Monday, February 29, 2016

Would it KILL you to applaud?


I don't know Jenny Beavan from a hole in the ground, nor do I know anything about the Mad Max series, though judging from last night the franchise is more than thriving. But this! This is the height of ungraciousness  in an audience. This is annoying in that the clip only lasts 3 seconds and keeps repeating (sorry, folks, but that's all I've got!). But focus on those men sitting on the aisles - you know, the ones who aren't applauding a legendary costume designer who has just won an Academy Award.

Not. Applauding. At. All.

Take a look, furthermore, at their expressions, and we see: snickering; blankness; angry contempt; catatonia; more contempt, even more snarly and vitriolic - before we almost get to Julia Roberts, who, bless her heart, is beaming.

Costume designers usually dress badly. They look frumpy, like Edith Head, or sink into the wallpaper, like Stella McCartney. It's what they do; it's what we expect of them. Unable to keep up with the hopeless and overstuffed glamour of Hollywood's most narcissistic night, Jenny Beavan made a decision to dress however-the-hell and be comfortable. In fact, she went on record to say that, for her, this faux biker-Mama look was "dressed-up".

Stephen Fry, my favorite maiden grand-aunt, once pronounced Beavan a "bag lady", and it's true that she's laying on the anti-glamour pretty thick here. But the more I look at these unguarded facial expressions - the anger, the disgust, the refusal to even politely applaud - the more disgusted I am with the Hollywood glamouratti and their stick-up-the-ass brigade of tuxedoed snotheads.

Keep looking at this gif and it just gets more disturbing. Really, nobody is applauding her. I only see two people very feebly making an attempt, and everyone else is sitting there like stone. Two of the men have their arms crossed so hard, they would have to be pried apart with a crowbar.

What is WRONG with these people anyway? The message, raw and in your face, is "you don't look right. What the hell are you doing winning an award?" It's a non-acknowledgement, pretending that nobody's walking up the aisle, or else somebody made a mistake and let a real person in.

Fortunately she does not give a rip. This telling three-second clip says everything about them (and their hateful pettiness and spite) and nothing about her except a refreshingly up-yours attitude.

POST-BLOG OBSERVATION. This, apparently, is the jacket she was wearing, a "pleather" from Marks and Spencers. Looks a bit slim-lined for her full figure, but never mind. All those zippers give it a sort of dominatrix look. I had a jacket like that once, and the zipper busted pretty quickly. I want a look at the back of it - I'll try to find an image of it.

If Cate Blanchett had worn this, they would've called it a "bold fashion statement".

Of course! It's a Mad Max logo. As in Fury Road, as in "I just won Best Costume Design for this".

 I here-and-now predict a massive run on these jackets. Marks and Spencer won't be able to keep up.

The Oscars: don't diss dis dress!

I didn't get far with the Oscars tonight, bailed on it well before the end, telling myself I could always watch it on my DVR tomorrow, commercial-free (which I probably won't). I did enjoy Chris Rock's razor-edged swordplay more than I thought I would; we've had far too many wooden or too-predictable hosts (and since when does a movie star know how to work a crowd? Most of these people have never even stood in front of an audience before!), so watching him blow on taboos that were already teetering on the verge of collapse was gratifying.

Blather about fashion usually supercedes - I won't say "trumps" because that word has been ruined forever - blather about Best Picture (which went, unexpectedly, to Spotlight, a glaring expose of a ruthless and rotten crime against humanity which festered underground for decades). More often than not I find myself groaning over the gown. Is Lady Gaga really wearing a dress AND pants? What's that red thing Charlize Theron has on, and how is it staying up there?

But soft - here's a dress, and one somebody put on their WORST-DRESSED list! This is Brie Larson, who won Best Performance by an Actress for a movie called Room. It's one of those ripped-from-the-headlines stories in which someone endures years of confinement at the hands of a demented sadist. The exposure of long-hidden atrocity seems to be a theme this year, unusual for Hollywood with its celebration of the callow and the shallow. Does this mean the motion picture industry is finally growing up?

Anyway, here's Brie Larson on the red carpet in a gown I absolutely love. Those little pleats and flounces, the way the thing drapes, the saturated jewel-tone colour - look, I am anything but a fashion maven and go about in sweaters and cords, but this thing - just look at it! It floats and drapes and just looks perfect. The belt is to die for. I wish I could see it up close. Doesn't seem fair that someone so accomplished could look this beautiful, but there it is.

MY red carpet moment will come when someone finally wants to make The Glass Character into a feature film. Hell, it could happen, couldn't it? When it does, when I'm sitting in the audience waiting for them to announce Best Adapted Screenplay, as they read the winner while Ron Howard gives me the thumbs-up, it won't matter a dingity-dong what I'm wearing because I'll be in such a trance of happy unreality.

