A is for Academia. The way that most academics write and speak is tiresome in the extreme. Their message is: “look at me, I am communicating, but not to you, I am speaking a language that was created to make you feel ignorant and by extension make me feel superior.” Well you know what? Cut the fucking crap. Talk to me…try to be clear, try to share, try to make your amazing knowledge, the métier that you have studied for years, have the widest reach, the most impact…publish or perish…but please speak to us.
I have great admiration for a radio show here in Canada called “Under the Influence”, created and hosted by Terry O’Reilly. It is about advertising and marketing. It is smart, engaging, energetic, sonically innovative and can hold the attention of an 8 year old and the vice president of an ad agency …how’s that for reach? This is what university should sound like…
B is for Break Syndical (union break). A unionized friend and I were having lunch, after about an hour, she looked at her watch with alarm and said, “oh shit, I have to get back to work, I don’t want to be late for my break”.
Nope, she wasn’t kidding.
I used to be a member of the trade union IATSE – The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees. Our local was young, energetic and very happy to work at the only “legit” theatre in the small town where I lived. We did about a 175 shows a year, a lot of them extremely complex musicals. We were proud of our work, and proud that even though we were in a small town, there was nothing “hick” about our crew. Bring it on! When the National Ballet showed up once a year with their two 45 foot tractor trailers and their big city arrogance, we knew we could get their show out of the truck and up on stage faster and more efficiently than any other local in the country.
The attitude was “can do…can do really well”. It was an extremely disciplined shop but one that also remained human… perhaps best summarized by how, after technical set-up our crew chief would bark:
show call, listen up! …back here at 7ish, sharp!”.
Unions were invented because so many employers were tyrannical greedy sons of bitches, with no care whatsoever for human rights or dignity. Now if you think this is just leftist boiler plate, wait there’s more! Because, at the end of the day, you cannot spin greed, it’s got only one setting….ugly…
Providing employment, with dignity and respect is a noble calling. Yet in our society we reward quarterly fiscal performance over social growth and justice.
To explore this I have named a new genre of journalism, I call it “the happy capitalism investigative”. These are stories where companies do the right thing by their employees, by their customers, by their suppliers and by their shareholders. The big box stores that discover that by paying their employees well and treating them as partners results in more customer loyalty, more employee productivity in a pleasant workplace and higher profits. Hear ye! Hear ye! You don’t have to be a scum bag to show up at the annual meeting with huge bulging profits!
So it’s hard to see relations between business and employee’s become embittered to the point where productivity and moral are low. That’s just bad leadership…it’s hard to see, as we see so often, union leadership that becomes corrupt and no longer has their members best interests at heart. It’s hard to see union jobs disappearing and being replaced by jobs with sub standard wages and conditions.
Which brings us to our utopian message from the left:
Message to management : Be honest, it’s not a piggy bank. Treat your employees as partners, understand human motivation, use it.
Message to Union Leaders. Be honest, it’s not a piggy bank. Encourage employees to be at their best, ensure that the best work place training is available in the safest most productive environment, don’t cock block innovation, if the employer is humane then be flexible. Understand human motivation, use it.
B is also for “but”. My dear friend Denise Donlon says never listen to anything in a sentence on the eastern side of the word “but”. In 1993 Denise hired Avi Lewis and me to write and produce the Much Music Election UN-coverage, a project I brag about endlessly later in this missive. We took on a young intern. About 16 or 17 years old, Sarah was active in politics on the left, was super bright but doing poorly in school. She was very intrigued when I told her that I had quit school in grade 10. “My father told me that the Canadian industrialist millionaire Bud MacDougall (back when being a millionaire was still a thing) was quoted as saying, “my biggest regret in life was quitting school in grade 8”.
Sarah waited for my reaction. I just looked at her, for there was a second part of this quote. I waited for her to finish the phrase. She didn’t.
“Is that all your father said to you?”
“Because what MacDougall actually said was “my biggest regret in life is I quit school in grade 8… I should have quit in grade 7.”
C is for CBC.
When our family arrived in PEI from New York on July 5, 1971 we had never heard anything like CBC Radio before. It was smart, it was funny, it taught us about our adopted country. At the time, the network was in a period of tremendous growth and creativity. As It Happens premiered in1968 and Peter Gzowski’s, This Country in the Morning in 1971. Ideas was launched in 1965. These programs brought the world to us in the tiny hamlet of Argyle Shore (Population: approx 60) on the south shore of PEI. The political and social satire was something that had a particular Canadian tone – a kind of mélange of British and American humour . At the time Canada was seen by many as a branch plant of America (now America is now a branch plant of America since they shipped all the jobs offshore and the head offices to tax havens!)
I recall, as if I heard it this afternoon, a sketch on The Royal Canadian Airfarce where an over the top game show announcer reads the following ad: “Join the ‘Proud to Be Canadian Club’ write to 666 Madison Avenue, New York, New York, 10103.”
We only got 2 TV channels, (and they were pretty low res) but that was fine, because one of them was CBC and they had Monty Python’s Flying Circus…”I’m a lumber jack and I’m alright!”.
There is an expression in Canada that “everyone knows how to do their job AND run the CBC”. A friend calls the CBC a “puppy eat puppy world” and there is no shortage of poor decision making, waste and inaction that one would find in any large corporation, but I will put my numerous critiques aside and say that particularly the radio network has been a constant companion, a mentor, and later in my career, a tremendous promoter of my band Manteca and me as a host, program creator and musical director. The radios we bought over the years could have been welded to the CBC station for all I cared. When CBC 1 changed from AM to FM in Toronto, I looked at the radio tuning knob and wondered, “does that thing actually move? I don’t believe I’ve ever used it before.” When my son Oliver was 12 he would steal our mini van and joy ride with his friends in downtown Montreal. He didn’t know the rules of the road and drove real fast, so he fit right in. We would get in the car in the morning and the seat would be adjusted too far forward and the radio would be tuned off of CBC to some other station…. Who knew there were other stations! Let me tell you, we really gave it to that boy when he came home from school that day…. “YOUNG MAN, GOD DAMMIT,WE ARE A CBC FAMILY ! “
As a musician, producer and host, CBC taught me about editorial, about pace about narrative, about the power of sound design. It taught me how to write and interview. In the 1980’s and 1990’s I was hosting quite a bit for the network and in doing so got to speak with so many amazing people; Shirley Temple ( a Republican) Buffy St. Marie (not a Republican), Etta James*, The Gyspy Kings, Leonard Cohen, Steve Allen, PJ O’Rourke, Ann Rice, James Michener , who after a half an hour interview autographed his book for me and dedicated it to “Mark”, so close!
