In the quaint Chinese town of Dali, our cellphones were starting to run out of juice and we needed a reliable way to wake up in time to catch a bus to Lijiang the next morning. Fortunately, we were in China, where things like tiny alarm clocks are made. Unfortunately, neither of us speak a word of Mandarin, not even “thank you”, which seemed to be pronounced differently in every town we visited. But on one of the main shopping strips of Dali, a clever man was selling tiny clocks. Trying to minimize our fairly obvious ignorant touristdom, we timidly approached the shop, pointed to a clock, and said “alarm clock?” The clever clock salesman rolled his eyes at us, picked up a clock and said “di-di-dit! di-di-dit!” Our eyes lit up with recognition and delight at the obvious universal phrase for alarm clock. And now we treasure our little pink di-di-dit.


I was a bit shocked when I got to that age where everyone starts to wax nostalgically about the entertainments of their childhoods and when I was all “guys guys remember Betty Boop” everyone who had a normal childhood said “of course not, Alison, why did you grow up in the 1930s?” My family was the proud possessor of a Beta VCR well after everyone around us had purchased a VHS and the only Beta tapes available at the video store was obscure crap starring the less talented siblings of movie stars. So our options were limited to the stuff my father could find at this one hold-out Beta store in New York, where he went on business several times a year. And this store seemed to have a stock made up entirely of cartoons made between 1925 and 1960.

And that’s why I know every Cab Calloway song and trees and houses that breath in rhythm seem completely normal. What?

This particular cartoon has always been one of my favourites, mainly because of how the mother cat turns into a bed and also because Fearless Fred is a mega dreamboat. And “let’s put out the lights and go to sleep” remains a solid solution for dealing with any problem. See? Betty Boop. More educational than Dora the Explorer.

High and Low

May 13, 2010

It’s 80s week! Well, it was 80s Monday and Tuesday, anyway. My boyfriend interviewed the guitar player of a-ha for the Post, and scored tickets to their show at Massey Hall on Monday night. So we went, expecting a fun, cheesy time, bracing ourselves because we only know a few songs. Well, J. knows a few songs – he lived in Europe for a year in the 80s when a-ha was massive over there. My main experience of a-ha is typically North American: I just love Take on Me. When I was in Australia for six weeks in 2006, I heard Take On Me everywhere I went. At least once a day, sometimes more. (And then, obviously, this video is hilarious.)

So imagine my surprise when a-ha at Massey Hall TOTALLY BLEW MY MIND. They’re excellent performers, and so much fun to watch (and dreamy, frankly). They have magical Norweigen powers and turned everyone in Massey Hall into a shrieking teenybopper. (I’m surprised people didn’t throw panties!) Their music – even the songs I didn’t recognize – was fantastic, and sounded huge, and the visuals were awesome.

Ain't no pop music like lizard pop music.

Yes. a-ha. Most underappreciated band of all time.

Tuesday night, unfortunately, wasn’t nearly so joyous. Rock of Ages was the opposite of joy. Glenn Sumi gets it right in NOW. It just made me sad, really – the show was so clearly written by people who have nothing but contempt for theatre. The whole thing feels like a big fuck you to theatre lovers. Also, rock music. And humanity in general. I feel like a cranky old snob when I complain about shows like this, and maybe I am. But it wasn’t fun. It wasn’t even particularly funny. It was aggressively stupid, with lazy storytelling, and annoying mashups of songs that used to be great. But I’m not going to win this round. Everyone in the theatre was laughing their asses off at the lamest jokes, and shrieking with delighted recognition at the opening riffs of their favourite songs. There’s no point in listing off the problems with the idiotic book – we’d be here all day, and the writers and fans would just throw off my criticisms with a “who cares, we know it’s dumb” anyway.

The one good part is the performances – Elicia Mackenzie has a great voice, and totally proves that she won’t be typecast as Maria. So that’s nice. And everyone else does their job well and looks like they’re having a good time. So that’s nice too. I just wish things like this didn’t happen to theatre.

Niemand stopt den beat!

April 29, 2010

Yeah, yeah, I’m not supposed to be on the internet today. I’m supposed to be finishing the current draft of the play I’ve been working for the past few months. Instead, I’m watching this video on repeat and dancing around the kitchen. While the Broadway production of Hairspray left me sort of cold, the German version rocks my world.

It’s very surreal to listen to songs you know in languages you don’t. Coincidentally, earlier this week my dad sent me Not Getting Married from Company in Portuguese! It’s intense.

By the way, the German Hairspray video was brought to my attention by the delightful David Loehr of 2am Theatre.

This is more important than whatever the hell you’re doing right now. Please take a moment to watch this video about a baby otter trying to befriend a cat. Oh what the hell, I’m just going to embed the video here:

My favourite thing about this video (aside from the tiny otter’s little face, obviously) is how resentful the kitten is. He’s all “I will suffer the affectionate clawings of this stinky river beast because the peoples will give to it the raw feesh for me to steal.” You can just see that pro/con list playing out in his pissy little diva brain.

Seriously, though, don’t get an otter for a pet. Have you seen how they gang up on alligators in the Rivers episode of Planet Earth? Those guys will fuck your shit up (the otters, not the alligators). These people are idiots.

On Friday I had the privilege of nerding out about Sondheim musicals with fellow self-proclaimed Sondheim nerd Adam Brazier. Of course, I had to edit out all the squee-ing over how A Little Night Music is the greatest musical ever written for this Q&A about Assassins, which Brazier is directing. It opens on Thursday. I’m excited to see it, I love that creepy-ass musical.

In other news, this silly secret project that my boyfriend and I started at the beginning of January got a very nice write-up on Torontoist.

What are you sniffing at?

December 5, 2009

Sometimes I get to do silly things in the guise of interviewing people, like hang out at a department store sniffing perfumes, which is one of my favourite frivolous ways to while away an afternoon anyway. (See?)

Ok, that only happened for an interview one time, and it was for this story in today’s paper about actress Patricia Fagan and her playwright husband Adam Pettle and how we hung out and talked perfume because of the current Soulpepper production of Parfumerie, which is the Hungarian play upon which the wonderful Ernst Lubitsch film The Shop Around the Corner is based. (Also, the less wonderful You’ve Got Mail.) You should go to see the play, because it will charm your pants off.

We had a lovely time sniffing perfume, and if anyone wants to buy me a very expensive Christmas present I would certainly not sneeze at a little bottle of Annick Goutal’s Petite Cherie. Just saying.