Wednesday, January 20, 2010


A note that today is the birthday of my favourite original Star Trek actor, DeForest Kelley, aka Doctor Leonard McCoy.

I love McCoy as the cantankerous ship surgeon on the infamous five year mission of the USS Enterprise not because of his likability or valour in the face of danger, but the fact that space was his greatest enemy. He hated the transporter and the troubles that were inherent to the extensive use of technology surrounding him. While being an exceptional friend to Captain Kirk from their college years in Starfleet Academy, McCoy somehow remained a simple southern boy (not unlike Kelley's true Georgian roots) in a fast-paced future reality. He had simple pleasures (from what I understand, mostly liquor) and a love of beautiful women (who somehow preferred Mr. Spock over him, consistently, through three seasons of the show). His griping about everything that made him angry was a true show of his passion, a quality which constantly reminded the good Captain of the human factor inherent to any mission or conundrum the crew faced.

It's easy for actors in iconic roles to remain immortalized in their feature role, but real fans of his know he can be found in 20 years worth of cowboy shoot 'em ups of the 1940's and 1950's before he ever stepped foot onto a spaceship.

DeForest Kelley's southern drawl somehow always emerged in his character, despite his best efforts to iron it out during his early days in Hollywood. My favourite Star Trek game to play is listening to which vowels Dr. McCoy let's go limp through the course of an episode, letting a "y'ahll" or "dahmn" slip out. Truly a guilty genteel smile shines from his face every time.

It would be Mr. Kelley's 90th birthday.

[/The End <3]

Friday, January 15, 2010

In The Chamber (of desolate analysis and renouncing)

While both plays in the Theatre Projects Manitoba production of In The Chamber 2010 were complicated depictions of the muddled, bureaucratic human condition at it's most stunted and volatile, their scripts discussed the nature of risk; both took a gamble and only one section emerged the victor over it's own weighty jargon and the sentiment lost in it.

Gordon Tanner's self written monologue puts his character at the moment he begins to record a video in motel room, in anticipation that Warren Buffett may receive it and understand his reason for not presenting the Power Point presentation he had crafted for an agricultural conference. Tanner's character's explains his rationale as it dictates that Buffett is by proxy his boss through a long convoluted chain of hierarchy, setting the frazzled tone for the entire speech.

Through his retelling of his involvement in the examination of a massive Cremorna hog barn fire, Tanner's character reveals his own disillusionment with his life and the lack of personal risk he has taken. Breaking down the Human Assessment Factor involved in his job, the character attempts to keep the industry terms to a minimum and instead tries to explain his revelation that regardless of there being no human influence in the starting of the fire he feels that the industry's low standards and the appalling living conditions of the pigs are to blame.

The ineffectiveness of the bureaucratic feedback loop and the innocence of well-known 'It seemed like a good idea at the time' thinking are highlighted in Tanner's tortured yet humorous rant and well integrated into the Power Point with the usage of long pauses after the delivery of the devastating highlights of the hog fire. It helps conjure an effective emotional response to the issue at hand without being "preachy" like a PETA speech, making Tanner's character's pitiful efforts to explain his sudden change of heart seem more rational than the second half of the two-part production.

In the second installment of In The Chamber, Steven Ratzlaff's performs his piece set at the 'retirement' party for a 50-something "gangly, repressed, Mennonite" Winnipeg Health Science Centre employee who has recently quit his job. He is surrounded by a small group of friends who are forced to listen to his long winded speech he presents impromptu, encompassing his new found efforts to capitalize on his new Costa Rica cottage by investing in the less-than-moral sounding sex and medical trades and his hatred of the Canadian health care system as it contributed to his own personal moral disillusion and the death of his infant son. Neither issue is dealt with with great emotion, but instead a callousness which causes each of his friends (represented in a very minimalist way by balloons tied to chairs) to leave as they become disenchanted with the subject matter.

The health care system is viewed as an all-consuming force which contradictorily provided his livelihood as a policy drone and was the cause of the death of his son lovingly referred to as Manolo, who was a casualty of the 1994 investigation into pediatric heart surgeries and human error involved resulting in 14 deaths. Even after the court case and his inevitable (and perceptively cold) disassociation from his wife as she changed from strong suffering victim of the Chilean Pinochet regime to what he saw as a woman embittered, he was still able to become a tool of the human factor analysis process and take from the fruits provided in vacation time and pay raises.

As a self proclaimed "service industry Baby Boomer", he participated in work he no longer believed in and took advantage of opportunities which directly exploited others like his pending investment in Puntarenas medical and sex tourism. Ratzlaff's character becomes so bogged down in such self loathing behaviours and rants that his parasitic lifestyle can either paint him as a victim of the system's corruption or an incredibly unlikable character of his own demise.