I recall reading a help wanted ad for a private radio station, they were looking for a news producer, following the job description the last line was: “No CBC types need apply.”
Well then! *
Etta was one of my favorites, she reached across the table folded my hand into her two hands and held on to me for the entire 15 minute interview. It reminded me of the patient in the dentists chair who grabs the dentist’s testicles and says, “we’re not going to hurt each other, are we doc?”
D is for Daughters. In 1993 after my wife had been chairperson of the Department of Domestic Birth Control for 17 years, I felt it was my turn to make a contribution so I went to Shoppers and got the DIY Home Vasectomy Kit. Only $19.95…a little mirror, some thread, a needle, a pen knife they called a “Scalpel” and an extensive instruction booklet poorly translated from the original Mandarin… “sew ball to sack back”.
No, not really, they must have those kits, but my sewing chops are not where they need to be for that procedure. I went the normal route, in a hospital, with a professional surgical team consisting of two beautiful nurses and one doctor who really wanted to be a comedian. At the time I was musical director (with Doug Wilde) on a weekly TV show. When the nurses came to get me for my “procedure” they were so excited… “hey, we watch your show every week!”. In my blue hospital gown, sorta tied up at the back, shuffling down the hallway in the paper slippers graciously provided by the hospital, I was looking my “medium rock star” best… “really ?, you watch the show? Oh.”
At the time my thoughts were focused on only one thing, not the upcoming pain, not the month of enforced celibacy, I was thinking of a number. Three percent to be precise. 3% of the men who undergo this operation become um, “dysfunctional ”. So there I am, shuffling towards the operating theatre (I hope you are noting that I am using all the most prestigious medical terms I can conger, “surgical team”, “operating theatre”, “ball sack”) and my two nurses would like an autograph…ah to be famous in Canada…3%, 3%, 3% shuffle, shuffle, shuffle.
The local anesthetic takes hold and Doctor starts his vasectomy monologue; “nurse, I don’t believe I’ve ever seen so much blood in this procedure before, opps, testicle down, can you please pick that up off the floor…”
“Dr. you need to get new writers and no I can’t get you on the show.”
Well this is a very long preface to tell you that I have had very few regrets in my life, but one of them was after having two beautiful sons, I began to regret that I had never had a daughter. Unlike boys, who just grunt, girls actually speak a recognizable language. Eight years ago I met my beautiful partner Lyne and “bonus pack!” I got two lovely daughters in their 20’s in the deal. Lyne nicknamed me “Faux Pa”, so around the house you might hear, one of the girls shout from upstairs, “Faux Paaaaaaa, did you, like, see my scarf?” I call the girls by their names most of the time, but occasionally by their brand, Faux Dau 1 and Faux Dau 2. Sounds like characters from the Hobbit. Now Faux Pa will sometimes take one of the Faux Dau’s out for dinner or lunch or shopping, or to an event. They are young and beautiful, as I mentioned, but they most definitely do not look like they are, as they would say in the south, “kin”. Which has given me my first exposure to public discrimination.
My hair is grey. I am still fit but it is not hard to tell that I am north of my 40’s. When I am out alone with the Faux Dau’s in their 20’s, the withering stares of contempt or I should say pure, “I will kill him with my eyes” hatred, I receive from women in their late forties and early fifties is quiet remarkable. “The look ™” as the Faux Dau’s and I have come to know it, says only one thing: “you disgusting creep, you couldn’t find someone your own age to date, (subtext: “like me”!) oh, you pathetic pig, dating someone 35 years younger! You make me sick!’.
Being in public with my girls would be tough if I was not surrounded by such wonderful love…
Oh, yeah, in case you were wondering, though I doubt it, I remain with my very fortunate brothers in the 97%.
D is also for dry-cleaning. A friend of mine had a modest kitchen fire, well actually it was more like a big toaster fire, but he was in the shower at the time and a tremendous amount of smoke was created. After the fire department left he called his insurance company and they told him to take every piece of fabric in the place, every towel, every shirt, every curtain, every doily in for dry cleaning. They would pay. He was excited, it would be great to have the whole house fresh and clean. That night, the dry cleaner burned to the ground.
E is for ego. In the mid 80’s after the very funny and beautiful Suzanne Ranger and I were married for about 8 years, we held a dinner party for a couple we did not know that well. They were nice enough people, but it was just one of those evenings that would not launch…the conversation was stilted and even the cheap wine couldn’t lubricate…
The next day, Suzanne and I were walking and I was grousing about how brutal the evening was, and it hit me; “Wow, what do you think people say about us?” I asked .
“Oh, I don’t know”, she said, “self centered… egotistical… but she’s all right”.
F is for feminism. I prefer working for and with women, generally I find it a more collaborative process and also, and please forgive this generalization, but I do find women to be more detail oriented, guys are “this’ll be fine…don’t worry”. Women on the other hand tend to do their homework and sweat the small stuff. I recall when my eldest son was playing hockey in some Pee Wee league, the best player on the team by far, was a girl, she could skate, she could pass, she could shoot and she would out score the boys in every game. I wrote a story for the Toronto Star about her…”Kathleen was unquestionably the best player on the team, which is why the boys treated her as an equal.”
You see girls… the take away here? Go on, be the “ best”! You will still only be treated as an “equal”. Domestically I have always done my fair share at home. In addition to cooking, shopping, cleaning, childcare etc. I was always quite proud of the fact that I lifted the seat. I thought that was progressive … a sign that there was respect for women not just in the home, but in the bathroom. And then, one day not so long ago, I learned that we’re supposed to lift and then replace! I can do this! In the words of Gloria Steinem, “The first problem for all of us, men and women, is not to learn, but to unlearn.” (We think Steinem must “unlearn” her recently made remarks on young women’s attraction to the Bernie Sanders Presidential campaign.)
I do have one question about feminism…why is it, that every spring, when university gets out, I find so many women’s studies books curbside; school is out, garbage is out. No love there. And no chemistry books either. The Feminine Mystique, The Beauty Myth, Our Bodies, Ourselves, The Female Eunuch…I got ‘em all in my library. In hard cover! For free! In triplicate!
G is for God. A conversation…
MZ: Hey God, you good? Just wanted to let you know my son built me heaven on earth.
GOD: How do you know that, you don’t pray to me.
MZ: Well you see he owns this restaurant and the seafood is as fresh as can be, the steaks are all aged for 48 days, the beer is ice cold, the beautiful waitresses all hug me and call me Papa and there’s no bill!
GOD: Sounds pretty good, can I get a reservation?
MZ: They don’t take reservations, except Sundays.
GOD: Oh, hmmm, Sunday’s no good for me, how about Monday could you put God’s word in for me?
