Toronto (a.k.a. Accordion City)

Stopped Clock

As the saying goes, even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

In a similar fashion, every now and again, Kathy “Relapsed Catholic” Shaidle and I have opinions that intersect. She’s actually beaten me to the punch on both these items, and I tip my hat to her.

“Harriet” from Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip”

The Ginger Ninja is a big Aaron Sorkin fan, so Sunday night chez Accordion includes his new television series Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. The basic premise: after the executive producer of a long-running Friday night live sketch-comedy show with flagging ratings has a Network-style meltdown on-air, the new president of the network parachutes in a writer-director team (played by Matthew Perry and Bradley Whitford), who left the show a couple of years prior on bad terms. Their mission: revitalize the show. Whitford’s director character has a drug problem, and Perry’s character’s ex, Harriet, is part of the show’s cast. Drama and hilarity ensue.

'Harriet' from Studio 60If you ignore the Sorkin Mary-Sueisms (“Mary Sue” is a term from Star Trek fan fiction; it refers to characters who skilled to the point of ridiculousness and are wish-fulfillment stand-ins for the writer) in the show, you’ll note that Harriet is one of the most interesting characters on the show. Aside from being a good-lookin’ woman (she’s played by Sarah Paulson, pictured here), she’s also an Evangelical Christian and a likeable character (she’s the best actor in the sketch comedy ensemble and gets the good lines)…at the same time! Says Patton Dodd on Beliefnet’s Idol Chatter blog:

Harriet is an accurate representation of a fact rarely mentioned: Evangelicals aren’t just (and aren’t all) politically active home-schoolers and megachurch-goers. They are also people who live and work in every aspect of the marketplace, including (gasp!) the entertainment media. That’s right: When you’re watching “That ’70s Show,” attending a Broadway play, and listening to a favorite indie pop song, you’re often being entertained by evangelicals, unawares.

I mention this not as a triumph of evangelicalism (perish the thought), but just to note that Sorkin is making sense of the poles of religion in American life. What seems aggravatingly abnormal in some instances–crazy Christians–has an astonishingly familiar, and more congenial, face in other instances. Sorkin seems to understand that evangelicalism is more than the sum of its parts. Thus far in “Studio 60,” he’s achieving something resembling a fair representation of evangelicals: They are those boycotters, those megaphones of moral values; but they are also men and women whose personal expressions of faith are more complicated and nuanced than the big picture reveals.

(Oddly enough, Sarah Paulson — who plays Harriet — is in a long-term relationship with her girlfriend Cherry Jones, so what we have here is a lesbian-or-bisexual woman portraying an Evangelical Christian in a very sympathetic light. Some people’s heads may explode, both on the left and right.)

So yeah, go ahead and catch Jesus Camp, but realize that it’s but one pole of the spectrum of Evangelicals. It’s not all crazed creationists and Rapture assholes, and as I often like to remind people: most of the dickheads I know call themselves Buddhists.

Kathy’s still more about allegiances than actions, so while she seems to think that this is a good development, Sorkin’s one of those awful lefties and hence she won’t tune in.

One Performance, Two Stories

I’d made a mental note to cover this sometime and thought that BlogTO and Torontoist would cover it. Since they haven’t yet caught this story, I thought I’d take it.

The Canadian Opera Company has been reaching out to bloggers as of late; I was one of the local bloggers invited to tour their new home, the Four Seasons Centre, before their general public opening. I still get emails for lunchtime and afternoon performances in their atrium. I am my mother’s son, and as such, I’ve picked up a liking for a number of classical and light opera numbers. I’ve been planning to take my lunch at the Centre and catch one of these shows, especially in light of this report from blogger/National Post writer Colby Cosh (who paid me a high compliment not too long ago). A Toronto Star writer and someone with access to instant messaging attended the same performance, but with completely different impressions. First, what appeared in the Star:

Not that the musicians were anything less than stellar. They included flute player Douglas Stewart and three violinists: COC concertmaster Marie Bérard, her assistant Benjamin Bowman and Lyn Kuo. They played pieces by an international cast of composers that included Canada’s Harry Somers and Clermont Pépin.

The audience also got a foretaste of Swoon, a new opera by Toronto’s James Rolfe (with libretto by Anna Chatterton). Sung by Virginia Hatfield, Melinda Delorme and Lawrence Wiliford, accompanied by Elizabeth Upchurch, it was a charming, witty and tantalizing taste of a full one-act production in December.

And now, the IM reports:

it was horrifically bad

a chick and guy come out dressed in black

there are four music stands in front of them, set about 3 feet apart, staggered

they start off at the first one

oh god

and the chick starts. hardly audible at first

she’s just dragging the bow across the strings

it sounds like a dying mouse

then the dude starts in on a discordant note

two mice dying. horribly

they do that, muddling about for about 4 min

I could see the look of bewilderment on all the seniors’ faces around me

one of them behind me asks her friend, When are they going to stop warming up and start playing??

halfway through the first violin piece she looked over at the CityTV cameraman and said, “I sure hope they’re not FILMING this for TV!! It’ll put everyone to SLEEP!!”

20 minutes of this torturous shit

when i first got there, there were all these old people, young cool-looking kids. one in particular, really good-looking kid was sitting next to me. he had shown up by himself to check this out

the second the set ended, he got up, threw his program book onto the chair and stalked out

the four stands were there to represent some kind of “continuity”

so they would finish dying at one stand

then they would pause, then walk to the next one

and start all over again

some other middle-aged dude in a MEC jacket also left. I could hear him complaining to one of the ushers: THIS IS AWFUL. he looked angry

i was pretty pissed myself, i wanted to leave. mom said, let’s give the next one a try first

some solo flute piece that’s supposed to be a reflection of picasso’s works


i read the program, the rest of it didn’t hold any promise. in fact, the fourth piece had something to do with “pre-recorded sounds on a tape” and how the “violin initiates the gesture to the tape, with the tape responding…”

and the interplay between this pre-recorded shit and some fucking screeching. I couldn’t stay. there was no fucking way

it was painfully retarded

I mean, the whole thing made me so ANGRY.

this new opera house, who is it MEANT for

the city?

the community?

and to go in there, with this nice cross-section of potentially loyal patrons

and start with this….SHIT

it smacked of elitism, don’t you think?

we’re the new operah haus…we shall educate the masses with this stunning atonal composition…



it was wholly unwelcoming

the whole experience was terrible

I took enough electronic/experimental music courses at Crazy Go Nuts University as my arts electives (they loved having techies in their classes) to be familiar with the sort of works that they must’ve have been playing that day, and even though I like some of that stuff, the atonal, discordant, for-serious-music-theorists-only supra-avant-garde stuff is just not the sort of thing that’s going to win audiences over at late-afternoon showcase shows.

Also, a lot of it is crap. For this reason, I’m actually inclined to believe the instant messager more than the Star report.

So Kathy writes: “I guarantee that you’ll think back on this post all week, every time you read a mainstream news story.” And so you should, for anything you hear, regardless of the source. It’s called critical thinking, and it’s too valuable a life tool to keep shelved. Use it!

One reply on “Stopped Clock”

Hey Joey have you had a chance to see a performance at the Four Seasons Centre yet? The sound’s incredible.
I’d go with the IM reviewer, too. The acoustics in the FSCPA are nothing short of incredible – I saw the first Ring Cycle there last month after having seen three of the four operas performed at the Hummingbird leading up to the new centre’s opening – the difference is truly astounding. But that can’t save bad music!

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