Didn't it start out just as an idea in my head? And end up as a book 49 people bought - if that - because I just don't have the magic secret of how to write a bestseller? But never mind. It took Kirk Douglas TEN years to get anyone interested in his screenplay of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (one of my favorite movies: mental patients as fully-realized characters, gutsy, funny, crazy in their woundedness, wounded in their craziness), and by the time Milos Foreman finally signed on, Douglas was too old to play Randle P. McMurphy and they had to bring in Jack Nicholson.

They can bring in anyone they want, as far as I am concerned. Anyone. But I want Joseph Gordon-Levitt, even though he looks nothing like Harold. He has the chops, and the twinkle, and the bust-out energy and impudence and charm, and I know he could pull it off. Being an A-lister, I'll probably have to get Ron Howard on-board first before we can sign him up.

I can see it. . . yes, I can see it now. . .

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Don't call me Ahab

The Famous Tay Whale


’Twas in the month of December, and in the year 1883,
That a monster whale came to Dundee,
Resolved for a few days to sport and play,
And devour the small fishes in the silvery Tay.

So the monster whale did sport and play
Among the innocent little fishes in the beautiful Tay,
Until he was seen by some men one day,
And they resolved to catch him without delay.

When it came to be known a whale was seen in the Tay,
Some men began to talk and to say,
We must try and catch this monster of a whale,
So come on, brave boys, and never say fail.

Then the people together in crowds did run,
Resolved to capture the whale and to have some fun!
So small boats were launched on the silvery Tay,
While the monster of the deep did sport and play.

Oh! it was a most fearful and beautiful sight,
To see it lashing the water with its tail all its might,
And making the water ascend like a shower of hail,
With one lash of its ugly and mighty tail.

Then the water did descend on the men in the boats,
Which wet their trousers and also their coats;
But it only made them the more determined to catch the whale,
But the whale shook at them his tail.

Then the whale began to puff and to blow,
While the men and the boats after him did go,
Armed well with harpoons for the fray,
Which they fired at him without dismay.

And they laughed and grinned just like wild baboons,
While they fired at him their sharp harpoons:
But when struck with the harpoons he dived below,
Which filled his pursuers’ hearts with woe:

Because they guessed they had lost a prize,
Which caused the tears to well up in their eyes;
And in that their anticipations were only right,
Because he sped on to Stonehaven with all his might:

And was first seen by the crew of a Gourdon fishing boat,
Which they thought was a big coble upturned afloat;
But when they drew near they saw it was a whale,
So they resolved to tow it ashore without fail.

So they got a rope from each boat tied round his tail,
And landed their burden at Stonehaven without fail;
And when the people saw it their voices they did raise,
Declaring that the brave fishermen deserved great praise.

And my opinion is that God sent the whale in time of need,
No matter what other people may think or what is their creed;
I know fishermen in general are often very poor,
And God in His goodness sent it to drive poverty from their door.

So Mr John Wood has bought it for two hundred and twenty-six pound,
And has brought it to Dundee all safe and all sound;
Which measures 40 feet in length from the snout to the tail,
So I advise the people far and near to see it without fail.

Then hurrah! for the mighty monster whale,
Which has got 17 feet 4 inches from tip to tip of a tail!
Which can be seen for a sixpence or a shilling,
That is to say, if the people all are willing.

William McGonagall


William McGonagall

One of Scotland’s best-known poets, William McGonagall was the working-class son of Irish handloom weavers, and was born in Edinburgh and raised in Dundee. McGonagall’s first career, as a Shakespearean actor—as Macbeth, he once reputedly refused to die onstage—informed the crowd-pleasing performance that was central to his second career as a poet. He had an epiphany at the age of 52 that prompted him to devote the rest of his life to poetry. His romantic verse—often sparked by recollections of war or natural disaster—is strictly narrative, without lyrical or metaphorical gestures, a style the Guardian’s James Campbell dubs “poetry of information.” His poems have been criticized for their lack of imagery and lapses in rhythm and meter, and his style has been frequently parodied. His work is immediately recognizable and memorable, however, and emotionally driven.
McGonagall published only a single volume of poems in his lifetime, Poetic Gems(1890), but made a living selling broadsides of his work and offering dramatic performances of it. He traveled extensively despite his limited means—including a 50-mile trek on foot to see Queen Victoria (he was refused at the gate)—and late in life claimed to have been given the title “Sir William Topaz McGonagall, Knight of the White Elephant of Burmah” by the king of Burma. Though the story is today presumed to be a hoax, McGonagall adopted the name for the rest of his career. He died in Edinburgh in 1902 in poverty and was buried in a pauper’s grave.

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Friday, February 26, 2016

Bad poetry? Oh noetry!