H is …not for Harper. At the time of this writing he’s been out of office for about 16 weeks and I’m still angry. As his petty legacy is being dismantled day after day by Trudeau the 2nd’s government, it just feels like the Taliban has been run out of town. Canada has had 10 lost years….just at a time when the world was changing at a pace never before seen in history. Frank Magazine calls the conservatives “The Little Shit’s TM”
and I’m not sure it could be said better. Harper has recently been described in the Globe and Mail as a “conservative intellectual” …guys, fuck off, ok? Stephen Harper was a thug who was a master parliamentary tactician. His government was the first in Canadian history to be held in contempt of Parliament. There was more election fraud CONVICTED! under this regime during any other government in my lifetime…a conservative intellectual?
A few thoughts from election day:
There is only one image I am looking for in tonight’s election coverage, it is the slumped shoulders of Stephen Harper walking off a stage in Calgary. The cons would like us to think they are good “managers”. Well they are not. They can’t adequately or compassionately look after our veterans, there are hundreds of First Nations communities without safe drinking water, Turkey has now accepted 3 million refuges from Syria and we have what? maybe 1100? (and of that 1100 how many Muslims, we ask without response) . This from the creators of a new government department called “The Office of Religious Freedoms”. Gag moi svp.
While were at it, let’s look to the left of Parliament Hill, yeah the joint with the nice lawn, The Supreme Court of Canada. The judges, 7 of the 9 are appointees of Harper’s, yet they continually slapped Harper’s pee pee every three or four months by rendering one decision after the next that says, “well that law is not legal, that piece of legislation does not conform to the Charter and no you can’t do that either…” Omar Kahdr come on down! “Good managers”, do not spend hundreds of thousands of tax payers dollars tabling legislation that is so far outside of the rule of law that it will never be passed.
“Good managers” do not spend 650 million dollars on partisan advertising while their government tables 9 deficits in a row. Good managers do not take a huge surplus left by the previous government and turn it into a deficit. Good managers do not accidently over pay justice department lawyers 50$ million dollars or under pay our poorest seniors their GIS payments by 245$ million. These clowns can’t even effectively buy an overpriced airplane.
I have to reach for the Gravol to hear Jason Kenny talk about the supposed abuse of women’s rights that is represented by the Niqab when the Harper government has decimated funding for women’s programs during their ten years in office.
Not that the cabinet table is important in Stephen Harper’s autocratic regime, but just for fun let’s look at the bench…Julian Fantino?, Jason Kenny?, Chris Alexander? Tony “build me a fuckin’ Gazebo” Clement, these are the best and brightest? Really?
So marry this bumbling incompetence, with dirty partisan politics, an angry lack of compassion, led by a prime minister who passes on addressing the United Nations to do a “photo opportunity” at a Tim Horton’s in London, Ontario and you have the last day of a one of the saddest decades. Here’s to a brighter future …please vote.
“Stand by camera six; ex PM is exiting stage left, frame from the waist up, don’t forget those drooping shoulders, focus! and Take 6!
And now a few thoughts after election day:
The first thing I thought when I woke up this morning: “No one gives a flying fuck what Jason Kenney thinks anymore. Or Tony Clement or Julian Fantino or Lisa Raitt, no one cares…their media lines, their talking points, their mission statements…done, bye bye, pack your things and leave the office.
Now! Clearly I wasn’t getting over this too quickly….
YYC VRS SJH
There has been an idea floating to honour the out going (outgo faster! outgo faster!) PM with an airport naming, specifically an airport in a Federal Liberal riding in the NDP held province of Albertastan. No, I don’t think an airport is appropriate to Mr. Harper’s contribution to Canada…the branding is all wrong…an airport is essentially a place where a voyage is launched, or it could be a place where a connection is made or where a journey reaches completion…none of these things were accomplished on Mr. Harper’s watch.
So in seeking a brand in keeping with Mr. Harper’s numerous and disastrous achievements I would suggest a tunnel. A place that is dark and lacking in transparency, a place that is prone to echo, making one voice into many, a place that is often damp and cold, a place where fresh air is scarce and tunnel vision rampant.
The Lincoln Tunnel in New York City connects the City to the New Jersey metropolis of Weehawken and honours a great (Republican) man so there is precedent.
If you’re with me…dig it.
And then finally, and I hear you say, “oh please, finally…”
NEWSFLASH: DATELINE: OTTAWA: THIS JUST IN:
Short Pants Sales in Ottawa Plummet !
Local Haberdashers demand government aid.
I is for Island, as in Prince Edward. P.E.I is Canada’s smallest province with 150,000 residents. To get there go to Maine and hang a right. In 1971, our family, consisting of two parents, three sons, one daughter, and a Belgian Sheep dog named Evans, moved from Continental Village, New York, about 50 miles north of New York City to Argyle Shore, Prince Edward Island about 750 miles north of New York City, . We were packed into two Citroen’s, one sedan and one station wagon, pulling a tent trailer.
We crossed into Canada on the 4th of July, by coincidence America’s Independence Day. At the border crossing in Woodstock, New Brunswick we received our immigration papers and social insurance cards. We then spent our first night as landed immigrants and future draft dodgers sleeping in the tent trailer at an Irving Oil gas station. We felt very welcomed into our new country.
At the time, the war in Vietnam was raging with no end in sight and my parents had three boys. My father had served in the US Army in the 1950’s, so he was no stranger to service, but they were not going to send their boys into harms way to prop up a corrupt South Vietnamese government for a few more months.
They had visited Prince Edward Island the previous summer and in the summer P.E.I. is a stunningly beautiful temptress with her green fields, deep red clay earth, surrounded on all sides by sparkling blue waters and populated with kind, unpretentious folks. This was the 70’s, my parents who insisted that we call them by their first names, George and Elaine, were artists and the idea of “going back to the land” was calling them. They bought an abandoned 100 acre farm for $17,000.00 CND, with shore frontage on the Northumberland Strait, the body of water that separates the mainland from the Island. There is a bridge now, but at the time there were five huge ferryboats that shuffled folks from New Brunswick or Nova Scotia to the Island. During the frequent fierce winter storms the ferry service would occasionally be cancelled and the Islanders would say with a sparkle in their eyes, “heyyep*, the mainland’s been cut off from us again”.
*this is called the “inhalation affirmation” and is a part of the local dialect, created by inhaling loudly and terminating the inhale in the affirmative with a “yep”.
When we arrived on the Island we had not seen the abandoned old farm house we had bought for more than 11 months. It had been a brutal winter and as we drove right by it this was the discussion in the car:
Front seat: That’s it!
Back seat: No way:
Front Seat: yeah! that’s it, I swear!
Back seat: no fucking way, that’s a dump!
