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Posted by Shannon

Gawker posted the hilarious email anonymously, and it might have all ended after a day or so of snickering and reposting, had the Delta Gammas not demanded their good name be cleared. Loudly. On their (open) Facebook page. 
“Someone has to get this taken down,” they said, as if they’d never heard of the term gone viral.  “It’s very embarrassing for us.” 
Then they went on to publish many amusing details that Gawker was too discreet to run about the University of Maryland chapter, Becca’s role in it, and dozens of other things. All of which made it easy for the interwebs to track down Rebecca Martinson, her photos, and her Twitter account. Sadly, that has been deleted. As many readers have noticed, she really does have a way with words. A psychotic, potty-mouthed way, but still. 
The Greeks sent messengers all over cyberspace and suddenly the story was bouncing around like braless Double Ds, much to the horror of the innocents of DG. Curiously, they seemed to have no idea they were driving it. So their president stepped up and sent an officious note to Gawker, requesting that the names Delta Gamma and Sigma Nu (the boys’ club) be removed for the post because, really, that email “absolutely did not reflect their values.” 
Hilarity ensued. 
Apparently they think the internet is like a corkboard on which someone placed the email, behind a locked glass door. Naturally, given their specialness, all they had to do was send a note to the proper authorities and it would be removed, discreetly. 
It’s not quite clear how anyone born after 1980 might think this, but I guess that’s what they mean when they say they’re traditional. Or maybe it’s all just a publicity stunt for a soon-to-be-announced reality TV show, C**T PUNT! featuring the LITERALLY  fucking AWKWARD girls of DG. 
Certainly Becca is just the sort of comic idiot beloved of reality TV producers. And if their online chats are any indication, there’s a rich vein of corruption and stupidity to be mined at Delta Gamma. So really, the cyber naifs should stop whinging and give snaps for the opportunities granted by the sorority that also gave the world Ann Coulter
 
http://gawker.com/5994974/the-most-deranged-sorority-girl-email-you-will-ever-read
http://jezebel.com/tweets-from-the-deranged-sorority-girls-deleted-twitte-476337771

Perhaps the most surprising thing to come out of last week’s delightful Deranged Sorority Girl episode of The Internet, was the students’ confusion over this whole web communications thing.

Gawker posted the hilarious email anonymously, and it might have all ended after a day or so of snickering and reposting, had the Delta Gammas not demanded their good name be cleared. Loudly. On their (open) Facebook page.

“Someone has to get this taken down,” they said, as if they’d never heard of the term gone viral.  “It’s very embarrassing for us.” 

Then they went on to publish many amusing details that Gawker was too discreet to run about the University of Maryland chapter, Becca’s role in it, and dozens of other things. All of which made it easy for the interwebs to track down Rebecca Martinson, her photos, and her Twitter account. Sadly, that has been deleted. As many readers have noticed, she really does have a way with words. A psychotic, potty-mouthed way, but still. 

