I’m a bit sad today. Not an hour ago, I found out that my venerable RCA CD/tape player no longer plays CDs.
I’ve had it for two decades. It was with me in Charlottetown; it eventually came with me to Toronto. Maybe it can be fixed, maybe it cannot, maybe it is just not worth the effort. It was, admittedly, a device I used less and less over the years, as I transitioned to playing music off my computer. The last time I used it was a couple of months ago, when I played the superb 2003 maxi-single of Yoko Ono’s “Walking on Thin Ice”.
What was I wanting to play today? Ace of Base’s 1993 debut album, something I found yesterday discarded on the side of Bathurst Street along with their followup and two French-language novels I wanted to read.
Specifically, I wanted to hear “The Sign”.
I’m perfectly willing to agree with the casual evaluation of Ace of Base’s music, that it was a sort of lowest-common-denominator Europop that was briefly fashionable international in the early to mid 1990s and the commercial counterpoint to other more challenging and innovative movements. This is entirely true.
Is this all that there is to the music of Ace of Base, though? I could note, if you’re interested in the sociological implications, that Ace of Base’s hits arguably inaugurated the current era of Swedish domination of the international pop charts. (Well, that and Roxette in the late 1980s.) Ace of Base counts.
More to the point, Ace of Base counts to me. Along with the aforementioned Roxette, Ace of Base was the first pop music group with albums I owned, actively seeking them out and buying them with my money. I was attracted to the music for good reasons: it was popular, it was cheerful, it was catchy, it came from the world outside. The music of Ace of Base did, and does, make me happy. Surely it’s unfair to condemn anything that can do that.
Torontoist’s Jamie Bradburn writes, with examples of ads, about the Toronto Fringe Festival in 1999.
Three months before the 1999 Toronto Fringe Festival opened, new artistic director Chuck McEwen received an unpleasant surprise: a call from the owner of the building where the festival’s offices were located indicating the summer event had to find a new home. “That was an unexpected and high-pressure situation,” McEwen told the Star. “We had such a small amount of time to actually find a space and then move. And it’s difficult finding office space in the Annex area that fits our current budget. So it was tense.”
Quarters were found at Bloor and Spadina, and the festival rolled on. Over 11 days, 93 shows were presented. The best known, The Drowsy Chaperone, was promoted as coming from “the co-creators of Honest Ed! The Bargain Musical.” Having evolved from a stag party, the show earned kudos during its run at the George Ignatieff Theatre. “You’ll laugh, you’ll cry,” noted Now reviewer Glenn Sumi. “Well, OK, you won’t cry. But you won’t want to leave either.” The Star’s Robert Crew accurately predicted that, with a little reworking, “the potential is enormous and it will be back.” The show eventually won five Tonys for its Broadway run in 2006-2007.
There is much more at Torontoist.
As anyone who glanced at my Flickr and Instagram feeds in the past day or so can tell, I’ve been posting lots of photos from the Toronto Fringe Festival. The whole thing is a fun experience, and it’s nice to document it with images as well as with words.
The above is one of my favourite shots to date. Walking from the Robert Gill Theatre at the University of Toronto on College Street where I had my first show southwest to the Factory Theatre on Bathurst below King, I passed through the broad low intersection of Bathurst with Dundas. Looking east, Toronto’s skyline lay exposed before me.
This Canada Day, I decided to revisit the OUP anthology Riven Lands: Canada and Laurentia from 1980. Back when I first posted my reaction to this book in 2008, it sparked a substantial discussion about the extent to which the dissolution of old Canada into Laurentia and the new Canadian federation was inevitable. Looking at the essays again, I’m caught by the tragic inevitability of it all. From the moment the Quiet War started, the Dominion was bound for a reckoning at terrible cost to its people. It was trapped by history.
Old Canada remains trapped. Looking south from my vantage point in Boston, there just hasn’t been much positive change in the Dominion. Laurentian nationalism remains as strong as Canadian resentment, each set of grievances distracting each country from tackling its own crying issues The economic crash hit both countries hard, though Laurentia was at least spared the housing boom. (Is it ever likely that Montréal will regain its pre-war population, or Ottawa?) The Maritime Canadian provinces continue to drift, most notable for being a source of migrant workers for anywhere that will take them: the rest of Canada, the United States, Britain and Ireland even. (Newfoundland’s separation last year wasn’t unexpected, not with oil affording it an incentive to try to start over again. Here’s to wishing them success.) In Canada west of the Ottawa, meanwhile, stagnation. Will Alberta try to follow Newfoundland? Will Premier Ford be able to save Ontario’s industry?
Maybe social democracy will rise and save everyone, uniting all of old Canada across the old borders. Who knows? By this point, I really doubt the competence of the old Canadian political classes to solve old issues, never mind resolve current problems. The world moves, and moves ahead.
I keep wondering if Canada could have survived. On a few forums today, I suggested that if not for the Social Credit governments of the post-war era and their hyperinflationary policies, there might have been enough wealth to sooth differences between Laurentians and the rest of Canada. If Spain and Yugoslavia could survive the 1970s and 1980s, could Canada not also manage? The United States was surely at least as attractive a market as western Europe, and intra-Canadian grievances until the 1960s were certainly not as deep as those in Spain and Yugoslavia. Or was the collapse of Canada preordained? Was Canada, paradoxically, not multinational enough, with a sufficiently large and united Anglo population falsely thinking itself large enough to override the Laurentians?
The 2015 Pan-American Games are being held in Toronto, and the Metropass of the TTC for this month has been designed accordingly. “Like.”
Do you have any plans for this specific holiday? Or do you hope for something lower-key than a plan and long simply for rest?