Front seat: That’s our dump.
(not exactly as illustrated ) Photo George S. Zimbel
No plumbing, no electricity, no heating and two tons of rotting potatoes in the basement.
My parents had four school age children and about 50 days to turn an abandoned house into a home, get the kids in school and find work…that is one ambitious parental to do list… especially when Islanders themselves will often brag, “in New York they need it yesterday, in Toronto, they need it tomorrow, in PEI they need it “first of next week. Heyyep”.
Some people have asked me if we, who might be described as a hippie family from New York, fit in on the Island. I think we were welcomed there but I don’t think anyone from “away” ever really fits in. Confirmation of this was evident in a newspaper obituary headline I once read in the Charlottetown, paper The Guardian: “BOSTON MAN DIES HERE”, William Monroe Decland, 94, died from natural causes last night, surrounded by his family. Mr. Decland moved to Prince Edward Island from Boston when he was three.”
I learned a great deal on Prince Edward Island but none of it in school. Our school was called Crapaud High – pronounced Crap-o, this really was a gift to the student body, since with a name like that who needed to invent any school slamming slang?
I was 15 and bored out of my mind in high school. I quit school and got a Youth Initiatives Grant to work on a farm. My first grant! A young able bodied kid was in big demand in farming country, especially during school hours as all of the other young able bodied ones were in school. I found a wonderful farm family that needed some help. Eddy and Flo MacPhail were kind, smart and Scottish. They knew the value of a dollar…so when I proposed that I might work for them on their hog, potato and dairy operation and they would only have to pay me 25% of my salary, they were intrigued. They tabled a counter-offer, “Flo will make you a wonderful hot lunch every day and we’ll only charge you 2.50 a day for that.” So Flo got 25% of my salary and every two weeks I would get my cheque for 91.34 net. In at 7 out by 6 , 5 days a week. I’d get home and my sister would greet me by saying, “oh for God’s sake’s go take a shower, you smell like pig shit”. I loved the job and learned a tremendous amount about agriculture, animal husbandry and rural life.
17 years later, my band Manteca was headlining a concert at the 1000 seat Confederation Centre in Charlottetown. When I was 17, I used to work in this theatre as a stagehand. I learned about stagecraft here, something that has been a huge joy in my life ever since. The man who was my crew chief, was now the producer who booked us to play the theatre. It was such a pleasure to send him Manteca’s extensive technical rider with a hand written note stapled in the corner, “Gary you taught me everything I know about creating the highest technical production values, now pay for it”. Performing this standing room only show in my adopted hometown, surrounded by eight musicians I respect so deeply and our amazing technical crew was one of those moments I will never forget. Flo and Eddy were my guests and when I saw them in the lobby after the show we cried. I was very touched because you know Scottish people do not cry easily!
J is for Jeans, as in blue jeans. It strikes me that if our founding father’s and founding mothers returned from say the 1790’s to see what we were presently up to, much would shock them no doubt, but perhaps not the things we might first think. Certainly the airplane is impressive, but there is a physical similarity to a bird, so I can see our “forefolks”… nodding with understanding. The internet is just too obscure, why should we expect them to understand it, we don’t. But the I think the three things in modern life that would be the most shocking are the fax; much more tactile than the internet; you put a piece of paper in “here” and that same piece of paper comes out …over “ there” …yep I think that would illicit a hearty “Heavens to Murgatroyd!
But I do believe the most shocking “modern development” would be brand new blue jeans like these:
Seeing them in a store window, such as this one on Mont Royal Ave in Montreal would shock, but when ya told the forefolks that they sell for $425. well that would just about leave ‘em speechless.
Oh yeah and one more thing they would find shocking…the way the gun lobby in America interprets the 2nd amendment of the U.S. Constitution: I fancy this might be their reaction: “We meant muskets, you dick heads, not automatic sub machine guns!”
K is for House Keeping. I like it, it’s a kind of meditation. When you work in the arts “completion” can take a long time, where as cleaning the living room can be completely accomplished in a fixed period. Accomplished, done, cross it off the list!
I was whining once about how busy I was and searching for what I could do to save time and somebody said: “you should get a cleaning person”. My thought was, “and let them have all the fun?” No way!
L is for lighting. My neighbor seems like a smart, cool young mother…why does her kitchen lighting have all of the charm of an East German Police Station? You can accomplish more décor for less the Bulb-o-licious way.
Bulbs can light an area, they can light a piece of art, they can create an ambience, they can make shadows…you can buy reflector spots for under 5$ that come in narrow beams, medium beams and wide, these will allow you to focus and focus you must, as $75 spent on proper bulbing will do more for your décor/ vibe/ calm /sex life …than any other equivalent spend. Go to a big lighting store, go to the bulb section, ask for advice. It’s free. I have actually gone into restaurants and offered to redo the lighting for free. Usually this offer is met with a; “whya you wanta do dis, light good, see food fine…”
Have you heard the Texan expression “all hat no cattle”? Meaning dude has a huge cowboy hat but he’s got nothing grazing on his back 40…well so many joints have the lighting fixtures with the wrong bulbs and not even a clue as to why there is no line up.
M is for a few things ….Manteca the jazz world music collective I have led for 36 years. Playing in this band has been one of the great adventures of my life. I have learned so much about music, producing, arranging, performing, working with others not to mention the enormous respect this vocation has elicited from my eldest son who used to introduce me like this: “this is my dad, he’s a medium rock star”.
www.manteca-music.com (you can download some music for free! – one must ask is there any other kind of music these days but free?)
M is also for Mel, as in Mel Brooks who taught me one of the most important lessons about creating and performing in the arts. Mr. Brooks says, “if you are in the arts and you are not scared, you are full of shit”. When I heard that, for the first time in my life, I realized that if you are smart and scared of failure then you work very very hard to avoid it. I realized, for the first time, that being fearful of failure is positive, productive, good energy.
M is for messages on my telephone answering machine I wished I had saved. In the 80’s I got a message from Peter Gzowski. “Matt it’s Peter”… for me, an immigrant to Canada in the 1970’s, that voice was the voice of Canada and it was on my answering machine. Though I knew Peter and had been on his show numerous times, I must admit on hearing that message I was a little star struck. He was calling to discuss a Manteca performance for a fundraiser. “I checked with the technical crew and the rider your crew is asking for is fucking impossible. There is no Goddamn way we can supply all that for fuck sakes, this thing is in a fucking barn….can we do it with less? I know you guys are a big band and we really want you on the show and sounding great but Christ there is no way we have that much gear. Call me back….it’s Peter. “
M is for Maitland as in Allan. When we first moved to Canada in 1971 we would listen to the CBC radio show As It Happens. (and we are still listening to it today…every weeknight at 6:30) The co-host was the most elegant staff announcer Alan Maitland. In 1988, I was Ralph Benmurgui’s guest host on the CBC radio show Prime Time. On my way home from the studio, driving along Bloor street, Maitland did a promo for the show…which included my name! My name! Correctly pronounced! Spoken by Alan Maitland…on the radio! Well, I know, a foolish little trivial thing, but the pleasure was profound.
