Ron Nurwisah, Boy Reporter

Boy Reporter is a Toronto-based journalist and blogger. He frequently writes about urban life, visual arts, culture and anything else that strikes his fancy.

Monday, January 31, 2005

I have a confession


Boy Reporter's Crush du Jour

I have a crush on Alexandra Pelosi. I caught her 2002 documentary Journeys with George last night on Newsworld. Sure it was a couple years too late, but better late than never.

And those who know me know that I have about as many crushes as a border town has illegal immigrants. So why do I have a crush on a woman probably more than 10 years my senior? Is it because of her unflappability? After all she did travel for 18 months across the USA with W and crew, ate nothing but turkey sandwiches, dealt with rowdy tequila drinking camera guys, and somehow stayed sane through the ludicrous circus that is a presidential campaign. Is it because of her wit and charm? Both of which were in clear display in her doc. Or her passion and belief in the media? She did start her career in the media working the night shift at an LA radio station and clawed her way into the NBC News machine through hard work and not through connections of which, I'm sure she has many. Also, I'm sucker for women with quirky glasses.

Truth be told, I was getting pointers from her documentary because I've been semi-serious about making a documentary later this year. One that involves plenty of time on a bus. I won't tell you what the subject is until it's a little more certain. I wouldn't want anyone to steal it.... now would I?

Alexandra if by some random fluke you're reading this.... dinner and a drink sometime? We can chat about film-making, media, the left, maybe even immigrating to Canada? I promise we won't be having turkey.

In other news, check out my friend Nick's new music website "The Ratio." Nick is a great writer (he was an editor at the Ubyssey and he regularly contributes to radio3) and knows his music. He's also a snappy dresser.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Working hard for my money

She definitely works hard for her money!

Somewhere along the line every journalist will have a job as a factchecker (along with a number of other jobs including waiter, bartender and coffee jockey). When I first moved to Toronto I did this for free for three months as an intern at eye Magazine. An experience that had me sifting through City Hall minutes online but also calling up sex stores to ask whether vibrators used AA or AAA batteries. All and all a very enlightening experience. Fortunately this previous fact-checking experience, and a lot of dumb luck landed me a contract position as a checker with Style at Home magazine.

Now fact-checking isn't a glamourous job, but it is necessary. Don't believe me? Well if the New York Times had fact-checkers and a magical device that can slow time in their office so that they could actually find the hours in the day to fact-check they could've found out that they had a rat-faced liar among them. The New Republic got screwed by Stephen Glass despite having fact-checkers, which is truly mind-boggling. Oh and one can't forget how a bunch of bloggers made Dan Rather look really silly.

Needless to say, the job is good so far. I've only been doing it for five hours and already I know far far too much about ovens and fridges. Compare this with "Reluctant Metrosexual" Peter Hyman's experiences in fact-checking at Vanity Fair. His description of the Conde Nast offices almost make me regret the fact that I work from home. And who knows, maybe this job will lead me to bigger and better things?

On a completely different note the nominations for the 2005 Bloggies are up (well sorta, I had trouble getting to the site...)! If you can get there check them out. Gothamist, the momma site of Torontoist is in the running for a category.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Pissed off about movies


He won't play your video...
unless it's really really bad!


It's easy to hate the movie-going experience. Unless you're near a huge mall, you have to drive half-an-hour to your local megaplex. Ticket prices (until recently) have been climbing steadily, the snacks are ridiculously over priced, you're subjected to half an hour of ads followed by crappy trailers that give away far far too much of a movie you really don't care about. This is all before the film even starts! No wonder angry metrosexual and Globe and Mail man-about-town Russell Smith hates going to the movies so much.

There's not much we can do about the shopping malls and overpriced snacks (other than sneaking in bulk candy and food from the outside) but is there something we can do about all those ads?