The Tay Bridge Disaster

Beautiful Railway Bridge of the Silv’ry Tay!
Alas! I am very sorry to say
That ninety lives have been taken away
On the last Sabbath day of 1879,
Which will be remember’d for a very long time.

’Twas about seven o’clock at night,
And the wind it blew with all its might,
And the rain came pouring down,
And the dark clouds seem’d to frown,
And the Demon of the air seem’d to say-
“I’ll blow down the Bridge of Tay.”

When the train left Edinburgh
The passengers’ hearts were light and felt no sorrow,
But Boreas blew a terrific gale,
Which made their hearts for to quail,
And many of the passengers with fear did say-
“I hope God will send us safe across the Bridge of Tay.”

But when the train came near to Wormit Bay,
Boreas he did loud and angry bray,
And shook the central girders of the Bridge of Tay
On the last Sabbath day of 1879,
Which will be remember’d for a very long time.

So the train sped on with all its might,
And Bonnie Dundee soon hove in sight,
And the passengers’ hearts felt light,
Thinking they would enjoy themselves on the New Year,
With their friends at home they lov’d most dear,
And wish them all a happy New Year.

So the train mov’d slowly along the Bridge of Tay,
Until it was about midway,
Then the central girders with a crash gave way,
And down went the train and passengers into the Tay!
The Storm Fiend did loudly bray,
Because ninety lives had been taken away,
On the last Sabbath day of 1879,
Which will be remember’d for a very long time.

As soon as the catastrophe came to be known
The alarm from mouth to mouth was blown,
And the cry rang out all o’er the town,
Good Heavens! the Tay Bridge is blown down,
And a passenger train from Edinburgh,
Which fill’d all the peoples hearts with sorrow,
And made them for to turn pale,
Because none of the passengers were sav’d to tell the tale
How the disaster happen’d on the last Sabbath day of 1879,
Which will be remember’d for a very long time.

It must have been an awful sight,
To witness in the dusky moonlight,
While the Storm Fiend did laugh, and angry did bray,
Along the Railway Bridge of the Silv’ry Tay,
Oh! ill-fated Bridge of the Silv’ry Tay,
I must now conclude my lay
By telling the world fearlessly without the least dismay,
That your central girders would not have given way,
At least many sensible men do say,
Had they been supported on each side with buttresses,
At least many sensible men confesses,
For the stronger we our houses do build,
The less chance we have of being killed.

William Topaz McGonagall (March 1825 – 29 September 1902) was a Scottish weaverdoggerel poet and actor. He won notoriety as an extremely bad poet who exhibited no recognition of, or concern for, his peers' opinions of his work.

He wrote about 200 poems, including his notorious "The Tay Bridge Disaster" and "The Famous Tay Whale", which are widely regarded as some of the worst in English literature. Groups throughout Scotland engaged him to make recitations from his work and contemporary descriptions of these performances indicate that many listeners were appreciating McGonagall's skill as a comic music hall character. Collections of his verse remain popular, with several volumes available today.

McGonagall has been acclaimed as the worst poet in British history. The chief criticisms are that he is deaf to poetic metaphor and unable to scan correctly. McGonagall's fame stems from the humorous effects these shortcomings generate in his work. The inappropriate rhythms, weak vocabulary, and ill-advised imagery combine to make his work amongst the most unintentionally amusing dramatic poetry in the English language. His work is in a long tradition of narrative ballads and verse written and published about great events and tragedies, and widely circulated among the local population as handbills. In an age before radio and television, their voice was one way of communicating important news to an avid public. (Wikipedia)

Please note. I have absolutely nothing to say about this McGonagall. Like the excruciating soprano Florence Foster Jenkins, he was good at being bad, and people liked it. I love bad poetry, but I was unable to find anything at all that pleased me tonight. It was either gross and full of fucks and sucks, which I didn't want, or trying too hard to be either good or bad. The truly bad has that effortless quality which we associate with greatness. 

I did a post ages ago, Valentine poems that were sublimely bad. But it's hard to find stuff on just that right frequency where you want to howl with bliss. 

A lot of the stuff featured on bad poetry web sites is just too good. Bad poems by the great poets have to be just a LITTLE bit good, because these are, after all, real poets. An awful lot of it is just boring, and if bad poetry equals boring poetry, there is entirely too much of it around. 

I remember the dialect poetry I got so stuck on a few years ago, but it too can wear out its welcome or even verge on the racist. The Sonnet on Stewed Prunes by William F. Kirk comes to mind:

Ay ant lak pie-plant pie so wery vell;
Ven ay skol eat ice-cream, my yaws du ache;
Ay ant much stuck on dis har yohnnie-cake
Or crackers yust so dry sum peanut shell.
And ven ay eat dried apples, ay skol svell
Until ay tenk my belt skol nearly break;
And dis har breakfast food, ay tenk, ban fake:
Yim Dumps ban boosting it, so it skol sell.
But ay tal yu, ef yu vant someteng fine,
Someteng so sveet lak wery sveetest honey,
Vith yuice dat taste about lak nice port vine,
Only it ant cost hardly any money, -
Ef yu vant someteng yust lak anyel fude,
Yu try stewed prunes. By yiminy! dey ban gude.