N is for narcissism. It really is stunningly remarkable how some folks can talk about themselves endlessly. (Like, for example this 32 page diatribe about me!) Yes, I know in the arts we are surrounded by larger than life egos, but still, it amazes me how auto-fascinated people are …especially the dull ones! Or how about people who speak of themselves in the third person…well Matt Zimbel really hates that especially when Donald J. Trump does it.
Okay my rant is done….let’s go out on a two shot of me….
O is for Oliver, my first born son. Following in his father’s footsteps he has very little “formal” education but a doctorate in life. Through very hard work he has accomplished a great deal in a very short period of time. He runs two of Montreal’s most delicious restaurants. Now I chose the word “delicious” over “successful” because I think it is a higher attribute. The restaurants, one called Lucile’s Oyster Dive and the other Lucille’s Brasserie, are indeed very successful establishments and this success is confirmed by regular visits from Revenue Quebec auditors. Oliver employs more than 85 people in Montreal. I have always thought that creating good jobs is one of the most honorable callings. When I compliment him on his contribution to society, he smiles, not really buying into my vision on the honour …I can see the weight of payroll on his shoulders. His friends call him a “ business artist” and this story might give you some insight into how his artistry works.
In 1994 when Oliver was 14, Avi Lewis and I were writing and producing a special on the Federal Budget for, get this, Much Music where Denise Donlon, our esteemed VP/Executive Producer was always trying to bring her viewers to literature, current affairs etc. through music. Our budget special was called “Holy Macro Economics Tax Man” and was the first time Much had done live budget coverage, just like the grown up channels. The week before the budget was to drop, we had won Much Music’s first Gemini Award ever for our political coverage of the federal election the year before, beating the CBC, CTV and Newsworld in the category of Best Special Event News Program. Now normally I do not attach a great deal of importance to awards, unless I win. Then it’s all “this is very prestigious, I’m deeply humbled and touched and humbled”. It was the first time I had written and produced a national special and I would be lying to say it wasn’t a huge thrill to bring some hardware back to the station. I proudly told the assembled Gemini Award audience that we had just confirmed the only “exclusive” pre-budget interview with Finance Minister Paul Martin because we called from “Much Music’s Political Bureau”.
I had been in Toronto for a week or so working on the budget show, Oliver was at home in Montreal and I suggested we meet in Ottawa for the weekend, while I prepped the interview and our foray into our first budget lock up. The plan was Oliver would take the bus to Ottawa and we would meet at the bus station. Done deal…with one hitch, weather grounded my plane in Toronto delaying our Ottawa rendezvous…. I told Oliver to “grab a cab” (as he used to say endlessly when he was younger and did not want to walk ANYWHERE!) to the hotel and I then called the hotel, told them that my 14 year old son would be checking in on his own and might they please disappoint him by turning off access to the porn channel*. “No problem Mr. Zimbel”.
Being a responsible father I told Oliver the hotel was expecting him, and I would meet him before dinner and that he was not, under any circumstances, to use the mini-bar. This was not my first “father and son in the hotel” rodeo. I’d seen him rack up 50$ mini bar bills in 6 minutes flat with three cans of pop, two bags of chips and a candy bar…
Two hours later I got to the room and found him exactly where I expected to, laying on the bed, with all the pillows propped up behind him, in his favorite “king of the world” hotel pose, watching TV. There were two cans of pop, one bag of chips and one O’ Henry bar wrapper on the bed.
“God damn it Oliver! I told you not to use the mini bar!”.
“Dad! I didn’t”
“Then where did these come from?”
P Is for Porter Airlines. I had just flown in from Montreal to Toronto. I’m standing in the urinal, doing what one does at a urinal. The guy next to me chirps, “hey, where’d ya come in from”. Dude, don’t talk to me in the washroom, guys we don’t like this. Remember Senator Larry Craig, from Idaho? Of course you do, he of the “wide stance”.
All the same, I don’t want to be rude;
Man! this guy is chatty…I looked over at him, he was wearing one of those 7000$ Bironi Suits. You know the one’s where the wool comes from sheep raised in a luxury hotel suite, free range of course.
He finished his urinal business. Went to the sink to wash up, tossed his paper towels in the bin and then something shocking happened. He reached down to the floor and picked up some dirty paper towels that had missed the garbage. He washed his hands again and then wiped the sink counter with a paper towel. And that is when I recognized him.
“Hey, you’re Robert Deluce, President of Porter…”
“Yes, I’m am.”
“Love your airline”.
“Thanks – here’s my card – direct cel number is on there if you ever have a problem, call me, have a great day…”
Contrast that with Cho Hyun-ah daughter of the president of Korean Airlines who became known worldwide for her um, nut rage when she was given Macadamia nuts in a bag instead of in a bowl, and forced her plane to return to the terminal so she could fire the chief purser.
You see in Canada we make our airline executives tough…chair a board meeting in the morning, pick up trash in the men’s room in the afternoon…all in day’s work.
Porter is now for sale, if you don’t mind doing a little lite housekeeping around Billy Bishop Airport.
Q is for Quote.
Yes, ok, fair enough, this section of the alphabet has been sub contracted to some folks I respect.
“I love cats because of their independence, I love dogs for their companionship but most of all I love pigs because they treat you as an equal”.
– Winston Churchill – PM of UK
“Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, no one is entitled to their own facts”.
– Daniel Patrick Moynihan – US Senator
“Nothing exceeds like excess”.
– Ike Zimbel – Brother and Audio Genius
“There are way worse ways to not make enough money”.
– Henry Heillig, Bassist, Band leader Extraordinaire on being a musician
“I’m a dreamer, but I know how to count”.
– Chrystine Girard – Business Affairs Manager
“This is my father. He’s a medium rock star”.
– Oliver Zimbel – Eldest Son
“After each show, I’d be leaving the stage door, dressed to the kilts, and guys would be lined up to get into my snickers. But there was no way I was going to let them hanky pank me. Sometimes a man needs to learn the difference between a cat and a pussy”.
– Lyne Tremblay – Love Interest / co-loc / French person, describing her post show ritual as “Cassandra” in the original production of Cat’s
“Wall Street always seems to favour the Republicans but it’s always done better under the Democrats. That’s a big disparity. People always argue about the reasons for this but they can’t argue with the numbers”
– Paul T. Hickey, Co-Founder Bespoke Investments
“Nothing is the start of something”.
