughtful, grounded performers. Monologue work stands out for sheer emotional force: a bit more nuance to their deliveries and Jeysa Martinez-Pratt (Alice), Brandon Vink (Eamon) and Sydney Wiede (Judith) could each be holding their own on a mainstage.

That’s ultimately not enough to hold attention over a two hour thirty minute show that repeatedly covers the same material. But it’s worth checking out to see who’s up-and-coming while the O’Donnells are down-and-outing.

By Brian Friel
Black Hole Theatre Company
Through February 2

Directed by Bill Kerr; with Brennan Hakes, Ryan Bjornson, Ian Bastin, Logan Stefanson, Jeysa Martinez-Pratt, Brandon Vink, Natasha Durand, Sydney Wiede and Graham Atnip; set design by Garrett Rusnak; light design by Ainza Bellefeuille; sound design by Morin Daramola; costume design by Karen Schellenberg; assistant directed by Margaret Fergusson; stage managed by Lauire MacDonell.


The Bear & Inside the Moscow Art Theatre

First a charming mock “Inside the Actor’s Studio” interview with Olga Knipper, Chekhov’s wife and company member of the Moscow Art Theatre. She’s worth a chat: even as she’s part of the upward trajectory of a new revolutionary form of theatre, she has to observe, first hand, the fatal decline of her beloved husband. I haven’t made it out to the panel discussions in this year’s Master Playwright Festival, but here’s a spoonful of sweetness to help your history lesson go down.

Then the play proper: a short farce on the meeting of two improbable lovers. That’s not giving anything away – it’s pretty obvious where this is going. But John Bluethner and Susanna Portnoy are able to keep the trip fun, mining the stilted, poorly aged script for an improbable number of laughs. In lesser hands it would be tedious. Here it’s decent fun.

The Bear & Inside the Moscow Art Theatre
By Anton Chekhov
At Home Theatre
Through February 2

Directed by John Bluethner; with Susanna Portnoy, Brian Richardson and John Bluethner.



Have you ever traveled overseas, flipped on the TV in your hotel room and tried to follow a local drama? You can recognize the characters, relationships, some of the plot devices perhaps, but everything seems askew. Twilight zone-ish.

That’s how WJT’s production of Ivanov hit me. The show is incredibly entertaining. Riveting. I didn’t look away for 90 minutes as Nicholas Ivanov debated (among other things) whether to abandon his sick wife for a much younger neighbour.

But the hyper-direct text in Michael Nathanson’s adaptation combines with intense, emphatic delivery from the cast (occasionally grotesquely large) to build stylized scenes that sacrifice character depth for momentum. Subtlety for tension.

Not that the play stays on this setting throughout. Sarah Constible is the most consistent holdout, finding a pace and approach that not only sells the oddest lines as believable but uses them to build the richest character – Ivanov’s dying wife, Anna. And the others have their more restrained, nuanced scenes as well, grounding a play overflowing with thoughts about love, cheating and fate in authentic human beings.

And it’s not that the “heightened” sections (for lack of a better title) aren’t motivated and well executed. They’re fascinating and alienating at the same time.

Check out the show. Let me know what you think. I’ll be processing both the play and the performance for awhile.

By Anton Chekhov
Adapted by Michael Nathanson
Winnipeg Jewish Theatre
Through February 9

Directed by Mariam Bernstein; with Sarah Constible, Paul Essiembre, Laura Lussier and Arne MacPherson; set design by Darrell Baran; lighting design by Bill Williams; costume design by Maureen Petkau; video design by James Jansen; stage managed by Michelle Lagasse.