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One Minute Warning

L’Orchestre symphonique de l’Isle, Voyages Lointains, Salle Oscar Peterson, 18 March 2023

There is something inherently spooky about the concurrent rise of fandom culture and artificial intelligence, like a chicken-or-the-egg kind of conundrum. Which came first: groups of people who behaved algorithmically, or groups of algorithms that behaved humanly?

Microsoft should just go all-in and develop an AI chatbot so that Star Wars and Marvel Universe geeks can geek out endlessly about which light sabre Darth Douchebag used in episode LXVI of the Andromeda Chronicles. Or whatever. That’s a job made by bots, for bots.

My favourite critic, Roger Ebert, despised fandom.

Jessica Moss with Novarumori, La Sala Rossa, 16 April 2023

The Yale School of Management is doing an excellent job tending a list of big companies keeping their promises by breaking ties with Russia. The CBC and IMAX are among the Canadian businesses that Yale has granted an ‘A’ rating for unconditionally suspending all Russian operations. Still, many more companies have received a ‘B’ for pulling out of the Great White North of the East, but leaving the door open just a crack to return. One day, there will be no war, the logic goes, thus no need for sanctions. And why not be first in line when peace is declared?

Companies on the ‘B’ list include Canada Goose, Bombardier, and everybody’s favourite billionaire-owned dep chain, Alimentation Couche-Tard. Thankfully there are no Canuck companies that received a failing ‘F’ grade, but on the ‘D’ list is the Calgary-headquartered Calfrac Well Services — you guessed it, an Albertan oil company. Go figure that the fossil fuel industry acts with impunity, even in the face of genocide.

McDonalds was one of the first major corporations to pull up stakes at the beginning of the invasion, leaving behind 32 years of Big Macoffs and McFlurryskis. As for any Moskals hoping for a batch of home fries as consolation, tough luck mother suckers. McCain yanked operations, too.

Margaret Atwood, Blue Metropolis Festival, St. James United Church, 17 April 2023

Puddles still dotted the sidewalks but the day’s light rain had largely subsided when I approached St. James United Church for Margaret Atwood’s Q&A, the inaugural event of the Blue Metropolis literary festival. Although it was nearly fifteen minutes to 7pm, there was still a sizable lineup snaking its way out the door westbound and back eastward up St. Catherine Street. I wondered how everyone was going to get inside as I took my place at the end of it and waited dutifully.

We inched rhythmically forth and I realized that this was the lineup for ticket buyers, most of whom would be turned away. Ticket holders like myself could enter at our leisure. And I did — only to envy those fortunate few who would never make it into the event.

Even though I had just stepped inside a functioning church, it felt as if I’d descended to some hellish hell of a hellscape. The walls of the underworld came crashing all the way down and a flock of flying monkeys flapped about the upper rafters periodically attacking members of the congregation beneath with their razorlike talons. Throngs of fervid Atwood fans sporting Atwood tattoos and Atwood piercings rushed the stage, crushing a number of small children to death in the melee. One blue-haired lady — whom I had at first mistaken for Atwood herself, but turned out only to be her body double — was busy feasting upon a bloody stump of the child’s fattiest limb. The scene terrified me so, but I stood fast to document the carnage.

At a quarter to eight, as the audience’s frenzy crescendoed, Atwood at last took the pulpit and wasted no time before summoning Beelzebub’s most despicable demons to the rabid crowd’s unqualified delight. The lights went out and a fan of green lasers pierced dense smoke as pyrotechnics were deployed that would make a Metallica concert look like sprinklers on a toddler’s birthday cake. Subaudible frequencies of Skrillex-esque post-dubstep shook the building’s foundation. Then, Atwood’s voice came roaring from an enormous sound system: “WASSUP WASSUP WASSUP!”

At first flakes and then chunks of alabaster rained down upon the lower decks as the balconies separated from the structure and collapsed, tossing torsos like ragdolls into a pit of mangled flesh below. 33 people died and nine with non-life threatening injuries would have survived had their helicopter ambulance not crashed en route into the Notre-Dame Cathedral killing 14 more unsuspecting bystanders.

I guess that hackneyed old saying holds true: you can’t have a Margaret Atwood Q&A without a ritual sacrifice.

The 25th edition of the Blue Metropolis Literary Festival runs 27-30 April.

An Laurence 安媛, Do you have a minute?, La Chapelle | Scènes Contemporaines, 19 April 2023

I have noticed that the word ‘minute’ has replace ‘awhile’ in conversation as a measurement of time. In the not-too-distant past, one might have said, ‘hey, I haven’t seen you in awhile!’ Whereas now, people, especially today’s youth, are more often heard to remark, ‘hey, it’s been a minute since I’ve seen you!’

One of my favourite answers to this question comes from The Larry Sanders Show in which Artie, the hardnosed TV producer Rip Torn portrays is asked by Phil, the snotnosed little writer, if he has a minute. Artie replies, “I have exactly two minutes, Phil. You may have one of them.” I am so pleased to have made time for An Laurence’s provocative and moving performance. There will be more minutes where that one came from.

Read the NicheMTL interview with An Laurence安媛 here.

Zwan, Queen Elizabeth Theatre, Vancouver, BC, 25 April 2003

Good God in heaven, it must be 20 years since I took my then-girlfriend on a weekend trip to Vancouver to see Billy Corgan’s new band, Zwan — or, as I like to call them, the never-ending buildup that never began. Is it possible that Melissa Auf der Maur was playing bass with Zwan at the time? I distinctly remember trying to keep my eyes on Corgan’s big bald head rather than the stems sticking out from a too short pair of lipstick red short shorts. Those weren’t artificial.◼︎