– George S. Zimbel – Photographer / Father
“Matt, I have written more books than I have read”.
– Bob Blumer aka The Surreal Gourmet before the start of a more literary phase
“I make things vibrate and people pay me”.
– Lucas Choi Zimbel, 2nd son on being a rather spectacular* musician
*parental italics, true though!
“Je suis un ancien jeune homme.”
– Rena Tremblay – on aging gracelessly
R is for re-think. It’s time to re-think the Canadian Military and our International Aid activities. My thinking or perhaps I should say re-thinking began when I heard about what Canada’s contribution to war against ISIS would be. The word “contribution” struck me. When we were asked to join the coalition for the Bush Cheney Rumsfield adventure in Iraq, I was so proud that Chretien said no. Now that the world is suffering from the results of that horrific misadventure it is clear that Canada must make some kind of contribution. But what kind?
Before I dive in I will freely admit that I am not a professional in this millieu. I know that many stakeholders will no doubt find my proposal abhorrent. And with that very Canadian introduction of “apology first” …let’s go!
Meld the military budget and the International Development budget and you have a pile of cash in the neighborhood of $26 billion annually. Shift the focus from defense to medical aid and health care training . Outfit five hospital ships and “go anywhere, anytime” medical field hospitals.
Canada’s contribution to NATO and to international coalitions will be triage, we will become the world’s portable hospital…the most advanced battlefield medicine, the leader in medical disaster relief, preventative healthcare, and in medical training. Foreign doctors, nurses and technicians who want to immigrate to Canada and transfer their credentials and skills could serve their Canadian orientation residences in this service. Canadian medical students could serve some of their residences in this service, which could be tied to a reduction in student loans. When these units were not responding to relief efforts they would be training. Canada would declare a world war against disease.
Now I know that foreign aid is used to generate sales for Canadian business…and I know that our military is a fighting force…some will see this proposal as the deranged rantings of a lefty.
But think it through, …now we have a modest fighting force by G7 standards, imagine 20 years out, we could become the world power in healing. Canada’s military would maintain their special forces and sufficient troops to protect our roving medical installations as required.
A large part of our financing for this effort might be come through foundations and collaborations with existing charities such as Doctors Without Borders.
And I might suggest that we could start this operation at home by insuring that our first nations communities have access to the same medical facilities as the rest of the country!
S is for speakers. I teach private classes in public speaking, which, as
I ‘m sure you have heard, some people find more frightening than the prospect of death. One of my students was a world champion Olympic Gold and Silver winner. I will not tell you this person’s identity as I believe my students should be able to pass through this process and be, at the end, natural born storytellers…
We were seated at a long table re-writing the stump speech, which is a process I really love. It’s my job to pull the story out of them and then frame it in their words as conversationally as possible. It is a wonderful exercise that even those who have been speaking for a while seem to enjoy. Our process is that the speaker recounts their story and I keep interrupting and asking more questions about more and more trivial details, going down the rabbit hole as it were, looking to uncover little gems of story telling that most folks think too inane to recount.
I asked her what her ritual was before the event. Now, when an athlete gets to the Olympic level they have a personal team; a coach, a massage therapist, a trainer, a sports psychologist, an equipment manager, a nutritionist and of course a speaker coach. She told me that her psychologist told her to recite her “I know list”.
“What’s an ‘I know list’? “
“Oh, that’s the list of all the things I know without question; like I know there’s an Olympic Gold Medal somewhere in this town and it might as well come home with me, I know my team has given me the best advice that any one can get; I know I have the best equipment money can buy, I know I’m the best in the world.“
Well that line stopped me dead in my tracks. The best in the world? She said it without bragging ….it was completely matter of fact, just like one might say, “call you in five”.
I had never heard anyone say that before (other than various Champion boxers but they had been getting hit in the head for years). I had certainly never heard a woman say that about herself.
“The best in the world?” I circled back…
“Champ, how did you know you were the best in the world?”
“Oh, cuz I won the World Cup that year”.
Working with this two time Olympic Champion was humbling. She would show up for our sessions, totally prepared, even though she was working and going to University, there were no excuses, she came ready to work.
She once showed up at the office a little early and I had just come back from a run and was still in my jogging gear.
“Hey, you run! We should go for a run together some time”.
“I’d love to, how long do you run for?”
“Till I puke”.
T is for Toronto. I have to admit Toronto is coming of age, but ever so reluctantly. Much ink has been wasted discussing and comparing Toronto with Montreal. It’s a sport. (See obligatory Leafs reference below*) Generally I note that my Francophone friends from Montreal love Toronto. Les Anglophone amis sont un peu plus réticent.
But Toronto has indeed become, after years of endlessly chanting that, “we are a world class city”, a world class city. No, I’m not gonna talk about Rob Ford. Um, nope. Too easy. But sometimes when one is in Toronto, trying to enjoy oneself, one might still feel like Toronto is an example of the Nanny State gone wild! So many rules, so many petty regulations, Beer Jail!
What, you may ask, is beer jail?
In most cities music festivals have alcohol licenses and one can wander the festival grounds or streets with a glass of wine or a plastic cup of beer. It is remarkably rare to see people so drunk they cannot stand. None the less, in Toronto and in fairness, throughout Ontario, the festival is required to establish a fenced in area where participants receive an arm band and a wrist stamp permitting them to drink, providing of course they are of age. This, I call “Beer Jail”. I was at a festival this summer where one could not even see the stage from Beer Jail…for we cannot possibly mix cultural activity and hops! That might lead to um, public sex!
I wondered what would happen if I ran out of the beer holding area with a full plastic cup of beer; POLICE ! FREEZE! PUT THE CUP DOWN AND YOUR HANDS ABOVE YOUR HEAD! ON YOUR KNEES! MOTHERFUCKER!
Now Ontario is ever so gingerly introducing a “pilot project” of wine and beer in the grocery stores, like 8 stores or something insane, with price minimums so the poor folks don’t get hammered…a pilot project…oh for fuck sakes…grow up!
And one last thing about Toronto…you might have noticed a very prominent facial tic in the city. If you smile at a stranger, they will look at you and acknowledge you with a facial movement somewhere in between a head nod and a frown, which I call the “GTA Grimace**”. The thinking behind it is this: “Mom told me not to speak to strangers, but I don’t want to be rude.”
