Category Archives: interviews
- “Would you strike your father?” “Would you hang your son?” Photo by Elizabeth Sawatzky
From the CBC website:
“The Fundy Fringe Festival Opened This Week”
Evan Andrew Mackay is a playwright and actor who’s home from Toronto to stage his new play Father Hero, Traitor Son.
What’s the news?
If you had wanted to know what dirty deals Conrad Black was up to a decade ago, would you have wanted to rely on information from a newspaper he owned (National Post – Canada, The Daily Telegraph – UK, Chicago Sun Times – US, Jerusalem Post – Israel, and hundreds of community newspapers in North America)? That’s what you do when you believe the daily headlines and the evening news. The vast majority of the “news” we are marinating in is owned by five corporations, one of which is Disney. Does it make sense to get your news from Disneyland? Not that every word is a lie; even the devil sometimes speaks the truth. But one is advised to seek better sources.
On the weekend I had the privilege of speaking with Jeff Cohen, journalist, media critic, and founder of Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR). (He will be familiar to those who have seen Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism.) Cohen was in town for Hot Docs, the documentary film festival, for the world premiere of a documentary in which he appears, Shadows of Liberty. This stylish and important film, written, directed and produced by UK-based expat Quebecer Jean-Philippe Tremblay, takes its title from Thomas Paine
“When men yield up the privilege of thinking, the last shadow of liberty quits the horizon.”
Evan: When “the news” is filled with celebrity scandals and sports, what does the word “news” even mean any more?
Cohen: News is changing in so many ways. It’s shrunk in terms of how much of it is about information we need [in order] to be informed citizens in a democracy. In [the US], one of the few bright spots that really has people thinking more critically is Jon Stewart’s Daily Show and Colbert Report. It does the kind of feisty reporting that news is supposed to do. In my country, you can’t say that stuff unless you’re a comedian. Since they don’t pretend to be journalists, they can get away with journalism.
What effect will Shadows of Liberty have on audiences, and what can they do?
I think they will walk out saying “I can’t trust corporate news.” I think that’s the first thing. A lot of people in the movie have organizations and websites. Amy Goodman hosts Democracy Now!. John Nichols writes for The Nation. Hopefully people will leave the movie critical, not trusting, and they’ll search the internet. And as long as we maintain a free internet, they’ll be able to find alternatives, and those alternatives will keep growing if we can protect the internet.
Read more of what I heard from the director and Cohen at http://www.postcity.com/Eat-Shop-Do/Do/May-2012/Hot-docs-interview-why-you-shouldnt-believe-anything-you-read/
And for another spectacular example of corporate control of media, see what happens to Fredrik Gertten when dares to make a documentary about food conglomerate Dole. http://www.bigboysgonebananas.com/
My interview with that filmmaker will appear next week. [Now available http://www.postcity.com/Eat-Shop-Do/Do/May-2012/Now-playing-Indie-filmmaker-Fredrik-Gertten-takes-on-food-giant-Dole-He-tells-us-why/ Also see GoodEvaning post “Drop That Banana!”]
Just as Marina Nemat and director Maja Ardal had to be selective when adapting Nemat’s astonishing memoir Prisoner of Tehran for the stage, so did I have to be selective in adapting a half-hour interview with the author and human rights activist to a brief online Q&A format.
One point I wasn’t able to include was part of Nemat’s response to my question about how she can balance addressing the wrongs committed in Iran against the misconceptions and general negativity many North Americans may harbour about Iran. She said,
“The world is talking about Iran having a nuclear bomb? …The people of Iran have not been losing their children to the nuclear program; they have been losing their children to the terrible disregard for human rights in that country. …the problem of Iran is the struggle for human rights, and it is hurting the Iranian people more than it is hurting anybody.”
She also spoke about the role of the arts in addressing human rights issues. She spoke of how theatre, painting, and so on, shed light on the shades between black and white that are see in the media. “CNN and the news fail to introduce the human side of the story. And this play and [my] books and talks try to put a human face to this very difficult situation.”
Please read what did make it into the published interview here:
Not at the same time, obviously. Jann Arden is much too busy these days to chat with extraterrestrial lifeforms, intelligence notwithstanding.
Jann Arden is more fun than a barrel of monkeys, and sings better too. She comes across as wise and youthful in equal measure.
What has she been up to recently? What hasn’t she been up to! A live CD/DVD Spotlight, a new book Falling Backwards: A Memoir, her radio show Being Jann, and for the last six weeks of summer she brings reality to TV on Canada Sings!.
Jann is on the panel of “judges”, although they are more like witnesses, alongside Montrealer Pierre Bouvier of Simple Plan, and Robert “Vanilla Ice” Van Winkle (you know you’ve been missing him).
Here’s a taste of what she had to say to me last week at the Pantages Hotel in Toronto:
On Canada Sings [Arden playfully sings an A natural], did you want to be the mean judge with the accent?
Yeah, wouldn’t that have been easy. You know, when they made me the offer I thought, “I don’t want to do this.” But my manager said, “It’s not what you think. It’s not 100 kids that want to be flown to Vegas to be famous and get a record deal.” These are people that want to earn money for their charity. These are people that don’t typically sing and dance. These are firemen, teachers, zookeepers, truck drivers. What a cool concept! Everybody wins. Not a record contract, but a nice chunk of money for the charity of their choice. Plus, they have this experience that takes them over the course of a few weeks, working with vocal coaches and choreographers, and they get to be in the spotlight on a national TV show, singing and dancing in a production that is as good as anything I’ve seen on Broadway. And I am not kidding you; nobody sucks! Nobody!