Ratzlaff's dialogue becomes arrogant and his own personal liturgy on the specifics of the case, using jargon only someone in his department doing his job could understand, caused much of the audience to lose interest in the sentiment behind it. As a result, Tanner's rendition of personal struggle is more convincing and enjoyable.

Both plays were sprinkled with an adequate amount of swearing. The copious amount the phrase 'F-ck up' was surprisingly accurate for the content and how often awful mistakes in the personal lives of characters were discussed. Local, small scale theater at it's most edgy and obscure.


On a personal opinion, I would like to add that with all of the discussion we've had in class recently about a target audience for all material you are hoping to sell to listeners/watchers/readers, I believe that In The Chamber was not targeted at 18-30 year old Creative Communications students who have most likely not been involved in the situations presented in both parts of the production. As a result, I believe that both productions were not enjoyed as much as another play covering the same type of themes may have been by the portion of the audience coming from Red River College. It would be interesting to see the impressions other audience members (who from a first glance appeared to be more middle-aged than not) had during the show, but from what I can discern of the CreComm audience In The Chamber was not well received.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Creative Writing: Magazine Post

I would like to make the claim that my Christmas Break was perhaps the best Christmas break I’ve ever had, as it was filled with much merriment and well-rested days watching reruns of The Golden Girls and working my way through Season 3 of Star Trek: The Next Generation. (Thank you Levar Burton, for providing me with endless Reading Rainbow jokes for a month. I love you dearly.)

Now that the second semester of Creative Communications is in full swing, my mental faculties are being tested to the brink by our magazine project which encompasses all of the skills and classes we are taking.

Seeing as the overall tone and theme of the magazine is decided first, I assumed it would be easy enough to concoct a concept that everyone would enjoy writing about and working on for the next few months. I’ll admit that I had little to no experience with magazines; I enjoy Maclean’s as much as the next Canadian, but have only ever been regularly exposed to editions of More magazine and Elle Canada. Living with your Mother as well as your Grandmother makes reading materials very specific and very filled so with L’Oreal cream samples. (Actually, I wish more magazines still came with samples. When I go out on the town and someone asks me what my fragrance is I like to be able to say “Eau Du Tear-Out”)

When we submitted our initial idea, it was rejected. The audience was too broad, even though we had written the proposal with a target audience in mind. The second time we submitted an idea, we were asked to more clearly lay out how we would circulate our publication, why people would be drawn to our concept and become readers, as well as what potential revenue streams we would garner.

Coming up with the basic concept for a magazine had taken a complicated turn I had not been expecting.

Regardless, mocking up a proposal made our memo (a more specific break down of all of the components that would be needed to get a magazine approved and published) that much easier to complete. Any CreComm student who recently completed the memo will attest that it was hard to be so specific in so many areas but it was easy enough to understand why such information would be required.

I quickly came to understood the main components when we were asked to pipe into the cookie cutter mould that is the magazine project; advertisements must be constructed and potential businesses that would be obvious choices for our marketing strategy decided. The article ideas have to be brainstormed and sections have to be divvyed up. The target audience must be presented in a direct way.

My group’s magazine will consist of many do-it-yourself suggestions regarding how to live your life more sustainably and contribute to the overall reduction of human impacts on the earth. It will include a home section profiling eco-friendly cleaning products, houses in Winnipeg which have been certified by various eco-organizations as environmentally sound (for example, the use of geothermal heating), and profiles of individuals who have changed the way they’re living to be more environmentally sustainable. One section will focus on global and local environmental policy and how it effects readers in their everyday life as well as interviews with change makers in the area of eco-politics. Our fashion and beauty section will talk about how to make your beauty routine more organic as well as showcase a feature article on how locally made clothing and refitted clothing can reduce your budget and help to reduce unfair labour in foreign countries.

My individual contribution to the magazine will be doing the majority of our layout as well as writing a journal as I try to become more environmentally sustainable from the ground floor up. I am hoping that my journey will both provide instruction for others on what books are helpful, what stores are helpful in obtaining eco-friendly food, cleaning products and other resources, and recipes using organic produce. It will surely be filled with misadventures and comical instances in which I fail miserably at cooking, but provide better instruction on how the readers can succeed at being more environmentally friendly in their everyday activities.

I’m looking forward to the completion of the project, not so we can move on to other assignments but because I can’t wait to see the final result. I’m sure that other groups who are just as passionate and interested in their topics are anxious to pull it all together and see their magazine as a whole, filled with their content and efforts.

Here’s to hearty success for each group.

McNally Robinson’s shelves, here we come!