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Laundry Theatre

31 Mar 2013
Posted by Shannon

Although they don’t call it laundry theatre, the NT does wonderful podcasts, including interviews with actors and directors, discussions about theatre trends, and some performances. I just caught a short radio play featuring Dame Judi Dench, whose lovely comic timing makes doing the housework a delight. 
It’s part of the NT’s innovative program of digital programs that includes broadcasting their plays to movie houses all over the world. Talk about extending your reach – the NT has turned itself into everyone’s local theatre and made the company a must-see for any traveler passing through London. That’s about 26 million people a year.  
Given how cheap it is make and distribute digital art, I wondered why more of Canada’s big city companies weren’t extending their own reach into small communities – not to mention the world. There’s some truth to the growing complaint that public funding for the arts serves only city dwellers. 
Since theatre is the easiest art form to deliver this way, I asked some artistic directors and playwrights why they hadn’t adopted the NT’s brilliant marketing strategy. 
“Equity,” they all whispered through gritted teeth. 
They meant Canadian Actor’s Equity, the union that does much to protect performers from the abuses that any worker in a business with more than 90 per cent unemployment is likely to face.  
But the contracts and the rules are all based on the economic laws of a previous era and in the age of what the pundits are calling “digital disruption” performing arts organizations are having some of the same troubles adapting as newspapers and books.
Their resistance to going digital is reminiscent of the musicians’ unions at the turn of the last century, when radio arrived. Some refused to play for live broadcasts, complaining that they couldn’t sell concerts if people could hear the music for free. Others argued that they should be paid the equivalent price of a ticket for everyone in the broadcast audience. 
Then what happened surprised everyone. Radio served to popularize musicians in a way few had experienced in any previous era. It created huge demand for concerts – nothing beats live music -- and eventually records. It wasn’t just entertainment at home, it was advertising. 
Not surprising in retrospect, since the best advertising for the arts has always been the art itself. 
As a critic I used to watch in wonder as people who had already spent $30 for a video of Lord of the Dance or a Yanni concert would then fork over $100 to see the exact same show live, often in a stadium with a Jumbotron. And vice versa. The exact same show; different screen size. But see the show surrounded by an audience made it feel different, and many people traveled to see this big budget touring shows over and over again. 
But it was obvious that the video – often aired on tape-loop at PBS – had created the market for the shows. Just like radio had whetted appetites for concerts a century ago.  
It’s obvious the performing arts have the most to win from cheap production-and-distribution tools. The internet can’t replace live performance because there is nothing like the experience of being with other people in small space watching other human beings making art. It’s full of surprises and has an emotional punch unmatched by film, television, or recorded music. 
But what the digital revolution can do is make more people aware of what is happening in the performing arts and give audiences enough of a taste to know they want more. 
Or Canada’s performing artists could do what some of those unionized musicians did back in the day: enforce the union rules instead of updating them, shun the radio, and fade away into obscurity. 
Meanwhile, there’s handwashing to do before I can go to any live performances, so I’m headed back to laundry theatre. 
 
 
https://itunes.apple.com/ca/podcast/alan-bennett-judi-dench-perform/id471905153
https://itunes.apple.com/ca/podcast/national-theatre-podcasts/id486761654

London’s National Theatre offers something more arts organizations should consider: art to do laundry by. 

Although they don’t call it laundry theatre, the NT does wonderful podcasts, including interviews with actors and directors, discussions about theatre trends, and some performances. I just caught a short radio play featuring Dame Judi Dench, whose lovely comic timing makes doing housework a delight. 

It’s part of the NT’s innovative digital programming campaign that includes broadcasting their plays to movie houses all over the world. Talk about extending your reach – the NT has turned itself into everyone’s local theatre and made the company a must-see for any traveller passing through London. That’s about 26 million people a year.

Given how cheap it is to make and distribute digital art, I wondered why more of Canada’s big city companies weren’t extending their own reach into small communities – not to mention the world. There’s some truth to the growing complaint that public funding for the arts serves only city dwellers. 

Since theatre is the easiest art form to deliver in this fashion, I asked some artistic directors and playwrights why they hadn’t adopted the NT’s brilliant marketing strategy. 

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Try out an idea

20 Mar 2013
Posted by Shannon

My Misspent Youth by Meghan Daum
Changing My Mind by Zadie Smith
Sex and the River Styx By Edward Hoagland
Against Joie de Vivre by Phillip Lopate
The Braindead Megaphone by George Saunders
The Solace of Open Spaces, by Gretel Ehrlich
Arguably, by Christopher Hitchens
I feel Bad about My Neck by Nora Ephron. To which I would add, Crazy Salad; Scribble, Scribble; Wallflower at the Orgy; and I Remember Nothing. 
Thirteen Ways of Looking at A Black Man, by Henry Louis Gates Jr. 
Teaching a Stone to Talk, by Annie Dillard
The Common Reader, by Virginia Woolf
Against Interpretation, by Susan Sontag. 
Naked, by David Sedaris
Notes of a Native Son, by James Baldwin
Consider the Lobster, by David Foster Wallace
The Boys of My Youth by Jo Ann Beard
Pulphead, by John Jeremiah Sullivan
The Book of My Lives, by Aleksandar Hemon (a writer I’ve never heard of)
http://flavorwire.com/378123/the-25-greatest-essay-collections-of-all-time

Essays are my favourite prose form so I welcomed a pop culture website offering a quirky, mostly American list of the 25 most interesting essay collections. Alas, they’ve put it together with one of those ultra annoying slide shows that so many of us hate. 