Are you concerned one of these groups of ordinary working Canadians might do so well that they quit their day jobs and leave a hospital or something without a staff?
I would be thrilled if that happened…
Oooh, cliffhanger! Read on at Post City “Q&A with Jann Arden: Juno Award winner, author and celebrity judge on Canada Sings“.
Whereas Jann Arden is completely down to Earth, the subject of Getting Over the Alien Language Barrier is the contrary. I’ve taken my obsession with languages to new heights. AE the Canadian Science Fiction Review had the vision to publish what I had to say, and everyone else is part of the government coverup. It starts like this:
You never know when it’s going to happen. A flying saucer pulled off the side of the highway with the hood up, alien waving a tentacle wielding what could be a sparkplug, a cellphone or a ray gun and shouting, “Znelflgjpd knorb zlothkpmzus!” How would you respond? You’ve hit the alien language barrier. With NASA’s Kepler telescope spotting potentially habitable planets by the dozen outside our solar system, it may be time for us to start brushing up on our extraterrestrial language skills, or get ready to tutor E.T. in Earthish as a Second Language.
Leave comments here,
leave comments there,
leave comments everywhere,
in any language,
in any medium.
To have a book selected for a “One Book” community read, where the whole city or town is encouraged to read and discuss the same book, honours a writer even more than winning a contest because, as Judy Fong Bates told me, when the community chooses, “it’s not books from a particular year or genre. It is overwhelming considering how much they have to choose from.” Unlike many books that are singled out with grand awards or other attention, I found this book and this author entirely deserving of notice. I have the One Book campaign to thank for making me notice.
EAM: Why is reading important?
JFB: Oh, to me that’s so obvious. I just feel that reading should be part of one’s lifeblood. Don’t you?
EAM: Certainly I do, but what would you impress upon the people who need to be reminded to read?
JFB: When I think of reading, I think of stories. Stories tell us who we are. Stories expand our horizons. They take us into places we might not ever think of going. I mean, on that more profound level, they make us look at things from new angles and they add depth to our lives, but in another way it’s also fun!
For more new angles, depth and fun, keep reading, at www.postcity.com
Since 2008, I have been attending talks by Sawyer in Moncton, Montreal and Toronto, on a range of topics covering writing, publishing, science and philosophy.
I recently interviewed him for the second time. The first time was at the beginning of his WWW trilogy about the World Wide Web spontaneously becoming self-aware; this time his trilogy is concluded. Please read my article Here Comes My Big Brother: Robert J. Sawyer’s Wonder posted at AE The Canadian Science Fiction Review
or for a very abbreviated version of the interview please read http://www.postcity.com/Eat-Shop-Do/Do/March-2011/Wonder-lust-Robert-J-Sawyer-launches-his-latest-novel/ at www.PostCity.com (where you may encounter more of my writings).
You might know who “Beverley” Leslie Jordan is, even if you don’t know you know him. The 55-year-old comedic actor steals scenes on stage, film, and television (best known as “Beverley Leslie”, nemesis of Karen Walker on Will & Grace). He flies into Toronto tomorrow for one night to perform a one-man show tailored to the audience, a fundraiser for the CLGA. In honour of Jordan’s Boston Legal co-star William Shatner and last night’s “Genies“, here is part of the interview:
You’ve worked with William Shatner. Can you name the awards show he’s hosting?
What is it?
Like the Canadian version of the Oscars.
Wow! Is William Shatner Canadian? I enjoyed working with him. I like him. He’s funny.
Would you ever want to host the Oscars, or would it be easier just to win one?
Oh Gosh! I don’t want to host one, I don’t want to win one, I don’t want to be nominated for one. I went to the Emmys once. It was the most nerve wracking thing. It was torture. I mean, you’re not going to get any sympathy: “I had to go to the Emmys and I won. Poor me!” But I’m telling you, at one point I thought I was having a heart attack.
Will there come a time when being gay is as widely accepted as being left-handed, and what would it take to get there?
I can’t believe you just said that! I’ve always said that I would love for a parent to say, “I think my child is going to turn out gay” the way you say, “I think my child is going to be left-handed.” Not so much with pride or shame, just that it is.
There is no vindaloo in your first book Vij’s: Elegant and Inspired Indian Cuisine. Did you just run out of room?
[Laughs] You’ll never find that. You’ll never find butter chicken either…Why would I do vindaloo or chicken tikka masala or chicken korma? That’s like if someone opens a North American restaurant in India, a pancake restaurant, and then everyone thinks all that North Americans eat is pancakes. Unfortunately, many Indian restaurants have almost the same menu. But if you go into Indian homes, people always use different flavours and make different dishes. And that’s the beautiful thing about our cooking. We have the largest “democracy of food”; you can do whatever the hell you want and get away with it!
More coming at PostCity.com.
At the Centre for Inquiry’s “The Great Extraterrestrial Debate” at U of T last Friday, Dr. Seth Shostak, senior astronomer at the SETI Institute (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) told us what to expect when we finally encounter E.T., which he wagers a cup of “Tim, what is it, Hortons coffee” will happen in the next few decades.
Given the billions of potentially life-supporting planets in our galaxy alone, Shostak takes it as a given that we’re not alone. But a signal traveling at the speed of light may take thousands of years each way. By the time we get word from another civilization, the senders may have been extinct for millennia.
So when we finally get a signal, what will E.T. be saying?
Read the rest at Post City!