*My bother Ike, who is not a licensed psychologist, has done a freelance personal study on the long term effects of annual disappointment on Toronto males in their 40’s, 50’s and 60’s who are Leafs fans. His theory is that after decades of starting a season of hockey with the giddy excitement of hope, only to see it be extinguished yet again by a crushing wave of defeat, has conditioned Toronto males to believe that anything that starts out good, will no doubt end up in the crapper. I am not a hockey fan as such, but nothing would make me happier than the Toronto Maple Leafs finally winning the Stanley Cup. Well, actually that’s not entirely true, one thing would make me happier…I would like the Leafs to win, but the year after the Montreal, Canadians do, I’m sure we would host a better riot.
** GTA=Greater Toronto Area
U is for Ubiquitous. In 1993 my long time friend, composer and collaborator Doug Wilde and I were co-leaders of a band called “The House”. Named thusly because we were the house band on a national CBC weekly “variety show”, as they were called in those days, hosted by Ralph Benmurgui. The producers had invited Leonard Cohen to play on the show to coincide with the release of his 9th studio album “The Future”. He was not yet touring, had just finished the recording and was nervous about playing with a house band. He agreed to do the show but wanted to play with his pre-recorded album tracks, the kiss of death for a live TV show. The producers asked me if I would write Leonard and lobby him to perform with our band by sending some recordings of the group. Easily done. I had met Leonard in 1988 while interviewing him for a BBC/ABC/CBC music show I co-hosted called “Wired”. Leonard is a master interview subject; present, measured, funny, philosophical. His vocabulary is striking, but not in a pretentious way; for example he might call a tour, “an enterprise” or an abandoned idea would “overthrown”, to get out of something, one might “extract “ themselves…He speaks slowly, allowing himself time. to. consider. what. to. say. next*. It is a journalistic seduction – one starts to wait for the considered words of the poet with great anticipation. But unlike so many of the famous, his willingness to connect appears so genuine. During our interview I truly believed there was no place he would rather be than talking to me.
I bragged to my journalist friends, ‘oh man, wait until you hear the interview I did with Leonard, it was incredible, he was so charming, so engaged…no question this is the best interview I have ever heard him do”.
“Really?” they would say, “he did a pretty great one on our show too”.
“ Yeah, right!”
And then I would hear the interview on their show and it would be the same interview, just as warm, just as revealing, just as exclusive feeling… but not exclusive at all, God damn it.
In my letter to Leonard that accompanied the recordings of the band, I reminded him of our previous meeting and in a couple days he got back to the producers and confirmed that he would be delighted to play with the house band and would be performing “The Future” and “Closing Time”. We had copies of the recording and were told that Leonard would bring the charts with him.
The day before he arrived I convened the band for a rehearsal and we learned Leonard’s tunes…in great detail and with a kind of live impact that the studio recording did not have. I told the band that when Leonard arrived they were to look his charts over and ask all kinds of questions, giving the impression they had never heard the tunes before….”when we get to the second chorus, does the pre chorus repeat or do we just go right in? “Do you want the feel in the bridge to be more staccato”? “Do you want us to pick up the horn shots in the last chorus or play through?”
Leonard and his musical director were extremely gracious in answering our numerous queries and when all was set, Leonard turned to the band and said with his with his ever present elegance, “well, friend’s, shall we give this a try?”
Our drummer, Charlie Cooley, shouted out the count with über confidence; “…click, click, in, two, three, fooooouuur”! The band landed on the downbeat like a train, after the first 8 bars Leonard turned to us with a huge smile on his face….it struck me that he had not heard this song played by a live band before and he was both relieved and filled with joy.
After we performed, Leonard sat with Ralph for the interview and could not stop breathlessly talking about the band, “wow, I really appreciate your band, really grateful…they’re really great. Wow. ” Since this adventure, I have run into Leonard a few times at the grocery store, but I have never told him of our cheatin’ ways.
*When I teach public speaking I always show my students two speakers, Bill Clinton’s convention speech in 2012 for Obama for plain spoken message and Leonard Cohen in interview for pace… I tell them that during their speech, a tiny version of me is going to sit on their left shoulder and whisper in their ear: STFD, STFD, STFD…slow, the, fuck, down, slow, the ,fuck, down.
V is for the vedetteariat – a French Canadian word I made up with the very unique Quebec star system in mind. The etymology of the phrase “star system” is an odd phrase to begin with and strangely it does not appear to translate into “English Canadian”. Now one must not confuse “star” with “exceptional talent”, as there are many exceptionally talented people in English Canada, but they seem to be unable to become “certified, genuine stars” until they move to the States. I am not an actor, but, (please if we could just keep that to ourselves I’d be grateful cuz occasionally I play an the role of an actor on TV), if I was a real actor, I think I would be sickened by the fainting frenzy Canadian fans show to American actors during the Toronto Film Festival. I see line ups in front of red carpeted film openings, people screaming, shooting wildly with their phones and I want to tap them on the shoulder and say, “hey ya know, this just in, but we have actors too, you might know that if you bought a ticket to a Canadian film once in a fucking while.” Sorry, was that my inside voice or my outside voice?
In Quebec however, because it is an Island of French in a North American sea of English, a vibrant “star system” is in place. Quebecers love their stars, but it is a conditional love…their stars have to love them back…don’t get too big for your britches, or as they say here…don’t “Péter plus haut qu’l’trou”, which translates into “Don’t fart above the hole”. The crazy thing here in Quebec is that you will have the same 5 actors in four different tv series in leading roles…they are wonderful actors, they work extremely hard, but the audience can hardly tell one series from the next because the cast is identical. It also appears in Quebec that if you are a dancer, you are a dancer and should not aspire to be a singer, or a singer should not aspire to be a writer…there are categories…they are fixed. In English Canada it is not rare to see musicians become radio hosts or tv presenters, that is much more rare in Quebec. Now of course there are exceptions, (Mitsou come on down!) but they are rare…(Musician Composer Kevin Parent has had some success with film acting and Gregory Charles made a cross over to radio). It is also quite remarkable how few auditions there are in Quebec. Directors and producers seem to just cast actors they know. How did they meet them? I will never know!
In music the feeder system has been the talent shows, which have been going on here long before they were televised. But now that Quebec has it’s version of The Voice and before that Star Academie, music acts are created on these programs that become huge platinum selling artists and breaking an artist outside of this system is extremely difficult. The Quebec music industry has been strong in embracing visible minorities, but generally television, film and theatre casting does not reflect the actual Quebec population very well. In English Canada there is more of a visible minority presence, (though still far behind the general pop) but at the end of the day it doesn’t fucking matter because no one is watching English Canadian domestically produced TV and Films. And try for one second to see a faintly French accented actor be cast on an English show…rare beyond imagination and that is disgraceful…because in Canada French accented English is a part of who we are! Try and find that sound on English television …good luck!