In those good old days before TV movie theatres showed newsreels. In our media cornucopia, showing news in movie theatres would be silly, I for one get all my news from this guy! But I couldn't possibly imagine watching a five minute newsreel about the Iraq war right before Racing Stripes.

But what about other pre-feature options? I was speaking to my friend Sarah and how pissed off she was that she couldn't see any independent music videos on MuchMusic. Much and MTV, like your crappy Clear Channel owned top 40 radio station, have a pretty strict list of videos on heavy rotation. Combine this with all those full length shows (Cribs, Pimp my Ride, etc.) and it translates into fewer and fewer videos being shown.

Heck, if I was a large soul-sucking media corporation I'd figure out some crazy deal with the people distributing my film to show some of my "up and coming artists" before a movie. Just imagine; alterna-indie-rocker wannabe, or the next Avril Lavigne before a teen flick. What about a sensitive, piano playing crooner before something vapid like.... Love Actually?

This doesn't solve the problem faced by indie musicians who want to distribute their videos. Just where do we show our made-at-home shot by a film school grad on a DV cam and filled with our friends and family video? There are options like this, this and this. It's not MuchMusic, but who wants their video played next to the new Jennifer Lopez anyway?

Maisonneuve agrees with me, sort of

So apparently not only are T-shirts the vehicle of choice for faux-hate against women, jews and minorities there's this lovely sociological piece from Maisonneuve magazine!

Monday, January 24, 2005

Don't get your t-shirts in a knot...


Is Mao really in good taste?


Seems like Prince Harry's fashion faux-pas tweaked some editors at the Toronto Star. The Star ran a piece yesterday about how easy it was to get clothing with that other symbol of totalitarianism the hammer and sickle! This was followed up by a piece on how those no- good kids today are wearing t-shirts that include racial slurs, messages advocating violence towards women and more!

A while back a designer in Vancouver got in a bit of trouble with his "Chink" T-shirts. And Asian groups were pretty damned pissed off at Abercrombie and Fitch over a couple of shirts they put out last year. But I digress.

I think Prince Harry was pretty boneheaded for wearing a swastika to a party considering his Great-Grandma was getting bombed by swastika wearing Germans not that long ago. But the Star got me thinking about the hammer and sickle and other questionable images. Che shirts have a certain chic, especially when there's a film with Latin hottie Gael Garcia Bernal in theatres! But lotsa folks wear Mao shirts (including me). I'm fully aware of the terrible terrible things that Mao did in his lifetime. While he started as a freedom fighter (there really was no good side in China during the '30s and '40s) he did become a power hungry maniac that manipulated young Chinese people to turn on their friends and families. So is it ok for me to wear Mao shirts or is it the same as wearing a shirt with Hitler (or for the sake of argument a Stalin shirt!).

What about more esoteric figures that are no less questionable? Kissinger shirts for wannabe neo-cons? Or figures from a little further back in history.... Genghis Khan shirts for those despots, generals and business leaders?

Friday, January 21, 2005

An art hop in the cold


Elisabeth Belliveau at YYZ until Feb. 12



Despite the fact it was -20 outside I walked to the 401 building and hit a few galleries. YYZ has three of the strongest exhibitions that I've seen in a while. Seth Scriver's installation/illustrations, Karim Zouak's mesmerizing films and the beautifully crafted work of Elisabeth Belliveau.

Belliveau's work struck me the most. She's rescued found objects (gloves, old balls, hot water bottles) and turned them into "sculpture" that strongly resemble animals (rabbits, whales, ducks, elephants, etc.). Using second-hand objects gives her work a texture and 'wear' that just wouldn't be possible if she bought items from the store and it gives many of her works a real depth that I enjoyed. There's even hints of Joseph Cornell in some of these works.

In other news, I've got a few more posts on Torontoist.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Pondering ethnicity

I spent a lot of time thinking about my ethnicity after reading Jocelyn Chan's photo essay on the Radio3 website. It's a topic that's on my mind a lot lately.

