Saturday, 23 February 2013

Nightmare Dream at Campbell House

Campbell House is an 1822 Palladian Style Georgian residence that represents the height of colonial rule in Canada. Built one decade after the War of 1812 it represented England’s last successful attempt to maintain their Colonial interests in North America.

Nearly two centuries later, 25 patrons crowd into Campbell House`s grand entrance hall, reading their programs and making small talk. Tickets are taken and coats are hung. There are way too many backpacks. The director Mumbi Tindyebwa Otu is taking time to meet the audience and share a few words as we await the opening. We are all wondering - "How will we know when Nightmare Dream has started?"

A thunderous crash answers that question. Simon Dube (Peter Bailey) begins descending the spiral Grand staircase, trailing a long train of sheer silk. Dube begins a bureaucratic outline of an African Studies course that degenerates into a hostile dialogue with a group of sophomore students. The spirit of humor of the production is immediately evident. Barking the reading list to the class, Dube rhymes off a long list of important tomes on African cultural and colonial history. All of which are written by writers with clearly European names. Not the wittiest conceit, but one that is necessary to establish the thesis of what will develop into a sprawling work about the post-colonial African Diaspora...

Dube struts down the stairs and disappears. We follow and find ourselves sharing a basement chamber with  Dube, a dancing shaman, and a corpse. The scene is without material dialogue, and consists largely of the shaman dancing around the pallet holding the corpse. The dance is spectacular. Physical. Visceral. Taut. But then anyone who has seen Pulga Muchochoma since he arrived in Canada in 2006 expects no less.

The shaman's dancing is effective, and the corpse begins to move under the shroud. However the dancing shaman has transformed into a spirit animal, and Dube is holding a machete. There is a quick flash of the blade, and the spirit animal has been despatched into another realm.

We are led into the Dining Hall, and are presented a rather predictable discourse with a plantation owner, played by Joshua Browne, with Dube as apparently a shipping magnate (of the cargo of slaves, of course) and the serving girl going through a rather tepid complaint about the horrors of slavery. Which is one paragraph long and which she repeats many, many times. It may just be that 18th and 19th century slave trade is so horrific that its simplest facts are all that`s needed.

We are grateful when Dube leads us to his audience with "Queen B", a thinly disguised Queen of England (Jane Miller). Here the story point is how a colonial nation negotiates its independence. Incredibly, author “Motion” and director Tindyebwa Otu stage the scene as an alluded fornication. So the taboo allure of interracial copulation provides the machinations by which Dube will negotiate the independence of his nation. Here are a random list of scene details which show the incredible artistry of the entire production.

  • The sheer silk train has now become a scroll, which represents the treaty under negotiation. (It has appeared in many of the other scenes – it's practically a character in itself)
  • At one point the Queen is climbing over Dube like a jungle gym and he is shouting that she must release him. But she isn't holding on to him at all. It is he, holding on to her. Demonstrating that his colonial status is as much mindset as Magna Carta
  • And this is the perfect scene to acknowledge sound designer Thomas Ryder Payne. The underscore here is the engine that drives the scene.

Now we move to another Great Room – and are finally in Africa! Dube is now the leader of the liberation government, and is making a speech to a heard but unseen stadium of now freed citizens. (more of Thomas Ryder Payne's soundscaping). In counterpoint is Neema Bickersteth, robed as a noble and singing a ballad unknown to me in her beautiful operatic voice. The Queen and the plantation owner/slaver are also present, demanding their take of the new nation's money.

This scene represents the creative team firing on all cylinders. The pressures on Dube of his new office, the expectations of a newly liberated nation, the ties to old regimes that must be re-booted represent complex contradiction that make for challenging storytelling. Here, Motion and Mumbi Tindyebwa Otu bring us all the contradiction with no platitudes. Very skillful handling that is full of human truth. Once again Pulga Muchochoma ties the scene together with his athletic and allegorical dance.

An entirely electrifying work of theater.

Conceived and directed by Mumbi Tindyebwa Otu
Written by Motion
Featuring: Peter Bailey, Jane Miller, Pulga Muchochoma, Joshua Browne and Neema Bickersteth
Sound Design: Thomas Ryder Payne
Production Design: Snezana Pesic
Stage Manager: Jessica Derventzis
Assistant Stage Manager: Anna Plugina

Produced by IFT Theatre in Association with Newface Entertainment.