I produce and artistic direct large scale events, state celebrations, World’s Fair cultural programs, awards shows, sports opening etc. and very often we try to create collaborations between artists and disciplines. The French Canada acts we approach are always willing to play. In Quebec collaborations between artists are part of the fabric of the culture. But for some reason the English Canadian artists regard collaborations with much more suspicion, anything bigger than a songwriters circle and they get nervous…
The Vedettetariat is much more healthy than what ever we have in English Canada and for proof of this you only have to look at the newspapers…compare the size of the Globe and Mail arts and culture section with that of La Presse, but you know they say “Size Doesn’t Matter”, right, so look and compare domestic arts content verses American coverage.
Or you could walk through the airport in Montreal with a well known Quebec actor or musician…it’s slow goin’ as they are stopped every 4 feet by a public so thrilled to see them and wish them well. One’s airport transference in the company of English Canadian artists of note is much more rapid. Perhaps it’s because the English are shy, but I think it is because the English Canadian artists have not had the impact on their audiences lives that the French have. And let me be clear here this is not a question of talent or relevance it is a question of marketing.
God Bless the United States of Kardashians.
W is for White as in Nancy White. Smart. Funny. Enormously talented and vastly under celebrated, Nancy is a remarkable singer songwriter and comedian. From the late 1970’s to the early 1990’s she set the contemporary political and social history of Canada to song. During that period she self indentified as the “Civil Service Songwriter”, a role she performed weekly at the CBC radio program Sunday Morning. She has written musicals (Anne & Gilbert), 14 albums and a few books. In other countries, where people value their history as important, Nancy would be bestowed with honours weekly. In Canada, um, let’s see, how can I put this delicately…. her privacy is very well respected by the media and the music industry.
I worked with Nancy a long time ago, first as her percussionist and then later as the producer (with Bill Garret) of her album “Unexpected”. She kept us all in tears, laughing, but also actually crying because she writes very moving songs…songs that catch you off guard with a pang of sadness and a snag in the throat.
Nancy was born and raised in PEI, and though I never met her while I lived there, I can see how Island life gave her such an astute outsiders perspective.
She is an incisive observer, a poet with a journalist’s eye and a fearless satirist. Long before Jon Stewart, Rick Mercer, This Hour Has 22 Minutes and others, Nancy sang truth to power.
She is an ardent feminist who loves men…and she can write of love and longing like no one else…go to iTunes…find AND PAY FOR this: “ Leonard Cohen is Never Going to Bring my Groceries In. “
Ok. Two things need to happen; One, the National Library needs to collect her work, all of it, immediately and two, she needs a Governor General’s Award for the Performing Arts. Oh yeah, I just checked…she does not yet have an Order of Canada…how can this be? I’m gob smacked! So three things…here’s a little vintage White;
“People in Toronto are far too polite. I was on a date the other night and I asked the guy if he wanted to have sex and he said “only if you’re having some yourself.”
“The Pope was in town the other day speaking about birth control. You know when I need advice on birth control, I always look to a man in a long white dress.”
X is for X-rated women of a certain age. It has come to our attention recently that in pop culture, it is completely acceptable and even celebrated when older women speak of having sexual relations with men 30 or 40 years their junior. Barbara Walters called Bradley Cooper (40 odd years younger) “very screwable”…to his face! on national television ! Can you imagine, just for a second, Larry King or Wolf Blitzer sitting down to interview Cate Blanchett and opening with “Well my, my, congratulations on your new film and may I say, you certainly do look most screwable”. No! you may not say…career over and rightly so…
And yet the lovely Andrea Martin speaks in her autobiography, which she actually wrote herself, about wanting to have sex with all the young men who work at Apple’s Genius Bar. I don’t know, maybe that doesn’t count because they’re geeks, or geniuses or something…
I need to be very clear here…I applaud women who maintain and celebrate sexual desires for their entire time on earth…it is healthy, it is positive energy and it is likely cherished by their partners …I also applaud older women who share the wonder and pleasure of intimacy with younger men, You go girl! But you know, ladies, use a little filter…don’t say things publicly that we know would disgust you coming out of a man’s mouth.
Y is for Yoga. I wasn’t convinced I would like it so I bought the, “I’m probably not going to like this Yoga Mat™”. Really cheap, really thin, with lots of Lululemon branding, “caution this yoga mat may not look good on every butt.” But lo and behold I go every week and I have only one thing to say about yoga…spending 90 minutes a week breathing, stretching and looking inward in a vaguely spiritual way can only be good, but there are side effects…vaguely better abs. Namaste Bitches!
Z is for Zulu Time a piece of theatre aka “technological cabaret” by Quebec City native Robert LePage . Like most of his work it is remarkable. We often hear people say they would have liked to live in Mozart’s time or Shakespere’s time…I am very happy to live in Robert Lepage’s time. Many of his works are solo shows, but they are anything but solo efforts…this is theatre with an R&D department. His production teams are always brought on stage at the end of each show and those who know the inner workings of the company Lepage leads in Quebec City, Ex Machina, tell me that he is very much a collaborator, (my friends from France rightfully hate that word, so let me change collaborator to co-creator). The way this company manipulates light, movement, projection and audio design is made all that more spectacular because the story remains central… the effects dress the story, many companies capable of technological wizardry loose sight of story.
One of the bizarre things about Zulu Time which was co-written by Lepage and musician Peter Gabriel in 1999 is that one scene portrays two Arab men blowing up an airplane they were passengers on. The show was scheduled to premiere at the World Trade Centre in lower Manhattan on the evening of September 11, 2001.
My beloved partner Lyne and I saw Lepage’s new autobiographical piece “887” at the Pan Am Cultural Festival last summer and for weeks we could not stop talking about it to any one who would listen. I started to imagine our friends saying to each other…”did you know them before or after they saw that Lepage piece, because my God after they saw it, that was all they ever talked about, very dull people”.
The other piece of theatre that marked me recently also came from Quebec City, and it is called “Le No Show”. Created by Alexandre Fecteau and Collectif Nous Sommes Ici, it is an interactive piece that opens with the public accounting the show’s profit and loss statement, quickly followed by a mass firing of half the cast…a demonstration ensues outside of the theatre and the audience is asked to help resolve the situation. Revolutionary, courageous, innovative and real…it is one of the most important pieces of theatre I have ever seen.
Here is a clip in French – To set it up, the company director has realized that the “pay what you can” ticket sales from the evening do not allow a cast as large as they currently have and the audience will have to fire some of the actors. During this scene the actors are auditioning for the audience, trying to convince them that they should not be fired.
If you ever have the chance to see this piece…go, go, go! And dig deep and do not pay WHAT you can pay AS MUCH AS YOU CAN!