So for your convenience, here’s my list of 31 essay collections  – my choices plus Flavourwire’s 25 nominees -- featuring writers trying out an idea. 

Home Cooking and More Home Cooking, by Laurie Colwin. Two collections of essays about the meaning of life cleverly disguised as recipes. Colwin, one of my favourite writers, is often overlooked and I’m not sure why. Perhaps because her gentle comedies seem, like Jane Austen’s novels, too concerned with the domestic doings of women?  

The White Album and  Slouching Toward Bethlehem, by Joan Didion
My Misspent Youth by Meghan Daum
Changing My Mind by Zadie Smith
Sex and the River Styx By Edward Hoagland
Against Joie de Vivre by Phillip Lopate

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What’s in a Name?

28 Feb 2013
Posted by Shannon

A Rose by any other name might be just as cute, but she won’t be quite as trendy. 

Last month I looked at the curious baby-naming fads that have led to “Brooklyn” being a Top 10 choice for Alberta parents and North America’s ever-growing enthusiasm for names inspired by 19th century servants. Downstairs names like Abigail, Violet, and of course Rose, are all the rage with a certain sort of Upstairs parent. 

It ran in Calgary’s Swerve magazine, which is one of my favourite outlets because my editor Val Berenyi is less an overseer than a partner-in-crime. On noting that “Mason” was ranked on the boy’s list she wrote a slyly funny hed for the sidebar: “As in the jar or the profession?”

And here’s the full list of Alberta’s chart-toppers. Boys:  Liam, Ethan, Mason, Lucas, Jacob, Alexander, Benjamin, Noah, William, Logan. Girls: Olivia, Sophia, Emma, Emily, Ava, Chloe, Abigail, Lily, Brooklyn, Sophie.

B.C’s list is similar with Nathan and Owen replacing Jacob and Noah for the boys. And on the girl’s list there’s no reference to New York’s hipster borough but Isabella is still a Top-10er. 

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Posted by Shannon

Mondays are infinitely more tolerable with the promise of a new episode of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, a vlog series reinterpreting Pride and Prejudice for the Confessional Age.

This week we’re all waiting breathlessly for word of what will happen to Lydia now that George Wickham has used and abused her.

In December I wrote about the charming web series, which recasts the gentleman’s daughter in precarious financial circumstances as a SoCal grad student -- in precarious financial circumstances. Between student loans and the Great Recession devaluing her parents’ house Lizzie and her sisters are facing a crisis. And as her mother prattles on about averting disaster by finding rich husbands, Lizzie soldiers on gamely vlogging her life as her master’s thesis project in communications.

The series was already a big hit by internet standards – more than 140,000 subscribers -- and it’s getting a much-deserved boost with mentions in stories commemorating the 200th anniversary of P&P on January 28.  Episode 1 has more than 700,000 hits.

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Buy Local Day

22 Nov 2012
Posted by Shannon

As the enthusiasm for that crackpot campaign Buy Nothing Day dies down, I would suggest those misguided "activists" put their considerable energy into my version of the event, which actually builds a community: Buy Local Day.

Certainly spending your money at global corporate retailers that abuse their employees – hello WalMart! – is harmful to both you and your neighbours. And spending via credit cards adds huge, unnecessary expense to every purchase, as merchants have to pay for the privilege of accepting plastic.

I’m in favour of avoiding those things all year round.

But as the now legendary Capitol Hill Babysitting Co-op shows, the best thing for individuals and communities isn’t saving money – see the paradox of thrift --  it’s the judicious spending of it.