These poems are meant not to be read, but performed, in the fine old tradition of poets getting up and giving long windbag recitals of their work. Being an elocutionist was actually a profession then, something you made money at. McGonagall got up and performed, and so did Kirk, and that other guy, what was his name -  

You bad leetle boy, not moche you care
How busy you 're kipin' your poor gran'pere
Tryin' to stop you ev'ry day
Chasin' de hen aroun' de hay--
W'y don't you geev' dem a chance to lay?
Leetle Bateese!

Off on de fiel' you foller de plough
Den w'en you 're tire you scare the cow
Sickin' de dog till dey jomp the wall
So de milk ain't good for not'ing at all--
An' you 're only five an' a half dis fall,
Leetle Bateese!

Too sleepy for sayin' de prayer to-night?
Never min' I s'pose it 'll be all right
Say dem to-morrow--ah! dere he go!
Fas' asleep in a minute or so--
An' he 'll stay lak dat till de rooster crow,
Leetle Bateese!

William Henry Drummond, whom we "took" in school ad nauseam, the teacher actually reading these poems aloud to us in "French" dialect.


There's always a postscript, isn't there? A couple of years ago when I wanted to find something on Drummond, there was barely anything. I couldn't even scrape together a list of his works.  Now there are entire sites of nothing but his poetry - his awful poetry - all that wretched stuff we choked down in school about "de stove-pipe hole" and all that appalling shit. Not only that - there are now dozens of YouTube videos of people reciting Drummond's awful awful poetry! I won't blight this already-too-long post with any of THAT. But it makes me realize the internet just keeps growing like a malignant fungus. And there must be an awful lot of older people like me interested in setting up poetry web sites, because surely no one under the age of 60 would be able to gag down a monstrosity  like "Leetle Bateese".

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One dead possum: will trade for chocolate

Dead opossums, and other strange things you could be swapping on Bunz Trading Zone


FEBRUARY 23, 2016 AT 2:26 PM

Bunz Trading Zone, an unlisted Facebook group where users can barter their stuff for anything except money, has become Toronto’s worst-kept secret. With over 30,000 users on Facebook and a claimed 12,000 on the new Bunz iOS app, the group generates dozens of new postings every day, most of which are attempts to swap mundane items like kitchen appliances and used clothing. Still, more eccentric trades are commonplace, with people exchanging opened packages of birth control pills, half-eaten foodstuffs and even dead animal carcasses. It’s currently impossible to join the group without administrator approval, so here, for those on the outside, are some highlights from the past few weeks, some of them potentially NSFW:
Dead Animals
The ask: “Naturally deceased small mammals for taxidermy.”
The trade: This post didn’t lead directly to a trade. But later that same day…

Dead Opossum
The offer: One opossum, dead of presumably natural causes.
The trade: The yoga instructor and amateur taxidermist who made the post seeking dead mammals snapped up this unlucky critter in exchange for a chocolate bar.

Nintendo 3DS
The ask: A popular handheld video game system, which retails for around $200.
The trade: In exchange for the 3DS, this Bunz user agreed to deliver coffee to someone at their office for a month.

Birth Control Pills
The offer: An opened package of prescription contraceptives.
The trade: The user accepted three subway tokens.

The offer: A complete stranger’s leftover pizza.
The trade: Someone exchanged a tall can of beer for this.

A Boat
The offer: An actual, 30-foot sailboat. The owner says he lived on it for two summers.
The trade: None yet, but there have been a number of offers, including a Jeep Grand Cherokee, a trip to Australia, and free movie-production services.
Mannequin Heads
The offer: Five disembodied mannequin heads.
The trade: The user couldn’t find anyone willing to take all of the heads, but someone gave her four tall cans of beer for one of them.

Intercity Key Delivery

The ask: When a Montreal-based designer forgot to give keys to her catsitter before she took off for Toronto, she decided to canvass Bunz for a lead on someone travelling in the opposite direction.
The trade: Bunz itself didn’t lead to a solution, in this case, but the user was able to find someone through another online group, who delivered the key in exchange for a used Montreal monthly transit pass.

Massive Collection of VHS Pornography
The offer: More than 60 cassettes, each crammed with hours of low-def smut.
The trade: None yet, but the user is in negotiations for a Bluetooth speaker.

Bag of Used Dildos
The offer: This is the legendary Bunz bag of dicks, as chronicled in the Globe and Mail.
The trade: In exchange for her dildo collection, the user accepted some frozen pizzas.

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