Disclosure- David Crawford, Newface entertainment producer, is a work colleague. He still makes me pay for my own tickets.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

The elephant in the Twitterverse

What keeps large corporations out of the social media space? Because the elephant in the room is -
  • C-Suite still doesn't believe there's any money to be made
  • If something goes viral, you lose control
  • And if it goes viral because you offend hundreds of thousands of people in the Twitterverse, heads will roll.
Well guess what - Canada's Financial Post is reporting that ING, the unmortgage financial powerhouse of the 1990s, has just had every corporations' worse nightmare occur.

Quoting "In early January 2013, ING Direct Canada put into market a new TV commercial to promote its RSP and TFSA products in advance of RSP season. The commercial depicted a clearly stressed out man who viewers soon discover was helped by his wife taking him to ING. It didn’t take long for consumers — who interpreted the ad as making light of symptoms often associated with mental illness — to voice their indignation through social media channels, including direct communication with ING Canada CEO Peter Aceto. The backlash forced the bank to decide whether to do away with the ads during a critical promotional period or sacrifice some of the brand equity it had earned among consumers by keeping the ads on air. "

Read the full story here: How ING Canada prevented a social media 'issue' from becoming a full-blown PR crisis

Not entirely incidentally, ING has just been M&A'd and is now a teeny pimple at Canada's financial powerhouse Scotiabank. Guess they're gonna need a bigger ad agency!

Full disclosure- I am an ING bank customer and that is my promocode ad on the far right Nav. Sign up and get a $25.00 dollars bonus. And so will I.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

God Save the Queen - Top Ten ways to dispose of the British Monarchy

For some reason the resignation of Pope Benedict has caused me to ponder the question of when we will be rid of that other aged Queen – Elizabeth Regina.

Currently the only value to the British people of their constitutional monarch is that it brings tourists to Buck House to watch the horse show. Also she is sentimentally popular with elderly types who can be described as "monarchists".

If I were the Prime Minister, what would I do to eradicate the monarchy? Well, nothing until the sad day Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth ascends to heaven. She is the fourth most powerful political figure in the world, and is entirely beloved by her people in large parts of the United Kingdom. However, when Charles, the Prince of Wales, ascends to the throne...

  1. Cease to attend the weekly meetings at Buck House. In fact, not only would I, the PM, not go, I would send the most trivial and impotent staffer in my place. They would make a few notes, and give me a memo on what His Maj rambled on about that I would file vertically.
  1. Just say No. The PM should refuse to accept the next Heir as Monarch. Ignore them as a head-of-state. Lavish attention on the Parliament's choice of Heir. This would be wicked fun if the choice was to ignore Charles and foster the spotlight on Kate and King Will. Although anyone of royal bloodline would do. In fact, one could really rub their noses in it by anointing some minor member of the Deutsch Saxe-Coburg-Gotha clan. Hubertus, Alexaner, Gabriel, Emmanuel & Nicholas are all available.

    There is precedence for this. In 1936 British Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin counselled the Prince of Wales that he could not continue as Edward VIII, forcing him to resign and accept the title The Duke of Windsor. Baldwin's argument was that he could not have married the divorced American Wallis Simpson. Let us note that the current Prince of Wales has married a divorcée with a surviving husband - Baldwin totally bluffed the Duke. So this is all "too bad, so sad" for the late Edward VIII. How is it relevant here? Simple - instead of the King appointing a Prime Minister, this marks the first time a Prime Minister appointed a King.
  1. The next development is that Prince Charles would appear at the opening of Parliament to read the Throne Speech. That ritual includes a vestigial and symbolic protest where the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod and the Speaker of the House engage in a symbolic ritual that hectors the Royal before allowing passage. So it would be a trivial matter for the Speaker of the House to hector the Royal before DENYING them passage. And then King Will is admitted and he reads the speech. THAT would send a message, and is entirely constitutional. And, in fact, holds precedent. Meaning it can't be challenged.