Yesterday I spoke to Kwoi Gin, a local filmmaker and cinematographer, whose most recent project was a documentary series on Chinese Restaurants that took him to over 13 countries in four years. We spoke at great length about what it was like for him, a Chinese Canadian to see the breadth of the Chinese diaspora. Kwoi had lived in Asia, worked in Canada and after this documentary series seen Chinese people in almost every corner of the world (look, a Chinese restaurant, in Norway!).

Yet seeing the breathtaking variety of 'Chinese' experience ultimately comforted him and put him at peace with his heritage. This is the message that I want to deliver to Chan, who seemed put off by her inability to rediscover her heritage by visiting Chinatown. Don't let anyone tell you what being Chinese means....It's gone beyond geography, language and in some cases beyond the colour of your skin .

In other news, I'm busily trying to finish up my application to Concordia for their Masters in Media Studies. Here's hoping it doesn't interfere with my blogging.


Monday, January 17, 2005

Leslie Feist, first France soon THE WORLD


Leslie Feist, thank you Toronto Star

Last year I, along with about half of Toronto's indie scene was enchanted by a singer-songwriter by the name of Leslie Feist. A former Broken Social Scenester, she left her humble Toronto existence for Europe where she hung out with people like Peaches before setting off on her own in France. Somewhere along the way she recorded a great little album that seems to have perked the ears of some very scary people (including McDonald's execs). Thankfully she said didn't sell her soul. It's bad enough we've got Le Tigre selling cellphones and the Flaming Lips selling cars.

What's next? The Arcade Fire selling winter wear? Stars selling airline tickets (actually this would beat Celine Dion.... I could totally imagine "Set Yourself on Fire" in an Air Canada commercial).

Weekend reading....

There's simply too much great stuff out there to read. I spent a lot of time thinking about authors and writers that have influenced me how I wrote after reading this NYT Book Review piece asking 14 young authors (including Jonathan Safran Foer and Zadie Smith no less) which writers influenced them.

I loved Jonathan Safran Foer's and Jonathan Lethem's writing. Lethem's memoir on the subway station of his youth in the Dec. 2004 Harper's built on this mythology of Brooklyn that almost all of Lethem's work expands and draws its strength from.

I've also had a love-hate relationship with Hemingway, whom I first read in high school and hated. A Farewell to Arms, was to a 14-year-old boy, a ludicrous tale of war starring an ambulance driver who just couldn't keep it in his pants. It wasn't until a few years later, after a few more years of being force-fed everything from Dickens to Milton to Chaucer that Hemingway's brevity of style and honesty was a bit of a solace after bushwhacking through 500 year old texts or post-modern criticism.

I also spent the greater part of a monday morning contemplating Jocelyn Chan's photo essay on being a Chinese-Canadian and trying to 'rediscover' her heritage in Vancouver's Chinatown. I'll be writing more about this on Wednesday's post. Jocelyn's insightful work and other fabulous stuff is on the Radio3 website.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Oh blog how I missed you!

My blogging over the last couple of weeks has been as sporadic as the internet connection I had in Vancouver. No matter, what's in the past is in the past! We have a new year and new times in front of us. Here are a couple of goals for the coming year, some directly related to this blog and a few more not related.

1) Migrate this blog to my new domain name www.boyreporter.ca (yes folks, soon Boy Reporter will be coming to you from his very own domain name. More details soon)

2) Post thrice-weekly. Mondays, Wednesday and Friday will henceforth be known as Monblogday, Wedblogday and Friblogday. Awkward yes, but so is a blog without any updated posts.

3) Write more. Or at least pitch more. Derek Finkle, editor at Toro told me it was about high time I stopped interning and actually wrote. This is good advice, I'd taken to sheltering myself behind the many 'lucrative' internship opportunities available here in Toronto. All this should now change. I should be posting regularly in the coming weeks on Torontoist, mainly as a visual arts writer.

So stay tuned for more adventures from this intrepid boy reporter.