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Posted by Shannon

The B.C. Supreme Court has granted Vancouver publisher Douglas and McIntyre a 45-day extension to file a creditors’ proposal, the company said in a news release.

D&M Publishers caught Vancouver’s book community off guard October 21, when it filed a Notice of Intention under the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act, which put the company under protection from creditors until Nov. 21. That period has now been extended to Jan. 4, 2013.

D&M is working with a trustee, the Bowra Group, to find an investor or purchaser for its assets and will be accepting offers until 2 p.m. November 26. The company remains in operation until then.   - Read more

Posted by Shannon

The pornofication of our culture proceeds apace with news that a New York court is deeply divided over whether pole dancing is considered an art for tax purposes.

The New York State Court of Appeals decided 4-3 that an Albany strip club, Nite Moves, is not entitled to tax exemptions that support the arts in New York, including organizations like the American Ballet Theater.

Before you breathe a sigh of relief, it’s worth noting that the New York Times quotes the dissenting judge approvingly, and suggests the court got it wrong. In the dissenting opinion, Judge Robert Smith argues that the majority decision rests on “a distinction between highbrow dance and lowbrow dance” that the state tax statute does not make.

“It does not matter if the dance was artistic or crude, boring or erotic. Under New York’s tax law, a dance is a dance,” writes Judge Smith.

Well then New York needs to write its tax laws a little more clearly, because while a woman lubricating a pole might be considered craft -- there's a market for this technique -- it doesn't come close to being art.

My tongue was planted firmly in my cheek when I wrote that if one Western jurisdiction established that there was no difference between lap dances and ballet it wouldn’t be long before strip joints everywhere were clamouring for public funding – and filing discrimination suits to get it.

With New York sitting poised at the top of that slippery slope we’re all just a teeny bit closer to the day when ballet lessons will put little girls on the fast track to publicly funded bump-and-grind emporiums. 

I’d tell you I was joking, but having followed this story I’m pretty darn certain satire is dead.

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Posted by Shannon

It’s odd when someone we never knew dies and leaves a huge gap in our lives, but for many of us the death of writer Nora Ephron, 71, is like that. 

Perhaps it’s because for almost 50 years Ephron wrote our lives while writing her own. Her death prompted my writer pals, male and female, to reminisce on their favourite  works and what they’d learned from them about writing and life. 

Heartburn, her hilarious and thinly veiled roman a clef about one half of Woodstein cheating on her while she was pregnant with their second child, taught us that writing well is the best revenge. Her husband, she wrote famously, was “A man who was capable of having sex with a Venetian blind.”

She was good at big, memorable comic lines like that but she also had a knack for spotting small, significant truths. That book taught me not to take it personally when, after a divorce, certain married friends drifted away. As Ephron observed, “Couples date couples.”

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Word Watch

04 Jun 2012
Posted by Shannon

Thank the gods for UrbanDictionary.com without which I wouldn’t know what half the TwitterBabble means.

This week alone I’ve learned three new terms that are bound to come in handy.  Where exactly, I’m not sure. But I lead a full and rich life, so you never know.

There’s thinspo, which is one of those words that makes writing fun.  It means the pics of anorexic celebs that crazywomen use to inspire their own weight loss campaigns. It’s an abbreviation of an evolving portmanteau term for thin inspiration – thinspiration ergo thinspo. As in, “I keep a shot of that wooden actress from the OC on my fridge for thinspo.”

Then there’s stans – obsessive fans who usually follow the tackier celebs and will hear no word against their darlings. Like paparazzi it’s born of pop culture; in this case an Eminem song. As in, “Beyonce’s stans will hurt you if you suggest she could use some thinspo.”

Is there mad cheddar (big bucks) in knowing such things? I doubt it. I doubt there’s even the Kraft Singles kinda cheddar to be had.

But as we edge ever closer to the ice floes, I find these Internet blessings a comfort. Unlike the cranky old coots of earlier generations, we won’t be left to puzzle over the cat’s pajamas, phat girls, or why anyone would want to be gagged, with a spoon.

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