    However, the House of Lords, by definition would be problematic. They would have no option other than supporting the hereditary Monarch (Charles). This would create an interesting acceleration to the disestablishment of the Monarchy, as this body of non-elected elites would have to chose between:
    • Opposing the will of the government of the day (and therefore all the citizens of England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, et al)
    • Keep their yaps shut and do whatever the government tells them to do
  2. Now the ruling houses of Britain are split. Charles Regis-non-grata is ensconced at Buck House, and King William and his lovely wife and heir-provider Kate are running a second court. What resources does the Regis-non-grata have? Well, Charles Rex-non-grata is still head of the Church of England. So he could attempt some form of takeover using the clergy and his pastoral flock. Good luck with that
  3. Un-Royal the Military. His or Her Majesty is the head of many, many, many regiments of Army, Air Force, and Navy. This means She or He could order the Military to effect a coup, removing the Prime Minister and replacing them with a royal sock puppet. As it happens no senior Admiral, General or Supreme would go along with this. To ensure this option is not possible, the PM will need to pass a motion un-Royalling the Military. For best results I suggest unifying the military under one command. Canada did this. The advantage of this approach is that the Supremos then spend all their time fighting territory battles with each other, and never coalesce into a force that will attack the government.
  4. Parliament waives the Monarchy's tax-exempt status. The Monarchy in toto brings in £1 billion per annum. They pay tax on about 25% of that.
  5. According to the plan I propose, by now a "neutered" King Charles is no longer a monarch of anything in Britain, but still holds dominion in Ireland, Scotland and Wales, the Isles of Man and the Channel Islands. And, as blogger Rory M notes "Commonwealth realms by which the Monarch is represented by a Governor-General: Australia, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Bahamas, Canada, Grenada, New Zealand (Incl. Cook Islands, Niue), Tuvalu, Jamaica, Papua New Guinea, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Christopher and Nevis, Salomon Islands." It will be the problem of each of these nation-states to handle the disestablishment of the Monarchy on their own.
  6. Step One has been achieved- the Civil List ends this year. A savings of £ 41.5 million pounds sterling. Now the monarchy must fund itself.
  7. In the final step to disestablishment of the Monarchy, the political party will have to run on a platform with a specific plank to do so, and then get elected. I see that as being 100 years off.
  8. Finally, I leave the ultimate mayhem to blogger "capitalgentleman" "Well, there is: it was done before, with Charles I. He was beheaded during the Civil War, and Oliver Cromwell took over as "Lord Protector"." Ouch.

Viewers of "The King's Speech" will know that, in Britain, this article could be interpreted as treasonous. However, since constitutional practice in the UK is based on tradition and precedent rather than a written set of rules, I have taken every caution to propose only steps which have precedence or which do not require a contradiction of constitutional practice.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Why do Canadians put so much of their retirement savings in mutual funds?

David Pett has just written a great article in the Financial Post questioning the value of holding mutual funds in your RRSP. I find Mr Pett totally on-point, largely because his comments  exactly correlate to my own blog post of Oct 2012 listing the  Top Ten reasons not to have Canadian Mutual Funds in your RRSP

Largely the issues remain:

  • High management fees (MER)
  • Poor management performance
  • Weak stock market (since 2008)
  • Lack of investment alternatives (poor bond and GIC performance)

Canadians deserve better. After taking a 700 hundred billion dollar haircut in 2008, their ever-nearing retirement lifestyles are in jeopardy due to a lethargic mutual fund management industry.

From the Financial Post:  Mutual funds still popular with Canadians, but why?

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Random Conspiracy Theory Generator

Verified Facts is a random conspiracy theory generator that mashes up the names of high-profile organizations with the "truths" "they" don't want you to know about.

Here's a sample:
The Truth About The FBI
Satellite photography indicates that the FBI is building a vast military base under Chernobyl.

According to the FBI documents recently obtained using the Freedom of Information Act, if you "like" "diversity" on Facebook, you are automatically added to a watchlist that contains "dissidents and other undesirables."

Then you hit "refresh" in your browser and up comes another, equally plausible conspiracy.

Source: Verified Facts

Tip o' the tinfoil-lined hat to Boing Boing.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

World Cancer Day

World Cancer Day will be observed by millions of people in myriad ways. For me it comes only 2 weeks after the 1st Anniversary of my being cured of stage 3 oropharyngeal cancer. Here I reblog the posts that described my journey.

Paging Dr Zoidberg

I am cured of cancer

My cancer anniversary

And for those who are not on this journey, and want to prevent it if possible, an excellent blog posting from the Zoomer website - Foods that prevent cancer